In Sunday’s SF Chron, clever seeming anti-urbanist critic Joel Kotkin tells an increasingly familiar story about the tarnished reputation of the Golden State:

Our magnificent state may still be the home to Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the nation’s largest port complex and the world’s richest agricultural valleys, but by many critical measurements the state is slipping.

What are the problems, and how can we move forward through them? Is Mr Kotkin or anyone else in the state proposing serious solutions?

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Cal State University dispute-Time to strike?

Here at Speak Out California, we’ve been closely following the dispute between the California State University Administration and its faculty, represented by the California Faculty Association (CFA). The Administration has been quick and generous to give itself hefty raises and increased benefits (all approved by its overseeing organization, of course), but has been worse than Scrooge when it comes to its all-important faculty.
With the help of Speak Out California Board member, R. Stanley Oden, Associate Professor at Cal State Sacramento, we’ve been able to provide you with updates on the progress, or lack thereof, in the salary dispute that seems to be headed toward a strike call in the near future.
At present, the CFA is trying to achieve its reasonable and arguably modest efforts to bring salaries for its members closer to parity with other similar institutions of higher education through normal channels. Speak Out California welcomes your comments or suggestions on the situation and will be looking at what can be done to help resolve this serious impasse.

In the meantime, here is Professor Oden’s latest update on the stalement and the current efforts to resolve it and prepare for a possible labor strike.

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Obama and narrative

[Cross-posted at dailykos.]
Barack Obama’s announcement speech was terrific. It had some genuinely spine-tingling moments; moments we haven’t had in far too long, like where he stands tall against right wing scapegoating of immigrants and gay people. But about two thirds of the way through, he gets into the “Let us” section. There are 20 uses of the construction “let us…” packed into the next six paragraphs. This was the weakest part of the speech. It felt like an ordinary laundry list, like he stepped out of telling an otherwise compelling story for those few paragraphs.
Education, health care, support for unions, ending of poverty, energy independence – these are all great goals, these are my goals as a progressive. So why did this part feel so flat?

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Getting hammered by the “right” (that isn’t)

The amazing right-wing spin machine continues its insidiously dishonest but effective ways spinning and deceiving the American people on just what is happening on all levels of political and social debate. As a student of politics and as a recovering lawyer, I have always respected and valued the power of the word and its ability to persuade and activate. The Right has certainly understood this, but I must confess that I’m a little worried about our side’s understanding of the importance of the message and its delivery.
Unfortunately for our side of the issues, the Right seems to be trumping us again. They’re in sync on their talking points as they try to discredit the anti-war movement, now calling our patriotic opposition “the slow bleed” opposition, assuming that this will rally the American people against our vocal dissent whereas the prior effort to demean opposition using the label “cut and run” didn’t cut it at all. They’re in full swing attacking our Presidential candidates, giving a pass to the lunatic antics of Rudolph Guliani and the “flip-flopping” (all over themselves) by McCain and Romney (who supported reproductive choice before he was against it). At the same time, they’re trying to smear Hillary and Barack, make a religious issue out of two bloggers affiliated with John Edwards campaign and otherwise trying to create controversy and misdirection when the issues are clearly who has the better vision of America and who can make it happen.
It is quite amazing how effectively the right-wing has been able to co-opt so much of our message, persuade good and decent people that their message of corporate exploitation and incompetent militarism is the American Way.
It is clearly just the opposite, yet the sound-bites and talking points continue to “bleed” out from all corners of the media–Fox (Dis)News, CNN, radio talk shows, newspaper columns (sadly)from the New York Times and Washington Post to right-wing blogs. They shout louder and longer than we can or do and as such, have far too many average, under-informed people believing the lies and the spin. After all, we try to talk truth to power. The Right doesn’t care about truth, they only care about power–and have been very effective at using their political infrastructure to control the debate and suppress the truth.
I was reminded about this again this weekend after watching Robert Greenwald’s masterful expose
“Out-foxed” with some friends who had never seen the video. They could only shake their heads and ask the inevitable and obvious question, “so where is the progressive infrastructure to combat this?”

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Celebrating great leadership

On Monday, February 19th, California and the nation give working people the day off, ostensibly to reflect upon and honor two great American leaders- George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In the context of the present day, it is almost ironic as we look at the greatest visionaries and leaders who lived so long ago and must consider what we have in our country today. From the greatest to arguably the worst in our history, with a little greatness but much mediocrity in-between. Washington to Bush? Heavens, how could we fall so far?
This was a question I posed directly to Doris Kearns Goodwin who happened to be speaking at UC Santa Barbara last week. She was speaking, as part of her national tour, on her insightful and inspiring novel,”Team of Rivals”, about Lincoln and his greatness as a leader. In this historical novel she talks about the qualities of leadership and compassion Lincoln brought to his position as leader of a nation and how he was able to bring out the best in those whose guidance and wisdom he sought while dealing with, arguably, the most challenging threat to the survival of America- the Civil War.

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Secretary of State Deb Bowen off and running

During her campaign, Secretary of State Deb Bowen promised to review the voting machine question carefully and update the voting process in California to assure accuracy and transparency. Given her track record of progressive and innovative leadership, we here at Speak Out California enthusiastically endorsed her in her campaign. We have recently caught up with the hyperactive Secretary and asked her to provide us with an update on what she’s been doing since taking over the reigns of this important office. Not surprisingly, she’s been off and running to fulfill not only her campaign promises, but to provide the same open and creative leadership to this position that she brought to her 14 years as a visionary leader in the California Legislature. Here is her report:
Dear Speak Out California readers:
I have to tell you what an amazing feeling it is to be here and I want to thank everyone who has been involved with Speak Out California for your help and support in helping me to become Claifornia’s Secretary of State!
The job is fun, exciting and challenging-made even more so by the decision of some in the Legislature to push the presidential primary election up from June 2008 to February 2008.

