Sacramento King

Readers ponder a Schwarzenegger administration.

If nothing else, Tuesday’s very special episode of Decision ‘03 has incited several outstanding posts. Advise and Consent: Sissyfuss1, as “Sobbing in Sacramento,” fires a Prudie riff in BOTF:

Dear PrudieMy daughter California is a lovely girl. She is bright, vivacious and talented. When she was in school, she used to get all the lead roles in drama class, and her computer projects got high praise. My daughter was very popular with the other girls and boys, though you must know there are always the few jealous ones like Texas and Mississippi , who would bitch behind her back. Anyhow, she was going out with this guy called Gray—what a wonderful man! He is handsome, courteous, intelligent and financially independent, with twenty years’ experience in his own business. They got married last year. But then she met this body builder called Arnold, and now she has filed for divorce, and says she wants to marry Arnold. Gray is heartbroken, poor chap. I don’t trust Arnold at all—he is a smooth-talking sleazeball who I know has a lot of skeletons in his cupboard. He has cast his evil spell on my daughter. I think she will end up being very hurt. I don’t know what to do. I feel like sitting her down and talking some sense into her head, but she seems to be in no mood to listen. Please advise.

—Sobbing in Sacramento.
S1 then delivers mock responses from Prudie, ElboRuum and doodahman. Check them out here. PubliusToo gets in on the action here with his own response. Same thread, different tone: zinya, who “indict[s] the media as much as the people.” Find out why here, as well as z’s
fear the consequence for many new voters will be a kind of fatal cynicism if/when they see their “hero” utterly prove to be less than Clark Kent … which could further depress voter participation in the long-term.
Hauteur weighs in on the Schwarzenegger win, first giving himself a gaudy blue ribbon for his prescience on the outcome. Why did the ‘bot prevail? “Hero worhip.” Hauteur then asks, “Will Arnold be a good governor of California?” Hauteur’s answer:
Yes, I think so. He will accomplish this goal precisely because it is a part of his goal set. He simply wants to prove that he can do the job, and he has never failed at anything that he has set his mind to since first his feet hit these shores. Since public relations and faux leadership skills are in his blood, he will be a genuine and capable promoter of all things Californian over the next two years. In short, he might legitimately win a second [full] term on his own merits.
Ask 1-2-Oscar, and he’ll tell you that “ Arnold was never the issue in California.” Oscar provides a fine post on the unintended consequences of California’s historically muddled budgetary politics. A sampling:
Since the late 1970s and the passage of initiative Proposition 13, the people of California have been buffeted with revenue shortfalls, They have had to restructure their tax system, so that vital services were no longer dependent upon real estate taxes. They have had to repeatedly choose whether or not to expand social services, and the costs of these added programs could not be met by new revenues, but were instead inadequately funded from existing revenues, which required cuts in school funding and other existing programs …Who was to blame for all these shortcomings? There is plenty of blame to share, as politicians of both parties sought to reward their particular “constituencies,” blithely ignoring the needs of the public at large. Gray Davis was among those who share the blame, but he was hardly a man who should bear sole responsibility …Has Davis been a good governor of the state? I think not, largely because of his failure to lead the legislative majorities toward practical solutions.
Given the choice, Oscar would’ve sent former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan to Sacramento. O_Hellenbach adds to Oscar’s post here with a firsthand anecdote on Sacramento’s “asymmetric political problem.” Finally, The_Bell muses:
If upon finishing watching the schlockfest Conan the Barbarian in 1981, someone had turned to me and said, “I predict that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be elected Governor of California someday,” one of my most likely retorts would have been, “Yeah, right! That will be the same year the Cubs face the Red Sox in the World Series.” The first one has happened - oh, let them ALL come true!
If only Mark Guthrie didn’t have Arlo’s breaking ball … KA11:40 a.m.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

NOAA on Recall: The presumably progressive bullmoose answers Kausfiles’ casual, tongue-kinda-in-cheek suggestion that California gubernatorial candidate ’bot may have pulled an Eve Harrington from the outset (“Was he behind the recall all along?”). Describing the recall, as others have, as a “political ‘perfect storm,’ ” bullmoose dismisses the theory:

the chance of Arnold coldly and correctly conspiring in the most Machiavellian way to set it up is nil.

Arnold took the risky plunge because it was the best and most likely only good shot he would ever get at high political office.

In bullmoose’s view, the recall is such an anomalous political happenstance that it’s surprising that others haven’t used it as a means to reintroduce themselves to the arena:

I expected former Governor and now Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown to take advantage of the “perfect storm” situation and make his big time political comeback. He is more than fed up with the open cash register style of the current administration to have fired up a “progressive” attack on the Davis fundraising machine.

JCormac, a California rez, was all set to punch a chad for the ‘bot:

A week or so ago, I had convinced myself that Arnold, all of his obvious flaws notwithstanding, would go into Sacramento and give folks on both sides of the aisle a much-needed shakeup.

But after the bevy of allegations, JC decided that:

this recall stuff sucks. Both it and the initiative/referendum system should either be tossed out of the California Constitution or significantly reformed. Direct democracy is not a particularly American ideal, but it works if you’re a small town in New England; it doesn’t work for the largest State in the Union. If Arnold wins, mark it down here, he will be sued by at least one person in a Paula-Jones-type sexual harassment lawsuit. While Arnold is mired in depositions and discovery, nothing will get done in Sacramento, no one will work with him, and another recall campaign will begin, this time funded by some wealthy Democrat. Meanwhile, our State’s economy will continue to flounder. Few of the needed legislative reforms will occur.

Find out what JC plans to do here

Vienna Fingered: Here, Arlington doesn’t:

find it disturbing Arnold played grab-ass with women on film sets.

What would concern me more is the juvenile, immature aspect of the behavior. I got over it in junior high school and so did most men …

An adult man who feels it necessary to grope women has not completed the process of growing up.

Regarding the allegations of sexual harassment, Kurl offers up a menu of options for the ‘bot:

* Declare that his behavior towards women is “reprehensible”, admit that as a result, he is unfit for office, and remove himself from contention.

* Declare that his behavior toward women is “reprehensible”, admit that as a result, he is eminently qualified for the governorship, and continue to campaign.

* Ignore the charges and press forward

* Ignore the charges and quit

* Apologize for his “reprehensible” behavior, declare that he has learned his lesson, and press on with the campaign.

* Apologize for his “reprehensible” behavior, declare that he has learned his lesson, and quit.

* Deny the allegations, send his wife out on national TV to declare that the charges are the result of a “vast left-wing conspiracy”, convince his staff and close associates that he is telling the truth, and send them out to orchestrate a smear campaign against his accusers.

Other ideas? Click here

Remember, as always, it’s the thought the counts … KA 8:20 a.m.

Friday, October 3, 2003

The Academy of the Overrated: Diane Keaton’s Mary Wilkie included Vincent Van Gogh and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Last Sunday on ESPN, Rush Limbaugh nominated Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Why? “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well—black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.”Allen Barra (“Rush Limbaugh Was Right“) agrees in Sports Nut. The discussion has taken on a trifurcated prism: 1)  Is Donovan McNabb overrated? 2)  If yes, are the sentiments of those doing the overrating racially motivated? 3)  Should Rush Limbaugh have lost/resigned his pulpit on “Gameday”? Focusing on question one, CaptainRonVoyage doesn’t know “where to begin.” He gets started by picking apart four of Barra’s central points, including:

Brad Johnson is a better quarterback than McNabb.

Offer the Bucs GM McNabb for Johnson straight up, and see what his reply will be. But be careful when you do this, because his hand will actually reach through the phone a la Bugs Bunny to sign the transaction. Yes, Brad Johnson has a Super Bowl ring, but Barra must have missed watching that actual game, because 3 billion football fans across the globe could tell you that the QB who really earned the title for Tampa was not Johnson but Rich Gannon, he of the 5 INTs on Super Sunday. Brad Johnson would have “won” the game for Tampa if he had come out of the tunnel wearing a tutu and decided at gameday to throw every pass underhand. Barra is correct, though, in his assertion that rings are always the most important measure of talent; this is how we know Trent Dilfer is a definitively better QB than Dan Marino.
TheNewSnobbery draws an interesting delineation between ” ‘outdated analysis’ and ‘racism’ “:
Phrenology is ‘outdated analysis’, the Bell Curve is ‘outdated analysis’. You could say a lot of things in 1989 that get you in trouble today.

