Is this a change (of) team we can believe in? (Updated)

From Jim Houle

Ukiah, California 02/13/09
Dave Lindorff, reporter for Salon, the Nation and Businessweek,/ writes: ”Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills”. Lets look at the list:

William Lynn: A former Raytheon Co. lobbyist, confirmed today as deputy secretary of defense, (the department’s chief operating officer – which includes overseeing acquisitions). He has agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor but will not be forced to step back from decisions related to Ratheon, the Defense Department said Friday. Instead, Obama wrote Lynn a special permission slip to exempt him the new revolving door ban. Allowing Lynn to do business with his former employer makes a mockery of Obama’s new ethics rules.

Tom Daschle: Nominated as Secretary of H&HS – dropped out after acknowledging that he had belatedly paid more than $128,000 in taxes owed to the federal government.

Nancy Killefer: Intended to become the government’s first “chief performance officer”, bowed out, after admitting she never paid payroll taxes for her household employee.

Timothy Geithner: a key official of the Bush years, has now been confirmed at Secretary of the Treasury, although he admits not having paid the Social Security and Health Care taxes he owed to the US Treasury., while working at the IMF. He had avoided paying them, despite his signed acknowledgement that he owed these taxes and hid behind the 3 year statue of limitations, thus had saved himself $41,000. He only paid up after his nomination was confirmed. And this guy will supervise the IRS?

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) dropped out after having accepted the job of Commerce Secretary. A deeply conservative man, he is opposed to the very existence of the Commerce Department he will head. To top it off, Obama had worked out a deal to have the Democratic governor of New Hampshire fill Gregg’s vacated Senate seat with a Republican appointee, thereby forfeiting the right to add a Democrat to the Senate and eliminate any chance of Republican filibusters. Gregg explained that he didn’t like Obama’s economic stimulus program. It sounds like his ego got ahead of his ability to keep current on the news.

Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture: A Strong supporter of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered crops and of unsustainable ethanol manufacture from corn and soy beans.

Senator (D-Co) Ken Salazar, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Interior: a loyal servant of the big ranching, and mining interests. Energy stocks climbed over 10% on expectations that his taking charge of Interior would assure continued opening up of federal lands for minerals exploitation”. WSW.org 12/18/08. However, on February 10th, he surprised us by extending the review period for oil and gas leases in western states by 6 months. Should we wait and see if this leopard changes his spots?

Arne Duncan (currently CEO for the Chicago Public School System) will become Education Secretary. He is seen as a strong supporter of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative of the Bush administration.

Dr. Steven Chu has headed the Lawrence Berkeley Labs these past 4 years and is a scientist, not a businessman. His lifelong support for the nuclear power industry is why he’ll be DOE Secretary.

Keep reading Obama-Watch.us Eighth Edition

[Update -DS]

See also Obama and Liberals: A counter-productive relationship by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

and An Open Letter To President Obama About Republicans (From a Former Republican)

and The obstructionists dilemma at Daily Kos→

and They Sure Showed That Obama by Frank Rich, NYT→

More Stonewalling: Growth of County Debt (Updated)

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Continue to YourPublicMoney.com


From Dave Smith

The feeling returns
whenever we close out eyes
Lifting my head
looking around inside.

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts dont do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts dont stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…
I’m still waiting…

Crosseyed and Painless – Talking Heads

American Aid To Israel – A Libertarian Perspective

[We welcome a wide diversity of political opinion on Ukiah Blog, although we would like to keep it primarily local. I was not aware that libertarians all must sign the statement “I do not believe in the initiation of force to achieve political goals” in order to join their political party. -DS]

From Virginia Macintosh

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is the most recent incarnation of an ancient, and endless war between Jews and Arabs. The expectation that a greater show of force by one side or the other, such as Israel’s newest push into Gaza, will finally solve the problem for once and for all, is, of course, a delusion; America’s continuing support of Israel, the lone democracy in the region – but with its own strong army – prolongs another delusion that somehow, with our help, the rest of the middle east will calm down.

