Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

I was recently scolded by a reader for not sharing more specifically the news of my recent marriage and other benchmarks along the immigration road after the initally frustration-themed posts from last spring. He was partly right and I was accordingly wrong - I should've told a more complete story, just to tie up the loose ends. But I was also wrong for letting so much personal life material bleed onto this site - where I've specifically shied from oversharing and navel-gazing. Or tried to most of the time, anyway. Since my current job put the kibosh on the kind of blogging I'd much rather be doing, there's not that much left.

This is all by way of introduction to the annual year-in-review post. Most news readers will know from either directly on-point posts or reading between the lines of merely related posts.

My then-fiance, Robert, was interviewed at the London Embassy in early July and arrived in the U.S. with zero problems or delay at immigration control a few weeks later. We were married on October 20 in Sacramento. Now that summer's scorching heat has subsided and taken on a much more English chill, he's warming up to Sacramento. We're enjoying married life very much.

That's certainly the biggest news for the year. Not that there isn't more, but I'm sure that when we look back at 2007, it will be remembered as the year of The Wedding - which is far better than remembering it as the year of The Immigration Battle. More immigration nonsense is underway now, of course, as green card applications pend, etc. But it's peanuts compared to things completed while we were separated.

Several more of my closest friends are now engaged and will be married during 2008 which is exciting. I would suppose that more of my currently married friends will be having babies soon - it's getting to be that time. My nephew is growing like a weed and I can't wait for him to start talking because I'm sure he's got stuff to say. Watching a whole person develop is pretty crazy: he's got such a personality already. It's nuts. My sister and brother-in-law do great work.

This is starting to sound like a Christmas card letter instead of a blog post, so I better just stop now. Between the wedding, attended by some of my oldest friends now spread all over the country, and my high school reunion, I've been thinking a lot about time and the things I've done in the past ten years or so. That the first caucus is just a few (stupid) days away of course puts me back about 4 years.

So much is ahead. I hope that statement excites you the way it does me.

Best in 2008.

Friday, December 28, 2007

One Wrote Mean Girls, One Is A Mean Girl

This comparison of the comedy of Fey and Silverman could've been much better done, though I know I'm asking a lot of an MSN site. I could take a swing at the analysis, but I'd have to watch more Silverman and I don't like watching mean people be mean.

I'll gladly watch more Tina Fey, though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Claremont' Is Insufficient

Capitol Weekly touts the supersized Republican Senate Fellows class this year - an accomplishment given the slim Reep pickins over the last few classes. But the article makes a tiny yet important-to-me mistake:

[Efforts] included doing more recruiting at private universities — such as Stanford, Pepperdine and Claremont — which many believe have a higher number of Republicans than many public colleges. But Runner also cited more outreach at the University of California at Berkeley, which, despite its liberal reputation, has a large and active Republican club.
I'm going to leave aside the conservative angle and focus instead on the faulty nomenclature. As I explained in an email to the reporter, "Claremont" is an inaccurate name if you mean CMC or if you mean the Claremont Colleges. So did they target the Claremont Colleges or - as I'm guessing, given our conservative reputation - Claremont McKenna specifically? Because just saying "Claremont" doesn't tell a reader which and certainly doesn't educate readers about the institution or the consortium. We can't have that, right?

Of course, I'll leave aside completely that, as far as I can count sitting here, there have been CMC students and/or at least one other Claremont College student in each Fellows class going back . . . until at least 2000 I think. Maybe not Reeps and maybe not Senate, but since I flew down and recruited when I was a fellow, I know it happened at least to a certain extent.

But my main concern was over the name.

/rant

Friday, November 30, 2007

Congrats to CAMS

While I continue to maintain my general disdain for US News and World Report rankings, I can't help but congratulate my high school, the California Academy of Mathematics and Science for its 21st place finish, out of the country.

Think of all the high schools in America - hell, in the greater Los Angeles area - all with better resources and all the right assets to place them among the greatest . . . and then there's us. Tiny. Focused. Diverse. Look what we did. And in this, the tenth year since I graduated, it seems fitting.

We won't be having a big reunion. When we attended CAMS - the fourth class to do so, the one that completed the school - teachers were only allowed 5 years before they had to return to their home districts. There's little institutional memory left to remember us, which is a shame. I see from the article that CAMS has a new principal. Perhaps our brilliant counselor, Barry Baker is still there, but I don't know.

I hate US News metrics for colleges. I'm sure, in may ways, their high school metrics are just as deficient. But CAMS is getting its due. I am happy.

This is how they judged:

They developed the methodology to analyze how well high schools serve their students. They factored in poverty and economic status, including disadvantaged students, average students, and college-bound students to make those measurements.

According to the methodology, a best high school is one that succeeds at the following:

Attains performance levels that exceed statistical expectations given the school's relative level of student poverty, as measured by state accountability test scores for all the school's students in the core subjects of reading and math.

Achieves proficiency rates on state tests for their least advantaged student groups - black, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students - that exceed state averages.

Prepares its students for college, as measured by student participation in and performance on Advanced Placement tests, which are administered by the College Board.

Using this methodology, more than 18,500 high schools in 40 states were analyzed for inclusion.
And to answer the question that 99.9% of the time followed up the question "where do/did you go to high school," "Is that a smart school?"

Yes. It is.

(For alumni.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chicken Soup For The Insured Soul

All Americans should travel more. Period. All the books in the world don't open your eyes to different ways of life like witnessing these differences firsthand. Of course, it's a two-way street. And above traveling, living in another culture will give you a crash course in life lesson 43978987: However it is that you think things Are Done, you don't know how fully you believe in that form of Done until it isn't around.

Case in point: Healthcare.

Sexy policy area, isn't it? Governors call special legislative sessions to address it. Hell, it's a policy area that literally can kill you.

Over the holiday weekend, I re-watched Michael Moore's Sicko with my parents and husband. (It was interesting to notice subtle yet potentially telling differences between the premiere version I watched in Sacramento, and what ended up on DVD, but that's for another post.)

I've been keen since I first saw the film for my husband to see it. He's English and Moore spends a chunk of the film comparing our private insurance system with the UK's National Health Service.

Given my husband's level of horror at the end of the film, we may as well have been watching "Psycho" instead of "Sicko." Not only did he surprise me by not disagreeing with the film's portrayal of the UK to extent I'd have thought, but his reaction to the depiction of OUR system made me feel bad for him having moved here. In short, the film does gloss over some of nationalized healthcare's large problems, but, for the most party, yeah, they have it pretty good. Do you have to wait for some services? Can there be a too-large gap between diagnosis and a necessary operation - yes. But if you don't feel well, you get to see a doctor. That day. Without a four hour wait.

Fortunately for us both, my employer provides good health, dental, and vision coverage. Now that we're married, my husband is insured too. I picked a doctor for him from my same medical group (mine isn't taking new clients anymore) and sent in the paperwork.

The assigned him to the wrong doctor.

To Blue Shield's credit, they remedied that problem with just a phone call (no long hold time either). We discovered the mistake, however, because I was trying to make him an appointment (he's under the weather, but fine). The doctor's office said the insurance company had to call to confirm the correction. The insurance company said usually doctors call them. The insurance company sent a confirmation fax to the doctor. The doctor said that because he's a new patient, the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days to collect more information. We said, but he wants to see a doctor. They said they'd call back. They called back and said the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days an the doctors nearest new patient appointments WERE IN MARCH.

So I'm supposed to be scared of socialized medicine and the long lines it creates because . . . .

We explained again that we appreciated that he couldn't get a new patient appointment until later, but what if he would like to see a doctor now? They said they'd call back. They called back and said that because he's only been feeling unwell for about a week, he should just wait and see if he still feels unwell a week from now.

It would, therefore, have been faster for him to have flown home, seen a doctor, received treatment and meds or whatever he needs and fly back.

Except of course he can't leave the country yet.

In short: I can see no argument against socialized medicine that can't be exemplified in our current system. So I'd rather pay the government than a private, profit-drive corporation because at least then I'll know everyone gets the same crappy coverage, which is still better than none at all.

Fortunately, my husband can maintain his NHS coverage even while he's living abroad by paying a comparatively VERY small amount of money each year. So God forbid something truly bad happen, at least he'll have another, potentially far more efficient coverage to take care of him.

Everyone's A Little Bit Racist Sometimes

You've seen Avenue Q, no?

There's a storm brewing on the mall as the California NAACP joins other state organizations in condemning the Chinese artist chosen for to sculpt the MLK monument.

Arguments against the Chinese artist based on China's crappy human right record carry some weight. Quite a bit, I suppose, when juxtaposed with King's life work.

But the condemnation jumps the shark right about here where we meet an Atlanta artist who's started a website to protest the Chinese artist's selection:

Young said he started his campaign last spring after he heard about the selection on television. He contacted civil rights organizations and American granite vendors.

"It is disgraceful that there will be a sculpture to honor a black man for his fight against racism in this country and we couldn't find one black person on earth to interpret his likeness," Young said. "It is insulting and does not serve my people well. It makes us invisible.

