Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Need a New Year's Resolution? Do you have a little extra cash from relatives who were too lazy to pick out a gift for you? Are you already drooling over the proceeds from your tax cut? Have I got a suggestion for you!

Many Democrats, myself included, have resolved to put a Democrat in the White House after this year's elections. We have lots of other races to win, however, where we can either defeat Republicans or defend our current seats. Santa Barbara County will see high-profile contests for 1st and 3rd District County Supervisors in the March 2 primary, and the November general election will include vital local races for United States Congress, State Senate, and State Assembly.

There are things you can do right now to help Democrats at any of these levels. Many candidates need to hit fundraising targets by midnight tonight, and you can donate to most campaigns online. We've collected most local and national campaign websites right here, so making a donation is only a couple of clicks away. Giving even small amounts helps; the Howard Dean campaign has clearly demonstrated how small donations can add up to a huge impact.

If you're a stickler about waiting until the New Year, or you're one of the 3 million Americans out of work under the Bush Administration, perhaps you'd like to volunteer instead. As much as you see about politics on TV and in the newspaper, most candidates still really struggle to get their message out to the average voter. People who can make a few phone calls, knock on a door or two, or put address labels on campaign mailers are the lifeblood of campaigns. The candidates' websites are also great places to volunteer these and other services. Or, you can join one of our county's Democratic clubs, which will be a major source of campaign volunteers throughout 2004. If you don't see a club near you, contact us to start your own!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003
The view from the cheap seats. On Monday, the editorial page of the News-Press was apparently in one of those foul holiday moods that people do experience from time to time. (albeit not usually in so public of a forum) In an otherwise mostly reasonable call for better regional cooperation, they managed to throw a few punches Assemblymember Jackson's way.

The comment about her opening a satellite office in Ventura is too ridiculous to bother with; that's the standard issue, silly but omnipresent "Santa Barbara is the center of the universe" worldview that everyone who has lived here longer than a day has run into. Forcing Ventura County constituents to get on the 101 every time they have business with the state doesn't seem like much of a solution, regional or otherwise.

The charge that she hasn't worked towards solving the 101 problem is equally absurd, and more serious. She and her staff have been working on the problem for years and had countless meetings with Caltrans, Metrolink, Amtrak and the armada of community groups that are working towards a solution. This is the hard work of making a complicated project like what the 101 needs happen, and it has gone essentially unreported in the pages of the News-Press. The tragedy here isn't Assemblymember Jackson's approach to this problem; it's that term limits (and an irrationally tax averse, transportation budget raiding governor) will prevent her from finishing the job.

The process of democracy maybe doesn't quite fit with the immediacy and drama that newspapers (and TV news, for that matter) require. Page after page of coverage devoted to the Michael Jackson case surely sells more papers than coverage of the slow processes of democracy. But those processes are happening regardless, and to editorialize as if they weren't is a denial of the facts.

Monday, December 22, 2003
Conundrum of the day: If capturing Saddam Hussein really is making us safer, why is Tom Ridge saying things like "the threat is perhaps greater now than since Sept. 11th" and bumping up the terror threat level to orange?

Friday, December 19, 2003
Californians probably took little notice of Wednesday's news that former Illinois Governor George Ryan was indicted for racketeering, fraud, and obstruction of justice. I was a bit more interested, having spent my childhood in Illinois at a time when Mr. Ryan was the Illinois Secretary of State. The complaint, as quoted in the Washington Post, was as follows:

"Federal prosecutors alleged that Ryan improperly accepted free vacations, passed confidential information to friends who used it for personal gain, and brokered side deals for a personal cut of public contracts."

Said U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, "The state of Illinois was for sale. It was cronyism."

Hmm, it's a federal crime to get personal benefits for steering government contracts for your buddies? Do you think that U.S. Attorneys would be as interested if the benefits were campaign contributions for contracts in Iraq instead of personal gifts?

Thursday, December 18, 2003
I'm not going to criticize any of Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts. Not now, not later. There are plenty of people ready to do that, and that's not really the point. The main point is that Schwarzenegger campaigned on a promise to balance the state budget without raising taxes, cutting education, harming the environment, or borrowing our way out. I'd like to see him do it, but he can't, and he won't.

