Friday, July 03, 2009


Sarah Palin picked Friday July 3 to announce she's stepping down as governor of Alaska after 2 and a half years of her first term. Her logic was completely bogus: she's not going to run in 2010, so she's a lame duck, and a lame duck governor does nothing but travel a lot. First of all, a lame duck is an officeholder who can't legally run again. She can. And she wouldn't be even perceived as a lame duck unless she announced she wasn't running, which there was absolutely no reason to do. She made herself a lame duck, and then used that as an excuse to quit.

The pundocracy is somewhat divided: she's committed political suicide, or she's freed herself up to build a national base to run for the presidency in 2012. I think she wants a national profile, but as a media celebrity. She's got some sort of deal in her pocket. She made sure she had her $7 million book deal signed before she made this announcement. She can make a lot of money catering to the Rabid Right: book sales, speeches, some sort of Rush Limbaugh type media presence. It became clear, with the Vanity Fair article, that she has no future within the Republican Party. And it's a long time to 2012. Who knows what can happen. This is just the first shoe to drop, though. Another is coming.

Phil Jackson will be back as coach, which is good. But the Lakers signed Ron Artest from the Rockets and let Trevor Ariza go to the Rockets, which is bad. I tried to say so on a Lakers blog yesterday, but my post apparently didn't make some sort of cut. So it was left to a LA Times regular columnist to make precisely the points I did, with the same memory: the attempt of a championship team to augment with Big Names past their prime (Karl Malone, Gary Payton). Besides which Payton was an asshole, and so is Artest.

The rationale might be buttressing the "physical" element (i.e. the muscling, pushing around, flying elbows, etc.) for the finals next year. The Eastern contenders have strengthened themselves since the end of the season: Cleveland, Orlando and Boston. The Lakers may not even be tested much in the West, but it's going to be very competitive among these three teams in the East. The Lakers will have to be plenty tough to beat the winner, because the winner from the East is going to be plenty tested.

It also looks like either the Lakers management screwed up, or Ariza's manager is an asshole, or most likely both. So this past year's Lakers may be its team for the ages, particularly with its team play and various players rising to the occasion. Ariza thrived as a Laker and was likely a big star in their future. In the NBA anything can happen, and he could wind up back in LA, though he has a three year contract in Houston. Artest may be popular with a certain segment of the Lakers fan base. But not with me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Terminator's California Shock Doctrine

Governor Terminator and his Republican minions are ignoring the efforts of the Democratic majority in the California legislature to address the state budget with a mix of cuts and new revenue, which is just simple sanity. The Terminator is trying to force deeper and more extensive cuts, with no new revenue. Today he is succeeding a little more.

At least one writer at Caltics is now using "shock doctrine" as a verb, as in the Governor is shock doctrining the budget. And it's all too apt. Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine, shows how the political forces of predatory capitalism used economic and other major shocks in one country after another--causing some, taking advantage of others--to institute severe measures that benefit them, but that the people would not allow under ordinary circumstances. We saw the Bushites institute their own Shock Doctrine after 9-11, leaving us with a legacy of torture, the Patriot Act, a wrecked economy after billions returned to the rich, and billions more flowed to the contractors who profited from Iraq and the war on terror.

The Terminator is bringing the Shock Doctrine to California. And the message he and the Republicans are sending is clear: when times are tough, take it out on the poor. The Terminator wants to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the sick and the working middle class.

Like other shock doctrine changes, it is self-defeating and massively destructive in the long run. In this case, the state will be pissing away billions in federal funds, and tying the state up in court cases for years, many of which it will lose, as it has already. There are laws against penalizing the poor and the sick to such an extent. Everyone loses from deteriorating public health and education, part of the community's basic infrastructure.

These are days of shame for California, in uncountable ways. Self-destruction, which began slowly with Prop 13 a generation ago, is accelerating. There is no solution in sight.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


After all these months, it got settled in a day: the MN Supreme Court's unanimous verdict on all counts, the Governor ready to certify, Coleman's concession and so: Senator Al Franken.

Though in his victory speech, Franken made a point of saying that he views himself not as the 60th Senator in the Dem caucus (enough to stop a GOPer filibuster), but the second Senator for Minnesota, he did begin his list of priorities with health care and clean energy. So this 60th Dem could not have arrived at a better time. It changes the calculus on healthcare and climate/energy legislation, just as they both are being hammered out.

It doesn't guarantee anything really, but it's a lot bigger than just one more vote. This could turn out to be one of those pivot points of history.