May 2006 Archives

WineCamp wrap

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A quick break from directly campaign related news...

Jen and I went to a campout event, WineCamp Calaveras, this past weekend. This was a lightly structured "unconference" that you can read more about here, but the basic gist is that you get a group of people together for a weekend, feed them, and let them make up their own agenda for what they want to talk about. In this case, an enormous quantity of really spectacular wine was involved, too. There are tons of pictures tagged on flickr. Click for more...

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While most Californians spent this past Memorial Day weekend with family and reflecting on those who have given their lives in the service of our country, our biggest polluters and profiteers were at it again....dumping enormous amounts of money into campaigns to defeat more progressive candidates in several key state senate districts.

We've previously exposed these huge corporate players from behind such Orwellian titles as "Californians for Civil Justice Reform"---which is funded primarily by oil, tobacco, development, pharmaceuticals and financial interests, "Californians for Progress and Education" comprised primarily of real estate and development money, in addition to insurance and medical industries, and "Californians for Jobs and a Prosperous Economy" (the anti-consumer people plus the Association of Motor Car Dealers)--to name some of the larger groups injecting Democratic races with money from big oil, tobacco and other disfavored industries.

In deciding who represent progressive values and will fight for them in public office, we've provided you with the latest updates on who is spending big money, and where it's going:

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We've been watching the enormous amount of money being spent by big tobacco, oil and pharmaceutical companies, who have been pulling out all the stops to influence the outcome of the heavily contested California State Senate campaigns we're highlighting on our Speak Out California's Primary Voter Guide.

We've been talking about the need to get corporate money out of the campaign process to ensure that our elected officials are beholden to the people and not corporate special interests. As proud progressives, we expect our system of government to be "of the people, by the people and for the people." But in modern-day election battles, in order to make that happen, it's extremely important to keep following the money - who is supporting which candidate and with what money?

The Sacramento Bee over the last few days has done its best to expose who these groups really are. Their coverage is excellent and worth reading.

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We've been talking regularly about the ever-expanding role of money in politics and elections specifically. There is no question that the system needs reform so that legislators and political leaders get back to the job of governing on behalf of the people, not the big corporations who have bought out Washington D.C. (ala Jack Abramoff, et. al.) and have been insinuating themselves into the California process as well.

These big business groups have no interest in protecting the public; their only interest is in expanding their profits. They are even so bold as to say so. So why do we tolerate this kind of greedy exploitation of our people and our planet?

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We're very pleased to provide you, the voters of California, with important information for Election Day, June 6, 2006. As that date is fast approaching, you will be voting to help decide the direction our state will take. Our Speak Out California Voter Guide for the 2006 Primary Elections is here...

The guide is designed to provide you with easy access to the best progressive input available for each candidate for statewide (Constitutional) offices and a select number of the hotly-contested State Senate district races which we are highlighting because they pit acknowledged or avowed big corporate-backed Democrats against more progressive Democrats.

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AB 2097 was put on Suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill will have a second hearing on Wednesday May 24th where its fate will be determined by the Chair of the committee, Assemblymember Judy Chu. Send a letter to the Appropriations Committee now!

This crucial piece of legislation will require that all technical details, including the computer source code (written by software programmers) of computerized vote tabulating systems by publicly disclosed by June 30, 2007. Read more about AB 2097.


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Angelides' campaign spokesperson Dan Newman provided us with this response to the previous post...

Westly's ads are false. The truth is: 99% of Californians would not see any change in their taxes under the Angelides plan. Angelides will roll back a portion of George Bush's tax cuts for millionaires and close unjust corporate tax loopholes in order to fully fund schools and balance the budget. Steve Westly supports Schwarzenegger's tuition and fee increases, and supports the Republican tax breaks for multinational corporations like Exxon Mobil. The bottom line: Steve Westly supports taxing the middle class, but is willing to let his fellow gazillionaires off the hook.

Mr Westly's campaign has been contacted, we'll run their response if they choose to provide one. Hope this is helpful! Also we're putting the finishing touches on the voter guide, it should be up later today.

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"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man."
   -Thomas Jefferson

One of the most destructive legacies of the conservative movement is the diminishing they have inflicted on the concept of freedom. This seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but all the relentless yammering that emanates from conservatives about freedom is perhaps a signal of their weakness on this issue, one of fundamental and historical importance to the American project.

