Friday, March 31, 2006

Political Pet Peeve Number One

I've ranted on this before, but hey, on the off chance some key campaign staff, building staffers, or even a member or two (and there are a few, thank you very much) checks this site in the near future, I wil repeat.

If you have run for office, are running for office, will run for office you have been and are currently a politician.

I know it's hard to read those words. I know it is even harder to own up to them. But please, anytime you have the urge to start a sentence "I'm not a politician, I'm a ________," for the love of truth and language, stop yourself.

The Chron's John Wildermuth takes a look at the dirtiest word in American political language - noting that "being known as a politician isn't a good strategy, especially for a politician."

And hey - look who get's interviewed:

"There's some feeling that someone can say 'I'm not a politician, vote for me,''' said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "But once you get a paycheck for a political office, you're a politician, like it or not.''
See! There are experts backing me up here.

The lengths to which politicians will go to not be themselves is staggering. Check out the chestnut of a soundbite from would-be Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly:

[Westly] was walking precincts for Democratic candidates as a teenager in Atherton and Menlo Park, was co-student body president at Stanford University and at age 24 become the youngest person ever elected to a state Democratic Party office. In 1978, he worked as a legislative aide to the late Peninsula Rep. Leo Ryan, who was assassinated in Jonestown, Guyana.

As vice-chair of the state party in 1989, he lost a high-profile battle for the chairmanship to former Gov. Jerry Brown, but stayed active in party affairs before becoming state controller. He's been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 1988.

But Westly still clings tightly to his outsider status.

"Other than the Democratic Party stuff, I've only given three years of my life to running for political office,'' he said.
Right, that CDP stuff doesn't count, right? Just a blip on the screen. Fit it in between weekly Rotary meetings and your Bunco get-togethers?

At least Angelides isn't quoted saying anything quite as laughable in the article - though I wouldn't let that make me think he hasn't said as much on the record elsewhere (we aren't on anyone's side here at Phoblog. Yet).

And we don't even have to get started with Schwarzenegger, do we?

The rampant mistrust and disgust voters express about "entrenched" or "career" politicians is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe we should encourage would-be leaders to be honest about themselves from the start by not expecting - basically requiring - that they lie to us about being as outside as outsiders can get and just level about their experience and qualifications.

As Jack Pitney explains in the article, the whole of human history is littered with this kind of bogus posturing - but a girl can dream.

Whose Backlash?

While in DC this week, CA Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez warned the GOP of a possible Latino-voter backlash over proposed immigration reform.

Unfortunately, Nunez is likely right that they should fear a possible Latino-voter backlash. I say "unfortunately" not because I don't think such a reaction is warranted, necessary, or valid. I say "unfortunately" because I wish it the GOP should fear a voter backlash.

I'm a proud Mexican-, Italian-, Irish-American and I'm a voter. At various points in American history, each piece of my own ethnic puzzle has been hated, excluded, and discriminated against by those ethnic groups who had come before them and assumed the mantle of the American trust. How quickly we forget though.

One commenter mentioned in a previous post on the topic of immigration policy that Asian immigrants aren't really getting any play in the media over the issue - despite their comparatively large presence in California. We can't build a floating fence in the Pacific, so the visuals for that immigrant group just aren't as made for TV. But the underlying point remains the same: this is hardly a niche issue for Latinos/Hispanics/Chicanos/Pick your descriptive word.

I suppose it is naive - and repetitively so - at this point to wonder aloud where all the Americans who believe in the American Dream have gone. Yet what else can we do?

So Nunez is right - this issue will motivate many Latino voters. I can only hope that non-Latino voters and leaders will remind those present longer in America why they should honor their own forebears by lashing back with their votes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bummer

Had some spam comments turn up here for the first time today. Once they find you, it's hard to shake them.

Therefore, though it saddens me because I find such tools really annoying, I've now enabled word verification. This means that if you'd like to leave a comment, you have to decipher a mash-up of letters and key them as directed.