"I do not think that anyone outside of my immediate community should have been looked at first. We need a black artist to interpret Dr. King and a black name at the base of the monument, because he died for us."
And here I thought that was Jesus.

And what's a black name?

(Sidenote: during the research for my senior thesis on VRA as it applied to judicial elections in recently consolidated LA County courts, I tried to answer just that question. When you're looking for bloc voting patterns, it's much easier to categorize the potential Hispanic and Asian surnames than to figure out if voters can identify the African American heritage of judicial candidates.)

The article also mentions past controversial Mall artists - such as Maya Lin, a Chinese American who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Why? Because Chinese are basically just Vietnamese with different restaurants? Oh well, racist is as racist does.

The best summation of the conflict comes from a professor of museum studies (who know - but it makes sense):

"There are constant debates over memorializations," said Jeffrey Trask, an assistant professor of Museum Studies at New York University. "Monument building is always political and highlights conflicts within society. This doesn't seem to be an issue of what history will be represented but who has the cultural rights to represent it.

"Unfortunately, we can't figure out what the impact to the visitor is."
My guess is "not much" - which is, in itself, a sad commentary on the value we place on artists at this point in civilization.

If the argument is that monuments placed on the National Mall should be crafted by Americans, perhaps I can get behind that - at least it has a hint of jurisprudential support behind it. But if the argument is that only an artist of a certain color has the right to pay tribute to an American leader, well, you're not going to win me over with that at all.

Everytime I think we're moving forward, I'm proven wrong. In the words of a great billboard, and a high school friend's t-shirt: nobody's born a bigot. Too bad so few of us seem to avoid it later on.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Don't Need Your Kind Of Protection

Non-citizens face a few, strict, bars to certain jobs - like being a peace officer. In this case, there's lots of no-nos - non-citizen, illegal alien, faking your identity. . . .

Still, hard to feel super angry in this case.

The brother should get his job back, but he probably won't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Save A Lawyer: Live Life Like A T-Shirt

It's a jokey t-shirt that's deadly serious: Eschew Obfuscation.

Here, in case you need to double check: eschew obfuscation.

You know, I get that the joke is that the diction used is, itself, obsfuscates the phrase's meaning. But if you think about it, that's only for stupid people.

Okay "stupid" was a mean word - but really - if we embraced more fully the more elegant corners of our language, would we not employ such a phrase simply because of its succinct efficacy?*

But that's not really my point. The message is the point. Remember this post to which I linked a few days ago? The part about the jerky lawyers with whom you'll have to deal? Those jerks are obfuscators. If you're one of them, seriously, stop being obstreperous.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shortsightedness, Exemplified

See either of two big items in today's Roundup. I'll leave it at this: what may seem like a good idea today is only a good idea if you ignore the fact that tomorrow will, in fact, come.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trade Magazines Are Funny

Speaking of lawyering: I get these nifty law newsletters and whatnot delivered to both my home and office. The best are the young lawyer section newsletters - inapplicable, I'm guessing, to 75% of young lawyers since the articles address various Biglaw issues. I enjoy the ABA Journal too, though, probably for reasons its editors never intended.

Most recent item to make me chuckle: an article about the new trend in law professors banning laptops in their classrooms. Knowing how I used my laptop time in class (hint: you're reading it), I understand their concern. But the article doesn't stop there. It uses as an example one professor's concern, "particularly for women." And what is this concern?

Students "complained they were distracted and in some cases upset when other students viewed obscene videos or sent harassing text messages."

Say what?

So, viewing obscene material in class is only a problem for female law students? I saw a lot of on-line gambling and espn.com reading, but never porn. And I'm pretty sure that could bother both genders. Or it should. Or maybe it shouldn't. Or maybe protecting the pretty girls from the ugly online penises shouldn't be the motivating factor.

If you want to go macro on the problem, how about addressing hourly classroom requirements that force students to attend pointless lectures when reading the casebook and reviewing with friends will serve them far better on their final exams? Here's a hint to easily bothered students: turn off the wifi. Another hint? Keep your eyes on the board.

As if.

Whatcha Gonna Do When You Get Out Of Law School

The LSAT is approaching and the application deadlines hear, so it seems appropriate to dedicate YET ANOTHER post to stopping blind law school application. Amber links to this largely accurate post about why you shouldn't do it.

Among the highlights - this well phrased encapsulation of the type of people you'll get to work with - Jerks:

It's not always big things -- though big things are the ones that hit the news -- but patterns of obstreperous behavior and downright stupidity that can wear you down over a day-to-day basis. Bickering over stupid document production requests, delays, phantom schedule conflicts... all these things add up. Contemporary lawyering is often an expensive form of childish game-playing with the rules of civil procedure. It's psychological warfare for minute tactical advantage.
Those who know me know that I salivate over a good procedural battle. I relish knowing the playbook. I frolic in well-timed motions. But even I want to stab out my eyes when things get bogged down in the above-mentioned minutae. Seriously. It's not cool. In congress, it's fun. In the law, it's just retarded.

Also of interest - the reasons why this ain't no intellectual funhouse:

Unintellectualism. Contrary to popular belief, the law is not a particularly "intellectual" profession. Most of the reasoning in legal argument is patently casuistic. Legal arguments are often made in a "kitchen sink" fashion, throwing every conceivably plausible argument into a brief, regardless of the relative strength of the arguments or coherence of the submission as a whole. The practice of law is the development of a habit of extreme intellectual dishonesty where the routine is to state one's opponent's arguments as uncharitably as possible in aid of weakening their impact and conceal every possible fact or principle that is against one's interest which one isn't explicitly required to disclose.
Sounds about right.

This past weekend, an old friend approached me to ask my what I think of Hastings - my law alma mater (my lalma mater?). I told him I couldn't answer that question until I knew why he wanted to know. So we reconvened later in a long, long day to discuss his Life Plans. Now, this guy is awesome. We don't hang out a lot, but he's involved in some of the extracurriculars I take pretty seriously. He's a good union guy - longshore, to be exact. A good egg, through and through. So why ruin it, I asked him.

He gave me a very well thought-out answer to the "why do you want to go" question. He had practical reasons. Hell, they were labor law reasons, which I should totally be keen on, right? Frankly, he sounded like me: he wants to be a lawyer so he can sit across the table from other lawyers when it comes time to renegotiate his contract and really ably represent his union brothers and sisters. That's a far, far better reason than most others you'll here. Except that what he wants is to be an effective negotiator, not a lawyer. In the Venn diagram of life are those two things frequently linked? Sure. Always? Hell no.

So why do it? Why expose yourself to the debt and the time out from a career you love, I asked.

And, as most of these conversations go, the session ended up more about him convincing me that law school is a good decision than me effectively convincing him that *maybe* I know what I'm talking about.

I truly wish him the best. He's a practical, reasonable, smart guy. I think he can get what he wants out of law school and come out less saddled with debt/angst/regret than many others. I just hope, as he's planning to, he finds someone to foot the bill.

Bottom line: don't. go. For realz. Don't go. Unless you want to be a lawyer. And stop nodding your head that you do, you do!, want to be a lawyer, because you really have no idea what it means.

Friday, November 09, 2007

'Why We Fight'

WGA explains Why We Fight and their blog addresses the DGA question - or at least media spin about the DGA question.

It's somehow extra insulting that not only do too many film studies classes focus on and/or worship The Director, but their guild is seen as the bigger star as well.

I recall in college, my film studies professor spoke nearly exclusively about what the director was doing in this scene, or why the director had his characters say this in that scene. I asked once whether the director in fact had his characters say anything and whether, perhaps, the director merely framed the writer's work. My professor said, well, yeah, the writers wrote the words, but we were just going to say "director" as a shorthand for the film's author.

That always bothered me.

Strike on, WGA. I'm on your page.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Would've Eaten This Cookie Either Way, But Now I'll Feel Slightly Less Guilty. Slightly.

News - A few extra pounds may save your life, according to recent research that more clearly defines the health-differences between the overweight and the obese (as each is defined by BMI).

BMI, of course, gets plenty of flack, some warranted, some not.

To me, the bottom line is of the "come-on, folks" variety. Obese people who champion their weight are irresponsible and do face health risks. The "overweight" category is quite broad in who gets caught in its magic BMI boundaries. Neither Kate Moss, nor Roseanne, are models of health. America Ferrera is probably the best example of someone who doesn't match her profession's standards who gets unfairly saddled with an "overweight" reputation and BMI number who is likely healthier based on the factors discussed in the article. At my lowest BMI, I still crept past the 25 limit line between "normal" and "overweight" - but not by too much, and at that weight neither I, nor my doctor, felt the label would've been appropriately applied.

I'm now - I'll admit since denying it could be easily disproved via photos - within the "overweight" zone according to BMI metrics. And I agree with the label because I know I was healthier at the lower weight. I'm far from obese, however, so at least, if this article relays accurate information, I merely have to worry about issues of self-confidence and self-worth, rather than worries about dying a fat-arsed death.

So that's a good thing.

