Those American Apparel ads are starting to irritate me

I'm sorry to be so delinquent in my blogging lately. Last Saturday I had a big ol' post on political violence collapse in a heap. I haven't had the courage to look at it again and try to resuscitate it, or just put it out of its misery.

Today, I'd like to write about gay marriage, a political Gordian knot that has been especially vexing for me. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wrote a short, compelling piece yesterday for the On Faith section of, and I'll get to that momentarily.

First some personal caveats. There are only a tiny handful of political issues I truly care about, as a person. Most of the time, I try to divorce myself individually from the debate, to prevent unhelpful, unmitigated bias in my thinking. And I can't think of another issue I have less of a stake in than gay marriage. I am not married. I don't have any kids. I am not a Christian. I am not gay.

Yet, I find myself aroused by the gay marriage debate - 'frustrated' is probably the better word. Every time I see a Prop. 8 sign with the statistically inaccurate family or one of those 'Legalize Gay' shirts, I just wanna slap somebody. I think this is the most asinine debate of my generation.

Nonetheless, we're having it. And I don't think Democrats and liberals are winning it.

Let's take a look at Daly's post. The first thing I noticed was his use of the term 'genderless marriage.' I haven't seen this one before and it's indicative of conservatives' superior use of language in their arguments. 'Marriage protection' is another one that was used frequently for the several State Constitutional amendments ratified in the the last ten years, but the term is inherently negative; it suggests a bunker mentality that implies ultimate defeat. 'Gender' or 'genderlessness' is a broader subject that will catch the attention of people who care about traditional gender roles rather than only marriage.

Of course the bigger point, the point marriage protection advocates have been making everywhere, and the point I don't think marriage equality advocates have fully engaged, is that marriage is fundamentally an institution of procreation and the continuance of civilization. Daly writes:
You see, a black woman and white man can contribute quite nicely to "our very existence and survival" by bringing forth the next generation of humanity which is what our civil Court said marriage is about.

And that is why marriage is universally and fundamentally about male and female. Examine how leading anthropologists over the last 80 years [have constantly made] references to male and female, procreation and off-spring legitimization as the universal and primary qualities of this sacred institution.

There is an instinctive ad hominem response to this about the hypocrisy of using miscegenation as a defense for marriage discrimination, but to use it would prevent us from seeing the 'no duh' aspect of Daly's argument.

To wit, the following is a plainly obvious statement: we are all the product of some sort of heterosexual procreation. All of us came about because male and female human DNA combined to create a person both wholly unique from and remarkably similar to everyone else on the planet. The procreation was assumed to be done thru lovemaking or at least sex-having, and ultimately this is what Daly is pointing towards. We are all here because our predecessors got freaky; our descendants depend on us continuing that tradition.

Over the last generation, some of us have been procreated in vitro, meaning that there was no hanky-panky but clearly there was love and desire. (Sadly, some of us have also been the children of rape, a crime defined by the absence of love.) Let's not forget that Christ's procreation is held to have occurred similarly and other divine and semi-devine figures were also conceived in supernatural ways, so it's not like test tube babies were the first immaculate conceptions.

Though that still is not the problem with Daly's argument. We can accept extraordinary exceptions to all-but-universal assumptions. Daly's not really interested in the means of childbearing, but the end of childbearing. In other words, for him the purpose of marriage and it's concomitant activity is to create children.

Thus, a marriage that does not result in children is a 'false' marriage, regardless if it is because of medical or social reasons. Also, a marriage whose children are not of their own procreation is 'false,' so adoption is unnatural. I'm sure most Americans realize the perverse inappropriateness of such feelings. After all, being a loving family to an orphan is one of the most good things any couple could do, right? That seems self-evident. And we shouldn't condemn people for being infertile (or primogeniturally infertile) , otherwise we're just Henry VIII.

What I mean is, there is a consesus among Americans that children are a possible, likely, appropriate outcome of marriage, but not its sole purpose. We're not barbarians. "Barefoot and pregnant" is a terrible way to see ourselves. Anyway, society does not have the right to compell individuals to do anything for its own benefit. If you wanna be a lifelong virgin, that's your prerogative.