I don't like it, but I'd like you all having to sift through offers to enlarge various body parts to get to thoughtful bits even less.

Thanks for understanding.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fly The Flag. Fly A Flag.

Reading some of the LAT's coverage of the walkouts in Los Angeles, one can get a muddled, mixed impression of what is really going on and whether the students marching know, understand, or care why they are out of class. Most do, but many likely don't really know about the debated bill or the other measures being considered in Congress right now.

From Switzerland, it is hard to get a good feel for what's happening back home.

I can't help but notice, however, the difference between AP photos. Some show passionate students waving American flags. Some show passionate students waving Mexican flags. Given the marchers' goals, I can't help but wonder why they would choose the latter. Well, I know why they choose the latter, but I disagree vehemently.

The Times seems to agree with me in this editorial which gets to the point better than most anything else I've read on the issue yet with my limited net and news access (note to CNN World producers - your channel is boring and superficial, please make it better).

Isolationism and fear of others comes in waves. This round is, duh, just a another fun consequence of post 9/11 alarmism. Seems Congress doesn't mind running over any old brown person in its way - which is a great way to anger a nation, jeopardize our economy, and leave us 0% safer. We've trashed our goodwill in the world and we're working on doing the same here at home among ourselves.

But as for the flags, may I suggest flying the flag of the country from which you do not wish to see people deported? Sends a much clearer message to . . . well, everyone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

He Lies

Just caught Bush responding to a question by the incomparable Helen Thomas about why he reallllly wanted to go to war in Iraq. He objected to the premise of her question, saying no president wants to go to war. He then dug up the old gems we love so much about how 9/11 changed foreign policy. How innocent lives can be targeted, etc.

Yet none of that really connects to Iraq, does it?

He can be as defensive as he wants - but I've heard no answer yet and he sounds as foolish and ignorant - no, it's stupid right, if the ignorance continues in the face of evidence to the contrary or that educates one out of ignorance - over here in Europe as he does at home.

Monday, March 13, 2006

For Ashlyn


Last week, a 27-year-old jogger was hit in the Presidio by a driver who couldn't be bothered to stop or call 911. Left without oxygen for 10 minutes until found by a park employee, her brain suffered irreversible damage. Had the driver stopped to administer aid or called aid to the scene sooner, she might have lived.

I first heard about the incident from a friend who heard from his friend who was a good friend of Ashlyn Dyer. It is discussed several times on Metroblogging SF as well.

She was my age and was doing what I spent 6 or so months doing last year: enjoying the cities runner-friendly areas. It was an unbelievably unfair end to what was, by all accounts, a wonderfully spirited life of a kind, generous, loving woman.

Her family - who possess more grace at this difficult time than most have at their best times - have set up the Ashlyn Dyer Fund for Neurological Research and Support and also donated her organs so that others might live.

Please donate if you can or at least say a prayer for Ashlyn and her family and friends.

Ringtones That Have Been A Long Time Coming

Via WWFD some ringtones we probably all have needed at one time or another.

Women's Health: The folly of 'should'

In the grand tradition of this site's commitment to including as much information on women's health - and sexual health in particular (for as long as we're all subjected to Levitra ads) - I offer now this article from the LA Times on plastic surgery for your privates. I regret having so fervently objected to Brazilian waxes now.

Feminists too have criticized the trend. Judy Norsigian, co-founder and author of the feminist health tract "Our Bodies, Ourselves," says women who have these surgeries are taking risks to adhere to standards of feminine beauty that are fleeting, unnatural and, ultimately, dictated by a society in which men are fixated on barely pubescent girls.

Norsigian and others have spoken out against Brazilian waxes, a popular hair removal trend that leaves all but a tiny wisp of pubic hair intact, as a reflection of that fetish. In turn, by making women's genitals more visible, the Brazilian wax trend has naturally led more women to take the risky next step of having their genitalia surgically altered, she says.

"We live in a country where people are always thinking up new things, new practices, new ways to make money," says Norsigian. "And if you can play upon an insecurity, you can get a lot of people to do a lot of things."

