October 2005 Archives

Blogad update

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Our blogad fundraising campaign is doing well enough that we've expanded our list of targets a bit. But we need to raise more to get it out on all of the sites we've come up with! If you didn't spend a few hours this weekend out talking to people about this thing, you in particular really need to contribute.

This morning, in two sentences, the SF Chron sums up the big problem with this election: that it doesn't do a single thing to answer the real problems facing the state...

But as they tick off concerns about the future here -- growth, traffic and jobs -- Cervantez throws up his hands.

"Why," he asked, "are we having a special election again?"

That's about as pithy a summation as my Dad's reaction: "I can't believe you have to vote on this stuff. A lot of these are really stupid." Unfortunately we have to, so channel some of your irritation at this whole mess and contribute to our blogad run!

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An intersection with a nice view, from yesterday's Noe Valley Democratic Club doorhanger run.

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We've had really amazingly positive feedback to our voter guide (in english and in spanish), and we'd like to get it in front of as many people in the few days left before the election. To do this, we're planning on running these blogads...

On a few political and some non-political ones, too. Click on the ad to go to our donations page. The nice thing about blogad buys is that (for now at least), they really scale on the low end: you can almost do an ad buy with the change you find in the back seat of your car. But we'd like to go up on some high traffic blogs with good placement - the more you contribute, the more we can do.


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Blast from the past

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From an American Prospect article on framing from a long, long time ago...

"[Strategic Framing Institute president Susan Bales] shows two slides. First she displays a cover of the children's book Chicken Little. When greens sound like Chicken Little, she says, the message is that the sky is falling, it's your fault and you have to lower your living standards. Not surprisingly, that message attracts only true believers. Then she puts up a second slide of The Little Engine That Could. A far better message is that good old American technology can solve environmental problems, and that citizens can hold government and business accountable if only they have the political will."

That's still probably the single most succinct description of framing that's out there; something to think about while you're talking to people about the special election. If the topic of how negative things seem right now comes up, point people towards our (very, very positive) progressive values pledge for California!

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This morning's economic thought to ponder comes via this excellent diary on dailykos. It does take a second of thought to parse, but it's a good point. The focus of the state needs to be on supporting the processes that truly create wealth, like education, and protect us from the brutalities of a marketplace so we can keep taking risks without ruining our lives in the process. It's the high road!

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This is Nora Dye, she is doing an amazing job coordinating the No on Prop 73 phone banks for Planned Parenthood in San Francisco. Behind her is an adorable poster showing all the happy volunteers who have been coming in week after week to get the word out about this dangerous initiative.

Statewide, Planned Parenthood's goal is to contact 50,000 voters about Prop 73, and with two weeks left they still need to contact about 20,000. My experience tonight proved again that people are receptive to voting the right way on this one, once they hear a coherent argument. If you haven't given your time to phone bank on Prop 73, call your local Planned Parenthood affiliate and get involved!

If you're in San Francisco, it happens at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 815 Eddy Street, and Thursdays at 1635 Mission.

They had Thai food. It was so great.

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Last night's performance by the Governor was exactly as expected: more style over substance. His performance threw new light on what Orwellian masterpieces these six propositions are. They sound great - it's just that when you dig into them and realize what's going on that you see that none of them will move this state in a remotely positive direction. From imposing tyranny on teenagers to shifting the balance even further towards private affluence and public squalor, all these propositions are as bad for the state today as they were before his slick sales pitch.

But they sound vaguely reasonable, especially when as talented a politician as Governor Schwarzenegger is leading the show. As good as he is, even the corporate media doesn't seem to be buying it. The first headline here is the SF Chronicle's, but the media elsewhere in the state seems to be getting it closer to right:

Governor on game in live forum
Governor's Forum Shows Rifts
Governor: Prop. 76 not a grab for power
Schwarzenegger fields a few hostile questions
Governor gets defensive at election forum
`Showdown' debate misses the mark
Sparks fly over event's format

We have to keep the backdrop of what the real problems in this state are and the complete lack of impact anything that's on the ballot will have...

Nothing in these will do anything to secure the environment.
Nothing in these will help a single uninsured child get health care.
Nothing in these will help relieve our dependence on cars and foreign oil.
Nothing in these will build stronger communities in California.
Nothing in these will help working families make ends meet.
Nothing in these will encourage long-term growth.
Nothing in these will help early childhood, K-12, or higher education.
Nothing in these will limit corporate power.

These are the wants and aspirations of the majority of the people in this state. We heard nothing about them last night, just another snow job attempt at making the case for government based on failed conservative principles.

