Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Won't Somebody Think of the Vegetables?

Those poor defenseless fruits and vegetables have got a champion in the form of California State Assemblymember Audra Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks). For years, whenever some thoughtless critic of conventional farming methods dared to point out that pesticides were deadly to humans as well as pesky insects, or that genetic manipulation of produce might not be entirely healthy for consumers, or that maybe, just maybe, leafy vegetables with E. coli could make some people very sick and, occasionally, very dead, consumable flora have had no one to turn to to defend their rights.

But now Assemblymember Strickland has donned the red cape and leotard with the big "S" (for Super Assemblymember) and leapt to the defense of commercially grown produce (and their big bucks growers), drafting AB 689, the "Perishable agricultural product defamation" bill, which would allow growers to sue anyone who dared libel spinach and tomatoes and squash (amongst other innocent, health-depriving - vegetation) as being not entirely good for the populace at large:
This bill would allow a producer of a perishable agricultural
product, as defined, who suffers actual damages as a result of another person's disparagement of the producer's product to recover those actual damages if certain facts are found to be true. [Emphasis mine] The bill would define "disparagement" for these purposes as a false and unprivileged publication regarding a perishable agricultural product that clearly impugns the safety of the product. The bill would require the plaintiff to bear the burden of proof as to each element of the cause of action.

Should this bill be passed, California would join such forward thinking states as Texas and Georgia (as well as eleven other states) in protecting those who have, until now, had no voice: multi-million dollar agricultural interests.

May the cucumbers bless Ms. Strickland...

Friday, February 16, 2007

From Poverty Matters - Victory at L.A. City Hall!

Today we received this heartening message from Susie Shannon, Vice-Chair of SoCal Grassroots and Executive Director of Poverty Matters:
Dear Group,

We had a major victory today as the Los Angeles City Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to oppose Governor Schwarzenegger's $434 million in cuts to CalWorks, an anti-poverty program which provides assistance to the poorest children in California.

Council Member Jose Huizar should be commended for his tremendous leadership in bringing this issue to the council with a 2nd by Council President Eric Garcetti.

Special thanks to the advocates who testified with me today in Council Chambers - Clarissa Woo of the ACLU of Southern California; Yolanda James of L.A. Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness; and Joseph Villela of CHIRLA. And thanks to Nancy Berlin of California Partnership who testified in the IGR Committee.

Warm Regards,
Susie Shannon
Executive Director
Poverty Matters

This is an important victory. With Los Angeles officially on record as opposing the cruel cuts to CalWorks, Schwarzenegger may start to realize that balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it - the poorest of children in the Golden State - will not be tolerated by its citizens.

Contact the governor and tell him you support the City of Los Angeles and oppose his horrendous proposed cuts to CalWorks. Let him know that his actions are unacceptable.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Didja Hear the One About Bush and Tehran?

Bush "calls it irrelevant that no solid evidence links Iranian officials to alleged weapons aid"
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials from President Bush to a top general in Baghdad said Wednesday that there was no solid evidence that high-ranking officials in Iran had ordered deadly weapons to be sent to Iraq for use against American troops, backing away from claims made by military and intelligence officials in Baghdad this week.

But Bush continued to maintain an aggressive posture toward Tehran, saying elite Iranian Quds Force operatives were supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq.


"When we find the networks that are enabling these weapons to end up in Iraq," he said at a late-morning White House news conference, "we will deal with them."
Ooh, here's an even funnier one:
"We're not trying to hype this," [chief military spokesman in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William B.] Caldwell said.
I know, I know. Damn near snorted root beer out of my nose. I mean, after the whole thing with "intelligence" re: WMDs and Iraq and that country's connection with Al Qaida, they can't honestly expect us to take them at their word. It's gotta be a big elaborate joke, with maybe a "Gotcha!" on April 1st, right? Am I right here?

:crickets chirp:

Oh crap.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bush: LaLaLaLa - I Can't Hear You!

Bush hangs back on House debate:
A month after President Bush announced plans to boost troop levels in Iraq, he will largely remain on the sidelines as the House begins the first major debate on the war since Democrats assumed control of Congress after the November election.


