About Me

Based on a career (mis)spent in American politics, I debunk politicos, pundits and spinners, usually with a dose of humor to make it fun.

Email me with news tips, comments, and ideas for disinfo rehab any time!

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February 6, 2013

Why The Decision to Cut Saturday Mail Is Not Only Stupid, But Also Makes No Sense

Why The Decision to Cut Saturday Mail Is Not Only Stupid, But Also Makes No Sense

If you haven't heard, the US Postal Service will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays. This is a stupid idea, but not for the reasons you might think. The cause is also a bit more complex than what your "friends" in Congress and on TV would have you believe.

First: why this is stupid. For many years I worked with the US Postal Service producing large direct mail projects for candidates and organizations around the country. During that time I got to learn a lot about how the USPS actually works, and learned a lot from executives at the USPS whose job was to work with high volume mail producers to expedite their projects as efficiently as possible.

One thing that was made abundantly clear was that the one day of the week that the USPS had the least to do was Tuesday. This was for a number of unrelated reasons, owing mostly to how people pay their bills (especially credit cards) and when businesses would mail out fliers and other such things for weekly sales specials. The point is, if the USPS must cut service, cutting Tuesday makes more sense for them, and for you, the customer.

Removing Saturday mail causes more problems than it solves. Many people are busy during the week and use Saturday to get caught up on chores and the like. Not everyone can, or will, pay all their bills online, and getting rid of Saturday service is just going to make things more miserable during the week than they need to be. If you have a US Post Office box, you may or may no longer have access to it on weekends like you do now.

Worse, when you consider that many jurisdictions are openly encouraging "vote-by-mail," and some states voting by mail only it doesn't take a genius to see how killing mail on Saturdays could be worse than killing it on Tuesday. (I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but if you spend enough time at huge mail facilities, trust me, it does).

There's more, however. In addition to competition from online services and the ongoing Great Depression "Recession," the USPS has been prohibited from providing additional services in your neighborhood, the USPS has an unprecedented mandate to fund a huge pension fund. They've been ordered to fund 75 years worth of pensions RIGHT NOW, something no other pension fund is required to do .

Needless to say, if you want to know where all the money is going , it isn't going to postal service - it's going to fund a pension fund in a way no other fund has to comply with. So far, few in Congress have spoken out, with the notable exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). have tried to speak out, but of course the chorus of the Know Nothing Party, and the Spineless Corporate Party tend to drown him out on the tv.

For those who sing the siren song of "privatize it," I'll simply leave you with how well that's worked overseas. If you've ever had the stalwart efficiency of private monopolized internet service and cable tv providers in the US, or their esteemed counterparts in the health care industry, then you already can guess how well that would work here.

For decades our postal service has served us fairly well. Yes, it's frustrating when there's a long line, and a service that has to serve everyone, regardless of where they live, isn't going to run perfectly. To see it get destroyed by the morons in Congress for the sake of a quasi-religious devotion to doctrine, however, is not only stupid, it makes no sense.

August 22, 2012

Why Both Parties Suck Ass in the Second Decade of the 21st Century....

A short comment I wrote about a thing I saw on Twitter about, well, fuck it, just go read and listen, por favor.

April 24, 2012

Deep Thought of the Day: Should Male Politicians Be Required to Use Condoms While In Office?

It seems like every year we, the People, are confronted with some malfeasance by male elected officials committed while in office that involve them "doing it" with people or in places they're not supposed to. We are subjected to hearing about their (gross) sex lives, everyone gets in a huff, and nothing good comes out of it once the scandal is over.

This is a multi-partisan issue - think just in the last few years about politicians local (Newsom & Mirkarimi) state (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Duvall and Gary Condit to name a few ) and national (Bill Clinton, David Vittner, Bob Packwood, and many more) who've had problems all because they can't control themselves.

Clearly, this is an issue of both health and morals. Since many male politicians have seen fit to play the game of "Who Can Create the Handmaid's Tale in Real Life" with bills to regulate birth control, abortions, de funding rape crisis centers and the like, all in the name of health and morals, maybe it's simply time to take this to its logical conclusion: demand all male politicians use condoms during their affairs so as to limit the potential extra-marital births and for public health.

This way, we could be assured that even if we have electeds who have affairs, the worst they'll do is make themselves look bad, and not bring in children to this world who will be put in the spotlight during a messy court case or custody battle, and we'd be assured no one is spreading diseases whilst in office. I can imagine several scenarios where this law might have diminished certain scandals to where they might not have been such a boil on the body politics.

Flame away, Internet! See how loud and crazy you can get in the comments!

PS: None of the lists I made are to be considered comprehensive at all - I didn't have time to super Google a comprehensive list. We all know, though, that no one party has a monopoly on this kind of crap, and as far as I'm concerned, most politicians are either super corrupt, super immoral, or super neutral and just do whatever the lobbyists say. Both parties are full of people like this.

January 20, 2012

Why Is The Inner Sunset SF's Perennially Politically Abused Neighborhood?

Here we go again.

As you may or may not know, after every census, legislative districts at all levels are redrawn to better reflect a growing and/or shifting population. Other times it's to reflect the decline in population of an area. No matter what, how those districts are drawn are important, especially in a city like San Francisco. However, once again, it seems the Powers That Be at the Redistricting Task Force want to once again gerrymander the Hell out of the Inner Sunset neighborhood at the Board of Supervisors.

For ten years a strip of the Inner Sunset was tacked on to the former District 5, which was represented by Matt Gonzalez, and later Ross MIrkarimi. From what I've been told, this was a way to "ensure" the district was progressive. Never mind the fact that it created a strange division in a neighborhood, or disempowered community activists - it was serving the "Progressive" needs that came first. Whenever local leaders wanted to organize an event with local Supervisors, they had to find a time when both Supervisors Elsbernd and Mirkarimi could attend, since both represented the area. I remember moving literally across the street and down a block and finding myself in another district.

The proposed changes make things worse. Now, it's proposed we divide the neighborhood into three districts. I've posted a zoom in view of the map, but you can go to the Redistricting Task Force website

You'll note, for example that UCSF, the area's biggest employer and with whom many in the area either work for or attend school at, is now in District Eight. However if you cross the street, suddenly you're in District 5. And for the mostest fun ever, you can walk to 8th and Kirkham and play the local version of Four Corners (but with three districts!) as you step from one to the other.

The Inner Sunset has traditionally been identified as a westside neighborhood, and its interests align themselves with other contiguous neighborhoods. The political gerrymandering of this area to serve shallow interests that could care less about our neighborhood has to stop. I would hope that some adults would intervene and make some changes. In the meantime, email the commission and the politicals at City Hall and let them know you're tired of seeing our neighborhood cut to pieces to serve the politicians' needs, not ours.

August 7, 2011

Just How Much Is Anyone Making Off Mayoral Candidates in SF?

To nobody's surprise, it seems Temporary Mayor Ed Lee, backed by powerful financial interests and a shadow campaign that has yet to see sunlight, is running for mayor. And again, as the unofficial press spokesperson, the Chronicle once again provides cover for their candidate.

Today we read about how St. Ed is not taking public money for his campaign, instead relying on the aforementioned shadow campaign, and whatever private money he chooses to take. This contrasts with others who participated in the public matching funds/spending limit program provided by the City of SF. The Chronicle, naturally, uses this to somehow distinguish St. Ed from his opponents. It's a nice hit for Ed, but it's just the latest in a line of articles that the Chronicle has written that basically promote Ed. That's fine, but if I wanted to read a dying medium's political endorsements sold as news, I'd read the Guardian (which I don't).

However, putting that aside, the article also starts to rattle off how much consultants have made off the other candidates, again implying that they were all "subsidized" with tax dollars. There are several problems with the reporting on this piece of news.

First, the matching funds are only awarded if a candidate has raised money from a lot of private donors, who can ONLY live in San Francisco, and they have to have significant disclosure as to who donated. There is also a cap on how much campaigns can get from the city, and the majority of their funding is private, despite the Chronicle's insinuations. Moreover, there is more disclosure than there ever was for the shady "Run Ed Run" campaign which denies helping the Mayor even though it was helping the mayor.

Second, the amounts. I've yet to meet a reporter that understands how the political consulting business works, especially when it comes to the actual business of running such an operation. So when I read about "fees" for consultants in the Chronicle, my first question is how this amount is computed.

Naturally, the Chronicle wants to provide an image of these "consultants" raking in the big bucks on the poor taxpayer's dime, and so on. What the Chronicle doesn't seem to understand is that just because a campaign handed over a big bundle of cash, the consultant doesn't necessarily keep all the money, depending on the arrangement.

For example, I used to work for A Big National Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named a few years ago. Our company was working on a Big Campaign, and if you looked at the disclosure forms, you'd think we were raking in the big bucks. However, what the disclosure statements didn't point out was how much of that was going right out the door to pay for printing, letterhead, campaign staffers we administered payroll for and other products the campaign elected to purchase. Out of about $180,000 or so in "moneys" we got, we kept maybe $5000-$7500 that could be considered a fee.

Another example: some campaign consultants don't take more than a modest retainer at the start, and then charge no consulting fees at all, and mark up things like TV ads, direct mail (printing/production, not postage!) and other items at the standard industry rate of 15% to cover their overhead costs (taxes and staff and a modest profit). So looking at the gross amount isn't very realistic.

There's also another thing about San Francisco campaigns that no one in the press corps seems to understand - working in SF politics is no way to make a living in the consulting business. Even with a well funded campaign, with campaign donation limits, as well as the "consultant tax"** and other unique requirements for campaigns in San Francisco, you won't be netting a large landslide of cash. Supervisor races make very little for anyone involved as well.

That's not to say they pay so little no one will work on them, but with all the limitations, being a consultant for city candidates isn't a great way to make a living. Consultants are better off working for either a labor union(s) or other organizations, or working in jurisdictions Not In San Francisco. When I was working in the business, most of my work was out of state. Not only did it pay me as a freelancer fairly well, it was also a lot easier.

I'd expect the gaggle of New Yorkers working for the various chain-owned online entities to get this wrong, but I'd expect more from the supposedly Old School Journalistic Entity located here for over 100 years. I guess when you keep on firing the people who make the product you're supposedly selling, mistakes happen.

**The "consultant tax" I refer to is a profoundly bone-headed attempt by the Board of Supervisors, ages ago, who hated a certain consultant, and decided to clobber him a little with this law. The intent was to make consultants pay a special "consultant tax" and disclose for whom they were working for. This is stupid for several reasons. First, the "tax" they impose also applies to campaign day to day workers. Ironically the big companies and out of town companies can pay this no problem, but the poorly paid, day to day overworked staffer ends up paying proportionally more than the Big Companies.

Second, the disclosure as to whom people are working for is already done in the campaign finance reporting that is required for every candidate. So once again a typical SF Progressive FAIL: More rules that hurt the lowest paid people, and duplicate efforts elsewhere.

July 14, 2011

Just How DO Paid Signature Gatherers Get Paid?

Today's Chronicle had a report that signature gatherers for Public Defender Jeff Adachi's pension reform measure were "caught on camera" saying things to voters that were "misleading." After checking out, all I can say is that if anyone thinks they found a smoking gun, they may not be aware of a) how words can be twisted and b) how paid signature gathering works.

First, the words: many canvassers in the video were saying things like "if you want to prevent night time parking meters sign this petition." It is very correct that the petition says nothing about it, but at the same time, it would be almost impossible to prosecute. That's because if city pensions begin to dominate city spending, why yes, one could reasonably infer that "nighttime parking meters (WTF?) could in fact be a response to said financial crisis.

So could a tax on unicorn horns. You see where this is going.

Also, those that point the finger should be darn sure none of their folks pulled any similar weasel word stunts too - these things can backfire spectacularly if you're not on solid ground.

I avoid signing petitions at all costs, unless it is for something that I've heard of that is sponsored by people I trust. I think people in San Francisco would be doing themselves a favor by not signing these things based on some emotional chatter they get from some fool collecting signatures. It sucks, because many good things are put on the ballot this way, but I think we need to thin the herd on ballot measures for a while.

Second, the methods. When the press talks about paid signature gatherers, they'll usually do their research and find out how much they're paying per signature. In California it can be as high as $6 a signature. The question is - did the hippie in front of Safeway who asked you to sign a petition get $6 for your signature? Probably not.

Campaigns usually hire a professional firm to gather signatures for a ballot measure (local or state). That company will then hire contract workers who then go out and get the signatures. However, these sub-contractors don't simply go out with a stack of clipboards and start earning $6 per signature. Instead, they go out and hire another series of sub-contractors, and pay them a percentage of the $6. In some cases those sub contractors might even hire another level of folks, but that is rare.

Let's make it simpler: Campaign Signature Company "A" hires contractor "Elvis" to get signatures at $6 each. "Elvis" then hires a crew of 10 people to get signatures, but pays them only $3 each. This means that 10 people are being managed by "Elvis" bringing in signatures, who is getting $3 each and isn't actually out there doing anything - he is instead managing a crew of 10. Any one of those could take a dollar less and sub out the work themselves too, if they wanted. In the end, "Elvis" is going to make more money farming out the work to 10 people, each armed with 4 clipboards a piece, than he ever would alone getting the full $6.

Most of the people who do this are pros who follow the action wherever it goes, similar to those who once followed the Grateful Dead back in the day. They may or may not be from the jurisdiction and in almost all cases are simply trying to play a numbers game, racking up as many signatures as they can. Needless to say, these aren't people who know or care much about what the petition is for, so it's easy to see where the incentive is to make up stuff just to get people's signatures.

A bill to regulate the signature mills made its way through the state Senate. Predictably it was all on party-line votes - Democrats wanted it regulated to prevent fraud, while Republicans want to ensure that money buys access to the ballot.

One thing you can do right away is if approached to sign something is to ask if they are paid or not. Under the law, they have to tell you and it must be printed on the petition.

Either way, take the time to read the fine print before you sign. Just because something is called "The Kittens Puppies and Rainbows Initiative to Save The Children" doesn't mean it's so.

June 12, 2011

Worst. Political Sign. Ever. AKA Who Gets Paid for This Sh*t?

IMG_3898.JPGSo there I was enjoying my Sunday afternoon, running some errands around the Inner Funset, and upon entering my favorite place for kimchi, saw this...this thing amongst the myriad of posters and flyers in the store. At first I assumed this was some sort of prank, but upon inspection found out this is in fact apparently a legit sign for this so-called "grass roots" effot to get Temporary Mayor Ed Lee to run for a full term.

Putting aside the political insider basebal/endless prattle by pundits, as well as the most recent controversies involved in this alleged grassroots effort, let's just focus on one thing: design. On ANY level, this sign sucks. Big time.

I don't like to judge harshly but I have to say, if this is indeed a funded effort that seriously wants to have Temporary Mayor Lee to run, and attract mainstream support, this sign is an "epic fail" on many levels. It does not cost "lots of money" to hire a designer to make something that looks credible. Hell, if the "Run Ed Run" folks had called me, I could easily have rallied several of some of the best designers in the business, who could have hashed this out easily, and come up with something better - blindfolded.

Instead, we have this bullshit cutesy cartoony thing that doesn't inspire the viewer to think "Hmm, perhaps this Temporary Mayor should be Mayor for a while." No, it goes for that cutesy bullshit that started in January about "ohh tee hee hee Ed Lee's mustasche, ooh tee hee he he's not slick Newsom, blah blah bullshit bullshit bullshit." Plus, if you're going to put the man's face on a sign, find a picture of him doing something badass like giving a speech - don't make a cartoony face that is easily transformed into the pigs in Angry Birds.

I find it fascinating that while I'm struggling to pay the bills, people with absolutely no talent somehow get these paid gigs. I mean, I don't even do design myself (I hire professionals) but I could sketch out something better than this and I can't even draw. "Mason Powell," who designed the famous N Is Near shirts as well as a myriad of amazing beer bottle labels (and isn't even a pro) could do better than this.

If ever I needed proof Ed Lee isn't running, I suppose this might be it. The man is an honorable civil servant. Apparently his backers didn't figure that part out, and went the cutesy cartoony way. At a time when the city is circling the drain, fiscsally and socially, the last thing I need is more cutesy bullshit - we had enough of that under Newsom.

May 25, 2011

Now It's Official: "Sit/Lie" Hasn't Changed Much in Upper Haight, According to the SFPD.

It seems that a report by the San Francisco Police Department analyzing the effects of the so-called "Sit/Lie" law indicate what those who read my blog have known all along - it's not working. Despite the big cheers on election night by folks who sold this as a Holy Grail to make the City jerkass-free, it hasn't worked as advertised. Nor did it get people to vote for certain candidates that year over others. In the end, whoever spent their money on this campaign got a big ol' failwhale instead of something effective.

For fun, here's my original article where I opposed "Sit/Lie" and its counterpart in 2010. (News flash politicos: putting ballot initiatives on the ballot to influence how people vote in Superivsor races never works, so please stop it.).

Over here, we find a post-election piece about how SFPD initially didn't even enforce the beloved law, and here's a more recent piece about how the law isn't enforced anywhere else either, even as the "gutter punks" get pushed into adjoining neighborhoods.

I'm not humble enough to not say "I Told You So" once in a while. (If anything it makes me wonder why I can't get paid more for being able to accurately predict these things as I've been known to do).

More to the point, I really wish we could get rid of these expensive ballot measure campaigns that generate a lot of intense emotions on all sides, but really don't do anything at all. (throw in nonbinding "resolutions" and ballot measures too, for good measure). All political sides are guilty of this, and it needs to stop.

We could have saved ourselves a lot of nonsensical debate, and saved some trees too by not doing this, and instead having our well-paid elected officials and City Hall employees do the job they're hired to do and keep the streets safe. That's not too much to ask.

Until San Franciscans decide that they'd like laws enforced and for good people from all areas/income levels/etc. of the City to enjoy the many things our city has to offer, without being hurt by crime and criminal like behavior, we can pass all the silly laws we like and nothing will change.

May 3, 2011

The Lies of Sit/Lie Continue: Focus on the Inner Sunset

loser.jpgIt seems like you can't walk down the street or read in the news another screw-up with the so-called "Civil Sidewalks" initiaive (aka "Sit/Lie") without seeing just what a failure it's been so far. Whether it's the delayed enforcement of the law, or the fact it's going to cost the City a lot of money to enforce, this law clearly isn't the magic bullet proponents promised.

I find it laughable that anyone associated with this thought the fines from enforcement would offset the cost. I mean, you're issuing these citations to "gutter punks" and schizo homeless people, who as we all know have bank accounts to pay said fines. Brilliance.

Even more genius thinking at the SFPD - first time offenders get a "warning." That's effective. Why don't we just give these alleged public menaces a hug and a lollipop too? Throw in a free Muni pass so they can spread their joy to those of us on transit, even.

I'm being scarcastic. Even though I've thought this whole law was a joke from the beginning, let's just assume that "sit/lie" is law now. Let's also assume that it's a Grand Idea, and our well paid SFPD is supposed to enforce said law (along with the many, many other laws we've passed to improve the "Quality of Life" in San Francisco). Case study for today: The Inner Sunset.

While the Inner Sunset is no Upper Haight, as the indigent population is pushed out of one area, inevitably they go somewhere else. In the photo above, I have a picture of a mentally ill guy who's been sitting in front of Posh Bagel for some time now. From his ramblings and behavior, it's clear he is in need of some mental health regimen. But in this photo he's actually breaking several laws - the "Sit/Lie" law AND the "no smoking near a window" law the Supervisors pat themselves on the back about all the time. He's occasionally acted up and driven business away from the bagel shop.

That's beside the point, however - he's breaking two laws and no one seems to mind. The SFPD could easily bust this guy for multiple charges and get him off the street. They just don't. Why?

Another case study: I was taking some pictures of signs on 9th Avenue for a potential piece I wanted to do about street signs, and this greasy, aggro homeless guy started screaming at me claiming I took his photo (why would anyone take a picture of a greasy piece of shit like him is beyond me) and he threatened me mumbling something about a "knife" and claimed the "FBI" would be calling me to protect his tinfoil hatted ass*.

Why didn't I call the police?

Simple. By the time they showed up (if they did), he'd have run off to his warren in the park or wherever aggressive dirtbags hang out. Even if he did stick around, they wouldn't do anything, and the greasy piece of shit would get away with it, and likely stab me some night when I'm returning home from the Muni. I'd have been better off shooting him or something just so I can go get a burger without being hassled, but then I'd be the "bad guy." Whatever. So much for "Sit/Lie."

It gets better. On Monday, there was a bomb scare on Irving Street because of an unattended package, shutting down the N-Judah and causing major disruptions for everyone. Turns out it was an empty suitcase. Who wants to bet it belonged to one of the many homeless people who use the entrances to stores on Irving as hotel rooms, right next to the "No Trespassing" request for enforcement notice? Again, it's not like the police don't know this is happening, and couldn't do something about it. In this case we went from clearing out people who are trespassing to shutting down a neighborhood because of a potential bomb threat.

Now compare this to the response by SFPD to an informal "Park(ing) Day" on a Sunday a few weeks back. In the past, these impromptu affairs, whereby people take over a parking spot for a few hours to enjoy the public space have never been challenged by the police, even when they're not part of the official day that happens once a year.

So what happens when some peaceful community folks got together to hang out? There was the SFPD, breaking it up, claiming there was an "anonymous" complaint. (Sure there was). So there you have it - people doing something to enhance the neighborhood get chased out, while the bums get their way and get to scream and yell. See why the "Sit/Lie" selective enforcement is bullshit?

It all comes down to this: San Francisco has been passing these laws for years. The campaign is always heated, people either think it's the silver bullet to clean up SF or Satan's decree, the stupid law passes, and then it NEVER GETS ENFORCED so nothing really changes.

Then again, most of these laws were never about doing anything - they were about trying to influence election results by somehow enlisting support for some "law," it will influence who gets elected at City Hall. Even though this never works, it's a staple of SF politics and it's here to stay.

Meanwhile if you're just a regular person who wants to enjoy public space that one pays for via the many taxes the City levies, you're being pushed out. In a few years, when Parks and Rec is done privatizing the parks and the only people out there are either homeless poor or out of town rich, you'll be the one paying the penalties in the end.

UPDATE: Oh, it gets better. On my way home I passed by the bank and guess what I saw? A homeless person camped out next to the ATM. We're aware, of course, that "aggressive panhandling near ATMs" was made a crime under Newsom (or Brown, I think it was Brown but I can't remember right now). Either way the moral of the story is this: even if you agree with this crap that's put on the ballot, you might as well vote no since it's not like it'll ever be enforced. Sure you get that election FU to the liberals, but in the end NOTHING CHANGES. So cool it, willya?

February 13, 2011

Once Again I Was Proven Right - Sit/Lie Turned Out To Be A Lie, After All...

When I wrote several pieces saying the proposed "sit/lie" law was an bogus piece of unnecessary legislation, people got upset.

Apparently pointing out the fact this law was as useless as all the other laws we've passed to "get tough on the homeless" have been made people uncomfortable for some reason. I even noted how one could easily clean up Upper Haight (or anywhere, but during the campaign the debate centered solely on an overpriced neighborhood that attracts a bad element) with existing resources and laws. Or, bring back the Committee on Vigilance, if that doesn't help. (Hey, it worked in the past!)

Folks didn't like that, and I got a lot of nasty mail saying I was pro-criminal hippie gutter punk or some such nonsense. Which is not true, as I pointed out many ways that one could use existing laws to put law breakers in jail, but no one wanted to talk about that.

This is S.O.P. for SF politics - put "feel good" measures on the ballot, get everyone all riled up to think this is either The Big Thing That Will Solve All Problems, or The Worst Thing Ever To Happen to Humanity, have lots of well-funded antagonism clog your mailbox. Newspapers get to print Big Headlines and pundits get to drone on and on, and consultants make the big bucks!

Meanwhile, nothing really changes. I think pointing out that is what annoyed folks the most!

So, reading today in the Chronicle that the SFPD is still not enforcing the law because of vague concerns about "training" and appeasing the pro-Upper Haight punk lobby or whatever just validated every criticism I had of this useless law.

Sure, CW Nevius and the pro "sit/lie" folks got their Election Day victory, and for about 5 minutes could say that voters "did something." Today, however, we find that nothing has changed at all - there are still gutter punks in Upper Haight, there are still homeless people begging for change on sidewalks, and it's a safe bet than in a year from now, aside from adding more lines to the law books, very little will be any different than it was a year ago.

San Francisco needs to make it harder to get things on the ballot, or its electorate needs to think more before signing petitions. Just because something sounds good doesn't mean anything will change. Better to use the many, many laws and expensive resources on hand to make our city the best it can be.

UPDATE: A little short of a month later, the Examiner ran this story about the sh*storm in Upper Haight, as the SFPD doesn't enforce the law, the "punks" are worse than ever, and nothing has changed (aside from a pricey chain store moving in across from a McDonalds.) Super #FAIL.

PS: Lower Haight still rocks. I'm glad I don't spend my money or time in the Upper Haight, though!

February 10, 2011

Did San Francisco Get Played By Twitter? Did San Francisco Even Care?

So far, the Transactional Politics era that kicked off with the selection of Mayor Ed Lee seems to be up and running. The latest example is the much-hyped tax break given to Twitter (ahem, businesses that locate in mid-Market) announced by Mayor Lee, and Supervisors Chiu and Kim.

This all came about after folks at Twitter suggested they might move to Brisbane (!) if it didn't get something form the cash-strapped city government. However, skeptics in the business news media wondered aloud if that was ever going to happen, or if it was just a public negotiating tactic.

Now, let's be clear: I enjoy using Twitter's services, and have no problem helping startups and the like cut through red tape and start new and innovative businesses. After all, it's part of what makes living here so much fun, right?

That said, I am surprised, what with all the Ivy League graduates we have serving on the Board and such, it never occurred to anyone to ask a few questions before rushing to the podium and feeding the media a "story" that will end up on some junk mail the people in question will be sending us the next time they run for office. (Now, to be fair, you can read a witty argument in favor of Twitter's deal at my friend Elaine's blog, Court and Snark (and I highly suggest you do).)

Here's a few:

- Twitter's valuation is on paper only - it is not a public company, nor does it make a profit. There's no indication that it will even exist in a couple of years, or not. Wouldn't we have learned from Dot Com Bust I that betting on what Internet company will be around in the future is riskier than betting on a "hard six" at the craps table? (See: FOX purchase of MySpace as an example of how betting on social media companies can work out).

- By their own admission, 25% of Twitter's employees ride a bike to work. Twitter places a tremendous value on its talented workforce and has always worked to create not just a great product, but a great place to work so they get the best out of their people every day. A move to Brisbane (which is cut off from SF via any decent transit, etc.) would be a significant disruption for these folks, and, well, it's Brisbane.

I used to work in South San Francisco, and trust me, working in suburbia can really suck if you're from SF and there's no decent transit connection. You have to drive to work and spend a lot on commuting, and you're cut off from anything going on in SF. (That said, when I worked in Lafayette, it wasn't so bad, just a lonnnnng ride on BART and then a mile walk to the office. Time consuming, but at least no car!)

Part of the allure of locating in a place like San Francisco is that you don't have far to commute, and you're still in a vibrant city, not sitting around in some office park where you have to drive 30 minutes to find a decent burrito.

- Also, in this economy, it's not like office space costs nearly as much as it used to, certainly not like it was back at the peak of Dot Com Bust I. Perhaps Mr. Brown doesn't realize that the country is in a depression, and it's not boom times (with lots o' dollars to give to pals) like back in the day.

These are just a few thoughts. I think, however the lesson that should be learned is that we don't need Supervisors rushing around, lurching from faux crisis to faux crisis, just to accommodate a few businesses that suggest in public they "might" be moving. As it stands, our City has made it clear that all one has to do is make a threat, and they'll jump.

A more reasonable response would be to create a better set of regulations that make sense, and make it easy for people to try new ideas and start new businesses with a minimum of NIMBYism and BS in the first place. This way, all thriving businesses, Twitter or not, wouldn't even think of leaving a place that's affordable, liveable, and fun to be in, no matter what you do for a living.

February 1, 2011

How to Read a Campaign Financial Disclosure Statement!

This week, the first campaign finance disclosure reports for Mayoral hopefuls were released. Via SFist and the Examiner, we learned how much each campaign had raised as of December 31, 2010. (If you were on any of these candidates' mailing lists, you probably got a million emails asking for money up until 11:59pm December 31.)

While these do report how much they raised and spent, they do not necessarily indicate how much money each candidate has on hand as of today. That's because virtually every campaign engages in a little trick whereby they will defer certain payments (salaries, etc.) from friendly vendors or employees, until after the reporting period. This then allows them to show more money on hand, even though the very next day (January 1) they'll pay out the money owed to whomever hasn't been paid yet.

Making this link is almost impossible, since the next reporting period won't be for several months, and by then, no one will remember this. It's a neat trick, for sure, but it can also bite a campaign in the backside later on. If in fact a campaign really doesn't have the money after paying out their debtors, moving forward in 2011 can be tough.

So in the end, these reports don't mean much if you don't know if the campaigns are playing the deferred payment game or not. A better way to do reporting would be to have campaigns report daily, their donations and expenditures, and have that information online and printed out and distributed to the public to designated locations daily, or weekly. That ends the deferment game, and the public would be better informed on who is paying for whom in an election season.

Of course, the next step would be to regulate taxpayer funded campaign mail, which we'll have in 2011 in the Mayor's race this year, with several candidates likely to take advantage of the program. After all, we're paying for their propaganda - shouldn't we at least regulate it in the best interests of the citizens that fund it?

January 18, 2011

The SF Weekly Calls Out San Francisco's Do Nothing/Feel Good/Soundbite Politics!

Once again, the only paper that seems willing to call out City Hall politicians of all stripes on their nonsense is in fact, the SF Weekly. They've called out the city's "pay more/get less" governance in the past, did a great piece on Muni (horn tooting time, I co wrote it), SF's pension crisis, the phony plastic bag ban, and so on.

Today's target were the do-nothing, feel-good, soundbite politics that politicians here just love to engage in.

That's because with term limits, they need to be thinking ahead to the next campaign and the next job. What better way to fill the junk mail, online ads, Facebook pages and TV ads with endless streams of feel-good bullsh!t that will make you feel great about voting for them. Unfortunately, they also accomplish absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile your taxes go up, your Muni fares go up while Muni continues to fail, we have a bazillion dollar deficit and big long term problems that no one wants to solve, and the mainstream press is more caught up with the latest horse-trading and political games at City Hall. In the end, it's the citizen that loses.

When talk of Supervisor Mar's phony "happy meal" ban started up, I too pointed out what a clusterfuck the school lunch system was under his reign on the school board, and it hasn't changed much for great majority of SF Unified students to this day. Instead of doing something constructive that would have had an impact when he had the chance, he's off pulling this crap instead. Meanwhile, I doubt anyone could name a single action he's taken to do things like say, help all those businesses in the Richmond that are the target of predatory lawsuits. Then again, that wouldn't play well on TV.

Or does it? Watching Sup. Mar's cringe-inducing performance on the Daily Show makes you wonder if he really understands much of what he's doing.

Likewise, I've been calling out both the alleged "moderate"* ex Mayor Newsom and so-called "progressive"** Mirkarimi, who have successfully bullsh!tted the entire worldwide media that the City banned plastic bags, when in fact they did not. Either really do it and take on the powers that be, or get off the high horse and admit this was all for headlines.

Until San Francisco voters decide that accomplishing something is more important than flavor of the month press releases, they will continue to get a government that they truly deserve - one that works for special interests, for politicians ,and sends the bill to the citizen and his/her children. Good luck with that.

* The term "moderate" is a meaningless piece of doublespeak that we need to dispense with. It has no inherent meaning, and it is used to cover up policies that are anything but.

** The term "progressive" is a meaningless piece of doublespeak that has no meaning either. In this town, anyone can use it so it has no inherent meaning, and the range of politicians claiming said label renders it useless. Discard, please.

December 1, 2010

Why "Progressives" Have Proven They're Not Fit to Govern: Then Again....

Reading the assorted coverage in the press about the so-called "selection process" that the Board of Supervisors has chosen to engage in to choose a successor to "Mayor" Newsom is proof of a few things. First, that so-called "progressives" are simply not qualified to be in charge of things at City Hall, and second, that frankly, NO ONE in the political class is qualified to be in charge of things at City Hall.

At the center of all of this is Board President David Chiu. Now, bear in mind that he's not qualified for his current job - he is Board President only because of the progressive-on-progressive antagonism that denied it to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. Instead, they picked Chiu, who never served on the Board, to run it.

Now he wants to be Mayor, so he's hoping to delay things by creating a patently bullshit bunch of "rules" that have no basis in reality or the law, to delay things and ensure that he gets the top job once Newsom leaves office.

Think about it: A guy whose big experience was pimping the Christian Right online, among other things, who has never served, and has presided over one of the most unproductive Boards in recent history, content to tilt at windmills while Muni fails, and the City's finances burn.

Now he wants to be Mayor?

Give me a f*cking break. This long list of bullshit rules he's invented have no basis in reality - you simply need to have 6 votes to be the Interim Mayor - this nonsense about no texting, being in the room or not, etc. is all a pile of crap, and "Supervisor" Chiu should be embarrassed at these kind of time and tax wasting games.

This, however, has been the hallmark of the So-Called Progressives - they're all out only for their own personal ambitions, and don't give a damn about real problems, or even their own gang in politics. Instead they engage in foolish things, or write bad laws that are good for nothing but headline grabbing, and don't help anyone. The Class of 2008 that got elected largely because it was a big presidential year and many first time voters just voted "Democrat" no matter what, has brought us some of the worst legislation we've seen in a while.

Outgoing Sup. Daly might be a pain in the ass, but he did understand his role and how to move legislation, and he's been calling BS on all of this. These new kids are children who think they're in pre-school at recess, and not in charge of a city people have to pay taxes and live in.

And now, where I piss off Everyone Else in SF Politics....

That all said, it's time to face facts: we wouldn't be in this position if "Mayor" Newsom gave a damn about finishing the job he was hired by the voters to do in the first place. Because he too placed personal ambition above the good of the City, we're in a situation where no matter what happens, working on SF's many real problems is going to be tossed by the wayside in favor of bullshit politics. Worse, it's not like he's advancing to a real office - he's going to be Lite Governor - a job with no practical use aside from sitting around waiting for the Governor to die or quit.

We were sold on Gavin Newsom in 2003 as the guy who was going to get things done and be some sort of guy focused on "policy." Instead we got a rich pretty-boy who was great at press conferences, empty promises, and endless Big Talk, but who as Mayor always catered to public employee unions, enhanced the financial destruction of the Muni system with his dishonest budgeting, and who clearly never really cared much for San Francisco or the people who work hard and pay the taxes that made his stupid gas guzzling SUV possible.

I place the blame for this guy squarely on the people and special interests who backed him, screaming and yelling how if we'd elected that Communist Matt Gonzalez the sky would fall. Well, we didn't, and guess what? We still had a wasteful Room 200 that was devoted to political games, not getting anything done.

What does this all mean? Well, regardless of what the fools at City Hall do now, or in January, you have a say in who will be in charge in 2011. There are many people already running for office. Here's a helpful hint: don't vote based on some bullshit you read in a piece of junk mail, or something the chatterers in the press or online say in the echo chamber of buzzwords.

Scrutinize the Hell out of these people who claim they want to be in charge. Demand they speak up and say what they plan on doing to make things different. Don't fall for a pretty face or a cute slogan or someone who's name you've heard.

Instead, be very skeptical, and make them earn your vote. The kind of San Francisco you'll be living in for the next few decades depends on it.

November 19, 2010

Tired of Dead Tree Political Mail? Tired of Seeing Tax $$$ Go to Shady Political Ads? Here's a Solution!

IMG_1597.JPGSan Francisco loves to pride itself on being the "leader" on all sorts of issues. Problem is, its "leaders" come up short. We say we ban plastic bags - but we don't because every liquor store in town is using plastic bags. We claim to be for all sorts of Big Important Non Binding Resolution on Big Issues, but of course, no one's listening because no one cares.

Today I propose some tough new laws that would make San Francisco in the vanguard of something we can all agree on - the end of that massive flood of dead tree mail full of hysterical BS that infects our mailbox every election year.

One of the main reasons you get so much of this junk is because….you're paying for it. Yes, that's right, you the San Francisco taxpayer were funding that flood of crap in your mailbox. That's because some do-gooders decided it's better if you pay for it, instead of those mean ol' "special interests."

Instead, the mean ol' special interests go ahead and fund their own campaigns, free of any interference from said candidates. This is better, how?

It's time for the citizens of San Francisco to ask our leaders to do better, and to set a high standard for taxpayer funded campaigns. That's why it's time San Francisco institute strict conditions on the use of tax cash for political communications.

Let's call it the San Francisco "Truth or Consequences in Taxpayer Financed Political Advertising " Law. And unlike some non-binding resolution, this will be something that has some consequences. Break the law? You pay the taxpayers back the cash - with interest.

Key Provisions would include:

-Telling the Truth: Any campaign mailer, online ad, TV ad, must file within 24 hours all the research detailing the claims in any ad. Said filing would be posted online within 24 hours for voters to review. If it's not filed or the campaign is found to be lying, they must refund the taxpayers the cost of said mailer. With interest. (For those that can't get online, print copies would be made available at all public libraries).

-Carbon Neutral footprint: this means ONLY using post consumer recycled paper, ONLY using organic inks, and all other means including eliminating gas-driven delivery, and so on. If that means direct drops to carriers, well that's life in the world of climate change, kids. This also means using local printers to do said work, since it's just San Francisco and it's not like anyone's sending mail to Vallejo or Los Angeles, so there's no reason they can't print locally at locally owned businesses.

-Tax-financed campaigns would also be required to file daily reports of campaign contributions from private sources. Instead of quarterly reports that are manipulated by campaigns, and making them hard to find online, campaigns would send in a list with copies of all checks (minus information that could lead to fraud) and said information would be posted online, within 24 hours for voter review.

And no one say it can't be done, this is where Google, eBay, Yahoo, Intel and a whole host of companies come from, so outsource it to someone from the second decade of the 21st century to do it, not some fools at the City who would just boondoggle it.

This is just a rough draft, and certainly not a set in stone policy. Obviously any taxpayer funded TV, radio, robocall or online ad would fall under the same general guidelines, etc. But I don't think it's unreasonable for us to ask the "big talkers" to stop talking, and start putting their alleged beliefs into practice.

It is time for us to ask more of those who are using taxpayer money to kill trees and send out political advertising. We've had enough of screaming headlines and distortions of facts from the people claiming to be "clean money" candidates. It's time for them to take the "clean money" - but stop playing dirty with the voters.

November 4, 2010

If the "Tea Party" Was Truly Hardcore, They'd Make Palin or Beck Speaker...

It's post election time, and I'm tossing out these Deep Thoughts for fun...let's see which one wigs people out the most....

It's assumed that Rep. John Boehner is going to be Speaker of the House under Republican rule. That's because he's been the Minority Leader so far, and it's assumed he'll be the Speaker.

The thing is, he doesn't have to be. In fact, if these Tea Party people would read the Constitution they apparently cherish, they'd realize anyone can serve as Speaker, member of Congress or not. They only have to have the same eligibility requirements (naturalized citizen, 25, etc.) It just has to be the vote of the majority of members of Congress.

So if Tea Baggers wanted say, Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin (!) to be their Speaker, if they could convince a majority of their colleagues to do this, well, it'd be perfectly legal. Likely to happen? No. Could it happen? Absolutely.

It'd at least be a chance for these highly paid windbags to actually do something for the country instead of just talking all the time. It'd be interesting to say the least to see them have to give up talk show money, endorsement money, and speaking fees to sit there and figure out House rules to pass bills. But it would also be a chance to see if the Tea Party folks really believe what they say, or if they just wanted the job for the big pay increase and the big staffs and offices.

I'm guessing that these firebrands of the right will be too busy enjoying the perks of office and the benefits of being able to raise Big Money in DC to really care one way or the other, and will be too busy making sure to buy that new house in the DC suburbs. After all, one can't be living in a shanty when voting against Government Spending, right?

Is This The Election That Ends IRV in San Francisco?

The election results are in and the winners are.....well we don't know yet. We may not know for several weeks as mail ballots are counted and the tedious so-called Instant Runoff Voting process begins. But we do know this - there are many close elections, but due to the fact we're not having a runoff, and we're using IRV, some weird things are happening.

In District 10, we have a situation where the top vote getter on election day got 1200 or so votes and may be on the way to the Board of Supervisors, out of only 10,000 votes cast. (Hey wait, wasn't IRV supposed to increase turnout?). That's rather scary - when you consider that others had to get many more votes than that to also serve. We'll do the IRV counts going through the many, many loser candidates who got a handful of votes, and of course this all assumes people voted "1 2 3" (which they didn't), and in the end, God knows what the result will be. After a campaign that had a mob of candidates making 1 minute statements into a microphone, the voters really don't know who or what they're ending up with.

In District 8, we had higher turnout and a spirited contest between several well-funded campaigns. However, we also had some of the most negative and deceptive campaigning mailers produced (hey wait, wasn't IRV supposed to make this more "positive?") and we won't have a traditional runoff where candidates running such shamelessly negative campaigns would have been held accountable - and we'd have a clear choice and better debates.

And so on. The endless mess in District 6, which featured some of the nastiest campaigning, the shady "independent expenditures" and a distinct lack of disclosure on the part of certain candidates has led to a situation where any candidate elected in the IRV debacle is not going to have a clear mandate, or again, be held accountable to their statements.

Traditional runoff campaigns would provide voters a chance to make their choices clearly and force candidates to be more accountable for their general election campaigns. Also, voters would have had more time to focus on the local elections, free of the distractions of eMeg and Uncle Jerry and the endless list of stupid ballot measures that clutter the ballot in November. Plus, after a Giants season like this, voters would be more likely to pay attention than they could when having Giants Fever in October.

The promises of IRV have not materialized. They have not saved money. They have not rigged the elections for progressives. They have not made the campaigns "more positive." They have not resulted in more cooperation amongst the candidates. The second and third place endorsements are wankery for political hacks. And more money was spent on elections locally than ever before.

Time to hit the reset button, and take this out-of-town sponsored lab experiment and dump it in the recycle bin of history, kids.

October 25, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, and Campaign Mail from "No on G"-A Disinfo Rehab Session With the NJC!

bsflayertwu.jpgOver at my more popular blog, the N Judah Chronicles, I posted a rather lengthy disinfo rehab session about the shamelessly dishonest mail being pumped out by "progressive" political consultant Jim Stearns and the TWU Local 250 A. I've already been called a "Nazi" by some anonymous troll who used a fake email address, so Godwin's Law was invoked literally minutes after posting. A new record.

Prop. G, as you may know, is the Fix Muni Now proposal put on the ballot by Sup. Elsbernd and a measure that I originally opposed, but changed my mind after spending a week or so reading every piece of paper about Muni employment rules, regulations, contracts, etc. when I co-wrote the Muni Death Sprial for the SF Weekly.

Anyway, go check it out. I have to say that among the many violations of the Geneva Convention this election has inflicted on us, the No on G campaign ranks up there with the blatant dishonesty that more well funded campaigns have been pulling this season. It's even more ironic the consultant doing this also was the consultant on the 2007 Prop. A measure that was supposed to try and help Muni, but was butchered by organized labor before it even got on the ballot. The same consultant that works for all the "progressives."

Just remember - what a "progressive" doesn't know about Muni could fill every bus and train and storage facility in the system, and still have plenty left over to fill all those hot air balloons they generate at the Board of Supervisors.

September 15, 2010

What Could YOU Buy with $119,000,000? Let's Start Counting The Ways....

It was reported in the news today that Meg Whitman, the rich lady trying to buy her way into the Governor's (non) mansion in Sacramento, has now spent $119,000,000 on her campaign to date, outspending billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York City.

While this has been a great private stimulus for the television stations, radio stations and commercial creators and the junk mail printers, it hasn't resulted in a landslide of support for Ms. Whitman just yet.

For fun, I was wondering what you could buy for $119,000,000. This was the result from an hour on The Google. Let's read on and see....and feel free to contribute your own ideas in the comments:

-$119,000,000 would fund the "Great Green Wall" that is designed to re-forest North Africa and prevent the spread of desert out there. (by the way, Bill Gates donated the $119,000,000 in this case)

-$119,000,000 would allow you to buy 119,000,000 copies of the Bible, in Kindle format. Or, 19,833,333 copies at 6 bucks a pop in print via Amazon.com (taxes and shipping not included).

-$119,000,000 would also buy you 7,933,333 copies of Atlas Shrugged in paperback format at (about) $15 each.

-$119,000,000 would cover the estimated loss of productivity created by Google's "Pac Man" logo. Surely you recall this excellent lunch break entertainment, yes?

-$119,000,000 would cover the cost of about 23,800,000 Alice Waters approved "healthy" school lunches. This was calculated by taking the cost the Berkeley Unified School District is spending now at their pilot program ($4.85) and rounding up to $5. Hey, let's not be cheap-asses - won't someone please think of the children??

If eating Belgian endive and organic food isn't your thing, you could buy 39,666,666 McDonalds Happy Meals at $3 each. And don't forget - that's still healthier than some of the crap schools serve nowadays.

-$119,000,000 could pay for 1,492 police officers paid at the low end of the San Francisco Police Department's pay scale (one of the best paid police forces in the United States.) Or, pay 'em half, double the number, and send them to "guard the border" instead? Or, perhaps send them to where crimes are committed, maybe? Hmm?

-$119,000,000 would buy 9916666 doses of the adult influenza vaccine at $12 a dose. Let's hope that anyone buying that many gets the group discount.

-$119,000,000 would buy 23,800 Glock 17 9mm pistols, presumably for our friends in law enforcement. At about $500 each, that's not a bad deal. (Although, or the record, I'm not entirely sure if most police officers use a Glock 17 or another model, this is based on some quick Googling).

-$119,000,000 would pay a year's college costs at a private institution in California for 2,644 students. Or pay for 4047 students at a UC school. Or pay for 5724 students at CSU. (Costs obtained from CaliforniaColleges.edu ). Or forget about tuition, etc. - build a college and call it Meg Whitman University!

-$119,000,000 could buy 1,700,000 "72 hour" disaster relief kits, complete with MREs, water, etc at $70 each. That might be pricey for disaster relief, perhaps? Again, buying in bulk usually gets you a better deal. In a disaster prone state like California, might that buy more goodwill than a bunch of stupid TV ads that ruin football?

Anyway, this was all back-of-the-envelope calculations after about 90 minutes on Google. Got any better ones? Feel free to enter them in the comments below.

August 5, 2010

Big Corporation Spends Big Bucks for Right Wing Politician: This is News Because.....?

Oh Target. Everyone was atwitterin' about how the chain store was finally opening one up in San Francisco. Yes, it's a chain, blah blah blah, but if you're buying household items and other said necessities, sometimes one doesn't want to buy an artisan macrame frying pan, they just want to buy one that's cheap, and not have to go to Colma. It didn't hurt that Target had a great local PR team to boost its chances, either.

Then the "big news" started to trickle out about Target's donation to a group backing some right wing guy in Minnesota (home base of Target) running for governor who thinks that all waiters make $100,000 a year, and dislikes gay people. What a surprise! A big company supports a right wing candidate based on their economic views? Shocking. Just shocking.

Naturally, this started a storm of fiery Internet critiques. Newspaper ads appeared, and trusty MoveOn.org launched Yet Another Email SPAM Blast begging for money and whatever else it is MoveOn.org begs from you, blasting away at the now Evil Target. Predictably, conservative bloggers and talkers rallied to Target's defense, and engaged in their own brand of self promoting babble. Blah blah blah.

Finally, Target "apologized." Their first foray in direct corporate funding for political camapigns ended in a bit of a standoff, with no one really "winning" (aside from all those lefty and righty groups, bloggers and whatnots who made a few pennies off the sh*tstorm).

Let's take a breather from all the hot air, and let's review a few facts:

- The Awl makes the very obvious-but-not-obvious point that Target's corporate management and PACs have always supported very conservative candidates for office. That is their right, after all - the leadership of Target is free to support whomever they choose.

Yes, Target does some donations and other things that are GLBT-positive. But that's not a moral decision - that was a business decision to appeal to the GLBT consumer. Target also makes political donations to conservative politicians - that was a business decision to benefit Target's bottom line.

That's perfectly logical to upper management - unfortunately that kind of "having it both ways" doesn't always play well with the public. Hence the downside of engaging in politics - the Other Sides have the same right to engage in free speech too.

- Target has made a priority of expanding into urban markets with smaller stores, similar to the ones proposed in San Francisco. Urban areas tend to have well-organized, vocal GLBT communities, and losing their support because of this latest kerfuffle could cost those urban locations. I'm sure that when whoever is in charge of Giving Target's Corporate Cash Directly To Campaigns Department made the big donation to that PAC in Minnesota, they figured no one would care outside of MN. A logical assumption, but not necessarily the right one in the Age of The Internet and the Age of Angry Hyper-Partisanship.

Besides, despite all this support for anti-gay candidates, the Human Rights Campaign Fund gives Target (and allied retailer Best Buy) a sparkly 100% rating for being GLBT friendly. Remember that when they come begging for money from you on a street corner next time.

- I don't know that this whole thing will make a bit of difference in Target's plans for San Francisco. Despite the alleged liberalism of San Franciscans, they have shown a unique ability to abandon principles in favor of material goods. Target does provide cheap products from China and other necessities people seem to like, hence a lot of Target love in Liberal SF.

When they announced Target's plans, it was very difficult to find the usual band of NIMBYs and lefties who go to protest rallies speaking out against this particular chain. Then again, San Francisco plants a wet one on Whole Foods every time it opens another store, despite being one of the most obnoxious and overpriced chains in the country, so again, big surprise. The Castro welcomed a Levi's store (complete with sweatshop made clothes) with open arms, as well. The common thread being that chains that hire the best local PR people tend to get their way, because the local PR people know how to use the Politics of Feelings to keep the local hippies in check.

Target didn't do anything criminal in donating directly to some right wing group. However, the donation had the net effect of slapping their logo onto a partisan cause for the far right, for all to see. This, at the same time it's trying to have it both ways with all sorts of marketing to GLBT consumers. Given the bloodbath that is political discourse nowadays, it's not hard to see why this ended up as a PR FAIL for Target.

People know the Target brand, and it's easy to see why people might feel a bit put off when they see their favorite store supporting people that think they have no right to exist, at the same time the same company is running around saying it's pro GLBT. It's a bit of (oh God not an Orwell reference) doublethink in the classic sense of the word. Makes sense inside the office, but doesn't play well outside.

As for Target's plans in SF - bring it on. There's nothing at the old Sears location on Geary right now anyway, and if moving Target in means keeping some sales tax dollars in SF instead of seeing it all go to Colma, fine. It's not like some artisan hippie collective is going to be doing anything useful in the space.

If people really dislike Target's politics, they don't have to shop there. As for me, I've never had any delusions about what big corporate stores are and are not. They are not benevolent charities and paragons of goodliness and socialism, they are in business to make money for shareholders and themselves any way they can. I've never thought Target was the former - and I don't see why anyone else would think so either.

PS: If some corporation decided to pony up the cash for some left wing candidate for Governor (unlikely but hey, this is America), you can bet that the conservatives would be throwing a temper tantrum worse than a spoiled child too. The shoutalot ideologues in our country who make a buck off of antagonism tend to operate in the same way, be they left or right.

UPDATE: It seem the shareholders aren't too fond of all this hullaballoo. This is no surprise. Corporations are in the business of making money and serving the financial needs of their shareholders. If engaging in any politics (left or right) impedes this, then shareholders will not be pleased.

July 28, 2010

As The Media and Everyone Loses Their Sh*t over Bell, CA Corruption, A Reminder...

By now, the big story the Los Angeles Times "broke" about the excessively high salaries in tiny Bell, CA has been the outrage heard 'round the world, and the fallout has begun, complete with resignations, recriminations, investigations and more. Politicians of all stripes are seeking to make a name for themselves going after these goofuses. While it's righteous and harmonious that these looters get some punishment, let's not all pat the LA Times on the back for it's alleged "investigative reporting.

Why? Simple - this is not a new story in Bell, or any of the little towns outside of Los Angeles, many of which have faced similar corruption scandals in the past. In fact, I wrote about these corrupt little burgs seven years ago when neighboring communities were mired in similar scandals (and yes, at the time Bell was paying people bazillions of dollars in "perks" while city services starved).

In my old blog post from an old blog long since dead, I detailed why: many of these towns have a disenfranchised electorate that either can't vote, or simply don't, no one covers these towns and their myriad of contracts and payments and whatnots so there's no transparency to said local governments, and frankly the LA Times has "reported" on this on occasion, but doesn't really care either. A huff and puff editorial in 2003 rings hollow when you consider that Bell's shenanigans were going on -and the Times did nothing in the ensuing years to keep the heat on local governments like it claimed was a good idea.

So while everyone at the LA Times is high fiving each other and reveling in the attention just remember - this is nothing new, this has been happening for ages, and will continue to happen until something changes. It'd be nice to think the Times would be the innovator in finding a way to connect these residents with their local government and inform them so they'd stop voting for these idiots, but between Sam Zell and the overall cluelessness of the newspaper "industry," I'm not holding out for any miracles.

June 22, 2010

"Meatless Monday" Resolution Doesn't Go Far Enough - We Need "Do the Hustle" Tuesdays Too!

IMG_0965.JPGSo, in old news recycled, we're being reminding in various web-spaces that the City of San Francisco did indeed pass a non-binding resolution declaring a weekly "Meatless Monday" in order to "encourage" (love that word) people to be more holy or something. The people for it think they've really made a difference or something. Plenty of outsiders have seized upon this as another billy club to beat on Our Fair City with, and out-of-state Gate commenters are literally so angry and screaming mad they're going to need their blood pressure meds re-upped early.

Calm down, people and take a nice deep breath before you blow a blood vessel, let's review for a moment, shall we?

-Like any emotion inducing non-binding resolution, the key word here is non-binding. That means it's nothing more than a majority of supervisors expressing an opinion, albeit under the aegis of the City of San Francisco. Still, if a majority of Supervisors were sitting in a bar, and all agreed they liked Guinness, that would have about as much legal impact as a "non binding resolution."

The twist is, however when these things are doing at City Hall, emotional proponents and their feisty opposition scream and yell, cry and moan about this like it means something. IT DOES NOT! I can go to McDonalds, buy a big bag of burgers, and stand out on the street giving them out to anyone I so choose and the Man can't crack down on me.

Hell, I can even SIT DOWN ON THE SIDEWALK and hand out burgers and (for now) no one can stop me. If I want to eat NOTHING, not even VEGETABLES but simply go breatharian, I can do that too!! The point is, nothing is going to change, aside from some dead trees to print this thing up. Ooh, how "revolutionary!"

-I have no problem with Supervisors expressing their views on current events, by the way. I can respect other people's points of view, and I'm sure this had good intentions. There is an irony here, however - the resolution's main supporter, Sup. Sophie Maxwell, currently lives in a district with no real grocery stores. Try finding vegan anything or just some fresh produce on a regular basis, and you'd be hard pressed to do so. During a recent trip on the T Line I took the time to walk the neighborhood, and news flash, one has to get in a car or take a train to get any decent food. I certainly didn't see anyone thinking "Gosh we should stop selling meat on Mondays to save the planet" - because of course wealthy liberal types aren't going to go take the T Line to dialogue on these - they're too busy parking a Prius or something.

Continue reading ""Meatless Monday" Resolution Doesn't Go Far Enough - We Need "Do the Hustle" Tuesdays Too!" »

May 26, 2010

One of the Weirdest Political Ads Yet - Nava for Attorney General

pedronavaad.jpgThis year's primary is one of the worst ever. There is very little interest in the election, a lot of boring candidates, and none of them have much money (well aside from Him, Her, and that Other Guy). This inevitably leads to some crazy-ass stuff put out there in an effort to be "daring" but usually ends up being "lame."

Case study: Pedro Nava for Attorney General. Now, I'm sure he's a good guy, and he served 3 terms in the Assembly and passed some bills. Yay. How that qualifies him to to be Attorney General? I have no idea. I actually met him once ages ago at a fundraiser for John Kerry that I attended in Montecito, CA and he seemed like a nice enough guy, but this video just has all kinds of WTF all over it

I mean, what's up with the weird cartoony background? The dogs? The dog with bunny ears? The dog with glasses flying a plane? And he's not even looking at the camera? And the clapping dog? OMG.

Ok I thought the clapping dog was kinda funny. But you know what? I really don't give a sh!t about his record on "animal rights" if he's running for ATTORNEY GENERAL. I'd be much more interested in seeing something about crime and that kind of thing.

Plus, it's been my experience, having worked with candidates in the past who've been Big Friends of the animal rights movement that it's a kiss of death for a campaign. In 1994 I worked for a Senate candidate that made as big a deal about his record as Pedro does, and he got his ass kicked. Every time someone starts touting such a record, they very rarely win in a competitive election.

I'm scanning in mail pieces. There's just so much weird out there this year. Oh and those ads for Prop. 17 are easily the most full of sh!t ads I've ever seen. Mercury Insurance Sucks!

May 25, 2010

Why I Like Watching "Treme" But It Also Scares the Hell Out of Me

treme.pngIf you've not had a chance to see HBO's latest show, "Treme", by author/ex-journalist/blogger hater David Simon (he of "The Wire" fame), I strongly urge you to do so, by any means necessary. If you have HBO and OnDemand, it should be there, if not, well wait for the DVDs or explore (ahem) alternate means of content delivery or whatever, but you really need to see this.

The Short Recap: it's a story about people from various parts of New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurrcaine Katrina in 2005-2006. We all know what a supreme f*ck up FEMA and the feds were after this disaster, and we've all seen the pictures on TV. What Treme manages to do is to personalize those stories and do that expertly woven tapestry of lives and events that Simon pioneered in The Wire.

It's both fascinating, and horrifying to see what can happen to an American city in the 21st century, and how "shock doctrine" ideologues, good old fashioned corruption and racism, and the economic realities of a debt-ridden nation of do-nothings can collide and create the mess that we still have to this day.

Now, while I enjoy the drama and a well written TV series, and so on, Treme still scares the Hell out of me every week I watch the show. That's because I truly fear what is going to happen to San Francisco when the inevitable Big F*cking Earthquake hits us.

We are not prepared for what people will do to our city after the quake, and after years of rule by Prince Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors, I genuinely believe that the only line of defense we have against a horrifying immediate aftermath is going to be the citizens of SF, and them alone, helping each other out. What's scarier though, is how this corrupt city will no doubt use the disaster as a way to destroy neighborhoods and create "Suburbia By the Sea," and historical anything be damned.

Continue reading "Why I Like Watching "Treme" But It Also Scares the Hell Out of Me" »

May 20, 2010

Why I'm Voting "NO" on Prop. 16 - No, Really!

13299_111631608866160_111598052202849_150204_7339158_n.jpgSometimes, I really, really, REALLY hate ballot initiatives.

Case in point? Proposition 16. Easily one of the most bullshit-named initiatives we've got - the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act." This is one of the most misleading titles ever because...taxpayers already have the right to vote on any socialization of the power system in their area right now! Go ask the hippies in San Francisco if you're not sure (where public power has been voted on 8 times and lost, each time.)

This wasn't easy, because I absolutely hate the self-appointed violent Stalinist "activists" who support so-called "public power." They don't really care about anything but their ideology, and aren't afraid to use violence and death threats to enforce their political correctness on others.

So why, then would I ally myself on the same side as these clowns? Simple. "Two Thirds" vote requirements are bullshit, plain and simple. The idea that a ballot measure could get 65% of the vote and still lose??? That's tyrannical. Our legislature wallows in dysfunction, and local governments have a Hell of a time getting things done because of similar laws and it's all because a few radical ideologues in Sacramento hate local governments and want to hurt them as much as possible.

Hence, I'm voting Hell NO on this thing since I hate 2/3rds rules as a matter of general principle. Besides, the money PG&E spent to put this thing on the ballot could have gone to many better things.

I think it's also time California re-think the idea of "Ballot Measures." It has devolved from the people's way to counter balance corporate influence into an ATM for companies willing to buy the signatures and write self-serving laws that benefit only them. Epic grassroots power FAIL.

(Oh also, vote no on 17, which is a bid by those plutocrats at Mercury Insurance to jack up your rates. They suck too!)

May 18, 2010

How Many Trees Must Die For the Sierra Club's Sins?

There's a really boring primary coming up in June and by now you've likely received a voter guide, and some political junk mail. It's rather amazing to see so many groups and campaigns (especially for DCCC) that have little money to begin with, who are spending big money on dead tree mail and doorhangers.

It's especially baffling to see the Sierra Club, which is allegedly in the business of Saving The Earth or something, literally littering neighborhoods with thousands of dead-tree doorhangers. In fact on the day they hit my neighborhood, not only did they do a poor job of distribution (often just dumping them in a pile at the front door or in our case putting them on our gate), but because it was windy, 80% of them blew all over the place. Really effective and "green," smart guys.

It was followed up by what is likely to be their one postcard sent to voters before the primary - one that cost a lot to mail because postage is now so high for bulk mail, and because they had to use a special blend of smug and soy to print the damned thing. Guess how much I (or any of my neighbors) looked at it? Well you can come by the recycle bin by our mailbox and see how effective all those dead trees were.

It never ceases to amaze me how lower budget campaigns insist on using dead trees as their exclusive campaign communications medium. It's especially amazing given that San Francisco has the highest concentration of voters online anywhere in the United States, and by using targeted online advertising, they could reach more people for less money, and a big percentage of their budget wouldn't be at the Post Office. And yes, their consultants could still make the same 15% they would off the junk mail.

San Francisco: Where talk is cheap - and so is "going green!"

April 13, 2010

Let's Freak Out About Politics As Usual With Chris Kelly And Kamala Harris!

scream.pngIn less than two months, voters will be headed to the polls for primary elections for Democrats, Republicans, et al. If you weren't aware of this, or hadn't put much thought into it don't feel bad - most people aren't doing so either.Turnout is likely to be low, because it's a battle of no-names for most races, and the top of the ticket has a presumptive Democratic nominee (minus any actual campaign). So, the drama filters downward.

For some reason, many termed out legislators, a rich dude, and the DA from San Francisco have crowded the field for Attorney General - at last count I saw 6 on the Democratic side alone. Many voters are undecided, since no one candidate is particularly well known outside their hometown/district. Harris is the presumptive "front runner," but most voters are undecided. Ironically, a poll early this year indicated that the top choice for Democratic primary voters was a candidate who wasn't even running for the job. Ouch.

In a crowded race, it's expected that candidates are going to pump themselves up as much as possible, and rip on their opponents to win. So it should have been no surprise when Chris Kelly, a wealthy attorney, noob to electoral politics, and former bigwig at Facebook, made the call to unleash the political Krakken, with online advertising and more against presumptive front runner Harris' record as District Attorney of San Francisco. This is pretty much politics as usual. Nasty, annoying, yes. Unexpected? No! (Remember that ugly race between Westly and Angelides in the 2006 primary? Wait, you forget about trivial, annoying BS? Good for you - you're saner than I then.)

Apparently no one told Kamala Harris' campaign that, unlike an uncontested race in Safe San Francisco, an open Democratic primary can quickly become an unruly brawl. Thus, the Harris campaign responded to the online ad buy and the YouTube video by losing their collective sh*t, and using weasel words to attack the concept of online advertising. In particular, you can tell they just loved using the phrase "...in his new video, which the "privacy expert" Kelly has undoubtedly expertly placed on your Facebook homepage, Google searches, email inbox, or all three in recent days..."

In other words, be very very scared of the Big Bad Man Who Bought Google Ads and Snuck Into Your Computer at Night and Placed them. BE SCARED! BE OH SO SCARED OF THE SERIES OF TUBES!!!!

GIve me a fucking break. Either the Harris campaign has no clue how Google ads work (!) or more likely, are just using weasel words to create some weird impression of Kelly - ironically what they accuse Kelly of doing. Oh, by the way, the Harris campaign has placed Google ads too. OH TEH HORRORS!

They follow it up by bragging about how many Facebook Fans they have. Really? I think I read about this in Who Cares Magazine. (I've written about why this metric can be total BS, go read it, it's funnier than this post).

Like it or not politics in 2010 are going to be nasty. Every candidate has a record that will get examined in fine detail by the media and their opponents. Ms. Harris is no exception to the rule and neither are the other 5 candidates. Plus, if she can't handle a mild attack like this, how in the heck is she going to fare against the Republican onslaught in the fall if she's nominated, when they will not have any problems calling her Satan's Choice for DA and throw the kitchen sink (and parts of her record) at her?

Personally, I've not heard one candidate actually talk about any issues that would have any bearing on things you or I might actually be concerned about. Instead I've received many e-begging emails asking me to find more friends for them on Facebook. Having a candidate act like an emotionally needy teen doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence that they know what they're doing, which is why I might just leave this part blank when I go "vote" in June.

February 1, 2010

Ha! I Was Right! Elsbernd IS Gunning For Higher Office!

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a guest blog post for the SF Weekly's blog, "The Snitch," about the upcoming week in joy that was the Board of Supervisors that week. Since it was also the week they were taking most of the week off, it was a short post.

However, it seems one of my predictions was right on the money. In the post, I noted that Supervisors often come up with big sounding (but do nothing) "charter amendments" so they can sound like they're a big knowitall when they run for Some Other Office. People disputed this, but as it turned out I was right about Sup. Sean Elsbernd's plans for his career.

Today the SF Weekly reported that Elsbernd is aggressively courting supporters for a run for the US House seat held by Jackie Speier, should she decide to run for Attorney General. That's interesting because a) most of the candidates running (6? or more) on the Democratic side are unknown outside their home base, b) Speier leaving the US House after just winning the special election not too long ago says a lot about the US House, and c) Speier could declare for governor and have a ton of support, since there is no declared candidate for Governor on the Democratic side, and the election is just 4 1/2 months away (!).

Does Sup. Elsbernd (or any Supervisor for that matter) deserve a promotion? Personally, I'd hold out for a better candidate, preferably someone not contaminated by the do-nothing dysfunction of Sacramento, or the culture of blame and recrimination that infects the Board Chambers or Room 200.

All of this is moot, if Rep. Speier stays put. Given how crazy the Democrats are, and how they are prone to dumping gasoline on fire and lighting the match, I figure their potential collapse just gets more and more likely the crazier these primaries get. No one votes in them anyway, so if you do vote, you're like 1000 votes instead of one. Have fun!

January 26, 2010

Deep Thought Of The Day: Campaigning Vs. Governing

It's not like the past was some sort of Golden Age ever, but I wonder: are we finally at the point where the skills to run a good political campaign are so exclusive of good government that we now have a system that excels at putting people into office who are great at the election part, who have no real clue how (or maybe even the desire) to do the job they so desperately wanted?

Think about it: to get elected all you have to do is sound good, look good, and play to the press's desire to cover the horse race. If you're ahead, EVERYONE wants you to win because people like a winner in a horse race.

When you get elected, despite the fact the press focuses on deal-making, in the end, governing is a Hell of a lot more difficult, and many people really don't want you to succeed (no matter who you are).

If things were as simple as the speechmakers claim, it sure would be easier to get things done. Plus when speechwriters and spinners came up with boneheaded ideas (think the Central Subway here in SF as a local example) that have no basis in reality, wouldn't be the clusterfraks they are now.

This isn't exclusive to one party, despite what the partisans on both sides think. You all know who you are.

January 21, 2010

I Wish I'd Posted My Prediction on the Massachusetts Senate Race...

Lessons for bloggers: don't hold back on unpopular predictions, lest you end up being right. A few weeks ago I predicted that Martha Coakley would lose the US Senate special election in Massachusetts. Every single time I brought this up, my Democratic friends would look at me like a heretic and proceed to rattle of something they read on "Daily Kos" about why I was wrong and that speaking such heresy meant I was going to Hell. And yet, none of their reasons had anything to do with actual facts or history. So here was my reasoning, and why liberal bloggers sometimes have their heads in the sand:

-Martha Coakley's campaign was spectacularly poor. She didn't campaign like she should have, once she got the Democratic nomination. If part of life is showing up, in campaigns, it is everything. By basically assuming she'd win by default, she made the classic mistake that allowed the other candidate to define the race. She also made several verbal gaffes that amplified her seeming disdain for talking to actual voters.

-Her campaign was run almost exclusively by DC based political people, and veteran campaign consultants and workers were sidelined by the Geniuses from DC. Another sign of something Really Bad. Pushing aside the people who know the state in favor of generic strategies based on abstract polling data and focus groups doesn't work well. Plus, there are a lot of rings that need to be kissed in Massachusetts politics, and you don't necessarily know which ones those are if you're relying on whiz kids from DC.

-Massachusetts is not 100% Communist Leftist Whatever. Massachusetts has elected Republicans as Governor exclusively since 1990, and it was only in 2006, when Deval Patrick won, that the cycle broke. Also, remember that Ted Kennedy himself came dangerously close to losing his re-election in 1994 against Mitt Romney (!), and it took a Herculean effort of money and resource to ensure his re-election. Had it not been for some extremely poor choices of words by Romney, and a recognition that Kennedy was in trouble in time to do something about it, he might have well lost. Remember, in 1994, the Speaker of the US House lost his bid for re-election that year.

-President Obama is an easy target. People know right now they can call him names, they can use code words for the "n-word," and they can call him a liar in front of the entire country, and nothing will happen. Obama's obsession with getting the acceptance of people who quite literally, do not think he's a legitimate holder of the office, and who will say or do anything to tear him down, is his ultimate weakness.

No one fears President Obama if they cross him, so they rip him a new one on any big or little thing (remember that bullshit crying spasm the righties had about his choice of mustard? WTF?). So of course they're going to prop up some dude in Massachusetts and make 41 the new majority number for a Senate of 100. (Wait, what?)

There's no reason why Obama and Democratic office seekers can't turn this around, but it isn't likely they will. Running around and "re thinking" and "re framing" are popular pastimes of bloggers, party insiders, and the endless amount of "staff" of officeholders, and while they're talking and bitching, the other side wants to kick their asses. Until they decide they're going to respond in kind, they will continue to get their asses kicked.

The sad part is the other side has nothing of substance to offer beyond blind rage. When we had them in charge of Everything (President, Senate, House, SCOTUS), the best they could come up with was Tom DeLay/Jack Abramhoff style corruption, a war without end, and endless trillions added to the deficit, and a bubble economy that just blew up on us. But we don't think about that anymore, right?

PS: Oh, and one other thing: despite what the folks Outside of California assume about our Golden State, California is not 1000% Communist either. Look at the history of statewide initiatives and elections starting in 1982, and see just how well "lefties" do. Barbara Boxer has always had to run a tough race, and the Democratic hold on statewide offices has NEVER been absolute, ever.

The fact the California State Democratic Party acts like it IS 1000% Democrat is well, I suppose good news for Republicans?

PPS: Jack Donaghy is one of my all time favorite characters on TV. F*ck yeah, Jack!

December 16, 2009

Please Read The SF Weekly This Week If You Want to Save San Francisico...

4215461.47.jpgIf you haven't already done so, either go get this week's SF Weekly at the newsrack, or go read the article "The Worst Run City In the US" online as soon as you can. It's a fact-driven piece that takes an in-depth look at why San Francisco city government is a stew of FAIL. Rather than an ideologically driven hit-piece, instead it points to actual facts and actual things that happen, and exposes the systemic bumbling that is ruining our city every day.

I would add one thing to this - in the end, while we can all complain about (insert politican(s) here), voters have to take some responsibility for this state of affairs. The fact is that none of these people would have been elected without SOMEONE voting for them, more often than not based on emotions, rather than reason, based on silly issues rather than real policy. It doesn't help that voters give every single incumbent an automatic second term, no matter what. (This defeats the point of term limits)

That's why so much of this goes on. The fact that supervisors spend endless amounts of energy on non-binding resolutions over policies they have absolutely no control over is proof. They know they can peddle this "feel good" crap to the voters, who will think Something Is Being Done, when it's not. Just this week we had the pathetic spectacle of "Supervisor" John Avalos parading people to speak out on a resolution to "urge" the state to allow convicted felons the right to be home health care workers. Plenty of heartfelt testimony was broadcast live on cable TV, and everyone got to feel good about standing up for the rights of people convicted of felonies to take care of people's grandmas in their home. WTF?

Mind you, if you think that Governor Schwarzenegger and the State of California (who are in charge of said policies) gives a hoot about what San Francisco elected officials think, go talk to Tom Ammiano about that one (and he's actually important and stuff). It's politics at its most cynical, offering false hope to a few, and a false sense of accomplishment to the electorate and the politicians.

But the Other Side is no better. Mayor "Football Bat" Newsom has been excreting press-release policies since day one, all to make him sound like a great guy, but when you look at his actual record, the only thing he's managed to do is give big pay increases to government workers, and f*ck Muni up bigtime. We were told endlessly in 2003 that if we elected that "crazy" Matt Gonzalez, we'd have a government out of control and an executive who would not be able to manage a city responsibly. Well guess what? Plenty of people DID vote for Matt Gonzalez, and yet, that's exactly what we got anyway.

Over at The N Judah Chronicles whenever I've talked about the Muni budget, I always point out that people are always being asked to pay more for a system that is getting inferior by the day. I can't even count the number of days where the train system has had a total meltdown - always at rush hour time. The same goes for most functions. We're always asked to borrow money (in the form of bonds) for basics like roads and water repairs, while real money goes to pay for poorly managed services. This is like borrowing money to pay one's living expenses each month while spending one's paycheck on crazy crap, then wondering why one is broke and in debt.

Until voters demand better candidates, or step up themselves, and are willing to make their decisions based not on how many f*cking junk mailers or Facebook fan invites or ads they get, and treat this like the serious problem that it is, they will continue to be served up a failing government, and frankly, they will deserve it.

Our City is worth saving, because it's OURS and it's awesome. Or at least it could be if we actually wanted it to be so.

Image credit: SF Weekly

October 13, 2009

Hold On A Second...That Sign Looks Like It Was Photoshopped, Mr. Mayor!

gavinsignfake.jpgSo, it seems Mr. Mayor Whatshisname has a new campaign video out. I guess nowadays posting something on YouTube is a really big deal, and this is like, way Web 2.0 campaigning and all Obama-like and whatnot. Fine.

However, I find this video interesting. but not for a reason Team Newsom might like. You see, I was noticing that suddenly the Mayor is supportive of a "Constitutional Convention" to reform our state's government. This is an idea popular with the liberal types, the conservative types, the business-y types, and political bloggers. So now I guess he's on board. Um, woo hoo?

What's funny is while watching this video (with the older, cooler logos from earlier this year) I saw this image at 0:24, and it made me wonder out loud if this thing was photoshopped in some way. I didn't recall seeing any old Newsom 1.0 signs with "Constitutional Convention" on 'em before, and I'm nerdy enough to notice and keep track of things like that. What really got my attention was how oddly colored this is compared to other elements in the video.

Anyway, I figure the good people on the blogs can pick this apart and have fun with it. Maybe I'm right and maybe not. But the great thing about The Internet is you can always pose a question and let others do the heavy lifting.

UPDATE: It seems great minds do think alike and our friend MattyMatt noticed the same thing also.

Mainstream media? Gavin Newsom? You got some 'splainin' to do! ;-)

October 9, 2009

Let's Show Gavin Newsom How Crowdsourcing Is Supposed To Work

image.php.jpegSo the other day I ranked on "Mayor" Newsom's gubernatorial logo crowdsourcing efforts, something I still stand by. I mean, not to go all Don Draper on this, but this selection is a joke. I say this with many years of experience conceiving and executing mail and online campaigns. And as I've said before, although I personally do not do design, I know how to talk to creative people in the design field to execute good products.

After talking to several colleagues, we all agreed that perhaps this might be an opportunity to show how crowdsourcing is done properly. Now while I can't offer cash prizes for submissions, I DO have a couple of projects coming up soon that will need some work, and I'm interested in casting a wide net for talent.

So, in the spirit of Being Constructive and Having Fun, I'm putting out a call for my own Gavin Newsom Logo. Here are the design parameters I'd like you to consider:

-Since we're not the official campaign, we're going to go with "Go Gavin Newsom!" as our slogan/logo/whatever.
-Stylewise, I'm looking for something that's pop-culture aware, but not too cutesy
-The artwork has to be easily seen from a distance (signs) and reproduce well on a variety of media (t shirts, stickers, mousepads, signs, etc)
-Irony, humor, satire and so on are welcome if done well
-If you use the Obama Font, do so carefully. It's already overdone as is, so show me something new.

Personally, my biggest wish in the political mail business was to do a bio of a candidate in the style of a 70s action movie poster (you know the one where they have scenes of the movie behind the main actor, all popping out at you from the center), but no one ever went for it. I suppose action scenes of commission meetings and speaking out at public comments time aren't as cool to detail as chasing bad guys in a speedboat in Louisiana.

October 7, 2009

The Graphic Design Abortions Known as the "Choices" in Gavin Newsom's Logo "Contest"

Ack! By the time I got home to write this, Everyone Else already blogged something way cooler. Curses!

418216434_8b199a59b4_m.jpgBy now, the Newsom for Governor campaign has spent so much time believing its own hype and that their candidate walks on water, it's almost a bit painful to critique 'em because they're punishing themselves just fine. Today, I got a way-too-enthusiastic email from a John Hughes movie villain asking me (yes me!) and everyone else on their list to "vote" for a campaign logo! Oh wow! So web 2.0!

Now, mind you, Newsom had a campaign logo earlier this year at the convention and there was nothing wrong with it at all. In fact, it was kinda nice in that it didn't look like a typical campaign logo (and it had a URL, Facebook and Twitter logos on it too!) They even had this totally SF hipster tee for sale too for the folks in Sacramento.

But following in the footsteps of Steve Westly and Barbara Boxer, who also offered similar "vote for the logo and be empowered" nonsense, they're doing this to keep people busy and avoid thinking too much about his actual record or mysterious relatives. I guess if you've been cooped up in a war room for the duration it sounds really "out there."

Fine. But like Westly and Boxer, the choices offered are so crap-tacular, the designer(s) who came up with these should be sent to remedial design school or something. Sure, I am not a designer myself. I have, however, done some award winning creative on direct mail and on the web, because while I can't draw a picture, I work with some of the best people in the business, and we come up with kick ass shit. Sterling Cooper can kiss our ass.

Before I pick apart these things, one by one, the way one might pick apart a really bad something or other, it's clear that these are all variants on a very narrow theme.

They all obscure his name a little in some weird way ("ooh he's the new thing on the horizon, dear!") and few of them reproduce well in a variety of mediums (the the green one in particular has hideous typography and can't easily be seen at a distance) If they want the mob to pick a design, fine, but at least have some decent choices so that they don't end up with a stinker.

Ok, now to the nitpicking, Internet style:

These are two variants on the same design, one is white on blue (easier to read) but is crippled by the weird yellow shit in the middle. The other is blue on white, but the typography is so thin, it is hard to make out. Neither one lends itself to multiple mediums, such as print, the web, stickers, signs, and so on, so creating brand consistency is difficult. If I was the client and got these I wouldn't even consider them two designs - it's one design with some dongles changed here and there.

The second worst one of the bunch. The fade in the middle makes this an especially difficult design to reproduce in print, or in black and white on flyers. There's no URL for the website, Twitter and Facebook (oh wait, the new guys can't make 15% off of those so I guess those are out), and in almost all these designs there's a maniacal focus on obscuring part of the guy's name. This is not edgy design, people, this is just stupid.

Now this seems to combine weird pieces of the second and fourth logos, and again, it doesn't work. The typeface is way way too thin to be noticed from a distance, and the weird faux sun ray effect simply does not work. If you're gonna do the whole sunrise, new dawn, new day bullshit, do it right.

This one is a favorite of my good friend Brock at SFist who makes an excellent point about the whole Manchurian Candidate vibe. However, between the blood red color and this fetish for thin, white typefaces, this doesn't come close to say, Dianne Feinstein's standard designs, which have been used in one form or another since 1990.

This last one is a doozy. Where to start? Ok, I get it, it's a green sign because, oh right, he's the Mr. Green Jeans of the campaign, running around telling everyone what to do about their recycling, all the while driving a gas guzzler and killing Muni back at home. Right.

Fine, but this looks less like a campaign logo, and more like something we'd see in Gavin's private life, when he partners with Lisa Simpson to start a company to recycle animals into slurry. I'm sure this got points in the war room for "not looking political" (um, like the original) but that's half the battle, kids. You have to "not look political" and also "not look like crap."

So far it looks like the consensus amongst the cool kids is for "the wed wone," If this is any sign of things to come, in the wake of Streetsbloggate, all I can say is go, Gavin go. I need a respite from the day job's work, and let's face it, Gavin's provided enough blog fertilizer in the past to let a thousand blogs bloom. Yes We Can!

UPDATE So today I got this little email from the "campaign manager" talking about all the excitement over this cool, edgy contest:

Dear Friend,

It’s been a fun couple of days with the launch of our online logo contest. So far we’ve had over 6,000 total votes and the comments have been pouring in.

Elisa from Facebook said, “Let's be bold and go with red!”

Greg said, “I love the green one.”

Jenny on Twitter thought the logo with the white background, navy and sun said, "new day, new way."

As of this email, the logo with the white background, blue lettering and yellow sun is in the lead but the dark blue logo with the yellow sun is close behind.

Thanks to everyone for participating and giving us your feedback – we've been following the commentary and have seen some great ideas.

Voting is open until Sunday at midnight. So, if you have not voted, now is the time.

Cast your vote and help us pick the official Newsom campaign logo.


Nick Clemons
Campaign Manager
Newsom for California

P.S. To stay connected, join with over 1 million supporters on www.GavinNewsom.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Wait, so out of over "one million supporters" online, only 6000 have voted? Hmm..lessee...that's .006% of this online army he bragged about not too long ago....WOW. Work that online mojo, Gavster!

As I've said before, you can get into a numbers war on Twitter, et al, but it's all meaningless if they don't do anything.

And for the record, THIS Greg thinks the green logo sucks ass.

August 11, 2009

To Hear The Crazies on the Left and Right, We Either Elected Dumbledore or Voldemort!

There's some new show on ABC coming out, "Fast Forward," where everyone in the world passes out for 2 minutes, then wakes up with visions of the future. I'm beginning to wonder if some variant on that, perhaps a nation-wide "time out" is needed for America to chill the frak out and dial down the screaming crazy that passes for politics these days.

To hear the crazies on the Right, we've elected Voldemort, and it's time to send bullying mobs out to beat up anyone and smash up cars for anyone that dares express an opinion that's not politically correct, according to the folks in DC, talk radio or whatever. Apparently we also need to freak out about every single thing the President does. Oh noes! He had dijon mustard! ZOMG! He drank a beer! OMG! He's just like a guy who killed millions of people in World War II and I better scream and yell and cry and act like an idiot! Oh no! A non-white guy is in charge - that means it's time for us to lose our sh*t and act like maniacs because THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

Eeeyah. These are people I want in charge. Not.

The Republicans have lost it in the same way the liberals lost it when Reagan got elected - maybe even more so. There are plenty of valid criticisms of the current President, and they should be aired. But to go to the crazy "stoke the fire" extremes make them look as loony tunes as the folks on the left or those stupid trustafarians who throw rocks at endless war protests? Not exactly making yourself look like you should be running anything but a 2 car parade. (BTW, the right had no problem calling any person who disagreed with Bush anti-American - suddenly that's not ok anymore now that the Prez is Not A Republican?)

Likewise, the lefty types are a bit tiresome, particularly those in liberal bastions, who are screaming and yelling that Obama has not waved his magic wand, changed the country overnight into a liberal utopia, unicorns aren't jumping over rainbows and all is perfect. Give me a break. The guy's been in office what, 7 months? He inherits the economic equivalent of a row of crackhouses, post-raid, and is doing clean up. He's got boneheaded Democrats in Congress who could care less about him, and care more about collecting some lobbyist bucks, and hey, he's the new guy. To start screaming and yelling that every single thing hasn't changed overnight is stupid.

Finally, I'll say this - the double talk on both sides needs to stop. If it's not ok to bully people, smash up autos, and scream obscenities and act like an overall asshole, then it's NOT OK. I don't give a hoot who you are. It's not ok when it's right wing bullies, spurred on by talk radio, and it's not ok when it's left wing bullies, spurred on by the Internet and whatnot. Until we stop this whole "it's ok if it's my guys doing it and not ok if your guys are doing it" mentality, we're gonna get nowhere. (Remember when Bush was president how you were told by the right if you opposed the President you were "un-American?" What changed...oh yeah, right.)

As for me, i just tune out the nutjobs on all sides. The boorish thug bellowing about birth certificates or death panels is not worth paying attention to at this point. The boorish thug bellowing about how Obama hasn't made us a socialist paradise and used his magic powers to change the USA overnight is a fool as well. Those that offer constructive, realistic solutions to fixing this country, however, are folks I wanna hear from, on any side.

July 1, 2009

50,000,000 Facebook Fans Can't Be Wrong - If They're Organized Effectively

There's no doubt that in the political campaign world, Facebook is the Bright Shiny Thing everyone's got their eyes on, especially since a first-term Senator from Illinois won the presidency last year. But all this activity triggers a question that doesn't have an easy answer: How many campaigns are actually using Facebook effectively, and how many are just wasting their time?

Case Study: The Race to Get Lots of "Friends" and "Fans" on Facebook. If you're on Facebook for more than 5 minutes, you know how easy it is to passively express affinity for anyone, or anything. Maybe you see a friend has become a "fan" of (Not Being on Fire, ESPN, Flipping the Pillow Over To Get To The Cool Side, Batman, some cool local blog, and so on) and within a couple of clicks of the mouse, you join the bandwagon. It's fun, and it's a social "me-too" function that's an integral part of Facebook.

After Barack Obama's much-publicized efforts to collect Facebook friends, politicians and their advisors have jumped on this. Now it's common to see candidates for office engage in a "friend recruitment war," sending out repeated pleas to their supporters to "get more friends" for them, and to hit some magic target. As this desperate struggle for "more friends" continues, politicians risk looking less like capable leaders in difficult times, and more like insecure teenagers running for Homecoming King or Queen instead.

More importantly , these drives to "get more friends and fans" on Facebook miss the potential power of social networking for campaigns as a field organizing tool, not a popularity contest. Obama's efforts on Facebook were part of a larger effort that combined field work - on and off Facebook - and took advantage of the medium's novelty. Today, when Facebook is larger and more established, it's much less important if politician has thousands of "fans" on Facebook. That's particularly true if none of them do anything offline to help out the campaign effort.

However, if a campaign only has a few hundred "fans," with every one of those fans knocking on doors in their hometown, raising money, and telling their friends - on and offline - about the campaign, the candidate will be doing a lot better where it really counts - at the polls on Election Day.

If political consultants want to help their clients the most with social media, they need to look at social networking not as a gimmick, bolted on to a traditional campaign plan, but instead as an extension of their field plan, just done online.

Using Facebook (and Twitter and other social networking sites) and their many tools to identify, recruit and organize supporters online, is great. Giving them something meaningful to do, will ensure that their campaigns are more successful than the insecure teenager begging for more friends.

UPDATE: In 2010, this article about how the number of Twitter followers does NOT equal influence did some hard research proving this point. Go read it now! Especially if you cover politicians who blab on about Twitter like they know what they're doing.

April 24, 2009

Twittering The California Democratic Convention

What few readers out there that still read this blog may recall we launched this blog at the CDP Convention in 2006 in Sacramento. I'm up here now mostly for my day job, but I'm also posting Twitter updates, which can be found at my Twitter page. In fact I'm at the "Jerry Brown 2010 Social Networking" booth with the Governor as I post this.

I'll be tagging tweets with #cdp09 for easy searching, too! Thanks for following!

March 2, 2009

TMZ and The Chronicle Read My Mind: Cover Politicians!

Well that was funny to read this morning...it seems that gossip gurus TMZ.com are going to start applying their style of journalism to politicos as it warrants, much as they do celebrities in Hollywood.

To which I say "Thank God!"

I actually posted a zany little blog missive on this very issue just over a year ago but was serious - TMZ.com doesn't seem to mind pissing off the folks in Hollywood, and they always seemed to be on the scene.

Maybe if we could get TMZ and some awesome investigative reporters to tag team our folks in government, we'd really get something there. The TMZ.com folks could be the shock and awe troops to zing 'em when they drive their SUVs to Earth Day, and the investigative folks could get paid well to do the kind of reporting you need from Real Journalists once the target's been acquired.

Hey, it couldn't hurt, right?

PS: I bet it would make money too. Grab the readers with the TMZ takedown, keep the eyes on the site for the tough reporting. I'd definitely pay for THAT.

January 8, 2009

Another "Dog Poo" Policy Obama Has to Clean Up: The Bungled DTV Switch!

UPDATE: Friday's LA Times has more on this story....

Which "dog poo" policy left behind by the Bush Adminstration will give the incoming Obama Administration the biggest short-term hit? War? Economy? Terrorism? Maybe.

If I had to bet, I'd put my money on the federal government's bungling conversion to Digital Television (DTV) broadcasts less than a month after Obama's inauguration. In typical Bush Administration fashion, they managed to craft a plan that combines the worst qualities of Big Government and Big Business, and has resulted in billions of dollars wasted, and a public that's going to have a nasty surprise when they try to watch television on Feburary 17th.

President Elect Obama has wisely asked Congress to extend the deadline to try and put a bandage on this wound, but Congress, in typical fashion, never seem to feel the need to act on anything that would beneft, you know, us (but they sure got it in gear to hand over billions to the banking industry, which has proceeded to sit on our money).

On paper this made some sense: DTV converter boxes, which you'll need to continue to receive over the air TV, tend to cost between $50-$75. Give everyone a $40 coupon, and you cut the price to an average of $20. People go online (!), get a coupon, and use it within a 3 month window (otherwise it expires). People can go to any retailer and buy a box, and plug it into their TV.

For someone like me, who is aware of these things, it worked fine. I can now get more channels and I don't pay a monthly fee to the villains of Comcast or AT&T. However, for a lot of folks, especially those who aren't online or haven't read up on the details of the program, it hasn't gone as well. Cable TV of course is happy to tell you all will be well if you just buy cable TV - and make it seem like you MUST buy cable to watch television.

Recent reports indicate that most people are at best confused as to what is happening with DTV (thanks in part to deceptive ads for cable and satellite service). The program to subsidize DTV boxes is running out of money, thanks to both poor accounting procedures, and the fact that people are picking up the coupons to buy a DTV box, but aren't using them on time. Now, the feds have a growing waiting list right at the time when the program needs to gear up for the final rush.

It's pretty clear what is going to happen on Februrary 17th - a large number of people are going to realize they can't watch TV anymore and they're going to take it out on President Obama and Congress, even though it was the outgoing administration that came up with this hybrid policy of FAIL. Worse, the federales will have failed the people on one of its most basic of duties - managing the public airwaves for the public good.

It is in the national interest to have broadcast services that do not require hundreds of dollars in monthly "fees", and to have broadcast services that can operate in an emergency. Not everyone wants or can afford pricey cable or satellite tv, and some of us just don't like 'em, period.

By inventing a new way to loot the public good for the benefit of the few, the Bush crew is laughing all the way to the bank, and it's at your expense.

PS: Here's a short and easy list of what to do, or not do, as the case may be for TV, per many requests:

-If you already have cable TV, you don't need to do anything, just keep paying Comcast the bill.

-If you have purchased a TV with a tuner (be it a standard TV or HDTV) in the last few years, it most likely has a digital TV tuner built in. Check the manual and see if it has an "ATSC" tuner built in. (Be aware that many HDTV sets are really just glorified monitors, with NO tuner at all!)

-Also note - you don't need an expensive High Definition TV to watch digital television. Your normal tv can see the picture (with a converter or with a digital tuner built in) - just not at as high a resolution as that pricey HD one. Just as you could watch color broadcasts on a black and white tv, and so on.

-If you have an older TV, you'll need a DTV converter box, which attaches to the back of the old TV. You can find them at most electronics stores, like Radio Shack.

If you can get your hands on a $40 coupon from the federal government, it should cost you around $20. They're not too hard to set up (it's like setting up a video game console), and they are all pretty much the same. I got one from Zenith and it works fine.

The various acronyms and the like get confusing (i.e. DTV vs. HDTV), but just remember - you do not need to buy a High Definition TV to watch Digital TV. You can watch DTV on any old tv you can hook up that converter box to. And if you have cable, you need not do anything but keep on paying the bill!

October 1, 2008

Is This REALLY The Best Way To Make Serious Energy Policy Decisions?

Presidential election years bring with them not only a Big Decision about who will lead our country, but a plethora of ballot measures at the state and local level. This year is no exception - we're being asked to vote on a tremendous amount of policy questions (and in SF, a lot of non-binding "feel good" resolutions that have no power at all). In particular, however, voters are being asked to make some pretty major decisions about energy policy at the local level, and with 2 state propositions.

Energy policy is a complicated question at best, and our state's experience with the disastrous "deregulation" scheme should have been a warning about the dangers of politics in energy policy. We were promised lower rates and competitive energy providers - instead we had Enron and others driving up costs and causing rolling blackouts when there was no reason for them.

Now, we're being asked to make some serious decisions this November, and while the campaigns all use the language of Good Intentions, all seem to be hiding something in the details. People are right to be concerned about global warming and our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world. Unfortunately, the three measures we're being asked to vote on contradict each other, or hide what they're really about.

Prop. H, on the San Francisco ballot, claims to be about requiring the City to use clean energy sources in the future. It even has produced campaign commercials online that claim the support of Sen. Obama and Vice President Gore for the measure (even though neither has endorsed it). More importantly, though, the measure is not really about clean energy at all - it is all about a public takeover of the power system from PG&E. Ironically, PG&E has signed the world's largest contracts for solar and wind power - but that's something Measure H backers won't tell you.

There is no reason why the two should be connected at all - yet the promoters of Prop. H are playing off people's good intentions to pass something else - and give the City the authority to take over any "utility" - even if it has nothing to do with power generation.

Likewise, Propositions 7 and 10 make many similar green promises about clean energy. What's strange, though is that many people already in the business of providing solar or wind power oppose these, because they were written to benefit specific companies or people (such as T. Boone Pickens, the right wing oil billionaire). Even an expert would have a hard time decoding what these things really do or do not do, so it's hard to imagine how we, the people are supposed to make a decision about this when we have our daily lives to lead and so on.

It is too bad that our Governor and our Legislature are busy posturing and politicking to perhaps come up with one comprehensive energy strategy for California, one that helps us reduce carbon emissions and provides us with stable energy supplies we need to compete globally. This patchwork of local and state measures, none of which seem to coordinate with each other, is a recipe for another energy mess like we had in the past, and it's time citizens demanded more from our supposed leaders.

I have to believe with all the smart people we have in California, be they from academia, business, the technology sector, and so on we can't come up with a better way to make good energy policy that will leave a positive legacy for ourselves and our planet, instead of this hodge podge of politically motivated ballot measures.

September 11, 2008

Why Does McCain Have To Lie So Much In His Ads?

Why does McCain have to lie so much in his ads? Is his campaign in that much trouble?

C'mon, John, you were supposed to be the "good" Republican. What happened?

June 12, 2008

Disinfo Rehab Emergency Edition: Newsom and The Chron and "Free" Wifi

Give the Mayor's team some credit - at least they know how to use a compliant press to their advantage. This morning, readers were treated to an interesting article about free wifi in San Francisco by private company Meraki - and Mayor Newsom was there, taking all the credit for it.

Even though, of course, Meraki is a private company, and unless the Mayor moonlights as a salesman for Meraki's repeaters, no one at City Hall did a thing to build Meraki's wifi networks in the Mission, Noe Valley and Bernal Heights for a couple of years now. (Note to the Chronicle - use The Google to find out these things!)

Instead, this was a chance for the Mayor to Look and Sound Good for the run for Governor, hang out at an SRO, and use the event for what it was really for - repeating loud and clear that "the board of supervisors sucks" and the failed wifi deal as another example of it.

There's just one problem with this hit - if we had gone along with the Earthlink deal the Mayor was pimping, we'd be totally hosed right now. Earthlink decided some time ago that "Muni WiFI" was not a good business to be in, and has left cities around the country (such as New Orleans and Milpitas, to name a few) high and dry. So in this case, some scrutiny from the Board, instead of a Napoleonic Council rubberstamping Mr. Gavin's edicts, was a good thing.

The funniest part of the story is of course the rogues' gallery known as the Chronicle "Comments" section, where the politically correct thugs get together to troll the story to death with their wit and brilliance. The funniest was how angry some people got at the thought of an SRO having an antenna on top - and how misniformed most of these people were in general!

