Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mitchell's son's big question of the week (week 3)

Andrew is back for the third installment of the "big question of the week."

This week's question:

What is the most unusual fact you know?

DAD: Now, no obscene things, please.

ANDREW: Whoa, don't I get to decide the limits?

DAD: No, it's my blog...and I'm the Dad.

ANDREW: Awright...(Maybe I should get my own blog...). Anyway, here is my unusual fact:

Right after they mate, the female black widow spider kills and eats the male.

DAD: Um, I thought there were supposed to be no obscene facts--

ANDREW: This is SCIENCE, Dad! Are you against SCIENCE?

DAD: Um, no. I guess not.

ANDREW: Now, what's the most unusual fact you know?

DAD: Most people now know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the creation of the Declaration of Independence. But there are, in fact, three early presidents and important historical figures who died on July 4th. The third is James Monroe--who died on July 4th in the year 1831.

ANDREW: Boring, boring, boring! Is that the best you can do?

DAD: After your mating fact, I thought we needed to calm things down. Of course, there is an entire book on this subject you have...ahem...raised.

ANDREW: What do you mean by that?

DAD: Never mind. Now, go finish your homework and don't look up the link I cited.

ANDREW: Too late. But I still don't get it.

DAD: Good (phew!).

Mark Felt: A Deep Throat

The Washington Post has confirmed that Mark Felt, one of Hoover's top persons at the FBI, was "Deep Throat." However, the title of this post says "A Deep Throat" because I continue to believe Al Haig or others played crucial roles in second sourcing or other aspects of the Watergate scandal.

Background and analysis of Vanity Fair article naming Felt as "Deep Throat":

It is an article in this month's Vanity Fair magazine which has caused the Washington Post to confirm Felt as "Deep Throat."

The Vanity Fair article reveals Felt acted after Hoover's death in May 1972 and after being fed up with the stonewalling from the Nixon White House as to the FBIs investigation into the Watergate break-in.* The FBI had opposed, for what seems like "turf" reasons more than anything else, the Nixon White House's earlier creation of its own "leak plugging" team, the Plumbers. It was the creation of the Plumbers around 1970 that caused Hoover to take a "civil libertarian" position against Nixon.

See also, here, for another reason Felt may have acted: Felt was passed over at the FBI after Hoover died--with a relative outsider, L. Patrick Gray, made the Director. Give the Post credit, too, for making this point in their article.

Felt may claim that he didn't want to do any improper taps without warrants, but in fact he went to jail for doing that as part of the infamous counterintelligence project known as COINTELPRO.

Thus, Felt was no angel or avenging civil libertarian. He was a fed up, bitter old-guard FBI guy. Informers are rarely clean, though, and it's often a tough and cynical world out there, folks.

At least one other Deep Throat:


Woodward and Berstein issued a statement "thanking" their other Watergate sources, which included government "officials". My response is that no matter how much they say "Deep Throat" is a single individual, the Watergate scandals (it was more than a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters) were far too complex for a single individual to have the main information for sourcing purposes (back in the days of multi-sourcing by journalists). While Mark Felt was always my second choice for Deep Throat (yup, I was wrong in not placing him as the primary source), I had believed Al Haig was the primary source. I believed this because the military was upset at the way Nixon and Kissinger were playing footsie with the Soviets and Red Chinese and were beginning to offer concessions that went against the more cautious arms limitation negotiations team for the USA in order to have something to show the public during the 1972 election year--the same year the Watergate break-in occurred. And Woodward did have some acquaintance with Al Haig. See: the book entitled Silent Coup (now available on the Internet) for reasons to think Al Haig was a source for Woodward. See also: lead arms limitations negotiator Gerard Smith's book on the SALT process. Note: I am not saying Smith says anything about Mark Felt or Deep Throat. What Smith describes is his disappointment and anger at the Nixon-Kissinger secrecy and doublecrossing of the negotiations team, sometimes with Nixon taking a "dovish" position for short-term political gain during his re-election campaign in 1972.

Seeking the primary motivation for the Watergate break-in:

While the "Deep Throat" connection is now largely resolved, the main motivation for burglarizing the Democratic National Commitee's headquarters at the Watergate Hotel continues to be debated. I have found increasingly persuasive the view that the break-in was largely about finding information that Democratic Party Chairman Larry O'Brien had on the Greek military junta giving money to the Nixon-Agnew (that's the Greek-American, Agnew) campaign in 1968. See here for a taste of this increasingly likely view of the main motivation of say, John Mitchell, in pushing for the break-in (which, considering John Mitchell's tight relationship with Nixon, may lead to proof that Nixon knew ahead of time about the break-in).

Conclusion: No one Deep Throat, no single motivation:


The motivations of many people reached a "perfect storm" for Nixon in the Watergate scandals. And if anyone thinks it was merely a small time scandal, one need only consult the Huston Plan (see sections IV and V of the web site cited) and read Jonathan Schell's wonderful, though disturbing, summary of the Nixon years, The Time of Illusion (hardcover edition: Knopf, 1975; paperback: Vintage, 1976).

(Edited--MJF)

* Why the article spends so much time discussing Felt's daughter and grandson is one of those distrubing modern trends of excessive dwelling on the "personal."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day: A time to reflect

The history of Memorial Day is nicely summarized here.

But then, my patriotic sensibilities become enraged as I reflect on the current war. What do I mean? I mean:

A. the Downing Street Memo,

B. the fact that the US invasion of Iraq has proven, once again, to be a diversion from our finding and subduing bin Laden and the al-Queda leadership--and worse, counterproductive to that effort and

C. that our leaders added insult to injury to our soldiers by making them fight the second Iraq war with inadequate equipment.

I can understand how some people think that if one opposes a war, one is not showing sufficient patriotism. In this particular instance, those who support this war, starting with President Bush, should bear the burden of defending their patriotism--and have much to atone for on Memorial Day 2005.

Governator: My life as a movie

Exhibit "1": "We had to make a pothole in order to fill it."

What, you expected the Governator to go to a depressed area where there are already potholes?

Exhibit "2": "Places people, places products from my corporate donors! We have a commercial to shoot--for a policy change that will screw regular Californians so I can enhance my already super-rich lifestyle!"

(I am not as certain these ubiquitous products identified in the ad were intentionally placed there. However, when I think about Exhibit "1" above and the Governator's fundraising and propaganda machinations, I cannot say the intent to place products was not there--the burden should be on him in this instance).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Socialist Leads U.S. Senate Race in Vt.

I'll say it again: "Socialist Leads U.S. Senate Race in Vt."

