Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Return of the Kinda, Sorta, But Not Really Prodigal Son

While its not news to me, the word is getting around about Steve Rivera running for Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party against Francine Busby, who is the current Chair of the Party.  Now, whatever the merits of the various arguments for and against each candidate, the one thing that caught my attention from the article was Francine Busby's statement that Steve Rivera hasn't done anything. And that's a bit odd to me because, if anything, Steve running for Chair is pretty much the culmination of years of dedication to the Party.

Before I get too far into this, I should note that I know Steve personally for. . .a long time.  I'm not going to tell you for how long, but let's just say that I suddenly feel very old. Ugh.  Steve was one of the very first people I met when I first got into politics, and I consider him a friend. So, feel free to take my remarks with a huge grain of salt.  At the same time, I don't believe I've ever met Francine Busby - I was transitioning away from politics and more into law right around the time she started running for office. So, I don't have any opinion of Busby either way.

But as I said, I do know Steve. And in every respect, he's running for the position he should have held YEARS ago. Steve Rivera has been a former Vice Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, the former Publications Director of the San Diego County Democratic Party, former Vice President of the California Young Democrats (I believe), former President of the San Diego County Young Democrats, Former Regional Director for both the California Young Democrats and the California Democratic Party, and probably been involved with the Democratic Party at every level for a long time. Again, I'm not going to say how long because it makes me feel old. So, so, old.

Anyway, with all that experience, there were more than a few instances where someone in the Party would wonder when Steve would finally run for Chair. And when asked, Steve would beg off for one reason or another. So with Steve FINALLY (and seriously, Steve, F-I-N-A-L-L-Y) running for Chair, it feels for me like the prodigal son is coming home. Which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous because Steve's been around the whole time gaining more and more experience.

It is that experience that makes Steve such a great choice for Chair. Steve has served at literally every level of the Democratic Party*, and knows what each level can bring to the table, and what each level needs to succeed.  The best Party Chairs are facilitators, working behind the scenes to formulate strategy, and also making the occasional statement to the media. Steve can do that as well, if not better, than anyone. So, I'm pretty ecstatic that he's running (FINALLY).

And right now, the San Diego County Democratic Party needs someone like Steve because RIGHT NOW we have an opportunity for big things. With Toni Adkins being the Speaker of the Assembly, and Lorena Gonzalez being everything that I thought she'd be, San Diego has pull right now in Sacramento. I don't mean we're okay, I mean we have the kind of pull in Sacramento that San Diego has never had before, and probably won't have again in a long, long time.

A good Chair of the Party will take advantage of that as much as possible, and Steve definitely will be a great Chair.  So, if I were a voter on the Central Committee (which I'm not), I would look at Steve's candidacy as not a statement on Francine Busby's failures as Chair, but as an opportunity to get someone GREAT in the position during this short window of opportunity. For me, its a no-brainer. Steve Rivera for Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

*For those of you who aren't familiar with the structure of the Party, it goes kind of like this:

Club Level - Clubs are just that, groups of people who are politically minded, but not necessarily highly involved. Some clubs are geographically centered (Ex. La Mesa - Foothills Democratic Club), some are centered around a constituency (San Diego County Young Democrats), and some are centered around a certain policy (Democrats for Equality).

Committee Level - The leadership of the clubs (or the more active club members) can join committees for specific regions set up by Assembly District. Members of an AD are also members of the California Democratic Party.

Central Committee - This is the main governing body of the County Party. These are technically elected officials, as each Assembly District selects 6 people to serve on the Central Committee (last thing on the ballot).

Executive Committee - These are the officers of the County Party selected by the members of the Central Committee.

California Democratic Party - this is the overarching organization of all Democratic Clubs, Committees, and Central Committees.

Democratic National Committee - This is the National Party. They elect Presidents and whatnot.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ugh. . .A Post About Police and Violence

Ever since this summer and the events in Ferguson, I've been thinking about the police and the violent world we find ourselves. In fact, if you are an American, you've had to think about these issues because they've dominated our news feeds for the past six months or so.  But with the birth of my daughter coming soon, I've been left wondering about the world she's being born into, and where I want the world to be when she's an adult.

