Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The "politics" of a US withdrawal from Iraq

As most readers know, the Busheviks argue that if the US leaves Iraq, things will get worse for many Iraqis. Apart from the still valid question of what "worse" means, let's play along with the Bushies for a moment. Let's first agree, again, for the moment, that it is probable in the first six months after withdrawal, the conditions for most Iraqis will be worse from a security and economic standpoint. I think that is probable because of the civil war going on in that nation. However, even the Busheviks say we have to wait two years for stability. Therefore, let's think about the US starting to leave now, and then fast forward two years. I am of the view that within two years of our nation's immediate withdrawal, Iraq would likely stablize or finally divide into three regions or nations (Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shias in the Southern regions)--if we leave now.

We can stay, but really, the point in staying makes little sense when the people who you are claiming to help don't want you there. For the evidence continues to show our immediate and continuing presence is not wanted by a majority of the people of Iraq, which means things are likely to get better even sooner IF we left immediately.*

This post, however, is about the US domestic political dynamic if the US military left Iraq.

If the US immediately left Iraq, we know that if conditions became even worse for many Iraqis--and, again, from a security and an economic standpoint--the Busheviks would say, "See, we told you so. The US should have stayed in Iraq."

However, I am also convinced of something else. If the US immediately left Iraq, and conditions improved over a couple of years or so for many Iraqis, the Busheviks would likely take credit, too. The Busheviks would say, "See, we told you Iraq would stabilize. Aren't you glad we didn't leave until the structure of peace and stability were in place when we left?"

The corporate media, which continues to showcase those who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, will merrily go along with that after-the-fact spin--and those who were against the war and for a withdrawal would continue to be demonized as "unrealistic" or worse, "anti-American."

But we should not get depressed over this potential dynamic or scenario. As the recent election showed, more and more Americans are waking up to the corporate media pundits reflecting a corporatist-elitst bias against working folks' interests and the corporate media punditocracy's servility to Republican National Committee talking points on matters of foreign affairs or national security. Also, while I don't expect a withdrawal of troops before Bush's term of office is up, unless Bush and Cheney resign or are impeached (Cheney's resignation may come, but Bush's resignation or impeachment are highly unlikely at this point), the "politics" of withdrawal from Iraq is still something to watch in terms of a political dynamic.

And as Americans harden in their belief that the US should withdraw, it may prove difficult for the corporate media to spin this in favor of those who continue to push for "staying the course."

* A careful reading of the linked poll reveals something I have noted but not articulated at this blog: The Kurds did relatively well in establishing some autonomy during the "no fly zone" 1990s era under Clinton (while Saddam was still in power, I might add). Also, since Saddam was toppled, the Kurdish region has seen little of the violence that has gripped the Sunni and Shia regions of Iraq--and again, its autonomy continues to grow. This appears to explain why the Kurds like a US presence, though if the US left, I doubt the Sunnis or Shias are in any position to invade and occupy the Kurdish region. The point, though, is that speaking about "the Iraqi people" without understanding the regional ethnic breakdowns, and the overlap of ethnicities in certain eastern and western regions of Iraq, is to be potentially painting with too broad a political brush.

(Edited to clarify some thoughts)

Monday, November 27, 2006

I saw the movie misnamed "Bobby"

On Thanksgiving night, I saw, with my Dad, the movie "Bobby."

First, it should have been called "The Ambassador" because it was more about the Ambassador Hotel than Bobby Kennedy. It is better than California Suite, but it was not quite as good as The Grand Hotel. Still, it was a wonderful homage to the Ambassador Hotel, with powerful and effective performances by the various actors in the film.

Second, the clips of Robert Kennedy were powerful to people such as my Dad and me, but, in both my Dad's view and mine, the clips failed to sufficently reveal to a younger audience why RFK is relevant today. RFK's speech concerning Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination (and violence in America) and his final speech were there, but there was little connection, in my view, to the way most people live today.

Third, I was extremely unhappy to see Estevez change the identities of who was shot along wtih RFK that tragic midnight hour of June 5, 1968. SPOILER ALERT (Don't read if you're planning to see the film):










Why have fictional characters shot at with Sirhan's gun (such as the hotel's supervisor over the bus boys and a couple of young campaign workers, among others)? My view (shared by my Dad) is that Estevez was admitting he really could not connect the story of RFK to the stories of the people in the hotel--who, apart from the two young campaign workers, would not even be talking about RFK at all if Kennedy's victory speech was at the Biltmore, not the Ambassador. To not show the actual people who were shot, such as Paul Schrade, the United Auto Workers representative on the campaign who was shot in the head and miraculously survived, is insulting to those persons. Also, Estevez is so interested in having Sirhan be the only shooter that he fails to show (at least in any way I noticed) the private security guard on duty at the Ambassador, Thane Cesear, who was right behind RFK at the time and could have, by accident, shot RFK in the back of the head.

