January 2010

Howard Zinn, America’s Most Inspiring Teacher, Dies at 87

By Randy Shaw

Howard Zinn, whose 1980 People’s History of the United States revolutionized the studying and teaching of American History, spoke out for social justice until the day he died. It is no exaggeration to say that when we talk about influential progressive academics over the last half-century, Howard Zinn is in a category by himself. Nobody was more generous with their time, or more committed to mentoring and inspiring others toward lives of activism.

Billions in Federal High-Speed Rail Funding to Boost California’s Economy

By Assemblymembers Cathleen Galgiani and Jose Solorio

In this Democratic weekly address, Assemblymembers Cathleen Galgiani (D-Livingston) and Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) discuss the recent announcement that California will receive over a quarter of all first round federal high-speed rail funding. They highlight the benefits California’s high-speed rail system is projected to have on the state’s job outlook and global economic competitiveness.

Click onto the following link for the English language MP3 file. The running time is 1:47.


Click onto the following link for the Spanish language MP3 file. The running time is 2:46.


Website of Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani: www.asm.ca.gov/galgiani

Website of Assemblymember Jose Solorio: www.asm.ca.gov/solorio

Hello, this is Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani.

Protecting The Last Right Whale Nursery

Taryn Kiekow
Natural Resources Defense Council

Yesterday NRDC and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the Navy’s plans to build an Undersea Warfare Training Range off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. The lawsuit against the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service contests the reckless rush to construct a $100 million training range without adequately assessing the environmental impacts, considering a full range of alternatives, or completing the most basic surveys to determine the presence of marine wildlife.   

California Gets Big High Speed Rail Stimulus Award

By Robert Cruickshank
Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

Today is going to be an excellent day for California High Speed Rail and our state's economic future. California has been awarded $2.35 billion in federal passenger rail stimulus funds. $2.25 billion of that goes directly to high speed rail, the other $100 million goes to other passenger rail projects.

Here are the details as I have them - see more in the official White House release:

Leno’s single payer “Medicare for All” health bill passes Senate

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

While President Obama and the nation’s Democrats struggle against the strong lobbying efforts of a for-profit health insurance industry, California’s senate voted today to advance single payer legislation - Senate Bill 810 - by a vote of 22 to 14 (21 votes are needed to pass).

Democratic leaders and healthcare advocates claim the legislation will save state, county and city budgets billions while fully insuring all Californians by eliminating the profit and greed of health insurance companies through the creation of a Medicare-like single payer state system. 

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 12

By Shannon Minter
National Center For Lesbian Rights'

The majority of the day was spent on finishing up the cross-examination of David Blankenhorn, an expert witness for the defendants. As he did yesterday, renowned attorney David Boies absolutely nailed the examination. Blankenhorn did nothing to help himself, fighting Boies's yes-or-no questions at every turn even when Boies was simply laying a basic foundation with uncontroversial points. Blankenhorn's defensive behavior verged on the histrionic, contrasting sharply with Boies's calm, matter-of-fact approach.

State Loses Again on Medi-Cal Provide Rate Lawsuit Filed in 2008

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

US Federal District Court Judge Christina A. Synder, who in the lawsuit “Independent Living Center of Southern California et al v. Sandra Shewry”  originally stopped the State from further implementing the 10% rate reductions for most Medi-Cal providers as of August 18, 2008, issued a revised ruling dated January 22, that made her order retroactive to July 1, 2008 and now is ordering the State to refund that 10% cut in payments covering the period from July 1 through August 17, 2008,  to those Medi-Cal “fee-for-service” providers - physicians, pharmacies, dentists, optometrists, adult day health care centers, and clinics covered in the lawsuit. [a copy of the order is on the CDCAN website at www.cdcan.us]

Does Limbaugh want everyone to be uninsured & overcharged? Like him?

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

The latest Health Wonk Review highlights our comments about Rush Limbaugh’s short stay at a Hawaii hospital. His endorsement of its quality provided a moment to spotlight the success of the Aloha state’s thirty-year old health reforms, especially in the area of ensuring employer-based health coverage.

As policymakers consider the fate of health reform, it's worth considering what is the alternative that the opponents propose.

Let's start with Rush Limbaugh, from his first day back on the radio, his response to such commentary.

Oregon Voters Deliver Game-Changing Victory

By Robert Cruickshank

Pundits like to claim California voters are anti-tax. Of course, we've raised various kinds of taxes at the state level, including the Prop 10 cigarette taxes in 1998, and the Prop 63 millionaire's tax for mental health programs passed in 2004. Still, even though our reputation remains, we've got nothing on Oregon, where no tax has been approved by statewide voters since 1930.

Until now.

Yesterday Oregon voters delivered a huge victory for progressives by approving Measures 66 and 67, raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 and large corporations to generate $733 million to close the state's budget deficit. The Oregon legislature had approved the taxes last summer, but a corporate/teabagger alliance organized to put it to voters in a referendum.

Sex, lies and Internet dating sites: eHarmony bows to same-sex couples in class action settlement

Eric Bailey
Protect Consumer Justice

After a three-year legal fight, the popular dating web site eHarmony has agreed to settle a class action civil rights lawsuit by fully opening the door to gays and lesbians.

