Hey! Look who's written a book! It's Rod Blagojevich! The product description is classic: The Governor by Rod Blagojevich
THE GOVERNOR provides the most comprehensive look to date at the life of a twice-elected public official in the notoriously complicated world of Illinois politics. We take a tour through the segregated neighborhoods of Chicago, a city of great ethnic diversity, and see firsthand how those divides can evolve into cabals that rival anything found on the national political scene.
We follow the governor as he is awakened early one morning –his young daughter sleeping peacefully beside him – and unceremoniously arrested by FBI agents without knowing the charges being brought against him. We see the harsh glare of the spotlight, the media whirlwind already staking out his home and family, rushing to judgment before even the governor himself knew what crimes he’d been accused of committing. We follow him through the maze of political conspiracies that threaten to unseat and impeach the governor of the fifth largest state in the U.S. –forces brought to light by the ambition of an attorney general and the greed of her Democratic State Party Chairman father –as well as the zeal of a federal prosecutor and the manipulations of a disloyal lieutenant governor.
The behind-the-scenes workings to fill the Senate seat vacated by the most popular President-elect in decades becomes something much more incendiary when wiretapped conversations are used by authorities to commit the arrest. But, as the governor soon learns, those tapes are not allowed to be played at his impeachment hearings in the House or Senate. What is on those tapes? And why will the prosecution not let them be heard if they were the primary factor in initiating the arrest that started this political scandal in the first place?
Quoting from sources as diverse as Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics to Aeschylus , Shakespeare to The Purpose Driven Life, THE GOVERNOR provides not just an inside look at politics on a state and national level but a treatise on the proper place of government in the everyday lives of its people.
It is a mandate for healthcare reform, which the governor feels is the civil rights issue of our lifetime. It is a clarion cry, remarkably, against cynicism in modern governing and a return to a more thoughtful and informed sense of government that views its state budgets as “moral documents.” It is a lament against the current state of the political landscape, one that too often is wracked by scandal and interwoven with a media-driven culture obsessed with scandal and snap judgments.
And it is a proclamation that one man will not be silenced, that his side of the story must be heard and that the fight for American liberties and freedom must sometimes occur within its own borders.
If there is another guy out there who is enjoying his infamy more than Rod Blagojevich, I would like to know his name. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, who shares Blago's sense of the absurd. Both men, while symbols of corrrupt regimes, also seem to take great delight in saying the most outrageous things, certain that their detractors will fly into a full-bore tizzy. No matter what else has happened, Blagojevich has been consistent in giving off the air of someone who is enjoying himself immensely.
EMPIRE OF LIES: THE TRUTH ABOUT CHINA IN THE 21st CENTURY
By Guy Sorman
For an autocratic communist dictatorship that steals US patents, oppresses its people, pollutes the environment, makes shoddy merchandise, curtails free speech, sells tainted food and medicine, and intervenes forcefully in the procreation of families, China gets astoundingly good press. Some of it comes from free trade types who simply see a market to exploit, but a surprising amount of the books about China are written by western academics who write about China in a neutral or positive light, even as they hang scorching anti-US bumperstickers on their Volvos. It's not as if the dark side of China is being hidden. The western press is filled with stories about China's shortcomings. However, it's difficult to find a comprehensive compedium of info to counteract the relentless happy talk.
I had high hopes that this book would be such a compedium, but it is not. This is not to say it is without value. It has plenty of information, much of it gleaned from Sorman's travels through China, and his meetings with dissidents. But the book is limited to what he sees and learns. He doesn't really go beyond the perspective of what he sees before him. This gives the book a strong personal quality, but it lacks the sweep of a Robert Conquest, Alexander Solzenizen, and other historians of modern tyranny.
MY GRANDFATHER'S SON
By Clarence Thomas
Justice Thomas has written one of the great memoirs of this decade. Thomas grew up dirt poor in the segregated South. He was raised by his grandfather, a tough old cuss who liked to say things like "Old Man Can't Is Dead. I Know Because I Helped Bury Him!" The narrative takes you from Thomas' birth up to the moment when he walked into his first session at the Supreme Court. Along the way, he tells the story of how that dirt poor boy grew into the man whose strength of will and character allowed him to face down a Senate Judiciary Committee filled with hostile liberals, and earn a spot on the Supreme Court.
Much of the hype around this book centered around his relationship with his grandfather. However, the sections dealing with his childhood are only a small portion of this book. Thomas is brutally frank, and self castigating about the failure of his first marriage, and his law school days as an "angry black man." He unhesitatingly describes his drinking (mostly beer) and his struggles with debt (his refused to ever allow his son to go to public school). he also details his pre-Supreme Court career, first as an assistant to Missouri's attorney general, then as a corporate lawyer at Monsanto, and finally as the head of the EEOC during the Reagan administration. He is especially proud of his work at the EEOC. Along the way, he meets up-and-comers like John Bolton, John Ashcroft, Walter Williams, and Juan Williams. Most interesting is Thomas' relationship with the great Thomas Sowell, who was Thomas' intellectual mentor.
All of this leads up, of course to the infamous Anita Hill hearings. As you might expect, Thomas stoutly denies anything improper happened. More interesting is Thomas' description of the emotional toll the hearings took. He was essentially attacked by the entire liberal establishment - Senators, unions, feminist groups, the NAACP - which used its allies in the media to spread stories that would have embarrassed the Democrats' segregationist forebears. I remember when the hearings were going on, and Thomas called the spectacle a "high tech lynching." I thought he was engaging in wild hyperbole at the time, but I was young and foolish back then.
Thomas quotes extensively from the statements he read to the TV audience watching the Judiciary hearings. I can vividly remember many of his quoted passages and they still burn with righteous rage. Thomas was his grandfather's son because all of his grandfather's pride, strength, and fire had been passed to him, and saved him during the hearings. Many conservatives have been through attacks similar to that which was visited on Thomas, but few have been able fight back so well (Bolton, Ashcroft, and Sarah Palin are others).
As a prose stylist, Thomas is very good. He is economical in his word choices. his chapters move along efficiently and always lead up to a good conclusory sentence that sets up the next chapter. This should come as no surprise if you have read any of Justice Thomas' judicial opinions, which are always marked by an admirable clarity and unflinching forecasts of the practical results of wrong headed decisions. His opinions are the only ones that could be read and understood by a person of average intellect, which is Thomas' intent. Those who prefer the tortured stylings of the Court's more intellectual members find this unintelligent and worse. They should really be asking why their preferred judicial decisions require obfuscation and obscurity, rather than Thomas' sunlight and clarity.
If you are a conservative, this book is, of course, required reading. If you are liberal, or are otherwise a one of Thomas' detractors, I think fairness demands that you read this book as well. Then, you should ask yourself why the defense of your philosophy required that this man be denigrated and destroyed.
THE CONSTITUTION OF LIBERTY
This may not seem like a big deal, but it certainly is in my line of work (I represent people who are being sued by their credit card companies). The National Arbitration Forum is shutting its doors: Credit Card Disputes Tossed Into Disarray
Two major arbitration firms are backing away from the business of resolving disputes between customers and their credit-card and cellphone companies, throwing into disarray a controversial system that prevents unhappy consumers from filing lawsuits.
The American Arbitration Association said Tuesday it will stop participating in consumer-debt-collection disputes until new guidelines are established. Its decision came two days after another big group, the National Arbitration Forum, said it would stop accepting new cases as of Friday.
Although arbitration long has been controversial, the current situation developed rapidly starting last week when the Minnesota attorney general's office sued the National Arbitration Forum, based in St. Louis Park, Minn., over the way it handled disputes. Among other things, the lawsuit contended that NAF didn't disclose that it has financial ties to the debt-collection industry, violating Minnesota laws against consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false advertising.
So, who cares, right? Well, you probably should. The Forum was a place credit card companies could go to obtain money judgments against their customers without going through the fuss and muss of actually proving their cases. If there was a procedural abuse you could conceive of, the Forum practiced it. Notices to appear would show up in people's mailboxes with no information about the date, time and place of the hearing. Hearings often took place in Minnesota, even if the defendant lived thousands of miles away. If some luckless defendant had the temerity to try to participate, their attempts to file documents would be rebuffed for failing to conform to Forum rules. The defects, as well as the underlying rules supposedly broken were, of course, left unstated. The Forum also relied on good old-fashioned "sewer service" to notify defendants of a pending hearing. In many cases, people had no idea an arbitration had taken place, and an award entered against them, until they got a notice informing them that their credit card company was attempting to enforce a big money judgment against them.
There is legitimate business activity and then there is abuse, and the Forum engaged in abuse. The MN attorney general's suit against the Forum is amazing to read. The Forum was set up by the card companies and some of the more prominent debt collection firms. Creditors attorneys practicing in front of the Forum worked for firms whose partners were part owners of the Forum. It was a corrupt system, and certainly emblematic of the abuses and rip-offs the underlay a significant part of the growth in the financial sector.