In a recent commentary, Andrew Davis of the Libertarian Party notes, “There are several complications with U.S.foreign aid going to Israel. One, it makes the United States culpable for the actions of Israel that many times come with international condemnation. Secondly, it opens up the United States to cries of extreme bias in favor of Israel – a main catalyst for terrorism against U.S. interests at home and abroad.”

Libertarians have long criticized not just aid to Israel, but any type of intervention into the political policies of all nations, believing that 1, It is not in our national interest;  2, it invites consequences never envisioned; and 3, there are better ways of creating friendly relationships with the world’s nations.

The complications of intervention were of concern to early political thinkers who formed this country. In his first inaugural address,Thomas Jefferson set out to define what he thought were the essential principles of government. The words most often quoted from the list are, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Our alliance with Israel is a perfect example of the kind of entanglement Jefferson warned against.

What does a policy of non-intervention do for us and can it be justified morally? Far from abandoning our friends, trade, commerce and friendship, are powerful forces of good will. Direct financial aid to other nations, rarely goes where it is most needed, often buying arms or lining the pockets of the country’s rulers. But honest and fair practices of commerce and trade devoid of import taxes, price supports or blockades create an even playing field in which pure trade – value for value – a fair exchange of goods and services, enrich all parties concerned.  We should be open to trade with, and be free to visit all countries including Cuba and all other “axis of evil” countries. One of the worst aspects of the Israeli conflict in Gaza is the forced closure of Gaza’s borders which stops any chance for trade with the rest of the world – a requirement for any new or established country for stability and growth.

In his January 7th post, Watching the torching of Gaza, Jim Houle properly asked if the majority of Americans feel we have an obligation to support Israel in their battles with Hamas, or, in parallel, Hezbullah. A good question indeed. One might also ask if Americans knowingly support the “entanglement” of our military presence in 135 countries, or 70% of the worlds countries, not counting territories. How can this huge military presence in the rest of the world be tolerated by the American public?

Disengaging from the quagmire of political alliances, by ending all financial and military aid to Israel and others would create real change in U.S. policy for the better. Tourism, trade, and commerce, with bias to none, supports Jefferson view of “honest friendship,” and removes the threat to all. By doing this, we do not turn our back on the rest of the world, but instead, encourage prosperity and stability. This change would serve us in the long run and help bring back the respect we once deserved.

The City Council’s Obama Moment – Will it Last?

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Monday, January 5, when the Ukiah City Council convened (minus Council Member John McCowen) in a Special Meeting to appoint a new member to fill the remainder of departing McCowen’s term, over 40 people attended.  Seeing so many members of the community interested in its proceedings, the Council did itself and the community proud.

Seven residents of the City of Ukiah filed applications for McCowen’s job.  Among them were John Graff, well-known representative of the Employers Council of Mendocino County, and Mary Anne Landis, respected member of the Ukiah Planning Commission, educator, and prominent proponent of the principles of “Smart Growth.”

Because three of the City Council members were likely to support Landis, and the fourth, Doug Crane, was not, the entire matter could have been handled in a matter of a few minutes.  One of the Council members could have nominated Landis, another seconded the nomination, and a roll call vote could have garnered the requisite three votes.

Instead, the members took their time, after first quizzing Dave Rapport, City Attorney, on possible procedures to fill the remainder of a departing Council member’s term.  Lacking a definite procedure to follow, the members heard the presentations of the seven applicants, asked them a couple of questions, and then heard the presentations of interested citizens.  The citizens spoke respectfully; enunciating criteria they felt were relevant to the selection of a new Council member.  A few endorsed a particular applicant.

After the last speaker, the Council members began deliberations.  Benj Thomas said he believed it was important to measure the applicants against certain criteria, and Doug Crane made a pitch for a conservative-leaning applicant.  Mari Rodin, noting that it sounded “like kindergarten,” spoke up for the qualities of respect and kindness.  She explained that Council members need to be respectful and kind to the City’s staff, other members, and citizens who attend and speak at Council meetings.  “Reaching across the aisle,” as our President-Elect Obama would say (my comment).  When Rodin spoke, a light came on:  rather than bringing the matter to a vote quickly, the members were showing kindness and respect for each other, the applicants, and the speakers.  Ah, I thought, Obama comes to Ukiah.  I get it . . .

