Meh Culpa

My letter to “Organizing America” the former Obama campaign site

(Written while unsubscribing, as a protest.)

I am not a Democrat.

I was a Democrat for a little over 30 years–until Diane Feinstein started acting and voting like a Republican. I told her I would never vote for her again and I won’t.  My point? Barack the president seems to have forgotten the promises he made as Barack the candidate. I have never seen such timid leadership in my life. No, wait:  the Democrats have behaved in such a manner all the way through the Bush administration. They kowtowed to the Republicans (who played serious hardball) while there was a big, wistful to-do in the MSM over “bipartisanship” that never happened because the Republicans were nasty and excluded the Democrats from almost every opportunity to make a difference. Perhaps the Democrats and Barack the president believe they should take the alleged high road and refuse to behave as the Republicans did.

With all solemnity, I adjure you… Now is not the time to abandon progressive ideals because a minority of crazy, hard right, radical Republicans–who don’t have much of a party left, mind you–are playing up the rhetoric and the lies and inflaming the wingnut populace against the president’s erstwhile agenda, inciting the crazies to riot and possibly to assassination.

Elegance and grace will not give us single payer and/or a public option or even decent health care. Besides, it would appear Barack the president and the rest of the Democrats have given up on both. If events unfold as I see they might, the insurance companies will realize even more profits if health insurance is mandated. How middle class and lower class Americans will pay, I don’t know. Tax deductions will not help. They are actually rather worthless. Americans need real help, upfront.

I cannot tell you how sickened I am with the current state of affairs. Single payer (with an option to retain private health insurance as is possible in the UK) is the right thing to do. Allowing Blue Dogs to mark this territory and bark orders to the rest of us is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and slightly insane into the bargain. While Teddy Kennedy was alive, you had a majority and you could have passed a good bill that contained both. Now all you have is mush.

What we Americans needed was an FDR on the economy and an LBJ on civil rights and health care. This administration hasn’t come close to giving us either one. What I see is a money-grubbing party that’s still beholden to big business, a party without backbone.  It’s appalling, truly.

And it’s not just health care. Barack the candidate was worrisome when he voted on FISA. But Barack the president has abandoned all principle on warrantless wiretapping as well as in legal cases concerning Guantanamo detainees, doing precisely what the Bush administration did before him, or worse. Barack the president did not seek to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He has left it to Congress, whose members will do nothing, ever. Barack the president has set up another Guantanamo in Bagram, and created an environment where anything will go by alleging that because Bagram is not on American soil (WTF?! It’s a US air base! Does that mean McCain isn’t really a US citizen? Hmph.), people detained there will have no right to habeas corpus let alone any Constitutional right to due process within the US legal system.  Barack the president still allows extraordinary rendition.  Barack the president has allowed the same people who destroyed the economy (think Wall Street investment bankers, Goldman Sachs, the New York Reserve, and the Fed) to retain control over the economy. Nothing has changed in that respect. Barack the president doesn’t want to do anything about the Bush administration higher-ups who approved torture and created an ethos where it could thrive and become even more twisted than Gen. Miller and John Yoo originally planned. Barack the candidate wanted to remove us from theaters of war while Barack the president is digging in in Afghanistan.

Barbara Boxer might give me hope, but it’s not yet clear she won’t do what she’s told by the White House, by the so-called Democratic leadership, or by the insurance and drug companies. But Barack the president and the rest of his administration? No, I have no hope at all.

I’m writing in the hortatory subjunctive now:  Look to your principles once more, recall the promises you made and work to fulfill them. Think of the people who voted for you, Barack & Company. Think about why they voted for you. It wasn’t simply your “soaring rhetoric,” you made promises that voters wanted kept. I urge you to reconsider your path, which thus far is filled with so many broken promises (after only nine months!). Remember that we who voted you and other Democrats into office can just as easily vote you out of office. Or, as in my case, simply not vote at all. There is no one worth voting for anymore.

Ignore me at your political peril. You will fail otherwise. A pity, but it’s true.

Sincerely yours–

September 8, 2009 Posted by | 2008 presidential race, Abu Ghraib, Afghan War, Afghanistan, Bagram, banks, Bush administration, civil liberties, Congress, corruption, Defense, Democrats, Due process, Economy, far right, Federal Reserve, Foreign policy, gay rights, Geneva Conventions, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, human rights, Iraq War, Obama, Obama administration, politics, Republicans, torture, Treasury, US Constitution, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

California Propositions 1A and 1B: Why I’m voting NO

A few weeks ago I went through the California OFFICIAL VOTER INFORMATION GUIDE and decided how I was going to vote, but I’m doing it again before I mail off my ballot and thought I’d take y’all for a ride with me–pun definitely not intended, although I can’t say the same for the Governator.

1A and 1B are yoked together.  If either one should go down, the remaining measure fails even if it passes by a huge margin. Nifty, huh?

It gets better.  Just wait.

Proposition 1A is a Constitutional amendment that changes the way the budget process works, but the taxes will not take effect until 2012, leaving the next governor to deal with Arnie’s mess. 1A sets aside 12.5%,  of the General Fund for a “rainy day” fund (Budget Stabilization Fund) that already exists.  1A increases the amount set aside by 7.5%.

The hook:

If 1A and 1B pass, then schools (K- junior college) will receive $9.3 billion.  Nonetheless, Arnie has proposed cutting  $3.6 billion to $4 billion for Education next year, which I believe is in addition to what was cut this year,  that would leave schools with a best-case scenario  increase of  $5.3 billion.

What funds Arnie gives with one hand, he takes away with another.

