Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On the Subject of the American Economy

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's disingenuous to hold up the performance of 30 of the largest multinational corporations (the Dow-Jones Industrial Average) as a measure of the performance of the American economy.
Personally, I'm a lot more interested in the net income in my apartment than I am in the stock price of Exxon, GE and GM.
That's just me, and I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself... but my economy hasn't gone anywhere good for awhile now.

An Aside About a Foregone Conclusion

I know he's going to win reelection, but I have to say something about this.
I know there's a word for the guy who was looking to gut public employee pension and benefit programs just last year now eulogizing the firefighters killed in San Bernardino County on Thursday. Arnold, if the Democrats had run anyone but Angelides, you'd be an outgoing governor in a few days.
When he was elected governor, Arnold promised that if the public employees would just work with him in the first year and let him "borrow" their funding he'd make it up to them. In his second year Arnold set about making it up to them by going after the public employees and their unions and challenging longstanding public funding apportionments for essential public services. California voters pretty much kicked his ass last November.
Now, in his third (reelection) year, Arnold has effectively muzzled public employees and even most political opposition by touting "the largest education budget in California history," and $38 Billion in pork funded by bond issues ("No new taxes"... until the bonds are sold and the debt service starts).
California teachers have every reason to say that they don't trust Arnold. It is entirely reasonable to ask which Arnold will appear in Sacramento in 2007 through 2010. Since he's not running for reelection, I am expecting the return of 2005 Arnold advancing the agenda of his conservative handlers. That's just me.
The thing that gets my goat is Arnold's crocodile tears over the four dead firefighters and one in the Arrowhead burn unit whose pay, pension, and survivor benefits he wanted to cannibalize a year ago. The transparent insincerity is just wrong.

Friday, October 27, 2006

For California Voters

It's too late to register to vote in the November 7th election. California requires that you be registered fifteen days before any election.
Concerns have been expressed about the nature and quality of accountability for the accuracy of electronic voting. Voting machines have been hacked and jiggered before, and if the people in charge of an election felt threatened...
According to the Secretary of State's website, applications for an absentee ballot "must be submitted to the county elections officials no later than 5 p.m. on October 31, 2006."
An application is attached to the "Official Sample Ballot and Voter Instructions" and is also downloadable as a PDF from here or from the Secretary of State's website.
California "County Elections Officials" locations are listed here or on the Secretary of State's website.

Let's not let this opportunity get away from us. We don't know when we'll get another like it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Few Words for Hospitalman Charles O. Sare

Hospitalman Charles O. Sare, 23, of Hemet, Calif., died Oct. 23 from enemy action while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Doc Sare was assigned to Naval Ambulatory Care Center, Port Hueneme, Calif. and was currently serving with Multi-National Corps – Iraq.
Semper Fi

I say "Semper Fi" at the end of these posts for a few reasons... to honor the Corpsman's ultimate sacrifice... to honor the Marine Corps with which he was serving... and to mark his loss in the way I approach my responsibility to him and to those who follow him... I made it through and he didn't and I owe him.
I object to this new practice of saying he died while serving with a "Multi-National Corps." He died while serving with the United States Marine Corps. He died while he was supposed to be on shore duty in Southern California able to have a beer and walk the beach after work, and to go home on a long weekend to see his folks. Instead of that, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld sent him to Iraq to be killed or maimed in my place as an American, and there was nothing multi-national about it except for some nominal allies they've been able to pay to share the blame.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Where Will We Be in Two Weeks?

At one point during the Elderblogger PhoneCon today the question was raised about why Karl Rove was so optimistic that the Administration wouldn't lose their hold on Congress. Actually the question was why Dubya was optimistic, but he could just be delusional or clueless. Karl Rove is scarier.
One issue that came up was the new electronic voting systems that are coming online this year. MSNBC has a story from Reuters today on potential voting problems next month which include the unproven technology of the Diebold voting machines. There is also an AP story of a Princeton University professor and a couple of grad students who were able to upload viral software onto a Diebold machine that was capable of spreading to linked machines.
Paul DeGregorio, the gentleman who heads the Election Assistance Commission was appointed by Dubya in 2003. The EAC was established to support the improvements in election processes called for in the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
The guy who took the election in 2000 signs a law to ensure that the unfortunate irregularities that may have put him in office do not recur, and appoints the guy who's going to help implement those changes... "Trust me... I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."
In California, an application to vote by mail must be received by Tuesday, October 31. The precinct in which I vote uses a paper ballot anyway.

