All posts by Erik Love

Bankrupting Education

The quality of education at the University of California (where I have been a graduate student since 2003) is plummeting.  I hear from my friends at the California State Universities that things are looking equally bad there, too.  Why are these proud institutions rapidly losing their reputation as world-class centers of learning?

Budget cuts.  Every year since 2003, the budget for the UC and the CSU have been slashed.  This year, it’s worse than ever.

While the university administration and Republicans in Sacramento can blame the financial crisis for the free-falling budget, make no mistake.

The budget for California education has not been slashed because of the 2008 bank mess.  The budget for education has been slashed because of the failed Republican ideology which says that all public money is “socialism.”

Well, like you, I really like my “socialist” libraries, highways, fire departments, and universities.  The anti-public Republican philosophy is bankrupt, and the damage from that philosophy is continuing to spread.  Over the past five years, I’ve watched as the GOP has gutted the University of California.

Yesterday, the UC President and UCSB Vice Chancellor were quoted saying that this year’s round of budget cuts will cause layoffs, more crowded class sizes, delays in classroom repairs and maintenance, and more.  These cuts will directly affect student education in addition to affecting the broader economy in the immediate term (fewer jobs in higher education means fewer Californians working) and in the long term (there will be less attraction for workers and creative entrepreneurs to move to California).

The UC President and others are blaming all of the painful budget cuts on the 2008 financial crisis.  Sure, the meltdown in banking and the recession is definitely having an effect.  But that can’t explain the budget cuts in 2003.  Or 2004.  Or 2005.  And 2006 and 2007 came when California’s economy was still relatively strong.  The main reason for budget cuts is the Republican philosophy of shrinking the public sector, no matter what.

Let’s not forget that California by itself has a bigger economy than many European nations.  And yet, the Republicans have made it so that that we can’t afford to fund higher education.

Michigan is an excellent counterexample.  Michigan’s economy has been in a recession pretty much non-stop for the last 30 years.  Despite Michigan’s terrible economy, this year the Democrats in Lansing passed a budget increase for Michigan’s public universities.  The reason for this is simple.  The only way to improve Michigan’s economy is by attracting more jobs, and today’s best jobs require more educated workers.  Leaders in Michigan, especially Governor Jennifer Granholm, understand this, and they’ve fought to make sure the ongoing economic recession doesn’t destroy Michigan’s universities.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in Sacramento have different priorities.  The GOP leaders in Sacramento have stonewalled every single vote that included an increase in revenue.  Rather than allow a responsible budget, the Republicans have protected tax loopholes for yacht owners and big corporations.  They believe in trickle-down economics: if the wealthy are taxed less, then the economy will do better.

That bankrupt philosophy doesn’t work, and this year’s meltdown provides even more dramatic proof of how wrong trickle-down economics really is.  Removing ideologues from Sacramento is step one in saving the University of California.

The ongoing crisis in California’s schools shows once again that elections matter.  Fortunately there are some good candidates on the ballot this year who understand the need for responsible leadership.

Workers at the University of California Seek Justice

(I added a photo of Sen. Yee joining the protest at UCSF. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Sen. Yee at UCSFThe people who cook lunches, clean classrooms, and provide medical care at the University of California live in poverty.  96% of the people who do these important, necessary jobs are eligible to receive public poverty assistance.  Many people working at the UC — one of the world’s most prestigious universities — have to work two or even three jobs just to pay rent and put food on the table for their families.

I just got back from the picket line here at UC Santa Barbara, where I’m a teacher and graduate student.  The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME), which represents the 8,500 people who cook, clean, and work in health clinics across the University, today began a five-day strike after more than a full year of demanding a better contract with fair wages .  There are about 100 or so workers and supporters at the main entrance to UCSB right now, demonstrating for a fair contract.  Spirits are high, because everyone knows that the University simply cannot work without them — so they’re going to win a fair contract.  It’s just a matter of time.

The contract that these folks have had for the last several years is terrible.  Currently in Santa Barbara, the median home price is $1,000,000.  Average rents for a one bedroom apartment start at about $1,600 (check Craigslist for a taste of that nonsense).  Yet, these workers are paid only $10.28 to $11.50 per hour .  No wonder so many of them get public assistance simply to afford housing.

