August 2008 Archives

One problem that many people attending this convention are forced to deal with is the sheer distance between events. First, getting from the airport into town is a very expensive cab ride with few other choices.

I was immediately struck that there is no light rail system out to the airport! I don't understand how a major airport near a major city could have been planned and built without incorporating light rail from the start. Of course, this was all done in the unfortunate oil/car-dominated era that we are all working to end...

In town convention events are vast distances apart. Even inside the security perimeter itself things are far apart. It is a long walk in the sun to get from the Pepsi Center to the Tivoli, where the Starz Green Room is. It is a very long walk from the Big Tent to the Starz Green Room. Etc.

Getting my official convention credentials this morning meant taking a cab for miles, to a hotel in another part of town. (Long lines, waiting, waiting...) And then there were no cabs available to take me back. Miles and miles... There was a free city "16th street mall" shuttle that helped part of the way.

So this is a problem with this convention. Having things far apart might be OK if there was some way to get from one place to another. You can't have a car here but everything seems to require that you do.

And of course in the larger picture this is the problem with the way America has built up its housing/mall/freeway infrastructure. You have to have a car, period, or you cannot participate in the modern America except in a few larger cities that have well-thought-out transportation. This requirement that you have a car imposes a certain cost on people. But there are plenty of people who can't meet those costs and are forced to drop out of participation. So look what happened in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Many people simply could not evacuate because they did not have their own cars, and there was no real transportation available otherwise.

America has created distances between people, classes, and even physical distance requirements that work against us in the long run. This kind of approach, where you can't participate if you can't afford your own car is anti-democracy. In the case of this convention, it was just dumb.


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It is about 6:45pm Denver time in The Big Tent -- the "blogger central" of the convention. Finally some time to blog. Senator Ted Kennedy just spoke. That was quite a moment, reminding us that America was once able to send people to the moon, and that maybe one day we can get back to that kind of vision. Later Michelle Obama speaks and I will post an update.

They have a live audio feed from the hall itself, and big-screen TVs around the tent with network coverage, so you don't always see on the TV what you are hearing. That is probably a very good thing because I don't care what Wolf Blitzer says and I can safely say that none of the bloggers here do either.

There are supposed to be about 400 people here in the blogger Big Tent. That seemed about right today. This is a steel-frame temporary building that was just finished Saturday, I think. The name comes from the Republican Party's focus-group certified slogan, which means that everyone is welcome to vote for Republicans -- and no matter what you end up giving tax cuts to the rich and losing your health insurance, savings, pension, home and job.

Around Pepsi Center

There is a very big perimeter around the Pepsi center itself. I walked several blocks around that over to the other side of the perimeter. As you walk you pass so many people heading to or from the convention, many of them recognizable. "Isn't that ...?" Paul Begalia riding in a bicycle taxi. Journalists you've seen on TV, etc...

The convention has a different crowd that the big tent -- people are dressed better. Bloggers tend to wear shorts and t-shorts. In the convention hall (I learned four years ago the hard way) a guy would tend to dress up much more and you might feel out of place without a sportcoat. (I don't know how to describe the same thing for a woman.)

Starz Green Room

After walking (and walking) I checked in at the Starz Green Room. It is well air conditioned. You see, that matters a lot when there are hundreds or more people everywhere you go, after walking on a hot day with the sun at this altitude burning you. And everyone here does a lot of walking because of that several-block security perimeter.

The Starz green Room has a film festival going on, and the Seachange Forum panel series. Click through and scroll down for the schedule.) I wasn't able to stay long, but it is a great, welcoming environment, professionally run with great content. If you have a credential into the convention itself you should look at the schedule and reserve a place for one of their events.

More Big Tent

So this evening many people have gone over to the convention hall so it has cleared out and is somewhat less of a zoo (there is free beer). You can actually find a seat now, but not that many I was an idiot who didn't get his credentials in time so I get to stay here. Tomorrow I will be in the hall.

Here is what I look like blogging on a couch here:

(Taken with Flip Video supplied by the Voter Genome Project)

Click here to see today's earlier convention post with pic and video.

Let me know what you want me to cover here at the convention.


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Speak Out California is remodeling - as you can see. The new site will have new commenting features, more interaction, more capabilities and exciting new developments. Please check back!

And it will LOOK better soon, too!


