Conservatives Opposed To Rule Of Law, Our Constitution And Good Education

Conservative leader and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich writes about the California court ruling that children – even home-schooled children – must be educated by credentialed teachers, saying it is an example of “Judicial Supremacy.” In his article he quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial calling the ruling a “strange new chapter” in the “annals of judicial imperialism.” Later in the piece he writes,

The decision represents yet another case of a special interest — in this case, the education unions and bureaucracy — using the courts to get what they can’t get through the popular vote.
This is yet another example of judicial supremacy: Rule by an out-of-control judiciary rather than the will of the people. It joins court rulings such as the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance on a long list of usurpations of the freedom and self-determination of the American people.

Lets take a moment to examine what Gingrich is really complaining about here.
Here’s how the American system of law and justice is supposed to work: We have a Constitution and we have laws that we are all supposed to follow by mutual agreement. And we have in place a judicial system for interpreting our Constitution and laws, again by mutual agreement. So when there is a dispute we take that dispute to the courts, and the judges rule according to the Constitution and laws. And then we agree to follow their rulings.
Newt Gingrich and the conservatives complain that this is “Judicial Supremacy” and “judicial imperialism.” Wow, this sounds pretty bad! But look at the meaning of these negative-sounding words. Isn’t “Judicial Supremacy” really just another way of saying that we agree to follow “rule of law?” When Gingrich uses language that casts a negative frame on the concept, isn’t he undermining public respect for the rule of law? Gingrich and other conservatives are happy enough with our American system when it works in their favor but when it rules against their agenda they launch another anti-government screed.
This post is not written in opposition to home or private schooling, but to point out the importance to all of us that we all operate under the same set of agreed-upon rules. At least in California, another agreed-upon rule is that our children should receive the best possible education. Article 9 of our California Constitution states that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” The wording at the beginning of Article 9 is as follows:

A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.

To this end Article 9 describes how California will manage a system of free, public schools. And Article 9 makes it clear that to this end our children deserve qualified, “credentialed” teachers.
Once again, We, the People of California have decided that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” This is what we want. Just what is it that Gingrich and other conservatives want instead if it doesn’t involve qualified teachers providing education to our state’s children?
Note – Gingrich also criticized court rulings mandating the “removal” of the phrase “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. But this misrepresents what the courts ruled. The courts ruled that public schools cannot force children to recite this pledge. It violates our Constitution’s clause against our having a government mandated religion to make children repeat that this is a nation “under God.” It also raises a question of just what he does want our Constitution to say. Does he want the government to mandate that we follow a particular religion? His writings suggest this to be the case.

Stuck in Atlanta 24 Hours – Airline Says Too Bad For You

My flight from Washington DC to Atlanta landed late. The connection to San Francisco still wasn’t due to take off for a few minutes but the airline didn’t hold it.
So I go to the counter and ask what I can do? They only have one flight to San Francisco a day, and the next one is in 24 hours.
Can I get on another airline? Try Orbitz, she says.
Can you get me a room? She gives me an 800 number of a discount service.
Can I get some food? There are concession stands in the airport.
Too bad for you. We’ve already got your money and you’re on your own.
There is nothing I can do, they already have my money.
Welcome to the New America. Welcome to the You’re On Your Own (YOYO) society. Welcome to corporate domination. Did you know that it used to be illegal for airlines to treat their customers like this? But now it is expected.
We, the People used to be in charge. We set up the legal, financial and physical infrastructure that enables corporations to serve our interests. You know, that pesky “We, the People” thing. Why else would we have set up corporations except to serve us?
But now it is the other way around. Now the corporations are in charge of us. A select few grew fabulously wealthy from the system we set up to serve all the people, and have used that wealth to manipulate the system to bring all the benefits to themselves at the expense of the people.
When are we going to do something about it?
(Note – the airline employees were not nasty, considering who they have to work for and the policies they have to work under. They seemed resigned to having to tell people this stuff. That’s another part of this system — if you want to have enough money to feed your kids and pay the rent (but not get health care) you’re forced to serve the corporation, and be their agents in telling people “too bad.” There is a harm that comes to people from being compelled to treat others this way. And if you think you have too much integrity to do that, well we can find someone in India who is hungry enough.)

Take Back America – Wednesday — Where From Here?

I am at the Take Back America conference in Washington DC. Several panelists at Take Back America have pointed out that things seem to look favorable for progressives in this election year. People are rejecting Bush, the Iraq war, the effects of conservative economics and a list of other failures of conservatism.
But this does not necessarily mean that the public is turning to progressives. Turning away from something bad is a different thing from choosing to turn toward something else. Even if we do Take Back America in this election there is no foundation yet for holding on to it.
Good things are happening. There is a lot of new energy in the developing progressive movement. New organizations are forming. Thousands upon thousands of young people are getting involved. Conferences like this are connecting progressives from around the country.
But progressives have not yet started reaching the general public to promote the benefits to them of a progressive approach to solving our country’s problems. Until this become a regular component of the progressive movement we risk losing this momentum.

Take Back America – Tuesday

I am at the Take Back America conference in Washington DC. This is an annual gathering of a couple of thousand progressives. You see lots of familiar names and faces here, people you see on TV and in magazines. Just five minutes ago I was saying “Hi” to Arianna Huffington. Earlier today I said Hi to Jesse Jackson…
I was thinking about why people do this. I don’t mean the overnight flight with a three-hour layover in Atlanta. (But really, why did I do that?)
I mean, being a progressive is not a big-money gig. So I am attending these great panel sessions and the speakers are very sharp, productive people, who speak very well, and who have dedicated their lives to helping other people. Yes, some make pretty good money, but nothing at all like they could make out there in the corporate world.
Trust me, nobody does this for the money.
I was watching one particularly good speaker yesterday. She was very good, very persuasive, interesting to listen to… and I thought, “I used to do this for products.” Now I can’t do this for products. Something inside of me will not let me.
It is about being a citizen. In a morning session today Taylor Branch was talking about lessons from the civil rights movement. One thing he said resonated with me. He said, “Citizens in a democracy are all supposed to have an equal share in that democracy, so we ought to act like it.” We all have a duty, a responsibility to be involved in bettering our country, and to work to stop the wrongs we see.
That’s why.

From Take Back America – Monday

I am at the Take Back America conference in Washington DC.
One common discussion here at Take Back America is that conservative economic policy chickens are coming home to roost. Another phrase I am hearing is Wild West Banking. People here are talking about the big story in the news right now: an economic and financial crisis that some economists are saying is the worst since the depression.
For decades, as conservative economics increasingly led to lower wages, loss of pensions and health insurance, and general “you’re on your own” economic insecurity many people have been using up their savings while other people turned to borrowing to make up the difference, taking out second mortgages or running up credit cards.
Meanwhile the financial system, increasingly deregulated, cooked up riskier and riskier schemes — like loaning money to people and companies to use to make their payments on their existing debt.
Now we appear to be reaching the limit of people’s ability to borrow. And when people and companies have been borrowing to meet their payments this can mean a collapse. When people can’t pay the mortgages the financial companies aren’t receiving their payments. So they can’t make their payments, and the companies they aren’t paying can’t make their payments. Think of this as a spiral of debt extending from the overextended consumer at the bottom to the biggest financial companies at the top. Now that spiral is beginning to “unwind.”
This is happening because of so many years of conservative government focused on deregulating and on protecting the interests of the corporations and the wealthy instead of protecting the interests of the public from the moneyed interests. This is what conservatives do. A while back I wrote a very short post titled Republicans and Economics:

…there was a REASON that Americans were loath to elect a Republican into the government for an entire generation after the Great Depression: They remembered.

But eventually the public forgot, and the moneyed-interests used their money to again become the dominant voice in the public discussion. They used this dominance to persuade people to dislike unions, accept 401Ks as alternatives to pensions, and all the rest of the things that have led to another economic crisis. But even many of my progressive readers didn’t understand what I meant. So I had to add an update,

Previous generations REMEMBERED. There was nothing to add. Over time people have forgotten how Republican economics caused the depression, and how they fought every single program that helped the people at the expense of the wealthiest and the powerful corporations. (And in fact led to the prosperity that the wealthiest and corporations enjoyed since.)
But now people do not remember how concentration of wealth, corporations preying on citizens, anti-union policies, etc. LED TO the economic collapse.
The depression was ended by pro-union policies, redistributive taxes, REGULATIONS on businesses and the fuinancial sector, and an understanding that We, the People run the government, and the reason we have corporations is for OUR benefit, not just the benefit of the few.
Over time, as I said, people forgot. And here we are again.

How do we help the public understand what is happening and how conservative policies are responsible?
One possible way is to use a shorthand — call this the “Iraq Recession.” It isn’t entirely accurate, but it does lay the blame exactly where it belongs. Up to three trillion dollars will be spent by the time we are out of Iraq, assuming it ends soon. And Iraq is entirely a Republican enterprise. So this shorthand places the blame where it belongs. What do you think?

Oil Tax Defeated, School Budget To Be Cut — What You Can Do

Tuesday’s post began,

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.
In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.

