Saturday, December 22, 2007

War on Christmas Still Continues...

This picture is courtesy of Firedoglake, I wonder what the crazy wingnuts will do when the "War on Xmas" finally does end?

Top Three Dem Pres Candidates Looking at TV Buys in California

Via the California Majority Report:

The three top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination are making inquiries of television stations to purchase commercial time -- yet another indication that the decision to move up the California Presidential Primary was a smart one for California voters.

Media buyers have confirmed to the California Majority Report that the Clinton and Obama camps have contacted cable networks throughout the state for rates and specs for television advertising. The Edwards campaign is looking at the bay area and sac media markets only, according to the buyers.[Link]

I'm actually suprised that they have waited this long to go on the air here in California. I know the state is very expensive, but the first absentee ballots go out in the mail two weeks from Monday.

It's Been Five Years Already!

I can't believe that is has already been five years since Joe Strummer's untimely death at the age of 50. For me Joe Strummer represented a passion and idealism that through rock 'n' roll, you could change the world. Strummer was the quintessential champion of the underdog. He fiercely believe that we all could get along with each other better, if we would only take the time to understand one another.

In the five years since his death, we could all have used Joe Strummer around for some commentary. I can only imagine the songs he would have written to help explain the era that we find ourselves living in and to inspire us to change it for the better. Joe, I speak for many, when I say "We miss you!"

For those interested, I highly recommend the documentary by Julien Temple Joe Strummer-The Future is Unwritten, and if you want to know more about the politics of Joe Strummer and their meaning, checkout the anthology Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer edited by Antonino D'Ambrosio. In the meantime, here is the video of Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros version of "Redemption Song".

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sheila Kuehl on the Speaker's and Governor's Healthcare Bill

So far, this appears to be the best explanation of what the bill is all about.

The Speaker's and Governor's Healthcare Bill: Part of a Series of Essays by Sheila Kuehl

This is my seventh and last essay for 2007. As I write, the Assembly has just passed Speaker Fabian Nunez's healthcare bill and it's on its way to the Senate and a hearing in the Senate Heath Committee in January. A number of people have called and emailed asking for my take on the bill and this essay will give some analysis.

Giant Leap for Health Coverage? Or for premiums...

The press has described the bill in breathless prose as a "giant leap" for health coverage. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case, depending on who you are and how and where you work. Each of the sections below will explain some of the provisions of the bill actually harmful to regular, working-class and middle-class families. And it provides less help than advertised for poor families, as well.

Coverage for everyone?

The press characterizes the bill as providing or extending coverage to all but a few Californians.

This is a mischaracterization, nothing is provided. Instead, all Californians would be required to buy insurance with no caps on premiums, no regulation of the cost of insurance or medical expense, no maximum deductibles, and no floor on how little coverage you can buy and satisfy the legal requirement. If you do not buy insurance within 62 days after the requirement kicks in, the Franchise Tax Board is authorized to collect premiums determined by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board by garnishment of wages or mortgage liens.

Your employer would be required to spend from 1% to 6.5% of payroll (depending on the size of the payroll) to buy insurance policies for employees. Employees would be required to take the insurance and to pay whatever supplemental premiums, co-pays and out of pocket costs are not paid by the employer. There are no caps on what the employee would pay, only for the employer. There is a vague term about hardship letting people out of the mandate, but no definition is offered and, as in Massachusetts, if you are excused from the mandatory purchase of insurance, you simply have no insurance!

If your employer does not wish to spend 1% to 6.5% of payroll on your insurance, he or she must pay the same amount into a state fund, and employees of those employers will be required to buy their insurance through the state fund, again with no cap on premiums and no floor on coverage.

Is there at least minimum coverage required in the bill?

No. For the State Fund, for those employers who choose to pay into it, the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board will set the minimum coverage (what you get for your premiums, what conditions, services, treatments, are covered by your insurance), which will not appear in statute. For those who buy insurance on the open, private market, and those whose employers pay total or partial premiums for insurance chosen by the employer, as well as for self-employed folks, there is no minimum coverage in the bill. One woman reported to me that she had a bare-bones, catastrophic policy and, upon being rushed to the hospital, received the bill for the ambulance ride that got her there, placed on her chest, as she was carried into the hospital.

How is the bill to be financed?