If Rush had simply said: ‘Lots of people (including members of the typing class) root for McNabb because he’s black’, no one would have cared. I guarantee it. Lots of Chinese people root for Yao because he’s Chinese. Or Sosa, or Dirk or anyone else who is perceived to be breaking boundaries. We are still waiting for The Great Black Quarterback. That doesn’t make us liberal sheep!

But Rush made us feel like we were chumps and idiots for hoping. He told us we were wrong or part of a conspiracy or some nonsense like that.
Dougtheavenger1957 effectively makes a correlative argument, zeroing in on question number two:
Who here wishes to assert that the press isn’t actively seeking a black Steve Young, Patin Manning, Joe Namath, etc, etc?

Who here believes that the press does not sometimes ignore real stories in their search for a preconceived story?

Who here has not heard the expression, “If they can’t find a story, they’ll make one.”
Here, jkl wonders why Cubs Manager Dusty Baker got off easy when explicitly suggesting that black and Latino players could withstand the heat of summer better than their white counterparts. Others who offer sound theories of McNabb’s overvaluation exclusive of color include Adam_Masin here (“Insert lousy team with new QB and no matter why the team wins, the QB will get a lot of the credit because the QB is the de facto leader of the team and its most visible player.”), aloofman here (“McNabb suffers from not having a good offensive scheme and complimentary players.”), and CaliforniaDave here (“it’s because he was a highly touted draft pick and a superior college talent.”). MaineCoon devours question two with aplomb:
it’s one thing to say that McNabb is overrated, but an utterly different one to say the reason for this is because the media wants a black man to succeed. What about all the other black quarterbacks? Are they all also willed into success by a wishful media? Will the media’s raging hunger ever be sated? How many black quarterbacks will it take?! The fact is, it’s much more likely that if McNabb is overrated it’s because he plays a dynamic and attractive style of game that happens not to be as effective as one might think.
Reminding us that Limbaugh “merely said McNabb owed his reputation, not his job, to preferential consideration,” bananas_foster writes:
Those who have their knickers in a twist regarding Limbaugh’s assessment of Donovan McNabb are motivated not by their self-congratulatory high-minded principles but by rabid allegiance to the bankrupt creed of affirmative action, which long ago achieved the status of an entrenched religion in America. The high priests of affirmative action demand not only that some individuals be given preferential treatment but also that no one else dare wonder aloud if those individuals have attained their station on merit alone.
Stay or Go? Limbaugh can find solace in Sissyfuss1, a self-confessed “liberal” who feels that “the hounding out of Rush Limbaugh illustrates a scourge on contemporary American liberalism—political correctness.” More from Sissyfuss1 here, who asks:
What is the operational difference between criticizing the substance of Limbaugh’s comments and throwing a PC punch on him? Well, I guess the critical element is whether or not you think he should be fired for what he said.
Less concerned with the stat-head element of the debate, echoguy presents a unique argument here (“Free Market does in Rush”) on the resignation issue:
Limbaugh spoke. (He didn’t exercise his “first amendment rights,” the moron. The first amendment protects an individual’s free speech rights against the state.) ESPN is not committed to giving anyone a voice — you, me, King Harald of Norway. It makes this choice (in conjunction with the NFL…) based on some fundamental principles.

Do you know what the NUMBER ONE principle on which the NFL and Disney makes such decisions? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. It’s simply not desirous for the NFL and Disney to have Rush performing his schtick on Sundays. The NFL has a cauldron of problems; they don’t need another. Broadcast programming is the league’s incontrovertible gem. Rush flouted that and he was slapped for it.

