Editors, Daily Planet:
During the Reagan years, one of the authors of either The Clothes Have No Emperor, or Reagan’s Reign of Error, collections of verbal slips by President Reagan, pointed out that while watching the president and his press secretary’s televised speeches, he couldn’t help but notice that the sign behind him,
THE WHITE HOUSE
was (and still is) often shown from an angle where his head, shoulders and torso block some of the letters, leaving the words:
Recently, it was especially interesting when Press Secretary Tony Snow blocked those letters.
COMMUNITY BENEFITS DISTRICT
Editors, Daily Planet:
One of the problems with the Community Benefit District (CBD) proposed for West Berkeley is its lack of specifics. Merely duplicating City services is not a program that can be tracked or measured. How can we tell if the fact that we haven’t been raped or burgled is due to the private security presence (only proposed for daylight hours) or simply because we live in a somewhat civilized society that provides an effective police force? If a benefit district has a specific project such as undergrounding the utilities there is a way to measure progress and success. For the proposed CBD the services to be provided are vague and there is no way to measure their effectiveness.
Furthermore the proposed services were decided upon with no input from the majority of property and business owners in the affected area. Many of us feel city services are adequate and we do not wish to be taxed to duplicate those services. In some cases a weighted method of apportioning taxes seems appropriate. For example, if there was a benefits district for sewers or undergrounding utilities the property owners who use the most of the service should pay the most. It would be relatively easy in such a case to calculate usage and benefit and apportion it accordingly. Where the type and amount of service is stated in the vague manner of the proposal now being considered how is it possible to measure the effectiveness and fair proportioning of the services? This benefit district was concocted by a few large property owners. They are a minority in numbers but wealthy in land and therefore get to tax the majority of the property owners. To those of us who were brought up to believe democracy is the ideal form of government this weighted power for the wealthy is shocking. Just because it is legal does not make it right.
The Mello-Roos bill of 1982 was designed to allow this form of taxation in order to make up the shortfall to cities from the passage of Proposition 13. However it contains an insidious accelerated foreclosure clause. The County must allow tax payers 5 years to catch up when their taxes are in arrears, the CBD may foreclose after 180 days. The potential land grab of foreclosed properties by developers seems obvious.
The effects of Proposition 13 are still being felt and continue limit the ability of cities to provide the services that make the local environment viable and pleasant. The short-sighted voters in 1979 passed a law for their own benefit without realizing the unintended long-term consequences. Californians who want to live in clean and well-functioning communities with adequate services are going to have to put the public interest ahead of their self-interest and roll back Proposition 13. Then there would be no need to bring in outside private resources with little or no accountability to citizens.
OUSTING BUSH, CHENEY
Editors, Daily Planet:
Here is a winning scenario for the present public disgust with Bush et al.:
First, Rep. Kucinich must be reminded that if Cheney is impeached alone, without Bush, Cheney still has right of free speech and could still “run” Bush. After acknowledging this truth Kucinich should persuade his fellow Democrat House members to expel Pelosi by requisite simple House majority. Pelosi has from the first given Bush and Cheney carte blanche, by personally superseding a vital part of the Constitution when she took impeachment “off the table,” thus leaving in place the only other real Congressional check on presidential power—override of vetoes—impossible to achieve with present small Democrat majorities in both houses.
After expulsion of Pelosi the House’s Democrat caucus should elect Kucinich speaker of the House and then proceed to revise House rules to vote directly up or down (as Bush asked of the Senate for Ms. Meir’s failed appointment to the Supreme Court) on impeachment of both Bush and Cheney. By their imposing neither fines nor imprisonment, only removal from office, the founding fathers told us that impeachment is merely a premature firing from a job done unsatisfactorily. No trial is needed, and the Constitution makes no mention of one for impeachment. Breaking oaths to support (obey) and defend the Constitution, (including the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishments—with no geographic limits), by publicly okaying water-boarding (not as punishment but, worse yet, in interrogation of the presumed innocent) has become common knowledge around the world and is surely sufficient justification for firing.
