Tuesday, April 28, 2009

May 19th Special Election: Vote NO on Props1A-1F

After weeks of stalemate, and several consecutive all-night sessions, on February 19th the California Legislature reached a two-part budget agreement. It closed the state's $41 billion deficit through a combination of temporary tax increases, painful permanent service cuts, and $5.4 billion in new borrowing. However, to reach accord with a handful of Republican legislators to get the two-thirds majority required to pass the budget, Democrats were forced to agree to six budget-related propositions, including Proposition 1A that mandates a permanent spending cap and creates a "rainy day" fund.

The rainy day fund is a good idea. We should have done it in 1998 or so instead of rolling back the Vehicle License Fee. The legislature has the power to do this without an initiative... if they chose. They cannot choose, it seems.

I want to feel confident that I can vote for these measures and our long decade of budget nightmares will be over. I want to feel that if I vote Yes that our schools will get their money back to hire back all the good people they've laid off. I want to feel that voting yes would put us on the right track again.

But it won't. Prop 1A through 1F collectively is Prop 13 all over again, a weird and ineffective set of measures that will forever limit the legislature and the people even more than today, and will be impossible to repeal. Our schools might be slightly better off next year, but we'll pay for it - with interest - for the next ten.

Proposition 1A - Vote NO

Proposition 1A is a modified version of a spending cap, but no one seems to agree upon what it does. It creates a "rainy day fund" that the legislature must put money into even during a bad budget year, even if doing so means cuts to schools and health care. Any revenue that is above the average of revenues over the last ten years must be put into the rainy day fund and cannot be spent on other programs. Because of that clause it will be extremely difficult to reverse the existing cuts to public services, and will force cuts to be made for many years into the future.

Prop 1A amends the constitution, so its effects would be permanent.

Because of that, every service that our government provides - schools, health care, police, fire, courts - will eventually be cut. Prop 1A never expires, and will be very difficult to remove from the constitution once it is in place.

The California Budget Project argues that Prop 1A sets up a system that guarantees deficits to at least 2013: $16 billion in deficit in 2010-11, $17 billion in 2011-12, and $21 billion in 2012-13, and potentially well beyond that.

Prop 1A is the worst kind of budget "solution" - something designed for short-term gain that creates truly massive long-term problems.

Proposition 1B - Vote NO

Prop 1B is designed to give $9.3 billion to K-12 schools that they are owed this year, but are being denied by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature because of the current budget mess.

There are three key things to know about Prop 1B. First, the money does not go to schools until 2011, and only then for several years after that until the $9.3 billion is repaid. This does not provide an increase in the overall amount of money schools will get in the long- term, but may well be useful in the near term.

Second, the $9.3 billion will be repaid by the tax extensions included in Prop 1A. If Prop 1A fails but Prop 1B passes, Prop 1B will be unfunded.

Third, by tying school funding to the success of Prop 1A, Schwarzenegger and the legislative Republicans have cynically and effectively scared off the largest and most effective unions, who would normally have campaigned against the spending cap.

Proposition 1C - Vote NO

Prop 1C allows the state to sells bonds to be repaid with lottery revenues. The state hopes that $5 billion in bonds can be sold, but there has been skepticism from the bond markets about whether this is even possible.

Given the current bad market conditions, the state will likely have to offer high rates of interest to sell the bonds which further mortgages our future and gives us a questionable amount in return. More importantly, the lottery currently does not generate enough money to repay $5 billion in bonds. The lottery made $3 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year - a decline of $600 million from the peak of lottery revenues, which occurred in 2005. If lottery sales do not increase, then the money to repay the bonds has to come from the general fund -- meaning the state would have to cut funding from other programs in order to pay the Wall Street bondholders.

Worse, lottery tickets are most frequently bought by low-income Californians, meaning that Prop 1C is an indirect and regressive method of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.

Proposition 1D - Vote NO

In 1998 California voters approved Proposition 10, taxing tobacco sales to pay for educational and health care programs for children under age 5 whose families are otherwise unable to afford those services. The program has been a dramatic success, and is especially valuable during these recessionary times.

In fact, the First Five program has been able to build up a budget surplus, which it is using as a reserve - one might even call it a "rainy day fund" - to protect against potential future problems.

Unfortunately for California's children, the success of First Five has now made it a target. Republicans proposed, and Democrats agreed, to put Prop 1D on the ballot to redirect $1.7 billion from First Five to the general fund over the next five years. This was done (along with Prop 1E) in order to fund nearly $600 million in corporate tax cuts that were part of the budget deal.

Further, Prop 1D would narrow the range of services provided by First Five, and as would likely result in cuts in programs and services. It would literally rob Peter's children to pay for Paul's expense account.

Proposition 1E - Vote NO

In 2004 voters approved Proposition 63, levying a 1% surcharge on incomes over $1 million to finally reverse decades of deliberate underfunding of mental health services. Like the First Five program, the mental health programs funded by Prop 63 have surplus funds.

Prop 1E would redirect $500 million over the next two years away from the Prop 63 programs to the general fund. This is not a large amount of money - about 0.8% of the overall state budget - and does not seem worth the risk to mental health programs.

Proposition 1F - Vote NO

Prop 1F would deny legislators a pay raise during years with a budget deficit. It would save barely any money for the state. This proposition is popular because it plays into the mantra of "punish anyone in Sacramento."

The only reason this is on the ballot is because Republican Senator Abel Maldonado demanded it in exchange for his vote for the February budget deal - so Maldonado could look good to his base by claiming to have made legislators pay for the budget deficit. On that basis alone the proposition should be rejected - California voters should not even have to vote on a proposition that is on the ballot solely as a result of one man's blackmail.

* many thanks to the Courage campaign for summarizing most of the information used here. To learn more, go to the Courage Campaign website.

BREAKING NEWS! Arlen Specter announces he will switch to Democratic party

From the Washington Post:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.

The precariousness of Specter's political position -- a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state -- was on display earlier this year when he was one of three GOP Senators to back President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan. That vote was strongly condemned by conservative Republicans and Toomey used that vote as the launching pad for his candidacy.

Because of the shrinking Republican vote in the state, Specter was seen as a dead man walking politically in the primary with polling showing him trailing Toomey by ten or more points. The bar for Specter to run as an independent was also extremely high due to the rules governing such a third party candidacy.

That left a Democratic candidacy as Specter's best option if he wanted to remain in the Senate beyond 2010.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fill The Food Bank

Come one... Come all... Do some GOOD in the hood!

Fill The Food Bank will be hosting a KICK OFF HAPPY HOUR Event at Chez Jay's in Santa Monica on Sunday, April 26th between 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM. This event will kick off a WEEK LONG FOOD DRIVE to help fill the food bank at the St. Joseph Center in Venice, CA

Come down, bring some non-perishable food, take some fliers, spread the word, drink a beer, learn how to help, have fun, see some friends... all while doing something good too.

So drop by to Chez Jay's and say hello, catch up and help us help those who need it. 

We'll also be collecting food all week at the following locations:

Amanda's House (private home)
4162 Chase Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 490-4790

Marta and Warren's House (private home)
758 Palms Blvd.
Venice, CA 

The Fruit Gallery
1 Westminster Avenue
Venice, CA
(310) 452-3034

Paper Scissors Rock
1711 Pacific Ave
Venice, CA
(310) 399-7625

The Slave Boutique
2122 Lincoln Blvd
Venice, CA

Trim Hair Salon
1424 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA

Urban Escape
1505 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA
(310) 399-7313

Conventional Wisdom

This weekend I'm in Sacramento for the California Democratic Party Convention. As a delegate for the 53d AD, I'll have an up close and personal look at how the sausage is made here in our state's capitol (it's a sacrifice I make so you don't have to......)

