Saturday, December 31, 2005

Orange County Dems: A Call to Arms

According to an article in the Orange County Register Orange County Democrats have got to get ready for political war next year and beyond. We Dems have made good strides in central OC winning a Congressional seat (Hon. Loretta Sanchez), a State Senate seat (Hon. Joe Dunn) and an Assembly seat (Hon. Tom Umberg, Hon. Lou Correa and back to Hon. Umberg). Those are the seats the Republicans want back and according to the Register the Reps have spent over $100,000 the last couple of years in a massive voter registration drive.

Things look especially tough in the 34th State Senate District (Joe Dunn’s current seat) where in 2002 we Democrats had a 10.6% registration lead over the Republicans but now that has dwindled to a 1.7%. OC Demo Party chair Frank Barbaro has vowed to concentrate on voter registration and I know he will. We’ve only just begun to fight the good fight. I expect Sacramento Senate Caucus money to flood to Orange County and help increase that small registration spread in the 34th.

See: Register Article

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hero and Villains of the Year


This Blog entry is the opinion of this writer and not necessarily the general views of any the Splinters Team.

My hero of the year is without question Ms. Cindy “peace mom” Sheehan. I’ve always believed that social justice begins with courage, and that courage begins with one voice. A great example in the last fifty years has been Rosa Parks who our nation sadly lost recently. This year Ms. Sheehan, almost single handedly brought the anti-war sentiments felt in America to a new high. All she wanted is a second meeting with the president so that he can explain a few things to her. It was a beautiful move on behalf of the anti-war political front and the media helped (finally since the media have been such lackeys).

In an interview in 2004 Ms. Sheehan said:

We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled. The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached.
Tom Matzzie of MoveOn said:

In her grief and bravery, Cindy has become a symbol for millions of Americans who demand better answers about the Iraq War. Though right-wing pundits have attacked her personally, her honesty is unimpeachable. Now more and more mothers (and fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, sons and daughters) are standing up with Cindy. [Together], we'll make sure that President Bush can't escape the reality of this war—even in Crawford, Texas.
The villain of 2005 in my mind is The Federalist Society. The group has been working very hard since 1982 to turn back the clock and reverse the landmark cases steered during the 1950s and 1960s by Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice Brennan, and the Court decisions made during President Roosevelt’s New Deal tenuous period. In short, these folk want to turn back the time and go back to this fantasy world of “originalism,” that is, taking back the Constitution to what the Founding Fathers doctrine stated back in 1789 and/or 1929, if we can discernibly know what that is.

To be sure, the world and our country today is so vastly different than 1789. More importantly, I don’t want to live by the mores, the economic and social interests of a 1789 society, let alone a pre New Deal society--it’s a hidden agenda really.

According to Alfred Ross, the founder of Institute for Democratic Studies in an interview with Democracy Now:

If one looks at the history of the Federalist Society, which was established at the inspiration of Robert Bork in the early 1980s, their entire trajectory has been to move our judicial system in an extremely radically right wing direction.
My point is that we better understand what our foes are up to, and the sooner the better.

Happy New Year fellow Democratic activists. We Shall Overcome!

To visit Democracy Now for more info about the Federalist Society please visit here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Alito Nomination: Lets's Get Ready to Rumble

I recommend that the New Year resolution for many Democratic Senators should be: Let's buckle up for a huge fight over the confirmation of Samuel Alito. If the documents recently released by the National Archives are any indication of Alito's political philosophy and, maybe more importantly, his political ideology, then the Senators should more courageous than they were with the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts.

Re the vast numbers of documents released last month, this is what Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law at George Washington University and legal affairs editor at the New Republic had to say to PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:

It is possible to get a sense, and it's interesting to compare them with the Roberts memos. In many ways, Alito's seemed less deft; I think in particular of that job application that he sent to Attorney General Meese where he said, "I am a fierce conservative. I'm proudest of my opposition to abortion.”
However what Stuart Taylor, a columnist with National Journal and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued surprised me:
He was critical of the Warren court. But I don't think it shows him to be a guy who's going to get on the Supreme Court 20 years later with some kind of conservative agenda to revolutionize the law, as you might think from reading some of the papers.
I just don’t understand. None of us are value-free including Supreme Court justices. The three notorious conservatives the last 10 years: Rehnquist, Scalia and Uncle Thomas have been trying to do just that--move forward a radical conservative agenda. Given what Alito has written send political shivers up my spine. If I were I Democratic Senator I’d take the safe road and fight this nomination, why should Alito be given the benefit of the doubt when the stakes are so high? What I see now is a smoking gun and I don’t want Alito to fire additional bullets when he’s on the Court. As, Dr. Donald Matthewson, a political scientist professor at Cal State Fullerton once told me, “The Supreme Court justices are basically policy makers who wear black robes.” In short, the policy preferences Alito has advanced scare me.

Professor Rosen says it well:

[We] have much more evidence of what Samuel Alito's private thoughts are. No one could have any doubt what his political philosophy is. He laid it out in a letter to the attorney general, which said, here's what I believe: limited government, deference to the police, the ability of states to enforce traditional moral values. You can't walk away from this.
Expect the so-called “nuclear option” to be the main weapon used against the Democratic Senators by “movement conservative” Senators if the venerable filibuster is used.

So I leave you all with a refresher course on the nuclear option written by Norman Ornstein, a smart political scientist who works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC. I respect Dr. Ornstein because I’ve always considered him a pragmatic Republican and not a “movement conservative.” The “nuclear option” article is another indication that Ornstein is a political scientist first, and a Republican second. Ornstein is an “institutionalist” and respects the long traditions and folkways of the Senate. He wants to make sure the Senate is “left a better place.”

See: Norman Ornestein, PhD

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Phil Angelides v. Steve Westly

There is a great article in the Los Angeles Times that compares and contrasts two Democratic men who are running for governor in California: Phil Angelides and Steve Wesley. The article is fair and offers a great comparison between the two. At one point I believed Phil Angelides would offer the best chance to defeat the Governator, but my mind has changed recently, more or less. I had a chance to talk to Steve Wesley recently at an after Special Election party held at the Biltmore Hotel and I found him quite engaging and charismatic as well. The latter if super important because you need that type of personality to defeat the Governator. Also, I did not realize that Wesley has been around Democratic politics for over twenty years.

The only thing that concerns me is how Mr. Westly cozied up to the Governator in 2004 when he, as the Los Angeles Times states, joined “Schwarzenegger's campaign for fiscal measures on the March 2004 ballot, then taking a combative approach to the governor once his popularity dropped.” Come on Mr. Westly politics is war, especially at the state level.

Still, the Times article argues that, “apart from the flip-flop charge, Westly's willingness to work with Schwarzenegger could appeal to voters eager to see state leaders drop their partisan rancor and work together on problems facing California, among them traffic, smog, illegal immigration and substandard schools.”

The broader electorate might see it that way but not this Democratic activist. I guess I’m still undecided and that should not come as a surprise as both candidates need to be challenged by the media and the electorate as well. The primary will be super interesting: I expect fireworks.

See: Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Story of Blessing

Guest Blogger: Diane Altadena, Southern Calif.

A Beautiful Christmas True Story.

If you read the front page story of the San Fransico Chronicle on Thurday, Dec. 25, 2005 you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by 100s of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She had 100s of yards of line (rope) wrapped around her body: her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so badly off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her -- a very dangerous proposition -- one slap of the tail could kill a few rescuers. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around -- she thanked them ... some say it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

Please see here.

Hope you made some good Christmas memories too!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Garamendi and Prop 103

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, John Garamendi, California’s top insurance regulator says he will soon make the case that insurance rates should be based on one's driving record, how many miles one drives, instead of where one lives.

I know John Garamendi, and he’s a friend of mine, but “hello,” John, what took you so long.

Still, better late than never as the old saying goes, and he’s right. Garamendi said, “[my] proposal [is] intended to implement provisions of Proposition 103, the 1988 voter initiative that said auto insurance rates should be based primarily on three factors: driving record, miles driven, and driving experience.”

Former Insurance Commissioner Quakenbush, who was chased out of California for political irregularities, due to Court rulings, allowed zip codes be used as the primary factor.

Needless to say, consumer activists have been asking Garamendi since 2003 to revisit the formula. Thank God, Garamendi finally saw the light.

Garamendi is a good man who may be cautious at times, but finally the people’s will shall be done. For this and many other reasons I applaud Insurance Commissioner Garamendi and his future endeavors. But as the song from the 1975 film Nashville says, "I’m Easy."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Solutions?

In speaking political
We tend to be critical
And point out the faults
Of an engine that halts
Rather than praise
The sunnier days
Yet meaning no harm
To the Animal Farm
We’ll put into print
The broadest of hints
On how to confess
And clean up the mess

A few days ago, Brad, a Republican friend of mine reminded me that anybody can cite the wrongs of this administration, but that the responsible thing is to provide solutions. I responded that many of my past essays offered solutions, so I offer this installment. There are too many suggestions to fit into this essay, but I can begin.

In the classic 12-step recovery process, or any serious change approach, a person first has to admit to a problem. Only when Bush admits that he forced the intelligence, instead of shifting the blame to the intelligence community and then awarding a medal to George Tenet, will he will be on the first step to recovery. Until then, it is more of the same BS (Bush Shift). He also needs to admit that the planning to get into the war in Iraq was mainly a Public Relations plan and not a War plan. We went in with too few troops and did not have the troop skill mix or the allied participation to secure the peace or provide basic security. By firing all of the Iraqi Army and dismantling the economy, he immediately put most Iraqi adults out of work and he single-handedly created the very insurgency that we warned against. Instead of hiring Cheney’s Halliburton, Bush should have hired Iraqis who needed the work and might feel enough Iraqi pride to defend the oil production and the water supply and the power generation. Instead, we have some highly paid US managers supervising the cheapest non-Iraqi labor they could find. Halliburton and the Outsorcery are there to make money, not to solve Iraqi problems or share the Iraqi wealth with Iraqis. They have lifetime passes on the no-bid gravy train and have no motivation to leave Iraq.

The PR plan continued with the dog and pony show of “Mission Accomplished” and even the tearing down of Saddam’s statue. The latter, choreographed by our troops, was made to look like an Iraqi event. It fooled many Americans but did not get by the Iraqis. An aerial photograph of the scene shows just how poorly attended and how phony the event was. Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney and Rice boldly state that we do not torture while saying that we need the flexibility to do so. Cheney states that the insurgency is in its last throes while Rumsfeld states that there is no insurgency at all. The troops on the ground know better. The Iraqis on the ground know better. Even the timid US press has begun to question the spin. In the last few weeks, we found that the administration paid at least $300 million (outsourced to the Lincoln Group) to plant stories in the Iraqi press. If this were a PR war and not a real war, then our casualties would be generated from paper cuts instead of IED trauma. They have it wrong and need to make it right. How can we fight an insurgency if we do not admit that it exists? The way to fix that is to stop the BS and move Iraqi soldiers and police out of Iraq to train them thoroughly and re-insert them as trained units with leadership that may include some Baathists who have experience and can be trusted. Competence counts. Cronyism kills in Baghdad as well as in New Orleans. Incompetence punishes the brave for loyal service.

The Iraqi flag needs to be everywhere in Iraq instead of factional symbols and we need to separate the scores of militias from Iran and their Taliban South government. We set up conditions for a Shiite theocracy by pushing for elections and knowing demographics of the electorate. Shiites rule. Women had considerable freedom in a secular Iraq. They will be in abayas soon and could be in burkhas before we depart Iraq. No amount of PR will change that. We have created Theocracy through Hypocrisy by hiring convicted embezzlers like Ahmed Chalabi (simultaneously aligned with Cheney and Iran). Bush has now used the NSA to spy on Americans in showing Iraqis that laws are meaningless and that only power has meaning. I think that Iraqis knew that. They were taught by Saddam. Brad, you may not like the answer, but the only way for us to break even is to undo the harm done to Iraq and ourselves. End the hypocrisy and heal the body and soul of both nations.

Der Fuhrer

When George W. Bush was running for President, and continually throughout his presidency, he has stressed as his most outstanding quality his "leadership." Again and again he told us how he was a "leader" who knew how to lead, buttressing this with criticism of his rivals deficiencies in this area. Incredibly, much of the
American public believed this mantra, not once, but twice.

Some of us, however, were disturbed by Bush¹s repeated attempts to wrap himself in the mantle of "the leader," remembering that Adolf Hitler called himself "Der Fuhrer" and that Benito Mussolini called himself "Il Duce."

Both terms mean leader, and a world plunged into war soon found out that the words also mean "ruthless dictator." Now we in America are finding out that Bush¹s use of the word has a similar meaning.

The latest administration scandal reinforces this conclusion. Recent reports in the New York Times and elsewhere have revealed a shocking story still developing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dan Walters: Telling Like He See's It

The Sacramento Bee political writer, Dan Walters is one of the deans of Sacramento political journalism, if not "the dean", and who many Dems believe is a bit too conservative for their tastes. Yet he is very pragmatic and smart, and should never be ignored. This is unlike, let’s say, the "so-called" journalists from Faux News on basic cable.

Right now, in a ten-part series, Walters is systematically writing about why the "One Term-minator" has failed miserably. According to Walters, Arnold’s main misstep was the hubris he came to Sacramento with, all hoopla aside. The articles are worth a read and short. His writing documents well what has happened in Sacramento since the Governator’s election, and we Dems, look pretty good in the end, given the State is so difficult one to govern, if at all, says Walters. He makes a lot of sense.

So, to take a look at recent history and for a refresher course, do visit his web page on the Bee.

Read Dan Walters, journalist

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Psychopaths in Charge

The more one listens to and watches administration figures desperately trying to counter the tsunami of charges related to how the war in Iraq was foisted on the American people, the more one has to ponder the discomfiting question: what kind of humans are these? What kind of person can engage in such blatant deception, unprovoked aggression, and state-organized murder? How can a public figure maintain a straight face while promoting such deadly, costly lies?

The Secretary of State, for example, has embarked on her European tour to shore up the sagging support of European governments outraged over reports of CIA flights through their airspace in order to render kidnapped terror suspects to secret prisons and/or countries where they can be tortured. Such flights make these governments liable for collusion in international crimes. But despite the clear evidence of flight logs and personal testimony from those, like Khaled al Masri, who have been kidnapped and tortured, the Secretary of State feigns her own outrage over the charges , and states vehemently: "The United States does not send people to foreign countries for the purpose of torture." No matter that the whole world knows this is a lie. Condoleeza Rice insists on repeating it, pumping up her trademark pout that anyone could imagine such a thing.

The Vice-President engages in the same act. He considers it "reprehensible and irresponsible" for anyone to suggest that his administration consciously deceived the public about the reasons for invading Iraq. Though his innocence is slightly compromised by a barely suppressed snarl, not to mention the current plight of his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, he projects, nonetheless, a most savage umbrage.

And of course the President, with his foolish grin miming nothing so much as a teenager caught altering a bad report card, plays the role of outraged patriot to perfection. "The United States does not engage in torture," he insists staunchly, even as photographs and reports circle the world documenting precisely the torture he is denying. "Our plan for victory is working; we will not cut and run while I am President," he maintains, even as his commanders feverishly work up plans to create at least the appearance of reduced troop levels in time for the 2006 elections.

Do these people have no shame? No sense of embarrassment over the mountains of evidence confirming the totality of their lies, the hypocrisy of their outrage, their utter lack of moral or social responsibility? Have they no remorse whatsoever for the thousands of American and Iraqi lives destroyed by their self-serving machinations?

Apparently not. And since such behavior, on the part of most of us, would be considered pathological, to say the least, we have no alternative but to agree with what increasing multitudes, both around the world, and in our own country, have long since concluded: the United States of America, once held to be a bastion of democratic sanity, is now in the cold, bloody hands of psychopaths.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Our Endangered Values

Jimmy Carter has always been one of my heroes. As a former president he has spent his life building homes for the poor, settling international disputes and fighting for a more peaceful world. The list of Mr. Carter’s involvement is longer than this but these are some of the things that I admire in this most moral man.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read, in its entirety, his new book entitled OUR ENDAGERED VALUES.

