November 12, 2005

Wonderful evening, to cap off what was otherwise a bleak and depressing day: a salon of bloggery, hosted by Mr. Armed Liberal, at Ocean Seafood in Chinatown. No fisticuffs, a little politics, some gossip, and a lot of dim sum.

I got to Chinatown from Sherman Oaks using "high speed" public transportation, a novelty in the city of Los Angeles, which extended what would normally be a half-hour to forty-five minute drive into an hour-and-ten minute commute. The Valley leg was spent on the brand-spanking-new Orange Line, a dedicated bus line that they're still working out the kinks. Last week a septuagenarian driver, allegedly talking on a cell phone, ran a couple of red lights and collided with an oncoming bus, injuring about a dozen people, and as a result the buses have to travel at ridiculously slow speeds at intersections until the locals can figure out the rudimentary elements of defensive driving.

More time gets wasted transfering to the subway (Red Line) and train (Gold Line) legs of the trip. Since the beginning of each line is also the end of the other, it would seem logical that the transit system would have it timed so that you could disembark from one and embark on the other within minutes, but that would require a level of competence heretofore not found in local government. At each stop, I waited a minimum of ten minutes for the next train to leave the station, reducing whatever time-saving benefits that would accrue if I were to use the system during rush hour.

In short, the MetroRail is going to have to elevate its game if it is going to achieve its goal of getting significant numbers of commuters out of their cars and off the freeways. Until then, the people who are going to use this system will be either residents who don't own cars, those who have time on their hands, or those who, like myself, would rather do the sudoku puzzle in the morning than sit in traffic for an hour.
Just as it would be foolish to dismiss the future electoral prospects of Ahnold Ziffel in light of the last Tuesday's electoral debacle, so too would it be a mistake to draw too many comparisons with the comeback made by his ally and advisor, Pete Wilson, a dozen years earlier. In 1993, Wilson was:
1) an even more unpopular Governor; and
2) trailed the likely Democratic nominee, the State Treasurer (Kathleen Brown), by a significant margin.
Wilson, of course, came back the following year and won a landslide over Brown, who, besides being a scion of California's great political dynasty, was also a well-known public figure in her own right.

The big difference, however, is that Wilson had no career outside of politics. As such, he was pretty much defined by whether he could win public office, and once successful at that, whether he could win reelection. Other than his adoption of xenophobia as an electoral ideology, it would be hard to state what he stood for.

Ahnold, of course, has a life that doesn't revolve around winning the next election. He can always go back to Hollywood if things don't work out in Sacramento, or smoke cigars at his restaurant in Venice. He ran as a "reformer", and staked much of his political capital on the recent initiatives that the voters decisively defeated. With the defeat of Proposition 77, which sought to re-reapportion the districts legislators run in, the Democrats will continue to maintain their large majorities in both houses. California will remain a state of the deepest Blue variety until at least 2012.

He must now realize that even if he wins reelection next year, he will be little more than a figurehead, no different than the governor of Texas, with the ability only to veto and to occasionally make speeches. The agenda will be set by the Democrats in the state legislature, no matter how decisively he wins his own election next November. He knows that, and I suspect that's not why he got into politics.

I predict he won't run in 2006.
Thought for the day:

On our rugged eastern foothills
Stands our symbol, clear and bold.
"Big C" means to fight and strive
And win for Blue and Gold.
Golden Bear is ever watching.
Day by day he prowls.
And when he hears the tread of lowly
Stanford Trojan Red
From his lair he fiercely growls!
This evening, the lamentations gloating of BFT and Kevin Drum shall permeate the nightime....

UPDATE: U.S.C. 35, CAL 10: Never talk smack about an opponent when your QB's last name rhymes with "A Boob"....

November 11, 2005

Post-YBK: Here's one group that is profiting from the changeover to the new law almost as much as bankruptcy lawyers (and more so than even the credit card companies): corporate debt collectors. They buy delinquent accounts from the original lender, combine tough talk with amenable compromise, and make a profit from collecting not the entire amount due, but enough to cover their original investment. The most successful of the corporate "repo-men", Portfolio Recovery Associates, collects more than three dollars for every dollar it spends purchasing bad debt. Sweet gig, is that....

