Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day Of Decision - California, We Are Not Alone

As fate would have it, I ended up in Washington D.C. when the CA Supreme Court decision came down today. Through the magic of Facebook, I found the local "Day Of Decision" rally at Dupont Circle, one of over a hundred such events happening all over the country today.

Over 400 committed activists came out on a cold and rainy night in DC, ready to show their solidarity with their brothers and sisters in California. 

Folks, we are not alone.




















CA Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8: It's Time To Go On The Offense




Time to get organized folks. Here's what you need to do:

PROTEST!

May 26th

Click on this link and find a "Day of Decision" rally near you, and GO. There are over a hundred planned all over the country. I'll be attending one here in Washington D.C. Where will you be?

May 27th

President Obama will be attending a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel tomorrow. I've heard rumors organizers will be setting up a protest for DADT, but I don't have any details yet. Just pick up a sign and go. 

4:30 - 7:30 pm
The Beverly Hilton Hotel
International Ballroom
9876 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90210


May 30th

Thousands of protesters will be in Fresno this Saturday, for a "Meet In The Middle 4 Equality" to galvanize forces with a day of unity of all peoples - gay and straight alike. Peaceful events, including an Equality March and an Equality Rally, share the theme of "United for Equailty". Join with them and then take the vision back to your own communities where you can work together to change the world to include federal level equality, access & justice for all. Click on this link to learn more!

DONATE!



We don't have time to mourn the failure of the state court to restore marriage equality to California.

It's time to go on offense. To be fearless in our fight for equality. Starting right now:


Last week, we asked our members to vote on which year -- 2010 or 2012 -- the Courage Campaign should support going back to the ballot to restore marriage equality. Your collective response was overwhelming -- 82.5% support a 2010 ballot measure. 

As a result, the Courage Campaign is announcing today its strong support for a 2010 initiative, while respecting that partner organizations are still discussing and deliberating this very important question.

In response to the court's decision, the Courage Campaign will hit the California airwaves in the next 72 hours with a 60-second TV ad version of "Fidelity" -- the heartbreaking online video viewed by more than 1.2 million people, making it the most-watched video ever in the history of California politics.

We are launching this provocative new TV ad in the spirit of Harvey Milk's call to "come out, come out wherever you are" and proudly tell the stories of the people most affected by the passage of Prop 8 -- in moving images set to the beat of Regina Spektor's beautiful song.





If you want more people to see it -- contribute $25, $50, $100, $250 (or as much as you can afford) to expand our ad buy immediately in Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco ASAP:




SIGN THE PLEDGE!

Join more than 700,000 Courage Campaign members ready to restore marriage equality to California. Help us reach 1 Million for Marriage Equality by adding your name now!


VOLUNTEER!

Organized by volunteers county-by-county, Courage Campaign Equality Teams are creating infrastructure to enable your community to engage in important long-term work -- recruiting an army of marriage equality activists, identifying undecided voters, organizing in your communities, and taking part in coordinated statewide events. Sign-up if you would like to join your local team or learn more about how you could start one in your county if one does not already exist.


Now is the time.

California Supreme Court upholds Prop. 8; existing gay marriages will stand



The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law. [Updated at 10:04 a.m.: The court also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.]

The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists said they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.

By a 52-48 margin, voters approved the measure reinstating a ban on same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling last May, approved such marriages. Left in limbo were about 18,000 couples who got married in California between May and November of last year.

The case for overturning the initiative was widely viewed as a long shot. Gay rights lawyers had no solid legal precedent on their side, and some of the court’s earlier holdings on constitutional revisions mildly undercut their arguments.

But gay marriage advocates captured a wide array of support in the case, with civil rights groups, legal scholars and even some churches urging the court to overturn the measure. Supporters of the measure included many churches and religious organizations.

The legal fight over same-sex marriage in California began in San Francisco in 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom spurned state law, and the city began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Long lines of couples showed up to marry and celebrated within view of the court with rice and champagne.

Those marriages sparked a national debate about gay rights and made the marriage question a political issue in an election year. Dozens of states later adopted constitutional amendments to bar same-sex marriage.

Those gay couples who wed in San Francisco later had their marriages rescinded by the California Supreme Court, which ruled that a city could not single-handedly flout state law. But the court said supporters of marriage rights could challenge the ban in the lower courts.

The legal fight moved to San Francisco Superior Court, where a judge struck down the marriage ban as unconstitutional. A Court of Appeal in San Francisco later overturned that decision on a 2-1 vote. The state high court eventually took up the case, which culminated in a May 15 ruling last year declaring gays could marry each other.

