Thursday, December 25, 2008
(I am in Indiana freezing my butt off and definitely longing for a return to Oakland! Just a note to let y'all know I'll be around in a bit, but for now posting will be basically nonexistent. Hopefully material is forthcoming early next week!)
Monday, December 15, 2008
No, instead, I think it's just worth pointing out a reminder that kindness is contagious, sometimes in spades. BART was pretty crowded today, basically at crush load for that system. One lady got up out of her seat and offered it to an elderly man, which surprised but pleased me. Then it happened again with someone else. Then again! Three times I saw strangers just being considerate of those around them. And it all happened because one person did a nice thing on a crowded train, and scored 200% ROI. That's not too bad. We should all remember to give it a try sometime!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Tribune carried a nice piece about how, actually, there is some pretty cool, pretty classy (OK, well, classy on a level of your choosing, lookin' at you, Ruby Room and I adore you when you're sedate, Radio) nightlife to be had in Oakland, particularly in some up areas that are legitimately in a position to start kicking some ass, like Downtown, Old Oakland, Uptown and Jack London Square. Yes, there's Rockridge, and yes, it's my hood, and yes, I like living here. But Rockridge is basically a bedroom community that happens to have an atrociously slow two-lane funnel into hardcore college town. That's why I feel at home here. It's about 30 blocks down Broadway that I think there is some magic to be made.
There are several great areas with fun night spots that I'm familiar with in that area. However, they're also connected by areas you just might not want to walk through at night, y'know what I mean? It seems like having a bus loop from Broadway and Grand down to Embarcadero, over to Oak and up Lakeshore / Harrison to grand would be an amazingly cool shuttle route. It has a lot of advantages, including the senic Lakeshore drive. From there, it's up to Grand where there are some fun restaurants and such. The quick spin over to Broadway & 19th includes easy access to BART, The Uptown, Luka's / Franklin Square Wine Bar / Fox Theater. Then it's down Broadway past 12th St. BART / AC Transit hub to Old Town Oakland which has its share of classy and fun dinner and bar places that people don't go to because who knows why. Swing down to Embarcadero and through the nightlife in Jack London Square, including the movie theater down there, Yoshi's, and other things I'm sure I'm missing. By returning to Lake Merritt on Oak, there is yet another convenient connection to BART.
It seems like this would create a local shuttle that would be incredibly easy to use, transport people between areas of downtown when they might not want to walk in between, and create a network of interfaces with the BART system as well as existing AC transit options, to boot.
With this size route, I believe only one or two buses would be needed to provide frequent-enough service, and would provide tremendous marketing appeal. Yes, there are AC Transit buses that already cover that route, but none which are easily branded as the Oakland Nightlife Express or whatever. The focus group could surely come up with a better title than that. But you see where I'm going: This sort of thing could really plant the seed in people's minds that there are things to do in Oakland and the nightlife scene is actually pretty cool. No, it's not San Francisco, but (and you'll pardon me if this sounds glib) who cares? Building up the offerings around the lower part of Broadway can only improve the image of downtown Oakland, and I think this kind of concept just might be the ticket.
Friday, December 5, 2008
According to a recent CNN report, Al Franken still trails Norm Coleman's teeth in the Minnesota Senate election recount. Coleman's teeth's host body, the most recent holder of the contested seat, was a Republican and staunch supporter of President George W. Bush. Coleman's teeth (pictured, left, delivering a recent statement to the media), on the other hand, having gained sentience and a sense of social justice all their own, promised to strike a more conciliatory, bipartisan tone than did the organism as a whole, in an attempt to ride the coattails of change promised by President-Elect Obama in the campaign for the White House.
More details as they become available.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
"'If the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt,' Thomasson said in statement released after the court agreed Wednesday to hear arguments over the validity of the constitutional amendment."
All we can do is remind people that if the Court finds Prop 8 was not properly slated on the ballot because it is a revision and not an amendment, then the court would be disobeying the constitution if and only if it does not void Prop 8. As much as these punch-drinkers want you to believe it, the Court is not hearing suits seeking to overturn the will of the voters; the Court is hearing cases about how the initiative was improperly slated on the ballot in the first place. Please, do not let people get away with saying the Court is undoing the will of the people or disobeying the constitution or acting outside the law or being 'activist'. This is a question of the legitimacy of the item being put on the ballot, not of the revision being made to the constitution.
Friday, November 21, 2008
1. The court is not going to rule to overturn the will of the people. The court can't do that. California amended its constitution with Prop 8 and it is that constitution the Supreme Court is charged with upholding.
2. The court may rule that Prop 8 was not properly added to the ballot and in so finding, invalidate the amendment. But why would the courts do this?
2a. The California Constitution establishes two 'levels' of change a ballot initiative can enact. The first, an amendment, is a relatively minor change to the constitution and can be put on the ballot by petition. The second, a revision, is a major change which alters not the text but the fundamentals of the constitution.
2b. Discrimination against 'suspect classes' (that is to say, a classification of people where using that classification as the sole judgment is suspect) is forbidden by the California Constitution.
2f. In the past, when the California Constitution has been amended to remove rights, those rights have been removed from all people. For example, when the courts had held that Calfornian's freedom from 'cruel or unusual punishment' and that execution was cruel or unusual, the Constitution was amended to remove that protection from all Californians.
2c. Gay people constitute a suspect class.
