Sunday, December 31, 2006

It'd Be Animal Cruelty To Keep The Cat Bagged Any Longer

Observant readers should be able to figure out the most important detail in this photo taken a few days ago along London's festive Regent Street.

Slower readers should use their cursor to highlight the hidden clue here: I suppose it's time to start a new Phoblog spin-off - Phiancee.

(p.s. As far as I know, only one person in my office ever reads this site - so if you are reading it, and are reading it after I've added this note, don't spill the beans, I'll just let people know when I get back.)

(p.p.s. The ring in the photo is a decoy - the real one was in the shop getting sized.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

28 Is A Magic Number

I will be spending the last half of my sister's 30th birthday and the first half of my 28th birthday on an airplane. Those who know me know I LOVE spending any time at all on an airplane.

Rob pointed out that 28 is a really cool number, mathematically speaking. It is a perfect number, as it so happens. And you thought only the ones divisible by 5 or 10 were any fun.

Blogging will be light while I'm on vacation and across the pond. But have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

'YMCA loses its lease on Catalina's Camp Fox'

This is a real shame - though not surprising. Not that it ties directly to the problems discussed in the article, but Glendale always staffed their camps poorly - primarily with 15 year olds I could never distinguish from campers. A combination of mismanagement and island politics lost the Y access to White's Landing and now Fox - the jewel in Glendale's camping crown. I'm saddened because of the loss to San Pedro Peninsula, and YMCA camping generally, but not necessarily sad for Glendale.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ahoy! Maritime Post Ahead

From the Chron, a story about a couple of Ferries that mysteriously turned up in the Carquinez Strait in November. Fitting, since it was just over a year ago that I wrapped up my law school days with my Maritime Law exam.

There's a sort of exquisite sadness in abandoned ships, moored hopelessly to old pilings; romantic, like the mothball fleet just a bit up-stream.

What Do You Even Say To This?

From the Chron:

In the letter, [Virginia Congressman Virgil] Goode wrote, "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jon Stewart's Comeback In 5 . . . 4 . . .

A shocking headline: Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex

An astounding 95% of Americans - even women born way back in the 40s, says the article - have engaged in pre-marital sex. Older generations just weren't as open about it. Or perhaps TV wasn't. Regardless, the study is touted as yet another reason Bush's abstinence-only programs are silly.

However you feel about the main subject of this article and study, I hope you noted the following paragraphs (READER WARNING: irony or hypocrisy sensitive readers may wish to skip this part):

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the abstinence-only approach for teenagers.

"One of its values is to help young people delay the onset of sexual activity," he said. "The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have, and the less the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease."

He insisted there was no federal mission against premarital sex among adults.

"Absolutely not," Horn said. "The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults."
Really? The administration doesn't believe in regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults? Of ANY adults?

I'm having a rather difficult time believing that statement.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Phoblog 5 Second Song Review

Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" rocks. After the song closed an ep of Veronica Mars, I had the have it. Then it got some local radio play. I've yet to tire of it. Catchy, fun, quirky, musically interesting. Go get it.

Best. Wiki. Find. Ever.

I weep in awe of this lovely sentence's exquisite grammar:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Yes, dear readers, it IS a complete sentence.

And you may ask did I get here?: misplaced modifier > Garden path sentence > Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Damn, I love me some language.

Law, Photography, And Britney

Any story linking the three above elements demands a post: 'Perez Hilton takes their best shots'

(h/t Cybele at Metroblogging LA)

BTW: the blogger in question says this about the lawsuit:

"If the law says I am wrong, if a jury of my peers says they think my actions are wrong, then I will listen to them. But I don't think they will. Especially if they see that the person who is suing me admitted she is suing me because I am arrogant. A judge would dismiss that."
Actually, no, I don't think a judge would. Because in this case, the arrogance in question stems from his attitude toward a company's repeated request for compliance. In fact, I'm guessing arrogance causes many, many lawsuits. In remedies, I'm pretty sure arrogance D = punitive damages for P, no?

Getting It. Not Getting It.

More on a bill to extend domestic partnership rights to heterosexual couples from the Bee (via The Roundup). I can't decide if I get the theories underlying the proposal or not. More likely, I get it, I just respectfully disagree with it. Maybe it's just my Claremont roots that cause this sort of statement to bother me:

"If it came down to health insurance or no health insurance, we would probably go and get married," Cordeiro said. "But that's not a reason to get married, in my opinion. Marriage is a very personal experience. I just don't think the state should do things that influence people's decision to get married or not."
Sadly, the point of establishing the state (a state) to begin with is, at least in part, classically speaking, to vest in a body the ability to set standards by which we define and govern civilized society.

Obviously, I'm not implying that cohabitating couples are uncivilized. I'm not even necessarily arguing against Migden's bill from a moral standpoint. I have a feeling I'd rather not take the same positions as some of the organizations on record opposing the proposal. I also think that limiting talking points on marriage to its effect on child-rearing is narrow-minded. Marriage, socially, religiously, and even biologically, is about reproduction, but it's also about a host of other factors - many of which have benefits to the larger community.

There are so many conflicting quotations in news coverage of this issue. The one above is troubling. Also irksome, the apt yet quickly tiring rebuttal that divorce devalues marriage more than marriage equality. This is true. But when non-married cohabitants remark that divorce is to blame, I can't help but wonder, well, why aren't you married? Worried about divorce? Like it's something that happens to you, such as a fender-bender or a sudden illness?

If you want the benefits and protections of marriage, why not get married? The word, the very notion and weight attached to it is SO SCARY you just can't do it? You don't want a wedding cake but you do want to eat it too?

And at the end of the day, I still say this cheapens the goal of marriage equality - that is to say, the effort to recognize as legitimate homosexual love - to institutionalize it in marriage. If "cheapen" is too strong a word for you, try "makes more difficult." I don't believe it adds anything to the notion of equality and could do more harm than good on countless fronts.

By the way - I think this bill also creates a foolish chance to re-argue the merits of domestic partnership law as it current exists - the only almost-fair alternative available to same-sex couples. As it is, comments out there in the 'sphere and even attending the article linked above, make arguments for this bill based on support for domestic partnership rights for homosexuals. But that's not what the bill is about, is it? Of course not. Again, if this really were a savvy way to alter the nomenclature of civil unions, then perhaps I'd be more supportive. But I think it's a messy way of doing business.

Get married or deal with the potential drawbacks of refraining from the legal contract. Because you can, dammit.

Second thought: is this an ultra-savvy way to bring get the marriage equality issue into the courts again? Think of it this way: you create something that walks, talks, smells, and quacks like marriage. Hetero couples can enter into either and reap the same benefits. So why can same-sex couples have access only to the separately named, equal institution? A slight spin on the possible motive questioned above.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Things That Make Me Sad: 'Age Compression'

From a Chron article on the battle between Barbie and Bratz dolls:

Like many parents, Yaffe will be weighing a multitude of toy choices during the holiday shopping season. While she personally doesn't love the Bratz, she won't stop buying them. "As much as you want to hide and protect your child from questionable influences, you live in San Francisco," she says. "You want to expose them to everything."

But the choice between Bratz and Barbie is more than just kid stuff. Over the past five years, the toy industry has been watching an epic catfight: Mattel Corp.'s Barbie, the world's most successful toy by any standard, has been battling MGA Entertainment's heavy-lidded, scantily-dressed Bratz to hold onto its dominance in the doll world. . . .

But the popularity of the sexy Bratz and Barbie's move to recapture younger consumers by emphasizing fairies and princesses underscore two sides of the cultural phenomenon known to sociologists as "age compression" and to toy industry marketers as "KGOY," or Kids Growing Older Younger.
Let's leave aside that Yaffe woman's confusion over what "parenting" is . . . the Bratz dolls are pretty awful. And I know "Math is Hard" Barbie is hardly the doll to look up to. But she was less slutty, no?

The article quotes one 11 year old who likes Bratz because "they look real." Google them. See what you think. Personally, I kind of want to weep a little:

MGA Entertainment, which made a series of handheld electronic games prior to Bratz, gives credit for the dolls' success to the company's willingness to absorb and reflect what girls say they want in a fashion doll. Company President Isaac Larian created the doll on the advice of his daughter. Bratz have heavily made-up faces and puffy lips. They are slightly shorter and wider than Barbies, with smaller breasts, although the size of their heads relative to their bodies echoes the underfed look of young stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, who have often been singled out as looking as if they have an eating disorder.
Yeah, a bit. Like the old, sickening Steve Madden print ads with completely distorted, somehow deemed attractive, girl-like figures.

My years as both a camper and camp counselor showed me firsthand this age compression. Where as my peer group waited until junior high camp (age 13 and above, which is still a bit on the younger side) for dances. By the time I was a counselor, all our kids attended dances - from age 7 or so on. The older kids got to stay later, but they all went. They still do, I'm sure. It wouldn't have been such a problem, except that some 11 year old girls are interested in boys and some are not. And the ones who are not should not have been made to feel wrong for being, well, 11. But they were. Mostly by other counselors who were, themselve, emotionally immature and over-sexualized teen agers. My poor girls - the ones who were happy to dance, but needed no partners, were so miserable by the time the dance rolled around. I tried to provide an alternative to my co-counselor's boy-craze-baiting words of match-making encouragement. But those poor girls.

I wonder if my kids will even have a chance.

Sac Housing Market Tanks; Renters Shake Fists In Frustration

This renter, anyway: It's a buyer's market in Sacramento:

Sellers, both individual homeowners in the resale market and builders pushing new homes, are finding the only way to make sales is to cut prices. And that is precisely what is happening. The median price for an existing home in Sacramento fell 4.2 percent to $345,000 in November from $360,000 in 2005, while the median price for a new home fell 14.6 percent to $395,250.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Apparently Some Do Need - Or Want - Some Stinking Badges

If you've been following the recent dust-up over an Assemblymember's alleged giving of fake badges (shiny metal ones) to various supporters, you might want to check out the LAT's Political Muscle blog for more on the back story. Especially since the member in question has labeled the Assemblyman in charge of the investigation "the most racist legislator [he has] encountered in over 40 years."

If you know the investigating member, you know how a) false and b) insulting that charge is.

This isn't going to end well.

BTW: the post title is kind of misleading - since this post clearly picks up in the middle of the story. But c'mon, really, was there any other possible title? Can you think of the word "badges" without busting a Sierra Madre? I didn't think so.

What's Fair For The Goose Costs The Gander $320+

So, as we've learned this week, Iceland has some crazy naming processes - including, by the way, a prohibition on native born citizens taking their spouses name. A prohibition!

Of course, views on marital name-changing in America are considerably different. Don't take your husband's name? Have a nice holiday dinner discussing that one. Take your husband's name and no one will care except your feminist friends and maybe your inner roaring woman.

But what if hubby wants to take your name? In California, women simply fill out the marriage certificate with hubby's name. Men? You're going to court, dude, and publishing your intended name change, and explaining to a judge why doing so doesn't make you an emasculated pansy. I think this deserves some legal action, don't you? Cue the ACLU.

Six states allow men to take women's names the same as women take men's names in marriage. Rather shockingly, we ain't one of 'em. Paging the California State Legislature. . . .

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gloden Globe Nominations

Leonardo gets two in the same category, as does Clint Eastwood, in the list of nominations for the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards.

But Borat doesn't deserve a Best Comedy nod.

As for TV: HBO's Big Love gets a chance at best drama, along with Grey's, 24, Lost, and the only worthy contender, Heroes. While Love is conceptually edgy, it never really gets anywhere - and its mixed messaging isn't a mark of contentious drama, it's a mark of immobilized writers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Blogging to Peak in 2007'


Hell, I peaked ages ago.

Just My Luck

From today's Roundup:

And finally, USC fans can rest easy. They may have squandered any hopes of a national championship by choking against UCLA, but at least they'll get to see some llamas. "Llamas have waited 15 years to appear in the Rose Parade. On New Year's Day, 18 of the animals and their owners will stroll down Colorado Boulevard. Joan Selby, a member of the Llama Association of Southern California, sent the original application to the parade committee 15 years ago."

"Paul Holman, president and chairman of the board of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, said he has been told llamas had not been allowed in the parade because horses fear them and react as if the llamas were predators."
Friends of Phoblog know my love of the noble llama. Can't believe I'll likely miss them this year! Unfair.

My Funny Friend In the Showdown Of The Century

If you're in LA next week - check this out - a celebrity comic death match: Indians vs. Jews

My good and extremely funny friend, Sanjay Shah, is playing for the Indians.


Study: Circumcision reduces HIV risk

This article would be fascinating if it weren't missing, like, the point. I'm guessing there is a correlational, rather than causational relationship here.

Ah - wait, here's an article that seems to care more:

Why circumcision should offer some protection is not well understood, but researchers know that the part of the foreskin that is removed in the operation is rich in Langerhans cells that the virus strongly attaches to. "HIV has to gain access to the body and to do that it binds to particular cell types," Dr Puren said. "By removing the skin that contains those cells, you remove the tissue the virus would normally bind to." Similar trials are ongoing in Kenya and Uganda and are expected to end within the next year.
Of course, like, condoms probably work even better than just changing men's physical characteristics, but whatever. Do you think it will be easier to educate men to go under the knife than to use a condom? Or wait, is it one of those scare tactic things that makes safe sex suddenly look way more attractive?

Random Icelandic Fact Of The Day

Who knew:

Iceland has strict naming regulations, and a name that has not before been used in Icelandic must meet the approval of the Naming Committee before it can be used. The Committee assesses whether or not the name meets the grammatical requirements of the complex Icelandic language, which conjugates nouns as well as verbs.
And Icelanders also don't use the same surname system we use - they go the patronym route. And you thought Bjork was the craziest thing out of Iceland.

To Catch A Killer, A Catchy Name

So maybe you've heard about bodies recently turning up in eastern England. Well, it so happens that "eastern England" in this case is Rob's hometown of Ipswich. Or, even more precisely defined: bodies have turned up in his village of Copdock and in various other villages and towns that I've either been to or through in my travels.


There seem to be two monikers duking it out in headlines: The Ipswich Ripper vs. The Suffolk Strangler. (Ipswich is Suffolk's county town - like the seat of Suffolk county government.) Since I haven't read any mention of ripping, the strangler name, and its alliterative pairing with Suffolk makes more sense. Yet in the perverse, celebrity-seeking UK, I'm wondering if some Ipswichians aren't a bit disappointed to think of this dubious claim to fame credited to the whole county.

The girls, all prostitutes supposedly, disppeared from Ipswich's red light district. I had no idea there was such an area in Ipswich. I've wandered around most of the town center - er, centre - and it just isn't that big. Rob said it's located by the football stadium - which was also near-enough to my gym. I still find it baffling. I don't think "England" when I hear the term "red light district." Who knew.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Required Reading: The UK And us

This NYT piece captures in a handful of paragraphs what Kate Fox so admirably tackles in Watching the English (also a recommended read and possibly the most fun you'll have with cultural anthropology - ever). The piece addresses the fundamental cultural differences between the US and England (England is more specific and proper here than using the terms "Britain" or "the UK" because the article is speaking to English ways, not necessarily Welsh or Scottish ways. Plus, the English know, to a certainty, that there is a difference) - our penchant for talking openly and vulgarly about money; our need to know what you do (as in, for employment); our unyielding need to take ourselves and everything about ourselves deathly seriously.

Also of note: the article's gentle jibe at the American tendency to endow the English with excess credibility and intelligence based solely on their cute and sexy accents.

Sarah Lyall frames the piece on the recent dust-up over allegedly misinterpreted comments from Gwyneth Paltrow praising the Brits for being more intelligent and civilized than Americans. She probably said something fairly close - and meant it - but it loses something in translation because of her rather poor diction. Though they seemingly value leisure and non-workplace pursuits less than the rest of Europe, the English still place most things above their careers. It isn't that they don't value hard work - they just don't devalue vacations or non-career interests and subjects - a subtle, but important key to understanding the English culture. The disinterest in (or at least, disinclination to) discussing money matters is, perhaps, a mark of civility, as it implies one needn't worry about the basics of life (food, shelter, etc) and can turn one's mind to loftier concerns.

The English cultural focus outside the workplace, then, isn't a mark of intelligence per se, but it is a mark of what I'd call smarts.

Lyall's piece lauds the English penchant for furious, fun, and quick debate - citing the witty and deadly-quick House of Commons debates that mark English statesmanship, noting that Tony Blair's erudite explanation of the need for action in Iraq certainly won over uncertain Americans because of his careful, artfully articulate presentation.

I would only disagree with Lyall on two points. First, she paints the English attitude towards alcohol as more European than American. While pub culture is certainly a hallmark of Englishness (so sayeth Ms. Fox), in England, as in America, drinking is still done for a reason - celebration, marking of some event, etc - rather than consumed because you should have something at the table to wash down all that pasta, etc. Certainly, the lubricated pub discussion is a sight to behold, but I associate leisurely, mid-week, wine-soaked dinners with Europe, not England. (There, see, I split you up - happy now, my reading friends?)