Before last fall, California was one of only two states — the other was Massachusetts — to permit same-sex marriage.

Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine have since legalized it, and lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire are considering bills of their own.

California’s historic 2008 ruling, written by Chief Justice Ronald George, repeatedly invoked the words "respect and dignity" and framed the marriage question as one that deeply affected not just couples but also their children. California has more than 100,000 households headed by gay couples, about a quarter with children, according to 2000 census data.

As soon as the ruling was final, thousands of gay couples showed up at city halls around the state to marry, and many flew in from elsewhere for California weddings. While the wedding business was brisk, opponents mounted a heated campaign with the help of churches and conservatives to overturn the court’s action.

Even though the court has upheld Proposition 8, a key portion of the court’s May 15, 2008, decision remains intact. Sexual orientation will continue to receive the strongest constitutional protection possible when California courts consider cases of alleged discrimination. The California Supreme Court is the only state high court in the nation to have elevated sexual orientation to the status of race and gender in weighing discrimination claims.

Politics Daily Jumps The Gun On Prop 8 Decision

BREAKING NEWS! Tommy Christopher of Politics Daily is psychic.

The California Supreme Court has rendered it's decision on Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that passed on November's ballot. The court upheld the ban on same-sex marriages, while also ruling to continue to recognize the 18,000 existing California same-sex marriages that occurred before the ban.

The post was made 8AM Pacific, a full two hours before the California Supreme Court is set to make its decision public.

Reactions to Sotamayor SCOTUS Pick




Reactions to Sonia Sotamayor are coming fast and furious across the blogasphere. For your reading pleasure, a quick punditry roundup:










THE GOOD


This nomination should be judged principally on two grounds: 

(1) her judicial opinions (which Scotusblog's Tom Goldstein comprehensively reviews here) and 

(2) her answers at her confirmation hearing. 

But based on everything that is known now, this seems to be a superb pick for Obama.

It is very encouraging that Obama ignored the ugly, vindictive, and anonymous smear campaign led by The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen and his secret cast of cowardly Eminent Liberal Legal Scholars of the Respectable Intellectual Center. People like that, engaging in tactics of that sort, have exerted far too much influence on our political culture for far too long, and Obama's selection of one of their most recent targets both reflects and advances the erosion of their odious influence. And Obama's choice is also a repudiation of the Jeffrey-Rosen/Ben-Wittes/Stuart-Taylor grievance on behalf of white males that, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, "a diverse bench must inevitably be a second-rate bench."

Obama has also ignored the deeply dishonest right-wing attacks on Sotomayor, beginning with the inane objection to her perfectly benign and accurate comments on videotape that appellate judges, as distinct from district court judges, "make policy." Lawyer Anonymous Liberal thoroughly eviscerated that line of attack as the shallow and deceitful argument it is. A similar avenue of certain attack -- that Sotomayor said in a 2001 speech that a female Latina judge has experiences that can inform her view of cases -- is equally frivolous. There are a whole range of discretionary judgments which judges are required to make; does anyone actually doubt that familiarity with a wide range of cultural experiences is an asset?  

Minty-fresh Dem Arlen Specter approves:

I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process.


THE BAD


I just heard Ed Whelan, who's nuts, on NPR talking about the Sotomayor pick, and he predictably decried the Ricci opinion, saying that Sotomayor didn't even bother to give her opinion about those white firefighters who were discriminated against, in his view.

Yeah, um, Sotomayor didn't write the opinion at all. She participated in it. That's kind of how appeals court opinions go.

Mike Huckabee made known that he is opposed to Maria Sotomayor, so it's a good thing Obama picked Sonia.



THE UGLY


Oops. The Republican National Committee prepared a detailed set of talking points for key Republicans to use regarding the Sotomayor nomination -- and then accidentally sent it to the media.


And last, but not least, Glen Beck, via twitter:

Does the nominee still have Diabetes? Could the Messiah heal her, or does she just not want to ask? What is protocal on miracle healings?

Obama Picks Sotomayor For Court (UPDATED with Obama and Sotomayor remarks)




President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge in New York, as the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court Monday, saying she has a “a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court Justice.”


Watch the video:




Again, from Politco.com:


“Walking in the door she would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court had when they were appointed,” Obama said at the White House, with Sotomayor by his side.

In Sotomayor, Obama has chosen a nominee who will greatly please two powerful constituencies in his own party — women and Hispanics — that had openly lobbied for one of their own to replace Justice David Souter.