There is a whole bunch of information about Cesear, who was exonerated by Dan Moldea (see a discussion of Moldea's RFK book here), but leaves both my Dad and I with doubts as to whether Cesear could still have pulled his 22 caliber (he owned one at the time, but says he had his 42 caliber gun that night) and, trying to hit Sirhan, hit RFK instead. Cesear says he froze and did not take out his gun, and passed a lie dectector test with an FBI agent who Dan Moldea specially hired for the occasion. Who really knows, though? Plus, there is the issue of Cesear being a young white guy who hated RFK and was supporting the racist candidacy of George Wallace at the time. Again, who knows? As my Dad reminded me, and I should have spoken of in this last post, one gets to a second gun man with Cesear and there is no need for a conspiracy theory at all--just a tragic accident. There are some, however, who would include Cesear in the conspiracy, particularly Cesear's move to the Philippines and lack of full candor to police (he says he had sold his 22 before June 4, 1968, but that turned out to be false, for example). Such conduct continues to stir the conspiracy theory folks.

Again, as I said in this post, there is a reasonable possibility of a conspiracy to kill RFK, just not enough evidence for me to say there is a probability--at least at this point.

To get back to the point, though: Estevez could have easily had someone playing the security guard, Thane Cesear, present, made a choice to have Cesear not pull his gun to shoot (or have him shoot, for that matter) and at least had stayed to history. He was not writing an "alternative history" and changing the moment as someone else has already done in book form at least. The sad thing is that young folks who don't know about the assassination (and many older folks who didn't know or don't remember) will walk out of the theater not knowing there were real, not fictional people shot besides RFK that night and who those people were.

The film is worth seeing for the performances and the Bobby clips, but one should approach the film as being about the Ambassador Hotel on the night RFK is assassinated. To boil down my criticism of the film, it is really that Estevez made a very poor and ultimately misleading choice of a title, "Bobby," because the film does not live up to that name in terms of telling us about RFK's legacy. The film does, however, live up to being an insightful film about the lives of people at the Ambassador Hotel during the 1960s.

Final comment: For an interesting story about a woman who was the pubilc relations manager for the Ambassador during the 1960s and 1970s, see here. I met Margaret Burk, the woman in question, when my book was published. She was very supportive and had me speak before her "Round Table" groups of society folks about RFK and his legacy. Her book on the Ambassador Hotel is here.

(Edited; also got links working again! Hooray!)

Monday, November 20, 2006

On my book on Bobby, the movie "Bobby" and his assassination

I've had a strange year with my novel, "A Disturbance of Fate" (Seven Locks, 2003), which is an alternative history about Robert F. Kennedy surviving the assassination attempt and becoming president instead of Nixon. The book was supposed to have been released by ibooks, Inc. as a soft cover in the spring of this year--then ibooks filed for bankruptcy on February 22, 2006.

It took me from that point until the end of October 2006 to confirm, with ibooks' bankruptcy trustee, that I was again the owner of the book's soft cover rights (I own all the other rights). Unfortunately, ibooks' distributor has been slow in alerting retail bookstores to de-list the soft cover version, which had the cheesy title of "The Mantle of Camelot." Ugh! ibooks created that odious title without my persmission and in contravention of my contract with them. Thank goodness I now have an agent, Noah Lukeman, who is going to be taking my book around to larger publishers for publishing the soft cover, with the original name intact!

And now for a shameless plug
: Amazon Shorts is planning to publish my essay next week entitled "How Bobby Kennedy wins the 1968 election," which is my more scholarly (as opposed to novelesque) response to those who believe Robert Kennedy could not have won the election had he not been killed in June 1968. In this, I am challenging the views of respected historian Ronald Steel's "In Love with Night: The American Romance with Robert Kennedy" (Simon & Schuster, 2000).

Ironically, for once, my book saga appears to have decent timing because...now, there is a movie being released this week entitled "Bobby", which appears to be far less about Robert Kennedy than about people inside the Ambassador Hotel on the night Robert Kennedy was shot. The clips look pretty good, but I admit to initially having had this sinking feeling that the film resembled the film, "California Suite"--except with RFK as a prop. While I tend to discount most film critics, who prefer violence and cynicism to sentiment, it appears, so far, some critics are not overwhelmed by the film. Here, however, is a positive review of "Bobby."

