Friday, September 30, 2005

Prop. 78 unpopular, feelings hurt

smiling drugsProp 78 before reading its poll numbers
People don't like big pharma, which is backing California Proposition 78 in the special election, but Claremont McKenna Professor Jack Pitney warns the LA Times that propositions are sensitive creatures:
Prop. 78 May Suffer From Drug Makers' Poor Image
By Lisa Girion, Times Staff Writer

Californians like the idea of a statewide drug-discount program for the poor: A recent Field Poll found Proposition 78 leading by a healthy margin.

But that support sagged when respondents learned that the nation's big drug makers were behind the initiative.

And therein lies the problem for supporters of the measure: Its biggest backer is also its biggest liability.

"Public opinion has a short list of bad guys, and the drug companies are on it," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "That can be hurtful to Proposition 78."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When Republicans stood for something (it was a long time ago)

Roosevelt IslandAn e-mail from my girl Erin of Erin's Library:
Theodore Roosevelt Island, nestled between Arlington and the District, was one of my favorite places when I lived in DC. I only went there once, but I saw it whenever I was down by the river, or crossing the Potomac, or taking the shuttle to the airport. It was reassuring in its lush brilliance. So I was pissed off when I saw the news that Rep. Pombo, Chairman of the House Resources Committee, has hit on the idea of selling parts of it and other National Park land for development. What a disgrace to the memory of one of my favorite Republicans. Or as a spokesman for the National Parks Conservation Association says:

"Imagine taking the island named after the greatest conservation president of all time and turning it into condo developments?" said Craig Obey. "I don't know what even to say about that."

Today the Washington Post reports that the release of the document with this "brainstorming" idea has caused a veritable uproar. Safe to say, it probably won't happen. In fact, Pombo probably meant to create all this fervor just as a way of showing the relative desirability of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said the list should not have become public. Now that it has, he said, it should be considered less a proposal than a theoretical exercise.

Um, sure, shouldn't have become public. What a scare tactic. Teddy Roosevelt must be spinning in his grave.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

NOLA reconstruction pt. 2

Malik RahimOn a brighter note, I'd like to pass along news of Common Ground, "a community-run organization offering temporary assistance and mutual aid to the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding areas", organized by Malik Rahim (above), a Green who has run for New Orleans City Council. Common Ground is organizing medical clinics and self-help operations like the one below. Seems like a great place to send donations, especially if you think the Red Cross has enough.
Common Ground

Monday, September 26, 2005

NOLA reconstruction pt. 1

NOLA VigilantesToday I was listening to a podcast of Democracy Now! in my car, as I am wont to do, and I heard a particularly chilling discussion with The Nation's Naoimi Klein and Jeremy Scahill. They talked about the incipient reconstruction in New Orleans, and how conservatives are already beginning to abuse it. From Klein's article:
...As president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., [lobbyist Mark] Drennen was in an expansive mood, pumped up by signs from Washington that the corporations he represents--everything from Chevron to Liberty Bank to Coca-Cola--were about to receive a package of tax breaks, subsidies and relaxed regulations so generous it would make the job of a lobbyist virtually obsolete.

Listening to Drennen enthuse about the opportunities opened up by the storm, I was struck by his reference to African-Americans in New Orleans as "the minority community." At 67 percent of the population, they are in fact the clear majority, while whites like Drennen make up just 27 percent. It was no doubt a simple verbal slip, but I couldn't help feeling that it was also a glimpse into the desired demographics of the new-and-improved city being imagined by its white elite...

..."Reconstruction," whether in Baghdad or New Orleans, has become shorthand for a massive uninterrupted transfer of wealth from public to private hands, whether in the form of direct "cost plus" government contracts or by auctioning off new sectors of the state to corporations.

