Monday, March 30, 2009

Pity The Sad, Apocalyptic Clown

The conservative writer David Frum said Mr. Beck’s success “is a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.”

“It’s a show for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” he said.......

We all remember the kids in school who, if they didn't win the game, would knock over the table in revenge.

Well, it would appear that they got older and joined the GOP.

Glenn Beck has started a new group which is actually talking about secession. Yes, I said secession, as in Civil War. The party, which has amused us all by touting itself as the "Party of Lincoln" while fighting any civil rights for minorities, now has members promoting the dismembering of the country they claim so much to love.

First they want Texas. And Glenn even has his first candidate for the presidency of his new Confederacy - Chuck Norris.

While it sounds like a SNL sketch, there's nothing funny about the fact that there are folks taking these extremists and their discussions of armed insurrection seriously. In fact, a local GOP Boone County (Cinncinatti). commissioner, Cathy Flaig, is leading one of these "cells" as Mr. Norris calls them.

The present economic depression/recession is already causing violence which is being regularly reported in the news and I question if these GOP pundits and leaders fully understand that their discussions of seceding, being on the "eve of battle", and "conquer or perish" can and may be taken seriously by those who are mentally unstable and looking for a scapegoat.

Are they willing to take responsibility for the logical conclusions to their actions or will they throw up teir hands and claim that it's not their fault if people took them seriously?

They need to know that if they incite violence against Americans and associate with those calling for the dismemberment of our union, they go from being disgruntled citizens to domestic terrorists.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

It's not cheating if you used your computer, right?

BREAKING NEWS! GOP Budget "Plan" Takes From The Poor And Gives To The Rich!

Shocking, I know:

Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives released the outlines of a tax and spending plan that they argue is a more fiscally responsible alternative to the budget outline proposed by President Obama and the similar budget resolutions working their way through the House and Senate.

Comparing the income tax proposals in the House GOP plan to the income tax proposals in the President’s plan, we find that:

  • Over a fourth of taxpayers, mostly low-income families, would pay more in taxes under the House GOP plan than they would under the President’s plan. 
  • The richest one percent of taxpayers would pay $100,000 less, on average, under the House GOP plan than they would under the President’s plan. 
  • The income tax proposals in the House GOP plan, which is presented as a fiscally responsible alternative to the President’s plan, would cost over $300 billion more than the Obama income tax cuts in 2011 alone. 

The Citizens For Tax Justice has the complete breakdown, including a great comparison with Obama's budget plan. 

The Republican's pathetic budget "alternative" might be a running joke by now, but's no laughing matter for the American people. 

Forgive my french, but were these asshats really in charge for the last 8 years?

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You.....

President Barack Obama switched gears this week in his Saturday address, from economic crisis to natural disaster crisis, as he praised the volunteerism and collaborative response to the flooding in the Dakotas and Minnesota. The first portion of his address simply outlines the steps the federal government has taken to bring aid to the region. The second half of his speech, however, moves into more familiar oratorical territory: extolling the virtues of the magic American dance between individualism and collectivism, and coming down strongly on the side of reminding Americans of the gifts they owe to their shared national efforts:

For at moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities. But we are also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference....

In the face of an incredible challenge, the people of these communities have rallied in support of one another. And their service isn’t just inspirational – it’s integral to our response.

It’s also a reminder of what we can achieve when Americans come together to serve their communities. All across the nation, there are men, women and young people who have answered that call, and millions of other who would like to. Whether it’s helping to reduce the energy we use, cleaning up a neighborhood park, tutoring in a local school, or volunteering in countless other ways, individual citizens can make a big difference.

Such a tribute to selfless volunteerism will surely be echoed by the administration in the coming week as the Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act, which would greatly expand Americorps and national service programs moves to the House after its passage in the Senate.