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Not content with blocking the budget, the right is going after the Republican Governor for trying to govern. See Schwarzenegger engages in talk-show tussle,

Schwarzenegger tried to defend new taxes as necessary because the state was still paying off debts incurred by predecessor Gov. Gray Davis. But the hosts pressed further and suggested that Schwarzenegger abandoned his original mission of fixing the state's fiscal situation in order to pursue environmental goals.

That seemed to upset the governor, who maintained that his environmental policies had nothing to do with the state budget.

"This is absolutely absurd what you're saying right now," Schwarzenegger said. "....You're living in the Stone Age if you think that the environmental issue has anything to do with the budget or the declining economy worldwide."

"Don't lie to the people," Schwarzenegger added. "That's all I can tell you, don't lie to the people. Don't pull wool over their eyes. It's nonsense Republican right-wing talk."

That prompted the "anesthesia" joke. Schwarzenegger underwent anesthesia Saturday when he had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee.

In fact the state is paying off debts incurred by Governor Schwarzenegger, but at least he is trying to move the far-right Republicans off of their "no taxes under any circumstances" ideology. The Governor is trying to govern and should get credit for that, even if it is governing from the right. The far-right that is the rest of the state's Republican Party apparently doesn't want government at all, especially not government-by-the-people. There are lots of people. They want a one-dollar-one-vote approach favored by corporations and the rich who have lots of dollars.


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One more attempt to get a state budget in place collapsed -- blocked by the Republicans because it included tax increases. Republicans insist that the budget be balanced with billions and billions of dollars in cuts in our schools and fire protection and the other things most of us want our state to do.

I would bet that most of California's public doesn't know what is going on with our budget. They only know that there isn't one, and that this is causing problems. It makes people angry, and causes them to lose faith in government.

People know that government employees are being forced to take pay cuts, and many are being laid off. But they really do not know why.

Yesterday's budget vote was 45-30. The public doesn't understand that this means that there were forty-five votes FOR the budget and only thirty votes against, and this is why it failed. They don't understand that because it does not make sense. But because of a trick that the Republicans were able to play on the public the rules are that it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. So an overwhelming vote of 45-30 FOR the budget means that the budget does NOT pass!

Every Republican in the state has taken a vow not to raise taxes on wealthy corporations or massively wealthy individuals. They won't vote to require people who buy yachts or private jets to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay when we buy cars. They refuse to ask oil companies to pay fees when they take our oil out of the ground and sell it to us. (Maybe they understand that such a vote will dry up their campaign funding...)

News stories about the latest budget collapse:

San Jose News:

Although the $105.2 billion budget blueprint garnered a majority vote, 45-30, it fell short of the two-thirds supermajority that California's constitution requires to pass a budget.

. . . The vote "shows clearly that we're not going to vote for taxes," said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno.


Wall Street Journal:
"We're fundamentally saying 'no tax increases,'" said Mike Villines, the Assembly Republican leader.

They will require workers to take pay cuts and layoffs. They will cut our school budgets. They will cut transportation, the DMV, road repair, law enforcement, prisons, fire protection. But they will not ask wealthy corporations or extremely wealthy individuals to pitch in.

And here is why: by and large California's public doesn't know this. They are not being informed that this is entirely because a small minority of Republicans refuse to represent the public's interests, choosing to represent the wealthy corporations and wealthiest few people.

In fact, the public likely believes that it is the Democrats who are keeping the budget from being passed. If you Google the word Democrat with the word obstruction and you get about 600,000 results. This is a national result, but it reflects the same strategy in use in California. Republicans spent years accusing Democrats of being "obstructionist" when they were not, as a strategy to pressure them to pass Republican-/corporate-oriented bills. Now, after blocking almost everything that the nation's Congress is doing, the Republicans are campaigning saying that the Democrats in Congress aren't passing anything! Meanwhile a new Drum Major Institute polls shows that 72% of middle-class Americans can't name a single bill passed by Congress in the last two years that benefited them or their families! (Minimum wage increase, stimulus package, college more affordable, SCHIP...)

Less than two in five (38%) middle-class respondents to the Drum Major Institute's new poll say they live comfortably. One-third (34%) say they meet their basic expenses each month with just a little left over for extras, while one-quarter (26%) of middle-class adults would say they just meet their basic expenses (17%) or have trouble meeting their basic expenses each month (9%). And, economy and jobs tops their concerns. They are pessimistic about the direction of the economy. They think it's more likely that Brangelina will celebrate their 25th anniversary than gas prices returning to $3 a gallon.

