Tag Archives: calitics

Calitics Policy on Candidate Diaries

As we approach the silly primary season for 2010, candidates are starting to post diaries.  The Calitics Editorial Board may promote some of those candidate diaries to the front page, based on whether the Editorial Board believes the diary communicates substantive policy positions of which the Calitics community should be aware.  

The Editorial Board understands that this policy will result in some candidate self-promotion and links to candidate pages in front page posts, and is willing to live with that tradeoff. Front page promotion of a candidate’s posts does not imply endorsement of the candidate.

Candidate personnel should be aware that merely posting more diaries are unlikely to get them more promotion, and partisans should be aware that complaining about perceived inequities will have little effect.

Calitics At Netroots Nation 2009


We often engage in the day-to-day combat of intracacies of the budget or campaign news here at Calitics.  But we should never lose sight of the long-term questions.  Is California governable?  Does the erecting of procedural barriers to sensible governance in this state prefigure a political crisis for the rest of the nation?  Can we build a movement for reforming this broken system and produce a model that allows majorities in the legislature to reflect the intended will of their constituents?  

I’m pleased to announce that I have put together a great panel that will tackle all of these questions at the blogosphere’s signature event, Netroots Nation 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from August 13-15.  On Saturday, August 15, at 3:00pm, we will discuss the California budget mess and its implications for the nation at large in a panel entitled California: How Process Creates Crisis.

California is the nation’s largest state, and is often seen as a bellweather for economic and social change. However, the peculiar dynamic of state government institutions has threatened that role, as the state has slipped into an almost perpetual crisis mode. Despite an overwhelming majority of progressive lawmakers in the state legislature, the two-thirds rule for passing a budget and tax increases, among other issues, handcuffs them and empowers a radical conservative minority. Thirty years of short-term fixes and failed leadership have only exacerbated the problem and put the state-and the nation-in real danger. As Paul Krugman recently said, “Years of neglect, followed by economic disaster-and with all reasonable responses blocked by a fanatical, irrational minority … This could be America next.” In this session, we will look at the reasons for California’s budget tangle, the larger implications for the progressive movement at large, and what some organizations are doing to change these outdated rules and take back state government for the people.

In addition to myself, the panel will feature Robert Cruickshank of Calitics and the Courage Campaign; Jean Ross of the California Budget Project; and Kai Stinchcombe, a candidate for State Assembly in AD-21 in 2010.  There may be an additional special guest, which I will reveal later.

If you have not registered for Netroots Nation, you can do so at their website.  If you have, please join us for a wide-ranging discussion on California, a kind of 75-minute blog post on the challenges ahead.

Memo to Calbuzz: Hey, right back atcha!

To: (insert fun and in no way dated Communist Party reference here) Comrades Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts

From: Dave

I read with interest your dripping-with-contempt response to my criticism of your reports on the Parsky Commission.  Actually, 4/5 of the article concerned the Commission itself and not you, but I am reminded of the words of Carly Simon:

You’re so vain

You probably think this song is about you

As a regular reader of Calbuzz, I admire your sources, if not your willingness to string an entire article together based on two politicians standing next to one another smiling, as well as an over-emphasis on horse-race politics and narratives.  But clearly, you have a bit of an inflated view of your clear-eyed mission of “journalism,” and the assumed objectivity that goes with it.

Allow me to be blunt: Calitics has been writing about the Parsky Commission since December of 2008, before there was such a thing as Calbuzz.  We have followed up time and again, in particular when two weeks ago, Susan Kennedy tipped the hand of how this commission would go by stating that “Our revenue stream is way too progressive.”  So it was not exactly some kind of amazing scoop to report on a commission that has open meetings and presents all their material in public, which is why plenty of contemporaneous reports were written, based on the documents posted on the Internet that the Parsky Commission presented in anticipation of their open meeting.