Second - she closes with a quotation urging Gwynnie P to recognize the virtue of each culture. I say: Ms. Martin, if you like the English way of doing things more, then you go with it. I'm not sure I don't like many English methods better myself (with the glaring exception of English bacon). Watering down an otherwise fun exercise in cultural comparisons with "ah, but don't we all have fine points of which to boast" is boring and anathema to the thematic underpinnings of the article itself.

To clarify your assignment: read the article and, if it piques your interest, get Kate Fox's book and try to find someone capable of conversing about more than his job or income.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Two Item Review

On Casino Royale:

1.) Daniel Craig does an admirable job filling Bond's dinner jacket, and an even more admirable job taking it off, however

2.) James Bond should not, I repeat, should not ever, even for a moment, drive a Ford Mondeo.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'There it is, take it back'

Owens River allowed to go with the Los Angeles flow

Not sure if Owens Valley will buy the "message of friendship and gratitude" part, but hey, returning a 20th of the natural volume is a start.

(By the way, I'm not saying LA should stop using Owens Valley water. I also thing un-damming Hetch Hetchy is a stupid idea. That's my pragmatism-beats-ill-conceived-revisionist-environmentalism statement of the day.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Look Out, Statesmen In The Room

That was a truly remarkable press conference from the Iraq Study Group. Did you see it.

Which is the more likely headline:

Our ship of state has hit rough waters.

A new diplomatic offensive.

Watching the presentation, I couldn't help but wonder at the dignity of the process, the statesmanship of the group's chairs. With every journo's question answered, I got the feeling the underlying message was a clear: "it's time to be grown-ups now. We will talk with our enemies. Enough is enough. It's not that we disdain you or your work, we just no longer have time for it."

White House reaction should be interesting - as well as the inaction, which is sure to follow. Regardless, for a brief moment this morning, Washington was hushed by honesty. Things are bad. Here are some suggestions for making them better. But make no mistake, many things beyond our control could make this report irrelevant. And most importantly, even if everything remains the same, it may be too late.

We've broken a country. It's nice to admit it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Some Good News, But It Needs To Get Better

More than just some good news, today's report that Kati Kim and her two children were found alive and well in the Oregon mountains was great. It was miraculous.

But James Kim, who ventured out to look for help, has yet to be found.

Please pray for him.

Strange Bedfellows, Non Bedfellows

One State Senator may soon introduce a bill to grant domestic partnership rights to heterosexual couples whose therapists have yet to solve their commitment issues.

Naturally, the Campaign for Children and Families guy is already apoplectic over the notion.

I'm not saying the state should invalidate anyone's notion of a family unit. But at a certain point, when the real deal is available, why create a watered down version? Especially when so many people who want the real deal can't have it?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bleg: High Five!

Forgive the horn-tooting, but one of my MBSacto posts has been nominated for inclusing in The Blog Watch - an article published in Sunday's Sacramento Bee Forum section.

Check out the post here, and follow the comment's directions to this site where you can rank my post as you see fit and help get Metroblogging Sacramento some love. You'll have to register with the site before you can wrank the post (listed in the chart under the post's title). You can rank it from 1 - 5, with 5 being best.

Do it for the team!


Presents, Kyle, It's About Presents

If you're looking for an interesting read, check out the Metroblogging sites this week as 50 cities across the globe count down their top 7 gifts to the world.

Some of my favorite so far: New York City, gives us chutzpah; Toronto gives us Mike Meyers; and where would thousands of Trips, Troys, and Treys be without madras?

Of course, we in Sacramento have some great gifts as well - some famous people and produce. Go check it out.

A Post On The Five Senses

This one is a pointless space-filler of a post. Come back later if you want something more political.

What I'm seeing: tonight's episode of The Biggest Loser. Granted, I am watching it with a mug of tea and some full-fat pumpkin bread (that would be sense 2, what I'm tasting), but whatever, it's damn good. This is one reality show that, for the most part, I can support. Getting this country off its collective lazy ass is great. But then you have girls like what's-her-bucket (I could rewind, but it's not really the point) crying about working out for 7 days and losing only 2 pounds.

Yeah, that would actually be what a doctor would recommend you lose in order to lose it healthfully and permanently. Especially for women.

But this week's episode - in which the challenge required contestants to run around a race track with their equivalent lost weight on their backs - reminded me of my sole visit to a Weight Watchers meeting. The instructor (leader? whatever) had brought in bags - literally bags - of faux fat. She had everyone in the room pass the 10 pound bag around. It was astonishing to think of one of those bags having previously been stuck to my ass, let alone 6 of them. It's a wonder I could move at all. I'm not tooting my own horn. I've since picked back up one of those bags (okay, okay, one and a bit). But it's worth noting that it was an effictive motivator. I've often heard you should carry a 5 pound bag of flour around the market with you while you shop, to remind you to shop healthy. I think that's a good idea.

What I'm touching: the heavy stock paper on which my diplomas are printed, as well as the thinner parchment of my Bar certificate as I slip them into newly acquired frames. Professional framing seems so . . . I don't know, overly complicated? I'm not sure if spending what I've spent on an education means I should kick in the extra few hundred dollars to have them super-framed, or that I should quit while I'm ahead and go with the Target frames I bought this evening. Still dropped some cash on these - and they're more my style right now. See that's the other thing - I'm currently changing from a cherry girl to a walnut girl. Who knows what I'll be in another 5 years. Why tie myself to one wood?

What I'm smelling: a Method spiced pear scented candle (also from Target). Okay, so "smelling" is a bit of an overstatment. I'm sure there is scent coming from the candle, but since I cannot breathe out of my nose right now, I can't confirm it.

What I'm hearing: the sound of my external hard drive as it whirrs away next to me. Happily, I have figured out how to redirect my iTunes so it can figure out where I stashed the goods. Unhappily, I can't find my iPod to see whether this fix will make the computer recognize it again. The question now: do I unwrap and commit to the shuffle I impulse bought last Friday and see if I can get THAT to work in time for this weekend's race, or do I give it up and move on and hope I find the iPod at the office tomorrow? (By the way, the office computer couldn't find the iPod either - perhaps more is wrong with it than the misplaced files. Frankly, why did I even get another damn iPod? They aren't really all they're cracked up to be. There are a bunch of other tiny mp3 players. Oh, right, I bought a bunch of iTunes crap so I'm stuck unless I apply various work-arounds, etc. Blah).

Ramble over.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jesus Loves The Poor, But Not Like That

As in, doesn't love them being poor.

The pastor chosen to lead the Christian Coalition stepped down in a dispute over whether to exand the CC's agenda to include, of all thing, reducing poverty and preventing global warming. The bastard!

Imagine wanting to move beyond abortion and into causes like poverty. Way to keep your priorities straight.

For more on this theme - check out this interview in the SF Chronicle - it's an interesting read, and likely an accurate portrayal of a vastly under-represented segment of the American Christian population.

Senator Schwarzenegger?

Dan Walters opines on the probability of a Schwarzenegger Senatorial bid - either in 2010 against Boxer, or 2012 in a potentially vacant seat, should a then-79 year old DiFi retire.

The day after the election, Professor Pitney commented that a top-of-the-marquee Schwarzenegger may not take kindly to back-benching it as the junior Senator from California. Of course, whether he'd stay on that rightful back-bench is a good question.

There isn't much new material in the Walters column (is there ever?), but the question will certainly loom large in front of pundits for the next 4 years. One wonders if Maria - who usually gives a "I do this begrudgingly" vibe - could put her foot down on moving on to federal politics.

Walters brings up the presidential question, of course, and calls the constitutional barrier for naturalized citizens "unjust" (he hedges, but that's what he's saying). There's a lot of unanswered questions about citizenship and presidential bids, of course. Americans born abroad still have a shot - or at least a presumptive shot, since there's no precedential case law on the matter. Schwarzenegger didn't start as an American, obviously, so there's not much question around him.

But wouldn't you love to see the stagecraft that comes with a presidential budget? Would he remake "Air Force One" as a reality show?

Glad we'll never find out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That's Esq.

While celebrating a friend's bar passage the other night, we wondered aloud what, exactly "Esquire" means. According to the always-reliable wikipedia - it doesn't mean terribly much, it should only really be used by dudes, and you don't really need to be a lawyer to use it. Not sure simply using "esq" after your name would get you nabbed for practicing without a license anyway.