Gosh, I love the sound of that in an age where Barry Goldwater is considered a "liberal" by the majority of the Republican Senators in the United States Congress. Yes, that is the title of the article in the Yahoo! News by a reporter for the Associated Press.

In other Sunday night blogging, I came across a web logger who wrote a great analysis of how deep Bernie Sanders' support is in Vermont.

Also, came across, via Sirotablog.com, a Christian Science Monitor article reprinted on MSN.com about Wal-Mart. It's a nice summary of the issues surrounding the phenomenon that is Wal-Mart--and one is still left with the feeling that what's good for Wal-Mart is only good for Wal-Mart... or maybe China.

And, finally, for the evening, if we were living in a more just world, we'd be talking about reforming Social Security so that rich people didn't rip off their share of paying into the system by forming Sub-Chapter S corporations (thanks to Nathan Newman, labor lawyer and blogger, for catching that one).

What the "death tax" debate says about our politics

This well-written review and summary of a book on the politics of the estate tax (Republican sloganeers have us now calling it the "death" tax) from the London Review of Books is must reading. The book is also must reading and is called "Death by a Thousand Cuts" by Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro.

It sets forth, through a single example, the power of the Republican sloganeers in controlling our discourse, the ineptness of the Democrats, and how Clinton's "triangulation" policies in the 1990s made the Democrats even more vulenerable in the time of Bush II.

This quote from Grover Norquist, as to framing issues, is better than anything I've read, including the otherwise great George Lakoff. Democratic Party leaders, starting with Howard Dean, should take it to heart:

"As Grover Norquist, the godfather of the American anti-tax movement, puts it, ‘you shouldn’t be double-taxed when you die. That’s principle. Well, taxes shouldn’t be quite so high when you die; that’s special pleading. The American people like principled arguments. They do not like special pleading.’"

Compare a speech by Paul Wellstone or Robert F. Kennedy (the brilliant "GNP" speech) to most modern Democratic Party leaders. What we find is that the power of Wellstone's and Kennedy's speeches is based upon the fact that they are mostly based upon principle or better yet, a universal principle.

Speaking of Kennedy, the authors of the book blanch at the following idea for a pro-estate tax ad, which the reviewer of the book and yours truly thought was actually quite fun:

"It would be better, surely, to adopt a strategy that Graetz and Shapiro rule out as much too extreme, which is to find some examples of well-known criminals who came into a stack of money, like Michael Skakel (the Kennedy cousin who was convicted of murdering Martha Moxley), and run with the slogan: ‘Bush favours tax breaks for rich murderers.’

The failure to go for the rhetorical jugular is unfortunately a function of how the corporate media pundit world works: When someone liberal or left uses the type of rhetoric that only approaches Ann Coulter, that person is read off the air with a tut-tut from the suddenly pious Bill O'Reilly and George Will on television and radio, which is then echoed by Cokie Roberts and the NY Times. It's what makes the world of corporate media punditry a "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition with the liberals and Democrats being in the losing position of that particular "game." It would be nice, wouldn't it, if CNN had placed Michael Moore on Crossfire for a week last summer the way they did Jerry Falwell who uttered something at least as horrific as Ward Churchill on the so-called "cause" of 9/11. Falwell's and Coulter's continued presence on television and radio does not merely reinforce a legitimacy of harsh rhetoric coming from the right. Its most important function is to allow the rest of the modern Republican pundits to sound comparatively "moderate."

(slight edit, as usual--MJF)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Israeli media self-criticism

Here is an article by Tanya Reinhart in Yediot Ahraonot, a major Israeli newspaper. Try to imagine the LA Times, which is so hated by extremist US supporters of Israel, printing something of this nature regarding Israeli government conduct and its national media.

Besides showing Israeli government duplicity, Ms. Reinhart is showing that the Israeli media is starting to resemble the lap dog that the corporate media in the US has been for some time.

I should note that I found her rhetoric a bit harsh in the last third of the article. She also appears to recognize that she still has no more reason to believe Hamas than the Israeli government, unlike unfortunately Hezbollah. For the overall Israeli record of invading and occupying Lebanon, particularly as reported by excellent and yet hawkish Israeli reporters such as Ze'ev Schiff, is not a pretty one in terms of honesty or humanity. The Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 may ironically rank among Israel's best moments concerning Lebanon--for it thereafter focused the spotlight on Syria and forced Hezbollah to attempt to act like a government (even as Hezbollah maintained a close relationship with Syria; the ironies abound). This is why I found it rather far-fetched to think the US getting bogged down in Iraq had anything significant to do with the Syrians leaving Lebanon as opposed to more local Lebanese events, especially the assassination of the popular former prime minister early this year.

Selective freedom

The venerable MaxSpeak provides a guide to Bush & Co.'s selective support of freedom. See this earlier post of mine as well.

Better late than never

The "flat"-headed Thomas Friedman of the NY Times finally says what needs to be said among the elite opinionmakers who have enabled Bush & Co. these past several years: Shut down Guantanamo Bay prison. Friedman also says what needs to be said about Israeli policies in both the Gaza and West Bank--which is that Israel should withdrawal from both and complete the wall within those boundaries.

On the other hand, Bob Herbert of the same paper said it better about Guantanamo Bay yesterday.

And of course this story reenforces my initial reaction to the Newsweek trumped up-scandal--which is that the article was probably based in some fact. When one considers all the other things that have gone on at Guantanamo Bay, why would there not be a desecration of the Koran by interrogators or guards? The most ridiculous thing is that true torture and killing of human beings was being sanctioned by US officials in Iraq, other nations where we dumped prisoners, and in Guantanamo Bay--yet our leading Friedman-like pundits end up obsessing about how a religious book was treated in a few instances.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A wonderful web log from England

Check out Bruce Hodder's web site. It is great, fun poetry and he's a Class A jazz fan (of course I love Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, especially, as he does).

As an Anglophile and William Blake fan, I highly recommend this blog!

His latest as of today:

"I have to work, alas

I need cash to rent

this home I'm never in"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Longer work week a result of less unions

US college campus economics departments have likely only now ended their cheering at the effective demise of the French laws mandating 35 hour weeks for larger enterprises. However, it appears that the French law is being scapgoated because, just two years ago, it was shown to have increased employment and people enjoyed the boom in leisure business and time off. (though one has to scroll down to read that).

I bring this up because of this interesting article in this week's Economist magazine which shows that perhaps the increase in hours in American workers' work week and the decrease in hours across Western Europe over the past 35 years is probably based more on the fact of unionization in Europe and the lack of it in America than any other single factor. Very few American economists would have thought of that because they don't see unions as factors in their analyses any longer in the private sector, at least--while in Europe unions still matter.

