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Archive for 2009



Ask Dr. Hackenflack: The May 19 Special Election

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

As a public service and sparing no cost, calbuzz has hired the renowned political psychologist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, to offer counseling to those afflicted by California’s political system. Not surprisingly, we have received a batch of letters from people suffering ailments after reading the voter guide to the May 19 special election.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Debra Bowen wrote in the official election guide that “voting is easy.” But when I read the analysis of Prop. 1A, my colon locked up and my eyes crossed and got stuck. What should I do?
– Earnest in Eagle Lake
Google “Garamendi for Governor,” click on “latest video” and watch it at full volume. Your colon will unlock nicely and your eyeballs will roll back in your head.

Dear Doctor,
I’m employed at a big casino in Las Vegas, and have been assigned to set the line on the $5 billion being borrowed from the lottery if Prop. 1C passes. What are the odds of that happening?
– Stayin’ in Vegas
Slightly less than the chances of Arnold spending two consecutive nights in Sacramento.

Hey Doc,
Someone told me that if Prop. 1B wins, and Prop. 1A loses, then Prop. 1B loses. Wussup with that?
– Overtaxed in Temecula
It doesn’t matter. CTA and their consultants get all the money anyway.

Sir,
I keep hearing about the “rainy day fund.” What happens to all that money if the drought keeps up?
– MWD, Chinatown
Not to worry. Bill Lockyer is working on a deal to insure California with AIG.

Dear P.J.,
A friend says that if Prop. 1E is defeated, little kids all over the state won’t have anywhere to go to pre-school. What is the Republican plan for dealing with that?
– Sob Sister, West L.A.
Build more prisons.

Dear Dr. H,
I work in the Legislative Analyst’s office and wrote this about the fiscal impact of Prop 1A:
“Some of these factors would make it easier to balance the state budget in the coming years. Other factors could it make more difficult. The net result of these factors is difficult to determine in any particular year.”
My question is: do you think I can get a job in newspapers?
– Capitol cubicle dweller
Definitely – you have a bright future as an editorial writer, probably at the SF Chronicle.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Can you tell me what happens if voters turn down the revenue requests in Props. 1C, 1D and 1E?
– Tom in Campbell
Everybody in SEIU will eat communally out of Maria’s vegetable garden.

Dear Dr. H,
Prop. 1D is called “Protects Children’s Services Funding.” But it seems like it actually takes money away from children’s services. Can you help me understand this?
– Disoriented in Chico.
Stop reading immediately. Dick Riordan was the last person to read Prop. 1D, and it caused his head to explode.

Doctor,
I have a choice between reading the ballot handbook and “Rememberance of Things Past.” What should I do?
– Marcel from Cucamonga
Go with the Proust – it won’t take as long.

Dear Dr. HF,
I’ve read everything I can find about the election and I still feel like I don’t understand. What more can I do?
– Garry from Arnold
Call Debra Bowen at home.

Another View of DiFi’s Stand on Labor’s Top Issue

Monday, March 30th, 2009

We argued here two weeks ago that Dianne Feinstein will not run for governor of California in 2010 — although that’s the job she’s always wanted most — because she has such key roles in the U.S. Senate, would have to fight through nasty primary and general elections, would expose her husband’s business deals to opposition research and because, at this late stage in her life, wrangling the legislative gnomes in Sacramento would be incredibly distasteful to her.

But if you want to read a pretty good counter-argument about why Dianne might run, read Nate Silver’s take at fivethirtyeight.com. Nate is a brilliant guy whose mathematical analysis of polling data during the 2008 presidential election was extraordinarily accurate. He sees Feinstein’s stand against the Employee Free Choice Act — labor’s No. 1 issue before Congress — as an indication that she IS running.

Now Nate’s not an expert in California politics and there are some weaknesses in his argument. — like the fact that were Feinstein to run, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom would get out which might leave labor to rally around Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (a former labor leader himself), Attorney General Jerry Brown or another candidate. So labor might not be as divided as Nate suggests. And yes, Feinstein’s stand might help her suck up corporate contributions for the general. But she’d do that anyway and it still would not be as much as Republicans Meg Whitman, the former EBay CEO, or Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, could throw at the race.

Still, Nate’s analysis is worth a read. You can find it here.

Dan Schnur: Calbuzzer Tells Secret To Passing Prop 1A

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to pass a ballot initiative that raises taxes and limits state spending. It is opposed by most of the state’s taxpayer groups, almost all grassroots conservative organizations, and several labor unions. It is linked with no fewer than four other ballot measures, none of which currently enjoys majority support in public opinion polling. Oh yes, the initiative’s most notable proponent has an approval rating of less
than 40 percent. Best of luck . . .

By Calbuzzer Dan Schnur

Actually, passing Proposition 1A on the May 19 special election ballot is not quite the Mission Improbable suggested above. While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poll numbers have taken a nasty hit during the recent budget crisis and economic meltdown, voters tend to warm to him considerably when they see him reaching across party lines. Schwarzenegger not only has the support of most of the state’s leading Democrats, but the initiative package was designed specifically to lessen the likelihood of opposition from the California Teachers Association.

And while other unions have come out against the initiatives, the deep-pocketed CTA’s endorsement of 1A almost eliminates the likelihood of significant funding for an opposition campaign. Add the support of the state Chamber of Commerce, and odds are that the initiative committee will have a huge financial advantage during an extremely short and intense campaign. Conservative opponents bring plenty of populist passion to the other side, but without lots of union money to run a “no” campaign, that passion is going to be hard for voters to hear over the advertising onslaught that Schwarzenegger and his allies will be able to buy.

A sizable check from either GOP gubernatorial candidates Steve Poizner or Meg Whitman looks like the last, best hope for the opposition, but neither Poizner nor Whitman has yet indicated a willingness to write one.

But all the money in the world doesn’t go very far without a message. So how does an unpopular governor pass an even less popular initiative? Answer: Keep Arnold out of the ads and let everyday Californians warn about what happens if the initiative package doesn’t pass. Closing prisons, shutting down hospitals, burning schoolchildren at the stake – all of these horrors and worse await Californians who defeat Props 1A and the others. Throw in a direct mail campaign to Republicans setting off alarms for massive tax increases and you’ve got the level of fear it might take to bring the initiatives across the finish line.

Lastly, and most importantly, this positions a campaign sponsored by the governor and three of the state’s leading legislators to be directed against the political establishment. “This is your chance to fix the mess that the politicians got us into. Send them a message that if they won’t do the right thing for California, we will.”

Could the opponents point out that the campaign against the politicians is being run by… politicians? Sure, if they had the money to make the case. But with seven weeks until Election Day, it’s increasingly unlikely that the money’s going to be there.

Dan Schnur is director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and was a senior communications adviser to John McCain and Pete Wilson.