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We are being lied to.

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George Skelton finally asks the obvious questions about the Governor's increasingly Orwellian Proposition 76 sales pitch:

Political strategists for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must think there's voter appeal in telling people they can have it both ways: less and more at the same time. Or, regardless of where people come down on the side of spending - wanting more or less - they're covered by Prop. 76.

The Schwarzenegger camp's answer for how this can possibly be true is simple: more debt. Yep, make the grandkids pay for it! I guess it doesn't count as spending if it doesn't come out of the pockets of today's rich. This is more bash, break, borrow & BS.

I really hope this strategy doesn't work, but the fact that they're even trying it says a lot about how they view the process of governing as one big campaign. There's a bond of trust that has to be in place between leaders and the people. When that bond is abused - this tactic is only the latest in a long string of insults over the past few years - bad things happen. It's something to keep in mind when discussing things with conservatives: they've been lied to, even more than the rest of us.

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All of us, together

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Via Political Animal: this is an interesting post from someone who took part in a focus group of Ivy Leage Democratic Party activists. I'm really curious as to who is running such a thing (and why!), which the author declines to get into. The whole post is a little boneheaded, and has the ring of a very smart person thinking about this problem for the first time:

Take the issue of being pro-market, for example. Not one person at the table listed a commitment to either entrepreneurs or free markets as a core part of the Democratic agenda. Yet everyone at the table was basically pro-market and pro-business BUT believed that America must pay more attention to those left behind by markets and businesses.

Given that Republicans always identify themselves as the party of markets and entrepreneurs, could Democrats make any headway with this kind of "yes, but" approach to the subject? But if framing isn't enough, how can Democrats alter the substance of their agenda without simply becoming more like Republicans?

In the final analysis, there was no answer to this question. Even a table full of Ivy League-educated Democratic activists couldn't come up with an answer to the question of what the Democrats want to offer America as a whole, and not just the disadvantaged. But the question itself is important, because it has the potential to force the Democrats to approach every major policy debate from a fresh perspective.

Absolutely this is an important question, and in the final analysis we're going to find an answer to it or continue to lose until we do.

I don't suppose there is much reason to think any particular subset of Democratic activists (Ivy League trained or otherwise) would have sat down and figured out what comes next. One of the problems with the current political moment is that fewer numbers of lefties - people who would ordinarily be bringing in new thinking - are politically engaged. Much of the citizenry has been distracted by the sound and fury of haywire American capitalism, sucked into eddies of techno-utopianism (been there!), run off by repeated exposure to withering blasts of anti-government rhetoric emanating from the right wing noise machine, or some combination of all of these. All three are massively powerful undertow currents in American civilization and there are surely other forces at work as well.

The reasons why some small but not insubstantial portion of those who are left choose to participate in our democracy are sometimes less than wholesome. I'm not necessarily saying that this guy was stuck in a focus group with a bunch of apple polishers, but it's possible. A more charitable explanation could be that they were just all too busy working the campaign gypsy lifestyle to dig into some of the more structural and philosophical issues feeding the ongoing implosion.

But I take strongest issue with the implication that no substantive Democratic alternative economics could possibly exist. It's a question of both framing and substance. Twice in the past week (both here and here) I've had to go into considerable detail chewing out Republicans who accused me of offering nothing more than "the usual liberal establishment talking points" or whatever. Too often we don't engage, but that isn't working. Republican policies haven't even been good for what they claim they're good for (like growth). By God, if we can't come up with an alternative to the supply-side horsepucky they've been shoveling at us for the past few decades, we really don't deserve to win!

I don't know if it's the high road (my preferred term), the moral economy (George Lakoff's), the "we're tired of getting trickled down on" economy or whatever the heck we'll end up calling it, but there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that an alternative exists. Whatever other features it has, I am absolutely certain that solidarity between the lower, middle and large chunks of the upper-middle classes will form the backbone of it, and this is an important tactical consideration to keep in mind.

The kleptocracy this poor country has become is nothing like the best of all possible economic worlds and it is borderline ridiculous (and indicative of how far gone things are) to suggest that it is. This assumption is omnipresent; it's why I can't ordinarily read more than a few pages of the Economist.

This dynamic is especially explicative here in California, where overwhelming majorities of voters are with the left on social issues. Economics is the only reason we lose here. Our wins will be few and far between until we have destroyed right-wing economic policies, frames, narratives and conventional wisdom by presenting a positive and hopeful alternative. I was first assured of our side's capability of delivering on this while hauling across frozen Iowa cornfields in a minivan full of Ph.D (and one Republican!) Dean supporters during the 2004 primary. It might take a while - conventional wisdom isn't replaced overnight. But it will happen.

