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Stateside With Rosalea: Same As It Ever Was

That first full week back at work after the holidays is a killer, isn't it? At least I had some light relief in mine... a visiting researcher came and asked me for a box cutter so he could get open the boxes of equipment he'd brought with him on the flight. He'd had to check the boxes, of course, and his own Stanley knife along with them. He was gone so long with the knife I suspect he'd forgotten to mark which box he'd put his own one in. You know how it is when you're unpacking - whatever you want is always in the last box. Immutable law of the universe, mate!

It reminded me how far we've come since September 11, 2001. A few days after 911 some visitors from the East Coast arrived at work and we asked how they had got to California. "We flew", they said and the sound of jaws hitting the floor was deafening. Seriously. Thank heavens those terrifying days are over. Especially the terrifying "bipartisanship" that was going to last forever. Believe me, there is nothing more terrifying than all the elected representatives of a nation agreeing with each other over everything. Unless it's all the elected representatives of a nation agreeing with each other on one thing - giving a free hand to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to tell the military to do whatever the hell they want.

Bipartisanship has, of course, flown out the window now that the primary campaigns are under way. Primaries are where wannabe candidates for the November elections get selected by voters registered to their party. Getting rid of primaries would be a giant step towards federal and state governments being truly representative of the citizens of the United States. One of the Republican wannabe's is already advertising heavily on prime time tv, and although he might not win the primary and someone else's name ends up on the November ballot for Governor of California, his Republican message - largely anti-Gray, incumbent Governor - is already out there.

Small parties, of course, can hardly keep up with the costs of running campaigns for the November elections, let alone doing primaries as well. And if parties didn't register voters - a necessity because of the primary system - then maybe the US could more easily make voter registration a civic duty rather than a kind of political fashion statement.

Being a primary loser never did anyone any harm. Just think of John McCain, who lost out to Bush in the 2000 presidential campaign. His high profile enabled him and Democrat Russ Feingold to push a campaign finance bill high up the agenda in the early days of the Bush administration - a bill that turned out to be a will o' the wisp, of course, evaporating into never-never land as soon as it looked like it might pass. But I suppose that's a bit of a chicken and an egg situation in that one of McCain's platforms in the primary election was campaign finance reform.

He has just come back from a tour of Afghanistan and on 'Meet the Press' this morning said that "when you see the face of devastation on these people" you're determined that it "never happen again." Ooops, sorry. Wrong impression. He's also on the Commerce Committee and he said that in relation to the people who'd lost their life savings in the Enron collapse. You know, the one where, allegedly, the execs diddled while the employees got burned. Over on the other channel at 'This Week' on ABC, the commentators were busy pointing out this could be a good weapon for Governor Gray in his re-election campaign. The swift reversal of California's fortunes could once again be blamed on the energy greed of "evil Texas".

So, the media will be doing the Enron thing to death for the next while I suppose. A scapegoat will be found, and that person's seat will be - as they say in the Lone Star State - hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch. President Bush has already been over here in California talking to Hispanic business leaders trying to win their votes for Republican candidates. A recent university research study found that 48 percent of California births are to ethnic groups that are identified as Hispanics in the census.

In other news, this morning's paper reports the death of Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of State who resigned from the Carter administration in 1980 because he could not support the president's approval of a military operation for the rescue of American hostages in Teheran. In 1991 Vance was asked by the UN to help end the war in the former Yugoslavia and helped achieve a cease-fire in Croatia. His support of negotiations as the only way to halt Serbian advances in Bosnia was heavily criticised and he eventually quit his role in despair. Gosh, reading that reminded me... where is Colin Powell these days?

Yup. It's media coverage of politics as usual.

Lea Barker
California Sunday,
12 January 2001

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