Remember that we have a "structural deficit" that Governor Davis estimated at about $8 billion. Elizabeth Hill, California's Legislative Analyst (and the kind of wonderful thorn-in-the-side that all politicians need) has recently increased the estimate to around $10 billion. On Schwarzenegger's first day in office, he upped the ante by another $4 billion when he canceled the restoration of Vehicle License Fee rates to the same level they've been since the 1930's. Of course, you heard about this as the "repeal of the tripling of the car tax."

So, how has Schwarzenegger proposed to make up for $14 billion? He's not even close. He called a special session for the Legislature to consider $1.9 billion in mid-year budget cuts, then got testy when they decided to exercise their duties as a deliberative body. Today, he declared emergency powers that could get him another $150 million, just to keep a dozen counties from suing him. Then, he backtracked on reversing Reagan's legacy of care for the disabled, which sends him backward $274 million. So between the cuts he's requesting and those he's making himself, he's just over 10% of the way to balancing the California budget.

No one bothered to mention this during the recall campaign, but there isn't $14 billion to cut wthout violating Schwarzenegger's campaign promises. We'll spend some time in future posts laying out where the money goes, and who requires it. And as we do so, your Governor will slowly twist in the wind....

Budget bloodpressure alert. If your doctor has cautioned you to avoid stressful situations, you might want to give the News-Press a miss this morning. (or at least just stick to the stuff about Jacko) Governor Schwarzenegger's crass election ploy, cutting the vehicle license fee reinstatement and massively increasing the structural deficit in the state budget, is (big suprise!) starting to wreak havoc on local services. Governor Schwarzenegger and President Bush: you two are total wusses when it comes to budgets. Real men and real women don't increase structural deficits.

The Sacramento Bee's Pete Schrag has done some consistently great editorial work on this mess. His column this morning, regarding the pleasing sounds of hooey includes a reference to some recent research about the effect of all these tax cuts - a paper called Homer gets a tax cut. I have a strong urge to xerox about a hundred of these and hand them out to my conservative relatives over the holidays. At least check out the cartoon at the top.

In the first column by Mr. Schrag linked above, he states that the Governor has threatened to come to people's districts. I truly and sincerely hope he comes to visit us here in Santa Barabara. I have a couple of things I'd like to say to that guy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Public beta launch today! At last Thursday's meeting of the county Central Committee, the proposed plan for this blog was approved. Later today, I'll be sending out an announcement to local politically inclined email lists. If you got that email and that's why you're here, welcome! You can let us know what you think via email, or even better, by the "comments" links below each post.

To celebrate, here are some song lyrics that were submitted by local Democratic lifetime service award winner Henry Kramer. He's submitted a number of posts on serious topics as well. They'll be going up over the next week or two, but this one's the most appropriate to today's occasion. He writes that these are to be sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey":

The Deregulation Blues
By Henry Kramer
(In commemoration of the Deregulation of the Electric Utilities in California)
Deregulation of Edison
And PG&E has cost
Many billions already
And more will be lost

Juice deregulation 
Is real bad news
It's deregulation 
That gives us the blues.

The fat cats who screwed us
Saying we'd save on our bill
And now that they've got us
They've come in for the kill

They talk of free markets
That are rigged all the way
Only thing with the markets
Is that you and I pay

The company's front man
In the gray flannel suit
Has got you bamboozled
Tatooed, stewed and screwed

We begged: "CIC Bush
Cap oil costs at FERC."
"Can't" sat on his tush
And FERC on his perk.

Let's get out from under
Strike out and break free
Vote all Democratic
Restore liberty

Monday, December 15, 2003
First of all, congratulations to our troops for capturing Saddam Hussein yesterday. The America people were misled into this war and this sure does't fix that problem, but good news is still good news.

Back on the home front, the editor of the Nation has a piece running called What Economic Recovery? that nicely sums up what the economy really looks like from this end: Exactly.

Sunday, December 14, 2003
Happy Birthday to Alexandra! It was a small ceremony yesterday at Assemblymember Jackson's office, as the staff took a break from attending thousands of meetings and dealing with mountains of casework. But the mostly organic cake was unbelievably delicious...

(full disclosure: I provided strategic baking and frosting advice in the creation of the pictured desert) Staff superstar Alexandra turned 23. We probably won't cover every single birthday of every staff person in every office in the county here on the SBDemsBlog, but offers of free cake are always taken seriously.

Friday, December 12, 2003
David Brooks is a smart guy. I've flipped through but not read his book Bobos in Paradise, but even from just getting that far I could tell it was right on. But I was disappointed with the lameness of his latest attack on Dean. You can read it in the New York Times (free registration required), but it also ran on the op-ed page of our News-Press.