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Turnout is the core dynamic

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The Bee has a story this morning that really zeroes in on the core dynamic of this race: turnout. The sense that you get of how things are going is one of the best byproducts of particpating in a ground campaign. (the number one best thing is the interaction: every time you go out it's like your own little private focus group.) Of course you can't overgeneralize - you may be talking to a universe of voters (campaign-speak for a targeted group) that isn't remotely representative of the whole, your sample size is typically pretty small, etc. But it's suprising how often the ground-feel of a campaign turns out to be pretty right on.

WIth the above caveats in mind, based on the walk I did near my neighborhood in San Francisco yesterday, things aren't bad. People are starting to realize that although we can't yet move our own agenda, we do have a chance to say no, things are going the wrong direction. There's a lot of anger about both President Bush and the Governor, but this election is about saying no to the whole regressive conservative agenda, not just them personally.

There is still quite a bit of confusion though, as the anecdotal evidence in the Bee story indicates. Along with the really funny and good lit that the Alliance had for the walk, I brought along copies of our voter guide. The response to it has been just overwhelmingly positive - even just the printed out summary version that I was handing out seemed like it was really helpful to people. So keep getting that sucker out there!

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Last night at the ACLU & Planned Parenthood Campaign for Teen Saftey phone bank, I had maybe the single nicest and most hopeful voter contact I've ever had. I called the very first name on my list, and the woman who answered the phone gave me the direct line of who I was trying to reach - and said I'd called a convent! Given the sensitive topic I was calling about, I was a little worried about what was coming next.

I dialed the direct number, and the woman who picked up said she was indeed following the special election, and that she was glad I called. She listened patiently to the whole schpiel, and then told me that while she was indeed Catholic and she firmly believes in the sanctitiy of life, she was voting no on 73. The reason? She works at one of the largest homeless shelters in the city, and she's seen the effect that laws like this have firsthand. She said this will absolutely increase the number of teens who end up with no option but the streets, and although this was a difficult issue she could not do that.

This one short conversation spoke volumes to me about the interplay of faith and works. The church I grew up in taught that works aren't required for salvation. As Martin Luther put it, sola fide, or "faith alone" is. Grace isn't something that gets racked up like stock options; it's poured out onto everyone by a loving and just God. This is a very different way of thinking about God than the fundamentalist caricature of Christianity that's so prevalent in our culture.

Of course, they also told us that sola fide doesn't mean "take it easy!" It's the awareness of grace that moves progressives, not the fear of wrath. This idea lies at the heart of the perennial wisdom that all religions (and for that matter, most humanist philosophies) share and it still seems revolutionary today. It's easy to see why Martin Luther got in as much trouble as he did for suggesting it five hundred years ago!

My hope is that this call was part of a pattern of re-awakening to a basic truth: if we really want fewer abortions, criminalization is not the answer. The right answer is making a real committment to building a just and moral society.

I grumble a lot about phone banking, and I'm really looking forward to the day when our side knows they have to vote as consistently as the conservative blocs that always, always turn out. Then maybe we won't have to do it so much. But calls like this are a good reminder of what it's all about. There are a lot more to make between now and the election - it's easy to sign up at NoOnProposition73.org if you'd rather just talk about this issue than "nix the first six."

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The Alliance is breaking news that one of the Governor's front groups has been engaging in nothing less than mail fraud and putting fake union bugs on their mail. Charming. The question now: will the corporate media jump on this, or give the Governor a pass?

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New SUSA poll numbers

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New poll numbers from Survey USA are out, and while the numbers still don't look so good, there is some positive movement in the trendlines. Via DavidNYC at the SwingStateProject (the early October numbers are in parentheses):

Proposition 73 requires that physicians notify the parent of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.
Yes: 60 (59)
No: 38 (39)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 74 extends the probationary period for new teachers from 2 years to 5 years, and makes it easier to dismiss teachers with unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
Yes: 53 (55)
No: 45 (44)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 75 prohibits public employee unions from using union dues for political purposes without the written consent of union members.
Yes: 56 (60)
No: 42 (37)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 76 limits growth in state spending so that it does not exceed recent growth in state revenues.
Yes: 58 (58)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

Proposition 77 changes the way California draws boundaries for Congressional and legislative districts. District boundaries would be drawn by a panel of retired judges and approved by voters in a statewide election.
Yes: 54 (59)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

Keep in mind this poll uses robocallers and questions that sound a whole lot like the Governor's talking points. Both the Field and PPIC polls use more neutral language and show a lot more folks nixing the first six. There's a much more detailed and nicely organized analysis over at BetterCA and even more at dailykos.