One particular part of the article caught my attention: Before 1970, Americans on average worked less hours per week or year than Western Europeans as a whole. The article does not say so, but unions were still fairly strong in the US before 1970, which may have itself been due to America having a strong union sector from the late 1930s up till around 1970. This would, interestingly enough, provide further support for the theory floated in the Economist article.

There is a snarkiness behind the Economist article, particularly with its opening discussion of Joseph Stalin trying to force an entire nation of workers to have different 6th and 7th days off--the madness of an extreme collectivist state ordering everyone to have different "weekends." The article also enjoyed pointing out how France and Germany have backed off the shorter work week, at least for now. But it never occurs to the Economist writers that perhaps the competition from workaholic schedules in America may have had an adverse effect upon more civilized work schedules that France and Germany had begun to promote. Perhaps if America took the lead in lowering its work weeks, at least with respect to larger businesses and government non-security related departments, these other nations might find a continuing salutary effect of a less than 40 hour work week. Yes, I know that's a pipe dream in our current environment, and perhaps so with the growth of small businesses over the past two or more decades. The failure to even debate this proposition in our universities or legislatures instead of the usual sex and death issues is what I find most frustrating.

(new title I thought more appropriate upon edit and other edits--MJF)

Mitchell's son's big question of the week (week 2)

Andrew is back again asking, "Who cares if Dad's on the radio? I've got another question for people to offer their opinions here!"

DAD: Oy. Okay, but's let's make it quick, alright?

ANDREW: Okay, okay--

DAD: I already said "okay"--

ANDREW: Dad, let me ask the question! Sheesh! Here it is:

It's almost June. Who's going to be in the World Series for the American and National Leagues this fall?

DAD: Hmmmm...certainly not my beloved Dodgers. In the AL, the ChiSox look great, but the Yanks seemed most determined to make up for their--

ANDREW: No speeches! Just name the two teams!!

DAD: Alright already! The Yanks in the AL and San Diego in the NL.

ANDREW: Anyone else care to try? I say, Anaheim Angels (our family says no to "LA" Angels) for the AL and St. Louis for the NL.


Andrew 5/25/05

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MF Blog on John Rothmann show KGO (San Fran)

On June 5, 2005, I will be a guest for an hour on the John Rothmann radio show on KGO radio in San Francisco, CA. The show airs at the possibly difficult hour of 5:00 a.m. pacific time, Sunday morning. However, that's also 8:00 a.m. eastern time for east coast listeners.

John is a fan of my novel about Robert F. Kennedy surviving 1968. He asked me to join him on his show for the commemoration of the 37th anniversary of RFK being shot while campaigning for president in 1968. I am looking forward to being on John's program. Ironically, through modern communications, I will be speaking with John from NYC, where I will be at the Book Expo along with my publisher, Seven Locks Press. The Book Expo will be fun, too!

If you live in the Bay Area of California, KGO is 810 on the AM dial. It also has a strong, clear signal that may be heard up and down most of the Pacific coast down to Los Angeles and up to Alaska.

And, through the wonders of the Internet, the rest of the nation and the world will be able to listen live on the web here. The KGO web site, unlike many other radio web sites, not only allows one to hear the station through Real Player and MP3, but also Quicktime for the Mac contingent. Impressive.

Final note: I have heard and seen John Rothmann speak over the years, and he is very impressive. I think we might disagree about a couple or even a few things, which should make our discussion even more interesting...

Capitulation, says Feingold

Here is Russ Feingold's (D-WI) response to the capitulation to the GOP hard right on the filibuster issue:

"This is not a good deal for the U.S. Senate or for the American people. Democrats should have stood together firmly against the bullying tactics of the Republican leadership abusing their power as they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Confirming unacceptable judicial nominations is simply a green light for the Bush administration to send more nominees who lack the judicial temperament or record to serve in these lifetime positions. I value the many traditions of the Senate, including the tradition of bipartisanship to forge consensus. I do not, however, value threatening to disregard an important Senate tradition, like occasional unlimited debate, when necessary. I respect all my colleagues very much who thought to end this playground squabble over judges, but I am disappointed in this deal."

Senator Feingold may have finally learned his lesson with the GOP when he agreed to join Republicans in supporting, at least in the Judiciary Committee, the odious, woodenheaded John Ashcroft to be attorney general. At the time, he did draw the distinction between having someone at one's side and a judge or a commissioner at the FCC. But the larger effect of his compromise was to show the Republicans that they could pick apart the Democrats and roll over them in opposition. Feingold had made a bad move, particularly when Bush had already been shown to have lost the popular vote--and Ashcroft was not well liked in the Senate (not to mention Ashcroft having lost his relection campaign two months before his ascension to the AG position).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Capitulation Posing as Compromise

The so-called compromise on the filibustering of judges is a capitulation by Democrats. Allowing the intemperate Janice Brown, the corporate political activist Priscilla Owen, and the general right winger, William Pryor, to ascend to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench is nothing but a defeat for the Democratic Party as a national party. In fact, more than ever, I smell the scent of the Whig Party, circa 1850.

When one considers the hypocrisy of the Republicans having dumped the "blue slip" they used to deprive a Democratic Party president (Clinton) of his judicial appointments, of stopping that president's nominees from even having a hearing (scroll down on link) before the Judiciary Committee, and the fact that 208 (scroll down on link) out of 218 judges Bush has proposed have been confirmed by most Democrats in the Senate, this so-called compromise has no integrity whatsoever.

To save the filibuster for "extraordinary circumstances," when somehow that means Janice Brown is not an extraordinary circumstance, only proves the vacuousness of the phrase in this context.

Please note, however: A commenter at Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly web log reports Senator Lindsay Graham (R-NC) has told MSNBC that one of the "non-extraordinary circumstance" three (Pryor, Brown, and Owen) will be voted down by a bi-partisan majority on an up-down vote of the entire Senate.

Even if Janice Brown is the one sacrificial judicial nominee, this capitulation by various Democratic Party senators who claim the mantle "moderate" nonetheless represents another sad moment in an already pathetic political decade. For regardless of the vote on Brown, she will be found to have passed the test of non-extraordinary circumstances and will become the litmus test used by Republicans against the Democrats exercising the filibuster option.

Update: David Sirota and some others who I adore are trying to say the capitulation is okay since the Freeperland is screaming betrayal at their Republican leaders. Sorry. The freepers screaming at their Republican leaders are lunatics and their inability to see that they've won...again...is consistent with such hard rightwingers having difficulties recognizing reality.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Identity Politics Goes Awry, Part MCXLIV

The belief that if someone is gay or lesbian, such person is a "liberal," continues to confuse our political discourse. As Andrew Sullivan argued, in a somewhat rare moment of lucidity and humanity, gays and lesbians are, in the title of his book, "Virtually Normal."

