Governor Schwarzenegger v.s. “Republican Right-Wing Talk”

Not content with blocking the budget, the right is going after the Republican Governor for trying to govern. See Schwarzenegger engages in talk-show tussle,

Schwarzenegger tried to defend new taxes as necessary because the state was still paying off debts incurred by predecessor Gov. Gray Davis. But the hosts pressed further and suggested that Schwarzenegger abandoned his original mission of fixing the state’s fiscal situation in order to pursue environmental goals.
That seemed to upset the governor, who maintained that his environmental policies had nothing to do with the state budget.
“This is absolutely absurd what you’re saying right now,” Schwarzenegger said. “….You’re living in the Stone Age if you think that the environmental issue has anything to do with the budget or the declining economy worldwide.”
“Don’t lie to the people,” Schwarzenegger added. “That’s all I can tell you, don’t lie to the people. Don’t pull wool over their eyes. It’s nonsense Republican right-wing talk.”
That prompted the “anesthesia” joke. Schwarzenegger underwent anesthesia Saturday when he had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee.

In fact the state is paying off debts incurred by Governor Schwarzenegger, but at least he is trying to move the far-right Republicans off of their “no taxes under any circumstances” ideology. The Governor is trying to govern and should get credit for that, even if it is governing from the right. The far-right that is the rest of the state’s Republican Party apparently doesn’t want government at all, especially not government-by-the-people. There are lots of people. They want a one-dollar-one-vote approach favored by corporations and the rich who have lots of dollars.

Where’s the Budget? Who Is Obstructing?

One more attempt to get a state budget in place collapsed — blocked by the Republicans because it included tax increases. Republicans insist that the budget be balanced with billions and billions of dollars in cuts in our schools and fire protection and the other things most of us want our state to do.
I would bet that most of California’s public doesn’t know what is going on with our budget. They only know that there isn’t one, and that this is causing problems. It makes people angry, and causes them to lose faith in government.
People know that government employees are being forced to take pay cuts, and many are being laid off. But they really do not know why.
Yesterday’s budget vote was 45-30. The public doesn’t understand that this means that there were forty-five votes FOR the budget and only thirty votes against, and this is why it failed. They don’t understand that because it does not make sense. But because of a trick that the Republicans were able to play on the public the rules are that it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. So an overwhelming vote of 45-30 FOR the budget means that the budget does NOT pass!
Every Republican in the state has taken a vow not to raise taxes on wealthy corporations or massively wealthy individuals. They won’t vote to require people who buy yachts or private jets to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay when we buy cars. They refuse to ask oil companies to pay fees when they take our oil out of the ground and sell it to us. (Maybe they understand that such a vote will dry up their campaign funding…)
News stories about the latest budget collapse:
San Jose News:

Although the $105.2 billion budget blueprint garnered a majority vote, 45-30, it fell short of the two-thirds supermajority that California’s constitution requires to pass a budget.
. . . The vote “shows clearly that we’re not going to vote for taxes,” said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno.

Wall Street Journal:

“We’re fundamentally saying ‘no tax increases,'” said Mike Villines, the Assembly Republican leader.