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Stronger together

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SEIU, a union that organizes mostly service economy workers, does great work. They were among my favorite folks to work with in Santa Barbara - they seemed to attract very sharp and together organizers with a lot of heart. That attitude seems to be pervasive through their whole organization, and their latest web effort is no exception: check out SinceSlicedBread.com. It seemed like a little bit too cute of an idea at first, but the interaction design is really nice so it works better than I expected it might. And you can win huge piles of money!

I took the opportunity to post this summary of the high road...

For the past thirty years, conservatives have defined many Americans' understanding of practically everything about economics. We need a widely understood progressive and democratic alternative to failed right wing, supply-side economic schemes.

Here is one possibility.

Progressive, democratic economics is about expansion: expanding security, expanding opportunity, expanding possibilites, expanding justice and expanding hope. The core moral vision is that society should give everyone the opportunity to develop their own capabilities as fully as possible. The way to get there is to take the high road, which has these six parts:

secure basic freedoms - like housing and health care

invest in the future - schools, basic research and infrastructure

democratize wealth - via strong unions, wage laws and progressive taxes

build the green economy - starting with energy independence

housebreak capitalism - by getting corporate money out of politics

globalize this - provide real leadership and halt the race to the bottom

The high road is the path to an economy that works for everyone!

There are definitely a lot of righties on there, ranging from constructive to angry. Sometimes in the same post even, like the one on mine. After he was done telling me I was full of it, the rest of his critique (which carefully avoided questioning the moral vision) was well thought out and reasonable enough to respond to. Congrats to SEIU for putting together an environment where that sort of interaction happens.

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Going into a little more detail on this, the SF Chronicle's Sunday story on the middle class squeeze almost got it right. Here's what they missed. They ran this graph:

which clearly shows the top 5% pulling away like crazy from everyone else. But the real story is that that curve repeats itself the higher and higher you go into the data. The best description of this I've found is from David Cay Johnston's Perfectly Legal; the chapter that describes all this happens to be available for download (.pdf). Income growth for the bottom 99% of Americans from 1970 to 2000 averaged +$2710, which comes out to a raise of a whopping $1.35 an hour (assuming 40 hour weeks with two weeks off, which are just a dream for most folks now).

Meanwhile, the top 0.1% of taxpayers - in 2000, this was about 13,400 people - had income growth of +$20M and change, or more than ten thousand dollars an hour. It seems unbelievable, but this is what the numbers say. Here's another take on this data, it's an illustration of the chart found on page 37 of that pdf...

The ramifications of all this are a little tough to see. Just as the poor are invisible (modulo the occasional hurricane), so are the rich. However, one place they're showing up is in elections, including this special election in California. We'll have more on this later in the week, but in the meantime, here's yet another illustration of this effect.

A couple weekends ago, Jen and I went for a hike to a place called Five Lakes, which is sort of half way between the Alpine Meadows and Squaw ski areas near Lake Tahoe. While hiking, we came across what looked like a new ski lift, maybe one connecting the Alpine base lodge to the ridge that separates it from Squaw...

but we were wrong. As it turns out, that land is privately owned, and the owner of it has apparently decided to build his own private ski lift. Next time you hear a Republican whining about how oppressive taxes on the rich are, think about the guy who is building his own private ski lift.

The principle of taxing people according to their ability to pay that underlies progressive taxation goes back to before the founding of this country, and there are a small number of people in who clearly have the ability to pay a lot more than they are now. The rest of us are really tired of getting trickled down on.

Here's another particularly tough problem:

The plight of middle-income Americans is sometimes overlooked because the official poverty level, which the federal government has based since 1965 on three times an "economy" food budget, does not account for hikes in housing, energy or health care.

The reason this is tough isn't because it's so difficult to fix - it wouldn't be. It's just tough politically, because whoever's watch this gets fixed on is going to see what looks like a gargantuan jump in inflation! But we have to do this, because the amount of money that Californians (and many Americans) are spending on these neccessities have all gone completely bananas. Econometrics problems are a big deal; they're one of these almost hidden things that have a huge effect on people's perceptions and the policies put into place by the people they vote for.

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Unbelievably, the LA Times has come out this morning with an endorsement of Prop 75.