This promises to be an interesting convention this year. For one thing, we're still dealing with the state's craptacular budget mess. In a stunning moment of clarity, future chair of the CDP John Burton, who took a pass on giving his specific voting choices for May 19, uttered this classic quip:

Pressed on the question of whether his lifelong bleeding heart liberalism would allow him to back some of the permanent budget cuts that would result if Prop. 1A is passed, Mr. Almost Chairman responded with a classic Burtonism:

"I think when it's all over, the ones getting fucked will be the poor people."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Can't wait to hear the acceptance speech.

Then there's the petition my friend, Dave Dayen will be bringing to the Resolutions Committee, urging the Party to support the resolution to impeach federal Judge Jay Bybee, who sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals despite having been one of the architects of the flawed legal justification for torture committed in our name. Here's Dave:

If we get this resolution passed, we will have a powerful tool to force California members of Congress to initiate hearings in the House Judiciary Committee to impeach Bybee. I think it's absolutely possible that we make this happen over the weekend - but the leadership of the CDP needs to know that there's a large and powerful constituency behind this effort.

And of course, there's the governor's race, which just kicked into high gear with Gavin Newsom's announcement he's officially running. There will be lots of high profile gubernatorial events this weekend - Jerry Brown is throwing a party at the old Governor's mansion and Gavin Newsom is cosponsoring a huge outdoor block party downtown.

Our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, won't be making the trip, however.

Villaraigosa’s press office sent out a release announcing: “Mayor Villaraigosa today announced that he will convene emergency weekend meetings with union leaders to tackle the city's budget crisis.

“Talks will focus on ways to close a $530 million budget deficit through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility. The Mayor will begin meetings in City Hall with labor leaders on Friday evening and will continue through the weekend.” [...]

Calbuzz asked Tony V spokesman Sean Clegg if the emergency budget session was "just a lame, bullshit excuse" to skip the convention. “It’s exactly the opposite of that," Clegg said. "The city of Los Angeles and most cities across California are facing an unprecedented economic crisis and jobs come first.”

Clegg said Villaraigosa is putting the needs of his city before his personal political fortunes by trying to pull together an agreement that would require labor unions to give back some hard-earned gains in order to save jobs and services in Los Angeles.

“This is a leadership moment. Antonio Villaraigosa is not going to Twitter while Rome burns,” Clegg said -- a clear shot at the other mayor who would be governor: San Francisco's Gavin Newsom.

There's some speculation that Villaraigosa saw the writing on the wall, when he barely pulled a plurality out of the March election, against a field of unknown candidates.

A Tulchin Research/Acosta|Salazar pre-convention poll shows Villaraigosa slipping. The poll had Garamendi in the race at the time.

Tulchin Research/Acosta|Salazar +/- 4.5% (Mar. 31-Apr. 2)
Brown 31%
Newsom 16%
Villaraigosa 12%
Garamendi 11%
O'Connell 6%
Other 4%
Undecided 20%

This is quickly turning into a two-candidate race on the Dem side, with Villaraigosa slipping quietly into third place and out of the running.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Every Time A Republican Speaks, I Feel Less Safe

From TPM:

Oh the (rare, but occasionally exceptional) joys of Twitter. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)--the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee--says (tweets?) "I seemed [sic] to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?"

He's referring to Nobel prize winning Energy Secretary Steve Chu, and this exchange.

Will the last sane person in Texas, please close the and latch the gate before you leave? 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CIA, Torture, and Jane Harman.....Gasoline, Meet Fire

It's been a hard week for your average-Joe CIA operative.

First, the Obama administration released hundreds of pages of Bush-era legal memos meant to justify "enhanced interrogation techniques" (aka "torture").

The memos described in graphic, horrifying detail techniques authorized by the Bush Justice Department - and employed by the CIA - to break down terror suspects. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was subjected to waterboarding 183 times in a single month.

Then, of course, came the fallout. Jay Bybee, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bush, whose name appears as the author of an August 1, 2002 memo justifying and authorizing clear acts of torture by the CIA - and who currently sits on the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - is now the target for possible impeachment.

Lastly, the Obama administration, after some initial missteps, opened the possibility of prosecution for Bush-era lawyers who authorized brutal interrogation of terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation.