This means that someone can be gay or lesbian, get placed on a state's utility commission, and yet push deregulation on behalf of the telecom industry at a time when people still can't understand their cell phone bills, can't get out of bad cell phone deals, and telecommunication monopolies continue to re-constitute themselves.

This LA Times story, in the "Business" section on Sunday, May 22, 2005, tells us about a lesbian woman who has embraced her inner Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand and still claims she is a Democrat. And she serves on California's Public Utilities Commission. Here are several nuggets from this article (since the LA Times hides its articles after a short time, I figure let's quote it at some length):

"As the state's highest-ranking openly gay public official, she embraces the party's ideals of civil rights and individual freedoms. 'I'm a Democrat to the core,' she said.

"So why do Republicans love her so much, while many Democrats distrust her?

"On the commission, Kennedy is orchestrating — at breakneck speed — a wholesale revision of state regulation, mostly to the liking of giant regional phone companies SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.

"She would eliminate many economic regulations, including the state's power to set wholesale and retail phone rates. In the process, she is dismantling actions she considers excessively pro-consumer, such as a telecom consumers 'bill of rights' pushed by former Commissioners Loretta M. Lynch and Carl W. Wood.

"'She's the most Republican Democrat I've ever seen,' said Joe Gillan, an economist who has worked for AT&T Corp. and other rivals of SBC and Verizon."

Comment: Wonderful. Kerry loses Ohio on the gay marriage initiative (no time for darker conspiracy discussions) and, adding insult to injury, we get Susan Kennedy in California. The article then provides a brief account of Ms. Kennedy's "life story"--and we know how important one's "life story" is to the political identity crowd who continue to work the back rooms of the Democratic Party with the K Street lobbyists:

"The daughter of an RCA Corp. employee and a church secretary, Kennedy grew up in the tough environs of Rumson, a New Jersey shore town. As a 12-year-old in 1972, she was inspired by actress Jane Fonda's support of American Indian and free-speech causes and opposition to the Vietnam War.

"Five years later, a partial meltdown of a nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island near her new home in Lancaster, Pa., raised her political hackles as the government tried to keep a lid on what happened."

Comment: Not one of these has anything to do with income inequality or the plight of the working poor, let alone the poor. Support of Native Americans, free speech, and nuclear power are issues that allow one to pose as a radical...to the working class voter that goes to the church where her mother works. And wait, it gets better! Little Susan, readying herself to come out as a lesbian, goes to work for the husband of her hero, Barbarella-Hanoi Jane-Aebroic Queen-Wife of Billionaire-And-Born Again Christian Fundamentalist-Jane Fonda!

"After dropping out of Millersville State College in Pennsylvania because she was partying too much — 'My father made me pay him back' — Kennedy headed to Los Angeles and, at nearly 20, joined the Campaign for Economic Democracy run by Fonda's then-husband, Tom Hayden."

Comment: And of course the young and radical lesbian Susan is working hard to improve the world there, isn't she? I mean, she stayed there a long time, right?...Didn't she?

"It was a breeding ground for political training: campaigning, fundraising and field organizing. She quickly became a behind-the-scenes organizer and fundraiser taking on ever-increasing responsibilities in a series of jobs to become one of the state Democratic Party's top field organizers."

Comment: I guess she didn't get enough "face time" with Jane Fonda, after all. Oh well, onward and upward into the political insider world of the California Democratic Party of the 1980s, where the cultural libs and economic corporate types were taking over. And:

"In one of the biggest get-out-the-vote campaigns, which Kennedy helped lead, the state Democrats in 1992 put Feinstein in the Senate and helped put Bill Clinton in the presidency. Clinton's 'solution-oriented mind-set,' she said, is one she emulates and one that too many California Democrats don't appreciate."

Comment: Think I'm too rough on poor Susan here? Get a load of this quote from her. Says Ms. Kennedy:

"We (the Democrats) rightfully get tagged with the baggage that all we want to do is tax, spend, regulate," said Kennedy, now 44. "We measure progress by how many regulations and dollars we throw at problems. I'm tired of having my party being labeled as anti-business."

Comment: Has this woman been living in a cave since 1986? No wonder she thinks de-regluation is such a great idea.

Later in the article, she mentions the name of the odious former Federal Communications Commissioner, Michael Powell--not only without vomiting, but actually sounding sorry for him, as if he was an otherwise solid citizen:

"'No one I know, not Michael Powell, not me, not anybody, has said, "Don't regulate utilities at all." … But you can't even have a conversation about getting rid of some of these old rules that actually hurt consumers today without being called a radical deregulatory icon and anti-consumer,' she said."

Comment: Her statement about Michael Powell, unbeknownst to the LA Times reporter, was no accident. This article from 2004 in the San Francisco Chronicle tells us about her being co-chair of a group with Michael Powell to make the world safer for SBC and Rupert Murdoch. The group held a conference last year at which no consumer advocates were invited and in which she failed to disclose her membership in that group that is funded by industry. Talk about openness, good government, and diversity! Way to go, Susan--you hit the trifecta of modern politics as practiced by that paragon of gay rights, Tom DeLay!

Oh, is that Sean Hannity calling on line 2? "Hi, this is Sean. Is this Susan Kennedy? Great! How'd you like to be the new FoxNews Liberal?"

Now, back to the article. And just what has this woman been up to in the past four months, you may wonder, besides taking part in Gay Pride Parades?

"In the last four months — with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's blessing and aided by the departure of Commissioners Wood and Lynch — Kennedy has spearheaded such major changes as:

• Shelving the nation's first telecom consumers bill of rights eight months after it was passed and recently proposing a much less restrictive replacement.

• Dropping the commission's court challenge to a Federal Communications Commission order that blocks states from regulating Internet telephony.

• Recommending that state lawmakers remove municipal barriers hindering telecoms from offering new high-speed and video services, leaving most broadband regulation to the FCC.

• Proposing a new way to regulate the industry, leaving it with little state oversight.

"Like the big carriers, Kennedy wants to end economic regulation of the industry, said Cynthia Marshall, SBC's senior vice president for regulatory affairs in California. 'She has the big picture. She can construct a win for consumers, business and the state.'"

Comment: Really, Cynthia? And what possible motivations could you have as "senior vice president for regulatory affairs in California" for SBC, which just took over...AT&T!

Some sanity does arrive later in the article where some question Susan Kennedy's positions:

"The fact is, there is no local competition and limited long-distance competition," said state Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey), who is critical of Kennedy's stance.

"Cable and Internet telephony require high-speed connections, she said, and typically consumers in metropolitan areas have only two choices at most for such broadband service: telephone or cable lines.