But they do not understand WHY. They don't make the connection between the corporate-controlled Republican party and what is happening to the country.

How do Republicans get away with this? How are they able to get the public to think so many things that are not true? The Republicans have a vast "noise machine" that tells the public things that are not true. (Remember how they were able to convince so many people that Iraq had attacked us on 9/11?) It costs a lot of money to have a noise machine like this, but they get the money from the very corporations and wealthy individuals whose interests they are representing. So it works for them.

Plain and simple, they are bale to reach the public and tell them stuff, and get the public to believe it. The use of overwhelming repetition is the tactic. I use the word “stuff” here with meaning: it’s just stuff they want the public to believe, with no grounding in reality. They do it, and here we are. Nationally the debt is approaching TEN TRILLION DOLLARS and they are still able to get the public to think taxes are bad. In California they are able to force layoffs and school cuts while refusing to make the ultra-rich pay even the same taxes the rest of us pay.

Please leave comments with suggestions on how to fight this.


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Take a look at the California Climate Change Portal.

This website contains information on the impacts of climate change on California and the state's policies relating to global warming. It is also the home for the the California Climate Change Center, a "virtual" research and information website operated by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.

California Attorney General Brown recently announced the state will sue to block a huge Nestle bottled-water plant unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Why bottled water? A recent Huffington Post piece by Diane Frances, Bottled Water: The Height of Stupidity talks about the bottled-water scam,

Bottled water is a joke, one of the biggest consumer and taxpayer ripoffs ever. I applaud California's Attorney General Jerry Brown who said recently that he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California by Nestle.

. . . Not only do society and the environment pay an unfair price for this consumer hoax, but consumers are being hoodwinked. They are paying from 300 to 3,000 times more than the cost of tap water without any benefit.

. . . The water is usually not superior to "city" water or tap water, and is merely a big branding hoax by soda makers. In some cases, this "designer" water is drawn from tap water and labeled for suckers to buy as though it is a superior product.

. . . One expert estimated that the amount of petroleum -- used to make the bottles, transport, refrigerate, collect and bury them -- would fill one-third of each bottle.

These plastic bottles are creating landfill problems worldwide, and are washing up on beautiful beaches around the planet.


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A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute titled The China Trade Toll [PDF document] says that since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 our China trade policy "has had a devastating effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy."

The report shows that since 2001 California has lost 325,800 jobs (55,400 of these just in the last year) to China due to these policies. And since 2001 2.3 million jobs were lost nationally. According to the report even those workers able to find new jobs saw their wages drop an average of $8,146 per year. (These figures are only for jobs and income lost to China and do not include jobs and income lost to other countries.)

And, of course, this effect is not limited to the workers who lost their job. This also has an effect on works' ability to ask for raises and imporvements in working conditions. From the report,

It is also critical to recognize that the indirect impact of trade on other workers is significant as well. Trade with less-developed countries has reduced the bargaining power of all workers in the U.S. economy who resemble the import-displaced in terms of education, credentials, and skills. Annual earnings for all workers without a four year college degree are roughly $1,400 lower today because of this competition…
Specific industries were affected more than others by our massive trade deficit with China. Computer and electronic product manufacturers were hit hardest, losing an eliminated 561,000 jobs in this period. Jobs lost to the deficit tended to be better-paying ones,
More than two-thirds of the jobs displaced by China trade deficits were in manufacturing, which tends to employ a higher-than-average share of workers with a high school degree or less (43.7% of workers displaced) and to provide those workers with good wages and benefits. More than half (55.6%) of the jobs displaced came from the top half of the U.S. wage distribution, and among this group a disproportionate share came from the top 10th of all U.S. wage earners. African Americans (230,000 jobs lost), Hispanics (339,000), and other ethnic groups (219,000) all suffered from the loss of jobs such as these that pay substantially more and offer better benefits than jobs in other industries.
Here is what is going on. First, China "pegs" its currency to the dollar instead of letting it follow market rates as the dollar does. So the dollar's decline does not make it cost less to manufacture here, which would bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Next, China doesn't allow workers to organize labor unions. So their workers are not really benefiting from all of this. Wages there are kept low, and prices grow ever higher due to the currency manipulation of "pegging" to the dollar. And finally, China imposes barriers on imported goods. So while they manufacture and sell to the rest of the world, they keep their own people from buying things made elsewhere.