This vision was laid out in uniquely undisguised form during a meeting at the Heritage Foundation's Washington headquarters on September 13. Present were members of the House Republican Study Committee, a caucus of more than 100 conservative lawmakers headed by Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. The group compiled a list of thirty-two "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices," including school vouchers, repealing environmental regulations and "drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Admittedly, it seems farfetched that these would be adopted as relief for the needy victims of an eviscerated public sector. Until you read the first three items: "Automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas"; "Make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone"; and "Make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations)." All are poised to become law or have already been adopted by presidential decree.
As Klein points out, the longer hurricane survivors are displaced, the fewer people will be around to protect the community from land grabs and rezoning that could make it harder for them to return. And make no mistake, there are people who would prefer they not return, as Scahill writes:
Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tiritilli update

Bea TiritilliThe LA Times has an article today on the special election to replace Rep. Chris Cox in Orange County. With 17 candidates running, Green Party candidate Béa Tiritilli only gets a mention in the last sentence. Luckily, the Daily Pilot in Newport Beach gives a longer report:
Tiritilli, a 42-year-old high school teacher, is running a textbook grass-roots campaign, with volunteers making their own signs. She's been picking a different public spot each weekend to meet voters and answer questions.

She has known she would run for Congress since last November.

"I sat in the polling booth looking at my choices on the ballot and feeling depressed," she said.

Democratic candidate John Graham, who is running for the seat again, didn't list the war as one of his top issues, and Cohen supported the war, Tiritilli said -- and those were the only alternatives to the Republican Cox.

The Greens are the only party with nonviolence as part of their platform, she said, and she thinks that will draw a swath of voters that crosses party lines.

"The anti-war folks, they're just fed up with the Democrats and the Republicans," Tiritilli said.

"I believe in social justice, I believe in fiscal responsibility. We're not getting that from our current administration."

She realizes that voters are concerned about illegal immigration, but she sees part of the problem as trade agreements that lead to low-paying and unsafe jobs in developing countries. People would be less likely to come to the U.S. if they could get a good job in their own country, she said.

Putting more guards at the borders may be an answer to Gilchrist, but it isn't to Tiritilli.

"I do think many people agree with him. I don't," she said.
The election is October 4.

A new website for the LA Greens

I've been working on a new version of my local's website for some time. I switched the site over to the new design this morning. Take a look: Please send any comments about layout irregularities, broken links, typos, or desired content to Thanks!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Green Party Special Election recommendations

Here is a link to the state party's ballot recommendations.

Off to the protest

protestorI'm off to the L.A. anti-war rally. Meanwhile, the main protest in D.C. is already underway.

Improving health care in CA

Minotaur rocketHealth care should be one of the top three or four issues for the Green Party* because it is an important issue--and a source of stress--for a lot of people, it's getting worse, and the Democrats and Republicans aren't doing much about it, at least not nationally. In California, there is actually a really good piece of Democratic legislation on this topic, but it isn't clear how much effort Democrats are willing to put into it.

A workshop at the Green Party gathering last week was about this topic--achieving universal health care in California through Health Care for All's legislation, SB 840, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D). (It was endorsed by the state Green Party earlier this year).

The workshop moderator, Don Bechler, a veteran of this struggle, was pessimistic about chances that the legislation would become law, even though it has majority support by both houses of the legislature. One problem is that to pass the second part of the legislation, which will specify the tax changes to pay for it, will need 2/3s to pass, and no Republicans support it. Bechler suggested that a massive effort was needed to convince ordinary people that universal single-payer health care would be an improvement, and to help them contact their representatives in the state legislature.

I have a different idea. Although SB 840 would replace the health insurance industry, it isn't an anti-business bill. It should be cheaper to pay for than what many companies pay for health insurance already. And it would improve labor relations. Frankly, I'm surprised the bill doesn't have support from some big businesses, and I still think they would be a natural ally in this fight.

Going this route would involve more behind the scenes lobbying, but it doesn't have to replace the direct voter contact that would help build the Green Party by linking us to this important issue.