And then on Saturday, a deranged gunman with a history of violence and mental illness* shot and killed two New York City Police Officers. He did so claiming that he was avenging the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - two African American men killed by White police officers. The two police officers he killed, by the way, were not White, one was Latino, the other was Asian. In response, Rudy Giuliani and others blamed Progressives like me for this lunatic's actions. In response to them, I'd like to say a few things:

The Killing of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos is Absolutely Tragic and Awful: Before anything really can be said, the deaths of these two men, who only sought to serve and protect the people of New York City, is absolutely terrible. Honestly, there aren't words for how bad this is. Officer Ramos just got married a few months ago. Neither of these two men deserved to die like this, and their deaths were pointless and horrific. Because the shooter (who I won't name because fuck that guy) took his own life, the families of the fallen will not get justice. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Unfortunately, I'm getting used to this feeling - its the same feeling I had after Newtown, the Gifford's shooting, and half a dozen other mass shootings.  

Police Officers Can Be, and Usually Are, a Force for Good: I hate getting ticketed as much as the next guy, but police officers are there to keep everyone safe, and they generally do a fantastic job of it. Crime rates in this country are down to pretty much the lowest point ever (except for the South Side of Chicago, for some reason). What's more, police officers are often the first level of government interaction with people. I've had police officers refer cases to me when I worked for the Fair Housing Council of San Diego, and sat on the San Diego Hate Crimes Taskforce with several members of law enforcement. 99% of the police officers I've known throughout my life have been good people.

But, with that said:

Police Officers Have Way Too Much Latitude In the Use of Violence: Over the past summer, we've seen the police shoot and kill several unarmed African American men and boys, and the circumstances for each killing is awful and tragic. But its not the deaths of these men and boys that's the problem - these deaths represent a tiny fraction of the confrontations Police Officers have with the general public every single day - but how those deaths are handled by the justice system that's bad.

Let's take the example of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson have a confrontation where Michael Brown is shot and killed by Darren Wilson. This death is a tragedy - Michael Brown was 19 years old and set to go to college in the fall.  Without knowing the circumstances Michael Brown's death, what I do know is that in response to his death, the Ferguson Police Department left Michael Brown's body out to rot for several hours, that they immediately had Darren Wilson go into hiding, and the first public statement by the Ferguson Police Department attacked Michael Brown (for stealing some cheap cigars). Then, the District Attorney, rather than investigating the incident and determining whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, submitted evidence to a Grand Jury, including evidence the District Attorney knew was false (and thus, suborning perjury), and gave the Grand Jury the wrong legal standard for the indictment. In other words, he bent over backwards to make sure Darren Wilson would not be indicted.

My point is, I don't know whether or not Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown and killing him. But its pretty clear from the actions of his fellow officers and the District Attorney that it didn't matter one way or another. He was never going to be charged with a crime. And this is just one of many examples of police officers using violence in questionable circumstances and prosecutors letting them do so. There are no effective checks on the power of police officers to kill or maim citizens.  And that's scary since we give police officers the right to kill and/or maim, and provide them with the instrumentalities to do so.

Look, police officers will, on occasion, have to kill people. That's why police officers are provided handguns, bullet proof vests, shotguns, and firearms. That's why we pay taxes to not just provide these instrumentalities of killing, but also provide police officers with training on when and how to kill people. It is an awful, but necessary, part of the job.  The key is what is done after the shooting - who investigates the shooting, who determines whether to prosecute, how the officer is treated - and that is still unsettled.

Going back to our Michael Brown example, had the Ferguson Police Department immediately stated that (1) the death of Michael Brown was a horrible tragedy; (2) that Officer Darren Wilson was involved in the shooting and has been put on administrative leave (with pay) pending the outcome of the investigation; and (3) that the investigation will be lead by a Special Prosecutor to avoid the appearance of a conflict (as the St. Louis DA's father, a police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty) - had the system appeared to be working impartially - there would have been few, if any, protests. That wasn't Michael Brown's fault, that wasn't Darren Wilson's fault, that was the fault of the Ferguson Police Department and the St. Louis DA.

