Saturday, August 30, 2003

T3


Speaking of the Arnold. I went to The Grove to see T3. A fast paced action adventure flick. No pretense to serious philosophical stuff like the Matrix in terms of extended headache inducing expository dialog. However, the world of T3 has a tension between a deterministic world and the world of "fate is what you make" (i.e. free will). T3 takes this issue head one in its story arc from the first two films. Unlike the Matrix, there aren't long speeches on it. In both films there is the resolve to "do the right thing" despite the odds.

The extended car chase in T3 was some bit of film making. Arnold is on top of his game with the humor of his deadpan delivery.

Three stars out of four. Definitely a big screen type of movie with the full sound system.

More polling all over the place



Dan Weintraub in his blog reports on some political party polling data. One sponsored by the Democrats shows the recall passing with 54% while a Republican poll has it ahead with 63. Not surprisingly, the Democrat poll has Bustamante leading while the Republican poll has Schwarzenegger ahead.

The polls remain all over the place and as Weintraub says, take with a grain of salt.

Najaj blast may have been Al-Qaida



The death toll in the lastest bombing in Iraq has reached 107. Also, four suspects have been detained in connection with the bombing and they may have links to Al-Qaida.

The situation is getting murkier by the moment. If the Al-Qaida links are true, I wonder what will the "Arab Street" reaction be? It is one thing for the Arab Street to praise the 9/11 attacks against the evil American decadent capitalists but what will they say when they kill their breathren? Or will the Arab Street blame the US for Al-Qaida killing their own?



Friday, August 29, 2003

I wonder too...



Instapundit and NRO wonder why the media is all over the Arnold about something that happened how many decades ago and ignore the Lt. Gov's ties to an extreme organization.

Najaf mosque bombing



Dreadful news from Iraq as a car bomb outside a mosque kills 75 and wounds 142. Also, killed in the blast was a moderate Shia cleric who was viewed as a long time enemy of Hussein. Speculation is that Hussein loyalists are behind the attack in an effort to foment sectarian violence in Iraq.

Clearly, the US is going to have to triple its efforts to hunt down Hussein. The longer he is out there stirring things up, the more dangerous the situation becomes. The Bush team must internationalize the policing efforts by bringing in troops from other nations freeing up US forces to track down and kill Hussein.

Alias and the CIA



Jennifer Garner may appear in a CIA recruitment video to be shown at career fairs.

Excerpt:
Brandon served as a technical adviser to the ABC series in its first season and said the program is popular in the halls of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

"She would find an enormous fan base here," he said.
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Oh, really? Wonder why? 8-)


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

@ the Movies -- Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle


Am old enough to have seen the original television series. I saw the first film on KABC-7 earlier this year. It was good tongue-in-cheek fun. However, I heard the second big-screen version lacked the charm of the first film.

Indeed, the critics and my friends who saw it were right. Adding salt and spices to food is what makes cooking so enjoyable. In movies, the same is true. Overdo it and you foul up the whole dish. In the first film, there was the Matrix-like martial arts stuff, the double entendre and liberal use of the stars attributes and it worked reasonably well. The film had no aspirations to high art and knew it and played to its sense of fun.

However, in this film, they took all those ingredients and overdo all of it and drown out what little charm and chemistry the three stars have with each other.

It is appearant right from opening action sequence that they simply didn't have the money to make the special effects look as good as the Matrix. It became somewhat cartoony. As for the double entendre, they went to that well too often.

Diaz, Barrymore and Liu are all very likable in the first film. In this film, they don't quite shine through as much as they are going through the paces of the action sequences. No getting around the fact they are very beautiful (I am a male move goer after all) but attractiveness and charm is BOTH good looks and a winning personality.

On a scale of four stars, two. A sideways thumb. See on video if you are really bored or at matinee rates at your local theatre.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Polling all over the place


This weekend, the political buzz was over the LAT poll that says Davis may survive the recall and that Bustemante would win the balloting in part II.