My folks have become upset with "Bobby" director-writer Emilio Estevez because he is supposedly telling interviewers on shows like "Inside Hollywood" that he doesn't know how to answer the "What if RFK lived?" question. My Italian-American Mom yells at the television set, and I quote without the epithets (!), "You know! Your father has had my son's book for four years--and you probably came up with your idea only after you saw my son's book!" Sigh. For the record, Estevez has said elsewhere that he came up with his idea before 2002, which is when I personally put the first third of my manuscript in the gracious hands of Martin Sheen--but Mom is not buying that at all. So, I just tell my Mom, be happy for Emilio. Don't hold a grudge against him because he wrote his own very different story and didn't make a miniseries or movie out of my book. I, for example, will always love Estevez for "Repo Man" and "The Breakfast Club," and that's enough for me. Plus, he is genuine in wanting people to know about the legacy of Robert Kennedy.

WAS BOBBY'S ASSASSINATION THE RESULT OF A CONSPIRACY?

Short answer:

Maybe, but still less than likely from a legalistic perspective.

Longer answer:

Yesterday morning, my friend Pamela sent me a link to this article in the Guardian that claims there were CIA operatives, who hated RFK for not being tough enough in trying to overthrow Castro, who were at the Ambassador the night Sirhan fired the bullets from his gun at RFK. If true, this is significant for those who believe RFK's murder was the result of two or more people engaged in a criminal enterprise (the legal definition of "conspiracy."). Unfortunately, at this point, I have no way of verifying the author's information, and the author provides no sources as to what video or film he is looking at to verify the identity of the CIA operatives who were there that tragic evening.

The conclusion of the Guardian article contradicts what is a definitive book, by Dan E. Moldea, entitled "The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy". Moleda, who is one of the finest investigative journalists in the nation, found insufficient evidence of a conspiracy to kill RFK. Moldea also answers the other statements the Guardian writer made regarding Sirhan and the assassination, which the writer, perhaps for lack of space, failed to provide for his readers.*

*DISCLOSURE: Moleda strongly endorsed my novel when it was released--his blurb is on the back cover of the book. I did not know Moldea before writing the book and was honored when he was willing to read the book and give his opinion of it. We have since become friendly and correspond every once in awhile by email.

Anyway, Moldea has always had credibility with me because of his fearless and accurate writings about organized crime, as well as his persuasive evidence concerning the involvement of "the Mob" in the murder of President Jack Kennedy. Robert Blakey, who was lead counsel for the House Committee in 1978 investigating the murders of John and Bob Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., is now of the view that John Kennedy's assassination was a "Mob hit." He reached this conclusion after viewing the evidence assembled by Moldea.

As for the Guardian article, I can say that none of the individuals mentioned in the Guardian article are mentioned in Moldea's index of names at the end of Moldea's book on RFK. I also don't recall mention of these folks, other than perhaps Morales, in Phil Melanson's work. Melanson, unlike Moldea, had concluded there was more than one person involved and more than one person with a gun to kill RFK.

My personal view has been that there is evidence consistent with a conspiracy, but that evidence can be reasonably interpreted against a finding of a conspiracy. Also, to make the conspiracy case that exonerates Sirhan requires a belief that Sirhan was hypnotized into shooting at Kennedy--sort of a "Manchurian Candidate." Is that sufficiently realistic? For me, I tend to doubt such things. On the other hand, since I do believe Jack Kennedy was likely killed as a result of two or more people seeking to murder him, the natural consequence is to ask whether there was a conspiracy to kill RFK, too--especially since RFK was deeply involved in the Castro assassination attempts, which included the CIA working with the Mob. Plus, it was Bobby who double-crossed the Mob with high profile prosecutions of Mob figures--and who then double crossed those in the CIA who wanted another invasion of Cuba to overthrow Castro. Again, the Guardian article writer states the assassins he is identifying are connected with the CIA-Mob-Cuba policies of the US government from the late 1950s through mid-1960s.

Still, I tend to be very wary of anyone who says they know who ordered RFK's murder, such as the author of this book, or the articles identified on this web site. If one is interested in the subject of RFK's assassination, I would start with Moldea and then go to Melanson, who I believe is the best pro-conspiracy position writer out there. Melanson, who recently passed away from cancer, was a respected political science professor at one of the University of Massachusetts colleges, and, among such conspiracy writers, was most judicious in his analyses--though Moldea told me Melanson was quite rude to Moldea in a debate they had some years ago on the subject of the RFK assassination. Melanson was also going to endorse my book when it was being released, but then, at literally the last minute, told my publisher he only endorses "non-fiction" books. After speaking with Moldea about his debate with Melanson sometime after my book was released, I now tend to speculate that my publisher probably inadvertently caused Melanson to back away after telling Melanson that Moldea was also going to endorse the book. Oh well. Such are the breaks, though perhaps the "Bobby" movie will inspire someone to seek a visual presentation of my work. It is the "what if" that some of these reviewers were hoping to see.