There is also a sub-text of salute to members of the military as well as reminders that our national destiny is tied together, one and all:

In facing sudden crises or more stubborn challenges, the truth is we are all in this together – as neighbors and fellow citizens. That is what brought so many to help in North Dakota and Minnesota and other areas affected by this flooding. That is what draws people to volunteer in so many ways, serving our country here and on distant shores.

Week in and week out, President Obama seems to be using the Saturday address largely as a bully pulpit , with more than a dollop of patriotic inspirationalism as flavoring. A pattern is emerging of using this particularly setting as an aspirational weekly sermon about our bonds as fellow Americans and our higher collective commitment to our country and each other. In other venues, he's light (on Leno), conversational (online citizen questioning) or professorial (press conference); in these weekly addresses, however, he seems to hit his most natural stride, the one he hit with his famed speech at the Democratic convention in 2004 and his speech on race last year. The only difference in tone is usually the abbreviated form. It's an interesting trend to watch.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's First Online Town Hall: Drama-Free OKness

President Obama's experiment Thursday with an otherwise traditional town hall format flecked with questions posted and voted on at was a useful experiment with interactivity. But it was a relatively small step forward, and the online crowd did not provide much of a disruptive alternative to topics Obama certainly would have been asked about anyway.

How did the tech president do? Fine. He genuinely took popular questions and he certainly took many of the top-rated ones. His answers were long, which meant he took only five of the 104,000 questions submitted and, more important, only a tiny fraction of the approximately 1,000 questions that the public seemed truly enthusiastic about.

But it wasn't exactly as if he took penetrating, unanticipated questions from "Open for Questions," which the administration set up two days ago to solicit questions in advance. In fact the only subject that might not have otherwise been addressed came from an organized campaign to ask Obama his position on legalizing marijuana.

Obama obeyed the spirit (and letter) of the event by entertaining the question while blunting the troll effort that had put it to him: "No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said to laughter in the room.

Other than that bit of comedy relief how exactly would it have differed if this town hall were to be entirely scripted by the White House? They would have touched many of the same subjects — health care, veterans, outsourcing — and Obama would have given his regular stump points. That's more or less what happened.

But he gets credit for effort and breaking new ground. As we've written about extensively here, using the internet is a sophisticated way to boost democracy is actually pretty tough. So one of the metrics to use here is: Will this experiment get us closer to an administration that uses the internet in an effective way to communicate and get input from people, or will the experiment flame up in such a way that it sets that cause back?

My instinct is that the former is what happened today. The Obama team got to test the software and the model; we all got to test the feedback loop. Buzz will fade if the next town hall is non-interactive; but for now I think it increases. So I'm judging today as a small advance that may lead to better things to come.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Would Happen If "The Onion" Put Together A Budget?

The Republican's unleashed their long-waited budget alternative today. And the reaction was, well, pretty funny:

The Republican "Road to Recovery" budget alternative, rolled out today by John Boehner, has been criticized by left and right for its lack of specificity and its promise to eliminate the national debt while significantly cutting taxes., however, has received an advance copy of additional details prepared by the Minority Leader's office. Although some elements of the proposal are still under discussion -- Eric Cantor is said to want to eliminate North Dakota rather than Idaho, while Thaddeus McCotter has suggested using the balance of TARP funds to purchase scratch-off tickets -- the final plan can be expected to contain most or all of these components.

If you're having a bad day, I highly encourage you to spend some quality time with the Republican budget proposal. It's reads like what would happen if The Onion put together a budget. "Area Man Releases Proposal for 2010 Federal Spending Priorities." (Though, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, it turns out that I'd prefer a federal budget written by an area man than the first six names on the House Republican Leadership roster.)

And last, but not least, from Wonkette:

I love the idea of Boehner in his office, with his staff, paging through this, fresh from the graphic designer that someone hired from craigslist and smelling like fresh printer’s ink, and realizing that they’ve already called the press and they have to have something to wave at them.

There is a moment, just a moment of silence, while everyone considers the repercussions of the press, you know, actually getting their hands on this, this… thing.