But people who use this as a platform to rah-rah the truly unhealthy-overweight and obese should be made to shut it. There remain significant health risks for those in the 30+ BMI range - and those in the upper 20s should probably aim to do better, just in case.

Still time for that cookie, though.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

But It's Still Cool To Trade With Them, Right?

Congress lashes out at Yahoo for their part in the jailing of a Chinese journalist. Congressmen accused Yahoo of "complicity with an oppressive communist regime."

But we still trade with them, live off their cheaply produced goods, and can travel there. Thankfully, we're still safe from Cuban influence and culture, however.

(I'm not saying U.S. policy toward either country is incorrect as suck, just howlingly inconsistent. If someone can explain it to me a way that makes sense - and I mean real sense, not government talking point sense - I'll buy him or her dinner.)

There are some amusing parts of the article:

Callahan said at the time [of earlier Congressional hearings] that the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet giant had no information about the nature of the Chinese government's investigation of Shi when the company turned over information about him.
'Cause the LAST thing I'd think of if a communist government known for putting the kibbosh on democratic activism asked to know what a journlist had been up to is "hmm, maybe some ill may befall him." I mean really, who would have suspected anything bad in complying with the Chinese government's request?

Then again, maybe Yahoo just didn't know the now jailed journalist was a journalist at all.

Maybe they should've googled him.

Anyway, enough snark. Ish. I suppose the article shouldn't bury the very real questions of a U.S.-owned company's foreign branch's authority to disregard what is a lawful legal order in that country. Even so . . . .

'West Virginia. W-e-s-t V-i-r'

I've mentioned this before, but as we now move into more exciting immigration forms, I can't help but laugh again over one form's absurdly broad question:

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any foreign military service in this part. If none, write "none." Include the name(s) of organization(s), location(s), dates of membership, from and to, and the nature of the organization(s). If additional space is needed, use a separate piece of paper.
Worth noting though - an older version presents the question thusly:

List your present and past membership in or affiliation with every political organization, association, fund, foundation, party, club, society or similar group in the United States or in other places since your 16th birthday. Include any foreign military service in this part. If none, write "none." Include the name(s) of organization(s), location(s), dates of membership, from and to, and the nature of the organization(s). If additional space is needed, use a separate piece of paper.
Catch that? Up there in the first line? The addition, or more precisely the subsequent deletion, of the word "political." Intentional? Oversight? Hyper-vigilant anti-terrorism measure aimed at catching people who don't consider their anti-American cult a political organization so much as a social-club with aggressive weekend activities?

Of course, perhaps it's also a nice example of grammatical issues. How do you read the sentence with the addition of "political?" Does "political" apply to all the words in the series? Or just to organizations, leaving "associations, fund, foundation, party, club, society, or similar group" more broadly applicable? Does the "or" at the end of the list answer the question? I think I'd read "political" as applying to the list of potentially politically-slanted groups, based on the "or," along with a natural reading of the sentence and, of course, my innate desire to avoid work wherever possible. Can the key to correct interpretation be in relying on the relative laziness of the reader during construction? Maybe.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More On FSOs and Iraq

From Amber's blog, an insider's opinion of what the diplomats' public hesitation really means.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pencils Down?

In hometown Labor news, hollywood writers are one step closer to a long-rumored strike as their contract expired at 12:01 this morning. What happens next? Dunno. A large portion of their beef involves residuals earned on DVD sales - currently netting scribes a mere 4 cents per unit sold. Writers say they want 8 cents and that the 4 cent figure was agreed to in 1985 at a time when home video sales were trying to get a foothold in the market.

I haven't googled-it yet, but I wonder if their contract is a good read? Probably, like a lot of product these days, it's slow to start, picks up in the second and third articles, but contains stock subsections and tired clauses that detract from the documents forward momentum. But don't miss the shocking twist in article 20.

That may have been the most obvious joke one could possibly make about the situation. Then again, I'm not a screenwriter, so what did you expect.

Something I didn't know:

And if the WGA strikes, it's not going to have a lot of company from its union brothers and sisters. The other major Hollywood unions -- SAG, the DGA, AFTRA and IATSE -- have reminded members of the "no-strike" provisions of their contracts and noted that they must live up to any agreement they've made to work.
They're no-strike? Like cops and firefighters and stuff? Hollywood IS important.

I keed. Though many slam The Industry, it is the town company in Los Angeles, and as the city learned pre-9/11, the exodus of filming to Vancouver, Toronto, and those bastards in Montreal did a lot of damange to the local economy. Maybe not aerospace-closure damage, but damage.

And, naturally, I love me a good contract - especially when labor wins its battles to get one.

Did you know in India, lawyers can and do strike when they get mad at the courts for stuff? True story. My friend Avi told me.

That has nothing to do with anything, but I thought I'd share.

Living In The Now Isn't Always The Best Policy

The Roundup points to a Union-Tribune article about Darrell "Waterworks" Issa not being able to see past the end of next week:

"Rep. Darrell Issa, who heavily bankrolled the petition drive that led to the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis, said yesterday he would dip into his personal fortune again to help rescue a Republican plan to change the way California's presidential electoral votes are allocated," writes John Maurelius in the Union-Tribune.

"'My involvement in this is as a minor contributor and a major supporter,' Issa said.

"California awards its 55 electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide. The initiative, which would take effect for the 2008 election if voters approve it, would award electoral votes to the winners in each of the 53 congressional districts with the other two votes going to the statewide winner."
First of all, minor contributors aren't major supporters. I can majorly support something all I want, but money has a nifty way of amplifying one's support. So if Issa isn't really putting up, he should probably do more shutting up. Second of all: come ON! Any Republican who thinks this sort of electoral reform does something to even the playing field needs to buck up. Seriously, fellas, someday you might be in the majority again

Have you been east of the 5 lately?

How shortsighted must you be to want to reform an entire presidential selection process because you've had a bad cycle or two? And wait, haven't Republicans been winning?

Maybe they don't have it in them to be the majority again after all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Some US Diplomats Angry Over Iraq Posts'

An AP report tells of a heated meeting over forced posts in Iraq for foreign service officers. Seems not enough people are volunteering for posts inside the Green Zone and out in the provinces.

Oh yeah? I'd have never guessed.

In a report so full of pullable quotations I was having a hard time choosing, one came flying out at me, stronger than the rest. Consider this exchange between Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas and a diplomat who served in Basra:

Other diplomats at the meeting did not object to the idea of directed assignments but questioned why the State Department had been slow to respond to the medical needs of those who had served in dangerous posts.

"I would just urge you, now that now we are looking at compulsory service in a war zone, that we have a moral imperative as an agency to take care of people who ... come back with war wounds," said Rachel Schnelling, a diplomat who served in Basra, Iraq and said the department had been unresponsive to requests for mental heath care.

"I asked for treatment and I didn't get any of it," she said in comments greeted with a standing ovation.

Thomas, who has been in his current job for just a few months, said the department was working on improving its response to stress-related disorders that "we did not anticipate."
Did not anticipate? Did not anticipate. Let that soak into your brain for a few minutes.

Is it in your head now? Good. Now share this article with people and encourage others to marvel at who has been placed in charge of American lives in this country - and I mean that beyond just the military aspects.

For background:

More than 1,200 of the department's 11,500 Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq since 2003, but the generous incentives have not persuaded enough diplomats to volunteer for duty in Baghdad or with the State Department's provincial reconstruction teams.

The move to directed assignments is rare but not unprecedented.

In 1969, an entire class of entry-level diplomats was sent to Vietnam. On a smaller scale, diplomats were required to work at various embassies in West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
Entry-level. Awesome, right? What a wonderful connection we share with the Vietnam generation now. We dodged the draft, sure, just as we've dodged any requests to sacrifice a thing as this war continues. Pay no attention to that war behind the curtain.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Is The Saddest News. Ever.

Clam, 405, is oldest animal ever

They named him Ming, for the dynasty during which he was born. He was collected by scientists. Of course, Ming is dead now.

One scientist said Ming had the "most boring life."

Still. 405 years. Over.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A: No.

The LA Times asks: Colbert vs. Stewart: Has the student surpassed the master?

Colbert is cute and new and stuff - kinda. But he needs some better, more even writing (perhaps he should Shah-up his staff. I'm just saying . . . .). He's cool. But Stewart takes the cake in the most important area: relevance.

Verdict: Stewart.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Okay Alanis, THIS Is Irony

Don't you think?

2003: Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected when state voters recall Governor Gray Davis, an historic event partly motivated (or at least sold by) the increase in vehicle licensing fees triggered by a state deficit.

2007: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger caps a "disappointing regular legislative year by signing into law a bill that increases the vehicle licensing fee.

So let's review: 2003, the VLF increases automatically by function of law. Governor gets bounced from office for being there when the math worked out badly for him on his shift. And now, in 2007, the VLF increases as a result of direct action by the new Governor. How awesome is that? Aren't you just awed by its awesome awesomeness. Doesn't it just tickle all of your political funny bones?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Problem With Realizing The American Dream

The Roundup excerpts from a Merc article (I'm too lazy to remember my log-in or re-register today) about Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez getting "pummeled" this week over how he uses his campaign accounts. His sin? Traveling a bunch on not-the-state's-dime.