Meanwhile, I am not quitting my day job...

(Edited)

Michael Medved fears gay penguins...or something like that

Here is silly former left wing college radical, now turned silly right wing pundit Michael Medved warning us as to what he sees as an important sub-text in the new film, "Happy Feet":

"4) As in so many other recent films, there’s a subtext that appears to plead for endorsement of gay identity. Mumbles (the voice of Elijah Wood) displeases his parents and the leaders of his community because he’s born different, and makes an impassioned plea that he can’t possibly change – and they should accept him as he is."

Medved must think "The Point" and "Dumbo" are major promotions of the "homosexual agenda," too. And don't get Medved started about the elf who wants to be a dentist in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Hermy the elf has a homo-sounding name, right? And that effeminate voice! Oh. My. God.

At least Jerry Falwell had some basis to say one of the Teletubbies may have been inspired by those who are against discrimination against homosexuals.

Medved also blasts "Happy Feet" for promoting the humans=bad, animals=good propaganda, because it is just not true, per Medved, that humans are a danger to animals. Yup, just ask the relatively few remaining rhinos and tigers about the efffects of human development. I must admit, though, that Dr. Rat agrees with Medved's views about how ungrateful animals are to us humans.

In the context of Medved's questionable judgment regarding this latest Hollywood animated film, I am reminded of Medved's favorable review of a certain violent and harsh film--and Medved's view that the film's director had no animus toward the particular group which was portrayed in a negative manner in the film.

(Edited)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A man with silly views passes on

Milton Friedman died yesterday at the age of 94.

Why seem mean-spirited in saying the man had "silly views?"

Well, let's start with his book, "Free to Choose," which he wrote with his wife, Rose. Just check the index for the word "corporation" and look at the relatively few pages of the book where the word appears. The Friedmans speak of corporations with no practical understanding of how corporations have actually functioned since the late 19th century America on toward the time their book was published in 1980. At page 12 of the book, Friedman and his wife say it is wrong to think of a corporation having "income" because it is "figurative" due to a corporation not being a real person.

Tell the people who had to sue the corporate behemoths after being maimed by the Ford Pinto. Or maybe tell that to the state legislature of the state in which you live. There is something horribly naive and "post-modern" about Friedman's view of corporations as something not real.

Friedman was also, consequently, a leading proponent of the view that there is double taxation of people who own stock in corporations. He says the government should not tax the income of corporations and then, when the corporation pays dividends to each individual stockholder, require the shareholder to pay an income tax on the dividend received from the corporation. Friedman claims that is taxing the same money twice. See: page 306 of "Free to Choose."

Let's see now. When I get paid by a sole proprietor businessperson, I guess one of us shouldn't get taxed because it's also double taxation--the businessperson pays a tax on the profits and I pay a tax on my wage, which money making up the wage was already included in the calculation of the businessperson's profit. Or maybe when I buy the DVD of the latest movie release, I shouldn't pay a tax on it since there is going to be a tax paid on the profits generated by the company selling the DVD or the company which made the DVD, etc.

What's really silly (that word again) is that Friedman fails to see something painfully obvious when he tries to sell his garbage that corporations don't exist in "real" life: People set up corporations to create a legally recognized separate entity that shields them from personal liability. Yes, it is a separate entity by law! So, how can stockholders, who don't want liability as an owner, be upset when that legally recognized separate entity has to pay an income tax on money it makes?

Friedman also saw nothing good in things like the Food & Drug Administration, once telling Bill Buckley on the latter's program, "Firing Line," that when people died from bad medications, that would be incentive enough for companies to make changes to products. No need for government testing, he said. Even Buckley winced at that one. (Too bad the transcript is not available from what I believe is this particular Buckley-Friedman discussion).

Friedman was a guy who extolled the excitement of capitalism and brushed aside its terrible effects on individual workers who continue to be displaced and go from job to job--while he stayed in one job as a university professor sucking up to a corporate dominated culture (a couple of universities employed him over a 50 year period, including Stanford's Hoover Institution).

The obituary in the LA Times notes, without stating the obvious irony, that the young Milton gained his knowledge by going to a "local library," most likely a government (public) owned library (!), as a relatively poor youth, where he almost "exhausted its contents." Interesting that he wouldn't have been able to do that at Borders or Barnes & Noble if his community didn't have a public library.