Because here where they are safe, they know. They *know* this is a piece of shit. But nobody wants to say it. Eyes avoid eyes. Faintly in the background a siren dopplers by. Someone clears his throat. You can hear heels clacking against the marble in the hallway.

And Boehner takes a deep breath, straightens his cuffs, and says “Fuck it”.

That’s leadership, people.

Measure B: Tweets Against The Machine

It's official, Measure "B", the so-called "Green Energy/Good Jobs" ballot initiative went down to defeat by a razor-thin 2,644 votes.

From the LA Weekly:

There’s one thing both sides agree on following the defeat of Solar Measure B: It was a message to those in power to watch out. A handful of activists armed with one-twentieth of the budget of their foes, savvy use of the Internet and repetition of a clear message were enough to overcome a slick campaign, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 12 of the 15 members of the City Council.

Last week, the City Clerk certified the death of Measure B, which would have draped L.A. buildings with 1,500 acres of solar panels at a cost of billions. It would have been the single largest solar plan in the country, and in a city with more sunlight than it knows what to do with, it was widely expected to be a slam-dunk.

Yet the key underlying motives that propelled the solar measure forward, arrived at in backroom discussions by a handful of power brokers, turned out to be the proposal’s fatal flaws.

The measure’s sponsor was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and its chief, the often overblown Brian D’Arcy. His union controls much of what unfolds at DWP, where critics say a weak management team, led by neophyte director David Nahai, is making long-lasting strategic errors by letting D’Arcy bully his way into a shadow role as the actual executive at DWP.

Measure B would have given the IBEW a near-complete monopoly over all the work on the multibillion-dollar project. D’Arcy’s assumption was that the voters of Los Angeles wanted solar power so badly they wouldn’t mind the open-ended costs or the underlying dual ballot-measure motives: to dramatically increase the reach of IBEW while using the city ballot as a self-promotion tool for Antonio Villaraigosa.

Does this mean the end of solar for LA? Hardly. First of all, Measure B was only one part of a massive three-part plan involving residential and commercial components (read about it here). Secondly, there's nothing to stop Measure B's proponents from bringing a workable proposal to the City Council for public review:

From the LA Times:

One day after the solar energy plan known as Measure B went down to defeat, backers of the proposal said they would push the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to pursue the environmental initiative anyway.

Environmentalists, labor leaders and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said they would continue to press the municipal utility to achieve Measure B's core mission: the installation of 400 megawatts of DWP-owned solar panels throughout the city, and on city-owned property, by 2014.

Brian D'Arcy, who heads the union that represents DWP workers, said the ballot measure remains a good plan even though Los Angeles residents "voted the wrong way."

"It's the kind of thing our president was talking about. It puts people back to work where they live," said D'Arcy, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18. "I am not discouraged because it's the right thing to do, and I'm going to keep pressing them to do it."

But it's going to be up to us to move this process along. Don't think we have the power to do that?  Think again.

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission official revealed, as required by law, that Yes on B spent nearly $1.6 million only to fail against the tiny $74,451 mustered by No on Measure B, which it used mostly to send out mail.....

Its defeat was a shock to former Obama California campaign manager Mitchell Schwartz, who became part of the melodrama in January when he filed an unsuccessful court petition to water down the “con” language opposing Measure B in the Official Voter Guide. Schwartz’s attempt to prevent voters from seeing the “con” argument as written by Jack Humphreville and other Los Angeles activists turned into yet another black eye for Measure B.

Schwartz put up $1,000 of his own money to help Measure B. He now says, “When something that should be very popular doesn’t pass, it is a wakeup call to the mayor and the City Hall establishment. There was something that went on that the mayor and others need to look at and understand. There is some discontent out there which is directed at the powerful.”