Beyond pure politics, Obama has found somebody whose unlikely ascent to power is similar to his own life story. Obama highlighted Sotomayor’s humble roots. She grew up not far from Yankee Stadium in a Bronx Housing project. The daughter of Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor lost her father at 9 and was largely raised by her nurse mother.

“It is experience that can give a person a common touch, and a sense of compassion, a sense of how the world works and how ordinary people live, that is why it is necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court,” Obama said.

Obama said he looked for two qualities in his nominee – a rigorous intellect and an understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret law, not make it – and said he found both in Sotomayor.


Of the four widely reported finalists, Sotomayor was the one Republicans said they would complain most loudly about, and conservative legal groups attacked within minutes after Obama’s selection was reported.

Hispanic groups and even members of Congress had pushed hard for representation on the court, suggesting that the community would be let down if Obama passed over a qualified Latino. In fulfilling their wishes, Obama moves to solidify his hold on the pivotal Hispanic vote and tighten his party’s grasp on the west.

Even Republicans admit her confirmation is assured in a Senate dominated by Democrats.

But Senate Republicans say Sotomayor represents anything but a consensus pick, since her appeals-court confirmation vote in 1998 was 67-29 vote.

Previewing the right’s planned reaction, Wendy E. Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, said in a statement: "Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

However, the fact that Sotomayor is a Latina could also present a political challenge for Republicans. Senators from the GOP, which has suffered from an internal rift over immigration issues and problem-plagued efforts to reach out to Hispanics, will have to decide how directly and sharply they want to attack a Latina single mother whose confirmation to the court is virtually certain.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memo To Sacramento: Lead, Follow, Or Get the F@ck Out Of The Way (Pt.2)


Since May 19th, when California voters soundly rejected Schwarzenegger's scheme to drown our state government in Grover Norquist's bathtub, Republican pundits from New Gingrich to LA radio asshats John and Ken have been furiously spinning the results to match their own twisted ideology.





Republican legislators must absolutely, unconditionally oppose additional taxes — come hell, high water or the public employee unions.

(GOP gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman....called Thursday for sharply shrinking California's work force by laying off more than 30,000 state employees.

What idiot in their right mind - especially running for the highest office in the state - proposes cutting 30,000 middle-class jobs during the worst recession since WWII?

Worse, what idiots would go along with it?

Well, apparently our Democratic "leadership" in Sacramento.


Unfortunately, Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass failed the first test, stuck in a mindset that will bring the state to ruin. First, Steinberg.

"The voters have spoken and they are telling us that government should do the best it can with the money it has. We will immediately and responsibly get to work to balance the budget and head off a cash crisis in July. Delay is not an option. The necessary decisions we must make will only get harder with time."

That is not what voters are telling you.... California is a big state and no one message from a statewide election can predominate, but the mass boycott of the polls certainly suggests that we don't want to do your job anymore. I know it's been so long since Democrats exercised their Democratic muscles and principles in Sacramento, but this election called out the political leadership for failed governance. And everyone who has studied this for half a second understands that the failure will continue until the structural barriers are removed. And so making this absurd and vindictive statement about voter intentions both misses an opportunity to refocus the discussion and angers the grassroots further.
Here's Bass:

"There are many difficult choices and a lot of hard work ahead of us. We now have to responsibly fill the budget hole that has been caused by the national recession and deepened by the failure of today's ballot propositions. I hope the bipartisan cooperation between the Legislature and the Governor that went into this effort will continue as we move forward - the people of California clearly expect us to work together to get the job done. And we will."

The people of California could give a rat's ass who works together with who. They don't want to see this level of dysfunction anymore. Bipartisan cooperation was clearly rejected last night, because inevitably that gives leverage to the minority and provides unworkable non-solutions.

These "solutions" the Republicans are proposing and the Dems in Sacramento are buying into aren't solutions at all, but feel-good propaganda built on the myth that California government, and by extension spending, is wildly out of control. 


California could fire every state employee -- including well-paid prison guards and university professors -- close every government office, stop all travel and even cease the purchase of paper clips without closing the budget gap. The government would be gone but the deficit wouldn't.

The runaway spending is caused largely by an ever growing group of Californians making use of basic state services as the cost of those services escalates. Since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, for example, the amount the state spends on Medi-Cal health insurance for the poor has grown more than 40%, from under $10 billion annually to more than $14.4 billion. Spending on community mental health services has nearly tripled, and the state's program that provides services for the disabled leapt from a $1.6-billion annual expense to nearly $2.4 billion.