Your average-Joe CIA operative is not happy.

But suddenly, on the heels of what has been a very bad week for the CIA, comes this breaking story from Congressional Quarterly:

Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.........

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."

Fire, meet gasoline.

Essentially, what you have here is an allegation of bribery. And it's not a new allegation, either. The story first appeared in 2006 but went away, seemingly for lack of any hard evidence.

What is new - and why this story is suddenly so hot - is that there are now two unidentified "security officials" quoted in the CQ article claiming Harman was accidentally caught red-handed on tape by an NSA wiretap operation. According to the unidentified sources, Justice Department lawyers were prepared to open a case on Harman when then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales short-circuited the investigation, saying he "needed Jane" to publicly support the administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

Make no mistake, if the allegations can be supported by the evidence, then an investigation should be opened up tomorrow and our Congresswoman prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But I gotta ask........why is this story coming out now? Why sit on this bombshell for three months after Obama takes office, well after the danger of retribution from Bush-era appointees passed?

Evidently, I'm not the only one wondering:

Who are the sources?  "two former senior national security officials". The romantic interpretation is that these are two line agents who just can't enjoy retirement until their "last cold case" is solved. But like many issues with major political overtones, the reality may involve political appointees newly unemployed...


The CIA is under tremendous heat right now for torture.  The NSA, FBI and CIA are also under the gun because of the wiretapping issues........ Stein (the CQ reporter who broke the story) said in an online chat that the timing of the article release was a coincidence.  I would comment that Stein has an impetus to look like he was not played.


The CQ article does several things that would not have been permitted at a bigger newspaper.  For example, Stein sets up the appearance of a quid pro quo of delivery of a chairmanship, but the wiretapping is vaguely placed a full year before Dems took control of congress- certainly not a solid trade for committing an allegedly illegal act.

So let's review, shall we?

1) The CIA is under intense public scrutiny and pressure after the FOIA release of graphic and disturbing "torture" memos.

2) The current administration has unequivocally stated that prosecution for illegal torture is an option.

3)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocates the need for criminal prosecutions, and publicly states immunity should be "off the table". 

4) Three years after the event, it's just now been revealed that the NSA "accidentally" caught Harman allegedly accepting a bribe on one of its wiretaps, a wire tap that was supposedly out of it's jurisdiction.

5) Today, the top news stories in the MSM are no longer about the CIA and torture, but about Harman and a three year-old bribery allegation.

Putting this all together, I see a story that's far more disturbing than a single congresswoman allegedly caught in a quid pro quo scheme.

(Excuse me a moment while I put my tinfoil hat on.)

What I see is the CIA firing a warning shot across the bow of the Democratic Congressional Leadership and the Obama administration.

How many other Congressmembers and administration officials has the CIA "accidentally" wiretapped under FISA? How many nuggets of scandal are the CIA carefully husbanding in the bowels of Langley, waiting for just the right moment to unleash for maximum impact and distraction?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(Tinfoil hat off.......for now.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Faces Of Courage

This weekend, my husband and I are in San Diego, helping to facilitate at the Courage Campaign's marriage equality "boot camp" for political organizers, "Camp Courage".

More on this adventure later, but in the mean time here are few photos I'd like to share. This is what the face of real courage looks like.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Obama Is The New Hitler"

It's a blustery day in Santa Monica, but the unseasonably cold weather hasn't taken the wind out of the sails of the 200 or so "tea party" protestors perched on the Palisades bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Unopposed except for a handful of "Code Pink" ladies in high heels, these "patriots" are buoyant as Escalades, Hummers, and Ford 150's zoom by, honking approval. They're in their element, and take comfort in the mob. 

Walking around with both a video and stills camera, I expect wariness and suspicion, but encounter just the opposite. Folks are almost giddy to get their side of the story out.  A few mental "snapshots" of the day:

  • Proud parents show off their sign-carrying preschoolers like circus animals and make them do tricks for my camera.  

