Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 7

Basic information about Proposition 7 — “RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.”

Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.

Okay, first off — I have to admit to a raging headache this morning. So this is not going to be much of an in-depth discussion.

However, part of the problem is that this is yet another huge proposition covering a lot of ground, tackling everything from governmental regulation to predictions in the energy market, and therefore trying to concentrate on its various facets would be hard under the best of circumstances, admittedly.

On the face of it, anything acknowledging future problems in maintaining energy standards and encouraging use of renewable standards is a good thing. However, there’s a large push against 7 from a variety of clean-energy supporters and groups, and I figure where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Further complicating matters, however, are the responses from other groups accusing *those* groups of being sellouts…and down the rabbit hole we go. (I was considering linking to a variety of arguments and comments to illustrate all this, but my headache was bad enough as it was.)

Two things, however, stood out in the official analysis which made me wonder a bit about the effaciousness of this proposition. To quote:

In its findings and declarations, the measure states that, in the “short term,” California’s investment in solar and clean energy (which would include the implementation of the measure) will result in no more than a 3-percent increase in electricity rates for consumers. However, the measure includes no specific provisions to implement or enforce this declaration.

In the long run, there are factors that may be affected by the measure that have the potential either to increase or to decrease electricity rates from what they otherwise would be. For example, to the extent that the measure advances development of renewable energy resources in a manner that lowers their costs, electricity customers might experience longer-term savings. On the other hand, the same cost factors that could lead to short-term electricity rates that are higher might also lead to higher long-run electricity rates. To the extent that the measure requires electricity providers to acquire more costly electricity than they otherwise would, they will experience longer-term cost increases. It is unknown whether, on balance, factors that could increase electricity rates over the long term will outweigh those that could decrease electricity rates over the long term. Therefore, the long-term effect of the measure on government costs is unknown.

It has to be acknowledged that, after all, not every measure’s full impact can truly be judged until it is passed and enforced. Still, it’s these sorts of variables that make me wonder about the proposition, much more so than who is supporting it or which person is a shill and which isn’t. The fact that energy companies are against 7 is somewhat troubling — it’s also noteworthy that both the Democratic and Republican parties are against it while the Green party is for it. But something about this feels an overpromised wish, a solution that is biting off more than it can chew. More’s the pity, given the subject of the measure.

I vote a ‘should have been better’ NO. Political Blogger Alliance

Looking at the CA-46 Congressional race

Having looked at half the propositions on the California ballot so far, I’d like to take a break to focus on the one vote I’ll be participating in which will actually have a direct repercussion in Washington — that of my Congressional district, CA-46. As you can see from the link there, it’s a classic ‘how the heck did they draw the lines for that one’ district, sprawling along the north Orange County coast past Long Beach and over to Palos Verdes. At the same time, its sprawl makes it an interesting swathe in general, not a full microcosm of the area (it would actually need more of Long Beach itself for that) but more varied than might be guessed.

Still, the fact that it covers what it covers means it’s been no surprise that the district has returned a Republican representative for years now — but what makes this year a surprise is that for the first time in heaven knows how long, said representative actually has a race on his hands courtesy of the Democratic candidate. So to fully introduce you to them both:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)

Debbie Cook (D)

It would be wrong of me not to list the two other listed candidates as well, with their sites:

Thomas Lash (Green)

Ernst P. Gasteiger (Libertarian)

Were this a Democratic safe district I would be strongly tempted to vote Green if anyone. Much more so than the presidential vote, however, this is a case where strategic voting is of great concern here, because this is an actual race for the first time in a long while.

Explaining in huge detail why I’m not for Rohrabacher would be a bit of a waste of time — I have no particular feelings about him being in Congress for ‘too long’ or the like, as incumbency is in and of itself hardly some sort of crime. An effective representative maintains his or her position by staying in tune with the feelings of the district’s voters, as much as using institutional advantages to the full, of course. In reviewing his general stand on the issues, there’s room for agreement — for instance, I have no objection to nuclear power at all, though I think for obvious reasons it must be subject to careful and total regulation, while he has introduced a sensible and long overdue medical marijuana amendment to Congress at a couple of points, one time in partnership with Sam Farr, the excellent representative up north in CA-17, where my folks live.

However, whether it’s his dismissive take on ‘the so-called man-made “global warming crisis”’ or his vocal support for the unspeakably awful El Toro Airport project following the closure of that base, his obsessive foci on fretting about Communism and religion or — looking at something he doesn’t talk much about on his site, from what I can see — his support for and connections with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, there’s much more that just doesn’t work for me. I’ve participated in larger letter writing projects to him in the past on various issues, though I’m sure that Rohrabacher’s office well realizes that I was always in the minority, and his various comfortable victories over the years underscores that. My votes for his Democratic opponents in the past have always been essentially protest votes at best, especially given that I do not belong to any political party, and the end results never surprised me.