The opposition surfaced on neighborhood council websites and in blog posts by people like DWP ratepayer advocate Humphreville, DWP Advocacy Committee activist Soledad Garcia,’s Ken Draper,’s Michael Higby and former Los AngelesDaily News Editor Ron Kaye, who blogs at

On January 3, DWP officials presented Measure B to a meeting of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition. Michael Trujillo, a consultant who ran the Yes on B campaign, disingenuously warned the crowd that without voter approval, “the DWP won’t do it” — when in fact, bloggers had already reported that DWP has a backup plan to embrace most of Measure B with or without voter approval.

“After the meeting, we started grappling with the idea that we had been dealt the hand of being a ‘No’ group,” says Stephen Box, a bicycle activist who wound up running the on-the-fly communications effort against Measure B.

Using sites like Twitter and Facebook, Box started organizing. By February, No on Measure B was trading punches with the mayor, City Council, IBEW and DWP, tapping into neighborhood councils and other groups to hold 80 town hall meetings and debates in February alone.

The blogging and social networking created a buzz, while the Los Angeles Daily News and L.A. Times both published editorials against the measure. A blog on the New York Times Website reported “dueling Facebook groups” fighting over Measure B. The City Council’s small group of just three fiscal conservatives, Bernard Parks, Dennis Zine and Greig Smith, broke ranks to slam the measure. City Controller Laura Chick, seen by some as the most popular politician in Los Angeles, warned that Measure B “stinks.”

This set the stage for a brilliantly sunny Election Day on March 3, when just under 18 percent of eligible voters showed up, and turned down Measure B by a margin of 2,644 votes.

“The public actually shut down a multimillion-dollar campaign” led by Villaraigosa, Box says. “They got a taste of real political will.”

Can rag-tag Facebookers and neighborhood council activists blog and tweet their way to a solar future and a real stake at the political table?

Mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo says Measure B’s opponents “will play an important role as citizen journalists in holding policymakers accountable as we move forward with our solar plan.” Garcetti’s office sounds less vague. “Eric did talk to Ron Kaye and Jack Humphreville and he does want to work with them,” says Garcetti spokeswoman Julie Wong.

But Brian D’Arcy, in a back-patting statement in which he insisted he was all about transparency, is already urging DWP and Villaraigosa to “swiftly implement a solar energy plan” that many experts say is not ready for prime-time.

Measure B’s opposition is wary about rushing a Measure B lookalike through City Hall. “The council members pay some lip service about transparency,” Kaye says. “But we haven’t heard [a plan for activing transparent] out of the mayor’s mouth or David Nahai’s mouth, and D’Arcy says, ‘Fuck you people, we will do whatever we want.’ ”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Change Comes To LA

Missed the Town Hall coverage?  You can see the whole thing here.

To see all my photos from the Town Hall at 
Miguel Contreras Learning Center, click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Help Obama Help America This Saturday!

President Obama was elected because millions of volunteers sacrificed their time and resources to take politics out of the hands of Beltway Insiders and put the power of our government back where it belongs: with the American people.

Our job as Americans now is to support our President in his quest to bring about the change that we elected him for.  He can't do it alone, and he is asking for your help.

We have to show that ordinary Americans are opening their doors to each other, discussing the need for action and demanding this new direction. For everyone who questions why the President has offered this plan, these pledges will be the answer: because the American people demanded it.

Organizing For America has launched the National Pledge Project Canvass which is happening Saturday, March 21st.  We are asking all Obama supporters to:

Take the Pledge - sign up here.

Take the Pledge to the Streets. Sign up for the Pledge Drive in your area:

Whole Foods (Rose and Lincoln)
Venice, CA 90291
11am - 1pm
(meet in front of the store)

615 24th Place
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Torrance Farmers Market 
Charles H. Wilson Park
2200 Crenshaw Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90501

Von's Shopping Center
1440 West 25th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tickets Still Available For Obama Tonight Show Appearance!