I am not surprised to hear that support for the recall would fall because the reality of it is getting closer. And given the huge registration edge the democrats have, I would expect Bustemante to do well. However, the problem is the LAT poll is so far from the other polls you have to wonder if something is fishy. The key will be to see if the scale of the trend they are seeing is picked up by any other polling service.

I still remember the Clinton-Dole race in 1996 and some of the polls had Clinton winning the popular vote anywere from ten percent to the high teens. Do you remember how many percentage points the final result was?

Eight.

Some big name pollsters had a landslide of epic proportions but they turned out to be wrong.

And of course, the worst case scenario of polling happened in Florida on election night 2000. How could the networks call the election for Gore? They used polling data that said he was going to win Florida easily. The whole mess was chronicled in Bill Sammon's book At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election.
I personally thought the title of the book was a little over the top because Gore didn't break any laws in Florida. He pursued legal remedies at every turn. And at every turn where an interpretation of law went against the Gore team, the Florida Supreme Court stepped in with dubious legal reasoning.

Sammon gave us the inside story of how the polling data got so messed up that night.

One problem is that polling doesn't pick up absentee ballots which Republicans tend to use more frequently so the size of Bush's vote in that group was underestimated which pollsters try to correct for. Also, Sammon mentioned a historic trend that exit polls tend to overstate the democrat vote. It is something that the pollster can't seem to figure out why it happens but it does and so they have to "estimate" the size of this slight distortion of the data in the sample size. Also, the voter news service sample size is actually quite small and they may not have choosen the best "selected precints" to do exit polling.

All of this to say, the polling environment in California could be unlike any other election. On one hand, it is an off-year so turnout could be very low. On the other hand, the "zoo-like" atmosphere with so many candidates may mess up turnout models that pollsters use to adjust their data. And finally, we simply don't know to what degree disappointment with Gov. Davis will translate into votes on part I or part II of the ballot.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Davis speech at UCLA



Here is NYT's report on the Gov. Davis speech at UCLA where he denounced the recall and defended his stewardship of the state.


Some excerpts below:
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 19 — In a fight for his political life, Gov. Gray Davis pleaded with Californians today to reject the attempt to recall him, describing it as part of a right-wing effort "to steal elections Republicans cannot win."

RR: Got to give credit to Davis for being a fighter. I didn't think he would win in 1998 but he did and he is attempting the political equivalent of a Houdini stunt trying to survive this recall. But I just find this whole “Right-wing” conspiracy stuff very annoying. California, the land where the Democrats control all executive branch offices and large majorities in the legislature is hardly a right-wing state. If only right-wingers backed the recall how many percent would the recall be getting in the polls? I don't know the exact political breakdown of California but I'd guess AT MOST 33% of the state's voters are right-leaning. With 33% leaning left and 33% going one way one time and the other at other times. And that is probably an OPTIMISTIC assessment of the number of right-leaning voters. In 1998, GOP candidate Dan Lungren got merely 38.4% of the vote. How many of those are "hard core right wingers?" And how many of his voters were simply "anti-Davis" voters? Instead Davis just resorts to name calling, in his mind and in the mind of his supporters saying "right-wing" is like calling people Islamic terrorists and should end all discussion.

RR: “Steal?” Steal is breaking the law by getting something you didn’t pay for. The recall provisions are on the law books. If the Davis people have a political philosophy problem with the recall then they should work to remove it from the law books the minute this thing is over. Until then, stop whining.

NYT (quoting Davis): "There are many reasons to be against this recall," he said. "It is expensive, it's undemocratic, it's a bad precedent, and it almost certainly will breed more recalls."

RR: It is expensive? Yes. Undemocratic? Debatable. Davis is arguing that a NO vote in part I is equal to a YES vote for him in part II where he isn't on the ballot. Bad precedent? Fight to take the recall provisions out of state law so it doesn’t happen again. More recalls? Don’t think so. A recall will only receive support if it is seen as very likely to succeed. And if this recall FAILS, it is almost certain that the lobbying to take the recall provision off the books will be intense.