But many of the patients who pay from $7,000 to $18,000 to have their genitals nipped, tucked and rejuvenated aren't buying the arguments of those who would portray them as feckless pawns.

"I consider myself a feminist, and I feel this is so empowering," says Katie Sokey, a 36-year-old South Pasadena resident on whom Matlock recently performed laser vaginal rejuvenation. "It was a way to take charge of my own sexuality" after giving birth naturally to three strapping babies.
The frequent collision between empowerment and subjugation should stop somewhere short of my pants, thank you very much. I suppose if a woman considered breast enhancement to match popular notions of beauty, than altering her genitals makes as much sense. But, really? This is something women will do? Reconstructive surgery aside, do we really need to go there?

One plastic surgeon quoted in the article says many women are prompted strictly by aesthetics:

They are, says Alter, "women who are in tune with what they should look like."
Ponder for a moment, if you will, the word "should" in that sentence.

Women who elect for this sort of surgery to correct the physical consequences for childbirth I can understand. But good grief, I have enough trouble keeping my hairstyle current, now there are standards for what that area "should" look like?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ignorance Based Fear Mongering 1, Reality Still Holding At 0

Apparently Bush's message took better hold than he could have imagined - and both Dems and Reeps ran with it. Presto - no ports deal for Dubai. The Chron takes a look at the general culture of foolishness that led to the death of a deal that security experts generally agreed presented no threat.

What worries me here is that, on some level, Congress and the American people might congratulate themselves, thinking they've taken some affirmative step toward increasing port security.

All the news reports I saw focusing on the danger of unscreened truck drivers being allowed in and out of the ports . . . .

Pop quiz: What percentage of containers are screened before they enter US ports?

You think the ports are any safer now? You think more money will actually go toward port security? How about in Blue California? Last I recall, Texas ports seemed to be well funded. LA and Long Beach, not so much.

But great job Congress. Great job George Bush. See, that rampant Anti-Arab sentiment came in handy after all.

And, really, shouldn't we be better than this?

One House Democrat, Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, produced a television commercial for his coming Senate run in which he is shown walking through the Port of Baltimore as pictures of a member of the Taliban, wearing a black turban, and two Sept. 11 terrorists are shown. "I'm running for the Senate because we shouldn't outsource our national security to anyone,'' Ford says in the ad.
I've really liked Harold Ford. But he should be ashamed of running an ad like that. I'm ashamed that he ran an ad like that.

This political ick factor for this issue is uncomfortably high. There are some who acknowledge this:

Democrats insisted their cause was not anti-Arab but applied to any foreign operations at U.S. ports, and they pushed measures to require that U.S. companies be the only ones allowed to manage terminals. The legislation would fundamentally alter most of the nation's largest ports, including the Port of Oakland, where terminals are managed by companies headquartered in Japan, Singapore, Denmark and Korea.

"This is not aimed at any company, it's not aimed at any country, it is aimed at trying to send a big wake-up call to our own government that we've not done what we need to do on security in our ports and so much else that has basically been neglected since 9/11,'' said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Such words did little to convince skeptics that opportunistic politics hadn't trumped policy.

"They are full of s -- ,'' said Zogby, himself a Democrat. "They know just what they are doing.''
I think that just about covers it.

'President loves Oval Office rug'

There's nothing wrong with appreciating symbolism, but somehow, I'd rather hear Jed Bartlet wax poetic on the symbolism of the Oval Office carpet. When Bush rambles on about the happy rug it just makes him seem a tad flighty, no?

Maybe I'm biased.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A broad Blogging

And so today I leave This Land for one Over There. It is a short trip in the greater scheme of things. It is a long trip in American terms. Prospective employers have impliedly dumped it a lapse in common sense. Friends and family have dubbed it a smart seizure of opportunity. I call it one big scary plane ride. I will call it something else once I get there (probably "fun," or, to start, "cold").

