Infighting? Not now!

Local San Francisco politics is just a fat, juicy target; to paraphrase Steve Lopez, this state is a target rich environment for those engaging in political commentary, and SF is no different. I’ve been trying to avoid writing too much on it to stay focused on statewide issues.
But this week’s Tim Redmond column in the Guardian is stupid for so many reasons I just can’t help it. Hopefully there is an instructive lesson on how we either are or are not going to connect the progressive movement with the political system in this country or not in here somewhere.
Mr Redmond suggests that local Green Matt Gonazalez run for Congress, against Rep Nancy Pelosi. Somehow Mr Redmond seems to not get that Representative Pelosi is the Minority Party Leader of the United States Congress, i.e. she is the head of all the Democrats in the entire Congress. Suppose that in some display of collective insanity by the voters of this district, Matt Gonzalez did happen to get past her. How much power would he have? And would we really want to take our chances with whoever would succeed as minority leader in such a case? It certainly wouldn’t be Gonzales, even if he switched to Democratic after getting elected – not ever, not in a million years.
Mr Redmond’s little one sided list of things she’s done wrong, like the (limited) privatization of the Presidio (which has actually turned out pretty well, from a land use perspective), seems pretty trivial compared to the overall picture. I share Mr Redmond’s disagreement with the Congresswoman on Iraq (the one nontrivial issue), but at the same time, she was lied to by the Bush administration with more even more intensity and frequency than we were. I’d like to think I’d have been able to fight back more vigorously against the onslaught of propaganda they were hurling at people, but without walking a mile in her shoes, who really knows.
As to the charges of her venality, it’s a bit of a cheap shot, but I think we’re all all too familiar with what happens when the cheap shots don’t get volleyed. Perhaps Mr Redmond could give the Lord of the Rings trilogy another read or viewing. Power is difficult, and the closer you are to Mt. Doom, the heavier the ring gets. Rep Pelosi has done an admirable job keeping the caucus together in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s not the kind of work that gets her in the paper that often, but she should be respected for it anway, and Mr Redmond should know better.
My advice to Mr Redmond and Mr Gonzalez: take every second of time and every penny you were thinking of investing in fighting a woman who is one of your most powerful allies, and focus it somewhere it is really needed. It isn’t like we’re hurting for actual enemies. This election cycle is going to be another epic battle. For either Mr Redmond or Mr Gonzalez to be even considering infighting now is criminally asinine. Some day the conversation in this country might be between Greens and Democrats, but we’re never going to get there if we don’t stay focused. Now is the time to do everything we can to make Representative Pelosi the Majority leader, not waste our time and scarce resources with ridiculous infighting.

Orwell is alive and well in America

Will the shamelessness and lack of political responsibility ever end?
As President Bush extols the virtues of his meager and anti-environmental efforts to stem the out-of-control and obscene profits of his oil buddies, he continues to spin the language developed by his bosses at the Right-wing think tanks controlling our country’s media and messaging today. Working in concert, they have created a culture of greed and selfishness that knows no limits but refuse to be accountable for their behavior.
It isn’t bad enough that Bush talks about “controlling” the price of gasoline bycalling for drilling in the ANWAR and suspending environmental laws that seek to protect our health and planet, he keeps referring to the increased amoung we’re paying at the pump for the price of gas as TAXES— as though giving billions to the Oil Profiteers to line their pockets is the same as giving it to the government for services and education.
This Orwellian effort to further vilify taxes has got to be stopped immediately. These aren’t taxes, they’re PROFITS, from greedy, shameless and manipulating multi-national corporations who see nothing obscene about paying their CEO’s $144,000 per DAY for their work in polluting the air and water and gouging hard-working Americans (and particularly gouging us here in California with their control of the few refineries we have in our state). Even Bush knows the difference, but why not just try to blur the line anyway? If he can link the two, people will start associating bad corporate behavior with the social necessities that we all expect and deserve.The private sector motivated by profit, is NOT the public sector, motivated by the needs of the people.
When you examine the language Bush insists on using to characterize the price of gas, it really is insidiously clever (no thanks to Bush—he’s just reading his prepared script). After all, noone likes taxes, not even the sound of the word, so if we can reinforce the ugliness of the word by associating ugly profiteering behavior and price-gouging of consumers as a form of tax, then taxes become even more offensive and unacceptable when used in their proper context—the DUES we all pay to live in a civilized world and invest in our future.
It is our job, however, to affirm and reiterate that TAXES and OIL PROFITS are very different creatures, although a nice windfall PROFITS TAX on oil’s greed is a very valid approach which is gaining some foothold in California. The goal, of course, is to create a disincentive for the oilies to gouge consumers for the price of a gallon of gas. So what would happen if we put a pretty substantial windfall profits tax on the oil companies and their refineries (which are jacking up the price here in California making us just about the highest priced gasoline market in the country)?
How about finding a realistic but substantial percent which would be charged to these companies with the resulting funds being put into a public transit account to truly develop and improve public forms of transportation that will take people out of their gas guzzling vehicles and create an affordable, reliable and efficient way of moving people from place=to=place? The account will have to blocked so it can’t be raided for any other purposes.
As more and more people start looking to public transportation as one of the responsible alternatives to offset the unconscionable and unaffordable price of gasoline, we should be doing more to encourage the use of this cleaner, more environmentally friendly and ultimately cost-effective way of travel. After all, it’s good for the planet, good for our health and good for our stated claim of oil independence.
Maybe we can turn this around and use this latest example of a culture that encourages corporate greed and excessive profiteering to improve the quality-of-life for us average Americans who are working hard just to get by and care for our families.