While I recognize he saw the folly of a police-state response to drug abuse and now says he is against the war in Iraq,* that is not what Friedman was paid for at Stanford University. He was paid for his abject shilling for corporate power and his desire to destroy government's ability to ameliorate or solve problems for people.

Throughout his life, Friedman failed to understand the positive role of government in developing railroads, steel, airplanes, and computers, for example. Alexander Hamilton, for one, would have instantly recognized Friedman as a toady to power--and probably would have loved to quote Friedman against union leaders while Hamilton went on his way to using government power to enhance manufacturing interests in the United States in ways that primarily benefited those already in power. Friedman was like a mirror image of a "vulgar" Marxist ideologue: The vulgar Marxist never understands the social utility of businesspeople, while Friedman never understood the social utility of government programs designed to help working people and the poor.

Again, I hate to be rough here, but we're going to see all sorts of homages to this guy as if he was the Second Coming of Mother Teresa and Princess Di. Better for people to read the works of Michael Harrington. For more on Harrington, read this short article.


PERSONAL STUFF: I must note, for personal reasons, that both he and I share the same sounding name--Friedman/Freedman--and both attended Rutgers as young men. Friedman lived in Rahway, NJ for a time, while I lived for a couple of decades in the next town over (Woodbridge; particularly its boroughs Avenel and Colonia). And of course, we're both Jews. So much for thinking "All Jews think alike..."

Also, I was once on a panel with Milton's son, David, but he did not let on about his Dad, even when I went up to him and gave him an obvious opening to say so (Note his web site doesn't say anything about his Dad, either. Fathers and sons...hmmmm). David was also a bit reticient to challenge my economically left positions in the course of my comments about the Kennedys in the 1960s, at least that was how I recall it.

* Does anyone ever remember Friedman denouncing any particular American war in his very public life, despite his Randolph Bourne-like statement (near the bottom of this previously linked article) that "war is a friend of the State"?

(Edited)

Repudiating Clintonoids

Harold Meyerson nails it that the new House and Senate Dems are economic populists who detest the corporate trade deals so lovingly embraced by Clintonoids over the past 12 years.

The corporate media wants to harp all day about Heath Shuler and Brad Ellison on their anti-abortion and pro-gun positions and call them "conservatives." Yet, they won't talk about Shuler's and Ellison's economic leftist stances. I know, I know, what a surprise.

But WE should talk about it. Every single day.

This was a major election that is scaring corporate lobbyists. A Senate with Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Jim Webb, Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill--and Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy? Somewhere in Heaven, Paul Wellstone is smiling...

What is really strange to me is how Hillary Clinton is deluded enough to think she should run for president preaching elitist positions on cultural and economic issues that are like Viagra to Sumner Redstone and his pals, but few others. Does anyone know any grass-roots or net roots people who genuinely believe Hillary should be president? Even Katha Pollitt knows better in this semi-tongue in cheek defense of Hillary. Pollitt, despite her article (which makes an excellent point about the personal attacks on Hillary that emanate from the "politics" of "gender"), understands what Molly Ivins understands about Hillary's insider cynicism. And here is Liza Featherstone on the Clintons', especially Hillary's, cozy relationship with Wal-Mart. Remember, folks: Hillary served on the BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF WAL-MART.

The Clintonoid perspective of shilling for corporations and disrespecting American worker concerns over the state of our vulnerable and disappearing manufacturing base has been repudiated. THAT is the story corporate media will not discuss because, if they did, it would reenforce that truth and would give them further reason to be afraid.

Final comment: The dustup between the odious jerk Jim Carville and Howard Dean is a minor skirmish in the repudiation of the Clintonoids. Carville is a long-time corporate booster posing as a populist. In 2002, Carville provided political support to corporatists in Bolivia. Earlier in his career (still post-Clinton in 1992) provided political "consluting" to a host of other traitors, I mean corporate traders, in Central and South America.

Howard Dean, himself at one time a corporate trader, repudiated that position in 2004 and has, since that time, been very clear about worker and environmental rights being vital for all trade deals.

Carville protects K Street corporate lobbyists above all else. That is the donor base he brings to a campaign. His books are just hot air rhetoric designed to mislead people into thinking he actually cares about anything other than debasing the political discourse for his corporate benefactors. Dean, on the other hand, has been interested in bypassing K Street. That is why he sought the DNC chair in the first place. His victory scares the heck out of the Clintonoids.

(Edited)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lots of these new folks are economic populists--meaning left of "liberal"

Ezra Klein explains what doofus pundits on television don't want to admit: Lots of economic populist Democrats were elected yesterday. Economic populists are to the left of liberal.

Digby also nails the "conservative Democrat" spin here and here.

Corporate media spin is still spinning right, not left--nor even liberal. There is still lots of work to do.