"And if other modes of competition don't materialize soon, said TURN analyst Regina Costa, a deregulated California would not be in a position 'to clean up the mess.' That kind of deregulation, she said, 'is irresponsible.'"

"Kennedy's rush to overhaul the rules is intended to play into the hands of SBC and Verizon, said former Commissioner Wood. "'You could be sure that if big business wanted to slow down, it would happen,' he said. 'What is really lacking in Kennedy's approach is respect for involvement by ordinary people.'"

Comment: The article charitably gives Susan Kennedy the last word. I, on the other hand, will intersperse my comments below with hers:

"Kennedy argues, for example, that it makes no sense to require SBC and Verizon to file mounds of paperwork before offering a new calling feature that Internet competitors can introduce immediately."

Comment: Such as what? Is SBC afraid of Vonage? And if they are worried about no regulation of Vonage's contracts, then why not regulate Vonage if they're ripping people off with complicated and difficult contracts? What is Verizon afraid of? ...Mozilla? And, Susan, cut the rhetoric of "mounds of paperwork." Ever see the small print these bastards use in their consumer contracts? Ever read the "license" you get when you think you've actually purchased software?

"She would still regulate social welfare, safety and industry matters, such as emergency 911 calling, funding for service to the poor and to high-cost rural areas and the way carriers connect to one another's networks."

Comment: Nice, Susan. Notice she went past what State Sen. Debra Bowen discussed regarding the problems facing urban dwellers, who make up by far the most users in need of services that are pro-consumer. She also fails to recall that the Bill of Rights for Cell Phone users that she helped kill had included protections to allow consumers thirty days to cancel their contracts after signing, among other protections of the consumer from aggressive salesmanship.

"Her efforts are by no means radical, she said. Regulators and legislators in 17 other states already are working on measures that would remove rate regulations and restrictions on bundling services, such as video and broadband. A bill in South Carolina would end state regulation of many other aspects of telecom service."

Comment: South Carolina? Of course, that bastion of left wing reformist movements! And they sure do love homosexuals in that State legislature don't they?

Bottom line: Here is the web site for TURN, which is often a strong advocate for consumers and was an early opponent of California's de-regulation of energy in California--back when the Susan Kennedys of the mid- to late 1990s thought THAT was a good idea.

As for Susan Kennedy, a little advice: Please, please, please become a Republican and add your voice to help restore that party's humanity and dignity for human beings other than fetuses and those who inherit millions from their parents. Your continued presence in the Democratic Party is a betrayal of workers and consumers.

(edited as it was a long post)

Corporate Media Priorities

Lots of stories and air time in the corporate broadcast media about this, and this, and not much if any talk about this.

Notice I took the first two off CNN and had to go the AFL-CIO web site to actually find the information on productivity rising almost three times as high as wages.

I noticed something else at the main CNN web site that bears repeating if you've noticed it before: There is no Economy section. Only a Business section (scroll down). Got that? Not Labor. Not even Consumer. Just... Business.

And CNN is the "liberal" alternative to FoxNews? God help us all.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

An American Peace Corp volunteer in Togo

From Z Magazine (Z Net), here is an American Peace Corps volunteer's account of the recent strife and election in Togo. Too often, even our most prestigious national media does not provide any truly on-the-ground analysis or perspective--particularly in places where the particular American executive leadership does not want to focus any attention and no Americans are dying in any significant numbers.

I cannot say this particular analysis is spot on, but it sounds right based upon patterns of the past 70 years in Africa and other nations in what we still sometimes call the "Third World."

Our nation's leaders are still way behind the curve in understanding the movements toward democracy. The sad truth is that Bush & Co. are more often undermining it or ignoring it in places such as Togo or even Mexico. The irony is that in places such as Lebanon and still possibly in Mexico, where there is internal pressure on President Fox to reverse a previous decision and allow the opposition party Mexico City mayor to run for president in 2006, Bush offers only press conference sound bites (Lebanon) or silence (Mexico).

We won't even speak--it's too sad--about our nation's leaders' inability to understand how other nations such as China and India are building up their infrastructure and internal economies as opposed to wishing it away on tax cuts and arguments about sex and death. Yet, perhaps we should speak of this another time--with links.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Galloway Part II: Hitchens speaks

This is a remarkably judicious column by Christopher Hitchens, especially considering how tough Galloway was on him when they met at the Capitol on the day of Galloway's testimony (Hitchens briefly mentions it in his article).

Contary to many others, I think Hitchens is tired of sipping the Kool-Aid of Bush & Co. and recognizes that the Bushies messed up their "opportunity" in Iraq (I continue to believe Iraq was a dishonestly conceived and wrongful diversion from America's more pressing foreign policy initiatives). Hitch does believe in a Trotskyist sort of revolutionary wave, which I could be sympathetic to, if, say, Robert F. Kennedy was running things. However, by 2002, I saw the reckless record of Bush in terms of his dealings with China, Afghanistan, and other places and blanched at the thought that Bush was seriously going to invade Iraq. That he got away with it, even with the opposition of the establishment conservatives, remains particularly distressing.

Anyway, the Hitchens column is worth a read--especially for those who despise him these days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek and Galloway

An excellent defense of Newsweek which includes a reminder of the consequence of lying by...ahem...someone more important than a newsweekly relatively few people in Afghanistan read.

And while it was enjoyable to read British Member of Parliament George Galloway's smack across the brow of the odious Republican Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, I am concerned that too many of our fellow bloggers are falling in love with Galloway, who may still be less than pure in terms of his relationship with the regime of Saddam Hussein, despite his victory in court in a libel suit against the London Telegraph (who received information from possibly American/British intelligence).

Three things that I have noticed re: Galloway that give me pause:

1. Galloway's head of his charity is a Jordanian who may have handsomely profited from oil trading with Saddam's regime.

2. Galloway stated he was a "friend" of Saddam's foreign minister Tariq Aziz.

3. Galloway decried not merely "neo-cons" for supporting the Iraq war, but also "Zionists." This last term is a mighty broad term to use and...as I said, it gives me pause about this fellow.

Finally, let's restore the focus on the fact that the US government allowed US companies to profit in illegal trades with Saddam's regime within the "Oil for Food" program--and then of course there is the point that the US occupation of Iraq under Haliburton and other companies also has its mercenary elements.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mitchell's son's big question of the week

Andrew, age 11, asks:

ME (ANDREW): What is your all time favorite daily comic strip? My favorite is Calvin & Hobbes.

DAD: You have excellent taste. But I can't decide between C&H, Doonesbury, or Bloom County--and oh yeah, Far Side. (We learned Gary Larson, the creator of Far Side, doesn't like people reprinting his comics...)

