Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TruthDig: New online magazine

Via MaxSpeak, a new online progressive magazine worth reading called TruthDig. It appears to be founded by those who once inhabited the hallways of the LA Times or know people who did. It is now going to be placed into permanent links as well (In doing so, I should say at this point that I do not subscribe to the content of any of the links in all particulars).

I note there is no advertising. How they are going to pay for investigative reporting and reporters is a mystery.

The article on the current state of China by Orville Schell, a respected China scholar in the US, is a must read. It also contains wonderful links that show us a variety of views about present day China and what the future may portend. Schell's own record, like that of most China scholars in the US, has been far from perfect and this article is written with a humility one does not find in most discussions about China.

The thing that struck me most about the article is (a) China's consumption of resources such as oil and gas makes international cooperation even more important and (b) China has more than enough current systemic problems that we may expect more bursts of instability, political and otherwise, than I would have thought before reading the article.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why rich people aren't taxed enough, part 1 Billion

David Sirota linked to this Lloyd Grove article in the NY Daily News. Sick, really. A $10 million bat mitzvah? Oy vey.

And here I am scraping together $10,000 for my son's bar mitzvah next year and thinking that's probably too much to spend, too. We lose the sense of the moment in all this spending, don't we? On the other hand, try telling that to my parents...

Of course, I agree with Sirota's point that war profiteering needs a Harry Truman like invesigation (Truman, while a US Senator during WWII, spearheaded an invesitgation of war profiteering that always made for exciting reading, though I admit to not knowing whether anything came of it).

Runamok Domain

Today's LA Times article on eminent domain is a must-read. The terrible actions being taken in Riviera Beach, Florida tells me that the coalition of left and right against excessive redevelopment agencies and city councils must immediately work together to pass legislation that reins in eminent domain actions by local governments. It seems that the hysterical response to the Kelo decision about aggressive local government action has had the opposite effect in that it has emboldened the worst from redevelopment agencies and city councils to screw over working class communities in favor of the super wealthy and corporate interests.

As someone who defended the Kelo decision from a position of deference to legislative enactments, I have long believed that most development projects are land grabs that primarily benefit developers and extremely wealthy interests (think of sports stadium deals, for starters). However, unless there is evidence of vindictiveness and corruption, as in the Union County, NJ eminent domain proceeding, or in other places in my old home state of New Jersey, or the situation described in the LA Times article, where there is an obvious land grab for wealthy interests and where the agency and city used a defintion of "blight" that is well above poverty level (though median family income in Florida is approximately $57,000), then the eminent domain proceedings will mostly pass constitutional muster.

But again, the time has come for legislation that will cutrail the scope of eminent domain actions. It is important to recall that the Supreme Court, in Kelo, simply refused to void the New London, Connecticut redevelopment plan for reasons that indicated it was a close call. It did not mean that the legislature cannot rein in the actions of redevelopment agencies or city councils. So let's calm down and just pass the legislation already. Here are examples of legislation that need legislative hearings to ensure they don't overcorrect the problem. The proposed legislation does sound promising, though, in trying to limit land grabs of private property for other private property interests.


Friday, November 18, 2005

My favorite holiday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is truly American and has a secular, pluralistic-oriented sensibility that grew out of the religious context in which it was first celebrated. The holiday has withstood outside commercial pressure better than Easter and Christmas, perhaps largely because the turkey did not become the equivalent of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

The History Channel web site has some eye-opening information on the development of the holiday, which provides us a micro-example of how "tradition" is something that often develops over time, not rigidly imposed "In the beginning..." On the other hand, it was nice to learn the first official feast was a secular ending of a season of harvesting and prayer--though I disagree with the Wikipedia that Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday. It may be Christian in origin due to the Pilgrims perhaps, but not Christian in the way Easter or Christmas is Christian.

While the worst aspect of the Thanksgiving holiday over the past half century is overeating, the best aspect of Thanksgiving is that it is a time for families to come together. This is particularly so as it gets harder and harder for families in America to find their way, throughout the year, to eat dinner together and face each other for any sustained period of hours.

On the other hand, this may also explain how information and feelings that have been bottled up all year get blurted out on the holiday, often at the dinner table:

"I'm getting married (usually to someone whom the family has expressed misgivings)."

"We're getting divorced (usually less of a surprise)."

"I'm gay."

"I'm quitting school."

"I'm moving out and going back to school part time."

"I never liked you."