If Phoblographer-y things come up while I'm over there, I will post them here. I plan on visiting Parliament and engaging in as much government nerd tourism as possible (you may recall my Fun With US State Capitols adventure last summer. Yes, I am that nerd). Aside from that, things here will be quiet again or still, depending on your definition of quiet since we've gone through finals, the Bar, and Bar recovery over the last several months - none of which is an ideal blogging phase in one's life.

As ever, I appreciate your readership and links tremendously and do hope you don't forget about me.

In the meantime, if you would like to keep up my travels (and really, I'm not sure why you would), drop me an email via the link in the column to your left and I'll hook you up the addy.

Otherwise, have a lovely spring and wish me luck. I'm looking forward to seeing a bit of the world - this time, without my BarBri books in tow.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Heir Apparently American

The Cobert Report prompted me to look up this NYT pice on a British aristocrat looking for an heir in America. Hey man, I can be there Thursday.

No, really, I can be there Thursday. Seriously.

It's not all fun and games - running an estate is expensive.

But worth noting in the piece are the aristocrat's appreciation for American energy and work ethic as it beats out British leisure time.

So, Americans, while you fantasize about what you could do with this kindly gentleman's estate, you should understand: he wants you because you're a sucker who will not take more than a long weekend until you retire.

Wow, So It Wasn't My Imagination

Netflix rage is a well-known problem brought on by the unreasonable absence of little red envelopes in one's mailbox on the days they are expected. Amber has long suffered from Flix rage. I suffered from Flix frustration, but since I canceled my service in anticipation of my impending travels, it never developed the full-blown affliction.

But even as I thought to myself that my DVDs just weren't coming as fast as they were when I first joined Netflix, I never suspected the company was really deviously delaying my DVDs.

But they were.

Color me slow to catch on.

From what I hear, Blockbuster's service has its share of rage-inducing idiocy as well. So what's a girl to do?

I feel stupid for defending Netflix as the not-quite-as-evil-corporate option over Blockbuster. Turns out they're just a bit too biz-savvy for my tastes. I can appreciate that subscribers who are really good at turning around product are bad for the bottom line. But I contracted for unlimited service, not limited unlimited service. Except apparently I did contract for this bullshit discrimination since they revised their terms of service to reflect their crap policy.

Caveat emptor, indeed.

Why Michael Kalin Is A Joke

Okay, okay, that's mean. But his op-ed in the Glob is called Why Jon Stewart isn't funny, so really, he opened the damn door.

Amber linked to this searing op-ed on how Jon Stewart is threatening the future of democracy in America - or at least of the Democratic Pary in America - by turning all of politics into one big joke. To illustrate his point, he creates a fictional, stereotypical New England, Jewish, progressive student who laughs at the Daily Show and then sells his soul to an investment bank, leaving a vacuum in the Democratic Party he now reaches through his checkbook.

To Kalin, a 2005 Harvard grad, Stewart is the public policy equivalent of the Pied Piper:

The tragedy of this portrait is not that investment banking corrupts young souls (although one could argue otherwise), but rather that the students who abandon politics out of a naive self-consciousness often represent our country's most idealistic minds. Stewart's daily dose of political parody characterized by asinine alliteration leads to a ''holier than art thou" attitude toward our national leaders. People who possess the wit, intelligence, and self-awareness of viewers of ''The Daily Show" would never choose to enter the political fray full of ''buffoons and idiots." Content to remain perched atop their Olympian ivory towers, these bright leaders head straight for the private sector.
Kalin is an ignorant young pup who should'be brushed up on his history (literary and otherwise) before yammering on about the ill-effects of humor on the future of American leadership.

He may use more 25-cent words to do it, but Kalin basically echoes those who would put the kibosh on free discourse with the tried, true, and ever failing line, "that's not funny."

Everytime we laugh at our leaders we weaken democracy? We confirm that government service isn't worth the sacrifice?

Possibly.

More likely, however, the messages offered by Jon Stewart present more truthful analyses and a more honest highlighting of blatant administrative malfeasance than the MSM would dare dream of reporting to the public.