2d. Prior to the enacting of Prop 8, gay people had the right to marry.
2e. Following the passage of Prop 8, a suspect class is explicitly forbidden a right it once had, while the remainder of the population retains that right.
2g. Amending the constitution to remove rights of a protected class is thus unprecedented and represents a material change to the fundamentals of the California Constitution.
2h. As a result, what was placed on the ballot as an amendment is actually a revision and is not eligible for entry on a ballot by petition; it must be placed on ballot by a 2/3 supermajority of both houses of the California Assembly.
3. I like this argumentation very much. The Mormons will bitch and moan about how the courts are undoing the will of the people. But if the court rules in favor of what I outlined in 2, then the people en masse don't have a say in this until the Assembly acts on it. And we've just spent millions and millions of dollars on something that never should've been on the ballot in the first place.
4. Yes, this is very similar to a challenge against Prop 8 before the election, which was declined by the Court. However, in the interest of acting conservatively, the Court chose not to hear the case; if Prop 8 failed, they could get away without having to make a decision and it would have the same policy effect as if they'd heard the case and turned Prop 8 down from the ballot. Now, they evidently believe they do need to make a decision on the case, because whether they do or do not find the placement of Prop 8 on the ballot was appropriate has a net effect regardless of what they decide.
5. It looks like the petition drive to get a repeal measure for Prop 8 is in the works, and even if the Court finds against the folks filing this suit, we'll revisit this battle in two years' time.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
"According to the White House, tonight's dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as 'Fruitwood-smoked Quail,' 'Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb,' and 'Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus.'
To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on Wine.com."
Now, I'm a liberal elitist, so 'herbs' like 'thyme' don't scare me. And I live in the Bay Area, so the idea of a fruitwood smoker (I mean, you have to admit, that's basically the gayest-sounding thing ever) doesn't scare me. The concept of fondue I find a bit passé, but neither George nor Laura Bush seem to -- how do I say it -- have their finger on the pulse of contemporary trends.
I am a bit of a wine geek, so I relish the importance of the right wine with the right food, and though I have never had a $500 bottle of wine, I am pretty gosh-darn sure there's no reason they should go dropping a McKinley per bottle to go with this meal.
To put us all at ease that our taxpayer dollars aren't being frivolously spent to pour extremely elegant rotten grape juice down the gullets of the world's dignitaries, the White House assures us thusly:
"Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices," she said. "Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock."
A group of 20 of your not-closest friends is an excuse to raid the Shafer?! Seriously? Let's take the wholesale-price argument at face value: The White House (that is to say, you and I) buys this at the 6-bottle wholesale price, meaning they pay the price of 6 bottles to buy a case of 12. According to Shafer's website, the 6 bottle price on a case of the current vintage Hillside Select Cabernet would be $1,290, or $107.50 / bottle.
So it's still a freaking Benji a bottle. Thank Jesus the conservatives are in power.
But the *really* offensive part of this is that they have no freaking business pouring relatively young Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with... quail?! Are you trying to drown the damn birds after you've already killed and cooked them? I'm sure they're delicious, but after masking all of its flavor with the tannins in even a 'delicate' Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (and if you think they're all 'delicate', go roast your palate at Chimney Rock and get back to me), it'll totally overpower the dish you're serving it with! They could've managed a reasonably good Pinot Noir for half the price, or maybe done something ballsy like a moderately oaked + malolactic fermented white variety or blend and gone with that. I think Caymus Conundrum would've been great with the quail and that stuff retails around $25. This offensive mispairing and overspending must come to a stop. President-Elect Obama (is that ever going to get old??), it's time for a change!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Obama won, which has me feeling excitement and hope in a dark part of my soul I guess I forgot I had. I've never voted in a presidential election that didn't end up with a goddamn buffoon running the country, so I know you can understand my consternation with these, what are they... emotions?
What's striking to me, less than 24 hours after the election, is how many black people there are on TV news shows all of a sudden. Not that there haven't been black pundits, but I find it interesting that suddenly there's a bumper crop of 'em. And if Obama isn't replaced by an African-American in the Senate, the Senate will have a goose-egg in the black representation column. I don't want to rain on the hope parade, but I think it's far too soon to say this election was truly transformative in American politics. God, I hope it is, but in the meantime I wonder if we've not run the risk of mistaking historical significance and a sign that says CHANGE! as real, material change to the political landscape.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I'd like to think I've put a fair amount of brainwork into figuring out how I believe the voting should go. Here are some thoughts; if you have other views please do leave a note in the comments.
1A: High-Speed Rail Bonds. $10 billion in bonds to start the construction of HSR between LA and the Bay Area, ultimately to Sacramento and San Diego. Anyone who's driven the I-5 corrior between SF and LA knows how stupid it is. And anyone who flies that much knows how ridiculous it is, too. Door-to-door travel times on the train will be as good as by jet if not better. This makes so much sense, I cringe to think it might not pass (but it will, handily, I believe). YES on 1A.
2: Standards for confining farm animals. Call me a hippie liberal douchebag if you want, but I don't believe the difference in cost between current guidelines and this new legislation will substantially affect the market. Let's not forget that the cost of moving eggs from Mexico to San Francisco is much, much greater than bringing them in from Livermore or Tracy or wherever. A projected marginal cost difference of $0.10 / dozen at the cash register seems worthwhile, and the best thing the opposition to Prop 2 has to offer is that it will increase our chances of catching bird flu. It's an incredible hypothetical straw man of a tall tale, believe me. YES on 2.
3: Children's Hospital Bond Act. It doesn't matter what your proposition is, if the best thing you have going for it is "But think of the children!" you provoke visions of a shrieking brain-decayed she-beast. You know, like Maggie Gallagher. I would love for someone to talk me down on this, but I don't understand what handouts to private children's hospitals is going to do for us. Not knocking the services they provide of course, but these initiatives read to me like an ultimatim: either give us the cash or we'll X, Y or Z, or punch your mom in the face or something. NO on 3.
4: Attempt to criminalize abortion in any way possible. Yeah, no. Parental notification law with no real protections for the girl who's preggers. There's no *reason* for this law, which is what irks me. NO on 4.
5: Nonviolent drug offenses, sentencting, parole, rehab. The arguments for and against this are totally weird. I do not get this or 9, which deals with bail. Unless I get a good case one way or the other, I'm tempted to leave 5 and 9 as no-votes. WTF on 5 and 9?!
6: Police and Law Enforcement funding. Arbitrary spending floors with no accountability or reform mechanism should reform be necessary. Poorly written and pretty awful as far as I can tell. No responsbility for results or anything, just "throw money at law enforcement" -- same thing that gets me about the US military budget. NO on 6.
7: Renewable energy generation. Props 7 and 10 also both smack of high-dollar handouts to private corporations with no oversight or mandatory ROI. The US gets screwed on this constantly with its telecom legislation and I do not understand why people tolerate such vauge and nebulous handouts of public money. If the energy generation that results from Prop 7 or 10 became part of the public portfolio and not just a free revenue stream for these corporations, maybe there'd be room to talk. I guess I don't see the public ROI for the cost here... NO on 7 and 10.
8: Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry. Amending a Constitution to eliminate rights is about the most unpatriotic, un-American, and frankly, pathetic, thing I can imagine. It's virtually unprecedented and completely damaging in the historical perspective, and it's unnecessary and wrong. Peace, love, and happiness, folks. I've given more money, thought, and panic to this than any other political initiative. In some ways I actually wonder if this isn't more important than the Presidential election. I mean, hey gays, what's Obama gonna do for you? Maybe nothing as vindictive and hurtful as McCain, but he's not exactly out there happy to give a speech under a Pride flag, don't forget. NO as forcefully as I can on 8.
11: Redistricting no longer in the hands of politicians. I understand this is construed by partisan Democrats as a Republican power grab. But among people most at risk under this law, you have... Partisan Democrats. So I wonder why they don't have a better idea? Power to the people; this sufficiently randomizes the selection committee and defines and approing majority in a variety of ways to ensure that even among the bipartisan members of the committee, no tyranny should take place. I like the law, I like that while it's written to uphold political dichotomy that dichotomy isn't explicitly Republican vs. Democrat. And I think the guidelines are clear enough: Gerrymandering districts for incumbent security is a sufficiently large threat to democracy that we ought not engage in it any longer. And I think that's true, so I'm voting YES on 11.
12: Veteran's bond act. This feels like a SUPPORT THE TROOPS kind of initiative here, and I don't quite get all the ramifications. Another one where I feel like I don't have a terribly well-formed opinion and would value some input. WTF on 12?!
N: School funding parcel tax. Even the Oakland Schools don't support N. That's good enough for me. NO on N.
NN: Police services parcel tax. I know a ton of people will disagree with me on this. All other issues aside, the Oakland Police Department needs our funding so that it can hire officers. If we do not take control of the crime issues in Oakland, the worst parts of this city will fester like an open wound. It kills me to love living here so much and embrace all the great things we have to offer as a community, and yet see the horrible, out of control things that continue to take place, day after day. There are very few cities in the world blessed with the breathtaking amenities we have, but prioirty one is in taking public safety issues head-on, because without that, everything else falls apart. YES!! in the imperative on NN.
OO: Fixing youth program funding as a percentage of Oakland general fund. Compelling arguments on both sides of the issue, but the bottom line is this: OO fixes the percentage of the GENERAL FUND that goes into these programs. This endangers, ironically, things like libraries and the parks system, which while substantial benefactors of youth programs themselves, fall outside the funding designation of Prop OO. OO makes no provisions for oversight of efficacy or incentivizing strong performance. OO is an unabashed fat cut right off the top to programs with absolutely no concern for any other area of the city budget. Especially given the budgetary K-hole the city is in right now, I don't see how, in good conscience, you could vote anything other than NO on OO.
VV: Public transit parcel tax for AC Transit. I don't use AC transit as much as I should, I'm afraid. Part of the problem is that their flat fare structure causes AC to be more expensive than BART for transit within the Oakland - Berkeley area for me. There's probably a whole post to deal with those demons. That said, AC transit is a massive and massively successful transit agency. Their services are desperately needed, and I believe the Bus Rapid Transit system they're talking about developing on Telegraph and International (is that last one right?) is incredibly important and would be a major boon to transit in the East Bay. In sum, $48 / year with all funding and oversight remaining local to ensure AC's viability and to shore up support for BRT, I think, is well worth the cost. YES on VV.
WW: Maintain current parcel tax for East Bay Regional Parks District. I hardly take advantage of the EBRPD as much as I should, yet I know how great this fund is. It's part of the awesomeness of the East Bay and we dare not let that go! YES on WW.
