Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales Resigns, But Does It Matter

When now former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was merely nominated as Attorney General awaiting confirmation, I was strongly opposed to his appointment because he was an advocate of torture, state murder, and clearly loyal to Bush far in excess of anyone resembling a trustworthy public figure. To add to that, his road to head of the justice department was more than merely about the appointment of a conservative Bush hack, it was about a move to the right for the corporate media, the political establishment in Washington, and in a way that affected me personally, some of the largest Latino organizations in the country.

The media was initially reporting that his confirmation would be an easy one for Bush, and few reporters or pundits explored the problems with his record. It seemed, early on, that most Democrats would not put up a fight. And, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) as well as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) strongly supported his nomination.

Ultimately progressives managed to get enough attention on the matter that his confirmation took longer than expected and succeeded with fewer votes for confirmation in the Senate than any other Attorney General in history. But it succeeded without a filibuster and was an unbelievable step backwards following John Ashcroft.

Now years later, Gonzales is "embattled" according to the corporate media, and resigning. Democrats have forced him to testify, it seems like numerous times now, and grilled him on domestic spying and U.S. Attorney firings. Some right-wingers don't like him because, among other silly reasons, one of his U.S. Attorneys in Texas prosecuted some trigger-happy border patrol agents and won a conviction from a jury of Texans who actually heard all the facts. I would argue that some people found it easier to go after Gonzales because he is Latino - an awful guy, but a safer target than some of the rich white guys who are sometimes far worse. Dick Cheney remains; Michael "tough on immigrants" Chertoff remains and may even take Gonzales' place; Bush remains and continues his surge despite his dismal poll numbers; the domestic spying continues, but now with Congressional approval.

Is this a victory? It depends in part on how the media, activists and even some politicians respond.

My fear is that D.C. Democrats (you know the pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-spying, liberals), with a handful of exceptions, will simply say "our job is done and it is time to move on ... to electing Hillary and bombing Iran." Bush will appoint someone just as bad or worse to replace Gonzales and the spying, torture, and executions will continue. Progressives will say, "we have to make sure a Democrat wins the White House at all costs." And Gonzales will join a prominent Texas law firm, publish some books, and maybe still have a shot at a federal judicial appointment next time a Republican takes office.

My hope is that activists will focus on the issues that are important - put their energy toward ending the war in Iraq and any other imperialist wars that Clinton, Obama or Edwards may be considering; continue demands for an immigrant amnesty, an end to torture, and an end to domestic spying. For starters. The amount of energy to put toward opposing Bush's new nominee will depend on how these issues are furthered by that opposition.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The American Dream, a.k.a. Nightmare, a.k.a. Narcoleptic Episode

On my way out to Yosemite I remember getting beyond the hills of the Bay Area into the hot, flat, boring Central Valley around Tracy, California (before reaching the Sierra Nevadas). There were dusty, crowded freeways, mini-malls, drive-thru Starbucks, and dense, virtually tree-less, housing developments in the middle of completely tree-less fields of dirt and weeds. I wondered who would want to live out here - even if they could get one of these homes - relatively large homes for relatively reasonable prices compared with the rest of the Bay Area.

Yes, even out in Northern California, developers, sprawl and home-ownership fetishism tear up the countryside with their appalling, free-market waste dumps. But now the housing market is in a slump and there is trouble in the suburban wastelands as foreclosures multiply.

It is really funny reading the story in the San Jose Mercury News that has an overall negative tone but quotes developers who, always thinking of their own bottom-line, put a rosy spin on the situation:

"Just four years into the development, about 6,000 residents live in roughly 2,000 homes. Of those, about 60 are in foreclosure, according to Sean O'Toole, founder of ForeclosureRadar. Yet the major home builders at Mountain House [a development near Tracy] - Pulte, Lennar, Centex and now Shea Homes - say the community is one of their best-performing markets. Given the Central Valley market, where sales are off by more than one-third compared with a year ago, according to the Ryness Report, that's not saying much."

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Managed to get out to Yosemite this week for 3 days - it was my first time to visit the Park. Johnny and I spent time in Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy, Glacier Point, and Mariposa Grove. We didn't make it to Tuolumne Meadows and we weren't camping or doing any strenuous, day-long hikes. The whole area was jam packed with tourists - it seemed at times like most were from other countries. It was also probably one of the hottest times of year to go to the Park. Click here to see all my photos of the trip.

The first day we headed straight for the valley and tried to familiarize ourselves with the area. There wasn't much time so we grabbed a trail map and headed for Vernal Fall. It was sometimes a steep climb but worth the effort. We found a rock under the fall and relaxed for an hour before heading back down.

That evening we rushed to Glacier Point to get a fantastic view of the valley at dusk.

On day 2 we went to Hetch Hetchy - the reservoir that provides drinking water for San Francisco. It has its own valley that is nearly as beautiful as Yosemite Valley. But it was even hotter and dryer. Plus the trail we took was mostly along the banks of the reservoir and exposed to the sun, making the walk back pretty miserable. We were trying to find Tueeulala and Wapama Falls. As far as we could tell, Tueeulala was completely dry and Wapama was only a trickle of water. Kind of disappointing but not a total bust.

Parched and worn out, we headed for the Merced River in Yosemite Valley - to an area where we had seen people swimming the day before. We relaxed on a rock and took a brief swim that was cut short by a snake attack. No one was hurt, but when I saw the thing swimming about a foot away from Johnny I shouted a warning and scurried out of the water onto a rock. Johnny froze. The snake shrugged - if that is possible - and swam away.

We dried off and consumed wine, cheese and bread under El Capitan. Took a little walk to see Bridalveil Fall and headed back to the hotel.

On the last day we drove to Wawona - which struck me as sort of the country club of Yosemite, including a 9 hole golf course. We checked out a restaurant, but the food seemed pricey and there was a tour bus of foreigners ahead of us. So instead we ate hot dogs and drank Guinness at the golf shop. Then we went on to nearby Mariposa Grove to see some giant sequoias before heading back to SF.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Democrats Cave to Bush Pressure on Spying

From the New York Times: "Under pressure from President Bush, the House gave final approval Saturday to changes in a terrorism surveillance program, despite serious objections from many Democrats about the scope of the executive branch’s new eavesdropping power."

Pressure from President Bush eh? Yes. He does have an approval rating of 29% or so. My guess is the "serious objections" from many Democrats are really just a way to quiet their base. Some two party system we have.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Democrat Feinstein Supports Judicial Nominee Who Rules For Racists Against Gays

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein voted in favor of Bush's latest nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week calling Leslie Southwick "a good person."

From People for the American Way: In 1998, Southwick joined a ruling in an employment case that upheld the reinstatement, without any punishment whatsoever, of a white state employee who was fired for calling an African American co-worker a “good ole nigger.” The court’s decision effectively ratified a hearing officer’s opinion that the slur was only “somewhat derogatory” and “was in effect calling the individual a ‘teacher’s pet.’” The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision.

In 2001, Southwick joined a ruling that upheld a chancellor’s decision to take an eight-year-old girl away from her mother and award custody to the father, who had never married the mother, largely because the mother was living with another woman in a “lesbian home.” Southwick went even further by joining a gratuitously anti-gay concurrence which extolled Mississippi’s right under “the principles of Federalism” to treat “homosexual persons” as second-class citizens. The concurrence suggested that sexual orientation is a choice and stated that an adult is not “relieved of the consequences of his or her choice” – e.g. losing custody of one’s child.