At what other point in history - especially the history of Kalin's generation, or mine - have we so desperately needed someone with a really big megaphone to broadcast our collective "this is re-goddamn-diculous?"

Comedy historically provides the truest light by which to examine current events. It certainly is no joke.

But Kalin's own "holier than art thou" attitude after a few months of post-collegiate experience may be.

And Now, The Carphone Report

Because we all need something new to worry about, researchers todaylet us know that an 11 year epoch of increasingly severe solar storms that could " fry power grids, disrupt cell-phone calls, knock satellites back to Earth, endanger astronauts in space, and force commercial airliners to change their routes to protect their radio communications and to avoid deadly solar radiation could begin as soon as this fall"

As for its effect on air travel:

Air travelers could be affected, too. Since the end of the Cold War, to avoid headwinds, airlines have increasingly flown subpolar routes to get between the United States and other Northern Hemisphere continents quickly and cheaply. But during solar storms, they must avoid the poles and fly more southerly routes.

They do so partly in order to avoid having their radio communications disrupted over dangerous polar terrain and partly to avoid exposing passengers -- especially pregnant women -- to the increased radiation, said solar-storm expert Joseph Kunches, chief of the forecast and analysis branch of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo.
Ah, so that's part of the reason for the polar route, is it? I didn't know. I wonder if that's why when I flew to the UK a bit ago, we didn't go polar on the way there, but did on the way back. Of course, if there's headwinds in one direction, why would you do it on the way back? Or is it that circular flow thing that means you get it both ways, uh, both ways?

At any rate - just wanted to ring some alarmist bells and give you something to worry about today as well.

Unemployed Lawyers, However, Steady at $0k

L.A. Observed links to valuable information about an uptick in first year associate wages as an LA firm starts its fresh, but soon to be dead, meat at $145k.

Yes, but are they happy?

Monday, March 06, 2006

But When Will The Movie Be Out?

Finally, an option for those of my friends and family who just don't get the vital importance of checking my website hourly: an online service that takes your blog and turns it into a shiny, hardcover book.

I remember student authored book projects in elementary school that required much paste and construction paper. This sounds a lot easier.

It's Constitutional Because It's Constitutional, See?

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that colleges must allow military recruiters on campus to recruit (if they want the federal funds, that is).

The court rejected the free speech (free association) challenge.

Until the underlying legal fiction that don't-ask-don't-tell is non-discriminatory or that discriminating against gays in the military is non-discriminatory. Based on that foundation, on what grounds can law schools exclude recruiters when, by definition - by the court's definition the recruiters are not discriminating and thus cannot be violating the schools' policy.

It's easy to tie federal funding to an unconstitutional policy if you simply refuse to recognize it as unconstitutional, right?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Give Those 3 Muscles A Break

Smiling takes 3 muscles and frowning takes like 87, or so the saying goes - roughly - and thus we are supposed to smile. Only.

Amber and I, as well as other bloggers, have commented on our discomfort with being told to smile by perfect strangers in the street as we go about our business. Today, this chron article discusses the American culture of cheerfulness and why it isn't necessarily the global norm, why it is the appropriate capitalist emotion, and why, perhpas, it kinda sucks.

And Jon Stewart Was Great

Despite Crash's win, the show wasn't a complete wash. I thought Jon Stewart hosted well - though either someone slipped the audience a giant valium or they were inadequately mic-ed.

This concludes your 2-post Oscar review.

A Crashing Disappointment

I'm not sure which is worse: that Crash won the Oscar for best picture or that it won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

It was a bad film. A manipulative, bad film. Pah-tooey.

A .5 Second Review Of The New Dick Wolf Show, 'Conviction'

Conviction = Grey's Anatomy of a Murder

This has been your .5 Second Review of the new Dick Wolf show, "Conviction."

Thank you.

Editor's Note: Were this review any longer than .5 seconds, it might have addressed my questions about how ADA Alexandra Cabot, whom we last saw bleeding to her fake death on a New York City street in L&O: SVU can have returned safely to work and to life. We also would have mentioned that you might remember actor Anson Mount from such films as Britney Spears's film debut, Crossroads.

