Nov. 5th, 2003

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YYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!

Leave on the lights, the party ain't over.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's self-financed bid to scrap the city's century-old system of party primaries went down in resounding defeat Tuesday as a fragmented Democratic Party staved off a death blow.

In a stunning rebuke, city voters rejected the nonpartisan proposal by a nearly 3-to-1 margin with 95 percent of the votes counted Tuesday night.

"I think we've proven that you can't put the city up for sale - money doesn't always work," said New York State Democratic County Chairman Herman "Denny" Farrell at a midtown victory celebration attended by many of the city's top Democrats. "We're alive and well and living in New York."



The really enjoyable part of this - Bloomberg spent a wad o' money to make sure that what New Yorkers knew about this initiative, they learned from him.

Clearly it's far too slanted a vote to be simply a referendum on him (we _do_ have local Republicans, and they do vote) but, at least in this election, he's become a product he can't sell us anymore.

Phew.

(can I say how weird it felt for me that at one point, I was the second item in a Google search for "Question 3 Bloomberg"? I mean, wow, but somebody out there not doing their job much? The story seems to have exploded in the last three days, though, which made me feel much better)

edit: Dennis Duggan, who (full disclosure) I met in the Lions Head once, does a nice job, as usual.

just wow.

Nov. 5th, 2003 05:32 am
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Pataki appoints (the State Senate is a Republican rubber stamp) a lawyer who is not a judge, but is an active member of the Federalist Society and a huge Pataki donor, to the Court of Appeals.


Gov. George E. Pataki nominated a Republican trial lawyer from Manhattan on Tuesday to fill a vacancy on the state's highest court.

The nominee, Robert S. Smith, belongs to the conservative Federalist Society but has also argued against the death penalty before the United States Supreme Court.

If ratified by the State Senate, the governor's decision to put Mr. Smith, who is 59, on the Court of Appeals would mean not only that the seven-member court would retain a Republican majority but that none of the judges would come from the northern or western part of the state.

...

Mr. Pataki's decision came as a shock to law professors and others in legal circles who watch the Court of Appeals. For months, word had circulated that James M. McGuire, the governor's counsel, was Mr. Pataki's favorite candidate for the opening, but when the Commission on Judicial Nomination released its list of seven approved candidates in mid-October, Mr. McGuire's name was not among them. Mr. Smith's was.

...

Governor Pataki said Tuesday he was not worried about Mr. Smith's lack of experience on the bench. He also said he had used no one-issue tests to decide among the seven candidates the nominating commission had recommended. Neither party affiliation, nor position on the death penalty, nor other political leanings influenced his choice, he said.

"I don't believe in litmus tests," Mr. Pataki said. "I believe in people of character, wisdom and intelligence. People who understand the law, and that is what we have."

...

Yet Mr. Smith says he has mixed feelings about the death penalty himself. When he agreed to take on some death penalty cases without pay in the late 1980's, he said, he was firmly against the practice, but since then his views have become less firm.

"Despite the fact that I have done a lot of death penalty work, I do not have rigid views on the death penalty," he said Tuesday as his nomination was announced. "In any event, obviously, as a judge my personal views on those matters are my private views."

He said that he began adult life as a liberal Democrat, but became a Republican in 1988 and has become active in the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, whose members are committed to a limited role for the federal judiciary.

He is also a big donor to Republican campaigns. Since 1999, he and his wife, Dian G. Smith, have given $60,000 to Governor Pataki, and $51,000 to the State Republican Committee.

Mr. Pataki maintained on Tuesday that he did not know Mr. Smith's political affiliation when he made the decision to nominate him, a decision he said he made the night before.



Uh, yeah.

Our governor, a man whose wife has since his election parlayed her degree in Art to a job lobbying the state for a foreign government, had absolutely no idea this guy from the Federalist Society wasn't a big flaming Green who washes Cuomo's car with his tongue on weekends.

It could happen.
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Democrats tightened their grip on New Jersey government in Tuesday's elections, seizing undisputed control of the State Senate, toppling the state's top Republican elected official, and padding their majority in the General Assembly.

