Ragged Claws

Sunday, November 19, 2006

One of the Things I Love About the Walk from Work...

...is that my office is downwind from a Ghirardelli chocolate factory. When you step outdoors in the evening, you're greeted with a rich smell of chocolate that's like walking into a kitchen moments after a pan of brownies has been pulled from the oven. Mmm.

The area as a whole is fairly industrial - besides the Ghirardelli factory, the BART tracks pass metal and paper recycling plants, yards full of tires and shipping pallets and, most enjoyably, a dour brown complex studded with smokestacks, whose logo proclaims it to be "Mother's Cookies...The Best Little Cookie Company!" Ah yes, that brings back happy memories of the old family assembly line, and how we'd rush home from school every day to eat the thousands of pounds of preservative-laced cookies that our robot mothers had manufactured for us. Good times, good times.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

But Whose Favorite Food Isn't Milquetoast?

So the Democrats have won a majority in both houses of Congress, allowing me the small but definite hope that for the next two years our government may be capable of doing more than that which falls somewhere on the spectrum from "bungling" to "malevolent." Given that the success of Democratic candidates in conservative districts is emerging as one of the main narratives of this election, it will be interesting to see how this affects Ellen Tauscher, the local representative for CA-10. Tauscher does a good job on some issues, especially the environment, but also made a poor judgement call earlier this year when she tried to push aside grassroots favorite Jerry McNerney in California's Eleventh District in favor of Steve Filson, a former Republican who explicitly disdained progressive support. What's troublesome isn't that Tauscher interfered with another district's primary process - she has every right to support the candidates she believes will best serve the interests of the party, just as other California Democrats sought to advance party interests by sending money to a primary challenger in Connecticut. (Cough. Cough. Ahem.) It's also understandable, if not exactly endearing, that Tauscher would prefer a CA-11 representative who's mainly indebted to her rather than to local activists. Instead, the worrisome aspect is that Tauscher doesn't seem to have learned one of the most basic lessons of the last six years, which is that candidates who present themselves as watered-down versions of their opponents ("We hold the same values, only I'm less committed to them!") seldom do all that well. When one of the major complaints against Democrats has been "But they don't seem to stand for anything," it shows a lack of both leadership and good sense to select a candidate whose main quality is his presumed inoffensiveness to the presumed immutable political predilections of the district's voters. McNerney's victory, on the other hand, demonstrated that articulating a positive message and offering a clearly defined contrast to the opposition can be a winning strategy, especially when facing an opponent as unbelievably sleazy as Richard Pombo.

To be fair, Tauscher did support McNerney after he won the primary, lending her presence at fundraisers and contributing to his eventual triumph. Still, it would be nice to see more far-sighted strategizing from a congresswoman who seems to aspire to influence within the House of Representatives, and stronger recognition from the party establishment more generally that many progressive goals - such as a healthy environment, a strong social safety net, equality of opportunity and defense of civil liberties - are neither embarassing positions for sensible people to hold nor impediments to Democratic electoral success.