Monday, August 29, 2005



The Democratic Party is getting all sorts of advice on how to take advantage of the inept bungling of the Bush Administration and win the next national election. Here are some samples:

1. The Bush administration has sent to Iraq an army large enough to defeat the Iraq army but much too small to pacify the country and set up a new government. The American army can defeat the insurgents in any given place, but the army does not have enough soldiers to hold that place while attacking and defeating the insurgents somewhere else. Therefore, the Democrats are advised to make the election campaign about winning in Iraq and must propose to send enough additional soldiers to do so.

2. The American Public is losing its enthusiasm for the war and is more interested in extricating our troops from Iraq than in “winning.” Winning will take a much larger army than we now have and will take many years. The public wants out and will vote for a credible exit strategy.

3. The Democratic Party must get rid of its image of being “against religion.” The Party should rethink its positions on such issues as abortion rights and gay marriage. Otherwise many religious folk will continue to vote for Republicans and against their own economic interests.

4, The Democratic Party must clearly express its differences from the Republican Party. Such issues as a “woman’s right to choose” and recognizing that same-sex couples should enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual couples are examples of those rights reserved to the people and the States by the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution. The Party must clearly articulate the individual’s right of privacy, or the right to be left alone.

These are just a few examples of the bits of free contradictory advice being offered these days to the Party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I wonder what you all think of these bits of advice. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Another Example of Ungovernable California

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday, August 21, carried an article about the California Water War, about to start up again. According to the writer, California has a permanent water crisis. The northern part of the State has plenty of water. The water is needed for farming and for cities in the southern part. Governors Wilson and Davis and the Clinton Administration collaborated in a compromise that allocates available water between the needs of fish in the Sacramento Delta, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, and residents of Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

That compromise is coming unglued. There just isn’t enough water to make everyone happy. The Bay Delta Authority, created by the Legislature to enforce the plan, has proposed charging user fees, so that the various users of the water would help pay for the operation of the plan. The Arnold, our celebrated “Governator,” has refused to support the recommendation for user fees. After all, such fees would constitute a tax increase, and The Arnold, being a faithful Republican, opposes any new taxes. He also has shied away from using his celebrity to persuade the various interested parties – environmentalists, fishermen, farmers, city dwellers – to agree on a compromise.

California government is so clogged that only a charismatic and persuasive governor can bring about a change in policy, especially one that will be universally unpopular. Our governor has the charm, the celebrity, and the charisma to accomplish such changes. He prefers to spend his time raising money to support a few goofy initiatives in the special election coming in November.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Ungovernable California

There is general agreement here in the Golden State that the rules and limits imposed on State government render the State virtually ungovernable. The State’s finances are a mess. The State provides more in services than it collects in the form of taxes and fees. The Governor finds it politically impossible to make sufficient cuts in expenditures to meet the available tax revenue. The Legislature can not increase taxes because of a strange 2/3 majority required in both houses for tax increases or for approving a budget. The Governor happens to be an ideological fiscal conservative Republican who refuses even to consider any kind of revenue enhancement. The result is that the State has to borrow money each year to make up the deficit between tax revenue and the cost of providing services.

The problem is one that democratic processes, such as action by elected representatives or enactment of initiatives, can’t solve. The basic reason for this impasse is the lack of a consensus, or public judgment, on how the State ought to operate. There are two main contradictory schools of thought.

One school argues that the State, just like a family, must trim its expenses to meet the available income. In the case of the family, that may mean that daughter can’t attend university this year, or next year, or until the family’s income increases, or until she can earn extra money herself. In the case of the State, that may mean that State funding for schools has to be cut back, that State support for local government has to be reduced, that some residents will have to be dropped from Medical, that support for special education programs for handicapped students will have to be reduced or eliminated, and so on.

The other school argues that the State, being prosperous and having the sixth largest economy in the world, should be able to afford the highest quality education for all students, including those with handicaps. The State should be able to provide generous support for local governments for adequate fire prevention and police services, for health clinics and emergency health care, for libraries, for public transit, and for other amenities that make cities pleasant places to live. Since the economy generates plenty of excess to support a decent life for all, the State should see to it that the excess is allocated fairly.

California will continue to be ungovernable and dysfunctional until the public arrives at a consensus or firm judgment as to how the State should operate.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


W Stands for Wrong

George Bush's middle name starts with the letter W. It stands for WRONG.

He was WRONG about Iraq's WMD.

He was WRONG about Global Warming. It's happening.

He is WRONG about the environment.

He was WRONG to advocate deep tax cuts that have now put us into unending deficit.

He is WRONG about Social Security.

He is WRONG about stem cell research.

He chose the WRONG man (John Bolton) to represent us at the UN.

Am I one of the majority of Americans who believe our country is headed in the WRONG direction? You bet I am!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Israel Leaving Gaza

Why is it so difficult for Israel to leave Gaza? I see on the television pictures of settlers who refuse to leave, some of whom are physically carried away from their homes. I also see pictures of departing settlers removing all utilities from their homes and some actually setting fire to them.