Oh dear. Let me raise my hackles. Nope, they aren't going up.

But what's the real sin here? That his "lavish spending contradict[s] the image he cultivated over the years as a champion for the working poor."

Does it really? Damn, I thought he was a role model for the working poor. And Pitzer grads. I see no contradiction in working to achieve a powerful position and then benefiting from the expanded world view to which one can be exposed in that position - if one takes advantage of those opportunities. And Núñez frames it best: 'I think the fundamental question here is, should I use campaign funds for trade missions and educational missions, or should I be using government money, or should I be using non-profit entities that sponsor trips like these?'

It's campaign funds he's using. Let's be clear about that. This is money other people just give him. Under the law, it's given with no strings attached. If donors don't like what he does with it, they can stop donating. If he were using taxpayer money, perhaps the bitching and moaning would be warranted. If sketchy outfits were sponsoring his travel, that would be, uh, sketchy.

It's the great American paradox, isn't it? We've got so many Americans living in or dangerously near poverty (a level that is laughably rigged to decrease the number of people who technically meet the requirement, while hiding others who need help badly), yet true tax reform probably won't happen because everyone believes they'll make the $800k or so per year needed to trigger the scary-scary tax consequences about which the rich howl. Hell, I want to make that much. I probably won't. But once someone makes money, makes a name, puts themselves in a better position than his parents - boom! - he's an out of touch richie who must be of lesser character for no longer living the hardknocks life we're all supposed to work our way out of. Clear? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Anyway - give the guy a break. He's one of the most effective politicians this state has seen in a LONG time. Don't beat him up because it's an otherwise slow news week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fed Version Of Match Game Halted

Federal judge blocks crackdown on illegal immigrants' employers:

Among other things, he said, immigration officials "did not supply a reasoned analysis" for their decision to reverse a decade-old government policy of not prosecuting employers on the basis of a discrepancy in a worker's Social Security number.
What? They couldn't write down "because the fear of illegals stealing our jobs helps deflect attention from our gross negligence in managing this countries affairs while we've been off ruining things in the Middle East and this move to punish employers for helping illegals steal our jobs is a nice way to make it look like we are being productive?"

Shocking that they couldn't provide a reasoned analysis. Shocking.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Best Comment About The Changing SF-tude About The Homeless

From the Chron:

"Maybe there has been an epiphany," says David Latterman, president of Fall Line Analytics, a local market research firm. "People have realized they can hate George Bush but still not want people crapping in their doorway."

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Stupid Idea Folds - Thank Goodness

GOP-backed bid to reform California's electoral process collapsing

Did someone finally pull aside the powers behind this proposal and ask them what they thought would happen if the Reeps were in power again and the Dems benefited from the fruits of their labor? Seems so! Phew. Stupidity lost! A rare day, indeed.

I've yet to see an electoral college reform proposal that makes any real sense. I'm still pissed about 2000, of course, but only twice in our country's history have the electoral and popular votes been at odds.

I love the Dems, but I'm too much a pragmatist and proceduralist to support chucking out the system just because the second out-lier occurred in the age of the 24-hour news cycle.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Claremont McKenna receives $200-million gift'

Big new for the home campus - the LAT touts it as the largest donation to a American liberal arts college. Except the money is for a graduate program.

Um, congrats?

It's an undergraduate college, but nevermind that. President Pam Gann must be thrilled. The school looks great and I'm guessing that investment makes us more attractive to other would-be donors - and frees up money so she can continue to expand the student body and remold CMC into the research university over which she seemingly wishes to preside.

A graduate program.

I don't share the CMC lit department's fear that the donation for a finance masters program will force the school into a single issue trade school, but I think expanding past provided superb undergraduate education is foolish. I'm surprised, frankly, that the charter allows it.

p.s. It's been pointed out to me that I sound like too much of a hater in this post. I'm not. I am grateful to Mr. Day for his great generosity. And I think CMC will do well by the gift. It just surprised the hell out of me. CMC is full of stats on other liberal arts colleges with masters programs. So I guess all's well . . . . Like I said in the comments - Colleen's take (see comments) is the best on the subject at pointing out the potential advantages.

Monday, September 17, 2007

That Necktie Is Killing You

Yikes:

"Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily," the Department of Health said in a statement. "They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Help Me Tina Fey, You're My Only Hope

Enjoying the Emmys? I am. Kinda. One of the highlights of the show - to those of us into that sort of thing - are the clips submitted by the writing staffs of the various late night shows nominated for best writing in a variety, music, or comedy program. I noticed, however, that with the exception of the Colbert Report's and the Daily Show's staff, the staff members on Letterman, Conan, and Real Time were all men. Unless some of the names were of the unisex variety (Chris, Lee/Leigh, etc). Colbert has two, Daily has one.

Guess we just aren't that funny. As a gender.

I hate being that woman too, the "where are all the women" woman. But, sometimes, such observations can't be helped.

So, go 30 Rock. Go Tina Fey. You are my role model for funny. (You and Sanjay.)

Side Note: anyone watching notice during the opening musical number the director's choice to pair the lyric about Isaiah Washington with a shot of T.R. Knight? Eh. It's Fox, whaddya want.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mmmm, TV Stuff

Get read for the Emmys on Sunday with the Chron's Tim Goodman - I agree with him 85% of the time, so he's got a good list there. And I love that 30 Rock is so heavily nominated considering when it started it was largely written off as D.O.A.

I love Tina Fey - so, while I don't think she'll win - she's the gal I most want to go home with a statue. As many as possible, at that.

(For this into TV programming schedules and the media's undernoted East-Coast bias, interesting stuff in there about Fox's scheduling of the Emmys vs. Sunday football.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This One Or That One, This One Or That One

Happy Thursday

Sound Bite-Off!

From today's Roundup - we have, regarding the end of the 2007 Legislative session (regular, that is), in this corner, CMC professor and sound bite machine John J. Pitney. And in this corner, longtime sound bite arms race foe, Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. You make the call:

The Bee's Jim Sanders: "Though more than 2,800 bills were proposed and about 960 were approved during the nine-month session, political analysts say the scorecard is dismal.

"'If your expectations are low enough, it was a great success,' John J. Pitney, government professor at Claremont-McKenna College, said of the Legislature's regular session that ended with a gavel's thud about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"'They took care of the ordinary business of government, but when it came to the large issues, it was a session of deferral rather than accomplishment,' Pitney said.

"Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst from the University of Southern California, cautioned against judging the Legislature until the special sessions are over.

"But Jeffe conceded that lawmakers aren't hearing much applause, adding, 'I would say the perception is that the Legislature didn't accomplish very much.'
Ladies and gentlemen, it's no suprise here: Pitney takes the title easily from Bebitch Jeffe - simple statement of events is no match for Pitney's poetic, classic, comparison structure. Well done, Jack!

If you read the rest of the Roundup - it sounds like a dark day for California policy-making. Realistically, however, the only people who will remember it as an especially lousy year by the time the Legislature reconvenes are prison guards whose collective-bargaining-is-for-suckers legislative play went down in a flaming pile of odd political rhetoric and sound legislative judgment.

If you're late to the subject - check out the Bee's excellent Sunday editorial on the relationship between various state and local government contracts. (And a more damning editorial today that, frankly, while full of bluster, isn't nearly as well reasoned as the one in the first link.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Sad Stuff Of Poems And Political Footballs

How many themes can you tease from this twist of fate?

How Many Years Does It Take To Have The Edge? Two? Seriously?

From The Roundup, a quotation I find very amusing:

"Meanwhile, while battles were being waged in the Capitol, GOP consultant Kevin Spillane went over his talking points against the term limits measure with the Bee Capitol Bureau.

"'In reality, over 80 percent of (current) legislators will have their terms significantly lengthened," Spillane said. "If it really was a toughening of term limits, would the politicians be supporting it and funding it? Of course not."

"Spillane also cautioned that if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the term limits measure, 'he actually bargains away his own power' because Núñez and Perata could outlast him in office.

"Every interest group in the state is going to know that," Spillane said. 'Their power will be dramatically increased. His will be diminished. Whereas if (term limits) does not pass ... there will new leaders in both houses. He will be the old man, there will be new kids on the block. It might give Schwarzenegger an upper hand in the final two years of his term.'"
Because the final two years are always the strongest of any executive's. And Schwarzenegger has SO much more experience under the Dome.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nanny State Moves I Like

I disagree with this ruling based on the 4 paragraphs of information provided here.

Before we ban ingrediants or other stupid moves, providing the nutritional information more obviously would be a great move. Would you still go for that McDonald's salad if you knew it was still nearly or over 600 calories? It's the dressing. Don't do it. Just have the burger, it's what you want anyway.

Fall Is Coming, And With It, The Return Of 'Don't Go To Law School' Season

As thousands of college seniors return to campuses across America this month, many are facing that oldest of nagging questions, certain to be discussed late at night prompted by binge drinking and freshman year nostalgia: what in the hell am I going to do with this liberal arts degree now?