"I always liked talking with you."

"You have never really told me you loved me."

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut likes to say.

The worst Thanksgiving moment is when someone decides to tell the gathered how a relative molested him or her as a child. That happens too. It may be important to confront, but I'll admit it makes it more difficult to do the ritual at the end of the evening where we hug and kiss each other and say we need to do this more often.

If I would want us to remember anything for Thanksgiving, it is this: Family is the place where they have to take you in when you're down. It is why it is so devastating when the family rejects you or hurts you. No matter how angry we get at each other, maybe Thanksgiving means we should, in most cases, try to give each other another chance. We are who we are, with our individual personalities and world views. But finding common ground in our families is a source of strength and could be a source of joy.

As I'm doing light blogging, if at all, for the next ten days, I'll simply close with this:


Thursday, November 17, 2005

John Murtha sums it up

Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), not a "liberal," though perhaps not as "conservative" as I thought,* laid out a devastating case for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Crooks and Liars has the video here. It is truly worth watching as Murtha reiterates what the generals had told Congress back in September--and various other points readers of this and similar blogs have said.

I was also glad Murtha (himself a veteran of the Vietnam War) noted that while there is evidence of low morale among our troops in Iraq, it is not because of what Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan have said. Unlike a few other Vietnam Veterans--and many more domestic right wingers--who still blame Jane Fonda for the Vietnam War not ending so wonderfully, most of our soldiers in Iraq appear to be blaming the Terrible President, Mr. Other Priorities, Gin Rummy, and Condi Lice for sending them there--on misleading pretexts and without sufficient equipment or troop support.

In stepping out of the DC Village of lobbyists and political con-slut-ants and into the heartland of America, Murtha showed more guts than most of his colleagues on both sides of the Congressional aisles.

What say you "Hillary Biden?" At long last, what say you?

*In two (2) examples of Republican inspired legislation a solid Democrat should have voted "No" on, Murtha was at 50%: Murtha voted for the bankruptcy monstrosity, but voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Score two for the Terrible President

The Terrible President, by allowing Condi Rice to actually follow through with diplomacy, has scored two foreign policy victories:

1. The Saudis are going to drop all economic boycotts against Israel in return for joining the World Trade Organization. What this means practically speaking for Saudi-Israeli trade is anyone's guess, but it is significant from a diplomatic standpoint. (Thank you to my friend at Karmic Inquisition for the tip!)

2. The Gaza Agreement is very significant for Gazans (Palestinians), espeically with the official buses that will take Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza and back. This will lessen the humiliation of checkpoints, though I can hear Likudniks saying, "This will enable terrorists to move freely between those two places, too." Can't say that's wrong, but let's try something besides humiliation and see what happens.

Of course, Jimmy Carter's success in the Middle East didn't do him much good politically...But let's be chartiable and supportive when our President succeeds in bringing nations closer together and away from war.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Beyond Clinton-Rubinomics and towards a new New Deal

Dean Baker, the wonderful economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, presented a paper at a Clinton era oriented event last weekend. Here is the summary at MaxSpeak, which includes the link to the longer paper.

I was struck by the comments at Max's place, however, that questioned Baker's critique of Clintonoid economics and, separately, those who assume the federal government had nothing to do with the tech boom of the 1990s. My comment to this was as follows (I'm off to work and you'll just have to investigate the statements with link research yourselves, unfortunately):

I would say the federal government's cutbacks in military spending under Bush I played an "ironic" role the 90s tech bubble. Why? Because it proved the left leaning Seymour Melman's theory that civilian technology R&D and marketing creates more jobs and greater economic growth than military R&D and "marketing" does. Lots of out-of-work military contractor engineers were working with the 20 something tekkies, for example. The Bush I folks, particularly Cheney, were not thinking of this of course, and would probably grasp at some complicated garbage from the Heritage Foundation to get them out of that conclusion. But facts are stubborn things, as a particular president once meant to say.*

Another federal government initiative that led to the 90s growth was something the Reagan administration did during the 1980s (no, not tax cuts for rich people): The government subsidizing of the semiconductor industry that continued into Bush II. Again, that is government industrial policy favored by the likes of Lester Thurow and Robert Reich, for example, and would include the late Robert Lekachman and Robert Heilbroner. That is not Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, or most Republican policy wonk theory, folks.

Am I giving "too much" credit to Bush I and Reagan? No, I'm showing that their two best things they did had nothing to do with Republican ideology and much more to do with New Deal economics.