The workers aren’t asking for much.  Just a raise to $15.00 per hour, and a pay scale that includes a raise every now and then.  $15.00 per hour still won’t be nearly enough to afford housing in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, but it will help some people work fewer hours at their second and third jobs, so that they can spend more time at home, with their children.

Even though Governer Schwarzenegger is trying to protect his rich buddies and their yacht tax breaks by cutting the budget for education , there is no reason why the UC cannot afford to pay its workers enough to afford an apartment near their place of work.

The University of California has a massive budget, and they have plenty of money to spread around to pay the salaries of important people like basketball coaches and executive administrators.  It’s time for the UC to give the same respect to all of its employees.

Call to Action: Help Debra Bowen Catch The Dirty Tricksters

(seen these guys lately?  can you take a picture of them? – promoted by Julia Rosen)

Disclosure: I work for Courage Campaign

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has opened an investigation into the Dirty Trick to steal the White House — and now Courage Campaign needs your help to make sure the GOP-backed group behind the move to change California’s Electoral College votes is exposed as using illegal tactics to get signatures.

You may remember that Bowen opened the investigation earlier this week after Calitics and the Daily Kos community took action, catching people on video obscuring petition language and misrepresenting the intent of a petition.

After the great success that we won in convincing Bowen to open the investigation, we need to come together one more time and help close the noose around the GOP-backed groups trying to get their Dirty Trick on the ballot.  Debra Bowen needs your help right away.  Send your photos, video, or any other documentation of dirty tricks to the SoS office now.  Full details after the flip.

As you know, the latest Republican scheme to steal the White House involves a dirty trick in California that would give the GOP presidential nominee about 20 electoral votes from California even if the Democratic nominee wins the statewide vote.

The Secretary of State’s Fraud Investigations Unit is currently investigating the GOP-backed “California Counts” campaign, which is behind the effort to get enough signatures on the Dirty Tricks initiative to qualify it for the November 2008 ballot.  (They already failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the June ballot, showing just how desperate they are for each and every signature.)

“California Counts” hired Arno Political Consulting – a notorious shady signature-gathering machine – to get the signatures done.  Based on comments posted on the diaries from outraged Kossacks across California, APC apparently has instructed their “subcontractors” (read: employees) all over California to use the same tactics I saw when I made this Courage Campaign YouTube Video:

Have you seen similar tactics used by petition-gatherers?  If so, send your photos and video to [email protected] or call the Secretary of State at (916) 657-2166 right away.  Here’s how to properly document the illegal activity:

1.  If you see petitioners in your area using rubber bands to obscure petition language, take a photo of the actual, obscured petition papers.

2.  Write down the time and date, the address, and a description of the location (e.g. at the west entrance to a grocery store, etc.) where you encountered the apparently illegal activity.

3.  Email [email protected] or call the Fraud Investigations Unit at the SoS: (916) 657-2166 right away.  Include your contact information in any correspondence so that the Fraud Investigations Unit can follow up with you if necessary.

In order to establish a pattern of illegal misrepresentation and other violations of California election law, we need to show the SoS that dirty tactics have been used across the state – not just at UCSB.  If we can establish a pattern of activity, that should implicate APC and “California Counts,” and the GOP will be unable to claim that “individual subcontractors” are the only people at fault for breaking California Election Law.  “California Counts” and APC have some big GOP names associated with them — including the Rudy Giuliani campaign.  If this community can help tie them to illegal activity, there’s no telling how big this story could get.

If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the Courage Campaign directly: [email protected]

Let’s catch these dirty tricksters and make sure that there is NO chance for them to steal the White House.  Again.

This article is also on Daily Kos and Courage Campaign.

Netroots Catch Dirty Tricksters: Debra Bowen Investigates

(Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign)

The Daily Kos community has done it again.

Just before Thanksgiving, UCSB graduate student Steven Attewell wrote on Calitics, raising alarm bells about disturbing signature-gathering tactics being used by “California Counts” — the right-wing organization behind the so-called “Electoral College Reform Initiative” that would help the Republicans steal the White House in 2008 by changing how California allocates its electoral votes.