This is yet another example of an increasingly disturbing trend that has liberals turning their backs on organized labor - without whom the causes in which liberals believe would be that much worse off: education, health care, the environment.

In their argument, the Times admits that Prop 75 is being pushed by right-wing partisans in an attempt to weaken Democrats, while at the same time asserting that this measure won't "take public unions out of the political game."

Oh yeah?

Take a look at what has happened in other states where right-wingers aligned with Bush have pushed similar initiatives:

"Unions all over the country have an investment in this fight because they know that if they can no longer raise money for Democratic candidates and causes, there is no other group on the left that can amass the kind of political war chests that Republicans raise," says Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who tracks state initiatives.

Such has been the case in the state of Washington, where passage of a similar law in 1992 - by 72 percent of voters - led to a precipitous drop in political contributions from teacher union members in the first year: from 48,000 contributors to 8,000. When Utah passed a similar law in 2001, only 6.8 percent of teacher union members allowed their dues to be spent on politics.

The Times also naively states that they can endorse this measure because it's public employee unions, and that if the right were going after private unions, as they did in 1998 in California, the Times would oppose that. The obvious reason being that it is ludicrous to say you are going to restrict how unions can raise money but not corporations. But the point here is that once Prop 75 is in effect, those fighting for the public interest will be so weakened that any number of unfair and right-wing initiatives will be able to pass in California with much greater ease.

Make no mistake about it, Prop 75 is dangerous. We must defeat it. We must not buy into the same conservative arguments of "it's my money." Those are the same arguments that produced tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans while millions of people suffer in poverty, and millions more struggle to make ends meet.

It's not *just* your money. It's your share of the wealth our society has created - wealth that wouldn't exist if we didn't all work together.

So while we can often count on the L.A. Times to get things right, there are plenty of occasions in which we can't. Remember, they also endorsed Pete Wilson in 1994.

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...please, read this entire post (from dailykos) very carefully. It's the compactness criteria that would really cause the problems; this thing is a power grab, plain and simple. It's every bit as bad as what Rep. Tom DeLay did in Texas, it's just much more carefully dressed up to look reasonable.

There's an interesting intersection with land use policies here. One of the most remarkable aspects of the 2004 election was just how incredibly blue the cities were and just how red everywhere else was, which was best illustrated by this map...

Not much has been written about why this is, but one theory is the almost complete elimination of interaction with the public realm in the suburbs. It's possible to walk into the garage, hop in the car, drop the kids off at school, go to work, and then repeat this process in reverse at night without ever having any kind of interaction with the public sphere that you're aware of. (of course the roads and the schools wouldn't exist without the government, but it's easy to not think about this) Alternatively, most city dwellers interact with the public sphere from the moment they set foot out the door. This may be part of what gives rise to these two very distinct worldviews.

So if California were to suddenly start building walkable and transit-friendly new urbanist type neighborhoods - instead of sprawl - this might not matter as much. Pockets of this are happening locally, but since there's been no statewide initiative, it's certainly not widespread. We will get there, but since this is really nothing less than a realignment of the American dream, it's going to take a few years. In the meantime, the sly gerrymandering they're trying to make happen here will further cement their majority in congress.

However, it is possible that the when the true hideousness of Republican economic principles starts to settle in, the results are going to turn out to be so incredibly bad for so very many people that it won't matter whether you take the bus to work in the morning or hop in the SUV. This is already happening, and the SF Chronicle has another excellent story on it in today's paper. The political ramifications of this middle class squeeze could end being very far reaching. The authors only touch on it, but the fact is that the Republicans don't have a single answer for this problem. Shoveling more money at rich people really isn't cutting the mustard, and people are starting to wake up to that.

In an act of perhaps intentional editorial irony, the Chron also chose to run this incredibly frustrating and lengthy interview with Bush apologist and economist Michael Boskin. Like most right wing economists, this guy comes off like a complete tool. He sounds so out of touch that he must've conducted this interview from mars. He's certainly missing the story that the Chron ran on the front page of the same edition he's in the business section of.

The only thread that ties all of the initiatives together is Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republican-coporate machine's overall objective, which is to consolidate his freak victory of 2003, structurally realign politics in this state and flip it permanently to the right - regardless of how many more lefties there are and where they live. 77 is part of that. Nix the first six - and that includes a big old NO on 77.

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Dan and I spent much of the day handing out copies of Speak Out California's 2005 special election voter guide to shoppers at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market.

We hooked up with the folks at San Francisco for Democracy, who have been tabling there every Saturday for months helping to register voters and get the word out.