There is no funding in the bill. Instead, there is the promise of an initiative, no language available yet, to tax cigarettes at an additional $1, $1.50 or $2 a pack, tax hospitals in order to draw down federal money which would then go back, to a great extent, to the public hospitals, and require employers to pay a portion of their employees' premiums, as indicated above. There is also a hope that the federal government will provide more money for children's insurance. Instead, of course, the federal government is cutting children's insurance such that the California Legislature will meet in emergency session in January to disenroll children from Healthy Families. Everything else would be paid for by premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

In addition, if the Director of Finance finds that the state cannot afford all the promises made in the bill, the bill goes away. Or does it? There needs to be clarification that, if the initiative fails, we're not still stuck with an individual mandate to buy insurance.

But how do poor people's uninsured?

Better, but still a hardship. Healthy Families coverage for children would allow those whose families who earn up to $40,500 for one adult and one child to be covered (children only) by state or federal money. (Federal cuts mean we already have to kick kids off this program, see above). Since the bill allows all children, even those with undocumented parents, to be covered, but the feds won't pay for those children, there will be increased state costs in Healthy Families. (See budget discussion below)

Families whose income is at or less than $43,000 for a family of three would be subsidized for their premiums only. This means they would be required to pay an unspecified amount for premiums and receive an unspecified amount from the state budget to help. There is no subsidy for co-pays, deductibles or out of pocket (uninsured) expenses associated with their policies, which could be sizeable if they bought a minimal policy.

Families who earn between $43,000 and $68,680 for a family of three would be allowed to pay full boat for their uncapped premiums and then deduct any part of the premium that exceeds 5.5% of their income as a tax credit, refunded dollar for dollar by state money. (Again, see budget discussion, below). There is no tax credit for their required co-pays, deductibles or out of pocket (uninsured) expenses, which could be big if they purchased a minimal policy.

But insurance companies would be required to take everyone

That is correct. However, they are allowed to offer minimal coverage set by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (minimum coverage that may be offered is not specified in the bill) and there is no control over their premiums or deductibles.

In addition, they are allowed to adjust their premiums, not by medical condition, but by age and other demographic factors.

The companies are required to spend 85% of premiums on care, but they maintain they do that now, and count marketing, information technology and other kinds of administrative overhead as care. The bill would allow this characterization to continue.

Unions seem to like the bill, don't they?

Well, some of them. SEIU, who has organized and hopes to organize healthcare workers, is positively salivating over the bill, to the extent that their national leader, Andy Stern, is engineering moving out the current state leader, who has questioned the bill, in favor of a new leader who will go along with it. AFSCME has also come on board with the bill, thinking that public employees will benefit. (However, with all the hits the bill brings on the state budget, this may be short sighted). About half of the unions in the California Labor Federation are with it, and half are against it but not taking a firm position. The California Nurses, the California School Employees and the Teamsters, among others, are strongly in opposition.

Many other troubling sections in the bill.

Troubling (1) rescission
While we are struggling to keep insurance companies from rescinding policies of beneficiaries who do nothing wrong except try to use their insurance, the bill takes a step backward by applying the no retroactive rescission language only to HMO's and not to all insurers.

Troubling (2), no choice of doctors or hospitals
Your insurance company tells you who is in their provider network. Employers are not required to give a range of choices. The state fund would give a range of choices, as soon as they are determined by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board.

Troubling (3), more unsupervised healthcare workers
Nurse Practitioners and Physician's Assistants would be allowed, by the bill, to give written instructions (not personal supervision) to medical assistants in retail clinics, such as those proposed for Wal Mart, and the assistants would be allowed to give medication. Currently they can do so in specific clinic settings. The bill removes this requirement.

So, what's next?

The bill goes over to the Senate, into the Senate Rules Committee, which then refers it to the Senate Health Committee and any other committees that should hear it before it goes to the Floor. There may be a hearing on the bill in Senate Health on January 16th, but only if the language of the bill is in its final form according to its author, the Speaker, the requested analysis of the impact of the State Budget by the Legislative Analyst's Office is complete, and the Committee also has the language of the proposed initiative that will, supposedly, fund the bill. Any organizations wishing to support or oppose the bill may send their letters to the Senate Health Committee in Sacramento. The bill may be read online at Press the button for Bill Information and type in ABX1 1 and click on what comes up. The author is Speaker Nunez

Friday - Quick Hits

List of developers to build new city hall down to two. UT

Caltrans loses suit over eminent domain case has to pay family $26.5 million. UT

Despite letter stating otherwise, National City asks developer to consider affordable housing in project. UT

