Gregoire Proposes Public Financing of Judicial Elections

Governor Gregoire’s 2007 budget includes a pilot program on public financing of judicial elections. This is an idea that I brought up back in September. Conservative groups that have tried to influence past elections are, predictably, opposed.

Just to be clear: I still think judicial elections are fundamentally different from legislative or executive elections, and the support of one doesn’t necessarily imply support of the others.


Shh . . . Don’t Tell Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Who Is Also Reponsible For Punk Rock

The global conspiracy expands to include punk rock:

Take a fistful of New York attitude, more than a dash of kvetching, irony, humor and sarcasm; throw in the memory of the Holocaust and aspiring to assimilate; blend with lefty politics and social justice; stir up youthful disaffection, outsider status and rejection of your parents’ and society’s values, and you’ve got the makings of a movement. In the early 1970s, its musical expression devolved into punk. And according to author Steven Lee Beeber’s entertaining, engrossing and provocative new book, “The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” it was “the most Jewish of rock movements.”

. . .

At a recent panel discussion at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, Beeber and several illuminati of the early New York punk scene discussed among themselves how Jewish sensibility, consciously or unconsciously, was instrumental in creating the punk sounds, symbols and shtick, and how the Jewish-owned CBGB was instrumental in unleashing every parent’s worst nightmare.

. . .

The nexus of the punk universe was CBGB on the Bowery in the low-rent East Village, former Jewish ghetto, founded by Hilly (Hillel) Kristal, former farm boy. His uncle, Benjamin Brown, founded the back-to-the-land cooperative farm movement around Hightstown, N.J., known as the Jersey Homestead, which mirrored Zionist principles in Israel, explained Beeber.

. . .

While Tommy Ramone, Lenny Kaye, Richard Meltzer (co-manager of the Dictators with Sandy Pearlman) and Handsome Dick Manitoba (a Dictator, real name: Richard Blum) “might find their connection to Jewishness essential, others such as Richard Hell, Chris Stein and Joey Ramone might find it tangential . . . [However,] there is no way to fully understand these musicians without exploring the Jewish part of them, whatever that may consist of,” he contends.

Case in point was Beeber’s contentious exchange with poet-writer-musician-artist Richard “Hell” Meyers, who refused to be interviewed or provide any information for the book. Hell, who was raised in Kentucky in the 1950s, at first denied his Jewish roots, declaring he didn’t want to be appropriated by any group. (Beeber was born in Atlanta and can understand his reluctance to out himself as a Jew.) Hell finally admitted his father was born Jewish but raised him to be a Communist and an atheist, to which Beeber related to the audience, who laughed knowingly, “That’s a definition of a Jew.”

Adam Sandler obviously needs to update “The Chanukah Song” to include good ol’ self-hating Dick Hell . . .

We Are All Guilty!

Somewhere in the nexus between voter referenda, free market principles, urban growth formulas and plain-old finger wagging emerges a new American Western philosophy. See, for example, this article in the Phoenix New Times about building the city’s new light rail line:

You, the customer, carry most of the responsibility for preserving the businesses you like that are trying to weather the light-rail storm.

Now is the time to dive into that turbulent sea of dirt piles and traffic jams and support your favorite eatery, retail shop or chiropractor. The businesses want you to pay a visit. With the emphasis on pay.

But if the parking problems are too much for you, don’t worry. There are customers who are willing to frequent the construction-ravaged areas, no matter what. Always have been. So if the construction is over when Metro Rail officials say it will be and the trains are running in two years, odds are, the place you love will still be in business.

The light-rail project came about partly because it was feared that, without it, the densest part of the Valley would face gridlock. There was also the desire to help poor or disabled non-drivers. And there was also the belief that light rail would be a cool amenity that would spark more interest in downtown Phoenix. For instance, it will be easy for all those ASU students to venture into Phoenix’s urban core.

Light rail isn’t perfect.

There are no plans for it to go to the airport.

It’s obscenely expensive — nearly $4 billion for the first 47 miles. The operating cost alone is $28 million a year, and riders will only pay a quarter of that. It may never pay for itself.

Even with the planned extensions, the Valley’s north-south corridors will be poorly served by light rail. Valley residents far from the metro area’s core will have little need to board light rail except as a novelty ride.

But at full capacity, Metro says its system will move as many people per hour as a six-lane freeway.

The extensions, forecast to open from 2012 to 2025, will shoot the trains west to 79th Avenue on Interstate 10 and north of Paradise Valley up State Route 51.

And, for businesses, there are all those potential dividends Mayor Gordon talks about.