This has happened despite efforts by the state to contain costs. Primary care doctors, for example, are paid just $26 for an office visit with a Medi-Cal patient. There is no simple way to seriously limit these healthcare costs short of eliminating the benefits for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

The same scenario holds true for prisons, where state spending jumped from $6.5 billion to nearly $10.5 billion under Schwarzenegger. The federal courts mandated much of that spending after ruling that the state's prisoners have been widely mistreated. The alternative to spending the money is releasing tens of thousands of inmates and parolees.

Similar challenges confront other big states too. Yet few of them have plunged into the same condition of financial despair. They move quicker to spot and confront financial problems as they arise. Here, problems mount fast and then are left to fester as political leaders bicker.

Folks, since we don't have any control (yet) over the Republican obstructionists in Sacramento, we'll need to put pressure the Democratic Leadership instead. We need to demand they not give in to Republican blackmail. 


The Democratic leadership should listen to its grassroots.

They should immediately stop negotiating with the governor and other Republicans on how to destroy even more of what makes our state human. The Democrats, as a whole body, not just the leadership, should assert their majority, decide for themselves how they want to deal with the shortfall, and then invite the defeated Republicans publicly to join them and take their proposals to the public, first organizing serious grassroots support.


Call and send letters now:

Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass:
5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 565
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4747
(323) 937-3466 fax

President pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg
1020 N Street, #576
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-1529
Fax: (916) 327-8754


California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton

Sacramento Office
1401 21st Street, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 442-5707 phone
(916) 442-5715 fax

Los Angeles Office
1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 825
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 407-0980 phone
(310) 407-0981 fax


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Help Our Wounded Heros For Memorial Day


Next week, we are collecting new clothing, blankets and pre-paid phone cards for those courageous men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-based nonprofit group based in Pasadena, CA, with over thirty different teams of military and civilian volunteers supporting all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Through special projects, Soldiers' Angels makes a visible difference in the lives of our service members and their families.

Over 400 patients monthly are provided with much needed items for a more comfortable time of recuperation. Because of groups like the Soldiers' Angels our men and women in the military don't have to go without! Our first collection drive in January yielded 2,000 items and a ton of gratitude from our wounded soldiers and the LRMC staff. 

HERE'S HOW TO HELP AND SHOW APPRECIATION FOR OUR TROOPS! 

  • BUY: Purchase any of the items below and drop off at any of the locations listed.
  • PROVIDE A LOCATIONS: Create your own collection drive in your office, school or neighborhood and drop donation at a designated location by 5/29/09 at 4:00pm
  • VOLUNTEER: Lend a helping hand to sort & pack. RSVP HERE TO VOLUNTEER!  CULVER STUDIOS - 9336 W. Washington Blvd Culver City, CA  Saturday, 5/30/09  10:00am to 4:00pm 

NEED MORE INFO? WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
Linda Green | lagreen4@verizon.net | 310.213.1019
____________________


SOLDIERS' WISH LIST 
**NEW ITEMS ONLY PLEASE**


MEN SIZES L/XL | WOMEN SIZES M/L/X
  • White socks (Crew, tube or ankle)
  • Men's Boxer Briefs (Plain; white preferred)
  • Women's Cotton Briefs (Plain)
  • Women's Camisoles and Sports Bras
  • Men's/Women's PJ Bottoms (Drawstring; plain; flannel or cotton)
  • Men's/Women's Tee Shirts (Long or short sleeve; plain white, gray)
  • Fleece Hoodies (ZIP FRONT ONLY; plain; white, gray, black)
  • Fleece Sweatpants (Plain; white, gray, black)
  • Gym Shorts (knee length)
  • Fleece Blankets AND Travel Pillows
  • Prepaid Phone Cards (** CARDS AND LETTERS TO THE SOLDIERS ARE ESPECIALLY APPRECIATED**)


NEW ITEMS WILL BE COLLECTED AT THESE LOCATIONS MAY 26th - MAY 29th 


MANHATTAN BEACH (2 locations)
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (8:00 AM TO 4:00 PM) 
MIRA COSTA HIGH SCHOOL - OFFICE LOBBY
1401 Artesia Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
_________________

5/26 to 5/29 (9:00am to 7:00pm)
Jocelyn Community Center - Lobby
1601 Valley Drive
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266


EL SEGUNDO and WILMINGTON
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM) 
CONGRESSWOMAN JANE HARMAN'S OFFICE (2 locations)
2321 E. Rosecrans Ave.- #3270 544 N. Avalon Blvd. - #307
El Segundo, CA 90245 Wilmington, CA 90744 


