Bye-bye Rovie

The dog days of August have apparently taken their toll on a couple visible public figures who have decided to hang-it-up and “spend more time with their families”, the euphemism for getting out before it all collapses around them. For Karl Rove, that decision may have come too late. For Robert Dynes it ends a fairly lackluster performance as head of the University of California, a four year stint that has been marred by falling budgets and over-inflated compensation and severance packages to UC administrators.
Although the Dynes legacy has far more limitied ramifications than Rove’s, UC President Dynes was able to survive budget cuts and the economic repositioning of the University of California with the reputation of that institution still intact. He had to reach out for more and more private money to keep the University functioning and flourishing, as the state’s contribution to the funding of its public university continues to shrink. And he did so with a modicum of success; UC still remains one of the premier institutions of higher education in the nation today.
But his tenure was also marked with scandal, especially at a time when student fees were going up and staff and faculty salaries were virtually stagnant. It was the very public revelation that dozens of mid and higher ranking University officials and administrators were receiving large compensation and severance packages without scrutiny or appropriate checks and balances that did in President Dynes tenure (and certainly didn’t help the image of the University system ). This embarassment virtually handcuffed Dynes’ efforts to seek out additional state financial support for the University system, as he was hard-pressed to justify requests for greater financial resources when high-end officials were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars as hush money for potential lawsuits or as incentive to join up or leave early.
But his tenure is mildness personified compared to the undermining of our nation’s system of government and integrity and generated by Karl Rove during his destructive tenure as chief advisor to the President of the United States.

Continue reading

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 10

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 11, 2007.
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond:
The budget continues along as the key issue for the state, with the Reps. continually moving the goalposts in their unsupportable effort to tie the state in knots to appease their egos and political bosses. The electronic voting machine situation has also heated up after Secretary of State Debra Bowen courageously pulled the plug on Diebold and Sequoia by announcing none of their machines will be permitted to count votes in the California elections next year. Other than that, the Legislature and Governor are just getting back from vacations so there is nothing to report on the legislative side. But who needs legislation when you have no budget with which to operate the 7th largest economy in the world? Anyway,
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Six and counting. The impasse seems to be headed in the wrong direction.
The obstinate privileged Republican white men of the Senate continue to posture and puff as they are experiencing essentially their first and only wiff of power. They continue to thwart their titular leader, the Gov, who is trying, however ineffectively, to end the holdout and get his budget passed. Of course, it might be more effective if Governor Schwarzenegger were in town, but he’s on vacation so he’s got his underlings working overtime in his absence. He’s scheduled to return this week and start public appearances to try to put pressure on his teammates to get this budget passed.
There are many who say the Governor has been marginalized as he can’t pull his team together and they don’t want to listen to him anyway. They’re bitter, emboldened and out-of-touch with the people. A nasty combination for so-called leaders, but with the ridiculously gerrymandered seats they got in the last redistricting, they’re pretty immune from caring about the public anyway. So, the impasse continues to devolve into personal name-calling and threats that no other business will be conducted in the legislature once the recess ends (August 20th ) if the stalemate continues.
Unfortunately, such a threat just plays into the Reps hands as the only really significant legislation on the table belongs to the Dems— things like healthcare, environmental protections for air quality in our ports, protection of worker’s rights…to name a very few of the things that are important to the Dems but the enemy of the Big Business bosses controlling the right-wing agenda. So this is a threat that needs to be revisited and likely revised. As it stands, it’s like saying to your children (and the Senate Reps are certainly behaving like children), that you’re going to punish them if they don’t clean up their rooms by not letting them do their homework. Wrong incentive.
Meanwhile, two long-term care facilities and the California Association of Health Facilities have filed suit against the state for failure to pay required medical reimbursements due for services rendered. So far, it is estimated that the state has missed $750 million in Medi-Cal payments to the state’s health care providers.
For an excellent summary of the status of this mess, check out Julia Rosen’s piece Working Californians.
One of the positive outcomes of this logjam should be the call for a reassessment of the 2/3rd vote requirement to pass a budget. As we’ve been saying all along at Speak Out California, this anti-democracy requirement puts us in the same status of just two other states—Arkansas and Rhode Islands. Although this ridiculous requirement has always been archaic, it’s even worse now with a bunch of ultra-conservatives finding a way to exercise power and ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of Californians and their representatives and governor. Simply put, the right-wing extremists are committed to bringing down government and the state. We cannot let them get away with that. For more on this, check out the posting “Obstinance or Principle” on our blog.
To try to kick-start the negotiations, Speaker Fabian Nunez has made it clear that should they have to go back to the drawing board, the Dems are putting their major concessions back on the table. Issues like the $1.3 billion cut from transportation; the delay in providing a cost of living adjustment for the elderly, disabled and poor in our state and other cuts in social services to our neediest people.
We’ve been talking about the fact that the Reps are trying to undermine CEQA – and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, which funds virtually every one of the neo-con holdouts. After all is said and done, this turns out to be the sticking point (at least du jour).But modifying CEQA is a non-starter for both the Dems and the Gov. so we’re at a serious impasse that doesn’t look like it’s got an obvious resolution. Whatever that resolution is, though, it will have to include something to let the “gang of 14” save face. Not that they should be able to, given the world of hurt so many are now in because of them, but that’s the way the game is played.
So the question now is, what happens if the budget hasn’t been passed by the time the legislative year ends in mid-September? If that happens, it’s likely the Governor will call a special session to bring the Legislature back to get the budget passed. With the way things look at the moment, it’s either that or a quick recall election against that one hold-out keeping the state from getting back on track. Our current system is certainly no way to run a railroad!

California Secretary of State taking lots of flack for decertifying Diebold and Sequoia Voting Machines.

As we were putting out our weekly update last week, Secretary of State Deb Bowen had just announced her decision to de-certify the majority of the touch screen voting machines being purchased by the various County Registrars for use in next year’s three elections. We predicted that the state’s 58 independent County Clerk Registrars who don’t like the idea of anyone treading on their territory. would be ready for a major push-back against such edicts from higher-ups. But after receiving the results from credible UC experts, it was clear that the voting machines made by Diebold, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic are just not reliable. The findings were clear, although the naysayers insist they were unfair. But the integrity of our vote is the most important guarantee we have in a democracy. Voters are cynical enough about the process; for them to believe their votes don’t even get counted as they are cast, brings democracy to its knees. Secretary Bowen found accordingly.
Much of the problem lies squarely at the feet of these companies. They have consistently refused to provide access to their software, hiding behind the claims of trade secrets and proprietary interest. They have fought every effort to require open access and transparency necessary to assure the public that the equipment is not just hanging chads in a box-or worse (as we have seen over-and-over again).
The media has been mixed on this issue and on Secretary Bowen’s decision. Predictably, she’s been getting a lot of heat from the big cities, where the impact will be the greatest. For example, one out of every four votes statewide will be cast out of LA County in the 2008 election cycles where theyve purchased millions of dollars of these now decertified machines. But the grassroots is applauding her for holding tough. Interestingly, she’s also getting support and accolades from some of the inland communities where the issue of voting system integrity is apparently trumping financial concerns.
Initiatives and More Initiatives filling up the 2008 ballot.
We’ve got to hand it to the special interests in this state (often funded by outside interests that don’t give a rip about California). We’re now about to see additional ballot measures seeking to overturn the Indian Compacts supported by the Governor as millions start pouring in from race tracks, organized labor (unhappy with the provisions that make it very difficult for casino workers to organize) and now other rival tribes.
This week, rival tribes have committed to $1 million each to overturn the four compacts that will enable Southern California’s richest tribes to double (or more) the number of slot machines. It’s estimated that the battling sides will end up spending $20million on each of the four measures, for a cool $80 million.
A second ballot measure is now out for signature gathering addressing the eminent domain issue. This one is being sponsored by the League of California Cities, and the California League of Conservation Voters as a defensive measure to the more extreme pro-property rights measure that has apparently now qualified for the ballot. For more on this story, check out the Capitol weekly.
Of course, one of the most insidious is the measure now out for signatures for the June ballot intended to hand the presidency to the Republicans (if November, 2008 turns out to be a close election). The Reps are trying to break up California’s election from the traditional winner-takes-all that exists in almost all states, to one that gives each candidate a pro-rata portion. This would add a bunch of votes onto the Republican side that they wouldn’t otherwise get and possibly hand them enough electoral votes to win the Presidency in ’08. This one is nasty and the sign of desperate people who can’t stand the notion of democracy actually working as promised. Check out Speak Out California’s blog entries on this stealth attack on democracy. (See below).
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
Obstinance or Principle?
On trying to divide up California’s all-important 55 electoral votes
Trying to Steal the Presidency again!
To read and comment on these entries, just go to:
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess for one more week, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!
Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

Summer Election Reform Adds Up To This: Get Out The Votes!

From the Courage Campaign
This summer, the only thing hotter than the weather seems to be election reform. Last week, Secretary of State Debra Bowen made significant strides in securing California’s elections from faulty touch-screen voting machines by kicking the machines out of California. Then, perhaps concerned that old GOP stalwart Diebold isn’t helping to count votes anymore, California Republicans have floated another election reform idea: to end the winner-take-all system for distributing California’s 55 Electoral College Votes. Ostensibly, the GOP wants to make the Electoral College more representative. In reality, the Republicans are trying to steal the 2008 Presidential Election. The way to stop them, as always, is to get out the vote.

Continue reading

Obstinance or principle?

I still remember, as though it were yesterday, the defining moment in my early political awakening. I was no more than 12 years old, sitting in a podiatrist’s chair, gamely enduring treatment for a youthful plantars wart that had lodged itself deep in my foot. The doctor looked like a marine drill sargent, with close-cropped prematurely graying hair. In the midst of the procedure, we embarked on a discussion about politics. I’m not exactly sure what precipitated the first of many intense but respectful political debates Although clearly in the weaker position (he was digging into my foot with some pretty ugly looking instruments) the debate centered on the role of government in America. He posited that the business of government was business. I responded by insisting that the business of government is people.
What government should be doing is a fundamental issue confronting us in this post-Reagan and soon-to-be post Bush era. Our right-wing friends in Sacramento have demonstrated not only an opinion that business is the focus of government, but an ideological obstinance that extends far beyond respectful disagreement to ideological intractability. They have taken the notion that business is their motivator to a new low. Fortunately, their extremist views represents a minority position and in the nature of a democracy, it is the majority who rule. At least that is what we were taught in Civics class at school.

Continue reading

Trying to steal the Presidency—again!

Looks like the Reps are at it again!
Another deceptive initiative is making the rounds to the A.G.’s office for “title and summary” and then most likely to the super-market or Wal-Marts for signature gathering and then on the now infamous June 2008 ballot.
This time, it’s an attempt to steal the Presidential election. Yup, through the backdoor again because they know they’re not going to win the White House by blasting through the front door in 2008. Too much failed neoconservative ideology for the American people, and they know it.
So what’s the latest ploy? An initiative to split California’s electoral votes rather than use the long-standing system where the majority vote-getter takes the state’s full complement of electoral votes, which in this super-sized state is 55, or more than 10% of the 538 nationwide. The plan is to give electoral votes to the candidate who carries the most votes by congressional district. So, for example, if the Republican presidential nominee wins in say, Jerry Lewis district, or John Doolittle (to name a couple of the more dubious Reps), the nominee gets to count that vote in his electoral pocket. If this were the way all votes were counted—in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, etc. it would make more sense and certainly be more fair. But that’s not a phrase in the neocon lexicon. It’s all about winning, at any price, as we’ve already seen this decade and if the Reps can walk away with 20 of California’s electoral votes, that’s as good as going home with Ohio…and perhaps the White House.
The Initiative process continues to be compromised by the big Corporate supporters and ultra-partisan powers that have taken control of the Republican Party. We’ve seen several other potential initiatives emerging for the June, 2008 ballot—that’s the one between the Presidential primary and the November Presidential election. The June primay will not have the appeal or interest and thus everyone expects will be the sleeper with folks not paying attention or suffering voter fatigue with three elections to be held within 10 months of each other. That’s why the corporations and Republicans are trying to invoke these stealth initiatives for low-turnout elections, which traditionally bring out the most conservative voters. Nevermind that the results will be potentially cataclysmic to this state and its priorities, values and principles.
With enough money, the right-wing thinks they can buy just about anything.
It will be up to us, the people, to prove them wrong. Let’s hope we’re up to it.
We’ll be following this cheap-trick very closely in the weeks and months ahead and will be asking all those who believe in real Democracy to join us in fighting against these dishonest and undemocratic ploys by the groups of coporate-fed lackies who want to destroy our state and our democratic way of life.

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 9

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending August 4, 2007
Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the past week and beyond
The budget has clearly taken over as the top issue for the state, now that it’s well over a month late and a lot of key organizations and service providers are starting to experience a world of hurt. Hurting, too, are the voting machine companies that have taken their secrecy and deception to the end of the line with our Secretary of State courageously pulling the plug on these systems, to the consternation and cries of many (although not all) of the county clerks in the state.
Here’s the scoop on this past week:
The Budget — Week Five and counting. The impasse continues
Last week, I predicted the stalemate on the budget would end and that we’d finally see a budget enacted. I posited that the Gov would agree to meet his party’s absurd insistence that we cut even further into the budget to “balance” it, although it really contains a large surplus, plus prepayment of not-yet-due loans. Nevermind that balancing the budget wasn’t really what the Reps wanted. The Gov finally got his team into the “horseshoe” and promised he would use his powers to use his “line-item veto” power to cut most if not all of the “shortfall” as they demanded. But it turns out that isn’t what they really want after all. As the Gov put it, in a moment of pique and candor, “I don’t know what they want, I hope they know what they want.”
The long and short of it is that whatever they’re wanting now was not part of the deal they demanded (and got) and the Dems refused to have any part of it. Negotiating 101 says you after someone says yes to everything you ask for, you can’t then demand more –and expect to get that, too. So the Senate Dems have folded up their tent in total frustration,and gone home.
Although no one (including the Reps) really knows the answer to what they really want, there are certainly a number of solid theories none of which, sadly, has anything to do with the people of this state.
As we mentioned last week, there really isn’t a shortfall at all, but the Reps want to debilitate government and frankly, privatize the whole thing. Such a philosophy is great for their corporate sponsors, because it takes away the ability of government to watch over the mischief these big corporations are making, and hands important functions and services to the private sector where there is no public accountability or interest in the public good. The only concern for the corps and their CEO’s is more and more profit. So, if the Dems have capitulated (sadly) to the cuts that start hitting on bone and without any appreciable fat or even skin, what is the problem??
We mentioned last week that the Reps are trying to inject public policy into the budget by trying to shake down CEQA -and get rid of one of the most important environmental laws in California. This all for the benefit of the BIA—The Building Industry of America, that wants to build and build without regard for any environmental or quality-of-life consequences. Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star has a good summary avalible here.

On this one, both the Gov and the Dems have said that they aren’t going there. It was not part of the budget discussion and was only brought up at the 11th hour, which is no way to negotiate a budget. It sets an unacceptable precedent and besides, the Dems believe they’ve already given too much as it is.
But as we’ve said, the Rep hold-out has little to do with the people of California and lots to do with egos and payback and watching your back. It’s payback for Arnold because the Reps think they’ve been disrespected by the Gov. See the article in the San Francisco Chronicle detailing this here. It’s testosterone running wild with the white, male Rep senators holding hands and pledging a blood oath not to give in…under fear of serious reprisal (read that as having a neo-con as a primary opponent in their next election). They’ve been nicknamed the Gang of 14 by the media. It’s also about the Rep leader, Dick Ackerman, deciding he likes having a big office and being called, “Mr. Leader” so he’s demonstrating he’s tough by refusing to consider the need for someone to act like a grownup on his side of the aisle and give the last vote necessary to get THEIR budget passed.
The Bottom Line: There’s no rational or logical reason this budget is being held up, but there is little doubt that the responsibility for it rests solely with the Gov and the Senate Reps. The Assembly Reps supported it; it’s the budget the Republican Governor called for and the Senate Dems are willing to suck it up and pass it to get the state moving again. There’s just no excuse.
It’s also about flame-thrower Tom McClintock finally finding a constituency with his incendiary rhetoric and blogging prowess and agitating the extremists of the state—and of his party, into a frenzy. Sadly, only one of the Reps has any modicum of sense or courage to buck the fanaticism of the anti-government groupies who are now barraging the Senate with threats and intimidation to hold-out…even if no one is quite sure what they’re wanting the weak-kneed Gang of 14 to hold out for?.
Doesn’t matter, though, because it is giving McClintock the chance to beat his chest and have someone pay attention to his destructive diatribes.
One lonely Republican, Abel Maldonado, got up on the floor of the Senate this week and said, Yes, I’m voting for OUR budget; it’s the budget we negotiated for, it’s what we wanted and I’m not going to continue beating my chest. It’s time to get this process over and done with for another year. The Rep response?
Well, we’re going to run someone even more conservative than you in your primary and beat you! Of course, in the District, this makes Senator Maldonado a hero, so I don’t think he’s particularly worried. What it does show, though, is how OUT OF TOUCH this band of conservatives is. They don’t hear the people, don?t care about the people, and just live in their little fantasy world of ultra-conservative districts so badly drawn by both the Reps and Dems back in 2002. The Sac Bee has a good article on this at.
California Secretary of State holds firm on Voting Machine Integrity
When Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State, she ran on a platform of restoring integrity and confidence in the voting process. Although this may sound like an easy task, supported by one and all, it has been anything but. The county clerks and registrars of voters in many of the state’s 58 counties don’t want her treading on their sacred ground. Historically, the voting process has been under the singular domain of each county registrar. As an example of their commitment to maintaining their autonomy, they went after Kevin Shelley on 2005, after he made it clear he wanted to assure credibility and accuracy of these alleged (and now proven) unreliable vote counting machines. Of course, Shelley had other significant issues, but his insistence that the county folks play ball with him didn’t help him, either.
Secretary Bowen, on the other hand, has no such baggage. She does have, however, a strong independent streak of her own which, when coupled with her strong commitment to this issue and protecting against the hacking of voting equipment that many of us believe influenced the Presidential race in 2004 (think Ohio, in particular), makes her pretty formidable.
After commissioning a study to see whether the voting machine makers could provide a secure and accurate system, she is following the findings of University of California computer experts hired to see if they could hack into these systems. They could, and did, quite easily. They were able to change vote totals and manipulate the “security” in these machines. After a day of hearings this past week, where all this came out, she announced that she has decertified both the Diebold and Sequoia systems. Lots of fallout yet to come on this one, but for a preview check out this article at the Sac Bee, or for national implications check out this NY Times piece.
London Bridge Is Falling Down:
Most of us remember singing this song when we were children.
Little did any of us think that this might actually happen -at least not in the United States of America! But thanks to policies that reject investing in our infra-structure, or realizing that it takes money to maintain our roads, bridges, utilities, sewers, levees, buildings and other key systems and talk about taxes as though we were promoting the plague, we’re seeing in America deterioration of our infra-structure that we only believed could happen in third-world nations.
So here we are, somewhat stunned but sobered by the sights in Minneapolis of a bridge that fell down for no apparent reason– no earthquake, no explosion, no fire, no terrorists. It fell down through neglect and political negligence. Of course, the Bushies want us to believe it wasn’t on their watch, but in fact, it was. On Bush the First and then again in 2004 when Bush, Jr. threatened a veto of a measure that would ensure public money to invest in shoring up our aging infra-structure.
In California, we are reducing funds for transportation to appease the Reps, while learning that there are almost 3,000 bridges in the state that the federal government has identified as “structurally deficient.” Caltrans is now conducting emergency structural inspections of bridges in California that are built with steel trusses similar to those that failed in Minnesota this week. Click here for the story at the Sac Bee
While we certainly hope that similar events do not happen here—or anywhere else, this should be time to start an honest and intense discussion on just what our government can and should be doing to protect us from these kinds of avoidable tragedies—and the fact that we just might need to PAY for the kinds of services and construction that it takes to do so.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week