The Chamber of Commerce spin is that this will throw credit card litigation into "disarray." Don't believe it. You can still arbitrate a case to your hearts' content. You just can't do it in front of an arbitration factory where the results are pre-ordained. My default position is to be pro-business, but I am not going to blindly support this sort of consumer abuse. The Forum is gone and America's financial sector is better off for it.
Free Will is going on a driving trip down the Central Coast. I have scheduled posts for the coming week, but they will not be on current events. Enjoy.
Deborah Solomon's "Questions" column takes on Arlo Guthrie today. In the middle of his "Hey, man!" blather about Woodstock, Coney Island, Alice's Restaurant, & nuclear war, Guthrie let's slip with this startling admission: Questions for Arlo Guthrie Where are you politically these days?
I became a registered Republican about five or six years ago because to have a successful democracy you have to have at least two parties, and one of them was failing miserably. We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.
Is this true? Is the son of America's most beloved leftist, and original show-biz lifety, turned his coat? Guthrie has always had the air of a consummate wise-ass, but he seems completely sincere. His stated reason - that he wanted to maintain a "loyal oppositon" - is the sort of rationalizing that ex-progressives use to convince themselves that, maybe, social justice and knee-jerk anti-Amercianism is not all it's cracked up to be. Registering "five or six years ago" puts him squarely in the post-9/11 era. In fact, "registering" suggests that he had been voting Republican even longer since (duh) you don't need to register with the GOP to vote for it.
Guthrie is certainly familiar with the chapter and verse of leftist thought and iconography. But, he is also someone who has done well for himself in life and has traveled enough to see that America is not Amerikkka. Good for him for answering Solomon honestly when he could have just as easily dissembled.
Where are you politically these days?
Here's a brilliant idea that would never be allowed to work here in the United States: a ladies-only cab company with pink taxis and female drivers: "Girl Taxi" Service Offers haven To Beirut's Women
These days the (Beirut's) transport staple is facing some serious competition from a growing army of female taxi drivers, dressed in stiff-collared white shirts, dark shades, pink ties and small pink flowers tucked into their flawlessly coiffed hair.It would never be allowed to work in the US because of rampant corruption and cartelization in US cities that keeps the number of taxi medallions artificially low. It would never work because someone would inevitably bring an equal protection claim. And, it would never work because it would turn into a ridiculous "bold 'n' brassy" post-feminist statement, which would not work with the frankly feminine atmosphere that Fakhri tries to maintain in her cabs:
All of them drive for Banet Taxi, or "girl taxi" in Arabic. It is Lebanon's first cab service for women, by women. You can't miss the company's signature candy-pink cars.
"I chose pink because the first idea that comes to mind when you see pink is girls," says Nawal Fakhri, 45 years old, founder of Banet Taxi.
At last, a cab safe for girl-talk! Fakhri, by the way has made back her original $200,000 investment and expects to earn at least that much this year. Lebanon may bear the oppressive weight of Syrian occupation and religious fascism, but in Beirut at least there is enough room for women to find their own corner of freedom.
The company is part of a regional trend. Entrepreneurs across the Middle East have recognized the business potential in offering secure transportation options for women. Banet Taxi follows on the heels of successful women-only transportation models in Dubai, Tehran and Cairo.
In Beirut, the growing company is a sign the private sector is succeeding where the politically volatile public sector fails.
"I like being one of the few female taxi drivers in Lebanon," says Maya Buhaidai, 34, as she takes a sharp turn on a windy road in the mountains overlooking Beirut. "And I like the work. It's easy, it's fun and I get to talk and laugh with my passengers."
As the sun sets, Ms. Buhaidai drives passenger Lamia Samaha, 37, from a suburb on the mountain slope to the busy central Beirut district of Hamra. Along the way, they chat about the news, TV shows and children.
"I am at ease because I am accompanied by a woman. I sometimes find men hard to handle," says Ms. Samaha, causing her and her driver to laugh heartily.
As I write this (7:54 A.M.), the CA State Legislature is debating, and voting on, the new budget. In fact, the State Senate has already voted to approve it. There's plenty of teeth gnashing and foot stomping going on, but it looks like there's no one in the Capitol Building who is willing to be the one who scuttles the deal.
County and municipal leaders continue threatening lawsuits over the plan to raid, er, borrow funds from their coffers. Take it up in 2010, if you care so much. One of the problems with CA's government is that, for many years, people paid as much attention to what was going on in Sacramento as Montanans pay attention to what's going on in Billings (or wherever). Well, CA is too big to ignore, and that ignorance allowed a lot of people to engage in an epic bout of feather-bedding and rent seeking. Hopefully, the fault lines exposed by the budget crisis will still be raw in Nov. 2010, which seems a long way away right now.
The grim search for who to "blame" for the deep spending cuts has already pointed to one oppressed & despised minority. I present to you, the SF Chronicle's take on who is responsible for CA's budget problems:
The Republicans remain united against any new taxes - and it would take at least a few of their votes to reach the required two-thirds threshold. It seems that many of them would sooner see their children in second-rate schools and their cars on Third World roads before they would break their anti-tax pledges and put themselves at the mercy of the right-wing talk radio blowhards.
It's a sad commentary on the state of governance in California, but it is a reality the Capitol's voices of responsibility must confront.
The "voices of responsibility" in the Capitol wanted to solve the budget crisis by raising taxes, piling on more debt, and making cuts to the state programs (education, prisons, first responders) that people actually want the government to deliver. This wasn't opposed by Republicans afraid of "talk radio blowhards." (You cannot discuss the GOP without bringing up "talk radio." Why, you could almost say that Rush Limbaugh was an indirect cause of the budget crisis!). This was voted on and rejected by large majorities of voters in the special election 2 months ago. Surely, you remember that!
The budget crisis was not driven by mean ol' Republicans who are eager to drive their cars on "Third World roads" (hey, who wouldn't? It's a thrill!). It was a crisis of Big Government that finally grew too big from the sort of initiatives that liberals favor - high pay & pensions for unionized public sector employees, generous state services for illegal immigrants, white elephants like high speed rail, a hostile legal and regulatory environment for business - such that its tax base could no longer fund its operations. CA has gone beyond its core competence as a state and pursued all manner of policies - especially in the environmental area - that are properly left to the national government. CA liberals and the occasional moderate Republican have been the drivers of this effort and now they find themselves in the position that was easy to predict: insolvency. And it's all the Republicans' fault?!
Well, sorry, it's not. Politically speaking, it's not the GOP's job to help solve a crisis of Big Government that they did not create, and largely opposed every step of the way. If a high tax, high regulatory environment, with unsustainable public pensions is what is best for CA, then let's hear the liberals complaining about the intransigent GOP justify their proposed policies. But, they can't and won't. It's much easier to blame talk radio blowhards.
2010 can't come soon enough.
You might recall not too long ago that there was a lot of noisy talk about flight delays at US airports. In fact, an annual ritual developed where luckless holiday travelers would be stranded on runways for hours on end, leading to grusome stories about lavoratories "filling up" (gag) and babies howling as their milk supply ran dry. We then had the even more grusome spectacle of consumer watchdog groups forming to express outrage, and the Barbara Boxers of the world manning the microphones to assist in fanning that outrage. Abuse was heaped on the airlines, as if letting their planes sit on runways for hours on end was part of a well-thought out strategy.
Now, the issue has dissipated thanks to, among other things, the construction of new runways, which magically relieved the congestion. Are we doomed to repeatedly re-learning the obvious? O'Hare's New Runway Makes Travel Easier For All
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is no longer the tar pit of the nation’s air-transportation system.
In the eight months since a new runway opened at the U.S.’s second-busiest airport, plagued for decades with lengthy flight delays, O’Hare has operated with above-average on-time arrivals—better than Dallas, Atlanta and Denver in 2009, according to FlightStats.com. O’Hare’s on-time arrival rate improved by 27% so far this year compared with the same period of 2008. That was twice the improvement of any other big U.S. airport.
The new runway, opened last Nov. 21, gets much of the credit. While airline reductions in flight schedules have eased congestion and reduced flight delays, the ability to now land three planes simultaneously in most weather conditions instead of two jets at a time has turned O’Hare from a choke point into a reliable airport.
Note that the troubles in the nation's air transit system originated in the City That Only Knows How To Make $$ Off Inertia. These runways could have been built at any time in the past 20 years, but weren't, because the activists who are the true constituencies for many members of the political elite didn't want them built and to hell with the millions of people who got stuck on backed up runways:
Because of the enormous cost and heated legal battles with neighbors and environmentalists, building runways at big airports is a rarity—and a major reason air travel has been bogged down in the past 10 years. Last fall, three major runways opened with much fanfare on the same day in Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Seattle’s new runway took two decades of planning, approval, court fights and construction. O’Hare’s new runway was the first at that airport in 37 years.
Here is one of the unspoken truths about American politics: gov't at all levels is often unable to plan for the future because querelous activists at the nation's chokepoints - in this case, people in and around O'Hare, along with the inevitable "environmental" groups - can stop a worthwhile project for decades, while someone else - in this case the airlines and the airport - will take most of the blame. It is a truth so explosive that it can only uttered in the W$J's "Lifestyle" section. You would certainly never hear anyone state this so bluntly where it counts.
This is symbolic of how America's public institutions have seemingly ground to a halt. A "can't do" ethos has been imposed upon us without any debate, discussion, or even our comprehension. Even if we can do it and want to do it, we can't. We have changed from a nation of Robert Moses expanding our boundaries to a nation of Ralph Nader keeping us within tightly constricted lines. While highly motivated and concentrated activists can exercise power that is outsized compared to their numbers, the vast majority doomed to sit on delayed flights are too diffused and disorganized to act as a counter-weight. Often, it can be unclear for many years that this effect exists.
It defies reason to ask why an environmental lawyer in Chicago might have an indirect impact on persons living and traveling hundreds of miles away, after all. And yet he does. How long before people look around at their glorious "can't do" society and wonder who else is standing at the nation's chokepoints?
Passengers have detected a difference. Tim Snyder, a Chicago-based sales and consulting executive for a software company, began noticing that his flights in and out of Chicago were more frequently on time, and arrivals frequently used the new runway. He started keeping track and had a streak of 26 consecutive on-time flights before bad weather in Chicago delayed his flight for two hours. But the streak resumed, and now he’s been on time for 36 of his past 37 flights.
“Those are tax dollars I like to spend,” says Mr. Snyder.
Imagine the waste and lost opportunity represented by these unbuilt runways. Imagine all of the time spent sitting on the nation's tarmac. Imagine all that wasted fuel. Imagine the overtime the airlines had to pay. Imagine the loss of revenue from angry customers. Imagine the damage to the airlines brand and reputations. Imagine an air transit system that couldn't expand because there weren't enough landing areas. Now imagine some public interest lawyer sitting in a paper-strewn office who made all of this possible. And yet the law is often set up to bolster his cause, rather than the cause of all those millions of persons and businesses artificially hemmed into a diminishing number of runway space, all so we can vindicate the imagined rights of the environmental lobby, and airport neighbors who act shocked! shocked! when the airport decides to expand.
This is a problem beyond what President Romney or Palin could deal with. This is a product of the legal and political culture that vindicates the rights of activists, rather than that of the average middle class person who is purported to be the object of political concern. Ha! He is the forgotten man in all of this.
It's taken less than 24 hours, but the latest CA budget deal is already generating some squawking. First are the counties and municipal governments from whom the state will be borrowing billions of dollars to close the present deficit. It is unclear what mechanism the state will be using to accomplish this (is it in the state Constitution? Could be, as it's long enough). The local governments, unsurprisingly, were not in the room when they "agreed" to this deal and they are a little miffed: Cities, Counties Ready to Fight State Over Cuts
Local governments across California are preparing to sue the state over a budget plan that would divert about $4 billion from their coffers next year. The association of city governments labeled the plan a "reckless Ponzi scheme" that will stall redevelopment projects, cut construction jobs and slash money for roadwork.GOP legislators are angry because a $1.2 billion cut in the prison budget will be paid for by releasing 27,000 prisoners. That works out to $44,000 per prisoner. WTF? Maybe we should cut their silk sheet budget: State Budget Deal Threatened
It's once again the state balancing its budget on the back of local government," Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said after supervisors there voted Tuesday to back a lawsuit against the state.
Their counterparts in Los Angeles passed a similar motion and local government groups have also pledged lawsuits, including the California Redevelopment Association, which in April won a legal challenge it filed lastyear against the state's attempt to tap $350 million in redevelopment funds.
I don't know. Except for the "earn a GED, get out of jail" scheme, those sound pretty reasonable. I know I've groused elsewhere about having to pay for illegal immigrants to sit in CA prisons when they could just as easily be deported. Earlier this year, when a receiver said conditions in CA's prison hospitals constituted unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, I suggested letting the infirm and terminally ill prisoners out on early release, so the prisons don't end up treating cancer and Alzheimer's patients. Let Medicare pick up that tab. That's what it's there for. I would advise the GOP to give this a rest.
The deal reached Monday night included $1.2 billion in prison spending cuts - but did not specify how those cuts would be accomplished.
On Tuesday, the governor's officials unveiled the specifics - infuriating Republicans who called the proposal a non-starter that could kill the budget deal.
The plan, according to Matt Cate, Schwarzenegger's top prison official, would reduce the prison population this year by 27,000 inmates, some of whom would be released early. The plan includes:
-- Sending thousands of old and sick inmates to non-prison hospitals.
-- Allowing some non-violent, non-sex offending inmates to serve the last year of their sentence in house arrest.
-- Allowing some non-violent inmates to earn time served by receiving GED or vocational training.
-- Creating a sentencing commission to overhaul the state's sentencing laws.
The governor would also begin considering thousands of illegal immigrant inmates who may be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.
This is no doubt only the beginning of the grousing. The local governments have a legitimate complaint over the state's plan to raid their treasuries. But all of the other complaints are from interest groups crying over the loss of their pets. It looks like everyone will have something to complain about, which means the goal of shared sacrifice through spending cuts, rather than tax increases, has been achieved. The state needs a budget for 2009 and that budget is here. If you want to carry the battle further, take it to the ballot box next year.
Keith Hennessey has 20 questions for White House beat reporters to ask the President tonight. They are all based in policy/politics certainly better than asking about Bill Ayers and birth certificates on the one hand and the President's "feelings" on the other: 20 Question for the President
8. You have said transparency is a top priority. Yet you are calling on Congress to pass a trillion-plus dollar spending bill before CBO has had time to estimate its full effects. In addition, your Administration is delaying release of the new economic projections and deficit estimates until after Congress votes on this massive new spending bill. Will you commit now that you will not ask Members of Congress to vote on this massive new spending commitment until your Administration has met its legal obligation to provide an updated economic forecast and deficit projection, and until CBO has provided Congress with transparent and complete analysis of the bill?
20 GOP Senators would be wise to divide these questions and begin asking them everyday. Instead, the GOP has decided to mouth words that a pollster has told them are "effective." You mean, effective at making you look like robots?
Hey, look! CA's Big Five have reached yet another tentative budget deal! State Leaders Have A Tentative Plan to Fix the Budget
There's a lot about this deal that's better than what they came up with last winter. For one thing, this deal, and its approval, are pure products of representative government. Voters will not be asked to vote in another "special" election. There is no attempt by the representatives to fob off to the voters their responsibility to vote on these things. Best of all, the outline of the deal provides for deep spending cuts, and no new taxes, just the sort of thing the "tyrrannical" minority GOP has been asking for throughout. Mwa ha ha!
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders reached a tentative budget compromise Monday to plug a $26.3 billion deficit by making hefty cuts in education, health and welfare services, and taking billions of dollars from county governments.
Of course, it's not a perfect deal. for one thing, the state will "borrow" and then repay billions of dollars from county governments, based on what mechanism I have no idea. The journalists covering this story are no help. And, although taxes will not go up, the withholdings from our paychecks will increase (as will our subsequent refunds). Sounds like a lot of money shuffling around, rather than a glidepath to good governance.
The compromise would avoid raising new taxes, but would add more money to the state's depleted coffers by taking billions of tax dollars that local governments receive each year - money that the state would repay in future years. The plan also includes Schwarzenegger's ideas to collect taxes earlier and increase the state income tax withholding in worker paychecks. This move would allow the state to collect more income taxes earlier but could result in higher refunds.Still, they managed to make some symbolically important cuts, such as eliminating the Integrated Waste Management Board, which had devolved into a glorified sinecure for legislators who were termed out of office, or lost their seats:
You won't be able to get rid of Carole Migden that easily! She will rise again!
The agreement would also eliminate the Integrated Waste Management Board and combine its functions with the Department of Conservation. Together they would create a new department under the state Resources Agency. The plan would eliminate the waste board's six-member panel, which is made up of political appointees who each earn $132,179 a year.
Former lawmakers have often been given the lucrative appointment, including former state Sen. Carole Migden of San Francisco, currently a member of the board. She and her fellow members would be out of their jobs at the end of this year
Incredibly, the deal also provides for drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. While this is not quite a third rail issue, it is one that is a flashpoint for CA Greens and wealthy NIMBY's who don't like the idea of drilling off the coast, and who are masters at generating a media frenzy. Expect hysterics over this one.
This is cosmetic stuff, however. The big expenses are education, state payrolls, and the CA's overly generous welfare prorams. If there is one thing that voters have made clear this year, it's that they want the government to continue spending $$ on education. The deal works withing the present budget system for education spending, especially the dictates of Prop. 98. While there are significant cuts this year, that money will also be repaid starting in 2012, the projected date of the next CA budget crisis:
The deal also includes Schwarzenegger's earlier proposal that would allow offshore oil drilling near Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 6 miles from the Santa Barbara County shoreline, generating about $100 million a year in new royalties for the state.