Grossmont Union High School District and teacher's union have reached a contract settlement after 18-month dispute. UT

City of Oceanside has approved a 30-year deal to purchase desal water. NCTimes

Wal-Mart submits plans to expand Poway store into a Supercenter. NCTimes

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mitz Lee Out of the Running

It looks as though the race for City Council District 5 just became a solo venture. According to The Reader, current school board member Mitz Lee has decided to forgo a run for City Council. Instead, Lee intends to stay on as school board member and will run for re-election. Now, Carl DeMaio is the lone candidate in the District 5 race. Hopefully, someone will step up and give DeMaio a good run.

Jerry B for Mayor?

This was the popular shirt worn at the Tribute Luncheon for Jerry Bukiewicz this afternoon at the Convention Center.

San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Unanimously Selects Lorena Gonzalez as Secretary-Treasurer

The delegate body of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council voted unanimously to appoint Lorena Gonzalez as its new secretary-treasurer and CEO last night.

The delegates, a representative body of members from all 119 local unions affiliated with the Labor Council, followed last week’s unanimous vote by the organization’s executive board. Gonzalez will become the first female to lead the Labor Council, since its charter in 1902.

Gonzalez, who has served as the Labor Council’s political director since September 2006, takes over for the retiring Jerry Butkiewicz effective January 2, 2008.

“I am humbled by the support I have received from our local unions,” Gonzalez said. “It's a privilege to be entrusted with the opportunity to work as hard for our members as they do for the families they support.”

Labor Council President Mickey Kasparian echoed the sentiments of the organization’s membership.

“No one is more qualified to take over for Jerry than Lorena,” said Kasparian. “Under her leadership, San Diego’s labor movement will continue to grow and thrive.”

“If we didn’t have someone like Lorena to step right in and continue to strengthen the foundation that has been laid, I wouldn’t feel so comfortable retiring,” said Butkiewicz. “This is a great and historic day for San Diego’s working families.”

The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council is a coalition of 119 local unions that represent 120,000 working families in the region. The Labor Council strives to ensure that all workers in the region earn a fair wage and health care for their families.

Race for San Diego is heating up!

For those interested the California Republican Party (CRP) they have issued a press release of a New Finance Director, Molly Parnell. It seems the former Finance Chair, Steven C. Francis, is no longer around, except on their website. As they said in Usual Suspects, "And like that, he's gone." The CRP update comes a day before Charles Gallagher made the call into Voice of San Diego that "if" Steve runs for mayor, then he will be his campaign manager.

I don't think Kris Mitchell and Fred Sainz feel these are good signs for their hope of a smooth re-election bid, because they probably don't see Jim Bell and Rocky Neptun as real heavy weight challengers.

Thursday - Quick Hits

San Diego School Board names an interim superintendent. UT

Move to add parking meters in La Jolla hits a road block. UT

Talks between Palomar College administration and non teaching employees union have soured. NCTimes

Overuse of groundwater to supply grow and golf courses in Palm Springs area has caused ground to sink. NCTimes

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in town yesterday to pimp for his health care reform plan. UT

Housing crisis is starting to have an impact on the commercial real estate sector. VOSD

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dolores Huerta in San Diego this Sunday Morning to Support Hillary Clinton

Holidays with Hillary

Featuring Special Guests: Dolores Huerta & Assemblymember Mary Salas

Join friends, family, and local community leaders to make phone calls on behalf of Hillary Clinton and enjoy food, drinks and the company of friends during the holidays.

Sunday, December 23, 2007
10:00am – 12:30pm
Home of Bea Fernandez
261 Twin Oaks Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910[Map]

Please consider bringing clothing, a book, or a gift card to be donated to a local charity.
RSVP to or call 213-908-0190

Tribute to Jerry Butkiewicz

Via Local Jobs First: Below is tribute to Jerry Butkiewicz written by Tom Lemmon, Business Manager of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

The Legacy of a Leader

By Tom Lemmon Business Manager of the San Diego
County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO

Tomorrow the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council will host a tribute luncheon to Jerry Butkiewicz at the San Diego Convention Center. There are guaranteed to be tonsof great stories about how Jerry rose in the union ranks from a postal clerk to the president of the Labor Council and all the struggles in between, so we hope you can make it.

