Randy Simmons

We lost a SWAT officer here in Los Angeles last night; some goblin killed three people, called the police, and met the officers at the door with gunfire, killing one and wounding another.

The Daily News has a beautiful and honest piece on Officer Simmons and his colleagues (h/t LA Observed).

As he and my host spoke, I looked around the room and noticed 20-feet away a graying man of Asian descent at a table of mostly Hispanic officers. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “I wish I could have brought the LA Times Editorial Board down here. Let them see the brutal, racist, lily-white LAPD that they so often blast. Let them see a black cop hugging a white cop like long lost brothers.”

That Asian cop, Jim Veenstra, now lies in the same hospital where Randy Simmons succumbed, a bullet having felled him in the same fusillade.

The men of SWAT … it is an all male organization by happenstance, not regulation … are highly, highly professional. Their work is not a matter of bravado or testosterone, but of excellent performance focused on saving lives of innocents. Their standards are as inflexible as the laws of physics and ballistics that have the potential to decide the success … or length – of their service. That’s truly their only commonality. They are of all colors and backgrounds, educations and diversions. But within their unique fraternity they are one.

It is a fraternity in the truest sense. Men bound by tacit agreement to give their lives not only for each other, but for complete strangers in the most volatile peril. There is little place for those who do not know the terror that is incumbent upon crossing a threshold to enter a room occupied not only by a killer whose dispatch will require brutal force, but by an innocent whose only hope for life is you. Those who do not know that fear – nor the professional dedication required to master it – would not have fit in that room. Which is perhaps why the highest ranking of the guests mingled strictly with other brass and departed within barely 30 minutes.

I’ve been on the fringes of that world, and have the highest respect for the people who can stand in it and face the terror that Bob Parry describes. All of us stand behind them, sheltered by them and by people like them from things we know exist and hope to never see.

Godspeed, Randy Simmons. Thank you, Robert Parry.

Some New Blogs of Note

I’ve added some new blogs to my RSS reader, and hence to the blogroll.

A few worthy of note:

The Monkey Cage, a group blog written by a bunch of political scientists, including Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber (who I’ve knocked heads with on occasion). It’s an interesting blog, and gratifies one of my personal joneses by actually looking at data (see their post on liberal bias in the media or on the impact of economic growth on election behavior).

Mountain Runner, Matthew Armstrong’s blog on counterinsurgency and public diplomacy. See this post on public diplomacy as a good starter course.

Calculated Risk, a group blog on finance and politics – focusing on a somewhat pessimistic view of the current market turbulence.

…but they’re all interesting and good, or I wouldn’t read them!!

And as a side note on blogging, please think about dropping a few bucks on Michael Totten so he can keep up his great job of citizen-sponsored journalism.

No on 93, Indeed.

With 95.4% of the votes counted:

Yes: 3,058,763 votes (46.6%) No: 3,504,726 votes (53.4%).

Interesting – it won in the most rural of counties – Amador, Mono, Lassen, Imperial, Monterey and (less rural) Santa Cruz. What was that about, I wonder?

So, Messrs Perata and Nunez – come back with a new proposal tied to redistricting and you’ll get my support. Or don’t, and we’ll do an initiative on redistricting anyway.


That didn’t work so well.

It’s Clinton in a relative landslide here in California. The overall race today is advantage – somewhat – Clinton. This presents a host of pretty interesting problems. Ed Morrisey summarized one serious one – which is that Hillary’s institutional advantage with the Party machinery will play strongly to her advantage in getting the nomination, leaving the Obama fans who are serious about change feeling somewhat out in the cold.

The structure of Hillary’s victories tonight – winning big in the bluest of blue states, and losing in the states that might be a tossup – emphasize her weakness as a general election candidate. Again – how is it, in the face of an unpopular war and a much-derided Administration – that the Democrats risk losing?

I have, of course, some ideas…

So Who In The Wide World Of Sports Am I Going To Vote For?

Well, as a registered Democrat (sorry, all you folks who tell me I should just give up and go Republican), my ballot will really have two choices on it.

After thinking long and hard about it, I’m going to vote for Obama. Here’s why.I ‘get it’ that Hillary is more likely to be cautious about doing stupid things in Iraq (announcing that everyone there needs to get on a plane and come home next week), and that electing her gives us a chance to make the Long War a bipartisan problem. That was the biggest argument in her favor, but it wasn’t enough to tip me in her favor.

Simply put, I’d rather close my eyes and vote for Obama than hold my nose and vote for Hillary. We have – really – no idea what kind of President Barack Obama might become. He could be JFK (all nice suit, no substance) or he could become FDR – who was a State Senator before he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and then an unsuccessful candidate for VP. I profoundly disagree with his foreign policies as set out in his speeches and articles; while I find myself largely in agreement with his domestic policies (guns: not so much) my belief is that neither will survive much contact with reality.

So the question is whether the values he expresses – love of country, a desire to create a political space open to people who disagree, a refusal to demonize – will grow into policies and programs that express those values. The differentiator here is that Hillary is the sum of her policies; what higher values does she express other than an entitlement to power?

Obama is often criticized as being nothing but charisma, and devalued for that. But the reality is that charisma is critical to the job of President – the biggest part of the job is convincing us of things, and charisma helps here a lot.

I’m not sure if I’ll vote for him in the final. There’s another bridge or two to get over between here and there. We’ll see how his foreign policy views develop under chanllenge, and how he stands up when he really gets hammered.

So let’s see how he does.

If you’re a Republican, you could vote for Romney – who, in my view, has the potential to be the Jimmy Carter of the New Millennium, totally arrogant in his certainty and certain to be confounded by the messy realities he would face in office. Let’s forget that the fact that he’s ahead here in California is a pluperfect manifestation of the idiotic nature of the GOP here, who should be striving for purple votes, and instead are increasingly tightening the ideological barriers to joining up.

So if you’re a Republican, have some sense and vote for McCain.

Meanwhile let’s talk about the propositions.

Prop 91 sequesters gas tax funds – which are supposed to be sequestered, but which are typically ‘borrowed’ by the Gov. and Legislature.

No. We hire the Gov. and the Legislature to run the joint; the idea that we’re going to keep tying their hands through budgeting-by-initiative seems just plan bad. Let’s not do it.

Prop 92 changes the formula for allocating school funds in a way that will substantially increase the allocation to community colleges.

No. More budgeting at the ballot box.

Prop 93 has been discussed already.

Hell, no.

Props 94 – 97 ratify deals the Gov made with the local Indian Tribes to allow them to expand their gambling operations, in return for cash.

No. Look, if we’re going to support the state on sin taxes, let’s go the whole way. And I have big problems with the semi-extraterritoriality of the tribes – and I say this as someone who could probably make a plausible claim to membership in one of them. The tribes are subject to US laws – or not. If not, they have to act like foreign powers when it comes to domestic politics.

So it’s easy – just vote ‘no’ on everything.

So The News Is Full of the Football Game Yesterday

Which apparently was v. exciting. We should have watched it instead of seeing a crushingly dull version of ‘Tristan and Isolde’ by the LA Opera. The sets – by Hockney – kept me thinking of ‘What’s Opera Doc?’,

and the wooden-acting, dispassionately-singing Tristan – John Treleaven – got Wagner exactly wrong. I won’t claim Patterico’s musical knowledge, but in my view Wagner has to be sung with the reckless certainty of an adolescent sure that no one – no one has ever felt the feelings he is feeling right now; no one as angry, no one as passionately in love, no one as despairing. The cracked adolescent view of the world is central to Wagner, and when not done with passion and a crazed certainty leaves the audience feeling vaguely ridiculous.

Wagner’s characters do love death, and later on I’ll spring off that a bit to talk about Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.

Meanwhile, yay Giants!

That’s 1248 Solano Ave., Albany CA

Up in Berkeley, CodePink and the City Council are doing their best to elect a Republican President. I’ll assume you’ve read about it elsewhere, but the short version is that they are protesting a USMC recruiting center; apparently they chained themselves to the doors yesterday.

I enjoy the theater of politics, and civil disobedience like this is really just theater. Bad theater, in this case, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

But personally, I’d love to see countertheater, and wonder why no one is protesting at CodePink’s headquarters:


If I get up the Bay Area, maybe I’ll go make a giant papier-mache puppet and go visit.

There used to be a really good Chinese restaurant not too far from there…

No on 93. Actually, ‘Hell, no…’

For those readers living in California to encourage you in the strongest possible terms to vote ‘no’ on Prop 93, the Term Limits Reform Act.

In and of itself, I have no objections to the Act; I actually think the reforms proposed are moderate and reasonable.

But I’ve believed for some time that reform of redistricting in California is hostage to entrenched political actors, who will have to be blasted out of their gerrymandered districts with a firehose.

A reasonable redistricting proposal was defeated two years ago, in no small part because the Democratic legislative leadership swore – swore! – that they would do a better job Right Away. That better job has never shown up, and shows no signs of showing up. I’m not sure why I was so shocked at being lied to by pistol-packin Perata and Ab-Fab Nunez; even at my advanced age hope is still a powerful force. The Governator’s cave-in on this issue was shameful as well.

But given the California political leadership’s history of lies on this critical issue, the only lever we have over them is term limits, and to hand that lever away for another empty set of promises seems foolish, even by California political standards (which are pretty low).

So let’s vote this down, and see if we can lever the legislative leadership into acting on gerrymandering, in concert with reforming term limits.