All in all a good day for the Mayor's team, though, as "facts" didn't get in the way of a hit on the Board. It is going to be a long summer for Campaign 2008 - and just wait for the avalanche of crappy mail to hit your mailbox this fall. Hopefully they'll avoid the graphic design tragedy that was the Yes on J sign....

June 10, 2008

A Question for the Pelosi Haters, and the Political Primal Screamers Re: Impeachment...

Senate Republicans successfully blocked an attempt to tax oil companies at a time when the oil companies are making record profits, and EVERYONE is pissed about $4 and $5 a gallon gas prices. EVERYONE. Blue state, Red state, whatever. And it's having an effect on businesses, big and small. Yet they still blocked it.

What on earth makes you think if by some miracle articles of impeachment were passed that it would ever make it through the Senate?

Think it through. Think about it long and hard. Come on now...

PS: Oh and if all the Republicans in the Senate bowed to your wisdom, you do realize that Speaker Pelosi, whom you bash on repeatedly with your drums and whatnots....would become President as she's third in line to succession.

PPS: Oh, and this assumes you can somehow manage to pass the Articles of Impeachment, have a successful Senate trial, AND somehow force out two executives who have never shown a reluctance to use their power to do whatever they want, people be darned, AND DO SO BEFORE THE NOVEMBER ELECTION!

Eeeyeah. And yet, in San Francisco, I'm the one called crazy when I bring these bothersome facts up. Ah well.

June 4, 2008

The Only Post Mortem I'll Do on the Leno/Nation/Migden Bitchfest...

Plenty of geniuses can do all the political post mortems on how Carole Migden and her Sacramento crew invented a new way to lose a sure-win re-elect. For me, I have but one question: will the people who stole my photos of frakking Flickr at least have the courage to reveal themselves, and buy me a case of Schlitz Beer for stealing my photos?

Come on. You stole an image from me, and didn't have the courage to post an email address or any contact info on your website. The election is over, Leno won, now come clean. It's good for your karma, and I'll happily forgive as a good Christian, but I can't do so unless you 'fess up.

May 6, 2008

Too Clever by Half - HuffPo Headlines Go Nuclear! o hai!

Sometimes, a screenshot says it all. Like this one, which has 2 popular storries on the Huffington Post (sigh)...one about Hillary Clinton's fight for the delegates to win the nomination...the other about a horrible human tragedy with lots of dead people.


Memo to newsniks and the like: Watch it with the cutesy clever "o hai me so smart" headlines...you never know where they'll end up.

April 30, 2008

Disinfo Rehab With the Chronicle, City Hall, And Hollywood

Here we go again.

On the heels of some parliamentary wizardry that killed the latest tax credit package for "film production," the Chronicle, right on cue, had had a front page article bemoaning the "loss" of film productions in town. Predictably, it talked solely about "tax credits" being offered by various local and national governments, and how SF is "missing the boat" because we're just not offering up enough gimmies to Hollywood.

The problem with the article is that it narrowly defines the "whys" of the lack of film production in San Francisco without considering some very important facts that are important to any film producer, large or small, who wishes to film anywhere on location ( like the fact that previous San Francisco tax credits haven't worked out at all like promised.) Yet nowhere in the Chronicle story is this noted, despite the fact this isn't a state secret.

I've written about this issue before because like many of us, enjoy seeing Our Fair City in TV and movies. Bullitt and the first Dirty Harry movies remain some of my all time favorites, along with Vertigo, to name a few.

Having worked on a documentary about the Screen Actor's Guild, I've had a lot of time to study the issue of film production here and abroad, and have had a chance to talk to a lot of people in the industry and in the unions who have studied this issue for literally decades.

So let's do a little disinfo rehab on the subject and see what we get:

First, it's important to remember that a tremendous amount of film credits in Canada cited in the Chronicle are given to film productions that are primarily created by Canadians to defend and enhance Canadian culture and "Canadiana" (yes that's a word). Thus, to compare any incentive program offered up by a budget-challenged small city to that of the Mighty Canadian Govenrment Protecting Canada's Culture is comparing apple and oranges.

It's also important, up until the dollar's recent decline, the weak Canadian Dollar made filming very cheap, which was the initial appeal for filming in the Great White North. (Ever wonder why so many Sci-Fi channel movies and TV shows look the same? Vancouver!) Don't discount the additional appeal of doing your work in a nation whose cities look like America, but aren't beset by violent crime and filth, either.

Also, as I've tried to tell the chess club brains at City Hall, filming in San Francisco is expensive for reasons you can't give a tax break for. Crews are going to cost more, because rent and taxes here are extremely high. Neighborhood folks, well established in the siren whine of Today's City, will complain about the inconvenience of a long film production, "jobs" be damned. Crime is out of control in San Francisco - we don't even prosecute murderers here, much less property theft. Anyone wanna risk having their brand new movie camera stolen in SF? I doubt it.

And most importantly, we simply do not have the sound stages and related facilities that Los Angeles and its environs enjoy. That alone is going to make it much more feasible to come in to town for a week of exterior shots, then shuffle off to Vancouver or LA to finish the job.

All important topics worthy of coverage by policy folk and media folk. There's plenty of more creative solutions to enhance our economy with jobs and investment from the film industry others have proposed.

The problem is, no one at City Hall or at the Chronicle gives a damn about any of that.

Continue reading "Disinfo Rehab With the Chronicle, City Hall, And Hollywood" »

April 16, 2008

Call For Entries: Disinfo Rehab Mail Archive - June 2008 Primary Edition!

It's that time of year again, when people decimate entire forests so that they may flood your mailbox with endless amounts of political mail. This June we've got all sorts of mayhem on the ballot, what with the Nation/Leno/Migden rage-a-thon in full swing, and an assortment of those ballot measures folks just love to put on the ballot, and assorted other electoral detritus and term-limited open primaries that makes San Francisco (and Bay Area) politics so much fun.

As always I don't always get the latest and greatest political mail, or at the very least tend to only get certain pieces targeted to westside Democratic voters. So, if you get some particularly egregious piece of political mail, or if you wanna show off your mad mail skillz, or if you really would like to help me lead the charge in debunking politicos and their spin, feel free to send me either a) a pdf or JPEG of said mail or b) email me and let me know what you have and we'll make arrangements to either have you mail it in or I'll pick it up.

Most mainstream media outlets can debunk tv commercials rather easily, since they either end up on YouTube, the candidates' websites, or can record them off of TV.

Mail, however, does not usually get noticed as easily, and passes "under the radar" and into the voters' mailboxes. By publicizing what campaigns are doing, and discussing the tactics used to convince you, the voter, of what to do, we can all get a better understanding of what's being said out there.

Check out our 2006 archive and our 2007 archive, and let the fun begin!

PS: For more information on how direct mail is created, check out this clip of my good friend (and super smart consultant) Jim Spencer, who appeared on the Daily Show a while back.

PS2: If you're a support of Speaker Pelosi and like Our Fair City, I've been working on a new blog that's in the embryonic stages in support of Our Speaker and City. I'm sick of people bashing our City like it's some hippie dippie Disneyland, and bashing Nancy Pelosi. If you have suggestions or would like to help, please feel free to drop me a line.

April 3, 2008

State Lawmaker Wants to Tax Facebook Gifts, and iTunes Music? OMGWTF?


Thank God for term limits, loopholes in term limits, and a perpetual budget "crisis" in Sacramento, for it allows California's well paid lawmakers to invent new and improved ways to to invent half-assed ideas and "solutions" that just create more problems.

We saw it last year when the state Assembly voted to gut MUNI funding (and funding for every mass transit agency in the state), all the while cooing "green" to the cameras. Today, we have the strange case of Assemblyman Charles Calderon, who's eager to tax America's #1 music retailer, iTunes (and apparently all those little dollar gifts on Facebook as well).

To do so, however wants to avoid the 2/3 vote in the Legislature, because well, he'd need some Republicans to vote for it. So instead, he's trying to get some wording changed in the code that governs sales taxes, which mandate that to levy a sales tax on something, it has to be something tangible, in Our World, as opposed to the virtual world. (i.e. that rubber ducky you bought your high school friend on Facebook should be taxed the same as if you bought one at the dollar store.) The advantage to this back-door approach is that you only need a simple majority to rewrite code language. Clever, but not particularly honest, since the effect would be to, um, levy new taxes on consumers.

First, let's tackle the politics of this little gem. Ya see, the state of California's budget system is a joke, hepped up on mandated spending (courtesy of the voters) and mandated debt (all those *@#$! bonds, also voted on by the voters), and the usual Dumb Things Legislators and Governors do. We've heard big talk from Gov. Doofinator for years, but after all this time he's done nothing besides pile on bond debt like crazy. The revolving door of legislators, term limited (thanks, voters!) doesn't help much either - everyone's so busy looking ahead to the next job, they really don't do anything productive to get past the BS and find some honest solutions.

Continue reading "State Lawmaker Wants to Tax Facebook Gifts, and iTunes Music? OMGWTF?" »

March 25, 2008

Spontaneous Barack Obama Media, Part 42.....AKA Insiderism 0, Real Ad People 1

So, um, yeah, like these folks like....Barack Obama!

Truth be told...would some insider consultant have come up with something that resonates with,um, pop culture?

Of course not. Most political consultants disdain pop culture and the zeitgeist because the are so f*cking smart. Too bad in San Francisco and elsewhere they get paid to fail....all beause they ignore, well, reality and that cultural reality that we live in.

Oh Hai!

March 14, 2008

Clinton Nostalgia, the 1993 DNC Annual Report And How Things Have (Sorta) Changed....



Hoarding gets such a bad rap these days. I mean, sure, if you hoard every edition of the newspaper for 50 years along with your 20 cats and assorted random bottlecaps, that could be cause for alarm (or at least a fire hazard). But in politics, saving all those assorted pieces of detritus seem like a pile of junk in the present, but become oddly helpful in recollecting days of old later on.

Today's nostalgia trip is the "DNC Annual Report," of which I've scanned in two pages. The first is the cover with President Bill and Vice President Al, and everyone was aglow over the fact that Old Man Bush had been sent packing, and new Members of Congress, like Sens. Boxer & Feinstein and many more, were now in office. "Change" it seems, was in the air. National Health Care was on the way, thanks to Co-President Hillary, and Democrats, it seemed would be in the drivers seat for some time.

Well we all know how that worked out. 1994 anyone? Speaker Newt? Majority Leader Dole. Senator Santorum?!?

But today I would like to focus on one piece of the "DNC Annual Report" - the section that talks about the DNC "grassroots campaign" to support the "Health Care Plan" for Presidents Clinton and Clinton. If you don't remember any of this, don't worry - that's because in the pre-Internet, pre-blog, political world, efforts like this cost a fortune and didn't really do so great, no matter how hard people tried.

When the cost of disseminating information and organizing people nationally is high and is led from the "top" down, the chances of igniting a movement to change something as big as the health care system is really difficult. Entrenched interests fought back with those f*cking "Harry and Louise" ads, and well, the rest is history (often revised, Soviet-style on the campaign trail, it seems).

Today, however, there are many ways for people to talk amongst themselves, and link up with like-minded folks around the country (and world), rather easily. Movements can take a life of their own, and evolve (as MoveOn did from the late 90s) and today, we have the prospect of a presidential candidate who is able to be competitive with a well-financed, Washington insider because he can activate over a million active donors (most of whom are giving in small amounts.)

It's interesting to see how much has changed in technology, communications, and organizing in the last 15 years. It's also interesting to see how little has changed in the mentality of the well-paid pundit and consulting class in Washington DC who seem to know how to make lots of money, but not how to get anything done. They do know, however, how to complain and whine about "blogs and the internet" and urge a nostalgia for something that never really existed. Funny, that.

March 10, 2008

Some Spitzer Memoribilia For Your Afternoon Enjoyment


So if you haven't heard the story about Gov. Spitzer of New York and the, um, $5000 call girl thing, well, go read it. I mean, wtf? I don't know what you have to be in to that requires you to pay that much for a romp with a hooker, and frankly, I don't wanna know.

Since I'm a political nerd and collect all sorts of poltical ad detritus, here's one of Spitzer's election ads from 2006. Rather interesting in light of said events.

February 28, 2008

You Have To be Freakin' Kidding Me: Gonzalez for VP? WTF?


So I'm at lunch and reading email when I notice someone sends me the news that in fact, Matt Gonzalez is running as Ralph Nader's veep candidate.

Wait, WHAT? This is a joke, right?

See this is what happens when you skip your morning paper and blogs. Beth Spotswood, of course had the funniest and most concise take on the news, and I'm sure others did too (I'll post links as I find 'em).

To me, however, this news encapsulates just how f*cking stupid Magical Matt really is, and how the local conservatives and whatnots need to give him a medal for helping bring down progressive politickers in 2008.

When people to the left of Attilla the Hun needed someone to run against a damaged Mayor Newsom, Gonzalez pissed away whatever political capital he had left, and made sure that other people's efforts were stalled. Then, at the last possible moment, he announces he's not running, but not before wasting a lot of important people's time, money and hard work.

Let's not forget the years of gaming the system for Magical Matt. When it was time for someone to make a stand and perhaps have an impact locally, Magical Matt decided to walk away, and stick it to everyone else in the process since he wasn't the progressive prom queen last year.

The result was an epic FAIL for progressives in 2007, and now, in 2008, when seats on the Board of Supervisors and the School Board are up for grabs, the Mayor and his crew are administering political beat-downs, old school style against anyone who stands in their way.

Unlike, say, in 2004, when, after a close race, Gavin was giving out marriage licenses to our gay and lesbian neighbors, and talking about health care for all. Funny how that worked out.

Whatever. Local progressives and Greens are with Obama this time around and to me that says it all. If the people who know Matt Gonzalez the best aren't supporting his candyland bullsh*t, why should anyone else?

UPDATE: It's so funny to see all the status updates on Facebook concerning Magical Matt...Chris Nolan at Spot-On.com dusts off some interesting info about Matt's past that apparently Ralphie Boy didn't know about. Calitics also has their take on Gonzalez, too. And a diary at Daily Kos that would appear to be from Our Mayor rings the alarm bells (really Mr. Mayor you should give Gonzalez a foil star for helping ruin local progressives' chances in 2008). Oh and KPIX's blog (which I had just discovered a week ago and really dig) was kind enough to link to the blog I write that no one reads

It should be noted that the day before he announced, Gonzalez posted a long, boring piece on why he hates Obama. Funny, he doesn't ask any questions about his new buddy. I guess leftist hypocrisy is just a natural reflex for Magical Matt.

February 26, 2008

Give to Barry Obama, Get An Awesome Limited Edition Shirt!

I wish I hadn't given to Barack Obama's campaign last night - I wish I'd done so today instead. That's because you'll get a limited edition T Shirt that celebrates the fact that they are just a few thousand folks away from having ONE MILLION donors to the campaign.

One million people giving everything from a dollar to 2,300. That's stunning.

It's not just about the money, either - people who give once to a campaign will inevitably give again, and they're more likely to come out and volunteer as well.

Obama didn't need government cheese for his campaign (like McCain took) and he didn't need fancy gimmicks to compete against Bill and Hillary's made-for-the-90s political machine. Instead he's built what people are calling the first successful viral-marketing political campaign, which combines grass-roots organizing with the technology to easily activate and inform a huge base of support.

Meanwhile, the best Hillary Clinton can do is an angry, whining, negative campaign, all the while she continues to slip in the polls. I don't know that is going to be particularly successful - after all, people are kind of tired of the ephemeral bullsh*t in American politics we've grown accustomed to over the past 10 years. But who knows? Maybe if she screams and yells and kicks and claws and attacks and gets as shrill as possible, she'll win.

Whatever. Obama's got a million folks watching his back, and they're not going to be swayed by 1990s style attack ads. After all, they gave some of their hard earned money to the campaign, and they're gonna see it through to the end.

PS: For some added fun, check out this story that details HOW the campaigns are spending their money. It's pretty dramatic...if you give to Hillary Clinton, it's most likely your money will go to well paid staff and consultants (including one that's business partners with...McCain's manager!) and overhead. Obama's campaign puts more of its money into, um, campaigning, and has way more cash on hand for emergencies. KTHXBAI.

February 11, 2008

There's No "Safe Word" In San Francisco Politics And Mayor Newsom's Team Knows It...

You really have to hand it to Mayor Newsom and his team. They can pretty much get away with anything, short of murder for hire, and no one seems to really mind. Even more amazing, even when "progressives" are right on the issues, they can't seem to get their message out.

This latest brouhaha, between Supervisor Peskin, the Mayor, the infamous MTA, et al gets the usual "political gossip" treatment, as always. But also, as always, we tend to forget a few salient points as to how we got here.

We're in a situation where the city has a big budget deficit and Mayor Newsom has ordered awesome-sounding "across the board cuts," sounding all fiscally responsible. Which is funny, because as Supervisor Daly tried to point out, this is the same Mayor who blew out the budget with big expensive pay raises and increases in the City payroll.

What's even funnier is that as Daly was trying to point this out, his infamous "cocaine" line blew up into this Big Problem, and Supervisor Peskin was gamed into removing Daly from the Budget Committee. So even though in this case Daly was right, it was he who paid the price - and the Chronicle waited 6 months to note Newsom's key role in blowing out the budget.

Now, to be fair, it was not that hard to push Daly aside - his acrimonious style, and his spending of political capital on symbolic measures made it easy for the Mayor's people, and their friends in the press, to make it all about something Daly really didn't say. Chalk one up for repeating the "mean Chris" meme, and one down for any serious budget reporting.

Likewise, as the Mayor is demanding we cut funds from things we need, he's spending a lot of money on plasma TVs and fancy new offices. And to pay all these people watching ProRun on those plasma tvs, he's swiping money from MUNI and other agencies so he can fill the chairs.

But once again, it really doesn't matter if the Mayor's people are doing anything wrong - they're recasting this as a "personal attack" and upping the ante with all kinds of personal and legal attacks, so no one stops and thinks about the actual issues at hand. And once again, as in the case with Daly, Peskin's temperament and style are being used against him. Suddenly we're talking about he-said-he-said, instead of talking about whether the Mayor is breaking the law, or mismanaging the taxpayers' money.

Brilliant. One thing progressives and their allies don't seem to understand is that in these fights being "right" with the facts isn't enough - you have to have the political capital to be able to fight back.

Blowing it all on symbolic measures and feel-good stuff means you don't have it when you really need it. Now, the Mayor's holding all the cards, and although his opponents may have caught his hand in the till, they're losing the battle.

As this latest political battle escalates, it's clear the Mayor's people don't mind playing rough with their opponents. There's no "safe word" in San Francisco politics, and those who would oppose the Mayor would be wise to remember that.

Note: I wish I was clever enough to come up with that last bit, but it's actually a paraphrasing of a comment I heard from a friend, so I wanted to be sure I mentioned that.

February 4, 2008

Learning A Political Lesson from A Piece of Candy - The Life Savers Rebranding

Although I work on primarily political campaigns, I try to read as much as I can about "real" advertising, since the political consulting industry can sometimes get a bit static. We tend to use the same ideas over and over because they usually work - and no one wants to go out on a limb (especially clients) and try some crazy new idea and lose and be "the guy who sank the campaign with the weird idea."

That's unfortunate, because to reach people today you have to speak their pop culture "language" and compete with thousands of messages from "real" advertisers. If you always hit them with "red white and blue," they tune out. At the same time, unlike "real" advertisers, we can't sell 365 days of the year so the tendency to stay the course is understandable.

One of my favorite places to catch up on all things ad and design related are the Under Consideration constellation of websites, and in particular, their Brand New blog which chronicles the retooling of corporate logos and brand identity.

Most recently, they wrote about the remake of the Life Savers logo and packaging which was fascinating. Almost everyone knows what Life Savers are - little hard candies that haven't change that much for decades. Thus, how do simple sugary candies stand out in an era where everything marketed has to be "xtreme" or "totally awesome" and as loud as possible?

The folks at Wrigley's figured it out - rather than compete on the same level as all the trendy fad candies, coming up with zany flavors, they decided to play to their strength - simplicity. In a crowded aisle full of colorful packaging the Life Savers candy bags - with their simple depiction of just one BIG picture of the candy - stand out.

In politics, sometimes you have to do the same thing to win and get your message out. There was a school of thought (especially in Democratic circles) that to win against the "other side" one had to pre-empt them on "their" issues by making them "yours" as well, so you couldn't be attacked - you were "innoculated." (Just take a trip in the Wayback Machine to 1984 and 1988, and you can see why people thought this might be a good idea.)

While that strategy might have made sense in the late 80s and early 90s, as it was with folks like former DLC chairman Bill Clinton when they ran for President, it's not entirely foolproof. If politicians compete to be more and more alike, the result is often mushy rhetoric that sounds "phony" to the average voter.

Sometimes if you really want to distinguish yourself and your message, you have to stop competing with your opponent on their terms, and redefine the argument to your strengths instead. Plus it has the added benefit of being a bit more honest.

It's funny how a piece of candy can teach you a lesson about politics. The question is, which Presidential candidates are learning the lesson, and which aren't?

I guess we'll see on Tuesday! Don't forget to vote!

February 3, 2008

Clinton Comes Out In Favor of Wage Garnishment for Insurance Companies - WTF?

I was wondering how the Clinton campaign would invent a new way to fumble the ball this late in the game, and in today's Yahoo News, I found it, front and center. It seems Mrs. Clinton would garnish your wages if you chose not to buy private health insurance in her "health care plan."

This is not unusual for mainstream Democrat politicians - Clinton supporter (and Corporate Shill) Fabian Nunez, who is Speaker of the California Assembly, supported a similar idea for Californians. It's one of those things people who don't have to pay taxes or worry about bills support because it seems right - not realizing that if "health insurance" was affordable, the people that can't afford it would have it. Do we really need to put the Institute of No Duh on the payroll with Democrats?

Maybe so. Maybe it's also time to call BS on a few things - namely that the very concept of the insurance business is to get you to pay for something you're not likely to use much. Insurance companies have spent decades, nay 100s of years working out risk analysis so that they can make money. That's what businesses do, and that's also why insurance companies are good investments.

Now, that model is a terrible one for providing health care - since an insurance company's primary function is to make money and kick out overly risky folks, not take care of 'em. It's also why using the government to impose what is essentially a payroll tax on your take home pay and force you to buy private insurance (or use the power of the government to punish you with jail time if you fail) is a terrible idea.

Plenty of other countries have seemed to figure out a way to provide at least some level of health coverage for their populations, and while no system is perfect, there's really no way anyone can argue we're doing any better.

The entire "health" industry is essentially a check cashing business - you send them a check, they cash it, then they do nothing for you when you need health care. Most Americans have figured this out. You'd think the Democrat candidate with "experience" might have figured that out too.

But then again, life's pretty good when you've got government health care for life, and you don't have to pay for it. Now where do we get jobs like that?

February 1, 2008

Hey! My Friend Was on "The Daily Show!"

Thanks to The Internets, I was able to see my good friend Jim Spencer of The Campaign Network on the Daily Show, even though I don't presently have cable.

Jim's a great guy and one of the best political consultants in the country, and has run some pretty amazing campaigns over the years. I worked with him when we both worked at The Big Company I Can't Name, and later in 2003, I spent a summer working for his firm in Boston which was quite fun. Here you can see the view from the company's offices in Boston.

And, thanks to Comedy Central, you can see the video, and learn a little about direct mail! Check it out! (link fixed...)

January 17, 2008

Obama Speaks At The Women's Building in SF - Quick Quick Quick Hit

Since I don't have my trusty Mac with me, and am using the infamous San Francisco Public Library's free computers, I can only do a quick post, sans photos. It was an interesting press event, with Sen. Obama talking to women about the challenges of making a living in the Bay Area, and some proposals he's come out with to try and mitigate the cost of living for people who work.

This was probably the only time I've ever heard a politician call BS on "tax breaks" as a primary means of providing relief to those who work, since many times they can't use the deductions on their taxes due to their income, while high income people can take the break. Sen. Obama suggested a break on payroll taxes for those who work (but don't make a zillion dollars) as a start. Not bad.

It was kind of interesting to see the media swarm (pics to be posted) which packed the crowded room at the Women's Building in the Mission. It was crowded, hot and yet there we all were, waiting for the Senator and taking pictures and notes at a furious pace. With only 19 days until the Mega Super Duper Big Primary to End All Primaries in A Whopping 20 states, it's difficult for any campaign, big or small, to reach all voters in all places, so it was kinda nice to see at Presidential candidate speaking in San Francisco, in the Mission, no less.

Luke Thomas took some excellent photos (as always because he's so talented) and they're so much better than mine, you should just go to his site and check 'em out.

More later...the clock is ticking on my time here at the SFPL, and I have to update my other blog, as we have Yet Another Tragedy on the N-Judah line.

This, the day after we read that more MUNI money is being siphoned off to pay more salaries in the Mayor's office, and a month after we heard that they gave the boss at MUNI a big pay raise. And all of this after we voted for a measure that was supposed to start MUNI reform - and immediately after the vote we get a string of accidents and deaths.

All I can say is...WTF?

PS: I had no idea that the "blogger lounge" at Macworld sponsored by Microsoft had free actual computers one could use (when I was here the other day I gave the lounge a quick scan and it looked like you had to bring a computer). Needless to say I wish I'd discovered this a few hours ago, and avoided the glares of the angry pervs who had to wait for their porn whilst I blogged about Sen. Obama.....

January 7, 2008

Get Off The Cross, Hillary, We Need The Wood!

One of the things I absolutely cannot stand about "politicians" is their inherent victim-complex that pops up when things get tough. Case study: Sen. Hillary Clinton's tearful, "poor me" appeal to voters in New Hampshire, as polls now seem to show a big lead for Sen. Barack Obama.

Cry me a river, Senator. I'm sorry, but if you're going into public service to make the big bucks or expect accolades from your millions of minions, you're in it for the wrong reason. So tearfully appealing to voters about how tough it is for you because you've been on the cross, a martyr for La Causa, and you're not getting enough toys, gifts and votes as a result makes most of us want to gag. (Especially after seeing the millions hubby Bill has been making on the rubber chicken circuit, and the millions you've made since becoming a Senator with all the access being the wife of an ex-President got you).

No one is "owed" anything in a supposed democratic republic such as ours, and if you want to be a public servant and put yourself out there for the cause, great. But don't come around with your millions of campaign dollars and expensive, slick campaign machine, and tearfully beg for votes because you are "owed" them for all those years you spent traveling the globe in Air Force One as First Lady or whatever. Plenty of people do lots of things to help their fellow citizens, and they don't get book deals or get to be a US Senator. When's their parade?

More to the point, elections aren't coronations for the elite. If the messy process of voting is that terrifying to Senator Clinton's campaign, maybe she should go back to making money as a big corporate lawyer, and leave the messy business of running the country to those who can take a hit once in a while in the rough and tumble that is American politics.

January 6, 2008

"Change" Isn't an Issue, it's a Theme, Folks...

How dumb do you have to be to report about national politics these days? Case in point - every TV news yakker and whatnot all saying that "change is the issue" because Obama and Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses.

"Change" is not an "issue," it's a thematic element. What is the "change issue," pray tell? It's an example of how the media love to engage in buzzwords and spend most of their time responding to the word of the day, instead of really reporting anything.

For me, the most interesting thing was hearing Obama speak the other day, noting that in the past, you could get a lot of Democrats to show up to an event because they hated Bush's policies - but that now, folks were looking to the future, and more people were showing up because they want to be for something that will change the broken dynamic that has failed to do much of anything worthwhile for anyone not in the elite.

That's going to hurt Hillary "I was married to a President so I should be President" Clinton, who really doesn't have a whole lot to say about anything that's going to make things much different than they are now. If anything, she's the kind of person as President who'd happily bomb people in another country just to show a pollster how "tough" she is. But she really doesn't care much about the problems you or I face.

At least Obama's trying!

October 17, 2007

O Hai! Leno Attackers Love My Photos - But Don't Feel a Need to Pay Me For Them! WTF?

So you may have heard there's this whole State Senate primary in full swing, and the vote's not even until June 2008, and yet the candidates, Assemblyman Mark Leno, incumbent Sen. Carole Migden, and candidate Joe Alioto Veronese are all running pretty intense campaigns. Whee.

Anyway, while reading Beth Spotswood's groovy blog, however, I saw a link to an anti-Leno site, called Leno the Lapdog that attacks the Assemblyman's record and discusses what they view to be as deficiencies in his voting record, etc. Fine. Whatever.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that they decided to use this photo I took and posted on Flickrfor their homepage.

Now, I'm flattered that some well paid political expenditure committee just loved my cell phone camera skillz so much they felt that said image merited use on a professional piece of political communication, there's just one little problem - they swiped it off of my Flickr account and didn't bother to ask, much less pay me for my efforts. That's taking money out of my pocket in my line of work, and it's not very nice. Kids - just because it's on Flickr doesn't mean you can just swipe it for your own purposes!

Doing a WHOIS lookup on the domain finds that they use a domain proxy service to hide who paid for the domain. They don't have an email address to contact them, either. Now, come on, kids. You clearly have the money to spend on a site, and you have the money to pay someone to do this for you. But you don't have the $$$$ to pay me for the use of my work? Come on.

Now, I don't really have a dog in this fight since none of the candidates has hired me to work for them, and they probably weren't planning to anyway. Whatever. But it is more than a little irritating to see my work being considered good enough for their needs, but not getting paid - when clearly they have the means. If they'd asked, I might have said yes for a small fee or something.

Since they didn't ask in advance, I'm now asking for more money - let's make it a nice round number of around $15,000 - to pay me as a "consultant" for the website's images and whatnots. I'm willing to negotiate in good faith, and I'm sure you folks are, too!

You can email me here and let me know if it's going to be a certified check OR paid via PayPal. Either way is fine. KTHNXBAI!

July 31, 2007

Time for A Laugh, at the Progressives' Expense - Gonzalez Really Ain't Running!

So, finally, the Messiah has spoken, and it turns out Golden Boy Matt Gonzalez really isn't running for mayor. All the pitiful jabbering and gossiping and puttering on the left about What Will Matt Do was for naught. Now, I predicted this some time ago, but you know what?

Who cares?

And that goes for any more chatter about this joke of a Mayor's race we have now. Seriously.

Right now I'm just thinking of Eric Cartman and Nelson Muntz getting together, pointing fingers at San Francisco (especially the left) and laughing in their trademarked ways.

What's funnier is that Mayor Newsom (who throughout his term could not pass a ballot measure or elect a new ally to the board that wasn't appointed) is Mr. Invicible, and can literally do anything he wants, without any consequences. And yet, he's still so scared of wealthy interests, he's going to try and torpedo a MUNI reform measure.

Now who's laughing?

June 21, 2007

What Is In The Water These Days That Makes SF Politicians Such Whiners?

Someone managed to put something in Hetch Hetchy that turned the "City That Knows How" into the "City That Knows How to Whine". Its effects are already being seen in our alleged political leaders, and their allied interests.

Seriously. No side is looking particularly statesman-like (statespersonlike?) these days, and it's mostly because folks are happy with firing off the missives, big or small, but cry like schoolchildren (schoolpersons?) when someone fires back.

How else, then, to explain the "mean people are picking on the Sensitive Mayor" meme anytime anyone dares to suggest Our Mayor is less than perfect? Mild critiques of his sometime galpal, a mere molehill in blogville, got blown up into a mountain - again because someone made a slight comment that perhaps she and Mr. Mayor were not 100% perfect. (What is this, Soviet Russia or something?)

Meanwhile, the Mayor and his allies have no problem dishing it out - remember all the nastiness spewed during the District 6 Supervisor's race? How many times have the Mayor and his staff resorted to name-calling when they don't get their way? Folks, you can't throw rocks and not expect rocks to get thrown back at ya. Deal, or get out of politics and something less acrimonious.

Don't for a minute think I excuse "progressives" from their share of the blame. Supervisor Daly's "outrageous" comments aren't as common as the mainstream media and gossipers would have you believe, but the meme wouldn't exist if it weren't at least somewhat true. Worse than that, however, is the cacophony of whining from the left about how "bad" the Mayor and his allies are - and yet after all the whining and gimmicks, folks are content to whine and complain, rather than have the nerve to stand up and do something.

Continue reading "What Is In The Water These Days That Makes SF Politicians Such Whiners?" »

June 20, 2007

Kerry McCain '08???