And that's my point - we have to give police officers latitude to perform their duties and to protect their lives, but doing so can't mean giving police the right to kill or maim at will.

Progressives Like Bill de Blasio, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson Had Nothing to Do With the Murders of Officers Ramos and Liu: Now here, I do have to admit that I'm being a bit hypocritical here - in the aftermath of the shooting of Gabby Giffords, I blamed conservatives for the act of a deranged man. But that said, at no time did de Blasio, Sharpton, Jackson, President Obama, or anyone else use violent rhetoric against police officers. They didn't put the faces of Officers Liu and Ramos on a website and put targets over their pictures, nor did they suggest that protesters find a "2nd Amendment solution" to police violence. Instead, they asked questions raised by the protesters were already raising.

No, the deaths of Officers Ramos and Liu came as a result of a deranged man who instead of committing suicide, killed his girlfriend and then went hunting for the police. Was he drawn to do this by the rhetoric of the protesters? Maybe. Maybe he wanted to commit suicide by cop. But ultimately, he chose to commit these crimes himself, despite constant calls for nonviolence and restraint from people like de Blasio and Obama. He chose to kill Officers Ramos and Liu.

Anyway, this is a horrible subject and I hope to write about more joyful topics (and write more often) next year.

*By the way, the fact that the shooter had a mental illness doesn't mean he naturally violent. There are lots of people who suffer from mental illness who aren't violent.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On Ray Rice. . .

Over the summer, an interesting video appeared, showing Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice dragging his now wife from an elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The reason he was dragging her from the elevator is because she was completely unconscious. Because, it was believed, he knocked her out.

In the intervening weeks after the incident, Ray Rice married the woman he knocked unconscious, and she apologized for her role in the incident, stating that she "provoked" the violent attack.  After what was alleged to be a thorough investigation, the NFL suspended Ray Rice for two games (out of the sixteen that are normally played).  In the meantime, several NFL players were suspended for an entire season (all sixteen games) for using marijuana.  The whole thing left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and as sports fans, we tried to move on.

Then TMZ released the following video, shot from INSIDE THE ELEVATOR.


Whereas before we could only see the aftermath, we now can see the incident in its entirety.  There are a couple of things that gets me about the video:

1) It appears what started as an argument escalated to violence when Ray Rice stands too close to his wife in the elevator, and she pushes him away with her elbow. If Ray Rice steps away from his wife, who's clearly agitated at this point, the incident is over. Instead, he slaps her, she attacks in retaliation, and he punches her.

2) Rice's reaction to knocking his wife completely unconscious (for several minutes, mind you) is chilling. Let's say you are having a fight with your significant other, and during said fight, you accidentally or purposefully (or instinctively) caused your significant other to be knocked out. How would you react? Most likely, you'd be concerned for your significant other, and call 911 to seek medical attention. This is especially true if, as here, your significant other hit her head on the elevator handrail.

Ray Rice's reaction not to immediately seek medical attention, but rather, was to calmly DRAG HIS WIFE FROM THE ELEVATOR. Seriously.

3) Up until the release of this video, everyone was pretty much on board with the idea that Ray Rice was "defending himself" from his wife. And in fact, the Ravens got Mrs. Rice to "apologize" for her part in the altercation. 

I'm going to let that sink in for a moment. . .waiting. . .waiting. . .Yes, that's right, she felt the need to APOLOGIZE FOR BEING KNOCKED OUT AND DRAGGED FROM AN ELEVATOR.  Of course, the poor woman was so concussed that she probably wouldn't remember the details of that night.

4) Both the NFL and the Atlantic City DA should be ashamed of themselves. Either they saw this video and agreed to let Ray Rice walk with a slap on the wrist, or they didn't see the video (IT HAPPENED IN A CASINO, OF COURSE THERE WAS VIDEO), and decided they didn't need to see it. Ugh.