For too many graduates, the answer continues to be, "I know, I'll go to law school."

I consider myself - along with fellow blogger Amber Taylor - to be among the few, proud members of the "Don't Do It" club. The "Do It" club is large and popualted mostly by parents and well meaning adults comforted by the thought of a child insulated from unemployment and want by a J.D. and a Huxtable-level Brooklyn Brownstone future. You know these people. The ones who say, with chins ever up, how useful a law degree is, even if you don't practice. It's a valuable certificate. A ticket - and a golden one at that. A law degree is versatile. It teaches you to think. To reason. A law degree will save you. Haven't you seen Erin Brokovich? Nevermind that she wasn't a lawyer, it's the professsssssion, you see. Noble. It wins. It's about truth. Justice. The American way.

And debt, kids. Massive, opportunity strangling, piles of debt. And weight-gain. And spending 3 years in a pseudo-intellectual environment created as the world's most pretigious barrier-to-entry to keep our rates up (well, some of our rates), swapping the sensible apprentice-based model for the current faux-collegiate attitude that drives true scholars mad and elevates mediocre memorization specialists to new, $100k+ heights.

Nay, that's too dark a rendition of the law school reality, no? Knowing my employer reads this from time to time to ensure I'm not sinking the mission duty-binds me to include a disclaimer that I do, in fact enjoy my job. I do. I'm not lying. But I don't think anyone needs to go to law school. Certainly not you, uncertain and scared college senior. Certainly not, unless you are damned sure you want to practice law. And to be that sure, you have to know what it is to practice law and I'll tell you right now, kid who rushes home after Gov 82 each day to watch 5 hours of L&O (classic, not sex-addled SVU), that ain't it and you haven't got a clue.

How about some empirical data about what your future might look like? Here's some good stuff. See that big bump at the left of the graph? That's probably going to be you. Unless you work you ass off to get into the top US News ranked schools, you can kiss that right-hand hump good-bye. It does matter where you go. Better is better. Period.

See, that's the thing with the decision to go to law school - it is based on such deceptively simple questions and truths. Only go if you want to practice law. Go to the best school possible. Easy, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Somewhere, as she reads this, my mother is cringing and feeling both sad and angry. She hates, hates, HATES when I say that law school was a bad choice for me. She hates that statement because, as with "only go if you want to practice law" and "go to the best school possible," its length belies its complexity. Law school led to many good things for me. I probably wouldn't have met my fiancé (not that he's a lawyer or law student, thank god). Obviously, I'd go to law school 3 times in a row rather than trade him for avoiding the experience. I also wouldn't have my current job which, as mentioned above, I do genuinely like.

But you must realize, eager, bright-eyed senior, that a law degree is not a good credential to have, the way having passed the CBEST can get you substitute teaching gigs when you feel like getting extra cash. You will be condemned to taking jobs that can support your degree unless you have the ability to pay for most of it upfront. And if making a comfortable living is one of your main career goals (and if it is not you are either stupid, lying, deluded, or the beneficiary of a trust), you can do it without a law degree.

I have a good friend whose career I use to track my own. He's not much older than I am. I don't know exactly when he started in the Capitol, but it wasn't too long before I did. He stayed there, working in a policy area I love and worked damn hard. He recently left for the private sector. But before he left he was making more money than I am now. And he has no law school debt to pay off. Didn’t have to take out extra loans after his education to pay for the prep class that would enable him to pass the exam he needs to use the professional degree. He's doing A-Okay. I think that's so wonderful he should be trucked to college campuses around the state as a motivational speaker.

I've made this argument, or some version of it, frequently over the life of this blog. I'm not confident it will sway a single student from the wrong path. Truly brilliant mentors didn't sway me from mine. Because I was dumb. And I felt lost. And despite what I will forever contend was the best college education ever, I still lacked enough self-confidence to feel finished by my B.A. All of those are my failings alone - and no one else's.

So I will remain the Cassandra of senior-year planning. Don't do it. At least take some time first, see if you can survive out there. Try to figure out if practicing law is really what you'd like to do everyday. Try to figure out what practicing law is. Try to figure out if you're comfortable living in a world without much truth - at least in the professional sense. Then think about it some more. Law school will always be around - your chance to make a mistake by attending won't disappear after your senior year.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

'The Man Is Burnt'

The news from the playa is sad. Someone burned burning man before burning man was supposed to be burned. That burns.

But the reactions are pretty amusing:

"I am disturbed that the Man is burnt. As I looked at it, I was going, 'This can't be happening,' " said Bob Harms of South Lake Tahoe, a seven-time burner.

"Some people were chanting, 'Let him burn, let him burn!' and some were chanting, 'Save the Man, save the Man!' " said Kyle Marx of Eugene, Ore.

"Someone went to a great extent to interfere with everyone else's burn. I think, frankly, an attention whore has made a plea for attention," said a Burning Man volunteer who goes by the name Ranger Sasquatch. "In three days, we will have this rebuilt."
Like the temple? Wait, is this a Jesus thing? Crap, didn't Nostradamus say the end times would start with a dude from the desert? Is the burning man the second coming? Whoa, trippy.

Seriously, though - this year's theme is "The Green Man," so let's make sure we use more wood to rebuild and reburn the green burning man. An act which is not green.

As if trucking out to a desert was a green endeavor to start.

Oh No, Somone's Been Changing Stuff In My Free, Public Forum Source For Shortcut Research

Um, seriously, dudes, it's Wikipedia. Relying on it for more than anecdotal or quick-reference info is dumb. Shock at the manipulation of history, however, is dumber.

May I remind you all of Jack Pitney's first rule of research: Consider The Source.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Any Ideas Welcome

Despite years of formal and informal education and experience in government work, I've yet to understand why it is that those who work for the government should make the bare minimum and forfeit the same privacy rights private employees would enjoy.

Is it because people "get to" work for public entities? Should they be grateful? More altruistic? Happy to work at cut rates and more openly than anyone else?

Does it come down to the fundamental paradox that is the American experience? We hold fast to the American dream that all can be rich and privileged - better than their parents - yet the moment someone achieves that, we hate them, distrust them, and seek to get their pay slashed?

Just for the record, speaking as a taxpayer, I do not request any public employees to work at cut-rates just 'cause. And since, public or private, we're market-driven by our wholesome American nature, I'd rather NOT have the bargain basement employee - the ones we can get cheap.

'US Attorney General Gonzales Resigns'

The lede:

Alberto Gonzales, the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, announced his resignation Monday, driven from office after a wrenching standoff with congressional critics over his honesty and competence.
If the lede contains the most important information in an article - the essential news, all you really need to know, then what does this lede mean? How do the terms relate? Is his status as the first Hispanic attorney General the most important thing about the story? Is it important at all?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Hate Missing The Best Week In The City

That would be Burning Man. Because the Burners are gone.

Chron columnist and SF Metroblogger Violet Blue offers her take on Burning Man and some of the less cool things to pick up while you're there. It's a wonderfully crafted piece full of useful advice. Check it out if you're a Burner. If you're not, check it out to remind yourself why you aren't. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can Someone Mentor The Mentors

... on language?

While it's foolish to quantify English into its precise number of words, the OED contains entries for 171,476 current and 47,156 "obsolete" words, I think it fair to assert that an adequate number of words exists such that the invention of new words is unnecessary. Especially when new words are incorrectly created to stand-in for words ignored by, uh, ignorant people.

I'll explain.

If you want to get the inner-linguist in me hopping mad, simply use the word "mentee." I've ranted about this before. The word "mentee" is predicated on ignorance. It assumes the word "mentor" parallels words like contractor or nominator. It does not. A mentor's student is not a "mentee." A mentor's student is a protege - or, if you must enslave yourself to the law student hoppy of slapping an "ee" on everything printed on a page, a "mentoree."

A mentor's student is not a mentee. Just. not.

I accept, hell, I sometimes celebrate, that language evolves. I like that we can turn most anything into a verb these days and get a laugh out of someone by doing it.

But the losing the word "protege" really irks me - perhaps because it is a word that should be used by educated people - the kind of people who'd have benefited from being a protege or could do good by mentoring.

Please, save the endangered protege. And eradicate the dangerous mentee, before it's too late.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Can Judicial Hands Truly Be Tied In A Common Law System?

It's enough to make me go Napoleonic: 'Court says it's unjust but deports man who lived with underage girl'

So, explain this to me, a court case which defined a particular felony as inherently abusive - to be clear, from my reading of this article, we're talking about case law as applied to statutory interpretation - requires a 26-year-old legal immigrant be removed to Mexico?

How's that?

The headlines about sex with an underage girl are a bit mislead. This was a consenual relationship between a 20 year old and a 16 year old - hardly an uncommon difference in age, nor uncommon in the particular ages generally.

Um, change it? No? Anyone?