Unlike you, I don’t pretend to hide my opinions on the very clear economic and tax policy implications of the Commission’s report behind some false veil of objectivity.  Most of my comments were directed at the report itself, and the way in which a flat tax would quite obviously shift the burden of taxation to the middle class and the poor; but I couldn’t help but notice clear language like…

the impending bankruptcy of state government should be sufficient to show players at every point of the political spectrum not only that sweeping change is needed, but also that everyone will have to compromise to keep California from sinking into the 9th Circle of Hell

…which certainly allows people, in my view, a window into how you determine the best policy, defined as the midpoint between whatever pleases those hateful hippies and the ranters on the right.  That may be a nice and quick methodology, but it’s anything but rigorous, and I’m pretty sure it’s an apt description.  After all, wasn’t one of you the communications director for Gray Davis, who was not above bold expressions of centrism and a fear of the spectre of “The Left”?  

(How did pumping out that daily message for ol’ Gray turn out, by the way?  What did that guy do after his two successful terms were up?  Just curious.)

I mean, I’m very sorry for bringing up the inconvenient fact that so-called “objective” journalists can frame a story in such a way that they put their own thumbs on the ideological scale.  You claim that your job is to “ferret out the facts” of the policymakers, you know, like hard-hitting reporting on an email to supporters and what one Republican said about another Republican in a press release, but it’s fairly clear from the above-mentioned article that you view flat taxes and eliminating corporate taxes as pretty sensible and down the middle, and it colored your coverage.  I should probably just have shut up about it and gone back to my Communist Party self-criticism sessions, which by the way is a hilarious and timely joke.  Here’s another one: In Soviet Russia, television watches you! You can use that!)

So this notion that I should just say thank you for illuminating a public document seems to me to be a bit too self-regarding, and your lashing out at me for pointing out the not-so-hidden biases in that particular article a bit too “the lady doth protest too much.”  But of course, I have an infantile disorder.

Which brings us to this criticism about the Barbara Boxer press conference and certain bloggers clapping at the end of it, something of a hobby horse for you folks.  I am not going to speak for anyone in the room but myself, but I know quite for certain that I didn’t clap, and I know what I asked.  See, based on my notes (yes, I took them, just like a real live reporter) I know that I followed up a series of queries about torture (yours was some process question about how the Obama Administration “rolled out” the torture memos released a week before) with a specific question about a resolution before the state party seeking the impeachment of Jay Bybee for his role in authorizing torture, to which she answered “I’m very open to that,” reminding those assembled that she voted against Bybee’s confirmation as a federal judge.  Now, at the time, I was involved in securing thousands of signatures from across the state endorsing this resolution, and when it came before the resolutions committee, I would argue that having Sen. Boxer’s agreement that calling for the impeachment of someone who helped authorize torture was a reasonable request actually helped get that resolution passed.  In other words, it was a combination of what the netroots community does best – using citizen journalism and activism in tandem to effect progress on progressive issues.

Which I personally think is more of a relevant bit of work than asking a federal legislator about a state issue.

I’m just sayin’.

p.s. In the cited post, I used variations on the word “fetish” once, in a 1,400-word article.  But it made for a smashing joke about therapists, so points for you!

Calitics on NPR –

Listening to Talk of the Nation this AM.  They started with a segment on the budget crisis.  Unavoidably, Prop 13 became part of the discussion and one call in comment (from Prescott, AZ no less) referenced Calitics as his source of information.  

Glad to see the word is spreading.

What does Tomorrow Mean?

I just got an email from Brian that asks “What does tomorrow mean?”  Most of it is good and for following the election, Calitics is as good as any place and better than most.

Unfortunately, the answer to Brian’s question is… more of the same.  

Welcome Dante Atkins to the Calitics Editorial Board

You all know Dante Atkins from his posts around here and probably from his work on DailyKos as well. We are excited to announce that Dante is now joining the Calitics Editorial Board. The Editorial Board works to provide quality content for the blog, occasionally moderates the blog, and votes on the “Calitics Editorial Committee” endorsements.

In addition to his voluminous blogging efforts, Dante has been involved in the California Democratic Party, serving on the platform committee, and helped to produce the Home Invasion ad during the closing days of the Prop 8 campaign.