  • Teenagers gleefully chant "Obama is the new Hitler!", in between rounds of "USA! USA! USA!"

  • A self-proclaimed "military historian"  - who's never served himself -  tells me how Obama's healthcare plan will force the old and sick to be euthanized so healthcare can be doled out instead to his "base" of welfare cheats and "ghetto people". 

  • A man carrying a "You Are Not Entitled" sign proclaims they tea-baggers are "not like ACORN" or union organizers, that they aren't paid to take the day off to be there.

  • I meet an indigenous Mexican couple - Margarito and Cleo, household servants for an elderly westside couple - who look decidedly out of place in the mostly upscale Anglo crowd. I learn they were brought by their employers expressly to hold and distribute extra signs for the couple and their friends. Since it was a work day, yes, they were paid to be there.

  • A "fair and balanced" cameraman for Fox 11 news shooting b-roll commiserates with a protestor on how high his taxes are, that he wants a %10 cut in his income tax, a %25 cut in his property tax. Or else.

The crowd was a mix of the truly crazy, the truly frightened, and the profoundly angry. The emotions were raw, electric and real. What they didn't understand they demonized, what they thought they knew they gleaned from the collective wisdom of Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh.  No talking point was left unsaid. 

But here is what I didn't see. Despite all the care and feeding Fox News and other right-wing organizations had invested in making these tea parties happen, there would be no follow-up, no organizing this "community".   No clipboards were distributed to collect names and contact information. Once these folks had had their fill of shouting and sign-waving, they and their anger and ignorance would disappear back into the woodwork, satisfied that for now at least, the job was done. 

As someone who's had to do a lot of care and feeding of volunteers, I see this for the mistake it is. Despite the hype and the fear, nationwide only about 250,000 people showed up for these "tea parties"; ten times that many watched from the Capitol Mall as Obama was inaugurated. 

This fire will die down, not grow. The crazies will always come, but the merely angry will stay home, satisfied their duty is done, the demons excised. Once the stimulus money and the tax cuts start making their way through the population, it will only get harder for the organizers. Barring another major downturn in the economy or a major screwup on the part of the Obama administration, the organizers have blown their wad. And hopefully, their chance.

Time will tell.

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy this video I put together of the event. Click here to see the photo gallery.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabagger Tweets Sanitized For Your Protection

This mashup of  today's protest tweets brought to you from #hastags.com:

Crowd here at the #teaparty is markedly better dressed and better smelling than those at most lefty events I've been to

I pay taxes because public schools educate even those who turn around and attack public

Just went threw downtown altanta I don't see anyone black at these #teaparty hum

"I pay taxes because it turns out I can't afford a firetruck or police force on my own."

im at #teaparty. anyone else packin heat here

And we always need to provide a safety bag for those without enough tea to teabag. 

This socialism thing doesn't feel right to me. I like free markets. The possibilities are endless in capitalism.

I pay taxes for sewage/water treatment and I'm sorry I can't put it in your backyard!!!!!!! 

Holding #teaparty in my cube. Put up Dick Army cut out and Fox logo. seized IT guys

To paraphrase Jon Stewart, "It's supposed to taste like a shit taco." 

grassroots or Astroturf? How about sod with Miracle-Gro sprinkled on top? 

Sen. Joseph McCarthy called. He says he wants his rhetoric back.

They would not be out here if old man rivers Mcain won the election. 

I pay taxes to make sure our soldiers have care they need when they come home injured from unnecessary wars. 

I drink tea! Tea is better for you. The amino acid L-theanine counters the caffeine and the antioxidants keep you healthy.

7 Year Bitch makes for a great soundtrack to play along with your #TeaParty #teabgging Extravaganza!

Looks like I may be the only black here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"If You're Planning Tea Bagging Across The Country, You're Going To Need A Dick Armey"

Yeah, he went there.

And for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I bring you this from the Urban Dictionary:

Tea Bagger: n. a man that squats on top of a womens face and lowers his genitals into her mouth during sex, known as "teabagging"

More unintended hilarity:

"They're going to have rifles, shotguns, pistols--whatever they get their hands on"

From ABC News 10:

STOCKTON, CA - The Stockton man who wants to put a militia on the streets if police layoffs happen, said he's got 270 people signed on to help.