He doesn't even bother to get his facts straight. He complains that Dean has somehow flipflopped on free trade, and claims that he's not running on his record in Vermont. Dean's position on trade since he was governor is that it's good for both our economy as well as other countries and we should continue to participate in NAFTA & the WTO, but that we need to start including protections for the environment and for labor, and to start reforming those organizations to be more democratic. What's wrong (or "anti-free trade"?) about creating vibrant middle classes in other countries?

I have no idea where Brooks got the idea that Dean's not running on his record - he's mentioned it it in practically every speech that I've heard. So much so that I feel like I know it off the top of my head: Child abuse cut by 43% over his tenure as Governor. Health insurance provided for 91% of the state. A balanced budget & two tax cuts. Etc etc.

I'm really curious as to where the Republican echo chamber thinks they're going to get traction on this guy. Nothing they've tried so far is working.

Saturday, December 06, 2003
A little bit of good news on the budget front this morning, finally. Schwarznegger's reckless and irresponsible $15B credit card plan has been shut down by the Assembly, along with the equally ill-advised, draconian and totally unreasonable spending cap that his office proposed. My favorite quote from today's coverage comes from Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, "When you are bleeding you apply a tourniquet, not a noose." The cap was smacked down good and hard by the Senate, 34 to zeeeroh.

Here's the inside word on this, which didn't show up in any of the stories I read: the spending cap was written in a way that would've allowed the Governor's office total control over the budget if an "economic emergency" was declared. In other words, it was nothing more than a power grab, and not a particularly nuanced one at that. At least the right thing happened. One other thing is that this vote was just over a procedural deadline, so this $15B creditzilla problem is not over yet.

Friday, December 05, 2003
A question that is mu. This is going to drive me completely nuts, I think. It seems like whenever a pollster goes out to talk to some Democrats, they have no choice but to ask them at least one question regarding whether they'd rather stand up for their principles or win. Based on these latest Zogby results from South Carolina I guess people are starting to realize what a bunch of tripe this is: I'm new at this politics thing, but this just doesn't seem that difficult: You win by standing up for, defending and fighting for your principles, not by cashing them in. Honest! That's practically all the people want from the people they elect. Even if you're wrong, if you act with conviction the people will cut you a ton of slack. There's no other way to explain Bush's continued high approval ratings while he's busy selling the country up the river, wrecking the budget, destroying the middle class and turning the world against us.

Thursday, December 04, 2003
McClintock penny wise but pound foolish? This morning, Tom McClintock chimes in on the budget debate. It was on the News-Press editorial page, but here's a direct link to it, from his State Senate website. Here it is in a nutshell: First, Senator McClintock is hiding behind a number here. It's a little bit of a cheap rhetorical trick to just say "oh, we need to cut 13%" and leave it at that, without discussing where those cuts are going to come from. But worse, the Senator is apparently so ideologically blinded by his knee-jerk conservativism that he can't even conceive of the other alternative: a combination of cuts and, yes, we're going to say it, tax increases. Not permanent increases, fine, but just something to get us out of the hole we're in without tossing us into even more debt.

In the simplified economic universe that conservative ideology operates in, taxes have some sort of distortedly huge disincentive effect on people and either the best or the only way to generate growth is to cut them. Here in reality, things aren't quite that simple: true, sustainable economic growth comes from the long-term investments that we as a society make in people. Think of the education and community programs that result in people becoming productive members of society rather than criminals, for example.

And in the new economy, education is particularly crucial. It really is the only engine of long-term growth now, and although he declines to offer suggestions, one can only presume that cuts in education would have to be included. I believe that there is a distinctly moral dimension to not cutting education that transcends economics, but since Mr. McClintock tends to see the state budget purely in terms of a balance sheet, it's pretty clear that this isn't a solution on those terms, either.

Schwarzenegger in over his head? There's so much bad news about Schwarzenegger coming out that it's hard to sort through it all. This is an interesting quote from an article in today's LA Times, though: You bet, Mr. Schwarzenegger. I'd be happy to give Ms. Jackson and Mr. McClintock a call (or at least a weblog post!) regarding this issue. I'll tell them to stand firm against your proposed massive and immoral cuts in programs for the poor and the sick. I'll tell them to hold you to your campaign promise not to cut educaton. And I'll tell them that this bond you want to take out to saddle future generations with the problem sounds like fiscally reckless insanity.