Good news: barristers are better than solicitors, as they were "Esquires" while the others were merely "gentlemen." Bad news: we don't really distinguish here anyway. This, then, seems a pretty pointless post, really . . . .

Slightly interesting: "According to legal usage expert Bryan Garner (A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, 2d ed.), "Esq." is to be placed after an attorney's name by another person, but never to be appended by the attorney himself or herself. Thus, one attorney writing to another would address the letter's recipient as "Jane Brown, Esq." but would sign himself as "John Smith"."

Also - it seems that since Esq. takes the place of "Mr.," one shouldn't be identified as "Mr. John Q. Lawyer, Esq." rather just "John Q. Lawyer, Esq." Since we chickidees can use it too, guess I get to drop the Miss (or the ambiguous Ms.). But since I'm not supposed to write "Esq." myself, I expect you all to address me as such from now on.

No, not really. Don't do that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As if you hadn't already noticed the light pace of posting around here lately . . . .

It's Thanksgiving week - which means you can expect either a massive increase in the rate of posting as I sit and surf and wait for the turkey to be ready, or complete radio silence as I spend every available moment fawning over my nephew who is, for those not paying attention, The Cutest Kid. Ever.

Of course, you know what I'll be doing on Saturday. I'll be watching some football. Hells yeah, Go Mountaineers.


Totally kidding - but I couldn't pass up the chance to use the post title for this article: 37 Percent of U.S. Births Out of Wedlock

Lots of interesting data in there. Teen birth rates are down, though, so don't confuse unwed mothers with young unwed mothers. Of particular concern: the U.S. teen birthrate remains the highest among industrialized countries. Why is that?

Doesn't Mean I Can't Still Sue Your A**

I think, anyway. Actually, it has little to do with me keeping the comments here clean. But whatever, I'm going with it. I'm a lawyer. So there.

I'm sure there's a lot of legal nuance here, and some great points of argument, and some greater examples of actionable material out there, but it's early and all I can think about is turkey, football, and shopping.

Hansel, Gretel Unavailable For Comment

I don't even know where to go with this gem from this morning's Roundup, but feel free to write your own jokes and leave them in the comments section:

And you thought Bill Lockyer had bad taste in art. A hardware store in Ohio is getting some heat for its display of gingerbread Nazis.

"Charlie Palmer covered the gingerbread men during the weekend and said he wanted them out by of his business by Tuesday."

"'He's gone way overboard this time,' Palmer said of artist Keith McGuckin. 'A few of his other displays were on the edge, but never that crazy.'"

"McGuckin said he chose the subject to provoke thought, not to offend."

"'I can differentiate between real Nazis and that the atrocities they performed compared to these little gingerbread men, but I guess some people can't,' said McGuckin, 50."

"Palmer left one of McGuckin's displays uncovered: a depiction of a suicidal snowman sitting under a hairdryer.""

Monday, November 20, 2006

From A Scholastic Perspective, This Is Fascinating

Richards Racial Tirade Draws Castigation

The actions/reactions here really play to my academic study of comedy.

Obvious Much?

From an article quoted in today's Roundup:

'There's no question that Arnold Schwarzenegger's style of governance, the ability to work in the middle, seeking cooperation instead of confrontation, is something I think you will see the 2008 candidates try to emulate,' said campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, who dropped the machete he wielded for President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to manage Schwarzenegger's more congenial reelection campaign.
Just 2008 candidates? Really? Candidates will present themselves as cooperative and try to appeal to as many people as possible? No kidding.

Friday, November 17, 2006

21-Year-Old Model Starves To Death

Here's the English-language story of the Brazilian model who died for her work. The photos there don't really imply a problem.

At least, not a problem like this. No really - I can hardly believe this is a real image. What photographer shoots a girl like this?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


In my flurry of posts last night I blew right past a major milestone here on the site.

This here is post 2004. That's over 2000 fun-filled bits of information and probably twice that in glib remarks.

Thanks for reading.


Tyler Olson reports:

Here are the final numbers:

Tyler Olson 7107 (65%)
Don Palmer 3886 (35%)

In Iowa, Democrats took control of the State House, State Senate, and
Governorship for the first time in 42 years!
Well done!

So Far It's Daucher By 13 - 13!

We thought it would be close, but this close?

Good Morning, Sunshine

After the vote-heavy southern counties were counted the Reeps only managed one constitutional office.

Go Debra!

The Stag Update: No Squeaking Here

A big Phoblog round of applause to fellow CMC and 100% vote-getter Jake Zimmerman for a big win in his Missouri State Representative win. Without strong ballot draws like Jake, Claire McCaskill couldn't have won.

On behalf of Democratic Stags and Athenas everywhere, thanks and congratulations. Now get out there and represent good.

To think we knew you when . . .

In other Stag news: Hard to decipher the accrate results from Iowa's currently posted pdf files. I think Tyler Olson - my frosh year R.A. and all-around rockstar - is winning. I really can't tell. I also can't tell how old their Secretary of State is - but he looks about 12. Those crazy corn-fed Iowans.

Last aside of the evening: There is little more fun for wonks than East Coast based election night punditry when the talking heads are exhausted, punchy, and at their funniest. Interesting tidbit: Pelosi hates Harman - so perhaps Jane should start selecting House Intelligence Committee staff quite yet . . . .

Lastly: While I absolutely could not be prouder of my CMC brothers for running for and winning public office, I look forward as well to the day when I can post The Athena Update. Unless I'm missing someone. Am I missing someone? Don't think so. Someday. I hope someday soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dumbest Analogy Of The Evening

Chris Matthews regarding an Incumbent R's loss: you flip a coin enough times, it's going to come up tails eventually.

No, no actually this has nothing to do with random probability.

Though, there's plenty of random tonight: like the results for New York's fightin' 19th where "Still the One" singer John Hall beat the incumbent R. Wasn't he a challenger we got to "Better Know" on the Colbert Report? I can bet that Colbert will do a run down of which of his willing challengers won. Maybe he can swing races. He can get bridges and mascots named - so why not get some congressmen in as well.

A "blowout of epic proportion" is what some are calling our sizeable wins in the House. At this point we've more than doubled what we needed to win to take back the House.

That feels pretty good.

Best Thing About Returns?

There are no political ads during commercial breaks.

Praise God - no more headless spokesmen or ominous musical cues breaking into uplifting song. No one is approving anymore messages.

I did, however, approve this post.

The Reep Spin: A Prediction

This may have been said already, but I'm not watching that channel, or much of the national coverage at all yet.

I think this is their talking point: Look, this isn't a referendum on anything. With very few exceptions, the midterm elections almost always result in minority-party gains. In fact, the Democrats were the first party in years not to benefit from that trend.

The takeaway message: Hey, we expect to lose seats and it isn't like we're not going to work in the spirit of bipartisanship to do whatever blah blah blah.


Per tradition, as returns, uh, return, the numbers narrow in all races.

More From Hasen

Will There Be A Recount in the Virginia Senate Race?

If you like to wonk out about the worst case scenarios and/or the minutiae of various election laws and regulations, there's really no where else to go.

Unrelated aside: As Phil gives his speech, someone is either mic-ed with him or too close to someone's boom because there's a very distinctive female voice louder than the rest coming in quite clearly among the din. Fantastic. Update: it was one of his daughters. Guess it just proves Matthews's point about the dangers of mics turning anyone shrill. Stupid technology.

Other Sources For Results

Rick Hasen offers some sites on the latest, breaking election news.

Best Map Ever

Okay, I know it's going to change, but just to save it for posterity, can we give a shout out to Alpine County for sticking with Phil? (Technically, there's a green dot on SF as well, but like that's news).

Sacramento local news is great for election coverage, of course - homefield advantage and whatnot. It's fun to scan the crowds at various parties for familiar faces. If not for a long day on the road, I'd have rallied - and it does feel a bit wrong to be home rather than with my brethren.

To be clear, I'm not glad Phil lost. Far from it. What I am, however, is completely unsurprised. Slightly more surprising, perhaps, is the prospect of sharing the constitutional offices with the GOP. Poizner is in. The LG race is close. Bowen didn't seem to get much party love. Geography has a lot to do with things as they stand right now - with vote heavy SoCal counties physically further from the Secretary of State, it takes longer to get those meaty chunks of data processed.

Schwarzenegger just happened to have a ready made retrospective of Arnie's greatest hits - it may be funnier than it plays via remote relay on the local news, but it started with the line "It was a time of gray skies." Oh barf.