One can hardly overstate the importance of voting in this election... at your polling place or by absentee vote or at the registrar's office.
Unless you happen to be among the... 19%?... who continue to believe we're right where we need to be, you must see that it is important that this Administration not enter its final two years with control of both Congressional bodies as well as the Judicial Branch. Someone needs to be in the position to challenge presidential signing statements, and the deconstruction of the Bill of Rights. These are not trivial issues.

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's Our Election and We Get to Choose

Gerry Prosser commented in Nobody Asked that it was frustrating that there was little to choose between Republican and Democrat. One hears this a lot, often from people trying to excuse not voting (which Prosser says he does); and it is disturbing to me.
For whatever reason, and I'm sure there would be many offered up, Americans have tuned out of government. We make up our minds on the basis of 15-second sound bites from paid ads or corporate "news" media, and vote (or not) for A or B.
I've mentioned my disappointment at the consistency with which I heard "sure, McClintock would make a better governor, but Arnold is going to win so I'm voting for him." As if it's all about voting for the winning team? I am disappointed, but not at all embarrassed, to say that my candidates haven't usually won.
In California, there are six candidates on the ballot for Governor; six for Lt. Governor; six for Dianne Feinstein's job. The election will probably go to Arnold, McClintock (Tom, I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you for doing this), and Feinstein; but I ain't voting for any of them... or for any Democrats either.
If I can't come up with a "best candidate" I can vote "for," I'm going to write myself in. My write-in won't count? Helloooooo! I don't expect to win!
My point is that we don't have to accept just A or B. We have choices. We have the opportunity to make positive choices, instead of selecting the lesser of evils.
If enough of us would put the effort we spend into choosing clothes or cars into choosing government it just might make a difference. We don't have to wait until 2008.
This year, if the Republicans lose enough seats and non-Democrats pick up a few of those, we could return to a multi-party representative democracy. We don't have to choose between a government of the 20% to the right or to the left. We do have to choose.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Few Words About a (Apparently) Decent Lawyer

It's as simple as recognizing that you can try to retain "the best and the brightest" or you can surround yourself with "yes men" but not with both. These are mutually exclusive qualities in a person.
LCDR Charles Swift was given an assignment which he carried out to the very best of his ability, and for his successful efforts he is being forced to leave the Navy. He was tasked with defending detainees charged... where they have been charged at all... with trying to kill him. He successfully got the Supreme Court (that put Dubya in the White House in the first place) to grant detainees some semblance of the due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution he... and this Administration... swore to defend.
It wasn't always like this. In my time there were moments when I had to question whether the speaker had actually said what I thought I'd just heard. In only one instance was this not accepted in the spirit in which it was done. In my experience, the best have not felt threatened by a legitimate question. People committed to doing what is right do not object when what is right is revealed to them.
These are sad times indeed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"The 1 Plan to Rebuild California"

"The 1 Plan to Rebuild California" is touted as "supported by people who don't usually agree on anything." I wouldn't say that's entirely true, because they're all career politicians and special interest groups. They want work for their constituents paid for by the state without having to ask for tax increases (especially) during a general election year.
The "Plan" is being marketed as a single bloc of votes: "Vote Yes on the Ones," which may be unfortunate because it lumps Prop. 1A with debt-financed spending programs.
I wrote a bit about Prop. 1A the other day.
Proposition 1B would authorize $19.9 Billion from general obligation bonds for state and local transportation construction.
The only identified highway is SR-99. One half of one percent would go toward port and harbor security.
Proposition 1C would authorize $2.9 Billion from general obligation bonds; about half to continue funding for existing programs and the rest for "development programs" (pork).
Proposition 1D would authorize $10.4 Billion from general obligation bonds for education facilities construction and improvements. Not to open or operate them... just to build them.
Proposition 1E would authorize $4.1 Billion from general obligation bonds for "flood management" projects... okay, primarily one project: $3 Billion for the Central Valley Flood Control System.
If my math skills haven't failed me again, Californians are looking at borrowing about $37.3 Billion almost all of it (except for about $1.5 Billion in homeownership loans) to be repaid... with interest... about $63.3 Billion over 30 years... by taxpayers!

