Friday, June 11, 2010

Kamala Harris: We Like Your Status

A note from Generation Y

Dear California Attorney General Nominee Kamala Harris,

We would like to formally congratulate you on your decisive primary election victory on Tuesday. You have led a robust campaign built on your strengths as a sharp leader and a resilient crime fighter. The grassroots efforts launched by your campaign mobilized over half a million votes in your direction, and you should be tremendously proud of your effort.

We understand that your next opponent, Steve Cooley, means business; and you will need every weapon in your arsenal to defeat him in November. As we all saw in 2008, and even back in the 2006 midterm elections, voters aged 18-30 are turning out for elections in droves not seen since the Vietnam War. Chalk it up to demographics (we are, after all, about 20% of the population here in California and growing), a renewed sense of civic pride, or just plain old dissatisfaction with the government: we Gen Y’ers are voting – and we must be heard.

Facebook, the social networking behemoth that employed your main primary election opponent, Chris Kelly, as its Chief Privacy Officer, has recently come under fire for some profound issues in guarding the privacy of its 500 million+ users. The company now makes public record of our activity in the Facebook world, and shares information about which websites we visit. We have witnessed anti-Facebook push-back in the past when interfaces have changed or audiences broadened, but never envisioned the issue becoming a politically-charged topic of contention. And although you defeated Chris Kelly by beating the drum of online privacy rights, we hope we have not seen the end of your fight against those who violate our personal space on the web.

Internet privacy issues are a cause that matters to more than just us Gen-Y’ers. Your crusade against sexual predators that use Facebook to coerce users as young as elementary school will resonate with their parents in the voting booth. If consumers of online markets – many of which are based in California – begin to sense a lack of discretion on the web, this could have tremendous impacts on this state’s fragile reputation in the business world.

For Generation Y, privacy rights is a highly mobilizing issue. Beyond the ebbs and flows of our largely superficial use of social networking, you will inspire confidence in Generation Y’ers who worry that a lack of privacy online may mean doomsday for their reputations in the business world or credit market. For those of us who may be unaffected (or uninspired) by the politics of criminal justice in this state, Facebook policy – the road less traveled by politicians – will spark the attention of many young voters.

We thank you for acknowledging this vital issue and resonating with your youngest constituents. On the verge of Generation Y yourself, you already have over 23,000 Facebook “fans” that need your protection. Our needs for privacy protection have now extended far beyond the rallying cries of Facebook groups and fan pages. We hope you continue to offer valuable solutions throughout the campaign season, and into your term as Attorney General of California.

Generation Y

PS: BTW, my friend request is pending…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

David Plouffe: November Doesn't Need to be a Nightmare for Democrats

I think DP's got it right. I think much of what he says is especially true of the California races - mantras like 'We need to show that we not just are focused on jobs but also create them,' 'Make sure voters understand what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did for the economy,' and most importantly, 'No bed-wetting.' A good Sunday read.

David Plouffe's Washington Post Op-Ed: November doesn't need to be a nightmare for Democrats

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mass. Election; Supreme Court Decision Spell Trouble for Boxer

On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters made the historic choice to elect State Senator Scott Brown, the state's first Republican US Senator in almost half a decade. The implications of this election cannot be understated. Just before Christmas, a poll placed State Attorney General Martha Coakley with an unsurprising double-digit lead over rival Scott Brown. It's true that Martha Coakley had her fair share of gaffes on the campaign trail, joining the legacy of embarrassing female politicians in the Bay State. Also true is the flawlessness of Brown's well-fought campaign to narrowly defeat "Yankees Suck" as a write-in candidate.

But this election has served as a signal of the new reality for Democrats facing re-election around the country: even in the bluest of states, no Democratic candidate can rest on the laurels of past party loyalty.

Barbara Boxer, the junior Senator from California, is no exception. A recent Rasmussen Poll shows Boxer with a narrow lead over Republican contenders Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell, and Chuck DeVore. But after Tuesday's previously deemed unattainable feat in Massachusetts, Republican donors will be more inclined to present a newfound faith in Republican candidates. Moreover, a Field Poll shows Obama's poll numbers slipping in California - proving that vulnerable Democrats in this state can no longer rely on the coattails of Obama's expected campaign stumps on their behalf.

In addition, a new ruling by the US Supreme Court will open the floodgates of corporate funding for candidates in 2010, much to the benefit of Republican candidates. Today's ruling will upend federal campaign finance laws, allowing limitless spending from corporations on behalf of political candidates. With a frustrated and angered electorate in California, expect those interests to gain funding like never before. This also means those with corporate ties to former CEO Carly Fiorina can open the corporate coffers without limit, much to the chagrin of both Boxer and Republican rivals alike.

Although support for the Obama healthcare plan is higher in California than it is nationally, Boxer's legislative agenda may prove difficult to justify come fall. With the fate of the healthcare bill still undecided, Boxer will have to rely on her other legislative achievements to fulfill the challenging wishes of independent voters seeking change in Washington.

Boxer's major initiative this legislative year, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, may prove to seal Boxer's destiny. Fortunately for Boxer, the bill has been sufficiently watered down enough that even the likes of Shell, General Motors, and General Electric have signed on with their support. Proving himself as a further thorn in Boxer's side, Scott Brown has announced that he questions the validity of global warming, and has stated his opposition to climate change legislation such as cap and trade.

And as of this morning, Boxer became the latest 'no' vote to the nomination of Ben Bernanke to a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Using carefully crafted language, Boxer's statement read,

"It is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed. Dr. Bernanke played a lead role in crafting the Bush administration's economic policies, which led to the current economic crisis."

Boxer, not usually known for her political dominance on economic issues, will have to prove herself a 'middle of the road' candidate come November to handle the likes of any of her major Republican opponents.

But with so much of her political and legislative destiny out of her hands, one thing Boxer can work on is being especially careful to avoid emulating Coakley's campaign blunders and missteps. Although Boxer has always maintained her status as a fearless pitbull, this has by no means excused her from some of her past speaking errors and brusque behavior as a politician. For instance, when asked her opinion about state initiatives Propositions 1A-1F this past spring, Boxer snipped,

"Our plate's been so full we haven't looked at it. You may have noticed that we've been a little hectic and very involved in our work in Washington."

Coakley, too, had a tough time following the legacy of Massachusetts icon Tip O'Neill's famous words of caution, "All politics is local."

Boxer has indeed acknowledged the tough road ahead for her. In a Washington press conference, Boxer asserted: "Every state is now in play, absolutely." The lesson from Massachusetts, she said, is "never, ever, ever take an election for granted." In the coming months, Boxer supporters can only hope that she isn't defeated by those local details.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why California is Greener Than Thou

In an interview with the Financial Times, Governor Schwarzenegger accused former Governor Sarah Palin on accomplishing little in the way of climate change policy, and instead used the issue as a launching pad for her career. In response, Palin posted the following message to her Facebook account Tuesday night:

Perhaps [Governor Schwarzenegger] will recall that I live in our nation's only Arctic state and that I was among the first governors to create a sub-cabinet to deal specifically with climate change. While I and all Alaskans witness the impacts of changes in weather patterns firsthand, I have repeatedly said that we can't primarily blame man's activities for those changes. And while I did look for practical responses to those changes, what I didn't do was hamstring Alaska's job creators with burdensome regulations so that I could act "greener than thou" when talking to reporters.

A climate change sub-cabinet! How’s that for maverick policymaking?

Before Palin points to California, calling our state, “greener than thou for reporters sake,” let’s see how the Palin administration stacks up to the accomplishments of Governor Schwarzenegger in the area of climate change action:

Statewide Greenhouse Gas Cap:

California: Completed; further work in progress. In 2007, the Governors of five western states established the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, committing to establish an overall regional goal to reduce GHG emissions within 6 months and to design a regional market-based multi-sector mechanism within 18 months to achieve the regional goal.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Carbon Offset Requirements:

California: Completed; further work in progress. On May 23, 2007, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved regulations that limit the purchase of electricity from power plants that fail to meet strict GHG emissions standards. These regulations, as part of SB 1368, which became law on August 31, 2006, prohibit the state's publicly owned utilities from entering into long-term financial commitments with plants that exceed 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Greenhouse Gas Auto Standards:

California: In progress. The proposed auto standard, which the California Air Resources Board approved on September 24, 2004, calls for a reduction of GHG emissions from new vehicles of 22% by 2012 and of 30% by 2016. Nineteen other states have either adopted or pledged to implement California's proposed tailpipe emissions rule.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Climate Change Action Plan:

California: Completed; further work in progress. On April 3, 2006, the California Climate Action Team (at the direction of Governor Schwarzenegger) completed the Climate Change Action Plan, establishing the first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases.

Alaska: In progress. On September 14, 2007, Governor Sarah Palin signed Administrative Order No. 238, officially forming the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet.

So Palin is right. We are greener than thou.

We’re greener than just about everyone, in fact. Throughout his terms as Governor, Schwarzenegger has succeeded in bringing world leaders to the table at all levels of government to in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our natural resources, and build green economies. Under the Schwarzenegger administration, California signed an agreement with Prime Minister Tony Blair to collaborate, as an independent entity, with the UK and other world leaders on climate change initiatives. California also participated in the launch of China’s first greenhouse gas emissions registry earlier this year.

As a lame duck Governor attending one of the most important climate summits of this decade, Schwarzenegger’s got nothing to lose by calling out former-governors-gone-rogue in their failures on this issue. With a 27% approval rating back home, Copenhagen is just about the only place in the world where Schwarzenegger can bask in the riches of political capital.

As for her accusations, the best Palin can do in the way of climate change is turn her finger around.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rahm Pushes Iran Sanctions at Howard Berman Fundraiser in Beverly Hills

On Tuesday, Congressman Howard Berman hosted his bi-annual fundraising gala at the Beverly Hilton, headlined by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel. As the first congressional fundraising event since taking the post of White House Chief of Staff, Emmanuel's support displayed his thanks to Congressman Berman for his steadfast support of the White House on key issues, most notably the Iran Sanctions Act.