As you may know, this dirty trick initiative is on life support, as California Counts struggles to get it on the November ballot, after failing to make the June ballot.  And Kossacks, if today’s great news from Secretary of State Debra Bowen pans out, may be part of the vast left-wing conspiracy that ultimately kills it.

As Steven discovered, the sneaky signature gatherers working for “California Counts” and Arno Consulting are luring people in to sign using a “children with cancer” bait-and-switch tactic. After getting in touch with Steven, I headed out on campus armed with a camera.  I confirmed and documented what Attewell first noticed: that the dirty tricksters had obscured the petitions that students were signing. And I got it on video.

Today, I received a letter from Secretary Bowen’s office.

Bowen’s letter and Courage Campaign videos are on the flip.

Here is Secretary Bowen’s letter:

Dear Mr. Love:

We have reviewed the video file you shot showing circulators on the UC Santa Barbara campus.

We will be opening a case for investigation for possible violation of Elections Code 18600 (misrepresentation) and Elections Code 18602 (obscuring the summary of a measure).

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Election Fraud Investigation Unit

Secretary of State

And here is the original video that prompted the investigation:

After contacting Secretary Bowen’s office and providing them with our video, the Courage Campaign also made the video available to the media.  We wanted to make sure that as many Californians as possible were aware of the despicable tactics used by the California Counts in their desperate attempt to get enough signatures to qualify their “Electoral College Reform” initiative for the ballot.

The CBS Evening News then interviewed Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign, and used a few clips from my video to illustrate how these dirty tricksters were using “curing children’s cancer” as the bait to increase signatures on the petition designed to help the Republicans steal the White House in 2008.

Now, after seeing the video, Secretary Bowen’s office is planning to open a formal investigation into the apparently illegal tactics used by California Counts. Thanks to the hard work of the grassroots and netroots — and especially Steven — even if the dirty trick initiative qualifies for the November 2008 ballot, the dirty tricksters may face jail time and or fines for breaking the law.

Dirty Tricksters Caught on Video: CBS Evening News Edition

Just before Thanksgiving, I posted my video showing the illegal tactics that the Republicans are willing to use in order to get signatures on their so-called “Electoral College Reform Initiative” – a ballot proposal that in reality is yet another election-stealing Republican dirty trick.  And now, my video has just been featured nationally on the CBS Evening News.

In just a matter of days, the 2008 presidential election may actually be decided. In California. By progressives like you.

Because of your grassroots and netroots activism, the GOP’s California ballot initiative campaign to steal the White House — what the New York Times called an "elaborate dirty trick" designed by a "shadowy group" to "do serious damage to our democracy" — is under significant pressure.

Time is running out on these dirty tricksters and we need your help to finish them off. With signature-gathering deadlines looming to place the so-called "Electoral College Reform Initiative" (ECRI) on the June ballot, we’ve caught Republican dirty tricksters red-handed on video.

The full story is over the fold…

This message from Rick Jacobs mentions the oustanding sleuthing from UCSB graduate student and Calitics contributor VikingKingq, who wrote here at Calitics and at DailyKos of his encounters with the dirty tricksters.  After he called the Courage Campaign, I went out with a video camera.  Let’s let Rick finish the story:

Right before Thanksgiving — in an action inspired by a Daily Kos blogger’s diary — we emailed Courage Campaign supporters a YouTube video exposing a potentially illegal "children with cancer" bait-and-switch tactic used by signature gatherers to get Californians to sign and support ECRI. After we provided documentation a few days later, Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office told us they were considering an investigation.

Now, the CBS Evening News is on the case. On Saturday night, CBS used portions of that Courage Campaign video to expose millions to the right-wing cabal behind "California Counts," the gang of Republican dirty tricksters — linked to Rudy Giuliani  — who are trying to steal the White House in 2008. 

Please watch the CBS Evening News report on YouTube by clicking here and then consider making a $55 contribution to support our work to kill this dirty trick. Without your financial support, we could not have produced the video exposing these sneaky signature-gatherers, Secretary Bowen would not be considering an investigation, and CBS would not be reporting this news to millions:

If this Rovian dirty trick is successful, at least 20 of California’s Electoral College votes — the equivalent of Ohio — will be allocated to the Republican presidential nominee.