I don't blame the Governor for trying to stick this debt to my generation - it's like our karmic payback for the abysmal voter turnout among 18-34 years olds. As a group we may not have taken much of an interest in politics, but politics certainly seems to be about to take an interest in us. But that still doesn't make this the right thing to do. Since this bond "solution" is apparently going to be on the ballot coming this March, at least we'll have a chance to get the word out about what a terrible idea it is.

And State Treasurer Phil Angelides has already started. You can check out all the gory details in this press release, but here's the bottom line: It isn't hard to come up with a few priorities for this state that I'd rather see $12 billion worth of our money going towards.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Hello, and welcome to the weblog of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee. For those who are new to all this, a weblog is a journal, usually collaboratively authored, that is posted on the web in reverse chronological order and that allows for reader participation. We believe this to be the first weblog of any Democratic Party County Committee. Although lots of County Committees have nice websites, such as ours, none that we've been able to find have so far implemented a true weblog.

This page will be a coordinating and scheduling resource for local Democrats, but we'd like it to be much more than that as well. The Republicans have taken lately to claiming that they are the current "party of ideas." Unfortunately, most of their ideas are antiquated, overly simplistic and increase the amount of suffering and injustice in the world when they're implemented.

As unfortunate as this state of affairs is, their claims do point out something important: politics is, partially, a War of Ideas, and that is not a war that the left has been winning recently. The reasons for this are myriad but one aspect of it is our lack of media presence. The internet represents a new front in this battle. We still (desparately) need to step up our presence on the airwaves (both radio and TV), but efforts like this will lay the groundwork for that larger project.

But why attempt this aspect of the larger strategy via the Democratic Party? There are dozens of interesting and politically effective organizations here in this city and county. Some political writers have been suggesting that the parties themselves are antiquated, throwbacks to a form of democracy that we've moved past? Why bother with the party at all?

The parties may feel like throwbacks, but for a long time they were a critical part of the infrastructure that comprised our democracy. In Bill Greider's unfortunately prescient 1992 book, Who Will Tell The People, he argues that the parties are one aspect of the now-decayed "connective tissues of democracy" that must be revived for our society to function properly again.

This line of reasoning was echoed in a recent talk that Joe Trippi, presidential candidate Howard Dean's campaign manager, gave to a couple hundred Dean organizers in Los Angeles. He said that after September 11th, for a few weeks we lived in a different country, a country with a tangible sense of community. I think this feeling started to die off right around when Bush told us to get back to shopping. But a lot of the people who have gotten involved in politics recently have done so because of that brief taste we got, even though it occurred in the face of unspeakable tragedy. Regardless of which of the nine excellent candidates we choose in the upcoming primary, local party organizations can and should be part of rebuilding that country we so briefly experienced.

This weblog is going to be a mix of opinion and information. As we get things rolling we'll be soliciting contributions from any Santa Barbara Democrat, but for now I'll be the primary author, so here's where I'm coming from: I understand progressives' and liberals' current distaste for, and even anger at, the Democratic Party. I was a registered Green until just after the 2000 election, and I still greatly admire their values and ideology. But in this world, especially now, strategy matters too. But the reasons I've come to believe in the Democratic Party go far beyond just strategy: this organization offers the diversity, national reach, name recognition and a depth of experience that is unlike any other other. Add to this the fact that the Democrats are the only viable alternative to win in 2004. I strongly believe that if you're a progressive and you have political objectives, the Democratic Party is the way to make them happen.

When William F. Buckley, Jr. founded the conservative National Review in 1954, he declared their purpose to be to stand athwart history, yelling "Stop!" It is time for us to do the same thing, but this time give a cattle-call "heeeyah!" and yell, "It's long past time to get moving again!" Until we live in as close to a perfectly free and perfectly just world as our imaginations are capable of producing, trying to stop or roll back the great, liberal cause of humanity as implemented through civil society is morally suspicious. We will not be afraid to say so here.

The current adminstration in the White House and the Congress has the United States on a path towards a grim, militaristic, theocratic plantation economy of a future. It is time to fight back with our positive, abundant and peaceful vision: an economy that works for everyone and a foreign policy that will reflect our values and provide for true and lasting security. We hope you'll continue to join us here in this experiment in moving things in the right direction.

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