Thursday, October 26, 2006

If you thought 2004 was bad...

Not to be outdone, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is considering whether to disqualify Ted Strickland, who is currently crushing Blackwell in the gubernatorial race. As the New York Times points out, this is pretty much Blackwell's only chance of winning.

Many of you may remember Blackwell as the man behind the disproportionately long voting lines in black communities in 2004. Coincidentally, he was also co-chair of the Bush campaign in the state. (Click here for the full report).

And just in case Blackwell decides to let him stay in the race, he is pinning his hopes on accusations that Strickland is gay and supported by NAMBLA. In the process, Blackwell has embarrassed himself so much that one paper even took back its endorsement.

Where all the white women at?

In the surprisingly close race to replace Dr. Bill Frist as Tennessee's Senator, Harold Ford, Jr. is bidding to become the first black Senator from a Confederate State since Reconstruction.

In response, the Republican National Committee, of course, is basically accusing him of intent to consent to miscegenation. The advertisement features a white woman saying she met Ford at a Playboy Party and winking at the camera as she says "call me." Earlier in the ad, a black woman says that Ford "looks good" and that's enough for her.

RNC chair Ken Mehlman, fresh off a campaign to woo black voters back to the Republican Party, continues to defend the ad and claim that he could not have taken it down even if he wanted to. The ad has been replaced with another that accuses Ford of "not being one of us."

Guess Tan Nguyen's alias

Let's begin with Orange County's 47th Congressional District, where incumbent Loretta Sanchez is absolutely pummeling Republican challenger and raging lunatic Tan Nguyen.

Nguyen continues to defend a letter sent to 14,000 residents with Spanish surnames born outside the U.S. telling them that they could go to jail or get deported for voting. Nguyen fired the staffer accused of sending the letter (which was printed on a non-profit advocacy group's letterhead. Now he says he would welcome her back. Why the change of heart? Because Nguyen's sources tell him that the word "emigrado" does not actually mean "immigrant." The identity of these sources and the schools from which they earned their PhD's in Spanish Vocabulary continues to remain a secret.
"I am innocent, and there is no way in hell that I am going to withdraw," Nguyen [lied]. "I am not going to quit this race, and I am going to win this race."
The L.A. Times is now reporting that Nguyen actually purchased the voter list himself, using an alias. They didn't say what alias he chose, but if you're an Orange County voter, be wary of future political mailers sent from anybody calling themselves "The real Sergio Ramirez," "Rusty Shackleford," "Edward K. Janowsky," or "T. Simon Warrington III."

Yesterday, state investigators searched the home of an LAPD officer who apparently played a role in the mailer. The best part of the story is Nguyen's comment at the end.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, Tan Nguyen declined to comment on Mark Nguyen, saying he had already discussed details of the case "far and beyond" his lawyers' recommendation.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Google enters negotiations to buy Congress

For those of you who didn't suffer through Atlas Shrugged, here's the plot:
A brilliant businessman named Hank Rearden is convinced he needs to hire lobbyist Wesley Mouch to curry favor in Washington. This advice winds up backfiring, as this supposedly fictional Washington runs on illusory notions of trust and equality instead of virtuous capitalist efficiency. Ayn Rand spends 900 pages knocking down straw men. Subsequently, a cult grows up around her, which is ironic, given her support of individuality.

Apparently, Hank Rearden's advisors have prevailed upons at Google. Its progressive leanings notwithstanding, the company has been hugely successful on the strength of its ideas and its execution of them. Instead of continuing with that wayhas decided to start funneling money to Republicans in a bald attempt to gain more influence. And if you ask the cheerleading team known as the San Jose Mercury News, the only problem with this is that they are not giving more.

This is as good an excuse as any to check in on the status of some of my favorite races to follow across the nation, starting with a place near, if not dear, to my heart.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

MV council candidates profiles

[Note to readers: Given the outcry that has accompanied the Voice's "decision" not to run council profiles this year, I have decided to pick up the slack. -- NOE]

In 2002, Matt Neely, Mike Kasperzak and Greg Perry emerged from a field of 11 candidates for Mountain View City Council, all promising to build more housing throughout the city. Perry's suprising decision to drop out of this year's council race robs the council of a man so meticulously honest he once reports $6.25 worth of buttons on a campaign contributions form. It also means that the phrase "at least one council member" will appear less frequently in the newspapers. Most of all, it means that the council will have lost its three biggest proponents of new housing projects, and the crop that replaces them is likely to roll back some of their efforts.