Legislators agreed to limit spending on education without suspending Proposition 98, a voter-approved constitutional rule that spells out minimum spending for K-12 schools and community colleges. Sources told The Chronicle that the governor and legislative leaders also agreed on a scheme to pay $9.5 billion to public schools beginning in 2012 to make up for education cuts in the current budget.CA's welfare state will also face "deep" (and for now, unstated) cuts.
Is the crisis over? No. While the spending cuts are great news, CA's government will remain a leviathan. There has been no effort to reduce state payrolls and no effort to reform the public employee pension fund. There is no indication that the regulatory and tax climate that has made CA so hostile to business will be rolled back any time soon. There is no indication that the initiative process will be reformed. Worst of all, the budget relies on the sort of goofball accounting gimmicks - paying state employees on the last day of the fiscal year for wages that would have normally been earned on the first day of the following year, for example - that allow the gov't to claim to have balanced budget, when it really has done no such thing.
Schwarzenegger's initial proposal to eliminate health and welfare programs outright was rebuffed by Democrats, but those programs - In Home Support Services, CalWorks and Healthy Families - face deep cuts as well.
For now, however, the immediate drama appears to be over. CA remains a Big Government outpost with a center-left orientation. This means the crises will continue to unfold in the middle and long term. Oh, joy. There's only one way to change this, and that is to change the people sitting in the Legislature, but that is a tall order. For most people here, a lazy kind of liberalism is their default position. 2010 should be an opportunity to bring in some new blood, but in the absence of a crisis atmosphere like we had this year, that might be tough to pull off. Still, we must try.
I said earlier that there were hints and insinuations on the Left suggesting some disappointment with the Sotomayor nomination, although outwardly they "celebrated" the nomination of the First! Latina! Justice! (Ta Daaaaa!). Now, Richard Cohen comes out and says what many more are thinking, but whose finely calibrated philosophy could never allow them to admit: Sonia Sotomayor: A Safe, Soporific Bet For The High Court
Cohen even dares to go where even the "mean" GOP Senators would not go, saying that the Ricci case was about the denial of individual civil liberties, and that Sotomayor came down foresquare on the side of the rights of the state over that of the individual. Why can't our guys ever make points like this?
Don't get me wrong. (Sotomayor) is fully qualified. She is smart and learned and experienced and, in case you have not heard, a Hispanic, female nominee, of whom there have not been any since the dawn of our fair republic. But she has no cause, unless it is not to make a mistake, and has no passion, unless it is not to show any, and lacks intellectual brilliance, unless it is disguised under a veil of soporific competence until she takes her seat on the court. We shall see.
In the meantime, Sotomayor will do, and will do very nicely, as a personification of what ails the American left. She is, as everyone has pointed out, in the mainstream of American liberalism, a stream both intellectually shallow and preoccupied with the past. We have a neat summary of it in the recent remarks of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who said he wanted a Supreme Court justice "who will continue to move the court forward in protecting . . . important civil rights." He cited the shooting of a gay youth, the gang rape of a lesbian and the murder of a black man -- in other words, violence based on homophobia and racism. Yes. But who nowadays disagrees?
Sotomayor has demonstrated that she is minimally qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Rah. But there are hundreds, if not thousands of Americans who can meet that standard. In relentlessly demanding the promotion of mediocraties to satisfy an unspoken quota, the Left diminshes itself and the laws it champions as constitutionally protected "social justice."
What, though, about a jurist who can advance the larger cause of civil rights and at the same time protect individual rights? This was the dilemma raised by the New Haven firefighters' case. The legal mind who could have found a "liberal" way out of the thicket would deserve a Supreme Court seat. As an appellate judge, Sotomayor did not even attempt such an exercise. She punted.
I don't believe in global warming. I agree that there is climate change - it has changed over the millenia, for good and for bad - but I don't believe that humans have had an appreciable effect on climate change, and have little chance of manipulating the climate to our benefit. I suspect a lot more people share this view. Sadly, the poli-sci majors and law school graduates who make up the West's political elite are absolutely convinced that we are doomed doomed doomed based as much on scary graphics and movies with portentious music as on "science." Things have gotten so bad that our foreign policy has descended into the farce of nagging developing countries about their emissions. Unsurprisingly, we are being rebuffed out of hand India Rejects US Carbon Limits Plan
India is an ally, but don't worry, we are nagging our rivals, too: Energy Secretary Warns China On Emissions
India dismissed suggestions that it accept binding limits on carbon emissions, with a top official Sunday delivering a strong rebuke to overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the two countries to work together to combat climate change.
The rejection of the U.S. proposal was made in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's first visit to India as secretary of state and came just as the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is gearing up to push for a new global pact on climate change.
"There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Mrs. Clinton and her delegation."And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," he said, according to a written account of Mr. Ramesh's remarks to Mrs. Clinton in their meeting. Mr. Ramesh handed out copies of the account to reporters at a news conference afterward with Mrs. Clinton standing nearby.
In meetings with senior Chinese energy officials and in a speech at prestigious Tsinghua University, Mr Chu continued the Obama administration's efforts to push for greater action on climate change. China recently surpassed the US as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. While acknowledging that the world's developed Western nations have contributed most of the carbon dioxide already trapped in the atmosphere, Mr Chu warned that China could add more in the next few decades than everything the US emitted since the Industrial Revolution. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas. Mr. Chu said in the speech to students of China's top science and engineering school that "The developed world did make the problem, I admit that. But the developing world can make it much worse." Painting a grim picture of a world faced with making a tough choice between something bad might happen or something very bad might happen even if global warming is addressed, Mr Chu urged China to invest more in energy efficient technologies in partnership with the US.
While the US government is filled with nervous nellies like Sec. Chu, who fears the Heavens & the Earth, and possibly his own shadow, China and India are filled with ambitious technocrats who would like to make as much wealth as we ahve over the decades, but which we have now declared to be politically incorrect. According to the Obama Administration, if other countries won't get on board, we will just have to pay for the emissions reductions ourselves. Has this been thought through? Commerce Secretary America Needs To Pay For China's Emissions
So we'll either have a trade war or more massive increases in the cost of living - for Americans. Where's the diplomatic leverage? I would love hear what the developing world's diplomats have to say about our climate proposals behind closed doors. Whatever it is, the word "smart" probably doesn't come up.
It’s bad enough that the Obama administration wants to penalize all Americans for their energy use through the cap-and-tax scheme that will hobble our economy and hike electricity and gas costs, but until now they only proposed to penalize us for our own energy use. With China refusing to join the West in economic suicide, who will pay for their emissions? Commerce Secretary says that the American consumer is to blame for China’s energy-production emissions — and we’ll pay for that instead of the Chinese:
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said something amazing—U.S. consumers should pay for part of Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions. From Reuters: “It’s important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to the benefit of America — and it’s our own consumption activity that’s causing the emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai
I thought this picture - call it "Iranian Critic Quotes Khomini Principles" - was fantastic:
It presents an almost Medieval tableau; the old revolutionary denounces the present regime while the past and present Supreme Leader look on and a gent with an assassain's mien lurks behind a curtain. The heavy use of blue adds to the sense of heaven at war with the earth, as clerics war with one another over earthly concerns about power and corruption, cloaking their dispute in the words of religion.
The NY Times profiles JP Morgan's James Dimon, but completely misses a bigger story within the story sitting right there on the front page: In Washington, One Bank Chief Still Holds Sway Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, will hold a meeting of his board here in the nation’s capital for the first time on Monday, with a special guest expected: the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel’s appearance would underscore the pull of Mr. Dimon, who amid the disgrace of his industry has emerged as President Obama’s favorite banker, and in turn, the envy of his Wall Street rivals. It also reflects a good return on what Mr. Dimon has labeled his company’s “seventh line of business” — government relations. The business of better influencing Washington, begun in late 2007, was jump-started just as the financial crisis hit and the capital displaced New York as the nation’s money center. Then Mr. Obama’s election brought to power Chicago Democrats well-known to Mr. Dimon from his recent years running a bank there. One of them is Mr. Emanuel, who has accepted the invitation to speak to the board pending a review by the White House counsel.
Rahm, you don't need advice from the White House counsel; you need a clout in the ear. There is no way that this is a good idea. People already think there is an untoward relationship between the Bailed Out and Big Government. Indeed, Simon Johnson's idea that the government's balance sheets have essentially been captured by corrupting financiers trying to protect their positions has come dangerously close to becoming a mainstream idea. Now you propose to "address" a board meeting (behind closed doors, naturally) for a bank that has profited handsomely from last year's chaos at the expense of its less well-connected rivals, while bragging about its robust DC lobbying efforts?
