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Summer is Here!

8 Jul

It finally got warm again here in Western Washington yesterday. Much of the country has been suffering through a heat wave for a while already. Some parts of the country have been on fire. This is an aspect of global warming that will probably come to Western Washington. We have large stands of timber that will burn if weather patterns were to change and reduce the amount of rainfall in the region. People in the Hoh River Rainforest might appreciate a reduction in rainfall, but by and large, the Northwest needs a lot of rain and gets it.

My grandsons were out and about and could not be located to grab our kayak/play boats and head to the river or Sound, so I scooped up my 5 year old granddaughter and we took the smallest kayak I have and spent a couple of hours playing and keeping cool in the Newaukum River. (video is shot a few miles away from the stretch we were in). The river has pretty good flow this early in the year, so granddaughter was not sure she wanted to be in the river, but by the end of our time there she was jumping off the bank and letting me catch her and be swept along in the current. It’s possible to get swept off your feet, but the river is only a couple of feet deep in the lower reaches, so it’s perfect for playing, wading and kayaking.

I have noticed that the climate change deniers are getting desperate. They know that the US electorate is finding climate change to be real. It’s too bad that it takes disastrous evidence and experience of global warming to persuade the folks who tune into traditional media in the US that the doubt about global warming is manufactured by the same folks who want to persuade folks that Obama is a dangerous socialist when he is simply another corporatist democrat, but this serves the goals of certain folks.

We get change in this country when the tea party folks wake up and realize that the occupy folks are their natural allies and have the story right where the media giants have the news all wrong.

Not warm yet in your neighborhood? Don’t worry, the warm weather is coming. We need balance. We need a carbon tax immediately to change the energy paradigm. The explosion of research, development and manufacturing that would follow carbon tax implementation would solve our double dip recession problem and create jobs. The tax would lower the deficit, but it could not/should not be large enough to solve our deficit problem, just enough to fund R&D on sustainable energy systems. The deficit problem needs to be solved by reinstating the steep tax rate system that existed in this country when JFK stimulated the economy back in 1961. We have flattened the tax rate so much since that time that there is little or no stimulus effect left in that approach, only increasing income inequality and deficits that threaten our way of life. Things could get so bad in the US that we would have to cut the military budget. Just try to imagine that.

Record heat? You want to deny that? Here’s a piece from Think Progress and elsewhere:

 

What Is Causing The Climate To Unravel?

By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

By Jeremy Symons, via the National Wildlife Federation

Answer: One trillion tons of carbon pollution.

40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the signs of an unbalanced climate system have been felt in recent years not just in heatwaves, but increasingly in the form of unusually severe wind storms. This past weekend’s storm brought 80 mph wind gusts that snapped three trees in our backyard like pretzels, even though they were each a foot thick. Once again, my insurance company is teaching me new weather terminolgy to explain the latest climate disasters. A few years ago, the term was “micro-bursts” (not quite tornadoes, but similar impact). Now it is “derecho” (not quite hurricanes, but similar impact).


Read the whole piece at Think Progress? Stay cool.

 

Looking Back on The Limits to Growth

6 Apr

Here is the frame: In 1972 a bunch of computer nerds were commissioned by the Club of Rome to complete computer modeling of finite resources, rates of consumption and population growth. The output was a book called The Limits to Growth. It caused a bit of a stir because the computer modeling predicted that global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030. Wikipedia has a pretty well referenced page on the The Limits to Growth. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

The original study was criticized by lots of folks who thought that growth could somehow become sustainable, that more resources would be found, etc. The methodology was criticized. This study was not popular with economic growth globalists.

The Limits to Growth have been revisited on a number of occasions. Most recently an Australian physicist named Graham Turner completed a thirty year look back at the computer modeling and Turner’s study is published at The Smithsonian. This kind of thing is like disneyland for nerds. Graphs, charts, all sorts of variables to argue about. It’s a wonderland for slide rule afficionados. Needless to say, it’s hard to present on CNN, MSNBC, BBC in a way that has gets the message across.

Look at the graph and try to focus on one primary matter: The thirty year slice of history from 1972 to 2002 shows that the numbers in reality have developed largely as predicted by the 1972 study suggested. Click on the graph to jump to the Smithsonian story if you want.