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will make his Southern California debut as President of the United States. After arrtiving at Long Beach Airport in the afternoon, he'll hold a 4 p.m. town hall meeting in Costa Mesa followed by a tour of the Edison International Vehicle Electrics Plant in Pomona on Thursday.

Thursday at 1pm he'll hold another town hall at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Downtown LA, then tape a segment for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that will air Thursday night. Leno announced last week that he would host a free benefit concert on April 7 in Detroit -- one of the cities hit hardest by the recession. A second show has since been added to meet strong demand.

Tickets for both the OC and LA Town Halls are "sold out", but you still have a chance to see him in Burbank on the Tonight Show. 

This from

Tickets for the show are available the day of the show only at the NBC Ticket Box, located at NBC Studios, 3000 W. Alameda Ave. Burbank, CA 91523. The NBC Ticket Box opens at 8 a.m. All available tickets are distributed to the public on a first come, first-served two tickets per person basis.

Will The Last Sane Man At Fox Please Turn Out The Lights?

Shep Smith vs. Glenn Beck. 

(warning: keep all liquids away from the keyboard before playing)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dick Cheney: Loves Limbaugh, Hates America

From ThinkProgress: In his first TV interview since leaving office, Cheney said he adores Limbaugh and even said he wants to see President Obama debate him:

CHENEY: Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think he does great work and has for years. He has now offered to debate President Obama on his radio show. Hell, I’d pay to see that. … I think Rush is a good man and serves a very important purpose.



Weeks after President Obama was inaugurated, former Vice President Cheney warned that Obama’s policy promises — including closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and ending torture — would lead to a nuclear attack on U.S. soil. Today, in a new interview with CNN, Cheney upped his fearmongering, insisting Obama has made Americans “less safe”:

KING: I’d like to simply ask you, yes or no, by taking these steps do you believe the President of the United States has made Americans less safe?

CHENEY: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11. I think that’s a great success story. … President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Take It To The Streets For President Obama March 21st!


Organizing For America has launched the National Pledge Project Canvass which is happening Saturday, March 21st.  We are asking all Obama supporters to:
1)      Take the Pledge, sign up here
2)      Take the Pledge to the Streets. Read how here.
What is the Pledge?

We are Pledging our Support for President Obama's bold agenda on Healthcare, Education and Energy. 

Why are we are asking you to join us in Taking the Pledge to the Streets on March 21st? 

Change has to come from us. The partisan politics being
played out in Washington needs to stop and one of the best ways to make
this happen is to make a strong, national, grassroots show of support
for our president. We have to show that ordinary Americans are opening their doors to each other, discussing the need for action and demanding this new direction.

For everyone who questions why the President has offered this plan, these pledges will be the answer: because the American people demanded it.

 How do I organize a Pledge drive?

This project is very similar to a voter registration drive, but you'll be asking members of your community to sign pledge forms instead.  Set goals for yourselves -- maybe 100 pledges per person.  With just 1,000 people, that's 100,000 pledges of support!
Please plan your canvass events today and post them on the Organizing For America website.

You can download host instructions, the pledge form, tally sheets, policy agendas and volunteer sign-ins at -- Pledge Project Canvass. 

Then please send an email with your event details and OFA link to

Want to volunteer, but don't have time to host? No problem! Find local canvasses by entering your zip code at this link.



Locations you pick should be located in high traffic areas or in neighborhoods where you can easily go door to door. Supermarkets, beach boardwalks, and walkable shopping districts are all great locations.

What you'll need:
Clipboards for your team
Some copies of the policy points
A bunch of copies of the pledge form (1 form per signature)
And an Obama Volunteer smile!  
What you'll do:
Go out and get folks to sign the pledge.

Your host packets will also include instructions on how to enter the data collected on that day. This is very important!
That's it.
Now let's go change the world!

Friday, March 13, 2009

John Stewart vs. Jim Cramer and CNBC

John Stewart takes down Jim Cramer and CNBC. Maybe not Morrow vs. McCarthy, but it'll do.

