Here are some notes from a few stories I’d been meaning to get to all week.
• Frank Russo had a good recap of the initial hearing from the three-judge panel charged with finding a solution to California’s prison crisis. This panel may result in the early release of thousands of prisoners to reduce overcrowding. The panel does not appear to be able to be swayed by political expediency (unlike the Legislature for the past 30 years), saying “This is a judicial and not a political process.” It is clear that the torturous conditions in California jails and the inability to deliver even basic medical care violates the Constitution and will be dealt with swiftly. Even the Correctional Officers union has come around to the point of view that reductions in the prison population are needed. Only a cowardly, leadership-challenged political class refuses to face reality.
(more on the flip):
• Here’s a fun tale of health care at the Tribune Company, parent of the LA Times and local TV station KTLA:
The Tribune Company has come up with a new tactic to cut costs and annoy the hell out of its employees – again. It seems that everyone on the staff at the L.A. Times (and so I assume KTLA) has to prove that their spouses and children really are theirs, and thus eligible for medical benefits. Though wasteful and mildly insulting it sounds easy enough, but apparently it’s not. They call it a “Mercer Audit” and its demands have some staffers in an uproar.
They’re demanding documentation (a birth certificate or marriage license, I guess) with a deadline of days from actually giving employees notice. I’m sure in the boardroom this is considered “sound business sense.”
• At our Calitics Quarterly event, I talked with Digby about her contention that the GOP is targeting California as the big blue state where Rudy Giuliani can break through and get the paradigm-shifting win they need. It’s true that the big hitters in the state have all come out for him – although the Pete Wilson endorsement garnered all of three reporters to the announcement.
• Continuing on this theme, a new SUSA poll shows head-to-head general election matchups for all of the top three candidates on either side, and in California, it shakes out like this: against Romney or Thompson, all the Democrats win by between 15 and 33 points. Against Giuliani, Clinton beats him by 20, but Obama wins by only for and Edwards by only 2. Wow. Of course, Giuliani is still riding the name ID coattails. However, his clear penchant for wanting to be competitive in California is evidenced by the fact that the mystery fundraiser for the dirty tricks initiative was the chairman of Giuliani’s northeast fundraising operation.
• Rik Hertzberg had an interesting footnote to the possible demise of the dirty tricks initiative:
Why would Schwarzenegger want to shoot down a proposal that has the potential of delivering the White House to his party next year?
My guess is that he isn’t losing any sleep over the probability of a G.O.P. Presidential rout, which would make him the indisputably most important Republican in America. His current port tack, on issues like health care and climate change, suggests that he knows which way the wind is blowing. Doubtless he would rather be swept along than swept away.
Then there’s this. Anybody remember the first Republican debate, on MSNBC back in May? I’ll bet Arnold does. He was in the front row at the Reagan Library when Chris Matthews asked the ten candidates if they would support changing the Constitution ever so slightly to make naturalized citizens eligible for the presidency. The vote onstage was eight to one against. (The one was Giuliani; McCain said he’d “seriously consider it,” which I count as an abstention.) Eight to one, in other words, in favor of crushing the ultimate and perfectly legitimate dream of the distinguished Governor of California.
If I were Schwarzenegger, I wouldn’t lift a finger to help these bozos.
• Finally, tonight at midnight, the UAW Local 2865 contract runs out. While the United Auto Workers settled their contract dispute with GM, Local 2865, which covers over 12,000 academic student employees at UC campuses (TAs, for example) has made little headway with UC. You can read all about it here. The whole idea of student employee unions gets lost in the shuffle, but they are being royally screwed, and are planning to file lots of unfair labor practices charges, in addition to keeping negotiations going and reserving the right to strike. We ought to support their efforts.