Monday, October 13, 2008
So she's approximately as ready to be president as George W. Bush who was an essentially powerless governor of a very large state and can perform sporting-event-opening ceremonial duties with aplomb.
Sleep well tonight, children. There's nothing to fear.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
So far, I feel like he's running the risk of falsely boosting descriptive / functional linguists beyond the claims their data and studies should be making (which is an oft-levied criticism of that group), while poo-pooing the inane complexities of formal linguistics approaches (which is an apt and oft-levied criticism of our side, too).
But Pinker does a great job of always, always keeping one foot in the real world no matter how far into some linguistics minutiae he chooses to delve. And for that, I commend him. The book was published nearly 15 years ago, and yet some things he says I still find striking today:
[P]hrases that are ordinarily buried deep in the tree can be moved to early in the sentence, where they can hook up with material fresh in the listener's mind*. For example, if a play-by-play announcer has been describing Nevin Markwart's progression down the ice, he could say Markwart spears Gretzky!!! But if it was Wayne Gretzky the announcer had been describing, he would say Gretzky is speared by Markwart!!!** Moreover, because a passive participle has the option of leaving the doer role, ordinarily the subject, unfilled in deep structure, it is useful when one wants to avoid mentioning that role altogether, as in Ronald Reagan's evasive concession Mistakes were made.
V Smoothe writes about a near-riot at a community development block grant meeting in West Oakland. Now, while I'm as stunned as you are that there would even be enough people at a CDBG meeting so as to facilitate a riot, I doubt either of us are as stunned as Nancy Nadel or the crowd whose authority she totally tried to usurp.
To watch all these people overfilling the room, people who just live here and want to make this city better and don’t know what the hell to do about it, so they latch onto this one thing and they all show up here for something that has just sat, neglected by most people forever, well, that’s just so incredibly cool to me.
Um…then it went…let’s say, downhill. Once the crowd quieted down, District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel stood up and spoke. I had been under the impression that the meeting would begin with us all getting an overview of the strategic plan developed by last year’s Board, in which they had identified four key areas they believed future funds should be spent. Instead, Nadel informed us (and I am not exaggerating here, she was quite explicit about this) that she had unilaterally decided that every last penny of D3 CDBG money would be going to her personal money pit, oh, I’m sorry, I mean “teen center,” and that, by the way, the CBDG Board, which used to meet monthly, would now meet only quarterly, and its only function would be to serve as the Advisory Board to her teen center.
The only thing more surprising than that to me is that through some supernatural act on the level of divine intervention, people this crooked manage to get re-elected time after time! Check out the quotage here:
It took a little while for the room to grasp what exactly was going on (myself included! I was just watching, in this kind of stunned daze, and then all of a sudden it hit me - omg what she’s trying to do here is like off the charts insane and why the hell am I not writing every word of this down and get your damn notebook out now you moron!), but suddenly, it was like you could practically see all the light bulbs going off in peoples’ heads as everyone in the room simultaneously realized just how much they were getting screwed. The protests got louder and louder and Nadel fruitlessly tried to calm the crowd, saying:
I hear that people are unhappy with that. But the decision has been made.
"[T]he decision has been made." Can you believe it? Good for her, to recognize that people figured out she was all up in their funding and that nuh-uh Nancy, you did not! So she dropped the agent, herself, from the sentence and now it sounds as if ta-da a decision happened! Wheeee!
But the dandiest of dandy little gems on this tack came from none other than Sarah Palin, who took time off from her legal wranglings with the Alaska legislature to Talk to Charlie Gibson:
"I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made."
Never mind the fact that she and the current administration are Christian extremists, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying other nations. Let's leave that aside and just go for the grammar of that last sentence.
One downside to using the passive is the promotion of the object to 'subject' position (or however you want to put it -- basically the object becomes the thing the sentence is about now). But what she does here is essentially to leave the object in situ in a small clause ('mistakes made') and fills the subject position with the dummy subject 'there'. She's not only passivized the agency out of the sentence, she's also basically swept the problem under the rug, keeping it as deep in linear order and syntactic structure as possible. Ronald Reagan, by comparison, looks like he's issuing an outright mea culpa, throwing himself prostrate before us in search of forgiveness.
Very crafty Sarah Palin. Very crafty indeed.
* - That's not an asterisk, it's my grain of salt.
** - You see how this doesn't actually have anything to do with "phrases ... hook[ing] up with material fresh in the listener's mind"? It's just putting one argument prominently at the front of the sentence. I don't see any hooking up going on really at all. I just don't think that this makes his point terribly well, something I think he may just be prone to. Not saying his underlying message is necessarily wrong, but this isn't the first time in the book that his supporting data has missed the mark.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Not true. I remember three years ago when FEMA was dealing with three major disasters at once: Katrina, Michael Brown, and George W. Bush.
Thankfully, it looks like Gustav let up a little bit before making landfall. Here's hoping for the best.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Several years ago, in another incarnation of this here blog, I posted an image of two elderly ladies who were the downfall of moral society and perhaps all of civilization. They were lesbians, you see. Lesbians, getting married. Not being happy with just an eternity of damnation, they were also intent on bringing us down with them.