What immediately became clear was that the Republican Party has adopted as its platform the narrowly defined tenets of rigid religious fundamentalism.

The book begins with a restatement of America’s traditional moral values. These values, according to Mr. Carter, include promoting economic and social justice, preserving peace for ourselves and others, raising the banner of freedom and human rights, protecting the quality of our environment, alleviating human suffering and co-operating with other peoples around the globe to reach these goals.

Mr. Carter documents in his book the religious right attack on these values by trying to justify preemptive war, by striving to deny women’s rights, by attempting to take away our civil liberties, by degrading the environment, by putting religious beliefs over science and by otherwise melding religion and politics.

Interesting chapter titles include: Must Women Be Subservient?, Worshiping the Prince Peace, or Preemptive War?, No Conflict between Science and Religion, The Entwining of Church and State, The Distortion of American Foreign Policy, and Attacking Terrorism, Not Human Rights.

Through this easy to read book, President Carter comes across as an excellent teacher, political analyst and a compassionate human being deeply concerned about the trend away from traditional moral values in the false name of religion.

Would that our political leaders could follow Carter’s advice of Peace through diplomacy as a way to protect America’s interests and make a better world.

I recommend this book to all who want to understand an objective view of the great moral issues surrounding the current events in American politics.

I conclude the review of his book with a quote from Thomas Jefferson on a plaque given to Mr. Carter on the day he left office:

I HAVE THE CONSOLATION TO REFLECT

THAT DURING THE PERIOD OF MY ADMINISTRATION

NOT A DROP OF BLOOD OF A SINGLE CITIZEN

WAS SHED BY THE SWORD OF WAR

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Our Dickinsonian Democracy

The rich had their pickin’s
In the days of Charles Dickens
While the poor had to flail
With the prospect of jail
For falling behind in their rent
Or challenging a gent

We are again in a Dickinsonian Democracy for anybody out there keeping score of the reality game being played by the Bush Administration and the current Congress. The new rules on debt and bankruptcy are another attack on the middle class along with the pattern of debauched planning by the authors of the Bush Drug Program that forbids competitive bidding. The outsourcing of goods and services that were normally provided by the government is costing the American taxpayer the fortunes of their children and again with cushy no-bid contracts among the gentry for hurricanes and wars. Free trade is a slogan that is now used to lower wages of working families while protecting the connected by forbidding competition and awarding contracts based on who knows whom rather than value to the taxpayer.

While this is unfolding, we also see a new society; a new Order of the Greed Garter. The pattern of corruption highlighted this past week by the guilty sobbings of Representative “Duke” Cunningham who bullied contracting officers into awarding contracts to those providing him with kickbacks of at least $2.4 million plus untold campaign funding. “Duke” brings an image of Nineteenth Century England when wealth and title was its own sanctity.

The list of these white collar and black-hearted new moguls of menace grows daily. Bill Frist, VP for Torture (Dick Cheney), the Ohio governor, and the entire string of DeLay-Abramoff “bribees.” Operatives like DeLay’s Scanlon are setting new records for both fraud and singing like the yellow canaries they are. G. Bush Sr. rakes in the cash with his bin Laden soul mates through the Carlisle Group. Halliburton gets no-bid contracts in MS, LA and, of course, Iraq while paying wages of 45 cents per hour there and below average wages wherever it can. Again, in Iraq, we are paying the Lincoln Group (catchy name for Republicans financially supporting Bush) $300 million (no-bid) to plant stories in the Iraqi press of how good Americans are while bribing Iraqis to do it. What if this new aristocracy doesn’t deliver the goods and services? They deserve to be rewarded because they are appointed to the Order! Meanwhile, Afghanistan falls into the hands of the Taliban and Iraq falls into civil war while the connected collect their spoils from the blood of our best.

Dickens and Darwin were essentially contemporaries and I see more than a little irony that the crowd that places Intelligent Design on a par with Darwin’s Theory while the Order practices the survival of the fittest through selection in the most opportunistic way since Dickens. God Bless us, every one, because these bastards won’t.