The consequences could be catastrophic for our country and the world. Four more years of Iraq, Iran, torture, and warrantless wiretapping. Four more years of crisis, from the climate to health care and the economy. And, four more years to give right-wing extremists the opportunity to turn a conservative Supreme Court majority into concrete.

That’s why these desperate right-wingers are hell-bent on using apparently illegal signature-gathering tactics to get this initiative on the ballot so they can lock down the White House for decades.

We need your financial support now to kill this dirty trick dead. How much would you donate to protect California’s 55 Electoral College votes from the Republicans? Just $5.50? How about $55? Or even $550? To help us save California from becoming another Florida or Ohio, can you contribute $5.50, $55, or $550 on ActBlue today?

At the heart of the Courage Campaign is a mission to leverage online organizing to empower bloggers and grassroots activists in California. We are a new kind of organization, waging a new kind of campaign, practicing a new kind of politics.

From a blogger writing a diary on Daily Kos to a national broadcast on the CBS Evening News, this is what people-powered progressive politics looks like:  

First, Steven Attewell, an eagle-eyed blogger on Daily Kos, posted a community diary about the "children with cancer" bait-and-switch by California Counts signature gatherers at UC Santa Barbara. Courage Campaign staffer Erik Love immediately talked with Attewell and worked with me and Online Political Director Julia Rosen to deploy a grassroots film crew to capture the dirty tricksters in the act. Calitics blogger Dave Dayen quickly edited the raw video. Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, we emailed the video to Courage Campaign supporters asking for reports of any similar sneaky signature-gathering tactics witnessed over the holiday weekend.

Dozens of first-hand reports from the grassroots came pouring in to the Courage Campaign. Erik then contacted the chief of the Secretary of State’s Fraud Investigations Unit, who indicated the tactics used were likely illegal. Finally, I sent an official request to Secretary Bowen asking her to open up a formal investigation.

With signature submission deadlines looming, time is running out on these right-wing dirty tricksters. To continue our campaign to expose these signature schemes, please watch the CBS report and then make a timely donation to Courage of $5.50, $55, or $550 on ActBlue so we can kill this dirty trick and protect California’s 55 electoral votes:

Whether or not an investigation is launched, Secretary Bowen and County Registrars will be examining hundreds of thousands of petitions submitted by California Counts in the coming weeks to determine if enough legal signatures have been collected. The more sunlight we all can continue to shine on these sneaky signature gatherers in the next few days, the less of a chance this shady scheme will qualify for the June ballot.

You are on the ground floor of a new movement led by the Courage Campaign to synergize the netroots with the grassroots to achieve a progressive vision for California. Now, as we battle these devious dirty tricksters from deadline to deadline, we need your support to make that vision a reality.

Thank you for everything you are doing to create progressive change in California and the country.

Rick Jacobs

P.S. As Bradley Whitford ("Josh Lyman" on The West Wing) said in a Courage Campaign YouTube video last month, if the dirty trick succeeds…  

"That, my friends, would be the ballgame."

To help us fight these right-wing extremists down to the wire, please make a critical contribution of $5.50, $55, or $550 right now to protect California’s 55 electoral votes via ActBlue, the online community tool that empowers anyone to fundraise online for progressive candidates and causes:


Dirty Tricksters Caught on Video

(Caught on film – promoted by jsw)

I took a video camera up to UCSB and found some folks luring students in with “help us cure cancer” when in fact one of their petitions is the so-called “Electoral College Reform Act” — a blatant attempt to steal the White House in 2008.

See the Courage Campaign YouTube here, and then send this on to your friends.  Tell them to keep their eyes peeled for dirty tricksters when they go shopping this weekend. If you encounter a petitioner trying to trick you with a line about “children with cancer,” then click here to report when and where you saw the dirty tricksters.