TORRANCE
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (12:00 PM TO 6:00 PM) 
DEMOCRATIC ACTION CENTER
1673 Cravens Avenue (corner of Cravens & Carson)
Torrance, CA 90501 


HOLLYWOOD
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM)
LA COUNCIL PRESIDENT ERIC GARCETTI'S OFFICE
5500 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028 


WEST LOS ANGELES 
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM) 
LA COUNCIL BILL ROSENDAHL'S OFFICE (2 locations)
1645 Corinth Avenue, Ste. 201 7166 W. Manchester Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025 Westchester, CA 90045


SAN PEDRO
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM) 
LA COUNCILMEMBER JANICE HAHN'S OFFICE
638 S. Beacon Street, Ste. 552
San Pedro, CA 90731


LOS ANGELES 
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 6:00 PM) 
LA COUNCILMEMBER HERB WESSON'S OFFICE 
1819 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006


SANTA MONICA
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (9:00 AM TO 5:00 PM) 
STATE SEN. FRAN PAVLEY'S OFFICE
2716 Ocean Park Blvd. #3088
Santa Monica, CA 90405


VENICE
5/26/09 to 5/29/09 (10:00 AM to 5:00PM)
URBAN ESCAPE HAIR
1505 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memo To CA-Dem "Leadership": Lead, Follow, Or Get The F@ck Out Of The Way


From D-Day:

Virtually the entire political leadership in Sacramento took without questioning the view that the overwhelming loss of the special election is somehow a mandate for "living within our means" and deep, drastic cuts to the budget. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times (in multiple venues) and most other publications provided uncritical coverage of the Governor and even leading Democrats, parroting this theory that "the voters spoke" and the message was that only cuts would be allowable from this point forward.

Beware of any sentence that starts with the words "What the voters told us was..." Far too often in our politics, dishonest lawmakers decide that voters mandate their particular ideologies and preferred policy decisions regardless of the facts. Perhaps the only real message delivered from the voters to lawmakers was that the former doesn't particularly like or trust the latter. But there are other possibilities. A new polling memo by David Binder Research details why Prop. 1A in particular failed, and the results do not match the Governor's ramblings:


Contrary to what the Governor is saying after the defeat of his proposals, Prop 1A did not fail because voters delivered a message to “go all out” in cutting government spending. The all-time record low turnout for a statewide special election clearly demonstrates the lack of depth to that argument.......

Voters simply do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters. When given two choices, four out of five voters – even among those who voted ‘Yes’ on 1A – agreed that the special election was just another example of the failure of the Governor and Legislature, who should make the hard decisions necessary to really fix the budget. Only 20% agreed the special election was a sincere effort to fix the state’s budget mess.


The polling memo also shows broad support for tax increases in a variety of areas, including wiping out this massive corporate tax cut:

  • 75% support increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages (62% support among ‘No’ voters)
  • 74% support increasing taxes on tobacco (62% support among ‘No’ voters)
  • 73% support imposing an oil extraction tax on oil companies just like every other oil producing state (60% support among ‘No’ voters)
  • 63% support closing the loophole that allows corporations to avoid reassessment of the value of new property they purchase (58% support among ‘No’ voters)
  • 63% support increasing the top bracket of the state income tax from nine point three percent to 10 percent for families with taxable income over $272,000 a year and to eleven percent for families with taxable incomes over $544,000 a year (51% support among ‘No’ voters)
  • 59% support prohibiting corporations from using tax credits to offset more than fifty percent of the taxes they owe (55% support among ‘No’ voters)


In addition, voters oppose the kind of spending cuts outlined by the Governor.

Now, I'm sure I'll hear "eat it, you pipe dream librul hippie" because of the structural issues that prohibit these kind of tax solutions. But the reason that the legislature has such desperately low esteem right now is that they fail to publicly even advocate for the solutions Californians plainly want, or the breakage of the structural barriers that would provide it. This failure caused the May 19 debacle and will cause further problems for the Democrats in the state if they are not careful. A political party seen as devoid of principle will not be a successful political party forever. What Californians desire, essentially, is leadership. 

And they will punish those who refuse to give it to them.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Schwarzenegger's Propositions Go Down In Flames. Now What?


In 2005, California voters overwhelmingly rejected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to impose caps and limits on health care, schools, higher education, and other vital services that we depend on every day.

Yesterday, it was deja vu all over again. And then some.

