Who's to Judge?
Norman Solomon is not exactly the best judge of any Democrat ("Who Is Levine?" June 11). He does not know the party or its leadership. He spent his life as a self-appointed critic of Democrats. He has only been a registered Democrat since 2007. Before that, he was active in the Green Party and helped Ralph Nader challenge Gore in 2000 (and elect Bush in the process).
He did attempt to capitalize on his minor celebrity among the left by running for office, but he was beaten by someone he labeled a corporate Democrat (Jared Huffman) and a Republican. He has called nearly every Democrat at the national level a "corporate democrat." So now Levine is labeled the same way Solomon has labeled Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, both of our state senators, Jared Huffman and a hundred other prominent and historical leaders of the Democratic Party.
The Democrats win here and throughout California by being a big-tent party and by not being as narrow-minded as some of its newer members such as Mr. Solomon.
The gouging of county jail inmates through outrageous phone charges is widespread. The families of Marin County inmates can expect to pay $4.50 for a local call through Global Tel Link, which was discredited by the city of San Francisco and sued for $1 million last year. Global's contract with the Marin County Sheriff's Department calls for a 55 percent "compensation fee" per call based on its overpriced equipment and tolls.
Balancing the jail budget on the backs of poor people is morally indefensible. This is after the sheriff just purchased a tank for $700,000 to flesh out his paramilitary force, which was so sorely needed in Marin.
That most inmates—and, by extension, their families—are poor is a given. Just go down to Courtroom N at Marin Civic Center any weekday morning and watch the judges and prosecution extract money from those least able to pay. So jail it is. Getting to use the phone to find help securing your release thus becomes a near impossibility. Just more burden on the taxpayers and the families of the inmates.
Matt Taibbi, in his new book The Divide, shows how there are two systems of justice in this country: a painless non-prosecution for the rich (Wall Street and the well-to-do) and a horribly vindictive meat grinder and destroyer of families for the poor.
Neighborhood and citizens groups concerned about development in the wine country are speaking up, and members of the established wine industry are getting involved. If you are a group or individual that would like to be part of the conversation, please contact Geoff Ellsworth at the email address firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, depending on which county you are from.
Lie and Repeat
The U.S. seems to have a hard time figuring out reasons for its wars, especially the ones it wages on Iraq, so it keeps changing them until it finds something that will stick and sound reasonable and justifiable.
The first Gulf War in 1991, waged by Bush the elder, started off as a war to "stop naked aggression" and then morphed into a war "to preserve the American way of life," as well as to save the oil, preserve jobs, etc. Back in August 2002, when the U.S. was trying to come up with a better reason to attack Iraq, the White House chief of staff told the New York Times: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." And guess what? The new and improved excuses for an upcoming war on Iraq were rolled out in September. What a coincidence!
For the second Gulf War, the U.S. started off trying its best to tie Saddam to Osama bin Laden's outfit so they could pin part of the blame for 9-11 on him. But they couldn't come up with any real credible evidence, and even the CIA admitted they didn't think Saddam was connected—and got rebuked by the White House for disagreeing! But even though Bush wasn't able to come up with any proof to satisfy the international community, he managed to convince most Americans. Something like two-thirds of Americans believe Iraq either staged the 9-11 attacks or played some sort of role in the attack behind the scenes, or that some of the 9-11 hijackers were Iraqis. That's not the case at all, but it just goes to show that if you keep repeating a lie often enough, people will eventually believe it!
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