Marriage equality advocates need to understand: this is not about love; this is not even really about civil rights. This debate is about sex. It is about whether dudes-kissing-dudes is icky or okay. It is about whether fucking is exceptional or pedestrian, sacred or vulgar. It is about how private our bedrooms really are, and whether social conservatives have the right to legislate our behavior in them. Marriage is a public concession to the one part of your life you share with the fewest people, if any.

Or is it? If marriage (and sex) is something else, equality advocates have to re-define it accordingly. They must not assume that everyone 30-years-old and under share their views, or ten years hence 40-year-olds are going to vote against gay marriage again.

A Weird Place to Be

By now I'm sure you've heard the news about the big public corruption dragnet that went down in New Jersey. Any case of public corruption - when unelected appointees from one branch of government forcefully remove elected officials from another - is a political minefield. I'm sure DGA and RGA will weigh in. Some Dems are already trying to play it down:
"I'm angry," said [State Sen. Jim] Whelan. "There's a lot of us - most of us in public service - who do it the right way. And then there's this behavior: greedy and stupid and arrogant.

"There is nothing that leads me to believe that Jon Corzine or his office will be touched directly by this stuff," Whelan added. "I'm not sure him stepping down would make sense at this point."

BTW, why does the RGA still have Sarah Palin on their front page banner?

Sorry, I got off track. My purpose here is not to get into the inevitable roller derby of New Jersey politics. It is instead to wonder aloud about what must be a very weird situation to find oneself in.

One of the politicians picked up in the sting, Peter Cammarano, was elected Mayor of Hoboken just last fall. He'd only been in office for a few months. In fact, his campaign website is still up. Feel free to gawk.

The Times reports that the investigation took two years, although the public corruption component was incorporated later. Even assuming a huge once-in-a-lifetime break, a case of this magnitude would, I assume, require a lot of time to put together. More than a fews months I'd guess.

In other words, last November, somewhere in New Jersey a team of investigators must've been aware of Cammarano's corruptibility. Heck, it's even possible one of the investigators was one of his constituents. They had to watch the election, maybe receive campaign literature or solicitations for donations, knowing full well that the people of Hoboken were going to elect a guy who they had every intention to arrest for public crimes.

How surreal must that be? I'm not a lawyer or an investigator (though I did do asset protection at Sears way back when) so maybe such scenarios are common and I just don't realize it.

Think about that the next time you see some Dark Suits wandering around the FBI building (which is still super ugly).

'Landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth'

My little brother is an astronaut.

I like to give him a hard time because, well, that's what big brothers are supposed to do, no? It's my duty to be his highest hurdle, so that he will not be condemned to mediocrity. And no brother of mine is mediocre!

The best I can do though is toss political bombs at him: "Spaceflight is too expensive, Little Brother. If you're designing a rocket that will send Gitmo terrorists to Mars, let me know. Otherwise, don't bother." And on the anniversary of mankind's first successful journey to the Moon, it would seem the world agrees with me.

Ted Anthony with AP writes:
The final Apollo mission came home before Nixon resigned. Skylab fell to Earth. Challenger disintegrated going up, Columbia coming down. Kennedy's New Frontier ethos - space as a kinder, gentler Manifest Destiny - slouched into the "Alien" catchphrase: "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Today, the reasons for Americans to pay attention to the ground, rather than the heavens, can be rattled off like a parody of a Billy Joel song. Terrorists. Global warming. Swine flu. Economic collapse. Nukes in North Korea and mass shootings in the heartland.

All of that is true. We lost sight of the Apollo Program in the angst over Vietnam. (And as a twist, the newsman most affiliated with both, Walter Cronkite, filed his last report this weekend.)

Tom Wolfe, who celebrated the heroes of the Mercury missions in The Right Stuff, paints an even more pessimistic picture. He correctly identifies the source of NASA's malaise as the militaristic raison d'être of its mission:
From the moment the Soviets launched Sputnik I into orbit around the Earth in 1957, everybody from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson on down looked upon the so-called space race as just one thing: a military contest. At first there was alarm over the Soviets’ seizure of the “strategic high ground” of space. They were already up there — right above us! They could now hurl thunderbolts down whenever and wherever they wanted. And what could we do about it? Nothing. Ka-boom!