Not only did Schwarzenegger and the Republican legislature get their heads handed to them over the spending cap, they also lost on four other initiatives that were meant to bribe teacher's unions for their silence, mortgage the State Lottery at usury rates, and raid the funds of popular and effective programs for preschool children and the mentally ill.

Only proposition 1F, which would freeze the wages of Legislators when California is in deficit, passed.

Sacramento, are you listening? And if so, what will you hear?

"These measures will end up being a $25 million Rorschach test," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, referring to the psychological ink-blot analysis. "Everybody will end up seeing in the results what they want to."

The Republican noise machine is trying to spin this election as fast as they can as an anti-tax, anti-government referendum. And undoubtedly, for Republican voters who turned out yesterday, this is largely true. But what about the millions of Democratic and Independent voters who turned out?

If the 2005 special election is any indication, the messages is pretty clear: stop trying to put a cap our state's future and stop trying to cut or raid services we all depend on, especially in a Recession.

But frankly, this election also speaks to a larger problem. For a variety of reasons our state has become ungovernable.

We have a Democratically controlled legislature that's held hostage by only a few rogue Republican's empowered by the fact it takes a 2/3rds majority to both pass a budget and raise any revenue.

Worse, our state relies on Proposition Elections for damn near everything now, and what began as an earnest attempt to give the people a voice has turned into a monster, undermining Representative Democracy. Governing no longer happens in Sacramento, but at the ballot box, subject to whims of public opinion dearly paid for by the deep pockets of special interests.

But there is a way out of this mess. Now is the time to take the passion, commitment and
lessons of the California Obama campaign and focus it on California
like a laser. It will take political will, elbow grease, and the unwavering support of the Democratic Leadership on a State level.


Now What? 9 Progressive Solutions For A Better California



1) Elect a 2/3rd Democratic Majority In 2010
Ultimately, to achieve lasting reform, we need to repeal the 2/3rd rule, but this will take time (see #2). For now, our only option is seek 2/3rd majorities in both houses. A 2/3rd majority, even if it just lasts two years, would give the legislature the breathing room it needs to push through structural budget reforms to make our state governable again. We only need to gain 2 seats in the Senate and 4 in the Assembly.

2) Elect A Democratic Governor in 2010
Much of the current budget mess can be laid at the feet of our Republican governor, who vetoed a Democratic budget proposal earlier this year that would have balanced the budget without the need for a special election or such Draconian cuts. We need a governor that will work with the legislature and the people, not another rich and clueless political neophyte who will side with Republican obstructionists to block real reform.

3) Repeal the 2/3rd Rule To Pass A Budget AND Raise Revenue
The 2/3rds Budget and Revenue Rule is the single greatest impediment to a normal budget process in our state. Either through the legislative process or the ballot box, we need to repeal the rules that enable a small minority in the Legislature to hold the entire state hostage. But we must pass both. Because reforming the budget vote requirement without reforming the revenue vote requirement is no reform at all. We'll still be balancing
the budget by borrowing and with cuts, which is why we're in this mess in the first place.

4) Reform Term Limits
Currently legislators can only serve up to 6 years in the Assembly and 8 years in the State Senate. This system creates a semi-amateur pack of legislators who are continually looking for their next job, making them beholden to special interests. Even a modest extension of the current limits would go a long way towards reestablishing independence and professionalism in our legislature.

5) Turn Red Districts Blue With Voter Registration Efforts
During the general election last year, the Obama campaign in California - a solid Blue state - sent thousands of volunteers to neighboring Red and Purple states to register voters. The California Democratic Party needs to follow that model on a County level and organize voter registration drives in vulnerable Red Counties all over the state.

6) Reform The Initiative Process
Since 1911, Californians have made their voice heard through the initiative process, most famously in 1978 when Californians sparked a nationwide "tax revolt" by passing Proposition 13, which drastically limited property taxes and placed a permanent straitjacket on state revenues. Since then, voters have been inundated with hundreds of (often misleading and complicated) propositions to limit legislators' terms in office, mandate prison terms for criminals, to withdraw benefits from undocumented immigrants, to spend money on trains or sewers, to let Indian tribes run casinos or to take marriage rights away from same-sex partners.

It's a system run amok, and it's long overdue for reform. We have to hold ourselves and our leadership responsible and craft new legislation that would protect the people's voice while enacting safeguards that would prevent that voice from becoming an easily manipulated mob.

7) Sever Commercial Property Taxes From Prop.13 Protection
Since Proposition 13 passed in 1978, residential and commercial property have been taxed at the same rate, 1% of the purchase price with a maximum 2% increase a year. Severing commercial property taxes from Prop. 13 with carefully thought-out legislation would put an end to a sweetheart deal for big business and could raise up to $5 billion a year without harming vulnerable home owners and small business owners.