NYT: But in his own defense he said that his state had been "victimized by a massive fraud" by Enron and other energy trading companies.

RR: Certainly some blame goes to out of state energy providers for taking advantage of the situation and those people will be prosecuted. But Davis in a panic signed overpriced long-term energy contracts that made the fiscal situation worse. So stand up and take your lumps.

NYT: And he said much of the spending that led to the state's deep budget deficits had gone to schools and health care. "I make no apologies for that," he said.

RR: Tisk, tisk, tisk. In the abstract of course we want to fund schools and health care. But responsible fiscal leadership says, well we got a lot of revenue coming in right now, will this always be true in the future? Don’t expand programs to such a degree that it can’t be sustained in the future when the economy slows down. People make that mistake all the time when they buy a house. They often buy more house than they really can afford and when they get into trouble no bank is going to accept good intentions for payment. Same thing happened in California: the internet boom, the high tech boom and the dollars were rolling into Sacramento and the politicians drunk with all that cash SPENT it all and expanded programs and now the dollars aren't rolling in and they say, hey, we need more money! For more analysis along this line check out Jill Steward's commentary. Jill is a self-confessed Democrat fed up with what they are doing up in Sacramento.

RR: I'm generally a hard core advocate of representative democracy and thus would be philosophically against the recall but in this case a message NEEDS to be sent to Sacramento. VOTE YES on the RECALL!!!




Friday, August 22, 2003

Can photos be posted on blogger.com?


Yup!
I did a "a href" to my web site and used an "img src" to a photo on the same web site. Neat!



Click on the photo to check out my web travelogue of a Habitat trip to Botswana.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Federal Court Okay's Recall



Today's ruling was not surprising. The ACLU lawsuit tried to delay the recall vote citing punchcard voting machine problems. But since all elections previously held involved punchcard machines the ACLU suit was facing practical reality problems.

Meanwhile Davis gave a fiery denounciation of the recall at UCLA yesterday. More analysis on that later.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Want recall news?


Here is yet another site devoted to recall news. It's a good round-up with links to various newspapers and a chart of the latest polling numbers.

Recall roundup


The news remains fast and furious in the Cal Recall Elections. On the legal front, the last major lawsuit is sitting in Federal court regarding the punchcard ballot system. The Davis camp is hoping that the election will be delayed because the punchcards would be considered a violation of equal protection because they are less likely to be accurately counted versus other voting systems. Most legal experts are saying this argument will be rejected and so far the courts have pretty much steered clear of the election.


One of the more amusing aspects of the anti-recall movement is that they are saying it is just some rich guys getting enough signatures to get the recall on the ballot. It has the grain of truth in that Issa did put up over a million dollars of his own money to get the signature gathering going.


But the critics of the recall have their heads in the sand because all the opinion polling shows Davis would be recalled and by a wide margin. It is one thing to say its illegitamate to recall Davis if the polls say it would lose and the pro-recall "buy" signatures. But that isn't the reality on the ground and so those critics have no leg to stand on.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Total Recall


Lots of ink and digital packets are being expended on the Cal Gov Recall election. Will try to keep up with it and point out some of the more interesting web sources. A friend suggested Jill Stewart who has been a fixture of the Los Angeles scene writing and commenting on local and state politics. She is broadcasting regularly on KFI 640AM on Sunday nights at 5-7pm.

The triumph of hope over reason


Being a Dodger fan the last few years has been really tough. The team has good pitching but in an offense minded era the Dodgers seem to always fall short as the season winds down and the pitching staff wears out. With a little over a month to go in the season, Dodger faithful are still holding out hope that they will make the playoffs as a wildcard. We are heartened that Adrian Beltre's bat is getting hot and though Shawn Green's power numbers are down, he is making now making more contact and getting RBIs. We hope that Burnitz and Ventura will give us some left handed offense to perk things up.