The Moon landing was always an act of geopolitical posturing. It was a callously Machiavellian act meant to keep the public enthralled with the regime and the enemy uncertain of the odds. It may not have been staged, but it was carefully and deliberately produced.

The scientists and engineers argue for their work by pulling on America's national memory. "We are a country of explorers and immigrants," they say. "We cannot stop pushing at the boundaries or our civilization, our raison d'état, will perish!"

NASA and the space program is either needed by politics or demanded by human nature, but not both. Did we instigate a war with Mexico to explore the West, or the other way round? Was Teddy Roosevelt just a conservationist, or was he guarding America's precious soul, which he found in the wilderness?

As a big brother, the answer is easy: we do what we must to achieve what we can. Politics is a vulgar, scatological account of a civilization. It has to be done perhaps, but it should never be done for its own purpose. If there is a higher cause for politics, it is to discover – conjure up if necessary! – that motivation which will make NASA indispensable again

We may have sent John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and all the rest up into space for our own craven reasons, but they came back to give us new reasons, better ones. That's what astronauts do. That's why they're heroes.

My little brother's not going to be an astronaut someday, he already is one.

The Obama Eight: CA-3

Crossposted @ Calitics & DailyKos

GOP incumbent: Dan Lungren

Dem : 38%
GOP : 40%
DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+0.5% / 49.3%

2008 results
Bill Durston : 44.0%
Lungren : 49.5%
Arthur Tuma : 2.3%
Dina Padilla : 4.2%

Do you hella like gerrymandering? Well then have I got the Congressional District for you: CA-3, in the heartland of NorCal! Below is a map for you to play with. The markers are major communities in the district, with their party registration noted.

First, let me state for the record that I grew up in what is now the 3rd District in Elk Grove. My hometown today is one of the largest cities in California, a bedroom community in the larger Sacramento metropolitan region. It’s grown a lot since I was a kid and it may be the linchpin in the effort to oust one of the more onerous Obama Eight.

The Incumbent:
Dan Lungren’s a former AG of California, and before that he was a Congressman for Long Beach in the ‘80s. In 2004, he jumped on the 3rd District after getting creamed in his bid to be Governor – by Gray Davis. He remains unashamed of his anti-government positions, despite working for the government his whole life. He is sometimes uncertain which he dislikes more: taxes or Commies. He tried to unseat John Boehner from his leadership position for not being conservative enough. Oh, and if you're a Poizner fan, he endorsed Meg Whitman.

The 3rd District, stretching from the Milk Farm to Kirkwood, is a cross-section of Northern California and its demographics have changed since it was created. Once upon a time, the district encompassed all the solidly red parts of Sacramento’s suburbs, leaving the juicy blue bits to the Matsui Family. Between I-5 and Highway 99, however, Laguna Creek has sprung from nothing and become populated by families, many African American, who left the blight of South Sac for a big suburban home of their own. They brought their Democratic voter registration with them.

Although the 3rd may have a lot more Dems than it once did, like in CA-25 Obama’s performance was still not stellar. Citrus Heights, Folsom, and the foothills remain Republican strongholds. One of Dick Cheney's last campaign stops of 2004 was Wilton. The 3rd District is a conservative place. Laguna may tip the scales overall, but it hasn't changed the character of the rest of the district, which remains white and old.

The Dems:
For the last two cycles, Dr. Bill Durston was Lungren’s gadfly. His supporters tried to put him in the same category with Charlie Brown and Jerry McNerney, but he never performed as well as his co-partisans to the north and south. He did got a lot of support from activists around the region who wanted a true progressive to dethrone Lungren. It just wasn’t meant to be. Despite promising a third run immediately after his last defeat, Durston demurred, inviting a host of aspirants to try their luck in his stead.

Dr. Ami Bera is probably the heir apparent to Dr. Durston’s legacy as a candidate. Bera’s also a surgeon and committed to universal health care. He’ll probably also get the attention and adoration of the left. Oh yeah, he also raised $288,000 in the first quarter. If he keeps that up, he'll have plenty of money to shout his progressive credentials from the mountaintops.

