October 2007 Archives

As an experiment, try substituting the words, "We, the People" every time you read or use the word "government." Or use the word "our" instead of "the" when you say "the government." Our government, us, we, the people. This really does change the way we understand the relationship between our government and ourselves, doesn't it?

The other day I brought up the example of Ronald Reagan's famous saying, "Government is the problem." When you look at that saying in this new way, he is saying "We, The People are the problem." Doesn't that sound like he is expressing a profoundly anti-democratic sentiment? Is that really what we want our leaders to be promoting?

How many other places do we discover similar anti-democratic sentiments? How about when we hear about "limited government?" Are conservatives saying that they want to limit the power of the people? What about when they talk about getting rid of government regulations? Do conservatives want to stop the people from regulating what corporations do? When you think about what their words really mean, it sure starts to sound that way.

Conservatives have worked hard to make "government" a bad word. They complain about "big government." They complain about "government schools." But what happens when we substitute a form of "We, the People" into their slogans? The whole meaning seems to change.

Behind-the-scenes conservative leader Grover Norquist is known (to some of us) for having said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Think about what he is saying about democracy there. He wants to drown it!

Besides fewer decisions made by "the government," another thing conservatives say they want is more decisions made by the "private sector." Let's examine what these words really mean. Business.com offers this definition of "private sector": "Part of national economy made up of, and resources owned by, private enterprises." Wikipedia offers, "In economics, the private sector is that part of the economy which is both run for profit and is not controlled by the state."

So when conservatives say more decisions should be made by the private sector than by the government, aren't they saying that instead of We, The People making decisions we should hand the decision-making power over to the corporations? Is this really what we want?

Sure, the words about "smaller government" and "deregulation" sound good, but when you really think about what they are saying, maybe it isn't such a good idea after all. At least, if we think democracy is a good idea, that is.


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending October 27, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


Last week we highlighted bills dealing with healthcare, consumer rights and environmental issues. Again, keeping in mind that a legislative session is comprised of two calendar years, there are many bills that will re-emerge in January if they were not resolved during this portion of the legislative session. We will follow those bills when the session reconvenes in January.

This week we'll look at what happened to a variety of bills dealing with working families, public safety and civil rights. Generally speaking, labor issues and particularly bills dealing with fixing the heavily skewed workers compensation mess faired very poorly. Attempts to improve conditions for workers also faired badly as did efforts to provide reforms for the criminal justice system.

But before going into detail on some of these measures, it is only fitting that we comment on the devastating fires that so impacted our state and our communities over the past week. The impacts of these fires caused a staggering toll on our state. Just to provide some context for those who were fortunate enough to be out of harms way, consider that the fires:

Were responsible for the deaths of 15 or more people

Destroyed more than 650 square miles, an area two times the size of New York City

Caused over $1 Billion in damage

Destroyed or seriously damaged over 2500 homes

Forced 22,000 people into temporary shelters

Forced the evacuation of over 1 million people---the largest peacetime movement of American citizens since the Civil War

Cost the state over $90 million to fight (and still counting)

At the same time this massive devastation was taking place, the brave firefighters of this state (and the western U.S. who were called into service) demonstrated a level of courage and professionalism that must be commended and acknowledged.

Although there are those who believe more could have been done, there is no question that the response and effort of our firefighters was extraordinary. We all owe these brave people a debt of gratitude and thanks. While California has suffered numerous natural disasters and fires, nothing of this magnitude has occurred in the state before. The response by our Government's public safety branches---and particularly our firefighters, was exemplary.

Was it perfect? Probably not, but these are lessons that will be learned so that should we be faced with another emergency of this proportion, we will be even better prepared. In the meantime, major kudos to the firefighters who demonstrated, yet again, their bravery, tenacity and expertise is fighting back the awesome power of nature's devastation.

We hope that with the changing weather, we've seen the last of this devastating fire season. We need to continue perfecting our responses to emergencies, both from a government perspective and as individuals and communities. We will continue to learn from the natural disasters- fire, flood and earthquake- we experience in this state on a fairly regular basis.

We clearly need to ramp up our discussion of climate change that has caused such dangerous weather conditions and most seriously address how to reverse the perilous trends that are making our planet more susceptible to these kinds of devastating events.

We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


And now for the continuation of our analysis of the legislative year completed earlier this month:


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This week the US Senate refused to take up a measure entitled, The DREAM ACT, legislation that would have protected certain children of illegal immigrants from deportation and qualified young adults up to age 30 for permanent legal residency if they completed at least two years of either post-secondary education or military service.

Earlier this month, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have provided financial aid to California's undocumented youngsters who are attending college. While the issue of immigration has taken on an intensity not seen in this state and country for many years, Speak Out California's board member, Dyanne Cano, provides her thoughts as a young woman of color on the subject for our readers.


