Friday, September 30, 2005

"Special" Election

I don't have time for a lengthy discussion on the initiatives right now, but wanted to highlight a few things.

First, who's behind Prop 73? From a California Democratic Party email:
During that hearing Assembly Health Committee Chair Wilma Chan questioned Prop 73's chief supporter Paul Laubacher if he, or any of the other Prop. 73 supporters present, were involved in placing an advertisement in the current issue of San Francisco Faith newspaper which read Prop 73 "is our first opportunity since Roe v. Wade to pass a baby-saving law in California -- a constitutional amendment that the courts cannot overturn!"

Laubacher and two other speakers supporting Prop 73 denied knowing anything about the ad, even though Laubacher later admitted to the panel that his home address was listed on the ad!
(Link unavailable right now). You don't have to dig too far to discover that the man behind the redistricting proposition is one of the same men who was behind the Gray Davis recall. If you can't win by following the rules, then change the rules. (I'll be discussing redistricting again. If you're too impatient, you can browse through these archives.)

Here are a few articles:

Despite Governor’s Feverish Rhetoric, Business Interests Outspend Unions 24-1, Seek Restrictions On Unions

Teachers, Nurses, Firefighters, Police Warn Voters: Beware of Who is Really Behind Prop. 75

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who Cares About DeLay's Indictment, Really?

The bigger problem is the influence of lobbyists anyway. We should be targeting the role of lobbyists generally and going after The K Street Project specifically. Yeah, DeLay has been involved in highly questionable acts, but so are a lot of politicians. We need to go after the cause of the problem, not just a specific instance. I think Grover Norquist epitomizes the problems are country is facing generally: from lobbyists to anti-government philosophy.

Nothing personal against Mr. Norquist, but I think his work is wrecking our government. And that's a much bigger problem than just DeLay. It's time we start giving the American people an alternative to the Norquist (et al) "worldview". Poll after poll after poll indicate that they are in a minority and the silent majority is letting them dictate policy.

POSTSCRIPT: My discussion of the bigger problems is basically an attempt to a.) show that we understand the real problems and b.) give ourselves a chance to propose both general and specific plans. As a recent strategy memo from Democracy Corps notes people are eager to have a new vision for our country:
[V]oters are looking for an alternative vision and direction for the country...They want energy done in a new way; they want government done in a new way. This is a moment when Democrats can get heard on their plans and their direction for the country...They are looking for an alternative vision that calls on our country to set new priorities and invest in our own people.
BTW, the political environment is much different in swing states but from conversations during my excursion, they are getting desparate for a change. It's time Democrats clearly enumerate what that change is.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sadness South of the Border

While I was in high school, I lived less than an hour away from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Who cares? Well, about ten years ago when I was in high school (I know--I'm old), there were reports about the disappearance and death of young women. Sadly, these reports never stopped. The New York Times has a story about the horrendous "police" work that is going on over there:

International observers, human rights workers and federal authorities say it illustrates a disturbing pattern of malfeasance by state law enforcement authorities responsible for investigating Mexico's most gruesome murder mystery: the deaths of more than 350 women in this border area over the last decade, including at least 90 raped and killed in similar ways.
I guess this story hits close to home since I grew up nearby and have feared many times for the safety of friends--Juarez was a destination of many post high school/college students. Hopefully this article helps to bring the issue to a wider audience and gets Mexico serious about finding the perpetrators.

You can find out how you can help at Amnesty USA. Hundreds of women have died in this area and it's about time that it stops!


I should be doing other things but Che was on my mind and this was too funny:

Saturday, September 24, 2005

"I'm a Democrat because people in New Orleans died because they couldn't afford a tank of gas to get out."

The "Bush doesn't like Black people" thing is missing the boat. It's not that he's racist. It's that his policies have put six million more people in poverty in the last five years.

Say What?

When did the Washington Post editorial board start sounding like the Washington Times editorial board?