For a Republican chief of staff, this would be a no-brainer; he wouldn't speak in front of this bank's board of directors. The "GOP Culture of Corruption" headlines write themselves. I know that progressives think that their platitudinous politics insulate them from the sort of "corruption" charges that are the part of any GOP politicos' resume'. But, Rahm, I don't think there are enough Gay Pride Parades for you to march in to protect you from the appearance of impropriety here.
Dimon, unsurprisingly, is described as a major donor to the Democratic Party, and comes complete with the inevitable "Chicago connection." And you say he is Obama's "favorite banker?" Imagine that.
Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, will hold a meeting of his board here in the nation’s capital for the first time on Monday, with a special guest expected: the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
Mr. Emanuel’s appearance would underscore the pull of Mr. Dimon, who amid the disgrace of his industry has emerged as President Obama’s favorite banker, and in turn, the envy of his Wall Street rivals. It also reflects a good return on what Mr. Dimon has labeled his company’s “seventh line of business” — government relations.
The business of better influencing Washington, begun in late 2007, was jump-started just as the financial crisis hit and the capital displaced New York as the nation’s money center. Then Mr. Obama’s election brought to power Chicago Democrats well-known to Mr. Dimon from his recent years running a bank there.
One of them is Mr. Emanuel, who has accepted the invitation to speak to the board pending a review by the White House counsel.
Concurring Opinions writes for a lot of us when it says that too much time and effort goes into watching and analyzing Supreme Court nomination hearings, such as the recently concluded Sotomayor hearings: Randy Barnett Revisits Rosen
Well, for one thing there is a lot of money and political hay to be made when a Supreme Court nomination comes up, especially when progressives have a chance to beat up a conservative nominee. Chairmen bang their gavels, Senators bang their lecterns, and civil rights groups bang their contributer lists - all raising hell about Life in Robert Bork's America (where blacks must have "back of the bus" abortions).
But I do think that the legal blogosphere comes out of these hearings looking pretty silly and oddly obsessed with an institution that decides almost no cases that matter to the political, economic or cultural life of the country. Even were the Supreme Court to be as practically significant as, say, the House’s Ways and Means committee (a proposition which is arguable), the devotion of so many resources to the intense study of a single confirmation hearing would still be odd. The goal of such hearings is obviously to allow Senators to talk their political bases about why they ought to be reelected while pretending to talk to the nominee about why she ought to be confirmed. That’s why, for example, we’ve got witnesses on constitutional property rights, an area of law which has - to my mind - disproportionate political salience when you consider the heavy governmental intrusions contemplated by the common law tort and contract regime, never mentioned in the hearings
I get that it’s a slow news week, or perhaps even month, but the attention that law professors, lawyers and journalists have paid to this hearing is unwarranted, especially when other far more interesting problems of legal reform and regulation are pressing. Worse, it encourages the view that the Justices are our platonic guardians, who must be blessed before they ascend into the heavens.
Nominations are also one of the few areas in government where the checks and balances between all three branches of government play out in public at once. The Court is empowered (by itself, but we won't get into that) to review the activities of the Executive and Legislative branches, but the Court's membership is dependent on being selected by the Executive and then approved by the Senate. The Senate has an opportunity, not just to determine the membership of the Court, but also to check the president's power to make nominations. And, I think, Senators (who often see legislation they labor over for years get struck down by the Court) see nomination hearings as their one opportunity to speak directly to the Court and make its members squirm a little. It shouldn't be a surprise when political emotions quickly head toward 11.
The real problem with these hearings is the air of bogusness that hovers over the proceedings. Nominees assiduously dance around questions using the now-tired formulations "I can only follow the law," "I can only decide the cases in front of me," "I cannot answer hypotheticals." My favorite is "I have to follow precedent," which should be the bumpersticker slogan for policy-making Living Constitution proponents. Should the government take private property and give it to other private interests? "Precedent," or better yet "Super Precedent," says YES! Yaaayyy! But we never hear about this until it's too late.
These evasions may look good politically, but to the average person, they look evasive and Delphic, speaking in tongues where clarity is called for. Lawyers and activists might be satisfied, but the public is left with the impression that our Supreme Court justices are robotic dullards sticking to a script that they don't really believe in.
The root of the problem is that these are lifetime appointments, and Supreme Court justices tend to be very long-lived. As Rod Blagojovich would say, a seat on the Court is a "f***in' valuable thing." The air of drama would be lowered considerably if there were term limits on the justices' time on the Big Bench. The usual objections raised against legislative term limits - they would need time to build "experience" and seniority - simply don't apply to the justices. A justice can start having an effect on the Court immediately. There's no real seniority system on the Court; all they have is their votes. Justice Kennedy became "Mr. 5-4" within a few years of joining the Court, for example. The fact that Renquist and Scalia had been there longer had no effect on that. As for "experience," the justices have that from day one.
(Just as an aside, I thought Sotomayor demonstrated once and for all that she was a fairly mediocre pick in terms of intellect. However, her work experience - while often low-profile - was impressive. She has had a lot of exposure to a lot of areas of law in her work life, but I have had to piece this together from media reports. In an ideal world, her proponents would have downplayed the "first Hispanic woman" BS and touted her solid non-judicial credentials.)
My choice would be a term limit of 20 years. This is more than enough time to make a difference. Scalia would have been termed out in 2006. Thomas would be termed out in 2011. Stevens would have been gone in 1995(!). Back in the Olden Days, which ended sometime during the Eisenhower administration, Supreme Court justices were more subject to the robust operation of God's term limits. Harry Truman made two (or was it three?) nominations in one memorable summer due to death and disease among the justices.
A 20-year term linit would bring a sense of balance back to the Court, as it would be regularly infused with new blood. It would also remove some, but not all, of the hysterics that greet nominations. Finally, it would reduce the value attached to each seat, as we would be much more likely to know when seats would be open, and plan accordingly. The Constitution is supposed to operate with a minimum of fuss and disorder, but the placement of justices on the Supreme Court has become too fraught, such that the Court itself is diminished. Term limits would be a step towards reducing this trend.
CA's budget cutting has struck the state's "other" university system, the 23-campus Cal State Universities. The usual draconian cuts "on the backs of the students" are being debated and denounced: CSU To Join UC In Cutting Pay, Raising Tuition
Just as the University of California's Board of Regents was voting Thursday morning to cut $813 million from the UC budget, the chancellor of the California State University system announced he will ask trustees to approve a hefty 20 percent fee hike on students next week.Just to add to the sense of chaos and panic, the linked article fails to mention that tuition will cost $4,827 per year. At $2,413.50 per semester, CSU is still a bargain. I graduated from San Francisco State, and the education I got there was just as good as the one I got while attending Expensive Private U for one year. Most CSU students can actually work their way through school, a virtual impossibility at private schools and even most state schools. As such, most CSU students take these sorts of fee increases in stride:
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said he will also ask for layoffs, unpaid furloughs and a range of other measures Tuesday to save the university system $584 million.
"It's nothing short of a mega-meltdown financially," Reed said.
California State University's Board of Trustees will decide Tuesday whether to approve Chancellor Charles Reed's plan to cut $584 million from the CSU budget. Here are the basics of his plan:
Higher student fees: A 20 percent fee hike, on top of the 10 percent increase approved in May, would bring the cost of attending a CSU school to $4,827.
Furloughs: All employees would take off two unpaid days per month.
Enrollment reduction: About 450,000 students attend CSU. Efforts would be made to reduce enrollment by 40,000 over two years.
Campus cuts of $190 million: Layoffs, course reductions, freezes on maintenance, construction, travel and more. Cut to be decided by officials at each campus.
The adults who work at CCU, on the other hand, are up in arms as their cloistered world is invaded by the barbarian hordes led by the implacable forces of Recession, Balance Sheets, and Macroeconomics:
Not all students are angry.
"I understand that they can't do anything about it," shrugged Aznaur Midov, an incoming senior at San Francisco State University who studies banking. "The university has to help itself to survive."
Lest anyone take Midov for an affluent gent, he works as a waiter and as a security guard, and he pays his tuition with - yes - a credit card.
Employees are worried.
"If my pay is cut, I could very well lose my house," said Jane Veeder, a professor of visual communication design at San Francisco State. "Is the CSU going to co-sign my loan?"
At Cal State Long Beach, librarian Tiffini Travis said she was hoping to teach a community service seminar this fall in which freshmen would help feed the homeless at a local shelter.
"Now I'm afraid we're going to be the ones eating there," she said.
Would it be out of bounds if I guess that a "professor of visual communication design" is the sort of progressive who supports the unionization, high public pension costs, environmentally correct "no growth" laws, taxes on "the rich," and other initiatives that have raised the cost of housing (and everything else) in CA? Now, she's flummuxed that the state government has grown too big to be sustained over the long term? It was inevitable! By the way, having CSU "co-sign your mortgage" is the sort of thinking that lies at the root of the present crisis, demonstrating that some people still don't get it.