Voters we ran into seem to be just starting to pay attention to this election. On several occasions, people passed us by, but then when they registered what we had said - "special election voter guide," they came back to take one.

We handed out a couple hundred copies. In this election, which Schwarzenegger is counting on being low turnout for our side, it seems any amount of effort will help!

Meanwhile, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean will be in the Bay Area tomorrow, speaking to a crowd at the UFCW 870 Union Hall in Hayward, 28870 Mission Blvd. in Hayward, starting at 4:00 p.m. Visit the Hayward Democratic Club

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More JoinArnold lameness

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The Alliance covers more just brilliant writing over at the JoinArnold weblog. We know they've had problems raising money for this dog of an election, but the lack of even rudimentary adult supervision over there is a joke. They don't seem to understand that a campaign weblog is an official statement of the campaign, as well being fun and giving people a chance to connect with the process more easily (although it's a lot harder to make that connection when comments are turned off and it's just one-way, as there's is).

So it's the official policy of the Schwarzenegger campaign that we should have a wet t-shirt contest for nurses. Why any woman in this state would vote for this guy or anything he's connected to, even beyond how it's all taking this state exactly in the wrong direction, is practically unfathomable. You've got to love the comment from Mike Murphy on their post, too. Yet another instance of someone whining about "PC" when they're really just looking for an excuse to keep being an #$(&*hole. Mike: if you're going to be a jerk, at least own it.

In other news, Schwarzenegger agrees to real town hall forum to be aired Oct. 24. That should be interesting. And if you missed the story about how Schwarzenneger is bringing in GOP ringleaders to try and turn out the evangelical vote, check out PowerPac's analysis. Yep, the reason 73 is on the ballot and our not-so-pro-choice waffler of a Governor is supporting it is so they can do exactly what they did to re-elect the President. GOP hardball tactics come to California.

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Get Involved!

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With the special election just weeks away, now is the time to mobilize the troops and get involved! We must get the word out about these dangerous propositions, especially because Schwarzenegger is doing everything he can to mobilize a small right-wing minority of loyal voters who will decide our future for us in California.

The California Democratic Party has a list of field offices throughout the state where folks are contacting voters by phone and out walking in neighborhoods.

Please, if you haven't done so already, give a little of your time and help us send a strong message to Schwarzenegger and the Republicans that we will not stand for this conservative takeover.

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I have serious doubts regarding the efficacy of protests as a choice of tactic in the current political moment, but looking at these pics from Santa Barbara today...

It just seems right, somehow. When you think about the incredibly small number of people driving the agenda that the Governor is pushing, you can't help but come to the conclusion that our democracy has been overrun by an oligarchy of corporate interests. Maybe those pictures are what democracy looks like as it's being pulled back from the brink. As long as protests aren't all we do (and it certainly isn't in Santa Barbara, those people are organizing like crazy), we'll be OK.

Via Erik Love's The Most Important Blog...Ever, this post over at dailykos and over at the Courage Campaign.

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We love Maria!

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The Chron is running this above the fold this morning, Maria to keep mum on Oprah. She's going on the show to talk about - I am not making this up - "America's Invisible Poor":

With the special election less than a month away, Shriver is facing scrutiny from critics who say the initiatives pushed by her husband in the bitterly partisan election -- particularly one aimed at curbing the power of labor unions -- are abhorrent to the ideals of the Democratic Party her family has supported for generations.

I caught part of the Sean Hannity interview with the Governor the other night. Between that fawning and worshipful yet still smug look that Hannity gets and the Governor's fundamental mendacity, I almost threw the television out the window. The Governor went on at length at one point about how excited he is about infrastructure, about all he wants to do for schools and how many roads he wants to build. (he never seems to mention transit)

The past five years of politics in the United State have been a tour through the entire taxonomy of dishonesty. He makes it sound like he's all for schools and roads, but look at the reality: his first priority after his coronation was a tax cut that mostly helped the wealthy, and now he's pushing this spending limit crap on the ballot. It just doesn't make any sense, none at all. Sure, we all want infrastructure. Infrastructure is great! But somebody has to pay for it, and that's what makes actual leadership - not this namby-pamby whining about taxes crap that Schwarzenegger and Bush are constantly, relentlessly peddling - so difficult. Funny that these kinds of big lies, the really gargantuan ones, somehow always escape the attention of the corporate media.

So Maria is going on Oprah to talk about poor people, while her husband is on the other channel campaigning like crazy trying to make more of them. What a country!

