Santa Barbara welcomes the Governor

I have serious doubts regarding the efficacy of protests as a choice of tactic in the current political moment, but looking at these pics from Santa Barbara today…



It just seems right, somehow. When you think about the incredibly small number of people driving the agenda that the Governor is pushing, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that our democracy has been overrun by an oligarchy of corporate interests. Maybe those pictures are what democracy looks like as it’s being pulled back from the brink. As long as protests aren’t all we do (and it certainly isn’t in Santa Barbara, those people are organizing like crazy), we’ll be OK.
Via Erik Love’s The Most Important Blog…Ever, this post over at dailykos and over at the Courage Campaign.

We love Maria!

The Chron is running this above the fold this morning, Maria to keep mum on Oprah. She’s going on the show to talk about – I am not making this up – “America’s Invisible Poor”:

With the special election less than a month away, Shriver is facing scrutiny from critics who say the initiatives pushed by her husband in the bitterly partisan election — particularly one aimed at curbing the power of labor unions — are abhorrent to the ideals of the Democratic Party her family has supported for generations.

I caught part of the Sean Hannity interview with the Governor the other night. Between that fawning and worshipful yet still smug look that Hannity gets and the Governor’s fundamental mendacity, I almost threw the television out the window. The Governor went on at length at one point about how excited he is about infrastructure, about all he wants to do for schools and how many roads he wants to build. (he never seems to mention transit)
The past five years of politics in the United State have been a tour through the entire taxonomy of dishonesty. He makes it sound like he’s all for schools and roads, but look at the reality: his first priority after his coronation was a tax cut that mostly helped the wealthy, and now he’s pushing this spending limit crap on the ballot. It just doesn’t make any sense, none at all. Sure, we all want infrastructure. Infrastructure is great! But somebody has to pay for it, and that’s what makes actual leadership – not this namby-pamby whining about taxes crap that Schwarzenegger and Bush are constantly, relentlessly peddling – so difficult. Funny that these kinds of big lies, the really gargantuan ones, somehow always escape the attention of the corporate media.
So Maria is going on Oprah to talk about poor people, while her husband is on the other channel campaigning like crazy trying to make more of them. What a country!

Money, money, money

Today we get the exciting news that this special election, which a vast majority of Californians do not want, is shaping up to be most expensive ballot fight in California history.
Employee unions may get most of the attention, with headlines like “Unions Spending Lavishly,” as in this L.A. Times piece. But let us not forget that the giant pharmeceutical companies have already raked in $88 million to push one bogus measure, versus the unions which are fending off a broad and direct attack on their very livelihoods, not to mention the public interest they are fighting to protect.
Corporations are still the big spenders nationally, outdoing unions by a factor of 24-1. It’s a testament to the strength of the public interest in California that labor can outpace the King of Fundraising himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A little humor on Props 78 and 79

The folks over at Alliance for a Better California have a funny flash piece on the two dueling prescription drug measures, Props 78 and 79.
I have been waiting for someone to poke fun at the drug companies for their silly, and obviously expensive, given how often one sees them in the course of a television-watching evening, advertisements!
Prop 79 is the real prescription drug reform initiative. Don’t be fooled by the cheap imitations! Spread the word by forwarding this link to the flash piece so others can be educated!

Even McCain can’t deal with Schwarzenegger’s photo ops

Reuters has a great nugget about the McCain visit today. Apparently in a news briefing after the staged “town hall” – the only type of event Schwarzenegger has thrown thus far in the election – McCain mentioned that he hates those sorts of things. You know, the thing he just happily participated in. So very McCain.

“The benefit of an open town hall meeting is one that you get to hear a lot of different views, and two it has credibility,” said McCain.
At the Oakland event, the crowd appeared as enthusiastic as an audience at a game show, frequently nodding their head in agreement, applauding at all the right spots, and chanting “four more years” as Schwarzenegger arrived.
“Thank you, how huge of you to be stepping out,” one woman told Schwarzenegger. “You have other things to do.”
Such remarks prompted McCain to quip, “The governor is going to take you wherever he goes.”

So. Schwarzenegger’s town hall meetings involve neither a town, nor a hall: discuss.