Actually for the last several years, I've started to ignore most of the editorial board's comments. Not because I don't agree with them--I actually enjoy most of their columnists (sans Krauthammer) even though I rarely agree with them--but because their arguments are poorly constructed and they have proven to be quite wrong time and time again. As the New York Times reports, even some Republicans might not even vote for someone like Roberts if nominated to fill O'Connor's seat. Looks like the Post editorial board is wrong again.

The Case For Morality Police

Since I'm posting on unpopular topics, why not inflame the left. A couple days ago I had a rather flippant post on Gonzales' new front of the war on terror. But are there times when "morality police" are not such a bad thing?

I do think that consensual adults should be free from government snooping--whether it's a person's sexual preferences or even what books they read. So long as this behavior doesn't interfere with anyone else I don't think it is any of my business or the governments.

However, I don't think it is so unreasonable for parents to want to limit their children's access to pornography or even violence. And since I believe that some liberties can be constrained to benefit the overall good, I see no problems with having some set of rules governing materials that many--if not most--parent want out of reach of their children.

This does not mean that adults should be denied access, merely that people on the left should be willing to make it more difficult for children to access material that parents find offensive. After all, I don't believe it is unreasonable to have a little extra requirements for gun ownership if it makes it harder for terrorists and criminals to get access to weapons. If we have to make it a little harder for gun owners to get guns, why can't we make it a little harder for people to get thier porn (or violent movies, etc.)? My liberalism in this arena binds me to accept both consequences.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Increasing Fuel Efficiency

In keeping with the GOPs current policy of announcing unpopular legislation late on Fridays, I've held off on posting something that will likely be unpopular until Friday evening.

The Christian Science Monitor reminds us of something important:

One energy analyst, John Dowd of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, told a Senate panel this month that "if, as a country, we were to obey speed limits for the next two months, we would probably conserve more fuel than will be lost by the refinery outages. Reducing speeds from 70 m.p.h. to 60 m.p.h., for example, improves fuel efficiency by 15 percent. If Americans want to know what they can do to limit gasoline price inflation, the answer is simple: slow down."
Reducing speed limits is definitely one way to conserve energy and curb the demand.

For all the ridicle he received, Jimmy Carter had the right idea when he took his plea to the American people directly:

And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.
What do you say Mr. President, will you ask the nation to sacrifice a little?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Working Society

FDR had the New Deal. JFK and LBJ had the Great Society. Now, John Edwards is proposing a "Working Society".

To be true to our values, what our country needs to build is a working society; an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it. In this working society, nobody who works full-time should have to raise their children in poverty or in fear that one more healthcare emergency or one more layoff is going to put them right in the ditch. In the working society, everyone who works full-time will at least something to show for it: a home of their own, an account where their savings and paychecks can grow. In the working society, everyone willing to work will actually have a chance to get ahead. Anybody who wants to go to college and is willing to work for it will be able to go. In the working society, people who work have the right to live in communities where the streets are safe, the schools are good, and jobs can be reached.

In the working society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain, to work, to hold off having kids until they’re ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.
To me, a Working Society is much more appealing than the Me Only society. And Edwards has been "preaching" this since his presidential campaign--over a year before Katrina! I have to admit, he's looking very attractive as a candidate I could support in '08.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The War On Terror

This was just too much not to post:

The new [FBI] squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."
Me thinks Alberto Gonzales really wants to be on the Supreme Court.

The poll question that really matters...