One Step Closer to Restoring Voter Confidence in California’s Voting System!

With a vote of 5-0, Open Source Software for Elections, AB 2097 by Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg passed out of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, on Tuesday April, 18. This crucial piece of legislation will require that all technical details, including computer source code (written by software programmers), of computerized vote tabulating systems be publicly disclosed by June 30, 2007.
Why the need for AB 2097? There has been very little testing of current electronic elections systems. Independent testers even with limit access have found serious flaws in the current systems. AB 2097 will allow the public more access to scrutinize elections software and machines. If passed, it will ensure California won’t find itself in legal battles over elections fraud as seen in Ohio and Florida in past elections. This vital piece of legislation will save California from lengthy and expensive legal battles if the results of an election ever challenged.
Please remember to thank these five members that supported AB 2097:
Assemblymember Betty Karnette:
Assembleymember Johan Klehs:
Assemblymember Mark Leno:
Assemblymember Lloyd Levine:
Assemblymember Tom Umberg:
In a surprising change of heart the two Republican members, Assemblymember Mark Wyland and Assemblymember Michael Villines, abstained which indicates growing for support for the measure. Please contact them and urge their support for this important voter protection legislation.
AB 2097 is an important step in securing the validity of California Elections, and allowing the public more access and input of current and continuously evolving voting systems. AB 2097 is now on its way to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Now is the time for people to SPEAKOUT. We will provide you with an action alert as the measure gets closer to a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee so that you can let the members of that committee know Californians want a reliable, verifiable, trustworthy, and affordable voting system.
Stay tuned for more to come!

Right-wingers control Republican legislators

In researching information for our upcoming Voter Guide, I came across statistics amassed by the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) which demonstrate unequivocally how the extremists have gained control of the Republican party in California. Where in 1988, Republicans in the State Senate collectively received a 68% record in voting for the environment in 2005, that number was 5%……and that was up from 1.5% the prior year! By comparison, the Senate Dems were at 89%– in 2005 they were at 91%.
The Assembly Republicans were at a meager 28% support of environmental protections in 1988. In 2005 their record was at a stunningly low 4%!
If there were any question that the Republican party isn’t the same one your parents or mine may have supported years ago, these numbers put the debate to rest…..and of course, raise the spector or just which party has become the out-of-touch party over the past two decades.
The statistics also put to rest the absurd and inaccurate claim that the Democratic Party has also been co-opted by extremists–but on the left. The numbers show that Senate Dems remained consistently in support of important environmental protections,and show that Assembly Dems have not deviated “left” either. In fact, there has been a slight but discernable shift in the other direction in the Assembly, where Dems. have gone from an 88% to an 86% record during the same period from 1988-2005. If anything, we must watch carefully for an increase in influence in the so-called “Business Dems”-those who follow-the lead of Republicans and Big Corporate influences in killing important consumer and environmental legislation. For the full story, take a look at the CLCV site at:
These statistics beg the question of whether the further right-wing extremism of the state’s republican legislators is due to the redistricting debacle of 2002 or the right-wing takeover by the Bush/Rove machine? Consider what has happened to the legacy of people like Ken Maddy,Pete McCloskey, Tom Campbell and the few other so-called “moderate” Republican voices in California. They have been replaced by the likes of ultra-extremists led today by Senator and Lt. Governor aspirant, Tom McClintock, who has moved from the fringe to the norm of the Republican party only because the ideology has moved in his direction, and not because he has moderated his extremist views. The right-wing agenda coming from the Bush/Rove machine in Washington has, somewhat predictably, carried into the lexicon of everyday political debate. That is the power of the Bully-Pulpit.
Fortunately, though, we’ve been able to mute its effectiveness. It also continues to self-destruct as we see its incompetence, corruption and cronyism so negatively affecting our everyday lives and, sadly, the standing in which our nation is held in the world today.
We in California must continue to reject this extremist view of life and politics. Although the congressional and state legislative districts have been gerrymandered so that it is difficult to get reasonable and moderate Republicans elected in the “red” parts of California, we must continue to address the important issues that affect us all—education, health care, the environment, consumer protections, privacy rights,and the important other progressive values that we seek to protect and advance. They are OUR issues and they are EVERYONE’S concerns in California. It’s time to vote the extremists out and get California back on track in leading the nation.
But the next time someone insists that extremism is not just a Republican characteristic, remind them of the statistics that clearly show the shift has come from the far-right. Don’t let them try to marginalize our values by shifting responsibility for the gridlock—it belongs firmly on their shoulders….. Let the party of “responsibility” take some for their unwillingness to abandon their extreme positions and refusal to participate in governing for the benefit of the people of our state.