More fun with Google Ads in my Gmail inbox: This time, whilst reading my weekly dispatch on all things concerning Clint Reilly (he who sued MediaNews and sort of won), I saw this ad for McCain with the headline, "Kerry McCain".

Which is kind of funny, since at one point Sen. Kerry entertained the notion of having McCain on the 2004 ticket, something McCain, in his inimitable way, toyed with Kerry before scorning his bid.

It's also kind of funny since McCain's GOP credentials have been suspect at times by those in the Republican Party. Wonder which junior intern gets blamed for this one?

June 1, 2007

L.A. Is In Like With SF On TV! Well, Sort Of!

While reading about all those new shows on TV everyone's talking about, I could not help but notice how many are set in San Francisco. I find this entertaining for two reasons. One is that I'm always happy to see a film set in my hometown and am a walking encyclopedia of film locations (Heck, I could offer tours for Bullitt, Vertigo, and Tales of the City, to name a few). The other is that it once again reinforces what I've learned about the infamous San Francisco/Los Angeles "feud" - while people in San Francisco are quick to rip into L.A., folks down south really like Our Fair City, unaware of said emotion-filled feud.

Now, it seems, L.A.'s being in like with us has filtered into Hollywood decisionmaking. So far, in addition to the return of Monk(which pretends to be in SF but is filmed down south), there are at least three fall series coming up set in San Francisco. They are:

Continue reading "L.A. Is In Like With SF On TV! Well, Sort Of!" »

May 23, 2007

The Day The Bay Guardian Died - Catering To Power With Warren Hellman And Steve Jones

Reading last week's cover story at Bay Guardian, I realized that I wasn't just reading an over-the-top PR piece for a wealthy downtown powerbroker -- I was also reading the epitaph for the once-proud Bay Guardian tradition of investigative reporting - and the whitewashing of local history in the process.

Seriously. Now, I am happy to see any semi-public feature get fair treatment, but reading this puff piece I was being asked to ignore years of Guardian investigative reporting that indicated Mr. Hellman (he of the Wells Fargo Fortune) was anything but a "friend to progressives". And yet, there it was, in all its multi-paged glory.

Apparently all it takes to change writer Steve Jones' mind about a wealthy conservative power player in San Francisco is a few friendly chats, a trip to freakin' Burning Man, a big payoff to the Bicycle Coalition (which paved the way, literally, for a big new garage in Golden Gate Park) and a general chumminess of his subject with his friends (Leah Shahum of the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA and her beau, Ted Strawser of the SF PartyParty and GavinWatch). Hmm.

Read any article about Hellman's actions in Golden Gate Park, any one of an assortment of articles the Guardian has published about Warren Hellman on campaign finance, local politics, Mayor Newsom, or even Jones' own pieces about the guy, and you'll see a different picture being painted.

Continue reading "The Day The Bay Guardian Died - Catering To Power With Warren Hellman And Steve Jones" »

April 28, 2007

Hypocrisy? From a Political Consultant? Shocking!

While reading some coverage of the California Democratic Convention this weekend, I caught this article in the Chronicle by Carla Marinucci about the role of "bloggers" at the convention.

I would love to attended since this is probably going to be one of the few "good" conventions to attend, but I just couldn't justify the expense when I've got more important things to do than run around with political types who chatter on about how "great" their candidate is.

However, Marinucci's article was notable for one thing -it exposed just how terrified poltical consultants are of emerging media and technology. When we get to the point where smart, articulate people can put together on their own the media you used to have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive political consultants with lots of specialized equipment and personnel, that's about the time people start to wonder why it is we need "political consultants" in the first place.

Plus, when you consider the vast difference in sophistication, execution, design, and concept of advertising by mainstream American companies vs. the dull, cheap-looking ads of political campaigns, you start to wonder - why are people paying for advice that's so 1980s?

That's why "consultants" have to do what they can (just like mainstream media) to malign and stereotype citizen media. They, like the newspapers, are desperately trying to protect a monopoly-driven marketplace that has only a few people in control, and regard you as nothing more than a consumer of what they decide is best for you. For an example of this kind of nonsense, check out this quote from Ms. Marinucci's story:

But one key state Democratic strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymitybecause of concern for riling the netroots crowd, warns that such efforts are potentially positive and negative. Netroots commentary can frequently be intensely personal, even "totally mean and irrational," the strategist said, with some bloggers finding power in their ability "to assassinate political characters online." "It's amplified by the anonymity, and it can be scary that it's so irresponsible," the insider said. "And it's pulling the mainstream media in that direction."

In other words, this "consultant" is engaging in the kinds of things he alleges "all" bloggers do. Even though most people of any repute sign their names, and there is genuine anger and distrust of the media, the Highly Paid Democrat Consultant Way of Doing Things, and more that people want to talk about . Plus, how is it any better when political consultants get their clients to raise millions of special interest dollars for negative hit pieces and tv spots? Hmmm?

It's nothing new - these conversations have gone on for years. Now, people can talk to others around the world and organize themselves and succeed. And THAT has the well-paid, 20th Century political class scared, because they have no idea what to do, besides, well use the cover of anonymity to engage in character assassination!

April 4, 2007

Crime and Punishment (and Spin) by the Bay, Part II : Critical Masshole Edition!

People wondering if their concerns about public safety were just an eerie paranoid feeling had their worst fears confirmed with a string of revelations in the local press recently. First, we hear that auto break-ins are on the rise, while the D.A.'s office does nothing. So the next time your car is broken into, remember to the D.A. and the City, it's the criminal who has the rights, not you!

Then we read about a particularly dangerous day in San Francisco where repeat offenders are allowed to go free, and the only response from City leaders are shrug, spin and talk - while all along the fact remains murders and crime are on the rise, unpunished.

If any of this sounds familiar, that's because this has been par for the course for quite some time, and while San Franciscans are much less safe from violent crime, theft, and the like, the spin seems to work because neither the Mayor nor the District Attorney face serious threats to their re-election. The politickers engage in their chatter, the media refuses to take the long view, and all the while we're subjected to more chatter.

Meanwhile, you, I, and your friends and neighbors are far less safe. It seems spin and disinfo aren't a great foil for criminals with guns who shoot people, or thieves eyeing your hard-earned money as an entitlement they're owed by you. (Don't tell the spinners - it'll make them feel bad!)

Continue reading "Crime and Punishment (and Spin) by the Bay, Part II : Critical Masshole Edition!" »

January 9, 2007

iPhones, iPunditry and iPhoolishness OR Why Pundits Never Get It Right

Today I was part of the masses who attended Macworld at the Moscone Center, and I was part of the assembled group that was amazed by the brilliant design of Apple's new iPhone. But once the effect of some very smartly organized presentations by Mr. Jobs and Co., and I thought about what I'd seen, I began to realize that most of what I'd seen had already been "reported" via various news sources, and debated and debacled by various industry "analysts" (the business equivalent of political pundits).

So why was I so impressed by what I'd heard?

After all, multiple outlets who cover Apple patents noted the application for a multi-touch display. Others kept talking about a possible widescreen iPod. There were several sourced reports that a Taiwanese firm had received the Big Order for an "iPhone" from App.e.

Endless discussion amongst industry analysts dissected rumors, reporting and more about Apple's "chances" with a cell phone offering, with many dismissing it as a foolish idea. One analyst dismissed the idea, suggesting that people simply glue a cell phone to an iPod Nano to get the same effect.

Blah blah blah.

In the end, a good portion of the rumor mongering ended up being true. Apple did develop a cell phone, Apple did merge it with a widescreen iPod, and Apple included many of the elements previously discussed.

What the pundits, the analysts, the chat-board regulars, and the talkers did not get, however, was the synthesis of all these disparate items on a checklist, into something far better, and greater than the sum of its parts. A quick look at the faux mock ups of potential iPhones by fanboys and fangirls bears this out.

So in the end, we were wowed by not information we'd heard before, but rather by the synthesis of all these ideas into something new and unique. Something no one could have predicted using a checklist, making it impossible to truly gauge the potential impact on Apple, the cell phone business, et al.

It is a lot like political punditry, really. High and mighty journalists, talkers, politickers, consultants and the like are all great at making up dry, long, checkbox lists of why a candidate or a cause or an idea can or cannot win. We are told these people "know what's best" and we're told to listen and do as they say.

Problem is, they can talk you to death about these points and speak with some authority - after all they do talk for a living. And yet, in the end they are usually not much more successful at really knowing what will happen next than all the tech analysts who seemed to "know" about the upcoming iPhone - and still don't' get it why they're gawking at the results just like the masses are.

The difference is that political folk are more adept at changing spots and denying they'd ever predicted otherwise. Perhaps Wall St. might learn a little bit from the politickers after all.

November 17, 2006

When Reality and Rorschach Collide: Election Analysis Roundup

Every election season, once the ballots are counted, we the readers of the news, are treated to "election analysis." Read any major paper, alt-weekly, or "the Internets" and you have all sorts of Big Experts talking about What It All Means.

What strikes me, having worked on campaigns for years, is just how little one finds out about what actually happened during the election season that gave us the results - instead these "analyses" function more like a political Rorschach Test, telling us more about the prognosticator than about what really happened or more importantly, how.

Let's take a look at local election post-mortems. Most people locally tend to use pollster David Binder's premiere post-election analysis as a starting point, which is primarily concerned with statistical information about turnout, who voted, polling info and the like - in other words, facts that are agreed upon to be verifiable with some interpretation by the knowledgeable Mr. Binder to translate these raw numbers into conversational English.

Fog City Journal ran a short analysis (which I was asked to write literally minutes before I walked in the door at SPUR, hence its lack of polish) , BeyondChron, and even the "blog" at the Bay Guardian used some form of Mr. Binder's work to base conclusions and the like.

This is also where things get interesting. In the print edition of the Guardian, the results are trumpeted loudly as a rebirth of the local "progressive" movement, and at times one gets the impression that the authors are almost breathless in restating over and over "Things are OK. Don't worry. We're doing fine, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."

Which is fine, I suppose for people who want to hear that. But what I missed in the article most was the "why" and "how" - how did Chris Daly managed to win after a bruising campaign? Why did candidates like Supervisors Dufty and Alioto-Pier crush their opposition, if they had any at all?

Continue reading "When Reality and Rorschach Collide: Election Analysis Roundup" »

October 22, 2006

Disinfo Rehab Mail Archive - Fall 2006

Note: This entry will be updated as I get more mail. New mail is featured at the bottom of this entry! Today's additions: Jane Kim, Marin Healthcare Board, and more!

As promised, here is the first installment of the Fall 2006 Disinfo Rehab Mail Archive. Unlike television ads, which bloggers and media folks can easily dissect because they're on TV, YouTube, candidate websites, and the like, mail is a "below the radar" medium. You know it is out there, but unless you're on the targeted mailing list, you won't see it.

Which is why it makes for a great way to send distinct messages to distinct groups of people - and a great way to attack someone and get away with it. By the time anyone notices it, it's too late to do much about it, and the press usually isn't sent copies of hit pieces by candidates!

Since I personally do not live in a district with an angrily contested Supervisorial race, I'm interested in submissions from readers who might have something they've received in the mail in the Daly/Black/SF Republican Party brouhaha, and the mega-money festival that is the District 4 battle to replace Fiona Ma, now that she's been elected to a 6 year term in the Assembly. Oh and if anyone has any "freaky" mail from way out in Distrct 8, send it over!

As always, if you submit a big pile o' mail, I'll buy you a drink/coffee/whatever once this nutty election is over. Email me and tell me what you have and I'll make arrangements to pick it up, or you can simply scan them in yourself and send them in as JPEGs.

Please note that all pieces that appear on this page were sent to actual voters, who in turn gave the pieces to me for inclusion in this fall's archive. (To protect their privacy from identity thieves, their names and addresses have been Photoshopped out)

A mail piece's appearance here does not indicate I'm endorsing or not endorsing a particular candidate, and it does not indicate that campaign endorses this site, its views, or anything at all. Conspiracy theorists, please put down the crack pipe and find something else to worry about.

Update: A loyal reader tipped me off to a similar project being done by the East Bay Express, entitled Fun with Misleading Mailers. Short and to the point, the additional coverage of the myriad of pieces hitting the mailbox is great for voters

And now, for the fun, after the jump!

Continue reading "Disinfo Rehab Mail Archive - Fall 2006" »

September 7, 2006

Crime And Punishment (And Spin) in Baghdad-by-the-Bay

Yesterday it was announced that "Chemo", a little puppy adopted by a cancer patient at UCSF Children's Hospital was returned to its owner after being stolen by thugs last week. I was glad to hear the dog was returned - but the story served as Yet Another Reminder that San Francisco has become a more dangerous city to live in. If a kid with cancer can't be assured his dog is safe at the hospital, you begin to wonder - just who the Hell is safe?

Last week, San Francisco had a parade of high profile incidents, starting with a record number of murders in one day, followed by a nutcase who managed to hit and run 14 people on City streets.

Once this happened, the Disinfo Spin Machine kicked in. The Media covered the "news" in detail. The Mayor made a point of comforting the victims of the hit and run guy on site (and on TV). And predictably, the coverage and the chatter turned away from hard questions and to politicking, spinning, and making sure people "felt better" after the latest Big Crime Wave.

Continue reading "Crime And Punishment (And Spin) in Baghdad-by-the-Bay" »

August 14, 2006

The "Geraldo VS. The Nazis Effect" AKA When Weekly Papers Go Bad

Sometimes, a situation presents itself that forces you to make a bad choice. I call it the "Geraldo VS. Nazis Effect." It's named after that famous TV incident when Nazi skinheads on the now-cancelled Geraldo Rivera afternoon talk show got into a ruckus and chucked a chair at Geraldo, busting his nose. One was left with a bad choice - do you root for the skinhead Nazis for bashing Geraldo's nose, or do you root for Geraldo?

Either way, you're stuck. At the time, San Francisco comedian (and now the voice of Spongebob) Tom Kenny suggested "Why can't James Dean come back from the grave, kick Geraldo's ass, and go back from whence he came, so we don't have to root for Nazis?"

You get the idea.

This week, the Bay Guardian presented such a situation, with regards to fliers in the Mission, although as is the case with that publication, they didn't see it that way. It seems that there's a rumble between folks who want to keep the Mission District clean, and the infamous "International A.N.S.W.E.R" folks, who put up all those posters and fliers all the time.

Now, I say "infamous" because there are a lot of people who are very critical of A.N.S.W.E.R. and their tactics, as they don't just advocate an end to the war in Iraq, but for a lot of other stuff that many people who oppose the war in Iraq want no part of, and do not support.

That ranges from supporting the agenda of the Worker's World Party (Yeah, I was surprised such a thing still existed too) and some have made some serious charges regarding anti-Semitism and ANSWER. Plenty of folks on the left side of the political spectrum have been very vocal and detailed in their critiques as well.

Continue reading "The "Geraldo VS. The Nazis Effect" AKA When Weekly Papers Go Bad" »

August 11, 2006

Friday Fun - A Perfect Slam of Geraldo Rivera I Loved

I don't watch the Colbert Report or the Daily Show most nights, but still like them when I get a chance to watch one. When I saw this, I laughed at just how perfectly they slammed back at Geraldo "Capone Vaults" Rivera.

August 7, 2006

Anatomy of an Earned Media Hit: The Phantom (Check) Menace in San Francisco

We're about 90 days out from Election Day, and elections in San Francisco are starting to catch some attention. Thanks to "Ranked Choice Voting" (or IRV, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days), incumbents, such as Supervisors Chris Daly and Michela Alioto-Pier will not be in any serious danger of losing their jobs.

However, in the case of the Board of Supervisor's race in District 4, there is an open seat, as incumbent Fiona Ma won the Democratic Primary for Supervisor, so quite a few people are running for this seat. According to the SF Usual Suspects website there are at least 8 running so far, with two - current Ma aide Jaynry Mak and Douglas Chan considered front runners.

Here's where things get a bit strange. I knew of Jaynry Mak's campaign before anyone had said anything, simply because in my day to day travel in the Sunset, I've seen a LOT of Mak signs in Sunset businesses and homes that went up in what seemed like minutes after Fiona Ma's election was certified. All of them promiently displayed Ma's endorsement of Mak, so I figured that she had it cinched. Besides it is not cheap or easy to get that many signs up that fast for a first time candidate. So she must be doing something right, right?

Well, not according to the powers that be, including her boss, Supervisor Ma. If you opened up today's Chronicle, you were treated to this semi-insightful, semi-Incendiary tome on Mak's fundraising. Now, Mak has out-raised all of her opponents by a significant amount in a very short time - usually something that is seen as an advantage by campaign observers.

So, someone had to throw water on this party, and do so fast. The task of carrying out the hit came to Wade Randlett, of SFSOS, a group that bills itself as a voice of reason (but often sends out very angry emails to its subscribers). The hit was well played - suspicion (but of course no proof of wrongdoing) was laid heavily on the fact that some of her donors don't have white collar jobs, but gave money anyway. ""In my 20 years of raising money for elected officials, I've never seen anything so hard to believe," Randlett said." in the article.

Continue reading "Anatomy of an Earned Media Hit: The Phantom (Check) Menace in San Francisco" »

June 14, 2006

California Primary 2006: The Death Rattle of So-Called "Reform"

Wasn't that just a wonderful primary election?

We had the a record low voter turnout statewide, and we had a record number of mail ballots that were held until the last minute, simply because people either didn't know who to vote for, or who to vote against. We had some of the nastiest campaigns, funded by all sorts of well funded interests, and Democrats in particular are left with a slate of candidates most people still don't know a lot about, at a time when we're facing Real Problems.

Whose fault is it? Oh, it depends on who you ask. It's the Democrats' fault. It's the Republicans' fault. It's the consultants' fault. It's the special interest groups' fault. It's the fault of people who wear those rectangle glasses. It's the fault of someone's husband. It's the "progressives'" fault. It's the "conservatives'" fault. It's the know-it-all bloggers' fault. It's the fault of Someone Else.

Oh, and don't forget it's Money's Fault. Bet you didn't know inanimate representations of currency could be at fault. But to some it is.

"So," you ask, "whose fault is it really?" you ask. Good question - thanks for asking!

It would be easy for me to take the Official Snarky Knowitall Position that it's everyone I just mentioned's fault but that would be a bit too easy, and a bit overdone. Instead I'm going to suggest another idea: that we in California had a Perfect Storm of Unintended Consequences, from all the so-called "reforms" that self-styled "reformers" have pushed on us for the last several decades.

Continue reading "California Primary 2006: The Death Rattle of So-Called "Reform"" »

June 2, 2006

Greg's All-Star Guide to the June Primary!

Don't forget to check out the Direct Mail Disinfo Rehab Archive before you vote!

If you are like many people in this state, you asked for a mail ballot this year. And, if you're like most people in this state, you still haven't returned it yet.

Don't feel bad - just about everyone else is in the same boat you are. Return rates in key counties in California are abysmally low, owing to the fact that there are so many candidates, most of whom no one has heard of, running for so many offices. Every campaign I've worked on this cycle is seeing record rates of non return of ballots statewide.

So, beat those election blues, and print out a copy of my patented All-Star Guide to the California Primary. You can easily fill out your ballot, and you get a dose of snark just for laughs!

The Big Races
Note: If people are running unopposed, I'm not including them here since there's nothing to choose!

U.S. Senate: Whatever you think of Dianne Feinstein (some folks love her, some folks hate her, some folks don't know) know this: Dianne Feinstein is going to win the Democratic Primary in a landslide Vin Diesel would envy, and is going to be re-elected. Oh yeah, there's some token resistance but you might as well cast at least one vote for a winning candidate.

Since the balloting is so easy for California, may I suggest you send a 20 or a 50 dollar bill to the campaign of Jon Tester for US Senate instead?. Jon is the kind of Democrat we need in Washington DC, who can win in a place like Montana. He's a no-BS guy who represents the best the West has to offer - and he's going to have a chance to knock out Sen. Conrad Burns, who is so deep in scandal it isn't funny. Besides if he wins he can help DiFi be a committee chair, so it's a twofer.

California Governor: It does not take a genius to figure out that I am not a fan of Governor Doofinator, and his constant lying, "reinventing" of himself, and the tomfoolery that was the Credit Card Bond. So, who then, can send this guy back to his magic ticket and his restaurant in Santa Monica?

I'm telling folks to vote for Phil Angelides. Yeah, I know, I know. But the usual math doesn't apply here. Angelides has been consistently opposing Gov. Doofinator from Day One, he didn't monkey around in the recall or support the Credit Card Bond, and he's straight with voters on what he'll do if elected. Republicans who chortle at the follies of the primary take note: Democrats chortled at your follies when they had Congress and the Presidency in 1994 - and look at what happened to them.

Lt. Governor:Tough one for me, as I met John Garamendi (albeit over the phone) while working for the Insurance Commissioner for the State of Washington. Nice guy. But I've always been a supporter of Sen. Jackie Speier throughout her career. What to do? Flip a coin? Waffle? I can't vote for both!

I'm gonna vote for Speier, since I think she would do more with the office. Garamendi is a great guy, but I wish he'd run for something else so I wouldn't have to make this kind of choice. Besides, she's the hometown hero!

Secretary of State:This one is easy - Easy choice : State Sen. Deborah Bowen. Not only was she one of the few candidates to get an endorsement at the Democratic Convention, she is also the only candidate who actually worked on any of the issues a Secretary of State faces (i.e. voting machines, political reform, etc.) and she was my State Senator when I lived in Venice.

Attorney General: Another difficult choice. I've been supporting Jerry Brown for years. Back in Santa Cruz I organized a rally with him during his Presidential bid that got on CNN and CSPAN, and later when I worked at a tech company, ended up explaining our RealAudio technology to him when he had the radio show. It's hard not to support him, but Rocky Delgadillo isn't such a bad guy either. So vote for Jerry Brown but let's hope we see Delgadillo run for something else someday.

State Controller: Don't you just love that title? Sounds like one is running for Cylon Overlord for California or something. Here's a chance for you to give someone a promotion who actually deserves it: vote for Sen. Joe Dunn. This guy really did stand up to Enron and their BS during the power crisis, and beyond, and he'll bring that integrity to the Controller's office. Unlike people like Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who voted for giving away the state to greedy speculators, Joe Dunn was the guy who remembered job 1 for him is serving the citizens. Go Joe!

State Senate, District 8: This is a tough one for me - Lou Papan was a real hero in supporting the special ed program at my old high school, where my mom works. But Mike Nevin's wife also worked at my old high school and knew my mom too. Oh yeah, there's current Assemblyman Leland Yee running a strong campaign too. So who do I vote for? Calgon, take me away!

In the end I voted for Lou Papan, but not as part of some plot to deny Nevin votes but more due to a coin toss between two guys from San Mateo County, and because he was such a good guy in the Assembly when it came to special education. But the battle seems to be between Yee and Nevin so if you want to vote for someone who's more likely to win, then go ahead and vote for Mike Nevin.

State Assembly, District 12 - SF: Ok, like you had to ask. I'm telling everyone to vote for Janet Reilly. and regular readers know I've written about when she kicked off her campaign, when she campaigned with John Kerry, and about the only debate she had with Ms. Ma..

People ask me why and the answer is simple. There are people in the local and state Democratic Party who view the Party and those in it as part of an exclusive club, and that club likes things predictable, safe, and for the benefit of their club membership, since after all, they have the best interests of The People at heart. Anyone questioning that is cast out as a pariah.

Janet's campaign has never been one on the "inside" and as such is a lot more welcoming to citizen input, and isn't as beholden to the club mentality that really disdains volunteers, Internet activists, and anyone not Already In The Club. They really don't like you, and don't like the fact they have to ask you to vote for them because They're Just That Good. Plus, when you see the nonsense being tossed at Janet, you figure she can't be that bad. Vote for Janet and piss off the Man.


Proposition 81 - Library Bonds - vote NO: How can anyone be against library bonds? That means more money for libraries right? And I like libraries so I should support it, right? NO!

This is Yet Another Bond Issue that gets on the ballot because it "gives money" to good causes. But you see, it doesn't "give money" - it sells debt that we have to pay billions in interest on later. That blows out the budget in future years. So many bonds are passed by voters that it is killing our state's ability to make budget decisions. Vote no, and tell them to raise taxes or cut something first.

Proposition 82 - Preschool for All - Vote YES: This proposition isn't perfect, nor is it a cure all. But it doesn't use bonds, and it does take a step towards doing what we should be doing to at least not have as many screw ups in the public school system. Besides, Rob Reiner isn't that bad of a guy.

San Francisco Propositions A, B, C, D: Sometimes there's such a thing as too much democracy and voting, and the fact we're even voting on some of this stuff, which should either be passed by the Board of Supervisor and voted up or down by the Mayor, or perhaps addressed elsewhere, is a sign. But since we do have them, here's an easy way to vote:

If you like Mayor Gavin Newsom, and allied interests, and do not like the Board of Supervisors and their allied interests, go ahead and vote "no" on everything. Sure, there is that issue of violent homeless people being put in the old folks home at Laguna Honda, but so what? Gavin's got a tough re-election in 2007, possibly, and the last thing he needs some ballot measures to give him guff.

If you do not like Mayor Gavin Newsom and allied interest, and like the Board of SUpervisors, and their allied interests, go ahead and vote "yes" on everything. Sure, that whole Ellis Act notification thing probably won't stop a desperate home-buyer from running over Grandma to get that TIC, but so what? Gavin's got a tough re-election in 2007, possibly, and perhaps these ballot measures (some of which were put on the ballot by Supervisor Daly) might be able to give him some guff.

Other Offices:

San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee: Ok, pop quiz: what is the one job people run for, spend money to get elected to, that most people have not even heard of much less know what they do?

That would be the Democratic Party Central Committee. Ya see, each county has a "Central Commitee" for each party. These are partisan positions within the parties themselves - they are not funded by the state or anything like that. These might seem like ceremonial posts, but how the people on this committee vote determine all sorts of party business at the local and state level. So in a way it matters, but not always in an immediately understandable way.

The problem is you have to vote for so many people out of a pack of like, a zillion, and (thank GOD) "Ranked Choice Voting" has no place in these races. I'm going to recommend the two people I actually have met and known: Boe Hayward in the 12th Assembly District and Tim Paulson in the 13th.

Both are good guys - I helped out Boe with his postcards this year, and Tim Paulson is the director of the San Francisco Labor Council and all around good guy. There's two endorsements - figure out the rest of the slots on the ballot after casting your ballot for these guys.

That's it! Enjoy the fireworks on June 6th!

May 31, 2006

A Modest Proposal Ridding Us of So-Called Independent Expenditures

Special Note: Don't forget to check out the Direct Mail Disinfo Rehab Archive with mail from the 2006 primary election, recently featured at SF's Usual Suspects website!

Whenever you pass a political money reform bill, the road to Hell gets a new paving of unintended consequences. Take Proposition 34, which was supposedly going to limit "big money" in elections for state office.

We passed "limits" which were designed to keep "big money" out of elections, and it did have the effect of limiting large unlimited contributions, which are apparently evil in and of themselves, out of campaigns by candidates for office. One problem: no one found a legal, Constitutional way to limit efforts "independent" of candidates by those "big money" folks to speak loudly, carry big sticks, and have an incredible amount of influence in an election.

We've gone through 3 cycles under the new regime, and as both a manager and observer of Assembly races, I have to say that the influence of outside groups has increased ten-fold, as backers of previous reforms had hoped. Now, when a candidate runs for office, he or she has to pray to the God of their choice that assorted interest groups not only support them, but will spend untold bucks on their behalf, and pray that they'll do something that's helpful to their campaigns.

In 2002, we saw trial lawyers, eager to take a posthumous hit at then Assemblyman Lou Papan, spend uncounted millions on behalf of Gene Mullin, to "punish" the daughter of Lou Papan for not toeing the line enough in his time in office. While Gene Mullin's campaign claimed it was "all them" when they won, the fact was if it was not for untold spending by outside groups, we may or may not have had a different result.

Likewise, in 2006, we have the political gang war that is the 12th Assembly district primary. No less than 11 allied "independent expenditure" committees (who oddly enough seem to have the same candid photos in their ads as the candidate does) are picking on Janet Reilly, for reasons obvious and not so obvious. For all the "experience" people talk about, it seems strange that the only thing people helping a candidate can do is to pump out mail that is more about hype than substance.

There is, however, a simple cure for this disease, one that does not require demolishing the First Amendment, passage of new Road to Hell legislation, or even taxpayer funding of politician's races. It relies solely on common sense, and a candidate's values.

Continue reading "A Modest Proposal Ridding Us of So-Called Independent Expenditures" »

May 23, 2006

California Primary Political Mail Archive is Up at GregDewar.com!

The first step of our Disinfo Rehab project is up and online! Thanks to good friends on the Peninsula and in San Francisco, as well as some trusty campaign volunteers, I've posted the first of what will be many entries into a Political Direct Mail Web Archive that you, the citizen, can review in advance of California's Primary Election on June 6th. (Temporarily, PDF files submitted to the arcive are featured here while we get Flickr to cooperate!)

Currently the archive features entries from State Senate Candidate Mike Nevin , who has some of the most novel mail pieces, evoking an earlier era in campaign themes, as well as a piece I picked up at a street fair last weekend from the campaign of Fiona Ma, who is running in Assembly District 12.

More from our gubernatorial candidates, our friends in high and low places, and those running for other offices will be featured as the days go by. You may also make submissions by email by sending me an email with your reasonably sized JPEGs or PDFs of stuff you find.

Oddly enough, because I recently re-registered only a few months ago into the new house I moved into, I'm not getting the volume of doubleplusungoodmail I usually get. So, if you're looking at that steaming pile of dead trees, and thinking of junking it, think again!

I'm offering a drink bounty to voters for new and unusual pieces of mail, in particular those sent out by special interests influencing the outcome of many of the Legislative elections in California, where so many people are running for ever so many offices.

Enjoy the archive and keep coming back as more images (and more commentary) are added to the new disinfobabble and artistic licenses issued by today's politickers. Consultants are also welcome to submit pieces they are proud of, as well.

UPDATE: Big updates coming this weekend. Meanwhile, check this article out discussing the increasingly flat out false mail going out to the public.

UPDATE 2 - May 28th: More pieces have been added from the Reilly/Ma race and the Yee/Nevin/Papan race....anyone wishing to submit pieces they've received should email me with their entries...thanks!

Oh and some advice for the volunteers eager to tell us about their candidates - the moment you put a handout or a piece of unauthorized crap in a mailbox, not only do you earn bad karma, but you are also committing a federal crime. Just last night I found two piecesfor a candidate for DCCC shoved in my mailbox at home in the Inner Sunset. Not smart. Kids, learn the rules and play it safe, ok?

May 18, 2006

50 Million Westly Dollars Can Be Wrong

Much is made when a personally wealthy candidate runs for office about how, by the miracle of “spending lots of money,” they can automatically win office. Steve Westly’s campaign not only benefits from this conventional “wisdom” – it’s an active part of the campaign’s message.

What pundits, politickers, and the like tend to forget is that part of winning a campaign is having the money to pay for what you need to win – but that the other part is how you spend your money. And in the case of Steve Westly, our multi-millionaire Richie Cunningham running for class president, it's becoming clear that the how of his campaign is starting to kill whatever advantage, cash-wise, this guy had.

Last night I caught the latest spat of ads from Westly on TV, and they were laughable at best, pathetic at worst. We are less than three weeks away from a pretty significant primary election, and what is the Westly campaign blowing tons of cash on? Ads about whether Phil Angelides is running a "negative campaign." (Don't try looking here for them - I guess they don't mind putting them on the air, but they sure didn't put them on their own site.)

So,umm, let me get this straight. This is the big issue millions of Californians are concerned about in this year's gubernatorial election? I guess that whole affordable housing/jobs/economy/environment/education/taxes thing isn't the main issue at the kitchen table this season.

No, it's whether "Mean Old Phil" is playing by some imaginary Marquess de Queensbury rules, and rather than move on and just tell people about why he's the better candidate, he's spending money talking about something no real voters give a crap about and tosses in a lie about Angelides' tax plan that's patently false. Hmm. Sounds like someone broke his own promise about those Queensbury rules.

Putting aside for a moment whether Phil or Steve is the bestest Democrat boy running, there's a bigger issue here. If Steve Westly can't handle a random, unscripted question from the peanut gallery, or a few jabs from a fellow Democrat, how the Hell is he going to handle going up against Gov. Doofinator and his huge team of spinmeisters, politickers and a massive state funded disinfo ops team, much less the many millions in independent expenditures from allied right wing groups that will toss out crap far worse than he's ever had to deal with?