A lot has been made recently of the hordes of polls that have come out showing Bush's approval rating at its lowest point ever and etc. etc. And while that is certainly encouraging, this is the poll question I find most fascinating (an AP/Ipsos poll, clipped from the National Journal Hotline):

How Should US Pay For Kat. Relief?
Cut spending on Iraq 42%
Delay/cancel tax cuts 29
Add to debt 14
Cut other spending 11

To me, this is really shocking. I imagined the "cut spending" number to be substantially higher. 42% alone is substantially more than the number of registered Democrats in the country, which means even many independents think that we should delay/cancel tax cuts or cut Iraq spending before we cut domestic programs like Medicare or Medicaid (which is what many conservative Republicans are proposing). Despite the never-ending conservative crusade for the nebulous ideal of "smaller government," this seems like a ringing endorsement of Americans' committment to the idea that government can and should help people, even if it means higher taxes or having to spend less on the military. An oversimplification, to be sure, but I do think Democrats can seize on the contrast between the government's woeful failure to deal with the immediate aftermath of Katrina and the great potential government has to make a real difference in the lives of people affected by the disaster as a metaphor for the terrible fallacy of Grover Norquist-style fend-for-yourself conservatism.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Differing Philosophies

And now for shameless self-promotion...

Here's a snippet from yesterday's speech by Kerry:

Rarely has there been a moment more urgent for Americans to step up and define ourselves again. On the line is a fundamental choice. A choice between a view that says “you’re on your own,” “go it alone,” or “every man for himself.” Or a different view - a different philosophy - a different conviction of governance - a belief that says our great American challenge is one of shared endeavor and shared sacrifice.

...But for those who still believe in the great tradition of Americans doing great things together, it’s time we started acting like it. We can never compete with the go-it- alone crowd in appeals to selfishness. We can’t afford to be pale imitations of the other side in playing the ‘what’s in it for me’ game. Instead, it’s time we put our appeals where our hearts are - asking the American people to make our country as strong, prosperous, and big-hearted as we know we can be - every day. It’s time we framed every question - every issue -- not in terms of what’s in it for ‘me,’ but what’s in it for all of us?
Sound familiar? It's a theme I've been pursuing for some time now. Most recently, Saturday:

As we start positioning ourselves for '06 and '08, we need to start thinking about the underlying principles that differentiate us from Republicans. Anti-government and privatization as an end in and of itself vs responsible government is a great place to start.
Really, now, do we want a "me only" society envisioned by Grover Norquist? I know I will have anti-government critics, but I'll reiterate my challenge and place my vision of America against the anti-government "me only" vision.

When people are in trouble, the true heart of our nation comes out. On September 11, people braved dangerous circumstances and poured their money and services to help. In the wake of Katrina and the Tsunami in the Pacific, we did the same. That's what makes this country great. That's why we were once a nation admired around the world. And that's the America I want to see again.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Poor Schmoor

I've already discussed Bush's speech on Katrina recovery, but wanted to highlight a comment he makes on poverty. In his speech he says:
“That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America,” Bush said. “We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.”
I agree on both accounts. Poverty does have historical roots and we do have a duty to confront it. Never mind the fact that more people are under poverty during Bush's tenure.

Of course we know the best way to pay for the recovery is not to raise taxes, but to cut current spending. Of course cutting spending does not meaning shelving the "bridge to nowhere" or other such nonsense, but programs that the poor rely on: medicaid, TANF, etc. We're going to have to make tough choices deciding which programs for the vulnerable we have to cut.

What's worse, is that some politicians (Jeff Sessions) are trying desparately (though with little success) to find people who will be hit hard by the estate tax due to Katrina. So we'll probably have to cut even more programs to pay for this tax cut. There's compassionate conservativism for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

John Roberts: Yes or No

There are three considerations in this debate that I find worthy of contemplation. The first is the obvious intellect that Roberts possesses. (Read David Broder's praises of Roberts here.) On this facet, I'm entirely for supporting Roberts. In fact, based on his comments to the limited questions he answered, Roberts doesn't seem to be that bad--if you believe what he's saying.

