Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dating Advice From The Armed Liberal

Since I’m surfing while waiting to do a huge presentation, it occurs to me that I ought to repost an old favorite of mine about dating from back in the day (2003) when TG and I were…and publicly wish my sweetie a Happy Valentine’s Day to boot!

So Tenacious G (my sweetie) and I went out for our pre-Valentine’s Day dinner last night. We have the boys Friday, and it’ll be a zoo everywhere, so we went to our favorite neighborhood bistro and had a nice dinner together.

Which was slightly spoiled by the conversation at the next table. I’m usually pretty good at filtering, and too polite to acknowledge that I’m eavesdropping (or reading your mail upside down on your desk), but this was just too much, in every sense of the word.

It was a first date. He was (from the conversation) about my age, but overweight, balding, and with a sunlamp tan and a pony tail – a combination that I can’t imagine the ladies could resist. I’m commenting on his physical attributes (actually more his “presentation” of them) because they meshed so well with the personality that he displayed at dinner.

I kept one eye on my watch for a bit and at one point he talked over three minutes without stopping. I think she said about ten words in the entire hour and a half that we were there, and the conversation from their table never stopped.

They (he, actually) discussed Iraq. He’s against it, but he would have gone to Canada if his lottery number had come up during Vietnam and would personally drive his son to Canada today (in his Ferrari) if he was in any danger of serving in the military. We can’t invade Iraq, he explained, because we haven’t defeated Al Quieda, and we haven’t made a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Once we do those things, he’d be open to considering it if it was OK with the U.N.

I have a discussion on his points over at Winds of Change.

He discussed work. He’s apparently a prosecutor, and he discussed how unfair the laws that he is sworn to enforce are, and how he practices his own form of “jury nullification” on cases that he thinks are just unfair.

He discussed (at painful length) his divorce, his lack of a relationship with his children, and his dysfunctional dating history.

He discussed his cars (a 70’s Ferrari, a 60’s Porsche, and a new BMW).

He discussed dancing, and the kind of music he likes. He went on a long riff about “the sensuality of just moving your body to music” – i.e. he dances like a white guy.

So in 90 minutes, he did a kind of miniature “Biography Channel” special on himself.

There are so many problems here…

Look, I’ve never been a ‘playa’, but I’ve certainly dated a bunch (TG would say more than a bunch) and met a bunch of neat women (even married a couple). I’ve given some dating advice to my sons and to my more relationship-challenged friends (male and female, showing that they’ll take advice from anybody). But it was all I could do not to turn around in my chair last night and go …Stop. Stop now. Ask her something about herself, and let her complete her answer. Explore her interests. Hand her the keys to the conversation, because believe me at the rate this is going you aren’t going to be getting any tonight.?

So let me offer some dating advice to my fellow middle-aged divorced guys:

Shut the fuck up.

Don’t try and sell yourself, its boring and ineffective. Help her sell herself, and in doing so you’ll sell yourself far more effectively than you could otherwise.

Don’t inventory your possessions, inventory your passions.

Don’t recount, in real-time, the story of your failed prior relationships.

Don’t talk down your exes.

Basically, don’t assume that you’re the only interesting person in the room.

And lose the damn ponytail.

ROMANTICISM AND TERRORISM

I’ve decided to liven things up a bit here at the old homestead, and to that end, will be republishing some of my favorite old posts by moving them to the top of the page.
This is a really good article, and has been referenced by lots of folks on the web:
Among the Bourgeoisophobes
In it, David Brooks pulls together strains of thought which look at what I’ll loosely call “Western Civilization” and violently reject much of it. Why? Damn good question. But ask yourself: Why is it that when I was in college in the 70’s, the leaders of the most violent radical groups were the children of upper- and upper-middle-class families? Why are the leaders of the Islamicist movement the prosperous, the well-educated, in short, those most likely to prosper and succeed in the context of the Western market economy?
There are a lot of reasons.
And by coincidence, I happened to pick up a book that lays out the philosophical underpinnings that support this issue. It’s a damn good book, and one that anyone who grew up in the shadow of the 60’s … that would be anyone born after 1950 … ought to read.
The Roots of Romanticism by Isiah Berlin.
Isiah Berlin is not considered by many to have been a “serious” philosopher. He never wrote the “Big Book” that was expected of him. But he was hella smart, and in a world where there was required reading for college freshmen, his lectures and smaller publications would be on the list.
To brutally truncate his argument into one quote, let me offer this:


Suppose you went …and spoke with [long list of European Romatic intellectual figures, including Hugo, de Staël, Schlegel, Goethe, Coleridge, Byron]
Suppose you had spoken to these persons. You would have found that their ideal of life was approximately of the following kind. The values to which they attached the highest importance were such values as integrity, sincerity, readiness to sacrifice one’s life to some inner light, dedication to an ideal for which it is worth sacrificing all that one is, for which it is worth both living and dying. You would have found that they were not primarily interested in knowledge, or in the advancement of science, not interested in political power, not interested in happiness, not interested, above all, in adjustment to life, in finding your place in society, in living at peace with your government, even loyalty to your king, or your republic. You would have found common sense, moderation, was very far from their thoughts. You would have found that they believed in the necessity of fighting for your beliefs to the last breath in your body, and you would have found that they believed in the value of martyrdom as such, no matter what the martyrdom was for. You would have found that they believed that minorities were more holy than majorities, that failure was nobler than success, which had something shoddy and vulgar about it. The very notion of idealism, not in its philosophical sense, but in the ordinary sense in which we use it, that is to say the state of mind of a man who is willing to sacrifice a great deal for principles or some conviction, who is not prepared to sell out, who is prepared to go to the stake for something which he believes, because he believes in it – this attitude was relatively new. What people admired was wholeheartedness, sincerity, purity of soul, the ability and readiness to dedicate yourself to your ideal, no matter what it was.
No matter what it was: that is the important thing.
(pp 8 – 9)


Sound familiar?
What began to matter wasn’t the endless small adjustments to “objective” reality or to work with others – what mattered was your wholehearted willingness to pull down the temple rather than submit, and your ability to project your dreams and ideals – objectively, your fantasies – into the world and to try and make the world conform to them, rather than the other way ‘round.
Shortly after I read this book, I was having a late-night dinner at a terrible Italian restaurant in Long Beach, CA (wow, too awful to even allow me to remember the name), and the only other party was a group of “modern-Okie” aerospace workers…badly dressed, overweight, uncultured (they were talking excitedly about ‘The Bachelor’). The dads (two couples w/multiple kids) were apparently in the aerospace industry, and I had a jolt of realization…these were the families that built the airplanes that I fly around in, and millions of families like them build our houses, buildings, sewers, provide water and electricity, etc. etc. And I began to look at my own attitudes and wonder just why the hell I felt permission to look amusedly at them, and to wonder for a moment which team I was on, and which one I wanted to be on.
Just a thought.
Originally posted May 8, 2002

IS THE WAR ON TERROR THE WAR ON BAD PHILOSOPHY?

OK, a belated final wrapup and then we’ll (in geological time) work into some constructive suggestions.
I’m proposing a theory that has three parts, each of which has some basis which we should be able to discuss or test.
First, that there is a form of political violence which I will label “terrorism”, which is by its nature different from guerilla warfare and mass murder, which are its neighbors on the continuum of violence.
The defining features of terrorism are: 1) attacks on opposing civilians and military with the sole intent of demoralizing them, and the wider media audience who views the attacks and their consequences, and with little or no thought to traditional military effectiveness (i.e. degrading the capability of the enemy to fight you); 2) an ideological base in the self-perceived powerlessness of the attacking side; 3) reliance on the restraint and civility of the opposing force to allow terrorist operatives to stay concealed in a civilian population relatively free from reprisal.

Next that while terrorism has roots in traditional political conflicts, its nature as a different method of conflict has implications for the sponsoring political entity, as well as those targeted. There is something about terrorism as a tactic that both attracts and entraps the participants. In other words, there is something about terrorism which redefines the participants and makes it hard for them to move out of committing terrorist acts and into constructive military and political activity.
Much like the legendary pirates who committed cannibalism because, having eaten human flesh, they could not return to civil life, it seems that the participants in terrorism do not have a great track record at abandoning terror and moving to more traditional military and political activities. This traps the terrorists and their sponsors, and makes it more difficult for them to step across the line to which I will call “civic” politics. Not that it isn’t impossible, as recent developments in Ulster and Sri Lanka suggest.

Finally, that the roots of terrorism, or rather the roots of the political decision to assume terrorism as a tactic, have to do as much with the desire to have an impact on people’s awareness as on their behavior. When I accuse the Palestinians of adopting tactics aimed at dramatic TV coverage as much as at damaging the Israelis, I’m pointing out that in terrorism the desire to psychologically defeat the opponent may outweigh the desire to defeat them in practical terms.
Now what is unique about terrorism is that it stands alone as a kind of “media war” in which the rhetoric and media images matter more than the actual balance of power “on the ground”. Terrorists almost never attack targets that would have substantive impact; they attack airport waiting areas, and not the radar or air-traffic control facilities that would shut down the airport. Even when they do attempt attacks against infrastructure (the Pi Glilot refinery), one wonders if it was for the effect on fuel supplies of the size of the explosion that mattered.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Commenter Ziska writes:

I think that Osama’s methods are rational. He wanted to provoke the United States, destabilize the Middle east and especially Saudi Arabia, and rouse his sympathizers. (I don’t think that his attack on the WTC was symbolic in a futile sense. The symbolism was appealing to the people he was trying to rouse; and in fact the WTC is very substantially meaningful, since it was a communication and control center and what he was fighting against was an international order dominated by the US from places like the WTC, rather than a flesh and blood nation.)

First, she acknowledges the symbolic, as opposed to practical import of the action…although as a ‘symbolic’ attack on the U.S., I’d suggest that the White House, U.S. Capitol, or even the Statue of Liberty would have been of greater impact…then she suggests that it is a ‘communication and control center’; no, it’s an office building. MAE-WEST, which is in an office building here in Los Angeles, is a communications and control center, and it’s destruction would have had a far greater impact on our ability to actually function than an attack on the WTC. What the WTC was is a symbol of Western economic power and (and to skirt the Freudian) potency. Again, I keep coming back to the ineffectiveness of the attacks, both on 9/11 and overall in Israel (this is not to demean the real tragedy that both represent) to suggest that the attackers are not using the same calculus as us to measure success and failure, and that their motivations are not what they appear to us to be…or possibly what they themselves articulate.
I obviously have not yet gotten the Baudrillard book noted by Junius below, but I’ll repeat the publisher’s quote, because it is so damn telling:

Continuing an analysis developed over many years, Baudrillard sees the power of the terrorists as lying in the symbolism of this slaughter. Not merely the reality of death, but a sacrificial death that challenges the whole system. Where the past revolutionary sought to conduct a struggle of real forces in the context of ideology and politics, the new terrorist mounts a powerful symbolic challenge, which, when combined with high-tech resources, constitutes an unprecedented assault on an over-sophisticated, vulnerable West.

and add to it a quote from V.S. Naipul (thanks to Roublen Vessau):

I don’t think it was because of American foreign policy. There is a passage in one of the Conrad short stories of the East Indies where the savage finds himself with his hands bare in the world, and he lets out a howl of anger. I think that, in its essence, is what is happening. The world is getting more and more out of reach of simple people who have only religion. And the more they depend on religion, which of course solves nothing, the more the world gets out of reach.

This suggests to me that it is not any one issue that triggers terrorism (although Ziska is right that it has centered on ‘national liberation’, but typically in concert with more traditional military and guerilla tactics), but infinitely many. And that the problem with this is that whatever we concede, there will be another group, another faction…if not the PLO, than Hamas, if not Hamas, than Fatah, if not Fatah, than Al-Aqusa Martyr’s Brigade, ad infinitum…who will find issues, because I am arguing that the real issue is modernity.
There are internal and external critiques of Western modernity. The internal critiques have philosophical roots going clearly back to the 19th century, and which I will argue, have been picked up by many making the external critiques, until there is a roughly common philosophical and political ‘umbrella’ under which both operate.
And one of the concerns I will raise is that given that there are folks internal to the West who share these views, what is the barrier to more widespread terrorism?
We are seeing it now, in a loose way…in the armored-car robberies of the Aryan groups, mirroring the deadly armored-car robberies intended to finance the Weather Underground in the 70’s; in the acts of animal liberationists, anti-abortionists, of Earth First! and Columbine.
The cost of defending ourselves, in the long run, will bankrupt us physically, psychically, and morally. So we have to defeat this. And by virtue of its nature, terrorist violence can (and must) be held at bay, but within the limits of modern Western tolerance, cannot be defeated by violence alone. We have to find a way to stop growing the people who do it.
And so yes, I’ll suggest that we have a War On Bad Philosophy, and that the places to look are the churches, mosques, temples, and lecture halls … at the people who need to create and then spread some philosophical antibodies.
In the next few days, I’ll make some concrete short-term and longer term suggestions.
Originally published August 29, 2002.

Blog Bash 03

The is an unalterable truth to parenthood: No matter what time you get in on Saturday night, Sunday morning at 7:00, your bedroom door will quietly open and your seven-year-old will crawl into bed with you and give you a wake-up hug. And you’ll be torn between the desire to burrow deeper under the pillows and feign a coma and the automatic reflex to hug back and ask how he’s doing today. In my case, the reflex always seems to win, which pleases me for some reason.
While I certainly partied more when his older brothers were his age, we did a pretty good job last night, getting home from Linse’s Casa Ain’t No Bad Dude about 0215 Sunday morning.
That’s testimony to what a good time we had.
A wide array of blogger and writer talent was there, starting with Cathy Seipp and her precocious daughter Maya (sadly, I hadn’t brought Middle Guy, which is probably good because he’d have fallen in love with her and his grades would collapse and he’d wind up barely getting into a community college just as they raised their tuition to something rivaling Harvard), Martin Devon, Kevin Drum, Bill Whittle, Matt Welch & Emmanuelle, and lots more.
TG bonded with a female friend Brian’s for much of the evening, causing much concern for both Brian and I as we worried about what secrets were being shared out on the patio; we’ll find out soon.
Meanwhile, the most amusing part of the evening was a – conversation – between a dapper gent who identified himself as a journalist and Bill Whittle, Howard Owens, one of the Samizdata crew, and myself. I’ll blog a bit of it over at WoC.
I’ve just finished building a Zoid with Littlesy Guy, and now I have to go marinate steaks for Middle Guy’s birthday dinner tonight…back to blogging tomorrow.

Defending Cruz…For Once

OK, it’s time to make a confession. I’m remiss in not getting to this sooner, but Joe Katzman yanked my chain on it, and it’s time to say something.
I was a member of MEChA. Yup, back in my college days in the early 70’s, back when it was being started. As you may have noted below, I have a bunch of Hispanic in my background (even though my Spanish – now almost all gone in favor of French – sounds like California elementary-school Spanish, which it is), and while at school, I tended to hang out with the political kids. I was a member for a quarter or two, until my political interests became more theoretical, and I realized that talking identity politics with a bunch of poor Latino kinds from the Central Valley was a little hypocritical for the half white boy from Beverly Hills.
So MEChA.
Back in the early days (as I dimly recall), the black students were well-organized, and they had their positions down. Simply being black trumped all other political arguments (remember this was at U.C. Santa Cruz, where Huey got his PhD). The Latino students felt …. how else can I say it? … left out. Brown Power and Chicano identity issues were beginning to get attention, and so, voilá, MEChA.
My recollection was of a group with three themes: a political identity discussion group, a fairly mainstream ethnic ‘interest group’ and mutual support group, seeded with a tiny group of radicals, lacking only the courage to cross the line into terrorism. While that described MEChA, it also pretty much described every left-of-center campus political group, Jewish, Christian, feminist, gay, etc. etc. during the early 70’s. Whatever brush MEChA can be tarred with can equally apply to the entire range of the campus Left from about 1969 to 1978, the time with which I had contact with it. By ’78 it had become institutionalized, as we see it today, with the ASB budgets diverted to identity-politics-pork.
But in the early years, it definitely held an edge.
Anyone my age (50) ought to be able to look back on a campus littered with fervent leaflets talking about the imminent collapse of Western civilization as THE REVOLUTION arrives. I’m pretty sure that the undergraduate engineering group did some as well, I know the physics support group did.
I’m sure there were some nutball Aztlan fanatics among the early members of MEChA. I’m equally certain that for the most part it served as a benign support network for a bunch of poor Latino kinds, newly offered the opportunity of a U.C. education thanks to affirmative action, who have gone on to become realtors, dentists, Rotary members, and semi-corrupt state politicians.
So while I’m no fan of Cruz in many departments, this is certainly a weak attack to make, and I can personally attest to that.

Budget (yawn) and Taxes (yawn)

In case you’ve been napping, California is broke. California isn’t alone…go Google “state budget crisis 2003″, in the first three pages, you’ll see references to California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Now I’m no budget or tax analyst, but a few things ought to be obvious.
If everyone’s having the same problem, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem – but it does mean that you have to look to systemic, rather than specific factors to understand what’s going on.
Before you get all up in my face about “Well if it’s a systemic problem, why are you for recalling Davis? It wasn’t his fault!” let me point out that what I expect from elected officials at a level above the minor-city-scandal-level is some form of behavior better than that shown by John Belushi in his tender, romantic scene with Carrie Fischer in the Blues Brothers:

Jake Blues: No, I didn’t. Honest. I ran out of gas! I had a flat tire! I didn’t have enough money for cab fare! My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

…which is pretty much what we’re seeing right now. A decent Governor would have stood up last year – before the election – and told the truth. Davis didn’t.
I can’t testify to the other states, but what’s been going on in California is simple: We’ve been running deficits in the $10B range for about two years, since the dot-com implosion. We assumed that our straightened state was a temporary one, and that the revenues would come back Real Soon.
They didn’t. They aren’t going to, anytime soon.
And meanwhile, we have two bothersome tendencies: We keep trimming back on taxes, because it buys votes, and we keep hiring new state employees, because that’s what bureaucracies do.
We’ve faked our way through this like a bankrupt Web designer clutching a LOTTO ticket, sure that salvation was coming next Saturday. And we’ve borrowed against the credit cards…and worse, we’ve borrowed against the kid’s cards as well.
I’m not talking literally about the future inhabitants of our great states, I’m talking about the dependent governments below the state level – the counties, townships, and cities.
What’s gone on is a massive transfer of obligations from the feds to the states – so the Federal budget looks better, because the high-cost, high growth programs are suddenly state programs. And the states, dancing for their fiscal lives, are transferring programs downstream to the counties and cities in a series of budget “realignments“.
Now, three things are clear: Revenues don’t meet expenses, which means we have a fundamental fiscal discipline problem (we need to raise taxes or lower expenditures); we’ve faked it over the last several years with a series of creative financial mechanisms which essentially involve hypothecating assets (vide. the Tobacco Settlement) or future income in order to cover current shortfalls, with the notion in mind that things have to get better – or at least the current legislators won’t be on the hook any longer.
In the case of California, one of the issues has been the over reliance on income tax revenues from the highest-income Californians. This is a good thing in the sense that they can afford to pay more taxes (after all, their income has overall grown a whole lot faster than the income of the lowest 20%); it’s a bad thing in that the income is somewhat volatile, and worse because the ever-diminishing pool of taxpayers is altering their behavior – even moving out of state, like Layne, to minimize the tax burden.
I’m thinking about a budget and tax strategy (I don’t know enough detail, except in a very few areas, to actually propose tactics), and I’ll propose two basic goals:
1. Budget Integration. We need to look at State, county, and city budgets in some integrated way, to deal with the – transfers – between the levels which tend to mask spending and growth in a number of areas.
2) Tax stability. California is mandated to carry a balanced budget. We need to relook at our tax programs to attempt to get a more stable revenue stream for the state. This implies that we shift from personal income to corporate income, sales, and property taxes. This is pretty obviously nontrivial is so many ways…but I’ll suggest one point in each of these three areas that could make a difference.
From the California Budget Project:

Over the past two decades, the burden of funding state services has shifted from corporate to personal income taxpayers. The personal income tax is forecast to provide 48.9 percent of state General Fund revenues in 2003-04, up from 34.8 percent in 1980-81. Corporate tax receipts are expected to provide 9.2 percent of General Fund revenues in 2003-04, down from 14.4 percent in 1980-81. New, increased, and expanded corporate tax breaks are responsible for the decline in the share of state revenues provided by the corporate income tax. Tax reductions enacted between 1998 and 2002 alone will reduce 2002-03 revenues by $4.6 billion.

We hammer corporations with regulations and worker’s comp costs, but they save on Prop 13 property taxes (business property changes hands less often then personal property, and so is reassessed less often) and corporate income taxes. We need to look at the level of corporate income taxes, and more importantly specific corporate income tax expenditures (targeted tax breaks) very carefully and consider eliminating the breaks and raising our overall level of tax collections.
Sales taxes are anathema to progressives, because they are inherently regressive…lower-income household have to spend most of their income to survive, and so wind up paying a far higher percentage of their income in sales taxes. But they are stable, and more importantly, they are the means whereby those who earn in the cash economy contribute their share. Simply put, we ought to bump the state sales tax by a fairly significant amount, and rebate it back to lower- and middle-income taxpayers, possibly by covering some portion of their payroll taxes with it. Note that some burden will fall on lower- and middle- income taxpayers; that can’t be avoided, although it can be meliorated. Further note that those who live in the cash economy – who include illegal immigrants – will be disproportionately affected. Good; they need to pay their share, too.
On Prop 13, one major loophole is the ability of commercial property holders to keep properties in partnerships and corporate ownership, and to restructure or sell the corporation or partnership, thereby selling the property without triggering reappraisal. I believe that Prop 13 is untouchable in the near and intermediate future, but this is a shopping-center sized loophole that needs to be closed.

Advising Arnie

So I’ve been emailing my friends in Sacramento as they get ready to come back into session, and one of my big issues, as noted before, over at WoC, is “what do folks think of Cruz”. My informal poll – one elected, three staffers, and a journalist elicits two basic themes:
1) Not the sharpest tool in the shed (“box of rocks” was used, but I think that person was a bit overwrought);
2) Enmeshed in the special-interest culture.
His trial balloon – cut the car tax while raising cigarette taxes and taxes on the wealthy – doesn’t exactly rock my world. Increasing “sin taxes” to unsustainable levels can only raise so much, and encourages the state to injure it’s citizens by promoting the sins (lotto, gaming) in order to get the revenue. The 44,000 California millionaires can only pay so much in taxes before they all join Ken Layne and move to Reno. What will we do then?
Weintraub had a great column on the state’s overdependence on tax income from the wealthy 0.5%:

Nobody knows how those wealthy taxpayers would react to such an increase. If they stayed in California, and didn’t change their behavior, the state treasury and those who rely on it for services would be better off. And certainly a tax increase of a few thousand dollars on someone making a half-million a year would seem unlikely to drive them from the state.
But if the increase prompted just a few thousand of the wealthiest taxpayers to flee California, then the revenue decline it would cause could make the past year’s drop seem mild. The truth is you could put thousands of laborers to work at good wages and probably not compensate for the lost income tax from one departed millionaire.
Even if it worked as intended, raising taxes on the wealthy would push California out on a fiscal limb that everyone already knows is weak. Had the higher rates been law during the late 1990s, the revenue growth the state experienced would have been even greater. And the decline, when it came, would have been even steeper.
Going further in that direction would make the state’s masses even more reliant on the good fortune of a few than they are today. And as the last few years have shown, in the long term that can be a very risky proposition.

