Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Hampshire Debate Analysis

Editor's Note: This blog post was submitted by E-board member Jesse Switzer. Thanks, Jesse!

Can You Really Lose The Battle And Still Win The War: An Analysis Of The Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate in New Hampshire on September 26

By Jesse M. Switzer

Presidential Primary Debate. Is there any combination of words quite as thrilling to the human soul? Perhaps. But not to folks like you and me who spend so many waking hours pondering, “…just who came out triumphant in the most recent Democratic Presidential Primary Debate in New Hampshire.” The answer, as you may have guessed, is complicated, as is anything of importance and consequence.

Undoubtedly the biggest news to come out this debate was Sen. Clinton’s reversal on previously stated positions regarding the use of torture. Prior to that fateful evening, Sen. Clinton had suggested in interviews with the press that torture may be used under certain circumstances as long it was done “within the rule of law”. On Wednesday’s night’s debate she flatly stated, “As a matter of policy it [torture] cannot be American policy, period.”. This was in response to being given a hypothetical scenario in which the White House had in its custody a terrorist with knowledge of a massive attack on U.S. soil and has just three days to thwart it. Tim Russert, who hosted the debate, sought to add drama to the moment and subsequently informed Sen. Clinton that this was indeed her husband’s hypothetical and at the time he thought torture would be one possible avenue they could explore. Oh schmack, Ms. Clinton! …But, as usual, Sen. Clinton was able to turn lemons into lemonade and sharply responded, “Well he’s not up on stage here right now.” But Russert didn’t want to let her get away that easy, pointing out that her husband still disagrees with her. Touché, but again Hillary has never been one to back down from a challenge, which was evident as she cleverly retorted, “Well, I’ll talk to him later.” Now not only did she inspire laughter and admiration from a white male such as myself, but she probably had every woman in the country thinkin’ “Yea! You go girl!” She is a polished master and she certainly succeeded in what should be her number one goal as front-runner in this race, namely: be competent, fly low and avoid the radar.

More eyes were probably fixated on the Democratic Party’s charismatic new wunderkind, Sen. Barack Obama, as his performance has been surprisingly weak at previous debates and time is running out to fully capitalize on the meteoric rise he has enjoyed since his 2004 Democratic Convention speech. Unfortunately, one could easily argue (and I will) that he left much to be desired in this latest showdown. But this is not to say that his performance wasn’t comparable to Sen. Clinton’s, in fact it was entirely too similar. Sen. Obama needs to address the public as a bold visionary – and one that actually has said vision. His harshest critics claim he is inexperienced and lacks the skills necessary to lead the country. The only way to dispel that notion is to come out with concrete ideas that at the same time show that he is radically different from the status quo. Obama is caught in a catch-22. His campaign touts that he appeals to a broad cross-sector of society, including Republicans, which judging by his fundraising efforts is very true; however, specific details and introducing revolutionary ways of doing things poses exceedingly difficult obstacles to keeping that coalition intact. Be that as it may, Obama cannot continue down this path of showing up to debates with centrist ideas like including additional nuclear power plants as part of his energy plan, while neglecting to work as hard as he possibly can to demonstrate that he can and is willing to propose ideas that are radically different as to define himself as his own breed of candidate, which he most certainly is.

Sen. Edwards did a much better job defining himself as the anti-Hillary on stage, blasting the Senator’s vote to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group by stating, “I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step to war with Iran.” But the former Senator from North Carolina fell short on his answer to a question on whether or not he regretted some rather extravagant campaign expenditures and contributions, especially considering his campaign platform has been largely based around fighting poverty. Edwards got a bit whiney and defensive as he kept repeating the phrase, “…but look at what I have done,” as if to say “…well, yeah but I’ve also done good things too and I’ve corrected some of my mistakes.” In Edwards’ defense subjects like $400 haircuts, extravagant and morally dubious as they might be, are non-issues relatively speaking and epitomize the kind of superficial nitpicking which have contributed to the death of thoughtful politicking. And Sen. Edwards pointed out some solid examples of how his deeds speak for themselves as far as his dedication to fighting economic injustice. But take a lesson from Hillary, my friend, if you’ve made a mistake own up and move on, and in doing so try to capitalize on the lesson you’ve learned. Edwards used this strategy so well with his Iraq War vote, why can’t he do it with something comparatively moronic like this? Edwards on the whole inched toward the winner’s seat, besting Obama in his performance, but at this point he’s really got bolt to catch up with Sen. Clinton.

Gov. Richards had a few shining moments, not the least of which came at the start of the debate when he was able differentiate himself from the other leading candidates by speaking with some authority on the issue of removing all our troops from Iraq without sounding like a pie-in-the-sky ultra liberal. Generally speaking, however, Gov. Richardson blended in with the other second tier candidates, who sadly became filler for the rest of the debate. None of the second tier candidates were able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the fray in way that would be appealing to a wide section of voters…although, Kucinich and Gravel certainly received some applause from the university heavy crowd when they revealed they would be inclined to lower the drinking age. Thus is it is safe to say that while not total losers, the second tiers were the closest to being labeled as such.

I contend that none of these fine individuals are losers seeing as our dynamic and diverse lineup of candidates outshines the Republican roster any day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

E-Board Retreat Plans A Big Year

SFVYD's E-board: Eli Lipmen, Gerrard Panahon, Patty Salazar, Jesse Switzer, David Phelps, Greg Girvan, Damian Carroll, Miguel Santiago. Not pictured: Angelica Ayala, Becca Doten, Adrin Nazarian

SFVYD's E-board met last weekend in Oxnard to plan the upcoming year's budget, calendar of events, and goals. After many hours of discussion and brainstorming, we've set an ambitious agenda for '07-'08 that includes recruiting and engaging a diverse and active membership, bringing further transparency to club activities, endorsements and debate, and channeling the energy of young voters inspired by the Presidential election.

