Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Political decision making

For me, the most interesting issue regarding how I decide what to support on a ballot is California's Proposition 93.

This bill is a structural one, rejiggering the term limits for California state legislators. It is, theoretically, party neutral. It lacks the confounders of big money or most serious religious or ideological involvements. It's not a proposal that relies on fundamental assumptions about race or gender or privilege.

With term limits, there are certain inherent arguments that should theoretically be testable. It's not just that term limits help us avoid career politicians, the stated argument, but that career politicians are de facto bad, and that they are bad because they are undemocratic and form themselves into an elite class which makes them poor judges of public good. If men are best at serving themselves first, we should endeavor to keep them as like us as possible, to ensure the best service.

Because this is largely a non-partisan question, and because the legislation has limited remit, it should be easier to agree on goals for legislators—they should be effective, or able to review and pass legislation that is needed; they should be adept, or able to pass legislation that withstands scrutiny from judicial review; they should be conservative, and pass as little new law as possible; they should be representative, and come from a broad array of backgrounds.

I should, here, say that these are simply my back-of-notebook criteria. And they've certainly been influenced by what I've read around 93, if I might clumsily segue.

I started by reading the Secretary of State's voting guide. Aside from the Yes/No synopsis, which I found kind of confusing until I read the actual law, there are two arguments from the Pro/Con PACs. The Con, from California Term Limits Defense Fund's Bob Adney, is basically that this is a boondoggle supported by current politicians to extend their terms.

And he's right. This would start the clock over for politicians serving now, so they could go over their 14 year limit currently enshrined. That's an obvious incentive to support it for serving pols.

But, aside from some serious disagreements with my government—I deplore some of the copyright and electronic surveillance that has been ayed by Dems here in California—I generally like the folks that are in. I think Villaraigosa's a machine-made boss, but I don't really mind that he supports this as a sop to his state congressional backers. And in the future, the proposal would actually lead to shorter term limits.

Then there are the questions raised about how effective the current term limits are in promoting the good governance outlined above. Prop 93 started with this study, from the Public Policy Institute of California.

First off, they went with assumptions like that more diverse representation, closer to the demographic makeup of California, is a good that should be pursued. I'm mildly favorable to this point, as it is another facet of the fundamental Red vs. Expert debate inherent in term limit arguments. The good of having democracy/ideology/identity conflicts with the good of expertise, as came up again and again in the USSR and PRC (hence the shorthand "Red vs. Expert"). But while I'm normally nominally on the side of the expert in most things, especially within the executive branch, congresses are populist institutions. As term limits facilitate a reasonable level of pro-democratic reform, I'm OK with that so long as the decrease in expertise can be mitigated.

The study by the PPIC found that the current term limit regime wasn't doing that—they found worse oversight, less effectiveness, more susceptibility to outside lobbyists. It also found that since most congress members come from and proceed to other elected offices, that term limits had no real effect regarding career politicians.

I haven't gone through the entire study yet, to see their methodology, but I trust their conclusions, which brings me to the third part of making a decision: checking the sources. By looking at the front pages of the websites pro and con, I gave 'em about equal credence—they were both professional, they both made shallow, emotional appeals. But the Term Limits Reform (or Yes) folks linked to the PPIC site, and along with having the study upon which 93 was based, they also listed their funders. Both Term Limits Reform and Stop the Politicians vaguely list their PAC backers, but TLR does so more transparently.

Sourcewatch.org didn't have any info on either of the sides, but I have to say that my confidence in Sourcewatch has declined now that I see they're a public wiki.

My initial reaction, upon seeing the proposal, was to vote against it because I'm reflexively against career politicians. But noting that term limits haven't impacted that here, and that the current structure is counter-productive to the legislative goals that I feel are important, and because I feel like I can trust the study's veracity, I'm going to vote for California Proposition 93.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Being either too cheap or too lazy to finally get the right connector card for my old ass Mac, and running just over 100 gig of music, I need to get rid of stuff I don't like, but keep a record of it so I don't download it again.

This comp, called "Tokyo New Wave '79!" with some gobbledy-gook metadata ("TV∞C™[∞W™[ 3:52 SEX „‘—ı∞j∞∑™[∞E∞F™[∞u'79 1/15/08 6:52 PM Rock 128 kbps 1 1979") all sounds like a buncha crummily-recorded Japanese punks, in a bad way. No hooks, terrible mush.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Show notes

First band—no name. Forced? Post-nuggets. Hlaway through set.

