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Stateside With Rosalea: Down In The Dumps

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Down In The Dumps

::An idiot has just read this sentence::

Ha! See, I'm not the only idiot. What *was* I thinking when I wrote last week that gerrymandered districts are one of the causes of US Senators getting the equivalent of a life peerage? There are two US Senators for every state, no matter how populous or otherwise. Whatever gerrymandering took place, took place back in the days when the states were created. Just look how many itsy-bitsy states there are over on the East Coast!

Some folks have seriously proposed that California should be divided up into Northern California and Southern California, but I'd like to go even further. Take the Bay Area for example. We could have four states right here--an extra eight US Senators!

It's not like I'm being greedy. The four counties of North Bay have a combined population of 1.2 million, which is only slightly less than the combined populations of North and South Dakota. So if North Bay became a state of the Union, they'd still have only half the number (2) of US Senators that the two Dakotas get (4).

What about the South Bay? The US State of South Bay would get two senators for the 1.9 million people living in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties; still only half the number of senators that Virginia and West Virginia have with their combined population of 2 million.

And if you combined San Francisco City and County with San Mateo County to make the state of West Bay, that's still only two senators for 1.5 million people. Likewise for East Bay, where Alameda and Contra Costa counties' combines population is 2.4 million. Each still getting only half the number of VA and WV combined!

I jest, of course, but you have to wonder sometimes if the only reason the entire West Coast of the US hasn't seceded from the Union is that it'd be too damned expensive to build a wall along the eastern border of Caliorington in order to keep out the hordes of Middlies and Easties who'd want to get in here for their chance at living the Washorfornian dream!

::Cats on a hot tin roof::

Some states actually do have term limits. As the result of what NZ would call a binding citizen-initiated referendum, the California constitution limits state lawmakers to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate at the state level. Constitutional officers--Governor, Attorney General, for example--are limited to two four-year terms.

The thinking behind the Proposition that created that change to the Constitution was that it would end the hold that career politicians had over how the state was run. In fact, what's happened is that like cats on a hot tin roof, the same old, same old politicians dart about from one elected office to another. Assuming they're the successful candidate, of course!

(The National Conference of State Legislatures has an interesting website about term limits at

::Thumbs Down for Jerry Brown::

One such hot-foot is Jerry Brown, former Governor of California, current Mayor of Oakland, and would-be Democratic candidate for California's Attorney General. He is the son of a Governor of California, Pat Brown, who also was Attorney General, and at a time when he was the only member of the Democratic Party to win statewide election.

I was somewhat puzzled by the earliest ads coming from Jerry Brown's Democratic rival in the primary, which implied that Brown didn't care about people, he cared about statistics that would make him look good. Victims of crime aren't just a number to Rocky Delgadillo, the ads said, they have names.

But a recent news item really put that into focus. Now, I have no way of knowing if this part of the interview was deliberately used at the exclusion of other things Brown said, but this is how things looked to me.

Last week, two people in a car were killed as the result of a cop chase in East Oakland. The cop chase was the result of a citizen group's "get more cops on the streets" campaign that originated coincidentally close to the beginning of Brown's campaign for State Attorney General and Ron Dellums' (also political royalty) campaign for Mayor of Oakland.

The citizen group wasn't from East Oakland--citizens groups there have been pleading for more cops on the street for years to no avail. So, added to sporadic gang warfare on the streets of the E, we now have added into the mix gung-ho policing aimed to be high-profile and looking like someone is DOING something. Hence the high-speed car chases that have caused the deaths of several innocent people in recent weeks.

Back to the news item. When asked by a reporter what he thought of the event, Brown said that the driver of the van that was being chased was on parole, and the state's parole system needs fixing. Ooooh! I wonder which constitutional officer of the state of California has the responsibility for the parole service? Since he heads the Department of Justice, I'm guessing it's the Attorney General.

Brown offered no commiseration for the families of the innocent dead. He just used their coffins as a soapbox.

The problem is, just by virtue of being political royalty and having name recognition, he'll likely get the nomination. Such a result makes about as much sense as British voters electing Prince Charles as Minister for the Environment, if Britain didn't have a parliamentary system and instead folks voted directly for cabinet portfolio officeholders.

::What has America done to me?::

I had cause to wonder that yesterday. Waiting for a bus across the street from a major pharmacy, I saw a young woman walking towards us with the store's flyer in her hand. She was beautifully dressed and made up, with the obligatory grille of gold teeth that is popular with young African Americans. And she was limping. Badly.

When she got to the bus stop, she asked when the bus was coming, and I said it should be here soon, and asked what was wrong with her foot. "My ex-boyfriend kicked me," she said, "so hard that the bone is sticking out of my leg." "You need to get to a hospital," I replied, and looked up the street to see if the bus was coming, thinking that that's how she was going to get there.

I turned back to see her continuing on down the street. Parked a little ways down was a car and she got into it, and I thought, "Oh, that's okay, someone is going to take her to the hospital." A minute or two later it dawned on me, that the driver of the car must've been the person who assaulted her, otherwise why wouldn't they have driven into the carpark of the pharmacy she'd just come from instead of making her walk a block and cross a busy street?

Because there was a cherry-seller's truck between me and the vehicle she got into, I hadn't seen what make it was, let alone the license plate, but even if I had, what would I have done? And what about that gap of a minute or two between her continuing on down the street and getting into the vehicle I couldn't see was parked there, during which time I debated about whether to run after her and offer to call a cab to take her to the hospital.

I once took a cat to the vet that had been hit by a car outside where I lived, yet I couldn't do the same for a human being?

::Watching the gangrene grow::

That's what it's like living in the United States and following the news. It's like watching parts of you die and turn gangrenous and being totally unable to do anything about it. Iraq might be an extremity, distance-wise, but what Americans are doing there is nonetheless part of the American body politic, part of the daily lives of everyone who lives here.

And it is turning blacker and blacker by the minute, poisoning everyone here.



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