Limbaugh has made a fortune in broadcasting; he should know better. As Al Pacino says in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, “Don’t open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” Limbaugh didn’t know the shot. He thought he was in the Premiere Radio Network Studios. He wasn’t. He didn’t take inventory of his bosses, his employers, his co-workers, the milieu. The so-called liberal media didn’t do him in. Nor did the NAACP. The Byzantine laws that govern the market did.
The market giveth … KA10:40 a.m.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

The Press Box Plumbers: Today’s VP comes courtesy of the clairvoyant Sissyfuss1 who called the Plame donnybrook back in July. This morning, S1 diagnoses the leakage here:

Leak #1: Bush drew flak (unfairly, I think) for ducking under the table on Sep 11, and not returning to Washington promptly. A story was soon leaked to the press (and corroborated by Fleischer later) about a phone call received by the authorities delivering a “credible threat” to Air Force One. The caller apparently knew the code for the Presidential plane. The story stifled criticism quickly—not surprising at a time of national trauma—and was never followed up. In all the sundry 9/11 investigations, the question of how terrorists got hold of the code (whatever that is) for Air Force One seems blissfully ignored! Would it be if the claim was real?

The most notable thing about the alleged threat is how illogical and improbable it is. If terrorists wanted to target the Presidential plane, why will they give advanced warning to jeopardize their plan? The WTC and the Pentagon received no such warning, and in retrospect, the 9/11 conspiracy seems characterized by secrecy and meticulous planning, not foolish bravado. If it was an Al Qaeda prank, it occupies a singular place in the organization’s repertoire for such humor.

Whoever thought this up has some strange notions of what inspires credulity.

Leak #2: When ABC aired interviews with disgruntled soldiers in Iraq, a “sources in the White House” leaked to Matt Drudge that the reporter is gay and Canadian! Again, what is notable is the leaker’s belief that these two traits will somehow undermine the credibility of the ABC story. It could, if the issue was different, but for a viewer to doubt testimony on tape about troop discontent because of this leak, s/he has to be homophobic, xenophobic and an idiot, all at once. The leaker’s belief that many ABC News viewers will think along these lines is significant. (An alternative motive is retribution and deterrence as in 3(b) below, but even in that case, the belief that revelation of nationality and sexual preference can be damaging to a national network reporter is interesting in itself).

Leak #3: The Plame Game. It is not immediately clear whether the leaker’s principal motive was to reveal that (a) Wilson’s wife set him up in the job, as part of a conspiracy to malign the Bush administration, or (b) she is a secret CIA agent. If (a), the attempt is to undermine Wilson’s credibility. If (b), the motive is revenge through inflicting personal harm and/or setting an example for others.

Consider (a). If attacking Wilson’s credibility was the goal, there must have been at least ten other ways to do so, none of them so lame, felonious and politically risky. When Wilson went to Niger, the possibility that his trip will have the political relevance it later acquired was contingent on so many events, that to have anticipated all of them would have been prophetic. To give just one example, if Bush had left those sixteen words out of his SOTU speech, nobody would have heard of Wilson today. What kind of mind thinks others will find this plausible—that a career professional with the CIA is practically a Democratic mole with the prescience of Nostradamus? It must be a mind so steeped in political scheming as to be living in some alternative reality.

Wilson’s credibility is best attacked by pointing to his expressed anti-war and anti-Bush views (see locdog’s post from yesterday). A simple charge of bias without forethought would have served much better than the suggestion of a fantastically improbable preconceived conspiracy.

If the motive was (b), it appears at least more sane. Still, the cost (risk of a major scandal—should have been foreseen, given the nature of the disclosure) seems disproportional to the benefit in this particular case. Political cost-benefit doesn’t explain it fully—vindictiveness for its own sake must have played a role. The fact that the leaker kept tossing it out to so many reporters also shows a recklessness typical of emotion rather than pure calculation.

What is interesting for me is how all these leaks seem to bear a similar fingerprint, and what they reveal of the leaker’s mind (think plural if you really insist). They are incredibly ham handed jobs, often betraying a risky taste for vendetta rather than calm strategic sophistication. The plots and storylines they try to project belong in dime novels, not reality. There is a serious misunderstanding of people’s credulity. (It is interesting that of the half a dozen journalists approached with the Plame tip, only a proven fool like Novak decided to take it up. I don’t think that’s because of a high minded concern for an agent’s cover. The lack of relevance of the information to anything of consequence is apparent to any logical mind).