I wrote that in jest, of course, because two old ladies exchanging wedding vows is somewhere between rainbows and teddy bears on the threat meter. And it was darling. They'd been partners almost their entire lives and finally realized the dream that nearly no lesbian couple in America had experienced before them: the exchange of wedding vows and the license of a state-sanctioned marriage.
And I now mention with a sadness and an incredible amount of respect that Del Martin passed away yesterday, at the age of 87. Her lawfully married parnter, Phyllis, had this to add:
"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side," Lyon said in a statement issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things.
Fifty-five years -- may we all be so lucky. Rest in peace, and thanks for giving 'em hell.
And to turn the topic now, let's move from an activist ending her long slog to a new young fellow whose bestowed titles range from 'freshly-minted gay icon' to 'Olympic champion'. For the first time ever, an out 'n proud gay man won an Olympic gold medal -- not that you would have known that from watching the coverage. With this stunning and essentially perfect dive, Matt Mitcham made Outsports cry and also lash out at NBC for its coverage which neglected to mention that, oh by the way, Mitcham's partner is in the stands and the significance of a out homo winning gold. I wish the kid my best, because like it or not, he's now an international celebrity and a hero to many (just read the first link in this paragraph if you doubt me). It doesn't hurt that he's just adorable, either.
On the one hand, I think it's a compelling story -- absolutely the kind of cutaway material Olympics coverage is known for -- how he walked away from diving, piddled around and did some odd jobs; thanks to his rock and partner, found a renewed interest and desire to compete; won the Olympic gold. I mean, really, that's the kind of stupid storybook stuff they can't make up.
On the other hand, I also think it's totally true that in a reasonable, compassionate society, the headline "Gay person does X" wouldn't be worth mentioning for most values of X. So in an odd way, I kind of appreciated watching the competition and not really having that be the big deal (I totally knew he was gay once I saw him mug for the camera after a dive, but still). At this point in our society's evolution, there's probably room for a little of both.
I look at Rachel Maddow, who's getting her own show on MSNBC here in a couple weeks, and it's like, well yeah, she's a lesbian. But that's not what the hokey pokey is all about, y'know? It's her intellect and insight and wit that make her the compelling show host that she is. But we have to, on some level, laud or understand or appreciate the fact that she's the first out lesbian to be in that position, and yeah, you know, that's pretty damn cool.
I'm getting ready to watch Barack Obama accept the nomination for the presidency, and as much as I wish our country was at a post-race-divisional* level, we so very much are not. Exhibit one: Obama is the first black man to
So like I was saying, in a reasonable, compassionate society, you wouldn't expect to see the headline "Gay person does X" for most values of X. But we don't necessarily live in a reasonable, compassionate society just yet. I live in a state that's supposed to be full of fruits and nuts, and we still deal with shit like this.
You can't tell, but I just took a break to watch Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech. I'm so stunned by it I don't even care to comment, beyond this: In 2004, I said that in his speech, Barack Obama served notice he would be the first black President of the United States. Today, in his speech, Barack Obama just served notice he will be the next President of the United States. I'm contributing a modest amount to his campaign as a result of the not-exactly-what-I-wanted-to-hear but anything but platitudinal (all right, amazing) speech. I'm also contributing the same amount to the campaign to defeat Prop 8. I hope you'll consider doing the same within your means.
We may not have the reasonable, compassionate society I dream of, but we can get there, with the groundwork established by pioneers past like Washington, Lincoln, Anthony, Dr. King, and of course Del Martin. And more and more we will realize the benefits as a society, of unsuspecting, everyday, regular people who sometimes manage to do extraordinary things and obliterate a tacit barrier like Rosa Parks, Matt Mitcham, or (I guess even) Rachel Maddow. And as we look to extraordinary leaders of all shapes and sized, races and creeds, in an increasingly diverse array which represents the true American Way, I feel only more and more confident. We'll get there, and we'll start by defeating Prop. 8. We're going to have a woman or a black man as chief executive or first officer of this country. And we will reap the benefits from now into the future every time someone achieves a pinnacle that today we would say "the first whatever". By then, "whatever" won't even be in the headline and the whole of society can rejoice.
* - I now live in Alameda County, CA, and the societal integration here is just breathtaking. It does me better than eating Wheaties in the morning, seriously.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Additionally, it's the first time since the Constitution was written that there's active discussion of how much, as a society, we want to add to that document to exclude a group of people from access to rights and benefits afforded by law to the general populace. It's interesting to watch policymakers and pundits try to square arguments in favor of anti-marriage amendments with the patriotic reverence for the words of our forefathers, in crafting a work that has heretofore only been read with increasing inclusion as to whose rights are protected, and why.
And as our top politicians work their way toward the ultimate goal of being elected President of the United States of America, I found it fascinating that the nation moved the political debate to a new location, holding it up on that wall of separation between Church and State (to fashion a gallows, one wonders?) last night, with all major news networks pausing to give the bully pulpit of the unbiased press over to an evangelical preacher, grilling the candidates inside his evangelical church.
The 'debate' about marriage has gotten so convoluted and has so screwed up the context of what is, to me, a pretty simple, straightforward policy issue, that it's just stunning to read what the candidates said in this transcript. Here's John McCain. Sitting in a church with a pastor. In front of a few thousand evangelical Christians, a base he sorely needs to pander to* in order to win the election. And so you figure, surely he'll let loose how marriage in the Church is a religious construct and the government has no business legislating such things, and so on and so forth, Amen. And what does he do?