This is the Detroit I miss. They could be any number of opening bands for the sights or SRC or Dirtbombs or Come Ons or Paybackds or Wackswings. Sharp power pop. Lead signer looks like Jason Schwartzman without nose.


The Makeout Party:

Bassist looks like a yearbook photo from 1982. Poodle.

Charming twee punk. Elvis Costello. Remind me of Rants.

Trebbly and bouncy. C86? Listen. Ramones if they wanted to meet your parents. Richman—later Richman. Pop Project too.

Non-ironic call for birthday suits in banter. Mic out oh no!

n Sound like the Jame without any punk attitude. No Tube Station. Or unrestUnrest.
“Not political, but that’s like complaining about the lack of tits on a horse.”


We’re on song five, I think. OK, but the first band was better. It’s a flurry of upfront dancing, like the high school everyone imagines after they know what hip is.

--The soft, sensitive vocals give the impression, tied up with the previous note, that they’re playing at being younger than they are, like Saved By The Bell actors.

--All in pants so tight, ‘70s tight, but the bassist is the only one with a sizable cock showing. Explains his pinched banter voice though. Sounds like Emo Phillips. Gets the girls dancing though.

--Wish they had a lead guitar.

--Then they say “we haven’t played it in foreverver—inagoddadavida!” and launch into a stop-start guitar part with verve and they’re fucking on! Then it ends.

--The girl with the camera only wants photos of the bassist.

--Teenbeat! Tiger Beat! Air Miami!

DJs between sets. All the cute girls do The Roach from Hairspray.
Fucking garter socks from the son-of-a-bitch in argyle golf shit. You ain’t bringin’ that back.
The breakdown of formal America=people can only freak dance.


Luckily, drunk driving is not a crime in LA.
The DJ playing bullshit does enforce my Detroit rock chauvinism.
Rolling blackouts, no vocals all backbeat=awesome.

This is the kind of music that needs to be live. It needs the rattle and hum and dancing (not so much the persistent feedback). But this fits in exactly with what’s been Djed: the Sonics.
And puss out second song.

Still second song—as soon as you notice yourself going deaf, every song is “Do I want to put my hearing into this?”
Third song—I really do believe the chick with the big tits is gonna fuck the blonde guy with Jew nose. He’s been jealously guarding her as she flits around the dancefloor, grinding on everyone. He’s got that groping desperation, though.

“Seriously, LA, this is the Rolling Blackouts. It’s ridiculous, what’s going on… in society. The Rolling Blackouts!” interstitial from club owner.
Country rock tune w/swing. Second guitar part finally. This is where they could use feedback washes to help ‘em not sound like the Meat Puppets. When he hits “ALRIGHT!” stretched out and broken, that’s where they could go. Don’t stop now!
Amy and I gotta start a band to kill corny LA fux.
(Not a song)
Next song after country above = Stones “Let’s spend the night together”+The Who’s “Can’t Explain.” See, where other folks knock ‘em for theft, I love BRAZEN. Also, early Stipe vox sometimes. Stopped the dancing though.
Speed to velocity=derivative.
--Kinda a mediocre mid-tempo with a spot of marching (I dunno 4-4 bah bah bah bah w/pauses staccato? Up and down bass, minimal backbeat, same melodies vox+guitar+bass.
Big tits is dancing again—relaxed, Police groove, but not skabeat (guitar counterpoint goes “ska.” Also, this song = great, simple hook. Up and down. B-side. Excellent harm?
Reggie the Renegade Alligator “Crocodile Tears” calypso beat totally New Wave Joe Jackson morning papers? Sunday papers?

Big tits is dancing with Newsies cap girl. Hot. Jew nose is dancing with newsies cap. Not hot.
Compression wars to live=no dynamic range. Pushing all to max always. Yes, lead guitar part!
Another song, but I barely notice until it’s halfway through. There’s a Sheffield woman, two over from me. Not even as high as my nipples. Ad still a hipster Joan Jett mullet. The crowd’s given up.
Fuck yeah, like Jet but right, couldn’t even write during.
That Jet thing comes through again on the choruses—maybe LA version of garage rock? Very polished vox, but polished to garage. “You know you hate it” is chorus. Golden Earring freakout outro.