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IS Greed Good?

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"Greed is good." That line from the 1987 film Wall Street shocked the country with its blatant articulation of the 1980s-era Reagan philosophy of greed. Twenty years ago it was still a shock to civilized people to hear such a vulgar statement promoting self-interest over community. From the movie,

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
Greed used to be considered one of the "seven deadly sins." Religions warn against its harmful effects on people and the greater community. Buddhism warns that greed is one of the three poisons. W.Jay Wood wrote in Christianity Today,
Greed is an inappropriate attitude toward things of value, built on the mistaken judgment that my well-being is tied to the sum of my possessions....Greed alienates us from God, from our neighbor, and from our true self.
But twenty years after being shocked by the promotion of a "Greed is good" philosophy much of the public instead buys into the consumer culture of greed and self-interest over public-interest. How has this change come about?


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending October 20, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


Now that the dust has settled and the governor has disposed of 964 bills by either signing or vetoing them, we will devote this update to just what did and did not become law this legislative year. Remembering that a legislative session is comprised of two calendar years, there are many bills that have not been resolved that will have an opportunity to proceed in the coming year. We'll be following them when the legislative session reconvenes in early January.

In the weeks to come, we'll be taking a closer look at the various ballot measures that have qualified for the February, 2008 ballot, those that are still pending and those that are emerging for consideration between the June and November 2008 elections.

We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


And now, for the week's goings-on:


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During my tenure in the California legislature, I found it somewhat humorous that every bill calling for greater corporate accountability and responsibility to the health and well-being of the public or workers was called "a job killer"by the California Chamber of Commerce. This appellation was almost always not only overly simplistic, but wildly dishonest and inaccurate. When I brought a bill to require that we consider the health impacts on women and children of various chemicals and compounds when we establsih acceptable health standards, and not just consider the impacts on the average 6 foot 175 pound male, the bill was attacked as being a "job killer".

The first time I heard this, I thought the accuser was just kidding. But then I realized that the allegation came from a package of "talking points" handed out by the California Chamber of Commerce as part of their propoganda campaign to defeat any measures that would otherwise regulate their big business bosses. How in the world could you otherwise justify defeating a measure designed to protect the health of our people, and especially our children?


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending October 13, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


This week we have a special commentary by Rosemary Shahan of Consumers Auto Reliability and Safety, while next week Speak Out California will provide you with a comprehensive and updated list of important legislation. Please be sure to read the next Weekly Update, as it will be critical in understanding the issues of our state!


We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so


If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support this by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here so we can keep providing you with a unique and important perspective on our state and its future.


At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.


If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.


Just click here to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


And now, for the week's goings-on:


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Have you ever heard the song that goes, "This land is your land, this land is my land, this land was made for you and me"? The lyrics to this song make the point that the United States belongs to you, and that you are the government.

The Constitution of the United States and of the State of California begin with the words, "We, the People..." because here the people are the government. And it is time we all realized it.

Last week I wrote about the way we think about our government.

Ronald Reagan liked to say "Government is the problem, not the solution" and, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " ... [But] the Constitutions of the United States of America and of the state of California both begin with the words, "We the people." So "we, the people" are the government. ...When you think about it this way, it makes the things Ronald Reagan said sound contradictory. How can we, the people be the problem? How can it be scary that we, the people are here to help each other?

Our government is US working together to take care of each other. This is a monumental shift in the way many of us have come to think about our relationship with our government. Government is not some "them" out there, like the conservatives want you to think - government is you, and me, and all of us in this together, for each other.


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"Paper or Plastic?"

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Assemblymember Lloyd Levine of Assembly District 40 discusses the importance of plastic bag recycling in California:


(photo credit eqca.org)


Paper or plastic? It seems like an innocent enough question, doesn't it? But, when you stop and think about where all the grocery bags we use end up, the question no longer seems quite so simple - particularly in the case of plastic bags.

The numbers are astounding: Californians use more than 19 billion plastic grocery bags each year, creating 147,038 tons of waste in our landfills. With Californians throwing away over 600 bags per second, they are creating enough waste every year to circle the planet over 250 times.

In Los Angeles County, an estimated 6 billion plastic grocery bags are distributed annually, of which only 1 percent are recycled. County supervisors voted just last month to study the issue of paper vs. plastic and whether to enact a ban on standard plastic bags, similar to one imposed in San Francisco.

As an avid runner I witness the problem first-hand. Running along the Los Angeles River, I come across thousands of plastic bags on the river banks, in trees, and floating in the river itself. My experience was confirmed by facts: During a routine Los Angeles River cleanup, plastic bags and film constituted 45 percent of the volume of litter collected - this is because they are so easily carried by wind from uncovered trash cans and dumpsters, vehicles, and solid waste facilities including landfills. This all amounts to more litter to collect on our beaches and state highways, which costs the state $303.2 million each year.