As a result China exported $323 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2007, and purchased only $61 billion in goods from the U.S.

The report concludes,

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has displaced huge numbers of jobs in the United States and has been a prime contributor to the crisis in manufacturing employment over the past six years. Moreover, the United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.
And, the report points out that this isn't particularly in the long-term interests of the Chinese people, either,
Is America’s loss China’s gain? The answer is most certainly no. China has become dependent on the U.S. consumer market for employment generation, has suppressed the purchasing power of its own middle class with a weak currency, and, most importantly, has held hundreds of billions of hard currency reserves in low-yielding, risky assets instead of investing them in public goods that could benefit Chinese households. Its vast purchases of foreign exchange reserves have stimulated the overheating of its domestic economy, and inflation in China has accelerated rapidly in the past year. Its repression of labor rights has suppressed wages, thereby artificially subsidizing exports.
Of course trade is good, when it is a two way street. If trade is fair, it benefits everyone involved. But this report shows that what the people who run American corporations call "free" trade is hurting our economy more than it is helping. Now that several years of these policies have passed we can measure the results, and the results have not been good for the American people.

Because of our country's trade policies with China 325,800 jobs have been lost in California. Meanwhile China is allowed to manipulate their currency, prevent unions, and set up barriers that keep their people from buying goods we make here.

What this has meant is big corporations can get out of paying American workers a fair wage because they can get away with paying Chinese workers hardly anything, while a very few people at the top of the American and Chinese food chains pocket the difference entirely for themselves. If you consider the huge amounts that some of these individuals are pocking from this scheme -- some receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each year -- aren't we at least benefiting from the taxes they pay? Unfortunately no, because of the tax policies of California and national Republican: low taxes for the rich, higher taxes for the rest of us, and borrowing to cover the resulting deficits. Here in California the Republicans are even blocking an effort to ask the super-rich to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay on everything we buy when they buy yachts and private planes. But no, they don't even have to pay that tax.

The result of these tax policies is that while we lose jobs,and the remaining workers get pay cuts, we also lose out on government services like schools, fire protection, police, roads, mass transit and everything else our government does for us. And that's not all. Because of these tax policies the state and national governments are borrowing huge amounts, and we have to pay that back with interest.

All of this -- the China trade policies, the tax policies, the massive borrowing -- come from the influence that money buys in our political system. The minute someone is able to use some money to gain an advantage, of course they use that to get even more money, which lets them buy an even bigger advantage, and the cycle continues.

You can easily see the effects of the money with the massive ad campaigns around California's elections and ballot initiatives -- and the resulting budget gridlock as a few corporate-connected Republicans block every effort to ask the rich and connected to pay their share.

We are in a stranglehold situation. A very few wealthy people are exporting our jobs and pocketing the money they would have paid as wages and benefits. They are not even paying taxes on the ill-gotten gains, which forces our state and national governments to borrow. And they are getting away with it because they are able to use some of that money to further influence our political system.

Here's the thing. They're not even using their own money to purchase this influence. Since they have control of the resources of large corporations, they are using the money from those corporations to fund the system of influence, which directs much larger amounts of cash back to themselves.

I think the way to stop this is to prevent any use of corporate money for anything other than operating the corporation. I'll share some ideas on that in later posts. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.


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The religious right is at it again, with another ballot measure intended to divide Californians and prevent women from making their own choices about their own bodies and lives. This time it is Proposition 4 -- "Sarah's Law" -- the old "parental notification" initiative that bans the termination of a pregnancy in a minor unless their parents are notified 48 hours ahead of time.

The same initiative has been rejected by California voters twice for good reason. Yes, this is the third time in three years. So the state -- We, the People, the taxpayers -- runs the expense of another ballot initiative.

So this time they have named the parental notification initiative "Sarah's Law" after Sarah of the Bible -- a fictitious name being used for a real woman who died in Texas in 1994 from an infection caused by a torn cervix. Prop 4 proponents claim that "Sarah" would have been saved if Prop 4 had been in effect there. Now it turns out that Prop 4 would not have applied. So this new rationale for the previously-rejected law -- that Prop 4 would save the lives of minors, entirely based on one 1994 case -- is false. Obviously helping young women is not the point of this law. Below I will talk about how this will actually endanger their health and lives.