The good news is on the blue line where pollution is predicted to drop hard. So, it’s not all bad. There is something to look forward to in the projection.

I think I would prefer to see the human population make some difficult choices and reduce consumption to change the trend lines, but it’s not a popular suggestion with the folks who make the decisions. What do they call themselves? Oh, yeah… the deciders.

Scouring the News for Signs of Intelligent Life

4 Apr

Lots of coverage of the republican primaries out there. Few signs of intelligent life in that pile of smoking offal. Going to move on. There must be more important stuff going on. Mr. Fish strikes again

Oh, here we go: Chris Hedges has a good piece in Truth Dig about the NDAA – National Defense Authorization Act – and what a dangerous piece of legislation the NDAA truly is. Like the presidential authority to use drone weaponry to assassinate US citizens or our “enemies” anywhere in the world, this NDAA piece of legislation may look less scary to some in the hands of President Obama (I don’t know why that is? He’s pretty aggressive.) than it might look in the hands of a President Palin, but once presidential authority is asserted, it is seldom relinquished, so you have to look ahead at how the NDAA would work with President Santorum or the like. I don’t like.

Indefinite military detention. Hmm…

On another front SCOTUS Inc. came out with another 5-4 decision that says if you are arrested for any offense, no matter how minor, the jail is entitled to strip search you for a close visual inspection. A big Thank You to the 4 who voted against, but you lost and so did we.

The plaintiff in the underlying case Florence v. County of Burlington was strip searched twice after he was arrested for failure to pay a fine. The fine had been paid, the arrest should not have occurred, but two strip searches later, Albert W. Florence (a black man) was released. He was a passenger in his BMW when his wife was pulled over for speeding and the records search produced the erroneous arrest warrant matter.

hmm… sometimes the authorities simply get it wrong, right? Those things happen. No harm, no foul, says Justice Anthony Kennedy. At least no harm that he can see.

I monitor a national police oversight listserv and caught this story regarding the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman shooting death that continues to build public outrage: The Elusiveness of Police Accountability.

There is something particularly scary about a cop wannabe packing a 9 mm weapon and patrolling a neighborhood. Judgment, training, – there are a lot of things missing in this community security package. But, the Atlantic Cities story tells the story of 18 yo Ramarley Graham, who was chased into his house by NY police and shot dead in the bathroom. He is reported to have been unarmed and in possession of a small quantity of marijuana. The point of the Atlantic Cities piece is that if Trayvon had been shot by a police officer instead of a cop wannabe, there would be a lot less news coverage of the event. That’s probably true. There is something really disturbing about the fact that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after dispatch advised to stop. With Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin we appear to have two deaths that just didn’t need to happen.

We don’t know if Ramarley was wearing a hoodie when he was shot. That seems to be scary attire. I am wearing my hoodie every day now.

Here are some facts that I think are inescapable:

Justice is elusive. Handguns are ubiquitous. Armed men who think they need to keep the peace are dangerous to young black men.

My solution? Reduce the number of weapons in the community. Gun control. Buy back programs. Interference in the realm of handgun commerce. A big government type solution to a big public problem.

Yep, a like a little big government from time to time, but I am not too crazy about the NDAA and Scotus Inc.

Looking for a Second Political Party

11 Mar

I know there is a lot of talk about how hard it is to start a third political party and there is no doubt that the talk is true. Large political swings that realign the political parties in the US are rare, but the political history of the US is about the swings. Whigs and Tories, Bull Moose and Know Nothing parties. These things come and go and right now we have the appearance of a two party system: the dems on the left and the repubs on the right, but the truth is that we have dems in center/right and the repubs in right to hard right. Courtesy Gerolsteiner91 at Wiki Commons

There is no significant left party in the US, only the 25 to 30% of us who identify as left/progressives/liberals/social democrats etc. and we are left to rail at the dem party to move left and lead the country with good public policy that works for all of us. The dem party leaders provide lip service, then do the bidding of the large political contributors – the deciders, the haves and have-mores who control the political agenda of the dem and repub party. Don’t kid yourself about that. Just look at the need to provide Medicare for Everyone, a national health insurance policy that could/would have left the insurance industry scrambling to compete for Medigap insurance coverage, but instead we could not even get a public option, we got Health Insurance for Everyone – The Pay Up health care system doubled down on us.