As for another commenter. Yes, I'd like to play up the Clinton years as showing how Democrats govern better than the Republicans. And Clinton did govern better when he raised the cap on the Earned Income Tax Credit while increasing the minimum wage, for example. This put more money in the hands of people who spend most of what they have and this fueled consumer demand (a nice New Deal touch here, too).

Again, however, the real issue is that Democrats need to jettison the Grover Cleveland--oops, I mean, Clintonoid positions on the economy on trade, growth, and development. In none of those areas did Clinton prove to be any better than Bush I and Reagan--and on fuel economy development, we know he was actually worse (Fill in sex scandals and Republican majority in Congress in 1994 excuses here).

* My post-comment edit: Reagan once meant to say it, but said, "Facts are stupid things." For Reagan, who thrived on his little "stories" about "welfare Annie" while justifying giveaways to rich people, the error was perhaps revealing about his point of view. John Adams originally said it, though, in defending the British soliders tried in the famous Boston Massacre.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Loyalty to Bush Will Undermine the Republican Party

The Terrible President's latest poll rating is 36%. And 71% of Americans polled believe Mr. Other Priorities is dishonest or unethical. This is not because of mere "politics." People now understand that the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities are both corrupt and incompetent--a dangerous combination.

If the Republicans in Congress do not agree to impeach the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities, they will likely lose the power of one or both houses of Congress. I say "likely" because the Democrats must find a way to stop saving defeat from the jaws of victory.

Republicans in Congress, it's your choice: Jettison these guys or they are likely to spell your doom at next year's elections. And if you don't believe me, maybe you'll listen to the Republican candidate from New Jersey, Doug Forrester.

I hate giving helpful advice to people who stand for screwing over most Americans who are not the wealthy elite. However, I figure, these jerks haven't listened to me before. Why should they now?

So, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, it is past time to save our nation. Place the articles of impeachment before the American people. Now.

UPDATE: Republicans say to Bush, "We are not going to impeach you, but...could you at least find a way the heck out of Iraq we can announce before the 2006 elections?"


Sunday evening reading...

A perceptive article about the Kurds in northern Iraq.

An illuminating article about white people's affirmative action, i.e. the New Deal, and how official racism had led to a wider economic gulf between most whites and most blacks. An article such as this should lead at least some folks to a more sober assessments of affirmative action for minorities and even the Great Society programs, hopefully...Oh, and Frederickson is one of the finest historians of race relations in American history.

And here is Senator John McCain's article in Newsweek as to why there are practical as well as philosophical reasons not to endorse or allow torture to become even "unofficial" US policy.

"Disagree with me? I hope you suffer and die!"

Between Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly, it has been a banner week for the Right wing in America, who want their supporters to think only of the "hateful Left," etc.

Personally, I wish the San Francisco ordinance that got O'Reilly all in a flutter had only banned military recruitment from high schools--and only then because of the recent scandals involving unsavory recruiting practices. Otherwise, US military recruitment ought to be at least as allowable as Merck or Wal Mart showing up. As for colleges, since we let the LaRouchies and other various and sundry strange political groups set up shop at campuses to recriut members, it is, to my view, patently unreasonable to ban the United States government's military branches from having a presence, too.

I also do not support the schools giving the military information on all of our youth that places the burden on individuals to "opt-out" from being on the military's list. But that is going to continue
anyway, even with the San Francisco ordinance, unless school districts opt out of all federal funds--which is not happening. The ordinance reminds me of the Teacher Tendure proposition 74 in California that did not get to real issues of competence and instead seems to be written by p.r. persons or radio talk show personalities.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Governator should announce he won't run for re-election

The defeat of every single one of the Governator's pet intitiatives (Props 74-77) is a stinging rebuke to his "talk show radio" governance. I would not be surprised if he stood up today or tomorrow and said, "You have rejected my reform plans. I will therefore serve the rest of my term and not seek re-election." That may be the only way to protect his pride.

Surely his wife, Maria Shriver, must be saying this to him right now. But whether he listens to her, anymore than he has in running or governing, is anyone's guess.