As a side note: I'm switching between local coverage and national coverage on MSNBC. Though I missed whatever event prompted the comment, Chris Matthews just went off about candidates yelling at "the American People: - I guess Hillary was shouting over crowds, which, when mic-ed, comes off pretty bad when directly fed to television cameras. Like that Howard Dean thing, recall? What bothers me is that they - the TV people like Matthews - could easily educate the public on the practical realities of television science. But they won't. The alternative - advance staff could figure it the F out and adjust accordingly. I suppose it would be asking too much for either to change.

All these short takes on the events tonight probably make it pretty clear why I don't often spend election nights alone. It's akin to football fans sitting solo on Superbowl Sunday.

Here's A Proposition

Though the results are based on few precincts so far, the results have been close to what at least one pool in which I participated predicted: voters would stick with the first 6 or so and then just stop caring for the rest of the ticket.

The outlier right now: Prop 90. Where were the ads for this? I didn't see any - and we get most of them in Sacramento if for no other reason than the echo-chamber's benefit. Who let that crap pass? My prediction: we'll get some fun unintended consequences and some funner litigation out of that one.

At least 85 and 89 seem to be losing. Especially as far as 89 is concerned - Phew. That thing was the S.S. Minnow of the 2006 ballot. Or wait, maybe that was Cruz.

To My Brothers And Sisters in Pennsylvania

Senate's No. 3 Republican Santorum Loses

Well done, my friends. Well done.

Don't F With NancyP

Seriously, since it seems we've taken back the House - if ANYONE screws with m'girl . . . .

Yolo County - What's Up With That?

(There will be a lot of short posts this evening)

So it seems the SMUD annexation is going down.

Who believes PG&E, exactly? Kids, really, you can't go wrong with a municipal utility. Do you remember the power crises of a few years back? SMUD customers don't. You know why? Because their power stayed on and it didn't end up costing a butt-load.


Black Tuesday In SF?

Early results have Daly challenger Rob Black ahead in Supe District 6. He went to Hastings. He worked for Nielsen Merksamer. Daly is possibly the least liked person in SF City Hall. I say, go Rob.

My Only Purely Snarky California Related Comment Of The Night

To my friends with the campaign:

Hey guys, Arnold broke 50%, so now what's the talking point?


Let The Games Begin

With polls closed in the EST polls closed and CST closing, the punditry has begun. After a day spent traveling for work, my willingness to motivate and get out to any of this evening's parties. Of course, the biggest party tonight probably won't be Angelides's Sheraton Grand shindig, but rather will take place elsewhere - god willing, wherever Nancy Pelosi is. Too soon to tell . . . News from the east so far is good.

If I let myself watch too much of the news coverage so far, I know I won't make it to Italian class this evening. I won't do much of anything else. That Blue-State-Eyed Monster will take over . . . .

No Election Night has been the same since that night in 2000 when life on a politically charged campus stopped for days and then slogged along until a winner was chosen by the courts. Then there was Election Night in 2004 - eyes blurred, fingers numb, stabbing Hawaiian phone numbers into my cell phone, regretful only that I hadn't urged a friend to decry the wide-spread exit poll results that went against everything we'd watched for the 3 years prior.

Or maybe it started that morning-after in 1994 when I sat down to breakfast watching my mom read the paper and repeat "what happened?" over and over again.

Problem is - our whole party has spent 12 years saying "what happened?" without really seeking - or more to the point, without accepting the answers.

Does it change tonight? And if it does - what will that change itself change?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Those Crazy Arizonans

So, even the Daily Show has covered an Arizona ballot measure proposing a $1 million lottery-style system to encourage voter turnout. Illegal? Sure, probably. Amusing - certainly.

A common reaction:

"I've got mixed feelings about it,'' said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation. "It may draw out some people who wouldn't otherwise vote, but you could also say it cheapens electoral policy by offering people a $1 million incentive to vote.
People vote on crap all the time without the promise of reward of course. American Idol, anyone?

I can't even muster getting worked up over this.

One thing that struck me in the article - not that it is unique to the article - is the description of the Daily Show as "the fake news show."

No, the news is real. The commentary may be satirical, but seldom do Stewart and the gang straight make sh*t up. Fact is funnier than fiction.

Sometimes Evil Wins?

That's the message Chuck Poochigian's latest ad imparts. The ad seems to say that Jerry Brown is going to help evil win. Or Jerry Brown is the evil that wins if you don't vote for Chuck Poochigian. Meanwhile, across the screen flash graveside shots of weeping widows and gang bangers hanging out of low riders, guns drawn and blasting away. Combine this ad with the headless watercooler charmers and you have a none-too-subtle campaign of racial fear that's enough to make any political ad junkie stand up and cheer "Willy Horton!" in approval.

Well done, Chuck. After seeing that ad not only do I still think you'll lose, but I'm kinda bummed about that whole evil thing.

You've Known This Since Junior High

From a report on the impact of negative campaign ads:

"Everyone says, 'We hate them, they're terrible,'" said psychology professor George Bizer of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

However, he added, "They seem to work."

Three Warm Up Questions

1.) Will the Democrats take back Congress?

2.) If so (or for the purposes of this question, at least the House) will Nancy Pelosi really get to be Speaker?

3.) For how long?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The View From Across The Pond

Just thinking about this Kerry/Joke issue makes my blood boil, so I won't likely post too much more on it. But Rob's dad forwarded this Telegraph piece about Kerry's shortcomings, at least from a particular British perspective.

Though somewhat tangential to the thrust of the piece, these lines gave me greater pause than any others:

Kerry has long had a reputation as a haughty Boston Brahmin, a privileged, elitist, condescending careerist who cannot relate to ordinary Americans.

In contrast, on the stump this week Bush has shown that whatever his faults – and there are many – that he still has that indispensable political gift of speaking simply to ordinary people rather than talking down to them.
Is that it? Or is it just the New American Condescension? It isn't new at all. Reagan donned a cowboy hat first, didn't he? Everyone wants to claim Lincoln's humble log-splitting beginnings, right? Wait, Lincoln was a self educated man who took pride in his intellect.

I don't recall ever hearing that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were a battle of who could sound stupider.

You can be an arrogant prick about pretty much anything. For George W. Bush, it's arrogance over who is more common. Who needs less hoity-toity book-learnin'. Is Kerry also an arrogant prick? Oh hell, probably, but at least he takes pride in smarts and not idiocy.

I have little respect for people who dumb themselves down to look cool. Bush strikes me as the kind of guy who'd smirk and say "guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses" as he shoved the chess club president and his girlfriend off their tandem unicycle. Yeah, he's That Guy. He'd taunt people with "four-eyes" and "smarty pants" while discreetly shoving his Yale diploma under the latest People Magazine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guess Who Gets To Vote Tomorrow?

It's meeee, It's meeeee.

Yes, my lovely absentee ballot arrived today - with it's oddly microsoftian flying mailbox (cousin to a toaster, I presume) and soothing lavender return envelope. Now I get to spend some time preparing the little ballot book before I ink my way to . . . well, can't say relevance until we see the results, can we.

By the way, I've received a few emails asking if I'll be posting any recommendations or "endorsements" before next Tuesday. Basically, no. You'll muddle through without me. Besides, there isn't much you couldn't guess on your own. You know I'm a Democrat. You know I'm a woman. What ever you deduce from those facts is beyond my control. If you want anything jucier, well, you probably wouldn't get it anyway.

A word on propositions though - 3 words: Just say no.

And now for something completely different: So, Veronica, what's up? I know lots of girls may slip up and have a dumb-as-rocks phase when they start college - but you aren't being dumb, just out of character. You blame Weevil like right away for that hold-up? And now we can look forward to some trumpted up relationship drama (okay, that can be completely ridiculous and let totally realistic, I realize). But you're just not yourself this season. Better one-liners this week, but overall, you're just getting sloppy. Shape up.

Usury, Religion, And Real Estate

An interesting Chronicle article on Islamic finance co-ops creating opportunities for homeownership for Muslims who follow strict Islamic law against usury - which can include a prohibition against paying interest.

Reading the article, I thought back to a walking tour we'd taken in Florence last May, where the subject of usury came up in a discussion of Medici artistic patronage and charity.