The Governor gets new powers. If 1A passes, the Gov could reduce up to 7% of spending and purchases of big ticket items.  Not only that, he could reduce cost-of-living increases in any program as well as some state workers’ paychecks.  It’s not clear to me whether the Gov can raid a program the voters already have left off-limits, but that’s a distinct possibility.  Think about this, too:  it could  be Education, or something else you cherish.  And the legislature couldn’t do a damned thing about it. That’s part of the package.

Hmmm, new powers…  Hey, didn’t the last president get those?

Tax Increases* keep on keeping on through 2012, except for the Vehicle License Fee–that Arnie promised to reduced to get into office–which continue through 2013.  If I’m not mistaken, Californians pay more in personal income taxes than any other state in the nation, while seven of our cities are listed in the top ten on the Cost of Living index for the first quarter of 2005.   Ranked sixth highest in the nation in 2008, we paid 10.3% in state income taxes while the rest of the country averaged 9.7%.

Nobody really knows how this measure will pan out. (Ahh, uncertainty.  As if we don’t have enough already.)  The Legislative Analyst makes a good faith effort to figure the whole thing out, but has admitted to not having a clue.

Future revenues predicted by revenues obtained by the state in the past decade (!!). This is priceless.  Right now, we have unemployment hitting the roof so no one can spend much money and revenues from property related taxes have dropped like rocks because of record mortgage defaults that are expected by leading economists to increase, yet they’re going to predict revenue based on what happened ten years ago?  In 2000-2001 the state had a surplus revenue of $4.2 billion. But this year’s revenues sucked big time.  How much sense does that make?

Check it out:
(From: Sacramento Real Estate Statistics)

Oy.

OK, so.  As I mentioned before, voting against 1A invalidates 1B by default.  Which is as good a reason to vote against 1B as any.  But the reality is even more irksome than I remembered.  K-12 and junior college funding–you know, that net increase after the cuts–won’t happen until 2011, leaving schools with those $3.6 to $4 billion cuts for two years.

WTF?

Have y’all seen the Pro 1A and 1B commercials? One of the actors, The Teacher of Some Year or Other, talks about the layoff of 50,000 teachers thus  far and then acts as if the passage of these measures will change everything. Maybe, just maybe, the poor sods will get their jobs back?  I’d like to know how that works, and whence the money will come, since we don’t know how the junior college money will (eventually) be allocated.  Proposition 1B just doesn’t say.   Moreover, the Governor and the Legislature get to decide how the money’s distributed between the two systems because Proposition 1B doesn’t talk about that either.

I’d like to know what about Proposition 98 minimum guarantees to Education funding the Governor and Legislature did not understand?  As a general rule, Education funding is the first thing to get screwed in our great state.  Nobody seems to know how all this will work out if 1A/1B passes.  It has been argued that the Siamese Twin Propositions put a cap on Education spending,  although Proposition 98 already does that in low revenue years.

“Voters need to know that we don’t have to lock flawed and dangerous formulas into the constitution in order to repay our schools. Proposition 1A will turn the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee for our schools into a cap instead of a floor, and Proposition 1B could mean that schools won’t even get all the money they are owed if more cuts happen in the coming year,” said Marty Hittelman, President of the California Federation of Teachers.

And what’s the business about schools being owed money? Oh, the legislature in its dubious wisdom “suspended” Proposition 98 starting in 2007.  Proposition 98 says that money taken away from Education must be repaid. The California Teachers’ Federation argues that if Arnie’s cuts go through and the Proposition 1A / 1B pass, the state will owe its Education fund $12 billion. Will the state repay the money?  I doubt it.  We have pretty bad credit right about now.  Lowest in the nation, and that’s a fact.

No one really knows how the Constitution will be interpreted in the face of 1B because no one is quite certain how Proposition 98 will effect maintenance payments, let alone which method to use.

Ha.

I say that if no one knows, it’s probably a bad idea to vote for the darn thing.

My fave part of all time: The Governator’s having so much fun with his budget cuts that he may be jeopardizing the stimulus money California desperately needs.

Niiiiiiiice job, dude.**


* I am of the opinion that once tax rates go up, they don’t like to go back down.  I know that notion violates the 3rd principle of Newtonian physics, but that’s what I think.

** I am so being facetious.

For more info, also see Calitics  “The Deficit Is Too Large For A Cuts-Only Solution”

May 15, 2009 Posted by | bailout(s), borrowing, Bush administration, California, Depression, Economy, Education, layoffs, stimulus package, unemployment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In His Own Defense, Cheney Requests Classified Torture Memos That Appalled Others

Not only that, a 2002 Pentagon memo declared that torture gained unreliable information. Rachel Maddow’s guest, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, agrees with me that the Bush administration was outrageously fearful, more so than was necessary given the level of terrorism aimed at the USA versus the terrorism other countries have lived with.

Lawrence Wilkerson was former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff.  He has written “Some Truths about Guantanamo Bay,” in which he called Dick Cheney ‘evil’  and “‘They’ Have Stolen My Party And I Want It Back.” Wilkerson  has also appeared on Frontline‘s The  Dark Side” where he depicted  Cheney’s reaction to 9/11 as paranoid and claims, rightly I think, that Cheney has misunderstood the nature of our conflict with Al Qaeda.

Personally, I’d like to see a call for Nuremberg Rules.  We have the obligation to prosecute war crimes, whether or they are formulated and committed by our own people.  Unless we hold our leaders to the same standards we hold leaders of other countries, no one will ever trust us again. And they’ll have good reason not to.   They’ll also be able to turn around and say, “Hey, look:  Democracy doesn’t work.”

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Afghan War, Afghanistan, Arab world, Bush administration, Cheney, Executive branch, Guantanamo, human rights, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Pentagon, politics, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment