Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

We’re Making Them Filibuster

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 17, 2009

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state_budget_1_400aSo there is going to be a reconvening of the State Senate today at 10am. I know, that’s what they said yesterday. But the plan from Sen. Steinberg is to keep the Senate on the floor until 27 members vote for passage and the crisis is (temporarily) averted. Meanwhile, 20,000 state employee layoff notices and the closure of $3.8 billion in state public works projects will take place today. Things like projects to eliminate arsenic in Live Oak in the Central Valley. You know, dispensable things. And the Times has a bead on the three Assembly members who plan to vote in favor – Roger Niello, Anthony Adams and Minority Leader Mike Villines. This is a representative sample of the countervailing forces that Yacht Party members have to deal with.

Adams, a bearded 37-year-old who was elected in 2006 after working for San Bernardino County as its legislative liaison to Sacramento and Washington, has said he would provide the Assembly’s third GOP vote.

“It’s unconscionable that we let this state go over the cliff,” Adams said in an interview. “My job is to get the best possible deal for Republicans.”

Adams faces reelection next year, and his support for the budget package has antitax advocates interested in lining up a challenger in the GOP primary. And because he represents a swing district, Adams must also worry about a general-election challenge from a Democrat.Adams said he had not asked for specific concessions for his vote, or for assurances that he would get assistance to fend off election challenges.

“I’m not trying to find some soft landing,” he said, “although my wife is going to kill me if she hears that.”

They are not rewarded for their vote, and they fear their own “head on a stick” party members more than the opposition. And so you get this gridlock.

It occurs to me that what Steinberg is doing is what progressives have asked Harry Reid to do in the US Senate for years now. When GOP obstructionists threaten to filibuster key legislation, we always say “Make them filibuster! Make them stand up in the well of the Senate and talk endlessly about how we can’t afford to provide health care for children, or how we have to offer more tax cuts to the wealthiest 1%. Let the whole country see it!” Well, we’re basically doing that. The 15 members of the Yacht Party caucus in the Senate will be locked down and forced to reiterate their arguments indefinitely.

Problem is, the whole country won’t be seeing it, the whole state won’t be seeing it, in fact almost nobody will be seeing it. This is the true failure of a lack of political awareness in California, and a lack of political media. The pressure points are nearly impossible to hit. A lot of lawmakers will get tired and need to “bring your toothbrush,” as Steinberg said, but there’s precious little drama outside of Sacramento. And yet the decisions made in that chamber will undoubtedly impact the entire national economy, not just us.

But that is also good, in a sense, because it means that a sliver of opinion makers descending on the phone lines of the legislature can seen like an army. I’m going to reprint the email alert that Calitics sent out last night, which you may have received, because I think he captured the situation perfectly. The leadership is making them filibuster. Now it’s up to us to put on the pressure.

Hey there, registered Calitics user –

If you have been watching Calitics or the news this week, you’ve heard about the budget debacle going on in Sacramento. For the last three days, we have remained one vote short of the required two-thirds majority for a budget deal, with only two Republicans being willing to join the Democratic caucus in the Senate. You can follow our coverage of the Budget here

To be blunt, the budget deal on the table is a mess. It consists of over twenty bills in each chamber. It guts environmental protections on several major projects, it offers gifts to corporations and a few powerful industries. It relies on cuts and borrowing far too heavily, and does not provide the real long-term fixes of our revenue stream that we so desperately need. And the spending cap that will go to the ballot in the spring represents a major step backward, and progressives will have to expend substantial resources to defeat it. Yet despite all that, only one thing is really clear:

If we do nothing, the state faces systemic collapse.

Because Republicans refused for years to look at new revenues to balance the state’s budget, California is being hit harder by the economic crisis than any other state. We face a $40 billion deficit, and already the state is running out of money. Schools are looking at cutting classes and laying off teachers. Tomorrow, if there is no budget, 276 infrastructure projects will be halted – affecting 38,000 workers in the state, and the governor has announced that he will issue layoff notices to 20,000 state workers. And the state’s credit rating, already low, will suffer further downgrades, effectively costing taxpayers more money.

The media has now taken notice that the Republicans are trying to bring the state down with them. But the media has little power if we aren’t watching and if our leaders don’t know we are watching them. So, here is what we need to do:

Call Senator Abel Maldanado (R-Monterey County, 916-651-4015) and tell him to give up his list of demands and end this hostage situation.

Call Senator Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks, 916-651-4001) and tell him that the state deserves better than a Senator who goes back on a deal when threatened by his own party’s extremists.

Tell as many people to do the same thing. Use every tool at your disposal, Twitter, facebook, or just word of mouth. The more people that know about this Republican extremism threatening our state, the better.

The Senate is set to once again resume session, and we might be in for another all-nighter. However, keep at it, because this is simply too important to let Republicans play their dangerous games with the lives of Californians.

Media Desperately Tries to Assure Us That Obama Loves Torture

Posted in Barack Obama, civil rights, human rights, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on January 22, 2009

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torture-abuIn his post today, Glenzilla thoroughly parses the new Washington Post poll which indicates that solid majorities of the American people believe that torture should not be used in any circumstances, that terrorist suspects should be tried in regular courts and that there should be official investigations into the Bush era torture regime. It would seem that the beltway elite’s characterization of people who hold such opinion as being “liberal score settlers” would both indicate that a majority of the country is liberal and that they actually believe that torture is wrong. Imagine that.

This brings up an interesting dilemma for our old pal Christopher Hitchens who held a fabulous village gala the other night at his place andsaid:

“I know something for a sure thing,” Hitchens continued. “The demand for torture and other methods I would describe as illegal, the demand to go outside the Geneva conventions — all this came from below. What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. It’s not educational. It doesn’t enlighten anyone to behave as if that were true. This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.” Therefore, he went on, the demand for prosecution or other measures against Bush administration officials would likewise have to come from below, via the grassroots. “Otherwise it’s just vengeful, I suppose, and partisan.”

But, as I wrote earlier, when Hitchens talks about coming from below he really means the media elite who “represent” Real Americans. They don’t listen to the polls, they listen to their guts, which are a far more reliable gauge of what the grassroots really believe than polls or elections.

Meanwhile, here’s Town Crier Chuck Todd reassuring us all that these new executive orders won’t allow the terrorists to kill us all in our beds:

Todd: There are still some loopholes. Those who are worried that somehow there isn’t going to be a way to get intelligence out of them… for instance, while there is a mandate, one of these executive orders says that the Army Field Manual is what needs to be used to decide how to interrogate these folks, there is also going to be an allowance by this new commission to come up with a protocol to deal with intelligence, you know detainees that are detained from the intelligence battlefield, not necessarily the actual combatant, you know, one that would be soldier to soldier.

Now the administration says this does not mean they will invite new methods of interrogation back into the fold, but like I said Andrea, you could go through here with a fine tooth comb and could find plenty of loopholes that would allow certain things to happen.

Now, it’s hard to make sense out of that, and I don’t know specifically what loopholes he’s talking about, but it’s clear that Chuck Todd is seeking to reassure everyone that some kind of torture will be allowed if it’s really necessary. (Boy that’s a relief, huh?)

In fact, the whole tenor of the coverage of today’s executive orders seems to be about how Obama has done this because Guantanamo and torture “look bad” but that he’s got to find some legal means to circumvent constitutional principles because well … he just does:

Pete Williams: The most controversial aspect of this is that there will still be a category of detainees that can’t be released but can’t be put on trial because there isn’t enough evidence or because the evidence was obtained in some way that couldn’t be used in court and they seem to say in this document, “we’re still probably going to have to hold those people if they’re dangerous, we just don’t know how,” so one of the things this document says is to the government, look at our legal options, there must be some legal way to do this.

And, of course, human rights groups have been saying “you can’t have it both ways” you can’t both detain them and not put them on trial.

Where do those human rights groups get those crazy ideas?

I honestly don’t know why we shouldn’t apply this logic across the board. If the authorities “know” that someone is guilty of murder but they don’t have any evidence or coerced an unreliable confession out of them under torture, why isn’t there some legal way to hold this alleged murderer anyway? Indeed, it would save a lot of time and money if we could just dispense with the whole trial process at all — if the government just “knows” when someone is dangerous and that they’ve committed crimes then what’s the point of all this “proof” business in the first place?

I have no idea what Obama really has in mind with these orders — although they are certainly a welcome step in the right direction this commission he’s forming to assess interrogation techniques seems superfluous to me. The Geneva Conventions aren’t obscure on these points and neither is the scholarship on effective interrogation techniques. I assume that he’s simply trying to appease the intelligence community by not being unequivocal in the first few days. 

But regardless of his intentions, it’s clear that the media has decided that he’s trying to have it both ways. I’m sure that’s very reassuring to them — they all love torture and indefinite detention (except for themselves and their friends, who “suffer enough” if they are simply publicly embarrassed.) But if Obama’s intention is to send a clear signal that America is not going to torture and imprison people in violation of the law and the constitution, the media that’s supposed to convey that view isn’t getting the message.

Let’s hope they are just being myopic and stupid as usual. If they aren’t, or this “confusion” is allowed to stand, then it’s likely that the foreign policy benefit of changing the policies are going to be compromised. I hear that the foreigners have the internet these days.

Here’s the Center For Constitutional Rights’ statement on today’s orders.