8) Enact an Oil Severance Tax
California, the third-largest oil producing state in the country, is the only state where oil is extracted without a tax. Yet, the Republican minority in the Legislature rejected a proposal put on the table by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico that could have raised $1 billion a year. Instead, they're pushing for more oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara, which at most, would bring in only a 10th of the revenue under the current system.

9) Hold A Constitutional Convention
Frankly, this solution is the both the most difficult and the riskiest, and probably shouldn't be seriously considered without first accomplishing the first 6 goals on this list. California's current constitution rivals India's and Alabama's for being the longest and most convoluted in the world. It's been amended or revised more than 500 times and become a incoherent chaotic mess. There are several groups which are proposing a Constitutional Convention to fix this mess.





Friday, May 15, 2009

Schwarzenegger Plays The Fear Card, "Vote For My Props Or The Puppy Gets It!"

On Thursday, Arnold Schwarzenegger used a taxpayer-funded press conference to scare the bejesus out of the general public.

Smelling failure at the polls, Schwarzenegger threatened recalcitrant voters with a scheme to fill a projected $21 billion dollar budget gap by immediately laying off 5,000 state workers, releasing 20,000 "low risk" offenders from prison, selling off some of the state's landmark buildings, and  (my personal favorite) expanding oil drilling off the the coast of Santa Barbara for the first time in 40 years.



Oil drilling. In a state that doesn't charge a dime for the oil taken out of our state now. (Compare that to Texas, which took in over $2.7 Billion in 2007.)


Oil drilling. An idea so asinine, that rival candidates for the CD36 Democratic primary both went on the record to Venice For Change, without hesitation, in opposition.

Jane Harman, "I have always opposed drilling off the California coast and in the ANWR. The Governor's proposal is pedaling backwards and threatens a sensitive marine ecosystem. The best way forward is to focus on a green economy - building green jobs, pursuing energy independence and efficiency. California is good at this. That's what the Governor should be promoting."

Marcy Winograd, "I remember the nightmare of 1969, when an oil blow-out off the Santa Barbara coast spilled 100,000 barrels of crude into the channel, clogging the blowholes of dolphins, causing them to hemorrhage, soaking diving birds in tar, poisoning other sea life and driving tourists away from black gooey beaches that left barefoot visitors aghast. The only up side to the spill was the birth of Earth Day and the momentum it gave to the environmental movement, which will -- undoubtedly -- roar a mighty roar should the Governor go anywhere near our coastline with a drill bit."

Oil drilling. 

Yes, I know there's more to this craptacular budget mess than just that, but I can think of no symbol that more perfectly encapsulates the insanity of our Governor and his Republican posse in the Sacramento legislature at this moment in time. If allowed to get their way, our state will spiral downward into a hole so deep it could take a generation to dig our way out.

With closed libraries, crappy schools, unaffordable college, and mass unemployment, few business in their right mind would want to relocate here. As other states plan for the 21st century by moving toward green transportation and new investments in education, California is locking itself into a late 20th century model that has already failed.


Vote no on May 19th. Vote no on everything.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WhiteHouse.gov Sends First Email Blast - About Healthcare


The White House sent out its first email blast to the mailing list it has compiled through WhiteHouse.gov. The email updates readers on how the health care debate is shaping up in Washington. 




Good afternoon,

You are receiving this email because you signed up at WhiteHouse.gov. My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform.

The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.

We also have an unprecedented commitment from health care industry leaders, many of whom opposed health reform in the past. Monday, I met with some of these health care stakeholders, and they pledged to do their part to reduce the health care spending growth rate, saving more than two trillion dollars over the next ten years -- around $2,500 for each American family. Then on Tuesday, leaders from some of America's top companies came to the White House to showcase innovative ways to reduce health care costs by improving the health of their workers.

Now the House and Senate are beginning a critical debate that will determine the health of our nation's economy and its families. This process should be transparent and inclusive and its product must drive down costs, assure quality and affordable health care for everyone, and guarantee all of us a choice of doctors and plans.

Reforming health care should also involve you. Think of other people who may want to stay up to date on health care reform and other national issues and tell them to join us here:


Health care reform can't come soon enough. We spend more on health care than any country, but families continue to struggle with skyrocketing premiums and nearly 46 million are without insurance entirely. It is a priority for the American people and a pillar of the new foundation we are seeking to build for our economy.