But in California the big oil companies get to pump our oil from the ground for free, and then sell it back to us. Right now these oil companies are reaping the highest profits of any industry ever in history, making a few people immensely wealthy, and are not giving back any of this wealth to We, the People of California!
Our state’s budget reflects our priorities and our values. So I wrote that We, the People of California should ask big oil companies to give back some of the immense wealth they are generating for themselves with our oil, so we can fully fund our California schools. I honestly did not know that Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez was about to introduce a bill to do just that. Well, he did, along with a windfall oil profits tax, and this is what happened:

The bill, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was defeated on the Assembly floor after Republicans refused to vote for the new taxes.

These are choices, and the people of California need to understand that a choice was made yesterday to continue to be the only state that allows oil companies to pump our oil and not pay anything for it. And instead of asking the rich oil companies to give back a bit they want to cut the school budget by another 10%.
Republicans said the bill was a publicity stunt, saying Democrats know that no taxes can pass as long as there is a rule allowing just a few Republicans to block the will of the vast majority. They mocked the effort as an “oil drill.”

“I think this truly is a political drill on the eve of the layoff notices that will go out all across the state and on the eve of (the legislative) spring break when we will be at home in our districts talking to our constituents,” Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said during the Assembly floor debate that lasted about three hours.

But do the people of California understand this? Do they realize that just a few votes can allow oil companies to get their oil free, while their children face ever-worsening schools? We need more “publicity stunts” to help them understand the different values and priorities that are being reflected. Politics and life are all about our priorities, not just our choices. What is more important to our people: rich oil companies or well-educated kids?
A choice is being made here, priorities and values are being expressed: cut our schools by 10% rather than ask rich oil companies to give back just a bit. Say it over and over, and then do something about it. Write to your legislators and demand they ask the wealthiest to start giving back a bit.
And remember, this is an election year. This is the time when citizens can do something about it when their legislators are not responding. This is the time that you can remove legislators who give wealthy oil companies tax breaks while cutting school budgets. You can volunteer to work in election campaigns, and go from door to door in their districts, letting voters know that their legislator made a choice and voted to cut school budgets while giving tax breaks to oil companies.
Help spread the word!

Choices on Taking and Giving Back

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.
In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.
Approx. 12 percent of America’s oil production comes from California. As I write this oil sells for $108.14 per barrel. In 2005 the oil companies were pumping oil out of our state at a rate of approx 230 million barrels each year. Oil company revenues and profits are the highest ever from any companies in the history of the world, ever. Did I mention “highest” and “ever”?
But the people of our state, in our wisdom, have decided that instead of asking the oil companies to give back a bit, we will instead give them our oil. Give them. And then we buy it back to put in our cars, etc. Yes, we, the people of the state of California have made the choice to give away our oil to greatly enrich a select few. (And this post is not even a discussion of the dozens of other ways that we have made the choice to allow the few wealthiest among us to avoid giving back by paying taxes.)
Today in California we are facing a budget shortfall. And instead of asking oil companies and others to give back a bit we are on the verge of deciding instead to cut our school budget. Again. This time by 10%. We are on the verge of deciding to cut health care. Again. And courts, police, and every other state service by 10%, again, rather than ask oil companies and others to give back from what they take from the state.
The way we solve this budget shortfall is a choice we make. Our choice. Our choices reflect our values and priorities. And we all make these choices whether we think we do or not. If you don’t vote, you are choosing. If you vote for someone because you would like to have a beer with him or her, you are choosing. If you choose to vote for candidates who tell you there is “waste, fraud and abuse” and then after they have been in office for decades, continue to claim there is “waste, fraud and abuse,” you are choosing. If you choose to let your government borrow and borrow, you are choosing. You will have to pay that back with interest later, of course, but you are choosing.
And if you choose to let your state give our oil away to wealthy corporations so they can sell it to you and get even wealthier you are choosing to make up that potential tax revenue yourself, through cuts in your children’s education and health care and law enforcement, or maybe through increased taxes in the future, but one way or another you are choosing.
What are our priorities? Further tax relief to the wealthiest corporations, or educate our children? Here you are on the verge of choosing to cut your schools by another 10%. Is that the choice you want to make?
There is something else you can choose to do today. You can choose to write to your legislators and let them know what your choice really is. You can choose to talk to your family and friends and explain these choices and ask them to write to their legislators as well.
Click here to find out how to contact your California legislators. If you so choose.

How Does This Help Democrats Win?