There's good news/bad news on the Financial Crisis front. Commissioners have been named to a "non-partisan" body that will take evidence and draft a report on the causes and effects of the Crash of '08. The good news is that there will be a commission, so we can maybe sort out what was going on at Treasury, the Fed, the Wall Street investment banks, Fannie & Freddie, etc. The bad news is that this will be yet another "non-partisan" commission headed by a partisan Democrat, in this case CA's former Treasurer Phil Angelides, who comes complete expensive suits, unctuous smile and ties to unions and progressive anti-business lobbies. You can almost feel the fairness in the air. Smells like victory: Financial Crisis Commission Chair: Will Leave No Stone Left Unturned
Phil Angelides, the chairman of the newly formed Financial Crisis Commission, pledged Wednesday to leave no stone unturned as part of the body's investigation into the events that led to the monumental collapse of the financial markets last year.The 9/11 Commission is hardly the Gold Standard of investigative commissions. Will there be a Richard Clarke figure giving partisan anti-GOP testimony in the same week that his book comes out? Will there be a Jamie Gorelick figure who should be a subject of investigation, rather than having a seat in the judge's chair? Who will take Richard Ben-Veniste's attack dog role? Which room should Sandy Berger go to to steal memos about Clinton/Rubin/Summers efforts to de-regulate banks and use Fannie & Freddie to artificially inflate "affordable housing?" Will there be "Jersey Girls" and "Lehman Families" to jeer testimony by Treasury staffers? With Angelides holding the gavel, I would predict that private interests will be whipped while public interests will benefit from the White Wash.
He said that he would not let partisan bickering derail the commission's efforts, citing as an example the panel established in the wake of the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001.
The other members do give some hope that the proceedings will be conducted in a mature manner:
Joining him is former Democratic Sen.The choices of Hennessey and Born are especially inspired. Hennessey is good on numbers, policy and politics. Born will benefit from the Absolute Moral Authority of having been "right" on regulating derivatives.
Bob Grahamof Floridaand the ex-chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born.
Representing the business community are Heather Murren, a retired managing director at investment bank Merrill Lynch, and
John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec Corp.(SYMC), a business software provider. The sixth Democratic-appointed member of the panel will be Byron Georgiou, a Las Vegasbusinessman and attorney.
The Republican appointees to the commission are former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas,
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during last year's presidential campaign, former director of the Bush White House's National Economic Council Keith Hennessey, and Peter Wallison, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank
The Commission has an ambitious agenda before it. While the 9/11 Commission focused on a single discrete event, the Crash of '08 played out over several years and involved bad decisions made by the thousands in offices and homes across the country. Certainly, creating a spectacle out of show trials for the likes of Ken Lewis and Hank Paulson will be a lot more fun than actually trying to learn what happened. Rather than a search for answers, this could easily devolve into the search for the Narrative. Hopefully enough of the Commissioners will be intellectually rgorous enough to pursue the former, not the latter.
Despite (or because of) being the nation's largest retailer and one of the most successful US companies of the last 30 years, Wal-Mart has developed an "image" problem, especially among the sort of people who wouldn't be caught dead shopping in its flourescently-lit aisles. Well, Wal-Mart, consider your image burnished! Retailer's Image Moves From Demon To Darling
In the past four years, Wal-Mart Stores has undergone a stunning metamorphosis -- from whipping boy of the political left to corporate leviathan now welcomed with open arms by a Democratic White House.
In the summer of 2004, several Democratic congressmen running for reelection, including Vice President Joseph Biden, made anti-Wal-Mart rhetoric a key part of their campaign speeches. They cozied up to labor unions by excoriating Wal-Mart's labor practices, health benefits and general business dealings.
They had plenty of ammunition.
They sure did, but not from customer complaints or wide-scale employee dissension. Rather, Wal-Mart was the object of a wide-ranging, though probably uncoordinated, assault by various left-wing interest groups. From trial lawyers bringing class action suits to protectionist politicians to union-sponsored TV ads attacking Wal-Mart's health care plan to journalists following the "Nickel & Dimed" template, the bad publicity geneated by media savvy interest groups was more than enough to counter-act millions of satisfied customers.
Perhaps the worst were urban activists, who used zoning laws and plain old misinformation, in a fight to keep Wal-Mart out of the inner cities despite the fact that a Wal-Mart would have improved the lives of the inner-city poor , both through retail jobs and its famous "everyday low prices." In the fog of the media war, Wal-Mart's image couldn't help suffering, just as the relentless attakcs on George W Bush eventually reached a tipping point.
In a completely unrelated and wholly coincidental sideline to all of this, Wal-Mart also began making large donations to the Democratic Party and to their union allies. Image problem solved! Such a coincidence is too coincidental for real life! Now, Wal-Mart is getting with the program; signing on to health-care reform (which will create high barriers of entry to potential competitiors) and even promising to undertake a comprehensive effort label its products "green."
For Wal-Mart, an era has ended. On the one hand, it will no longer be distracted by shake-downs from do-gooder progressives. On the other, it is now tied inextricably to Big Government. Expect the company that once brought disaster relief to Louisiana faster than the federal government to become bigger, dumber, and slower as it spends its time lobbying in DC, rather than tending to its customers.
Give credit where credit is due. When I moved to SF in 1991, there was an intractable homeless problem. The City's response? Large monthly payouts to any indigent on the West Coast who could make their way down here. The result? More homeless people! Gavin Newsom's one unambiguous success in public life has been to end this. Instead of $$, which would go straight to the City's liquor stores and drug dealers, the City now provides subsidized housing and other services designed to put a roof over the head of anyone in need of one. The result? Peer pressure from progressive groups who say SF is too "mean" to the homeless: SF Called One of the Toughest Cities On Homeless
Here's a little news to dampen your day: Our city is downright mean. So says the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in a new report called "Homes Not Handcuffs" that tracks the criminalization of homeless people in 273 cities nationwideThe National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty? That sounds like a reliable unbiased source! I wish I could get the Chronicle to uncritically re-publish my press releases.
San Francisco is ranked seventh, up (down?) from 10th last year. Berkeley ranks 10th. The very meanest cities are Los Angeles; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Orlando.
The rankings were based on the number of anti-homeless laws, how strongly those laws are enforced and the general political climate toward homeless people.
The report slams San Francisco for citing people who sleep on sidewalks and drink in public and for cracking down on homeless people camping in Golden Gate Park.
It also criticizes Mayor Gavin Newsom's idea last year to install homeless meters to encourage people to give spare change to social services rather than directly to panhandlers.
The idea that SF is mean is pure silliness. But, the Poverty Creeps can make these claims because of the slippery nature of what it means to be "homeless." SF is providing thousands of people with subsidized housing, which means they are no longer homeless. SF's efforts and $$ in this area appear to count for nothing. Instead, we are "mean" to the guys who remain on the street 24 hours a day. SF does target these people with "life-style" laws designed to prevent people from pissing on cable cars and screaming at tourists. Oh, the humanity!
The truth is, there is still a highly visible (and largely disgusting) contingent of chronic homeless who linger downtown, in Golden Gate Park, around the cable cars, and up and down Market Street. Has the Law Center determined that this is an important aspect of city life that must be preserved at all costs? I'd like to hear more of their brilliant ideas!
I spent several years working in close proximity to SF's homeless. They are, to a man (and occasonal woman) highly dysfuncitonal people afflicted with some combination of insanity, substance abuse, addiction, and physical ailments. They are not victims of the "Bush economy." They are people so out of it they can't even muster the will and focus to take advantage of the many services offered in SF. In fact, I think being chronically homeless is a symptom of insanity. There is very little that can be done for these folks outside of institutionalizing them, forcing them to take meds, or letting them wander the streets, slowly falling apart before our eyes.
SF has chosen the "wandering the streets" option. Is that mean? Given the choice, I think most people, even good SF liberals, would say commit them to an asylum. But, there aren't any asylums any more, so we are left with the present unhappy circumstance. Is this "mean?" Maybe, but it's not like there are other options. Professional homeless scolds accusing SF of bein "mean" might want to come up with an idea of what to do with these folks, rather than trying to guilt-trip SF into throwing $$ at a problem that attracts plenty of money, but no solutions.
Even from beyond the grave, the Mitchell Brothers continue their crusade to ruin as many lives as possible and lower the tone of the overall culture. First, Jim and Artie set up their peep show/striptease "Theatre." Then they took porn movies mainstream with "Deep Throat." Then, Jim murdered Artie (while trying to "save" him) and spent 3 years in prison. Jim finally gave up the ghost a few years back, although the Mitchell's Bros. Theater continues to do gang busters business.