We'll continue to keep you posted about this and other important issues.

Thank you,
Barack Obama

P.S. If you'd like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit http://www.HealthReform.gov.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

BREAKING: Jane Harman To Face Primary Challenge In 2010


Marcy Winograd, who unsuccessfully challenged Harman in the 2006 Democratic primary for CD36, has announced her intention to once again take on the incumbent.


Dear Friends & Supporters:

It's official. I have declared my intention to challenge the Queen of Wiretaps, Jane Harman, once again -- this time in 2010 (or sooner, should she follow Specter's lead and switch parties!). Please note I promise I will not accept any $$ or favors from AIPAC or Alberto Gonzales.

Thank you for your support.

In peace, Marcy Winograd



Winograd had previously shown no interest in a rematch, but news reports of a wire tapping scandal involving Harman opened the door to what promises the first of several challenges.

Interestingly enough, Winograd doesn't actually reside in the district she hopes to take from Harman. As of 2008, Winograd listed a Pacific Palisades address (Henry Waxman's district) when making contributions to various political causes. In 2006, Winograd took an apartment in Marina del Rey before officially filing in the primary race. No word on wether she kept the apartment or if she'll take a new address for this election.

There are no district residency requirements for Congressional candidates beyond being a resident of California at the time of the election.

If Harman does not indicate she'll step down before the primary, it's unlikely other viable candidates who actually live in CD36 and are well know to their constituents, such as Ted Lieu or Janice Hahn, will challenge her.


THE HARMAN WIRETAP STORY - A TIME LINE




Talking Points Memo, which has been following this story closely since it broke, has done a terrific summary on the case:





  • Harman was picked up on a 2005 government wiretap, telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would urge the Bush White House to go easy in the AIPAC spying case, in exchange for AIPAC's help lobbying Nancy Pelosi to give Harman the job of House intelligence committee chair. Before signing off, she's alleged to have said: "This conversation doesn't exist."

  • Haim Saban, a major Democratic fundraiser and AIPAC supporter, later called Pelosi and threatened to withhold contributions if Harman wasn't given the intel chair post.

  • Porter Goss, at the time the director of central intelligence, read the transcript of Harman's conversation, and signed off on the Justice Department's application for a FISA warrant to wiretap Harman herself.

  • But Alberto Gonzales, at the time the attorney general, quashed an investigation into Harman, because he needed her to defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, and didn't want her credibility damaged. (Harman did indeed go on to defend the program, after the New York Times had revealed its existence.) John Negroponte, then the intelligence czar, also stepped in to get the investigation called off.

  • Both Pelosi and then House Speaker Dennis Hastert learned about Harman's wiretapped conversation. Pelosi has said she did not notify Harman.

  • Ultimately, Harman didn't get the intel chair job, which went to Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and Saban didn't withhold contributions to Democrats.

  • Since CQ's story came out, Harman has claimed not to remember the conversation in question, but has given vague denials that she would have offered a quid pro quo of the kind described by CQ's sources. She has also denied intervening in the AIPAC case, and no information has emerged suggesting she did. In addition, Harman has called on the Justice Department to release all information connected to any investigation into her, including transcripts of wiretapped calls.

  • Harman has hired Lanny Davis -- a former Clinton White House counsel who's close to AIPAC -- as a "media advisor".

  • Reyes has announced that the committee will investigate the circumstances under which Harman's conversation was wiretapped.

  • The AIPAC case that Harman agreed to try to intervene in -- in which two former AIPAC lobbyists were charged with espionage, after receiving classified information from a Pentagon source -- was dropped last week.

So, what does it all mean? That's the harder question.

Among reporters and observers, two parallel ways of approaching the story -- what we might call the "face-value" track, and the "meta" track -- have quickly emerged.

The face-value track is concerned -- as the sources for CQ's original report appear to have intended -- with Harman's potential culpability.

As a legal issue, it's a crime for a public official to pledge to use his or her position to exert influence in exchange for anything of value, but it's far from clear that a credible case could have been built against Harman. Still, as an ethical matter, for a member of Congress to tell a possible foreign agent that she's willing to intervene in an ongoing DOJ case, and, in the same conversation, to talk about how her interlocutor could help her advance her own political ambitions, doesn't look great, to put it mildly......

But the meta track -- which focuses on the identity and motive of the sources for CQ's original report -- may be more consequential.



Here's the link if you want to read more (which is pretty damn interesting). 

Or you could just watch this:


The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Your Government Not at Work - Jane Harman Scandal
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