The Internet dating firm, among the largest on the web, also agreed to pay more than $500,000 that can be claimed by a collection of about 130 plaintiffs from California.
“We are delighted that eHarmony has chosen to make its remarkable technology available to the gay and lesbian community in a way that is welcoming and inclusive” said Todd Schneider of Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky LLP, co-lead counsel for the plaintiff class.

Cut Prison Spending, Spare Schools, Worried Californians Say

By Mark Baldassare
Public Policy Institute of California

Most Californians would be willing to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding for public schools and most favor spending cuts in prisons and corrections, according to a survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. 

But while majorities want to protect K–12 schools and cut spending on prisons, Californians are as divided as their leaders on the overall strategy to deal with the state’s $20 billion budget deficit: 41 percent favor a mix of spending cuts and tax increases and 37 percent favor mostly spending cuts (9% favor mostly tax increases). They are in more agreement when it comes to asking the federal government for help, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done: 66 percent say California should seek federal aid to help meet its budget obligations.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 11

By Shannon Minter
National Center For Lesbian Rights'

Today was one of the most dramatic days of the trial, with startling admissions by the proponents' two expert witnesses: Professor Kenneth Miller, testifying about the political power of gay people, and David Blankenhorn, testifying about the purposes of marriage.

Health Reform: The Year Of The Schlemiels

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

If utterances from the White House following the Massachusetts debacle are more than posturing, then the Administration’s tone deafness on health care reform may indeed be a terminal illness.

Normally level heads including Paul Krugman call for a Congressional Charge of the Light Brigade, blogging post-Massachusetts that “House Democrats need to be told to pass the Senate bill.”

Howard Fineman calls this a Democratic March to Folly akin to generals pursuing a military campaign in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it will lead to ruination. 

Economic Stimulus Spending Transparency Measured State by State, California Ties for 6th

By Pedro Morillas

Sacramento, January 26, 2010—A report released today shows that many states are making dramatic improvements in websites designed to disseminate information about their share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), while others have failed to make vital information available.
In addition to ranking in the top ten for ARRA transparency, California is also home to the company that produced the technology used by the top five ranking states in the country.  ESRI, a California-based company, also produced seven other states’ interactive maps.   

Kennedy Fatigue

By Clint Reilly

An electoral earthquake shook Massachusetts last Tuesday. When the dust settled, the U.S. Senate seat held for 40 years by Ted Kennedy had fallen to Republican upstart Scott Brown, the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate had crumbled and the Democratic to-do list was in ruins.

Martha Coakley’s loss was a severe blow to President Obama.

Everyone has their reasons why it happened. Obama’s miscalculation. The economy. Health care overreach. Coakley’s listless campaign. Scott Brown’s truck:

LAO Slams Arnold's Prison-School Spending Swap

By Robert Cruickshank

One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's centerpiece proposals back in his State of the State address earlier this month was a constitutional amendment to ensure the state spends more on higher ed than prisons. It sounds like a pretty good idea in the abstract. Since the early 1980s, California has built dozens of prisons, but only 3 new UC and CSU campuses - even though the construction cost is about the same, and even though students bring money into the system and create value when they leave it, whereas prisoners suck up resources and generate no value.

Do California Leaders Need To Stay After School?

By Cynthia Craft
Health Access

California’s performance ranking in five key areas, including health care, dropped a grade on the annual report card issued by Children Now, leaving the Golden State with its most tarnished marks in the 20-year history of the advocacy group’s rating system.

Due mainly to brutal cuts in the state’s FY09-10 budget by the Legislature and the governor in children’s programs, California “earned the worst grades ever” for 2009, said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. Lempert, a former state legislator, summed up the state’s dire performance during a legislative briefing held in the Capitol on Monday afternoon for staff members of the Legislature.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 10

By Shannon Minter
National Center For Lesbian Rights'

Today was another exciting day as the Prop 8 trial heads into the home stretch.  The plaintiffs finished their case today, and defendants got started with their first witness, Professor Kenneth Miller.

The plaintiffs' attorneys closed their case by playing excerpts from two simulcasts that were broadcast to gatherings of evangelical voters during the Prop 8 campaign. These simulcasts were sponsored and paid for by ProtectMarriage.com, the official Yes on 8 campaign organization.

Jerry Brown IS California's Martha Coakley

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week we made a solid case that Barbara Boxer is no Martha Coakley and that Republican hopes of taking her seat this November are likely to be dashed. However, the dynamics of the Massachusetts special election ARE much more applicable to the other big statewide race this fall - the race for governor.

Jerry Brown seems to be doing all he can do to become the next Martha Coakley. Like the Massachusetts Attorney General, California's Attorney General seems to believe he doesn't yet have to run an actual campaign. Meanwhile, Meg Whitman is not only spending a lot of money, but spending it wisely. She is building a strong campaign staff, a good field operation, and airing some rather effective radio ads across the state that make her sound like a soft moderate, rather than the slash-and-burn radical she actually is.

Fishermen, Environmentalists Say Delta Science Team Hijacked by Big Water Interests

By Dan Bacher

A scientific panel charged with reviewing federal plans to rebuild imperiled Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt populations has been "hijacked" by advocates of increased water pumping from the California Delta, fishing and environmental groups charge.

Fishermen and environmental justice activists are alarmed that no coastal or Delta Representatives, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, Indian Tribal leaders, Delta farmers and others who are directly impacted by the collapse of Central Valley salmon and other fish populations are being asked to testify before the panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).