Democratic Underground  

A Letter from California
July 19, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta

For the second night in a row God's air conditioning has swept through the San Francisco estuary, prickling flesh and making the CEO of Calpine sweat.

When that carbuncle of corporate incompetence Dick Cheney showed up here 18 months ago to bless the $30 billion electricity ripoff by Dynergy, Calpine, and Enron he told us "conservation is a virtue but not sound policy." We'd have to build a power plant a week for 2 years just to keep up.

Calpine was stupid enough to believe him. Californians, of course, are well aware of the benefits of conservation from living through several droughts. In just 90 days Californians whapped a full 15% off the demand curve last summer with efficient lighting and less AC use. Now Calpine is on the hook - overextended to build plants that there simply is no demand for. If it's a hot summer Calpine will survive with the demand spike, but a cool one will spell its doom.

Ralph Nader and the Greens are nowhere to be found. Nader was asinine enough to get Bush elected, but apparently not fool enough to come out here and state that Al Gore would have acted just like Dick Cheney in responding to our energy crisis. It would have been fun to have Nader around for a punching bag, but he hasn't obliged.

Gray Davis scurries around, apparently unaware that his painfully centrist posturing during the electricity ripoff blew one of the greatest political opportunities of all time. A populist stance against the corporate energy crooks would have made him a hero with at least a 70% approval rating, a total walk for this year's election and a perfect setup for the 2008 presidential run, but now all he has is an incredible mess with enormous potential liabilities. Fortunately for him the state Republicans used the Dick Cheney Stupid model in choosing his opponent: a corporate CEO millionaire with no government experience who probably used an illegal tax shelter last year. Stupid (no need to use his name, no one will remember it in 5 months) refuses to release his tax forms to refute the charge. The election for Governor here is over.

Not that many Californians are really paying attention in the first place. Almost all of the populace is focused on regular life and dreading the day they have to pay attention to politics. After the stolen election, electricity debacle, tech meltdown and the realization that the President and Vice President are just two more corporate crooks Californians are doggedly keeping their heads down while chugging through a summer of work, play and life. Despair is simply not an option, even if it's the only alternative given in our barren, crooked political landscape.

Once in a while our Senators will chime in through the cacophony of political media noise, but it hardly registers for more than a day. Dianne Feinstein is in eternal disgrace for her incredible gullibility in actually believing the Enron-esque revenue projections from the crooks who stole the election. She voted for Bush's tax cut and still shows up for work every day thinking she represents her constituents. At least she voted against the estate tax the second time, but it will never erase the stain of her imbecilic capitulation to Bush's utter incompetence.

Every single House member from the San Francisco estuary is a Democrat and none will lose this fall. The only blip in the monotony of news from our House delegation was the bravery of Mike Honda, my rep. He voted against the resolution condemning the ruling determining "Under God" unconstitutional in the Pledge.

Sure the Democrats were craven weenies in denouncing the reasonable, correct decision. But thank God that they did, for the last thing our citizens needed was a daily verbal barrage from sanctimonious hypocritical Republicans, thumping their bibles while we bomb weddings and ignore the poor. It's bad enough we have to hear Bush preach corporate accountability - hypocrisy like that might have been just too much.

No Californian is even remotely concerned with the "war." They want Osama caught, of course, and the perpetrators of 9/11 brought to justice, but the idea that Californians are in unity with a country actually fighting is ludicrous. Only a tiny fraction of the populace actually knows someone serving the armed forces, and no one has asked anyone to contribute or sacrifice for the "war," so no one really cares. The Republicans sheepishly bleat in unison to whatever the President wants them to, but they're ignored. Being 15 points behind in the registration base and nominating Stupid for Governor makes that easy to do.

The State budget is a horror with an unbelievable 30% shortfall in expected revenues. Californians have learned to ignore the ludicrous budget process and just pay attnention to the results when they finally come up with it. The budget is late, but the pain from its cuts and tax increases will not hit for several months, so it's simply ignored.

Californians noted last week that The Fix on the east coast media is still locked in when the Washington Post editorialized that Bush's Harken corporate crookedness was so much ancient history. Whitewater makes Harken look like a stroll through the park, but never mind, The Fix must be upheld. The New York Times confirmed The Fix last year with their He Would Have Won Anyway recount bleat. The revolution won't be televised, and it certainly won't occur in print. The San Francisco Chronicle is now a Hearst newpaper, and Tony Ridder hired a new Republican editor for the gutted San Jose Mercury News. The long slow slide of journalism mediocrity continues while Californians fire up their browsers.

Californians still have not gotten used to the idea they've been written off by the Republicans - along with the entire west coast. Over a fifth of the needed electoral votes for 2004 have just been handed to the Democrats. It makes for interesting calculations by the political junkies, but for most Californians it just means another reason to keep their heads doggedly down - there will be no help from the Feds, for anything. Nothing.

We passed our own global warming legislation, but with The Fix and The Writeoff no one thinks it will be taken seriously. California is headed toward a classic low-turnout election with a likely 1-2 House gain and the regular stable of Democrats being elected again. It could be worse.

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