So then I had to read up on usury because I missed that day of CCD:

Usury in scholastic theology
St. Thomas Aquinas, the leading theologian of the Catholic Church, argued charging of interest is wrong because it amounts to "double charging", charging for both the thing and the use of the thing. Aquinas said this would be morally wrong in the same way as if one sold a bottle of wine, charged for the bottle of wine, and then charged for the person using the wine to actually drink it. Similarly, one cannot charge for a piece of cake and for the eating of the piece of cake. Yet this, said Aquinas, is what usury does. Money is exchange-medium. It is used up when it is spent. To charge for the money and for its use (by spending) is to charge for the money twice as if one were to charge for a piece of cake and then make a further charge for eating it. It is also to sell time since the usurer charges, in effect, for the time that the money is in the hands of the borrower. Time, however, is not a commodity that anyone can sell.

This did not, as some think, prevent investment. What it stipulated was that in order for the investor to share in the profit he must share the risk. In short he must be a joint-venturer. Simply to invest the money and expect it to be returned regardless of the success of the venture was to make money simply by having money and not by taking any risk or by doing any work or by any effort or sacrifice at all. This is usury. St Thomas quotes Aristotle as saying that "to live by usury is exceedingly unnatural". Islam likewise condemns usury. Judaism condemns it save when practised against non-Jews. St Thomas allows, however, charges for actual services provided. Thus a banker or credit-lender could charge for such actual work or effort as he did carry out e.g. any fair administrative charges. The Catholic Church, in a decree of the 5th Lateran Council (Session 10, 4 May 1515) expressly allowed such charges in respect of credit-unions run for the benefit of the poor known as "Mons Pietatis".

Later, the Protestant John Calvin (father of a Protestant Reformation movement known as Calvinism) defended interest charges. A connection was advanced in influential works by Richard H. Tawney and by Max Weber that this set the stage for the development of capitalism. In fact, technology and joint-stock companies were at least as influential and trade and commerce were not retarded in countries that maintained laws against usury. However, the growth in derivative financial "products" was certainly increased by the allowance of interest charges.
Perhaps more fun - from the section on usury in literature: "In The Divine Comedy Dante places the usurers in the inner ring of the seventh circle of hell, below even suicides. (Showing how cultural attitudes have changed since the 14th century, the usurers' ring was shared only by the blasphemers and sodomites.)"

To anyone carrying any amount of credit card or student loan debt - I'm guessing that sounds about right.

Unrelated sidenote: Is there an appropriate use for the word "resiliency" or is it simply one of those nouveau faux words created by folks who can't correctly use the word "resilience?"

What's Wrong With This Sentence?

From the Chronicle on the environmental dangers of airtravel (as if I need ANOTHER danger of airtravel about which to worry):

While at first blush flying might seem to bear the rosy glow of mass transit, jet fuel emits dangerous global warming pollutants when burned, including CO2, NOx and contrails.
Um, contrails? Was it a Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers song about one of these things not being like the others . . . grammatically or factually in this case.


For saying this:

"Whatever the intent, Senator Kerry was wrong to say what he said," said Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., running for the Senate in Tennessee.
Harold Ford Jr. is also on my "nope, not anymore list" along with John McCain.

The correct response to all of this would have been a united campaign of "are you effing kidding me? Enough is enough! You word twisting barsts."

But no, the party favorite of "we're sorry we expressed an opinion, when, you're totally right, we just don't have any and any we might have are definitely wrong and we didn't really mean them that way anyway" takes the day.

I ashamed of the lot of them. Both sides. Blue, red, and everything in between that feeds this monstrous abuse of language.

A pox on both your houses.

Oh For Pete's Sake

Kerry Apologizes for 'A Botched Joke'

Because our team's constant falling over itself in apologetic apoplexy has clearly been a winning strategy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Don't Let The Accent Fool You

Now, I love a good British accent as much as the next girl - probably more. Yet I can't help but give new Daily Show reporter John Oliver a fair to poor funny rating. He gets more laughs because he's British. My American friends probably understand this phenomenon more than might my British friends. (Actually, right now, at least half my British friends are ever-so politely saying "English. Your English friends . . . .")

Oliver isn't bad - he's got respectably exercised comedic timing, and if he's writing some of his own material, it's not bad. But he gets bigger laughs solely because he delivers lines with an accent. It's a funny facade.

This Halloween, Party Like It's 2004

Tony Snow is scoring easy points for his cowardly, ignorant boss again - using old punching bag Kerry, a decorated war veteran to do it. As usual. Because the best way to hang a lantern on your administrations troubling lack of military experience is to use the lantern to try to set fire to the other guy. Noble, ain't it:

The White House accused Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday of troop-bashing, seizing on a comment the Democrat made to California students that those unable to navigate the country's education system "get stuck in Iraq."

"Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who've given their lives in this," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "This is an absolute insult."
C'mon Tony, how about a little context?

The Massachusetts senator, who is considering another presidential run in 2008, had opened his speech at Pasadena City College with several one-liners, joking at one point that Bush had lived in Texas but now "lives in a state of denial."

Then he said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Clearly, Snow's is the only viable interpretation, right? Bastard. So what else has the White House busied itself with this week?

Separately, the White House issued President Bush's Veterans' Day proclamation praising those who have served in the armed forces — a week and a half before the holiday.
Gee, I wonder why? Servicemen's blood is all that keeps this administration afloat, isn't it? Yet when those who have shed blood speak out against war - and specifically against this war, its motivations and leaders - well, that blood just doesn't count. Picky, aren't they.

P.S. John McCain - you're dead to me now. Is it possible that you suffer the same fate as John Kerry? Did you use up all your courage in the war? You deserve respect and admiration for your service and all that you endured, but why, why oh why, do you rise to defend Bush? Why do you back down for the fight for the future? Why do you join the ignorant choruses of those who spread lies and deceive Americans?

A potential rival to Kerry in 2008 — Republican Sen. John McCain — said in a statement that Kerry "owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country's call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education."
Oh you effing morons, is it possible that as part of a greater rant against George Bush and playing off the inadequacies of his educational background (gentleman's Cs, anyone?), that Senator Kerry, decorated veteran, implied that if you do not learn your history, your military strategy, or any of life's basic lessons, that you lead your armies into battle and get them stuck there? If we were all smarter WE - the royal, all of us in it together we - wouldn't be stuck in Iraq. I see nothing wrong with that statement.

And frankly, even if he meant it the other way, it'd be true as well. It'd have been better if he swapped smart for "cowardly" - then he'd really be on to something - but I don't recall Bush and Cheney getting their feet muddied anywhere.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Peculiar Northern Issues

Next year, our Daylight Savings Time will start earlier in the year and end later. In England, where summer time starts a bit earlier than has ours to this point, there are renewed calls for keeping the +1 summer schedule throughout the year, and raising that to a +2 in the summer months.

The Scots, as usual, hate the English idea. They are so far up that what would add some daylight to school kids' homeward commute would keep their kids in the dark during the morning. Latitude's a bitch.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm supposed to care about Grey's Anatomy when they toss me a rerun after 3 new episodes?

As if.

What - is it baseball? The world series? When it's a west-v-west series, I'm supposed to put up with a nation's worth of "who cares no one will watch" condescension but two midwestern teams and we rerun basic programming. What am I supposed to scorn tonight?

(And The Office? And Earl? All reruns? Booo!)

Monday, October 23, 2006

'You're A Lawyer, Aren't You.'

(Bonus points if you can identify the source of the title quote.)

An anon-lawyer comments on OC Lettergate and how "A reasonable NATURALIZED immigrant could not possibly have been deterred from voting based on this letter."

I could not possibly disagree more. Add your two-cents, if you're so inclined.

Stags In The News

After 3 fellow Claremonters sent me the link to the following article, I have no choice but to post it. Not that I wouldn't have posted it. Sorry I was slow. Here you go: Fantasy Sports? Child’s Play. Here, Politics Is the Game.

. . . Now, she and fellow policy buffs have an outlet for their competitive urges. Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway.
Atta boys. Go Stags.

Update: Apparently, this story was #1 on the "Most Emailed" list at NYT yesterday. Rock on!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Yet Another Reason To Avoid The Boy Scouts

L.A. Boy Scouts new merit badge: 'Respect Copyrights'

Grey's Morality

Or lack there of.

I keep watching Grey's Anatomy because human beings can't avoid watching train wrecks. The series started promisingly: interesting looking people, fantastic soundtrack, Patrick Dempsey as a freakin' sex symbol. Yet the first season's novelty has quickly worn down into a nighttime suds-fest where the lack of moral grounding leaves the various arcs and storylines wobbling further and further from the center.

Make no mistake: this people are deeply, deeply confused. Not the normal medical drama confusion either. They come close to it - one patient is 17 seconds more senior on the transplant list, but what does that mean anyway; two patients are impaled on a steel rod, only one can survive; a scared woman leaves a bomb in the hands of another - self preservation vs. oaths and yadda yadda yadda.

