Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This Guy Hit Every Hatorade Station On The Course

Reader AL points out this gem of a self-absorbed condemnation of newbie marathon runners.

How lacking in confidence must you be to assume your sub 3-hour marathon time is made less valuable by someone else's over-6?

Jerk.

Buzz Wonk Buzz

One of the highlights of the new CMR - and I'm thinking I'll start calling it the CMaR since there's still a longer running Capitol Morning Report that could and does go by CMR - is the return - well, second installment, of Jason Kinney's This Week In The Echo Chamber.

The Echo Chamber hits the exact tone a conventional blog should. Sure, it still lacks the kind of links to source material or related articles that would make it all the better, but Kinney is funny - his bright, energetic diction makes the politicking go down so much more easily.

Much credit for highlighting the most amusing political ads this season: Poochigian's headless horsement of the coming Jerry Brown apocolypse. Why are they headless? And why are they around a water cooler?

My only complaint: his first item addresses Angelides's promise to fight for the withdrawal of CA National Guard serving in Iraq. Kinney says "Message-starved partisan Democrats weep with wonky joy."

Depends on how you define "wonky." There are message wonkies I suppose. I think wonk, I think policy, which means admitting when campaign lines are just that. And though I HATE that the Reeps have lept on it so fast, Jack Pitney is right:

"[quoting] John J. Pitney Jr. on the National Review Online blog -- The Sacramento Bee reports: "Democratic gubernatorial challenger Gov. Phil Angelides promised Saturday `to do everything in my power' to bring California National Guard troops home from Iraq if he is elected governor." He'd face three obstacles. The first is Article II of the Constitution, which makes the president the commander-in-chief of "the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." The second is a federal law forbidding governors from withholding consent to National Guard activation "because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty." The third is a Supreme Court decision upholding that law..."
(That's from a soundbite from a Reep campaign listed in the Morning Report yesterday - which is both password protected and without archives. Can't find the blog post link, but will keep looking.)

I still feel message starved, but good try.

And good report, Mr. Kinney.

Monday, September 25, 2006

CMR 2.0

The California Majority Report went all Web 2.0 today with the release of the redesigned site. If you click on that link and get a system maintenance message, you aren't alone. I got the stock screen for most of the day, though the new site did pop up briefly enough for me to form some snap judgments before cutting back to the maintenance notice.

The new site has a lot more hallmarks of blogdom: blogroll (still not linked off the main page - that is to say, no links on the main page, "rolled" or otherwise, but this is a start), archives, etc. The general look, however, is a bit Flash Report fussy, though that may be an unfair evaluation after just a few seconds of viewing.

There's also an "Elections" tab on the top that takes you to a page of links to all races with blurbs about each one. I only got a quick look at one, but my gut reaction was "uh, ATC, anyone?" Perhaps it's a partnership, though I didn't see any indication of such. Why reinvent the wheel? Scott Lay and the AroundTheCapitol.com gang have a great trove of information on their site. The CMR page looks like a bit of a hybrid between ATC's elections page and what used to be called "The Bench" - though I'm not seeing that anymore, so maybe CMR is stepping into a new vacancy. Like I said, I'm basing my early opinion on about 3 minutes of viewing.

It's definitely a more visually sophisticated site now and I look forward to seeing how that might change posting habits and content, as well as reader interaction on the site.

To quote a CMR writer: good luck with the blog, boys.

Update: okay, so it's up now. For reals. I'm digging the visual reinforcement of writer portraits by each post - there's this reassuring row of Steve Maviglios testifying right down my screen. I dig the portrait art concept, but might I suggest something in the 50x50 pixel range or so?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Veto It

The Roundup links to LAT columnist George Skelton on the electoral college reform bill:

George Skelton would like the governor to sign the electoral college bill. "He has 10 days to sign or veto the bill by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) that would mark the first step in rendering moot the anachronistic Electoral College. The goal is to assure that the candidate most Americans vote for is elected president."

