February 2008 Archives

Who should decide whether our communities have museums, concert and dance facilities, parks and other cultural programs? Who should decide on priorities for funding for disaster assistance or research into cures for diseases?

Should the public make the bulk of these decisions, through the transparent and accountable systems of our democracy? Or should a few individuals who control vast wealth and resources make these decisions for the people?

Because of dwindling tax revenues many communities have come to rely on "corporate philanthropy" for assistance with cultural programs, or to supplement their schools, or for other community benefits.

The people who run corporations are in a position to decide to donate the corporation’s money to various causes. Many of these are things that the people, through our government, no longer have the resources to support. For example, the executives and Board of a corporation might decide to donate to build a museum. They might decide to fund a school.

And they might decide not to do these things.

So look at what is happening -- as discussed in the Feb. 26 post, Reflecting on Corporations, we have corporations using their resources to influence the public and government to change the rules of the playing field on which corporations operate - deregulating, lowering taxes, etc. As this corporate influence brings cuts in corporate taxes (as well as cuts in taxes paid by the owners of the corporations), our society is left with fewer public resources for building museums, conducting research, etc.

And then we have corporations stepping in, using some of their earnings to provide those benefits, with their executives deciding where to direct the resources. For which the public is supposed to be grateful, and feel more favorable to the corporations, and perhaps grant them further benefits.

These are functions that the public once prioritized and controlled. But today the balance of control of the country's resources continues to shift more and more to fewer private individuals. This massing of assets and resources into corporate hands takes away the people's ability to decide to build museums and fund schools. It puts more and more power to make decisions that affect the public into the hands of corporate executives. Is this compatible with our understanding of democracy?

And a related question: Should corporate earnings be diverted from the shareholders? Is it the proper function of corporations to make decisions about funding museums, etc?

Perhaps there should be controls that guarantee that corporate funds and resources are used solely for the benefit of the shareholders and broader pubic interest. Perhaps corporations should be prohibited from engaging in any activities that influence our government or lawmaking or public opinion. Perhaps they should operate on the playing field that We, the People lay out for them -- and not be able to influence that playing field for the benefit of a few individuals who control the corporation. Perhaps.


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Reflections On Corporations

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How is it that corporations have the rights that individuals do, but not the responsibilities?

Let's reflect on what a corporation is. A business is formed by a few people. The business asks the government for a corporate charter, pays a fee, and is then this special entity called a corporation with special rights granted by the government.

Under our laws, corporations are fictional persons with certain rights. They can own assets, employ agents and engage in contracts just like people. But unlike you or me they have special benefits including limited liability and unlimited life.

Corporations enjoy limited liability -- if you or I commit a crime, injure someone, go bankrupt or get sued we're in big trouble and have to suffer the consequences. But this is not what happens to the owners of corporations. Their liability is limited and if their corporation is involved in any of these things they can just fly away in their private jets. In some jurisdictions corporate officers and directors are even shielded from liability for criminal acts the corporation commits.

Corporations have unlimited life -- which means the entity continues beyond any individual. The assets owned by a corporation can stay and grow in that corporation, and be controlled by its owners perpetually. So the corporation is able to amass significant assets and resources.

A corporation is not taxed the same as individuals. In most case they pay much lower taxes, the dividends they pay their owners are taxed at lower rates, as are the capital gains. In fact there are many circumstances where corporations do not have to pay taxes at all! So the burden of paying for the roads and schools (and wars) falls on the rest of us.

Corporations are able to compel large numbers of people -- employees, contractors, other corporations and other paid entities -- to do certain things. They can even tell people what to wear, how to wear their hair, even to wear makeup or not.

These special rights help corporations build up tremendous resources and power far beyond the ability of any individual in our society. So individuals finding themselves up against corporations face tremendous disadvantages. Many of the mechanisms for mitigating this disparity, including unions, the right to sue, taxes, even government regulation, have been reduced as a result of corporate-funded lobbying, ballot initiatives or other efforts. The ability to amass tremendous assets and power enables the people at the top of corporations to have great influence over our government and the laws it makes -- even to the point of granting them ever greater rights and benefits and tax cuts -- helping them to amass even greater assets, resources and power.