These people, it became clear last night, have no soul. They have navels into which they peer with the intensity I'd rather hope they'd reserve for examinig x-rays or lab results during normal business hours. I don't fault them totally - it's their writers who should be taken out and beaten down.

Perhaps no episode has so well illustrated this complete moral confusing than last night's "Oh, the Guilt" which treated viewers to that old dramatic standby: do I confess an affair or do I stay mum? We've built to this point, of course. But the writers keep switching the rules of the game on us. They aren't carefully revealing character traits or narrative information, they are straight up rewriting the rules. That's not cool.

Follow along: McDreamy has a relationship with Meredith after he leaves the wife he loved and discovered in bed with his best friend. Yes, he is still married when he is with Meredith, so technically, he shouldn't be with her. But in today's divorce-friendly society where such technicalities are just that, technicalities, my guess is that 90% of viewers have no problem with the relationship because his marriage is,
except for the paperwork, over. Enter Addison. She's guilty. She wantshim back. So we go an entire season believing McDreamy is the good guy, doing right by his marital contract. We get one scene of a crying, horrified Addison - a scene meant to con the audience into believing that she isn't such a cheating bitch. It was one time. But it was still one time.

So then we get a mad McDreamy-Mer fumble and suddenly that pairing is no longer okay because we got a flashback that shows him coldly walking out on Addison - after she f-ed his best friend - but no mind. The writers give Addison the moral high ground so she can torment Meredith with the panties thing. Say what? Then Shephard goes to do the right thing, but Addy is back in the sack with the former best friend. And we're STILL supposed to buy that Shepard actually thinks his "relationship" made him
equally culpable for the dissolution of his marriage?

As if.

Now to the real point: last night, in the faux idealistic, traditional Hollywood manner, characters had to "come clean." It was the right thing to do. It was noble.

It was complete and utter bullshit.

Poor Derek, who was content to end his marriage and move on with life -mooning all day over Meredith and blithely going about his business, gets slammed to the ground by Addison who just cannot resist turning the knife one more time because she was just SO GUILTY over getting a brownstone. A brownstone. Just couldn't let it go. Just couldn't gift it back to him. Couldn't sell it and make a charitable donation in Derek's name. Just. had. to. tell. him. knowing full well that Derek's sole reason for being is looking noble - saving lives, doing the right thing by his women, etc - he LOVES it.

Even shows touted as being very real in their depictions of human interaction rely on a moral center in the show. Some kind of compass figure to give the audience a sense of perspective. It might be overkill to say a show like this seeks to teach us something, yet, all shows seek to deliver some sort of message. Whatever this one is trying to tell me, I don't know.

Except maybe for this: it's okay to be a selfish asshole 100% of the time. There are few repercussions because even if someone is hurt, you'll get to sit around and feel guilty. And stare at that lovely, concave navel again.

I think Derek and the gang jumped the shark last night. They can all be miserable and attempt to feel better without reforming themselves by confessing all their transgressions to each other, but I won't necessarily stick around to watch.

Afterthought: First, this is entirely too long a post on a television show. Second, it is possible that Bailey is the moral center. At one point during last night's episode, she very rightly told her idiot interns that they didn't get to apologize, they didn't get to shed their guilt. Damn straight. Now if only she could get the other grown-ups to abide by the same rules.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's In A Name

Recently, as you may have read, about 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County who happen to have last names like mine received a rather unfriendly letter. Unsurprisingly, officials investigated its source and are now calling for Rep. Loretta Sanchez's opponent, Tan D. Nguyen, to drop out of his [doomed] House bid. But as I read coverage of this developing story, I keep stumbling over the same part:

State and federal officials were investigating the letter, which was written in Spanish and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. It warns, "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

Immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote.
[Emphasis added.] As the article says, clearly, "immigrants" are by definition naturalized citizens who would then be eligible to register and to cast votes.

The letter's particularly sinister effect, of course, is to imply that even immigrants - those here legally and eligible to vote (if they've registered, etc) - are ineligible in the same way as those here illegally would be ineligible. As the article points out, a lot of effort goes into bringing immigrants into the political process and encouraging them to vote - so this kind letter draws its potential power right from the natural confusion facing some immigrants who are still navigating the rights and benefits of citizenship.

But here's the thing. If we hadn't, in our effort to scrub clean our language, swapped illegal immigrant for the un-PC illegal aliens moniker, would this letter have been as effective?

There's a lot of intra-community fighting right now, a lot of presumptions and misperceptions, about what The Latino Voter thinks and wants. There's a tendency as well to lump all Hispanics/Latinos/Mexican/Mexican Americans/pick this week's term (I don't even know what to call myself half the time) into one "pro-immigration" category that then gets used to paint us as soft-on-border-security and hippie-loving, knee-jerk lefty freaks.

Except that's wrong.

There's a world of difference between immigrants and those here illegally. That difference absolutely is not accurately conveyed right now with the terms immigration and illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants are not immigrants. They are here illegally.

So why aren't we calling it like it is? At one time, the thinking must have gone that softening "illegal alien" to "illegal immigrant" would humanize immigration policy and the view on those here illegally. Except I think we liberal types might have dug our own graves on that one. Now, no one understands what "immigrant" actually means - and the hundreds of thousands of people who have immigrated to this country have a lot more unnecessary explaining to do and a lot more of other people's baggage to work around.

Of course, we'll never really reform anything language-wise. This is why it's best to avoid rebranding our language. We can't control it too long and the natural consequence is, well, the Bush Administration which has seldom used a word correctly in nearly 6 years.

A side note of interest: this Nguyen guy is also an immigrant - one who used to be a Democrat, at that.

To Get Politics Out Of Science, Simply Get Rid Of Science

See, because if there's no science, then politics can't get into it.

Make sense to you? Makes sense to at least one Republican congressman.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Number one on today's list of most-emailed NYT articles is this one - presented in its entireyy for those of you who won't register and read it yourselves:

October 17, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

A complete collapse in Iraq could provide a haven for Al Qaeda operatives within striking distance of Israel, even Europe. And the nature of the threat from Iran, a potential nuclear power with protégés in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

My curiosity about our policymakers’ grasp of Islam’s two major branches was piqued in 2005, when Jon Stewart and other TV comedians made hash out of depositions, taken in a whistleblower case, in which top F.B.I. officials drew blanks when asked basic questions about Islam. One of the bemused officials was Gary Bald, then the bureau’s counterterrorism chief. Such expertise, Mr. Bald maintained, wasn’t as important as being a good manager.

A few months later, I asked the F.B.I.’s spokesman, John Miller, about Mr. Bald’s comments. “A leader needs to drive the organization forward,” Mr. Miller told me. “If he is the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post-9/11 world, he does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu to be effective. ... Playing ‘Islamic Trivial Pursuit’ was a cheap shot for the lawyers and a cheaper shot for the journalist. It’s just a gimmick.”

Of course, I hadn’t asked about reading Urdu or Mr. bin Laden’s writings.

A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.’s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.”

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”


Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”


AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.”

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Ms. Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”

It’s not all so grimly humorous. Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.

Jeff Stein is the national security editor at Congressional Quarterly.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

And in case you now want to bone up on the basic facts - Sunni; Shiite.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wait, Then You Really Can Be Too Thin?

This article on plus-size models and soon-to-be-banned twigs practically forms a pretzel on the screen for all its twisty inconsistencies. I say "nearly" because pretzels are just full of carbs. An article on models would never stand for such a thing.

At any rate - if I get a chance I'll comment on it further - but for the time being, any thoughts? Do you have a problem saying this creeps you out? But what about this?

The Classics Never Get Old

Neither classic books, nor classic jokes, nor classic post topics . . .

Phoblog reader pop-quiz:

True or False - I would agree with the following statement, taken from a reader comment: A politician is not supposed to be an educator, they are supposed to act as an agent for the people who elected them and then they are supposed to be accountable at election time.

Okay, clarifying point - to fully answer the question requires knowing more about the intended meaning of "agent." So first, define "agent." Then answer the question. Be sure to explain your answer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sarah Paulson, I Think I Just Fell In Love With You A Little

Dear Aaron Sorkin,

Tonight, for the first time, I really liked Studio 60. Enough to know that if - okay, when - it gets nixed, I'll miss it. There were stories about people tonight. I wasn't sure about the whole bible-crossed lovers thing. All that whining was getting old fast. On this ep, however, Harriet became a person. Sure it was through a tired, Sorkin-approved, here-use-this-clear-audience-surrogate-to-foward-the-narrative, but hey, when the story comes out so sweetly and so well acted, who can focus the rightful amount of ire on Christine "Don't Call Me C.J." Lahti's smug journo? Not me.