No wonder this guy barely beat McClintock in 2002. Perhaps after the election, Westly and Senator Huffington, President Perot, Governor Checchi, and the rest of the rich geniuses can get together and have a beer about those Queensbury rules.

Don't forget to send in your political junk mail so we can do some disinfo rehab prior to the election! Send me a note and we'll get it on Flickr ASAP!

May 15, 2006

Turn That Political Junk Mail Into Gold (Sort Of)

Last weekend, mail ballots in the California Primary were mailed out to voters, which means the first wave in what is going to be an avalanche of political junk mail is starting to make its way through the US Postal System. A primary such as the one we have now, where just about every term-limited politician is running for every other office on the ballot, makes it even more ominous.

This is also a chance to observe the power of dead trees vs. television. That's because TV ads are seen by "everyone." Heck, you can go on YouTube.com and see ads by the ever telegenic Steve Westly, the humorous Phil Angelides and more. You can even scrutinize the oh-so-clever ad by Fiona Ma, driving around town in a shiny new Prius! How enviro-friendly! (I wonder if she actually owns a PC-Prius or if they just rented it....frankly I'd be more impressed to see a candidate slog through the district on the N Judah, in a TV ad, complete with weirdos and stalled trains, but I digress).

Now here's the thing about TV ads - the reason it's so easy for snarky bloggers, politicos and the local press to pick apart these little gems is because they are so accessible. Direct mail, however, is not. Everyone is getting different pieces of mail depending on where they live, and what their past voter history (if any) is. More to the point, by the time anyone in the press sees anything earth-shattering or nasty, the election's over.

This time, however, you can help particpate in a good old fashioned Disinformation Rehab for the Primary. If you start to get a nice big pile of steaming junk mail, don't recycle it. Instead, send me an email and tell me what you've received in the mail.

If it is something I do not already have, you put it in the mail and send it to me, and I buy you a coffee or other beverage of some sort somehow. I'll scan in the best of the bunch and post a gallery on Flickr, and we can all give these guys and gals a once-over they don't usually get.

And besides, it'll be fun! Really!

May 10, 2006

Death By a 1000 (DSL) Cuts In San Francisco

I was all set to write all sorts of really great articles for my new site. But EarthLink had other plans. So rather than write about the upcoming big debate tonight between Steve Westly and Phil Angelides, or about any one of the many articles I've written, I'm instead devoting today's missive to telling the world that Earthlink sucks.

There are other colorful metaphors I could use, but why get wordy?

For almost three weeks now I've had no Internet service at home. And, as I'm now working two jobs, one an all day on site consulting gig, and keeping up with my other clients after hours, this has been more than an annoyance. It's costing me real money, in the form of lost income because I can't make the deadlines I normally can when I work at night.

Even more infuriating has been the true incompetence of Earthlink customer service, primarily based in Outer Godknowswhereistan, who can barely keep up with a conversation in English, much less talk or do anything about the actual problem. And of course, they don't wanna give you your money back for screwing up. But they do know about looking at modem lights!

It seems I'm not the only one with this mysterious outage, and I've been trolling Google and finding plenty of horror stories. What amazes me is that these morons are now going to be in charge of San Francisco's WiFi experiment with Google. Talk about doing the "crane" of stupidity.

Yes, I know there are "alternatives." All of which are not much better, since the companies are all so big, they don't give a tinker's cuss about any one customer, or providing any reliable service. They don't have to. One person quitting and going to Yet Another Crappy Telco means nothing to them, or the competition, and they know it.

Whatever. I'm sure today when the Genius from SBC/ATT/Earthlink/Comcast/Whatever.com will do something. I certainly hope so. At this point I don't really have much "consumer choice" no matter what happens.

Will someone please explain how large, bureaucratic, slow, and incompetent organizations such as these are better than their ilk in a socialist system? Or at least how they differ? Or how I as the customer benefit from dealing with these morons?


UPDATE:The incompetence of these people is stunning. The SBC guy came out and verified that nothing was wrong with the acutal phone lines (Earthlink sent him out here, not at my request) so it's clearly an Earthlink issue, not a user issue.

But they insist on calling me back with more BS about "modem lights" and of course most of the time it's someone on another continent who has no idea what they're doing. And of course, half the time they mysteriously drop the call as I'm being transferred from Godknowswhereistan to the US reps (who really aren't any brighter, but at least I can understand what they're saying).

I'm doing what I should have done when I moved in, and am getting Comcast's internet service. Sure it's a monopoly here in town, and sure, they're not that much better, but at least it works. Almost 4 weeks and they still can't get it up and running. They sure do have a lot of excuses though. I wish I had a job where I could offer up BS and excuses and still get paid!

You'd think their slow, 384/128 DSL with cheap-ass modem would be easy to maintain, but I guess not. And these geniuses are supposedly going to run the City's Free WiFi? Why even bother? We should go straight to the rock throwing and effigy burning now, and save us all the wait. Besides, the flagmakers can make up some "earthlink" flags we can burn

Next time someone asks me to take a "stress test" downtown I'm telling them I don't need a "test." Earthlink ensures I'm stressed!

March 8, 2006

I Never Thought I'd Link to the Huffington Post but This Was Worth It

Although I haven't done anything to the template or layout yet, I thought I'd post a link to this post I saw at the Huffington Post (via Yahoo News) that seemed worth spreading the word about.

Normally I would not link to a "mega-blog" and never thought I'd link to the Huffington Post (what is with that name?) but it brought up some points folks who want to do something in 2006 should read before Election Day 2006.


February 25, 2006

Dubai or Not Dubai? That is The Question....

Ok, help me out here:

We've been told non-stop for 5 years in earnest that Muslim terrorists are the enemy (and they are. Really!) And we've been told we have to do all kinds of Tough Sounding Stuff to said folks, because who knows which one might be The Bad One.

People ran for political office jumping up and down saying Their Party was better than The Other Party at keeping Those People and the Bad Ones out of our country! Bad people! We better at stopping Bad People than Other Party. And by a slim margin , they beat out The Other Party (who voted for something before they voted blah blah blah)

Now, someone decided it was ok to allow one foreign company (a British one - hey didn't we fight a couple o' wars against these guys or something?) who was running some of our ports to sell their biz to another company, one in Dubai, an Arab Muslim country, and more to the point, one owned by the government of Dubai.

The President says he didn't know. Then they say there was a secret deal between the White House and the Dubai Folks. The President seems genuinely stunned that people with R's next to their name are upset. The President and his handlers seem really shocked a lot of people with all sorts of letters next to their name are "upset."

All I can say is, it's time for the Bush folks to take some classes at No Duh University. Regardless of the details, how in the world can anyone think in today's world that selling 6 ports' managment to a company run by folks that worship the same moon god and have the same looks and language as Those Bad Ones won't raise a whole lotta ruckus?

Ever get the impression most people who run things at the corporate and governmental level honestly have no idea what they're doing? I mean, really. Either these folks are genuinely that stupid (and let's face it, one group of folks had full control over 3 branches of government and more) or really conniving and doing something we just haven't heard about yet.

Meanwhile, no one seems to notice that most big companies and operatios and industries we have are being sold to China....next time you buy a "ThinkPad" remember - the Chinese Government gets a piece of the action. In fact...the Chinese goverment gets a piece of all the action of every company that does a "joint venture" in allegedly capitalist China.

The Chinese figured it out. Socialism can make a buck. You just have to let outsiders come and use your cheap labor and cut them in on the profits. Eventually, you'll make your bucks and take over their industries. Who cares about fidelity to Lenin, when you can have it both ways?

Dubai? What? Is there even going to be a Dubai in 20-30 years? I know there will be a China...

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

February 1, 2006

A Blast From the Past with WA State Senators Pam Roach, Jim West, and a Blog from 1998

Years ago, my good friend Mike Sando had a website devoted to politics and centered on the Legislature in Olympia, Washington's state capital in the late 1990s.

Now I hestiatate to use a term as over-used as "blog" but in fact that's what Mike's site was - before we all knew the word "blog" and before the "cool kids" figured out these things.

Lost in the mists of the Internet, as Mike left the Legislature and became a high school teacher in Enumclaw, we also lost two gems of audio fun Mike had posted at his site. As it turns out, I am the only one who still has both these .WAV files stored (one of the benefits of archiving every single email I've sent or recieved since 1995!) and am posting them here so they may be found by intrepid Googlers the world over.

The first file is an actual audio recording of State Senator Pam Roach, who is expressing outrage that a large bouquet of flowers delivered to her Senate desk on behalf of a lobbyist, was moved. Mike mixed in the Imperial March theme for comic effect - but this really is a state Senator, and he really is that pissed off about some flowers.

Listen to Darth Roach on the critical matter of floral placement in Olympia.

The second is an actual audio recording of then-state Senator and now disgraced ex mayor, Jim West. Loyal readers may recall I spotlighted this clown's troubles earlier.

The recording you are listening to here is an actual voice mail message left by Jim West to Tom McCabe, who at the time represented building interests in Olympia. Unfortunately such outbursts were par for the course with Jim West. But then again, recent research and reporting has shown other outbursts were also common - just not exposed in public until he became Mayor of Spokane!

Listen to Jim "Godfather" West talk dirty to lobbyist Tom McCabe's voice mail machine here.

If you're new to the site, I urge you to read some of the archives to the left and leave a comment! Enjoy!

Here's a link to coverage of the incident way back in 1998 from the Seattle Weekly.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

November 2, 2005

So What Were You Doing A Year Ago Today?

What were you doing on November 2nd, 2004?

Funny how a year changes things, eh?

A year ago Kerry and his team found a new way to blow an election, Bush and company were flying high, and there was all sorts of big talk.

A year later and House and Senate GOP leaders are under investigation, there's an indictment of a sitting VP's chief of staff, and poll numbers for the high flyers aren't so great.

So what will you and I be doing a year from now?

I have no idea. But tonight I'm going to rejoice in the fact I'm not a VP's chief of staff, nor am I responsible for explaining those bad poll numbers to the CiC.

Sometimes it's the little things that make life great.

PS: Something else to think about: Was it scary seeing Bush get re-elected, appoint dorks to FEMA, and screw up this year, or would it be scary if Kerry got elected, and was in charge of appointing people and trying to talk the hurricane to death?

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

September 30, 2005

Gamblin' Man Bill "Moral Values" Bennett on Crime!

You really have to hand it to author/ex cabinet member/moral crusader for his ability to find New and Interesting Ways to Screw Up.

First we find out the guy was pullin' slots at $500/pop. Hmm. For someone who says he's for morals, I get a bit confused by this. But oh well - everyone has their fun stuff. I suppose if we found out Bill Bennett was downloading unlicensed anime series on BitTorrent, I wouldn't mind. Still.

But then he goes off and makes comments like these where he suggests if we "abort all black babies, crime would go down", then wonders what all the fuss is about.

I'm just wondering how it is anyone could make a statement like that and not think someone would not be too happy about it. PC or not PC or whatever, it's an example of how people who spend most of their lives in the rareified air of DC, think tanks, radio shows, and politics, can lose touch with reality.

People like that (and sad to say there are way too many of them) sit around all day, coming up with more and more wacky statements, policies and campaign slogans, without first taking a moment to apply the Common Sense test to what it is their doing. It creates a lot of hot air, without acheiving anything more than verbal gushing from places we really don't want to go.

That's how you get wars you don't need, policies that don't work, and guys like Bill Bennett advocating aborting black folk to cut crime. Like a lot of the wacko pundits (and there are tons on ALL sides, believe me!) it's almost a game - seeing how loud and obnoxious one can be, drawing lots of attention to themselves, and then act shocked when anyone decides to hurl a verbal aside back at 'em. Yes, Bill, you have the right to say your silly comments. But guess what? So does anyone else that feels like saying you're a goofus.

What's funny is how folks defend folks like Bennett for being "brave" but to me he's a wimp. Instead of making pronoucements from his throne, safely tucked away from the masses, I'd like instead to see him make his "bold anti PC statement" live and in person to some of those he suggest we should abort to cut crime.

I'm not holding my breath. I'm sure Bill Bennett is too much of a coward to go up to any African American, be they a leader, or an average citizen, and pop off about how their kids shoulda been aborted to fight crime the same way he does on radio shows and the like.

If he was really as tough or standing up to the "PC" types like his supporters claim, he'd do it, But he won't because like all partisan nutjobs, he can't do it. He's too much of a fraidy cat.

I hope he takes a lot of crap for it - after all can you imagine how "outraged" this clown would be if some radical person suggested ending (insert policy they dont like here) by aborting all white people? He'd go nuts (as most folks would) over such an over the top, and unproductive, statement.

Or, put another way - can you imagine the flack someone who was the Democrat or liberal equivalent of Bennett would get for making some similarly ill-worded remark? Odd how having an "R" next to your name changes the rules.

Personally, I think it's more interesting that few of Bennett's fellow moral leaders felt a need to repudiate this guy very much. Oh, but wait! I forgot! If it's Their Guy saying it it MUST be ok!

Life must be good when you have a posse.

PS: In the "What the HELL was that" category of unrelated stuff, take a look at this McDonald's ad from Japan. Enjoy!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

May 10, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Spokane, WA: Power Tripper and Hypocrite Jim West EXPOSED

So, Angelenos, you think you have it bad with your mayor?

Well then, take a look at the lovely saga unfolding in Spokane, Washington, where conservative Republican Mayor Jim West and his "hobby" of engaging in conversation with young men and boys on gay chatrooms (on city time and computers) has blown wide open, thanks to a lengthy piece of investigative journalism by the Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Folks, it ain't a pretty sight. After using extremist language tarring his political oppoents, fanning the flames of anti-gay hysteria, and supporting extreme measures against citizens who were gays and lesbians, it turns out Jim West's not the guy we thought he was.

Seems his idea of a good time is to go to online chatrooms, and try to date men less than half his age by luring them with taxpayer funded gifts, on city computers and time.

Check out the transcripts of the chat sessions - they are very startling - and very NC-17 rated, so kids, be careful, ok?

I knew of Jim West when I lived in Seattle and worked with people in the Legislature during West's tenure, and I always thought the guy was a petty tyrant. You know, the kind of bellowing bully people are afraid to take on - but when they do they back down like the wimps they really are.

There were the rumors, of course, but personally I don't care if someone is gay, nor do I want to see them punished simply for that fact.

This is not the case with Jim West. Mr. West is getting the political equivalent of a blowtorch and pliers because he's an abusive, power-tripping individual, one who slammed political opponents with "gay" slurs, and one who used taxpayer money to try and have sex with young men.

He's always been a thug and a bully, and if he is finally getting the political come-uppance he deserves for his behavior, which is the case here, then I'm not going to shed any tears for him, gay or not.

If you're still unsure what kind of a guy he is, then check out this recording of a death threat made by West to Tom McCabe, the head of the homebuilder's association in Washington state. He was prosecuted by the Thurston County prosecutor, and he ended up having to pay $500 fine, and apologize for his outburst.

(Special thanks go to Mike Sando, who posted the original files years ago on his former blog in 1998!)

Click here to hear the voice mail message!

Anyway, the next time you're moaning about the behavior of Jimi Hahn, Tony Villaraigosa, or the rest of the crew in California, just remember: it could be worse. A lot worse.

PS: Another Journalspace blogger, "Punditz" offers a different view on the subject. Check it out and see what you think.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

March 29, 2005

Stem Cell Con Job or Why Are We Scrambling to Let A Deadbeat In Our Community?

I don't know what is more irritating to me, as a taxpayer, to observe and make me cringe when it comes to the so-called "Stem Cell Research Initiative" voters, in their inimitable wisdom, passed in 2004 here in California.

Part of it is the actual law itself - but also, the way both the press and so-called "leaders" of local governments have chosen to overlook serious problems with this law.

Instead, they've chosen instead to shower an institute funded with $3 billion dollars of credit card spending with yet more "free" (aka "taxpayer funded" goodies). All for a scientific institute that is to be headed up by...a real estate developer with no experience in science, let alone stem cells.

Let's start by taking a look at the law itself. Now, throughout the campaign, voters heard endless, heart-tugging emotional stories of those afflicted with terrible diseases. The initiative's backers skillfully manipulated people, who want to do things to help others, to vote for this new law. People against the law were dismissed as ultra-right religious extremists (even though opposition came from people of diverse political views).

Like so many other initiatives, any real examination of the ramifications of the law were never fully examined. Then the thing passed. And suddenly, after the dust settled, we started to see a wave of "mea culpas" from the press like this one in the December San Francisco Chronticle, and another in the Bay Guardian.

Among the little details: the initiative is using borrowed money, $3 billion worth, and part of that has to go to paying of the debt created by the borrowing right away. So first thing we're seeing these guys spend money on isn't life-saving research - it's bond debt. Out of $300 million in borrowed money in the first few years, as much as $200 million could go to...debt service. To paraphrase the Chronicle - this is like using part of a home loan to make the house payments. Now there's a responsible way to manage money!

If the institute wants to stop spending money on stem cell research, they can. And if they want to spend it on wild parties, they can. And if you want to call your elected officials to bitch and demand a stop to such shenanigans...you can't. They wrote the law so it's almost impossible to enforce the same kind of oversight we demand on every other state program.

Best of all, the guy who wrote this thing, with all its faults, and vague promises of how the taxpayers will make their money back, just happens to be the guy in charge of the institute now and responds to queries about how he'll run things with the words "trust me."

That inspires a lot of confidence. Especially since he's the one that wrote so many poison pills in the law that keep anyone from stopping him from using the state credit card any way he wants. No wonder he was the Governor's choice for the job - we all know how much Gov. Doofinator loves spending on the taxpayer's credit cards!

Now, I am sure the reporters here are congratulating themselves on a job well done for 'exposing' the innards of this law. But I have to wonder -where was all this investigative journalism before the people voted on it and why did so many people including celebrities, politicos, and pundits, sign on to this thing without reading the fine print?

It gives me little satisfaction to say "I told you so!" in this instance - I'd rather people have been a little more responsible, used their votes a bit more wisely, and demanded real answers to some questions before voting.

Now, it's bad enough that voters passed a law with more loopholes, giveaways, and outright deceit as this one - but it is worse to see what so-called "leaders" of California's cities are doing now to attract the Big, Taxpayer Funded Headquarters for this thing.

Reading the "bids" taxpayers' representatives in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and elsehwere are simply astonishing. We have a situation where cities, in a desperate bid to get the institute in their home towns are trying to out-do each other with offers of free office rent, free gym memberships, free this, and free whatever. Anything at all to get the $3 billion dollar credit card in their home town.

Now, what's really pathetic is that once again local elected officials are doing two dumb things local electeds do really well - make "investments" in vague promises, and never tell anyone where the money is coming from to pay for said "investments."

The first is one we hear a lot. Whenever some large, and usually dumb, idea is presented to the public, elected officials use their favorite word when they want to "invest" in a vague promise with your money. They use the word "encourage." Whenever you hear this word, you need to get out a guard dog and put it next to your wallet - because it usually means someone wants to take money away from you and piss it away on something really dumb or give it away to someone who already has billions of dollars.

In this case, cities are giving away all kinds of free things, including hundreds of thousands of square feet of real estate, money to pay for fancy offices, and money for things like gym memberships to get the Big Headquarters of the so-called "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine" aka "The $3 Billion Credit Card You Have to Pay For."

Every single time you read what elected officials have to say when asked why they're giving away money in a time of budget crisis to this thing, they all say something along the lines of how spending this money is an "investment" that will "encourage" businesses to open up shop near said institute, and thus, trickle down the effect of all that spending into local tax coffers, and of course, "create jobs." Now, there's nothing in any of these deals that guarantees any of that. But you never hear that part. No one asks, and no one tells.

If there is one thing I wish I could accomplish in politics, it would be to spend the next ten years on a long rage PR campaign to put a stake in the heart of political "junkie logic" like this in public discourse. Why? Because it is 100%, pure, unadulterated bullshit. Let's see why.

Now, let's use our friend "metaphor" to deconstruct the political junkie logic in an easy to understand way, and see why any local elected official that engages in said logic needs to be asked to leave town:

Suppose you were asked to take a good portion of your take home pay and put it in an investment your new friend wants you to make. No one can show you the potential rate of return. In fact, no one can show you that there's any return at all. Worse, when you ask how the investment will work, you're attacked as being a coward, a liar, or just plain crazy. "Can't you see how your 'investment' will 'encourage' people?" they say?

You keep asking "But if I give you my $40,000 of savings, how will I make the money back?" and your new friend keeps saying that your money won't directly benefit you back - but it will encourage others to give money to you since you're such a great person for making this investment, and you want to encourage others to do the same so you get your money back. You have no guarantees, and the person taking your money could disappear tomorrow -and you'd be left with nothing.

Now, if this sounds more like a "con" than a sound investment, you'd be right. If you did something like this, you'd go to jail. If you're an elected official, you're praised as someone who "creates opportunity" and is "pro-business."

Meanwhile the countryside is littered with abandoned office space and industiral plants businesses got at the taxpayers' expense, all in the name of "investing" in the community and the vague promise of "jobs" in the future. And guess what? Most of those elected officials got promotions from the voters anyway!

In the case of the Stem Cell Mafia Institute, the "winning" city may find itself in for a rude shock should they "win" the right to have this debt-creator in their backyard, paid for by more of their citizens' money. See, there's no rule in any of that well-written law that the money has to be spent locally. In fact, they're mandated to spend money where research is being done now - anywhere. Even out of state.

And no company has put up its stockholders' dividends or its own profits up and said "Hey, I'll move to the city where the Institute is!" - because most companies aren't so stupid as to invest in fairy tales. There's also no guarantee that in the future the Stem Cell Mafia won't come back and say "give us more or we'll leave" after the big investment.

So while we can't figure out how to pay for a few cops in L.A., we can find money to give away $177 million to a billionaire for speculative development, and we can find millions more to "give" to a taxpayer-financed credit card agency with no real fiscal oversight. We can't vote ourselves taxes to pay for roads, schools, and whatnot but we can vote to borrow money and entrust it to a guy with no scientific background and let him play with it as he sees fit.

It's time to end the madness. If there was even a small amount of common sense, civic leaders across California would not be letting themselves be played like this. They'd instead suggest that if the Stem Cell Mafia wants to pitch its circus tent in their neighborhood, they'd have to have written guarantees that they'd employ local people at decent wages.

They'd have to guarantee that the states taxpayers, who are paying for the credit card debt keeping the lights on, would share in the patents and royalties generated by any research. And they certainly wouldn't' compete against each other like hookers at a street corner - they'd work together, since all of California voted for the initiative, and all of California should benefit.

I realize what I just said was a fairy tale as well. But hey! A person has to dream, right?

(note: this article was originally published on March 29, 2005. However in the ensuing upgrade from one platform to another, it was lost. It is being republished as current events warrant a trip in the Political Wayback Machine.)

March 18, 2005

Memo to John Kerry: You Lost. Stop Emailing Me. And Don't EVER Run Again!

Watching Sen. John Kerry post-election is something that makes feel both anger and pity for the man. Anger, because there's been constant media reports of how he found new and improved ways to blow the election, but pity, because it is clear that his delusions of grandeur that the Republicans capped on him about during the campaign seem to have some basis in reality, at least now.

It's also amazing how Kerry's spin team is trying to take a page out of 1984 and employ an army of Winston Smith wannabes to rewrite history, blasting anyone who dares suggest that their "campaign" wasn't some genius effort. What? You didn't realize he was for losing the election before he was against it?

Today, an advisor to Sen. Clinton said just that and for that has been getting all sorts of crap from the Kerry-ites in Washington D.C. and Boston for simply telling the truth - they ran a bad campaign, and took advice from D.C. insiders and Corporate thinkers who give not a whit about anything but lining their own pockets.

This is not the first time Kerry's spin team has tried to sell a version of events that is entirely at odds with the truth - in this case, the fact that he lost the election, primarily because of his campaign's constant bumbling, along with his own personal ineptitude.

Watching his top aides try and spin their fumbles is at once enraging, and entertaining. Enraging, because they can't seem to figure out that they blew it. Entertaining because it's fun to watch corporate-style mouthpieces come up with new and creative uses of the language to deflect blame and responsibility. Hey! There's money to be made in 2006 blowing more races!

Even more irritating are the constant emails I still get from Johnny boy begging for money, even though he has millions ready for more campaigns due in large part to the fact his campaign ended the 2004 election with a surplus.

Now, that in and of itself is another indictment of multimillionaire Kerry and his overpaid advisors in and of itself. How he can dare ask Mr. & Mrs. Average American for a penny out of their limited incomes to fund his future foibles is beyond me.

Even more pathetic are the appeals to "protest" Bush policies - which presumably wouldn't be happening if he had, say, won the election.

Here's a recent message I got after the Senate voted to allow oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The subject line was "51, 49, and 260,000. Here is a portion of Kerry's (overly wordy) email:

Dear Greg,

Yesterday, we saw a relentless Republican attack on one of our most treasured natural wonders sneak through the Senate on a 51 to 49 vote. But, we also saw more than 260,000 Americans act in less than 24 hours to add their names to our Citizens' Roll Call in favor of protecting the Arctic Refuge.

It was the first time ever that I or anyone else could stand on the Senate floor and announce that, in a day's time, a quarter of a million Americans had gone online to express their passionate support for a given course of action.

That awesome display of grassroots power rattled our opponents. They even railed against my e-mail message on the Senate floor and entered its text into the Senate record. So, think of it this way. The Republican leaders of the Senate have 51 reasons to celebrate today, but you and I have 260,000 reasons to do the same.

Hmm...so it I am to understand this correctly, we're supposed to celebrate because a bill he and others didn't want to pass got approved by the Senate, but 260,000 people signed an online petition that had literally no effect on the outcome did so. Talk about spin!

I'm going to use Junkie John's logic in my world, one without bazilionaire friends, ski chalets in Idaho, and spending millions on on other loser millionares.

I'll go call up the phone company and tell them that I was this close to paying my bill this month, but I am choosing not to.

I will reassure them by telling the phone company that I had a petition of my friends and family, who would like to call me up on the phone, asking me to pay my bill so I could take their calls, but darn it! We just couldn't make it this month. But it was still a victory for the phone company because an unprecedented number of people kicked me in the butt to pay my bill on time.

See how the media junkie logic of today's spinmeisters doesn't cut it in the world you and I have to live in? See also just how irritating it is to receive this crap from St. John the Loser over and over again. At least retired Gen. Wes Clark's site and emails aren't nearly as annoying.

IT's time to kill the spin and speculation about Sen. John "I Blew It" Kerry's plans for 2008, or any other year. It's time to stop the madness. Despite the spin, despite the BS, despite all the denial, and despite all the blogging, he lost the election. It was not all the fault of some vast conspiracy - it was not merely a failure of a few mishandled tactics.

John Kerry lost the election because he never should have been the nominee in the first place. He was momentarily boosted at a time when his campaign was dead broke by a collusion of insider interests and the bungling of other candidates, untested by a real campaign in years.

St. Johnny and his people never realized that the crowds and money and volunteers weren't there because of St. John the Windbag - they were there despite his presence. No amount of talking, spinning, and blogging by desperate, cynical D.C. insiders is going to change that fact.

Stop the Madness. Just Say "No John Kerry" in 2008.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

February 9, 2005

Making Virtue Out of Failure or How Not to Spend $15 million

You have to give it to Sen. John Kerry. After hiring a team of bumblers that found a way to lose an election where they had as much of a chance of winning as not, they follow up the resounding failure of Campaign 2004 with the news that after all was said and done, Kerry's campaign still had around $15 million in the bank.

Now, far be it from me to beat a dead horse (rhetorically speaking) nor to join the sore winner crowd in charge these days, but when I get an email in my mailbox from Sen. Kerry proudly announcing he's donating a million bucks to the DNC and spins it as somehow doing a favor for incoming DNC Chair Howard Dean (although he still can't call him by name!), well, I find myself trying to decide if I want to vomit, or scream.

Well, maybe not scream. But vomiting sounds good. Purge that nasty feeling I'm getting in my stomach right about now.

If there is one thing I can't stand, it's when politicians manufacture virtue out of necessity. Kerry has been doing this a lot since it was discovered he had ended the campaign with a surplus of $15 million. Wow! What a smart guy! He's got money! And now he's sharing!

When you consider how close the election was in states he lost, or when you consider that we had not one thin dime for GOTV in California for Democrats (killing things like the cops measure in LA and the affordable housing measure in SF that lost by 1%), you begin to realize that having this kind of cash sitting around the day after election day is not a good idea. Campaigns aren't in the business of stashing away cash - they're in the "business" of communicating a message to elect someone to office.

Even more irritating is the fact that Kerry has given a cool $1 million to the DNC. He's given money to other assorted party committees. But he saved the biggest chunks for himself: $4 million to a re-election campaign, and the balance which they claim they're still using to "pay bills"  (maybe that's how Bob Shrum cold afford that Tuscan holiday?) - and use some of it to seed a run for President in 2008.

Yes, you heard that right. They're already floating trial balloons about another run. Isn't that just what we need? Yeah, a sure fire success. Maybe he can be for losing the election before he was against it. (Sorry, but that one was too easy.)

Now you start to see why Sen. Kerry's $1 million donation doesn't count for much in terms of virtuous political conduct. It is a nice thing, yes, to give $1 million to the DNC. So is giving $1 million to Habitat for Humanity.

But when you put it on the spreadsheet and start adding up where the rest of the money's going - not to mention the fact that if had been spent properly in 2004, we might have a different President in 2005, well then, Sen. Kerry's "dramatic step" starts to make you feel more "sick and tired" than "warm and fuzzy" about Sen. Kerry's pious virtue.

I for one am not fooled by it, and I sure wish they'd stop sending me email telling me the latest protest email I can fire off to my Senator. Tell me instead, Sen. Kerry why you had all the money, all the consultants, and all the Washington Establishment, and yet still lost. And tell me how you're going to repair the permanent damage you've done to our party in the process.

Now that would be a truly virtuous thing to do. Brave even. Don't count in it happening anytime soon. Why can't we get Jon Stewart to run for President? At least he can talk.

PS: Just in case you were wondering how far a million dollars goes towards grass roots efforts at the state level, $1,000,000 divided by 50 = $20,000 per state if they dole it out as such.

A nice start. But only a start. Regular people are going to have to take matters in their own hands. Sen. Kerry and his Elite Consultants have to spend most of that $15 million on themselves first.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

November 18, 2004

Remembrance of Campaigns Past, or What Were We Doing A Year Ago?

While going through some old files on my Powerbook, I came across the following piece, written during Schadelmann.com's early beginnings a year ago. For various reasons I decided not to publish it at the time (like I do so often, actually) and quickly forgot about it.

When you consider that literally, a year ago, Sen. John Kerry's campaign was floundering, and the biggest news that was permeating the mainstream media was the much-ballyhooed firing of Jim Jordan as campaign manager, it makes you realize how far we've come, only to end up right where we began in the first place.

That is, the shortcomings that people glossed over during the Dean-bashing and the front loaded primaries never really went away - they just disappeared in a wave of spin. Meanwhile the root problems were never really addressed. And a year later, we have the Imperial Government taking power with a full blown Politburo to rubber stamp the King's decrees. Woo hoo.

So, in the spirit of being a thorn in the side of the People Who Know Best, and since at this point I have nothing to lose politically, I'm unearthing this old piece of writing for your entertainment.

Posted at the time I don't think it would have been that great. But when I read it this time, in light of all that happened since, I laughed out loud here at the Velocity Cafe to the surprise of my fellow coffee drinkers. Enjoy!

Ah Sen. John Kerry. On paper this guy is a great candidate. War record, Senator, prosecutor, voted "safe" on The War, has a wealthy spouse, and has all the affable qualities lacking in other Massachusetts-based presidential candidates.

But watching Kerry's campaign this week is kind of like watching the Hindenburg go down in flames, but in slow motion.

You have to wonder how well a campaign is doing when the only major piece of news that permeates everyone in the country is that Kerry "fired" his campaign manager. Everyone heard about it. People I know who care not a whit about politics asked me what I thought about this "big news. "

Heck, people I know who can't even name who John Kerry IS heard about it. No one knows much else but they knew that. Wow, big news! Kerry's campaign is doing so bad this late in the game he had to fire his manager! Alert the media and stop the presses! The One is getting his act together!

Why, that must mean he's qualified to be Commander in Chief because he can make these big personnel decisions. You're The One - the anomaly created by the Matrix to defeat the Bush Machines.