Emmanuel's remarks reflected the sense of urgency the White House is placing on the issue of Iran sanctions. The House Foreign Services committee has plans to move forward with the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which seeks to cut supplies of refined petroleum products, specifically gasoline, into Iran as a means of convincing that regime to end its nuclear weapons programs. The special appearance by Emmanuel is a sign of approval from the White House in the committee's attempts to proceed with the sanctions. House Democratic leaders are planning to move forward with the bill before the holiday recess.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

California Sticks it to the Kids

Last week, the University of California Board of Regents voted to increase student tuition by 32 percent to help close the system’s $535 million budget gap. The ensuing publicity surrounding the protests and demonstrations have been some of the most heated since the Vietnam War. As a current student of a private university in Southern California whose epic tuition continues to skyrocket each year, I initially approached the recent change in circumstances of the school to our west with cynicism and doubt. I still find it unfortunate that for those students who do not qualify for Cal Grants and financial aid, or those who do not have enough money to cover the new increases, that this money will come directly from the savings and loans of students and their families.

But as an unaffected party, I must selfishly admit: I’m kind of glad this is happening.

During one of the now infamous “sit-in” demonstrations, perhaps the demonized administrative officials should begin by encouraging indignant students to simply pick up a newspaper. Newspapers which show the overcrowding of state prisons, the ever-depleting credit ratings of California bonds, dangerous pension liabilities for state employees, and that special gift that will be passed on to California’s Generation Y: terrifying levels of state debt. The 32% tuition hike at UC campuses is just a preview of what’s to come in the next 40 years for those of us born after 1980.

So perhaps this will be the wake up call we politically active Gen Y’ers have been waiting for. About one in four eligible California voters under the age of thirty voted in the 2006 midterm elections. In 2010, another midterm election year, we’ll be electing a new Governor, Senator, and a host of statewide legislators. There has never been a more crucial time for UC students to make their voices heard.

The tuition hike will drive out many working class families from being able to afford the quality public education that was promised to California. This is a serious problem for current and future students from working and middle class backgrounds. But in the grand scheme of public decisions on who is to carry the state’s debt, this was probably Plan Z.

Some advice to my fellow sufferers of student debt: protests get you nowhere. Civilized civic participation – in large numbers – is the only way the state will take you seriously. Outbursts get you tasered; it’s votes that get your money back. The 26th Amendment was designed for just this purpose – allowing college-aged students to vote their way out of Vietnam. In November 2010, prove to the state that you’re worthy of your already underpriced education and your right to vote at age 18. Tell the state to pick on someone its own size; leave them kids alone.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Can See California From My House!

Love her or hate her: Sarah Palin has re-written the book on female candidacy. During her ten-week campaign spotlight, her candidacy peaked and plunged amid a seemingly relentless throng of dissenters. Her new book, Going Rogue: An American Life, and the resulting media blitz, will – like it or not – be the nagging undertone of the 2010 election in this state.

Palin’s book tour is a blessing for Democrats. Palin has effectively stolen the thunder away from the Republican spin machine and directed the spotlight on questions about her personal prospects. On the national scene, Palin’s melodic pitch seems to be much preferred by the conservative base than the rhythmic banging of heads against the wall of Congress as the healthcare bill faces its destiny. The once bread-and-butter Republican issues in the state, such as pork-filled legislation or the soaring costs of just about everything, are being sucked up by the momentum of a hockey mom gone rogue.

Less than a third of Americans think Palin would make a good president. Yet, during the Palin interview, the Oprah Winfrey show saw its best ratings in over two years. But if Palin truly wanted to make a difference without a title, as she proudly proclaimed in Monday’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, she would have a field day in California.

Candidates Carly Fiorina (Republican candidate for Senate) and Meg Whitman (Republican candidate for Governor) seem unsettled in their stances on Palin. Fiorina, while openly admitting that she hadn’t yet read Palin’s book, came to the defense of the former Vice Presidential candidate during an interview where Fiornia rebuffed the McCain campaign as “sexist.” Meanwhile, Whitman has been dodging Palin questions like the plague.

By endorsing one or both of the two candidates, Palin could help define the women themselves as a steadfast Republicans. Democrats in Boxer’s camp hope that Palin endorses Fiornia rival Chuck DeVore, who has thus far branded himself as the more conservative of the two. For Fiorina, a Palin endorsement solidify her conservative messaging in spite of rival Chuck DeVore’s casting of doubts.

Palin could also be of help to Whitman by solidifying her march against “career politicans,” an axe that was swung in Jerry Brown’s direction earlier this week. Although her poll numbers and finance coffers remain high, a high-profile tour on Whitman’s campaign could be just the shot in the arm she needs.

For both Fiorina and Whitman, Sarah Palin’s endorsement would mean an instantaneous spotlight. It would give Democrats a free pass, and shift the conversation away from the tough decisions to be made in the coming weeks.

But let’s not forget that just four years ago, the public perception of a certain sitting President was similarly low in public opinion polls. Palin will certainly capitalize on history (or herstory, shall we say). So for the sake of the Democrats, keep the Palin momentum alive. Just try not to elect her President.