I previously mocked Roberts' refusal to answer questions, which I believe is a glaring problem. (E.J. Dionne elaborates on this here.) No one expected Roberts to answer every question, but his sidestepping got a little irksome. I think this aspect belies the bigger problem that Dionne picks up on. We've seen in the past how squelching opposing views and castigating criticism of presidential policy has gotten us into trouble. Time and time again, the administration and GOP congress rush us into making decisions without even the slightest hint of caring whether we have complete information. This could change depending on Roberts' candidness in answering the written questions from Democratic Senators. He could definitely convince me to support his candidacy by being more forthcoming, even if I disagree with some of his answers.

The third thing that I have thought a lot about is his stance on so-called "states rights". The most compelling statement throughout the hearings, for me, was that of John Lewis. The euphemistic interpretation of states rights is both sobering and alarming. The voting rights act will soon be debated. Georgia is trying to make it harder for the poor (read African-American) to vote. As we procede into the 21st century, the last thing I want for this country is to recede back to the 18th century. This is a fundamental principle I believe in that John Roberts has not shown me that he values.

In the wake of Katrina, we are going to have to find a way to handle the thousands of displaced Americans. I want to be part of a nation that looks out for the vulnerable, not a cold and callous individually isolated society. If Roberts gave me even the slightest hint that this was important, I'd be inclined to vote yes despite my misgivings about everything else he appears to espouse.

On the other hand, that Roberts had to come off as a raging liberal during the hearings demonstrates that the extreme right is not as powerful as they claim. Roberts has had to distance himself from extreme right positions. It's only a matter of time before the conservative coalition falls apart.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Joke of the day...

A repoter today asked President Bush how he felt about "Roe versus Wade."

Bush responded, "Look, I don't care how people get out of New Orleans!"

Friday, September 16, 2005

Does No Government Ever Work

I started writing this post last night but got sidetracked. Now variations are all over the various internets. So it goes.

According to President Bush, “The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." While I think Bush's speech was in the right spirit of what needs to be done--let's hope execution lives up to the spirit presented--it shows once again the shortcomings of anti-government policy.

First, anti-government conservatives wanted the U.S. to be isolationists but the 9/11 terrorist attacks showed dramatically that that is a dangerous policy. So the president has been pushing for increasing our role to "promote democracy". After Democrats first proposed legislation calling for a new Department of Homeland Security, the president and his small-government conservative allies instituted the largest restructuring of the federal government in a long time.

Second, to appease the aging baby boomers, Bush and his GOP allies pushed through a massive prescription drug plan--which wasn't the best legislation. This is something that is needed to help millions of people. Though the implementation and specific legislation have much to be desired, it was in the spirit of helping.

Now, we are about to embark on one of the "largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen."

This is not an endorsement of BIG government reactionism, but it clearly demonstrates that government is needed--or at least strongly desired by the vast majority of Americans. Since we now have a troll who despises government, I'll put my vision of responsible government against his/her vision of no government to the American people any day. As poll after poll indicate, people want more government support, not less: in disaster relief, gas price controls, job creation, etc.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I plead the FIZ-IF

I don't have a TV, but I've been able to catch part of the Roberts confirmation live via KPFA. From the couple hours of Democratic questioning I heard, I couldn't help thinking of a sketch I saw on Chappelle's Show with Tron the crack dealer. I'm not saying I hold Roberts to the same level as a crack dealer, but just found Roberts' constant refusals to answer questions to be very reminiscent of the sketch.

The gist of the sketch for those who haven't seen it: Dave asks what it would be like if a CEO (read rich white male) had to go through the same judicial process as Tron the crack dealer (read black crack dealer). Eventually, Tron ends up in front of a Senate hearing and doesn't answer question because he gets to plead the fifth--the FIZ-IF:

Tron : There are! I say there are so many amendments in the constitution of the United States of Americaaaa! I can only choose one! I can only choose ooooooone! I plead the fif! I plead the fif! FIVE! 1,2,3,4, fiiiif! Anything you say! FIIIF! Go ahead and ask me a question!
Senator: How do...
Tron : Fif! I like to show all of you a secret document!
[pulls out a piece of paper saying "FiF"]
Tron : Fiiiiiiiiiiiiif!-Chapplle's Show
It's on the second season DVD--funny stuff.