This year, I've gone to six games seeing them win three and lose three which is about right as the team is playing slightly above .500 ball. I hope to make it out there for another game or two.


Nomo and Brown have been pitching pretty well. Perez seems to be getting better lately. Ishii is still out with knee trouble but his fill-ins have been doing not too bad. And the bullpen continues to be amazing.


Go Dodgers!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

@ the movies


Saw Pirates of the Caribbean. Good fun action pic. I know the Disney ride from my childhood. In those days (a long time ago, in a galaxy far away...), that ride along with the Haunted Mansion and the Mattahorn were the thrill rides of amusement parks! Now, they would be considered much too slow and boring for the massive rollar coasters of Magic Mountain.


The film features Depp as a Pirate Captain with an agenda to recover his old ship, Bloom as the guy who wants to save the girl and Knightsley as the damsel in distress who actually is pretty capable in addition to being of course pretty.


The visuals were great. In particular some of the scenes where moonlight comes into play. Won't give it away for those who haven't seen it. Suffice to say ILM probably did those! In the long and never ending credits at the end of the film, we see on the lists that the visual effects were contracted out to a number of FX shops in addition to ILM. And do stick to the very end for a nice little thing at the end. I wonder if that was an out-take they stuck in or it was intentional?


As a film goer, I am drawn by characters that I like and root for and I do in this film. And at a technical level, I like to see how the story unfolds, the quality of the visuals and the soundtrack. And on all these points the film does just fine. So three stars out of four and a great movie to see in a nice air-conditioned theatre on a hot summers day!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Hewitt responds to Will


Left coast center-right talk show host, Hugh Hewitt responds to Wills grumpiness with the following:

Will seems to think that the AS candidacy is a threat to Reagan's legacy, and obviously upset at the prospect, unleashes this one: "Truly conservative Californians --you few know who you are-- will vote against the recall to protest its plebiscitary cynicism."  Oh yeah, that's right.  Forget the illegally tripled car tax, the hot-check written to paper over the deficit, the crumbling schools, the clogged highways and of course, the transgenedered-at-work protection act and the inane family leave for sick puppies act. Written like a man with a nice bank account and secure work, living in an earthquake free zone where fires never break out and spread uncontrollably, who can afford an extra $600 per car and doesn't mind that the local high school is turning out graduates who need to be retrained before they are employable. True conservatives, in other words, sit on their butts and watch institutions and economies collapse so they can feel good about themselves until it is time to relocate to Florida like Tiger Woods.

Sometimes you should just take a pass, George, if you haven't been living there.

-----------------------

Stay tuned for more!

Will (WaPo) on the Recall


Am going to post excerpts and links to Op-Eds on the recall... So first up, George Willwho hopes a pox on all your houses!

Excerpt:
---------------------
However, if in a few weeks Davis seems a certain loser, muscular Democratic interests, none of which are tied to him by cords of affection, might successfully pressure him to resign. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who is a candidate to succeed him, would become governor, the recall would deflate and the Democratic Party's condign punishment probably would be to continue wrestling with the problems it has created or exacerbated.

California's Republican Party, sunk in frivolousness and opportunism, also deserves to come out of this badly. That is conservatism's hope for this recall: ruin all around.
---------------------

Over the weekend, I saw a poll (didn't catch the source) that had the recall passing with 54% of the vote. I saw one on Monday night that I think was a USA Today poll that had the recall passing with a whopping 69% of the vote! If the Democratic Party's internal numbers are showing the same thing, the pressure for Davis to resign will grow thus allowing Constitutional succession to occur thus making the part I ballot moot and part II a "re-election" campaign.


Monday, August 11, 2003

Separation of State and Religion


Continuing the theme of religion in public life, here is an op-ed I got from a friend. Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes writes about his dinner with some Muslims.