And we’re out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Y'know what I hate about children? They can't take a punch

Today (yesterday, technically, as I forgot to post this):

Played foursquare in the park on lunchbreak with Phil, Eric and Mailroom John. We played pretty much the full hour, and that was totally sweet, though I didn't get to eat most of my lunch. I did hit a kid with the ball, and she started crying. She was, I dunno, four or so? About mid-thigh high? However old kids are when they're about three feet. Anyway, I hit the ball into the corner, Eric went for it and missed, and it popped the kid. It didn't seem like a bad hit, and she was fine for a moment, until we started asking her if she was OK. Then came the waterworks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Work gossip

Two weird bits: Telling my recently-divorced colleague that a guy being in jail and not being able to raise bail should be a "deal breaker," which it totally should be; the Hustler Ed As gave his two-weeks notice today, and I'm worried I'll have to pick up the slack. The problem? I slack. I like my slack. It makes up for having a job that's mostly brain stem work.

New Cake=Piss Laser Day 1

Originally uploaded by joshsteich
Ok, there's a new urinal cake at work, and since the last couple of times we've gotten one, I've wondered how long it would take to piss through it.
You know, PISS LAZER!

It's funnier in my Dragonforce voice. I pissed on it once today.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Not so bad!

It's only been a week!

Finished Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. It was an odd read for me, being so late to it. Our culture's pretty well steeped in biters (Matrix, mostly), and I used to play a lot of Shadowrun, which stole pretty much wholesale.

I have some complaints: It's not nearly as deep as it thinks it is; there are some pretty glaring plotholes; his philosophy is fair bit muddled; last thirty pages are a trudge. But it was a fun read, and I felt like I was suddenly getting a lot of references that prior I'd only vaguely placed. My next book from the library, Trapped In Russia, I might abandon. It's supposed to be a thrilling true story, but so far it's mostly the dull tale of someone being conscripted. I suppose that's a natural trade-off for being true—the dull bits did happen. But hey, I don't have to read 'em. The Flannery O'Connor book on top of the stack keeps looking more and more alluring.

Found some neat art while casting about for a story on Grafuck: Pomme Chan and Audrey Kawasaki.

Oh, and Jonmc from MeFi does a good job with some classic rockers and their comebacks over at Metachat. I especially dug the Mitch Ryder. I need to head over to Cousin's Vinyl to see if they have it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Best of 2007!

I had knocked together a best of 2007 mix for folks at Metafilter, and my da's nice enough to host it, so here it is: Best of 2007

(Ugly formatting from iTunes c&p)

Wild Bore Mika Miko 666 EP 2007
Fledermaus Can't Get It Von Südenfed Tromatic Reflexxions 2007
Buzz Buzz Buzz Black Strobe Burn Your Own Church 2007
People Person Pissed Jeans Hope For Men 2007
First Priority The Bad Trips The Bad Trips lp (rocketship records 2007) 2007
Hey! Home Blitz Home Blitz 2007
Troubled Son

New year!

Time for a flurry of activity!

I got my first Xmas card from a photographer and porn star couple. It's totally one of those Sears portraits, and is pretty cute.

Here's how this whole thing is weird, since I meant to start blogging more about my job: I've dealt with Dave Naz on and off, mostly through email and the phone. I've never met him. But I bounce over and read their blogs every now and then. They seem like cool folks generally, vegetarian (or maybe vegan), and I really admire Naz's photographic skillz—he has a louche '70s style that I enjoy. But while it would be cool to get to know them more, I'd have to stop reading their blogs. Not because they're all porny and that necessitates more of an awareness about how intimacy is constructed, but because of the weird disjunction I feel about public/private knowledge. I make friends on Metafilter because it doesn't have that weird confessionalism that blogs do, whereas most other people whose blogs I do read (for example, Mark Maynard), I don't really like talking to.

I think this is part of why I only read my girlfriend's livejournal once every couple of months, and why I don't really tell my friends about writing here—I've already got an in-person relationship with them, so I don't really need them to see this. I communicate what I want to with them already.