Hey, don't look at me - that was the spin coming from the campaign not my sarcasm. Yes, really.

What was most laughable (and most disturbing) were the statements he made after The Big Decision. My personal favorite was when his campaign spokesman and deputy fundraiser quit the campaign. Kerry's response was to toss off some oddball line about how "he really didn't know these people and they're not loyal to me so they should go."

So let me get this straight. Here's a major presidential candidate, with major money behind him and much of The Establishment (whoever they are) on his side and he "doesn't know" his OWN SPOKESMAN? That does not sound like "an executive making tough decisions." It sounds more like a guy who clearly has no clue why he's running other than "he is The One."

For those of you who are curious about what's really going on, here's a little insider gossip. I was in Boston recently and had the pleasure of serving (just for a day) as a Official Kerry Event Guy at his big kickoff.

If you don't speak political-ese that means I was the guy in the suit and Matrix glasses whose job it was to keep people off the wrong parts of the bleachers so the event would look good on TV.

It was fun and really, I hadn't made up my mind on who to vote for yet, and Kerry, to be fair, is a nice person and the event went great. But after talking to people in Boston and in Washington DC I began to hear some rumblings that not all was well in Zion AKA Kerry's Campaign.

The most memorable was a joke that's made the rounds by now. For a smirk, here it is:

Q: What do John Kerry's campaign and Noah's Ark have in common?

A: Both have two of everything!

One year to go....

� 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

October 23, 2004

Fun Website For the Last Ten Days of Election 2004

The American Museum of the Moving Image has a wonderful website where you can watch campaign commericals from 1952 to 2004. I found this site today and found it to be quite entertaining.

I especially liked the chance to watch some of the older commercials, some of which, like Lyndon Johnson's famous "Daisy" ad, were so over the top hilarious, it was like watching an episode of the Simpsons. Brilliantly produced 40 years ago, it still shines as an example of over-the-top campaigning.

What's more interesting is to compare election ads from say, 1992, to today. You'll notice that thanks to changes in style, technology, and pop culture, the ads for Bush I and the ads for Bush II are very different in appearance and style. In fact ads for all the candidates in the early 90s have a distinct look - one I'm glad to say is long gone.

I was particularly amused by a Ross Perot 1992 commerical that warned that if Americans didn't elect Perot, we'd have an $8 billion deficit by 2000.

Well people didn't vote for him and guess what? We had to wait for big mega-billion deficits until 2004 - after we had surpluses by 2000. Guess he was off by a few years.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

August 11, 2004

Let's Analyze Today's Doublespeak: A Primer

Just when you thought the wacky campaign of Ralph Nader could not get any wackier, today's San Francisco Chronicle gave us a sample of the doublespeak the desperate politco, with a tenuous grip on reality, employs to mislead the public and the press.

While it would be easy to use this as a springboard for yet another example of the politically suicidal inadequacies of Ralph Nader & Co., instead it's a better opportunity to take a look at slippery rhetoric, and see how easy it is for someone to put out "spin" that sounds good, and does not get questioned by the press.

After reading today's accounts I had to say I was impressed by Kevin Zeese's twisted-tongue logic. He has a future selling HMOs and Wal-Mart rezoning requests with the new heights he's acheived in doubleplus ungood speak.

First, let's take a trip in the Wayback Machine, for the background to this story not provided for in the San Francisco Chronicle. For those of you who have lives, and as such do not follow the pettiness and irrelevance of the Nader 2004 effort, Mr. Nader's campaign has once again failed to get on a state ballot, in this case, California. Unable to get enough signatures from registered voters who live in Califronia, Nader will not apper as a presidential candidate choice this fall.

This is entirely due to the fact that Ralph Nader made a specific decision to run as an "independent" candidate, and not as a candidate of the Green Party, for many reasons, most of which made little to no sense. Instead he chose to "go it alone," especially when many Green Party and Nader 2000 supporters indicated they would not support him this time. So he thought he could do it all himself.

Big mistake. Since then he's had to throw in his lot with an odd mix of arch-conservative Republicans, and the half-dead remains of the old Reform Party, in an attempt to stitch together a semblance of a campaign. As this half-baked effort floundered, he asked for the endorsement of the Green Party at their Convention in Wisconsin this summer and lost, due mostly to his unwillingness to campaign for the support of assembled delegates - or even to attend the convention itself. Once again, Ralph's political bumbling cost him more support, and the Green Party nominated someone else.

There's our historical context. Basically Ralph Nader is entirely responsible for the decisions he made time and time again to get to where he is today. Had he been a better candidate, and perhaps had better advisors or at least had the political sensibilities of someone in the 21st century, he might be in a better position, but he's not . Boo Hoo.

Now, let's take another look at some of the spin in today's Chronicle and see just how convoluted it is. The California Green Party chose not to invoke some (odd) rules to change their party's nominee here in California for the sake of Saint Ralph, instead opting to go along with what its party members had decided earlier this year.

Upon hearing this news, Nader Spokes-bot Kevin Zeese pulled out a uniquely Orwellian piece of rhetoric:

"What you're seeing is a lot of angry California Greens, that they're  having David Cobb shoved down their throat,'' Zeese said. "It's become an  issue of basic democracy for the Green Party.''

So let me get this straight. The Greens elected someone else to be their nominee. Ralph Nader, who is not a Green, asked for a decision by executive fiat to overturn an election he lost, so that he could be the nominee and crash the party. And somehow we're to accept the Green Party is "having David Cobb shoved down [the Green Party's] throat?"

After ten-plus years in politics, I still don't know how someone can get up in the morning and say something as patently false as this, and still have some respect for themselves, much less face the press and the public and think they're going to have any credibility.

More bewilidering to me is why anyone in the press would listen to either the crybaby candidate or the crybaby spokes-bot after these, and many other duplicitous statements.

What's also interesting is that Spokes-bot Zeese doesn't get any of this half-baked nonsense challenged, or even questioned. You'd think that any political reporter, even half-aware of the historical context of the situation, would at least ask a few follow up questions to make this clown back up such a Stalin-esque statement. Instead the reporters put David Cobb on the defensive, and yet he's done nothing wrong.

More interesting is the focus (clearly a byproduct of spin by the Nader campaign and allied Green activists) that somehow Nader's attempts are part of a plan to get enough votes nationally to "get money" from the federal government as part of the public financing given to Presidential candidates. This is a new spin that's popping up, both in this article, and in television coverage of a Nader appearance in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

This is a more insidious lie, one that is harder to thwart. Unlike Spokes-bot Zeese's earlier comments, these are more murky. But there are a few basic facts to consider:

1. "Funding" that comes as a result of a Nader candidacy (unlikely as that may be) would not help the Green Party of America in any way shape or form since he's not a Green Party candidate this year.

2. It is unlikely we'll be having public funding as we know it for any more presidential campaigns after this one, given the many challenges to the system as is, and the fact that it is under-funded. Also, Gov. Dean showed that it was possible to raise lots of money with small donations, and no financing - something Nader only dares dream of.

3. Cynical appeals to get public money need to be thoroughly investigated. Given Nader's manipulative fundraising one has to wonder if these appeals are just meant to deceive good Greens who want to build their party to support Nader.

In fact it's more likely that if on some weird off-chance Nader took control of any public money, it would more likely end up in the hands of Nader-allied consultants and groups as was the case with Pat Buchanan's past campaigns for president.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that Nader's campaign is not nearly the threat it was to Democrats four years ago. Now that people are holding Nader to the same strict standards of conduct and the same level of political combat real candidates have to endure, he's got neither the political sense, or the ability to take the heat a credible candidate for president needs to have to win.

It's also becoming clear that his appeal does not extend past the handful of old-school leftists who would never cast a vote for John Kerry, and as such aren't going to be the boon to Bush that Rove, Nader, and the gang were hoping for.

At the rate Nader and Company are going, they'll be nothing more than an asterisk of history, and it's time for good folks to finish this guy off politically so we won't have to listen to any more his or Spokes-bot Zeese's yammering and whining.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

July 7, 2004

Kerry, Edwards...and Hillary - Oh My!

So we've finally gotten to the end of the most anti-climactic vice-presidential selection process in recent memory. Sen. John Edwards, the man with a lot of charm (and a lot of money) has been selected. Time to move forward.

Kudos are due to the folks at DraftKerryEdwards.com who started promoting the idea of a Kerry/Edwards ticket back in December 2003, and event went live with a website at the time of the Superbowl (ironically between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots) for being so far-sighted.

Kudos also for getting so many people on board the campaign, and getting those stickers out, even out here in Venice Beach!

People have been asking me "who's it gonna be?" for some time now, and I always responded with two answers: realistic - he'll most likely pick Edwards, for the reasons the echo chamber has stated for months now; and curious - he'll pick someone we've not heard much about that will surprise us all.

Pressed, I always said Edwards, despite my own early misgivings about him, solely based on the fact that even in the hyper-short primary season, he never seemed to win many states and that his campaign seemed to mostly say that he looked good, had a lot of money, and spent a lot of time raising money, and oh yeah, he's from the South. Not exactly a lot there to read. That said, now that we've seen him be a good sport and campaign for Kerry for so long I am sure he'll do fine. What do I know, right?

As for the "experience issue" - while I am sure this will be raised, I'll simply play my "reverse the names" game on this quotable notable, not unlike the way Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne did this morning with this trip via the Campaign Wayback Machine:

When you hear Republicans disparage Sen. John Edwards's lack of experience, remember the words of Sen. Orrin Hatch, spoken to George W. Bush at a debate on Dec. 6, 1999.

"You've been a great governor," Hatch declared of his rival for the Republican presidential nomination. "My only problem with you, governor, is that you've only had four and going into your fifth year of governorship. . . . Frankly, I really believe that you need more experience before you become president of the United States. That's why I'm thinking of you as a vice presidential candidate."

Which is exactly what Edwards was chosen for yesterday.

I am sure that will drive the "My Guy Right or Wrong" crowd will try to toss this down the Memory Hole, but such is the way of things these days. Still, it's an interesting point to remember.

My favorite non-news "buzz" surrounding the selection process, and the selection of Edwards himself, has been the revival, one more time ,of the "Hillary Clinton Presidential Conspiracy Sweepstakes," with lots of wild-eyed talk about alleged scenarios about how this year's process is being somehow manipulated to Get Hillary Elected President. Now we have to hear that somehow Edwards and Ms. Clinton are locked in some bitter rivalry to the death now and in the future as a result of Mr. Edwards' selection.

Surely you remember these theories, back when General Wesley Clark was running for president. Clark, was a stalking horse for Sen. Clinton's devious plot to take the nomination at the summer convention. Read any right-wing (and even some left-wing) blogs and columns from Fall 2003, and you see what nonsense this really was/is.  

Now, most people haven't heard the term 'stalking horse' much less know what it means, and in the era of the staged convention and rules designed to keep crazy things from embarassing anyone at a major party conveniton, this was one of the most unlikely scenarios Campaign 2004 was going to face.

In fact, I'd say these kinds of punditocratic scenarios are about as likely as likely as, say, Monica Bellucci spontaneously coming over to the Waterfront Cafe to buy me a Bitburger during said Democratic Convention this summer. *

No, when it comes to Hillary, put aside the logic - the Clinton Conspiracists need to weasel their way in and have their day. If they can make a buck off it, even better. Today was no different - many stories about Edwards' pick included commentary about how he's somehow automatically become a rival to Sen. Clinton should Kerry lose in 2004, or win and serve two terms to 2012.

Now far be it from me to join the Hillary Bashing Society of America - I don't know her, have never met her, but from what I read she's no more outrageous a Senator than any one of a number of folks on the other side of the aisle. The hysterical squealing of luminaries like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have made bashing this woman a money-making industry for 12 years now, and I fail to take them seriously as anything but people who have to hawk more stickers, tapes, and books.

Put the echo chamber assessments about the alleged now and future rivalries of Edwards and Ms. Clinton aside, for a moment. Let's all take a nice dose of Reality Juice, and think for a moment about this.

We haven't even finished this election, and already, we're trying to pick who's going to run in not one, but two elections, both of which assume different outcomes to the one we haven't finished yet. We're also supposed to make assumptions and pronouncements about such, not based on any facts, but based on emotion, and whatever sells our latest books or blog. Makes for exciting copy, but really will have little to do with events in the future.

More importantly, one has to ask a hard question - just how realistic is a Hillary candidacy/presidency these days anyway? After 12+ years of relentless bashing, coupled with her own accomplishments and missteps, is it realistic to think that if Ms. Clinton were to run that she'd be a viable candidate? In an era of Faux News, 24-hour scandal mongering and professional PR hit men (and women), is it even possible such a candidacy would be viable past a few primaries?

Unfortunately, unless something major changes in this country, I'm afraid the answer is no. I am sure she's a nice person and all, but after seeing what the media did to Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, who didn't have the defenses a Clinton would, it's hard to see how this would shake out any differently, ex-First Lady or not. It's unfortunate that's one of the realities of our system, and it's unfair, but it is what it is.

So when you hear more of these conspiracy theories, just remember it's one of those things political junkies and pros love to talk about, and the "Land of What If" is a fun place to play. Unfortunately for us, it clouds the news coverage, and we end up talking about some professional mouth's latest vacation in that magical land, instead of trying to assess what's happening right now, in the real world.

*Message to the talented Ms. Bellucci - You can still come by and visit me here in Venice Beach if you want.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

June 30, 2004

The Blowtorch and Pliers, Applied to Ralph Nader by...Ralph Nader!

What a difference a few weeks makes for the fledgling Nader 2004 campaign. This week the US Green Party declined to "endorse" Nader's non-Green "independent" candidacy in favor of nominating their own candidate, party activist David Cobb. So much for coronations on the Left.

Reading about the Greens' convention in Milwaukee, WI was like reading about a long gone era in Democratic and Republican conventions - one in which the outcome was not predetermined before the delegates got there, with real drama, and a very contentious debate before a decision on who their nominee would be, and a close vote.

In an era of Reality TV, I think both Democrats and Republicans have missed the boat on this. Can you imagine if we had a real Democratic convention, with real drama, and realtime dealmaking, televised as the ultimate reality show? Might have been fun. Ah, but I digress.

By all accounts, it is Ralph Nader who did the best job of defeating Ralph Nader, losing the chance at ballot access in many key states, including California. Nader's stubborn decision to run as an "independent" (or nominee of what's left of the Reform Party, depending on what day you ask spokesman Kevin Zeese what their candidate's message is) managed to highlight already simmering tensions between the self-styled pop idol candidate and party from another generation of lefty types.

Many were already sore about Nader's past slights, heavy handed management style, a refusal to share volutneer lists and information with grassroots party regulars, and a distinct lack of cooperation with local Green activists and leaders like San Francisco Supervisor and mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez.

The fact that Nader refused to run as a Green, and refused to even attend a convention from whom he sought an endorsement demonstrated a real lack of politcal sense even a kid running for fourth grade president has. If you want the group to vote for you, you have to ask them first and it probably helps to actually show up as well. The Left is not big on coronations - heck you can't even wear leather or eat a burger in one of these places, so trappings of royalty tend not to sit well.

This was on the heels of more bad news for the Nader machine. Recent reports in the Washington Post detailing more suspicious misuse of non profit facilities for Nader's presidential camapign resulted in an ethics watchdog group filing a formal complaint against the Nader campaign, and raising more questions about Nader not unlike past charges of financial shenanigans brought against Nader by watchdog groups concerned about PIRG fundraising.

Additional reports of Nader's second attempt to get on the Oregon ballot did not help his cause much either. Reports that conservative leaning groups were attempting to "stack" the event to benefit Nader, not out of some love for Nader's policies, but instead in a bid to try and defeat Kerry, had none of the grassroots charm or energy Nader wishes his campaign had.

Instead it was an effort muddled by those who have no interest in Nader at all - except as a potential spoiler to defeat John Kerry in the fall. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the aging and increasingly bitter Nader and his dwindling camapign. A new ethics complaint now filed against the Nader campaign, and allies of the Bush/Cheney campaign only lead to more stains on the record for St. Ralph and company.

Thus it's time to reassess Nader's candidacy in the light of reality. Additional reports of sagging interest and internal disorganization within the Nader operation continue to dodge the campaign, to the point where Nader's band of folks can no longer keep repeating the "press is out to get us" retort they've been using for over 10 years now - it's time to realize that this circus ran out of calliope music a long time ago, and the only ones left paying for it are people who hope that it will somehow harm Kerry in some circuitous way.

It's time to wonder what kind of legacy Ralph will leave on this race, in the final analysis. It is also time to wonder why news about this sorry candidacy is deemed on a level equal to that of the President or a sitting US Senator's major party challenge of said president. Call me crazy, but this little circus' tent is on fire, and the ringmaster's been drinking 40s on his lunch break. Not exactly a professional three-ringer like the Democrats and Republicans are putting on.

Many polls show that if an election were held today in many "swing" states, Nader's 3% could tip states to Bush, or at least make Kerry sweat a lot more than if the question was to choose either Bush or Kerry , hence the attention/concern/encouragement of Nader by folks on all sides. However, polling is not a predictor of future results - they are only a snapshot in time which assumes Nader's on the ballot - note the word "assume."

Thus, while Nader's numbers now indicate a threat, that assumes of course, that he'll be on the ballot. However, given his lack of organization, his lack of a Green Party nomination (with its access to the ballot in over 22 states) and a campaign message that gets more and more muddled each day starts to make the hopes of Bush supporters wishing for another "Nader factor" to help the President win re-election dimmer and dimmer.

Unlike the Gore camapign, which foolishly pissed away its advantages one by one, and ignored Nader until it was too late, the Democratic side has a unity of purpose not seen in ages, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that this election, win or lose, will not be held hostage by Nader.

It's rare one gets to see a candidte implosion in such slow motion. Usually when we see a candidate go down in flames the media is too busy fanning them for us to get to see just how bad the crash can be. At the rate Ralph Nader is going, the tent's collapsing, the lions have escaped, the carnies are being jailed, and yet the ringmaster is still insisting the show will go on. Don't bet on it.

UPDATE: Salon.com published a new feature detailing more of the many things Ralph Nader would rather you not read about, lest it make you think he's anything less than a saint.

UPDATE 2: Faced with the cold hard fact that he did not get enough signatures to qualify for the Arizona ballot Nader abandoned his bid for ballot status in that state. Predictably, Keven Zeese assumed his role of Chief Crybaby for the camapign, and whined about the "unfairness" of it all.

Now, this afternoon we're hearing more whining and crying from Kevin Zeese, probably the whiniest spokesman for a candidate in recent memory, accusing people of dirty tricks. Guess when your boss is dishing out the attacks it's ok, but when someone calls you and your boss on your sullied reputations, life's not so good, eh, Mr. Zeese. So much for "fairness" from the Nader crew.

Memo to Kevin Zeese: When the rules say you need a certain number of signatures that are legitimate to qualify for the ballot, that's the number you need.

This is a "1" or a "0" type situation - whining and "debating" have no place. You guys failed in your mission, and now you're not on the ballot. Stop blaming others for your own inability to organize an effective campaign.

Your own incompetence, and the sheer lack of political skill or strategy by Boss Nader, are not the fault of the Democrats, Republicans or The Man. It's yours. Time to own your failures and move on, kids. The whining and crying is getting a bit old.

Hey! Take a page from the great Maddox, and get some Johnson's and Johnson's "No More Tears" baby shampoo. Charge it to the campaign - it's a legitimate expense for you!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

June 11, 2004

Lies from the Right - or Why You CAN see Reagan's Portrait at SAG

According to a good friend at the Screen Actor's Guild, it seems our truth-challenged bloggers and talk show hosts out there have been peddling a lie to their listeners, and it's creating all sorts of headaches for the Guild.

The lie? That the "liberal" Screen Actor's Guild doesn't have a portrait of Reagan in its offices, despite the fact that he was a president of the union for many years.

This isn't a debatable point at all - it's one of those "1 or 0" situations, and in this case it's a "1" and the people lying about it are a "0." It's a lie. Smirky Republicans can make up all the stories they want, but it's still a lie.

One that's caused the Guild quite a bit of hassle as Self-Appointed Guardians of Liberty (aka cranks) call up the Guild and proceed to bitch mightily about the injustice of it all - unaware that they've been hoodwinked by self serving liars who needed to ride Reagan's death for a boost in the ratings. The guild had to waste a lot of time answering questions and putting out press releases to correct what was a lie. Odd how journalists and others jumped on this without checking facts, such a shock, really.

I can personally attest to the total falseness of said lie - I have attended events at SAG's main offices, including one at the James Cagney Conference Room. When you enter the room there are portraits, all identically sized, of every former president of the union - including such notable "liberals" as Ronald Reagan and George Murphy*.

What a tremendous waste of everyone's time, all caused by a nice big lie told by people who claim to be our Moral Guardians. Thanks kids. It's good to know that some people feel a need to memorialize the former president with a nice big lie that causes good people a big headache.

*It's interesting to note that most actors who run for office are Republicans: George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple Black (although she was defeated in her one bid for Congress she served as Ambassador several times), Fred Thompson, Fred Grandy, and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger. Doesn't fit the Crank Squad's view of the world, but I guess with blinders on you can see more or less what you want.

UPDATE: A brief mention of my site on this topic appeared at LA Observed! Thanks Mr. Roderick!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

May 3, 2004

My Guy, Right or Wrong, I Don't Care What The Facts Are

Whenever I hear the latest news about how the war in Iraq is being conducted, I like to replace the names of those involved with other names, to get a new perspective on the news. For example:

"WASHINGTON - After the deadliest month yet for U.S. troops in Iraq, top Gore administration officials fear the situation will deteriorate in coming weeks as insurgents try to create turmoil amid the June 30 handover of power to Iraqis.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, White House officials said Monday they see reason to be hopeful that the situation will eventually improve. But they can't say when the turning point will come.

From President Gore on down, the administration now acknowledges that the U.S.-led occupation bred more frustration among Iraqis than the White House had initially expected.

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? Would a President Gore be allowed to run a war and occupation as poorly as the Bush Administration has done, and get a free pass from the media? Probably not.

In fact whenever I read about the war, the economy, or any current event, I like to cross out "Bush", "Cheney", "Rumsfeld" et al and replace them with "Clinton," "Gore," "Cohen" or any other non-Republican name, just for fun. Would such news and events be permitted, nay, even defended by the chorus of pundits and writers who shout approval to the current administration? Hardly.

It makes you realize just how divided this country is right now - and how each side has developed an almost irrational devotion to loving "their guy" and hating "the other guy."

Criticism is one thing, standing up for the candidate you believe is one thing, but nowadays it seems people are very rabid in "their guy." Talk to a Bush supporter and they will be hard pressed to give you a reason the President could lose his or her vote.

I've often said that I think the President could announce on TV that he axe murdered orphans and buried them in the Rose Garden, and he'd still have FOX News, the GOP base, and an army of pundits who would still defend him to the bitter end. After all, he's "their" guy, and they have to defend him, No Matter What.

Then again, the president has announced we've been doing some nasty things to POWs in Iraq, the deaths of more of our brave men and women in one month than during the entire war, and an economy that continues to putter, yet he still seems to do OK with most folks on his "side." Who cares what those hippies in the blue states think anyway?

It's not that much different than the blind defense many on the other side gave President Clinton during the whole Monica Lewinsky affair. Now, I voted for Clinton, twice, but even I thought he acted like a big idiot cheating on his wife the way he did and where he did it. I know too many guys like that in politics, and I've discovered that men with a "cheating heart" cheat in business and politics too, if they can get away with it.

While I wasn't sure booting him out like some wanted to do was the right response, I didn't think it was worth defending either. But as you may recall, times did not allow for shades of gray in one's opinion. You either hated Clinton or loved him - regardless of the facts.

But that's where we are now. Two sides who will not waver in support of "their" guy, no matter what. A precious few undecided voters who will play a significant role in determining who wins. And two candidates spending incredible amounts of money to kick, stab, beat, and punch the other guy and rile up their folks to get to the polls. We've already seen the opening salvos - and it isn't going to get any more pleasant or intelligent as the months pass.

People often ask me what "issues" will decide this election and I tell them that this is the most issue-less campaign we've seen, ironically at a time when we really do need a rational discussion of what the next few years are going to be like.

We could use some intelligent conversation between an incumbent President who has been singularly responsible as commander-in-chief of a war that is not going very well, and an incumbent US Senator who has counter-punched the attacks, but still leaves us with little in the way of what he'd do any different or any better.

I don't expect to hear much of such thoughtful discussion from two campaigns that seem bent on spending every dollar and using every surrogate to lie, cheat, and attack their way into power. While it would be easy to lay all the blame at Bush's feet, he's not the only one engaging in the shenanigans of spin and attack.

Remember all those anonymous attacks on Howard Dean as a tool of Osama Bin Laden? Remember how each Democratic debate was a "Piss on Dean" match? Not exactly a model of statesmanship on the Democratic side, to be sure.

You, however, can bypass the foolishness and make an informed decision for yourself. Rather than listen to some blowhard talking head, or some noisy TV ad to make your decisions, spend a few minutes trying to find out what the real issues are - and what's more hot air being belched out of an advertising person's word processor.

There are some excellent websites out there - in particular, I recommend Spinsanity.org which has a good record on deconstructing the latest comments by both sides and exposes the truths and distortions from each camp.

Too many good people are dying in Iraq and too many good people are looking for work right now to allow the decision as to who will be running the Executive Branch of the United States Government a ping pong match of attacks and counter attacks by clever advertising folks.

The campaigns may not be interested in something a bit more dignified - but you have the choice as to whether you will listen to it, or find out the facts for yourself and make a decision based on good information, instead of bad spin.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

April 23, 2004

Plank THIS In Your Political Platform!

Every four years we're treated to a national political convention from the major (and yes, even the minor) political parties. Two of said conventions, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions will be televised. Much ado is made about such conventions, in particular, the byzantine navigation of party rules and regulations at the national, state, and local level to craft what is known as a "party platform."

Personally, I think if you asked most people what a "Party Platform" was they would think you were talking about the thing the politician stands on when he or she gives a speech. I don't say that to suggest most people are stupid - on the contrary, I'd say it suggests just how relevant the "real" party "platform" is in American political life.

Every year, especially when there's an open election on either party's side (or as in 2000 on both) there's much hand-wringing and big political talk about "the platform." Winning candidates don't talk about it much, except in broad strokes; less successful candidates talk about advancing their candidacy to "influence" said document. You'd think these people were talking about the Magna Carta II: Electric Boogaloo or something by the importance placed on it.

Nowhere are the fights more bitter, or more vicious, than at the local level. In fact, as you go down the food chain, from the Big Deal At The Convention, on down to the state level, and then on down to the congressional, state legislative, and precinct level, you'd find that the fights, pissing matches, longwinded debates, and endless talk by party "activists" gets more and more irrelevant as you go.

I will never forget the horror story a friend of mine in Washington State relayed to me years ago, when he was deputized to run a local caucus that began delegate selection in that state. After running through the day's business at the usual pace (slow) the entire proceeding was held up by an intense debate about the wording of some resolution that people wanted to make that would really stick it to The Man and express their will as Democrats.

What was the Big Issue? Was it "abortion"? "Taxes"? "Defense Spending"? "Guns"? "Malt Liquor Taxation Rates"? SOMETHING important?

No. In fact, the 3 hour debate was whether to word some resolution to say the Party was in support of working families versus working people No, I am not making this up.

The debate got so heated he had to call a time out on the whole thing and make people go into separate corners, like kids. He called me up that night and relayed said experience, and began to wonder what it was they put in the coffee that day.

By no means is this confined to one party - I have attended events on both sides, and even some "third party" conventions, and found this to be a universal truism. Friends in the GOP tell me horror stories that easily match the rage and futility that match situations like this all the time.

The problem is, the "platform" in today's system is almost entirely irrelevant to what happens should Candidate A or Candidate B get elected. Sure, one party can take potshots at another over some particularly goofy statement that accidentally gets through the system, but these potshots are becoming more and more rare as both major parties devise layers of rules to keep anything from happening - again, not that it matters.

I have yet to see a collaborationist Democrat or a collusionist Republican get seriously reprimanded for going against the national or state party's platform. What would happen if they did? What if said platform was the defining document of all political identity in say, the Democratic Party?"

I've always imagined it might be something like this:

Scene: A dimly lit chamber, with five thrones up on a very tall stage. A renegade politico (picture Steve Westly, for example) stands in shackles, with a large spotlight beaming directly overhead.

Five hooded figures, each with a donkey and tattoos of Adlai Stevenson on their foreheads and dark heavy cloaks march out and take their places and glare at the One Who Dared Collaborate With Doofinator.

After hailing their Great Leaders of the Party (Truman, Roosevelt, Clinton, et al) who appear on huge, Soviet-realist style portraits two stories high, The Party Bigwig begins to speak.

Party Bigwig 1: Steve Westly, you are hereby charged with violating a tiny portion of the Democratic Party Platform. Before the Central Committee passes judgment, what say ye?

Steve "Beaver Cleaver" Westly: Um, I'm really sorry I supported that dumbass credit card bond? And, oh yeah, vote for me for Governor in 2006!

Party Bigwig 2: SILENCE, WORM! You have violated the Mighty Platform, and YE SHALL BE PUNISHED!!

Steve "Beaver Cleaver" Westly: Please...have mercy...I thought it was a good idea at the time...all the other kids were doing it...an older kid made me do it...no...don't punish me O Mighty Bigwig

Party Bigwig 1: SILENCE, TRAITOR!  It is the determination of this Committee that YOU have VIOLATED the PLATFORM, and you shall now feel the full force of the wrath of The Party! You will be removed from office forthwith, and you will be banished from politics forever! Let this be a lesson to all who dare oppose....THE PLATFORM!! Muah ha ha ha ha!

Cue dramatic gothic organ music, and a chorus singing the Internationale. Or the Macarena. Whatever works.

Well, wouldn't it be cool if they did do that? Oh come on, you're no fun!

We know what really happens. People spend a lot of time wording these things, other people spend more time rewriting them. But in the end, it doesn't mean a hell of a lot. Any politician can pretty much do whatever they want, call themselves what they want, and no one can really stop them unless voters toss 'em out.

It's why a guy like Governor Doofinator can nominally be "pro-choice" or "pro-gay" but still remain in a party whose official platforms strongly oppose both. It's also how a guy like Bill Clinton can be voted in by Democrats twice, while never getting that national health care thing done in eight years.

To political journalists, it's something to write about when they get tired of the ping pong match of TV ads we're seeing right now, and it gives some candidates something to talk about now that the nominations of both parties are "decided" in "advance." No one has to really abide by them, and no one really cares in the party, outside of the party, or anywhere.

Which is unfortunate. It would be nice if we had conventions that really decided things, and were interesting to take part in and watch. It would be even better if we had more parties that stood for something, instead of two "big tent" parties that try to be all things to all people. But most prefer what we have, simply because it's easier to cover, and easier to understand

Besides, if we had the system I've always advocated (four parties: Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, and Republican) which would let people more easily express their real intent at the ballot box, it would at least make things more fun.

Hey, it worked in New York for many years! Why not try it nationally? Can things be any more dull than they are now?

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

March 16, 2004

A Very Useful Clarification on "Corporate" Money

One of the many things I find irritating about the coverage of campaign finance, and the activists who continue to come up with worse and worse "reforms" for said system, is how people will look at a disclosure report, note all the employers listed (as required by law) and then pompously pronounce that Corporation XYZ gave X amount of dollars to Candidate Doe.

It makes for a dramatic headline and story. The problem is it's completely wrong. Corporations cannot give to federal candidates - there's no vagueness on this issue. It's one of those "1 or 0" situations - i.e. it's either one way or another, with no in-between answer. In this case the answer is "0". Yes individuals who work for those corporations can give, but those are just individuals deciding what they want to do with their money. But that tends to be less dramatic and exciting than the former analysis.

There is a very well written analysis at the National Review which discusses this issue quite eloquently.

Special thanks to the Rick Hasen's well written Election Law Blog for highlighting this article.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

March 15, 2004

What's The Difference Between a Fee and Tuition?

Gov. Doofinator (AKA Pete Wilson II) is at it again. Not content to push a phony credit card bond (with plenty of help from alleged Democrats like Steve Westly), now we're getting the usual "fee hikes" at the University of California, California State University, and community college campuses. (Prison guards will get their raises, don't worry!)

