Why California Can’t Pass A Budget

Sunday’s CBS show 60 Minutes featured our own Governor Schwarzenegger!  One of the things said on the show was the following,

“The governor proposed to close that budget deficit half with tax
increases and half with budget cuts. Republicans and Democrats opposed

This is why California does not have a budget.  I don’t mean that we do not have a budget because “Republicans and Democrats” oppose the Governor, won’t compromise, won’t “meet half way,” etc. or that “Democrats won’t agree to cut spending” as most of the public is told.  I mean that we do not have a budget because the public is told that this is the reason. If the public understood the real reasons that we do not have a budget, representative government would work and the citizens would apply the necessary pressure to bring about the passage of a budget.

It is simply a fact that the reason we do not have a budget is that a small number of extremists are blocking the passage of a budget and are doing so because they can.  They have voted against every budget compromise offered. They have been able to get away with this because the public believes that both sides are refusing to compromise.  The Democrats have agreed to cuts and have moved more than half way.  The Republicans refuse to move at all.

Our news outlets are not meeting their responsibility to keep the public informed.  This failure is contributing to our state’s inability to govern itself.

And by the way, we here at Speak Out California wish you a Happy Holiday Season!

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.

Things CAN Change!

One reason so many people in California and around the country “tune out” and don’t participate in our own government is they believe that creating change is beyond their control. It often seems that things are locked in by powerful, wealthy interests with regular people locked out of the process. This feeling of loss of control has been established by many disappointments over the years.
There are experiments in “learned helplessness” in which rats are unable to control when they are given shocks. Eventually they just lie down and give up.

For example, rats that have been exposed to shocks that they cannot control often become strikingly passive when later placed in new traumatic situations. They appear numb to the new trauma as if they have “given up.” Alternatively, they also become especially fearful of environments where they experience similar traumas and will try to avoid such situations.

Does this sound like you, or people you know? Or maybe way too much of the state and country?
Take heart, for things CAN change! In Australia’s last election the people threw out the bad-on-the-environment conservative government and brought in a government that promises to immediately sign the Kyoto anti-global-warming agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
And look who the new government is placing in charge of its environmental policies! Former Midnight Oil rocker Garrett named Australia’s environment minister,

Peter Garrett – the towering, baldheaded former singer of the disbanded Australian rock group Midnight Oil – continued his long, strange tour from pop star to politician Thursday when he was named Australia’s environment minister.
With his wild dancing and strident voice, Garrett was one of Australia’s most recognizable singers until his band broke up in 2002, after belting out politically charged hits for more than 25 years.
Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in 1973, but the semi-punk rock group did not achieve global fame until its 1987 track “Beds are Burning” – a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

And so, to celebrate, here is something we can all “tune in” to:
Midnight Oil, Beds are Burning:

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Blackwater’s “Drunken” Mercenaries Open Fire “Crazily,” But Still Get New $90 Million Pentagon Contract

Blackwater USA, the billion-dollar mercenary corporation operating in Iraq, is finally and belatedly starting to come under the harsh spotlight of accountability. Hopefully, this new spotlight on Blackwater will help Californians stop dreaming and start demanding that Blackwater not build a mammoth new private military base in San Diego County.
A shocking new House Oversight Committee report (PDF) contains terrifying new details on the lethal incompetence of Blackwater’s “employees” (which act as replacements for US soldiers). Among other stunning findings in the new report, Blackwater, the mercenary corporation that wants to open a mammoth new private army base near San Diego, was found to have paid $15,000 to family members of a man in Iraq shot and killed by a “drunken Blackwater contractor.”
Revelations about this despicable hush money, paid to the murdered man’s family in order to keep the incident quiet, comes after yet another damning report (this one prepared by the Iraqi government) showing that Blackwater mercenaries opened fire “crazily and randomly” at innocent civilians in a terrible Baghdad massacre last month.
Read on to learn more about Blackwater’s history — and what you can do to stop Blackwater’s plans to invade California.

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What ever happened to the right to dissent?

The American people are getting to be more and more like the frog in the pot of water. You know the analogy—if you put a frog in water and slowly up the heat, the frog doesn’t know when he’s getting cooked until the water is just about boiling and his fate is sealed because he can’t jump out. Ive been feeling that this is what is happening to the American people recently and we’re not yet aware that the first amendment, like the frog, is being destroyed by a slow, but sure attack on dissent.
Today I awoke to a plea from the folks at MoveOn.org asking that I call my U.S. Senators and urge them to reject an attempt by Senate Republicans to condemn Move On for its ad last week regarding the testimony of General Patreus. If you recall, they referred to him as “General Betrayus” for what they claimed was a dishonest and slanted analysis on the progress of the so-called “surge” strategy that Bush and his cronies imposed upon Congress, the American people, and most importantly our soldiers and the Iraqi people.
This shameless ploy reminds me of one of the most fundamental strategies recommended when you’re being attacked and can’t respond effectively because the facts are simply against you. Don’t try to respond, just attack the messenger. By deflecting attention from the substance of what is being said, the focus moves from the issue to the character of who is sending the message. It is a strategy that the Bush administration has employed since its beginning. Every time the Emperor is observed walking without clothes, and that pesky child yells that the Emperor is naked, the Bush media machine (Fox News and others) steps in and attacks the child as being blind, or crazy, or both, or in the case of the Bush years, of being disloyal and unpatriotic.
It is not new that dissent is characterized as disloyalty. During times of war (that is REAL war, like World War 2) there was an effort to keep Americans focused on the battle, and dissent, as limited as it may be, was kept in check while our soldiers fought off the Nazi’s and Imperial Japan. Think more dramatically about after that war, when Joseph McCarthy established his drunken and reckless reign of terror on the American people, using Communism as the “War” we were fighting and using anyone who ever read a book by Karl Marx as a scapegoat.
Fast forward to today, where the “War on Terror” has replaced the War on Communism as the war de jour. While the threat of terrorism is real, the threat of losing our democratic way of life appears to be even more real and immediate in our country today. It was one of our great sages who observed that democracy will never be defeated from without, it will only be defeated from within.
Are we at that stage where the cancer of extremism within our country, the lack of an open, free and independent press has extinguished an honest and open debate on the issues, where our President believes he is king and not subject to the checks and balances of the co-equal branch of government we call Congress? Is democracy being threatened from within?

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Conservative Failure Day

Campaign for America’s Future chief Bob Borosage sets up the big challenge for the Republican candidates as they’re headed in to their debate tonight: figuring out how to talk about their failed governing philosophy:

Each of Bush’s signature failures — the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Enron and the corporate scandals, failed tax and trade policies, the attempt to privatize Social Security, the posturing around Terri Schiavo and stem cells — can be traced back not simply to the conservative ideology and ideologues that sired them — but to the basic concepts that Reagan championed. The Gipper can’t lead Republican candidates out of the wilderness because, to paraphrase, his conservatism is the problem, not the solution.

CAF is doing their part to bury the philosophy of conservatism dead like communism is dead. They’ve got a whole one day conference on just this going on today, with plenty of juicy updates at Rick “Before the Storm” Perlstein’s outstanding new weblog, The Big Con.
And Vanity Fair has another reminder of both this failed philosophy and why Giuliani is dangerous, despite his seemingly narrow chances of getting through the primary:

Rudy, arguably, is the most anti-family-values candidate in the race (this or any other). And yet, in some sense – which could be playing well with the right wing – what he may be doing is going to the deeper meaning of family values, which is about male prerogative, an older, stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway, when-men-were-men, don’t-tread-on-me kind of thing.

It’s all comes down to enforcing moral orders with conservatives, and the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want to live in the country that results from this kind of dog eat dog approach.
Update: Howard Fineman tunes right into the creepy lizard brain aspect of this:

Commenting on the candidates, Fineman said, “There is a hierarchical, there is, dare I say it, male, there’s an old-line quality to them that some voters, indeed a lot of voters, find reassuring.”

Voting to kill the troops – even here

You wouldn’t think this would be possible in our state, but two Congressman have perfect zeros on votes for supporting the troops: Jerry Lewis and John Doolittle. Down With Tyranny has great coverage and links to their progressive punch scores. This was an ad from 2006 about this issue:

Doolittle is the sicko who had party operatives send out a piece of mail the weekend before the election accusing his opponent, retired Air Force Lieutenant Charlie Brown, of being a Nazi sympathizer. Despite being in a district that is among the most lopsidedly Republican in the state (by almost 20 points!) he almost lost. It takes a special kind of chutzpah to accuse a veteran of being a Nazi sympathizer and a special kind of incompetence to blow a 20 point lead. You can contribute to Charlie Brown here. He is absolutely running again.
Dailykos, Calitics, and D-Day all have more on these two.

Woah! Tom McClintock on hate radio!

According to the CARepublic.com website and an email announcement this morning, conservative State Senator Tom McClintock appeared on a Disney-owned talk radio station with a ten year history of hate speech, racist fearmongering and authoritarian and eliminationist rhetoric this morning. This is the station that has prompted this letter from Media Matters to Disney executives, with examples of some of the on-air violence and death threats that are typically employed.
The questions that arise from this are troubling. Does Senator McClintock support and endorse these points of view? Do we really want to live in a state where death threats can be broadcast to millions of people so that they become just another part of the background noise?
The standard conservative dodge is that “we were just joking.” But is any of this remotely funny? When did it become ok to say things like this and have there be no consequences?


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

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

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

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