So when will a political realignment occur that will put a left political party on the scene? Who knows? These changes are like the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and more. The political shift will occur when the time is right. There is work to be done having the options available when the body politic wakes up and says, that’s it, I have had it with the Dems and Repubs.

Here are some options that are already established and waiting, or developing:

The Green Party – Another U.S. is Possible, Another Party is Necessary (a political party that is established and global)

Americans Elect – Pick a President, Not a Party (doesn’t look like a political party in the making?)

Justice Party – Economic, Environmental, Social and Civic Justice for All (Rocky Anderson’s party platform is the basis at this point)

Diversity, Equality, Class

1 Mar

My email buddy Austin Kelly gathers and distributes some really amazing stuff. Here’s something that I got from him today under Gender and Liberation:

Critique of Liberal Anti-Racism: A Way Forward or Regression on Race?
2009 DECEMBER 7

The following essay by Walter Benn Michaels appeared in the London Review of Books.

Here are some excerpts:

“My point is not that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that, insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing. American universities are exemplary here: they are less racist and sexist than they were 40 years ago and at the same time more elitist. The one serves as an alibi for the other: when you ask them for more equality, what they give you is more diversity. The neoliberal heart leaps up at the sound of glass ceilings shattering and at the sight of doctors, lawyers and professors of colour taking their place in the upper middle class. Whence the many corporations which pursue diversity almost as enthusiastically as they pursue profits, and proclaim over and over again not only that the two are compatible but that they have a causal connection – that diversity is good for business. But a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.”

and

“Thus the primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night. And, perhaps more important, it has, ‘for a long time’, as Wendy Bottero says in her contribution to the recent Runnymede Trust collection Who Cares about the White Working Class?, also performed the intellectual function of focusing social analysis on what she calls ‘questions of racial or sexual identity’ and on ‘cultural differences’ instead of on ‘the way in which capitalist economies create large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’. The message of Who Cares about the White Working Class?, however, is that class has re-emerged: ‘What we learn here’, according to the collection’s editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, is that ‘life chances for today’s children are overwhelmingly linked to parental income, occupations and educational qualifications – in other words, class.’”

Read the essay over at the London Review of Books.

**

Sex, Race and Class – Selma James

 

 

 

The left itself is largely responsible for narrowly defining working class politics. Historically, some seriously problematic marxist forces have limited the definition of working class politics to issues concerning white, male, industrial workers.

 

 

 

 

On the contemporary left scene we find many forces (even, or especially, self-labeled marxists and communists) who seek to right the wrongs of previous generations. While these efforts may be honest and genuine, they often fall far short of actually re-aligning theoretical paradigms of “class” and “struggle” in a positive direction. Often times, race & gender become atomized and separated from class in efforts to develop an intersectional approach.

Selma James’ classic piece “Sex, Race and Class” represents a serious analysis of the organic intersections of the often-mentioned triad of oppression. One need only read the first paragraph to sense it contains important insights into the contemporary struggle to develop a mixed gender, multiracial working class revolutionary theory and struggle.

. . . if sex and race are pulled away from class, virtually all that remains is the truncated, provincial, sectarian politics of the white male metropolitan Left.

Capitalism and the Left have mystified the real relationships between these categories, and it’s an important task for revolutionaries, particularly in the US, to understand the poverty of our current theory in order to begin pulling ourselves out of the self-imposed silos our theories have us incarcerated in.

Continues at: http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/sex-race-and-class-selma-james/

Money and Debt in a Couple of Minutes

15 Feb

But could not be done in American.

I am not sure, but this sounds like French to me.

More propaganda from Old Europe?

maybe…

Thanks to friends at Public Banking for this info.