Part One

Part Two

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Demand Everything Immediately So You Can Get Something Eventually"

Cleve Jones - famed AIDS activist, union organizer, inspirational speaker, who's new BFF is Sean Penn - puts his arms around me, 

"My grandmother used to say to me 'You cry so much 'cause your bladder's too close to your eyes!'"

I laugh through the tears, because, yes, I'm crying. Oh boy, am I crying. It's Fresno, I'm facilitating at Camp Courage, and it's been that kind of weekend.....

November 4th was a bittersweet day for our LGBT brothers and sisters in California. Even as we made history for electing a young black man named Barack Hussein Obama to the White House, a narrow majority of California voters chose to take away their right to legally marry. For them, it was one step forward, two steps back.

But here's the thing, rather than accept defeat, they took to the streets. Not only in California, but nationwide. New LGBT leadership grew out of the ashes of the failed "No on 8" campaign and taking a page from Obama, began a grassroots movement organized from the bottom up.

In Los Angeles, former Obama organizers (including my partner in the campaign, Mike Bonin) teamed up with the Courage Campaign to create "Camp Courage" - weekend workshops on marriage equality that borrow heavily from the "Camp Obama" model and the teachings of Marshall Ganz. 

After taking the concept out for a successful one-day test drive in West Hollywood, the organizers took the show on the road: First stop, Fresno.

The attendees, many from Fresno and the large surrounding Central Valley, trickled in and quietly sat down. Immediately, we could feel that there was energy, but it was definitively different from what we experienced before. Trying to put my finger on it, I observed my amazingly diverse group - a lesbian in her 70s, a middle-aged gay man, a lesbian in her 20s, a straight woman (yeah, straight!) and a bisexual girl of just 16. Though we were talking, you couldn't miss the initial impression - "What do I have in common with these people? What have I done by coming here?" As the Camp kicked off, it hit me what the energy was - "Caution."

As I grew to learn, these residents of the Central Valley had been let down so many times before. Fresno, CA is practically the capitol of the Bible belt in California (and yes, there is a Bible belt in California), and the local LGBT population has continually and constantly experienced discrimination and hate from their own city. But worse, they have reached out to their own LGBT community in other cities, raising their voices that they needed help only to get no response. (Fresno doesn't even have a center for the LGBT population to meet at, let alone organize.) During the No on 8 Campaign, they cried out that they needed help, that they were prepared to act, only to receive a few yard signs to put out in response. And even more, they have witnessed the burgeoning movement blooming in their neighboring urban cities only to be forgotten about. Again.

To illustrate just what these burgeoning community organizers are up against, let me share with you an email exchange one of our Central Valley campers had with the Mayor of Porterville, CA - a tiny enclave south of Fresno that unanimously passed a resolution in support of Prop 8.    

This proposition is not an attack on gays, it is just the opposite, it is a reaction to the attack on traditional family marriage that the gay community has started in the quise (sic) of equality and civil rights. Since the 1960's the gays have been eating the elephant one bite at a time and have made some headways mainly by infiltrating our school system.......
By the way I always love the way that the gay community uses the term Homophobes, this ofcourse was a term made up by the gay activist to lable any and all people that dont(sic) agree with their agenda. Homophobe One that is afraid of homosexuals, how ludicrist (sic) is that. I and those that I speak with are not afraid of homosexuals, we just believe as I have stated before that the sexual acitivity between two men or two women is not in the best interest of society as a whole, just like certain drugs, or crimes that bring harm to society......
 Up until the Gnome (sic) was discoverd the gay community insisted that they were born to it, Oopss (sic) there was no conection, so lets (sic) move to plan b, its (sic) a civil rights issue, passed civil unions, still not good enough, lets attack the traditional family marriage. If DNA were trully a factor the homosexuals would have been bread out of society a long time ago by natural progression. Lets just be honest with each other, homosexuals are attracted to those of the same sex. With that understanding we can get pass (sic) the B.S. of equal rights. I suggest you do some research into what marriage was intended to be.