November 10, 2005

In fifteen words or less, can someone explain why I should care about this? Or rather, can someone do so without using the canard that spending money is somehow tantamount to the expression of "free speech"? Speech is speech, bribes are bribes "campaign contributions" are "campaign contributions", and never the twain shall meet.
Mark Steyn is one of the few writers who can make you sympathetic to the goals and aspirations of Al Qaeda, even after a horrific day like yesterday. You may dislike the fact that Osama sends terrorists into our country, flies planes into the Pentagon and WTC, casually murders innocent bystanders, pursues a radical fundamentalism that would make even some Red Staters cringe, and taunts our hapless government and our ineffectual leaders from his cave, but after Steyn lets loose with one of his bigoted, xenophobic rants against the A-Rabs and the French, you understand that maybe the Wassabists, in their twisted, perverted way, have a point. When the choice is between someone who desires, subconsciously or not, the extermination of all Muslims, and someone who may kill a few thousand every decade in wanton acts of futile terror, I'll go with the latter. They're both awful, but sometimes it just makes more sense to go with Stalin when the alternative is Hitler.

Juan Cole, who actually thinks for a living (Go Blue !!), flushes the Canadian Kleagle back down his hole with this post, about this week's uprising in France.

November 09, 2005

As of midnight, all eight initiatives are losing in California, although two of the measures are still too close to call. That would be Prop. 73 (mandating parental notification for minors before abortion) and 75 (prohibiting the expenditure of public employee union dues without prior consent of member). I voted against both, as well all of the various Schwarzenegger referenda save the redistricting measure (Prop. 77, which is losing decisively). The most important proposal, Prop. 76, which would impose a spending cap on the budget, is getting whomped, as are the two progressive-backed measures (limiting pharmaceutical costs and re-regulating electricity).

With half the vote counted, but almost all of Los Angeles County still to be heard from, it's going to be a very bad morning for Ahnolt Ziffel. He came into office two years ago as a "reformer" who claimed to stand above politics, but now the people have rejected his proposals, in an off-year special election that he called, and which was timed to reduce the turnout of those most likely to oppose him. Even if he wins reelection, he goes into 2006 knowing that is certain that an overwhelmingly liberal, Democratic legislature will also be elected means he would spend the next four years as a figurehead.

The magic is gone. Don't be surprised if Variety publishes a production listing for the shooting of Terminator 4 in 2007.

UPDATE: As of 1 a.m., Prop. 75 is pretty much done, trailing by 5%, with about half of L.A. County and a quarter of Alameda County (two of the biggest liberal counties in the state) to be counted. Prop. 73 is hanging in there; it is perhaps the only initiative that hasn't lost significant ground since the absentee ballots were counted, but it's still going to lose after all the ballots are counted. Good night.

November 08, 2005

Doesn't plagiarism usually entail the unauthorized passing off of another's work as one's own for pecuniary or material benefit? In this case, if the blogger in question gives its usage the old retroactive thumbs-up, how is it different than Ronald Reagan or JFK taking credit for the oratorical creations of Peggy Noonan or Ted Sorensen, respectively? Or, more to the point, the retelling of a joke one hears from a third party? Bloggers, like speechwriters, are crafting their work for a larger audience, and not only expect that our ideas are going to get ripped off by others higher up the food chain, we need that to happen to feel like we're making a difference.

November 07, 2005

The Bill Bidwill of Politics:

Bush isn’t going to make a comeback. He’s fallen and he can’t get up.

A comeback presupposes substance and ability. A worthy character who has suffered some setbacks, bad luck or simple human mistakes can make a comeback because he has it in him. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Michael Jordan, the Boston Red Sox can mount comebacks. The Arizona Cardinals are not making a comeback this season. They don’t have the team and the ability to straighten out what has gone wrong. They will continue to lose until the end of the season.