While we're on the topic, this was in the L.A. Times today (in a different section from the pretty picture above):
Shift Is Seen in Health Coverage for Kids
By Debora Vrana, Times Staff Writer

Fewer than half of California's children will have health coverage through a parent's job by 2010 if current trends continue, according to a pair of studies released Thursday.

Rising premiums are eroding coverage of children nationwide, and the result is more of them are enrolling in tax-supported public programs such as Medi-Cal, according to the studies, released by the nonprofit California Endowment.

If premiums continue to rise at current rates, an estimated 2.7 million more U.S. children will shift to public insurance in five years, according to one study, conducted by the nonprofit Economic & Social Research Institute in Washington. The second study, by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, estimated the number in California at 470,000.

On the positive side, fewer children are uninsured in California now than five years ago, the studies found.

Coverage for children jumped to 88% in 2004 from 83% in 2000, the UC Berkeley study found. That's because more children lacking employer-sponsored insurance were covered last year by Medi-Cal or the state's Healthy Families program for children.

*Except we don't really prioritize issues, which is a problem in itself.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More infernal debate

A new paper by several GDI folks, including Cat Woods from California, appeared today on Counter Punch. There really isn't anything new here, so before I get to it, I want to bring up a bit of actual news from the Oakland gathering this past weekend. Cat Woods passed a leaflet out that called for the Green Party of California to disaffiliate from the national party (GPUS) so that in the future, if we don't like the national candidate, we can appoint our own. In fact, she wanted to do this in 2004, when she sought a special state meeting to decide to whom to give our ballot line. The meeting never happened, but I asked whom she would have put on the ballot, given that the Green voters voted for Peter Camejo and the national convention selected David Cobb. Ralph Nader, of course. So the Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) would have had a group of less than 100 people override the process of the national party and the voters in the state to select a candidate that is not even in the party! Well, that is certainly independent.

Back to the article. It is another revisiting of 2004, the rise of GDI, and the rejection of its proposals at the national meeting in Tulsa: At Tulsa, two currents came into conflict over the future of the Party--an assertive, radical wing embodied by the Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) and a passive, liberal wing led by David Cobb and others closely tied to the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

The article hinges on hyperbole and half-truths. I won't refute them here, but if you want to hear more about it you can e-mail me.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Breaking down the Camejo-Feinstein debate

One of the highlights of the gathering that took place over the weekend in Oakland was a debate between Green Party candidate for governor Peter Camejo and former Santa Monica Mayor Mike Feinstein on strategy for the 2006 elections in California. Former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez had the thankless task of moderating the discussion, and he did a good job of allowing audience participation.

Mike Feinstein promises to provide video of the event on his website, so I'll point you there when it is available, but let me lay out the arguments as I understood them. Update: the video is here:

Feinstein is calling for the Green Party of California to develop a unified campaign platform that statewide candidates (including Camejo) and up to 20 Assembly and state Senate candidates can run on. The platform would include reform of Prop. 13, which has seriously screwed up the state's finances by making it very difficult to raise property taxes. The idea behind running 20 legislative candidates is to pick up votes down ticket in a possibly close race for Governor between Schwarzenegger and a Democrat. Feinstein also proposed allowing select progressive Democratic nominees to run simultaneously on the Green Party line if they win a Green Party primary as a write-in candidate (a procedure called fusion). This would let voters express their support for the Green Party in races where there is no Green Party candidate. (Camejo doesn't like this idea at all.) The idea behind a unified platform centered on tax reform is that Greens would show we have a plan for governing California and are not just an opposition or protest party.

Peter Camejo, on the other hand, doesn't want Greens to abandon our role as an opposition party. He seems to see us as the loyal opposition's disloyal opposition. He has already laid out his proposal to run a slate of candidates statewide with himself at the top of the ticket. His strategy is to appeal to opponents of the war in Iraq as well as minorities, by appearing at campaign events with local organizers who are not necessarily Green, but represent a green constituency. To this end, he highlighted the case of Santos Reyes, a man who is serving 26 years to life for a minor crime because of California's three-strikes law.

