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Stateside: Watch Out! Drivel Hijacking Ahead

Stateside with Rosalea

Excuse me, but which century IS this?

I'm sorry, gentle readers, but your abject correspondent cannot report on the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics on Friday night. After a hard week of scrivening it was just too much to have to board the iron horse for a trip to San Francisco's waterfront to watch the occasion in a tent the jolly nice National Broadcasting Corporation had set up for the purpose. I am simply not made of the stern stuff that my dad was made of, and his tales of having to endure the smoky hell of a tent filled with traction engine exhaust when the moving pictures came to town in his childhood deterred rather than inspired me.

To be fair, the National Broadcasting Corporation did consider using horseless drays and low-power Christian coathangers ('tis better to give than to receive) to get the signal to the 100,000 people who lost out when it shifted its affiliation to a South Bay station. Mustn't grumble... I suppose you folks down at the bottom of the world have to wait three months until the steamer gets there with the mail and papers to see the photogravures of the pretty fireworks. What's that you say? Is my ear trumpet playing tricks on me? You could watch the ceremony from half a world away thanks to some magic called TVNZ Sports? Well, I'll be jiggered.

But not railroaded. At least, not the way a San Francisco Supervisor was this week when he tried to meet with homeless and their advocates to justify his plan to take away the special allowance given to streetdwellers and direct it instead into support services. I doubt this year will see a better headline than the San Francisco Examiner's "Gavin gets bum's rush" as a description of his hasty exit from the meeting place into a police car, surrounded by chanting, placard-waving opponents of the plan. His argument is that most of the $340 they receive ends up in the hands of drug and alcohol dealers instead of being used to buy food and shelter, so he'd give them $50 cash in hand and put the other $290 into the programmes the city runs to provide those two essentials. Is the man a Socialist or what?

So long as he's not a RINO - acronym for Republican in Name Only. Poor Richard Riordan looks set to fall from grace as the front-runner in the Republican gubernatorial primary in a big way, especially after last night's in-house debate in front of party faithful when he made a bad joke about a former Republican governor and actually got booed. Well, of course, the TV networks would fix on that, but in any case his record on so many issues seems to hold more flip-flops than the casuals section of Imelda Marcos' shoe closet. And incumbent Democrat Governor Gray Davis has the negative-ad-campaign budget to prove it.

Because California is such a Democratic stronghold, the Republicans need to choose a candidate who will attract Democratic voters in November, which turns March's primary election into a bizarre sort of fashion face-off wherein Republican-registered voters are asked to decide which wolf looks best in sheep's clothing. Now that Riordan's crooked seams and fashion faux pas have been brought to our attention, the bean-counter's bean-counter looks set to rise in the polls.

Bill Simon has Rudi Guiliani's endorsement... that would be the same Rudi Guiliani who bragged on 'Meet the Press' about himself, NY Governor Pataki, and President Bush having a good old chuckle at all the Democrats suddenly waving and saluting them as they drove to Ground Zero at a time when the miasmic dust of 2,800 people had barely settled. And being a bean-counter's bean-counter just doesn't seem to have the same grey-suited sheen it used to have now that so many of that ilk have had their reputations publicly shredded. Or have pleaded the fifth amendment before a congressional committee so they don't risk incriminating themselves.

Primaries are a hangover from the 18th century that seem to serve no good purpose except that maybe they get people out to vote on the many state and local measures that are on the same ballot paper. This March, voters statewide are being asked to allow the state to borrow 200 million dollars through the sale of bonds to assist counties in the purchase of updated voting systems. They're also being asked to approve an amendment to the California Constitution to require that every vote legally cast in an election be counted. In San Francisco, voters will decide on Prop A, a proposed amendment to the city's charter to allow instant run-off voting in elections that require a majority (50 percent plus one) - not just a plurality (most votes) - to decide the winner.

To see how people are informed of the pros and cons of these choices you should go to http://www.smartvoter.org, which has non-partisan election information about candidates' positions and ballot issues. It's run by the League of Women Voters, which also does sterling work in getting information out on how to evaluate ballot propositions and what financial effects bond measures will have. If the twin pillars of democracy are information and paticipation, then the League is positively Athenian in its dedication to the cause of having a well-informed public participate in the democratic process.

Electoral reform is not, it seems, in the interest of the Republican Party, which hasn't endorsed the San Francisco IRV measure, for example, though the Democrats and Greens have. Yet by loosening the grip of the two-party system such a reform could ultimately end the need for the type of embarrassing farce that is being played out right now in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

I almost wrote "the twin towers of democracy" because I have this awful suspicion that any moment they'll be slammed into by a media hijacked by the forces of drivel. The first knocking on the cockpit door came last weekend, in fact. A 350lb Oakland Raiders football player is accused of being a party to the sexual violation of a woman who alleged she was drugged and was not a willing participant. He and his mates have the video to prove she was. When he was finally let out of jail on 1.5 million dollars' bail his lawyer said that she bragged about having once posed topless in Playboy so what can you expect. Which sent the media rushing right off to BAWAR (pron. Bay War) - the Bay Area Women Against Rape - to get their reaction.

Why do I feel that somebody has hit the trifecta here? The football player was suckered, the woman was suckered, and now the media is about to be suckered. What date does he appear in court? March 4. Golly, I bet the evening and next morning's news is just full of discussion of the issues on the March 5 ballot paper. Talk about scandal being the opiate of the people.

Lea Barker

California

Sunday, 10 February 2002


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