George Bush is the Arizona Cardinals. His team is terrible and he refuses to change any of his players. He doesn’t have the personality suited for making necessary changes. Quickly adjusting to changing circumstances is not his forte, stubbornness is. Even if he had the inclination to make a change, he doesn’t have the ability. He simply doesn’t know what the hell he is doing.


He is lazy, uninterested and incompetent. He views the presidency as homework. He seems to enjoy politics (at least while he’s up), but he doesn’t enjoy policy. He is detached from decision making and his decision makers have led him dangerously astray. Finally and most importantly, he doesn’t care to get it right.

George W. Bush will never put in the long hours to make sure we have the right policy in Iraq, in the war on terror, in the budget or anything else that concerns actual governing. He finds these things to be tedious. In reality, they are essential to the job of being President. He is overmatched.

And when you’re overmatched, you don’t put together second half comebacks. You get crushed.

--Cenk Uygur, HuffPost
An election-eve poll (from an outfit called "Survey-USA"), shows each of the four Schwarzenegger-backed initiatives going down to defeat, albeit by narrower margins than in other polls. Since earlier versions of the same poll had the measures comfortably ahead, the trend ain't good for the Governor. Proposition 73, which will mandate parental notification before a teen can obtain an abortion, has a slight lead. [link via Daily Kos]

November 06, 2005

Marc Cooper hits the right notes in urging a Yes vote on one of the Schwarzenegger initiatives: Proposition 77, which will transfer the power to draw legislative and Congressional districts from the State Legislature to a panel of retired judges. It is a flawed plan: retired judges tend to skew conservative in California, which has mainly had Republican governors for the past twenty years; and the suggested guidelines under the proposed law could make it easier to limit the influence of urban residents by squeezing them into "compact" districts.

But it beats the status quo. The current lines were redrawn in 2001 with the intention of protecting incumbents of both parties (the large Democratic majorities in both houses of the State Legislature and in the Congressional delegation were inherited from the previous lines, which were also drawn by a judicial panel), with two underlying goals: defend the seat held by Democrat Gary Condit (remember him?); and save Representative Howard Berman from a primary challenge by a Latino opponent. The net result was a one-seat pick-up for the party in 2002, while the partisan margin in both state houses was essentially unchanged.

Berman has been a terrific Congressman, and I certainly do not wish him any misfortune in his future political career, but the result has been a disaster for the Party. In the 2004 election, Barbara Boxer, arguably the most liberal member of the Senate, won reelection by 20 percentage points, over a moderate-conservative Republican who had won several previous statewide elections. In terms of vote count, it may well have been the largest margin of victory in any contested Federal statewide election in American history. And as I've mentioned before, she lost by very small margins in the districts of two Republican congressmen of note, Duke Cunningham and Christopher Cox. John Kerry, of course, kicked the President's ass here as well, winning by ten points.

Any fairly-drawn set of districts that are designed to produce competitive races should be able to give Democrats at least 3-4 more Representatives. Of course, in a year when the Republican tide is running strong in this state, it will also benefit that party as well. Those should be the breaks in a democracy.

UPDATE [9/7]: Kash (of Angry Bear) and Kos also support 77, while Prof. Kleiman is an emphatic no. Kevin Drum is also opposed, but is not unsympathetic to the reformist argument. Of all the reasons to vote against Prop. 77, the possibility that it will create "compact" districts that will favor Republicans (besides being untrue in California, which has become a decidedly lopsided Blue State in the past fifteen years) is the least persuasive. Partisan gerrymandering should be no more acceptable if it's done to benefit Democrats then when it's done in states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to benefit the GOP. And personally, I don't give a flying santorum if California's Democratic incumbents actually have to campaign in competitive districts in 2006, or even have to figure how to appeal to suburban and exurban voters in the O.C. and San Berdoo to win a swing district. This is a democracy, not the freaking Politburo.