Every time I think I might lean toward endorsing one or the other of the candidates things pop up that push me away again. I used to say I liked all of the candidates running for the nomination. Now I’m wondering about that.
And it isn’t just the candidates, it’s the stuff the people around them are doing. The people a candidate puts into leadership positions says a lot about how that person would run an administration.
My main concern in the primaries is winning in November. I can’t support taking self-interest over the interests of the party in November. When you run a scorched-earth primary campaign you reduce the chances of keeping people motivated. You also give tremendous ammunition to the opposition. In California we had a scorched-earth primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor between Westly and Angeledes. Then, during the general election all Schwarzenegger had to do was run ads with the same scripts that Westly had used and coast to victory. The result is that now we have a huge budget deficit and the school budget is going to be cut 10%. And the health budget. And everything else. Thanks guys.
The same thing is happening now between Obama and Clinton.
Hillary says John McCain is qualified to be President but Obama is not. How does that help Democrats win?
Then a top Obama aide calls Hillary a “monster.” How does that help Democrats win?
I have said this before: the candidate I want has the instinct to jump in and defend other progressives.
Now with that in mind, I want to address one particular meme that is circulating. Obama supporters accuse the Clinton campaign of “using race.” I am so sick of this divisive, false accusation. It is not true and it divides Democrats. It is destructive to all of us. The same COULD be said of the Obama campaign and misogyny, by the way, if you applied the same standards – someone loosely associated with the campaign saying something that COULD be interpreted as such-and-such. At least, if you consider the word “bitch” and associated characterizations as misogynist. I haven’t seen the “N” word used anywhere, but I HAVE seen the “B” word used.
People being stupid and saying stupid things is NOT a campaign strategy. People who support a candidate are not “the campaign.” And everyone knows that racism and misogyny are not going to win over the base in Democratic primaries.
We are all in this together. There is really no substantive difference between Obama’s and Clinton’s policies. They are both solid progressives and either would be a great President. OUR goal must be to get the conservative movement that wants to rule, not govern out of the White House and Congress. They really want to have a one party system with no oversight, no checks and no balances. That is as dangerous as any of their policies. What we need to focus on is getting them out and restoring our traditions of democracy.

A Line In The Sand — Stop Cutting School Budgets

Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a “fiscal emergency” and is asking the legislature to solve the problem entirely with budget cuts. He has asked for 10% “across-the-board” cuts which at first glance seems to sound fair, but really means avoiding decisions about what budget items are the most important. It means cutting schools 10%. And law enforcement. And medical care. (Of course, they can’t cut the interest owed on Governor Schwarzenegger’s past borrowing.)
And more than that — much, much more than that — it is a trick that leaves out the fact that the state is not collecting needed tax revenue because of loopholes that let big corporations and the wealthy off the hook while the rest of us make up the difference.
It’s time to draw a line in the sand and demand that our state government not cut the budget for our children’s education any more.
Isn’t there a lot of “fat” in the budget, just waiting to be cut? Most people think so. But think about this — every time the state has a shortfall they cut spending, saying they are cutting out the “fat.” As a result, in the decades since Proposition 13 passed they have trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and we now are long past the point where there is anything left to cut. In fact, today California schools have the lowest number of administrators per student of any state. Our schools have squeezed and squeezed and dropped programs and forgone pay raises and they can’t operate any more efficiently.
I was listening to a radio show the other night, someone from the San Francisco schools said this budget cut could mean they have to have 61 students per classroom.
But the Republicans in the legislature won’t let us talk about taxes — not even the yacht tax loophole. You and I have to pay sales taxes but people who buy yachts and private jets do not. They keep California as the only state that won’t tax the oil companies for the oil they pump out from our state. They won’t find a way to make commercial property owners pay market-rate property taxes.
The Governor and a Republican minority in the Assembly and Senate are still willing to block all alternatives to cutting teachers and health care and roads and parks and those things that We, the People call our government.
So it is time to draw a line in the sand. No more cuts. It is time to ask the corporations and wealthy to start giving back some of the incredible wealth they have made off of the physical, legal and financial infrastructure that We, the People of California put in place that enabled their gains in the first place.
Here are steps you can take to help fight back:
First, join us. Click this link and join Speak Out California. This way we can keep you up to date on our activities, including our activities to help keep our schools funded.
Next, start Speaking Out yourself, writing letters to the editor and contacting your legislators, demanding that the state enact alternatives to budget cuts, like closing tax loopholes and making wealthy people pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay.
The California Teachers Association provides a web page that helps you find the correct contact information for your state legislators. Please write to your legislators.
The Education Coalition has a website with facts to help you make your points. Give them a visit, too.
And finally, this is Speak Out California’s fundraising month. Help us out so we can continue the work we are doing. Help us keep the progressive voice alive.

Keeping the Progressive Voice Alive

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