Sunday, October 28, 2012

Secret Money

I've had it.  I've read one too many articles about the millions of dollars in anonymous money pouring into California to defeat Proposition 30, a proposition that will only affect Californians.  I still don't understand who crowned Molly Munger queen of California and told her to spend millions of dollars on more ballot box budgeting that would defund everything except the schools, but at least we know who she is and what her stake is.

This mess is only partly caused by the Supreme Court, although God knows without them we wouldn't have had the absurd statement that "money" equals "free speech."  I'm not even going to bother to deconstruct that, it's stupid on the face of it.  Money equals money, period; and corporations, no matter what Antonin Scalia thinks, are not people.

I haven't got a citation for this, but if I recall correctly, the Citizens United decision actually included a statement that Congress should encourage disclosure of campaign contributions to support transparency.  Congress has not done this, at least partly because the Senate Republicans filibustered an effort last July, when the DISCLOSE act, which I supported, died in committee.  Before you blame the Republicans entirely, it also means that the Senate Democrats didn't have whatever it took (persuasiveness, courage, moral force, I don't know) to gather 60 votes to override the Republican filibuster.

Neither side, of course, wants campaign finance disclosure, because they are making millions (or is it billions yet?) off anonymous donations through "social welfare" organizations.  Social welfare, my eye and Betty's pet sow.  A "social welfare organization" is one that helps people who need help.  These groups - we all know their names, if not who they are - pay people to lie to defeat measures that they object to.  Look their ads up on Politifact and see if I'm wrong.

So what can we do?  We the citizens of the United States, being mostly not stinking rich, have only one weapon left against this.  We have our individual votes.  Let your congressperson know that you expect him/her to pass the DISCLOSE Act or something equivalent.  Given Citizens United, we probably can't stop the flow of money. But we must require the donors to admit who they are.  And any congressbeing that doesn't devote its ultimate efforts to forcing disclosure of the donor's name for campaign contributions over $10,000 (which was the DISCLOSE limit) should not expect to get your vote, ever again.  For anything.

We have to tell them this.  We have to remind them of it regularly.  And we have to act on it at the next election.  If we don't get campaign finance donor disclosure by the 2014 elections, we should vote against every incumbent in Congress - especially every Republican incumbent, most of whom seem to be crazy as bedbugs anyway.

And we should all also ask ourselves the question that bugs me every time I think about this:  why are these donors so afraid to tell us who they are?  What are they hiding?  What do they not want us to know?

I was raised to believe that if you said something, and meant it, you put your name behind it.  It is true that I blog under a pen name, but it isn't all that damn hard to find out who I am; and I'm only spending speech, not money.  The people behind these "social welfare organizations" are in the process of stealing our country for their personal gain.  Disclosure of who they are is the only weapon we have left.  Tell your Representative and your Senators.  And VOTE.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Losing Our Past

This post started during a recent interview.  A fellow Cal alumnus is writing a book on people who have changed careers to something they didn't expect.  This includes me, and I agreed to be interviewed.  It was very interesting, but one exchange sticks with me.  I have to give you some background.

We were discussing my college career.  I majored in English with a history minor, and in the middle of my senior year realized that no one was going to pay me to analyze Jonathan Swift, and that whatever I did for a living, it was not going to be teaching.  My mother at that time was a library assistant at the Napa City-County Library, and she suggested I consider applying to Library School, as she thought if I did I could get a summer internship in Napa.  I did both, which was the start of about 17 years in the library and records management field (with a brief interruption during which I ran a small business with my first husband).

During this exchange, the interviewer (who is around 30, based on his college dates) asked me if I hadn't considered other careers.  I explained it was because I was a woman - and he asked, more or less, what did that have to do with it?  I realized he had no clue about gender attitudes and politics in the 1960s and '70s, much less those in the '50s, when I was growing up.  So I gave him a brief summary of what the world was like for educated women in the U.S., before the feminist movement.  In case I have other readers in his cohort, I will recap briefly.  Basically, unless you were a very unusual woman (and there were some), you were expected to attend college to get your "Mrs." degree.  If you didn't get married, there were a small number of "acceptable" careers - teacher, librarian, nurse, secretary. I don't remember knowing about "secretary" as an option - if I don't make a point of investigating something, I may not know about it, then and now.

I also told him that I remembered my aunts, in the late '60s, commiserating with me that it was a good thing I was getting a college degree, since I hadn't been able to get a man.  (They weren't quite that crude.)  He was startled.  And I hadn't even gotten into the rules about divorce and abortion (which was still illegal, not that I ever had to deal with it).

I actually came through the 50's and 60's pretty well. My family was determined that my sister and I should go to college, and we did; and we both got (eventually) pretty good jobs.  But the social environment for women then was bad compared to now - higher education largely optional, no divorce if the husband didn't agree, abortion available only in deadly, illegal back alley "clinics," women barred from most professions, wife beating considered a "private, family affair" that nobody talked about.  Contraception was only just beginning to become available - oral contraceptives first went on sale in 1960.  Which led to a large increase in female college attendance, graduation, and employment.  Also, social conditions for women varied wildly from state to state.

My interviewer is highly educated, with a degree from U.C. Berkeley and an advanced degree from Harvard.  And he didn't know this history, which was an integral part of my life.  Maybe it's because he's Canadian.  But if he doesn't know, there's no hope that people who only attend U.S. public schools know - those schools have stopped teaching anything but "reading" and "arithmetic," because only those get credit on the federal tests.  At least in the 19th century they also taught the 3rd "R", 'riting.

Why does his ignorance bother me?  Because if we don't know where we used to be, and how we got there from here, we can't be sure we won't wander back down the same old paths.  (No, I won't quote Santayana; you all know the statement.)  There are a lot of people in the Republican Party who speak as though they want to go back to "the way it was" in the '50s, when white men were in charge and everyone else (especially women) knew their place.  I refuse to accept that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I'm getting really tired of listening to Mitt Romney complain that Obama hasn't told us what he plans to do if he's re-elected.  This from the man who:

  • Hasn't released his tax returns
  • Says "I know how to fix this country" and gives zero details
  • Plans to reduce the deficit by "cutting loopholes" and won't say which ones
His entire platform seems to be, "Trust me, I'm a businessman, I can make this work."

You know what?  I don't trust him.  Maybe it's the way he keeps lying.