With the DA, I guess I could make some excuses - juries are fickle, the complaining witness was going to be uncooperative (and probably had no memory of the incident), etc. For the NFL, this is nothing short of a PR disaster. Let's compare - Ray Rice was suspended for two games for violently attacking his fiancee (now wife), then dragging her unconscious body across the floor. Josh Gordon, of the Cleveland Browns, was suspended an entire season for smoking weed. Gotta love the drug war. Oh, and Von Miller, a player for the Denver Broncos, was suspended four games (twice Rice's punishment) for smoking weed even though SMOKING WEED IS LEGAL IN COLORADO.  Gotta love the war on drugs.

Anyway, I'm glad that to see that Rice was cut by the Ravens and then suspended indefinitely by the NFL. It should have happened a lot sooner.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Beyond WTF. . .

For the past several weeks, I've been trying to think of a blog post that fully captures all the events of the past few weeks, but honestly, I can't except to say that a fair number of these stories have felt like stomach punches. The war in Gaza, the invasion of Ukraine (you're not fooling anyone Putin) by Russia, ISIS and the genocide in central Iraq, the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO.  Oh, and now Rick Perry has been indicted for abuse of power (actually, that news is actually happy in a schadenfreude way).

So, all in all, its not just been a what the fuck kind of a month, we've gone well past that. So, let me take a few of these issues and flesh them out for my own sanity.

Death of Robin Williams

As I go down the list, this is the easiest one to categorize - its just sad.  I can't say I was the biggest fan of Robin Williams' movies, but he was easily one of the funniest men ever. From all the accounts I've heard, he was one of the nicest people ever.  And that makes sense because, in my experience, people who go through depression tend to be the nicest and most compassionate people around.  So, his death wasn't a WTF kind of a moment, but a "Ah, fuck" kind of a moment. Like I said, a stomach punch.

Ukraine and ISIS

There's nothing surprising about either the invasion of Ukraine or ISIS' attempts to recreate the Caliphate. Its really just sad.

Gaza and Ferguson

I lump these two stories together because, ultimately, they are about the same thing - right idea, wrong way of doing it. Israel wants to protect itself from Hamas, a terrorist organization.  Good and commendable idea. 1000% on board. To do that, Israel bombs the shit out Gaza, cutting off power, water, kills over a thousand civilians (Hamas killed two civilians), bombs UN buildings, hospitals, and generally makes life deadly for the people of Gaza, who are ALREADY REFUGEES and are prevented by blockades from Israel and Egypt from leaving. Err. . .what? Oh, and the deputy prime minister started to openly call for genocide in Gaza.

Aside from preventing Hamas from killing Israeli civilians, which it seems pretty bad at, what does the destruction of broad swaths of Gaza do for Israel? It doesn't make Gazans less likely to support Hamas (who can cast themselves as "freedom fighters"). It doesn't end the cycle of violence. It doesn't garner Israel greater international support, which is Israel's achilles heel. No, all it has done is piss off the world and the Obama Administration, which is problematic because Israel's economy depends of American foreign aid.

Luckily, there is a ceasefire in effect, and hopefully, that will lead to peace. In the meantime, the Israeli government did itself no favors, and might have even done permanent damage to Israel. That's because Israel, despite its tremendous military, is a small country with limited natural resources. It always has been. So to survive and thrive, Israel has to depend on foreign trade and goodwill. In other words, the biggest threat to Israel isn't Hamas, it's the EU, the US, and the greater international community.

And that's why Hamas has been doing what its been doing - it wants Israel to bomb the shit out of Gaza. It wants thousands of "telegenic dead" (to paraphrase Mr. Netanyahu). Not only does the bombing create a useful recruiting tool, it also isolates Israel from the international community.  At this point, the only country that is regularly backing Israel is the United States, and they're none too happy with Israel right now.

Oh, and by the way, for those anti-Semites out there who now think its cool to unveil your anti-Semitism because some of us have criticisms of the Israeli response to Hamas, FUCK YOU. I want Israel to not just survive but to thrive. I just think Netanyahu's government is a disaster.

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, also strikes me as one of those, right idea, wrong way of doing it things. Here's what we know: Michael Brown and his friend were a couple of teenagers walking down the middle of a residential street. A police officer with the Ferguson PD spots them and decides to instruct them to use a sidewalk.  Okay, this is a good idea - these kids put themselves at risk and were disrupting traffic.  But in the ensuing altercation, the officer ends up wrestling with Brown, Brown flees from the officer, who then shoots him from 35 feet away. Wait, what?