Since the beginning of the conservative movement, the conservative conception of freedom has been intimately and intrinsically tied up with property rights, almost to the point of excluding anything else. This goes back all the way to Russell Kirk: "...conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked" is one of his ten principles, and the only mention of freedom throughout his ten conservatives principles.

One of the obvious attributes of the idea of freedom that this misses is its incredible breadth. True freedom goes far, far beyond just the connection to property, or stuff. The connection between stuff and true freedom is even tenuous since we don't just own our stuff, our stuff owns us as well. Who is more free: the apostle who owns nothing and lives in an intentional community, or the typical American, surrounded by the amazing output of our consumer economy, but saddled with levels of debt not seen since feudal Europe?

There may be no answer to this question, but conservative thought would have us believe the answer is definitely the latter...

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The tax debate

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Steve Westly's recent television ads have accused Phil Angelides of proposing tax increases on working families. As progressives, we care deeply about this issue. Doing something about the middle class squeeze happening in this state is a top priority, but given that taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society, not some kind of punishment. So Westly's "taxes are a last resort" message seems like too broad of a brush. The real question: "who pays?"

According to the CBPP, unbelievably, California still has a regressive tax system. Despite a mildly progressive income tax, lower and middle class families pay a larger percentage of their budget than the rich. 70% of Californians support fixing this. A progressive tax system would have a host of benefits: it would result in less money going towards housing and stock bubbles and would give us less public squalor while preserving plenty of private affluence. And it's the right thing to do: the idea of tax levels being set according to ability to pay goes back to the founding of our country.

So let's try an experiment. The Angelides campaign has chosen not to respond to this misleading ad on their website, so we thought we'd give them a chance to do so here. In the interest of fairness we'll let the Westly camp respond to that, and then give Angelides a rebuttal if they want it. We'll run these posts over the next few days and see how it goes.

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If you aren't angry or frustrated enough with the blatant role money plays in influencing the legislative process in Washington, D.C., you'll find plenty to be unhappy about in the way the liquor industry is trying to kill a bill right here in California that will help protect our kids from being enticed into drinking alcohol disguised as innocent beverages.

This is the saga of ALCOPOP, a drink that mimics lemonade, soda pop and popular fruity energy drinks.The hitch is that ALCOPOPS are laced with distilled spirits. They are specifically designed to lure underage drinkers into developing a drinking habit. They sport monikers like "Mike's Hard Lemonade", Smirnoff Ice", "Jack Daniels Original Hard Cola", and "Bacardi Silver".

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AB 2097 was put on Suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill will have a second hearing on Wednesday May 24th, when its fate will be determined by the Chair of the committee, Assemblymember Judy Chu. This crucial piece of legislation will require that all technical details, including the computer source code (written by software programmers) of computerized vote tabulating systems by publicly disclosed by June 30, 2007.

Contact the members of the Assembly Appropriations committee before the May 24th hearing and urge them to vote this bill out of committee and onto the Assembly Floor. Let the members of that committee know Californians want a reliable, verifiable, trustworthy, and affordable voting system.

Why the need for AB 2097? There has been very little testing of current electronic elections systems. Independent testers even with limited access have found serious flaws in the current systems. AB 2097 will allow the public more access to scrutinize elections software and machines. If passed, it will ensure California won't find itself in legal battles over elections fraud as seen in Ohio and Florida in past elections. This vital piece of legislation will save California from lengthy and expensive legal battles if the results of an election ever challenged.

AB 2097 is an important step in securing the validity of California Elections, and allowing the public more access and input of current and continuously evolving voting systems. Now is the time for people to Speak Out.

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In our dream world, this is the ad the Angelides camp would run next...

[Slow walking shot of Mr Angelides, maybe walking through a fancy neighborhood or along a beach. Malibu, perhaps.] Mr Angelides: My opponent has accused me of wanting to raise taxes on working families. He says he thinks of taxes as "a last resort." I and my advisors are very much aware of the difficulty of being middle class in this state and one of my objectives when I get in office will be to do everything I can to fix that.

I will not raise taxes on the middle class. But taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society, not a last resort, and the big question we have to ask is who pays. Yes, I am going to ask those who have benefited the most from the investments those who have come before us have made to step up to the plate. Right now we ask poor and middle class families to pay almost the same amount in taxes as the rich. [cut to simplified version of the chart from this CTJ study] All I am proposing is that we fix that in the most equitable way possible.