With the city awash in new residential developments as a result of recent votes, a growing residentialist backlash will have plenty of candidates to support this year. The Voice has endorsed three candidates it believes are likely to put the brakes on the housing developments. This is ironic, to say the least, for two reasons. The Voice consistently backed the housing policies supported by Perry, Neely and Kasperzak. Furthermore, the city council and city staff are both on record as saying they do not want the current pace of development to continue for more than a few years.

Anyway, here are he candidates, in alphabetical order, complete with links to their Web sites and smarmy comments:
  • Margaret Abe-Koga: Attacks by Perry and disappointing interviews spelled doom for her 2004 bid, but she's back for more after serving on the environmental planning commission for the last two years. Once again leading in endorsements and money raised.
  • Ronit Bryant: A sextalingual green thumb from Old Mountain View. Matt Neely once introduced her at a party as a planning commissioner before she reminded him that the council had rejected her application.
  • Alicia Crank: Human relations commissioner, renter, blogger, weight loss success story and Nemesis of Evil reader, and not the kind that found by doing a vanity search. (Speaking of which: welcome candidates.)
  • Tian Harter: Best understood by his decision to avoid paying federal income taxes by refusing to collect any income.
  • John Inks: Soft-spoken, upstanding libertarian parks and recreation commissioner. The kind of person whose best qualities are the same ones that will keep him from going far in politics. Has collected endorsements from those who fought against the city's decision to build a privately-operated child care center in Rengstorff Park.
  • Kalwant Sandhu: Blunt-spoken HRC member. Enthusiastic about sports, but rumored to pay too close attention to his jv soccer team's record and not enough to player development. Has suffered the indignity of the Voice mispelling his name in different ways on different occasions.
  • Jac Siegel: The conservative EPC member has the backing of several council members. A supporter, according to his Web site, of "win-win solutions," he is also one of Mountain View's 10 most eligible bachelors.
  • John Webster: Former standard bearer for the Libertarian Party, supports this guy, but also this guy. Barely lost 2004 primary after fellow party members decided certain things, like his unflinchingly honest biography, were best left off the platform.

This would be more believable if it took place in Los Altos

I don't generally care about Menlo Park news, other than when it applies to Los Altos High School boys water polo. Nor, so far as I know, do most of you. But this story about a fight over privatization of the public pool was just too amusing. Good thing the pool Los Altos is building will be too small and useless to engender this kind of anger.

Friday, October 13, 2006

No on everything?

As I write this, I am surrounded by thousands of undergraduates, mostly female, who are hoping to get a glimpse of the fallen former sex symbol Bill Clinton before he is institutionalized for his uncontrollable bouts of violent rage. The crazed ex-president is ostensibly here to discuss the virtues of Proposition 87, a perfectly fine law that has the unfortunate quality of being a state ballot proposition.

Prop 87 would create a severance tax on oil drilling and spent the approximately $4 billion raised to fund an alternative energy program. This is almost unquestionably a good idea, and by far the best law I have ever seen proposed on the state ballot.

If you have any doubt that the severance tax is a good idea, simply look at the tens of millions of dollars oil companies are spending to defeat it. If what they were saying was true -- that the law will simply force them to pass costs onto consumers -- they would never waste that much money fighting it. The law actually makes it illegal for them to pass those costs on. They are opposing it because it threatens to cut into their profit margins).

The problem is that every time a proposition becomes law through a vote of the unwashed masses, somewhere a rich asshole gets the idea in his head that he can spend millions of dollars getting people to support his terrible idea to reform the state constitution.

These rich assholes occasionally they have good ideas (like this one). More often than not, however, those ideas wind up screwing the state's tax, education, or penal systems. Progressives have scored small victories over the years through this process: the (sort-of) legalization of medicinal marijuana, funding for stem cell research and the recent "millionaire's tax" to support mental health facilities being popular examples. Here's a partial list, off the top of my head, of what they have given up in return:

1978, Prop 13 "People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation"

1994: Prop 187 "The Save Our State Initiative"

1994: Prop 184 "Three Strikes You're Out"

1996: Prop 209 "The California Civil Rights Initiative"

1998: Prop 227 "English for the Children"

2000: Prop 22 "The Defense of Marriage Act,"

