Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lovin' That Bad-Ass Bowen

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of a girl-crush on California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Mind you, it's a purely innocent and respectful girl-crush, only slightly greater than my love for chunky peanut butter and dark, dark chocolate.

Nonetheless, a girl-crush it is.

How else to describe the feeling that swept over me last week when I read about her lawsuit against ES&S for selling uncertified electronic voting machines to California counties? Indeed, as I was on public transportation at the time, I was forced to suppress a happy squeal upon reading:
"ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught," Bowen said in a statement after filing suit against the company. "I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into the state, ignore the laws and make millions of dollars from California's taxpayers in the process."
It's enough to make a straight progressive girl all woozy from joy.

I was favorably impressed with Secretary Bowen from the moment I met her, back in her pre-SoS days of 2005, when she had been in the California Legislature for a number of years and your humble blogger was a wet-behind-the-ears activist of only three months, greener than a Granny Smith apple. Everything I've seen since has only cemented that initial favorable impression and I know that Secretary Bowen will continue to be very impressive.

Way to go, Secretary Bowen. And keep on gettin' down with your bad-ass self.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To Feinstein's Staffers: RESIGN!

Guest Blogger: Michael Jay

Letter to Trevor Daley, District Director for Senator Dianne Feinstein

Dear Trevor,

Thank you for meeting with us yesterday.

I was deeply disappointed to awake to the news that Senator Feinstein has chosen to again side against her constituents and instead enable the Bush administration, this time by voting to confirm another atrocious choice as the highest law officer of the land. Mukasey's tortured parsing of his position on waterboarding is widely seen as a maneuver to protect those who would otherwise be guilty of war crimes for having ordered the use of this procedure.

It makes sense that Bush would offer a nominee who would cover for him; what doesn't make sense is why the senior Senator of the country's largest left-leaning state would give cover to Bush.

Don't take my word for that: Even Keith Olbermann could find a cynical reason as to what his own Senator had to gain by dealing with Bush, but was at a loss about California's Feinstein; he said, "Sen. Schumer has seen it, reportedly, as some kind of puzzle piece in the New York political patronage system, and he has failed. What Sen. Feinstein has seen, to justify joining Schumer in rubber-stamping Mukasey, I cannot guess."

I can guess, for here, in California, Diane Feinstein's miserable record precedes this latest vote: Her votes to extend the Patriot Act and Bush's illegal circumvention of FISA, her support of Hayden to head the CIA (no surprise, in light of the aforementioned support for illegal wiretapping), her championing of bills and amendments on flag burning (I know that issue sure keeps my neighbors up at night), her atrocious giveaway to the vendors of electronic voting machines - oh, excuse me, I meant, her recent bill to revise HAVA, and her vote to censure MoveOn all make many wonder which Party our Senator belongs to.

Excuses about the possibility of Bush installing a much worse candidate, via a recess appointment, collapse in light of the courageous action by the many true Democrats on the panel, including Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold.

But there's a much deeper factor, isn't there? Senator Feinstein's current husband, Richard Blum, was a majority owner of the military contractors URS Corp. and Perini Corp. at the same time that the Senator supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars through her position on the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) That means that, from 2001 through 2005, every time Senator Feinstein directed an appropriation, citizen Feinstein had a little bit more money for some fine dining in San Francisco. Again, this isn't just my theory; as you know, enough heat was brought to bear on this gross conflict of interest that the Senator had to resign from MILCON.

As you noted yesterday, I've politely lobbied the Senator in semi-private meetings, and it doesn't take much to see that the problems of one constituent don't amount to a hill of beans in the crazy world of the military industrial complex. Whether for profit or because she can't remember which Party she's in (let alone remember her oath to protect and defend the Constitution), Senator Feinstein chooses to enable Bush's disastrous agenda. So, now I need to repeat the request that I made to you yesterday:


As District Director, you are enabling one of the worst offenders among those who betray the Democratic Party and their country in this time of crisis. I submit to you that one man can have an impact; your resignation would be felt by the Senator, and noted around the nation. You said that citizen comments on Mukasey amounted to only a third of those concerning Judge Roberts, yet you also heard from several who reported that it was nearly impossible to phone the Senator's office. We are frozen out; you can send a message:


You could regain employment with one of the true Democrats. Help us build an opposition Party, before America goes past the point of no return. Help reverse the ludicrous stance of the Party, which has disappointed and abandoned its constituency to the point that more Republicans now approve of Congress than Democrats- despite our majority rule of both houses.

Please stop enabling those false leaders who enable this assault on our Constitution, our country and the world. You'll be able to look yourself in the mirror in the morning. Resign.

Thank you for considering this.


Michael Jay

Delegate, California State Democratic Party, 42nd Assembly District
Steering Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Los Angeles
Coordinating Committee, SoCal Grassroots

PS - After our meeting yesterday, you saw me return to the building's lobby to criticize those guards who had lied to the police. Let me explain that, while Mimi Kennedy (National Board Chair of Progressive Democrats of America), myself and four others waited politely for you to come down from the Senator's office, the lobby guards barred others from entering. After just a few complaints from these others, the guards summoned the police, by lying that "people were, or were trying to, break down the doors." I learned of this (mis-)characterization from the police officers themselves, who, thankfully, explained that they are experienced enough to know that people often exaggerate or fabricate in order to procure police presence. Know that the guards lied, that we were mischaracterized, and that the Senator and her staff are being ill-served by her landlord's employees.