"No more battleground states or spectator states. Every state would be in play. Every vote would count."
Really? How do you figure that? Because I have to figure that a candidate weighing limited resources against available ears and eyes is going to concentrate her efforts in high-density areas. Do I like that Circus New Hampshireus determines which pony my party backs? No, of course not. Do I want only major cities deciding? Good lord, no thanks on that either. If there's some middle ground, great. Otherwise, ditching the electoral college won't stop the highly professionalized and unnatural form of candidate selection. It will just allow journos to stay in better cities during primary season.

Just say no to the Eastern Politico-Journo Establishment. And tell Schwarzenegger to say no to this bill.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One More Ketchup Post

I've been racing to catch up this week after a weekend in LA, excuse me, the OC, where I was literally running to keep up in the Disneyland Half Marathon.

I was quite pleased, however, to return to this bit of good news: my friend and election litigation rockstar Mr. Rich Miadich won his 7th Circuit challenge of an Illinois ballot access law that even I - hater of most things 3d party (curse you, Ralph Naderrrr!) - think that law went a bit far in keeping the crazies (and I say that with love) out. No longer, though - as Mr. Miadich got the 7th to reverse a lower court decision upholding the statute.

Way to knock one out of the park on behalf of associates everywhere! He picked up the case pro bono, too. I'd say that kid has good judgment . . . .

Amok, Amok, Amok

The NYT has a problem with the politics of judicial selection - or rather, a problem with a politically selected judiciary period.

Me too. High-five, NYT.

Which reminds me, there's a very interesting article in a recent Bar newsletter about that Bagel-shop owner being elected to the Bench from Manhattan Beach (it was MB, right?) and the response to what was, as far as I know, a totally fair electoral win by a valid candidate for the office. Blame the system, not the bagel baker. I need to blog about that. I make no promises that I'll get to it, but it's been on my mind for awhile . . . .

Get This Stag Some Dough - STAT!

Stag and Iowa House candidate Tyler Olson needs your help.

He sends words today that Mark Warner is conducting and online poll to determine where to direct a sizable PAC donation. Tyler is listed in the left drop down menu as "Tyler Olson (HD 38).

Besides being my frosh year RA and all around great guy, Tyler is also a loyal and dedicated Democrat and someone to watch as he moves forward in his political career. Check out his bio here.

Go on, click the guy to victory. And send him a check as well.

GO STAGS!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Helpful ZDNet Article

CMR points to this from ZDNet:

The controversy may center on the design of the Web server called speeches.gov.ca.gov. The California government used it to post MP3 files of Schwarzenegger's speeches in a directory structure that looked like "http://speeches.gov.ca.gov/dir/06-21.htm.htm". (That Web page is now offline, but saved in Google's cache.)


Good link, CMR. Though I find it amusing that the site, continuing, like the MSM, to play off/run with, the tech-ignorance of most readers, continues to insist that saying insiders told them it was a public site constitutes some kind of scoop.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Game Over

Sadly, Tapegate made the Daily Show tonight. Elegantly as you'd imagine, Stewart managed to rib both camps very well. Can we just drop the whole non-controversy now?

Ha! So It IS Just A Matter Of Good PR

Look at that, the SFSU Arabic Professor got a call from the nice folks at State yesterday inviting him to pop 'round Thursday to pick up the visa that will end his 90-day exile in Canada and allow him to return to San Francisco to resume work and life with his American wife and children.

I'm in no way implying he didn't deserve to get his visa, nor should this update mean that State escapes culpability for creating the problem to begin with.

I wonder what happened to that Princeton kid who totally was scamming US benefits but got his own ABC World News Tonight segment out of it. (Note: when I say "totally scamming US benefits" I'm being at least partially, but, importantly, not completely, facetious.)