Some of our additional goals for the coming year:

  • Working to defeat a planned initiative for the June '08 election that would split California's electoral votes, essentially handing the next Presidency to a Republican.

  • Mentoring local college and high school activists to develop Democratic clubs on campus.

  • Utilizing web and print advertising to promote SFVYD events to a larger audience.

  • Continuing to educate our membership on the leading political and policy issues of the day.

  • Expanding our successful SFVYD Grants program, helping YD clubs in "red" areas to take root and grow.

  • Sending SFVYD members to the CDP State and DNC National Conventions.

  • Endorsing a full slate of federal, state and local candidates, state propositions and judicial races, and backing up those endorsements with slate mailers, phone banking and precinct walking.

  • Continuing to work with other YD clubs in the LA area through a series of YD Leadership Summits.

These are just a few of the broad goals we've set for our organization. You can see we've set an ambitious agenda, and to succeed we'll need the combined energy of all our members and supporters. We hope we can count on you to volunteer your time and effort to make this SFVYD's best year ever.

ALSO... There are still positions open on our Executive Board! This is a great opportunity to take your role in SFVYD to the next level. Open positions include an all-important Membership Director, Director of Diversity, Director of Technology, and Volunteer Director. If you are interested in serving (don't worry about experience - we'll show you the ropes) please contact Eli at

Thanks and please keep checking in for updates and new events!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Join the Lake Balboa Park Clean-Up

Lake Balboa Park Clean-Up Hosted by the Democratic National Committee

Come join the California Democratic Party and SFVYD on July 28 in support of our National Community Service Day! We are encouraging volunteers and community members to come together for a park clean up (10am-12pm), followed by a picnic for the rest of the gathering.

Sign-in will be availiable near the entrance to Lake Balboa (accessible from Balboa Blvd.)

For the location of the picnic area, refer to the link below:

Saturday, July 28 at 10:00 AM
Duration: 4 hours
Contact Phone: 818-645-0143

Lake Balboa Park
6300 Balboa Blvd
Encino, CA 91406

View Map:
Google Maps

Directions: Park patrons must enter through the Balboa Boulevard entrance and park in designated parking slots. Overflow parking on the dirt field to the northwest of the park is available during periods of heavy usage.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Save Student Financial Aid - Act Right Now

For the first time in a decade, we have a real chance in Congress to make college more affordable and accessible. But special interests are threatening to halt this progress.

We need your help right now. Please call your Senator today!

Tomorrow, we anticipate that the Senate will vote on S.1762, The Higher Education Access Act of 2007, which increases grant aid for low income students and helps make student loan debt more manageable by cutting $16 billion dollars from subsidies to lenders. Unfortunately, Sen. Ben Nelson and Sen. Richard Burr are planning an amendment that would let lenders keep billions of dollars that should be going to students.


Senator Dianne Feinstein:
(202) 224-3841 or email.
Senator Barbara Boxer: (202) 224-3553 or email.

Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 2339, the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, 273 to 143. This bill delivers a similar set of higher education reforms for college students and their families struggling to pay for a college degree.

A college degree is more necessary than ever these days. But over 100,000 college eligible students drop out of applying to college due to cost. And more and more students graduate with deep debt to pay for it. In the early nineties, less than one third of college graduates had loan debt to repay; now, over two thirds do. This debt squeezes graduates out of going into lower paying, but socially valuable degrees like social work and teaching.

To find out more information, go to the Debt Hits Hard campaign run by the organization Campus Progress, as well as the Campaign to Make College Affordable. Also check out Young Democrats for America for further information on how to get involved.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Act Now to Make Sure the Valley Counts

We know that the San Fernando Valley has something 'special' we all love. Don't let the Census Bureau take our uniqueness away - call the number below to ensure that the Valley is counted as a separate region. Show some Valley pride!

Read this editorial by the LA Daily News to find out why they might dump the Valley from the Census. Take action by contacting Census Bureau Director Charles Kincannon. His information is at the bottom of the post.

Up until last year, the U.S. Census Bureau never treated the Valley as its own region, but dumped it in with the rest of L.A. when crunching data. So when the feds doled out money, the Valley's portion was based on L.A.'s needs, not its own.

And that's a big part of why the Valley has historically been so shortchanged.

Finally, after five years of intense local lobbying, Washington gave the Valley its own Census County Division, or CCD.

But now we stand to lose it. Citing a lack of interest, the U.S. Census Bureau wants to stop breaking down data by CCDs - which means the Valley would again be lumped with the rest of L.A., and short-changed all the more.

Kincannon needs to hear from the rest of us, to let him know how much is at stake for our region on what might otherwise seem like a boring, wonky decision.

Let him know how you feel.

Give him a call at (301) 763-2135. Send him an e-mail at Or, if you're using snail mail, drop a note to his office, in care of the U.S. Census Bureau, Room 8H001, Mail Stop 0100, Washington, D.C. 20233-0001.

Want the Democratic Presidential Candidates to Come to You? Vote on It!

Tired of watching the Presidential candidates on TV as they hold rallies in Iowa or New Hampshire? Don't want to drive downtown to see Senator Obama or Senator Clinton?

It is very easy to get the Presidential candidates come to you - here in the San Fernando Valley.

Last month, Senator John Edwards, one of the Democratic Presidential candidate (if you didn't already know he was running since 2004!) did something no presidential candidate has ever done -- commit to visit the city or town that creates the most demand on Senator Edwards will also answer at least ten questions from the "demanders" in the winning city.

The competition ends on July 18th so you only have a few days left to place your demand. Go to to cast your vote.