"They're going to have rifles, shotguns, pistols--whatever they get their hands on," said 66-year-old Alan Pettet. "We're not going to go out looking for trouble, but the first person who fires on us, will get a lot of return fire going is way."

Pettet said a militia is needed if the City of Stockton follows through with police layoffs that could come as early as this summer.

"If they don't lay off police, there won't be a militia," Pettet said. "But with the first person laid off July 1st, 270 men will be out on the street."

The idea of an armed militia patrolling Stockton streets doesn't have many supporters around the city.

"I think it's a terrible idea, that's all you need--a bunch of folks who aren't trained and not accountable to be running around with guns," said Andrea Pinkham.

"I think it would be crazy, like chaos, said Stan Shortt. "It wouldn't be good."

The Stockton Police Department is happy to have citizens who want to help make the city safer, but not in this fashion.

"What our officers do, is go through extensive training," police spokesperson Roseann Clark said. "They have 800 hours of academy time before hitting the streets."

Pettet doesn't seem bothered by the negative reaction. If police layoffs happen, he's planning to be busy up to three nights a week, patrolling the streets.

"We'll have four men in a car, and as many cars as we can put out there", said Pettet.

But wait, there's more:

That it is illegal in most circumstances in California to carry a loaded firearm in one's car did not disturb Pettet.

"If you look under the Constitution, a militia can be formed," he said. "Watch and see. Who's going to stop us?"

Pettet said the militia will bill the city $350 per hour for its services. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

EPIC FAIL! Right Wing Preemptively Predicted Obama Would Pull A "Jimmy Carter" With Somali Pirates

Here's how desperate Republicans are to find a winning issue: conservatives from Newt Gingrich to Glenn Beck to the rest of Fox News all bet against the Obama administration's ability to rescue Richard Phillips, the American ship captain who was taken hostage by Somali pirates last Wednesday.

They must have thought that a tragic ending to the crisis would have been a political opportunity, so they pre-positioned themselves to take full advantage. Except their plan went up in smoke when Navy SEALs -- acting on orders from President Obama -- rescued the captain, killing three pirates in the process.

The loons will certainly deny that they ever made a political bet against the U.S., but they can't run from the video proof:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Breaking News Broke This Brit's Mind

For those of you who aren't familiar with the joys of British tabloid journalism (thankfully, most of us), the name Charlie Brooker  and his new show, News Wipe isn't likely to mean anything.  So here's a little shorthand that'll help: think a Brit version of John Stewart and the Daily Show - with cussing.

He had this to say, the week after Barack Obama became our 44th President:

On the one hand, you had Obama (Will Smith in admittedly impressive makeup, although the ears never really convinced). He was practically walking on water. No one's that nice. And pitched against him, the Republican campaign, which was so nakedly horrible it could only have been orchestrated by Skeletor. Nudge-wink comments about "the real America", underhand attempts to link Obama with terrorism, automated robo-calls whispering desperate fibs into the ears of voters ... if Obama's grandmother had died while he was at her bedside in Hawaii, they'd have erected billboards claiming he couldn't be trusted around white women. Jesus, guys, why not just change your name to the Bastard Party and march around in long black capes? Vote for us, we're openly despicable

The scriptwriters clearly decided to balance the nastiness by introducing some satirical comic relief in the form of Sarah Palin, but she was scarcely plausible either. And they never really nailed her story arc, instead being content to have her wandering through every scene she was in, screeching inept banalities like a rightwing version of Phoebe from Friends. And what was with the whole Joe the Plumber sub-plot? I mean, c'mon, they invited him on tour and everything. As if. In the real world, no one would've bought that for a second.

OK, so with that in mind, please enjoy this eight-minute clip where Brooker gets to tear apart so-called TV "journalism" on both sides of the Pond. 