Great reputations are sometimes built on flukes and surprisingly flimsy ground. Is the boy genius Rove more a boy than a genius? Is he trapped in his own hyper-reality, more Harry Potter than Machiaveli? Conventional wisdom doesn’t say so, but conventional wisdom has occasionally got it wrong. Wasn’t Nixon supposed to be smart? (Further, the dichotomy between smartness and delusion is not so sharp).

Two final points. Journalists often move heaven and earth to discover what one official said to another behind closed doors. It is funny that six journalists (and possibly several colleagues) are sitting on a major scoop, unable to utter a word. The treasure needs no hunting, it is sitting in your own vault, but you are no richer for it. Of course there is sound journalistic strategy behind this, but isn’t there sweet irony too?

Second, I’ll allow myself a doodahman. I said long ago, this one ought to be big!

Monday, September 29, 2003

East of Eden: Not to be left out of the melee, Slate wine critic, Mike Steinberger, piles on California (“ Sour Grapes“). Steinberger regards the state’s entire wine yield as swill with “nothing worth drinking for under $15.” Slate film critic David Edelstein has a confession. He:

love[s] the super-ripe and funky Central Coast Pinot Noirs like Au Bon Climat and maybe Morgan. And Calera’s low-priced Central Coast Pinots are, to my palate, delightful. It’s also fun to see more Rhone styles in CA. And, at the other end of the spectrum, I love a lot of the Pinot Gris coming out of California and the Pacific NW: great barbecue wine, most of it under $15.

I am, in short, a vulgar American in the Parker tradition. No, I’m more vulgar than Parker.
Zathras steps up with a full-bodied post, giving Edelstein a waiver, while agreeing “with much of what this Steinberger fellow says about California wines: most of what is good is not cheap, most of what is cheap is not very good, and much of what is supposed to be good because it is not anywhere near being cheap is overvinified and way overpriced.” Nevertheless:
[A] red flag goes up in the course of reading a column about California wine by someone who admits he has boycotted California wine for some time. Might the picture being painted be left deliberately incomplete, to make a point?
In the same Edelstein thread, Swift jumps in with a couple of angles, including:
The market collapsed a couple years ago. They’ve been giving away good wine for a couple years …During the “irrational exuberance,” California winemakers discovered that preying on snobbery was a good way of parting people from their money. The same lessons as were being taught to Wall Street sharpies were taught to the winebuyers with more money than good sense.
But the real issue for Swift is the underlying premise of oeno-criticism:
The reason why writing about wine is such crap is that it’s as ineffable as writing about what’s a good orgasm.
File under: Dancing About Architecture. Frederick Wiseman, Eat Your Heart Out: Ang_Cho  wails onSlate Cultural Editor, Meghan O’Rourke (“ Life Lessons From Joe Schmo“):
So Matt is “turning the tables” on the producers, by being a genuine person? Yuck. Genuine people are tedious and the only people who find this guy inspirational are maudlin TV critics like O’Rourke.

“Real” reality shows work because we see “real” people become compelling characters (or rather, caricatures). What’s the fun in seeing a bland person being himself? We should praise him for not “taking the bait?”
Here, Nuclear_Cloaca doesn’t loathe Matt for his earnestness, but worries for him:
Matt is more than just a dupe, or a rube. He personifies the trusting innocence that many lose as they travel life’s roads. He becomes skeptical, much as a child will after being disabused of the Tooth Fairy, or Santa. But, he reflects the actions of the average person thrust into strange surroundings—he seems to mirror behaviors to reduce the possibility of outright conflict.

One can hope that Matt is only a very good actor—I fear his sanity may be damaged, his innocent belief in the sincerity of people blown away forever by an idea that is marvelous, and terrible (like in terrible lizard) in its scope.
Zelig or Zero? You decide …Department of Astral Affairs: The next wave—Mike_Murray, TheNewSnobbery, MikeBeers, NeoCon, Inkberrow, gtomkins, Ang_Cho KA12:05 p.m.