ME: Dad, you gotta choose!

DAD: Okay, okay! I have to go with Doonesbury for longevity and brilliance.

ME: Good. Anyone else out there?

Andrew

Monday, May 16, 2005

A FoxNews Liberal Defends An Ideologically Driven Bush Judge

In recent years, Nat Hentoff, a former jazz critic who is still a strong voice for First Amendment and other civil liberties issues, has nonetheless become one of those "FoxNews Liberals" who finds it more exciting to find a single nugget of truth on the rightwing "side" and then assume that the much larger rock of truth on the liberal-left "side" is where the balance of fault or falsity resides.

His latest tirade concerns an obviously shallow NY Times unsigned editorial--unfortunately, such shallowness is not an uncommon trait of such unsigned editorials. Anyway, it seems the NY Times op-ed on April 28, 2005 (no longer available without paying money--arrgh!) castigated, among other Bush II judicial nominations, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown. Specifically, the Times said Justice Brown has been "a consistent enemy of minorities" in her judicial opinions or rulings.

Hentoff attempts to prove the Times wrong by citing three decisions in which Brown dissented from the majority opinions and one majority opinion where she was upholding the rights of the accused in criminal cases. Never mind that Hentoff confuses civil rights cases with civil liberties cases, where there is only a partial overlap (In at least one of the cases, the accused was a white guy; in another, it was unclear). What Hentoff misses is a larger point as to why Justice Janice Brown should not be given a lifetime federal judgeship: Justice Brown has a track record of being hyperbolic and crude in her legal reasoning, and has shown a penchant for politically-motiviated ideological attacks that are inconsistent with judicial sensibilities. And worse, she has in fact penned reactionary decisions in a variety of areas, including civil rights issues--nothwithstanding the few civil liberties cases Hentoff cites.

A review of the cases cited by Hentoff, and discussing some other decisions from Justice Brown, is therefore in order. Hentoff did not provide citations to the actual cases, so I have linked to them through the magic of Blogger (free registration is required at Findlaw.com, however): People v. McKay, 27 Cal. 4th 601 (2002); In Re Visciotti (1996) 14 Cal. 4th 325; In re Brown (1998) 17 Cal. 4th 873; and People v. Woods (1999) 21 Cal. 4th 668.

Reading these four cases in isolation, one might conclude that Justice Brown is a consistent and lone advocate of civil liberties. In Woods, however, she was not alone and again, as we'll see, she enaged in rhetoric that most people would consider extremist in the context of pure politics--let alone judicial opinions. In Woods, Justice Brown dissented, with two other justices, in a case involving a warrantless search of a woman's apartment. The woman, as part of a felony probation deal, had consented in advance to such searches. Yes, my civil liberties antennae were sympathetic to the woman and the use of the evidence found in the apartment against two other residents. However, Justice Brown wrote a separate dissent saying the majority opinion (the majority opinion upheld the search) had "set the history of personal liberties back more than 200 years." Really? Why hasn't anyone else noticed that California has become an unrestrained monarchy with no Bill of Rights? Even in this post-PATRIOT ACT age, we haven't quite turned the clock back that far.

Justice Brown penned a lonely, firery dissent in McKay, but as with her opinion in Woods, she did so with over-the-top political rhetoric and citations more akin to political journals than a court opinion. Here is Justice Brown at page 27 Cal. 4th at 639-640:

"Every court that has approved sweeping search powers in conjunction with broad authority to arrest for minor offenses has acknowledged the potential for abuse. Of course, everyone who has not spent the last 20 years sealed in an ivory tower knows the problem is real. (But see Atwater, supra, 532 U.S. at pp. 351, 353 & fn. 12 [appen.] [121 S.Ct. at pp. 1556, 1557].) A Gallup Poll released in December 1999 indicated more than half of the Americans polled believed police actively engage in racial profiling, and 81 percent of them said they disapprove of the practice. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned (Nov. 2000) p. 4 (DOJ).) Anecdotal evidence and empirical studies confirm that what most people suspect and what many people of color know from experience is a reality: there is an undeniable correlation between law enforcement stop-and-search practices and the racial characteristics of the driver. (See DOJ, supra, at p. 5; Brazil & Berry, Color of Driver Is Key to Stops in I-95 Videos, Orlando Sentinel Tribune (Aug. 23, 1992) p. A1; Harris, The Stories, the Statistics and the Law: Why "Driving While Black" Matters (1999) 84 Minn. L.Rev. 265, 279, 280-281, 295.)"

How Scalia-like that disdaining comment in italics. How Justice Kennedyesque--even worse than Kennedy or Breyer--in the reliance on admittedly "anecdotal evidence."

She went on to passionately denounce racial profiling, while admitting she hadn't bothered to find out whether the fellow arrested was black. I tried to find whether McKay was black or African-American by googling his name with those terms or phrases, but found nothing.

Now, let's go to the web site of one of the "bad" people in Hentoff's article: The People for the American Way. Here is their page of quotations from both Justice Brown's infamous speech at the Institute for Justice on August 12, 2000, her Federalist Society speech, and some of her other opinions. One of those decisions, San Remo Hotel LP v. City and County of San Francisco, 27 Cal. 4th 643, 704 (2002) contained this, again, over-the-top rhetoric that would have made Scalia blush:

"[P]rivate property, already an endangered species in California, is now entirely extinct in San Francisco…I would find the HCO [San Francisco Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance] preempted by the Ellis Act and facially unconstitutional. …Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning a democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government. …The right to express one’s individuality and essential human dignity through the free use of property is just as important as the right to do so through speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion."

In San Remo Hotel, this tribune of the downtrodden, if she had her way (it was a 4-3 decision), would have overturned a local ordinance that required wealthy gentrifiers to help replace lost rental units when they convert their buildings to condos.

The term "kleptocracy" is also part of her tirade in her Institute for Justice speech alluded to above. Does anyone, even Nat Hentoff, think Justice Brown would temper her views if placed on the federal bench for a lifetime appointment?