MCCAIN: A union -- a union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage.
He frames the argument in exactly such a way that God or a Covenant or religion or spirituality or eternal promises are completely omitted. According to John McCain, God has nothing to do with marriage. And if God has nothing to do with marriage, then there's no reason that the State shouldn't be saying "Hey, you know, we've realized that gay people are equal" and through whatever policy mechanism necessary, the State should be recognizing these as marriages if people want them to be marriages, so they can reap the benefits and legal rights and responsibilities as a married couple. If God isn't a part of what marriage is to you, then you don't really have a leg to stand on, from a policy perspective.
Or maybe even from a religious one. John McCain thinks marriage is 'a union between man and woman'.
No, 'a union between man and woman' is like John Edwards and That Filmmaker Lady screwing while his wife was home busy dying. That is 'a union between man and woman', John McCain. Not marriage.
And everyone applauded! Because He Was So Certain! Man and Woman! Man and Woman! And they loved it; ate his answer out of the palm of his hand like it was the Body of Christ in communion wafer form.
So what does Obama pull of of his flip flopping pansy ass liberal faggy hat?
"OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix. But --"
Sacred union. God's in the mix. How could anyone, from an evangelical perspective, not hear his answer and like it, um, a Father, Son and Holy Spirit more than what McCain said? It's just bizarre.
It's also a real accomplishment on the part of the people framing this debate, that they've gone from making the religious point -- which may in and of itself turn enough people off that policy initiatives could fail (think about it: How much of your neighbor's religion do you want in your government, even if you agree with it?) -- to making it a sanitary, general, hermetically sealed fact: "Marriage is a union between a man and a woman." Now, aside from the kids today who've grown up in teh gay, and a few people from freakshow areas like, well, here, how many people were actually raised with the understanding that marriage is anything but a union between a man and a woman? It's almost an a priori fact. Just like how black men don't marry white girls.
That twist, from making it a religious argument, to repackaging it in more widely-consumable form while still retaining the wink-and-nod to making sure religious organization doesn't lose a hook in the meaty flesh of public policy, has been the smartest change in the tactics since several anti-marriage initiatives failed in the last round of ballot referenda.
* - I was going to use a different phrase here, or use the
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell is an alarmist shit-for-brains who illustrates such ignorance of what his job is in that statement that he should be summarily dismissed. Like a proctologist doing business at a lemonade stand, McDowell doesn't understand the difference between an internet service provider (whose monopolies the FCC has deemed to be within its purview) and an internet content provider. Like me. And every other damned blogger out there. And the idiots at businessandmedia.org. The FCC has not now nor has ever had any control over what we say or do.
This burning sack of crap rhetoric -- flames being fanned by Matt Drudge -- comes to a stop now.
The FCC ruled that Comcast doesn't have the right to interfere with the free flow of information selectively as they see fit. As an internet service provider. So in other words, if Comcast were to enforce some kind of fairness doctrine -- perhaps forcing people to visit the same number of liberal and conservative news sites -- the FCC would also come down on their asses. Hard.
The only reason the FCC can enforce a Fairness Doctrine on broadcast spectra is because those are public commons licensed to the owners of those stations *to operate in the public interest*. It actually says that in their license! Can you believe it?! And I know, you know, it's hard to believe that listening to Michael Savage tell parents of autistic kids that they're just making it up and that they should just be better parents -- it's hard to believe that's not in the public interest. But maybe it is. Who knows. That's not the point.
The point is that the airwaves on which bloviating broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh spew their cynical contempt for democracy belong to me and the hippies next door as much as to you or your pastor. Or even Rush Limbaugh. They're not there for megamillion-dollar media conglomerates to abuse. They're not there for Clear Channel to buy up all the stations in a market and fire everybody. They're there to be operated in the public interest. And it's pretty much impossible to say that constant Republican warhawk invective is in the public interest. So, hm. Maybe there's something to that after all....
Sunday, August 10, 2008
You have to admit, that's a helluva bipartisan compromise -- a major figure on the Democratic ticket and a major figure on the Republican ticket both admitting they were wrong and the other was right, on the same damn issue at the same damn time. Maybe Ahnuld's post-partisan politics is actually taking root.
What I really find interesting about that little policy rally is how inane the recanting of *both* claims are.
John McCain really does deserve all the flack he gets for this, and I hope there's no shortage of it. He chose to attack the most completely sensible, effortless, cost-free*, benefit-heavy suggestion anyone has ever made about fuel consumption and mocked it. He deserves to have this point raised time and time again "John McCain thinks there's nothing you should do to help the energy crunch. John McCain would just rather see the oil companies get all the profits they can. Not only is he in favor of public policy that supports ongoing record windfall profits for oil companies, he actively discouraged YOU from doing anything about it."
As a raging liberal, let me point out that my solutions to the energy crunch involve driving less, using less, massively funding public transit initiatives, and tying highway development (not maintenance) funding to be proportional with funding for mass transit development. To use a strict-parent metaphor, if you want dessert (more and wider highways for your car), then you better eat your broccoli (funding non-personal-automobile solutions so they become viable sooner rather than later, and so you grow tall and healthy).
But Barack Obama didn't suggest any of that hippie shit. He just pointed out a simple, empirical fact: Y'all check your air pressure today, and we can start saving as much oil daily as what the big-business corporate welfare whoring of the coast would do. And it can happen at no cost to you, and it can happen today, not decades from now. He didn't suggest that you take such a radical, liberal douchebag step as driving slower or not at all, taking the bus instead of driving to work, or offering to carpool with a coworker in the neighborhood. All he suggested was that people take advantage of an easy, free option with no impact to lifestyle at all and stop funding terrorist nations through their oil sales.
Jesus, what a screwball. Totally not ready to lead.
And then there's that whole bit about how he says we DO need to drill for oil in wildlife reserves. I would just like to know what the hell good he thinks that's going to do. Even if he's not all about supply-side economics, there cannot be any doubt that the current gas situation with $100+ fill-ups has put intense pressures on the market to allow us to avail ourselves of solutions that involve *using* less oil and involve getting off oil completely in many situations. "Fixing" this issue on the supply side removes some of these great new market incentives we have to not just get rid of our dependence on FOREIGN oil as McCain would have us do, but get rid of our dependence on oil entirely, in favor of better, cleaner, ideally renewable sources of energy.
I thought Barack Obama might want that, too, but given this latest round of talking to pundits and polls instead of real people, I'm not so sure.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
And I'd be a liar if I sat here and said I've long been fascinated by the socioeconomic implications of newspaper quotes reporting African-American English* (AAE) as it's actually spoken... But the fact that this is a story about the worst neighborhood in the We-O, which is not the nicest part of town to begin with, to put it nicely, really leads me to wonder what the policies of the Oakland Tribune are when it comes to AAE. Do they just transcribe word for word? Is a copy editor on hand who speaks AAE to check the accuracy of the quotes?
And maybe the most pressing issue of all -- do they quote anyone like that who's *not* black and probably not so well off (again, judging only by the neighborhood and nothing more). I have to wonder if this isn't an attempt to mark West Oakland and its residents as 'other' somehow, like they may not be of concern to -- or even a part of -- the city the rest of us live in.
* - I call it African American English, following Lisa Green, et al. Others have other names for it -- Ebonics (considered pejorative), Black English, Black English Vernacular, Black Vernacular English, African-American Vernacular English... All the same damn thing among those who write about it (even though there are surely regional / dialectal differences among them; there are even within the state of Indiana, so I'm sure it scopes regionally and nationally as well).
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
This is a fascinating, horribly oversimplified mechanism for tracking the Presidential election for 2008, but it's a really Flashy (pun), fun-to-play-with tool.
I do really appreciate, however, that it focuses more on the stupid Gallup national daily tracking poll which determines whether John McCain or Barack Obama would get elected homecoming king, but not much else, since popular votes don't matter.
And while Obama's numbers look good at the moment, let us not discount what happens if Michigan and / or Ohio flip -- Obama doesn't have enough to win. That's not to say McCain would win all the 'toss up' states and put together enough EVs to carry the thing, but right now he IS leading in more 'toss up' states than he's trailing in.
And then there's Indiana. There's nothing more to take out of the numbers there than "Gosh, that's really interesting". The poll numbers are all over the board, and the latest ones look pretty friendly to Obama -- but look at some of the weirdness in the polling methodologies.
The WTHR poll is no doubt Indianapolis heavy, and shows Obama well in the lead.
The Indiana Legislative Insight poll forced people to either choose Obama or McCain, and McCain cleaned up. However, as a counterpoint, check out the Zogby poll. That's the only poll on the chart that evidently allowed people to select a third-party candidate, and SEVEN percent of respondents chose Bob Barr. Ten percent more went 'Undecided', and I don't understand how, in Indiana, you can call many of those potential votes for Obama. They're either McCainers or they're stay-homers.
But Barr, 7%? My gosh. I'd really thought he wouldn't be much of an influence in the election until I saw that number. If Barr and Undecided are powerful enough this year to pull Indiana to basically a tie-with-statistical-noise... What does that portend for the other toss-up states who aren't traditionally *nearly* as partisan as Indiana?
Monday, July 21, 2008
"A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the FCC 'acted arbitrarily and capriciously' in issuing the fine for the fleeting image of nudity, which it noted lasted just over half a second. An estimated 90 million people watching the Super Bowl heard Justin Timberlake sing, 'Gonna have you naked by the end of this song,' as he reached for Jackson's bustier."
And then we see Janet Jackson's tit.
And the world is ablaze in a righteous wave of indignation sweeping the country from right coast to left, sea to shining sea! We must stop this outrage! We must never let down our vigilance! We must go to potential-tit-viewing level orange!
Thankfully, the article notes:
"Duke University law professor Stuart M. Benjamin, a telecommunications law expert, called the decision "a slap in face for the FCC.""
About damn time, for an organization whose sole job it seems to have been to keep tits off the airwaves and not bothering at all when it comes to regulating the economic mechanisms of a practical Crusade by major media, waging a hell-bent-on-self-destruction industry rampage of consolidation. No, that's not the problem. An editorial oligopoly of broadcast and print media in the United States? Nothing to sweat.
Because we all saw Janet Jackson's tit.
Evidently, according to the article, the Supreme Court is soon to take up a broadcast indecency case next term, and I can only tell you I await with bated breath the drivel that will no doubt come of that decision. Justice Antonin Scalia, whose opinions for the court have bordered on indecent in and of themselves, will be joined by two new missionary-style white guys who eat bread for lunch with water on the side for dipping, recent appointees of the Bush Administration. I can only hope the legacy of failed policy and utter futility where outright failure cannot be managed due to the few remaining enlightened souls who dare challenge status quo continues. After all, it's only the first flippin' bullet point in the Bill of Rights we're talking about here....