I think Roberts did generally well except for Biden making him look silly.

Monday, September 12, 2005

His heart aches...

A little treat from the satellite chapter of Stanford Democrats in DC...

At the Senate confirmation hearings today, we watched on C-SPAN as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) started crying as he described how his "heart ached" at the partisan rancor and lack of civility that characterized modern American politics. Moments later, we all spotted this...

In the lower left of this picture that's the side of Tom Coburn's head. And on the desk in front of him is a crossword puzzle.

If Jon Stewart picks this up tonight, we want you all to know that we spotted it first :-).

Grover Norquist Again

I think this picture sums up my sentiments toward Grover Norquist:
Or at least his plan for America.

Lobbyist Gets a Conscience

Not quite a champion of campaign finance reform, but hopefully this way of thinking becomes commonplace:

But his [Fredrick L. Webber's] distress is about more than his personal finances. He said he believes the system itself is "diseased."

"For those of us who have been in Washington a long time, it's almost overwhelming," Webber said. "A lot of my colleagues -- trade association executives -- want to help our friends, but this whole process is wearing us down."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Anti-Government Conservativism

We all know that people have lost confidence in Bush (here and here). Yes, he appointed an incompetent loyalist to head FEMA. Yes, he, along with the rest of his administration, were slow to realize what was happening in New Orleans. All that is everywhere on the internet and in the media and needs no more commenting.

Specific catastrophes call for specific answers. But we all need to be discussing the bigger issue and philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans. The so-called "small government conservatives" want a limited role or no role at all for the federal government. Katrina should make us ask the question: Do we want no government or responsible government?

I'm not one for BIG government reactionism, but I know that government can be effective. We only have to go back one president to find out how a competent FEMA can be successful. Our health care system--a mostly private one--spends more than most countries on administrative costs--read bureaucracy--and we still have about ten million children with no health insurance. Not that we need a BIG government solution, but the anti-government group has clearly failed us on health care. And there's also child care and education.

As we start positioning ourselves for '06 and '08, we need to start thinking about the underlying principles that differentiate us from Republicans. Anti-government and privatization as an end in and of itself vs responsible government is a great place to start.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Get fired up for a big quarter

I couldn't agree more.

The Face(s) of the GOP

Many Democrats try hard not to be too partisan--they love to vote and or support Republican candidates. Or should I say "moderate" Republican candidates like Schwarzenegger and McCain. I can understand this desire--until 2000, I considered myself an independent. Of course, when it comes down to it, a Republican is a Republican. And a modern day Republican is extremely partisan and extremely conservative when it comes to legislation. (How else can you explain the fact that a lot of Republicans think we're headed in the wrong direction yet still support Bush and Co.?)

I previously discussed McCain's conservativism and Schwarzenegger's policies have pretty much exposed him as the true GOP member he is. But his current veto on the gay marriage bill demonstrates quite a clear picture of several facets of the modern day Conservative/Republican:
In a statement, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said the governor opposes the legislation, passed Tuesday night by the California Assembly and last week by the state Senate, because he thinks the matter should be decided by California's courts or its voters.
First, there's the fact that he claims to be a pro-gay Governor and the GOP loves to parade him around because of that. But when he had the chance to prove it, he showed his true colors. (Prop 22 only refered to recognizing out of state marriages, not in state so I can't completely agree with his argument about that. Besides, there's currently a 46-46 split on gay marriage.)

Another aspect that I find interesting is his desire to let it be "decided by the courts." Wouldn't that force the issue to be supported by "activist judges"? I guess he didn't get the memo. Of course, he's probably being told to do this to provide fodder for GOP talking points in the future.