Careful readers may wish to read Justice Brown's footnote 10 in her dissent in the San Remo Hotel decision. She writes that she is "puzzled" by the "majority's eagerness to discard cherished views of judicial restraint." Wait a minute. Is this the same justice who wrote in McKay that the problem with too many judicial decisions in the past two decades was that they were written by people in an ivory tower? Here is a later paragraph in her dissent in McKay where Justice Brown calls for overturning precedent in a most blatant way:

"...To dismiss people who have suffered real constitutional harms with remedies that are illusory or nonexistent allows courts to be complacent about bigotry while claiming compassion for its victims. Judges go along with questionable police conduct, proclaiming that their hands are tied. (U.S. v. Herring (D.Or. 1999) 35 F.Supp.2d 1253, 1258.) If our hands really are tied, it behooves us to gnaw through the ropes." (Emphasis added)

What I find most disturbing about Justice Brown is that the speeds she is most often set on are "abrasive" and "hyperbolic." Here is another decision, Hi-Voltage Wire Works, Inc. v. City of San Jose (2000) 24 Cal.4th 537, where Justice Brown's majority opinion was so politically motivated in trashing affirmative action (what happened to that attack on the ivory tower judges who don't live in the real world where blacks face discrimination, Madame Justice?) that several of her brethren, including Justice Kennard (a woman justice) felt compelled to write at least partial concurring opinions. The conservative Chief Justice Ronald George had this to say of Justice Brown's rhetoric posing as jurisprudence in his concurring and dissenting opinion:

"I cannot join the majority opinion, however, because in my view the major portion of that opinion's discussion is not only unnecessary to the resolution of the issue before us, but is likely to be viewed as less than evenhanded...Viewing the majority opinion as a whole, I believe it falls short of this standard.

..

"In resolving the issue presented in the case now before us, there is no reason for this court to revisit and reassess past judicial decisions...that considered the general validity of utilizing race or gender-conscious measures as part of an affirmative action program, or to engage in an extended inquiry into whether such measures are or are not consistent with our nation's and our state's constitutional tradition. Our role, rather, is simply to interpret and apply the language of the new state constitutional provision so as to effectuate the intent of the voters who adopted the measure. In my view, the majority opinion departs from that role in a number of respects.

...

"Second, by using misleading and unflattering slogans to characterize past judicial decisions upholding race-conscious and gender-conscious affirmative action programs—describing such decisions as "replac[ing] individual right of equal opportunity with proportional group representation" (maj. opn., ante, at p. 555, italics added) and as endorsing a change "from protection of equal opportunity for all individuals to entitlement based on group representation" (ibid., italics added)—the majority opinion, in my view, will be widely and correctly viewed as presenting an unfair and inaccurate caricature of the objective or justification of the overwhelming majority of race or gender-conscious affirmative action programs. Nowhere does the majority opinion consider alternative rationales for affirmative action programs—grounds that cannot be as easily disparaged when not saddled by the catchphrases ("proportional group representation," "entitlements based on group representation") employed by the majority opinion."

If confirmed, Justice Brown would likely remain a lonely voice in a few civil liberty criminal cases (her record is not as good as Hentoff would have someone believe). However, she will fit right in with other federal judges in the restoration of a predominant judicial variant of Social Darwinism in terms of continuing to overturn economic-oriented national and state laws that had been enacted on behalf of working people and the poor.

Hentoff wrote in his article that he "would have great difficulty voting for Justice Brown because of her support of Supreme Court decisions upholding the economic-priority rights of employers and corporations." Just "great difficulty," Nat? What else do you need to know? Justice Brown should be rejected immediately and without futher delay.

As my only caveat, I should state that I would have likely agreed with Janice Brown on 2 or 3 of the 4 cases Hentoff cited. However, nobody can dispute that Janice Brown brings a new and distinct meaning to the phrase "judicial temper" in her judicial opinions. Worse, she has less of a judicial philosophy than a political philosophy in her decisions--something for which true conservatives ought to be very wary. The bottom line is that Janice Brown's nomination represents a near perfect case for filibustering at this moment in our nation's history. And if "our" side makes some of the same rhetorical leaps that Justice Brown does, then we should call it out--but let's not lose sight of the goal here: Defeating polarizing judges pushed by a lame-duck incumbent after a close presidential election.

(Note: This admittedly long post has been edited)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Planet of the Corporate Apes

Reading this story in the LA Times, I am vividly reminded of the film, Planet of the Apes, as well as countless stories of "superior" beings from other planets who try to take over the Earth. At least there are some people trying to protect the orangutan, but it is ultimately a paltry effort compared to what terrible things have occurred to the orangutan as a result of the Indonesian government's destruction of forests.

The Indonesian dictatorship was of course responsible for genocidal massacres of people in East Timor, as well as forcing peasants inside Indonesia off the land to live in squalor--so that a small elite of the nation could live at the level of upper class Westerners. See here and here.

This is where corporate dominated trade (the term "free" is propaganda, just as conservatives rightly say national health insurance is not "free" medical insurance) is connected to deforestration, animal endangerment, and the loss of jobs for human beings. How anyone can support a World Trade Organization where decisions are made in secret is beyond me--though Bush & Co. are quite comfortable with secret and crony government, as one follows the saga of Haliburton. See here and here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

God Working His Magic

Who says God doesn't exist?

First, he allows Michael Medved to be revealed as a fool--on his own show!

Second, Dennis Miller's show has been canceled.

We thank God for the small things, though we continue to pray for larger miracles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bush on Yalta: Neo-Con History

With President GW Bush repeating an old canard about FDR's conduct at Yalta, it is important to remember what happened before the Yalta conference that was held in early 1945:

1. Churchill had refused American demands for a second front being opened through France, thinking it better to wait and then merely go into Italy. The best source for this is not online, unfortunately. People should review the essay, "NeoConservative History," by Theordore Draper in the NY Review of Books, April 24, 1986 (published in Draper's book of essays, "A Present of Things Past" (Hill & Wang, 1990). The Americans, led by FDR and Eisenhower, as well as Marshall, wanted to avoid having the Russians fight all the way to Berlin. Churchill forced a waiting game until 1944, when the Russians had already run over a good part of Eastern Europe. Churchill expressed his strong "doubts" to Eisenhower about the D-Day landing in June 1944 as the plans were being drawn. He said, "When I think of the beaches of Normandy choked with the lfower of American and British youth, and when in my mind's eye I see the tides running red with their blood, I have my doubts. I have my doubts." A few weeks before the landing, Churchill continued to play a mind game with Eisenhower to keep Eisenhower from going through with D-Day, saying to Ike, "Surely God must tremble at the task before you." Eisenhower knew Churchill was setting him up to take the blame, and did a most extraordinary thing: At or around the time of the landing, Eisenhower wrote a memo stating that if the invasion of Normandy failed, he (Eisenhower) was the sole person to blame. We sure miss that kind of personal responsibility, don't we?

2. Churchill, in October 1944, then made his famous, admitted "percentages" deal with Stalin that effectively awarded most of Eastern Europe to Stalin in favor of Stalin leaving Yugoslavia, Greece, and India to the British (I am citing to the Churchill Centre web site, which tries to spin Churchill's deal as a temporary one, though, as Draper's article makes clear through sources including the top Churchill aide, Anthony Eden, this was clearly a post-war strategy to set up spheres of influence). Churchill, in his own memoirs, said Stalin could be trusted right up through Yalta--and people attack FDR as naive.