They will require workers to take pay cuts and layoffs. They will cut our school budgets. They will cut transportation, the DMV, road repair, law enforcement, prisons, fire protection. But they will not ask wealthy corporations or extremely wealthy individuals to pitch in.
And here is why: by and large California’s public doesn’t know this. They are not being informed that this is entirely because a small minority of Republicans refuse to represent the public’s interests, choosing to represent the wealthy corporations and wealthiest few people.
In fact, the public likely believes that it is the Democrats who are keeping the budget from being passed. If you Google the word Democrat with the word obstruction and you get about 600,000 results. This is a national result, but it reflects the same strategy in use in California. Republicans spent years accusing Democrats of being “obstructionist” when they were not, as a strategy to pressure them to pass Republican-/corporate-oriented bills. Now, after blocking almost everything that the nation’s Congress is doing, the Republicans are campaigning saying that the Democrats in Congress aren’t passing anything! Meanwhile a new Drum Major Institute polls shows that 72% of middle-class Americans can’t name a single bill passed by Congress in the last two years that benefited them or their families! (Minimum wage increase, stimulus package, college more affordable, SCHIP…)
Less than two in five (38%) middle-class respondents to the Drum Major Institute’s new poll say they live comfortably. One-third (34%) say they meet their basic expenses each month with just a little left over for extras, while one-quarter (26%) of middle-class adults would say they just meet their basic expenses (17%) or have trouble meeting their basic expenses each month (9%). And, economy and jobs tops their concerns. They are pessimistic about the direction of the economy. They think it’s more likely that Brangelina will celebrate their 25th anniversary than gas prices returning to $3 a gallon.
But they do not understand WHY. They don’t make the connection between the corporate-controlled Republican party and what is happening to the country.
How do Republicans get away with this? How are they able to get the public to think so many things that are not true? The Republicans have a vast “noise machine” that tells the public things that are not true. (Remember how they were able to convince so many people that Iraq had attacked us on 9/11?) It costs a lot of money to have a noise machine like this, but they get the money from the very corporations and wealthy individuals whose interests they are representing. So it works for them.
Plain and simple, they are bale to reach the public and tell them stuff, and get the public to believe it. The use of overwhelming repetition is the tactic. I use the word “stuff” here with meaning: it’s just stuff they want the public to believe, with no grounding in reality. They do it, and here we are. Nationally the debt is approaching TEN TRILLION DOLLARS and they are still able to get the public to think taxes are bad. In California they are able to force layoffs and school cuts while refusing to make the ultra-rich pay even the same taxes the rest of us pay.
Please leave comments with suggestions on how to fight this.

California Leading On Environment … Most Of Us Anyway

Take a look at the California Climate Change Portal.

This website contains information on the impacts of climate change on California and the state’s policies relating to global warming. It is also the home for the the California Climate Change Center, a “virtual” research and information website operated by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.

California Attorney General Brown recently announced the state will sue to block a huge Nestle bottled-water plant unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Why bottled water? A recent Huffington Post piece by Diane Frances, Bottled Water: The Height of Stupidity talks about the bottled-water scam,

Bottled water is a joke, one of the biggest consumer and taxpayer ripoffs ever. I applaud California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown who said recently that he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California by Nestle.
. . . Not only do society and the environment pay an unfair price for this consumer hoax, but consumers are being hoodwinked. They are paying from 300 to 3,000 times more than the cost of tap water without any benefit.
. . . The water is usually not superior to “city” water or tap water, and is merely a big branding hoax by soda makers. In some cases, this “designer” water is drawn from tap water and labeled for suckers to buy as though it is a superior product.
. . . One expert estimated that the amount of petroleum — used to make the bottles, transport, refrigerate, collect and bury them — would fill one-third of each bottle.
These plastic bottles are creating landfill problems worldwide, and are washing up on beautiful beaches around the planet.

Continue reading

One Effect Of Money’s Influence On Policies

A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute titled The China Trade Toll [PDF document] says that since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 our China trade policy “has had a devastating effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy.”
The report shows that since 2001 California has lost 325,800 jobs (55,400 of these just in the last year) to China due to these policies. And since 2001 2.3 million jobs were lost nationally. According to the report even those workers able to find new jobs saw their wages drop an average of $8,146 per year. (These figures are only for jobs and income lost to China and do not include jobs and income lost to other countries.)
And, of course, this effect is not limited to the workers who lost their job. This also has an effect on works’ ability to ask for raises and imporvements in working conditions. From the report,

It is also critical to recognize that the indirect impact of trade on other workers is significant as well. Trade with less-developed countries has reduced the bargaining power of all workers in the U.S. economy who resemble the import-displaced in terms of education, credentials, and skills. Annual earnings for all workers without a four year college degree are roughly $1,400 lower today because of this competition…

Specific industries were affected more than others by our massive trade deficit with China. Computer and electronic product manufacturers were hit hardest, losing an eliminated 561,000 jobs in this period. Jobs lost to the deficit tended to be better-paying ones,

More than two-thirds of the jobs displaced by China trade deficits were in manufacturing, which tends to employ a higher-than-average share of workers with a high school degree or less (43.7% of workers displaced) and to provide those workers with good wages and benefits. More than half (55.6%) of the jobs displaced came from the top half of the U.S. wage distribution, and among this group a disproportionate share came from the top 10th of all U.S. wage earners. African Americans (230,000 jobs lost), Hispanics (339,000), and other ethnic groups (219,000) all suffered from the loss of jobs such as these that pay substantially more and offer better benefits than jobs in other industries.