We are working to ensure that the Editorial Board works for the site and the broader progressive movement.  We’ll keep you updated on future changes, and you can always find more information about the blog and Calitics on the “About Calitics” page.

Calitics Ed. Board Says No on Special Election Initiatives

For more information about Calitics and the editorial board, see our About Calitics page.

During the budget week from hell, we mildly cheered on the progress of the budget process. We were concerned about the short-term budget issues, but were also dismayed by the rapid rightward shift of the negotiations.  Unfortunately, as an Editorial Board we simply cannot support the measures as they have been brought to the May 19 Special Elections Ballot. We share the concerns of the League of Women Voters that this package was poorly designed and poorly executed, resulting in a plan that will ultimately create more harm than good. And since none of these measures address the structural revenue gap, adding another layer to an already suffocating fiscal straightjacket makes no sense whatsoever.

We do not appreciate the fearmongering message from supporters of the initiatives, who obviously can’t find anything to recommend in these solutions and thusly must warn of impending doom in order to get them passed.  We remind voters the words of Bill Clinton: “If one candidate’s trying to scare you, and the other one’s trying to get you to think… if one candidate’s appealing to your fears, and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you’d better vote for the one who wants you to think and hope.”

Prop 1A – State Spending Cap. NO

Beginning with Prop 1A, the heart of this package, we cannot do better than the LWV in briefly describing the flaws:

[Prop 1A] would actually make it more difficult for future governors and legislatures to enact budgets that meet California’s needs and address state priorities. It would amend the state Constitution to dictate restrictions on the use of funds put into the reserve and limit how “unanticipated” revenues can be used in good years. It could lock in a reduced level of public services by not taking proper account of the state’s changing demographics and actual growth in costs. Prop 1A would also give future governors new power to make budget cuts without legislative oversight. Like the other propositions opposed by the League on this ballot, Prop 1A came from a deeply flawed process that resulted in measures written in haste and without public input or analysis. The League would support real budget reform, but we regretfully conclude that this measure would only make things worse. (League of Women Voters)

And there’s actually much more.  We don’t have to guess about the impact of spending caps.  In 1992, Colorado instituted a spending cap as part of TABOR, and within a few years spending on education, health care, and practically all other measures of government dropped from the middle of the pack relative to other states to almost dead last in every category.  Considering that California ALREADY ranks near the bottom in these categories, the result would be even more disastrous.  The California Budget Project estimates that the cap would force the state to reduce expenditures $16 billion dollars below the Governor’s baseline spending projections by 2010, $17 billion by 2011 and $21 billion by 2012.  That’s a FAR BIGGER gap than the two years of tax revenues that would be lost by voting down 1A.  These revenues are highly unlikely to ever be recovered, because of the faulty indexing of the cap and the fact that it’s based on a level of revenues made during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  And Democrats claiming that there’s an ingenious “out” of the spending cap because it could be raised if taxes are raised neglect to mention that this doesn’t apply to fees, which would essentially end any efforts to work around the conservative veto by raising revenues through fees to fill a budget gap.  In fact, the way the spending cap is structured, it would force contributions into the rainy day fund EVEN IN DOWN BUDGET YEARS.

Failure of Prop 1A would indeed reduce funding to our government in 2011-2013.  Yet this assumes that legislators could never deal with revenues in the intervening two years. Further, the increased revenues we would receive from Prop 1A are simply not worth the long-term damage to our government that this measure would create.  That’s why the CTA and the Democratic establishment worked so hard to defeat a similar spending cap plan in 2005.

Prop 1B – Education Funding. Payment Plan. NO

Prop 1B isn’t really inherently bad.  It is simply made irrelevant by our position on Prop 1A through a clause that takes 1B down if Prop 1A fails. It provides a workaround to a disputed technical question in Proposition 98 by setting up a one-time $9.3 Billion fund for education.  If this didn’t come with the baggage of Prop 1A, it would be worth considering. But as it stands, we simply cannot accept the pair.  That being said, if Prop 1A passes, it is important that Prop 1B passes. If we were to vote strategically, we would vote No on 1A and Yes on 1B, but we leave that decision to you.