First, though, an Aug. 2 LA Times story explains: 'Sarah's Law' would not have applied to 'Sarah,' acknowledge backers of the abortion-notification measure,

Backers of a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor acknowledged Friday that the 15-year-old on which "Sarah's Law" is based had a child and was in a common-law marriage before she died of complications from an abortion in 1994.

[. . .] Proposition 4 would amend the California constitution to prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after a physician notifies the minor's parent or legal guardian. State voters have twice rejected similar measures.

At first glance it might seem like a good idea to require minors to notify parents before they can terminate a pregnancy. Unfortunately the reality of people's lives does not always match up with the ideal families of 1960s TV shows. There are very serious reasons that a young woman might not want to tell parents about a pregnancy. These can involve abuse, incest and fear. In these cases requiring parental notification can bring about serious consequences. It can also cause the young woman to turn to unsafe alternatives.

There can even be very bad reasons where the young woman really should tell the parents. But a law like this also endangers a foolish, unwise young woman's health because it can cause her to to to an illegal, unlicensed, unsafe practitioner, or even try something herself. People do not always do the best and wisest thing. Foolish and unwise young people even more so.

History and experience have taught society that having a safe and legal place to turn for help is the best way to protect our young women. When a young woman is pregnant and does not want to be and there are no safe procedures available she might out of desperation turn to unsafe alternatives. When pregnancy termination was illegal it didn't mean women did not terminate pregnancies, it meant they did so at very high risk to their health. Terrible consequences were not uncommon. This is why the right's justification for Sarah's Law, and the false story behind it, is such an abomination. They are trying to take away these safe procedures with false stories that this will protect young women. It is safe and legal procedures that protect women who decide to choose to terminate a pregnancy.


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A post by Texas Nate over at MyDD, Schwarzenegger Makes Recession Worse, says,

Let's take a look at the situation. Democrats have proposed a way to close California's $15.2 billion deficit:

They want to raise $8.2 billion by boosting taxes on the wealthiest Californians and corporations, and say another $1.5 billion can come to the state through an amnesty on tax scofflaws.

Seems reasonable to me. One would think the best thing to do if you disagree with something is to offer an alternative. That doesn't seem to be the case for California Republicans:

Republicans oppose any new taxes but have yet to offer their own budget proposal, said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, a Democrat. "It's time for the legislative Republicans to tell the public how they would balance the budget," he said.

Exactly right. Instead California Republicans have fallen into line with their leader in the governors mansion; disagree, complain, argue, kick and scream, but refuse to offer any alternative.

The Governor's plan does nothing but hurt even more Californians facing a bad economy and an even worse housing crisis. Playing with the lives of state employees to score cheap political points, its no wonder the Government is having such a difficult time trying to get a budget deal in place.

Exactly right. Go over to MyDD to read the whole post.


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Republican Budget Choices

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Yesterday Governor Schwarzenegger ordered 10,000 state government employees laid off and ordered the wages of 200,000 more cut down to the bare minimum allowed by law.

This is 210,000 people who will not be keeping up with their mortgages or car payments or attending "back-to-school" sales. This is thousands of local retailers that will see a sales decrease. This is how many foreclosures and car repossessions. What will this do to our own jobs and housing prices?

This is 210,000 families disrupted.

Why is this happening? Because the Republicans refuse to make wealthy yacht and private plane buyers pay the same sales taxes the rest of us pay. This is happening because the Republicans refuse to make the oil companies pay us for our oil as they take it out of the ground. (Yes, even as oil companies post the largest ever profits of any companies in the history of the world.) The citizens of Alaska not only don't pay state taxes, they receive a check every year, because their state government asked the oil companies to pay to take their oil. In California the Republicans in state government apparently think they were elected to represent the interests of oil companies, not the public.

Republicans like to say that taxes "take money out of the economy" but the Governor's actions yesterday show exactly the opposite: laying off workers and cutting their wages takes money out of the economy. In fact taxes drive the state's economy by building the infrastructure that enable economic growth. The California state government is police and fire protection and schools and roads and courts and all of those are the engines of economic growth. Taxes fund the services that people want like shorter lines at the DMV and libraries and did I mention schools? These layoffs and wage cuts just illustrate what I wrote a while back about how tax cuts make us poor.

This is the Republican choice -- giving the very wealthiest even more money at the expense of regular working people.


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About this Archive

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

July 2008 is the previous archive.

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