Estrada entered the United States in 1992 at age 12 and became a legal permanent resident six years later. He said his girlfriend and her friends told him she was 18 when they met in June 2001, and he did not learn her true age until six months later. The court said she was either 15 or 16 when they met, but Ahmad said the case record showed that she was 16.

They started living together at his parents' home, then found a place of their own, where Estrada supported her and their newborn son by working as many as 60 hours a week at grocery stores, Ahmad said. He said the couple broke up after Estrada was prosecuted, and the child lives with Estrada's parents.

After being charged by local prosecutors in June 2004, Estrada pleaded guilty to four counts of illegal sexual activity with a minor and was sentenced to a year in jail. The federal government moved to deport him after his release.

In upholding his deportation, the appeals court cited a federal law that requires deportation for any noncitizen convicted of an aggravated felony, a category that includes sexual abuse of a minor.

Last year's precedent-setting ruling, which involved a 32-year-old man who picked up a 17-year-old girl and paid her for sex, defined the felony for which Estrada was sentenced as inherently abusive, the court said.
'Cause these situations are totally analogous. I'd like to know *why* he was prosecuted, but either way . . . I guess if this guy stays in the U.S., the terrorists win.

But, rest easier, the court might convene a larger panel to reconsider the issue! Yeah! Let's have a panel. With some experts. Too bad for this dude, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Things My Foreign Fiance Finds Funny

We can't travel to Cuba and people who do go there, or enable others to go there, can be fined.

I remember literally rubbing my eyes in disbelief while watching a cab drive by in London with an ad for Sandals Cuba plastered to the side.

There's a Sandals resort in Cuba? Cuba cuba? With the scary dictator and the communism?

So my fiance can go to Cuba, but I can't. Funny, that.

As far as I know, though, China is still A-Okay!

Stupid Comment Of The Day Winner

From an article about potential congesstion tolls in SF to replace a dangerous entry to the GG Bridge:

"Doyle Drive needs to be taken care of by the city, not the taxpayers," said Dan LaFever, who regularly uses it to get from Nob Hill to visit the Outer Richmond District. "It's not a bridge. It's not an extension of the bridge. It's not even part of the highway system. It's a road like any other road. A toll on a regular street to pay for its repairs? I think not."
Yes, the City and County of San Francisco should print up extra money to pay for the upgrade. Where does Mr. LaFever think the city gets its money? If he uses it regularly, then he SHOULD be the one paying a bit extra. Or they can spread the costs around all residents and visitors via a local tax increase. Sound better? Oh wait, that's "taxpayers" again too.

What a moron.

'Edwards Moving Staff Out of Nevada'

A good friend has fallen victim to the primary/caucus schedule-juggling that's caused campaigns to quickly reallocate people and funds:

Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded with a warning: "Any candidate who chooses to ignore Nevada and its rich diversity does so at their own peril."

The Democratic National Committee gave Nevada a new early role in the presidential nominating process, allowing it to schedule its caucus on Jan. 19, between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. But New Hampshire has said it may go earlier than the Jan. 22 date set by the DNC to maintain its historic role in choosing the nominee, possibly moving Nevada back in the voting order.
Yeah, woe to those ignoring Nevada. I shouldn't snark - it truly sucks that people are losing jobs over this calendar swapping crap. New Hampshire, I'm lookin' at you.

To back-track on my previous post: it wouldn't even be SO bad if New Hampshire stayed primary among primaries, but that only works if everyone else - California, I'm looking at you - stays put and gives up the race for a moving finish, or start, line.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Cali: You Don't Matter Like That, So Please Stop Trying

Congratulations, State of California! Your efforts to make your presidential primary "matter" again have contributed to a recent calendar shuffling that's given us a 2007 caucus date! High-five! Bet you're proud. I mean, it was, like, soooo smart to move your date up so candidates would need to visit the state to nab precious votes and even more important dollars.

But wait, what's this? OTHER states moved theirs too???/?? I'd have never seen that coming. Bet you didn't either. That's a shame. Really it is. I mean, it's almost like mainstream media has determined to bow to the will of Iowa and New Hampshire and allow them to set the pace by buying their narratives whole cloth rather than challenging that either great, yet small, state should be able to select the leader for the ENTIRE country without that leader needing to address the needs of any interests aside from (subsidized) corn farmers and (price-controlled) dairy farmers. Almost!

But wait again, maybe we can make ourselves matter again this way. What if, stick with me now, we award our electoral votes based not on the winner of the popular vote, but on the winner of the congressional race? Then the Reeps gets some votes! That'd be super fair. Your vote will count again! Phew, finally. And, I should add, it's a relief to know yet another reason why it isn't my fault that things never change. And if I don't vote regularly, here's another reason not to until this change is adopted. (How do you say "Not My Fault" in Latin, and can we get that printed on money?)

Other states are trying this too, so you're only kinda leading-edge right now, Cali. That's so unlike you!

At least in North Carolina it's clearly constitutional. Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the selection of electors is up to state legislatures "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." When power is delegated to the electorate in referenda, the legal authority gets fuzzy; the Constitution, of course, supersedes state law. In any event, the Hiltachk referendum will face a challenge in court.
Ah, the initiative process. What would we do without it? Besides adhere to traditional ideas of representative government, I mean.

Oh - and a side note, dear California: while I agree with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter that this idea is stupider than stupid (or cleverer than clever, depending on the party in power, I suppose), he's not totally correct because he also forwards the popular vote plan as a sound alternative:

Is there a better way to make every vote count? Yes, and it doesn't require a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College. All it would take is some good mischief in state legislatures. In February, a bipartisan coalition of former senators led by Birch Bayh, Jake Garn and Dave Durenberger unveiled a campaign for a national popular vote. Under the plan, state legislatures would pass bills that pledged to award their state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It's not clear which party this would help, but if adopted by as few as 11 states, it would guarantee that the candidate with the most votes actually won the election. Anybody got a problem with that?
Me! I have a problem with that! Hello! Over here!

Two times - just two times - in the history of this country the electoral votes failed to match the popular vote. Unfortunately, the second time was during the era of the Twenty-four Hour News Cycle. I was on the losing side (hell, weren't we all?) in 2000 and I STILL don't think it's a broken system.

Giving less populous states a protected voice in selecting the president is important and right. Giving two less populous states ALL of the say, however, is wrong. Don't confuse bad coverage of the process with the process being bad.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Is Both Sad And Comforting

Oscar the Cat Predicts Patients' Deaths - so this hospice cat curls up to people right before they kick the bucket. Staff has taken to calling family members when the cat chooses the next patient, so the family can come say good-bye.

Ha!

So, SF tries to steal water too. I knew it.

Offending Voters Also Makes For Bad Challenges

Former SF supervisor and charmer Matt Gonzalez won't run for mayor again, because:

In an interview with The Chronicle Monday, Gonzalez said polling showed voters seem to be complacent about the problems the city faces and do not hold Newsom accountable for those ills -- two factors that would be nearly impossible to overcome as a challenger.
Wow, is that offensive to voters. He encouraged others to get into the race though. If they want to deal with the complacency, I suppose. Barf.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Test Your Patriotism - Compare Old, New Citizenship Tests

Interesting article on the proposed changes to USCIS's citizenship exam.

Here's the current exam. And here's the new exam.

Some examples:

Now:
Q: How many branches are there in the United States government?

A: There are 3 branches.


Soon:
Q: Why do we have three branches of government?

A: So no branch is too powerful.
Ya hear that, current administration?

Of course, it's good that this question from the old exam is being changed, since it conflicts greatly with the way Bush seemed to characterize the First Branch's relationship to war in this morning's news conference:

Question 71. What group has the power to declare war?

A71. Congress has the power to declare war.
And the Federalist Papers get a question (well, maybe, since they are still deciding on the final 100 questions out of a larger list of contenders). That should make a good Stag or Athena smile appreciatively. I'd like to see a fill in the blank: "Ambition must be made to counteract ______________."

And I want to know if inventor of the bifocal and Franklin stove count for this question:

95. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for.
A:U.S. diplomat
A:Oldest member of the Constitutional Convention
A:First Postmaster General of the United States
A:Writer of "Poor Richard's Almanac"

The new version doesn't seem vastly different, but it certainly aims more toward indoctrination over mere facts. That's not a wholly bad thing - though since political philosophy nuances will get lost in the shuffle, it makes this gov major wince a bit every now and again. Like this one:

26. Who does a U.S. Representative represent?

A: All people of the district
Were the answer only that simple!

Please Accept This Flower . . . .

Hundreds of Green Card seekers stuck in admin hell flooded USCIS's office with bouquets of flowers, inspired by Gandhi to peacefully protest recent DHS mismanagement of immigration processes.

This graf got to me:

But they are weary of how their lives have been frozen in time. They must retain the same job title and income they had when they began the application process, which can last for eight years.
Our national relationship with the immigrant identity - both as imagined and as realized - is so terribly at odds with our policies . . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Donate

Not money or time. Organs. The man profiled in this article about organ donation in minority communities was in my fellow class in the Assembly Fellowship Program. He's a good guy. I hope he gets the kidney he needs.

Visit Donate Life for more information on becoming an organ donor.