So it looks like my support, at least, is up for grabs (and I’m guessing that I’m pretty typical), and if Arnie does a few things right – he’ll get it.
He did one right thing today; he got prominent investor and Democrat Warren Buffett to agree to act as his fiscal advisor. His presence raises some interesting issues, since CALPRS and CALSTRS, the large public employee and teacher’s pension funds doubtless are deeply intertwined with Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s investment company.
Here’s what I see as his “issues” and some quick steps he could take to make them go away.
1. Race.
Arnie is a rich white guy who lives in Brentwood, and makes his living in an industry that has lots of minorities everywhere except the executive suites.
He supported Prop. 187.
It won’t be hard to paint him as a guy who sees Latinos as gardeners and blacks as drivers. His own history of rising from a penniless immigrant won’t protect him against that, and in the key suburban counties in Southern California and the Bay Area – where the soccer mom and dad votes are – many moderates will be turned off if he’s seen as Pete Wilson redux (more on that in a moment).
He can easily immunize himself against that; to do so, he needs to do three things:
1) Find his own Condi Rice and Colin Powell. There are smart ethnic neoliberals in California, and there ought to be a few of them publicly advising Arnie from key strategy and policy roles. Let’s get this done next week, please. I’ll do some digging and propose some names over the next day or so.
2) Come up with his own message to the Latin and Black communities. Talk about how he wants to create real lasting opportunities for them in education (where he has some track record) and small business and jobs. Talk about what he’ll do to reduce what racial barriers may exist, and how he’ll challenge their kids to meet high, rather than low, expectations. Talk about how they in their communities are the most vulnerable to crime, and how he’ll work with progressive law enforcement to make sure that murders in South-Central get investigated as aggressively as those in Brentwood.
3) Take the message to the media that will reach the communities – go on KKBT and talk to Steve Harvey (hell, make him one of your advisers). Go on KSCA and KSSE and don’t wait to be challenged on the issue, take your case to the public and put it to rest.
2. Experience
John F Kennedy once said about experience

“One hundred years ago Abraham Lincoln was not running on a platform of experience. It was clear that his opponent had far greater experience, as Lincoln’s experience was confined to a few obscure years in the House of Representatives. But the country was then suffering from a President with experience, James Buchanan, who had been Congressman, Senator, Ambassador, and Secretary of State. He had been in public service for almost 42 years.
Herbert A. Garth, the historian, has written, and he mistakenly believed that he had been learning all the time [laughter], “I don’t think experience necessarily counts” [applause].
The three great qualities which characterized Lincoln’s Presidency were leadership, courage, and foresight, the three qualities that the next President of the United States is going to need in full measure if this country is going to meet the challenges at home and abroad.”

Your case to the public is that those three qualities – the ability to lead and unite the people of California in facing the severe problems we face today; the courage to challenge the web of special interests that has bound our state like Gulliver in Lilliput; and the foresight to create and sell a dream of what California can become – are qualities that you have. Can you show them?
More than anything else, this recall election is about people’s disgust with the machinations of interest group politics, in which unions, businesses, and other large interest groups manage to tilt the table so that they get what they are looking for and the state as a whole suffers.
You have to oppose that, and start to explain how electing you will start the painful process of breaking that machine.
3. Character
This is shorthand for ‘immunity to sleaze’. You have two answers to that – your wife, who needs to take the issue on publicly as your proxy – demonstrating that whatever you may have done, it was done within the context of a permanent and loving relationship; and people you have done business with for years who ought to be able to testify as to your reliability and willingness to build and work within long-standing relationships. If you can’t make those two things happen, this is going to be a large hole through which you will take water.
4. Partisanship
The news today is all about your dependency on Pete Wilson and his core group of advisers. If Davis or Bustamante can paint you as a ‘pretty face on Pete Wilson’s politics‘, you’re in trouble. You shouldn’t run against the GOP, but you have to make it clear that you transcend traditional California partisanship.
There are a couple of disaffected Democrats out there you ought to be able to capture, and you not only need their endorsement, you need them to be seen visibly working as a part of your policy and campaign team.
That’s a start. There’ll be more over the next few days.