Now, it has been alleged that Brown had just robbed some cheap cigars from a mini-mart kind of a store.  But, as the Ferguson Police Chief made clear in his statement today, the Police Officer didn't know that. So how does a conversation about jaywalking lead to the death of an unarmed man who was apparently fleeing (or, as the witnesses described, surrendering)?

Naturally, this sort of thing leads to community anger, and some protests. Which leads to the second right idea, wrong execution moment. The Ferguson PD sent out officers to keep and maintain order during the protests.  This is a good idea because protests can turn into riots (which they did on Sunday night). Also, police need to make sure the protesters are safe.

However, the Ferguson PD, along with other departments, did things in the most ass-backwards way possible - they called out the SWAT teams.  This leads to an interesting question - why the fuck does Ferguson, Missouri, a town of 28,000 people, which didn't have a SINGLE HOMICIDE IN 2014 UNTIL MICHAEL BROWN DIED, have a SWAT team? Are there dozens of unreported hostage situations occurring in town? This egged on the protesters, and some began looting.  By Wednesday night, the police - in jungle camouflage (apparently there are jungles in this part of Missouri) - were the ones initiating violence by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds. Oh, the police managed to arrest a reporter from the Washington Post for "trespassing" at a McDonald's where the manager was happy to have him there.

So let's go over the fuck-ups, shall we?  Not only did the Ferguson PD not prevent violence and looting, but actually caused violence in the town, and arrested members of the media who write for newspapers that are printed and distributed in the District of Colombia, which is only the place where THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND MOST OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA RESIDE. No, I'm sure no one outside of people on Twitter noticed.  It was so bad that the Governor of Missouri had to remove the Ferguson PD from the situation and put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge.

And here's where we see the entirety of the fuck-up.  In contrast to the aggressive and violent Ferguson PD, the Missouri Highway Patrol calmly intermingled with the locals. They let the locals protest for as long as they wanted, so long as the protests were conducted peacefully.  No one was teargassed, and there were no reports of violence.  The right idea - maintaining order - coupled with the right execution - not being total assholes - lead to good results. Imagine that.

By the way, the Ferguson PD appears to be far from done being assholes - today, for no good reason, they released information that Michael Brown had stolen cheap cigars through what is called a strong-arm robbery (no weapons involved, but physical intimidation used). Whether that is the case or not, it admits that the officer didn't know Brown was involved in any crime at the time of the shooting.  Is the information of the robbery pertinent and/or relevant? Not at this time. Does an attempt at character assassination piss off everyone in Ferguson? Yes.

Look, I get wanting to protect Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, but any time a jaywalking incident turns into a one-sided gunfight, and an unarmed teenager is shot to death, it's not just bad, it's unforgivable. At minimum, he has be fired.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

F*'ing Bullshit

So I go away for a weekend in Connecticut and while traveling across the country, all hell seems to break loose - the Supreme Court comes down with its decision in Hobby Lobby.  And suddenly, I'm getting emails from people saying, "Phat Jim, where's your opinion on the Hobby Lobby case?" Well, here goes. . .

According to Wikipedia, corporations have existed since Roman times (500 AD or so), and in the one thousand and five hundred years of corporate existence, it wasn't until yesterday that a court in any jurisdiction held that a corporation can have sincerely held religious beliefs. Indeed, Henry Ford was sued by his shareholders for giving corporate money for charity.  So to clarify, a hundred years ago, a corporation giving to charity was controversial.  So, to say that this decision was judicial activism is understating things a great deal.

But there is something even worse about allowing a corporation to have religious beliefs - its allowing corporations to VIOLATE FEDERAL LAW BECAUSE IT CONFLICTS WITH THOSE BELIEFS. Now, keep in mind that if an individual does this - say, a Native American takes peyote as part of a religious ceremony, and fails a drug test as a result - its still deemed a violation of federal law, and the feds can come after the people.  By the way, that's not an outrageous example, but a case that the Supreme Court decided in an opinion written by Scalia.  Did Scalia dissent on the basis that this opinion overturns the reasoning of his earlier opinion? Of course not, because fuck people.