The sweeping victories, fueled by record-setting campaign spending, give Democrats control of the governor's office and both houses of the Legislature. For the first time in half a century, the party in power picked up seats during midterm legislative elections.

The night's results also offered personal vindication for Gov. James E. McGreevey. Republicans had tried to make the races a referendum on the governor, whose approval ratings have dropped below 40 percent in some recent polls, but Democrats used their financial advantage to focus the races on a host of local issues in Bergen, Gloucester and Monmouth Counties...



IOW, upper middle class New York bedroom communities.

Smile.
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Russell A. Harding, the former president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation who was indicted in March on embezzlement charges, was arrested on Monday night after his psychiatrist alerted federal court officials that he was in immediate danger of killing himself.

Yesterday, a federal judge in Manhattan ordered that Mr. Harding's pending trial be delayed indefinitely and that psychiatric evaluations be conducted to determine whether he is mentally stable.

Federal prosecutors contend that Mr. Harding used thousands of dollars of the housing corporation's money for vacations, gifts, parties and other personal expenses. The indictment, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, also charged that Mr. Harding directed others to shred documents and erase computer files to cover up his activities. Mr. Harding has pleaded not guilty.

A lawyer representing Mr. Harding, Gerald L. Shargel, told Judge Lewis A. Kaplan yesterday that Mr. Harding had refused for months to help defense lawyers prepare his case, which was scheduled to go to trial in about two weeks.

Mr. Harding, the son of Raymond B. Harding, the longtime leader of the Liberal Party and a close ally of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, had no housing experience and was a college dropout when Mr. Giuliani appointed him to run the corporation in 1998. The corporation helps subsidize construction of low- and middle-income housing...



For those of you who are not familiar with the Hardings pere and fils, the senior Mr. Harding was for many years a very powerful political fixer in New York politics as the head of the grossly misnamed Liberal Party, whose endorsements were available to pretty much anyone who gave patronage into Mr. Harding's gift (of late, all Republicans).

New York City has open elections, so that the votes of a third party line has often been the margin of victory for our local politicians (as with Mayor Bloomberg and the inimitable Ms. Fulani's Independence Party).

The working poor lost a great deal when America's Mayor (barely used! we'll ship!) gave over the tax money New Yorkers were providing for their housing to the personal use of Harding fils in return for the supremely negotiable endorsement of Harding pere. Harding pere has seen his influence plummet as a result, not that the working poor in New York can really afford moral victories in place of a decent roof over their heads.

Alas, poor Ray. We knew you.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass.
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New York City voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure yesterday that would have instituted nonpartisan city elections, voting to forgo changes in a system of selecting municipal officials that has been in place for nearly a century.

It was a stinging defeat for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had invested millions of his own fortune in a campaign that bombarded voters with fliers and telephone calls in the days leading up to yesterday's vote. It was the most partisan battle in the 22 months since Mr. Bloomberg became mayor, pitting him against nearly every Democratic leader in the city.

With 100 percent of the precincts counted, the vote was 30 percent in favor of the referendum, known as Question 3, and 70 percent against, according to unofficial returns tabulated by the Associated Press. New York City Board of Elections officials described the turnout as light to moderate.

City voters also went to the polls yesterday to elect 51 City Council members. In the most hotly contested race, in Brooklyn, the Working Families Party achieved a landmark victory when its candidate, Letitia James, was elected to the Council even though she was listed only on that party's line. That race, to succeed a murdered councilman, James E. Davis, was the first victory by a third-party candidate for City Council in a quarter-century, and Ms. James won over Mr. Davis's brother, Geoffrey A. Davis. On Staten Island, voters for the first time elected a Republican district attorney, Daniel M. Donovan Jr., ending a tradition of more than a century of electing Democrats.

In New Jersey, Democrats consolidated control of the New Jersey Legislature.

On Long Island, voters elected the first Democratic county executive in Suffolk County since the 1980's.

Voters in the region also consolidated Democratic control of the New Jersey Legislature, elected the first Democratic county executive in Suffolk since the 1980's and elected mayors in Yonkers and Bridgeport, Conn.