Stupid Burners

Don't vote for this dude who wants to see the destruction of the Bow & Arrow sculpture on San Francisco's Embarcadero.

That happens to be my favorite piece in the city.

Yet another example of why Burning Man is the best time to visit San Francisco. Because all the Burners are elsewhere.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Who Needs Coverage Of Stuff Like the State Legislature Anyway?

I can't believe I missed this in last week's Roundup:

And layoffs continued to ravage the Capitol press corps yesterday. The San Jose Mercury News released 40 employees Monday, including Sacramento reporter Kate Folmar. Steve Maviglio writes in the California Majority Report:

"I've been on the receiving end of Kate's daily probe for Capitol gossip and info. Try as I often might, I sometimes was stopped in my spin tracks with Kate's no-nonsense-get-to-the-point-you're-full-of-it comebacks. And just about every conservation has a patented "ok, what else do you have," as she tried to get a unique angle to the many straightforward stories that eminate from the capitol on a daily basis. I'll miss those calls -- unless, I hope, another big city major newspaper adds her to their staff."

Hear, hear.
What the hell, Merc? Badly done.

Monday, July 02, 2007

'Today' Show Biased Against Legal Immigrants

Well, there goes one reality show-like opportunity I would've actually enjoyed:

Each applicant, of a couple submitting an Application, must be at least 21 years of age as of July 2, 2007;
No whammy . . .

The couple submitting an Application must have become engaged to be married prior to June 2, 2007 (i.e., at least one month prior to July 2, 2007);
No whammy . . .

Each applicant must be a legal resident of the United States and must have a valid United States passport;
Whammy.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Court May Be 5-4-Crazy, But I'm Unanimously Peeved

Quite a year for the Supreme Court, not? Nothing but 5-4 decisions and crazy ones at that.

Then there's this ruling that seems to support a nearly throw-away comment in the bong-hits-4-jesus case that mentioned had the student's sign said "LEGALIZE bong hits 4 jesus," that would've been protected.

Ah. Fabulous, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

'Oropeza concedes party nomination to Richardson'

From The Daily Breeze:

Assemblywoman Laura Richardson won a two-month sprint to succeed the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald on Tuesday, besting a better financed and more experienced opponent with the help of labor and black leadership.

Richardson won 37.8 of the vote, to 31.3percent for state Sen. Jenny Oropeza. Millender-McDonald's daughter, Valerie McDonald, finished a distant third with 9.4 percent.

"I just thank God," Richardson said Tuesday night, from a party at the Home Depot Center's Stadium Club in Carson. "It's not just about money, and it's not just about the number of years you've served. It's about what's in your heart."
And what was in my heart: Congress is like a waaaay better gig. Way better. Tons. Job security forevs. Check ya later, term limits!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

'Gatekeepers of Hillaryland'

On a friend's recommendation, I looked up this piece on the women comprising Hillary Clinton's inner circle. Of particular note:

But among her own staff, she has cultivated a nurturing culture of collegiality and loyalty, a leadership style based in teamwork, and often favored by women, that values consensus over hierarchy.

"She never lets anyone criticize her staff," says Neel Lattimore, who was a spokesman for her in the White House. "The loyalty is a two-way street."
Criticism can be constructive, of course. Failing to recognize that criticism can be based in truth rather than in animosity - the presumption on which the second statement seems to be based - can kill a campaign pretty quickly. The article does address the oft-cited "bunker mentality" of the Clinton camp(s). Not satisfactorily. But it gets a hit.

Any thoughts on consensus vs. hierarchy? I have some. I'll come back to them later.

Monday, June 25, 2007

One More Immigration Story For Today

Ex-SoCal councilwoman could be deported for voting. Can you go through life not knowing you aren't really American? Sure you can. But she broke the law - let's kick her out! Oh wait, she's Cuban, we probably won't, because then the Communists would win!

(Note: I'd have used scare-quotes around the word "really" above, but that would've been anti-S&W. Would be nice if relative American-ness boiled down to paperwork, wouldn't it.)

But There Are So Many Other Good Reasons To Move, Why Use This One?

Public reaction to the proposal requiring all pets to be spayed/neutered unless owners obtain a permit to the contrary, features some interesting statements:

"I was born and raised here, but I will move if this law passes," said Kathryn Blink of San Carlos, whose Dalmatian was deemed the best in the nation in 2004. "I don't want to be a law-breaker. And I'm tired of being told what I can do with my property."
Get over it, you nut. Get Spot a permit and you're fine.

The rhetoric borrowed from other human policy areas is applied with laughable results in the article. Click on the link if you want a good laugh.

Dear California, You Don't Really Care About Protecting The Environment

Because if you did, you would pay more attention to the follow-up work required for enforcing all of the environmental protection laws you pat yourselves on the back for enacting.

Texas does. Do you like it when Texas does something better than we do on one of our issues?

Immi Woes Hit Cali GOP, Promting Nonsensical Reactions, Natch

So I don't get the reactions to the recent, quick resignation of the GOP's COO, an Reep from the land of OZ with history of immigration-related legal troubles.

Well, he WAS from Australia, isn't the whole outlaw thing kinda part of the culture? No? Bad joke? They can't all be winners.

At any rate, the guy gets slammed all over here, but there isn't much clear information yet on the underlying offenses that prompted the Aussie's arrest and deportation order. And he's suing the Feds, which seems to be the greatest sin of all. But if the arrest and deportation orders really WERE wrongly issued, then why would a suit be a sin?

Oh well. Good luck, GOP. This is why you might not want to take such a hardline approach to immigration issues. Lots of people - god-fearing, law-abiding, freedom-lovers - can have trouble with immigration laws. Shocking, isn't it.

There MUST be a lot more to this story.

Let's look for more - and let's ask flasy Fleischman about it: it seems based on his reaction along with others quoted in the Chron article, that the Party's party line will fall on the Aussie's act of concealing information from his employer, regardless of what the nature of that secret is. Fleischman is pissed that the Aussie didn't disclose past arrests or that he was suing the feds. I'm still especially unclear about the latter fact's importance.

Let's take a look at this in hypothetical terms. Say he was arrested mistakenly and the deportation order was improperly issued. There are about 1000 reasons I can imagine for this to occur. And I'm guessing 98% of my readership will never have to think about things like "gee, what could cause someone to get carted-off?" Consider yourself very, very lucky. Anyway - if it was all false (and I've seen nothing either way on the ACTUAL meat of the story) - why would you disclose it to your employer? You wouldn't.

UNLESS, of course, it was material to your employer's interests. There's certainly a strong argument for that here - given the GOP's [ed.'s note: largely unreasonable] take on immigration and their desparate need to be deathly serious about the matter at all costs and in all, all, ALL circumstances, then yeah, even your brush with mistaken law enforcement should be disclosed.

Nice mess for the CRP. I don't mean that in a celebratory way, either. Of course, if the eventual facts help open eyes to the problems with current immigration laws, then great. If they, as they very well might, make them want to hate immigrants even more, then, well, that's all we need, isn't it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sob-Worthy News Clip Of The Day

CNN asks: "Is Ralph Nader what's missing from the 2008 presidential race?"

Really? Bored already, guys?

This Kid Is Cool

High Schooler schools teachers on real estate: I don't usually go for the inspirational-kid-does-good stories, but this one seemed extra-ordinary and post-worthy.

Top Ten Things Not To Say To The California Electorate

The Peripheral Canal, like the South's need for water, may rise again. The storied and frequently revived only to be killed Canal gets the Capitol Weekly treatment in the above linked article. Couldn't help but chuckle at this choice quotation from Central Valley State Senatory Dean Florez:

It was never built. The Legislature approved it, but voters rejected it in 1982 in a package of water projects known as SB 200. Denounced by some environmentalists as a catastrophe-in-waiting for the Delta and many in the north state as a Southern California water grab, the canal died at the polls.

"But we're not in 1982 anymore. Things have changed. We've got a governor who is willing to take the lead. There are different players. We have municipal water agencies that are bigger, more powerful now than they were back in 1982. They understand that we are all connected in this state. In my district, this is life or death to them," said Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. "This time," he added, "it could be done without the voters."
Oh man. That guy should've just lit a match and tossed it into a powder keg while saying, "really though, what could go wrong?" Is there anything California voters enjoy MORE than reminding their elected officials that their understanding of representative democracy emphasizes the democracy over the representation?

Californians LOVE killing things in the polling booth. Or creating things that kill members. We should call ourselves, collectively, Dr. California Frankenstein for all the little direct democracy oddballs we reanimate and experiment with.

I'm sure there's a joke in here about whether voters will give Florez the Shafter for his "neener neener we don't need you" attitude, but I won't make it here. Too easy.

Of course, on the article's substance, I'd hate to see some modernized take on California water management go down because it gets slapped with ever-effective "Southern Cali water grab!" hysteria. I used to buy that - until I realized how much water EVERYONE steels from EVERYWHERE else (Bay Area, I'm looking at you).

