THE WILLITS BY-PASS. Is it really a go? Phil Dow, the local highway and biway guy, noted recently that the project no longer includes CMIA (corridor mobility improvement account) money, which is bond money. Dow told MCOG (Mendocino Council of Governments, among whose duties is the disbursement of county-allocated transportation funds), “the rules are changing.” Really? Skeptics think it sounds more like MCOG and transportation guy Dow, belatedly realized they couldn't get away with using CMIA money because the ballot language said those funds are supposed to be designated for “the most congested areas in the state.” Bay Area transportation bureaucrats complained back in 2007 about using CMIA money for the Willits Bypass, and they’re undoubtedly still complaining in 2012. As of March 8, it's back to funding the bypass with STIP (State Transportation Improvement Program) money. But the STIP list says the Willits bypass is funded with “prior year” STIP money. Hmmm, that prior money was pulled. It hasn’t been sitting there. Anyway, both docs are full of stuff about how important it is that projects be “cost effective,” and how STIP projects can expect delays because there are more projects than there is money, and how even projects programmed in prior years can expect delays. Hard to believe all the other local transportation agencies in the state will put up with this Willits boondoggle this time around, either.
GOVERNOR BROWN will join two groups gathering signatures for a state tax measure aimed at the wealthy. The California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign want to get their versions of a “millionaire” tax initiative on the November ballot. The Gov has his own tax initiative in the works but rightly fears that more than one tax measure on the ballot would cancel his out. The new proposal would be a hybrid of the two. It would increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent instead of Brown's proposed half a cent. Personal income tax would go up by 1 percentage point for individuals making $250,000 a year or couples making $500,000 a year. Individuals making $300,000 a year or couples making $600,000 a year would see an increase of 2 percentage points. And, individuals making $500,000 and couples making a $1 million or more would see a tax raise of 3 percentage points. The personal income tax increase would last seven years, and the sales tax increase would expire after four years. The millionaires proposal has received far more support than the governor's plan in early polling and was a major focus of a rally of thousands of college students at the Capitol last week. The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable have stayed neutral on the governor's plan but opposed the millionaire's tax. Voters may still see more than one tax initiative on the November ballot, as millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger is pushing her own plan to raise income taxes on all but the poorest Californians.
THE WAR IS OVER, the War is Lost, Bring Them Home: “Any person who…with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny.” — Article 94, Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military uprisings among the lower ranks have a long and fairly honorable tradition. The famous mutinies include Bligh’s HMS Bounty, the Indian Sepoy rising, Russian battleship Potemkin, British sailors’ strike at Invergordon, and lesser known mass revolts by French infantry divisions at the failed “Nivelle offensive” in 1917, Port Chicago in 1944 by African-American sailors refusing to unload dangerous cargo, U.S. soldier strikes in the Pacific against General MacArthur, and of course widespread GI resistance in Vietnam that broke the back of the war. Afghanistan is an army mutiny by another name – on both sides. In “green on green” killings, Afghan soldiers have been on a spree killing American and NATO soldiers. Now an American sergeant, on his fourth combat tour, with previously diagnosed Transitory Brain Injury, has “gone postal” to murder 16 Afghans including women and nine children. Yet the army doctors at the killer sergeant’s home base, Joint Fort Lewis-McChord, considered him “fit for combat duty” and as for his brain injury was “deemed to be fine.” Fort Lewis-McChord, in Washington state, is notorious for its cruel handling of returned combat veterans. Its forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Medical Center had two doctors fired for mistreatment or otherwise ignoring soldier complaints. The two included lead psychiatrist Dr William Keppler under whose leadership 285 diagnoses of PTSD were reversed because “we have to be good stewardships of the government’s money”. Since 2010, 26 GIs from Fort Lewis-McChord committed suicide. In this crisis of violence the command’s response was to lay off mental health caseworkers. This latest GI mental explosion by the staff sergeant was preceded by increasing acts of American troop indiscipline – Marines pissing on Afghan bodies, the Koran-burning fiasco, units loudly cheering indiscriminate Hellfire drone attacks on a village, etc. – that an increasingly demoralized junior and midgrade officer corps has neither the ability nor will to stop. The troops are protesting “by any other means” their entrapment in a no-win landscape where Washington politicians and career-crazy senior officers keep a war going beyond the limit of sanity. It’s no stretch to suggest that GI suicides, domestic violence by returning soldiers and their self-harm by narcotics are a depoliticized form of protest against the same despair that was felt by General Westmoreland’s cannon fodder at Hue or World War One poilu at the Chemin des Dames allied massacre when they refused to fight any more. The Afghani war is over. Yet the President, his cheerfully on-message advisors, and most of the stenographic media refuse to call it a night when the situation on the ground, with its secret night raids and fucked up soldiers, can only get much worse. Mitt Romney, who never served and has five military-age sons likewise, wants to stay there presumably forever and fight it out. Rick Santorum wants to hang in until “mission accomplished” whatever that is. Yet even Newt Gingrich, from the militarized state of Georgia, says that “we have lost” in Afghanistan and “the mission is not doable”. What are we waiting for, an engraved invitation to leave? It will never come as long as Karzai and his crooks-in-government and our U.S. contracting corporations can keep milking the American taxpayer. A Rand Corporation study estimated that one in five veterans of fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from major depression or PTSD. After years of struggle, at last the public sees PTSD as a serious illness that must be attended to. How long will it take us to recognize that what’s happening in Afghanistan is mutiny by another name? (— Clancy Sigal, the author of the classic ‘Going Away.’ His most recent book is ‘A Woman of Uncertain Character’.)
DON’T ASK MCOG Top Honcho Phil Dow
When the Bypass’ll be built — or how
This massive boondoggle
Will be done if MCOG’ll
Find a way for the moon to jump over a cow.
(INSIDE BASEBALL: Post were delayed for March 15 because of internet connection hiccups and associated delays.)