And if Edwards is not your candidate, you can join the groups for the other candidates to start getting involved with their campaign.

For Senator Barak Obama, go here.
For Senator Hillary Clinton, go here.

To see all the political candidates and political events across the country, click here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Big Weekend for SFVYD

Thanks to everyone who joined SFVYD this weekend for our Circuit City Protest on Saturday morning, and/or our softball game vs. LACYD on Sunday. Both events were a big success and it was great to see everyone.

It's a bit of an understatement to say that the Northridge Circuit City was *not* happy to see us. As soon as we showed up in their parking lot and started passing out flyers, the manager demanded to know what we were doing and called security. After a prolonged discussion with some mall cops about our first amendment rights we agreed to take our protest to the mall's sidewalk entrance. Amusingly, the security guards seemed quite sympathetic to our protest - when I asked one how he would feel if he lost his job because he was paid to much, he replied, "pissed off."

Our sidewalk rally got plenty of attention as well. Cars honked horns and drivers yelled their support as they drove by. Many drivers pulled over to request flyers and more information, and promised to tell their friends to stay away from Circuit City. In fact, we had so much fun that we've decided to target Northridge again... come out on July 7 for a second helping of Circuit City consumer education.

Although protesting was a blast, Sunday's BBQ and softball game were definitely the weekend's highlight. SFVYD took on our sister club LACYD in a second annual softball faceoff. Although SFVYD put on a valiant effort, we were once again narrowly defeated, this time by a mere 13-8. (Sheesh.) Bottom line: next year's club activities will be *entirely dedicated to softball practice!* Well, perhaps not entirely but if you know any Valley YD's who can make a double play, tell them to sign up!

A huge thank-you is in order to Becca Doten and Eli Lipmen, who did a great job organizing the softball game and BBQ. I'm also pleased to thank the many elected officials and candidates who attended the event, including Assemblymembers Feuer, Fuentes, and Levine, former Assemblymember Paul Koretz, San Fernando Councilmember Steve Veres and 40th AD Candidate Stuart Waldman. We appreciate your support for Young Democrats and look forward to seeing you at future events!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Next Circuit City Protest June 23

Our next Circuit City Protest will happen Saturday, June 23, 10am at the Northridge Location - 19330 Plummer Street. Please attend and bring a friend!

View more details and RSVP by clicking here:

In other news:

  • Some of the remaining Circuit City employees are reaching out to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. This is a promising sign that will hopefully lead to some action. Retail stores are notoriously difficult to unionize, although card check legislation would make it easier to do so.
  • Apparently Circuit City's firings do not extend to their Canadian stores.
  • I'm happy to report that Stonewall Democratic Club has officially joined our boycott!

I'll see all of you in a couple weeks - in the meantime keep spreading the word and stay tuned.

Friday, June 1, 2007

More Firings at Circuit City

Many of you sent me articles today about Circuit City's latest wave of firings, this time involving mostly jobs in middle management.
Circuit City said 654 of the [eliminated] positions will come from management as it adopts a policy of assigning managers based on sales volume, spokesman Bill Cimino said. Until now, each store had five managers regardless of revenue, he said. Now, stores will have from three to five managers each, based on revenue. The cuts will come from a combination of attrition, transfers and dismissals, he said.
Unlike the previous firings, it does not appear Circuit City will be replacing these employees with lower-paid hires - they're just victims of old-fashioned "downsizing." It also is unclear whether these firings were based strictly on workers' salary level, like the last ones.

Still, it suggests that the company's first round of firings was not enough to raise profits - surprise, surprise! Maybe if they fire everyone but CEO Philip Schoonover he can sell all the TV's himself.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Circuit City Boycott on the Radio

KPFK 90.7 featured our Circuit City Boycott on this morning's "Morning Review with Eisha Mason. You can download it here or here. Check it out - the interview begins at minute 48:25.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Circuit City Woodland Hills Protest Recap

Thanks everyone who attended Sunday's Circuit City rally! We had over twenty people in Woodland Hills and once again turned away dozens of potential customers with our flyers and signs. Here are some highlights -

-- Two police officers showed up this time, apparently alerted by store management. They asked what was going on and when Rosemary Jenkins explained Circuit City's firings to them, said, "That's terrible!" They informed us we had every right to peacefully protest as long as we didn't disrupt traffic. The management was not happy about that and tried unsuccessfully to convince the officers otherwise. They weren't persuaded and the protest continued unabated.

-- Lots of passing cars honked their horns but our biggest supporters were the City's bus drivers, every one of whom honked as they passed. They understand the importance of sticking up for workers.

-- When they discovered what we were doing, a manager came out and asked us if we were the fired workers. When we explained that no, we were simply supporting workers in a moral cause, he laughed dismissively like he couldn't believe anyone would stick up for somebody else. But some of the other store employees seemed generally interested, and waiters from the Border Grill next door kept peering out of the windows and giving us the thumbs up.

-- After the rally, protester Rob Vinson reports that he went to make a purchase at Best Buy, and was told that their store was abuzz about our protest. Rob's cashier said she alone had helped three people who said they were directed away from Circuit City by the rally. That's business lost for Circuit City - and success for our action!

In other news, yesterday's business section reported that "A share of Circuit City is [now] cheaper than a DVD copy of the Borat movie the retailer sells on its Internet site."

Again, a huge thanks to everyone who gave up their Sunday morning to come out and march in the hot sun. We'll be announcing the next rally date soon, likely at the Northridge Circuit City location.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rally Photos!

We've updated photos from our May 5 Circuit City Protest rally - thanks to Becca Doten for the great camera-work!