And the comedy! Okay, the Nicolas Cage bit went on WAY too long and wasn't funny. But the Nancy Grace bit - that was pretty good. Sarah Paulson's surprisingly good timing and expressive face are wasted in the genre, but if I let myself get lost in the show, well, brilliant. Too bad about SNL having its own Nancy Grace bit recently. Then again, that unholy, bellowing cow deserves all the skewering she can get, so lance on. That Jenny doesn't have a baby - or whatever - bit was good. Perhaps just because it rang a tad too close to home [readers: stuff the bio-clock jokes, women get why those jokes aren't actually funny or accurate. Men don't.] Lauren Graham had better material here than on her on show lately. True story! Note that the only funny show-within bits thus far have featured Harriet. Life imitating art imitating life? Who gives a crap. Start cutting all that other un-funny stuff you try so hard to convince us is funny. It never will be. Sparingly, Mr. Sorkin. Sparingly.

But anyway, thanks for showing that you can still write a damn good bit of talk and do so for people with real chemistry.

Too bad I still don't have much hope for the show. But I thought tonight was sweet, even as it remains sweetly flawed. I cared about the characters for the first time. And about T.V. And America. [unfurl Patton flag here.]


p.s. When it becomes available - check out the reel of last night's The Word on The Colbert Report. It pretty much captures my problem with American politics today.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

There's A Better Question Here

The Chron's question: Has the mayor's new girlfriend, who is only 20, been drinking?

My question: Should I care?

Though, in all seriousness, this does raise an important question about the Mayor's taste in women. Apparently, chickie had a myspace page that magically aged her from 19 to 26 overnight. Don't date people with myspace pages who are too politically naive to know that said page will be sought out and used against her - and him - in a court of public opinion.

Dear world: myspace is a public website. Anything you say there can, and will, be used against you in every way possible.

Back to the original question - I suppose the dutiful public servant's response is to decry her actions and pledge anew to uphold the rule of law. But the Italian in me says, honestly? Is this what we're going to use against him? Or her for that matter?

Which, by the way, reminds me: I really hate that the stupid pagegate situation is going to work possibly to unseat and disgrace some Reeps. "What did you know and when did you know it" seems so much more appropriate question about, like, say, I don't know, the f*cking Iraq war and our reasons for starting it? But sexy chat messages are so much easier to understand, condemn, and discuss. To my elementary school teachers who stiffed me on my "effort" grades (the achievement grades were As, thank you very much) - SEE! I told you so. The real rewards go to the easy winners - the ones who can convince us to focus on the dancing idiot and ignore the people killing hundreds of thousands in the name of . . . . hell, something, I can't remember anymore. I will thank my math teachers, however, for teaching me how to find the lowest common denominator. This is apparently the most important skill to getting yourself ahead in media and politics these days.

Thank god I don't have to think about foreign policy anymore.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Crap, Did Blake Get Shot Too?

Oh, what a lucky day for an American politico/TV junkie to be in England!

Last night, I caught the premiere of the controversial Death of a President - a docudrama, er, mockudrama, in which George W. Bush is assassinated in October of 2007. The mock-up looks back from an unknown near-future point and describes the immediate reaction to the incident.

If you get a chance to see the film - I don't know if there are plans to air it here - you should watch over the President's shoulder in the seconds before he gets it. Look! There's CMC non-grad and soon to be Harvard MBA student Blake Gottesman! He has a blue tie on and another victim felled by an assassin's bullet also wore a blue tie. I don't think it was actually him, but still. It's weird either way.

The film cuts archival footage of presidential speeches and appearances and mixes it with somber, mood-lit interviews with FBI and Secret Service agents, the wife of a possible assassin, and a family torn apart by the both Iraq wars.

The film avoids commenting on the international reaction to such an event and only vaguely alludes to what else has gone on in the world between now and October 2007. For American students of political science, popular culture, or current events, it will seem very much like the foreign film that it is. It winks at PATRIOT act content and extentions, anti-Muslim bias and resulting witch-hunting, uses Cheney/Syria as a thinly veiled analog for Bush/Iraq - and does it all with about 70% efficacy in getting its wink-wink-nudge-nudge message across. I'm still not sure what the take-away is other than Chicago breeds violent political demonstrations (1968, anyone?).

My English hosts were a bit shocked at the film and a nearly apologetic about it. I was fascinated at the chance to watch such a thing in a foreign country - so the academic aspect exceeded any patriotic indignation I might have felt. I certainly, duh, wouldn't cheer such a real event. In the wry-sense, it would prevent me from seeing him impeached (won't happen anyway). In the real sense - killing is bad. I'm against the war - more bloodshed doesn't help the cause. And, of course, making him a martyr leads to very bad things indeed. The film didn't get close to any of that either.

I'm back in the States now, eating mac'n'cheese out of fiestaware and feeling very American. But, as with each of these trips, more a part of the world than before.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ugly Betty, Uglier Music

I'd like this show 100% more if they ditched the Housewives soundtrack - I hate that other show, no need to be reminded of it with a set of hit-em-over-the-head-obvious musical cues.

And yes, I understand the melodramatic source material, but no, that's not a viable excuse here.

And, just in case you hadn't had your fill of The Devil Wears Panchos, you'll get an explanation of "The Book" in this ep.

And, one more thing: the British invasion continues - UK's Dawn plays an E!-ish Reporter. Cheerio.

On second thought: The music might not matter. The storyline tonight is tedious. That might be an understatement. Nothing that has happened so far couldn't have easily fit into a half-hour sitcom. On the Disney Channel, it'd be fun. On network TV - crap, it's boring. Too bad. America Ferrera is wonderful. Okay, start by easing of the music and maybe I'll give it another week for her.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What Does This Mean Exactly?

I think it means not only is this guy a wrong-headed sonofabitch, but he's also a weasel who will take spaghetti approach to salvaging his (his party's?) ass.

Check out this article on Foley's disclosure that he was sexually abused - by, you guessed it, a priest.

I'm not saying it didn't happen. But it's potential excuse number 2. Reason - perhaps. Excuse - absolutely not.

Same with the rehab trip. Is he an alcoholic? Maybe - but there's an undercurrent of implication out there that rehab is a PR bandaid meant to make him look like he's proactively addressing his demons. Foley's lawyer says Foley was never under the influence of alcohol while conducting business on the Hill, but "couldn't explain his previous statement that Foley was intoxicated when he sent the messages."

Wait, the lawyer's previous statements, or Foley's? If it was the lawyer's statement, was the lawyer just trying to save his client's ass, truth be damned?

But there's a larger problem here. Much, much larger:

Attorney David Roth said Foley was molested between ages 13 and 15. He declined to identify the clergyman or the church, but Foley is Roman Catholic.

He also acknowledged for the first time that the former congressman is gay, saying the disclosure was part of his client's "recovery."

"Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man," Roth told reporters as Republicans struggled with fallout from Foley's resignation.

Foley "does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate e-mails" and instant messages, Roth said. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."
So let's get this, uh, straight. Once again, we have a story linking homosexuality with pedophilia. (Oh, the lawyer also says "Any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false." Apparently, talky-no-touchy is A-Okay!) But there are more popular, dangerous narratives imbeded in this story.

Repressed sexuality makes you want to fondle kids. Homosexuals are pedophiles. Priests who are celibate have no choice but to fondle children. Catholics and homosexuals are sexualy repressed and would you just LOOK at the consequences. Excuse the free-association, but this article may make me vomit any second.

How does Foley not become an excuse for GOP bashing? Make him gay! Make him come out as gay! Then he isn't really one of them anyway. Was he gay all along, sure, yeah, everyone seems to wink-nod-wink know Foley is gay. Now, he "wants [us] to know he is a gay man."

So someone here is genius or slime. Or genius slime. Or a slimey genius. Either Foley is hoping - in the grand, ostrichy, but-I'm-an-elected-official tradition - to salvage his clearly ended public career OR GOP leaders need to make this guy such a horrible, defective other, that he can't possibly be connected to another human. Ever.

The numerous ways in which this highlights the existance of true immorality in our government is awesome. Not amorality. IMmorality. Not only do we have his actions to consider, but now we have this nuanced, elegantly sinister dance of irresponsibility. Make sure you're listening to what's really being said here. It should make you sick.