Unlike the full two-thirds vote required in both houses for an override, after House impeachment by a simple majority, Senate conviction of the impeachment requires yes votes from only two thirds of the senators present for the vote. The 20-odd Republican senators up for reelection in 2008 should be persuaded that in their own interest they best stay home for the vote, or vote for conviction with the Democrats. Republican senators facing election in 2010 should also fear to appear for the vote lest they be seen by their states’ voters as pro-Bush/Cheney and the war. It should be noted that every Republican senator who votes with the Democrats means two fewer Republicans need stay home for the vote in order for conviction to be achieved.
Completing the scenario after removal from office of Bush and Cheney, Kucinich, having supplanted Pelosi as speaker of the House, would become president until 2008, with power to name a new cabinet, etc. Kucinich may lack movie and TV handsomeness, but if he performs well in this scenario might he not also continue as winner of the presidency in 2008? Or do I dream too much?
Judith Segard Hunt
IF IRAQ WERE 51ST STATE
Editors, Daily Planet:
What if Iraq became our 51st state, think of the results. We would offer Iraqi citizens an incentive. They would have three U.S. senators instead of the normal two, one for each region. They would have representation in the House of Representatives according to their population. The U.S. Senate would have 103 members. I don’t know how this would effect the Democrat/Republican ratio and balance of power in the Senate. I am guessing it would favor the Democrats. Each region of Iraq would have its own governor and Legislature.
This of course would only happen if the Iraqi people voted for statehood. If the residents of Hawaii wanted statehood, why wouldn’t the Iraqis? It has been a long time since we added a state to our union. We could insure the statehood election would be fair by sending over as our election representatives the Republican secretaries of state from Ohio and Florida. They both have experience in running fair elections. The outcome would be unquestioned.
I know there is no snorkling in Iraq, but there would be other benefits. 1) We would increase the U.S. population and add more diversity to our already diverse nation. 2) We would be able to add a 51st quarter to our collections. A friend of mine suggested a camel for the design. 3) If our weapons disappeared, at least they would be in U.S. hands. 4) It would drive the Iranian theocracy nuts, or are they already there. 5) We would have a strong and legitimate presence in the region. 6) The oil. We would have the oil, especially as a backup reserve in case a Katrina-style hurricane devastated our Louisiana and gulf oil supplies or wealthy coastal residents near Santa Barbara wouldn’t allow oil rigs in their views. 7) Baghdad would have both a major league baseball team (I hear the ball travels farther in the light desert air) and an NFL football franchise. Think of the marketing. The teams could have meaningful names, like the warriors or the insurgents. 8) We would have a common currency. Think of the power. Look out Euro. 9) HBO. If HBO can give us the Sopranos from New Jersey and Big Love from Utah, think what they might provide us from Iraq. There would be no end to our Sunday night television entertainment. 10) Cell phone calls to Iraq would improve. No more are you there or can you hear me.
There are other benefits worth mentioning. One of course would be that U.S. News and World Report would be able to rank their universities. Another benefit worthy of mention is Iraqi citizens would have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Something we Americans take seriously.
Would the Iraqis want to be U.S. citizens? Let’s give it a shot.
Paul M. Schwartz
THE COMPLETE PICTURE
Editors, Daily Planet:
In the rhythm of our nation’s political life August is an interval of rest during which leaders gather their thoughts, review what was done, not done and study what needs doing.
We are at the end of August and the coming season promises to be a stunning finale to the worse presidency we’ve ever had. It will begin with a cacophony of views, proposals, prospects and prophecies regarding the mess in Iraq, prelude to which will be a report General Patraeus, Bush’s surge chief, and Mr. Crocker, his ambassador to Iraq, will deliver to Congress.
Given the obstinacy, not to mention the self-serving habits, of our governing elite, it is unlikely that anything will change; the general and the ambassador will inform Congress of the details of the surge’s “tactical momentum” and leave those spineless lawmakers to bicker, not debate, about what to do next.
I long for someone to make them see a missing but vital bass line to Iraq’s current devastating inhuman dissonance: it began with unprovoked “shock and awe” and gains raw energy from the Iraqi people’s desperate need to expel our occupying forces.
Far from providing stability, our military presence provokes violence.
How would you react if foreign soldiers lived in fortified compounds from which they patrolled your city streets day and night, death-dealing weapons at the ready?