All the while, the Brothers were literally the toast of the town, as much a part of SF's "free wheeling" culture as bath houses and the Grateful Dead. They even had political patrons (just like Jim Jones!); ex-DA Terence Hallinan was their attorney, for example, and Willie Brown showed up at Jim's funeral. If SF has "guys behind the guys," surely the Mitchells were among that select group. We thought we would be spared any more from the Mitchells when Jim died, but the ghost is still in the machine: Porn King's Son Held On Murder Charge
The Mitchell Brothers family, which pushed all things X-rated into San Francisco's social consciousness and was later rocked by fratricide, has recorded a tragic new chapter with the arrest of the son of one of the porn kings on charges of bludgeoning to death the mother of his young daughter.One thing you have to realize is that Jim Jr. is a rich kid - a trust fund baby who "owns" the Mitchell Bros. Threatre through a trust set up by his dad. The Mitchells were a millionaires, and Jr. grew up very comfortably in Marin County. So spare me the "another tragic chapter for the Mitchell family"-style headlines. People have been winking and chortling over the Mitchells for decades even as the sleaze and criminality of the whole family has become more and more obvious.
James Raphael Mitchell of Pittsburg, the 27-year-old son of Jim Mitchell, allegedly beat Danielle Keller to death with a baseball bat Sunday evening at the home she shared with her mother in Novato, then fled with the couple's daughter - who turned 1 year old that day.
With police around the state hunting for him, Mitchell was arrested just before midnight after he pulled off Interstate 80 in Citrus Heights (Sacramento County). His daughter, Samantha Mitchell, was unharmed.
Only SF's progressive Left could simultaneously lionize a pair of violent pornographers on one side of the City while standing up for "exploited" women on the other. By contrast, "hypocritical" conservatives only have to worry about the occasional adulterer. I know which side most of us would choose, if a time came for choosing.
The Monday Silly is brought courtesy of the SF Chronicle, which reports this story about "homeless" young adults in wealthy Marin County: Youth Hit Hard By Lack of Jobs, School Grants
Jordan Atkinson had all the trappings of a typical Marin County childhood. He lived in a big house in Novato, played Pop Warner football, spent weekends with friends listening to hip-hop.
Now, three years out of San Marin High School, Atkinson is homeless, a casualty of the recession.
"I was spoiled. I had a lot of things easy," Atkinson said recently while drinking a smoothie at a Novato cafe, taking a break from job applications and college forms. "Now, unless someone physically attacks me, it doesn't feel like things could get much worse."
Listen, drama queen, living on your buddies' couches does not make you homeless. That's a time honored way for American teens to start making their way. Also, my observation "back in the day" was that couch surfing makes you vaguely alluring to a certain type of girl. To the hypothetical her, you're a rootless bad boy with nothing holding you down and permanent bedroom eyes. Plus, there's always bedding splayed about. But nobody who is sitting around drinking smoothies and filling out college forms is allowed to assume the mantle of "homeless."
In Atkinson's case, the downward spiral started a few months ago when his weekly hours at Best Buy in San Rafael were cut from 40 to four. At the time, he was attending College of Marin and living in an apartment in Petaluma with friends.
"I thought I'd find a new job within a few days," he said. "But there's nothing out there. I apply for jobs and don't even get a reply."
He lost his apartment two months ago and has been sleeping on friends' couches. He would stay with his father, but his father lost the family house in 2006 when his building-maintenance business collapsed. Now Atkinson's father lives in Pacifica and sends money when he can.
Still, there's plenty of statistical evidence that young people are suffering through their own kid-cession, to go along with their dads' man-cession:
Young people like Atkinson are among the hardest hit by the state's soaring unemployment rate. More than 18 percent of workers 16 to 24 are unemployed, a 70 percent jump from a year ago and the highest of any other group, according to the state employment office.Two words left out of this story: "Barack Obama." I guess it's still Bush's fault. Or, the president is no longer responsible for what is going on in the economy.
Also left unstated - except for a reference to the "high cost of living"- are the conditions that make it difficult for economically marginal people to actually live in Marin County. But, Marin's high cost of living, especially its lack of low-cost housing, is due as much to the environmentally correct "no growth" policies favored by Marin parents than it is to rapacious Bush-era capitalism.
There's also a lot of talk about Cal Grant cuts (these are college subsidies for you non-CA residents), but little talk about how college kids are taking it on the chin, while over paid state employees are facing little prospect of job loss or even wage cuts.
Sadly, kids are too young and unsphisticated to realize how much their progressive ideals have played havoc with their immediate prospects. While public employee unions and liberal insiders are seated firmly and safely in their government sinecures, young people like Atkinson are sleeping on couches.
Still, I should let Jordan Atkinson have the last word, since I picked on him a little:
That's the spirit! Go get' em, tiger!
Atkinson continues to look for work and plans to return to College of Marin in the fall. Meanwhile, he tries to stay upbeat and focus on the future.
"I do worry sometimes. It's tough when you don't know where you're going to sleep at night," he said. "But I know I'll be OK. The economy's hit rock bottom, not me."
You may have heard that Sarah Palin's political career is over, finished, done, doomed, vaporized, fricasseed, flambe'd, burnt toast, stick a fork in her. Yes! Yeess! it's over (touch me there, again)! Yep, she won't get any traction in Iowa now. No one will stand with her. Romney's the "solid" pick. Not Sarah! Nope. Not happening. She's outta there. Struck out. She air balled it. Doom Doom Doom! We tried to tell you. Oh, yes we did. It's the end of the Christian right. It's the end of the culture wars. It's the end of the GOP. We used to think It was Bush's fault, but now we know It was Sarah's fault. All Sarah's fault. Everything. 47 million uninsured? Sarah. Global warming? Sarah. The Iraq War? Sarah. Sing it with me, "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah all day long!" But not anymore. Because her career is over. Because we said so.
Some would beg to differ like former SF mayor Willie Brown who, as Speaker of the California Assembly, was the most powerful Democrat in California during the Eighties and Nineties: Sarah Palin, Political Genius
The pundits are wrong. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Sarah Palin's decision to step down as Alaska governor was a brilliant move.
Palin has some of the best political instincts I have ever seen. She became a pop-culture superstar overnight when John McCain made her his veep pick, and she's still second only to President Obama among politicians the public is interested in. Even in liberal San Francisco, she'd be front-page news if she ever came to town.
And Tammie Bruce, who knows a thing or two about feminism, the Left, and the cuture wars says Palin could be a galvanizing force for a legitimate conservative political movement independent of the two major parties. Call it the 30% solution: Palin Hints At Independent Conservative Movement
In an interview with the Washington Times, Palin makes her most direct comments yet about Conservativism versus the Republican Party. In my humble opinion, it’s clear the GOP, unfortunately, is lost beyond the point of return. When you’re one year out of key campaigns to take back Congress in 2010 and Meghan McCain is The Oracle of the party, you know it’s over. If Tina Brown thought Ms. McCain’s willingness to be a Useful Idiot for liberals would undermine the conservative movement (and consequently Sarah Palin), she should take a serious and long look at what their attacks on Palin provoked: a stronger, more independent, more determined conservative leader and base.
Most important, her detractors still feel compelled to write about her. And, they aren't tramping the dirt down. They are attacking her as if they still need to convince the public, and themselves, of Sarah Palin's on-going badness. I don't remember Gary Hart (whose career really was over when "everyone" said it was over) getting this level of attention P.M.B.
Consider Maureen Dowd, now on her third straight column about the ex-gov.Sweet Tweet Revenge
MCCAIN: @AKGovSarahPalin — I see u still can’t control Levi, who says u quit 2 cash in on the book and TV offers. On Fox, you’d b just another fox.
PALIN: @SenJohnMcCain — Just progressing my bank account. Couldn’t marry rich
like some lucky cusses we know.
MCCAIN: @AKGovSarahPalin — Leave Cindy out of this and I won’t tell you how I really felt about antics of “The Real World: Wasilla.”
PALIN: @SenJohnMcCain — I should’ve quit ur campaign when ur team was undermining me, just like Obama WH is doing 2 me now on ethics complaints.
MCCAIN: @AKGovSarahPalin — That’s ridic. You’re more paranoid than Hillary. Quitting isn’t noble. That’s why I’m still fighting nasty earmarks.
Consider Frank Rich, who has simply gone mad: She Broke the GOP, Now She Owns It
The essence of Palinism is emotional, not ideological. Yes, she is of the religious right, even if she winks literally and figuratively at her own daughter’s flagrant disregard of abstinence and marriage. But family-values politics, now more devalued than the dollar by the philandering of ostentatiously Christian Republican politicians, can only take her so far. The real wave she’s riding is a loud, resonant surge of resentment and victimization that’s larger than issues like abortion and gay civil rights.
The latest flashpoint for this kind of animus is the near-certain elevation to the Supreme Court of Sonia Sotomayor (SOTOMAYOR?? I thought we were talkingabout Palin? - Psota), whose Senate confirmation hearings arrive this week. Prominent Palinists were fast to demean Sotomayor as a dim-witted affirmative-action baby. Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, the Palinist hymnal, labeled Sotomayor “not the smartest” and suggested that Princeton awards academic honors on a curve. Karl Rove said, “I’m not really certain how intellectually strong she would be.” Those maligning the long and accomplished career of an Ivy League-educated judge do believe in affirmative-action — but only for white people like Palin, whom they boosted for vice president despite her minimal achievements and knowledge of policy, the written word or even geography.
