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Stateside With Rosalea: Hail Atlantis!

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Hail Atlantis!

::Tis the season to be jolly::

"And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new"


Election season is here again, and once more I'm pounding the pavements in support of electoral reform. The third city in six years where I've volunteered on an Instant Runoff Voting campaign is Oakland, and we kicked off the effort this weekend.

As I climb endless steps up to doorways I like to imagine I'm widening the stairwells of democracy. So long as there's room for only two parties to squeeze by each other, getting in each other's way as one is on the way up and the other on the way down, American democracy is not safe for any of us.

::E. poli outbreak source traced to Central Valley::

An excellent example of how the bipolar disorder that is US politics endangers ordinary people as they go about their daily lives is the crime rate in Oakland. It is only a matter of timing before Governor Schwarzenegger orders in the National Guard. After all, O'town's homicide rate is higher than the rate in New Orleans, and the Louisiana governor ordered in the troops there last week.

Outgoing Oakland mayor Jerry Brown had made a reduction in the city's crime rate one of his four priorities in his past mayoral campaigns. He is now the Democratic candidate for the position of state Attorney-General, so the less successful he looks on crime-related issues, the better things are for the Republican candidate. There are a number of high-stakes environmental cases on the A-G's agenda for next year, so this is an important race no matter how far down it comes on the ballot paper.

At least part of the increase in violent crime in parts of Oakland over the past couple of years has its origins in Modesto, a city in the Central Valley where meth-production is the fastest growing industry. Meeting after meeting between Oakland city officials, police, church and community groups and citizens has failed to produce any success in combating our East Bay crime wave, largely because those efforts are consistently undercut by what may be termed the insurgents coming in from the Republican-voting Central Valley.

Enter Governor Schwarzenegger on his metaphorical white Hummer. He was in one of the most troubled parts of Oakland just last weekend at the Allen Temple Baptist Church listening to parishioners' concerns. (As an aside, the Republican governor was invited to a church that traditionally supports the Democratic Party just by virtue of calling up to offer his condolences on the recent death of the pastor's wife, a nicety that was completely overlooked by the (Democratic challenger) Angelides camp. Don't go expecting any change of governor this election.)

If you think the idea of armoured and armed vehicles rolling down International Boulevard, Oakland, CA is far-fetched, be assured that back in June (at the time of the primary for which candidate would become the Democratic nominee for Attorney-General), Brown's failure at lowering the crime rate was also big news, and the grandmotherly African Americans I share a morning bus ride with were all in favour of drastic measures such as calling in the National Guard. It's their teenaged family members who are getting caught in the crossfire on the streets.

However, it's dollars to donuts that this orchestrated failure of law enforcement would be being played out in Los Angeles instead of Oakland if the LA City Attorney who ran against Brown in the Democratic primary had won.

::Good gop, bad gop?::

For whatever reason, the Republican Party is also known by the acronym for Grand Old Party--the Gee-Oh-Pee. Without benefit of capitalisation, that becomes gop, and fits nicely with my reading of this week's contratemps between President Bush and members of his own party on Capitol Hill.

Bad gop, Bush, wants to rewrite the rules on what torture is and isn't. Good gop, McCain et al, wants to not put the US troops into even more harm's way than they're already in. Bad gop loses; good gop wins. Great strategy, considering it's still the gop that gets all the press and nothing needed to have been said about the legality of otherwise of the war itself.

::Kingdoms away::

The State Funeral Programme at makes interesting reading, even without Michael Laws' Donovan-sings-Atlantis moment. The importance afforded Tonga by Japan and the People's Republic of China is evident in the highly placed representatives from those countries who are attending the ceremony.

Meanwhile, back here in the Bay Area, the young woman who allegedly clipped the Ford Exploder (as Ford employees fondly call the Explorer SUVs) of the reform-minded Tongan prince and princess a couple of months ago, causing their deaths, remains in jail on $1 million bail, recently reduced from the $3 million. The $3 million bail was 10 times higher than court guidelines recommend.



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