So what? a cynic could say.  Well, here’s what:  in the end, Doug Crane voted with the other three Council members, making the vote unanimous.  He had been heard, his candidates treated with respect, but in the end he acted to welcome Landis to the Council.  How in the spirit of Obama I thought.

If the actions by the City Council are indicators of what is to come I foresee the Board acting in harmony in these difficult times.  Thank you Ukiah City Council for showing us the way.

Mary Anne Landis Appointed To Ukiah City Council 1/5/09

… as of 10 minutes ago.


See earlier post about tonight’s meeting

Oppose Tom Vilsack’s Confirmation as Secretary of Agriculture

From Organic Consumers Union via John McCowen

Despite a massive public outcry, including over 20,000 emails from the Organic Consumers Association, President-Elect Obama has chosen former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be the next Secretary of Agriculture.

While Vilsack has promoted respectable policies with respect to restraining livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and promoting genetically engineered crops and animal cloning. Equally troubling is Vilsack’s support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production, which has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.

The Organic Consumers Association is calling on organic consumers and all concerned citizens to join our call to action and block Vilsack’s confirmation as the next Secretary of Agriculture. Please help us reach our goal of 100,000 petition signatures against Vilsack’ nomination. Sign today!

Go to Sign Petition

See also A food agenda for Obama – change we can eat

Feedback to Obama from Ukiah

From Annie Esposito and Steve Scalmanini

There is a local group forming to send feedback to the incoming administration – as is happening with other groups around the country.  Antonia Juhazs, author of “The Tyranny of Oil,” encouraged people to do this when she spoke in Ukiah recently.  For more information, contact  ruth at rusander1@yahoo.com.

A half dozen to a dozen people gather in front of the court house every Friday from 5 to 6 pm, to urge world peace upon the rush hour traffic.  They report that over the span of time they’ve been there with their anti-war signs, approval rating has continued to climb with more honking and ‘right ons.’   But there was a disturbing change after Obama won the election.  They received racist slurs from several passers-by for the first time.  The overall reaction of the drivers and pedestrians, however, continues to be positive.

Meanwhile there is a new website Obama Watch – put together by Redwood Valley resident Jim Houle.  He is running short reality checks comparing what Obama has promised with what he is doing – both the Beautiful and the Ugly.   Houle also welcomes contributions to the site – but no windy editorials, please.  It’s at http://www.Obama-Watch.us and you can contact Jim at obamawatch@willitsonline.com. And we can celebrate escaping the reign of a President Palin:  The local Democrats will hold a Mendocino version of the Inaugural Ball.  That will  be at the fairgrounds in Ukiah January 20th, 7 pm.  The Democrats will dance while a 65″ screen above the band shows the Ball in DC.  It’s evening attire and costs $35 (to benefit the Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee).  Contact gigi@pacific.net for information – they think it will sell out.

The People’s Business

From Dave Smith

I admire our meeting-people… those who make democracy work by sitting in endless meetings and engaging in the process of finding common ground among diverse personalities and interests, and then making compromises and decisions that will not make everyone happy, but will make forward progress.

The give and take to find consensus or a majority; the standing firm on principle; the willingness to probe another’s reasons and compare it to one’s own… and then to painfully change one’s mind and accept another’s argument, or stand aside for the betterment of community. This is how progress is made in a democracy, and it requires patience, respect, discipline, civility, dignity, forbearance, and many, many hours of listening with attention and empathy… and when required, passionate defense of what is fair and right.

This is all in good working order and in full display at Ukiah City Council meetings. If only we could simply replace the County of Mendocino Board of Supervisors and County Staff with their counterparts in the City of Ukiah, the county might start working again.

With two new Supervisors coming on board, one can hope.

Remember when Joe ran for Supervisor?

From Dave Smith

Remember when Joe Wildman ran for Supervisor in the 1st District? One highlight was Joe’s famous sense of humor. Check his rejected campaign slogans (pdf file).

“This election is about change… can you spare any?”


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