Camejo is also very involved in debates over the direction of the Green Party, to the extent of getting involved in County Council elections, and I think he placed too much emphasis on this issue, especially in a debate about campaign strategy. Certainly some of this is applicable to the debate at hand, given Feinstein's support for fusion, but it seems to take precedence in Camejo's mind even over his own statewide campaign. Camejo believes that there is a sizable minority in the party that wants to use the party to help Democrats, and that they need to be stopped. He has believed this ever since the party nationally nominated longtime Green David Cobb as its presidential candidate in 2004. Cobb ran using a strategy he termed the "safe-states strategy". It meant he campaigned mostly in states that were not seriously at play between the President and his Democratic challenger. This strategy has a couple of obvious merits (for instance, more people are liable to vote for a Green in "safe states"), but Camejo, who ran for Vice President on a ticket with Ralph Nader, saw this as capitulation to the Democrats--what Camejo terms lesser-evilism.

This is a fair debate to have within the Green Party, but Camejo misses two points: Lesser-evilism is not a strong current in the Green Party, and very few of the 150,000 or so registered Greens in the state care about it either way. Feinstein himself said he would be willing to drop his support for fusion given the overwhelmingly negative response it has received among Green Party activists across the state. Camejo invited Feinstein to run against him so they could have this debate up and down the state in the Green Party primary. What a horrible idea! We are not going to grow the party by airing our internal divisions as campaign platforms. Feinstein made a good point in basically endorsing Camejo, and suggesting he spend more time on his own campaign. It is Camejo's campaign skills, after all, that have made him the party star that he is today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The new name

Vibes graffiti
I have considered the name of this blog provisional since it started, but I haven't made the effort to come up with a better one until now. So here it is, Vibes Watch. I hope y'all like it. The name refers to the hippy practice we have in the Green Party of calling "Vibes" if a discussion gets too personal or mean-spirited. You can also take it another way, that this blog will attempt to report on the news and debates (and the vibe) of the party.

Please feel free to comment on the blog or send feedback to mrochmes at gmail dot com.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Initiative endorsements

I attended the state Green Party gathering this yesterday and today in Oakland, Calif. But between a busy schedule and a cold, I wasn't able to post anything from the scene. I plan to write up some news and reflections here over the next few days.

To whet your appetite, here are the just-released official endorsements by the state party for the Nov. 8 special election.

Prop. 73: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. No.

Prop. 74: Public School Teachers. Waiting Period for Permanent Status. Dismissal. Initiative Statute. No.

Prop. 75: Public Employee Union Dues. Restrictions on Political Contributions. Employee Consent Requirement. Initiative Statute. No.

Prop. 76: State Spending and School Funding Limits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. No.

Prop. 77: Redistricting. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. No Position.

Prop. 78: Discounts on Prescription Drugs. Initiative Statute. No.

Prop. 79: Prescription Drug Discounts. State-Negotiated Rebates. Initiative Statute. Yes.

Prop. 80: Electric Service Providers. Regulation. Initiative Statute. No Position.

The decisions were based on a poll of county chapters. Props 73, 75, 76, 78 and 79 were unanimous. Prop 77 leaned No, while Prop 80 leaned Yes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Election news

AD 53Did you know there was an election today in LA? It got as little press here as the primary occuring on the same day in New York. In the special election to fill Assembly District 53 (above), which runs along the Pacific from Marina Del Rey to Torrance, it looks like Democrat Ted Lieu won outright. No Greens were running in the open primary.

Camejo's Vision

Peter CamejoI just recieved a forward of an essay by Peter Camejo outlining in further detail his campaign plans for 2006. I am looking for a link to it online ( is down at the moment), but in the meantime, here are some key exerpts:


Some of this reach out work is obviously facilitated by the composition of our slate. We want it to be gender balanced. We are also considering running, Forrest Hill, who will be the first openly Gay person to run for a state position. Forrest has been an organizer for the Green Party for years. He has worked as an environmental consultant and has a PHD from MIT. He is extremely articulate and knowledgeable on key issues around IRV, Gay rights, tax issue, economics, the environment and social issues.