Here is what is going on. First, China “pegs” its currency to the dollar instead of letting it follow market rates as the dollar does. So the dollar’s decline does not make it cost less to manufacture here, which would bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Next, China doesn’t allow workers to organize labor unions. So their workers are not really benefiting from all of this. Wages there are kept low, and prices grow ever higher due to the currency manipulation of “pegging” to the dollar. And finally, China imposes barriers on imported goods. So while they manufacture and sell to the rest of the world, they keep their own people from buying things made elsewhere.
As a result China exported $323 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2007, and purchased only $61 billion in goods from the U.S.
The report concludes,

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has displaced huge numbers of jobs in the United States and has been a prime contributor to the crisis in manufacturing employment over the past six years. Moreover, the United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.

And, the report points out that this isn’t particularly in the long-term interests of the Chinese people, either,

Is America’s loss China’s gain? The answer is most certainly no. China has become dependent on the U.S. consumer market for employment generation, has suppressed the purchasing power of its own middle class with a weak currency, and, most importantly, has held hundreds of billions of hard currency reserves in low-yielding, risky assets instead of investing them in public goods that could benefit Chinese households. Its vast purchases of foreign exchange reserves have stimulated the overheating of its domestic economy, and inflation in China has accelerated rapidly in the past year. Its repression of labor rights has suppressed wages, thereby artificially subsidizing exports.

Of course trade is good, when it is a two way street. If trade is fair, it benefits everyone involved. But this report shows that what the people who run American corporations call “free” trade is hurting our economy more than it is helping. Now that several years of these policies have passed we can measure the results, and the results have not been good for the American people.
Because of our country’s trade policies with China 325,800 jobs have been lost in California. Meanwhile China is allowed to manipulate their currency, prevent unions, and set up barriers that keep their people from buying goods we make here.
What this has meant is big corporations can get out of paying American workers a fair wage because they can get away with paying Chinese workers hardly anything, while a very few people at the top of the American and Chinese food chains pocket the difference entirely for themselves. If you consider the huge amounts that some of these individuals are pocking from this scheme — some receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each yeararen’t we at least benefiting from the taxes they pay? Unfortunately no, because of the tax policies of California and national Republican: low taxes for the rich, higher taxes for the rest of us, and borrowing to cover the resulting deficits. Here in California the Republicans are even blocking an effort to ask the super-rich to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay on everything we buy when they buy yachts and private planes. But no, they don’t even have to pay that tax.
The result of these tax policies is that while we lose jobs,and the remaining workers get pay cuts, we also lose out on government services like schools, fire protection, police, roads, mass transit and everything else our government does for us. And that’s not all. Because of these tax policies the state and national governments are borrowing huge amounts, and we have to pay that back with interest.
All of this — the China trade policies, the tax policies, the massive borrowing — come from the influence that money buys in our political system. The minute someone is able to use some money to gain an advantage, of course they use that to get even more money, which lets them buy an even bigger advantage, and the cycle continues.
You can easily see the effects of the money with the massive ad campaigns around California’s elections and ballot initiatives — and the resulting budget gridlock as a few corporate-connected Republicans block every effort to ask the rich and connected to pay their share.
We are in a stranglehold situation. A very few wealthy people are exporting our jobs and pocketing the money they would have paid as wages and benefits. They are not even paying taxes on the ill-gotten gains, which forces our state and national governments to borrow. And they are getting away with it because they are able to use some of that money to further influence our political system.
Here’s the thing. They’re not even using their own money to purchase this influence. Since they have control of the resources of large corporations, they are using the money from those corporations to fund the system of influence, which directs much larger amounts of cash back to themselves.
I think the way to stop this is to prevent any use of corporate money for anything other than operating the corporation. I’ll share some ideas on that in later posts. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Stop Sarah’s Law — California Proposition 4