Don't miss our next rally on May 27 in Woodland Hills!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

More Allies in Circuit City Fight

Our Circuit City coalition is growing by leaps and bounds! Last week, the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley and Valley Grassroots for Democracy officially voted to support our boycott. DP/SFV and Valley Grassroots members have already been working closely with us, but their official support will allow us to communicate further with their membership. Thanks to both of these groups for their continuing efforts!

Also last week, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union voted to support a lawsuit brought by three fired Oxnard Circuit City employees, alleging age discrimination.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said that even though the laid off workers are not members of his union, "what happened to them and other Circuit City workers represents a two-fisted assault against all retail employees."

"The bottom line is that every retail worker has a stake in this fight," said Appelbaum, who said the RWDSU plans to file an amicus brief in support of the California workers.

"If Circuit City is allowed to get away with this unchallenged, it's only a matter of time before other major retailers follow suit," he added.
We welcome the support of RWDSU and other unions (including the AFL-CIO) standing up for these wronged workers. Unfortunately these workers did not have their own union - legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act could help change that.

I hope you will all join us at our next protest rally, Sunday May 27, in front of the Woodland Hills Circuit City store. (More info here.) The pressure is building on Circuit City every day; we can make a difference if we speak up collectively for our American values.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Circuit City Protest Rally Recap

First let me say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who showed up to our Circuit City Protest Rally yesterday, from Democratic groups all over the Valley. In case you missed out, we will be announcing our next rally date shortly - likely during Memorial Day weekend.

Nearly twenty people turned out in Van Nuys to wave signs, pass out flyers, and educate customers about Circuit City's heinous mass layoffs. Through our efforts we reached dozens of potential customers and talked them into shopping elsewhere. The local management was clearly nervous about our presence - they brought out a hand-lettered "10% off!" sign and balloons to lure in skeptical customers. Apparently Circuit City can afford to mark down prices now that they've fired all their experienced workers.

We were joined at our protest by a woman who told us she was one of the workers laid off from another Valley Circuit City location, and her husband. She thanked us for taking up the issue and promised to attend future protests.

Will these kinds of protests make a difference? In fact, they already are! On Saturday the Washington Post reported on consumers nation-wide who are now vowing to boycott Circuit City. From the article:
When Carole Fisher read the news in March that Circuit City fired 3,400 employees so it could replace them with lower-paid workers, she knew one thing: She would never shop there again.

"They weren't going after the big guys, they were going after the little guys again," said Fisher, 71, of Ellicott City. "It seems to me the little guy gets screwed pretty routinely when a company is having trouble."

Although she needs to replace her kitchen television, she'll shop elsewhere. It will be her little way of trying to fix what she thinks is wrong with corporate America.
Consumer backlash is already affecting Circuit City's bottom line. Last week the company announced it was expecting to post a first-quarter loss.
The company, which on Monday also revised its outlook for the first half of its fiscal year ending Feb. 29, 2008, cited poor sales of large flat-panel and projection televisions. Analysts said Circuit City had cast off some of its most experienced and successful people and was losing business to competitors who have better-trained employees.

"I think even though sales were soft in March, this is clearly why April sales were worse. They were replaced with less knowledgeable associates," said Tim Allen, an analyst with Jefferies & Co.

In particular, the televisions showing disappointing results are "intensive sales" requiring more informed employees, Allen said. "It's a big-ticket purchase for somebody. And if they feel like they're not getting the right advice or are being misled by someone who doesn't know, it would be definitely frustrating. They will take their business elsewhere."
I'm guessing Circuit City already regrets this bone-headed move, and it's only going to get worse. Until they offer back their fired workers their jobs at their original salaries (and at this point, Circuit City should be begging them to come back), our boycott will continue.

Stay tuned... we'll be posting pictures and video soon!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hillary Slams Circuit City

Guess who's joining the chorus of Circuit City criticism?

Senator Hillary Clinton took on the reckless retailer on Friday, asking them to reconsider their firings.
"Twelve dollars an hour is now considered too high a wage in America," Clinton said at a teacher's union conference. "What's really stunning is many of these fired workers had been promoted, they'd been told they were doing a good job."
Go Hillary! If you see any other prominent politicos taking on Circuit City, please drop me a line so I can give them some props.

And don't forget to attend our Circuit City Boycott Rally this Sunday, May 6, 10am at the Van Nuys Circuit City @ Victory and Woodman! Please RSVP!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Important Endorsement for Galatzan

Tamar Galatzan, SFVYD's candidate for LAUSD boardmember, was endorsed yesterday by Louis Pugliese. Pugliese was the third candidate in the primary, whose vote percentage kept Galatzan or incumbent Boardmember Lauritzen from winning a majority outright.

Pugliese was interviewed by SFVYD's E-board during the primary; we found him to be a smart, capable educator as well as a passionate advocate for teachers and students alike. We're glad to see he has endorsed Galatzan in the race, and hope he stays involved in the fight for improved L.A. public schools.

If you would like to volunteer for Tamar's campaign, contact

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Circuit City Updates

Here's the latest on our Circuit City boycott - remember to mark your calendars for our protest rally on May 6 - 10am-1pm at the Van Nuys Circuit City on 13630 Victory Blvd.! Please RSVP if you will be attending.

  • The Sherman Oaks Democratic Club has joined our boycott! A big thanks to club President Marilyn Grunwald - we are thrilled to have the support of this important and influential Valley club.