Black Bloc 101

11 Feb

Chris Hedges made a few waves with his recent piece describing the black bloc as the cancer in occupy.

click me pleaseI believe in diversity. I think diversity is a fundamental natural law of the universe. But I understand that human beings have a tidiness gene that makes us think that we can organize and be more efficient through suppression of diversity, by rejection of the natural order and diversity that constantly arises and evaporates back in to the order of chaos. Chaos is not merely disorder. There may be a level of order benefit and diversity in chaos that is not easily observed and is under-appreciated.

The black bloc tactic is something that arises from police violence toward non-violent protest and the willingness of society to choose order over the bedrock right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievance.

Diversity of tactics and tolerance of the diversity of tactics is something that I embrace whole-heartedly. Things can go wrong. I have seen that. Things can go right. I have seen that as well. I am usually pleased to see a black bloc tactical option in a crowd of protesters. I believe Hedges could not be more wrong about the black bloc tactic.

Here is an interesting and informative piece in response to Hedges cancer article. I recommend that you read the piece if you don’t understand and appreciate the black bloc tactic or if you read the Hedges article and thought what he said made a lot of sense.

After you read the piece, you might want to look through the n + 1 zine that is carrying the piece. Looks like a pretty informative vehicle. A weapon of mass instruction. I am down with that. Thanks to my friend Elliot Stoller for bringing this piece to my attention.

A few interesting news links and a movie review!

22 Jan

Well, the snow is melting, the power is coming back on in the Puget Sound region and the sky was blue yesterday afternoon. The snow was really pretty for a day. then it was really wet and sloppy for a few days. Now it’s gone.

Here is a news report from OilPrice.com: Study Finds that Childhood Leukemia Rates Double Near Nuclear Power Stations

hmmm… that doesn’t sound good. I think the jury is in on nuclear power. TEPCO buried the Fukushima nuclear reactors and the industry, but the fallout from the experiment with “cheap” nuclear power will be with us for a long time. Frontline just came out with program – Nuclear Aftershocks. Haven’t seen it yet, but Frontline usually does a good job, so plan to watch that one.Courtesy UK Tar Sands - Wiki Commons

Oilprice.com is a good reference site for all things energy. Particularly good for keeping track of … oil prices! I haven’t spent a lot of time on the site, but it seems pretty technically sound, non-partisan. If/when I will draw from oilprice.com I am sure I will be cherry picking for the information and stories that have a progressive edge.

Obama to Grant Banks Robosigning Immunity in Showdown With Breakaway AGs from OpEdNews.

U.S. AG Eric Holder, DoJ Head Lanny Breuer Linked To Banks Accused Of Foreclosure Fraud – another one from OpEdNews. I think posting one of these requires the posting of the other for context. The revolving door between industry, government, and the nexus of goals is more clear when you see the two stories together.

Finally – a movie review.

Margin Call

My review: wow, see it.

Wage the Dog, Part III

7 Jan

The brightest moment in the Jan 3rd meeting with Senator Fraser, Representative Hunt and Representative Reykdal came when Chris Reykdal took the opportuWiki Commons public domainnity to talk about the impasse that exists with generating revenue for the State.

Reykdal had campaigned for election to the legislature on tax fairness and he appears to be willing to make efforts on that question. Chris described the revenue proposal that he and freshman Senator David Frockt will be putting on the table.

Reykdal and Frockt’s proposal will eliminate the State business and occupation tax (B&0). This element of the proposal is expected to be attractive to the republicans. According to Reykdal, republicans really hate the B&O tax. I will take him at his word on that, but I haven’t been able to identify any tax that our current generation of republicans don’t hate. I guess there is some reason to believe that republicans prefer regressive taxes like sales tax that are paid disproportionately by middle and low income citizens.

So, the first part of this tax proposal that Reykdal referred to as The Hope Act is total elimination of the B&O tax. The second part of The Hope Act would reduce State sales tax from 6.5% to a flat 5%. Elimination of the B&O tax may or may not be regressive. I am a low income small business owner who pays the B&O tax each year. Last year I was pleasantly surprised to find that a tax credit for small business owners was in effect that reduced my annual payment by a significant amount. I have checked with other business owners whose scale of business is much larger than mine and have been told that they did not notice any significant reduction in 2010 B&O tax. So, the elimination of the B&O tax may be fairly regressive if that tax has been made somewhat progressive by an enduring tax credit scheme for low income small businesses, but I think the jury is out on that one. I think there is no question that the B&O tax raises a lot of revenue for the State, so elimination of that tax structure raises the question about how that lost revenue will be replaced.