The religious right is at it again, with another ballot measure intended to divide Californians and prevent women from making their own choices about their own bodies and lives. This time it is Proposition 4 — “Sarah’s Law” — the old “parental notification” initiative that bans the termination of a pregnancy in a minor unless their parents are notified 48 hours ahead of time.
The same initiative has been rejected by California voters twice for good reason. Yes, this is the third time in three years. So the state — We, the People, the taxpayers — runs the expense of another ballot initiative.
So this time they have named the parental notification initiative “Sarah’s Law” after Sarah of the Bible — a fictitious name being used for a real woman who died in Texas in 1994 from an infection caused by a torn cervix. Prop 4 proponents claim that “Sarah” would have been saved if Prop 4 had been in effect there. Now it turns out that Prop 4 would not have applied. So this new rationale for the previously-rejected law — that Prop 4 would save the lives of minors, entirely based on one 1994 case — is false. Obviously helping young women is not the point of this law. Below I will talk about how this will actually endanger their health and lives.
First, though, an Aug. 2 LA Times story explains: ‘Sarah’s Law’ would not have applied to ‘Sarah,’ acknowledge backers of the abortion-notification measure,

Backers of a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor acknowledged Friday that the 15-year-old on which “Sarah’s Law” is based had a child and was in a common-law marriage before she died of complications from an abortion in 1994.
[. . .] Proposition 4 would amend the California constitution to prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after a physician notifies the minor’s parent or legal guardian. State voters have twice rejected similar measures.

At first glance it might seem like a good idea to require minors to notify parents before they can terminate a pregnancy. Unfortunately the reality of people’s lives does not always match up with the ideal families of 1960s TV shows. There are very serious reasons that a young woman might not want to tell parents about a pregnancy. These can involve abuse, incest and fear. In these cases requiring parental notification can bring about serious consequences. It can also cause the young woman to turn to unsafe alternatives.
There can even be very bad reasons where the young woman really should tell the parents. But a law like this also endangers a foolish, unwise young woman’s health because it can cause her to to to an illegal, unlicensed, unsafe practitioner, or even try something herself. People do not always do the best and wisest thing. Foolish and unwise young people even more so.
History and experience have taught society that having a safe and legal place to turn for help is the best way to protect our young women. When a young woman is pregnant and does not want to be and there are no safe procedures available she might out of desperation turn to unsafe alternatives. When pregnancy termination was illegal it didn’t mean women did not terminate pregnancies, it meant they did so at very high risk to their health. Terrible consequences were not uncommon. This is why the right’s justification for Sarah’s Law, and the false story behind it, is such an abomination. They are trying to take away these safe procedures with false stories that this will protect young women. It is safe and legal procedures that protect women who decide to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Schwarzenegger Makes Recession Worse

A post by Texas Nate over at MyDD, Schwarzenegger Makes Recession Worse, says,

Let’s take a look at the situation. Democrats have proposed a way to close California’s $15.2 billion deficit:

They want to raise $8.2 billion by boosting taxes on the wealthiest Californians and corporations, and say another $1.5 billion can come to the state through an amnesty on tax scofflaws.

Seems reasonable to me. One would think the best thing to do if you disagree with something is to offer an alternative. That doesn’t seem to be the case for California Republicans:

Republicans oppose any new taxes but have yet to offer their own budget proposal, said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, a Democrat. “It’s time for the legislative Republicans to tell the public how they would balance the budget,” he said.

Exactly right. Instead California Republicans have fallen into line with their leader in the governors mansion; disagree, complain, argue, kick and scream, but refuse to offer any alternative.
The Governor’s plan does nothing but hurt even more Californians facing a bad economy and an even worse housing crisis. Playing with the lives of state employees to score cheap political points, its no wonder the Government is having such a difficult time trying to get a budget deal in place.

Exactly right. Go over to MyDD to read the whole post.