Our thought is to have our ticket headed once again by myself (Spanish speaking Latino) and Donna Warren (African American woman). This slate offers us a man and women for Governor and LT Governor. We want to have a California Teachers Association (CTA) union activist as our candidate for Superintendent of Schools. We want some younger people on our slate. Larry Cafiero a Green leader and activist from Santa Cruz has offered to be a candidate but has also very modestly offered to step aside if it turns out to be the best for the party. The truth is Larry would make a great candidate. Many Greens need to step forward to run for office both in campaigns whose goal is to try and win and others to build the Party.

There is nothing wrong with there being two candidates until our primary for a position. It gives us two or more voices during the primaries to talk to people about our ten key values. Don’t forget we had four Greens running for the same office during the recall election. I was proud of all of them. Kent Mesplay from San Diego is preparing to run for Senate. Kent ran as a candidate for president during our primaries. There may be others I do not know about that have already indicated an interest in running. The Green Party membership will decide at our primary in June of 2006 exactly who our candidates will be. We hope you will support the candidates committed to the vision outlined in this report.

We are all thinking through who we should run for the United States Senate. We see this as one of our key positions. We have had discussions with Muslim leaders seeing if we could find a Green in that community to run against Feinstein. We have not yet been successful. As I mentioned above Kent Mesplay has decided to enter the race others may also.


To understand the concept we are proposing and how it differs from our previous state wide electoral efforts let me give some examples of what our 2006 state campaign meetings will be like. In particular, when we hold a campaign meetings, representatives from select local organizations such as anti-war activists (like from Cindy Sheehan’s organization), representatives from MAPA, Hermandad Mexicana, Centro Azteca, CTA, ILWU, Muslim community leaders, environmentalists, etc, will be asked to speak. In each case they will speak about their specific community or issues. We do not want too long a list of speakers but in each case we should have a few such speakers.

We will also encourage groups to table at our meetings and we will provide people attending the meeting information on how to become involved in those issue focused organizations.

When our candidates speak to large audiences especially on campuses it would be so useful to immediately point them to tables where they can get information on getting involved on specific issues. It immediately gives a new kind of vision to what the Green Party is, an electoral _expression and organizing center for progressive movements, a party that tells the truth about our political system and why these issues exist to begin with.

In this way our campaign meetings become organizing events. They begin to present the Green Party as an electoral _expression of the movements for peace, social justice, ecological sustainability, civil liberties, gay and women’s rights, labor rights and so on.
Camejo is set to debate campaign strategy with former Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein at the state gathering next weekend in Oakland. I plan to be there if I can find a ride.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What he knew

Bush: One of the worst disasters to hit the U.S.
The President in 2004: "Had I had any inkling whatsoever that people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to protect the country. Just like we're working to prevent further attacks."

Hurricane Katrina was like 9/11 with a warning. Here is what the President knew--and ignored--about the coming storm while he remained on vacation:











Even without mention of the levees, which the government knew were not designed to stand up to a category-4 storm, this warning would have prompted a better president to cut short his vacation, monitor the situation, and begin relief preparations.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Life in prison without a trial

Michael LuttigIn July, a Federal Appeals Court heard arguments about Jose Padilla, the "dirty bomber" (except the government now admits that that was a false accusation), who has been held in prison for more than three years without a trial. As I wrote then, it was pretty obvious which way the case was going to go. Now the three-judge panel, let by extreme conservative Michael Luttig, has made its ruling:

U.S. Can Confine Citizens Without Charges, Court Rules
By Jerry Markon, Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 10, 2005

A federal appeals court yesterday backed the president's power to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil without any criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital during wartime to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 and a month later designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. The government contends that Padilla trained at al Qaeda camps and was planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. Padilla has been held without trial in a U.S. naval brig for more than three years, and his case has ignited a fierce battle over the balance between civil liberties and the government's power to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A host of civil liberties groups and former attorney general Janet Reno weighed in on Padilla's behalf, calling his detention illegal and arguing that the president does not have unchecked power to lock up U.S. citizens indefinitely.