To the hundreds of others reading this message: Please call Senator Feinstein's offices, and tell her how you think a Democratic California Senator should vote.
D.C.: 202-224-3841
SF: 415-393-0707
LA: 310-914-7300

Representative Howard Berman: Don't Block Impeachment

Guest Blogger: Michael Jay

Letter to Representative Howard Berman:
If you won't oppose Bush, at least don't oppose those Democrats who will!

Dear Congressman Berman,

On Tuesday Congressman Dennis Kucinich will introduce a privileged resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney.

It is a virtual certainty that another member will move to table this resolution.

What will you do?

We have debated at length our differences on the occupation of Iraq, and the wisdom of impeachment. Actually, we have no differences of opinion on Iraq: you have publicly agreed with every one of my observations, including the conclusion that the war makes us less safe; you differ, inexplicably, in the action that you take.

For years now I have begged you to be part of an opposition Party, to aggressively address Bush's assault on our country's reputation and bedrock principles. In this regard I have also demanded that you obey your oath to protect and defend the Constitution, by holding the Bush administration responsible for its irrefutably illegal actions.

You have espoused the same excuses I've heard from so many: "Impeachment will take too long" (though the time remaining is still four times the time it took to impeach Clinton and Nixon). "We don't have the votes"- as if they had the votes before they began investigating Nixon, and uncovered the smoking guns that even the Republicans couldn't deny. "It will keep us from more important work" - as if the current Congress was some beehive of new initiatives and unprecedented bipartisan efficiency. In reality, because of the failure of you and others to oppose Bush, he vetoes everything, and we pass nothing. The only thing my Party has achieved is to have squandered the wishes of those Democrats who put you in the majority with a mandate to stop funding the war and stand up to Bush. Your self described "conservative" agenda and the Party leadership's brilliant strategy has achieved one other thing: it has plunged Congress' approval ratings to 11%- less than half that of Bush's. Remember that, the next time you think my progressive stance is bad for the Party.

Well, here's your chance. You don't have to go out on a limb and introduce a resolution. You don't have to join a caucus or co-sponsor anything, or stick your head up out of the foxhole. This one's simple: I'm asking you to do nothing. That is, when the motion is made to table Kucinich's resolution to impeach, please DO NOT vote to table.

Is that so much to ask? That you not side with the Republicans (again)? That you let this action take its course, and give us a chance to get America back on track? That you see which other Democrats might show a spine? Maybe we'll surprise ourselves.

With Senator Feinstein enabling yet another lying Bush appointee for Attorney General, I'm so deep in this upside down world that I'm now asking you to do nothing: Please don't cast another vote that makes us citizen Democrats sick to heart to be Democrats. Please don't generate another front page headline in the LA Daily News like the one that read, "Berman Sides with GOP." Please let this one vestige of Thomas Jefferson's process take root for. Bottom line: If you won't oppose Bush, at least don't oppose those Democrats who will. Please remember that you took an oath- one you have yet to respect. Here's your chance. I, and the several hundred people with whom I'll be sharing this message, will be watching.


Michael Jay

Delegate, California State Democratic Party, 42nd Assembly District
Steering Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Los Angeles
Coordinating Committee, SoCal Grassroots

PS - To those citizens reading this message: CALL CONGRESS (202-225-3121) and tell your Democratic Representative NOT to vote to table Kucinich's resolution of impeachment.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Is Torture? Why Is the United States Government Willing To Practice It?

With all the controversy over the newest Attorney General nominee of this President, one has to ask the question: just what is torture and we will use the example of waterboarding.

Waterboarding is the horrendous method of interrogation that simulates drowing by dropping voctims strapped to a cruel albeit efficient version of our childhood teeter-totter and immersing them in water. This causes panic, can trigger cardiac incidents and drives victims to a near death experience.

Is this torture? President Bush's nominee Judge Mukasey says he doesn't know. But according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and even the US Military it is.

While our hosting organization has not taken an official position on the President's nominee; I would urge you to investigate the issue and convey your position to our Senator Diane Feinstein, as she sits on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Many of the organizations that many of us are in solidarity with have clearly stated their opposition to this nomination. We do not need a Alberto Gonzalez in sheep's clothing as the next Attorney General.

Why we protect our California Coastline

As a native Californian who was born, raised and grew up on the coast of California; I appreciate that we continue to strive to protect one of nature’s golden treasures, California’s coastline. Back in the Nixon administration, his Secretary of the Interior, Walter Hickle, who was a former governor of Alaska issued an order to not allow offshore oil drilling. He lost his cabinet position over that action.

A decade later we precincted and gathered signatures to qualify proposition 20, the California Coastal Initiative. This was done back when signature gatherers were not paid. We did all this when I was a college student. We created the California Coastal Commission which helped protect our coastline all these past years.

Lately the Liquid Natural Gas industry has taken two runs at getting approval for an LNG offshore terminal off of our coastline. They failed in Long Beach, and have been stopped at the Oxnard hearing of the State’s Land Commission. Now they are pushing for an offshore floating terminal in the Santa Monica Bay, or even taking over an unused former oil platform off of Santa Barbara.

We must strive to protect our pristine, natural coast to prevent any dangerous and environmentally tragic proposals such as an LNG terminal. This is a critical battle that we must win, we have to win every battle and the overall war. Let your elected officials, local, state, and federal know that you oppose any LNG terminal on our coastline.