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Money, money, money

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Today we get the exciting news that this special election, which a vast majority of Californians do not want, is shaping up to be most expensive ballot fight in California history.

Employee unions may get most of the attention, with headlines like "Unions Spending Lavishly," as in this L.A. Times piece. But let us not forget that the giant pharmeceutical companies have already raked in $88 million to push one bogus measure, versus the unions which are fending off a broad and direct attack on their very livelihoods, not to mention the public interest they are fighting to protect.

Corporations are still the big spenders nationally, outdoing unions by a factor of 24-1. It's a testament to the strength of the public interest in California that labor can outpace the King of Fundraising himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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The folks over at Alliance for a Better California have a funny flash piece on the two dueling prescription drug measures, Props 78 and 79.

I have been waiting for someone to poke fun at the drug companies for their silly, and obviously expensive, given how often one sees them in the course of a television-watching evening, advertisements!

Prop 79 is the real prescription drug reform initiative. Don't be fooled by the cheap imitations! Spread the word by forwarding this link to the flash piece so others can be educated!

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Reuters has a great nugget about the McCain visit today. Apparently in a news briefing after the staged "town hall" - the only type of event Schwarzenegger has thrown thus far in the election - McCain mentioned that he hates those sorts of things. You know, the thing he just happily participated in. So very McCain.

"The benefit of an open town hall meeting is one that you get to hear a lot of different views, and two it has credibility," said McCain. At the Oakland event, the crowd appeared as enthusiastic as an audience at a game show, frequently nodding their head in agreement, applauding at all the right spots, and chanting "four more years" as Schwarzenegger arrived. "Thank you, how huge of you to be stepping out," one woman told Schwarzenegger. "You have other things to do." Such remarks prompted McCain to quip, "The governor is going to take you wherever he goes."

So. Schwarzenegger's town hall meetings involve neither a town, nor a hall: discuss.

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Why we need to show up

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George Skelton outlines the exact problem today: Sitting Out This Election Could Backfire:

That's what the governor and Republicans are banking on: disgusted Democrats so repulsed by the special election that they'll refuse to take part, thinking, this'll show him.

The only way to really show him is to show up!

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Off center

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This week, Kevin Drum is running a series of posts from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of the new book Off Center. This seems like an interesting angle to be coming at it from and a powerful central thesis...

Our own emphasis lies on the organizational and social foundations of political power, rather than on the character of personalities or particular rhetorical moves. In particular, we think a central source of GOP success lies in the unprecedented (within the contours of modern American politics) capacity of conservative elites to coordinate their activities and operate in a unified fashion.

If this bears out, it's excellent news, because that kind of top-down, centralized coordination is vulnerable to being overrun by a loosely coupled, distributed system like the left is building now. The right is thinking mainframes and the left is thinking PCs. It's going to take some time for the processes that are in motion now to play out - a few election cycles, at least - but it is potentially a good sign for the long term. Anyway, it should be an interesting discussion.

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If Katrina and the Iraq war support weren't enough of a reminder that both structural and even personal racism is still a big problem in this country, Bill Bennet's horrifying remarks, his continuing refusal to apologize and the cheers for him at the Bakersfield Business Conference should do it.

In other news, pro-suburban sprawl and anti-creative class critic Joel Kotkin has a deeply misleading column on Katrina. I have one factual problem with his argument - growth numbers for Houston vs. New Orleans go beyond meaningless and into deeply misleading without indexing them to population. Houston is one of the sprawl capitals of the US, which is a notoriously easy way to generate plenty of short-term growth, even while locking dependence on cars and fossil fuels into the built environment. And who knows how much of their growth was due to offering low-road tax cuts to corporate evildoers like Enron. That is not a model that New Orleans or any other city in the US should be trying to emulate.

Mr. Kotkin refuses to get that cities offer cultural amenities not just to generate cool for the sake of cool, but to generate revenue they need for other stuff. He's right that tourist economies are brutal to lower paid workers, but the solution to that isn't to give up on tourism, it's to make those jobs pay what they're worth! The downsides have to be mitigated by the upsides for urban revival to continue, and this includes getting the fundamentals like transit, housing costs and disaster planning right as well as making cities great places to live. That is the essence of the challenge that the great American citeis are facing: they need to deliver both on the fundamentals and on the amenities. The complete absence of national leadership (fueled by the soothing reassurances of apologists like Mr. Kotkin) on urban issues only makes things more difficult. Mr. Kotkin always manages to spin it so that it sounds like cities are engaged in some kind of weird, high stakes popularity contest, but that just isn't true.