Last week, University of California student Steven Attewell discovered a team of petitioners on the university campus at Santa Barbara.  After discovering that the petitioners were trying to get signatures for the Dirty Trick Act, Mr. Attewell immediately contacted the Courage Campaign to help shine a spotlight on these illegal tactics.  The following day, we found the petitioners using their deceptive tactics to get signatures from unsuspecting college students.  And we had a video camera.

As you can see in the video, the petitioners said that their petition would “help children with cancer,” and then proceeded to instruct well-meaning students to sign several petitions that were attached together on a single clipboard.  The petitioners clearly tried to obscure the language on the petitions, using a rubber band to make it difficult for anyone signing to read beyond the first page.  When pressed, the petitioners described some of the other issues (besides curing cancer) they were advocating, but their descriptions of the petition language on eminent domain and presidential election reform was unclear or inaccurate.

According to an investigation from the UCSB Daily Nexus, the petitioners in Santa Barbara said that they work for Arno Political Consultants (APC), a notorious Republican consulting firm which has previously contracted to get signatures for tobacco companies, Mobil Oil, and they’ve been discovered tricking people into registering to vote as a Republican. APC has been in courts all over America, as you can see here.

APC said that their corporation bears no responsibility for the tactics seen in Santa Barbara, and that any violations of election law are the fault of the individual signature-gatherers in Santa Barbara.  This seems unlikely as reports are flowing in from across the state of APC petitioners using similar deceptive tactics used to get signatures on the Dirty Trick Initiative.

If you see anyone collecting signatures for the Dirty Trick, let us know right away by visiting  Send us your video, your photos and your stories; we’ll post them and we’ll offer them up when it comes time to challenge the process.

Erik Love, Courage Campaign

CDP: Playing Right Into The Hands of the Republicans

“This plays right into the hands of the Republicans.”

“Our only goal is to elect a Democrat into the White House in 2008.  Nothing should distract from that.”

These the main sound bites from Senator Art Torres at the California Democratic Party meetings this weekend.

They should be the talking points of the grassroots Democrats whose anti-torture platform was shot down yesterday.

The actions of Torres, committee chair John Hanna, and others in the California Democratic Party leadership played right into the hands of the Republicans.  The core principles of the Democratic Party – freedom and upholding the constitution – were blatantly violated by one of our members, Senator Dianne Feinstein.  The message our resolution sent was simply that we expect better from our Senator, because nothing distracts more from electing a Democrat to the White House in 2008 than weak-kneed Democrats in Congress who betray even the most basic Democratic principles.

Torres and Hanna’s strong-armed tactics played right into the hands of the Republicans.  They have sent the wrong message to California, and the wrong message to America.

There’s a reason that Congress has approval ratings even lower than Bush’s. It’s simple: too many Democrats aren’t standing up to fight for our principles. When it comes to issues of grave importance like war and torture, the California Democratic Party jus cannot be silent.

That’s why this movement is far from over. The CDP was shaken this weekend by the power of our coalition. We’ll continue to press for our party to stand and defend its core principles. And we’ll win, even if it takes some time.

The message that the coalition of grassroots Democrats wanted to send from the Anaheim meetings is that the California Democratic Party does not stand with President Bush. The California Democratic Party stands for freedom from torture. The California Democratic Party will not be silent when one of our members betrays our simplest, most basic principles.

Instead, the message sent by Torres and others was: “The California Democratic Party sometimes supports Bush policy.”

Despite Torres and Hanna playing right into the hands of the Republicans this weekend, in the end, they’re just two people. The real power lies with us – the grassroots. We’re going to go on and make sure that we elect a Democrat into the White House in 2008.

From The Courage Campaign

UAW Workers Face Tough Negotiations in California – Not Just Detroit

You may have heard today’s news that UAW is striking at General Motors over stalled contract negotiations in Detroit.

You may not know that UAW Local 2865 is bargaining with the University of California (UC) right now as well.

At every UC campus, the UAW represents more than 12,000 academic student employees – tutors, teaching assistants, and other academic workers. The UAW represents more student workers across the country than any other labor union. The contract which governs the employment of these UC teachers and tutors expires this Sunday, September 30. (I’m one of those UC employees, working as a teaching assistant at UC Santa Barbara. As a member of UAW 2865, this article is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the position of the union.)