Excerpt:
--------------------
I was invited to interview a rising progressive Iraqi Shiite cleric, Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine, at his home on the banks of the Tigris. It was the most exciting conversation I've had on three trips to postwar Iraq. I listened to Mr. Jamaleddine eloquently advocate separation of mosque and state and lay out a broad, liberal agenda for Iraq's majority Shiites.
...
for my money, the most important reason we fought this war: If the West is going to avoid a war of armies with Islam, there has to be a war of ideas within Islam. The progressives have to take on both the religious totalitarians, like Osama bin Laden, and the secular totalitarians who exploit Islam as a cover, like Saddam Hussein. We cannot defeat their extremists, only they can. This war of ideas needs two things: a secure space for people to tell the truth and people with the courage to tell it.
-------------------

Indeed, the Middle East is only going to settle down when the forces of conflict stop themselves. It will only happen with the Israelis conclude they won't have all the land they had in Biblical times. It won't happen until the Palestinians decide that Israel has a right to exist in some kind of safe and sane borders.

The US cannot take over the whole place and run up the flag. The Iraq war was a risk. It was a calculated one that if one place can get its house in order the rest will follow. Yes, the US has got to do a lot of work in post-war Iraq. But the real peace will be won by Muslims themselves.

Meanwhile, in the post below a contrast on religion and the state. There is legimate concern for separating the power of the state from the power of religion as shown in the examples of radical Islam. But, it is rather remarkable how in the US, there is this effort to remove religious faith from all civic life for fear that the government is "establishing" religion. Let's have some sense of scale: can we really say that having the Psalms on plaques in the Grand Canyon is as bad as the radical Islamic terrorists?

I'm sure some "extemists" would say exactly that.

Let's be serious!

Religious (in)Tolerance in America?



I was surprised to find out that Bible verses were removed from the Grand Canyon. In a recent op-ed by Dennis Prager he addressed this issue.

An excerpt below:
----------------------------
That the ACLU would write a letter protesting three little plaques at the Grand Canyon with verses from the book of Psalms provides a clear example of how intent the organization is on destroying the Judeo-Christian moral foundations of this society. This, after all, is the same ACLU that went to court in Florida to protect a Muslim woman's right to be photographed for her driver's license ID wearing a veil! If it ain't Judeo-Christian, the ACLU is a big fan of religion.
----------------------------

Indeed, that does smack of hypocracy on the part of the ACLU. Here in the US, we are open enough a society to have a group like the ACLU but when they do stuff that makes no sense I'm glad people like Prager speak out and we should to.

Prager concludes his op-ed as follows:
----------------------------
It is worth noting that no Jewish or Christian organization has ever protested the Hindu names of some of the peaks in the Grand Canyon, and no religious group would ever oppose posting American Indian sayings at such a place. Once again, the secular left shows itself to be far more intolerant than the religious right.

The left will win and America will lose only if we do not fight them. Let the Grand Canyon plaques be our rallying cry.
-----------------------------

UPDATE: And indeed, Prager notes that the plaques were put back after enough people spoke up.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

And still more about the recall...


The Davis plan was to keep any "serious" Democrats out of the race so he could campaign against the recall as a tool of the "right wing-nuts." And Sen. Feinstein staying out of it must have had the Davis camp doing cartwheels. Then the reports came out from the afternoon taping of the Leno show that Arnold was in threw the Democrats into a frenzy and very quickly Lt. Gov. Bustamonte jumped right in.


Democrat solidarity is holding form with the pressures put on Insurance Commissioner Garamendi to stay out. After initially saying he wouldn't bow to the pressure he did a 180! You can only imagine the kind of phone calls he was getting from the party leadership: wait your turn or else you will never get a penny to run for dog catcher anywhere in the state!


Meanwhile on the GOP side, the discipline is fraying at the moment. Only Issa decided to fall on his sword and stay out of it. McClintock is in. Uberroth is in. Simon is in. And of course the Terminator is in.


I suspect the state GOP leadership is either unable to impose any kind of discipline and keep people out of the race or they are hedging their bets on the Arnold.


The media and the Democrats will be attacking AS with a ferocity not seen since ... well... when Davis vivisected Riodan in the Republican primary of 2002!