One thing is for sure: There’s no use bitching now.

Voters approved light rail, and now it’s here to stay.

Taking the specific issue of light rail out of the picture (and I’m beginning to think that light rail is an Upkeeping Jones feature — like providing wi-fi in the park or, more sinisterly, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), but there’s a finger-wagging tone about this piece that I think is indicative of where we’re going in the U.S. Don’t like it? Well why did you vote for it then? That kind of thing.

Just the other day on the Brian Lehrer Show (mp3), Paul Berman was on to talk about how much all of us are to blame for what’s going on in Iraq now. I don’t know about Paul Berman — he, after all, actually did do something to argue one way or another about the war — but what exactly did I do to bring about war in Iraq? I’m not on the Defense Policy Board. I’m not an op-ed writer. When it came to Iraq, I generally trusted that our decision makers had some sort of reason to engage Saddam militarily. At the time — 2002, 2003 — what they were saying certainly made sense. But to say I’m somehow to blame for sectarian violence in Baghdad in 2006 is a little strange. Not to mention awfully self inflating. There’s a limit to what a voter can do, after all. (The episode, by the way, is pretty entertaining: you might enjoy, as I did, listening to earnest anti-war types insist that they knew — from the beginning! — that this was a debacle. Oh, OK. Good for you then. You should probably go be Bob Herbert then, you douche.)

But back to light rail . . . it’s interesting — in a slightly naive way — to think that everything negative about Phoenix’s light rail project (and the article is generally positive about light rail, though I’m not sure why) is “our fault”:

It’s helpful to keep one thing in mind while dodging barricades and rolling at two miles per hour single-file with other motorists through Construction City:

We brought this on ourselves.

The apparent chaos on the streets started at the polls.

With transportation a growing concern in 1985, Maricopa County voters agreed to pay for dozens of miles of new freeways by raising the sales tax half a cent for 20 years. The vote also created Valley Metro, which organized bus service and looked into trains as a future mass-transit option.

Four years later, in 1989, voters killed the ambitious, $10 billion ValTrans proposal that would have built — among other things — 103 miles of elevated commuter trains around the Phoenix metro area.

There is the possibility that the ValTrans proposal was simply a bad idea, but that’s neither here nor there (literally!).

Like I alluded above, I think this finger wagging will prove to be more of a New American Southwest/West characteristic than nationwide. In New York City, for example, no one seems to blame the voter that he or she somehow personally failed to build the Second Avenue Subway. And although there’s something refreshing about the New American Finger Wagging, I can see it becoming pretty old pretty quick.

Your Retired Uncle is the New Swing Voter

Hotline lets us know that 2006 census data could presage the reapportionment of House seats in 2010:

According to an analysis by Polidata, a political data consulting firm, seven states are all but certain to lose at least one seat: Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Another six states are all but certain to gain at least one seat: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

A few other interesting projections from Polidata: Texas could pick up as many as 4 congressional seats; New York and Ohio could lose 2 seats. California, for the first time since statehood, may not pick up any seats.

Polidata’s Clark Bensen also observes that Florida (currently with 25 seats) is now poised to replace New York (29 seats) as the third most populous state – and that both states might end up with 27-member delegations when the dust settles after reapportionment.

In other words, all the states that are losing seats are Democratic or Dem-leaning, while all the states gaining seats are Republican or GOP-leaning.

While this might sound bad for Democrats, two thoughts ameliorate my concerns:

One, when it’s time for the Presidential race, the 17-state game the Dems played in ’00 and ’04 might work in ’08, but it’ll fall flat in ’12. They need to widen the playing field. Fortunately, with inroads in the Mountain West and Upper South, that might be a possibility.

Two, the House seat changes are the result of people moving. I’d be interested to see if this makes the states more competitive. After all, if all those Massachusetts and New York residents are moving to Arizona and Florida, might they be taking their blue-state values with them? It’s been said that much of Colorado’s blue shift in recent years is due to all the California expats moving in. To wit:

Much of Florida’s surge in congressional clout has been carved directly out of New York’s hide; out-migration from New York to Florida has been a prime contributor to Florida’s growth. The 2000 Census revealed that, between 1995 and 2000 alone, 308,000 people moved from New York to Florida – the largest state-to-state flow in the U.S.

So I guess the question is, who’s moving? But beyond that, even if they’re Republicans, they’re probably more moderate, Northeastern Republicans who could be amenable to voting Democrat from time to time, should the right candidate show up and/or should the Republicans launch any more ill-planned, unprovoked wars.

Although You Could Perhaps Say That My Greatest Weakness Is My Job Experience, I Am A Very Quick Learner!

