Christian capitalist tools

This weekend, the city I’ve chosen as home played host to 25,000 innocent evangelical youth and their horribly misguided leadership. The culture war has a way of bringing out the worst in people, even when there is potentially some common ground: Assemblymember Mark Leno suggested they should “get out of San Francisco.”
That might not be the most delicate way of putting it, but it is understandable. I’m sure that somewhere the conservatives are trotting out the predictable line here: oh look, the left isn’t so “tolerant” after all, look at the counterprotests.
Yes, progressives are intolerant of hatred. No apologies there. And we’re mighty damn intolerant of leaders who employ fascist sounding language to rope kids into being pawns for their political games. They are literally calling advertisers “virtue terrorists,” a better sound bite could hardly have been pulled from The Onion.
Maybe the most unfortunate aspect of all this is that, if these leaders were honest with themselves about the processes really happening in society, there might easily be some common ground here. This is from Henry Luce, the organizer of the event, with emphasis added:

The villains, Luce said, range from the promiscuity and “sexualization” of young people on MTV and the popular online meeting hub to a corporate culture that spends millions trying to woo the under-21 crowd.

Incidentally, it’s fascinating that they’re blaming a social networking website for anything; apparently that’s the scapegoat du jour, and pairs nicely nicely with long-time target MTV. Mr Luce at least mentions what’s obviously been the largest force in rearranging teenager’s mental furniture over the past few decades: turbo charged, unregulated, free market fundamentalist capitalism.
But is that the process he’s really quesitoning? Nope – much easier to blame and then pick on gay people, I suppose, and go stand on the symbolic steps of our city hall where they made their last halting step towards true equal rights under the law. Why didn’t they go and protest at the Bank of America building, or some other icon of the almighty market? Mad props to SF Chron write Joe Garofoli for wrapping up the story with this little bit of accidental commentary on these people’s uncritical relationship with big money:

“We’re going to be back here in a year, to see what kind of progress we’ve made,” he said. “And we’re going to be at AT&T Park. Or whatever it is called then.”

By following the same tired old culture war script, Mr Luce is leading thousands of kids towards a compliant and unquestioning relationship with market fundamentalism, encouraging them to blame a minority group that has nothing to do with the issues that most affect the problems they ostensibly want to solve, clouding their minds with proto-fascist language, and turning them into tools of the very forces that need questioning. They’re welcome to come to my city but they sure better be ready to answer for that.
Addenda: Upon further reflection this post seems like it could be interpreted as being a little anti-pop culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of an inclusive, diverse and participatory popular culture, in fact I think it’s pretty close to being a central part of what’s good about progressivism. When capitalism supports that, which for the most part it does very much, that’s a good thing. When it doesn’t, or when it gets out of hand (whether it’s marketing things to kids or the recent battles over DRM), that’s when progressives draw the line. Democracy defines the rules of the marketplace.
Also, some good news: the conservative Christians weren’t the only folks getting together this weekend. Check out these wonderful pictures of the movingly large pro-immigrant rallies from this weekend.

The emerging progressive landscape

There have been some notable recent organizational additions to the parts of the blogosphere’s California neighborhood. This is exciting stuff for a lot of reasons, but two are that it’s finally starting to feel like a movement, and that these sites are of outrageously high quality. Here’s a quick wrap up of three of them:

  • Caliitics is a community weblog site built using the same website software (called scoop) as dailykos. Getting this software up and keeping it running is a nontrivial technical task, and they just got a seriously hot redesign.
  • PLAN For decades, the right has used a shadowy corporate funded organization called ALEC to move a conservative, market fundamentalist agenda at a statewide level. ALEC is one of those quietly poweful organizations with enormous influence that has run ciricles around progressives by getting corporations to write “model” legislation and then moving it through conservative state assemblymembers and senators. PLAN, the Progressive Legislative Action Network, is our answer to that. They have a terrific site and a great blog for keeping up with what’s going on at the statewide level across the country.
  • California Progess Report A news site for progressives, this is our side’s an answer to the conservative, CA focused flashreport. Outstanding design (much nicer than flashreport’s overly busy site, that seems to rudely open a new window with every click) and site editor Frank Russo has a terrific editorial voice. He’s a clear writer and is coming at his practice from a “what are we going to do about this?” approach, as he ended a recent story.

These are all in addition to the two statewide multi-issue progressive groups, us here at Speak Out California and the team at Courage Campaign, and the hundreds of smaller individual and small group sites on the various blogrolls. All of the sudden it seems like there is a whole lot of democracy going on.
The way we’re going to win is by first matching the infrastructure the conservatives have already built or obtained, and then using our natural strengths to out-innovate them. Weblogs with comments are a perfect example of this; there was a recent story about how one of the conservative websites had to take down their comments section because someone called social security private accounts, well, exactly that, rather than the Karl Rove approved “personal accounts” or whatever flimflam language they’re supposed to use.
Progressives don’t have that problem. Our ideas are better and have been tested in reality, so we don’t have the need for the relentless spinning and tightly bolting down the language control. Even on the internet, or maybe especially on the internet, the truth just sounds different.
Even so, we all have a lot of work to do in building out this concept of progressive identity. Think about how well formed the idea of being a conservative is in the minds of voters – what that means to people, what the expect a politician to say and do if they’re conservative. We’re still only having that debate in a few pockets and we have a long way to go in broadly establishing progressive identity. These recent additions to the neighborhood will surely help. Mountains of thanks to all of you who are participating in these excellent projects. You are about to rock, and we salute you!