Two Questions, The Answers To Which Should Clear Up This Tape Nonsense

Here are the two questions that I think must be answered in the negative:

  1. Can you "leak" a public document?
  2. Is accessing a non-password protected file from a public server "hacking?"

See, the problem with the whole Schwarzenegger tape story is that, as I've been saying, both sides, seeing that the substance failed to accomplish anything, are dying to score some earned media out of the fallout. Except there isn't any fallout. The public is used to and seems to accept Schwarzenegger's loose lipped style (which is sad, but a topic for another post - but I suppose we can rationalize by saying at least when Schwarzenegger says something inelegant it just sounds candid and when Bush says something inelegant it sounds ignorant, so California still comes out way ahead). There was no "hacking" or other breach of internet security.

If, as one media expert to whom I spoke explained it, a file is not password protected, it is public.

Period.

Even if it isn't linked to from anywhere, simple directory scans, or just common sense, can usually find things. For example, if I wanted to get an old CMR post, I could likely engineer that from the method by which current posts are addressed in their URLs. If the archives drop down on this site breaks, for another example, it isn't hard to reconstruct the URL to access old Phoblog posts.

Unfortunately, the nuances of internet protocol and basic functionality are mysterious to both the MSM and the public. And politicos. That's why this non-story keeps going.

Bummer for the Schwarzenegger camp that they had to deal with the teensy speedbump of the original tape being reposted by the LAT. But if they had more techknow-how to start out with, they a) wouldn't have stored unedited audio files in a public directory and b) would've let the story die without trying to snatch a process victory story out of it slamming Camp Angelides for some sort of breach of law or whatever.

Camp Angelides, in turn, when they raised their hand to say, yeah, we did it, what's your problem, needed to educate political reporters and the public on exactly how they did what they did and why it in no way was either wrong or even questionable.

Now neither side can win, but it seems Angelides's side is unwinning even more.

So, to review:

  1. You cannot "leak" a public document.
  2. Until there is some evidence of a breach of password protection or something similar, there was no hacking. Accessing files on public directories, whether or not they are directly linked to from a top-level domain or anywhere else, is neither difficult, nor wrong, nor a hack.

Questions?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One More On Bush 9/11-in-an-Election-Year Rhetoric And Then I'm Done

For, like, today at least . . . .

From the Chron's coverage of Bush's 9/11 anniversary speech:

The connection between the al Qaeda attack in 2001 and Iraq is one Bush has made many times since he declared war in 2003. Yet on the previous four anniversaries of the Sept. 11 attack, Bush has mentioned Iraq only once, during a radio address delivered two months before the 2004 presidential election.
I love it when Bush uses the phoney 9/11-Iraq linkage rhetoric.

Oh - and if you're the only person who didn't get this forwarded to you today - watch it. It starts out good yet slow, but then sneaks up and delivers some brilliantly crafted bitch slaps to the face:

Here's A Tip

A few weeks ago, I read a lengthy and heated exchange among (annoying) commenters on the Chron food critic's blog about tipping. (I'd link directly to it, but the Chron insists on using the worst archives system ever.) The post answered a question from a reader about whether it was proper to tip the owner of a restaurant - a question stemming from the construct that salon owners wouldn't be tipped, but employees would. It was an innocent enough question. At least you'd think. But oh no - the curious inquirer was called every name in the book.

Enter this article about tipping policies generally. There are a bunch of anti-customer websites out there on which slighted wait staff can publicize cheap diners in the hope they'll be appropriately punished.

In some states, of course, wait staff are paid far below minimum wage with the expectation they'll get a living wage via tips. That's crap and from what I know doesn't apply in California.

Discussed in the article are efforts to impose an automatic service fee of 20% on bills.

Sigh.

At least then it would be a service fee and we could drop this whole "tip" nonsense. As far as I'm concerned, good waiters should get between 15 and 20%. But 15% is NOT a minimum regardless of service quality. If it's a tip, it's a tip - not a requirement.