Corporations make decisions in ways that are very different from how We, the People of America and California make our community decisions through our governments. In our government all decisions and spending are participatory and transparent, meaning all of us can vote for representatives and can watch or otherwise look at how decisions are made and understand where all money is spent. In California it is even illegal for a city council committee to meet in secret. This is certainly not how things are done with corporations. (By the way, this is why some people say corporations are "more efficient"-- they do not have the procedures for the degree of transparency and accountability that governments and other public entities require.)

Question -- are these differences between public and corporate accountability and transparency compatible with our understanding of democracy? What about the ability of corporations to influence how our government regulates corporations? Keep in mind that corporations are nothing more than the creation of our laws. So discussing questions like these is essential to the maintenance of that democracy.

Of course there is a value to society from corporations and what they offer, or We, the People would not have set up this system. But some people think that today's giant, multi-national behemoths have taken enormous advantage of the system. What do you think?


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending February 23, 2008

Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


Bill deadlines, budget cuts, Assembly leadership struggles and ever-increasing bad news on the State's burgeoning deficit are the hallmarks of this week's update. Simply put: The news continues to be dreary.

The leadership vacuum in the Assembly has yet to be resolved, although the Dems have agreed that there will be no transfer of power until after the budget is finalized so that the four-time budget negotiator Fabian Nunez will be able to represent the lower house in the budget negotiations, rather than a newer and more untested replacement. With that deal made (and assuming it isn't broken), the rest of the battle continues. It's still pretty much inside baseball. Most of those who are watching Sacramento at all are interested in whether there will be significant cuts in programs in which they are personally or professionally involved. For those interested in this leadership power play, Dan Walters in the Sac Bee this week has a summary handicapping several of the key players. And while the game of palace intrigue continues, the legislature has started to address the real challenges of major budget decisions and legislative priorities for this, the second half of the legislative session.

On the Republican side, the new Senate Minority Leader has been chosen. Modesto Senator Dave Cogdill, a hard-liner who boasts of his anti-choice, anti-gay, "A" rating from the NRA, among other right-wing litmus tests, states his position on a balanced approach to dealing with the budget shortfall: "If we raise taxes, it's like throwing an anchor to a drowning man." This will certainly make for an interesting budget debate this year. For more on who will be representing the Republican point of view in the Senate this coming year please click here.

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!


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Do you know about the California yacht tax loophole? Here is how it works: Regular people like you and me have to pay sales taxes on the things we buy, even on big items like cars. We even have to pay these taxes if we buy outside of the state. (Technically that is called a "use" tax.)

But California has a special tax loophole just for the things rich people buy. That's right, if you buy a big yacht, airplane or "luxury recreation vehicle," you don't have to pay sales tax. The way this loophole works is, you buy it outside the state, hold it there for three months, and then you have a sales-tax-free yacht.

Summary: Regular people pay sales taxes, rich people don't have to.

Last week there was a budget battle in Sacramento that resulted in a number of cuts that will have a big impact on regular Californians. But the Republicans held firm and blocked attempts to do away with the tax loophole that lets rich people get out of paying the taxes that the rest of us have to pay.

From Saturday's San Jose Mercury News, ,

"… lawmakers Friday chopped more than $2 billion from state programs, with schools, social services and health care providers that serve the poor taking the biggest hits."
That's right, more than $500 million was chopped from our schools! Meanwhile,
"Republican lawmakers in the Assembly voted down a proposal to close a loophole in the so-called "yacht tax," which allows people who buy yachts or planes to store them out of state for three months to avoid state use taxes."
Summary (in case you missed the point): Regular people pay sales taxes, rich people don't have to.

At California Progress Report, Frank Russo explains, "The California Senate passed a repeal of a loophole that allows the multimillionaire purchasers of yachts and private planes from paying a sales or use tax." But the Assembly failed to pass this because of "the opposition of most elected Republicans."

Just to short-circuit the usual arguments about taxes, Frank Russo notes that the Legislative Analyst's Office looked into this and found no change in yacht and plane sales from times when the tax is collected to times when it is not.