From a wonk-view, I'd love to see active debate over new canals and damns. Gets me as riled up as a good redistricting debate. But I don't think ANYONE is served by telling the voters they aren't needed. They always manage to hear that message loud and clear - and the seldom ignore it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PL8 News

The California Memorial License Plate has raised some $7 million since it's 2002 creation. But none of it has been spent yet. The linked article touches on renewed efforts to bring home some of that cash for port security - a worthy cause spearheaded by Pedro Assemblywoman Betty Karnette.

No mention is made in the article of the balance of raised funds being held for scholarships for the children of 9/11 victims. I don't think that's been accessed yet either.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stupid Claims Lawyers Shouldn't File

MLB Takes Fantasy League to Court:

Attorneys representing Major League Baseball argued Thursday that online fantasy baseball companies cannot operate without paying license fees to MLB to compensate players for the use of their names.

A federal appeals panel of three judges seemed skeptical that MLB could take financial control of a game that uses publicly available statistics and widely known names of players.

"MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players') names and what they look like," said U.S. Judge Morris Arnold. "This is just part of being an American, isn't it?"

MLB's lawyer Virginia Seitz said online fantasy games exploit players by effectively turning them into game pieces and using their names to draw more customers.

"There's no way of escaping the fact that players' names are on the product," Seitz said.
What if the fantasy players names all used the popular "schm" construct. So instead of drafting Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire, you draft Schmary Schmonds and Schmark Smcguire? Shouldn't you have to add the same to the statistics. Now batting schmreehundred?

Whoops: lawyers should never file clams either. They leave too much sand in the judge's in-box.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Scientists Discover Gigantoraptor

No, seriously.

Moore Bad Health News

Last night, I saw the premiere of Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, along with a theater full of legislators, legislative staff, lobbyists, and other political types and policy wonks. Moore himself was there as well, to introduce the film and answer a handful of (almost entirely friendly) questions after the screening. It was a good film. It won't pack houses like Fahrenheit 9/11, but it will be seen by its target audience, I'm sure.

I've discussed the screening and the film more thoroughly over at Metroblogging Sacramento, if you're curious. But one part of the movie warrants separate coverage here.

Moore's film begins by highlighting our failure in comparison to the rest of the world. According to he World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems, we come in at a shameful #37. This puts us, Moore is quick to point out with amusing visual hyperbole, just one mark above a butcher with a hack saw that is the primary provided for #38 Slovenia. Moore shows a graphic of the rankings. He focuses on a swath in the upper 30s that includes us and Slovenia.

Now, let me break for a moment to touch on the aspect of the movie getting the most media attention right now: Moore's trip to Cuba with a handful of ailing 9/11 rescue workers to seek medical care they've been unable to attain or afford here in the US. It's a classic Moore party trick and I think the film suffers for his lack of discipline. It wasn't needed. It detracts from his main message. But so be it.

The screaming, raging, head-scratcher of a problem?

Let's go back to that WHO ranking and the graphic shown with it at the start of the film.

To review, we've got the United States at #37, Slovenia at #38, and, why, who's that at #39? Let's look - I'll even circle it for you, in case you can't tell what I'm talking about:

Meet #39, our friend, Cuba.

Sloppy film making? Some broader message we're meant to deduce? Something that will come back to bite Moore's large message squarely in its uninsured butt? You make the call.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Obligatory Paris Reference

From the Chron:



Note that a failure to appear gets our little Delta Defendant 90 days instead of 45. And the judge certainly wasn't dainty in his no-really-I-mean-go-to-jail instructions.

Canadian Terrorists Free To Strike Again

The Feds suspended new passport rules requiring the documents for travel - by air - between the US and Canada, Mexico, and the Carribean because of an endless backlog and angered travelers who were having to cancel vacations [because they didn't see it coming].

One wonders how, exactly, this requirement really beefs up national security and remedies what was wrong with pre-9/11 world security measures.

Part of the problem with the backlog? Battle of the Big Brothers part 13453498908 as State and Homeland Security duke it out for who gets to be bitchier toward whom:

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., whose district lies near the Canadian border, said White House officials had been on Capitol Hill trying to work out a compromise amid what he called a "turf war" between State and Homeland Security.

Reynolds faulted "arrogant" officials for failing to get the system working properly, and said he was worried about even more headaches next year when passports will be required to drive into Canada or Mexico.
By the way, the name of the measure requiring passports strikes me as another bright star in the sky of creepily-named laws: the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Make no mistake about how much of the world we control here, people.

When it comes to border crossings and required documentation, though, we already know that neither Department moves quickly, don't we.

Update: excellent quote -

"We are absolutely thrilled," said Jennifer Wilson, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel, a $330 million luxury travel agency in Manhattan. "The backlog was too inhibiting."
Inhibiting? I know, laws, like, really blow and stuff, don't they. Especially when they interfere with luxury travel. Funny, when they change immigration laws and procedures, not too much grandfathering allowed there. But if we've learned nothing else this week in America, we've learned that if you have money, your complaints are much better received.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My Town, Poised To Start Blowing It Again

"Wine shop put on hold at San Pedro loft space"

Dang it, y'all. Get it together! Seriously, enough with the bitching and debating about planning. There is good stuff. If you build it, they will come. But not so many "they" that you won't be able to get from here to there without sitting in traffic. In fact, the people who bitch the loudest, I have a sneaky feeling, are the least likely to be found in downtown San Pedro to begin with.

Monday, June 04, 2007

'Parents of TB Patient Are 'In Hell' - And Yet Still Not Getting It

These 'rents may think they are helping, but even if Speaker wasn't prohibited to board a plane to get to his wedding, their excuses for why he boarded one (again, kids, via Canada) are still weaker than an opera singers cough in act one:

Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew home for treatment, fearing he wouldn't survive if he didn't reach the U.S., he said.

The family said that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told them the only way for him to get back to America from Italy would be to hire a private plane.

But the parents said they are not rich and could not have easily afforded a private jet.

"We work hard," said Betsy Cooksey, a school teacher and mother of Andrew Speaker's new bride, Sarah. "We're not in careers that are high paying."
Right, and so screw everyone else on that plane, right? And their families? And their health? Andrew Speaker was so worried about surviving he was willing to jeopardize others?

Someone should muffle these people before they attempt to excuse this incident again.

Spend, Spend, Spend

Via The Roundup, a story of irony in state politics (as if those are hard to find):

"State spending under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been growing faster than it did under former Gov. Gray Davis, who was ousted in a historic recall election driven mainly by a huge budget gap," writes the U-T's Ed Mendel.

"The new state budget proposed by Schwarzenegger would spend $103.8 billion in the general fund, which pays for most programs – an increase of more than 30 percent since he took office, about the same as the boost under Davis.

"But it took Davis five years to raise spending by about one-third. Schwarzenegger, who was elected in the fall 2003 recall, has done the same thing in four."
I'd laugh more if it all weren't so ignored . . . . .


And speaking of ignored - this is off-topic - I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow this morning at coverage of the weekend's Democratic presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire. Whatever news analyst was discussing the match-up commented that the front-runners, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards (ish, I suppose), managed to hold their own and not let the rest of the back gain any ground.

Um, call me a political journalism cynic, but isn't it the political journalists who determine if anyone in a barely broadcast New Hampshire candidate debate gain any ground? Do you really - really really - think that Clinton/Obama/Edwards performed THAT MUCH better than Dodd, Biden, Richardson, Auntie Maybel, whomever else may have been on the stage but who wasn't a primary variable in the expectation equation?

Yeah, I didn't think so either.

The slack-jawed awe with which poljourns wonder at the process makes me wanna boot.

And lastly for today - an immigration update: Because I haven't mentioned it in awhile, and I've received a few congratulatory emails about my fiance receiving his visa. He hasn't yet. The previous "approved" posts responded to approval from the Department of Homeland Security. We're now in Department of State land - where life is far, far better and more swiftly moving. We're still awaiting an interview date - and no I have no prediction for that date, nor his entry to the U.S. I don't speculate. As mentioned in the blurb above, I don't dig on the expectation game - in politics or in my personal life.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

'TB Patient ID'd As Atlanta Attorney, 31'

Dude's a lawyer? A personal injury lawyer? And he did this? And he didn't think it would be a problem?

To quote a Weekend Update feature - Really?

And he went out of his way to fly despite being told not to? Really.

It was while they were in Rome that he learned further U.S. tests had determined his TB was the rare, extensively drug-resistant form, far more dangerous than he knew. Officials told him turn himself over to Italian health officials and not to fly on any commercial airlines.

Instead, on May 24, he flew from Rome to Prague on Czech Air Flight 0727, then flew to Montreal aboard Czech Air Flight 0104 and drove into the U.S., according to CDC officials.
Gee, he didn't fly to the US directly, instead he flew a non-US carrier and then drove (no passport required kids!) into the U.S.

Maybe I'm overthinking it, but it seems to me like that kind of out-of-the-waying it extra-proves he knew he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing and that a US airline and US border patrol might now to watch for him. No worries! Let the Canucks take the hit! Who really likes the Quebecoise anyway?