And the circle is complete in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . : Anson Mount stared in Britney Spears's film debut, Crossroads, which was written by Shonda Rhimes, who created Grey's Anatomy. Wooo, spooky.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Port Development Jenga

The Port of Los Angeles has decided to pull the bottom brick out of the pile of San Pedro's waterfront renewal by placing $18.4 million in projects on hold:

The Port of Los Angeles has temporarily shelved $18.4 million in waterfront improvements, opting instead to further study the measures as part of an overall project review that won't be finished until mid- or late 2007.

Port officials announced this week they will hold off doing the series of planned short-term improvements designed to keep momentum going on the community's ambitious $500 million waterfront makeover. That means the earliest construction on the rest of the project -- with the exception of a fountain and some restrooms -- won't begin now until late 2007 or early 2008.
But hey, at least we get the bathrooms, right?

At one point the article mentions that port staff members told commissioners they were removing the $18.4 million earmarked for the improvements from the port's 2006-07 budget.

The staff told the commissioners they were removing the money? I must not have studied local government very well - because I really that axe lay in the hands of the commissioners, not staff. I suppose pegging the staff with it relieves the commissioners - and thus our illustrious mayor - of taking too much responsibility? Maybe I just read the article incorrectly, but I swear it says "staff."

Even Noel Park thinks the next phase of development should've proceeded since it was mainly just the development of several small parks meant to tie the waterfront to downtown San Pedro. Noel Park wanted it done, get that? He's not really pro-development. So why did they nix this? A local neighborhood council president, on the other hand, says "we need to be careful about short-cutting the process."

Twenty gooddamn years of no change! TWENTY! If not more. How long a process do you need? To plant a couple of little lousy parks?

The Breeze does a nice job collecting both predictable and unexpected reaction to the decision (Janice, I'm disappointed at your utter lack of outrage), however I would love to know more about, you know, like, what the hell happened. We're told that POLA "has temporarily shelved" $18.4 million in projects and that Port staff informed Port commissioners of the earmark's removal.

Any detail on what actually happened - as opposed to San Pedrans reactions to it - would be most appreciated.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Discuss

Stories like this one, about a planned town in Florida that will be heavy on covenants running with the land, have yet to cease being Bar exam essay fact patterns.

Politics And The Funny, Vol. [I've Lost Count]

Insightful and funny article in the Chron about the Cartoons and the always puzzling question - why can't we all laugh at the same things?

The question that springs to mind is, Why is it OK for Marzouk to joke about suicide bombers, murderously fanatical Islamists and 72-virgin giveaways, when those are precisely the stereotypes represented in the worst of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?
The answer, of course, lies in the with/at distinction on which all comedians must balance their acts. One of comedy's greatest powers is its ability to create in and/or out groups and harness that resulting energy to whatever ends the comedian sees fit. That's not always for good, of course.

(The piece also references Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World as an example of, at least theoretically, the bridge-building capabilities of comedy. From what I hear - the film is crap, which is sad because I was really looking forward to it. But the premise makes sense.)

But while the piece is an interesting, if somewhat superficial, treatment of the various motivations and outlets for niche comedy (by ethnic or racial group in this case), it fails to really come back to that first question of when it's okay for groups to reach outside themselves for humor.

Also wrongly conflated here are stand-up artists and the Danish cartoonists at the center of this controversy. The goals of these groups are, if not divergent, at least distinguishable.

It's a healthy discussion and definitely gave me a list of comedians I'd like to check out. But I wish it were the first in a series or that the writer, Jeff Yang, were going to continue somehow with this subject.

Worth a read and good for a few laughs.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

But How Many Other Ones Did They Name?

A study found that only 1 in 1000 could name more than one of the First Amendment's 5 (named) freedoms.

Well, 1 in 1000 is the headline, one in four is the text. I'd say 25%, while still small, sounds better.

It's a surprising finding considering 100% of grade-schoolers respond to nearly every question with "it's a free country."