The other Dem to have made a splash is Elk Grove Councilman Gary Davis. He’s committed to the hard work, although he has made occasional appearances on local comment-sections which is a no-no. His homoglyph was the last person to wallop Dan, so maybe that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, his first quarter receipts were dismal, coming in at less than $34,000. There is hope, of course, but that's a big hole to have to dig oneself out of.

And Davis' challenge is only made harder by the presence of Bill Slaton, a SMUD Board Member. He's well connected with the local Dem leadership and a source tells me not only that he'll post $227,000 for the first quarter but that he raised that amount in just three weeks with nothing but a phone and a rolodex.

This is shaping up to be the premier race of 2010. DCCC is watching hungrily, and they've already dropped ads and robo calls on Lungren. The Dem, however, who comes out ahead will need to plug into the establishment better than Durston did. Go to those fundraisers, shake every hand in the room, don't leave until you've burned your name into Steny Hoyer's subconscious!

And if you're wondering, Lungren lost Amador County...

The Outlook:

(If you really wanna know all the gory details of my strategy for the 3rd, email me.)

Dan Lungren will be tough to beat. Although I think Dr. Durston made many errors in his approach, his successors will be every bit as hindered by the nature of the district as was he. Unlike other Obama Eight districts, though, I don’t think the 3rd necessarily requires a moderate Democrat. It will require a crafty Democrat.

Agenda Item #1: Laguna Creek and the foothills. The voters of Laguna Creek plain didn't exist when the district was drawn and they're mostly blue so every vote here is a freebie. Because the African American population may need to be coaxed back to the ballot box, a thorough catalog of everything Lungren's done to stymie President Obama's agenda would be a good thing to have on hand.

Although no Dem is going to win Amador and Calaveras Counties, there really are pockets of supporters and, more important, Dem-sympathizers in the region. Since Lungren will need a landslide here to guarantee success, every win, no matter how small, will be a dent in his message and a blow to his confidence.

Agenda Item #2: A top-shelf media strategy. In my experience, the local outlets are tepid about covering politics, at least until after the election anyway. The district is big, but every part of it is in the Sacramento media market. Even radio covers almost every voter, and Sacramentans have long commutes. It's is a large, expensive market, so dedicated, disciplined communications personnel will be essential.

Agenda Item #3: Don't wait for the cavalry to come. DCCC is keeping a close eye on this race, but so is the NRCC. DCCC will be on defense as much as offense in 2010, so their support is not inevitable. Besides, they just provide the tender. The candidate has to bring the locomotive. The best defense against the national right-wing apparatus is good fundraising. Two of the three candidates seem, at this time, to be on the right track. Can they keep it up?

There are many reasons to be pessimistic about 2010, but there are just as many reasons to be bullish about CA-3. Stay tuned…

Important Links Candidates:
Ami Bera
Gary Davis
Bill Slaton


There will probably be many, many more local outlets soon enough for district-specific details, but national and statewide outlets like Calitics will also likely have lots of coverage going forward.

Elk Grove Online
Elk Grove
California Notes
(This was the premier website for the GOP's effort in CA-4. I'm sure they'll rally to Lungren's defense, too.)

Amador County Dems
Calaveras County Dems
Rio Vista Dem Club

Sacramento County Dems

(Their website looks recently re-launched, but there are numerous clubs covering the area.
The "neighborhood leaders" position sounds promising.)


And of course, email me any hot tips or vicious ad hominem attacks you'd like to share. This one is just too damn important so don't be shy about it!

Update: CA-24

Cross posted @ Calitics & DailyKos
Original post here

Lots happening down in Ventura County. Brian Dennert has several scoops. First, Elton Gallegly's anemic fundraising:
What's on his agenda? He doesn't appear on television much, he doesn't hold town hall forums, and he isn't going to be passing much legislation being in the minority party. In the last quarter he raised: $42,057.75

Should Democrats and Republicans interested in running get encouragement from those numbers that he might be retiring? He does have more than $800,000 in his warchest which should prove effective at protecting him if he does run again. But is a slow fundraising period a sign that he is retiring?

Eight-hundred large is a good warchest - when you're not being targeted. If Gallegly is going to retire, he should do it sooner rather than later. His successor will need time to warm up their own fundraising machine and it's not like the Dem field is going to get thinner.
I am able to confirm that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has talked to Simi Valley political consultant Jim Dantona about running to represent the 24th congressional district.