As Russo explains, the fight over closing this loophole occurred just after "… medical, dental services, and other programs for children were cut and cost of living increases delayed for the blind, aged, and disabled poor who qualify for Social Security."

Here is what I want to know: Why in the world are the Republicans so confident that they can get away with this?

It is generally understood that the average citizen has been fed enough unanswered anti-tax and anti-government propaganda that they reflexively oppose taxes. (The operative word there is "unanswered.") But this is a very different thing. This is a special exclusion, just for rich people, that one way or another has to be made up for by the rest of us! Why aren't the people of California more upset about this?

The only conclusion I can reach is that the Republicans understand that regular people are not going to find out about this! And they may well be correct. Yes, the story was in a few newspapers, but really, who reads newspapers? This is not how large numbers of regular people get their information about politics in California. They get some of it from TV news, but I really fear that most people in California get their information about the issues facing the state from ads that run during prime-time television shows. And I think that conservatives understand this, while progressives/liberals do not quite "get it."

For example, if regular people were accurately informed about California issue, then people would understand that most of the factors that were used as justifications for recalling Governor Gray Davis are today almost the same with Governor Schwarzenegger. One big difference I see is that the energy companies are not running an ad campaign blaming Governor Schwarzenegger for anything, they way they ran ads blaming Governor Davis for the energy-company-created energy shortage back then.

So, in summary, again, this is about regular people having to pay sales taxes that rich people don't have to. And it is about Republicans being confident that the public isn't going to find out.

What can we do about this? Leave a comment.


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending February 16, 2008

Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


With the presidential primaries focused on other states and the Term-Limits initiative dead and gone, Sacramento has returned to "normal", with small matters like the budget and legislative leadership supplanting the posturing and promoting that naturally accompanies electoral politicking. However, with the huge vacuum in Sacramento leadership created by the failure of Prop. 93, politicking has, instead, gone into over-drive. Don Perata and Fabian Nunez are now officially lame-duck leaders. In the world of power and leadership, this situation befits the old adage, "The King is dead, long live the King", meaning those seeking the crowns of leadership haven't even waited for the bodies to get cold before scurrying to pick up the scepter.

The fallout from Prop 93's failure has been quite different in the Senate and Assembly. The Senate quickly filled the power void by announcing that Darrell Steinberg would replace current President Pro Tem Don Perata, most likely in August after the budget is completed. The transfer of power will be smooth and dignified. "Good guy" Darrell Steinberg's big job now is to persuade the political pundits that he's not quite so nice and thus capable of doing the heavy-lifting required of the position. After all the mud that has been slung at the current senate leadership, this is an enviable "problem" to be sure.

In the lower house, an entirely different story emerges. While Fabian Nunez has apparently secured his control until after the budget battle, the internal battle over who will succeed him has taken on an entirely different and new dynamic. With no clear successor and no timeline for that succession, the battle has taken on both a full-blown and public persona. Several assemblymembers have announced their candidacies and done so with press releases and even blogger interviews, along with traditional mainstream interviews and events.

In the past, the battle for internal control over leadership has taken place in relative private, with self-selected candidates going member to member to shore up support. This has traditionally been about relationships and a determination as to which emerging candidate can best fill the primary functions of a speaker which are to raise money and protect his/her majority in upcoming elections. With pretty much all of tradition and history thrown out with term-limits, the face of this process has changed dramatically, and the battle has become both public and highly politicized. While all this makes for great copy, just how this improves the process has yet to be seen. Currently there are at least six to nine announced candidates for the position, with no one having a straight shot to the title at this moment. This will be interesting to watch as the rest of the "conventional wisdom" about who, why and how the speaker is chosen will be up-for-grabs as well. While arguably historic in its unique selection process, it may also signal the selection of the first woman speaker in our state's history. More on this as it evolves.


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!


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Political Suicide II

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Earlier this week I wrote about how "conventional wisdom" says that politicians acknowledging reality and offering solutions that could actually fix the state's problems is considered "political suicide."

Here is something else that is considered political suicide: Acknowledging that undocumented residents live and work here and are members of our communities. But it is a fact. A lot of people have come across the country's borders and settled in California, especially across the southern border.