I am glad the people of California rejected the proposed parental consent law regarding abortion because, as I said, I used to be in favor of these laws until the evidence showed they tended to punish the most poor and abused girls who found themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

I am saddened that voters, who were bombarded with the propaganda from the pharmaceutical industry, and too many otherwise good government folks who fretted about a single provision (dealing with private attorney general lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies), rejected Prop 79. That proposition may have been the only way to protect California seniors and others on fixed incomes to secure reasonably priced medicine. As for the stinging defeat of Prop 80 (the initiative to re-regulate electric rates and distribution), I feel somewhat sad, but continue to believe many Dem Party politicians must wean themselves from Big Energy lobbyists, which may take some doing as the money is always available from Big Energy.

Finally, kudos to NJ (the state where I grew up) and VA for pushing back against the Republicans in the governors' races. If Corzine and Kaine, respectively, can be bold in their initiatives the way Montana Democratic governor Schweitzer has been, this will bode well for more Dem wins in the Congressional elections in 2006. The win in Virginia ought to be making the Rove-DeLay led Republicans wondering about their leadership.

The message is there for Dems. The thing to do is not re-frame as much as show some spine and stand tall for New Deal values, as even a Washington Post writer and insider, E.J. Dionne, understands.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What's the hell is going on in France?

Kevin Drum says what I'm feeling about what's happening in France.

It seems like the poor, local French criminal gangs have loosely joined with Muslim immigrants to act in a manner that is destructive beyond the type of riots one saw in American cities in the 1960s. It seems far more provocative and more like an attack on society than a riot.

Doug Ireland, however, undermines my "sense" stated above when he points out how the French government, for all its civilized economics, has pursued particularly loathsome economic policies and clannishness--from DeGaulle through Mitterand through Le Pen--that keeps these immigrants from gaining any further employment than menial labor and puts them on the dole at the drop of a hat. See also this LA Times article which carries the sub-heading, "Reacting to the first death in France's unrest, they lament joblessness and discrimination." If that is true, then my new surprise is why this rioting hasn't happened sooner.

I think, however, the reason this hasn't happened sooner is that we're now waist deep in a global religious fanaticism that is driving political grievances--and Europe is higher than waist deep with a small, but still significant, fanatical Muslim immigrant population that seethes with resentment against the West, secular liberals, Christianity and of course, Jews.

In a post I wrote back on June 18, 2005, I discusssed those particular elements within Muslim immigrant communities who have no desire to assimilate into the larger culture of the European nation in which they continue to live. It is one thing to be an Amish community in Pennsylvania where there is little violence that spreads outside the Amish community itself. It is another to be a Basque separatist blowing up buildings and killing people in the rest of Spain. Now, as we are learning, it is at least somewhat different to be a fanatical Muslim cleric from Morroco or Lebanon, now living in France or the Netherlands, who says we have to kill Christians, Jews, or assorted "secularists" or "liberals" or generally, "infidels"--and may be moving arms or soldiers or recruiting suicide bombers.

The November 7, 2005 LA Times has the latest on this issue in the Netherlands. The article is about Somali-born and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her fight from within a particular vocal and violent Muslim immigrant community. Ms. Ali was the subject of the Nation article in June that I was commenting upon in my previous post cited above.

So what is to be done, if I may quote a rather odious fellow who had no respect for democratic processes or much respect for pluralism at all? Well, the answer should humble both the so-called "liberals" and "conservatives."

1. Immigration should be limited as there are enough unemployed inside Western Europe and America (remember the unemployment rates are about the same in Western Europe and the US when the criteria are the same);

2. Educational programs and job training must be brought to those communities where there has been the most resistance to integration, whether immigrant or merely native born "poor;"

3. Tony Blair may have it correct that Muslim immigrant communities in Europe (less so in the US, it seems) need to be made aware that violent rhetoric against governments and a refusal to cooperate with authorities with regard to so-called honor killings and other violent behavior will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted when actionable.

It's not a perfect solution. It does, however, recognize that the so-called "liberal" and "conservative" philosophies each have something to offer and that they are not mutually exclusive. Is this "the" solution? No. But people better start discussing this as a policy issue soon or else we'll be hearing a lot of solutions that are far more ugly than anything proposed here.


The delusion of "reform"

Golden State's Mike Hiltzik's November 7, 2005 LA Times column provides us with an essential narrative to understand the California propositions on the ballot tomorrow, November 8. (Link is to his blog so you don't have to "register").

Perhaps we can have a proposition to end propositions? I'd like to see that. The truth is that if we lost that right, perhaps we would better organize as a State and hold our politicians much more accountable.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Alito: Corporatist

This article from today's LA Times is an excellent summary of the pattern and jurisprudential practice of Judge Sam Alito. He is a corporatist and Bush has absolutely no mandate to place him in a lifetime position on the Supreme Court.