The rest of Porterville's City Council seem to be just as enlightened. This from the campaign website of Brian Ward, who won a seat on the City Council just this year:

Nature argues against homosexuality as an "alternative" lifestyle. Homosexuality is simply unnatural. Speaking as plainly as I can, people have "in holes" and "out holes" in their body. Some holes are designed to take things in, while others are designed to rid things from the body. While some holes perform both functions, the duality of function is evidenced by natural design (the vagina is meant to take in a male penis, but also expel an infant child). We should not confuse the obvious and natural purpose of our body's holes.
Ward lists his day job as a school psychologist with the Burton School District. He and his lovely wife, Yvette, have squeezed out 4 kids in 8 years. So clearly he's an expert in the "innie/outie" hole issue. Feel free to drop him - or anyone on the Porterville City Council - an email sometime if you care for a lively discussion on the subject. They seem more than happy to oblige.

But I digress. As the dark, red heart of the conservative Central Valley, Fresno is also a prime target for any effective campaign hoping to move California:

Much as states like Ohio and Michigan are the bellwether for the presidential election, Fresno -- not Los Angeles or San Francisco -- is the bellwether for Proposition 8. It's a large California city (metro population: 1 million) in the geographic center of the state. It's racially diverse, and split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans. But with no visible gay presence, it's pretty much a place where you can safely get on TV and say "God made it to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
No visible gay presence. I think the 150+ "campers", facilitators and staff who jammed the main conference room at the Holiday Inn downtown would beg to differ.

So now that you know a little bit about why the Courage Campaign was in Fresno last weekend, let me share with you why Fresno activists were at Camp Courage. From Unite the Fight:

When we opened the camp, Lisa Powell, the amazing head facilitator, asked the attendees, "Who here is uncomfortable? Who here doesn't know anyone? Who here is wondering, 'What am I doing here?'" Quite a few hands went up, and I could tell by the faces of others, they wanted to raise their hands, too. One 16 year old had been dropped off by their mom, to come to the camp all alone, not knowing anyone. A sure sign of the desperation and the need for community in the area.

One of the first exercises at Camp Courage is for each member of each group to answer one simple question about themselves. This easy exercise slowly began to break the thick layer of ice. It began to dawn of everyone that they're not just going to sit around listening to a droning speaker talk down to them - they were going to be engaged....

I heard stories about the mistreatment from hospitals keeping partners apart while facing fatal circumstances, about children not relating to their gay parent, about a teenager rising above her difficulties at her school, about a straight woman raised in a religious environment who came to realize that her stance in support of the LGBT community could cost her, about a woman and her partner who can't get full coverage for their daughter 's disability. I heard more stories about a trans woman who went to school and had to wet her pants everyday until she was allowed to use the woman's restroom, how others were spit in the face by their fellow Fresno residents simply for being who they were, and so much more.

As I was sitting there, listening to these stories, not being able to keep the tears from welling - it hit me. I'm not here to facilitate. I'm here to learn. I'm hear to listen. I'm here to show these amazing people that they are not alone. They have truly been on the front lines, the real soldiers, facing hate in a town in which the residents are not ashamed to show it, actually proud of it, literally spitting it in their faces. I live in the cush bubble of LA where, if someone does hate me, they're not about to fling it in my face.......

Over the course of two days, with campers driving miles and miles to return, with speakers like Cleve Jones and Dolores Huerta of the union movement to add to the inspiration, with the Story of Us bringing everyone even closer together, with solid friendships between people who were recently strangers developing, with commitments to change and action being made, the sense of community building was tangible.

The recurring them of Camp Courage Fresno was, "I thought I was alone. Now I know I'm one of many, and I never have to feel that way again."