Federal prosecutors asserted that Bush not only had the authority to detain Padilla but also that such power is essential to preventing terrorist strikes. In its ruling yesterday, the three-judge panel overturned a lower court.

A congressional resolution passed after Sept. 11 "provided the President all powers necessary and appropriate to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks," the decision said. "Those powers include the power to detain identified and committed enemies such as Padilla, who associated with al Qaeda . . . who took up arms against this Nation in its war against these enemies, and who entered the United States for the avowed purpose of further prosecuting that war by attacking American citizens."

Padilla is one of two U.S. citizens held as enemy combatants since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The other, Yaser Esam Hamdi, was released and flown to Saudi Arabia last year after the Supreme Court upheld the government's power to detain him but said he could challenge that detention in U.S. courts.

The ruling limits the president's power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda, but the Bush administration has said that war could go on indefinitely.
Richard A. Samp, chief counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest law firm, said the court "gave the government needed flexibility in dealing with the war on terrorism. You can't treat every terrorist as though they are just another criminal defendant."

But Avidan Cover, a senior associate at Human Rights First, said the ruling "really flies in the face of our understanding of what rights American citizens are entitled to." Opponents have warned that if not constrained by the courts, Padilla's detention could lead to the military being allowed to hold anyone who, for example, checks out what the government considers the wrong kind of reading materials from the library.
The government originally described Padilla as plotting with al Qaeda to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" but has since focused on allegations that he planned to blow up apartment buildings by filling them with natural gas. Prosecutors told the 4th Circuit that he worked with such senior al Qaeda leaders as former operations chief Khalid Sheik Mohammed on that plan.
Disgusting. Luttig is a judge who has no respect for the constition or the rule of law, or trials. He considers it a fact that Padilla has worked with Al Queda and taken up arms against the United States, despite the fact that the government has never formally accused Padilla of anything. Luttig has complete faith in the President's judgement and assumes if he has declared Padilla an enemy combatant, Padilla must be one. This although the President has repeatedly proved himself incompetent and untrustworthy. I make a different assumption. Given that the Justice Department has put other people on trial in civil courts as part of the "war on terror", it seems evident that they have an extremely weak case against Padilla.

Padilla may very well be innocent, and I will assume his innocence until proven otherwise in a court (unlike the New York Times). Consider the ramifications of Padilla's situation. Any of us could be held in prison for years, decades even, as long as the country is "at war".

Minimum wage hike faces veto too

The governor, who has unwisely staked his political fortunes to the anti-union pole, plans to veto a bill to raise the minimum wage:
Joined by three defections from a previously solid Republican wall of opposition, the Democrat-controlled California Legislature voted Wednesday to increase the state's minimum wage by $1 an hour over the next two years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had offered to accept a more gradual increase in exchange for easing overtime rules, indicated that he was likely to veto the measure, as he did last year over a less extensive minimum wage increase...

Identical to last year's proposal, the Democratic measure would raise California's minimum wage to $7.25 an hour beginning in July. It would add another 50 cents to the rate starting in July 2007.

This year's measure would also establish automatic increases, known as indexing, to keep pace with inflation. That provision made the bill, AB 48, stronger than the legislation Schwarzenegger vetoed last year, when he said "now is not the time to create barriers to our economic recovery."
That should have read "gutting overtime rules":
People involved in negotiations that took place in recent days said Schwarzenegger offered to raise the minimum wage by $1 over two years if Democrats agreed to drop the automatic increases. The offer was also contingent on lawmakers classifying more types of employees as managers, so they would not have to be paid overtime, and also exempting from overtime employees who worked four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour ones, according to administration and legislative officials.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Losing support, Governor clings to conservatives

The Governor and President in 2003Between a rock and a hard place, Schwarzenegger will always choose to pander to the right. Remember when he ran saying he could go get money from Republicans in Washington? The tables have certainly been turned. Here are a couple new examples:

First, of course, is the gay marriage bill:
Already hamstrung by dismal popularity ratings, the Republican governor had little choice but to veto the legislation, analysts said. Approval of the measure would have set off a sharp backlash among Republican voters, his strongest remaining bulwark of support.