The article is from the AP, so I can't fault it for not being more site specific. It does mention that tip rates among foreign visitors to American restaurants can be drastically lower - around 10% - which I'd sure hope waiters would account for before engaging in ridiculous, customer-rage behavior. One website mentioned seeks to punish customers who leave less than a 17% tip. Industry standard is still 15%, you meanies.

Lastly - though the article didn't commit this sin - several commenters to the food-blog post based their argument on the notion that because restaurant food prices have increased so dramaticaly over the past 10 years or whatever, the tip rate needs to catch up.

Somewhere, I hear the muffled cries of a thousand math teachers in anguish.

Sidenote: And here's a Phoblog Pet Peeve Rant - if you were ever a waiter, don't do that thing where you look over my shoulder or anyone's shoulder when the check comes to see that we're tipping appropriately because you've worked in the hard-knocks world of food service (as have I) and you just want to "make sure" the person with the unfortunate task of filling out the tip line sticks up for the sister/brotherhood. I hate that shit. Ugh. Who died and made you the service morality police. Barf. Rant over.

What's Your Job Again?

"My job is to protect this country, and I'm going to. It gets second guessed all the time by people who don't live in the United States, but let me remind you that September 11 for them was a bad day, but for us it was a change of attitude."

The above quotation was taken from the September 11, 2006 aired interview between Matt Lauer and President George W. Bush. Nevermind his constant interruptions emphasizing that it is his "job to protect this country." I find his description of what September 11 meant for the world and for us . . . I'm struggling to find a word. Insulting? A gross simplification? Yes, the day has a different meaning for residents of other countries. But recalling the images of memorials and tributes in other countries that were broadcast in the days following the attack, I find it hard to refer to their experience as just a bad day.

If you want to get down to it, it was a bad day for 48/51st of America's major political subdivisions. For NY, DC, and PA, it was personal (plus, I suppose, a bit more than a bad day in the states from which flight passengers and crew hailed).

And if it only resulted in a change of American attitude - well, then, I suppose that explains a lot . . . .

USCIS, The State Department, And You

Ah, bless it, another gem from the U.S. State Department (it's so hard to remember which government entity I like least, State or Homeland Security - where does USCIS fall? ICE? Who can track anymore?) as reported in the SF Chron:

Mohammad Ramadan Hassan Salama's troubles began in June, when he arrived in Canada for what he thought was a two-day stay to change his temporary scholar visa, which was due to expire. He planned to exchange it at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto for the more coveted O-1 visa, granted only to those with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. By law, he had to go outside the country to get the visa.

But the Egyptian-born academic got a rude awakening June 20 when a consular official, without explanation, stamped "canceled'' on his temporary visa and refused to issue another visa. Instead, Salama said, he was fingerprinted, questioned and told he could not return to the United States until he received security clearance.
Poor chap. Someone should have warned him that the whole "oh just do this" way of dealing with immigration policy went out the window years ago. He calls it "Kafkaesque" which sounds accurate. Officials felt no need to worry themselves with his American wife and kids, his PhD, his job, etc.

Here's Kafkaesque for you, though. Or if not Kafkaesque, it's something incredible-esque:

Janelle Hironimus, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said she could not comment on individual cases. "The administrative process can take quite some time, so it is not something that we have control over," she said.
Okay, let's parse this. The administrative process - that'd be the process created and implemented by an administrative agency, here the United States Department of State - can take quite some time, so it is not something we have control over. So it is not something you have control over. You mean, because you are an administrative agency and you've made an administrative process that is time consuming, therefore you have no control over it?

Who, pray tell, does?

And thus we return to the very heart of my problems with the United States government, the administration's elegantly crafted culture of fear, and the fully embraced new ethic of refusing any and all available responsibility - allowing discretion to become its own perverse mandate: no one is in charge here.

A good friend working on Capitol Hill faithfully pursued yet another line of inquiry on my continuing immigration issues (okay, not mine, but he's mine, they are his problems, therefore, they are my problems) - this time with the Consul General's office.

The response was the same information we've received from Embassy officials and high-price London-based attorneys. Wait a few years, show 'em what they want to see, hope for the best.

The email from the Consul General's peeps said that "typically" holiday visas will be issued on a showing of sufficient contacts with one's home country that are demostrated in a number of typical ways - job, spouse, family, assets, property ownership, etc.

Typically.

Typically.

Right, typically you bastards. You have the discretion to issue a visa with all this information in front of you that clearly satisfies the 3 pillars of keep-'em-out policy: the foreigner will not be a tax on public assets, will not take a job from an American, and presents no threat to national security.

So, please, federal government, stop telling us that you have no control over time lines or imply that you can't do something. Grow a pair and start being honest saying "sure we could do this, but we won't. We don't have to, so we just won't. Bummer for you." At least then there'd be some truth coming from administrative agencies which would be a refreshing change of pace and a comforting bit of September 10, 2001 nostalgia.

So Long, Today

This morning marks the last I'm likely to switch on NBC for my morning fix of prepackaged news. Tomorrow, the insipid and annoying Meredith woman joins the Today Show and ends a nearly 28 year tradition for me. Bummer because I like Ann, Matt, and even Al.

I'm waiting for at least one reader to fire back with an anti-Katie tirade - but you'll never catch me watching that Good Morning America crap. It makes me want to Ralph.

Damn you, NBC. Here's hoping Meredith pulls a Deborah and is out of our morning line-up in short order.

Crisis In The US Political Order?

Rick Hasen links to this post about a potential looming crisis in the US political order.

The piece bases this forecast on the very real - I'm idealistic enough not to want to say "likely" - possibility that touted Democratic gains will fail to materialize in November. Republican retention of the federal government would then lead to gross gerrymandering of Texas and Pennsylvania which would in turn lead to stronger statistical evidence that the federal government would be controlled by an overwhelmingly minor segment of the population due to our system of (completely butchered and bastardized) federalism.

Author Sandy Levinson does well by the arithmatic - 55 Republican senators would be elected with 3 mil fewer votes than 44 Democratic senators over the last 3 cycles. Also hated: the "equal population" mantra of Reynolds v. Sims - which is cited as the reason for problems with Senatorial management to begin with - instead of, say, the reform of senatorial selection via the 17th Amendment. Why blame the court case for equal population requirements when the real culprit is the switch for indirect to direct election of senators? Would the numerical outcome and make up be different if state legislatures selected senators rather than the populace directly? No, but the philosophical underpinnings of our republican government would be a damn bit easier to understand and defend.

And speaking of republican government - Levinson spends a great deal of time mourning the loss of our national "democracy," using big and small D versions of "democratic" to sound a battle cry for reform (of some kind).

The failure here, however, is acknowledging that we are guaranteed a "republican" form of government and that if even our Republicans were more republican, perhaps we could have more hope for the future.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Work Arounds

Scott Lay of AroundTheCapitol.com suggests using their BlogScan feature to access old CMR content.

And speaking of CMR content: A few minutes out of the state and I feel like I'm playing catch-up even on news that broke after I returned. One such story - the much hyped Schwarzenegger tape where he makes, uh, comments that are bad or biased or dumb or something about some legislators.

But what's interesting is the coverage I've seen of the issue that seem to seek desperately to find something bawdier than what's actually there. Not that I condone the Governor's statements - I've only listend once and not that intently - so I'm not commenting on that either way.

But as the "ooh, look what he said" aspect fails to gain traction, the admin is still firing back with charges of hacking. Undeterred by the traction issue, CMR types fire back at the back firing with another process story on how the hacking process story is trumped up. Still following?

Yeah, neither are the voters.

Extra amusing, the now predictable CMR comments war on the subject involving New West Notes's Bill Bradley who is unfailingly particular about how he is quoted and described and may be the man least capable of being anything other than the provider of the last word in any given discussion. Full disclosure: I don't read New West Notes, but I tend to agree with certain critics who say his writing seems out of place on sites like Rough & Tumble. If you paid attention to the above-linked exchange, this evening's CMR post headline "UPDATE: CMR Confident Schwarzenegger Tape Available on Public Server" is laugh-out-loud funny. I mean that in the best possible way as a student of comedy. Really, it's brilliant. Stop it, I'm not being sarcastic, dammit.

The goes sentence-by-sentence through an admin press release to preserve it's news-breaking cred from earlier today. There's a somewhat tortured explanation of a sentence involving the phrase "password protected area."

CMR's confidence is great, but without more information, they dance on a fine line of looking silly if this was a hack or looking overly cautious if they can really nab some MSM coverage for breaking and proving the legal, easily obtained file came from lousy system administration within the Horseshoe.

I give 1000 bonus points for the closing line, however: "This would also be consistent with our skepticism of the claim that the tape was obtained through an "illegal hack," as we would have expected more damaging information to be released if a hacker had access to everything on the Governor’s private server."

There could be some legs to this process process story - if Bradley would can the constant "no you're wrong to infinity" type comments and CMR could just say what it wants to say.

Damn, guess I'm only adding to the process process here. This post is a process process process post.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Edits

Not that I watched it, but the 9/11 TV movie aired tonight with a few key edits apparently aimed at appeasing former Clinton administration officials.

The issue: anger over an implication that the Lewinsky nonsense might have either distracted Clinton or made it impossible to attack bin Laden at a time when the public (read: Republicans, their spinners and hacks) would have seen such action as a Wag the Dog type deflection of attention.

Crazy thought . . . .

Everything seems phrased in terms of making the Clinton administration look bad - but from the examples offered in the coverage I've read, it seems like the blame goes right back to those that chose to crap up the White House with nonsensical Lewinsky crap. At the time, many commented that our national fixation with the topic indicated just how good we had it. Perhaps now it shows how good we thought we had it and how blinded we allowed ourselves to become toward all kinds of Big Bad in the world.

I'm sure the Clinton admin missed stuff. But that's kind of besides the point, now, isn't it?

Best. Google. Tool. Ever.

After years of wasting time trying to mapquest myself appropriately lengthed running courses around town, turns out Google has this fantastic Gmaps Pedometer. Just click your way to a 5k and go nuts. Love it!

Faking, Fumbling, And Feminism

Via Prettier Than Napoleon, this article on one feminist icon's take on womanhood. From sex to work, the outlook seems gloomy according to Fay Weldon who advises gals fake it to save their men the stress of bedroom failure and warns that upwardly mobile women shouldn't harbor any delusions of meaninful marriages.

Bummer.

Especially interesting/entertaining, however, is the collection of quotes at the end of the article which highlight some of feminism's, uh, finer moments:

'In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent'
Attributed to Catherine MacKinnon, feminist author

'People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute'
Rebecca West

'When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticising her own oppression'
Sheila Jeffreys, lesbian feminist

'A good part - and definitely the most fun part - of being a feminist is about frightening men'
Julie Burchill

Otherwise Engaged?

It's this blogger's expert opinion that time is running out for the CMR. The header "we'll be changing soon" note is gone, but the promised changes have yet to appear. And regardless of the content, undated postings and a lack of archives make it hard for people who've, say, been on vacation or traveling for business (without laptops, no less) to keep up on what news broke when. I'm going to go ahead and assume the powers that be are doing the lord's work out on the campaign trail, which is totally fine with me, but I still want the site to rock.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

See, Told You So

So the feds have confirmed that those damned hybrids are clogging our carpool lanes.

There won't be a ban, necessarily. But I will continue to say that allowing hybrids access to carpool lanes badly mauls otherwise sound public policy.

Hybrid sales certainly aren't slow - so why incentivize them further? And if we're going to spend public resources on hybrid incentives, shouldn't we aim those efforts at, like, auto makers?

And there's even a bill to raise the number of hybrid decals issued. Stop the madness!