The only thing better than burying bad news before the Christmas break is the time-honored tradition of resigning to spend more time with your family, alive and well in all corners of this great nation:

Less than three months into her three-year term as a Houston City Council member, Betty Vehrs resigned this week to spend more time with her family.

“It’s due to unforeseen family circumstances,” Vehrs, 64, said by phone Thursday. “I have a different priority now. It has to be my family.”

Vehrs declined to specify what family circumstances had changed.

. . .

Vehrs represented Houston and the upper Susitna Valley on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly for three years.

A Meadow Lakes resident, she moved to a rental on King Arthur Drive in Houston this year to establish residency and run for the council. She won an October election against the incumbent, Councilwoman Angela Rosas.

Vehrs said she enjoyed representing Houston. It was a change of pace from her Assembly service, she said.

“Instead of representing a district like I did on the Assembly, when I represented the city of Houston, the growth and enfoldment to me of the realization that we’re all working, unified, for the betterment of Houston, it’s a wonderful thing,” Vehrs said.

“The growth and enfoldment to me of the realization that we’re all working, unified, for the betterment of Houston, it’s a wonderful thing.” Now there’s a quote to remember! (If I could only pick apart its noun-heavy meaning!)

Another interesting note is the way the Houston — that’s Houston, Alaska — City Council replaces members who have resigned:

Houston Mayor Dale Adams said the City Council would vote to accept Vehrs’ resignation at its January meeting.

Notices that the council position is open will be posted for a week to 10 days, he said. Any adult city resident may apply to be on the council.

After the application period closes, Adams said, the council will interview candidates and choose a replacement to fill the seat until October. Voters in October will choose a replacement to serve the two remaining years of Vehrs’ council term.

If one can simply apply to be on the City Council like it’s a job, what kind of questions do they ask? What are the job requirements*? In the interview do they ask well-worn questions like, What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are? This seems like a nice, solid nine month temp job. Kind of intriguing!

*I can’t find a website for the town . . . can anyone get a hold of the job posting?

Christmas at DFW

We made the bold decision this year to celebrate a bi-costal Christmas — New York and California. To minimize the risk of airport delays, we made the strategic decision to fly through Dallas, and not Chicago. Smart, right? Sure seemed like it. So now we’re in Dallas. The plane’s here and fueled. The pilots are ready to go. Only one problem: no flight attendants. They were delayed coming in. Boo. And, of course, today the weather’s so mild in North America right now that we could have flown through Calgary and not had a weather delay.

Anyway, the delay’s (hopefully) going to be short. Christmas at the airport is kinda weird, if only that it’s just like any other day. Airports have an amazing way of being context-agnostic: the outside world rarely penetrates the serene blandness of airport-land. And it’s kinda busy! I guess more and more people are traveling on Christmas Day (and eating Chinese food!).

Specifically, it’s worth noting that the books on display at the airport bookstore change when you get to Dallas. The latest Tim LaHaye novel is featured prominently, for example. However, when you venture to the “Best Seller” rack in the back, you’re greeted with an abundance of titles detailing the excruciating incompetence of the Bush Administration (Fiasco, Hubris, State of Denial, The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Vice, etc.). Even in Texas they can’t escape the rising tide.

Update: made it to the ranch in time for Christmas dinner. Sweet.

Shh . . . Don’t Tell Mahmoud Ahmadinejad What Boots Carrol’s Next Role Will Be

From the Birmingham News — actors are doing research for a revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” . . . in Alabama:

The cast of “Fiddler on the Roof” got a Hanukkah present of sorts on Saturday — a crash course in Judaism and Yiddish before a rehearsal for Birmingham’s upcoming presentation of the play.

“Yiddish is a dying language; not many people write or speak Yiddish anymore,” said Jane Siegel of Birmingham-Southern College, who gave the presentation. She helped the actors with pronunciation and gave them background on Jewish rituals.

The 1964 musical comedy, which became a movie in 1971, will be showing Jan. 18 through Feb. 4, Thursdays through Sundays, at the Virginia Samford Theatre, 1116 26th St. South.

Siegel, who is Jewish, said the play and the film have become a cultural touchstone on the Jewish immigrant experience for both Jews and non-Jews.

“Most of us are gentiles, so we thought it would be helpful to learn more about Jewish culture for the play,” said Lucas Pepke, who plays Perchik in the production.

After the learning session, the cast rehearsed “Tradition,” one of the most famous songs from the musical. The cast includes Bill Bugg as Tevya and Boots Carrol as Yenta . . .

America . . . F**k yeah!