But while averting a conservative revolt, Schwarzenegger may have worsened a key political problem: erosion of his image as an independent reformer who stays above partisan politics...

Mark Baldassare, research director at the [Public Policy Institute of California], said Republican opposition to gay marriage has remained steadfast over the last five years. But the spate of gay weddings in San Francisco, along with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada, Spain and other countries, appears to have weakened opposition among Democrats and independents, he said.

Baldassare, and Democratic analysts, believe that as a result, same-sex marriage has joined the list of social issues such as abortion and gun control that California voters weigh to take the conservative measure of a Republican running for statewide office. Republicans who take conservative stands on such issues tend to win party primaries in the state but run into trouble in general elections.

Yet given Schwarzenegger's unpopularity--a Field Poll released this week found 56% of voters not inclined to back him for reelection--he was all but forced to veto the same-sex marriage bill. The survey found that 70% of Republicans were inclined to support him.
Then there is the illegal immigrant drivers license bill, which the governor also plans to veto:
[Sen. Gil] Cedillo's bill passed the Senate in June on a 22-16 partisan split. Now the Senate is expected to approve recent amendments and send it to the governor, who is under pressure from Republicans to veto the measure...

The governor's office has consistently said Schwarzenegger does not want to take any action until the federal government finishes deciding its requirements for state licenses — changes spawned by concern that terrorists or other criminals could get such documents...

In an attempt to head off Schwarzenegger's concern that California should wait until the federal government details the requirements of the Real ID Act, Cedillo amended his bill last week to incorporate such a delay.

..His bill [would give] the Department of Motor Vehicles the authority to begin changing its procedures, computers and staffing to meet all the requirements of the federal Real ID Act by the May 2008 deadline. If California misses that deadline, its residents cannot use their driver's licenses for official federal purposes.

With his popularity eroded and polls showing voters displeased with the initiatives he has embraced on the November ballot, Schwarzenegger risks alienating loyal voters if he signs Cedillo's bill."It would be horribly disappointing" if the governor did not veto the bill, said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lucky duckies

Just one more thing tonight (I couldn't resist). If you haven't seen it, the nation's First Mother (and former First Lady) said this of the hurricane refugees:
What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overhwlemed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this--this is working very well for them.
(Mp3 here).

Gay marriage bill going to Schwarzenegger

Bill author Mark Leno
Legislature OKs Gay Marriage
Assembly action sends the bill to the governor, who has signaled that he will veto the measure.
By Nancy Vogel, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature made history Tuesday as the Assembly passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

With no votes to spare, California's lawmakers became the first in the United States to act without a court order to sanction gay marriages. The measure was approved after three Democratic lawmakers who abstained on a similar proposal that failed in June changed their minds under intense lobbying by bill author Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and gay and civil rights activists.

No Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Forty-one of the Assembly's 47 Democrats voted yes; four Democrats voted "no," and two abstained.

The bill, which would change California's legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to a "civil contract between two persons," now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has signaled that he will veto it.

Tuesday's vote came after 23 lawmakers addressed the chamber, many of them focusing on the historic element of their action, others relating intensely personal stories.

In a moment of high drama, with dozens of gay rights supporters watching from the gallery, Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) hesitated for several seconds as the tally hung at 40 "ayes" — one short of passage. Then, having promised Leno months ago that he would not let the bill fail, Salinas pressed the "aye" button on his desk, making the final vote 41-35.