If you support Sarah Palin, you have much to be ashamed of! The tide of history, and unimpeded illegal immigration is against you!
Look, I'll be the first to admit that there is not, as of this day, a clear unimpeded pathway to the White House that Sarah Palin can follow. The timing's a little off. She's very young. Her knowledge base is deep, but too narrow. She has a lot of work to do.
But, plenty of people have had positive effects in US politics without becoming president. Should we think less of Eugene McCarthy because he lost the '68 nomination? Should we think less of Jack Kemp? Howard Dean (well, I do, but he was admittedly a real galvanizing force)? Ben Franklin? Alexander Hamilton?
None of the people linked to above are writing dispatches from the future. They are writing more for themselves, than for Sarah Palin. But the Northeast media's attempts to write her obituary, even as she captures even their attention is a sign that there's no need to put down a deposit on a cemetary plot just yet.
The NY Times runs a story about young Somali men in Minneapolis who - for some reason that no one can understand - have left their comfortable jobs in Minnesota Nice to travel to a failed state like Somali to blow themselves up. Yeah, it's a mystery: A Call To Jihad, Answered In America
I'm sorry, but if you travel to east Africa (or anywhere else) to wage jihad, the word "American" does not apply. See you in Hell, boys.
In November, Mr. Hassan and two other students dropped out of college and left for Somalia, the homeland they barely knew. Word soon spread that they had joined the Shabaab, a militant Islamist group aligned with Al Qaeda that is fighting to overthrow the fragile Somali government.
The students are among more than 20 young Americans who are the focus of what may be the most significant domestic terrorism investigation since Sept. 11. One of the men, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somalia in October, becoming the first known American suicide bomber. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert M. Mueller, has said Mr. Ahmed was “radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota.”
The men appear to have been motivated by a complex mix of politics and faith, and their communications show how some are trying to recruit other young Americans to their cause.
Bay Area blogger Zombie has done something few people have apparently done lately; she has read one of the books written by Obama "science advisor" John Holdren. What she finds is disturbing: John Holdren, Obama Science Czar, Says Forced Abortions, Mass Sterilization Needed to Save the Earth
Forced abortions. Mass sterilization. A "Planetary Regime" with the power of life and death over American citizens.
The tyrannical fantasies of a madman? Or merely the opinions of the person now in control of science policy in the United States? Or both?
These ideas (among many other equally horrifying recommendations) were put forth by John Holdren, whom Barack Obama has recently appointed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- informally known as the United States' Science Czar. In a bookHoldren co-authored in 1977, the man now firmly in control of science policy in this country wrote that:
• Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
• The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation's drinking water or in food;
• Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
• People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" -- in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
• A transnational "Planetary Regime" should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans' lives -- using an armed international police force.
Impossible, you say? That must be an exaggeration or a hoax. No one in their right mind would say such things.
Well, I hate to break the news to you, but it is no hoax, no exaggerationJohn Holdren really did say those things, and this report contains the proof. Below you will find photographs, scans, and transcriptions of pages in the book Ecoscience, co-authored in 1977 by John Holdren and his close colleagues Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich
Disturbing stuff alright, but what's really disturbing is that no one made any attempt to learn about such easily accessible ideas until Zombie took the trouble to read the damn book. It's not hard to find. As she points out, Holdren's co-author Paul Ehrlich was and remains a popular false prophet of eco-doom. You can undoubtedly find it on e-bay and in many libraries. Moreover, many of Holdren's past and present colleagues are well aware of his past views (live in the Bay Area long enough, and you will hear similar "thoughts"), but studiously say nothing out of a sense of progressive omerta.
(Zombie's entire report - complete with scans of some of the book's more inflammatory pages - is long but worth reading. She also performed a similar "reading" of William Ayers' "Prarie Fire," another book that was aggressively ignored by the mainstream press, the Dems, and the GOP)
What is really disturbing is that no GOP member of the Senate Committee tasked with confirming Holdren did this basic level of research. I'm picturing some lowly intern reading through Holdren's Blockbuster receipts while his books and articles languished on the shelf. Now we are stuck with a frankly sinister figure advising Obama about "science." I know elections have consequences, but at this point I would like to take a mulligan.
And, I think I should make the obvious point that, while questionable Obama associates are given little or no scrutiny, Sarah Palin's entire life is subjected to a parsing worthy of St. Thomas Aquinas counting angels on the head of a pin: A Farewell to Harms: Palin Was Bad For Republicans and the Republic
To wit, "I love her because she's so working-class." This is a favorite of some party intellectuals. She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary (emphasis added-Psota). They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they're working class "tropes." Because, you know, that's what they teach in "Ways of the Working Class" at Yale and Dartmouth
Come on! A teacher and a secretary? Since when are those considered anything but modestly paid positions? The above, by the way, was written by alleged Republican Peggy Noonan, who should really be embarassed to have gone to such extremes of shallow analysis while so much about the President and his men (and women) has gone unreported and unanalyzed.
This week's explosion of violence in western China between native Uighurs and Han Chinese has exposed the deadly fault lines in China's ethnic mix. It has also exposed the hypocritical silence from the International Community that cares not a whit for the behavior of autocrats but happily jeers the US's imaginied sins: China Locks Down Restive Region After Deadly Clashes
The Chinese government locked down this regional capital of 2.3 million people and other cities across its western desert region on Monday and early Tuesday, imposing curfews, cutting off cellphone and Internet services and sending armed police officers into neighborhoods after clashes erupted here on Sunday evening between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese. The fighting left at least 156 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, according to the state news agencyTo begin, there is the odd silence of the grievance mongers in the "Muslim Street," who stand ready to riot over rumors of flushed Korans in US prisons, but who are over the hills and far away when a dictatorship like China's kills their co-religionists. I am not a whiny Leftist, so I won't bore you with any fake outrage. I prefer the grim acknowledgement of eternal truths about human nature: China Silences The Muslim World
There is always talk about whether there is such a thing as American Exceptionalism. I don't think I will step on any toes when I say that the sophisticated American liberal elite would say "no, not really." The president himself has said as much. But, there is such a thing as Ameican Exceptionalism, whether you want to believe in it or not. Any country that takes it upon itself to stand astride the world stage has this. Would you deny that there is Russian Exceptionalism? French Exceptionalism?
Han settlers take almost all the good jobs, business opportunities, and positions in the government and Party apparatus. Beijing has continually stripped Xinjiang of its mineral resources and crops. And now the Han are trying to take from the Uighurs their distinct identity. Beijing once thought that economic development would assimilate this minority, but relentless modernization — exploitation, really — has only created resentment. And so have policies that are intended to repress Uighur culture. Uighurs are ordered to shave their beards, not fast at Ramadan, and not pray in public outside mosques. Mosques are tightly controlled, and religious instruction for the young forbidden. Uighur-language instruction has been eliminated. In Kashgar, now known as Kashi, the government has been razing the buildings in the Old City to destroy the remnants of Uighur culture.
And, of course, Beijing employs brute force. The latest official death toll from this week’s disturbances is 184, but that number appears to undercount the dead. Observers say that this is the most deadly series of riots in China since the Tiananmen massacre twenty years ago, but that assessment is questionable. Ethnic fighting flared in Yining, the capital of the short-lived East Turkestan Republic, in early 1997. The unrest is thought to have led to at least several hundred deaths, and subsequent executions added to the toll.
Yet the death of hundreds, and probably thousands, of Uighurs and the systematic destruction of their culture has been met with an eerie silence from Muslim nations.
This week we have seen Chinese Exceptionalism at work: Chinese Exceptionalism
The great part about being a Chinese dictatorship in a world with one rule set (Adam Smith's), is that your paramilitary forces can slaughter
140156 protestors without even a whimper from the global community. Western political elites just don't care because a) business with China is more important than human rights and b) China reacts like a spoiled child when chastised, which makes it not worth the hassle. Of course, the reaction we see today on Chinese repression may become the same we see when similar things happen in the developed world.
America is still hearing about slavery and Bull Connor, events that are decades in the past, and which represent a vanished world. China is engaging in deadly ethnic and religious chauvanism right now. This is a vision of the world as it has been and as it apparently will be. Do you like what you see? The liberals at the NY Times do :A Strongman Is China's Rock In Ethnic Strife:
The nine-minute speech by the bureaucrat, Wang Lequan, was mostly government boilerplate: the riots were no homegrown problem, but “a massive conspiracy” to sabotage ethnic unity; Urumqi citizens should “point the spear toward hostile forces at home and abroad,” not at their neighbors; attacks on Han or Uighurs alike were heartbreaking.
Then he turned to the Han who were on the streets, repaying the riots’ blood debt. “Comrades, to start with, such action is fundamentally not necessary,” he told them briskly. “Our dictatorial force is fully able to knock out the evildoers, so there is no need to take such action.”