And all because we saw Janet Jackson's tit.
UPDATE: Will writing things about Janet Jackson's tit ever get old? I mean, really, post-9/11, is that not the single most defining day in our country's history? And spare me that 2006 election garbage -- what have the Democrats done for you lately that the Republicans wouldn't*?
* - Important reminder: A California Supreme Court stacked with Republican appointees says homos should be allowed to get married. So aside from going with the obvious gut reaction response 'kegstands', think very carefully before you answer.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
First off, bank runs and successorship! How awesome is this economy?? Food banks are running out of food and people can't get their cash out of the bank! It's like "It's A Wonderful Life" meets the Great Depression meets a global food crisis!
But what I really wanted to note was that evidently we HAVE an Office of Thrift Supervision. This is, ostensibly, an office that is an expert at not-spending itself into irrelevance and futility. It may seem counterintuitive, but do you suppose we could, say, fund them more and have them be thrifty more than just in their own budget? Maybe they could generate thrift analysis reports! Maybe they could issue reports on the best days of the week to shop at Goodwill (which we'll all need sooner or later; see earlier remarks about bank runs).
My next mission in life: To become Comptroller of Sensibility for the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Friday, July 11, 2008
This stands in marked contrast to California, a veritable orthographic horn 'o plenty, where street signs are marked in multiple languages, and the signs along the roadside indicating legal speeds read "MAXIMUM SPEED" as though the ambiguity of the upper- or lower-bound reading of the standard US "SPEED LIMIT" sign simply cannot stand. And besides, we have all these damn letters; we may as well use them.*
* -- Per Wikipedia: The actual reason the signs read "MAXIMUM SPEED" is that signs that read "SPEED LIMIT" in California are actually only guidelines with respect to the "Basic Speed Law" which says that the maximum speed for a vehicle on a road shall be the highest "reasonable and prudent" speed for traversing that road. That 'prima facie' traffic law provides some amount of wiggle room, as in most cases it is no doubt theoretically possible to argue the maximum "reasonable and prudent" speed for travel on a given road is indeed above the posted speed limit.
Due to the mandatory federal speed limit laws, however, California needs to also have in its arsenal a sign that indicates that the Basic Speed Law is not in effect. This indication is given by the "MAXIMUM SPEED" signs which state quite explicitly what the maximum speed on a road is, irrespective of any higher reasonable and prudent speed.**
** - You learn something every day, huh?
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
But as much of a bunch of hippie liberal douchebags as they like to think they are, you cannot flipping find a public recycling bin out on the street. Anywhere. Minus 2 points, Portland. Minus 2.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Totally got to kick it in Portland this weekend. It was cool to discover how close here and there is by air! A great trip for a weekend getaway to see friends, but I'm not sure I'd really plan a trip there were it not for the friends.
An awesome time was had by all! This is the first in a series of photobservations, a word I made up just now to describe this half-assed style of blogging.
In Portland, the soda cans come pre-shaken for you, so that they explode refreshingly all over you when you open them.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
And if you promise not to hurt it, you can touch the merlot:
Yeah, the East Bay rocks. I'm 20 minutes by train from downtown San Francisco and I'm an hourish by car away from this, something that I find not necessarily unlike what you might call Heaven on Earth. Good times.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Update: That's the legendary CA-1 to the right and the Pacific Ocean to the left, in case it wasn't clear :)
Friday, June 13, 2008
On a related note, perhaps the people in Butte County have more to be worried about, legitimately, since they're not only sort of flamey -- they're actually on fire.
UPDATE: It's not unusual, being from the midwest, to hear about how liberal good ol' California is out here on the Left Coast and all that. And then I read newspaper stories like this, and I feel immediately at home. NoCal ain't no different than anywhere else; we just happen to also have San Francisco.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Let alone for two fat pennies:
They spent $0.42 to mail me a check for $0.02. Very nice. Now if only the insurance company would pay out with the same vim and vigor!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I realize it's probably not clear enough to read, so allow me....
LET'S CLEAN THE HOUSE FOR OBAMA!
Join us on Saturday, June 14 for a SPECIAL garage sale benefiting the one and only OBAMA CAMPAIGN! The Rockridge area will be united as we come together for this great cause... it is time for us to be united!
Who: You and Your Fellow Neighbors
What: A Garage sale that will help organize our future for the better!
Where: Desmond St. and Coronado Ave (and all over Oakland and Berkeley)
When: June 14, 2008 9:30 - 1:00
Why: Because our country is in desperate need of a housecleaning!
How: Simply clutter bust your house and have a garage sale and donate the funds to the Obama campaign.
Not only some real neighborhood activism, but one with a wry sense of humor, no less. Very nicely done!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
One recent day, on the way into work, a series of people each held the door open for the person following behind. Seriously, three or four people did this in front of me, each checking behind them to see if they should hold the door a little longer. Without even thinking about it, I did the same, and actually contemplated how long it was appropriate to wait for the lady who was quite far behind me -- until she waved me on in.
It's funny how just the act of seeing someone doing something incredibly trivial but considered to be polite causes so many others to modify their behavior in the same way.