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Well this is disturbing. It's widely reported this morning (see rtumble) that the Governor is trying to get the CA League of Cities on board with Proposition 76, the school budget limits and imperial Governorship initiative, even though it would obviously be completely insane for them to do so. He's trying to play off the same fears that drove support for last year's Proposition 1A, namely that the state will raid local budgets at will when times are bad.

For better or for worse, Prop 1A passed, so the Governor isn't exactly being straight with the league here. Beyond that, the main reason the cities would be insane to support this is that it's going to lock in austerity budgets (like what we're experiencing now), for the entire state, forever. (or at least until we overturn it, like Colorado is having to do with TABOR, a similar bill passed by Republican extremists in their state ten years ago).

It's complicated, but think for a second about how national, state and local budgets are all chained together. Money is constantly going back and forth between all of them. So with the national fiscal picture a complete shambles due to President Bush's "bash,break and borrow" strategy, it has cascading effects all the way down to individual cities. Now the Governor wants to lock that policy in place in this state, and he's trying to get the league of cities to vote against their best interests by scaring them and playing to their parochial interests. It should be interesting to see how this gambit of his turns out.

Addendum: Jen's got an even better post on this over at PowerPac today. This was a case of unpremeditated coordination; sometimes one look at rough & tumble is all either of us needs!

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USC proposition info

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USC's California Policy Institute has some great background material on the propositions up. If you're looking for good summaries of all the gory details, click on the .pdfs linked off each summary page. Also, TomPaine.com is running Al Gore's take on broadcast politics. He expresses a little healthy skepticism about the potential for network based politics, which is the driving force behind his foray in TV.

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Polling confusion

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The Alliance for a Better California has another great summary of the propostions up in a diary on dailykos today. Worth a read, but if you're still confused on why to vote no on 77 when we do, in fact, need redistricting, check out Kevin Drum's analysis.

There's some controversy over whether this poll or the PPIC one released a few days ago is more accurate. Given that the two polls say essentially the opposite things on every single question, this confusion is understandable. My hunch is that reality is probably somewhere in the middle, but I do get the feeling we're going to be in trouble. It's going to be a turnout game. Their side may be smaller in numbers, but they're motivated in a way that I'm just not seeing from our side. They're deliberately playing on and feeding people's irritation with this whole thing and thinking that will keep people home. It's a disgusting strategy.

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Governor Schwarzenegger may have been a nearly complete disaster as a pro-environment Republican, but the JoinArnlod blog knows a thing or two about recycling spin. Just a few weeks ago they tried the same tactic they tried yesterday, and we gave them a hard time about this approach then, too. If they're going to try the same spin over again, there's just nothing else we can do. Go read their post, go read our post, yadda yadda yadda.

This time though, Mr. Stutzman mentioned "Union Democracy." Interesting choice of topic for them to bring up: how exactly does JoinArnold imagine that having people from outside their organizations making decisions for them constitute greater democracy? Keep in mind that unions are already democratic organizations, and should absolutely be able to make their own decisions about how they choose to run their political operations. There is nothing at all preventing unions from enacting a rule like this themselves, or for that matter from sending donations to Republicans. Having people outside these organizations make decisions for them isn't democracy, it's meddling and a power grab.

Besides the fact that it's just wrong for the Governor to be attacking any democratic institution like this, union dues are one of the last meager lines of defense keeping Sacramento from being completely overrun with the corporate special interests that are motivating the Governor's attacks. This initiative was up in the polls, but it's going to drop once people figure out what a terrible idea it is and who is pushing it.

Here's the summary of the other results. They look good for us, but this election is going to hinge on base turnout for both sides. Given that this is all happening against a backdrop of understandably widespread dissatisfaction with the special election altogether, this is still a complete tossup:

    * Proposition 74 (teacher tenure), 43% yes, 47% no
    * Proposition 76 (school spending limits), 26% yes, 63% no
    * Proposition 77 (redistricting), 33% yes, 50% no
    * Proposition 78 (big pharma scam), 43% yes, 38% no
    * Proposition 79 (real rx discounts), 34% yes, 40% no

One other quick hint to Mr. Stutzman: if you flip through the .pdf of the whole report, you'll see that PPIC only polled on the initiatives that the Governor was actively supporting at the time. This was right before the state Republican convention where, in a gambit designed to motivate his base, the Governor announced that (of course) he was backing Prop 75, too. Now that the Gov's in, maybe the numbers will go down!

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