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Shame on the mainstream media

It was only a matter of time before the shameless, Congressional Republican minority stepped forward to cry about the Dems starting to take the initiative and marginalize the Republicans as had been done to them for the past decade plus. When they started chastising Nancy Pelosi for having airplane privileges similar to Denny-Boy Hastert when he was Speaker, one could only shake his/her head and think how foolish and predictably hypocritical they were behaving. But I think we all expected and deserve more than the mainstream press picking up this non-story and making it into the news-of-the-day, giving these adolescents a platform they don’t deserve.
Heavens, even the White House acknowledged that this is a non-issue; that in fact, the House Sergeant-at-Arms, who helps oversee security for the House of Representatives, is the one who suggested Pelosi should fly home to California on a non-stop basis for security reasons; that this was a “silly story and……unfair to the Speaker”, according to White House spokesman Tony Snow.
Of course, many of us expect no less from a bunch of childish, means-spirited and sexist whiners who can’t tie their own shoes on a good day, let alone make good public policy for the people who sent them to Washington.
Remembering Molly Ivins observation that when “Congress convenes, many a village has lost its idiot.” But this little temper tantrum goes beyond stupid. Hopefully the American public thinks so too.
So why did the mainstream press see fit to print this as a story of the day–while relegating truly significant news to the backpages? Take for example, Thursday’s L.A. Times. On page one is the Pelosi airplane story—chock full of Republican objections to such an outrageous notion that she fly on a bigger plane so she can actually get all the way back to her home district in San Francisco (when Denny Hastert flew on a smaller plane he needed to get only half as far, since he lived in Illinois). Now, we know those Reps hate California, but I’ve got to believe they DO know that California is ALL THE WAY on the other side of the country, which means a longer flight and, to get there directly and without having to stop and refuel, it means a BIGGER plane. Even they can’t be that clueless.
So why did the LA Times bite on this zero and put the Libby trial on page 16? Now there’s a really serious situation where the Vice President and key players in the Bush Administration may very well have committed a criminal act in publicly outing a CIA operative. This is an almost Watergate-like situation where an entire adminstration could (and for many of us should) come tumbling down. The LA Times thinks this should be relegated to page 16, while playing up the Republican’s food fight behavior in D.C. by putting it on the front page—and without doing the background work which would have discovered that the initiator of this plane travel was the Sergeant-at-Arms, with mandated responsibilty for Ms. Pelosi’s security and that her male predecessor had the luxury of such travel without Republican (or Democratic) objection?
Is it any wonder the public is disgusted with the quality of the mainstream news we are subjected to on a daily basis? Any wonder that newspaper readership has declined precipitously in recent years? That Americans are less and less informed about the important issues they need to know and understand in order for our democracy to work effectively and responsively to the public’s needs and priorities?
Is it sexism, stupidity, laziness or ignorance that fuels this kind of nonsense? Well, tomorrow’s another day–we’ll have Anna Nicole Smith’s death to kick around for a while. No need to learn more about the possibly illegal conduct in the White House, now is there? As Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona lamented, “Next week we are going to steal their mascot and short-sheet their beds.” Now that’s a story worth covering.

Random thoughts for a slow February

Legislatively, February is pretty much a slow month in California. Bills are introduced with some splash in January and sit while a 30 day public notice requirement keeps them percolating before allowed to be heard in committee. Indeed as we speak, the Dems in the Assembly are off at their Caucus Retreat-this year in beautiful and grape-plentiful Napa. Although there is much “bonding” over golf and drink, it is a time when the priorities and signficant issues of the day are hashed out and discussed with less distraction and chaos than the rest of the session when the demands of lobbyists, constitutents and raising money often derail careful and thoughtful consideration of these complex and demanding public policy imperatives.
So a few thoughts on random issues for the early part of the legislative year:
Health care
Interesting how the Republicans-especially our Governor, have co-opted the phrase “universal healthcare” to describe their initiatives which do no such thing and aren’t designed to, either. Why isn’t there greater focus, in California or D.C., on the unholy profits of the insurance industry which takes anywhere from 25-40 cents of every premium dollar( depending on whose figures are used) and pockets it for its elephant-like bureaucracy and unsupportable profits? Take the insurance industry out of the equation, put in a single insurer -an independent government-overseen agency and voila, you’ve got a medicare-like system where almost all the money that goes into it goes out for medical services! But of course, check to see where all that campaign money comes from—starting right here with Governor Schwarzenegger…..and creeping beyond to willing pockets throughout the political landscape.

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Mourning Molly Ivins

One of my very favorite stories as a child was “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I suspect it was for many who identify as progressives today. For the few who may have missed this great parable, it is a story of courage and honesty in the face of enormous imperial power and public timidity. It is about the bravery (or perhaps simply innocence) of a young child who shouted out as the Emperor marched through the town, ostensibly to show off his magnificent silk clothes, that the Emperor was, in fact, quite naked. No townspeople dared point out the obvious for fear of beheading, although no one with two eyes could otherwise ignore the obvious. Yet the entire town did just that—except for the young child.
For the past several decades, Molly Ivins has been that voice—willing to say what so many of us believed yet so few, especially those in power, were willing to acknowledge. She said it with extraordinary intelligence and humor—qualities so often lacking today. She spoke often and courageously about the folly of war–and the idiocy of George W. Bush, whom she nicknamed “Shrub”. With that excellent descriptive title, she wrote and published a book shortly before he was “elected” President in 2000 (obviously not enough voters read the book, but should have) entitled: Shrub-The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush

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