So, by the time FDR is with Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, the Red Army is well entrenched in nearly every European country east of Germany. FDR just wants time to maneuever with Stalin, not quite grasping that he is running out of time in his own life. Please see Conrad Black's excellent bio of FDR on the subject, page 1081. For the quote I am referring to in the Black bio of FDR, see, here.

And Churchill? He starts making noises about Poland at Yalta to please the Polish-government-in-exile in London, but this is disingenuous considering he already gave away Eastern Europe through his fighting against the second front for so long and entering into the sphere of influence "percentages" deal with Stalin.

The attacks on FDR's conduct at Yalta are therefore another canard by right-wingers designed to de-legitimize the man who led America through economic crises in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.

Tierney's moment as a stopped clock

John Tierney in this morning's NY Times says the media should limit its reporting on suicide bombers. One can reasonably argue his point is based upon his support of the Iraq War started by the Bush administration through "fixed" military intelligence (i.e. lies). It's quite obvious he sees the terrorist acts as proof that the war was not a good idea--and rather than concede that, he'd rather stop the information flow. Tierney's view will also likely be used as a springboard by the Stalinist thinking Republican leadership as another reason to limit information (as with the Busheviks' decision to stop issuing reports on yearly terrorist acts).

However, there is another discussion that might be useful to engage here. And that is the long-standing critique by most of us on the liberal-left side of the fence regarding the penchant for local news coverage that is based upon this: "If it bleeds, it leads." And nationally and internationally, when CNN and other networks, FOX News especially, incessantly cover suicide bombings, they are also following that rule of news priorities. This attack on the "bleeds-leads" mindset of American media was a neglected point that Michael Moore had made in his sometimes flawed, Bowling for Columbine.

Gangs and suicide bombers are the symptoms of larger institutional and structural problems within a given society--as discussed here. Without context, the overriding message people learn from such stories as gangland slayings and suicide bombers is fear--and it is that fear that led enough voters in 2004 to "not change horses in mid-stream" and give Bush another four years.

Rather than dismiss Tierney out of hand, as Atrios and TBogg have done (believe me, though, I understand Atrios and TBogg on this, too!), I believe there may be a dialogue that could be started that might improve the way in which reporters report events. You know, something like...I don't know...context? Or even debates over...hmmmm...public policy?

The adage that a stopped clock is correct twice a day may be applicable to Mr. Tierney. But let's not lose the moment to help people understand how the media inflates threats with such reporting.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Saw the Strawbs Last Night

For Mother's Day, my wife and I went to see the Strawbs, a 60s/70s band that is best described as a progressive British folk group. This was the "acoustic" version of the Strawbs with founder David Cousins, Chas Cronk, and Dave Lambert, three guitarists who sang with excellent harmonizing. See also this Wikipedia site on the band.

In short, they were wonderful. They have a gentle sound that nonetheless contains robust melodies and beautiful, if sometimes sentimental, lyrics. David Cousins is the Joyce Kilmer of the rock/folk set, with many songs about the seasons, trees, etc. as metaphors for human relations. My wife remarked she had not attended a concert in a long time where she heard so many touching songs for which one could hold hands and hear uplifting melodies. The setting was a local Methodist Church in east San Diego, which graciously provides Acoustic Music San Diego (a folk and folk-rock promotion entity) a space for artists. Next week, Ramblin' Jack Elliott is coming to town and later in the month, Fairport Convention.

This Amazon site gives you a taste of the Strawbs' sound. Check out the following: "Lay Down," "Round & Round," "Ghosts," and "Part of the Union" for starters. IMHO, the Strawbs' best albums were "Bursting at the Seams" (1973) "Hero & Heroine" (1974) and "Ghosts" (1975)-though a case may be made for "Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios" (1970) as well.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Prop 13: Gorilla in the room

This article from the LA Times, May 8, 2005, tells us the California state budget analysts were surprised once again as to the amount of revenue coming into California's state government. This time, though, it was a pleasant surprise of $2 billion more coming into state coffers.

The article fails to mention the gorilla in the room as to why California budget analysts often fail to accurately predict revenue intake: California's inequitable real property tax system for investment real property (Just to be clear: I am not speaking of private homeowners who live in the homes they own).

California relies relatively heavily on income and sales tax revenue, which fluctuates quite significantly year over year. Since Proposition 13 passed, the overall tax revenue from property taxes to California state and local governments has gone down percentage wise. If the state would just repeal a part of Proposition 13 and allow for the current market assessment of businesses, then Disneyland and other businesses that haven't moved for decades can be taxed, for example, in a more equal manner as newer businesses. This reform would greatly increase the revenue coming into the state and local governments in California. It would also allow state and local budget analysts to improve their budgeting as the more stable, year over year property taxes becomes a larger part of the revenue source budgetary pie.

A real world example of the effects of Proposition 13: Just think about this reform on property taxes paid by Disneyland, which hasn't moved since 1955, let alone 1978, the year Prop 13 was passed. There are other loopholes arising from Proposition 13 that should outrage those citizens of the state who believe in prudent budgetary and tax policies. For an excellent analysis of the inequities in the Prop 13 system of investment and business taxation of property in California, see this.

We don't hear about this in most instances because our media will report endless details regarding the most trivial matters while maintaining an iron-clad taboo against analyzing inequitable tax burdens.

There is a second revenue raiser that is rarely discussed, and if it is, is simply ridiculed as "politically incorrect" by well-off t.v. and radio pundits and reporters: Restore the top marginal state income tax rate from 9% to 11%, which 11% rate was the rate under that radical Marxist, Republican Pete Wilson. This restoration makes more sense for California than cutting programs or increasing fees (only propadganda keeps us from seeing fees as a tax).

The greatest irony is that California's Governator is thinking as short term as his hapless predecessor and is reacting to the news of the budget quarterly windfall by reversing some previous proposed budget cuts. His only "plan" is a spending cap, as if that addresses the structural crisis of the revenue boom/bust cycle.

(As I'm new to this, I did some editing!)

Welcome to my blog...I guess

This is my second attempt to put toghether this blog. I am hoping that Mozilla shows me the way to linking articles and web sites that I cite.

The title of this post is simply a play on a song, by the wonderful a cappella group, The Bobs, that was called "Welcome to my fog...I guess." A non-a capella version of the song by the original Bobs member, Gunnar Madsen, may be heard here.

And the name of the blog? It's from the legendary trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's fantastic jazz album, "MF Horn" (1970, Columbia Records).