Or rather, fuck women. You see, not only does this opinion COMPLETELY change over a 1000 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence, not only does it give corporations rights individuals do not have (to ignore federal laws it opposes), but the Supreme Court tries to limit the opinion to birth control pills, which are used by virtually every woman in America at some point in their lives. If Hobby Lobby had objected to paying for vaccines, or blood transfusions, or insulin (which is produced by pigs), Hobby Lobby would have lost. Why? Because unlike birth control, the Supreme Court agrees with the science of those medicines.  Birth control, meanwhile, is kinda-sort of-not really believed by Hobby Lobby (more about that later), to cause abortions.  This is not the case - birth control prevents conception.  Regardless, Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and science because it thinks birth control pills are abortion pills.  And because vaginas are icky, I guess.

By the way, Hobby Lobby's claim that it has a deeply held religious belief is complete and total BULLSHIT.  Until 2010 (before Obamacare required employees to pay for health insurance), it not only provided health insurance, but purchased health insurance that covered birth control.  That's right kids, Hobby Lobby voluntarily purchased health insurance that covered birth control pills.  Which makes sense, given that Hobby Lobby regularly invests in birth control pill manufacturers.

And this isn't some random point. The next step in this case is almost certainly the trial stage (the Supreme Court determined whether the First Amendment is a defense, and now they try it), and so, its not unlikely that upon remand, Hobby Lobby gets its ass kicked.  In other words, crisis this creates is completely avoidable.

So, how do I feel about this decision? Its the kind of awfulness I have come to expect from this Supreme Court.  Get out and vote people. IN ALL ELECTIONS.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Early Thoughts on 2016 - Looking at Hillary Rodham Clinton

Okay, okay, I know its early, but unless something major happens, the general outline of the 2016 Presidential campaign are basically set.  If she decides the run, Hillary Clinton could be the Democratic nominee for 2016. . . .yeah, I can't really pretend that she won't run, or that she won't be the nominee. Clinton had most of her bonafides set in 2008 - and that was BEFORE SHE WAS SECRETARY OF STATE. There isn't a crop of candidates out there from the last Presidential go around to contend with, unlike 2008, and if there is a potential Obama out there (there isn't), Clinton will be smart enough to deal with that person early on.

That said, here are a couple of points that concern me about Clinton's candidacy:

Campaigning: One of the things I heard a lot about Romney was that in person, he was a likable, personable guy who loved his family and all that.  Then we saw the 47% video, and we all learned that Romney is actually a dick.  With Clinton, I hear a lot of the same.  People who meet Clinton like her personally. At this point, she's kind of a tough grandma who'll do shots with you (or send texts while looking totally badass). In fact, I remember when Clinton teared up during a campaign stop in 2008 and talked about wanting what's best for America. Going into that moment, Clinton was pretty well going to lose, and in large part based on that moment, she made it close.

However, once you get Clinton on stage, she's meh. Now, I know its tough to compare Clinton to her husband (who oozes charisma in the way no one else possibly can), but Clinton actually gets worse as a campaigner as time goes on because she's so afraid to make a mistake.  It comes off as fake. Throw in the totally insane amount of misogyny and conservative hate that will be thrown her way, and it's concerning.  She is going to have to go completely against her instincts and get out of her comfort zone. If she can let herself be herself, Clinton will roll over everyone - she's fucking Godzilla. If not. . .

BenghaziWhitewaterMonicaBullshitGate: Here's a fun fact, Maureen Down HATES Hillary Clinton. And a fair number of other media types feel the same way. After Monica, the mainstream media went crazy looking for the woman who would bring down Bill Clinton. It seemed like every week or so the media would pull out some sort of bullshit to hit the Clintons with. And now we have Benghazi. An affair where most of the questions have been asked, and answered, and asked, and answered, and asked, and answered, and asked again. Two years from now, there will still be people who insist that there are still questions about Benghazi (though, what they mean is they don't like the answers). But, I do like Clinton's testimony on the matter:



Flanking: Clinton, like her husband, started her career on the conservative side of the Democratic Party. Like her husband, she supported DOMA, and other anti-gay legislation, as part of the triangulation strategy favored in 1996. Now, while she could and should argue that a lot of the anti-gay legislation was designed short-circuit even worse legislation (DOMA was used to kill an anti-gay marriage amendment), she still has some bonafides with the LGBTQ community to work on.