However, many reporters often make a mistake when covering these issues and it's not just a matter of semantics - it's a matter of accuracy. Specifically, whenever "fees" are raised, they often use the term "tuition" interchangeably as today's LA Times story does here.

The reason this is important is quite simple- the laws governing the creation and management are very specific - California residents cannot be charged "tuition" (i.e. money paid to cover the costs of their education) at any California school. The only people who pay "tuition" are out-of-state students at any of these schools.

Now to some people this may still seem like a semantic difference, but it's critical that those watching budget shenanigans know why it's important. Whenever "fees" are jacked up at a UC campus for example, not a dime of that money covers the actual cost of educating the people who are attending the school. Instead, the schools transfer the payment of the university or college's basic functions away from the state and on to the students and their parents.

Guess what one of those expenses is? Can't guess? More money for aid for students who can't afford to go to college! (and the bureaucracy that runs it!) If that cycle of silliness doesn't boggle your mind, I have a job for your as Governor Doofinator's budget guy/gal.

So once again the point needs to be clear - the money that folks are being asked to pay is not part of any "tuition" - and those covering such issues should know the difference since recognizing this fact makes the big picture issue a lot different than the one painted by Gov. Doofinator and his Wilsonian cronies.

Once again, we have one of the famous "California disconnects" in public policy. We pass bonds to build buildings at colleges, yet not a dime of that (expensive) money pays for the teachers or books that go in them. We raise the cost of attending the college buildings, but again, the increased out of pocket expenses do not cover the cost of the teachers or the books that are part of the education one is paying for.

Thus, when you attend a California school, you will end up spending a lot more time waiting for the classes you need to graduate. That means more money borrowed to spend more time in school, while those who can afford a 4 year stint at Yale or Stanford can get their degree and get on with their lives.

Which brings up one other point - whenever these "fees" are raised, the inevitable comparison comes up that although the cost is more, it's still "cheaper" than an Ivy League school which is considered comparable. This may have held water 20 years ago, but nowadays it is kind of like raising the price of a Camry 40% and saying "well it's still cheaper than a Mercedes Benz." Which of course, is true, but is it a value anymore if the price is inflated? Or does one start looking elsewhere for a better deal.

Frankly after years of paying for prison guard raises over school, and the sheer incompetence of UC's management of the weapons labs here and in New Mexico, I believe that comparison could be questioned. More to the point - with the eroding course offerings at all levels of the education system and the difficulty in getting classes needed to get out in four years, such a comparison at the undergraduate level may not hold any longer.

More importantly, the point of a public university system, built and paid for by the citizens of California, is meant for their free use first. A vibrant, active, and accessible education to those smart enough to qualify, allows our state to have people capable of creating the businesses and coming up with the new ideas we'll need to stay on top.

Otherwise, we will continue the slide towards becoming a Third World country - something I'd rather not see. A college education is no longer a "luxury" or an "extra" as it was in the Industrial Age. If you want a job or a future with any hope of more than minimum wage and no benefits, you have to go to college. Just ask the grocery workers who went on strike. Or the blue collar workers on the permanent unemployment line.

More important, the taxpaying citizens of California built these colleges with the idea that anyone smart enough to get in could go to school. This has been the social contract between the state and the people for over 100 years. Making the comparison in cost to other states or private schools is a betrayal of that contract - not everyone can pick up and move to Michigan, New York or some other state to get an education - nor should they.

Generations of prominent Californians were able to get their education at community colleges, state Universities, and UC campuses for a minimal cost. It's time to end the circus, and find a better way to maintain a free, quality education for those smart enough to deserve one.

PS: I recently read a very interesting story about an immigrant who came to California in the late 60s, who was in need of some improvements to his education if he was to succeed in his chosen field. Because Santa Monica College was available to him, he was able to take some classes and improve both his language skills and his knowledge of his new adopted homeland.

He has since gone on to be a tremendously successful businessman, and a leader on the national stage. You can guess where this is going...yes, in fact it was Arnold Schwarzenegger. (insert Paul Harvey-esque music here)


© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

March 12, 2004

Ping, Pong, Phftt - Camapign 2004 is ALREADY boring....

Here we are, living in the United States, apparently one of the most powerful and free nations on earth, about to pick the person who is going to lead the Executive Branch of the national government in a time of uncertainty and crisis. You'd think such times would merit a serious, and careful campaign by all sides, as people are asked to make a decision that will have significant impact both now, and in the future.

And here's the debate so far, and what we can look forward to, if history, and the personalities involved, are any indication of what we can expect to hear every morning on the news:

PING!: President Bush said today that Sen. John Kerry was a flake, a Communist, and wants to reduce the military to a kazoo band and a pack of Cub Scouts with slingshots.

PONG!: Sen. John Kerry, responded to the latest attack ad campaign by calling Bush the worst president since Hoover, and labeled his poor grammar "appalling in time of world crisis."

PING!: A nasty surrogate of President Bush, in a meth-induced right wing frenzy, likened Kerry to Stalin and Lenin, insinuated he was a traitor, and said that anyone not voting for the President was a non-American hippie freak. The Bush campaign distanced themselves from the comments, as they came from an unaffiliated organization.

PONG!: A nasty surrogate of Sen. Kerry , in a similar frenzy, likened Bush to Hitler and Satan's Spawn, insinuated he was a traitor, and said that anyone voting for the President was a non-American nazi freak. The Kerry campaign distanced themselves from the comments, as they came from an unaffiliated organization.

Ok, perhaps I've exaggerated. A little.

However, this is what we can expect, and what we're getting already, now that the we've got our nominee on the Democratic side, and the vitriol can begin. Already President Bush is putting out some of the most misleading ads and attacks, backed up by the money he's got. Sen. Kerry is responding, as he promised ("Bring it on!" - remember that?) but doesn't have the money to mount a full response, so he has to spend time on the trail speaking up. Every day some little droid writes up the day's talking points/vitriolic rhetoric, with the nastier ones saved for surrogates, and someone has a response.

Now, I'm not one of those people who whines "negative campaigning" for the sake of saying "ooh it's too mean, boo hoo" and then goes home to watch The Apprentice, Survivor, Big Brother, or any one of a number of nastier things on TV or the movies.

There's nothing negative about bringing up an opponent's past and asking for a closer examination. For example if someone says he or she is a strong conservative family values candidate, but in their own life gambles excessively and cheats on their spouse, it's not slander to point this fact out. Armed with this knowledge, people can decide if it's relevant or not. It isn't pleasant to talk about, and disclosing such information isn't meant to be happy, but facts in context are relevant and should be discussed. There are dozens of other scenarios, this is but one.

Unfortunately, the kind of name calling , nasty insinuations, the "might be" slur, and the the "you're unpatriotic if you don't vote our way" crap I can't stand are the standard so far, and it is going to get old very fast.

The news media is going to get bored and whip out a custom copy of Mad Libs to write their stories. We won't really get an accounting from either candidate on their past, good and bad, that would tell us whether they should be in the White House. We deserve better and it's high time for Americans of all political stripes to demand better from their party's standard bearer.

Also if Sen. Kerry hopes to win this election, he can't allow himself to play a standard point-counterpoint, hit-for-hit campaign, and allow the landscape to be defined by a bunch of bogus soundbites concocted by Karl Rove. He will never have the money to match Bush and Rove dollar for dollar to buy the ads needed, and the soundbite "noise" will get in the way of talking to voters about what he'll do if he is elected in 2004.

Now I'm not suggesting that Kerry and his campaign aren't good at what they do - they are great! - but what I am suggesting is that they're going to have to think out of the box to get around the wall of bullshit and money the Bush team is going to have at their disposal (not to mention he is an incumbent with all the power that entails!)

I'll admit - I've never run a presidential campaign before and I'm sure that if Robert Shrum were to read this he'd call me up and tell me just how full of crap I am. Indeed. After all how many presidents did I elect all by myself? Zero. But I also know that when you're up against the overwhelming odds of a poweful incumbent who has more money in his change purse than you do in your bank account, you will lose if you play their game.

That's why you need to pick up your money and go to another table and pick a game you have a chance instead. If I'm losing at roulette, I leave with my pocket change and go play craps instead where I have half a chance (although some would argue that the way I play craps I have NO chance but that's another story...)

Kerry needs to leave the table with his money and play another game. Pole vault over Bush's pompous and hollow rhetoric with something that gets people excited, that makes them laugh, but also make them think. Take people by surprise and make them want to stand out in the rain on election day getting those extra voters out. People with considerably less than Kerry, both politically and personally, have pulled off such wins and he can do it too.

Here's a few past campaigns to take a look at and consider. Now as always, keep in mind that copying past advertising word-for-word never works - we've seen that done to death in both politics and in commercial advertising. What does work is the observation of how others thought outside conventional boundaries, and then consider how one might do so themselves successfully. Enjoy the history lesson!

A trip via the Wayback Machine finds us with some case studies. You can find out more at your local library, or online at Google.com

1990: Paul Wellstone vs. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, MN: In 1990, a relatively unknown college professor, Paul Wellstone, got the nod to run against incumbent Rudy Boschwitz, who had enormous financial and political resources at his disposal. Given no chance to win by the Democratic Establishment in Washington, and little hope by even his own supporters (at first), Wellstone, it seemed was doomed to be a footnote to history.

Wellstone's team realized this quickly and rather than wallow in self-pity or throw up a few scattershot humdrum ads, they instead played off a pop culture phenomena of the time to launch a very memorable ad campaign. A new film, Roger and Me had been released to wide acclaim, and a humorous 2 minute ad starring Wellstone in "Looking for Rudy", mimicking Moore's film, was made.

The ad only ran a few times - but the humor combined with constant replays on national television news programs, began an effective redefinition of the race. Without a lot of money what little message out there had to be memorable - and it worked. Combined with Wellstone's humor and campaign organization, he ended up being the only Democratic challenger to win a US Senate seat that year. Wellstone's media consultant would go on to make the ads that helped Gov. Jesse Ventura win election in 1998.

1992: Russ Feingold vs. Sen. Bob Kasten, WI: Two years later, a similar race evolved between a little-known state legislator, Russ Feingold and incumbent Bob Kasten, another powerful incumbent with a ton of money. Again, up against such odds, Feingold ran an ad campaign played up his commitment to the voters of Wisconsin (painted on his garage door, no less) and dismissed the usual negative blather with an entertaining ad putting such nonsense in the context of Elvis sightings in the National Enquirer.

These and other informative and unusual ads communicated his platform of economic and political reform far better than if he ran conventional tit-for-tat advertising responding to each nasty missive from the incumbent. He continues to serve in the US Senate today.

1994: Ron Sims vs. Sen. Slade Gorton, WA: Ron Sims, an energetic and thoughtful Seattle politician, challenged longtime Washington politician Slade Gorton in what would be an uphill battle similar to Wellstone and Feingold's races in previous years. Sims was a dynamic speaker with a powerful life story, coupled with a knowledge of public policy rarely matched in state politics. Sims' challenge was bold, and had the potential to be another upset win.

Unfortunately, his campaign fell short, primarily because he was hit relentlessly with advertising attacking his record, much of it distorted and untrue. Outspent by the incumbent, Sims did not have the resources to run the ads needed to counter the charges.

His advisors elected to engage in a traditional "ping-pong" style combination of attacks, responses and scattered positive pieces. Without the money needed to fund such a campaign effectively, much of Sims' message was lost amidst the crush of Republican advertising that returned control of Congress to the GOP for the first time in 50 years.

To be fair, Sims was the only challenger to do reasonably well in a year when many well-funded people lost (including House Speaker Tom Foley), and it may have been impossible for him to win no matter what he did And, it is not as if his advisors were incompetent - they were and continue to be, some of the best in the business. However, their bid was a longshot to begin with, and they had nothing to lose by trying something a little more "out there."

It's not unlike fighting the British in the Revolution. Do you march around in red coats in a straight (and much shorter) line like the British do, or do you wear darker clothing and hide behind trees and outwit your opponent?

Sims went on to win two terms as King County Executive, the second most powerful position in Washington politics. He is now running for Governor this year.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

March 1, 2004

Memo to Ralph Nader - The Blowtorch and Pliers Have Arrived.


To: Ralph "Nadering Nabob of Negativism" Nader
From: Schädelmann.com
Date: Right Now
Subject: Time To Take A Blowtorch and a Pair of Pliers To Your Sorry Ass

Mr. Nader, it's come to my attention you have chosen to run for the Presidency of the United States of America in 2004. That's great. I am sure you're full of all kinds of bile and vinegar, and have plenty of insult-laden attacks on Democrats worthy of a Rove. Woo hoo.

You still have the nerve to blather you were "right" in 2000. Even your past supporters have told you not to run, and rational people agree that your basic thesis - that electing Gore or Bush would make no difference - has been blown to smithereens by four years of war, corruption, and corporate rule under President Bush. If you honestly think we'd be in the same situation today with a President Gore, you're either insane or stupid. Pick one.

Don't get me wrong. If you want to run again, that's fine with me. I'm all for free speech and if you want to sound like the egomaniacal fool that you are, go forth and rant. The 1st Amendment still protects stupid speech (unless you're Justin Timberlake...but I digress) and the Republic is not threatened by you this time, despite what some may think.

However, I'm going to exercise my free speech rights and demand you be held accountable for your shadowy past and answer for your missteps just as we should with Sen. John Kerry and President Bush. To paraphrase a popular film by Mr. Tarantino - it's time to take a blowtorch and a pair of pliers to your ass. You may have gotten a free pass from the corporate-think Washington Insiders at the DNC, but no more. Since they seem to have an almost congenital inability to put up a fight, I'm sparking up the torch right now.

I've read and heard your negative, angry, bitter ranting, aiming your hatred at people like Gov. Howard Dean, who built in mere months what your sorry ass has tried to do for decades - build a national movement organized for change based on small donations raised through honest means. I've heard you say a lot as an activist and a candidate about how money corrupts politics. Interestingly enough, your own fundraising schemes provide little alternative to our current corrupt process.

What's the Nader way of doing business? Run a record-club like scam on college campuses (AKA the PIRGs) to get the money you need. I've seen these operations up close as a former canvasser for CalPIRG, and the shady fundraising, along with some of the lousiest work conditions this side of Bangalore, aren't pretty. Any job that makes staff pay for office supplies out of their pocket while raking in millions is no progressive workplace.

I'm not the only one who has seen behind the curtain and Ralph, it ain't pretty. Too many others have come forward as well with their allegations, and your witty rejoinder is to attack them personally, or avoid talking about the issue altogether. Not exactly full and frank disclosure, is it?

It's bad enough your fundraising operations are so shadowy, but even more troubling is your long record of union busting activities at your various organizations. At a time when organized labor is taking it on the chin from all sides, the last thing we need is an avowed enemy of labor organizing proclaiming them to be the true friend of working men and women in this country. The fact that you still refuse to fully explain how and why you take money and support from hiding behind a web of corporate-style organizations that's not the case. Mr. Nader, you make activism into a business that profits you and you alone. Worse, you've gotten a pass from the media for investing said funds into consumer friendly operations like Halliburton Corporation, no friend of the environment or the taxpayer. Not this time, though. You can't keep hypocritically demanding the government and other candidates put out a full and frank disclosure of their interests but only do so yourself after years of denial and evasion. Feel that heat? That's the blowtorch cutting it really close right about now.

The corruption and lying would be bas enough, but your egomaniacal lack of support of up and coming progressive leaders like San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez is really astonishing. When the election was getting close, Mayor Newsom had President Clinton and Vice President Gore helping him out as an up and coming Democrat. When an up and coming Green Party politico needed help, you were AWOL. I'm sure you have some bullshit excuse, but it won't wash with me, and it certainly doesn't wash with the Greens.

Filmmaker Michael Moore found time to give support and a contribution to Matt's campaign - it's strange that a self-appointed Green Party leader couldn't do the same. You might have been of some use in an election that mattered - but I think you were too busy screaming insults and witty barbs at the Democrats to pay attention. (That's the pliers making their appearance about now).

So go forth and run, Ralph. Your bid won't generate nearly the enthusiasm or the support it did just a few years ago, and the fact is, you won't be on enough ballots to make much of a difference anyway. Rational and free-thinking people know that this election's too important to screw around with a self-appointed cult leader whose main contribution to American politics of late has been nasty and rude comments about the personalities of Democratic politicians, while offering no record of accomplishments since you took on the Chevy Corvair.

Not any more. If the Democrats and the media won't do their job, I will do it for them. I have plenty of pairs of pliers and a good blowtorch, and have no problems using both, and more, this time around Ralph. Consider yourself warned. The Nader-ing Nabob of Negativity ends now and Schädelmann.com plans to lead the charge.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

February 25, 2004

March 2nd Primary Endorsements- Taxpayer Funded Fun!

The geniuses who moved California's primary from the sensible, and safe June to the irrationally early March did so to "give California more say" in the presidential primaries. But because of the unbalanced front loading of the primaries so far our "choices" have been reduced to picking amongst who'se left: Sen. Kerry, Sen. Edwards, Rep. Kucinich and yes, Rev. Al Sharpton, in the Tuesday primary. Whatever "influence" California might have had has once again been snatched away, reminding one of poor ol' Charlie Brown's quixotic quest to kick that football Lucy has.

While this may reassure Sen. Kerry's campaign, it has the unintended effect of potentially dampening turnout for other campaigns this March, which would be unfortunate. Several very important issues are on the ballot, and it's important to make sure one's voice is heard since many of these will have a more direct and immediate impact on people's lives than who gets elected President. Plus, with so many races already decided, you can do what I do when confronted with inevitable winners in these races, and use your ballot as state-funded entertainment.

So without further ado, some humble recommendations from Schädelmann.com:

President: The only real race right now is on the Democratic side - I am unaware of any serious insurgency on the GOP side. I make two recommendations for you to consider, it really depends on how you feel when you mark your ballot.

If you want to be able to say "Hey, I voted for the winner" then vote for Sen. John Kerry. Polls indicate he's got anywhere from a 25 to 32 point lead over Sen. Edwards, and the rest trail far behind. Thanks primarily to a large loan from himself to the campaign, he was able to revive his flagging fortunes and already President Bush and his minions are attacking him. Even if Kerry's lead were to drop 15 points (not likely) he'd STILL win by over 15 points anyway. So if you want to vote for the "winner" , vote for Sen. John Kerry.

If you don't care about voting for a winner, and want to have some fun, vote for Rep. Dennis Kucinch. I've had the pleasure of meeting Rep. Kucinch and think he's a genuinely nice guy and his campaign staff has always been fun to talk to. Barring some revelations over the weekend, he's not going to win the California primary. But then again, with Kerry being the inevitable winner anyway, voting for Kucinch won't hurt Kerry a bit, and could help Rep. Kucinch get some issues aired at the convention in July. So if you'd like to use your ballot for some taxpayer-funded fun, vote Kucinch.

Proposition 55: Vote No I hate to vote no on building schools, or fixing them since so many are in such sorry shape. But as usual, these fund will build lots of buildings, but make not one assurance that there'll be a dime to fund any classes in them.

Plus when you read the fine print and realize we're paying as much in interest (12.4 billion dollars) as we are in getting actual money to the schools (12.3 billion dollars) you begin to realize this is short term borrowing with long term debt problems. We have too many bonds issued as is - force the Doofinator and the Legislature to fund schools properly, or take the shackles off of local government and let local communities decide for themselves how much they would like to pay for decent schools in their area.

Proposition 56: Vote Yes. The two-thirds requirement to pass a budget is one of these idiotic "think tank" ideas some genius comes up with as a way to try and make things better, when in fact it makes things worse. It makes no sense for a budget with 64% of the votes in the Legislature fail, because it didn't get a full 66% vote.

The wild-eyed claims about making it "easier" to pass higher taxes and the threat of Californians waking up one day to find all their taxes have been quintupled is foolish. If a state Legislature raised taxes too much, they'd get voted out of office - that's our job as voters if that is in fact how we feel.

More importantly, it would force all of our state leaders to make hard decisions about how to run our state government, instead of allowing them to pass clever little "non tax" taxes, like state assessments on parking tickets and the infamous "snack tax" of Gov. Pete Wilson (aka Arnold I).

Return majority rule to the state budget process, and take away the excuses both branches use to evade their roles as leaders charged with making decisions.

Proposition 57/58: Vote NO NO NO NO. Gov. Doofinator ran Gray Davis out of town claiming that Davis resorted to budget trickery that ran our state in to debt, and that he, the Doofinator, would make "tough choices" and bring "leadership" to Sacramento. This bond and pony show does neither.

Rather than be a balls-out real Republican and cut like crazy, he instead proposes to get out the state credit card, and borrow our way out of our problems. This is not leadership - this is deferring the problem to future generations so that Doofinator and the Legislature can say they "fixed" the problem without having to make any difficult choices.

Particularly galling is the total sellout of the Jarvis Taxpayers Association, longtime foes of budget shenanigans (we thought) who have signed on to this foolish package, as well as the sellout of "Democrats" like Steve Westly, who claims to be a Democrat, but can't seem to get those sparkles out of his eyes when standing next to the retired movie star. The witty rejoinder we keep hearing from people who "reluctantly" support this nonsense is the old "well we don't want to make cuts in social programs, so this is the best we can do."

Bullshit! It's is just this kind of crisis that can force everyone to make real decisions and stand up for what it is they truly support and discard what they do not. Sure the battle would be ugly, and the short-term damage would be horrible, but the eventual compromise from an honest debate would be far better than this noise.

Superior Court, Los Angeles County: Since I recently moved here, I do not know much about these candidates. Rather than cast an irresponsible ballot, I'm leaving these blank. I rarely do this, but when I know so little about LA Superior Court issues, I'm not going to add to the noise by casting crazy votes and accidently voting for some nutcase candidate by mistake. Maybe that makes me less of a "knowledgeable pundit," but I'd rather admit I don't know something than lie.

Los Angeles County Supervisor: Los Angeles County, an area bigger than 20 states, has only five supervisors running the County. These people run "their" districts like little feudal kingdoms, safe from any real opposition with huge election bank accounts that ensure no one dares take them on. The geographic area of each supervisor's district is so big, that running a low budget campaign is next to impossible. Thus, voting in these races is like voting in a third world country where the election's been determined in advance, and the "winner" gets something like 110% of the vote.

Thus, vote for any non-incumbent in these races. If the ones running in your area are particularly insane, then write in someone. Anyone. Yourself, your friend, your dog, whatever. Punch a hole in these folks' egos and deny them their 90%. It won't change much but at least you'll make someone at the Elections OFfice have to hand count your ballot.

No matter how you end up deciding to vote, be sure to do so. And make sure you know where your mail-ballot is and your polling place. Although I'm registered in Venice as a Permanent Mail Ballot voter, I have yet to receive my ballot, and after several frustrating calls to the Elections Department did I find that I may never get it - and if I'd followed the advice of the first person to take my call, I would not have been able to vote at all this time around! Scary.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

February 2, 2004

Maybe MoveOn.org Shoulda Used a Farting Horse?

After watching some of the raunchiest (and least entertaining) ads ever aired on television, it was clear CBS was either lying when they gave their reasons for not running Moveon.org's ad, or truly believe they are the Guardian of Democracy, and that our impressionable little minds would have been scarred for life and caused severe public mayhem, had 30 seconds of a four hour spectacle be devoted to and ad politely pointing out the effects of federal spending out of control.

Thanks to CBS's firewall of decency and protection, the Republic was saved, and the CBS commitment to tasteful, "non threatening" advertising was in full force for the big game. True, within moments of the first quarter, we were entertained by an endless array of penis-related humor (including a dog biting a man in the crotch for Bud Lite) and penis-related medication, but that's ok. Who knew that so many options existed for male erectile issues - or so many cutesy metaphors to refer to them?

Perhaps MoveOn.org should go into the brewing business, come out with a beer brand and use some farting horses in a new ad to get some exposure. Or perhaps they could buy the naming rights to Viagra II or some other male enhancement drugs, and bypass the media firewall that way?

Breathe easy folks. Amidst a rain of advertising, that one little thirty second ad raising questions about a federal budget with more red ink than a Red Army recruitment poster wasn't shown. The fragile minds of the "mob" were spared this horror.

FCC Chairman Mike "My Dad Went To DC And All I Got Was This Job" Powell saw no problem with public airwaves being used to sell beer, penis medications, or endless potty humor, nor did he see a problem with public airwaves being denied to a group who wanted to raise some issues regarding out-of-control government spending - but you can bet someone's gonna hang once they get to the bottom of "Breastgate."

Writing a column like this and adding to the pile of "Why did they do that when they air blah blah blah" is almost superfluous at this point - I'm sure if someone did a Lexis Nexis search of ideological moral outrage filed in the press and online, they would find a plethora of similar columns. So why add to the pile?

It's an issue bigger than one ad - we're beginning to see the effects of the centralized control of our media by the corporations that fund federal elections and want to exorcise all public interest out of governing and our daily lives.

I've never bought into the idea that the media has a "right/left" bias - but it is not hard to see it does have a narrow bias geared towards making more money for themselves, and the truth be damned.

The fact that it does tend to lean rightward on some issues is not as much about the ideology of their owners but about the convenient convergence of conservative interests (at least today) and narrow business interests which tend to be at odd with those of small business and individual needs. (Maybe in the case of Rupert Murdoch there's an exception to this rule, but the jury's still out on that one for me.)

Thus, it's no accident that Howard Dean took an avalanche of negative press concluding with the silly "news coverage" of Dean's Iowa "scream" - something the press wizards have belatedly admit was foolish - and wrong. It's also no accident that Sen. John Kerry, who was able to save his faltering bid with a pile of his own money, is now "the sensible choice" to rally around, and the one least likely to upset the status quo if elected in 2004.

True, the media is not responsible for Howard Dean's dumb campaign decisions, nor are they responsible for Kerry's ability to get a loan at prime rate to save his campaign. They are responsible for covering issues, and bringing up difficult questions all candidates, and the President, need to answer - and they simply do not, opting instead to do what makes for a good "story" with cutesy, smart-ass commentary, all of which ultimately benefits their bosses - and no one else.

Thus, when even the last resort - buying time at market rate to get some issues discussed - is denied by networks operating over public airwaves - it's time to take action.

For myself, I'll back anyone who can convince me they'd go to Washington, kick ass and take names at the FCC. Even if they don't succeed, it sure would be fun to see the suits sweat if a President, who didn't owe them anything, got into power, even if it was for just a few short years.

Now that's a story with some real drama - and would make for an interesting read in the papers once in a while.

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

January 14, 2004

Mr. President, Why Do You Mock Us?

Reading the news this morning I have but one question for President Bush: "Why sir, do you mock me so?"

What do I mean? Well, President Bush has this weird habit of saying things I like that make good headlines. Just when I think perhaps I've misjudged, or at least underestimated Our Fearless Leader, I read the fine print and then I feel conned.

For example, Today the White House announced more of President Bush's ongoing plans for outer space, today stating that America will build a new spacecraft to go to the moon, build a moonbase, and eventually send someone to Mars.

Now, on the surface this sounds really cool. Building a moon-base (albeit years past the Space: 1999 deadline), going to Mars, all that sounds great. But then I read the details - and I realize that this isn't a manned mission to Mars - this is going to be a Corporate Mission to Mars, with Halliburton, Bechtel and the Gang who pay for the re-election effort in 2004 in charge. Judging by their performance rebuilding a small Third World country (Iraq) I can only imagine how much we'll be paying for fuel, let alone a whole new spaceship and moonbase.

Plus there are endless questions about how this initiative will get funded, if at all, given the bloated debt a small war in Iraq has already cost us. If it is costing a trillion dollars or more to pay for Iraq, how much money will it cost to occupy the moon? And once the realities of paying for this bold, well written speech come to pass, how likely is it we're going to actually go to the moon?

Reality sets in. President Bush has burned me again. A great headline, a great talking point, a debatable "issue" that will most likely disappear post-election 2004. If we actually get to the point of funding such an initiative, it'll be scaled back to the point of ineffectiveness (similar to what President Nixon did in the early 1970s, giving us the half-assed Space Shuttle program in the first place). Corporations will get lots of money for "feasibility studies." Nothing will happen.

Take another example: President Bush's "bold" immigration proposal. It sounds great: finally addressing the swiss cheese that is immigration reality in this country, and dealing with the fact that most people who are here illegally are here to work at jobs provided by US employers. It seems to provide some sanity to the debate. And of course Mr. Rove has made sure that Latino voters read all about it.

Then the fine print: There really is no plan - just an outline with many loopholes and open ended pieces which if altered by Congress or the President can take what at first glance is a reasonable proposal, and distort it into something really nasty, or unworkable.

Of course, that's not anyone's concern today - we have Mr. Rove's soundbites to "debate" as "issues" and once the election is over, we can toss these bite-sized factoids out the window, and President Bush can do whatever he feels like, free of any worry about the fallout.

Especially irritating is the ultimate mission of such an initiative - to "link up U.S. employers with willing foreign workers" - aka cheap workers - not the well-being of said individuals, or the well-being of states who have to contend with a large foreign population such as California or Texas. It's more about making sure no one gets carted off to jail for hiring illegal immigrants and making sure wages are low for everyone (including U.S. Citizens), not about ensuring a workable situation for the people involved.

It's almost a bait-and-switch, but the switch is so nebulous, and so hard to pin on the actual President himself, it's easy for him to deny there was a switch in the first place - just "unforeseen new obstacles." It's a neat trick, something I would have never thought Bush was smart enough to pull off, but this more of Rove's fingerprints than Bush or Bush the Elder's.

The list goes on and on. Bush supports hydrogen fuels for future use by the US - great! We can finally tell the oil companies and the OPEC nations to go to hell and save what's left of the environment with something cheap and clean. Then I read it's to be derived from petroleum products, not sea water or other sources, thus defeating the purpose and advantage o such a plan. Fooled again.

The big one of course was that whole Iraq war thing we had sometime last year. The headline was great - save the world from WMDs and make the world safe for democracy at home and abroad. Sounds great - then you find out it's more about securing oil reserves and spending money on donors to the Presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004.

Is it even physically possible for this President to propose a policy that's altruistic, for the people, and not connected to a future benefit for Halliburton, et al? Hmm.

And people wonder why Howard Dean speaks so passionately about why we need to replace the president, and wonder how his supporters can be so irritated at the president...I only wonder why it is more Washington Democrats and "Democratic" political insiders don't.

PS: Friday's column will be posted late as I'll be on the road to the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose. The kind folks at the CDP have given me a press pass so I plan on writing short updates throughout the weekend as I get access to the Web. If I get access to a digital camera, I'll be posting pictures as well!

� 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

October 6, 2003

ART ATTACK 2003! - A review!

Saturday night was the big night for Robbie Conal's latest Art Attack on Los Angeles on the Recall here so I dropped by to attend as a non-objective journalist and see what was happening. I wasn't sure what to expect but figured I could give up my usual Saturday doings to see what others were doing for La Causa days before the recall election.

Turnout at this thing was incredible! Usually when you go to these sorts of things there's a gang of usual suspects that shows up and does its thing, and that's that. The scene at Canter's Deli was quite the opposite. The crowd was huge!
It wasn't the size alone that made the turnout so impressive - it was the diversity of the group that caught me off guard. There were Usual Suspects, high school kids, college students, senior citizens, concerned citizens, high-falutin' professional types, and a lot of Regular Folks, all concerned about the election, and all wanting to do SOMETHING, anything to get the word out before election day.

That positive attitude - a "we can do it" attitude versus an angry, resigned, defeatist one - was something that was encouraging to watch. People were ready to put their feet on the ground and do something that would bypass the mass media and attempt to reach voters just a few days before the election, instead of just sitting at home and being pissed off. It was a good event and fun to attend - Robbie Conal and everyone involved deserve a high-five from the rest of us.

On Sunday I got ahold of a friend's digital camera and shot some video and still pictures on Main Street in Santa Monica to see if any posters made it here in the heart of Arnold Country (his main offices are on Main Street). Sure enough some did!

Here's a traffic light box with the poster, intact.

Here are some citizens checking out posters at Main and Hollister at a construction site....that one that has the "post no bills" sign stenciled in.

Someone violated Robbie's "Guerilla Etiquette" and posted one over by Rockenwagner - not cool, kids! Remember you're not supposed to post on private property!

Check out more images my gallery at journalspace. As I get more pictures I'll be posting them here and updating the site.

Note to Arnold Supporters, Law Enforcement Personnel, and Other Concerned Citizens: I can verify that I myself engaged in no illegal activities. Really. If you need proof I have plenty! Honest!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

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