The good and the bad...well, not too bad

The good is that voters in States such as South Dakota and Arizona are showing that the extreme position is not pro-choice, but anti-abortion (South Dakota) and punishing homosexuals is not always the way to go (Arizona).

The bad is that the Dems, assuming they win the Senate races in Montana (Tester is ahead) and Virginia (Webb is probably safely ahead), will have 50 seats won. What? Not 51, as this link would lead you to assume?

Yes, 50 if both Tester and Webb are certified winners. That's because one of those "blue" Senators is Joe Lieberman (Me, myself and I-CN). Joe is likely to caucus with both Reeps and Dems and vote for any number of pro-Republican initiatives. That means 50-49-1 and often a 50-50 tie, which means Cheney gets to break the tie as "President of the Senate," one of the few substantive OFFICIAL roles of a vice president.

Still, two days ago, the Republicans had a 56-44 lead in the Senate. And now, it is almost evenly divided between Dems and Reeps. So maybe not bad, but okay for the moment.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Howard Dean, MVP

Howard Dean, who said the Democrats should run on Republican Party corruption, Iraq and Katrina, plus run a 50 state strategy, is the man of the hour. Dean stood up to Pelosi, Reid, Emannuel and the other insiders who were initially afraid to have Democratic Party candidates discuss Iraq and who were only willing to support candidates in a few "targeted" elections. These insiders owe EVERYTHING tonight to Howard Dean, who knew that anything could happen and Democratic Party candidates had to be ready to take advantage of opportunities.

The runner up MVPS are: MoveOn.org, the Daily Kos and Atrios, for each making sure the grass roots Democrats were heard in the corridors of Washington DC and providing cover for Dean to maneuver past the incompetent Democratic Party political consultants who have so messed up past electoral seasons for Democrats.

To the Republicans, read this and weep for your messed up party; a party that betrayed whatever principles it once had; principled persons such as Senators Senator Bob Taft and Senator Barry Goldwater. The only bright spots for Republicans are politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who governed like a Democrat this year. Arnold at least doesn't care more about zygotes and embryos than living people and knows damned well there is something called climate change going on, to take two examples of a politician who knows how to face reality. And give Arnold credit for a plan to retrofit and rebuild California's infrastructure instead of tearing down workers, Arnold's previous plan in 2005 that failed miserably for him.

It is so nice to see mean-spirited idiots from Santorum to Allen to Northrup to Hayworth to Harris to Weldon and DeWine sent packing.

In this regard, I feel a sense of payback from a sad night in 1980, when Democratic Senators McGovern, Birch Bayh, John Culver and Frank Church went down to defeat in the Reagan shift that occurred in that momentous year. Unlike tonight's defeated Republican bozos, these particular Democratic Senators were men of integrity, honesty and had a sense of public purpose--again, like the classic mid-20th Century Republican Senators Bob Taft and Barry Goldwater.

It has been a pleasing night for our nation. Tomorrow, however, we must begin the next step toward a re-balancing of American life. This also means putting the newly elected Democrats to the test of staying strong and not giving in to the so-often elitist and corrupt culture that is Washington, DC. Bush wants to compromise now--except there is no compromise on torture, no compromise with corruption, no compromise with "staying the course" in Iraq, and no compromise in continuing to allow oil companies and insurance companies to harm American citizens with their greed and indifference to human suffering.

Subpoena the White House personnel, including Cheney, and hold them all accountable for their wrongs, their misleading statements and especially hold them accountable to the extent they have broken the laws of the land. And promote alternative ideas for rebuilding our nation's manufacturing base, promoting our best ideals abroad and give our military a chance to regroup, rest and recharge, as opposed to staying indefinitely in Iraq. These are the first steps to victory in 2008.

(Slight edit)

Problems in voting in California

This morning, at around 7:05 a.m., I went to my local voting place in Poway, California. There, I find I am to vote using the dreaded Diebold voting machine.

Sure enough, in the few minutes I was there--and remember, this is just after the polls have opened--there was a problem with one of the machines supposedly not having enough paper to confirm the electronic voting! The machine was shut down, and while I was there, the gentlemen who was asked to "fix" the machine, who looked older than my 72 year old Dad, was not looking like he was knowledgeable about how to fix the machine.

As I left, a line was starting to form.

The outrageous thing about having these machines is they are known to be clearly hackable, cumbersome and likely to break down at any time--or multiple times--throughout the day. And just because Diebold's openly partisan Bush supporting CEO stepped down a year ago doesn't mean a thing when we look at the corruptability of the evotes and its other flaws.

Please, please, please vote for Debra Bowen as Secretary of State, so we can eventually junk these horrible machines.