$37.3 Billion to rebuild California "without increasing taxes!" There ought to be an asterisk and fine print somewhere that says "this year." This single issue, assuming no new bond issues in the future (AS IF!!), is expected to push California's debt service ratio to 6% in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise opened
their article on Proposition 1B with:

"Local transportation leaders say they expect plenty of money to flow to
Riverside and San Bernardino counties... even though it does not include
specific projects in the Inland area."

Riverside and San Bernardino counties are populated by people who can't afford to live in Los Angeles County and managed by people who wanted their same jobs in Orange County. These people are notoriously nuts (in my humble opinion)... incurably Republican. Mary Bono is still representing them in the House.

I am encouraged that it looks like support for "The 1 Plan" is dropping, I am not optimistic that my fellow voters are going to (a) read through a 192-page Voter Guide before they (b) VOTE.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

CA Prop 1A - Transportation Funding Protection

Proposition 1A on the California ballot puts into the state constitution that a) the sales taxes levied on gasoline must used for transportation and not dropped into the General Fund; and that b) if the state does have to "borrow" that money, it must be returned to the transportation fund within three years.
Presently these measures exist in state law, except that the state law doesn't specify when, if ever, transportation funds must be replaced.
My objection to the status quo is simple: levying extraordinary taxes on gasoline to pay for state transportation expenses and then routinely keeping that money in the general fund is dishonest. It also results in a woefully inadequate transportation infrastructure, but the bigger issue is the accepted practice of robbing Peter to pay Paul instead of dealing with budget issues in a straightforward manner.
Anyone who remembers... if anyone remembers... Schwarzenegger's second year as governor when all of the money he "borrowed" in his first year couldn't be repaid should know what I'm talking about here. In fact, one hardly needs to look further than Propositon 1B for a $19.9 Billion bond issue for state and local transportation improvement projects.
California voters accepted higher gasoline taxes to fund transportation. What is the question?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Robin Would Have Been 59

Robin and I were a couple of ugly ducklings at Davenport Central in 1962... I think the technical term is "Nerds." Whether it was gravity or whatever, in a sophomore class of more than 300, Robin and I always had at least one class together, two in that first year. We talked and talked and talked... we each thought at the time that we had talked about everything there was to talk about.
During the summer before our senior year I dropped several pounds of baby fat and got my head turned by Donna, and that was it for Robin and me.
In the fall of 1995 Robin tracked me down on AOL and sent me an e-mail. We corresponded sporadically thereafter (you know how I am about writing).
Robin had hit a couple of speed bumps on the road of life, but enjoyed more than twenty years as a speech therapist for a rural school district in eastern Kentucky before retiring with a disability. I got it into my head to go for a drive in 2004 and, since I was going to be going through Kentucky, I planned to stop by and see her.
I had to pull her out of a nursing home to take her to dinner. Just six weeks earlier she'd been hospitalized up in Lexington, narrowly surviving major abdominal surgery, and she still had an open incision.
It turned out that for all the time we'd spent talking forty years earlier, I had not known that she'd been adopted or that she and her "step-mother" were both being beaten. She hadn't known that I'd been in foster care for seven years. She didn't know that she'd been my first date, the girl I gave my first corsage to. We talked at the SNF for a few hours, and then we joined two of her friends, Mark and Sally, for a bite to eat.
The classic "Robin" moment was when I came back to pick her up for dinner. She looked at me, there after forty years to pick her up for our second date, and exclaimed, "Are those the only shoes you have?" You had to have been there.
I didn't realize when I kissed her goodbye that that was the first time I'd kissed her.
After that we talked on the phone a few times... a few more e-mails... and then Robin was gone. She'd told Mark and Sally on Friday that she wasn't feeling well and was going to stay in bed so they shouldn't call. When they checked on her Monday they found that she'd passed over the weekend... just days before her birthday.
I think about Robin, adopted from a foundling home, her adoptive mother dying and leaving her with an abusive father figure, a non-starter in the teen popularity wars... because she'd already learned to keep so much of herself so well hidden? She pulled herself up. She did a lot of good for a lot of kids. She was bright, and funny, and for a few hours in late May, 2004, she said she reconnected with a moment forty years earlier.
Robin would have been 59 yesterday.