Economic conditions have forced people to come here to try to find work. This is something that each of us would do if the situation were reversed. Heck, if the financial crisis that we are reading about in the news continues we might be doing just that very soon.

It is especially dangerous for a candidate to acknowledge that undocumented residents drive on the state's roads and suggest that while we work out solutions to the documentation problem, we test and license them so they can be insured. And so instead there are lots of unlicensed and therefore untrained, untested and uninsured people driving. This endangers all of us. But woe to the politician who actually tries to suggest realistic and workable ways to fix this.

Second to this on the political suicide scale is acknowledging that these undocumented residents are human beings, just like the rest of us.

The challenge here is to find solutions that fit our progressive value system. As progressives, we recognize and celebrate the humanity of every person. We don't ignore reality and we don't condone lawbreaking. We must look for practical, humane, innovative, equitable and democratic approaches to resolving these difficulties. We must always look for progress.


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Political Suicide

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Conventional wisdom considers it political suicide for a candidate to talk about the need to raise taxes so the state can pay its bills -- especially if it involves reforming Proposition 13.

Much of the public thinks that government "spends too much" and that much of the state's budget goes to "waste, fraud and abuse."

Much of the pubic also thinks that the primary beneficiaries of Prop. 13 were little old ladies who otherwise would lose their homes to increasing property taxes.

Reality, rarely consulted, understands things very differently.

California faces another budget crisis. The Governor proposes solving the problem with budget cuts.

California's budget pays teachers, fights crime, maintains roads and bridges and other necessary activities. There simply is no room for cuts to balance the budget. In fact, budget cuts just make following year shortfalls worse. If you lay off teachers they aren't paying taxes. If you don't fix roads the economy gets worse. In the long term, if you don't educate kids employers move jobs to states and countries that do. And, of course, it is always a really bad idea to cut back on police and courts -- especially after years and years of cuts in education.

Budget cuts don't work, so how about the modern solution to budget problems? I mean, of course, just borrowing the needed money. But Governor Schwarzenegger proved that the state can't borrow its way out of budget crunches: A major reason for this year's budget problems is the interest owed on Schwarzenegger's past easy fixes of issuing bonds.

The reality is that the budget cannot be fixed with budget cuts or more borrowing. We need to increase taxes. We need to start by reforming Proposition 13, raising corporate taxes, closing tax loopholes and taxing oil that is pumped from the ground. If we decide to do these things we might find that we not only fix California's budget problems for good, we might even be able to lower income taxes.

Reality also shows that the major beneficiaries of Proposition 13 were not little old ladies but large commercial real estate holders. It would be so easy to put a "little old lady" exception into property tax rules so they are not forced from their homes. But it would be political suicide to even discuss reforming Proposition 13 because of the power of the large commercial real estate owners. They want their tax break and don't care if the whole state goes broke and everyone else suffers. They are able to put a lot more money into the election process than regular people. That is why it is political suicide to talk about raising property taxes.

Why is it political suicide for a candidate to propose ways to fix problems, but not political suicide to cause them or make them worse?

A lot of people say they want a candidate who tells it like it is. But really, that would be political suicide.


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending February 9, 2008

Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


With Super Tuesday all but a dim memory in the fast-paced world of Presidential campaign politics, Speak Out California will try to provide a summary of what happened, why and what it means for the near future of our state and nation. While such prognostications are often supplanted within days as the "conventional wisdom" shifts with each passing event and hour, we think there are enough interesting tidbits to provide at least some kind of guideline for the historic election we have just witnessed in our state.

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!


So just what did the California electorate have to say this past week?

Remembering that we moved our primary election up to be "relevant" in the presidential selection process, it is somewhat ironic that the results of "Super Tuesday" have not clarified the race much at all. With Hillary Clinton taking the grand prize of California by an impressive 10% margin, having received 52% of the votes cast to Barack Obama's 42.4%, the candidates are still neck-and-neck in the all-important delegate count heading into the August convention, where the final candidate selection will take place.

What was striking to many of us watching the polls up to election day was the size of Clinton's win. With Obama clearly gaining momentum and reducing what had once been a 35% margin for Clinton, the press would have had us believe that Obama might even score a huge upset victory in California and all but sew up the election battle. As major endorsements came in from the famous and glamorous, racking up big media coverage for Barack, he seemed almost unstoppable. Oprah, Maria Shriver, Ted and Caroline Kennedy came to UCLA for a boisterous rally which was well-covered throughout the national press. University students came out en masse. Clearly, Obama was gaining traction in the Bay area, in coastal districts and with our young voters. So just exactly how did this all turnout at the end? We may not know for awhile actually, since there are estimates that over one million ballots that have yet to be processed. It is unclear how many will actually be counted and the outcome will not be affected, since some are provisional ballots of questionable validity.

For a full count of results, the best place to look is the Secretary of State's website here. Included are all the results from both parties- Clinton for the Dems and McCain for the Reps. One of the more interesting statistics is just the sheer numbers of votes cast in the Democratic primary (over 4.3 million to the Reps 2.5 million ballots). Keeping in mind that independent voters were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, but the Reps would not allow them to vote in their "closed" primary, there were still over 1.7 million more votes cast in the Democratic race. We don't know if this portends anything in November's general election, but it's a pretty good bet that many of those voters will stick with the candidate they voted for in the primary -- a sort of loyalty element that can become a factor in an election. If that theory does hold, it's a pretty sure bet that California will continue its "blue" ways and put 55 big electoral votes on the Democratic side. Of course, politics is nothing if not fluid, so don't go to the bank on that one yet...

Some of the more interesting, albeit wonky discussion on the outcome of the California primary revolves around the various voting blocks -- Hillary handily took the female vote (according to CNN's exit polls) with 59% of women voting for her and 34% voting for Obama. She also took the large Latino vote (which represented 30% of the Democratic voters) by 2-1. Barack cleaned up with the white 18-29 year old vote at just about 2-1 and the African-American vote by an even larger percentage.

An interesting and slightly different take on the results has been opined by Joe Mathews of the LA Times. While many of us have scoured the obvious demographics such as gender, age, ethnicity, etc., Joe examined the presidential primary results from the geographic perspective. His theory is that Barack may have carried the wealthy coastal areas, but Hillary scored big in California's "heartland". Click here for his interesting analysis in this LA Times article.

The real winner in all this, though, is the enormous increase in voter registration and voter participation this year. Whether it's the excitement of a new generational leader emerging or the chance of electing the first woman, there is no doubt that more people, particularly first-time voters, are paying attention and participating in the electoral process. This is great news, no matter what the outcome. And for Dems, it's particularly interesting to note that new voter registration far outweighed those signing up on the Rep side. For those of us desperate to see new leadership and new ideas in Washington, this kind of groundswell can only be a good thing.

So, after all the hoopla, where does the Presidential election stand? We know for the Reps that John McCain has emerged from what appeared to be certain extinction to be the all-but-selected Republican nominee. The story on the Dem side is far from clear, however. For a current scorecard on the all-important delegate count, click here for CNN's report.

How the ballot measures fared?

There were really no surprises here, as the polling and pundits called this portion of the election pretty accurately, although the numbers weren't quite as some of the later polls had predicted.

Props 91 and 92: While having little in common in terms of subject matter, both went down to clear defeat with 41 and 42% of the vote respectively. Prop 91, dealing with transportation funding had lost the support of its sponsors. In spite of having no organized support, it still managed to get 41% of the vote. While Prop 92, which would have clarified Community College funding, had a campaign and some support, it was able to generate only 1% point more than the transportation measure without support. The poor showing of the measure might create some ominous consequences in the coming budget fight. With such poor public support, the failure of Prop 92 could be interpreted to mean that the community colleges don't have much political juice when it comes to protection in these very difficult budget negotiations.