It is worth noting that Prop 1B would not provide a solution to the catastrophic financial crisis facing public education in this state, and would do little if anything to help the 26,000+ teachers who received a layoff notice last month keep their jobs in the fall. Since Prop 1B’s effects are not permanent, it would not exempt public education from the likelihood of funding shortfalls that Prop 1A would produce. Education has already suffered enough from one-time short-term budget deals that produced long-term problems.

Proposition 1C – Securitization of the lottery. NO

Prop 1C would allow the Treasurer to sell bonds backed by the lottery revenues. The budget deal assumes that we will get $5 billion for this deal, but that number remains highly speculative. However, our opposition does not stem chiefly from any quibble with the amount of money it would bring in, but rather from our overall sense of failed governance that emanates from the entire package and this  proposition specifically.  George Skelton calls this proposition a “payday loan” and no better words could describe this.

The fact is that we have done this before and it failed. Back in 2004 after Arnold wiped out the dreaded “car tax” he came to the voters of this state complaining about how we are going to fix this budget. So, he told us that if we just passed props 57 and 58 to sell some bonds and tweak the budget process, he’d handle it from there.  Needless to say, the problem was exacerbated rather than ameliorated, in particular because the state NEVER SOLD THE BONDS.  If this package represented real reform that would allow the state to move forward with an honest and democratic budget process, this would be more palatable.  If we knew that we wouldn’t just be back in the exact same situation 18 months from now, this might even be a reasonable idea to dig ourselves out of a very deep hole.

As it is, we’d prefer to wait for something real.

Prop 1D – Diverts $600 Million from Prop 10 First Five funds to other childhood programs. – NO

The First Five Program was created in 1998 by the passage of Proposition 10.  By raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, California was able to create a sustainable program with its own source of revenue.  But that has always been a thorn in the craw of the right-wing Republicans.  It is spending they cannot touch for programs they would rather not fund.  But the First 5 commission has been successful in providing funding for innovative and successful programs.  And the commission’s own prudence has led it to the chopping block.  They planned for the inevitable decrease in cigarette taxes by building up a cash reserve, and that money has grown too tempting for the Legislature. It is a pot of money, and they cannot resist.

Rather than raiding First 5, we should have provided a sustainable revenue for the state. We should not abide by these budget gimmicks and ploys, and First 5 should not be their victim.

Prop 1E – Diverting Mental Health Services Funding – NO

This initiative would cut into the Prop 63 (2005) money for mental health services from the 1% surcharge on income over a million dollars.  Although this slash job wasn’t as bad as what was suffered by First 5, as it has a prominent defender, it is still unacceptable.  Mental health services are financially prudent spending. It saves money that will end up being spent elsewhere, whether for homeless services or prisons.  Diverting this revenue is penny wise and pound foolish. Both Prop 1D and 1E come from the “rob Peter to pay Paul” school of budgeting, although in this case “Peter” is young children and Californians with mental health needs who have few defenders or other resources to fall back on.

Prop 1F – Wasting Your Time. An Initiative. – NO

Prop 1F would block any pay raise for legislators when the budget is showing a deficit.  It is an infinitesimally small amount of money in the grand scheme of things and accomplishes remarkably little for something on a statewide ballot.   First, not getting a raise in deficit years is not a sufficient incentive for anyone to actually do anything, nor is it really meaningful shared suffering.  The implicit assumption that the trivial penalty of Proposition 1F could be a meaningful incentive to not run a deficit treats elected officers as greedy sociopathic children who need petty personal financial incentives to deal with the state’s budget.  Building this assumption into the California Constitution is unnecessary and further entrenches in the state constitution far-right market fundamentalism and contempt for the role of government.