With Democrats in firm control of the House, Bush has little chance of derailing the resolution, which he has said he will ignore.
Since this is a non-binding resolution, the House cannot force Bush to follow its lead. However, ignoring the resolution is idiocy of the highest form.

Then again, considering the resident of the White House and his actions since he moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, I can't say that I'm surprised...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Making It Tougher To Become A Citizen

Something that seemed to have been overlooked last week - from the L.A. Times:

Cost of U.S. citizenship likely to rise

U.S. immigration authorities Wednesday proposed hefty fee hikes for citizenship and permanent residency applications, pledging to use the revenue to help shorten processing time and improve service.

But the proposal, which would hike citizenship application fees from $330 to $595, drew immediate criticism that it would put citizenship out of reach for many poor immigrants. The plan also would increase overall fees for green cards, work permits and other benefits an average of 66%.

That hike of sixty-six percent is expected to take effect in June. While it's understandable that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are low in resources and funding and are looking for ways to increase both, it would make more sense to slowly increase fees over the course of several years or to ask Congress to renew the special appropriation that it granted in 2002. Such a steep increase in one shot is outrageous and one that many immigrants to the U.S cannot afford.
Angela Sanbrano of the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles said that many of her immigrant clients struggled to pay the current fee and could ill-afford the increases.

"People will now have to make a decision as to whether to pay rent, buy food or become a citizen," she said. "Exercising your democratic right should not face these obstacles."

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are currently holding a 60-day public comment period that is scheduled to end April 2, 2007. If you'd like to weigh in on this obscene hike of fees, please go to the and perform a search using the drop-down menu - there is only one open public comment period on the USCIS docket.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Let's not penalize those who wish to become new citizens just because we got ours.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Court-Martial of Principled Officer Ends in Mistrial

Mistrial ends Watada court-martial:

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (AP) — FORT LEWIS -- The court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada ended in a mistrial Wednesday.

The case's judge, Lt. Col. John Head, declared the trial over after a day of wrangling over a stipulation of facts that Watada had signed before the trial and that would have been part of the instructions to the jury. The judge decided that Watada never intended when he signed the stipulation to mean that he had a duty to go to Iraq with his unit.

Again the issue was Watada's views on the Iraq war -- opinions that kept him from going with his unit to the conflict and that the judge didn't want brought up at the court-martial.

Head is woefully incorrect when he insists that the illegality of the Iraq Occupation is not the issue. It is the central issue. For the Army to insist that its officers and enlisted soldiers follow orders, despite their conscience, is criminal. I'm in danger of invoking Godwin's Law, but one must remember that the Nazis' defense was that they were just following orders.

Watada could have easily filed for conscientious objector status. He didn't because he isn't a pacifist and he is an honorable man. He strongly believes in serving his country by defending it. He sees that serving in an illegal occupation is not defending his country.

According to USA Today, a new trial date has been set for March 12.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bush Doesn't Care About Poor People...Still

Bush's recently released budget proposal is, yet again, a wonderment in its disregard for those less fortunate as it seeks to hold down desparately needed Medicare growth while making tax cuts to the rich a permanent feature. Yeah, that's the way to erase the national debit.

None of this comes as a surprise to anyone who pays attention to the cold-heartedness of this administration. And anyone who has two brain cells to rub together and a modicum of compassion would be outraged at this.

But it doesn't stop there, my friends. Included in the budget is a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program:
Drawing the most criticism were proposals to cut the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to about $1.8 billion, from the nearly $2.2 billion expected to be allocated in 2007, and to cut the weatherization program — which helps the poor insulate their homes — from the proposed $242 million for the current fiscal year to $144 million.

Nick Papas, a spokesman for the House Democratic caucus, said Bush was sending a message to families who receive energy assistance: "Stock up on blankets."

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) called Bush's proposed cut in funding for the energy-assistance program "simply unacceptable," underscoring how energy policy often divides along climate zones rather than party lines.

So when families who rely on such programs to keep from freezing end up getting sick because they can't afford to heat their homes, they can just stay sick, because Medicare won't be picking up the cost.

The Democratic majority had better make sure this doesn't go through.