If AS goes postal on some interview show or comes across as clueless or so much dirt about his past is dug up, his poll numbers will melt down fast in which case one of the other "serious" candidates will inherit the challenger's mantle.


But if the big Austrian holds his own and begins to put out some good policy points and looks to be showing he can assemble a team then his numbers will solidify and the other GOPers will back off and throw their support to him.


If AS stumbles, unfortunately for the GOP, Simon will probably not get enough of the independant vote to carry him to victory in the bottom part of the ballot. Uberroth is old news as his claim to fame is the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. That was 19 years ago! McClintock is a maverick state legistlator and I'm sure a fine candidate but he simply doesn't have the name recognition to get above noise level.


As of this moment, part I of the ballot will be extremely close. The poll I saw last night on KTLA news said 54% favor the recall which is bad news for Davis. However, as the reality of this sinks in, I expect that number to fall and the key numbers to watch is where do these voters go: to the NO vote or to the undecided camp. If they go to the undecided, Davis isn't out danger because bad economic news means they poke the YES chad on election day. If they go to NO then they philosophically have a problem with the recall or they feel the options in part II of the ballot are just unacceptable to them.


If the recall passes, the key is whether Democratic party discipline will hold in backing Bustamonte. Given the huge registratioin advantage they have in the state, he is likely to win the election. However, if Arnold shows himself to be a viable candidate, the independants will flock to him like what happened in Minnesota when Jessie Ventura defeated the Democrat (Hubert Humprey's son) and the Republican (Norm Coleman, former mayor of Minn/St. Paul and now Senator). So it is possible that Arnold can get that kind of ground swell. The key is that he has to prove he isn't a empty suit.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Cal Supremes Stay Out of Recall


I guess they didn't want to be like the Florida court wading into the swamp!


Here is a Yahoo/AP news summary of the courts rulings. Of the five suits, four of them were rejected unanimously. One suite was rejected on a 5-2 vote. That legal challenge questioned the loose candidacy requirement ($3500 and 65 signatures). The suit charged that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley missapplied state election laws on this recall issue.

There article says there are a few Federal level suits but I suspect they will go nowhere.


I was surprised but happy that the Cal courts stayed out of it.

The other big news was the entry of The Terminator into the race. With that news, the Democrats broke ranks with Davis and began to throw their hats in. The biggest name being Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

California Governor Recall


I was surprised that the recall got the needed signatures. It is a big task to get that many. But it is obvious that the disdain for Gov. Davis is that deep and wide.

The question now remains whether the various legal challenges to the recall will succeed.

One type of challenge is based on "equal protection due process" grounds. The arguement goes that the rushed nature of the election means the county level administration of the election will be flawed thus disenfrancishing some voters.

Another challenge I saw in an LA Times Op-Ed from Hastings Law professor Grodin which I excerpt below:

-------------------------

Article X, Section 9 of the state Constitution tells us that the lieutenant governor "shall become Governor when a vacancy occurs in the office of Governor." That is what the lieutenant governor is elected to do. To say that the lieutenant governor steps into the governor's seat if the governor dies, or resigns, or becomes disabled, or is impeached, but not when he is otherwise removed from office, would be anomalous.

These are formidable arguments, and they are pending before the California Supreme Court in two petitions, one filed by James and Louise Frankel, the other by Andrew C. Byrnes and Barry Keene, the latter a former state legislator who wrote the disputed language in a 1974 constitutional amendment. The court has ordered the secretary of state to respond to both petitions this week, with possible oral arguments to follow.


---------------------------

In the 2000 Presidential Elections, the Florida State Supreme Court routinely over-ruled the executive branch and lower state level courts. In the end, the US Supreme Court over-ruled Florida's Supreme Court.


It will be interesting to see how the California Supreme Court reacts to the cases before it. Will it take Grodin's viewpoint that the recall would be the populist equivalent of a Presidential impeachment? Or will it allow the election to go forth as currently configured with a two part ballot?