UPDATE: Here is the link for the Verified Voting Foundation. Their number to call with any incidents is 1-800-SAV-VOTE. The link also contains an article from October 31, 2006 where University of Connecticut researchers highlighted problems with the very Diebold voting machine product I used in Poway this morning. Oy...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quick election picks in California

Phil Angelidies is still my guy because, while he proved to be a bad campaigner, he is one of our finest public servants, knows policy and cares about how it impacts regular folks. A shame, really, that he let himself get defined out of the starting gate as a tax/spender who was irresponsible. The one solace: The Republican Governor has, in this election year, governed more "liberal" than many Democratic governors elsewhere. If this current Govenor continues to want to be Earl Warren or Pat Brown, then this State should do well under his likely continued leadership. But that's a big if, isn't it? Here's hoping Maria Shriver continues to influence her husband toward a government that cares about infrastructure and the working folks of this State.

Anyway, on to other endorsements:

John Garamendi, Lt. Gov
. He ran a very competent campaign and has got to be a front runner for 2010 Gov race. Garamendi did a good job as Ins. Commissioner, too, especially compared to anyone else who has ever run for that office or held that office. His opponent? The pathetic Tom McClintock, who has been a Republican office holder for almost two decades, who has never presented a budget, but just says "No." McClintock is irresponsible and petulant. He deserves nothing but derision from those who value good government.

Debra Bowen, Secretary of State. Her opponent, Bruce MacPherson, supports Diebold and other electronic voting machine companies. That's enough right there, but Bowen, a seasoned public servant in CA's legislature, is a highly competent person who studies issues and looks at various merit-based sides of issues.

Attorney-General. Jerry Brown
. Baggage galore, but he's running against a right wing nut job.

Steve Poizner, Ins. Commissioner
. A Republican. Yes, you read that correctly. Why? Cruz Bustamante, the Democratic Party candidate, has taken his hackdom to levels I cannot countenance. Bustamante has taken the insurance company money this year, not Poizner, who is a millionaire, cultural moderate who doesn't need their money. I remain concerned however, that Poizner will listen to insurance companies more than consumers. On the other hand, with Bustamante's latest scandal, which shows he can't run an office, I believe I'd rather have a competent business person running the department than a hack who sells himself to the highest bidder.

John Chiang, Contoller. Let's see: A tax lawyer who understands public policy and the office in which he's served and says Robert Kennedy is one of his heroes...or Tony Strickland, a young punk Republican who has hacked his way through term limits in a Republican-controlled assembly district? Strickland has not held a state wide office and so hasn't had the opportunity to be the Republican's version of Bustamante. Hopefully, he won't be given the chance.

Bill Lockyer, Treasurer. I am worried a bit about Lockyer, who is a political guy through and through. However, he has run a state wide agency, Attorney General, better than I had expected and appears concerned enough about finances to be able to run this department well with Schwarzenegger. His opponent, Claude Parrish, is one of those guys who pushes tax cuts as a panacea to just about anything, which makes him too reckless for government office.

Propositions:

I'm voting for the 1's on bonds, though the new battle will be to control graft that arises from this much spending. Still, our State must retrofit and rebuild itself for the rest of this century.

Props 85 and 90 are misleading horrorshows that people of good will and concern for good government, respectively, should vote against. See here and here.

Prop 86 simply goes too far in punishing people for smoking, especially poorer folks who smoke. A no vote is better for our fiscal health, if I may invoke a slight pun.

Prop 87 is a sales tax and I hate sales taxes. Still, we need to fund alternative fuel research and this is a decent vehicle to do so. It will bring more research jobs to California, which pay well and bring in greater revenue for the State. And we might again lead the way toward alternative technologies that are fast becoming a commodity of Japan and potentially China.

Prop 88 is a $50 a year parcel tax for education. Not enough to care about as it brings in scant revenue and will not help schools in poor neighborhoods in any significant way. If I vote for it, it's only because I know it's going to lose and I hate to see a proposal designed to help schools lose too badly.

Prop 89 is a largely great bill slightly marred by some limits on corporate contributions (It requires corporations to give through their executives only, which is not any different than federal law--which bars corporate giving since the early 1900s). California needs a clean money initiative. It won't get it from the politicians and this is as good as we've seen in terms of propositions. Just read about it here as opposed to listening to soundbite ads.

As for Prop 83, is it really necessary to put GPS devices on those who served their time for sexual molestation...for the rest of their lives? I know there are a number of these persons who are repeat offenders and I have two relatively young children. But, there is something in my civil liberties sensibility that says this goes too far toward "Big Brother". Calling George Orwell...