He sets his sites on American newsreaders about 2 minutes in. His take on O'Reilly and Glen Beck aren't to be missed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Limbaugh vs. Marine Veteran: "It's like you're all brainwashed"

From Media Matters:
LIMBAUGH: We're going to go to Chicago. This is Charles. Charles, thank you for waiting and for calling. Great to have you here. Hello.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Rush, listen, I voted Republican, and I didn't -- really didn't want to see Obama get in office. But, you know, Rush, you're one reason to blame for this election, for the Republicans losing.

First of all, you kept harping about voting for Hillary. The second big issue is the -- was the torture issue. I'm a veteran. We're not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea. There's other ways of interrogating people, and you kept harping about it -- "It's OK," or "It's not really torture." And it was just more than waterboarding. Some of these prisoners were killed under torture.

And it just -- it was crazy for you to keep going on and on like Levin and Hannity and Hewitt. It's like you're all brainwashed.

And my last comment is, no matter what Obama does, you will still criticize him because I believe you're brainwashed. You're just -- and I hate to say it -- but I think you're a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just has got to be - there's got to be something wrong with them.

LIMBAUGH: You know --

CALLER: And I know Bush wanted to keep us safe and all of that, but we're not supposed to be torturing these people.

LIMBAUGH: Charles, if anybody is admitting that they're brainwashed it would be you.

CALLER: No, no, no, Rush. I don't think so.

LIMBAUGH: Charles. Charles, Charles --

CALLER: You, Hannity, Hewitt, and Levin are all brainwashed and you know it.

LIMBAUGH: -- you said -- you said at the beginning of your phone call --


LIMBAUGH: -- that you didn't want Obama in there --

CALLER: That's right.

LIMBAUGH: -- but you voted for him because of me.

CALLER: I didn't vote for him. I voted for McCain. I voted Republican.

LIMBAUGH: Oh, so --

CALLER: I voted Republican.

LIMBAUGH: -- you're saying I turned people off to --

CALLER: You turned people off with all your -- all this "vote for Hillary" and all this BS, because you must think people are really stupid.

LIMBAUGH: That was Operation Chaos. That was to keep the --

CALLER: You -- no. It didn't work.

LIMBAUGH: -- chaos in the [unintelligible] of the Democrat primaries.

CALLER: It didn't work. And now what we have with you Hannity, Levin, and Hewitt: sour grapes. That's all we have. And believe me, I'm not -- I'm more to the right than I am to the left.

LIMBAUGH: Oh, of course, you are.

CALLER: I am, and that's --

LIMBAUGH: Of course, you are. You wouldn't be calling here with all these sour grapes if you weren't.

CALLER: Well, I'm so tired of listening to you --

LIMBAUGH: Oh, of course, you are.

CALLER: -- go on and on with this -- you've been brainwashed.

LIMBAUGH: I don't know of anybody who died from torture. I do not ever --

CALLER: We are not supposed to torture people.

LIMBAUGH: I do not ever --

CALLER: Do you remember World War II, the Nazis? The Nuremberg Trials?


CALLER: Do you remember the Nuremberg Trials?

LIMBAUGH: Charles --

CALLER: Klaus Barbie?

LIMBAUGH: Charles, let me say --


LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama --

CALLER: What's the matter with you?

LIMBAUGH: Barack --

CALLER: You never even served in a military.

LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama is --

CALLER: I served in the Marine Corps and the Army.

LIMBAUGH: Charles, Barack Obama is president of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do. You pose -- you and your ignorance are the most expensive commodity this country has. You think you know everything. You don't know diddly-squat.

You call me a Nazi? You call me somebody who supports torture and you want credibility on this program? You know, you're just plain embarrassing and ludicrous. But it doesn't surprise me that you're the kind of Republican that our last candidate attracted. Because you're no Republican at all based on what the hell you've said here.

You can listen to the whole thing here:

Actor Kal Penn Leaving "House" For White House

Our volunteers worked with Kal in Eric Garcetti's office to help with Obama's LA Town Hall last month. 