What's more, Clinton is much more of a hawk than Obama on foreign policy.  She voted to go into Iraq, she supports Israeli settlements, etc.  And that could be a problem depending on who the Republican nominee is.  If Rand Paul is the nominee, I could see him running to Clinton's right on social and economic issues, and then running to her left on foreign policy and maybe drug policy.  He certainly seems to be positioning himself that way. Clinton has to shore up her support on the left. That said, I don't see any other Republican outflanking Clinton.

So, all in all, Clinton is going to face virulent opposition, quite a bit of it will be completely unfair. If she can move past the bullshit, and be herself, Clinton will roll.  If not, she's not going to have a good time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rest In Peace Mr. Gwynn

This morning came word that Tony Gwynn, who played for the San Diego Padres for 20 years, passed away.  Right now, the internet is full of accolades of Mr. Gwynn, who was not just one of the best hitters ever, but the face of San Diego sports for two decades. As a Padres fan, I had to give my two cents.

The thing about San Diego is that for an older city (founded 1776), it is a relatively young city.  The Native Americans in our fair city were far too hostile for much more than token Spanish presence (they burned Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the Spanish never really rebuilt it; also, good for the Native Americans), the land was too arid for agriculture, and the hills of Julian never held that much gold. Until the 70's, the biggest industry in town was tuna fishing. Then it was the defense industry.  As a result, San Diego really didn't grow into a city until the 1970's and 1980's.  Even then, most of the people living here had come from someplace else.

So, to break through sports-wise in a town where virtually every adult grew up rooting for a non-San Diego team is tough.  Heck, San Diego teams still have problems with that.  But Tony Gwynn did not. He was the face of San Diego sports for two decades. Growing up in the 1980's, virtually every kid had their holy trinity of sports - Tony Gwynn, Dan Fouts, and Magic Johnson. As time went on, some of the trinity members changed - Dan Fouts' popularity got eclipsed by Junior Seau, and Kobe Bryant took over Magic Johnson's spot - but Tony Gwynn remained beloved. 

In my opinion, there are only two Padres that ever came close to taking Tony's place in the trinity - Ken Caminetti and Trevor Hoffman.  Of course, Caminetti's rise was fueled by steroids, something which could never be attributed to Gwynn.  Hoffman came close, but never could eclipse what Tony meant to the Padres. Of the players on the current Padres' roster, sadly, none come close.  

So what does it mean to be in the Trinity? Those were three players who's brilliance was unquestioned. For two solid decades, every kid wanted to be like Tony Gwynn. When Jack Clark badmouthed Tony Gwynn, we all wanted to run him out of town on a rail (and that's why he was traded away). If you wanted to start a fight in San Diego, the best way would be to say "Tony Gwynn sucks!"  Heck, I want to punch myself in the face for even writing that.  Add to his playing greatness that Mr. Gwynn was one of the most humble, honest, and decent human beings in baseball, and well, you can see how he was loved even after his retirement.  He was one of the few people who earned the right to use the f-word as a middle name - as in, "Do you know who I am, I'm Tony Fucking Gwynn!!!" and sound completely justified.* 

All in all, Mr. Gwynn's passing has hit me harder than Jerry Coleman's.  Jerry was an old guy even when I was a young, but Tony. . .he went too soon.  To his family, my condolences.  

*Greg Maddux, one of the best pitchers in his generation, who got everyone out but Tony Gwynn (who owned him completely), referred to Mr. Gwynn as "that fucking Tony Gwynn."  As in, "I did x, and it works on every batter in the game. . .except for the fucking Tony Gwynn."  Don't know where that fits in this post, but its an awesome story.