Pre-inaugural Chum

Although Monday’s are usually quiet news days, perhaps the hoopla tomorrow is churning it out:

  • From the “Brands That Live and Die” Department: The NY Times is reporting that even though the Sharper Image stores have closed, the brand is living on. Specifically, the new owners of the brand are using it for new innovative, although cheaper, electronics. Other brands aren’t so lucky. A local franchiser is closing most of the Southern California Applebee’s, including those in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and Santa Clarita. Another bane of the mall, Libby Lu, is also closing their locations. I’ve always had a grudge against Libby Lu, as they took over the GameKeeper location at the Northridge Mall.
  • From the “Feeling the Pain of the Recession” Department: Many other groups are feeling the pain of the recession. The LA Times has an interesting article on one such group: gardeners. It seems local service providers such as gardeners, housekeepers, and pool cleaners are often hit hardest during a recession — and they are the ones that can often ill afford such a hit. There’s another group being hurt by the recession: Bush-administration appointees. Normally, when an administration leaves office the appointees can count on jobs in the DC area at local corporations and lobbyists. But the tightened job market is making those jobs harder to come by, and so these folks may have to look elsewhere.
  • From the “Perhaps The Expectations Are Too High” Department: I know that everyone is excited about the change of administrations tomorrow, but let’s not elevate the man to patriarch status until he has earned it. Even our great leaders didn’t come into office with such high expectations (and that includes the man of the hour, Abe Lincoln). But I’m already seeing movements to rename Delmar Blvd in St. Louis as Obama Blvd, and even CNN is indicating that everyone expects Obama inauguration speech to be carved in marble. I admit, he is doing some interesting bipartisan actions — even going so far as to consult with his election opponent, but let’s not raise the expectations so high he can never meet them. We should, after all, be used to low expectations.
  • From the “Moving Day” Department: And speaking of low expectations, how about those Bushes? Seriously, one thing that has always interested me is the logistics of moving one occupant out and one in on the same day. It appears that that the Bushes have been smart here, or at least Laura has. Starting in the summer, Laura Bush started moving out of the White House, completing the move of personal belongings from Camp David over Christmas. The only things really left for President and Mrs. Bush are their personal belongings and luggage for the last day. Of course, they will leave a legacy…
  • From the “They’re Dieing to Get In” Department: Speaking of legacies… There is an interesting legacy in the Santa Monica Canyons: The Marquez Cemetary. The LA Times has an interesting article today on how the family is attempting to restore the cemetary and open it to the public.
  • From the “Read a Good Book” Department: If you are at all like me, you love a good bookstore. Especially used book stores. Ever wonder how they are faring these days? There’s a good article in the Daily News on A&M Book Cellars in Canoga Park (website), a used-book store that has been around 24 years. The secret of their success: don’t change. It reminds me of another favorite used book store: Cliff’s in Pasadena.

One Reason I’m Likely Not To Be Elected President

The LA Times has an interesting piece today regarding tonsorial trajectory (their words, not mine) of candidates for office. After all, we haven’t had a candidate with facial hair since William Howard Taft. Note that Abraham Lincoln was elected cleanshaven and grew his famous beard between election and inauguration. Bill Richardson has shaved his post-election beard (and Al Gore grew his after the election). Currently, the highest ranking person in the Obama adminstration with facial hair is Eric Holder, the Attorney General nominee.

So, when do you think America will be ready for a bearded politician again?


Thursday News Chum

It’s been a busy day — teaching a class, reviewing documents with a short deadline, and fighting a migraine — so the opportunity to look at the news didn’t arise until I got home. But here are some observations, to feed the sharks in the water:

  • From the “Making Government Efficient” Department: Those who remember back to the Clinton Administration will remember that Al Gore headed an effort to improve government efficiency. Obama may be doing something simliar, on the technology side. The Washington Post has an interesting article about his plans to appoint a Chief Technology Officer who would help federal agencies use technology “to make government work better.” Now a CTO isn’t a bad idea — and there should likely be a CIO as well to focus on information protection, but perhaps the CIO would report to the CTO. I found this line in the article particularly interesting: “A top priority might be getting rid of redundant information technology systems, many of which do not operate across agencies.” One of the things I taught today was about CNSS 1253, which is going to be a combined IA control catalog for the entire Federal government (non-DOD, DOD, and IC), as part of an effort to unify C&A across the government (well, at least the C). So this could be an indication that the effort might continue. Good thing.
  • From the “Just Fill Out This Application” Department: That new CTO is going to have an application to fill out. And it’ll be a long one. According to CNN, the Obama transition team is sending a seven-page, 63-item questionnaire to every candidate for Cabinet and other high-ranking positions in the incoming administration. The questions cover everything from information on family members, Facebook pages, blogs and hired help to links to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American International Group and troubled banks as well as lawsuits, gifts, resumes, loans and more. The largest part of the questionnaire asks prospective White House appointees and their spouses to list real estate and other business transactions, affiliations and relationships as well as personal financial and tax information. It also asks about writings, speeches, testimony, online communications and even personal diaries. An entire section requests details on any criminal or civil legal action in which the applicant may have been involved. Under the final, “Miscellaneous” category, the questionnaire asks for the names and phone numbers of past live-in lovers; whether anyone in the applicant’s family owns a gun; the state of the applicant’s health; and whether he or she has any enemies.
  • From the “Taking a Lesson from Elvis” Department: In the Obamaphoria following the Obamalection, a lot of people have been selling Obamatchotchkes and Obamashirts. The problem is: some of these have images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on them… and the King family wants their cut. They tightly control his image (a good thing), and are going after the unlicensed usages.
  • From the “I Don’t Like Where This Is Going” Department: Two of my favorite blogs, la_observed and la_biz_observed, have regular articles about how the newspaper industry in Los Angeles is imploding. Tribute is laying off reports and closing bureaus left and right. Media News, owner of the Daily News, is cutting staff. The OC Register is cutting back. We’ll soon be left with one newspaper reporter in LA, posting to a blog. Now, USA Today is bringing news of a deal between Fox TV and NBC — a local television news-sharing plan that promises to reduce the number of reporters, trucks and helicopters assigned to cover major events. Following a test that began in May, the stations owned by NBC and Fox in Philadelphia will formalize in January an arrangement that turns some of their camera crews over to a jointly run assignment desk. It determines which local events they’ll photograph, and feeds the raw video to each station. The stations prepare their own stories. The companies — which compete with each other at MSNBC and Fox News Channel, but are partners at the online video service Hulu — plan to copy this process in other cities in which each owns TV stations, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Washington. More bad news — and I mean that literally. Are we going back to the days where journalism was practiced by muckrakers with their own printing press (now called the blog-o-sphere)?