Frankly, it’s almost impossible to believe how much Jerry has accomplished since he took over the Labor Council in 1996. Not only has the Council’s annual budget grown more that 1,200 percent(!) and the staff from four full-time employees to 34, but Jerry earned labor a seat at the table for all major regional projects. Considering the strong anti-union sentiment among San Diego’s prominent Republican politicians and developers and in the media, this was no easy accomplishment. Before Jerry, San Diego business had its way without question; the working people were a secondary consideration for politicians.

It takes a tenacious pit bull like Jerry to fight for every union job and ounce of respect that labor deserves. Jerry knows how to take his message to the street and make people understand why they need to fight, and he’s never been afraid to work a week of 18-hour days, if that’s what’s needed.

But Jerry isn’t just a firebrand: When he needs to be articulate, Jerry can put down the bull horn and step right up to the bargaining table without missing a beat. It was totally unprecedented when Jerry got a seat at the Chamber of Commerce, and there was definitely some grumbling about that from both sides, but it really gave labor a broadened perspective on the business community’s thinking and motivation.

On a personal note, Jerry reached out to me when I took this position, and he made me recognize how important it is for everyone in labor to feel like part of a big team. That’s why the Labor Council is so crucial: It gives the individual unions power in the same way that fingers come together to form a fist.

Some people have asked me if I’m worried about Jerry’s departure. Obviously, there’s never a good time to lose someone like Jerry, but he’s leaving his position in a spot where labor is a serious force. … And labor’s power is much bigger than one person. Jerry has been a coalition-builder, not a “one man show,” so I’m optimistic about upcoming struggles, including the current campaign to make sure that the bayfront development is an environmentally-friendly project built by local workers.

More than anything else, I think Jerry will be remembered for his commitment to the workers. He has never stopped thinking about the folks he was fighting for, and that’s a legacy that I look forward to keeping alive with my brothers and sisters at the Labor Council.[Link]

San Diego Still Hates Clean Elections, Sues Bowen

Back in August, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that she was disallowing the majority of DRE voting machines made by Diebold and Sequoia. Part of her move in August was to require that 10% of votes in a close election (less than one half of one percent) be counted by hand. As a result of the potential "logistical nightmare" of having to count so many votes by hand, San Diego County has been pushing hard for people to vote by mail. But apparently that wasn't going quite well enough. So now the Deborah Seiler, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, is suing Debra Bowen over the issue.

The suit claims that counting 10% of votes by hand would create delays and extra work (boo hoo) and threaten the registrar's ability to complete the tabulation during the 28-day canvass period after the February 5 election. San Diego County asserts that Secretary Bowen lacks the authority to mandate such a change without providing the funds to pay for it, although Bowen spokesperson Nicole Winger says the law "clearly" gives Bowen that authority.

So what, you may wonder, makes this a particularly big issue in San Diego County? Well, it could be that Ms. Seiler is a former Diebold saleswoman who participated in the sale of Diebold machines to San Diego in 2003? Her deputy is confirmed election corrupter Michael Vu, who presided over illegal practices during the 2004 Ohio elections. On top of that, once you start having to verify all these darn votes, you might have problems with letting volunteers take voting machines home overnight. Even though having random people be granted unfettered access to voting machines seems safe.

It's really gotta be embarrassing for folks like Deborah Seiler to be complaining about votes being counted. Given that her job is to count votes. Wait, you want me to potentially count more than 1% of the votes? Who do you think I am? The Registar of Voters or something?

Cross posted from Calitics

Duncan Hunter No Longer has Access to Private Hunting Ground

It is no secret that Duncan Hunter is an avid sport hunter. For years now Hunter has tried to use his perch atop the House Armed Services Committee to turn Santa Rosa Island into his own private hunting club, denying access for visitors to that part of the Channel Islands National Park.

In 2005 he authored legislation that would turn the island over to the Department of Defense with the intention of allowing military personnel and their guests be able to hunt the dear and elk that non-native to the island.[Link] The bill sought to reverse a Federal court settlement between the island's previous owners Vail & Vickers who had sold the island to the National Park Service in 1986, and the National Parks Conservation Association. The settlement had agreed to a time table for the final removal of the non-native species from the island by 2011.[Link]

In reality, the bill was never about military personnel and veterans being able to use the island for hunting. The bill was intended for Duncan Hunter to cozy up to his fat cat Defense contractor buddies, so they could have an exclusive hunting area off the coast of California.