I know no one likes paying taxes, but they are an investment in our future. Join me and we're going to really rebuild this state.

We can hope, right?

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With the June primary election only three weeks away, it is important to consider the source of the money funding the upcoming campaigns. A great deal of attention has been directed toward the funding sources for the Democratic gubernatorial race -- reaching predictably into the multi-millions with Steve Westly again digging into his own very deep pockets to keep his race alive, and Phil Angelides calling on equally wealthy personal friends as well as the normal channels to compete with Westly's coffers.

While all eyes are focused on this out-sized battle, with mud and allegations beginning to escalate to a potentially damaging fever-pitch, let's not lose sight of Governor Schwarzenegger's campaign fundraising while waiting in the wings for the emerging and possibly bloodied Democratic adversary.

Indeed, the Governor is continuing his shameless shake-downs of business interests throughout California and the country. No matter how he tries to spin his "bona fides", this Governor is the corporate community's Golden Boy and he's making sure they pay big-time to keep him driving the Great State of California's corporate gravy-train. So much so that down-ticket candidates, such as Tony Strickland (engaged in a mutually mud-slinging battle against Abel Maldonado for the Republican nomination for State Controller), have publicly complained that there's nothing left for them after the Governor sweeps through with his vacuum-cleaner, sucking up all the eager and enormous Big Business campaign bucks.

While putting the finishing touches on our 2006 Primary Election Voter Guide, which will be available soon, we are focusing on Democratic races and who may be carrying the Progressive mantle; predictably, there are no Republicans under consideration in this election cycle. Therefore, we won't concentrate on the Governor's unrelenting fundraising activities. Instead, we will provide the best available information on the other side of the ticket for June. But for November, you'll be amazed to learn how prolific this Governor has been milking his cronies and corporate allies for all the bucks he can squeeze out of them.

In the meantime, the battles for key statewide and legislative races illustrate more than ever that we must get the money out of the system or at least reduce its influence. Regardless of which party or campaign, anyone running to represent THE PEOPLE is discovering that it is either a rich person's game or a place where principle has been sacrificed for political success. Progressive politics demand reform of the current system. Special interests simply are able to buy too much influence. And by "special," we don't mean those whose interests are the public, the environment and the consumer. By providing information, we'll try to identify some of those players for the progressive voter anxious to move our state forward and bring the power back to THE PEOPLE. We deserve no less.

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What would you do?

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Some of the more substantive of the points brought up in the discussion in the comments recently is this issue of legality. It's an important issue so I'm going to address it up here and try to keep the conversation going.

The first thing to keep in mind is the difference between morality and legality. I have a hunch that those who posted probably have a love for law and order that only extends so far, and maybe wouldn't include issues with a President who has decided to ignore 750 someodd laws over the past six years. There is an imperfect overlap between what is moral and what is legal. Take the civil disobedience during the first civil rights movement: illegal acts, but not immoral ones, although there were certainly those who disagreed with their morality at the time.

But beyond that, there's a simple but important question that has to be considered in thinking about this issue...

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[Crossposted on dailykos]

About a year ago, I came across a couple of references to conservative thinker Russell Kirk. His ten conservative principles, first published in 1957 and last updated in 1993, was reportedly a great influence on the thinking of Barry Goldwater and others at the dawn of movement conservativism.

Apparently, no one on our side ever wrote a response. I'd like to be proven wrong, but if someone did, it isn't showing up on google.

I've drafted the first part of such a response, a ten progressive principles approach that answers Kirk point by point. But I want to start with just one principle...

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A day without an immigrant is like a day without??? That seems to be the question that today's activities is designed to raise, if not answer. What the answer is will probably take a great deal of time and level-headed action to determine. The question, though, is whether we are capable of dealing with the subject of immigration in a reasoned, dispassionate way--to accurately address the benefits and challenges of millions of people coming to this state and country for pretty much the same reasons our parents and grandparents came here---for the promise of a better life, filled with opportunity and success if we work hard and play by the rules. Immigrants today want the same things our immigrant ancestors wanted--- a better life, an escape from hardship, human rights abuses and poverty. Those were among the primary motivators for most of our families---and still are today.

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Convention pics

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I'm off to go register voters at the big march that's happening, but I wanted to share a couple pictures from the convention:

Congratulations to Treasurer Angelides for picking up the party's endorsement, we'll have more on this later. Frank has lots more convention coverage over at CPR today.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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