Ultimately, I don't know that I will be able to face myself in the mirror if I am the one vote that keeps the tax on oil drilling from passing. Weighing the possibility that voting no will discourage the next Howard Jarvis, Pete Wilson or Ron Unz from spending millions on their own particular horrible idea against the possibility that a yes vote will make this law a reality, I have to say the latter is probably greater. Sure, this amounts to compromising any belief in categorical moral imperatives to accept a loathsome kind of Clinton/Gore type of political pragmatism. Call me a sell-out, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

They must have been running out of Hangar One-related puns

A week after calling for kids to exercise less, the Voice's editorial pages tackle the biggest story in the history of Mountain View.


A reader sent me the link to last week's editorial with the subject line "Worst one yet?" The issue referenced squirrels in four different articles. With apologies to the good folks (and fellow malicious nerds) at Fire Joe Morgan, let's walk through the reasoning here:

"As far as we can tell, no biologists or other wildlife experts have been directly consulted."

This seems complicated. Does anybody else mind looking into this?

"Different animals follow different patterns of behavior and reproduction, and the city should educate itself in developing a humane and long-term way of alleviating the problem."

Seriously, somebody should DO something.

"Another possible option for the city is to close the portion of the park that is causing the problem."

Last time we checked, squirrels can not walk.

By doing so, perhap the squirrels could be weaned of human food, and park users would have more time to be educated about the dangers of feeding squirrels."


Sunday, October 08, 2006

A's clinch ALDS, poor people's lives don't measurably improve

The celebration of the A's landmark, hex-breaking ALDS win was somewhat muted last Friday at the detention center at Lancaster. I had signed up to go volunteer there (despite having no training) well before the playoffs schedule was set. When the day came, what I really wanted to do was stay home and watch the game, but I figured that might make the A's lose. I certainly didn't want that on my conscience, let alone flaking on the the people at the detention center.

Reiterating again that I have no training and can't speak about immigration law with any sort of authority, I did want to share the story of one man I met there.
Jose was 4 years old in 1986 when his family fled the civil war in El Salvador. [As a brief refresher, Central American civil wars, particulary during that time period, typically feature corrupt and brutal governments armed and supported by the United States.] The family did not apply for asylum, but managed to obtain work permits and, for the most part, green cards. Jose let his work permit expire, which means he is no longer able to apply for green card, at least not from within the country. Effectively, it meant that despite living here nearly his entire life, raising a 6-year-old son, and having no criminal record, Jose was in the country illegally.

Earlier this year, Jose bought a stereo system for his car off the street. He was pulled over for running a stop sign [which is apparently still against the law in some parts of Los Angeles]. The police officer saw the stereo under the driver's seat, and immediately booked Jose on grand theft auto. With no evidence to support the charge, the prosecutor lowered it to possession of stolen property. Jose was convicted. Now he's in a Lancaster jail, awaiting deportation to a economically depressed country that is in no way his home. Jose said he had no gang affiliation, but is afraid of the gang violence that the U.S. exported to El Salvador in the last two decades.

So what did the lawyer tell him his options were? One was to try to win some international awards for his sketches and get legal status under a provision generally reserved for Olympic athletes. The other was to ask for voluntary removal, which, if he were to get it, might make it easier for him to get a visa to come visit in the future.
Go A's.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Strange rumblings in Los Altos Hills

At the end of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the defeat of the dark lord Sauron also spells an end to the grand aspirations of his deputy the corrupt wizard Saruman. Undeterred by his lack of a patron, a weakened Saruman travels to the Shire, where he reasserts his will until the rural hobbit folk finally awake to their own power of self-determination and, in a battle unusually intense for that part of the world, overthrow the fallen wizard and his lieutenant.

That's not exactly how it went down with George W. Bush and Toni Casey, but the similarities are hard to ignore. NOE's Los Altos Hills correspondent Drew Grewal, reports that the disgraced former LAH Mayor is back at the helm of the Los Altos Hills Civic Association.

In the group's August junk mailing, Casey once again rails against the dual threats to our freedom of energy efficiency and deer.

"Casey and her cronies like Steve Finn paved the way for monster home development in this town in the late 90s, before Casey went to work for the Bush administration," writes Grewal.

He adds, "I suggest these topics instead of incriminating your friends on a public site -- friends who are upstanding citizens, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Your previous posts could amout to libel."