Republican Budget Choices

Yesterday Governor Schwarzenegger ordered 10,000 state government employees laid off and ordered the wages of 200,000 more cut down to the bare minimum allowed by law.
This is 210,000 people who will not be keeping up with their mortgages or car payments or attending “back-to-school” sales. This is thousands of local retailers that will see a sales decrease. This is how many foreclosures and car repossessions. What will this do to our own jobs and housing prices?
This is 210,000 families disrupted.
Why is this happening? Because the Republicans refuse to make wealthy yacht and private plane buyers pay the same sales taxes the rest of us pay. This is happening because the Republicans refuse to make the oil companies pay us for our oil as they take it out of the ground. (Yes, even as oil companies post the largest ever profits of any companies in the history of the world.) The citizens of Alaska not only don’t pay state taxes, they receive a check every year, because their state government asked the oil companies to pay to take their oil. In California the Republicans in state government apparently think they were elected to represent the interests of oil companies, not the public.
Republicans like to say that taxes “take money out of the economy” but the Governor’s actions yesterday show exactly the opposite: laying off workers and cutting their wages takes money out of the economy. In fact taxes drive the state’s economy by building the infrastructure that enable economic growth. The California state government is police and fire protection and schools and roads and courts and all of those are the engines of economic growth. Taxes fund the services that people want like shorter lines at the DMV and libraries and did I mention schools? These layoffs and wage cuts just illustrate what I wrote a while back about how tax cuts make us poor.
This is the Republican choice — giving the very wealthiest even more money at the expense of regular working people.

Sisters of St. Joseph and Hospital Workers

So many of us have a hard time living up to our own values. Here is a story of one example.
The Sisters of St. Joseph have a proud history of fighting for human rights and human dignity and improvement of conditions for working people. But like so many progressives — and people in general — the Sisters of St. Joseph appear to be having trouble living up to these values when they apply to themselves.
A few days ago Julia Rosen wrote a Calitics post titled, Sisters of St. Josephs it’s time to make peace with your workers. I urge readers here to go read that post. Julia writes,

It is a dirty little secret, but often times the more virulently anti-union employers are religious orders that run health systems. Such is the situation with the Sisters of St. Joseph who run the St. Joseph Health System. They have been resisting the efforts of their service employees to join SEIU-UHW for the past three years.

And at Huffington Post Delores Huertes has a post titled, Together We Marched in Solidarity. I also urge readers to click through and read it. She begins,

This week I’m joining St. Joseph Health System workers, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Father Eugene Boyle, actor Ed Begley Jr, and community and religious leaders to call upon the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange to make peace with their workers.

next she makes the important point,

For decades, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange have fought for justice for California’s workers. In the summer of 1973, they marched in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and farm workers during the brutal Grape Strike. I witnessed the Sisters putting their personal safety at risk. They walked picket lines and even went to jail with more than 3500 striking farm workers. I was inspired by the Sisters’ commitment to stand with the farm workers, even in the face of violent provocation.

Yes, it appears that the Sisters of St. Joseph are ready to stand by workers, walk pickets lines, and fight for the rights of workers. But this time they are holding back when it involves their own workers. Huertes continues,

Over the last three years, workers in the St. Joseph Health System (SJHS) who care for the sick and vulnerable in our community, have been working to form a union with S.E.I.U. — United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) so they can have a real say in the decisions that affect their patients, their families and themselves.
But the Sisters, who founded and hold majority control of the Board of SJHS, a $3.5 billion system of hospitals and clinics, sadly are using heavy-handed tactics similar to those used by other major corporations to deny workers a free choice about whether to form a union. SJHS workers have told me directly, that the SJHS management is fighting their efforts and violating federal labor law by threatening union supporters with arrest and job loss – and denying them free speech. Public records show that SJHS has hired some of the most notorious union-busting firms to fight their employees. Meanwhile, government officials have cited SJHS for violating its employees’ basic labor rights, including illegally firing, spying on, and intimidating workers who want to form a union. These heavy-handed tactics leave workers feeling threatened, intimidated and disregarded.

While looking into this I came across a December, 2007 article at the Catholic News Agency, Catholic health workers’ effort to unionize could crowd out Catholics. Please read to article to learn about the subtexts of this unionization battle. From the story,

A political activist in Sacramento [. . .] said the UHW takeover would be a “done deal” if the employees’ demand for a fair election agreement were met.

If you read the story it is clear that the activist mentioned is very much against unionization and supports the Sisters’ efforts to keep the workers from having a unionization vote. But if allowing a vote for a union means that a union is “a done deal” then it means the workers want a union.
Any way you look at it, it is a shame that the Sisters are trying to keep their workers from voting on whether to have a union. The Sisters need to understand that they are role models for their community. They were positive role models standing up for their values when they supported the farmworkers. They can again be positive role models by showing that even when it affects their own interests they are willing to stand by their values and support worker rights and human rights.
It is time that the Sisters of Saint Joseph allow their workers to vote on whether they want a union.

Netroots Nation Report

I thought our readers might like to get an insight into how last week’s annual Netroots Nation convention went, and how it keeps the blogging world energized. Here is an inside look at the event. (‘Netroots’ stands for the online, networked, “bottom-up” grassroots of democracy.)
First of all, Austin is like a big, very very very very very very hot Santa Cruz. The daily high temperature was between 96 and 104 each day I was there. The convention facilities were great, and are located right downtown, surrounded by restaurants and the entertainment district. The hotel was next door to the convention center with several other hotels nearby. It’s also near Austin’s famous “bat bridge” from under which hundreds of thousands of bats emerge each day just after sunset.
Two thousand people attended the Thursday through Sunday event. The crowd and speakers were much more diverse than previous years. This is a gathering of all ages and demographic groups, centered around the progressive blogs.
Netroots Nation used to be called YearlyKos. This event sprang up from the large community that had grown up around the DailyKos website, but the gathering itself is a larger Netroots gathering not just associated with that particular site. Hence the change to Netroots Nation.
The first day, Thursday, was set aside for caucuses. There was a labor caucus which really wish I could have attended. There were a few state caucuses. There were caucuses like Native American and GLBTQ, and even a Geek caucus. There were caucuses for websites like MyDD and Firedoglake.
The evening Keynote on that first day was Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party, introduced by General Wesley Clark.
Friday the panels and workshops started. Friday and Saturday were arranged with two panel slots before lunch and two after. Each of those slots had THIRTEEN different panels to choose from! And of course everyone wanted to attend at least tow, more likely four of those at any given time. For an idea of what one of these panels was link, here is the description of The Next President and the Law:

Fri, 07/18/2008 – 9:00am, Exhibit Hall 4
A new Democratic president will take office on January 20, 2009, facing a federal judiciary stacked with Republican appointees in 20 of the last 28 years, and a Department of Justice that has been more tied to the President’s policy interests than the impartial enforcement of law. What should the next president do with the courts? What should the priorities be for his attorney general? What legislative initiatives are needed to restore fair access to the courts?
PANELISTS: Cass Sunstein, John Dean, Adam Bonin, Michael Waldman

There were thirteen sessions like this to choose from at 9am, then thirteen more at 10:30am. Then for lunch Markos of DailyKos and former Senator Harold Ford, now head of the right-leaning DLC, had a discussion on stage. I wrote about this at my personal blog, in the post, Harold Ford at Netroots Nation on FISA:

Harold Ford and Markos held a discussion on stage at lunch here at Netroots Nation. I didn’t catch all of it, but at one point Ford was talking about FISA and telecom immunity, along the lines of “If you have a company, and the government comes to you and says ‘If you do this for us it will help national security’ then what can you say?”
I’ll tell you what you can say. You can say, “DO YOU HAVE A WARRANT?”

Then two more groups of thirteen panels at 1:30pm and 3pm, with an evening “Netroots Candidates Event” where what seemed to be fifty candidates for office around the country who the netroots are supporting were introduced. (I spotted Pete McCloskey at this event. McCloskey was a California Congressman who ran against Richard Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries, and who co-founded Earth Day.)
And then there were the parties… Parties and parties. There were lots of parties. And there were parties.
Saturday kicked off with “Ask the Speaker”. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on stage taking questions that had been solicited in advance from blogs all around the web, as well as live questions from people attending. Then there was a surprise. One of the questions that came over the speakers was from Al Gore! And Gore walked onto the stage to give a brief talk about climate change and the nature of our politics, and took questions as well as Speaker Pelosi.
Then more panels … The lunch keynote was Lawrence Lessig who talked about the destructive nature of money in politics — whenever money is involved you can’t trust the results, just like with medical research funded by pharmaceutical companies. So of course you can’t trust money in politics.
Then more panels. I put on a workshop titled, “Blogging and the New Green Economy,” described as follows,

This workshop will discuss how bloggers can support and organize around the efforts of environmental justice activists, union leaders and city government officials to help create a new green economy.