Let's see, how about Prop 84, a bond for water and parks projects over the next 25 years. Here is a summary. I tend to be wary of having too many bonds out there and have disagreed many times with my Dad when I have voted against bonds he has supported. However, with one bad earthquake, we Californians will regret not shoring up levees along our coast, for example. This one-more-bond for water and parks projects is worth passing. And please note: If John Chiang has the sense he seems to have, he'll convince Lockyer not to rush this bond onto the market if the 4 investment bonds pass tomorrow. One must plan bond marketing to avoid lowering the return on bonds overall.

Well, that's it for now. Let's see what happens tomorrow...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Republicans: Weak on security

Paul Starr provides a succinct recitation of the record of the Bush administration and its rubber stamp Republican Congress. Use this article to move the subject forward with any remaining friends who still say they side with something they call the "Republican Party" or tell you how they are something called a "conservative" who could never vote for someone from the Democratic Party.

Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan has said that voting for Democrats in Congress this year is not something he wants to do--but he will this Tuesday. He says our nation's voters need to "intervene" to keep this White House from destroying much of America's power, with regard to domestic and foreign policies.

I see things somewhat the same from the perspective of someone who wants things Sullivan detests (union law reform to help unions grow; national health insurance; and things like that). Like Sullivan, I believe electing Democrats will likely avoid making things worse, and could make things better if for nothing else than oversight and accountability. I hope, however, that this nation with a new Democratic Party led Congress (if not Senate) will embark on policies that increase economic security for Americans and, off our shores, will help formulate a more effective policy that drops less bombs on other nations and provides more economic relief that gives poor people around the globe less reason to passively support terrorists in their midst. Undoing the far reaching damage of the Bush administration will not be accomplished overnight.

I do, however, have a continued concern that Democrats in Congress will end up taking money from corporate lobbyists and, in return for that money, govern like nice bankers--meaning, bankers who are in favor of abortion rights and against racism. But initially, let's hope our fellow citizens have had enough of the Republicans in Washington, DC and will vote the way pollsters are appearing to say they will vote.*

*One exception to that sentiment: I hope the polls are wrong in Connecticut and voters there send Ned Lamont to Washington. Just give Ned a try, folks. If Connecticut voters re-elect Lieberman, Lieberman will end up caucusing with Republican--or take Rummy's job and get replaced by a Republican due to Connecticut's governor being Republican. If the Senate ends up 50 (Dem) and 49 (Reep), and Lieberman being the "Independent", Lieberman will be the vote that that could be the difference between a Republican controlled Senate or Democratic Party controlled Senate. Oy vey.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A friend to criminals and worshipper of capital wants to be president

US Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego), yup, my local Congressman (see map here), wants to run for president.

This has got to be the one of the dumbest moves by a sitting Congressman I've seen in some time, though not quite as stupid as then-Congressman Bob Dornan decision to run for president in 1996. All Dornan did with his poor showing in the presidential primaries in the spring of 1996 was end up exposing himself to a wider public--and then losing his own re-election in the fall of that year.

Hunter has a far more pro-Republican tilted seat than Dornan had. But Hunter carries his own personal baggage. For example, Hunter is a long time friend of the noted criminal bribe-taker and blowhard Duke Cunningham. Hunter forgives the Dukester and asks us to "look beyond" the Dukester's criminal behavoir--and maybe look beyond the fact that Hunter attended an event or two with one of Cunningham's favorite campaign donors, or maybe look beyond his interesting relationship with Titan Corporation.

Hunter, who loudly proclaims his love for Jesus, is most often against increases in the minimum wage for the lowest paid workers--except this election year in order to pass a bill to further cut the estate tax for his rich friends. Does this guy really think, if Jesus were to come down to visit for a day, that Jesus would agree with a public philosophy that coddles rich people but is harsh against working people? Evidently, Hunter wants us to think so.

Hunter believes his opposition to illegal immigration and international trade treaties, for reasons having to do with a blunt nativism that smells more like racism, will carry him to the presidency, or at least the Republican Party nomination for president. Appealing to the basest aspects of our culture, however, is something I highly doubt Jesus would applaud. In any event, he might even do better than Dornan did, but one should not expect Hunter to get anywhere close to the nomination.

Unfortunately, with a district as lopsidedly Republican as Hunter's, he can obviously afford to say to his constituents, just days before this current 2006 election, that he plans on spending the next two years gathering up money from corporatists and right wing Yahoos rather than attending to his job.

And, who knows, maybe a higher profile for Hunter will also raise the profile of this story. Duncan Hunter, by his conduct and political philosophy, shows he is more often a worshipper of Mammon than Jesus.

(Edited)