It quickly became clear to me that we needed to do something. That's why I authored Assembly Bill 2449, which officially became law on July 1. This measure requires grocery and retail stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags, making California and Rhode Island the only states in the U.S. with such a program.

Under the terms of the new law, more than 7,000 retail stores in California are required to prominently display plastic bag recycling bins and fund an educational campaign to raise awareness of plastic bag recycling and the use of reusable bags. The legislation also requires each store to make reusable bags available for customers to purchase.

And all these conditions are vital, because while volunteer coastal cleanups and public education efforts have been helpful in keeping California's coastlines clean, more needs to be done. To reduce marine debris the amount of waste generated on land must be reduced and disposed of properly.

Each year millions of seabirds, sea turtles, fish, and marine mammals become entangled in marine debris or ingest plastics they have mistaken for food. According to recent U.S. EPA estimates, marine debris has had a negative impact on at least 267 species around the world. The plastic can constrict an animal's movements and kill marine animals through exhaustion.

We can accomplish much toward remedying these unfortunate occurrences by making some modest changes in our behavior, and I need your help with the following things that will help make AB 2449 a success:

-Recycle your plastic bags at your grocery store;
-Ask your local store about its plastic bag recycling program;
-Buy reusable canvas shopping bags;
-Refuse a plastic bag; and
-Get stores to offer cash credits when bringing in your own bags.

If these simple things are done, all Californians can make an impact and play an instrumental role in helping to implement this important measure.


This article has been written by: Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, representing the 40th Assembly District


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While those of us deeply immersed in the healthcare debate have strong opinions about which way to go, we could probably benefit from hearing the ideas of others who are students of government, while not necessarily engaged in its actual nitty-gritty where we sometimes don't see the forest for the trees.

While teaching at UC Santa Barbara, I had the opportunity to work with Stuart Kasdan, who served as the Teaching Assistant in a class I taught on California Politics and Public Policy.

Stuart Kasdan is a graduate student and PhD candidate in Political Science at UC Santa Barbara.
His previous employment includes work as a senior program examiner at the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Stuart has a masters degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis and served as a peace corps volunteer.

Although I'm a firm believer in the importance of removing the insurance industry from the healthcare debate, Stuart proposed a system that acknowledges the political reality that the insurance business carries alot of weight in the halls of Congress. They certainly control our own governor's thinking on the subject and continue to be part of the dialogue among our presidential candidates. So, in the spirit of offering another perspective, I asked Stuart to give his take on the situation and this is what he came up with:


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento


For the week ending October 6, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the


Past week and beyond


Well, the traveling legislators are back at work in Sacramento, but the Governor went to China when they returned.

"Dam, dam, dam" insists the GOP in ultimatums to the Dems. on the Water Bond- tough stance threatens to derail a water bond for February.

"Nyet, no, nunca, never" are the GOP responses to both the Governor's and the Dem. leadership Health Plan legislation- tough stance threatens to derail any progress in Special Session on Healthcare reform.


And with just seven days remaining to sign or veto more than 600 bills, the Governor takes action on only three bills this entire week! But first...


We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website (https://secure.ga3.org/01/donatetospeakoutca) to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!

And now, for the week's goings-on:


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As I read my Monday morning (Oct. 1, 2007) San Jose Mercury News a headline jumped out at me: "Cigarette tax would hurt poor".

How often do we hear that taxes "hurt" or "punish" one group or another? How often do we hear that taxes are a "burden on the economy" or "cost jobs?" How many politicians talk about providing "tax relief?"

George Lakoff, of the Rockridge Institute writes that this language "frames" taxes as an affliction:

For there to be "relief" there must be an affliction, an afflicted party harmed by the affliction, and a reliever who takes the affliction away and is therefore a hero. And if anybody tries to stop the reliever, he's a villain wanting the suffering to go on. Add "tax" to the mix and you have a metaphorical frame: Taxation as an affliction, the taxpayer as the afflicted party, the president as the hero, and [people who believe in government] as the villains.

This anti-tax rhetoric results from an anti-government worldview that is pushed by conservatives, in which they portray our government as some kind of enemy of the public. Ronald Reagan is famous for sayings like, "Government is the problem, not the solution" and, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " The constant use of negative framing like this to describe government and taxes leads regular people to think about their government as a negative, malevolent force. We have been hearing this drumbeat for so long, and with so little pushback to counter these ideas, that many people just accept that this is the way it is.

But are taxes really an affliction? Is government really a negative force in society? Let's step back from the affliction frame for a second and take a different look at the idea of taxes and government.


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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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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2007 is the previous archive.

November 2007 is the next archive.

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