...

Voters appeared to have made the decision, at least in part, based on their feelings about Mr. Bloomberg.

Mr. Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat who turned Republican, has been steadily criticized by citizens angered by the higher property taxes and more restrictive smoking laws he has championed. They also said yesterday they resented the way he promoted the primary referendum, financing mass mailings that failed to disclose his involvement.
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for those of you who are not familiar with this concept (despite having been bludgeoned with it ceaselessly by other people who are not all that clear on it themselves), a "meme" is a rhetorical or conceptual framing that behaves virally, becoming an accepted part of the discourse.

The most famous example of a consciously directed internet meme is Godwin's Law:

Godwin's law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, Sexton-Godwin Law) is an adage in Internet culture established by [EFF counsel) Mike Godwin on August 18, 1991, which states that:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made in a thread the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. Many people understand Godwin's law to mean this, although it is not the original formulation.

However, there is also a widely-recognized codicil that any intentional invocation of Godwin's Law for its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

Mr. Godwin says that he intentionally introduced this idea as a potential meme in an attempt to bring the concept of civilized discourse to the denizens of Usenet.

The spread of the meme, in this case, was unfortunately more successful than the meme itself (or at least that's what a quick stroll through blogs, the somewhat more regimented stepchild of Usenet, would suggest).

A Mr. Cole's attempted meme is somewhat more counterintuitive than Mr. Godwin's. He believes that it's somehow morally inconstant to hold Mr. Bush to the moral standards of our enlightened age, since in the days when God and he were young everyone was a pampered failure with poor impulse control who drove drunk and tried to beat up his dad.

Why, it was practically respectable.

Surely someone will elicit a shaky grunt of agreement from William Bennett any time now.

Anyway, I went there so you don't have to, but if you feel a strong urge to read this unusual piece in its original tripe, I got there through Jesse, who you should visit anyway.
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Uncertified software may have been installed on electronic voting machines used in one California county, according to the secretary of state's office.

Marc Carrel, assistant secretary of state for policy and planning, told attendees Thursday at a panel on voting systems that California was halting the certification process for new voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems.

The reason, Carrel said, was that his office had recently received "disconcerting information" that Diebold may have installed uncertified software on its touch-screen machines used in one county.

He did not say which county was involved. However, secretary of state spokesman Douglas Stone later told Wired News that the county in question is Alameda.

Alameda County, a Democratic stronghold that includes the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, converted to all-electronic voting last year at a cost of more than $12 million. The county used the machines in state elections last year and in last month's gubernatorial recall election. The machines will also be used in tomorrow's municipal election in Alameda.

...

At the meeting, Carrel delayed indefinitely the certification of the new machines until the secretary of state's office can investigate the matter.

Diebold officials, who were attending the meeting, seemed surprised by the announcement and expressed displeasure to several panelists afterward that it had been introduced in a public forum. They were unavailable for comment.



Fixing elections is just good clean fun.

Talking about it is tacky.

How many times are these people going to do this before somebody goes to jail?

And yes, I truly am working on it.
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Some folks wonder if they know.

The indigenous people who live in the hills of San Diego County hold to an old philosophy: Fire takes what it wants, floods take what is left and nothing lives long except the mountains.

"We've been living with fire forever," said Juana Majel-Dixon, a Pauma Indian. "The rain will come soon and there will be more suffering, but we'll get through it. Indian people always do."

While the nation's eyes were fixed on images of endangered resort towns and wealthy suburbs, it has nearly gone by the boards that Indian territory was hit inordinately hard by the recent wildfires.

With the last of the flames all but extinguished, the statistics of San Diego's major fires, the Paradise and the Cedar, are staggering: nearly 340,000 acres burned, 16 dead, more than 2,337 homes destroyed. While Indians are few in number, there are 18 reservations throughout the county with an estimated 6,200 people, located in what was once inaccessible scrub unsuited for farming.

The reservations are now the outer edges of the suburban sprawl and fire officials estimate that 10 percent of the total land burned was Indian country, with three reservations completely scorched and a handful of others severely damaged.