  • Check out this article by Michael Kinsman of the Union Tribune, who understands why this is a bad business decision for Circuit City:
    So the company cut some jobs to save money, nothing wrong with that. But by terminating its most senior and knowledgeable salespeople, Circuit City has sent a disturbing signal to every working American that it doesn’t value experience, competence or success in its personnel.
    And what about the motivation of the remaining employees? The company has already shown that it doesn’t value or want higher-paid workers, and seems determined to employ the lowest cost labor it can. That means entry-level workers at every turn. Who will continue to work at the company for more than a few months if they know they can’t get ahead by being successful?
  • Also check out this excellent piece by Harold Meyerson, in which he argues that the loss of union representation is slowly destroying the middle class:
    Once upon a time, American prosperity actually benefited Americans. From 1947 through 1973, U.S. productivity rose by 104 percent, and median family income rose by an identical 104 percent. Those were also the only years of real union power in the United States, years in which one-quarter of the workforce, and in some years one-third, was unionized. Apparently, this level of worker power and mass prosperity proved intolerable to our financial elite and their political flunkies.
  • Finally, Napster recently announced they were teaming up with Circuit City to provide an online music service. Anybody want to write a letter to Napster saying you'll never sign up for their service until Circuit City rehires their workers at their old wages? Napster's address is:

    Napster, Inc.
    317 Madison Avenue, 11th Floor Suite 1104
    New York, NY 10017

See you all at the rally!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Redistricting Rumble

Wow! Big news this morning on the redistricting front: Assembly Speaker Nuñez is now proposing that independent redistricting apply to Congressional as well as State Legislative districts. This puts Nuñez at odds with Speaker Pelosi, who has opposed independent redistricting for California House districts.

There are so many things to say about this I can barely arrange my thoughts... but I'll give it a go.

First... there's no question that state legislators drawing their own districts presents a conflict of interest. Whether or not you believe that independent redistricting would create many more "competitive" districts (and I'm skeptical), it's clear that our state's lines were not drawn to represent communities, but to protect incumbents. Period.

Does the same apply to Congressional districts? Well, under our current system, Congressmembers do not draw their own lines; the State Legislature does that. But party collusion meant that protecting incumbents still took first priority in 2000. Take a look at our Congressional districts and you'll see what I mean.

So from that standpoint, it makes sense to hand Congressional redistricting over to an independent body as well.

But now things get complicated.

The question Pelosi raises - and it's a fair one - is whether enacting this reform solely in California gives Republicans too great a political advantage. Won't we lose good Democrats while Texas keeps its Republicans in power?

Maybe, but I'm not so sure. At this point it's important to clarify the difference between protecting incumbents and boosting majority seats. The latter is what Tom DeLay did in 2003 in Texas... that is, instead of drawing districts around all the incumbents to protect their seats, DeLay redrew the map to add Republican seats by consolidating (and therefore eliminating) Democratic seats. This was later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States - in large part because it amounted to racially-based gerrymandering.

But that is not what happened in California in 2000. After the last redistricting, the number of California's majority Republican and majority Democratic districts remained the same. All the seats were made safer but no new Democratic seats were created. The motive was to decrease competition, not to engineer partisan gain.

So... if Texas allowed an independent panel to redraw their Congressional district maps, it would mean an almost certain gain for Democrats. In California, however, an independent map could hypothetically benefit either side. Who stood to gain the most would come down to which party was best able to compete in any newly competitive districts.

In fact, if we'd had more competitive Congressional districts in California last November, Democrats could very well have picked up more seats in our state. Instead, our "safe" seats map shielded our Republicans from their party's most disastrous election in recent history.

So Pelosi is correct that independent redistricting should be applied to all states - BUT I disagree with her assessment that applying it only to California would endanger our Congressional majority. Competitive seats are only a threat if we are afraid to fight for them. If we fight and win, competition will strengthen our party - and give voters greater confidence in the process. I salute Nuñez's stand and urge Speaker Pelosi to back down from her opposition.

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Groups Join Circuit City Boycott

I received word today that the Jewish Labor Committee and the Stonewall Young Democrats have both signed onto our boycott. We are proud to have the support of these well-respected organizations!

Pencil Sunday, May 6 on your calendars - we will be announcing an action to take place on that date shortly...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Valley Dems United Joins Circuit City Boycott

I received word this morning that Valley Dems United has joined in our boycott of Circuit City!

SFVYD is proud to have the support of VDU, one of the Valley's largest and most active Democratic clubs. Special thanks to Club President Brad Parker and 3rd Vice President Margie Murray, who relayed the news. We are working out a date for a protest and "consumer education" day soon - stay tuned!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Circuit City Update

Lots of Circuit City news today:

  • Kiplinger reports that Circuit City has lousy service compared to competitor Best Buy:
    A visit to Palo Alto's Best Buy and Circuit City to pick up a component-video cable illustrates the differences.

    At the Circuit City, it took some effort to find a store employee to ask where to find the cables - and the red-shirted employee who was tracked down misdirected this shopper to cables for TVs.

    At Best Buy, the greeter at the door quickly responded with a more specific question, "What kind of component video?" By asking, he learned the cable's purpose was for a game console and pointed to the video game section.
    Do you suppose firing 3,400 of their most experienced salespeople will improve Circuit City's service?

  • A group of older workers has filed a lawsuit charging Circuit City with age discrimination. According to the LA Times:
    California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, more stringent than those of most states, protects workers age 40 or older. A 2002 amendment to the statute declares that the use of salary as the basis to terminate employees may constitute age discrimination if older workers as a group are negatively affected.
    One of the workers describes the scene of her firing:
    The day she was laid off, (Eloise Garcia) thought she was being called in for a meeting of the store's entertainment committee, which organizes bake sales and other events for employees and charities.

    "I couldn't believe it, after 17 1/2 years, that they were doing it," said Garcia, who lives with her grown son.

    "You could tell they felt bad too. My supervisor was crying and she made me cry. It was awful. There was nothing they could do; they just said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' "

    Garcia said she got eight weeks of severance pay from Circuit City but would have to find another job.