Add his name to a growing list of potential challengers that include Shawn Stern, Tim Allison , Marie Panec, Mary Pallant, Jill Martinez, and Marta Jorgenson.

Dantona had a good fight for County Supervisor and DCCC will want the strongest campaigner in CA-24. You don't beat a registration advantage with good intentions, you do it with shoe leather.

Allison and Panec still don't have any web presence or an FEC ID. If they're making the rounds, nobody's talking about it. Time's running short for dark horses to get into this.

Jill Martinez has a long list of endorsements, including Lt. Gov. Garamendi, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, and Das Williams who is running for the 35th Assembly district. Although she has experience managing and teaching business efficiency, her platform makes no mention of spending policy, earmarks, or other fiscal matters. Maybe Democratic primary voters don't want to hear about those things, but the successful Dem who wins CA-24 must have a strong stance in this area.

Mary Pallant has run for the Democratic nomination previously and recently got an endorsement for 2008. This post from 2006 by Brett Wagner, one of Pallant's opponents at the time, implies that the local Democratic establishment was out to get them at the time:
Mary was apparently also an innocent victim of the same types of vicious attacks from the same "darker corners" of our local party. [...]

Mary has decided to withdraw from the congressional race because of the traumatizing effects those attacks were having on her family, including her two young daughters.

So... I'm not really sure where this leaves us. The field is full. The DCCC is involved. And friendly fire could be an issue. Given Gallegly's poor fundraising, I think my original outlook remains valid. If two of the candidates show reasonable fundraising success, then maybe this could be one of those good primaries that gets the base enthusiastic and hungry for a win in November 2009.

Taking Care of the Paperwork

When the Rules for the 111th Congress came out, it was clear that Pelosi and her leadership team were serious about speeding up the legislative process and successfully getting President Obama's agenda through the House. The big change was the elimination of the "promptly" loop-hole on Motions to Recommit.

The loophole let the Minority gobble up time on bills that were likely to pass. Since that strategy would be unavailable to them in the 111th, what new tactic would they unveil?

After the Bank Bailout, the Recovery Act, and the recently passed Climate Change Bill, I think we can say with confidence that the Minority will use the size of bills, and the time available to read them, as their tactical cudgel of choice.

Is this tactic effective and how does it affects the legislative process?

'Doing Enough to Cooperate'

When the Minority uses its options to try to kill a bill outright, they are really trying to influence the public discourse about the Majority's agenda. They can't actually stop the bills from passing, but they can make the Majority look reckless.

The tactic does depress the Majority's opinion polling, as CNN found, but it also has significant blowback:
The poll also indicates that 62 percent of those questioned think President Obama is doing enough to cooperate with Republicans. That's down eight points from February, but it's 25 points higher than the 37 percent who feel the Republicans in Congress are doing enough to reach out to Democrats and the president.

The real question is whether this tactic affects public opinion of the President and his agenda. His approval remains historically high, but low by his own performance. So the Minority's intransigence does seem to weigh on the President and the Majority, but as long as the President remains popular overall, the negative effects will outweigh the positive.

Legislating with the Cane

In a perfect world perhaps the Congress would always work cordially and reach conclusions supported by a large consensus. But such a Congress would not do very many things in a large, heterogeneous country. At best, it can only be a space where fights over irreconcilable matters can happen with minimal risk to the social order. Like the barrier around a demolition derby, the goal is not to limit the carnage, but limit the risk of it hurting spectators.

It's frustrating to watch good ideas get run into the ground by dilatory tactics, but that is what Congress is for. Better in the chamber than in the streets. Remember also: the Congress is much nicer and calmer than ever before. No one gets caned anymore.

So for the Dems, they seem to be on a good course - until Americans sour on Obama. If in the next twelve months everyone can go to the doctor without any financial considerations, that may make up for the albatrosses of the bailout and the stimulus.

Sen. DeMint's mistaken statements about Hitler's Germany

Dear Jim DeMint:

The following is a recent quote you made regarding German history:
Part of what we’re trying to do in “Saving Freedom” is just show that where we are, we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy.
Given your interest in the subject, I'm sure you'll appreciate this brief lesson.

In 1933, after the parliamentary building burned down under suspicious circumstances, the German Reichstag formalized Adolf Hitler's totalitarian rule as the Führer by passing the Ermächtigungsgesetz, or Enabling Act. The law was an amazing relinquishment of authority by an elected body and it has since become the foremost example of failed democracy.

What was most disturbing was that Hitler's party, the national socialists or "Nazis," held only 45% of the Reichstag's seats. The rest of the seats were held by a collection of smaller parties with varying political views. Nonetheless, every single party voted to abandon their mandates to Hitler's tyranny, with the exception of just one.

Who were these brave souls, who stood firm in their defense of democratic legitimacy and whose leader, Otto Wels, used his last speech in a free Germany to welcome people being "repressed and oppressed" by the nascent regime?

The Social Democrats.

I don't mean to be nitpicky, Senator, but it's just that history is a stubborn thing...


P.s.: No Communists voted against the Enabling Act because all the Communists had already been imprisoned or murdered by the Nazis.

The Obama Eight: CA-48

Cross posted @ DailyKos

Special thanks to Laine for putting this post together. (This is the second time he's helped me get the job done.) Hat tip to you, sir!

Let's take a drive down that ol' 405...

GOP incumbent: John Campbell

Dem : 29%
GOP : 45%
DTS : 22%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+0.75% / 49.3%

2008 results
Steve Young : 40.6%
Campbell : 55.7%
Patterson : 3.7%

The CD's "flipability" rating is -16, which measures the disparity between voters' actual voting behavior in 2008 at the top of the ticket versus their party identity. (This puts CA-48 at the far bottom of the Obama Eight in terms of flipability, contrasting, for example, CA-26 and its flipability of +4.) Now let's dig deeper.

The Congressman
The Representative for CA-48 is John Bayard Taylor Campbell III. This guy is Mr. Los Angeles and Mr. corporate conservative credentials. He went to the LA-area prep school Harvard Westlake, UCLA for a BA in Economics, USC for a Masters in Business Taxation, went to work for the accounting firm Ernst & Young, and then ran Saturn, Saab and other dealers in OC.

Campbell's political career got started in 2000, when he ran for an open State Assembly seat and won. In 2004, he moved over to run for an open State Senate seat and again won. In 2005, the CA-48 seat opened up when Chris Cox resigned to become Chairman of the SEC under George Bush. (Apparently, CA-48 has a penchant for sending business / econ wonks to Congress.) In the special election, Campbell took 45.5% of the vote, the highest total, but short of the 50% plus one needed to avoid a runoff. He won with 44.4% in the December 6, 2005 runoff election, beating out Democrat Steve Young's 28% showing, and American Independent Party candidate Jim Gilchrist's 25.1% showing.

In 2006, Campbell ran for reelection to his first full term.He again faced Democratic challenger Steve Young, beating him by 23 points. In 2008, with Obama taking the District, Campbell faced Steve Young for a third time, and beating him resoundingly for a third time. Campbell's numbers slipped just a bit, and Young's numbers increased slightly, but it was still a decisive win for Campbell at 55.7% to 40.6%.

Wikipedia advises:
Congressman Campbell hosts an annual fundraiser named Mai-Tai’s and Mark-Ups on the Wednesday after Memorial Day at Crystal Cove State Park. It is unknown how the party came to be named but it is believed to be indicative of the congressman's legislative process.

But don't think for a second Campbell is your feel-good type of Republican. He's a die hard liberal economic Repub, famous (apparently) for giving out copies of Ayn Rand to departing interns:
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), who gives his departing interns copies of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, told me today that the response to President Obama's economic policies reminded him of what happened in the 51-year-old novel. "People are starting to feel like we're living through the scenario that happened in Atlas Shrugged, said Campbell. "The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit rest of us, are going on strike. I'm seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they'll be punished for them."

The Dems:
It's certainly possible that Steve Young will choose to face Campbell for a fourth time. Young has been increasing his share of the vote with each election, edging up to 40.6% with the Obama coattails in 2008. But the big news of the last several months was the entry into the Democratic field by Beth Krom, Mayor of Irvine, with a population of over 200,000 and by far the largest city in CA-48. Blogs up and down California have been thrilled at the prospect of running a hardened candidate against Campbell, with real campaigning experience and a fundraising base. The local blog OC Progressive praised Krom:
She can win elections. Beth Krom has won five campaigns, In 2006, she garnered 60% of the vote in her re-election as Mayor and in 2008, won her current City Council seat with 8000 votes more than the next candidate.

And there's data to back up the enthusiasm:
Krom outraised Campbell in the first quarter of the year, and is telling fellow Democrats she wants to have $250,000 by midyear and $1 million by the year's end.... In the first quarter of this year, Krom raised $63,370 to Campbell's $54,500. However, Krom was just starting her campaign account, while Campbell already has $297,000 on hand including money raised before 2009.

The calculus changed, however, just a few weeks ago when tragedy struck the Krom family. On June 8th, Krom's son, Noah, died after an apparent fall from a cliff. He was just a week shy of graduating from UC Santa Barbara. She released the following statement in mid June:
IRVINE, CA, June 18, 2009 — In response to inquiries regarding the impact of her son’s death on her Congressional race, Beth Krom has confirmed that she is fully committed to continuing her campaign to represent the 48th Congressional district.

Beth and Solly remain grief-stricken over the tragic death of their 22 year old son, Noah, on June 6, 2009 in Santa Barbara, California. In recognition of his academic achievements, Krom was posthumously awarded a diploma in Business Economics which was presented to his sister and brother at Commencement by UCSB President Henry Yang.

So Krom is in it to win it - but it's unclear whether this will change the race dynamic over the next year plus leading up to November 2010 and to what extent. Will other contenders throw their hat in?

The Outlook:
We've seen that Campbell racks up big percentages in this district, winning against Democratic candidate Steve Young three times now by 15 or more points. CA-48 has been going pretty red at the top of the ticket, too. Bush took the district in 2000 and 2004 with 60.4% and 58.3%, respectively. In 2008, Obama eeked out a win – still flipping the district by a heck of a swing (John Kerry and Al Gore each only got 40%). On the other hand, the district still has an enormous flipability handicap.

The question remains: Can a Congressional challenger duplicate whatever it is Obama did in 2008? Consider the Dem candidate's flipability gap, or how well that challenger measured up against the flipability and Obama. Steve Young's was almost null.

In other words, the Dem challenger performed about as expected. So we know CA-48's got horrible registration numbers (16% GOP advantage), Obama remarkably overcame those numbers to win it (by a razor thin margin), and John Campbell still won by 15.1% – pretty close to the registration advantage. On the other hand, the Cook Political Report's 2009 update moved CA-48 from R+8 to R+6. So how does this bode for 2010?

Important Links

Steve Young for Congress
(website still up from 2008)

Beth Krom for Congress

OC Register
OC Progressive
The Liberal OC

Democratic Party of Orange County


Three down, five to go! Stay in touch and keep us abreast of the latest!

Not running in 2012

I'm making this prediction: John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Sarah Palin are not running for the Republican nomination in 2012.

AnonGuy gets it right,
Considering she is bailing on her one and only term as Governor, I suspect Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, etc., are drooling at the chance to paint her as someone who can't finish the job. Or, in these tough economic times, can't stand the heat. I can see the 30-second spots attack spots already, "She couldn't even finish one term as governor of a small state ... now she wants to run our country?"

But of course, somewhere on the Tubes, someone is trying to spin this as a convoluted plan to position for 2012. Blogs for Victory provides the first hit,
Fabulously popular, a certainty for re-election in 2010…and now she leaves?

Perhaps she’s just sick of the nastiness? If so, then we’re to blame, as a country, for failure to sustain someone as good as she is…

Perhaps her family just wants a year off prior to a Presidential run? Remember, if she ran for re-election she’d be busy in 2010 and then in 2011 its off to the races…

But leave it to Politico to go the extra mile, going so far as to tell Palin there are 7 things she must do,
Those who underestimate her do so at their own risk. She projects a tough but warm personality. Her most famous line — “You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick!” — reflects that. She is a conservative in an increasingly conservative party.

True, the GOP's gotten a lot more conservative, but they'll figure out after 2010 that extremism won't beat Obama. Competence will.

Yeah, Pawlenty's declining re-election too, to focus on 2012, but Pawlenty's not running away from an ethics probe. There's a difference between taking a break in preparation for a run and bailing out of your career mid-term like it's a doomed airplane.

It's still Mitt Romney's to lose.

Hooray, Artomatic! Boo, venue!

I finally went to Artomatic today and saw floors 3 and 4. I also walked around the work-in-progress Waterfront area around Nationals Park. I'm not a really a baseball fan, so it's not a neighborhood I would go to, but art puts me in an ambitious and introspective mood, so now I want to write about what I saw.

The first thing I walked away thinking was, unfortunately, how much I disliked the area's new architecture. And this is especially troubling for me, because I normally love contemporary architecture.

Artomatic 2009 55 M Street SE
55M, home of Artomatic 2009. Note the exposed diagonal supports and the
asymmetrical but still right-angle dominated façade.

I'm not a trained architect, tho I did present failed a bid for a Fulbright scholarship on postmodern monumentalization in Germany. So I feel especially well-qualified to write about this.

Much of what's built these days is given the moniker of postmodernism. This is not the place for a philological deconstruction of the term or it's nauseating overpresence in today's commentary, so I will only say that I think the term is somewhere between troublesome and abhorrent.

Bank Center, Houston. The shape suggests urban architecture in
the Netherlands, recalling Dutch financial dominance.
Postermodern architecture often references preexisting concepts
rather than copying them outright as is done in revivalism.

Postmodernism is our generation's rejection of 20th Century functionalism and it tries, sometimes desperately, to relocate the importance of ornamentation. It draws from the Brutalism that almost took over DC in the seventies, the high-tech exposure which still seems to frighten Americans, and the old standby international style that defines many American skylines.

L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station
Every underground Metro station features Brutalist style in the ceiling pattern.
Brutalism does not fail on it's theory – leaving artifacts of the form's construction is not
inherently bad – but in practice it seems to dominate entire structures, and it certainly
dominated Washington's last urban renewal after the riots. (The fearsomely ugly FBI
is another prominent example).

Although that pedigree is clear at the Waterfront, there is no revivalism and no homage on display in this development. (That's not a judgment, just a statement.) The materials are cutting edge and the form reflects this. The capabilities of the material allow for hints of the underlying structure and process of the building to show thru, suggesting a sort of neo-Brutalism or neo-high-tech. However, unlike Brutalism and high-tech, these styles are not the focus of the building, but only possibilities. The brackets that hold the windows are capped with stainless steel. The elevator is visible, but its machinery is tucked away.

Postmodern additions add contemporary functionality to history structures.
Left: New DC Court of Appeals at Judiciary Square. The postmodern atrium obviously alters the form from its original. It defaces the historic building but does not offend it.
Right: Nevada State Museum, Carson City. I haven't seen this in person yet, tho I'm excited to get the chance. It's one of the coolest museums anywhere (not being ironic!) and I want to feel how it works.

So all we have left to describe what we see is postmodernism. And it feels so... unsatisfying. Why do I like this style at Judiciary Square, and why am I excited about it at the Nevada State Museum, but it feels so sickly and sterile at the Waterfront? Part of my frustration, I think, is that the style has no inherent life – a fact made clear when you walk thru the empty lobby of 55M. Flat light seeps thru the glass or plastic walls of the room, ensuring no corner is hidden in shadow. Marble, wood and brass, materials prevalent in the decadent neo-classical government buildings, is non-existent here. In theory, this should create a sense of egalitarianism in the space, where the people are foremost, but I suspect that in practice this forces the people to architecturalize themselves. The seams of their pants, the cut of their décolletage, the tattoos on their skin must provide the context.

Sadly, this is not the Rotunda of the Capitol, where Americans of every type gather to observe and interpret their collective self. In its attempt to move beyond the nostalgia of repeatniks and conservatives, it has created a lifeless fashion runway that only waits for models and designers to fight over their individuality. It creates competition, not community.

The art inside the building, however, is great and I'm excited to head back tonight and tomorrow!