Bargaining with the UC hasn’t been much easier than bargaining with GM. In both cases, management has been stalling at the bargaining table, and refusing to take responsibility for employee health care, wages, and basic worker’s rights. Back in my first year at UCSB, my union was forced to call a strike due to the UC’s unlawful negotiating tactics. The UC does things like failing to provide information, failing to send negotiators with the authority to bargain, and they are famous for canceling or changing the time and location of bargaining sessions at the last minute. All of these sorts of tactics are illegal, and it appears like the UC is bargaining in bad faith yet again this year.

The stakes for workers are high both in Detroit and in California. The UC has proposed canceling full health insurance for all teaching assistants and tutors. The UC has also proposed making student employees pay expensive registration fees, ending their current practice of paying academic fees for employees who also are graduate students. The UC has proposed a real cut in wages, and looking for ways to keep costs down by increasing class size, the UC has also resisted better contractual workload protections for teaching assistants and tutors. The UAW’s proposals protect health care and protect the quality of education at the UC. Why would UC resist these proposals?

The University of California might be one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world – but they have a terrible track record when it comes to employee relations. Governor Schwarzenegger and the UC regents have raised student fees every year for the past four years. While providing hefty bonuses for high-level administrators, the UC’s benefits package for workers is now so weak as to be completely uncompetitive with other American universities. Tuition is so high for international students and in-state students alike, that the UC will continue to have difficulty attracting talented students and teachers. While Schwarzenegger looks to spend billions of public dollars to build more prisons, the UC is stagnating.

By demanding a higher standard, the UC workers represented by the UAW play a special role in the struggle for progressive values like health care, education, and workers’ rights. Be ready to support the UAW as it strikes in Detroit, and also if the UC forces teachers and tutors to strike here in California.

Florida in 2000. Ohio in 2004. California in 2008?

(Courage Campaign’s working on the effort to push back against this right-wing power grab. Click HERE to sign the pledge opposing it. – promoted by Todd Beeton)

The Courage Campaign has launched a petition drive against the Republican power grab otherwise known as the “Presidential Election Reform Act.”  Click here to fight back against this transparent attempt to steal electoral votes in a move more brazen than anything Katherine Harris even dreamed of back in 2000.

As you may already have heard, a team of GOP lawyers have filed an initiative with the state attorney general for the June 2008 ballot that would reduce California’s voice in electing the president of the United States by moving California from a winner take all electoral system to one that allots electoral votes proportionally by congressional district.

They call it The Presidential Election Reform Act. We call it a rightwing power grab because the net result would be that the Republican candidate could win as many as 20 of California’s 55 electoral votes or the equivalent of Ohio.

Help stop this right wing power grab by signing this pledge to oppose it today.

MediaMatters: News Outlets Publish “Misleading Attacks” On Debra Bowen

(Bowen rocks no matter how much they lie about her – promoted by Bob Brigham)

Washington, DC based media watchdog group Media Matters has noted that articles appearing in several newspapers repeat misleading criticisms of Secretary Bowen’s “top-to-bottom” review of electronic voting machines.

Citing Courage Campaign Chair Rick Jacobs’ article in Huffington Post, Media Matters documents how the LA Times, SF Chronicle, Washington Post, AP, and other news outlets uncritically repeated the false accusation that the battery of voting machine tests in Bowen’s “top-to-bottom” review was “unrealistic.”  This accusation suggests that the computer scientists who were easily able to break in to California voting machines were given “too much” information about the voting machines in advance.  But the scientists themselves addressed this concern in their report: “the statement that attackers could not replicate what red team testers [computer scientists] do, because the red team testers have access to information that other attackers would not have, profoundly underestimates the ability and the knowledge of attackers, and profoundly overestimates the infallibility of organizations and human nature.”  In short, an attempt to compromise voting machine security could very well come from the inside with the same inside knowledge that the computer scientists had in their tests of the system.

The news outlets who uncritically reported the accusations against Bowen’s tests failed to provide the responses as given by the official report.  Media Matters notes that this is lazy journalism at best.

Support Secretary Bowen in the media now by writing a letter to your local newspaper.  Click here to get started.