(Last year I put on two major sessions and participated in three other panels, and the year before i was also involved with several. So just doing this one was a relief.)
Saturday wrapped up with a keynote speech by Rep. Donna Edwards. This is significant because the Netroots supported Edwards in a primary race against another Democrat who was supporting a corporate agenda. She won, and it has sent a signal to other Democrats that they can start to change their behavior. And now the SEIU and others are planning to run at least ten primary challenges in the next round of Congressional elections. This is a very important development which I wrote about in my post SEIU’s Accountability Project — Making Politicians Do The Right Thing. I wrote,

First, it finally gives politicians whose hearts are with us a reason to vote with us. Second, it tells politicians who don’t agree with a progressive agenda (of reducing corporate power over our lives and restoring democracy to the people) that their time is past, that we will run candidates against them in the primaries and these candidates will have strong support.

Then there were parties. And more parties. Lots of parties.
And parties.
Finally, Sunday began with a multi-faith service led by “Pastor Dan” who posts at the DailyKos-associated blog Street Prophets. Following that the keynote speaker Van Jones was introduced by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Newsom was great but Van Jones gave a memorable talk that will be available in video online soon.
A tremendous amount of networking happens at this event. I once called it the largest gathering of people who know each other but have never met. It is events like this one and the Take Back America conference where a new progressive movement is being built. One this that was significant this year was the exhibits, where organizations involved with the Netroots have booths to show off what they are up to. There were quite a number of these this year, which shows that an ecosystem is starting to develop.
Someone caught a photo of me speaking to the California Caucus:
(That’s a really bad shot of CA-46 Congressional candidate Debra Cook in the front.)
There are several blogs (here, here) and diaries at DailyKos with pictures, (here, here, here, here), and a Flickr album I located.

Immigration Questions II

The other day I brought up immigration, asking the practical question of how we would identify people who are here without documentation.

Suppose — just suppose — the people who advocate harsh treatment of non-citizens are successful in their efforts, and our government starts an effort to locate and deport them. How do we identify who is here without authorization? This is a practical question.
Americans are not required to “carry papers.” We do not have checkpoints, and inside of the country we do not have to prove that we are traveling with proper authorization. We certainly do not have to prove that we are citizens. Many of us could never even locate the documentation necessary to prove citizenship if we were, in fact, required to prove it.

One answer that comes up frequently is to deal with the immigration question through employment. The reason people come here is to try to have a better life, which means employment. So this opens up a two-pronged approach. One, attack the undocumented resident problem through the employers, and the other is to help the countries south of us to improve their economies so people are not desperately trying to come here so they can feed their families. (And opening up markets of people who can afford to buy things we make here, by the way.) Meanwhile, employers here are taking advantage of desperate people for their own gain.
So to approach this problem though employment we ask employers here to check for documentation when hiring. This is a natural time to do this, because people already need to show they are who they say they are when applying for jobs. An employer who hires an undocumented worker is the one committing the crime.
But what happens to families and lives if we cause people working now to be fired? What happens to neighborhoods, businesses, already-eroding housing prices, local tax bases, and all the other things that can be affected if hundreds of thousands — maybe even millions — of people are suddenly without jobs and forced to move? Perhaps part of the answer to the problem is to freeze any new hiring of people who are not citizens or have resident status, so the problem at least stops getting worse and ever harder to solve. But it is not a good idea for human and economic reason to punish people who are already living and working here.
The current discussion of immigration is so focused on the word “illegal” and that word helps turn human beings into a faceless, criminal “them.” But it really is human beings, with families and lives just like everyone else.
Please discuss.