I say this even if he upholds Roe v. Wade. Alito will cause far more harm to all human beings with his judicial activist stances on standards for the burden of proof in civil rights and other simliar cases--and his inability to understand the proper and original scope of Congress' powers to enact economic legislation and the scope of the commerce clause. See: This Nathan Newman post.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Vote "no" on most CA propositions

Short cut: The League of Women Voters say "no" to the PROPS 73-78 and 80. They are only saying "YES" to Prop 79. And yes, Ladies of the Vote, you all and I are on the same page--except Prop 80 (Electricity re-regulation). The Ladies of the Vote say "no recommendation." I say "Go for it..."

PROP 73: Parental notification. NO. I used to be for these, until I learned that other states that have these laws mostly send abortions underground. Plus, most girls will tell their Moms at least--so why force the poorest or most fearful-of-parental-abuse girls to tell their parents or face a judge? The League of Women Voters' analysis is worth reading as they show CA abortion rates are already dropping. Plus, they say "research "suggests that parental notification can have the negative consequence of putting adolescents' health at risk by delaying and otherwise complicating access to care."

Do I even have to talk about PROPS 74, 75, and 76? Okay, just a little.

PROP 74: TEACHER TENURE APPROVAL EXTENSION. NO. I mean, really, five years to wait for tenure-- when school districts are already effectively weeding out teachers after the first two years? Just ask a principal or someone who knows a principal. For the "old wood," let's just ponder how much is really out there and then ask, "How many bad lawyers are out there?" "How many bad doctors?" We somehow expect more from teachers than other professionals and think schools are in worse shape than they are. The only thing I'll say against my position is that if this passes, nothing will change much for most teachers. But that begs the question of whether anything will improve, either. Why bother to vote for this thing that seems to have been written by right wing talk show hosts?

PROP 75: PUBLIC EMPLOYEES POLITICAL CONTRIBUTION LIMIT. NO. If we did this for corporations, I'd feel a bit better here. But let's not make false equivalents. Unions, unlike corporations, tend to fight for workers in general, including non-union workers in areas such as minimum wages, health and safety workplace rules, etc. Do corporations fight for anyone but themselves? Also, only 54% of public employees are in unions per the League of Women Voters. Also, union members already are told by unions they can withhold political contributions; the unions must already report to each member how the political money is spent. The League also says corporations out spend unions 24-1. I have another cite from the 2002 election cycle where corporations outspent unions by over 10-1. Finally, in the late 1990s, when this initative was last brought against all unions in the State, it turned out that only $2 of monthly dues went for political campaign contributions in any event.

PROP 76: BUDGET REFORM NO. Anything that complicated that doesn't even reform PROP 13 concerning business property taxes (only) is not even worth debating. Michael Hiltzik, the best business writer in any American newspaper, can tell you why if you want to know.

PROP 77: REDISTRICTING. NO. See post immediately below.

PROP 78: PRESCRIPTION DRUG ACCESS. NO. The pharmaceutical companies are backing this. Need we even say more?

PROP 79: CONSUMER ORIENTED PRESCRIPTION DRUG ACCESS. YEAH, WHY NOT? Michael Hiltzik says he is troubled by PROP 79's allowance of private lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies if the Attorney General won't act on complaints of violations of other sections of Prop 79 or price gouging. I'm troubled, too. But he admits the rest of Prop 79 is more than reasonable. I'm willing to take the chance that pharmaceutical companies get sued too often. They know their way to the legislature and can get this reformed--and voters are pretty kind when they see too many lawsuits against businesses (See: Prop 64 which narrowed the California Unfair Business Practices Act, said limits passed in 2004). My concern is that those taking medication are just waking up to the rip-off "reform" that the US Congress and Terrible President passed and this may be the best "stop gap" medication-takers may have for a long while.

PROP 80: ELECTRICITY REGULATION. YES (with sadness because it will likely lose big). Reading this article (found "cached" link), I believe we're better off with this proposition because our Dems and Reeps are so bought off by electricity power brokers (the 1996 De-regulation was a bi-partisan affair) that here, we can take a leap. The key is that, even with changing technologies that may bring long-distance electricity, both businesses and consumers need to have local access in order to fight utilties when they act badly. Also, we're less likely going to get solar and wind development without local control and local action. The League of Women's Voters give us this information guide on Prop 80.