Off center

This week, Kevin Drum is running a series of posts from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of the new book Off Center. This seems like an interesting angle to be coming at it from and a powerful central thesis…

Our own emphasis lies on the organizational and social foundations of political power, rather than on the character of personalities or particular rhetorical moves. In particular, we think a central source of GOP success lies in the unprecedented (within the contours of modern American politics) capacity of conservative elites to coordinate their activities and operate in a unified fashion.

If this bears out, it’s excellent news, because that kind of top-down, centralized coordination is vulnerable to being overrun by a loosely coupled, distributed system like the left is building now. The right is thinking mainframes and the left is thinking PCs. It’s going to take some time for the processes that are in motion now to play out – a few election cycles, at least – but it is potentially a good sign for the long term. Anyway, it should be an interesting discussion.

If Katrina and the Iraq war support weren’t enough of a reminder that both structural and even personal racism is still a big problem in this country, Bill Bennet’s horrifying remarks, his continuing refusal to apologize and the cheers for him at the Bakersfield Business Conference should do it.
In other news, pro-suburban sprawl and anti-creative class critic Joel Kotkin has a deeply misleading column on Katrina. I have one factual problem with his argument – growth numbers for Houston vs. New Orleans go beyond meaningless and into deeply misleading without indexing them to population. Houston is one of the sprawl capitals of the US, which is a notoriously easy way to generate plenty of short-term growth, even while locking dependence on cars and fossil fuels into the built environment. And who knows how much of their growth was due to offering low-road tax cuts to corporate evildoers like Enron. That is not a model that New Orleans or any other city in the US should be trying to emulate.
Mr. Kotkin refuses to get that cities offer cultural amenities not just to generate cool for the sake of cool, but to generate revenue they need for other stuff. He’s right that tourist economies are brutal to lower paid workers, but the solution to that isn’t to give up on tourism, it’s to make those jobs pay what they’re worth! The downsides have to be mitigated by the upsides for urban revival to continue, and this includes getting the fundamentals like transit, housing costs and disaster planning right as well as making cities great places to live. That is the essence of the challenge that the great American citeis are facing: they need to deliver both on the fundamentals and on the amenities. The complete absence of national leadership (fueled by the soothing reassurances of apologists like Mr. Kotkin) on urban issues only makes things more difficult. Mr. Kotkin always manages to spin it so that it sounds like cities are engaged in some kind of weird, high stakes popularity contest, but that just isn’t true.

League of Cities to endorse 76?

Well this is disturbing. It’s widely reported this morning (see rtumble) that the Governor is trying to get the CA League of Cities on board with Proposition 76, the school budget limits and imperial Governorship initiative, even though it would obviously be completely insane for them to do so. He’s trying to play off the same fears that drove support for last year’s Proposition 1A, namely that the state will raid local budgets at will when times are bad.
For better or for worse, Prop 1A passed, so the Governor isn’t exactly being straight with the league here. Beyond that, the main reason the cities would be insane to support this is that it’s going to lock in austerity budgets (like what we’re experiencing now), for the entire state, forever. (or at least until we overturn it, like Colorado is having to do with TABOR, a similar bill passed by Republican extremists in their state ten years ago).
It’s complicated, but think for a second about how national, state and local budgets are all chained together. Money is constantly going back and forth between all of them. So with the national fiscal picture a complete shambles due to President Bush’s “bash,break and borrow” strategy, it has cascading effects all the way down to individual cities. Now the Governor wants to lock that policy in place in this state, and he’s trying to get the league of cities to vote against their best interests by scaring them and playing to their parochial interests. It should be interesting to see how this gambit of his turns out.
Addendum: Jen’s got an even better post on this over at PowerPac today. This was a case of unpremeditated coordination; sometimes one look at rough & tumble is all either of us needs!

USC proposition info

USC’s California Policy Institute has some great background material on the propositions up. If you’re looking for good summaries of all the gory details, click on the .pdfs linked off each summary page. Also, TomPaine.com is running Al Gore’s take on broadcast politics. He expresses a little healthy skepticism about the potential for network based politics, which is the driving force behind his foray in TV.