Prop 93: The interesting aspect for political wonks was the closeness of Prop 93's defeat. Although it lost convincingly, at 53% in opposition to 47% in support of the proposed term-limits revision, the Field Poll released just days before the election found it at only 33% popularity. A loss is a loss, of course, and as a result both Fabian Nunez and Don Perata will be out of the Legislature in January 2009. But the question is: how did such a respected pollster come up so off in his prediction on that measure? We really haven't gotten much in the way of explanation, so it's purely conjecture at this point. The reality is, though, that Sacramento has already been in overdrive to replace the fallen leadership. In keeping with the old adage, "The King is dead, long live the King!" the Senate has already announced the selection of well-respected nice-guy Darrell Steinberg as Perata's replacement at the end of the legislative year. On the Assembly side, the positioning is well underway to replace Nunez, who has taken responsibility for Prop 93's loss. A vote of the Assembly membership is already set for March 11th if one candidate emerges with enough support to take the crown as Speaker.

With term limits reform now off the table, the scuttlebutt is that it will only reemerge if it is coupled with redistricting reform. Ever-ready for reform, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced he will support a redistricting reform initiative if it qualifies for the ballot. Although it's now too late for the 42 members of the Legislature who will term-out in November, California needs an honest and rational discussion of the entire term limits concept without fancy bells and whistles and self-interest that have distracted us from having this most important discussion.

Props 94-97: As predicted, the Indian gaming measures overwhelmed the rest of the ballot in terms of money spent. The compacts were approved by large margins, with the tribes standing to benefit spending approximately $22 for each yes vote. A staggering $80 million went into the winning side on this, but the expected return for each winning tribe is expected to make the investment more than worthwhile. What the state will benefit from these compacts is yet to be determined, but clearly the promise of assistance in these difficult budget times was a forceful and compelling draw for many who voted "yes" to confirm the deals approved by the Legislature and Governor last year.

Local money measures

One of the more interesting results of the February 5th election is the number of new tax measures that passed throughout the state. While many went down to defeat, with the often insurmountable 2/3 requirement, a surprising number of measures found success this year. With new and younger voters adding to the rolls, this may be the time that other such measures emerge for voter consideration in November. For more on this story, click here for the LA Times piece.


The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week:

Primary Election Day--

Still Counting

To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/


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Until next week,

Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team


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Still Counting

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California had a record turnout for Tuesday's primary election ... and as of Thursday they are still counting the ballots.

California Progress Report has the story: The Unprocessed Ballot Page of the California Secretary of State is our site of the day,

Here's a page for all you election junkies to bookmark and check periodically, the California Secretary of State's "Update on vote-by-mail and provisional ballots remaining to be processed/counted" site.
Click through to get the link to the Secretary of State's page. CPR says there may be as many as two million uncounted ballots.


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Primary Election Day

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It's primary election day in California. Don't let yourself forget to vote, and check our voter guide to help you figure out what those initiatives are about.

Here is a scary thought: People who are just old enough to vote for the first time in this election were ten years old when the 2000 election brought George Bush to the White House, and likely don't remember much from before that.

They certainly don't remember California before Proposition 13 cut taxes, back when we had great roads and schools and colleges. They don't remember that there was a debate over whether the people should be allowed to decide how much to tax ourselves. Instead we now have a requirement that 2/3 of voters approve taxes - a level that can almost never be met.

They don't remember California before term limits. Proposition 93 is just a tweaking of the term limits rules, and there is no discussion over the merits of term limits generally. Young people don't know that there was a debate over the idea that people should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to return their own representatives to office.

Last week I was caught in traffic so I couldn't get home in time to watch the Clinton-Obama debate. I scanned the radio and not one single AM or FM station was carrying it. (Oddly one station was carrying an older Republican Presidential candidate debate.) FM was a sea of really bad commercial music, ads, and a few good Spanish music stations. AM was a sea of right-wing opinion, and ads. And then more ads.

I remember when it was considered a duty of a broadcaster to inform and serve the public. It was unimaginable that a candidate debate was not available. In exchange for licenses to use OUR radio spectrum for commercial purposes the broadcast companies agreed to serve the public interest. They would limit the number of ads and devote a large percentage of programming to documentaries, news and other information that served democracy. It was understood that WE owned the resource, and WE set the terms for commercialization of that resource. Imagine!

Yes, We, the People used to set the terms for licenses to commercialize the public resources. Now it's the other way around - the corporations give us credit ratings.