And with that chum, it’s time to go clean the kitchen….


News Chum and Observations: Post Election Edition

  • From the “Watch What You Say” Department: Back in 2000, George W. Bush said that he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. After 8 years of his administration, I think we can now say that goal was achieved. He united a majority of the country… behind President-Elect Barack Obama.
  • From the “Remember the 14th” Department: Alas it looks like Proposition 8 is passing in California. It just looks like same-sex “marriage” will not be accepted by a majority of Californians, let alone Americans, easily. This is a shame, but not surprising. We’ve seen it in other civil rights areas before — it is where the Supreme Court must take its role of interpreting the law of the land, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, if that way is what is right. The 14th Amendment states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Providing different legal rights and benefits to one class (traditional marriage) that is not available to another class (homosexual marriage) clearly violates this law. If the government is going to give rights and privileges based on marital status (such as inheritance, visitation, tax benefits), then it must be equal for all classes. The ballot box is not the way to get this enforced. The courts are. People are uncomfortable with changes in their paradigm, but given time, it will happen. Just look at what happened yesterday. And the first lawsuit has been filed.
  • From the “I Love A Map” Department: Back when my parents still had their accounting practice, one of their juniors had this fascinating hobby of hand-coloring electoral maps county by county. I don’t know if he still does this, but such maps are now easily available. But there are other maps of interest, such as this map that allows you to see the electoral breakdown for any year. For those in California, this map gives a breakdown, county by county, of propositions and statewide offices.

In other news:

  • From the “And the Trifecta Completes” Department: The author death trifecta is complete. First was Tony Hillerman, and then Studs Terkel. Today completes the trifecta with the news of the death of Michael Crichton, author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park.
  • From the “Don’t Order Those Potatoes” Department: In the restaurant death trifecta, I’m sad to report the death of “Hamburger Hamlet” on National in West LA. LA Observed notes its passing, together with the outlet in Brentwood and the outlet in Westwood. You can still get your fix in Van Nuys and Pasadena. In other restaurant news, “La Fondue Bourguignonnein the Valley is closing, to be replaced with a Stone Fire Pizza. I believe this means there are no fondue restaurants left in Los Angeles.
  • From the “Comfort Food” Department: Mmmmm. Macaroni and Cheese.

Who’s Next?

We have a history changing election. Our first African-american president. With Hillary’s historic run, we’re likely to have a women president in the next 20 years. So what barrier will fall after that?

P.S.: Although what I heard of McCain’ concession speech was good… couldn’t he have shown respect for the rest of the country and waited until the polls were closed in Alaska and Hawaii (HI closed the same time as CA)? That’s disrespecting the American voter.


The First Vote Meme

Well, I was going to do a News ChumTM today. I was going to talk about how the announcement about Circuit City closing 155 stores seemed oddly juxtaposed against the article about the VCR going the way of the dodo. I was going to write about the 100-calorie Twinkie. I was going to write about the death of Yma Sumac.

But then I realized, tomorrow is too important a day for ephemera like News ChumTM. So, instead, I’ll remind everyone to vote tomorrow. I’ll remind you that I’ve posted my analysis of the candidates and the issues on my ballot… and I’ll urge those of you in California to vote No on 8, No on 4, and for all US voters to vote for the Obama/Biden ticket.

The First Vote Meme

Lastly, however, I would like to pass on a meme. We’re all emphasizing the importance of voting in this election — however you decide the issues, it is important for you to vote. So think back to the first time that you voted. You have been doing it since you turned 18, haven’t you? Now, think about where your first polling place was, or the first one you can remember. Find it on Google Maps (street view is possible)… and tell us when, where, and provide a link.

For me? 1978. It was either Kenter Canyon Elementary or Crestwood Hills Recreation Center.


California Ballot Summary Post

As I know everyone doesn’t read their FL over the weekend, I just wanted to alert folks that I did my regular election ballot summary and analysis over the weekend. It was posted in two parts, presented here as two fake cuts:

( Part 1: Propositions and Local Measures )

( Part 2: The Candidates )

Part 1 has already engendered some heated discussion, both on Proposition 1A (where the discussion led me to change my position), and on Proposition 4 (where it didn’t). It did make me aware that with all the hoopla surrounding Proposition 8, we’re forgetting the battle against Proposition 4 (Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy). Right now, Proposition 4 seems to be leading in the polls. By the way, here are two links with respect to Prop. 4 that I forgot in the original post: the Yes campaign, and the No campaign. The “No” pages are interesting, for they show a large number of medical, educational, religious, and advocacy organizations, among others, in the Against camp. The “yes” pages show mostly individual politicians (they appear to be primarily conservative Republicans) and faith-based organizations.