As a working professional in the "business" (I'm a film editor) this is incredible news to me -  Kal is willing to put on hold a career that most working character actors in Hollywood struggle years to achieve.  This is no small sacrifice.

Good for him.

From the HuffingtonPost:

Kal Penn is leaving the show "House" to work in the White House (or at least, in the Old Executive Office building next door). The actor, best known for his role in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," tells Entertainment Weekly :

I understand it was your decision to leave House. True?

KAL PENN: Yes. I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign.

Safe to say you're taking a huge pay cut?

PENN: Oh, yeah. There's not a lot of financial reward in these jobs. But, obviously, the opportunity to serve in a capacity like this is an incredible honor.

How long has this been in the works?

PENN: I've been thinking about [moving into politics] for a while. I love what I do as an actor. I couldn't love it more. But probably from the time I was a kid, I really enjoyed that balance between the arts and public service. I went to a performing arts high school, but I still took a bunch of those dorky political science classes. It's probably because of the value system my grandparents instilled in me. They marched with Gandhi in the Indian independence movement, and that was always in the back of my head. So the past couple of years I thought about it a little more. And in '06 I started this international studies program at Stanford, where they actually let you do most of the course work online. So it was something I could do while I was acting. And I thought this might be the right time to go off and do something else.

Obama Makes Unannounced Visit To Baghdad

From the NY Times:
BAGHDAD - President Obama made an unannounced trip to Baghdad on Tuesday, punctuating his week-long overseas trip with a stop to talk to American troops and Iraqi leaders.
Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport under heavy security at 4:42 in the afternoon after military officials shut down the airport.

Mr. Obama, at the Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory to meet with military leaders, said he came to Baghdad “to say thanks to the troops. They are doing extraordinary work.”

He also said that Iraqi leaders have made “significant political progress.”

Mr. Obama’s trip here was his first since becoming president. He has quickly moved to reshape the war since January, announcing plans to draw down troops as he begins to shift the military’s focus to the troubled war in Afghanistan.

Although violence has dropped substantially in Iraq in recent months, Mr. Obama’s visit came a day after at least 33 people died in six car bombings. On Tuesday, another car bomb blew up in Baghdad; a police official said that eight people were killed.

Aboard the plane to Iraq, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama had planned to take a helicopter from the airport into the city to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but that poor weather conditions canceled the trip. Officials said later that Mr. Maliki would travel to Camp Victory to meet with Mr. Obama.

Suspicions had been high that Mr. Obama would go to either Afghanistan or Iraq at the end of his trip, but White House officials kept the plans under a tight lock.

In February, Mr. Obama announced an Iraq troop drawdown that would leave the bulk of American forces in place until early next year, while some combat units would remain in place in new roles even beyond a declared August 2010 target for withdrawal.

The plan would maintain relatively high troop levels through Iraq’s parliamentary elections, to be held in December.

Speaking at university in Istanbul on Tuesday before he left for Baghdad, Mr. Obama told students that he had opposed the Iraq war in 2003 and had pushed for a quick withdrawal. But he said that once he became president, he had to make sure that the drawdown of troops was carefully staged.

“I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out, that we do so in a careful enough way that we don’t see a complete collapse into violence,” Mr. Obama said. “So some people might say, wait, I thought you were opposed to the war, why don’t you just get them all out right away? Well, just because I was opposed at the outset, it doesn’t’ mean that I don’t have now responsibilities to make sure that we do things in a responsible fashion.”........

“Moving the ship of state is a slow process,” Mr. Obama said. “States are like big tankers. They’re not like speedboats.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

This Is Why

If anyone wants to know why it is I still keep up with this blog - six months after the election, almost three months since the inauguration -  or why I still send out emails about stimulus packages, budget fights, food bank drives, marriage equality or the state of California politics.........

If anyone wants to know why I still care, and want others to still care........

Barack Obama was in Strasbourg, France, giving a speech that may go down in history as the moment that the "re-boot" button was pushed on American relations with Europe. The era of "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists" is over.

This is why.