State elections officials sued over voting machines

Good for them. From the Sac Bee:

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, requests that a judge quickly rescind certifications of the Diebold touchscreen and optical scan voting systems that were conditionally granted a month ago by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.
If a court agrees, the systems would be decertified for use in November’s elections. They could still be used in June balloting, however.

I like this quote from Voter Action:

“Quite simply, we can’t have trustworthy elections with Diebold’s touchscreen voting machines,” said Lowell Finley, a co-director of Voter Action, a nonprofit advocacy organization that is assisting with the lawsuit. “Without trustworthy elections, we don’t have a democracy.”

It’s kind of amazing how simple it is! I can’t wait until we get a new Secretary of State.

This just about says it all…

“Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn’t place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
Jamie Raskin, testifying Wednesday, March 1, 2006 before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in response to a question from Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs about whether marriage discrimination against gay people is required by “God’s Law.”

The Terminator Fails Again

OK, so we Californians love our plastic movie stars, complete with manicures, pedicures and bikini waxes, but what we really love is a beautiful sunset unencumbered by smog and foul-smelling air; levees that won’t break in severe weather; schools that don’t leak above on our children’s heads while they sit at their desks; transportation networks that aren’t so clogged that you can walk and get to your destination faster by foot than by car and water systems that allow humankind to coexist with nature’s creatures.
After the debacle of his $50 million special election, the Gov. decided to float an enormous bond measure but had used up all his political capital and goodwill so nothing was left to close the deal and no miracle occurred to restore his failed leadership. Even as the number one Reep, he couldn’t get his own boys to support him. Sad how he had a moment when the people believed this guy could and would make a difference. But buying into the right-wing mentality cost him his credibility so now even the right wing is thumbing its nose at him. Arnold, it’s time to go.

The eye of the beholder

Kevin Drum says that Sen. Feingold’s vote to censure is just a bit of political theater, and not very good stuff at that…

Conversely, it’s not clear what Feingold hopes to accomplish with his censure motion. Bush’s shortcomings are already getting plenty of attention, so he’s not galvanizing any new media attention.

I vigorously disagree. This is most certainly not about theater: it’s about doing something, anything we can, about a President who is getting away with wholesale shredding of the Constitution with the full faith and backing of the majority party in the Senate and the Congress. It’s not theater, it’s honest resistance to the extent allowed by law, and apparently a quarter of a million someodd MoveOn members (as of this afternoon) and who knows how many folks through agree with the Senator and I. I don’t care if he didn’t line up his ducks in a row before doing it. Sign up to get the Senator’s back, if you haven’t already. I probably wouldn’t have except for Senator Allard’s quote (click the link, I won’t reproduce it here). When did failing civics 101 become some kind of prerequisite for running for higher office as a Republican?

A day late and a bond dollar short

As Assemblymembers and Senators try to rush to put the largest bond measure in state history on the June ballot days after the legal deadline, the question on everyone’s minds should be: where was the Governor on this earlier?
There is no reason why this rush should be happening. The Governor was fine with this proposal being on the November ballot — why wouldn’t he, after all? The infrastructure bond is very popular with voters and it would give him the opportunity to talk about it at every campaign stop if it was on the ballot at the same time as he was up for re-election. So why this last-ditch effort to rush for June?
My guess is it’s more smoke and mirrors — what we’ve come to expect from the Schwarzenegger administration. And with the mainstream press as clueless as it is, it’s not difficult to sell the storyline of the “incompetent Legislature” that can’t get it together to pass this bond. But this, of course, is not the true story.
There are two main things to remember here — things you will not read about in the mainstream media. One, no matter how hard the Democrats work to come up with a plan that would benefit most Californians, the Republicans in the Legislature will always stonewall them. The Republicans in the California Legislature are some of the most right-wing, Neanderthal, outside-of-the-mainstream people in politics. They have seats only because seats have been rigged for them — not because these kinds of Republicans could ever win in a competitive district in California, the most progressive state in the nation.
Two, stop for a second to think about the level of negotiation and compromise that must go into a $50 BILLION bond for massive infrastructure projects all across the state (in every Legislator’s district). That’s a lot of money. Those are a lot of projects. Furthermore, it has to pass by a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate, something that rarely happens anytime ever (see above comment about Republicans), as well as the Governor’s office, when the Governor is banking his re-election on this plan.
The chances of something like this being hashed out in a week are slim, and they should be. In fact, if they do manage to squeeze something out in the middle of the night when everyone is at wits-end, it will be the people of California who lose. It’s not possible for a bond package being executed in this rushed and thrown together way to be the best bond package for the people of this state. You can thank Gov. Schwarzenegger for another example of failed leadership amid opportunity.

Ms. President

A new Field Poll shows that 69% of Californians support a woman in the Oval Office, although they are still divided as to whether Hillary Rodham Clinton is the right woman to blaze the trail. The margin of people who think the U.S. is ready for a woman to lead the free world is higher here than nationally — a February CBS poll found only 55% of Americans think so.
Interestingly, though, that same poll found that 92% of American adults said they would vote for a woman candidate for president from their party if she were qualified. That number has increased steadily since 1955, when 52% of Americans said they would support a woman president.
I had the opportunity last night to attend an event put on by Emily’s List, where I saw four women candidates who are running for offices ranging from Governor to U.S. Senate from all across the country. All of these women were smart, articulate, engaging, funny, and emphatically progressive. They spoke clearly and eloquently about the most pressing issues facing Americans. They were all very committed, having worked hard to raise the money they need to be competetive in their very hotly contested races. Watching and listening to them, I felt like I saw the future, speaking to me today.
I saw glimpses of a time when a woman candidate for president will be the norm, not a poll question.