Hardest hit was the San Pasqual reservation, about 35 miles north of San Diego. Its entire 1,400 acres were burned, as were more than a third of its homes, mostly uninsured trailers and prefabricated units. Two local people died trying to escape the inferno; two others died on the Barona reservation to the south.

"Fire doesn't know city limits or reservation boundaries," said Allen E. Lawson, the San Pasqual tribal chairman. "It doesn't discriminate on the basis of skin color or wealth."

Indeed, much of the territory has been reduced to little more than cigarette tailings, bedsprings and auto carcasses.

Acres of manzanita resemble stickmen, the water canal is parched and the leaves on the oak trees are as hard as playing cards.

The reservation's casino, the sole engine of economic life here, escaped major damage. Just a wall and four slot machines were destroyed, and signs dot the reservation thanking firefighters for their efforts.

A few miles to the north, the Rincon reservation was 75 percent burned, with more than 20 homes lost. On the Barona reservation, home of one of the state's most successful casinos, two people died and 47 homes were lost, but the casino was spared.

In all, 14 reservations were affected.

Rumors run rampant here. While fire officials believe that a lost hunter started the Cedar fire to the south, there is no explanation for the Paradise fire, which started behind the Rincon Casino and destroyed more than 56,000 acres and 117 homes.

A report is circulating among Indians that a white may have started the blaze, someone who harbored bad feelings against Indians after the recent election that led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

During the campaign, Indian tribes donated millions of dollars to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and a lesser amount to Governor Davis. Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went on to be elected governor, criticized Indians as the type of special interests that had hamstrung state government.

"No one wants to say this was set to take out Indian country," said Michele Nelson, a council member of the Rincon Indian Nation. "But you've got to wonder with all the bad feelings around here about the recall. We got calls during the fire saying, `That's what you Indians deserve.' "



On our nation's most powerful recent immigrant and precedent inhabitants of his state (and precedent citizens as well):

from the Hartford Courant
from the Mercury News
from Indian Country

"Their casinos make billions, yet pay no taxes and virtually nothing to the state," Arnold Schwarzenegger says in a new radio and television ad attacking the state's flourishing Indian casinos, which have spent about $120 million on political campaigns in the last five years.

"It's time for them to pay their fair share," Republican Schwarzenegger says in the ad. "Give me your vote and I guarantee you things will change."

But the Morongo tribe regards its fair share as the 5,000 jobs it says the expanded Casino Morongo resort will create. Schwarzenegger "is critical of the only segment of the California economy that has posted 12 percent job growth and employed thousands," said tribal representative Waltona Manion.

...

Increasingly, states are unfairly looking to casinos to bail them out of deficits, said Coin, director of the tribes' California lobbying group. "The states are looking at tribes as cash cows."

And Indians are quick to point out that although tribes, as federally recognized governments, do not pay taxes, their 40,000 employees certainly do.

...

Although tribal casinos are not taxed, states do negotiate agreements in return for allowing tribes to open casinos and install slot machines. Connecticut, which receives 25 percent of all slot machine revenue, has the most lucrative Indian casino deal in the country - a deal California salivates over. Connecticut's two native casinos contribute about $400 million annually to the state's general fund.

California collects very little from its casinos - a situation Schwarzenegger promises to change. The tribes pay a total of about $140 million annually into two funds, one for tribes without casinos and another to help pay for the local impact of casinos. Davis, meanwhile, has been negotiating new agreements with tribes that plan to open new casinos, requiring a larger portion of gambling revenues be given to the state.

"There should be a rightful percentage given back to the state. But it has to be done equitably," said Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, owners of two Palm Springs casinos. This month, Milanovich's tribe took out newspaper ads asking the candidates for governor to state their position on a new gambling agreement with the tribe, pointing out the thousands of jobs at his tribe's two casinos.

Milanovich said his tribe, which donated $100,000 to the Republican Party in 2000, is not endorsing a candidate in the recall election, but "contributions are our right."