Courtesy Wiki Commons public domainSales tax revenue is clearly regressive, so a reduction of the sale tax rate (State part only, local add-ons will still be in effect) is clearly progressive. But like the elimination of B&O taxes, the sales tax reduction is a loss of revenue for the State and that translates into cuts in services. Reykdal and Frockt could probably pass these tax cut elements with 100% support from the Norquist Tax Patriots, but we would probably have to reduce education funding in the State to be K-4 proposition from the current K-12 model. Most folks who get through the fourth grade with the standard set of skills should be able to operate a deep-fryer or a touch screen cash register and will be able to stock shelves at a big box store, so this model works for a State economy based on 32 flavors of fast food and lowest prices, guaranteed, but there are many of us who think that there is a problem with the consumer utopian society, so there may be need to replace some of the lost revenue.

Revenue generation: this is where Reykdal/Frockt’s proposal gets interesting. This proposal seeks to increase State revenue by expanding the 5% State sales tax (we should assume that all local add-ons will follow suit) fromEconomic Opportunity Institute goods to goods and services.

So, the bill from your attorney, doctor, tax preparer, and more would start arriving with a sales tax bite. There is a large number of small business owners (I look in the mirror and see one) who will now need to start collecting and turning over sales tax if the Reykdal/Frockt proposal becomes law. Reykdal stated that the expansion of sales to everything, would not include sales tax on food. Ok. Sales tax on food is a really regressive source of revenue. It’s a good thing to keep the sales tax off of food. That’s progressive.

Wiki Commons - courtesy curimedia

A small, but relevant detail about the sales tax on “everything.” It’s not quite everything – airplane sales are exempt and would continue to be exempt. We had a short discussion of the sales tax exemption that exists and will continue to exist if you are selling airplanes. Planes are a movable feast and buyers might insist on taking delivery of their planes in flight over the Cayman Islands to avoid paying a sales tax, so Reykdal says the only way to generate State tax revenue if you have a company that builds and sells airplanes in your State is through a State income tax. Hmm… There will continue to be some tax loopholes so large you can fly an airplane through them.

I am not sure how progressive the expansion of sales tax to services is because I experiencing a bit of resistance to a new tax requirement for my small business operation. Like a lot of small business owners, I am wondering if I am really going to be able to add this tax without losing some business or if I am going to need to absorb some portion of the sales tax as a business cost that would not be that different from the B&O tax. My initial calculation on the sales tax v. B&O tax suggests that my small business will be collecting and paying about three times as much money the Dept of Revenue with sales tax than I paid with B&O tax (and that’s before I factor in the surprise small business tax credit that unexpectedly left a few dollars in the till last year). I think it’s fair to say that businesses and business owners who have not been collecting sales tax are going to be lukewarm at best about the expansion of sales tax to services. I think we should look to the Economic Opportunity Institute for analysis of Reykdal/Frockt’s proposal. The historical analysis of expansion of sales tax to services is going to suggest that this tax is regressive, but less so than a simple tax rate jump (Gov Gregoire’s and others are ready to go that way to raise revenue).

Finally, the capper on the Reykdal/Frockt tax fairness proposal is implementation of a 1% State income tax. Reykdal stated that the Washington State Constitution limits State income tax to 1%. I haven’t fact-checked that assertion, but I am going to trust Chris on that one. The State has repeatedly rejected State income tax out of ignorance about the woefully regressive nature of our State revenue structure. We are the most regressive State in the Nation! We are number 1!

In addition to ignorance and a deep abiding faith and love for the most regressive tax structure in the nation, the opponents of State income tax have always been able to reach into their (deep) pockets and outspend the proponents of a progressive State income tax and I don’t think there is any reason to think that these leopards will change their spots in 2012, so I think the State income tax is going to be a sticking point even though it is a crucial part of the Reykdal/Frockt proposal.