We didn't know it at the time, but the Obama campaign gave all of us who were involved an enormous gift - the knowledge, tools and ability to build movements. It was an honor and a privilege to be in the same room with all the community organizers who had come before us - Cleve Jones, Delores Huerta, Sheila Kuehl, Torie Osborn and Lisa Powell - and with all those who will come after us - Robin McGehee, Anthony Ash, Am Williams, Jay Matthew, Felicia Carbajal and Willow Witte (to name a few among many). All of us together, building towards the future.

So what's next? As Cleve Jones said, "Demand everything immediately so you can get something eventually."

The Courage Campaign has two more Camp Courage workshops planned - April 18-19 in San Diego and May 2-3 in Oakland. Check in with their website - they should be taking reservations soon.

The Courage Campaign is also looking for community members across California who are interested in helping to form "equality teams" and who are willing to host a kickoff house party this coming weekend. Click here for more details.

Meet In The Middle 4 Equality will be holding a rally for national LGBT equality the first Saturday AFTER the California Supreme Court issues its rulings on the Proposition 8 cases. Meet on the steps of City Hall in downtown Fresno at 1:00 PM.

Why Fresno? The battle for equality has to be fought in towns like Fresno, CA — not only in gay-friendly cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. California's Central Valley population is far more reflective of national attitudes towards LBGT Equality and until we engage the communities of "middle-America", we will not gain the full equality we deserve.
Lastly, boycott these businesses whose executives use their cash to fund anti-gay bills or who refuse their gay employees the same benefits as their straight co-workers.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Schwarzeneger To Refuse $839 Million In Federal Unemployment Stimulus Funds

From D-day:

Arnold Schwarzeneger got a lot of good press from going on ABC and saying that he would take the stimulus money of any GOP governor who refused a portion of it.

"Well, Governor Sanford says that he does not want to take the federal stimulus package money. And I'll say to him, I'll take it," Schwarzenegger said. "I'm more than happy to take his money or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money. I'll take it, because we in California need it. I think it's a terrific package. I think if you ask a thousand people for their opinion, what is their ideal stimulus package, you will have a thousand different answers. So everyone's is a little different. I think he's done a great job and I think California benefits tremendously from that $80 billion of tax benefits there, for around $35 billion. There are other advantages: $45 billion of money that go to transportation, to education, to health care, all those different areas. There's even some money that could benefit our revenues or, I should say, our budget itself...."

As you may know, what Sanford and Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour and these Southern Republican Governors were objecting to is changing their unemployment eligibility statutes so they could accept millions in additional funding through the stimulus to give to the jobless. It's the best kind of stimulus there is and would probably keep some of the retail sector in business, but these Governors feel that once the federal money to fund the new eligibles ran out, it would be too burdensome on business to raise the funds. So they have, rhetorically at least, sided with the corporate community in rejecting the funds.

At a hearing of the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's representative, Labor and Workforce Development Agency Undersecretary Steffanie Watkins, refused to support AB 3x 23, legislation that makes California eligible for $839 million in one-time federal unemployment insurance funds available at part of the President's economic stimulus package.

This from the same Governor who just last week was all over the national media circuit criticizing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Republican Governors who were spurning economic stimulus funds.

What a difference a week makes.

In the end, the bill made it out of committee by an 8-2 vote with members of the Yacht Party crossing the aisle, suggesting that the legislature would have the 2/3 vote necessary to override Schwarzenegger, if it came to that. But take note of the extreme hypocrisy here. Mr. Governor-by-Magazine-Cover, the media darling, goes on national TV and wags his finger at fellow Republicans who won't take stimulus money. Then he signals that he won't take stimulus money FOR THE EXACT SAME REASON as those governors he criticized.

Incredible. This is another reason why the Governor has worn out his welcome with the people of California, has a negative approval rating, and can't poll above 31% in a Republican primary anymore. He has lost the trust of the electorate. He also happens to be a piss-poor lawmaker who has pushed the state to the brink of collapse. But you might have guessed that.