During the past week, we’ve posted the following stories:
On the budget:
The Governor’s Birthday Present-with love from his party
On global warming:
California Voters needed to help raise fuel efficiency and curb global warming
On voting machine manipulations:
Can We Count on Voting Machines to Count the Votes?
On our infra-structure concerns:
America is Crumbling
To read and comment on these entries, just go to:
We’ll continue looking at these and other issues as the summer pushes on. Although the Assembly is in recess, there is still lots going on in our great state and we’ll make sure you stay on top of those key issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you will send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California and keep the progressive voice alive!

America is Crumbling

I remember one of my teachers in high school saying something about how my generation would have to deal with “crumbling infrastructure.” I dismissed him as a rambling old man back then, but only 10 years after he said that, we’re seeing tragedy after tragedy unfold as basic infrastructure fails spectacularly here, in the richest country ever to exist on God’s green earth. A few years ago, we had a blackout stretch from Detroit to New York City. Two years ago, the levees in New Orleans broke. Two weeks ago, a steam pipe burst under a Manhattan street, killing one and injuring hundreds. And today a bridge over the Mississippi river collapsed in Minneapolis. Example after example of tragic failures of the most basic public trust: roads, utilities, and bridges.
Obviously, accidents sometimes happen. But I refuse to believe it’s just coincidental that our public infrastructure is crumbling about 27 years after the rise of a political philosophy (Reaganomics) which actively works to privatize the entire government out to the lowest bidder. Public utilities used to be just that — publicly funded, regulated, and maintained. That system wasn’t perfect, but at least we didn’t have exploding streets and collapsing bridges. Nowadays, we’ve got Enron-esque, private, for-profit corporations running everything from prisons to health care to road maintenance and even the military.
It’s not working.

Continue reading

Can We Count on Voting Machines to Count the Votes?

There has been much hoopla and concern over the past few years with the extreme secrecy surrounding the electronic voting equipment that has invaded our election process. With so little knowledge about the accuracy of the machinery, due to assertions of privacy by Diebold and the other companies manufacturing and selling these magical boxes, their accuracy and reliability have naturally come into question.
Not to be bullied into revealing the contents of the equipment, to insure objectivity and accuracy in counting ballots, they’ve refused to divulge or even allow the state to examine their product, so the state, under the focused direction of Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, has hired its own experts to determine whether the voting machines are reliable, or hackable. The results came out just days ago, creating a hub-bub of activity and denials. Like most of the right-wing’s approach to anything they don’t like, instead of attacking the facts, they attack the messenger.
This situation is no different.
The fact is, this equipment has real problems and legislators like Assemblymember Paul Krekorian have legislation pending that will address the concerns about voting machine reliability and what we can and must do to restore public confidence in the fundamental principle that every vote cast will be counted. Here’s Assemblymember Krekorian’s take on the situation:

Continue reading