Well, that's my take. The vote is Tuesday, November 8. Californians, do your stuff and VOTE. Unlike the Governator, who called this special election in the first place, and yet wants to have a low turnout, I am saying "VOTE" even to folks who disagree with me. Voting should be our best measure of popular views, but it isn't because less than half tend to vote and even more don't vote when one counts those who don't even bother to register. So, please: Be a citizen who cares and vote!

No to California Redistricting Proposition 77

Proposition 77, if passed, requires the Legislature to give up part of its power to redistrict to the Governor and the main portion of its power to retired judges. The initiative's only "stop gap" against retired judges being in control is to have an expensive referendum for voter approval of what the retired judges decide. If its rejected, then the retired judges go back to the drawing board for another redistricting and referendum.

All the while, however, the assembly, state senate, federal congressmembers, and federal senators, will have already run and been elected on what is likely to be rejected--and then find they'll run on different structured districts next time, which again, might not hold.

If this sounds confusing and wasteful...well, it is. Heck, even the League of Women Voters, who tried a similar plan 10 or so years ago (Prop 119), have come out against this proposition.

This pro-Prop 77 report from the right-wing folks at Claremont College in Claremont, CA have fun showing weird shaped districts. But this is misleading as one may show such weird shapes no matter how districts are drawn. Even Prop 77 says the judges must adhere to the following rules (See: sub-section 2(a) through (i) of the initiative):

1. "The population of all districts of a particular type shall be as nearly equal as practicable. For congressional districts, the maximum population deviation between districts shall not exceed federal constitutional standards. For state legislative and Board of Equalization districts, the maximum population deviation between districts of the same type shall not exceed one percent or any stricter standard required by federal law."

2. "Districts shall comply with any additional requirements of the United States Constitution and any applicable federal statute, including the federal Voting Rights Act."

3. "Each Board of Equalization district shall be comprised of 10 adjacent Senate districts and each Senate district shall be comprised of two adjacent Assembly districts."

4. "Every district shall be contiguous."

5. "District boundaries shall conform to the geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county to the greatest extent practicable. In this regard, a redistricting plan shall comply with these criteria in the following order of importance: (a) create the most whole counties possible, (b) create the fewest county fragments possible, (c) create the most whole cities possible, and (d) create the fewest city fragments possible, except as necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section."

6. "Every district shall be as compact as practicable except to the extent necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section. With regard to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant."

7. "No census block shall be fragmented unless required to satisfy the requirements of the United States Constitution."

8. "No consideration shall be given as to the potential effects on incumbents or political parties. No data regarding the residence of an incumbent or of any other candidate or the party affiliation or voting history of electors may be used in the preparation of plans, except as required by federal law." (Italics added)

Does anyone think we won't wind up with some weird configurations under this plan, either?

More troubling, and not much remarked upon, is that numbers 4, 5, and 6 above are recipes for diluting the political power of densely populated areas in Southern California, whether city or suburbs (and number 3 is really bad that way in diluting densely populated centers' rights for the tax board). Creating districts that are "compact" and "contiguous" will, practically speaking, lead to more power for the poorly populated eastern and far north regions of the State where relatively few people live. If you live in the Southern California basin, this is bad for you regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican. (Note: The two bloggers linked to in this paragraph talk about its adverse effects on Dems in the cities. I think they miss the point that plenty of Republican voters in the suburbs are also diluted in representation if a plan was too contiguous and compacted).

As it is, agribusiness has lots of power in Sacramento and Washington DC. And recall how much we in the suburbs and cities already subsidize the water for agribusiness. Anyone want to wonder what happens when more political power through redistricting tilts further toward the agribusiness interests? And please, I'm not anti-farmer. I just hate seeing wealthy interests, whether computer magnates, fast food behemoths, oil companies or agribusiness suck on the public teat while we worry about deficits, debt and spending cuts.

And please don't assume the US Supreme Court will bail us out if the retired judges who draw the boundaries guess wrong and just 50.1% of our citizens vote to approve the plan. The law has sometimes intervened on behalf of ethnic and racial minorities, but even there it's uneven and unpredictable. However, I'd bet nobody in the suburbs would likely prevail in any challenge to a redistricting plan that dilutes the suburbs' votes.