It seems to me the simple way of leaving Gaza is for the Israeli Army to leave. The argument is that the Army is stretched very thin, having to defend all the settlers, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. This is Mr. Sharon's conclusion, and I agree with him. The Army doesn't have to remove settlers. All the Army has to do is leave. Let the settlers stay if they want to, or if they dare.

Friday, August 12, 2005


About Rights and what Judges think of the Constitution

President Bush has named John Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. There have been many attempts to expose or explain Judge Roberts’ views of the constitution to the public. I am more concerned with the views of President Bush, who has not only named Judge Roberts but will almost certainly name at least one other person to replace another retiring justice. I am particularly interested in Mr. Bush’s choice of his favorite justice: Antonin Scalia. If Chief Justice William Rehnquist retires during Bush’s term of office, Bush will probably nominate Justice Scalia to be Chief Justice.

Mr. Scalia does not believe that the constitution is a “living” document. It is a document to be interpreted according to the specific text of the constitution, including the original meaning of the text at the time of its adoption. An important consequence of this interpretation is the set of rights that we, as a free people, should enjoy. Let’s start with the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the constitution:

Article [I.]
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.

Article [II.]
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the
right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article [III.]
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the
consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by

Article [IV.]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and
no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized.

Article [V.]
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,
unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising
in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time
of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to
be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal
case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for
public use, without just compensation.

Article [VI.]
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and
public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime
shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained
by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be
confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for
obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his

Article [VII.]
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty
dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a
jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than
according to the rules of the common law.

Article [VIII.]
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and
unusual punishments inflicted.

Article [IX.]
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed
to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article [X.]
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
the people.

In summary, the first ten amendments to the constitution give us the following rights:

Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Religion
Freedom to assemble and petition the government
Freedom as people, not necessarily as individuals, to bear arms
Freedom from having soldiers quartered in our homes
Freedom from unreasonable or secret searches and seizures by the police
Right to indictment by grand jury
Right not to be tried twice for the same offence
Right not to testify against oneself
Right not to be jailed or fined without a trial
Right against seizure of property without just compensation
Right to a speedy trial
Right to trial by impartial jury
Right to counsel
Right to confront and examine witnesses
Freedom from excessive bail
Freedom from cruel and unusual punishments

Strict constructionists, such as Scalia and Bush, argue that only those rights specifically enumerated in the constitution are immune from government regulation or absolute prohibition. They argue that the constitution itself does not grant any right of privacy, nor the right to have an abortion, nor the right to have a blood transfusion or other organ transplant, nor the right to grow and use pot. Hence, government is permitted to enact and enforce laws that limit or abolish such rights. We can enjoy these rights unless and until government decides to curtail them.

It is strange to me that “conservatives” would embrace such a restricted view of our inalienable rights as a free people.

My father (not a noted legal scholar, just the village radical) believed that the American government is an experiment. The constitution is not an end in itself; rather, it is a means to an end. He would have snorted and chortled at the Scalia view of the constitution.

If you take the permissive view, implied by the ninth and tenth amendments, that there are many rights that the people have, rights too numerous to list in the constitution, then certainly one of these rights is simply the right to be left alone. One has the right to do whatever one pleases as long as there is no harm to someone else. One has the right to grow and smoke pot. One has a right to use cocaine and heroin, although one does not have a right to steal other’s money to buy the stuff. All women have the right to medically safe abortions. One has the right to blood transfusions, to organ transplants, and to therapeutic implants to improve sight and hearing. Government has no business interfering with these rights unless it can show that one is harming or endangering others by enjoying them. Government does not have the right to stop one from drinking an alcoholic beverage; it does have the right to stop one from operating a car or other machinery that can endanger others while one is under the influence of the alcohol. Government does not have the right to prevent one from committing suicide.

Many conservatives find this libertarian view of civil rights dangerous.

I welcome the receipt of supporting and opposing opinions.

Monday, August 08, 2005


New Energy Bill to Promote Nuclear Power Plants

In the news today, I learned that President Bush traveled to New Mexico to sign the Energy Bill just passed by Congress. I learned that subsidies and tax breaks are provided to encourage the building of new energy factories, such as nuclear power plants. We need the energy. Nuclear power does not require the use of imported petroleum.

In the news today, I also learned that North Korea and Iran have stopped negotiating about the dismantling of their nuclear facilities. One argument that North Korea is advancing is that it has a "right" to have nuclear power plants. Iran is advancing a similar argument.

Is there some sort of disconnect between these news stories? We Americans have the "right" to have nuclear power plants. In fact, we have many such plants. We propose to build more of them. Why should the people of North Korea and Iran have fewer "rights" than we have?

All right. The object is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for nations to acquire the ability to produce nuclear weapons if they don't already have it. Again, We Americans are in the position of telling the world, "do as we say, not as we do." Maybe we can prevail with this specious argument. The Bush neocons believe we can. But, they have no fall-back position if the argument doesn't convince other than "regime change," Iraq style.

I foresee bad times.

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