Second, if we’re going to constitutionally impose shared suffering or financial penalties on elected officials, why is it a balanced budget that’s the trigger?  Why not base it on the number of California’s children in poverty, the condition of our infrastructure, the state of our parks, the number of homeless, the funding levels of our schools?  Instead, Proposition 1F privileges a morally blind view of the world — balanced budgets are the only measure of legislative accomplishment for which elected officers can be penalized financially.  Why this needs to be on the ballot can be answered only by Abel Maldonado, but it’s a nothing more than an ill-conceived placebo designed to placate angry voters — and so will no doubt pass. However, we don’t need to countenance Abel’s temper tantrums.

Calitics At Netroots Nation

Happy to leave behind the concerns of party fundraising and a deadlocked budget, I will be heading to Austin, Texas next week along with much of the Calitics staff for Netroots Nation, the third annual gathering of bloggers and partners in the progressive movement for panel discussions, keynote speeches and much fun and merriment.  If you’re attending, I hope you’ll join Calitics on Saturday night from 5-8pm for a Book Party sponsored by AlterNet Books and Living Liberally, featuring author, activist and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.  Calitics is part of a great group of blogs hosting the event, including Atrios’ Eschaton, Digby’s Hullabaloo (where I’ve been known to moonlight), Pandagon, Jack and Jill Politics, SquareState, Blue Jersey, The Albany Project and more.

Here’s the flyer, all the information can be found there:

If you’re coming to Austin, we hope to see you there!  More information, if needed can be found by clicking on the flyer, or, if that doesn’t work, this link.

(Unfortunately, I do not believe there will be a California caucus this year as there was last year.  The Netroots Nation agenda lists a state-level blogger caucus at 10:30am on Thursday, but that’s not state-specific, and anyway I’ll be in the air at the time.  We could organize something at a “self-organizing session” that has been blocked out to allow for a small-group meeting.  Let’s gauge some interest for that in the comments.

Fully Transparent Bloggers

This week’s edition of the SF Weekly has an article on Stealth Bloggers which argues that our work is “compromised” because some Calitics writers were paid by campaigns this last cycle – specifically, Bob Brigham and Brian Leubitz were paid by Mark Leno’s campaign. The Weekly wants to believe this is some sort of scandal, perhaps to deflect from the Weekly’s own criminal practices.

But there’s no there there. As the article notes, Brigham and Leubitz were completely honest about their affiliations. Brigham repeatedly explained that he was proud to do work for Mark Leno. Leubitz said the same. How is it stealth when there is open and prominent disclosure?

There was nothing to prevent Joe Nation and his supporters from writing their own pieces here at Calitics. A blog such as Calitics encourages such contributions – the front page has prominence, sure, but other diaries can get recommended and even promoted.

The problem is that the Weekly author, Matt Smith, wants to put blogs in the same category as journalists, who supposedly maintain neutral objectivity about what they cover. We have NEVER made such a claim to objectivity. Our biases and positions are open. That’s the real difference between us and other journalists, who hide their affiliations and biases and pretend to be objective. Smith holds up traditional journalism as pure and ideal, when it is clearly no such thing – witness their fawning support for John McCain.

There are no hidden affiliations here. Some Calitics writers, myself included, work for the Courage Campaign. Others have worked for candidates and ballot proposition supporters or opponents. And many aren’t paid by any political group at all.

Our writing is positional. You know that going in. Anyone who reads Calitics and who is shocked to know that we espouse progressive Democratic causes is either not paying attention or being intentionally misleading.

Bloggers believe that the reader is intelligent enough to come to their own opinions on the matter. We disclose our affiliations so that the reader can make up their own mind about whether to take our opinions seriously or not. Matt Smith implies an intent to deceive that simply isn’t there – it’s a dishonest article.

Finally, there’s nothing to stop someone from starting their own blog to cover California politics. We believe more bloggers should be credentialed to the CDP convention, to the state legislature, to press conferences. The more the merrier. We’re not afraid of it, no matter what the position or opinion is of the blogger.

Of course, this IS the same Matt Smith who told his readers a few weeks ago to ignore who was backing Prop 98 and focus instead on its supposed benefits. Consistency doesn’t seem to be a strength of his.