The best argument against my point about diluting the population centers' political power is this: The referendum process would stop such a proposal as the population centers would get together and shoot down such a proposal. A fair argument, but one that makes me wonder whether enough of a majority of such voters would do so. Plus, if we in the densely populated areas did reject such a plan, Proposition 77 requires, by its workings, that at least one election occur under that soon-to-be-rejected redistricting proposal. Again, what a mess.

Frankly, I hate poorly drawn districts and I hate the fact that the Dems and Reeps in Sacramento were drawing the districts to protect incumbents.

However, as bad as the last drawings were, they...ahem...passed constitutional muster which again shows why the courts are not stop gaps to a close election approving a plan that could well dilute suburban and urban voters, who make up the majority of the state. In all, we can live without this initative rather than enter into an experiment that is costly and likely to result in more bad results than what the legislature has crafted. It goes back to the remark that supposedly Winston Churchill said "...(D)emocracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."



Wednesday, November 02, 2005

35% and Dems can't say "filibuster"?

The Terrible President has an approval rating of 35% (with 57% disapproving of him). Cheney's approval rating is at 19%. The Republican Congress' approval rating? 34%.

And a Gallup (more conservative tilt historically) poll shows 53% would say no to Alito if he was against Roe v. Wade, with only 37% saying yes to Alito in that instance.

Yet, it's right-wing Republicans in the so-called "Gang of 14" who are issuing not so veiled threats about the "nuclear option" (killing the filibuster) while Democrats are afraid to talk about filibustering Alito.

Come on Dick Durbin (D-IL)! I can't believe you said this:

"I don't know a single Democrat who is saying that it's time for a filibuster, that we should really consider it," said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, after meeting with Alito on Wednesday. "It's way too early."

Alito is a pro-corporate jurist who also, as noted in an earlier post, sides with government when it wants to be oppressive, but looks to limit government laws that would help people who are at vulnerable points in their lives or suffer discrimination.

Roe v. Wade? Well, he won't say, but Alito told Senator Durbin (see link above) he'll support Griswold v. Connecticut, which is the "right to privacy" decision from 1965 that is a basis for the later Roe v. Wade ruling. That's nice, but I wonder why nobody asks Alito or any of these nominees outright: You mean from the time Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 to the present time, you never stated your view of Roe v. Wade to anyone? Yeah, right.

The Democratic Party leadership needs to understand that the Terrible President has no mandate for any candidate his right wing supporters want. None. And with his polling in the toilet for reasons that are crystal clear to anyone who even remotely follows the news, there is no reason why truly "moderate" Republicans can't line up with Democrats and torpedo this nomination the way the rightwing did with Harriet Miers. But as usual, it appears the magic of the Washington DC beltway renders these people tone deaf and, I hate to say it, afraid to stand up for their beliefs and for the majority of people in our nation.

Yes, this is "political." But it is also "political" for a president with no mandate to pick a far right judge that the majority of people in our nation, in a referendum, would likely reject.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New blogger: Michael Hiltzik, biz writer for the LA Times

Michael Hiltzik, who is the best business writer for any newspaper in the US today, has announced he has a new blog called Golden State and I have added it to my permanent links just below Kevin at the Washington Monthly.

Hiltzik's columns in the LA Times are must and always insightful reading. Unlike most business section columnists, Hiltzik cuts through corporate b.s. with knowledge and integrity. This past summer, Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly talked his bosses into letting Hiltzik do some blogging. He was, not surprisingly, great and the LA Times finally realized it might be a good idea to let Hiltzik have his own blog at the newspaper's web site. Good for the LA Times!

Now, maybe the Times will really wise up and give Patt Morrison her own blog, too...

P.S. Check out Hiltzik's spot-on book on Social Security here.

Intelligently designed issue of "Natural History"

I advise everyone to get hold of a copy of this month's "Natural History." It contains excellent articles on Darwin and evolution. The articles also do a great job exposing so-called "intelligent design" advocates by offering example after example as to how many "designs" of organisms are not very efficient or frankly intelligent.

Our family recently joined the San Diego Natural History Museum and receive this magazine through our membership. I applaud "Natural History" magazine's willingess to step into this contentious subject that should not even be rising to a controversy in a sane world.

I tend to side with Stephen Gould in these matters, who rightly said that science should be based upon observation, hypothesis, and doubt. Why introduce religious oriented arguments that cannot even rise to a scientific inquiry or analysis?

Anyway, the issue and the magazine are well worth a read.