...[Tom Umberg of Anaheim] elicited applause and whoops in the otherwise hushed chamber when he described why he had changed his mind. He said he had been "cajoled, been harassed, been harangued and been threatened" by friends over the issue.

"This is one of those times when history looks upon us to see where we are," Umberg said. "Ten years from now, there are a handful of issues that history will record where we stood, and this is one of those issues.

"History will record whether we pushed a bit, took the lead to encourage tolerance, to encourage equality to encourage fairness," he said.

"The constituency I'm concerned about is a very small one," said Umberg, "and that's the constituency of my three children, should they decide to look back on my record … and reflect on where I was when we could make a difference."
Desparate to avoid political controversy, Schwarzenegger has contradicted the Republican line by saying he thinks the courts should settle the issue of gay marriage.

You can send the Governor an e-mail asking him to be brave and sign the bill here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Helping hurricane victims locally

Bea Tiritilli, the Green Party Candidate in the 48th Congressional District (in Orange County) special election, passed along news that Echo Park-based Christian ministry/charity Dream Center is housing families of storm refugees from New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama. Anyone who is so inclined can visit their website to find out how to donate goods.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The other LA Greens

The La. Greens
I haven't been posting the past few days, partially out of continued shock over the destruction in Louisiana. I've been reading and listening to what news of it I can, but don't have anything to add that hasn't been said by many others. However I'll pass along something that came into my inbox today from the La. Greens, via the national party. By the way, the Louisiana Greens (not to be confused with the Los Angeles Greens) earlier this summer became the most recent state Green Party to gain major party ballot status. I'm posting the entire press release because I can't find a link.

Louisiana Greens Express Outrage at Katrina "Planning"
War, Racism, Coastal Mismanagement Exacerbate Devastation

As the devastation in New Orleans from hurricane Katrina grows more and more deadly, disgraceful, and surreal--we find ourselves in a state of 'shock and awe' at the appalling carelessness to the rescue effort, the racist neglect of New Orleans' most vulnerable people, and the devastating mismanagement of our regional ecosystem which hastened and exacerbated the devastation.

Greens are committed to rebuilding Louisiana sustainably and equitably!


Fully one-third of the Louisiana National Guard, whose mission is to assist in rescue and relief operations during peacetime, have instead been sent to Iraq to fight for George Bush's war, based on lies and deception. This includes many troops who were trained specifically for high-water rescue operations. Yet four days after the hurricane hit, there's no National Guard in sight. Tens of thousands of New Orleanians--most poor and African-American--have been without food, water and medicines for almost a week while the president cobbles together a hodgepodge of disaster relief teams from under-staffed and under-funded local authorities.
Read the rest at

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hobbes in New Orleans

Hobbes in New OrleansI got this picture off the New York Times website. It is a photo of two people in New Orleans preparing to defend their property and provisions from looters.

This photo reminded me of an insight I had about a month ago. My apartment building, always periously close to the Hobbesian state of nature, lost the use of its trash bin for several days. Noticing the rapidity with which a mountain of garbage accumulated where the trash bin had been, I realized that the line between civilization and barbarism is a lot thinner than we would like to believe. Canabalism lies this way, I thought.

While the nation is moved by the ongoing tragedy in Louisiana and Mississippi, for the people there, the veil of civilization has been swept away. Many have responded generously; for others, apparently, survival means each man for himself.
On a less misanthropic melodramatic note, I was listening this evening to a podcast of Rachel Maddow guest-hosting the Al Franken show from yesterday. She was really fired up over the part government mismanagement has played in the disaster. She reported on a federal government report from early 2001 that listed the worst potential disasters that could face America as: an earthquake in San Francisco, flooding in New Orleans, and a terrorist attack in New York. Nevertheless, the President cut funding for hurricane and flooding preparation in New Orleans after 9/11, instead diverting resources--including national guard troops and supplies--to Iraq. When people consider the damage from this disaster, it is not going to reflect well on this administration, which was on vacation as the disaster unfolded.