When control of Congress changed hands last year, Representative Lois Capps whose district includes the Channel Islands authored language to reverse Hunter's 2005 legislation. Hunter tried to save his private hunting ground by once again playing the veteran card:

Hunter, ... wanted to allow herds of deer and elk to remain indefinitely on remote Santa Rosa Island, possibly so that disabled veterans could hunt them....

"This is disappointing news, when considering this proposal was solely intended to benefit our nation's wounded and disabled service personnel," Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said.[Link]

Support for Hunter's private hunting ground was thin at best;

Last year, representatives of the 21,000-member Paralyzed Veterans of America visited the island and were skeptical, saying rugged terrain and difficult access made it impractical for hunters in wheelchairs.[Link]
Yesterday, the House passed the half-trillion dollar Defense authorization bill, Representative Capps' language was included in the bill that now reverses Hunter's 2005 legislation and allows the Park Service to continue with the 1997 court settlement on the removal of the non-native species from the island.[Link]

Wednesday - Quick Hits

Where's the catch? Insurers voluntarily adopt reforms to speed up the paying of claims from the wildfires. UT

Hey Phil, how about putting a proposal together for a new stadium? Billionaire Philip Anschutz company AEG Live to build and host concerts at new venue on Qualcomm site. UT

The problem that never seems to end. Congress sets aside $66 million for Tijuana river sewage treatment. UT

Next time try an earmark! Congress doesn't approve $80 million for new downtown Federal courthouse. UT

Job opening at UCSD. Preuss school principal resigns amid grading scandal. UT VOSD

Citizens group submits petition for ballot iniative to place height and other land use restrictions on the ballot in Chula Vista. UT

Waste of taxpayers money, county to sue Secretary of State over restrictions placed on electronic voting machines. UT

Chula Vista grants permit for county's second High Tech High. UT

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One Stop Shopping for Housing Crisis Info

I learned of this very informative blog yesterday courtesy of DailyKos. It is called Dr. Housing Bubble and it seems to be the place to go on issues pertaining to the worsening real estate crisis. On note of caution, the post tend to be very long in length.

Tuesday - Quick Hits

On going real estate crisis, county posts bigger drop in median price of homes than during the 1990s real estate downturn. UT

National City says, need to worry about affordable housing to deleveloper, after a three year old letter is unearthed. UT

Mexican president offers temporary help to Mexicans citizens deported from U.S. UT

County ROV still needs 4200 poll workers for February 5th elections. UT

State appeals court upholds ruling keeping day-labor hirings private. UT NCTimes

Standing room only in Carlsbad last night to hear proposal to replace Encina Power Plant. UT NCTimes

In its ongoing attempt to plan for failure, the county's 2020 plan is now delayed until 2010. NCTimes

Monday, December 17, 2007

Public Hearings on Sunrise Powerlink

This coming February the California Public Utilities Commission(PUC) has scheduled to hold three hearings regarding the controversial SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink. The tentative dates and locations for the Public participation hearings are:

February 25
Mountain Empire High School
3305 Buckman Springs Rd., Pine Valley, 91906 [Map]
6:30 p.m.

February 26
Borrego Springs Resort
1112 Tilting T Drive, Borrego Springs, 92004[Map]
1:00 p.m.

Charles Nunn Performing Arts Center
1521 Hanson Lane, Ramona, 92065[Map]
7:00 p.m.

Union Busters Fabiani and Lehane Don't Come Cheap

According to San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane are making $100,000 per month for their union busting activities on behalf of the studios. The both of them have ties to the Clintons, and Hillary Clinton has supported the writers during the strike. I'm still waiting for someone to find out where she stands regarding the work both Fabiani and Lehane are doing. Or is she looking the other way, much like she has done with her chief strategist Mark Penn, who has his own history of anti-union work.

There is also a blog to keep track all of Chris Lehane's union busting activities.[Link]

Monday - Quick Hits

Whistleblower, not here in San Diego. Mayor still controls hotline despite advice to the contary. VOSD

Anthony Pico, former chairman of Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians to receive an adward from the Woodrow Wilson International Center. UT

Chula Vista will consider permanent location form High Tech High. UT

Chula Vista's ethics commission to look into ethics complaint on city's Redevelopment Advisory Board. UT

Hearings set for new power plant proposal for Carlsbad. UT