What's even more disturbing is the trend to do whatever you have to do to support your agenda. If judges overturn your legislation, attack the judges. If the legislature doesn't give you what you want, use highly funded and misleading propositions; or use the courts so you can attack them when you don't get what you want. If your policies are failing miserably, attack critics as unpatriotic, anti-god, partisan, or playing the blame game. When your opponents propose good legislation (i.e. a new Department of Homeland Security), attach unacceptable amendments so they can't vote for it.

This is the GOP way and you have to reap the consequences when you vote for a Republican. As Warren Beatty said, "A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who calls themself a Schwarzenegger Republican." Last year I know many Democrats who voted for Republican Steve Poizner because he claimed to be a "moderate". He'll probably run again. Democrats who vote for him should be prepared for the consequences of putting a so-called "moderate" into the Assembly.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Grover Norquist: One Face of Conservativism

Back when the U.S. began it's ill-planned attempt to dismantle Iraq's large stockpiles of WMD, the House Majority Leader stated that "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." I take Tom Delay and his anti-tax conservatives serious when that statement is uttered. To Tom Delay conservatives, then, it's more important to cut taxes than to, say, fully equip troops or provide veterans with well deserved benefits. (Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to debate the funding situation of the troops than a dangerous tax cut?)

We should not forget that the anti-tax coalition is a large block of today's conservatives. Incidentally, they also happen to make up a significant portion of the GOP constituency and fundraisers. Since they (anti-tax gurus) think debating tax cuts are more important than debating how much armor troops should have, it should not be a suprise that the anti-tax crusaders are out to push through another tax cut. Or should I say, "economic stimulus package" or "job creation plan". Is there anything more important in a time of national catastrophe and thousands of dead Americans than cutting taxes?

Thomas Friedman has "kinder" words than I to one of the king-pins of the anti-tax crusade, Grover Norquist:
An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.
I'll have more to say about conservativism, but we should remember that the anti-tax aspect of conservative philosophy will leave us ill prepared to completely support our troops with supplies, to help in times of national tragedy that we now face, to get health insurance to children...the list goes on. This is a fundamental consequence of the anti-tax conservative philosophy rampant in today's GOP. People are free to embrace that philosophy, but they also have to accept it's consequences. (Bill Clinton contradicted the claim that raising taxes yields less national revenue. Even Raegan had to raise taxes after his tax cuts failed to live up to the hype.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

DiFi Endorses Angelides

Pre-post disclaimer: Yes, I do support Angelides and help out the campaign.

Senator Diane Feinstein is the latest to endorse Angelides:
California State Treasurer Phil Angelides today announced that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has endorsed his candidacy and has pledged her full support to help Angelides become California’s next Governor. Angelides also announced that Senator Feinstein will join Senator Barbara Boxer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as Co-Chair of his campaign.

"Phil Angelides has the intelligence, the drive, and the ability to put California back on the right track," said Senator Feinstein. "Whether it is education, public safety, health care or transportation, Phil Angelides is committed to once again making California the leading state in the nation. That is why I am endorsing him for Governor."

"I have known Phil Angelides for more than two decades, and I believe his experience in both the private and public sectors has prepared him to be an excellent Governor," Feinstein said. "He is the right choice for California and I am proud to support Phil Angelides."
She joins a growing list of people who have endorsed the Treasurer for governor, including 24 CA members of Congress (and both Senators). And who can forget Elaine Bennis and Ted Danson?

Friday, September 02, 2005

California at the Forefront

I'm supposed to be away, but couldn't resist posting about the California Senate voting to allow same-sex marriage:
The California Senate voted Thursday to allow gay couples to wed, becoming the first legislative body in the nation to approve same-sex marriage without a court order.

The bill would recast the state's legal definition of marriage as a union between two people rather than one between a man and a woman.
Of course we still have to contend with the Assembly and Schwarzenegger. Ira Ruskin, our Assemblyman, is worth calling or emailing to encourage support. This is an important first step toward more equality for our friends in the LGBT community.