The Bush Machine comes to California

Inspite of the fact that George Bush and his band of thieves and incompetents continue to crash-and-burn with its lies and deceptions being exposed on a seemingly daily basis, it is curious that our own Governor would be bringing these folks to California to run his re-election campaign.
Given their betrayal of trust and extraordinary incompetence, it is hard to believe that Schwarzenegger would want to be associated with this lot, especially since we in California, hold them in such low repute. (Yesterday’s Field Poll shows Bush’s favorabilities at an historic low of 32% with 63% unfavorable). With such enormous baggage, one would think our Governor would be trying to make Californians forget about his sharp right turn into his ill-conceived and disasterous special election (for which we the taxpayers are still footing the bill). Or his Bush-lite corporate favoritism.
Instead, Arnold has imported and reconstructed the Bush campaign machine to run his re-election effort in November — those same delightful folks who were able to dupe the American people into believing that a three-time purple heart winner was a traitor and a guy who went AWOL rather than complete his one year of National Guard duty in Alabama was a hero. Of course, it’s going to take the same kind of smoke-and-mirrors logic to convince the people of California that this Governor has earned the right to serve for a complete four year term. It won’t be easy, though.
As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dumps millions of dollars into electioneering ads on TV touting Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments, it only serves to reinforce that Arnold is beholden to the same corporate interests that are destroying the middle class in this country, reaping record oil profits, increasing the cost of health care and otherwise making it harder and harder for people to pay their bills and keep their financial heads above water.
We’ll keep following the money in this race and asking why the big corporations, developers, drug and oil companies, auto industry executives and other ultra wealthy contributors are spending so much to keep this governor in office. It’s not because he’s looking out for the little guy, that’s for sure.
We need to keep in mind for all these elections — both national as well as state — that the right-wing has gotten so good at messaging and language. It’s not what they SAY that we need to pay attention to, it’s what they’re DOING.
Arnold’s got their playbook and now Bush’s slash-and -burn right-wing campaign squad. California’s in for quite a ride this election season. Time to kick them all out of office.

Immigration and “something d-o-o” economics

A bedrock fact to keep in mind during the immigration debate is where the public is at on this issue, and that it isn’t where the far right would have you think it is. A truly astonishing percentage of American voters support progressive immigration policies when they’re compared with conservative ones. 79% favor earned paths to citizenship for people who come to this country to work. The National Immigration Forum has aggregated a bunch of data on this.
This data seems almost shocking because, as usual, the tone of the debate is being set by a few hard-right sources with incredible amount of media reach and impact. But in this case, the distance between the bloviating ideologues and both the mainstream of American opinion and the leadership of their party is a lot farther to travel than usual. The RNC and President Bush both did amazing outreach to Latinos in the 2004 and they appear absolutely serious about delivering the goods to this group of voters.
One topic that has been almost completely missing from this debate – Jimmy Smits character on the West Wing was the closest thing to a politician to mention this in public – is what the root economic causes of immigration are, and how we can address those. Remember back in the 90s, when one of the original selling points of NAFTA was that it would decrease immigration pressure? Obviously that hasn’t worked out. The questions now are why, and what we can do to fix it.

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