    Although that will probably mean starting over at a new company for minimum wage, Garcia said she had no choice since she was still paying off medical bills from a fall she suffered a few years back.
  • An El Paso Times article ties these layoffs to the larger issue of outsourcing:
    "In some ways, I think people thought that, somehow, domestic jobs (jobs that can't be moved) are more insulated (from wage-cut pressures). You can't move local retail jobs overseas or to other parts of the country (to save money)," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago outplacement consulting company.

    This demonstrates in a "particularly blunt way" that "even local jobs are not insulated from those same pressures to cut wage costs," he said.
    Is this the future we want our children to inherit? Workers and consumers get screwed so executives can profit even more? That's not capitalism - that's a perversion of capitalism.

  • Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) follows this corporate strategy to its logical conclusion:
    But from Allentown to Times Square, no one is commenting on where the new flexibility may be taking us. Time was, not so long ago, when seniority was rewarded with higher pay and other perks. But that higher pay now carries a lethal risk. As a friend who writes software for a major multinational explained to me: "If you ask for a raise, the boss is going to say, 'Why would you want that? It would be like having a bulls-eye painted on your back.'" The more you make, the more tempting it is to fire you.
Tonight SFVYD's E-Board will meet to discuss the next steps in our boycott of Circuit City. I will be recommending a series of actions in front of local Circuit City stores protesting the firings and asking people to shop elsewhere. If you or your organization would like to join these protests, please contact me at

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Daily News Covers Boycott

This morning's Daily News reports on SFVYD and CYD's boycott of Circuit City in the Business Section, Page 3. Unfortunately I am unable to find an online link, but here's the article, bylined "Staff and Wire Reports."
From April 3, 2007 Daily News, Business Section, Page 3 -- "Briefcase"

Circuit City target of boycott

VAN NUYS - In response to Circuit City laying off 3,400 high-paid store clerks, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats and California Young Democrats called for a boycott of the electronics giant Monday.

"Like too many American businesses, Circuit City is replacing skilled workers, knowledgeable about the products the stores are selling, with unskilled workers simply to cut costs," said Damian Carroll, president of the Valley group. But Circuit City did it in a way that was "particularly blatant and insulting."

Refusing to spend dollars at the nation's second-largest consumer-electronics retailer is the best way to protest the move, he said.

Circuit City spokesman Bill Cimino said the layoffs were crucial to become competitive and affected the fewest number of employees. Those who were laid off were paid "above market wages" but did receive severance packages, he added.

"We have 40,000 other associates who we needed to think about," Cimino said. "While it impacted these people directly, this (plan) impacted the fewest number of employees."
To Mr. Cimino's assertion that these layoffs will make Circuit City more "competitive," I can only say that I hope he is calculating in their loss of business from disgusted customers. There are plenty of unwise ways for businesses to cut costs; for example, they could start selling a shoddier product. Lower costs doesn't necessarily translate into higher profits if it means customers will make their purchases elsewhere. Through our boycott we hope to change the equation so businesses will no longer think replacing trained employees with know-nothings is a moneymaking option.

If your club or organization has joined SFVYD and CYD in this boycott, please let us know at

Monday, April 2, 2007

Circuit City Letter in Daily News

The Daily News published my letter today (scroll down to "Appalling Firings") regarding the Circuit City boycott, even giving props to SFVYD in the signature. Just as important, this morning they highlighted a study by UCLA warning that "the next generation of workers could find itself ill prepared to labor its way from poor to rich."

This is exactly the issue highlighted by Circuit City's ill-treatment of their loyal employees. More and more, entry-level jobs are becoming nothing more than dead ends, with no opportunity for growth and advancement. As companies replace skilled labor with unskilled minimum wage positions, hardworking young people have a dwindling number of opportunities to carve out a living. Not only workers, but consumers lose out in this strategy, as we are confronted daily with customer service that is unhelpful, untrained, and unmotivated.

The only segment of America that benefits from this is stockholders. But even stockholders depend on customers - we can fight back by refusing to buy from companies that value profit over customer service and worker's wellbeing.

I hope you will join with SFVYD in promoting our boycott of Circuit City. In the next couple days we'll be offering downloadable fact sheets you can use to spread the word, and announcing the support of some of our sister organizations. Stay tuned and thank you for your continuing support!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Circuit City Screws Young Workers

Today I was outraged by this article on the front page of the Daily News. Circuit City is laying off 3,400 workers for the crime of being paid too high a salary. According to the article, after 10 weeks these same workers (one interviewed makes $15 an hour) will be offered their jobs back at minimum wage.

This goes way beyond the pale. These are skilled workers, knowledgeble about the products and brands offered in the store, who will now be replaced by unskilled no-nothings who barely know how to work the cash register. Let's be clear: the reason these workers were well paid is that they were loyal to their company and did their jobs well. Now these predominantly young twenty-somethings -many of whom are paying for college with these jobs - are being thanked for their loyalty and service with a pink slip.

Circuit City explains these layoffs in the article:

"We're taking a number of aggressive actions to improve our cost and expense structure," Philip Schoonover, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Circuit City Stores Inc., said in a written statement.

Here the workers describe their emotions after being laid off:
"This store has probably lost all its good salespeople," (Richard) O'Neal said. "This morning we were all really pissed, but now I laugh about it. What can you do?"
I'll tell you what you can do... In the next 24 hours SFVYD's Executive Board will be voting to advocate a boycott of Circuit City until the company offers their employees back their positions at their previous salaries. Until that happens, we'll be urging consumers young and old all over the country to buy their HDTV's, DVD Players, and Ipods from stores that are friendlier to young employees, like Costco.

I will also be inviting our sister organizations such as LACYD, Stonewall YDs, and our statewide org CYD to join in this boycott.

Stay tuned, and please, spread the word!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Action Alert - Senate Voting on Withdrawal Timetable

Democrats in Congress excercised the power of the purse on Friday when they attached a timetable for withdrawal to the latest Iraq funding bill. This move could force the President into an uncomfortable corner: approving the withdrawal timetable that the American public overwhelmingly supports, or vetoing the spending bill for his own war. The passage of this bill is a critical step to getting out of Iraq, and highlighting the key differences between the parties going into the 2008 election.

First, however, the Senate needs to pass this bill with the withdrawal timetable intact. That's where you come in - voting on this bill could come as early as tomorrow. Please take the time today to write your Senator and request that they support the withdrawal timetable provision.

Here's the contact info:

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
E-mail link

Senator Barbara Boxer
Phone: (213) 894-5000
Fax: (213) 894-5042
E-mail link

Don't wait - contact them today!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Elizabeth's Battle

I wanted to write to wish all the best to Elizabeth Edwards and her family today. Two of my Grandparents battled cancer for several years - a difficult experience for all of us - and yet, also a time during which they accomplished remarkable things. I remember especially my Grandmother's spirited advocacy on behalf of single-payer health care, in a period when no one would have blamed her for taking it easy and letting others do the heavy lifting.

Which is to say, I have the greatest esteem for Ms. Edwards' decision to carry on campaigning with her husband, and her determined optimism in the face of this disappointing news. Our family and countless others send her well wishes today, in the hopes we may lend her strength in the years to come.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dean of the GOP?

Help me out on this...

Remember in 2004 when everyone said Howard Dean was "unelectable" because 1) He supported gay civil unions, 2) He disagreed with the majority of the country on Iraq, and 3) He was prone to making embarassing public statements?

So how is it that as of today, this guy is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination?

D'ya suppose the religious right wants to scream?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Guest Post: Controlling the Spin on Rent Control

Editor's Note: The following post was submitted by SFVYD member Brian Davis. SFVYD welcomes guest posters on our blog.

I like to end my arguments with simple thoughts: Against gay marriage or abortion? Don't have one. Against gays serving openly in the military? Most of our allies, who fight side by side with us in most modern military excursions, allow gays to serve, meaning American troops are already serving with open gays. Opposed to rent control because landlords can barely turn a profit? Than don't become a landlord.

I work for an organization that focuses on tenants’ rights and habitability. Our goal is to combat homelessness by keeping people in their homes and keeping those homes livable. We don't get much recognition but this week we did. The Los Angeles Times ran an article about Los Angeles' most prolific eviction attorney. Our agency was featured.

One of the major themes of the article is how the attorney, Dennis Block, is a crusader for the oppressed: property owners. It is true that a good number of property owners are small business people, many of whom are immigrants, trying to squeak out of living. But in Los Angeles, many properties are owned or managed by HUGE corporations. There are also many ethical, compassionate landlords that treat their tenants fairly and with dignity. There are also many that are blatant criminals who value profit over the health and safety of their tenants.

Rent control is often vilified by these property owners because of the limits it places on raising rents and how it allows tenants to maintain their housing below market rates. This is rare. It happens when a renter lives in a property for a very long time. Most renters, especially in a city of migrant labor like Los Angeles, are highly mobile. It's anectdotal but since 2000 I've lived in 7 places. In some cases, a tenant finds a place they like and stays there for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, the landlord loses out because as the market rate increases, he's limited by the imposed restrictions of rent control. Dennis Block feels his pain:

"I think my position is righteous," he said. "The average landlord is not a rich individual…. Under rent control, unlike any other business on planet Earth, a landlord is being ordered to support other individuals totally at his own costs. This is not fair."
The landlord is not being "ordered" to do anything. The landlord chose that field and must agree to the terms of it. I am a SCUBA instructor on weekends. I am a good, safe instructor, and I don't anticipate any of my students ever having an accident but the corrupt SCUBA industrial complex orders me to have liability insurance. Of course, if I don't want to incur the insurance cost, I guess I do have the freedom to not be a SCUBA instructor.

Block argues that the city's rent-stabilization laws keep him in business by creating conditions in which some landlords cannot make a profit, and in some cases can't even make their mortgage payments, unless they evict their tenants and replace them with people who can pay the market rate.

Apparently, landlords are the worst business people in the world! They can't even make their mortgage payments? Lord, have mercy.

Let's put my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration to work here: I want to become a landlord. I will need to buy a building. I will most likely need to take out a mortgage. Before taking out the mortgage, I should look at who currently lives in the building. How much rent do they pay? How much do I think I will be bringing in each month? Now, let's make sure I can turn a profit. I can? Good, I'll take out the mortgage and buy the building. What's this? It seems I'll bring in $30,000 a month in rents, but I'll spend about $5,000 a month on some maintenance and utilities. And my mortgage is going to run $23,000 a month. Wow, that's not much money for me. Maybe I'll become a baker. Or a shepherd. (Forgive me; I just started reading the Alchemist.)

We needn't use the line that landlords can't feed their families any more. Dennis Block should change it to, "Landlords can't feed their families at Spago any more."

Rent control is not about lost money out of the pocket of the landlord, it's about the dissatisfaction with the opportunity lost to make more money. If I have a tenant who pays $500 each month, but the market rate in the neighborhood is $800 each month, then I am losing $300 in potential income. Not real income. Provided I wasn't an idiot when I bought the building, I knew I could make some money with the rents at the current level. Now with the housing market stretched so thin, without rent control I could make so much more. Unfortunately, these are the rules. I guess I won't make the $300, but don't be fooled into thinking that is money out of my pocket. It's not.

Rent control helps keep families in their homes; that's the reality. Without rent control, in a housing market like we currently have, it would be near impossible for many renters to budget properly and keep a roof over their head. The costs on our communities would be crippling. Parents would need to yank their kids in and out of schools, increasing the costs to taxpayers with poor results. Employers would struggle to keep good employees in their jobs and attract highly qualified candidates. Neighborhoods would be unstable, hindering quality of life and potentially affecting problems like crime and gangs. Renters would have less money to spend on groceries, clothing, and, yes, even recreation. And only landlords and lawyers would be better off.

Early Feb Primary Chance To Support Two Good Reforms

As has been reported in various places, one of the likely reasons for legislators' support of an early '08 primary is the opportunity to place measures on the ballot supporting longer term limits and independent redistricting. If longer term limits pass in February, that gives incumbent candidates enough time to file for reelection by the March deadline.

The reporting of this deal is mostly negative, but I see this as an opportunity to pass two badly-needed reforms. Unlike many partisans, I fully support both longer term limits and independent redistricting.

Term limits have done some good in California. They've allowed a more diverse crop of legislators to take office, with more minorities and women walking the halls of Sacramento. A legislature that more closely mirrors California's population benefits everybody, and term limits opened doors for that to happen.

But ultimately California's short term limits (8 years for Senators, 6 years for Assemblymembers) have done more harm than good. As legislators are forced to retire, the institutional knowledge they've built up over time is lost, as are the inter-party relationships they've fostered. New legislators come in with the best of intentions, but soon find themselves hindered by a lack of experienced mentors and historical context. Consequently they depend much more on lobbyists for information about unfamiliar issues, and party leadership to tell them what to do. Knowing they have to run for another office in just a few years makes them all the more dependent on monied special interests and strict party loyalty.

Defenders of term limits claim that shorter time in Sacramento means legislators will be less "politicized." This is obviously untrue, as public servants are now forced to campaign for their next job when they should be focusing on the one they have. Term limit fans are also fond of calling candidates "greedy" for wanting to serve longer in office. This is ridiculous on its face - are you greedy for wanting to continue a job you enjoy and are good at?

Most every legislator hates term limits, but many of them oppose independent redistricting. Currently, California's legislative districts are drawn by the Legislature itself. And wouldn't you know it - in the most recent 2000 redistricting, the districts were drawn to protect incumbents from competition. Democratic districts were drawn around Dem legislators, and ditto for the GOP areas. Take a look at California's Assembly Districts and you'll see what I mean.

The legislature also broke longtime tradition in 2000 by failing to split each Senate District into exactly two Assembly Districts. This has created great confusion for voters, who are both unable to figure out whose District they're in, and create meaningful coalitions to pressure their local electeds.

Independent redistricting would take the power to draw the lines out of the hands of the legislature. Personally, I'm skeptical that it would create less partisan districts (Californians are naturally grouped into Democratic and GOP areas of the state) - nevertheless, the conflict of interest of legislators drawing their own lines is too much to stomach.

What's most important to me, however, is that Democrats keep a promise they made two years ago. In the 2005 special election, I campaigned with other Democrats against a proposition that would have required new districts to be drawn by an independent panel *immediately*. That was a bad idea, because the census figures for the state were 6 years out of date. During the campaign, however, Democratic leadership promised that if Californians rejected Prop 77, they would pass a better independent redistricting proposal through the legislature. Last year they had an opportunity with a good bill by Senator Allen Lowenthal. Unfortunately that bill failed. If Democrats don't make good on their promise, we won't be able to make similar arguments about bad propositions in the future.

Quite often in California, propositions address a legitimate issue in a faulty fashion. We need to be able to trust our legislature to solve problems in a better way when they ask us to reject a bad proposition. The independent redistricting debate is really about whether we can trust our government to do the right thing.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Does California's Early Primary Mean For YDs?

It's official - California has moved its primary back to February 5 in an attempt to regain some influence in choosing the nominees.

As a longtime advocate of The American Plan For Presidential Primaries, I'm skeptical that this move will really increase California's clout. California won't be alone in moving our primary; it seems like every state is jumping up to February to get a piece of the action next year. That makes Iowa and New Hampshire *more* important, not less. And this insanely front-loaded schedule just favors the usual big-money, high name ID candidates. The best we can hope for is that everyone will be so disgusted with the "Me-first!" game this year that they'll support wholesale change in 2012.

That being said, there's no reason why Young Democrats shouldn't take advantage of California's jump in '08. Increased attention on California means more young voters will feel like they have a say in the process. We need to do everything possible to capture those young voters and introduce them to Democratic club activities while we have their attention. That means stepping up our mixer events, club visibility, and - everyone's favorite - voter registration drives. I'm proud to say that the '04 election got me involved in Young Democratic politics. It could be that our future club President is out there right now, eager to get involved but unaware of SFVYD. Our job in the next year will be to catch potential club members and keep them involved in years to come.

Mayor's New Valley Liason Is A YD

As reported in this morning's Daily News, SFVYD-Member Yolanda Fuentes has been appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa to head his Valley office. Ms. Fuentes is a Commissioner on the Board of Public Works and a longtime supporter of our club. Congratulations Yolanda, and props to our Mayor for naming a Young Democrat to this important position!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Welcome to SFYVD's new Blog!

As part of our website redesign, we have created a new weblog to share news, stories, and gossip with our SFVYD members. This is a great place to find the latest news about the club, upcoming events, and commentary about YD issues.

A blog is nothing without current content, so please feel free to submit items to be posted! We'll do our best to keep this space updated with the latest news. Feel free to post comments below, unless you are an online gambling site, in which case please take your business elsewhere.