Reykdal projects that this tax package will raise revenue and have instant tax fairness. I think he is correct. I am ready to get behind this bill. Bring the fight. Eyman has been wagging the State’s dog for long enough. It’s time for the legislature to take back responsibility for the budget and revenue generation.

Well done, Chris.

Wag the Dog, Part II

6 Jan

Senator Fraser, Representative Hunt and Representative Reykdal all spoke on January 3rd about the “big achievement” of the recent Special Session that was able to cut 480 million dollars to reduce the budget deficit, about 25% of the amount that it is assumed will need to be cut. There was some sense of dread about the next step – the process of cutting another 1.5 billion from the State budget – that is going to be front and center in the Regular Session that starts on January 8th. And there should be some dread about that.Courtesy Gov WA

This group of legislators does seem to have gotten and absorbed the message that this next round of cuts will contribute to the death of some folks in the most needy, most disabled segments of the State population and they appeared to be rightfully horrified about moving from legislative death of a thousand cuts to an actual headcount of citizens who will need to be buried in the coming biennium as a result of legislative action.

Senator Fraser spoke to the citizens who assembled (I counted about 40 persons, but folks were coming and going, so it might have been as many as 60 folks over the two hour meet-up) and stated that the next session is going to be about choosing between funding education or health and welfare services. That may be true, but I would sure like to see Ms. Fraser (a wonderful person btw) absorb George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of Elephants message and focus on the battle for revenue generation or the progressive agenda that can be moved forward (Washington Investment Trust anyone?) independent of the budget brawl.

That’s what we should be talking about: the budget brawl. Make no mistake, Eyman and his lackeys in the legislature are brawlers who are focused on the long game. They are not wringing their hands when they fail on an agenda, they are back to writing initiatives and planning the next round of their fight to drown state government like a baby in the bathtub.

I encourage you to click on the link above and read the Norquist quotes if you want to understand the sensitivity of the Norquist/Eyman troops that we face. Senator Fraser, keep your eye on the prize, the goals, values, and the opportunities that exist each and every moment in our personal and private lives. You will feel better, you will govern better if you will stop thinking about the other side’s agenda and start thinking and talking our progressive agenda. Everything develops from that. Try not thinking of elephants. Let’s think/talk about the Washington Investment Trust. Let’s talk about the constitutional requirement to adequately fund education, let’s talk about the personal, moral commitment to create a society where a poor, disabled person can rely on the community, on State government to provide subsistence levels of support. Keep your eye on the prize.

We are sending up a team of folks who are thinking “don’t strike out.” Come on. This is not rocket science. We understand that the struggle is difficult, but the folks who represent progressive public policy have to show up and show a little grit.

Representative Hunt took a couple of minutes to describe the three budgets that actually exist in State government. There is an operational budget – the budget for services, salaries for State employees, etc. There is a capital budget – the budget for buildings, schools, etc. – that can raise revenue from bonds. And there is the transportation budget that is funded from gas taxes primarily. The struggle is over the operational budget. This may be self-evident to state policy wonks, legislators and citizen activists, but is less well-understood by the citizenry, so I guess it makes sense for Mr. Hunt to go over that and to have it repeated.

Sam Hunt also reminded us that WA State has been given a 10th Federal legislative district because of population growth. Our state government budget has been shrinking as our population has been rising. These two trends are out of synch. Population equals demand for State services and the budget is inexorably linked to the demand for state services. It doesn’t matter if you are thinking about public education, Department of Revenue, or folks behind the counter when you need a driver’s license, population equals demand for State services and that requires money. Instead we are looking at State government receiving a 40 year low in tax revenue as a percentage of GDP.

I am out of time and energy for this discussion this morning, but I want to come back and tell you about the budget proposal that Rep. Reykdal described to the group. It was the brightest moment in the discussion for me. I have saved it for last. I will be back to tell you about that very soon. It is time for the dog to wag the tail folks. I have had enough of the other approach. I hope we all have had enough of that. It is time to talk about what we have to do to maintain the kind of society that we value. Let’s talk about our values, our goals. Let’s commit to passing progressive legislation and establishing progressive public policy.