It seems like such an old debate over ideas like these. But younger people they have never heard these debates and likely don't even know there even was debate over these ideas. They don't know about a time when the people were considered to be the owners of the state's and country's resources.

If they ever did get an opportunity to hear about these debates they might even think it is a good idea for the public to make decisions. (Hint.)

Here's a good thing - young people today clearly don't remember a time when most people were apathetic and didn't vote. All indications say that today we will see the largest turnout of voters in decades.


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending February 2, 2008

Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


Like most of you, we here at Speak Out California have been following the Presidential election campaign very closely. We hope you've looked at our Voter Guide for guidance on the ballot measures that are also on the ballot this Tuesday. (Click here for that information).

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In keeping with the importance of the coming election, this update is not our typical analysis of what has been going on in Sacramento. Until now, we haven't gotten directly involved in the exciting and exhilarating Presidential campaign that will garner large numbers of important delegate votes that the remaining candidates will need going into what might very well be a brokered national convention later this summer in Denver, Colorado.

Since the Republicans can't even pretend to have a progressive candidate on their slate, with each of their top-tier candidates emphasizing their so-called "pro-life" pro-war records, we won't be referring to their beauty contest in our comments at all. They can't seem to be running right hard enough to please themselves. This is not the America we want or need. It is devoid of the values and elements that have made our country great--vision, hope and opportunity. We will, however, remember their platforms and promises in the general election, lest we start forgetting who they really are and claim to be.

Like so many of you, we've been impressed by both Democratic candidates that are left standing as we head into "Super Tuesday". There are only two now, after at least eight interesting and well-qualified candidates first threw their proverbial hats in the ring. For many, there is disappointment that their candidate did not catch fire and withdrew from the debate. For John Edwards supporters, in particular, it was a stinging disappointment when he dropped out this past week, leaving only two U.S. Senators to finish the race. But the country is stronger for their various positions and qualities. There is hope that we can turn our country around and proof that there are still fine leaders willing to step forward and offer their vision of the future to the American People.

While Speak Out California has watched each of the candidates articulate his/her vision for the future, we know that the party is quite divided between the two remaining candidates. Hillary Clinton represents an array of experience and knowledge about how the system truly operates. She has articulated with clear and impressive understanding, what needs to be done to return America to its greatness, a position that has been both squandered and recklessly destroyed by the current Bush administration. She perhaps sums up her candidacy best by her remark at the recent debate, "It took a Clinton to clean up the first Bush mess and it will take a Clinton to clean up the second Bush mess."

Barack Obama represents the next generation of political leaders. While articulate and motivational, he sounds similar themes to those of his colleague and opponent. At the same time he has captured the imagination of a generation and roused them to political interest and action unseen in many years. In his stirring Convention speech of 2004 he defined his vision with the statement, " We are not Blue States or Red States, we are the United States."

It is unclear who will be the winner on Tuesday. Most pundits believe there will be no clear winner--that both will amass a large number of delegates for the final battle for the nomination at the Democratic Convention in late August. The talk on Tuesday and beyond will no longer be about who won which state, but how many delegates he or she will take from each.

Regardless of which candidate ultimately emerges, the victor will be making history as the first of either his race or her gender to be the nominee for President of the United States. It is truly a groundbreaking moment in which all can be proud. So, who will it be? Who is the best candidate? Which one can win in November and take our country back for the working people and the future?

Many of you have asked us who we endorse. From a progressive's perspective, both candidates have positives and negatives and either one would be an enormous improvement over where we are today as a nation. We suspect you've seen lots of opinion letters by all sorts of people including endorsements for each of the candidates from the familiar pundits and politicians as well as spin and analysis from the major papers and supporters. What Speak Out California has done, instead, is provide you with the thinking of two women who have been long-time California activists committed to advancing progressive causes and candidates. They have agreed to share their reasons for supporting their respective choices for President. We present them to you (in alphabetical order of candidate's last name). Please note that we also welcome any comments or opinions you may have as well…..and would appreciate your posting them on our weblog so they can be shared with our readers .


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2008 is the previous archive.

March 2008 is the next archive.

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