Monday, June 27, 2005

A weekend of sailing...

raft up at ayala cove

We spent Friday to Sunday with our Encinal Yacht Club cruising group at Angel Island. The whole story and more photos are in Spindrift's general log.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Paradise Lost...

mount tamalpais in 1869

How did California lose the enthusiasm, positivism, and confidence it exuded in the fifties and sixties for the fiscal chaos, political randomness, and social divisiveness of today? Peter Schrag asks this and offers some illuminating answers in Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future (2004).

Book reviewer and historian John Connelly says Schrag provides “an annotated list of virtually every political disaster visited on California since ...1966.” Paradise Lost is a “compendium of political folly that retells California's riotous descent from atop the shining city-on-the-hill of the mid-1960s to the present debacle, wherein the state suffers from a multi-billion dollar deficit, a dysfunctional legislature, a disconnected and hate-filled electorate presided over by an Austrian ex-weight lifter whose rise to power illustrates the lubricating qualities of contemporary special-interest campaign funding.”

Read Connelly’s review; better yet, read Schrag’s book.

california's original bear flag

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I can't stand it...

Dems should be outraged...

In “Not your father’s anti-war movement,”, Arianna Huffington asks: “Where are Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean on a moral issue of this magnitude, on which the majority of Americans oppose the administration?” Two-thirds of American’s have turned against Bush’s war, but the Democrats remain largely silent. Hmmmm.

Demagoguery at its worst...

Arnold Schwarzengger can’t win on substance, so he goes after people’s worst fears: taxes and undermining Prop 13. This is the sort of demagoguery that leads to tyranny. Californians beware. Your future is being planned by a self-interested minority of large business interests masquerading as Goodness in a battle with Evil. And Arnold is their champion, not the people’s champion.

Screwed by the minority again...

No matter how much you hear the Democrats blamed for the failure to pass a state budget by the constitutional deadline for the 19th year in a row, the failure truly rests with the Governor and the legislature's Republican minority. Schwarzengger’s confrontational style has bolstered the unwillingness of the Republicans to negotiate and compromise on anything, so real governing is made impossible. Californians really should wake up and realize that they are tyrannized by a minority in Sacramento.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A little truth about teachers...

Finally, someone strips away the garbage from Governor Schwarzenegger's blast against California public school teachers. Louis Freedberg makes clear, in "Carrot or stick for new teachers?" (S.F. Chronicle), that teachers are constantly upgrading their skills, mentoring each other, and seeking ways to be the very best they can be. On-going attacks by the governor and the Republican Party against teachers and the professional associations that represent them are despicable and based on a pack of lies. Freedburg should be required reading for every Californian!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Money - sheer, naked, vulgar money...

Ever since Prop 13 passed in the late ‘70s (this issue just never seems to go away), the actual amount of dollars reaching schools has declined, resulting in the loss of art and music programs and reductions in physical education and other programs not considered “core academic.” This is particularly frustrating, since it is now widely agreed among educators that art and music are crucial to developing the creativity that helps people become truly creative and innovative in math, science, and other core academic areas. And, with obesity becoming a – pardon the pun – massive problem among young people, the absence of physical education in schools is obscene.

The resolution of this problem does not require rocket science, just a willingness to pay for what you get. But, Californians have fallen into the morass of politics over paying for education. Liberals want to raise taxes (for the rich, of course, not for anyone else). Conservatives whine, “it’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” which means not raising taxes on anybody (except for use fees, which don't hit the rich too hard). Both sides turn to think tanks to bolster their views that either too little or just enough money is being spent on education. There’s lot’s of room for argument as to whose study’s figures are accurate, but as any educated person knows, lying with statistics is a joyful pastime for pundits (both on the left and the right).

Bottom line is, liberals or progressives (primarily Democrats) are willing to pay more for public education than conservatives (primarily Republicans), who seem to prefer to spend their dollars on private schooling for their children rather than on taxes for public education.

But the education dollar is shrinking, along with the dollars for transportation, infrastructure, and health and welfare (there are more of us, infrastructures are aging and need repair and replacement, and we ask more of government than in earlier years – but that’s another topic). This shrinking public dollar is in large part due to our tax system. The gap between the wealthy and the rest of us widens at warp speed (the average CEO made 42 times the average worker's pay in 1980, 85 times in 1990, and is now over 300 times), and the tax system is skewed so the greatest burden falls on the middle class (which most economists agree is shrinking in numbers).

What we really need folks is tax reform and the political courage to achieve it. No white knights out there, though. Just worn out action heroes and, thanks to term limits, junior politicians. Into a lovely corner we’ve painted ourselves, I’d say.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Time for progressives to rally...

Why are Americans of every stripe not crying out at the theft of and threat of abrogation of employee pensions by corporate America and conservative Republican politicians? United Airlines employees lose their pension plan and California’s governor threatens to abrogate the state’s public employee and teacher pension plans, and most Americans seem to think none of these employees deserved the pension plan anyway. But, as Jonathan Tasini recently put it in a column in TomPaine.commonsense, pension abrogation violates one of our most basic moral values: “taking someone’s money without their permission is stealing. Except in America, where, if you’re a corporation that takes away someone’s pension, it’s okay.”

Tasini continues that “we are letting corporate America dismantle the private defined-benefit pension system” while, “at the same time, huge salary and pension benefits are lavished on executives.” We seem to have forgotten that “pensions are deferred compensation—people put off getting money in their paychecks today because of a promise that they would receive a specific amount of money (hence, the term “defined benefit”) many years later.” It’s one of the major reasons why I went into teaching back in the 1960s – the pension made it worth a lower salary than I could have earned in the private sector.

So, the wealthy get filthy rich at the expense of the working middle-class, and, at least here in California, the education system is starved because those who can afford to pay for it are unwilling to pay for it. They’d rather listen to their “governator” rail against taxing the wealthy and accuse public servants and unions of being evil special interests, all the while sending his children to the most exclusive and expensive private school in west Los Angeles.

The world doesn’t owe us anything on a silver platter, but we’re fast losing many of the things our forefathers and mothers fought their lives to put on the platter we have. It’s time to stand up to the selfishness and greed of power in these latest pure and unadulterated manifestations. It's time for progressive Americans to be heard again!