However, sea changes do occur, and this year is a potential — by no means a guaranteed — doozy. If Rohrabacher represents a familiar OC-into-South Bay type of voter, then Debbie Cook represents a less familiar but increasingly more visible one. An excellent portrait of her life and work — as well as some more zings against Rohrabacher — can be found by reading this extensive OC Weekly article from last month, covering her biography (she’s a Navy brat like me, which right there is always a good sign — well, I would say that!) and rise into politics, culminating so far with her winning of the mayoralty of Huntington Beach and resultant increasing visibility in local and, to an extent, state politics.

As with any politician I support, no matter how sympathetic they seem to be, I look at Cook with interest and general approval at best — outright starry-eyed celebration isn’t my thing, and not being a Huntington Beach resident I can’t speak as well as others on local issues. But certainly more so than past Democratic candidates, Cook has a record, a show of local political success and the fact that she can play the game well under her belt to support her — competency in the business of politicking as much as the business of daily government is needed in order to make civil society work well, after all. Her own list of issues is far more in line with mine than Rohrabacher’s, which is to be expected.

The OC Weekly article, published in mid-September, noted that at the time circumstances weren’t entirely in Cook’s favor — and to be fair, this was always going to be an uphill fight. However, the economic nuttiness since then, combined with the increasing profile and comfort with Obama as candidate, seems to have turned the tide a bit. In the past week and a half I’ve noticed various mentions that the race had turned more competitive, and to his credit, so did Rohrabacher. (Again, a smart representative reads and notes the public mood; a foolish one always expects to coast no matter what.) So the fact that I saw far more mailers for Rohrabacher this race than I’d ever noticed in the past was a sign, and this recent OC Register article confirms it:

Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook hasn’t been able to out-raise Rohrabacher. She raised just over a quarter of a million dollars as of the end of September compared to the nearly half million dollars Rohrabacher had to spend. And there’s nothing she can do about the lopsided party registration that has 45 percent Republicans, 32 percent Democrats and 19 percent Decline to State in this coastal district that spans from Costa Mesa to Palos Verdes.

But Cook, a lawyer and community activist, has greater name recognition and more-on-the-ground government experience than any other Democrat who has ever challenged Reagan’s former speechwriter. And in a year when the Republican brand is the lowest it has been in decades, Democrats began taking this race seriously.

“This is a totally different political world than what we’ve been operating in for the last 20 years,” says Rohrabacher. “We’ve reached a breaking point on all the negative trends that have been going on for our country in energy, financially as well as our stupid housing industry policy. It all came together in a perfect storm.”

Rohrabacher said he realized a month ago that this was not going to be an ordinary reelection for him when he saw a private poll that had him a lot closer to Cook “than I felt comfortable. So I went into high gear.”

So it’s on, and it will stay on through Election Day itself. Hardheadedly, I frankly assume that while it will be a close race, Rohrabacher’s chances of success are greater. I’m not going to lose any sleep over his being reelected if that occurs, no more so than I have in the past. Still, though, there’s no question who I’d rather see representing the area, and who I believe can do a fine job of it. Everyone’s a newcomer at some point in their career, after all, and in this case I’d prefer the newcomer.

For CA-46, I quite unsurprisingly vote COOK. Here’s to a good race! Political Blogger Alliance

VNV Nation at the El Rey, Oct 22 2008

Taken a couple of songs before a humorous but clearly honestly felt observation on Ronan’s part wondering what the point of spending a show looking through a video camera was. (I was just taking a couple of still shots so I was innocent…uh, yeah.)

More seriously — another great show from VNV, and as I hoped it was the kind of energy charge-up I wanted going into these last couple of weeks. “The Farthest Star” hit harder for me than ever before, and hearing it at this point just before the elections, given the importance of the song in personally reenergizing me on the social and political front last year, was only appropriate. Crowd was way into it, a lot of first time VNV showgoers (hey, I was one of them last year!), Mark Jackson spoke from the stage (turns out he’s from Depeche Mode’s corner of the world — well, Essex at least) and at one point a man wearing a Borat-style thong and a horsehead mask appeared onstage, utterly befuddling Ronan, who then told a hilarious story about an evil clown. My kind of all-over-the-place show.

Ronan also confirmed return appearances next year along with a new album. This is a very good thing. (Also had a chance to chat with him *very* briefly a little before the show — a friendly fellow!)