Hint: it's sort of outre to attack people who were paying taxes before your corporate contributors had even packed your carpetbag for taking advantage of the influence of money in politics.

Just saying.

edit: of course, he could be sincere about all this.

Maybe not, though.

A top political adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger serves on the board of directors of a company that owns two Nevada casinos and has interests in two Southern California card clubs that compete with casinos run by California Indian tribes.

Schwarzenegger has made attacking tribes and their political influence a major tenet of his campaign, prompting the actor's top Republican opponent in the recall election and a tribal gaming group to raise conflict-of-interest questions about Schwarzenegger Friday. At issue is Bonnie Reiss, a longtime Schwarzenegger ally who has taken an increasingly public role in his bid to be governor.

Reiss earns $30,000 a year as a director of Pinnacle Entertainment. The company owns casinos in Reno and Verdi, Nev., and earns money from leases on two California card clubs, including the Hollywood Park Casino, located in Inglewood (Los Angeles County) and one of the largest card clubs in California.

"Clearly, he's got a bit of a conflict," said Jacob Coin, executive director of the California Indian Nations Gaming Association. "He's blasting the tribes very publicly and on the other hand quietly receiving political advice from someone with a major interest in a business that competes with us."
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...At this point we get the full force of Lucas’s screenwriting prowess, and to call the dialogue purple is to damn it with understatement. It’s like a vivid, three-day old bruise: purple, sure, but already starting to turn that greenish yellow around the edges. Anakin looks deep into her eyes and says, "I’m haunted by the kiss you should never have given me," in the same way he might inform a Home Depot salesclerk, "I’m having second thoughts about that Weed Eater you should never have sold me."

And it doesn’t end there. "My heart is beating," he informs her. "You are in my very soul." Then he blurts something that sounds like "Hormel!" But given his mush-mouthed delivery, it’s possible he was mentioning an entirely different brand of salted pork products.

Our own hearts begin beating when he says, "I will do anything you ask," hoping she’ll ask him to shut up. Alas, there is only more pouting, and Anakin storms off to bed, where he has a nightmare about his mother being savaged by Sand People (paging Dr. Freud…). Afraid that his dreams are real, Anakin and Padme fly home to Tattoine, for one of those awkward, meet-the-parents things.

They arrive at the subterranean Little House on the Wasteland where we first met (or will later meet?) Luke in Star Wars. Apparently, Pa Ingalls bought Anakin’s mom as a slave, but later married her, giving their story a sort of Marla Maples/Donald Trump quality. Threepio is still there, doing chores and chirping away in his twee accent, cementing his place as the Galaxy’s most effeminate farm implement. Yes, Lucas is still trying to insist that Anakin really did build C3PO, which begs the question why his mother the slave and her husband the poor dirt farmer didn't dismantle the protocol droid and use it for tractor parts years ago.

Anakin has an uncomfortable meeting with his new stepfather and stepbrother. Finding your place in these blended families is always challenging, especially for a sensitive adolescent, and the whole scene has the feeling of a Brady Bunch episode. ("It’s the story/Of a slave named Shmi…") But a first season episode, when the tone was a trifle bittersweet, and the children still had some difficulty adapting - especially in that episode where Carol was sexually abused by Tuskan Raiders...
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Humans had a desire to own things, even things they couldn't really take possession of. In her mail-order catalogues Nora had read about a company that sold stars. You sent them a check and they'd send you back a certificate and a star chart, telling you which one of the pinpricks in the vast night sky had just been named after you, so that for one instant of the star's billion-year existence, a self-important little primate on a small planet could strut about and say he "owned" it. If people could try to buy stars, then they might easily come to think they could own a song they didn't write. She didn't suppose it mattered any to the song, though, or to the people who did fashion it long ago. Songs were like seeds: They wanted to be scattered so that things would grow far from where they started. They didn't care who took them where, or why.

The Songcatcher

sniff.

Nov. 5th, 2003 11:00 pm
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I'd tell you I was not either, but it wouldn't do me a bit of good, because you wouldn't listen, would you.

For my own confoundment and the amusement of my neighbors, I am apparently married to

Swires!!
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