Congratulations to my friend Matt Maxwell on the serialization of “Strangeways”

To explain a bit — you can find Matt’s site via Highway 62 over there in the blogroll. Great guy and great gentleman, and his comic series Strangeways is a damned good treat — in simplistic terms, a horror western, but much more than that.

Matt just sent around this note:

October 23, 2008


Matthew Maxwell, creator and author of the Western-horror graphic novel STRANGEWAYS, today announced the serialization of the sequel, THE THIRSTY, at Blog @ Newsarama. The series will debut on Monday, Oct. 27, with new pages posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“I’m very pleased to enjoy this opportunity,” Maxwell said recently. “I talked to quite a few potential partners before deciding to serialize THE THIRSTY on Blog @ Newsarama,” Maxwell said. “It isn’t a typical webcomic, as it wasn’t written with online publication in mind. So, I sought a different kind of partnership. Working with a comics news and commentary site as opposed to one known for syndicating webcomics seemed an intriguing and beneficial arrangement. It’s my hope that many more readers who’ve never followed STRANGEWAYS will be introduced to the series now.”

THE THIRSTY follows ex-Union officer Seth Collins from the events of MURDER MOON as he drifts a little further west to a town called Cedar Creek, which is about to find itself under attack from people who are neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in-between. However, just as MURDER MOON was about a lot more than just cowboys and werewolves, THE THIRSTY is more than just cowboys and vampires. Those readers who liked the concept of “Lone,” which was the backup feature for MURDER MOON, will eat up “Red Hands,” which will serve a similar role in THE THIRSTY.

THE THIRSTY is illustrated by Gervasio and Jok of Estudio Haus in Argentina, who drew the story “Lone” in MURDER MOON. Luis Guaragna also returns in a backup feature, as mentioned above. “It’s great to continue my relationship with all of these artists,” Maxwell said. “They understand what the stories need visually, which is a deceptively simple task, it seems.”

A fine break, and a well-deserved one. The site in question:

So start checking it out on Monday!

Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 6


Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.

Not as lengthily complicated to digest as Proposition 5…but I’m not sure that helps much.

Prop 6 in ways addresses the same general area as Prop 5 but from a different angle. Rather than a focus on rehabilitation, Prop 6, from what I can best tell, is essentially a law-and-order approach — while rehabilitation is part of the measure, mostly it’s an expansion of funding for police forces and prisons, in combination with a review and changing of a variety of criminal penalties in matters of gang and violent crime, as well as creating new penalties.

And that alone gives me pause, frankly.

Trying to find the exact words for my unease is hard to put my finger on, though. I should note this now, though: I’ve long thought that some of the blanket condemnations of all law enforcement members out there are as problematic as those of members of the military, say — it does not allow for possibilities of change, of inclusion and of new approaches that reflect the best of this society, even as it would be utterly foolish to deny that problems can and do exist, individually as well as institutionally. (Hey, I live in OC — all I have to do is point to the example of Michael Carona, as I’ve done before.) I touched on this sense of promise briefly in this post last month regarding one of the victims of the Chatsworth crash, LAPD officer Spree DeSha:

Without wanting to make her a symbol — from what I can tell in the reports and memories that have been posted, she was a low-key and no-nonsense person and officer who would have been embarrassed by what she considered to be outsized attention — I think it is a sign of some sort of progress, quietly but ever onward, that full honors from the police, church and city were granted to someone who also just happened to be lesbian, and whose partner….also works for the LAPD as a full officer. This is as it should be. No further qualifiers are necessary.

Instead, the larger question in my mind revolves around two things — money (again, as always a larger matter in this election than ever before) and the scope of the new laws and more covered by this proposition. I am leery over the idea that this is biting off more than it can chew, as well as what appears to be an underlying supposition that the range of penalties regarding certain crimes should be expanded in combination with wanting to build more prison space. There is something cart-before-the-horse about this which I’m not sold on, and this is before taking into account the fact that fourteen year olds could be tried as adults or the expansion of what is considered ‘hearsay evidence,’ which opens up further cans of worms.

Ultimately, if both 5 and 6 are seeking to address an understandably troubling subject, crime, punishment and treatment, if 5 is the right idea at the wrong time, 6 just seems like a wrong idea in general, expensive and with possibly unintentional consequences, with too much tied up in it all that deserves more individual consideration instead. Not good.

A simple NO. Political Blogger Alliance

Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 5


Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.


So far I’ve done my best to read and review the propositions in great detail, if only because, even when my decision was already pretty clear to me, I wanted to make sure I knew as much as I could about each one. Something that affects the state constitution, after all, can’t be treated lightly.

Then I reached Proposition 5. Yikes.

If you read the official analysis in full…I freely admit, you’re a better person than I. This is something so wide-ranging in potential scope that I think you can only do it in bursts, and my eyes keep glazing over a bit as I try to concentrate on it.

This is a pity, though, because the issue is an excellent one to concentrate on — namely, how we judge and grapple with drug convictions, as well as look to questions of rehabilitation. It’s one of those issues that I can remember thinking about for at least twenty years now without pretending it’s been something to the forefront of my mind much — it’s always seemed removed to me, whereas for many people, whether as victim or prisoner or friend or relative or more, it’s a deeply felt situation.

In ways, the argument for 5 is similar to the argument for 1 — an investment for the future, in the hopes of improvement and a better deal for everyone all around. This is very emotionally appealing to me, since while it pitches things on a very broad scope it has a resonance. At the same time, there appears to be enough room for individual discretion on the part of many authorities in this proposed new system that there can be a necessary flexibility instead of a hard-and-fast holding to one policy or another.

The key argument against 5 for me comes back to something that I’ve been talking about already, namely questions of finance. 5, I think rather happily, does not involve bond issues of any sort, but it does involve what appears to be a huge commitment of fixed budget funding on state and local levels. Right now, I think, just isn’t the historical moment for such a commitment on top of everything else going on. Ten years ago, perhaps — perhaps ten years in the future, who knows. Now, though?

In summary, a quandary. I think the importance of rehabilitation, of recognition that the idea of punishment is something that is rarely meant to be a full ‘life sentence’ in the broad sense — how many times has the ‘lock ’em up, throw away the key’ canard been invoked over the years? — cannot be understated, and I also think there needs to be at base a better sense of drug law in particular. I don’t know if Proposition 5 is fully the right solution, though it has aspects of interest. But I do think, with admitted regret, that it’s the wrong time — there may never be a right one, I realize. But there can be a better one.

A hesitant NO, in the hopes that something more practical may be suggested soon instead. Political Blogger Alliance

And speaking of Smiths covers…

Having indulged myself the other day with the collection of “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” versions, I wanted to see if the one cover I’d first heard randomly this year via an instore performance at Amoeba was available, and it was. The Chapin Sisters (who are indeed part of the Tom/Harry Chapin family tree — and Wes Craven’s a part of it too!) have been building up a bit of attention over recent years and apparently are well known for their cover of “Toxic” but I admit, as with most everything to do with La Britney either directly or secondhand as well, that form of ‘serious musicians take current pop hit to show you how good it really is DO YOU SEE?’ move is dead to me at this point.

But when I saw them at Amoeba I had no preconceptions — it was the first I’d heard of them and I wasn’t there to see them, they just happened to be playing — and it was during their set that they started in on one song that made my jaw drop, and then really impressed me — a cover of the Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over,” with their harmonies in place of Morrissey’s solo keen a lovely twist.

The clip below isn’t from that particular show but it’s a comparable performance, delivered beautifully:

(And it was only in scrounging for the clip that I was reminded Jeff Buckley also covered this song…which is a pity because he defines the word ‘overrated death cult’ but that’s a story for another time…)

Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 4


Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrellla no-vote site.

Some issues I feel strongly about without wanting to talk about them all that much. Prop 4 is an example of that.

I’ll quote myself from earlier this year, though:

…this had all been coming after years of thinking about the matter as a slowly-more-aware teen news freak, observing the actions of Operation Rescue, probably hearing about the murder of abortion providers, and grappling with what is, after all, an incredibly complex and heartwrenching issue.

I make no apologies for my pro-choice beliefs but neither do I think it is anything less than one of the most intense, sensitive matters someone can grapple with. Honestly, I feel uncomfortable even talking about it now, and feel that this might be all I have to say on the subject.

Prop 4 does not specifically address the legality of abortion, of course. But in addressing the question of parental notification it makes a fraught subject even more tangled than less.

Ultimately, I can but stick to my belief that I have always held — that there should be more choices, not less, and perhaps especially in the case of someone who is a legal minor. Better, of course, that there was such a thing as universally intelligent and thoughtful sex education and birth control awareness. But this is not the world we are in.

A flat NO. Political Blogger Alliance

Colin Powell, Kareem R. Khan, and being American

I’ll break my self-imposed silence on further discussion of the presidential campaign for this:

The news of the day is the news and it’s all over the place. This is not the place to discuss that in full, you can go anywhere else for it.

But to quote two key sections of Powell’s statements today — first, on the show:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to say such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way.

Later, outside the studio:

We have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with our allies. So those are the problems the American people wanted to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who’s a Muslim or who’s not a Muslim. Those kinds of images going out on Al-Jazeera are killing us around the world.

And we have got to say to the world, it doesn’t make any difference who you are or what you are, if you’re an American, you’re an American. And this business, for example, of the congressman from Minnesota who’s going around saying, “Let’s examine all congressmen to see who is pro-America or not pro-America” — we have got to stop this kind of nonsense, pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity. And so, that really was driving me.

And to focus on people like Mr. Ayers and these trivial issues, for the purpose of suggesting that somehow Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations, I thought that was over the top. It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth. I think it went beyond. And to sort of throw in this little Muslim connection, you know, “He’s a Muslim and, my goodness, he’s a terrorist” — it was taking root. And we can’t judge our people and we can’t hold our elections on that kind of basis.

The NY Times has a brief story on Kareem Khan here. To quote it:

Mr. Khan graduated from Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin in 2005, and enlisted in the Army a few months later, spurred by his memories of the 9/11 terror attacks. “His Muslim faith did not make him not want to go. It never stopped him,” his father, Feroze Khan, told the Gannett News Service in a story printed shortly after his death. “He looked at it that he’s American and he has a job to do.”

Kareem Khan

His gravestone

I almost feel I need add nothing more. But at the same time, I must.

I have spoken before on my sense of the profundity of the decision my father made as he chose to pursue a career in the military. I do not wish to speak for him, of course, that would be very untoward, and I hope he does not mind what I say here. But my sense of it has been — even more so with time — that among all the other factors that played into his decision, to do so against the backdrop of history at that time is remarkable. World War II was just within his own living memory as a young boy. His uncle lost his life in the European theater. The Cold War was well entrenched and the threat of nuclear destruction was in the air.

To make this decision at that time in his life, to pursue a career as a military officer, with all the risks it implies alongside the sense of duty, patriotism and honor, is no small thing. Not at all. And being my father’s son means I have seen at close quarters how all this played out over the years with all that my father is, his intelligence, faith, humor and humanity. I need add no more, to that which is, again, self-evident.

In Kareem Khan I see an echo of my father’s decision. A young man considers his path in life, shaped by the world he is in, the way he has been raised, the country he calls his own. He makes his decision and carries it out to the best of his ability. His story, sadly, ends soon after that comparative point in my father’s life and work. We will never know what might have been.

It is not too sentimental of me to say I am writing this while tearing up a touch. I do so out of three reasons, though — out of sorrow for what happened to Khan, out of anger at how his sacrifice has been so sadly — if, I can but hope, unintentionally — belittled by those voices that Powell notes, by the assumptions that underpin it.

And finally, out of pride at what Powell has so clearly, forcefully said on the question of patriotism, differences in faith and being American. Why should I restate what he has spelled out so clearly? What could anyone say in response to this beyond agreement? I admit I find it hard to think anyone would or could, not without betraying some utter misunderstanding of that which is the ideal of America — and that ideal may not be reality but why should that mean the ideal is any less valuable?

I have said before, and I repeat again — the American experiment is not guaranteed to succeed, but it continues and, I believe, it thrives. It contains multitudes unimagined even by Walt Whitman, say. When Powell says “our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity” that is no canard, that is essential. I would not have it any other way, never — and I speak as a religious agnostic.

Much about the presidential election-based dialogue and discussion of the past two weeks has left me, I admit, fundamentally downbeat. I am not crushed but I am concerned. I fear all the assumptions being made all around are the worst ones, and I have circumscribed my own regular trawling of political news and opinion sites for that reason. Call it self-defense or call it distraction.

This feels like a breath of fresh air, a necessary pause for sanity and decency. Remember it, no matter your choice of candidate, and ask yourself that question Powell asked, to quote it again:

…it is permitted to say such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.

No indeed.

Discussion of the California propositions to resume tomorrow. Political Blogger Alliance

There is a cover version that never goes out

Having spent most of today being happily lazy — though I did make an excellent quiche earlier, photos tomorrow — I found myself grappling with the heretofore unasked by me question ‘just how many covers of the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” are there out there?’

Beyond counting, if YouTube has anything to say. And I don’t just mean in the ‘person at home with acoustic guitar and webcam’ sense even.

I started an ILM thread but here’s the best so far, partially because they all take the trouble to reinterpret the song one way or another instead of simply covering it.

Schneider TM:

Zoe Woodbury-High:

The Magic Numbers:

No One Has to Know:

Shelby Sifers:

The ‘Stand Up It’s Thursday Night’ house band:

David Fonseca:

Lara Martelli: