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Archive for 2011



Berkeley Gov Panel Outrage; Brown’s Bitter Medicine

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The Calbuzz State, National, International, Global and Intergalactic Desks will be attending the quadrennial governor’s race post-mortem sponsored by the august Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley Jan. 21-22. We’ve already noted our disappointment and disgust that no one from eMeg Whitman’s loser campaign has accepted an invitation to attend what has always been an informative conference.

Now we are incredulous that the head of the program, Ethan Rarick, chose not to invite either the chief strategist or the campaign manager for Gavin Newsom’s bid for governor to the upcoming conference. Nor has he included on the panels anyone from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News or the Associated Press. Not to mention Calitics or Flash Report or any other on-line media outlet.

Rarick insists he did what IGS has always done – allowed the campaigns to pick their spokespeople. But in a Nov. 18 email to strategist Garry South – who was the key player in the Newsom campaign for governor for 15 months – he said, “After some consideration, I decided not to put you on the panel representing Newsom since you went on to run a competing campaign against Newsom, and therefore I think you cannot really represent the Newsom viewpoint.”

Which is bullshit, since Newsom dropped out of the governor’s race in October, South joined Janice Hahn’s campaign for lite gov in December, and Newsom didn’t jump into the LG’s race until mid-March. Nor does it explain why he didn’t invite Nick Clemons, the Newsom campaign’s day-to-day manager and former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party who ran five successful state campaigns for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Rarick said he spoke to Newsom “through an intermediary” who said the former SF Mayor wanted Peter Ragone, who was an unpaid communications adviser to the campaign, to represent him. We have nothing against Peter. He’s a friend. But he wasn’t in the daily nitty-gritty of the campaign and we suspect can’t really add much to the historical record – which is what the IGS post-mortem is supposed to be all about. (See Rarick, E, “California Votes.”)

Rarick also chose four journalists to moderate panels – three from the By God (“maybe they’ll subsidize us”) Los Angeles Times,  two of whom (both from the Times) didn’t actually, you know, cover the campaign, leaving out of the mix people like Carla Marinucci, Joe Garafoli, Jack Chang, Juliet Williams, Judy Lin, Ken McLaughlin, Steve Harmon and others who labored day-in and day-out to keep California informed.

When we told Rarick that some reporters who busted their asses covering the campaign were insulted that they’d been stepped over, Rarick told us, “If they’re offended or insulted I’m sorry, but I’m not terribly concerned if they feel insulted.”

Interestingly, after we got off the phone with Rarick, we got a call from our old friend Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors of Sacramento and Chairman of the IGS National Advisory Council – the program’s chief fundraiser.

He wondered why we’d been beating up on poor Ethan on the phone. We explained why, in a perhaps intemperate voice in which the words “craven” and “boot-licking” may have been uttered.

But when we asked Darius why Rarick had said he’d been the one who decided not to invite South or why Clemons hadn’t been asked to participate, Anderson asked: “Do you think it would be smart to piss off a member of the Board of Regents?”

Ah, ha. So when Rarick wrote in his book on the 2006 post-mortem that “the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns,” he forgot to add, “unless they piss off a Regent, in which case we redact them.”

Take that, California! Tom Meyer’s instantly iconic image of the supersized suppository Jerry Brown believes will cure what ails state finances provides a clear and unflinching look at the challenge the new/old governor faces in ramming his fiscal fix through the body politic.

The half-cuts, half taxes prescription that Dr. Silver Fox is offering is already drawing shrieks of terror, both from goofballs on the left and nitwits on the right, not to mention newly-minted solons whose goo-goo concerns about the realignment of state and local government responsibilities apparently keep them awake nights, or OCD-crazed process junkies who insist nothing in the Capitol can be done in ONLY SIX WEEKS!

Amid all the predictable grievance-peddling, umbrage-taking and bumper strip sloganeering that has greeted Brown’s presentation of the first honest budget in memory, none rankles more than the cuckoo caucus’s insistence that California voters do not deserve the right to decide for themselves whether or not to raise their own taxes.

Thus, a surly collection of Howard Jarvis fetishists, union bashers and gold standard crackpots summoned the press this week to hurl mighty oaths and cheap threats at any Republican lawmaker who might dare think about casting a procedural vote to put Brown’s plan on the ballot:

“From the perspective of taxpayers, any official who supports placing a tax increase on the ballot is expressly supporting that tax increase,” said their statement.

With all due respect to the ringleaders of this ragtag outfit, our friends Jon Fleischman and Jon Coupal, who elected you guys to anything? (Come to think of it, Fleischman was elected as the state GOP’s Chief Deputy Undercommisar for Enforcement of Non-Deviationist Thinking, but that doesn’t really go to our point).

Do you honestly believe that people aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves what’s in their best interest? Or is it just that you live in mortal fear of what they might say? Hmmm?

Press Clip:  Moments after Calbuzz finally received in the mail the handsome fake gold tie clasps commemorating our capture of Second Place in the 2010 Best Correction sweepstakes, word reached here that our chances of repeating in 2011 already are at huge risk.

Seems that self-styled media critic Howard Kurtz, who’s trying to reinvent himself as a cool new media guy after spending a couple centuries at the WashPost, has not only committed a boner for the ages, but also covered it up for six weeks, then promptly tried to pin the blame on someone else.

As first reported at Gawker, Howie the Putz last November churned out a beastly post about California Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP’s Torquemada, and his plans to re-institute the Inquisition on Capitol Hill. The piece was based on a rather long telephone interview with Issa.

Except it wasn’t.

Turns out that during his no doubt probing interview, Howie was actually talking to, um,  Issa’s flak. A small factoid that Kurtz chose not to share with his readers for over a month, before he assured them it wasn’t his fault anyway. Exactly the kind of top-drawer ethical journalism that we’ve come to expect from this fraud.

Jason Linkins at Huffpo has the best take.

Block that Dick: Now that Obama’s enjoying a little uptick in the polls, we’re betting the White House staff redoubles their efforts to keep him off the phone for any locker room calls he’s inclined to make during this weekend’s NFL divisional round.

Obama stepped in it a few weeks back, when he rang up the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to congratulate him for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance, after Vick’s imprisonment for canine serial killing, a bonehead move that earned the president the wrath of pooch lovers across the political spectrum.

Tevi Troy now provides full context for the misstep, in a lovely little piece recounting the many problems presidents have had with football through the ages:

Even back in the 1920s, when gridiron great Red Grange visited the White House, the laconic Calvin Coolidge bizarrely said “Nice to meet you, young man. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” But Coolidge’s comment was relatively harmless to his presidency. Other presidents have made enough mistakes on football to populate an entire blooper bowl, particularly Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s poor judgment in sending failed football plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen prompted the columnist Art Buchwald to write “If George Allen doesn’t accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football’s greatest coaches.”

And in 1969, Nixon handed University of Texas coach Darrell Royal a plaque after his team defeated Arkansas and completed an undefeated season. The problem was that Penn State also went undefeated that season, and the national title, which was decided by the AP and UPI polls in those pre-BCS days, went to the Longhorns. Penn State fans have forever blamed Nixon for Texas finishing No. 1 that year. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was so bitter that, years later, he publicly wondered, “How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?”

Calbuzz picks: Take the points and Ravens, Packers & Seahawks, give the points and take the Pats.

Press Clips: Early Props for Shane, Lucas & Siders

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Just as ambitious professional pols, flacks and wonks climb and clamber over each other for the chance to get hired up by a newly-elected governor, so too do nosy, pushy media types compete for position on the inside track.

For every grubby consultant or policy propeller head who sees himself as a future Karl Rove or the next Austin Goolsbee, there’s an ill-clad foot soldier in the daily war of words whose assignment to cover the new guy from Day One offers a fresh-as-spring-training opportunity to shine.

Working in the spotlight dawn of a nationally watched, nascent administration provides ink-stained types a rare promise of twinkling career possibilities, from book contracts (see: Cannon, Lou) to national TV gigs (“As you know, Rachel, there are many Jerry Browns”), perhaps even a prominent plug on Calbuzz itself (plenty of free parking!)

So it is that our Department of Media Communications and Clip Job Commentary has kept a close eye on  news coverage of the first days of Jerry Brown III. We’re watchful for potential signs of breakout media stardom among the pack of hacks who churn out the daily grind of reportage on all the twists, turns and incremental developments that shape the narratives about the 72-year old Silver Fox (here’s hoping they remember the Little People they met on the way up).

Welcome Budgeteers! To date among this lustrous field, we tip our fedoras to the energetic Shane Goldmacher of the LAT, who’s so far had the best inside pipeline and strongest reporting on Brown’s budget strategy, the only story that matters right now, and a yarn to which Chronicler-turned-blogger Greg Lucas has  added his considerable institutional knowledge and insight.

Lucas racked up a series of Hardest-Workin’-Man-in-Show Business awards in his salad days, and so hardly qualifies as a callow youth; truth be told, he’s approaching full geezerdom at an ever-accelerating rate. Still, his new gig as a regular commentator at Capitol Weekly, which complements his regular postings at California’s Capitol, seems to have brightened his scribbling style and infused him with a spurt, if not a full-flowing fountain, of youthful energy, viz. his recent Sally Quinn-like takeout on how Brown’s ascendance and Arnold’s departure are changing the social culture of Sacramento:

On the most superficial level, one obvious thing that’s vanished from the corner office in 2011 is hair. Burnt Sienna. Brooding mahogany. All gone. Less is more. Bald is beautiful. What other reason explains John Laird being named resources cabinet secretary?

Cowboy boots. Mood rings. Designer suits. All gone….

Governor’s office staff also appears to be out. Particularly videographers. Didn’t have those in the ’70s, why would they be needed now? Also out: human resources personnel. Apparently the 39th governor will just pop by the Office Max on 17th and J Street on his way into work to buy pencils and carbon paper….

Schnitzel is yesterday. Now it’s organic greens, usually eaten off someone else’s plate. Bean dip. Mexican food. Mom-and-pop Asian joints. Lazy Susan’s – makes it easier to get at other people’s food – are all also in the ascendancy.

Cigar smoking? Not so much. Smoking Tent? Hasta la vista.

Hummers and SUVs. Think Crown Victoria….

Hollywood stars – including Oprah and Jay Leno – are also history. Policy wonks now rule. St. Ignatius and Josiah Royce rock way harder than Wag Bennett and Danny DeVito. Treadmills trump free weights. Didactics over sound bites. Improvisation over intricately crafted production…

Also on the outs, at least at the moment, are tweets, press releases and the governor’s official website. Perhaps, as Brown famously said, he simply prefers to wait for “reality to emerge.”

Mr. Fly-on-the-Wall: For our money, though, the media MVP of the early going has been the indefatigable David Siders of the Bee, who’s provided a flurry of print and online pieces, the best of which embroider solid policy reporting with little gems of observed detail which reflect a well-developed eye for the absurd,  crucial to giving readers a full look at the whimsical singularity of Jerry Brown.

Out of the gate, Siders stomped the competition in owning the story about  Sutter the Corgi, Tryout First Canine of the First Couple; among other things the scoop artist got himself in position on inauguration night to capture this Jerry-being-Jerry bit:

Late Monday night, long after his inauguration was done and the parties died down, Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, were together on the sidewalk outside their downtown loft.

They were walking a Corgi dog belonging to Brown’s sister, which Gust-Brown called “cute,” and Brown called “half a rat.”

The remark was likely meant warmly. Hours earlier, an aide walking out of a post-inauguration reception inside the horseshoe was heard on a cell phone saying, “Jerry wants to know if there is anyone in his building who can get in to walk his dog. Is there anyone there who can do that?”

Despite his late night exertions, Siders was the first man on the scene at the governor’s office the next morning, turning out even before semi-chief-of-staff Jim Humes showed up at 7:30 a.m.

So by the time the governor himself showed up, Siders was well positioned to quiz Krusty on the burning question of what he planned to do with Arnold’s abandoned 800-lb bronze bear, and to record for posterity his you-kids-get-off-my-lawn reaction:

Brown: “What do you think we should do with it?”

Reporter: “Let kids climb on it.”

Brown: “Do we let kids climb on this? I don’t think this is too fun. That’s something we’re going to work on in the next few days.”

Pinocchio’s burrito: Siders also was first to figure out how to report responsibly the tricky story that Brown has ordered the size of his security detail reduced, something insiders had whispered about for several days but nobody had written.

He got the story the old-fashioned way: he asked the governor directly. Brown immediately confirmed the new policy, giving Siders a memorable  on-point quote that summed up the whole People’s Governor approach that instantly changed the atmosphere of the Capitol.

“I don’t like a lot of entourage,” said Brown, who was walking downstairs at the Capitol for a burrito..

The burrito also figured in a telling little vignette that Siders witnessed by again being in the right place at the right time:

Brown, heading downstairs to the basement cafeteria this afternoon for a rice, cheese and bean burrito, was met in the hallway by Visalia tourists Berta Mendez-Perez and Jose Perez and their children Sofia, 5; Diego, 8; and Alexandra, 10.

“We voted for you,” Mendez-Perez said.

Brown asked the children, “Did you follow the campaign?”

Alexandra nodded.

“You saw the TV commercials?” Brown asked.

They did.

“Did you see the one with the nose growing?” Brown said. “Her nose started growing because she wasn’t telling the truth. Your nose will grow, too, if you don’t tell the truth.”

And stay off my lawn, too.

Cacophony of Whining; Still Computing Latino Votes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

So much for Josiah Royce.

It was barely a week ago that Jerry Brown delivered a terrific inaugural address in which he cited the “philosophy of loyalty” propounded by Royce, a California pioneer sage, and called for a new era in our troubled state, shaped by communitarian shared sacrifice.

“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our heart and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” Brown said.

His speech won widespread kudos, from the bar stools of Sacramento saloons to the editorial pages of newspapers around the state, for its inspiring tone, its commonsense ideas and its urgent call for an end to the brain-dead politics of  rote partisanship and polarization.

But all the expressions of earnest and emotional admiration for the values and principles declaimed by Brown evaporated in an instant on Tuesday, as pols and special interests across the spectrum started screaming to the heavens as soon as he released his budget plan.

As promised, Brown provided a full and honest accounting of the state’s budget woes, along with a smart and balanced plan for easing them, free of the  full menu of cheap tricks, phony fixes and fiscal sleights of hand employed for years to cover up the mess.

Turns out shared sacrifice means: You sacrifice and I’ll take what’s left.

From dawn to dusk on Tuesday, a cacophony of caterwauling assailed the Calbuzzer Gmailbox, as one lobbyist, elected hack and do-gooder after another urgently let us know that business owners/children/university professors/old folks/real estate developers/union workers/your constituency goes here were under attack, to the great peril of the very future of the republic.

It must be said that some level-headed lawmakers and groups evinced at least a modicum of open-mindedness and willingness to do their far share in their early responses to Brown’s proposal. But a leisurely stroll through the thick wad of budget reaction messages, aided by a splendid compendium assembled by the Sacbee’s resourceful Torey (The Tulip) Van Oot, disclosed that most of these special interest pleadings followed the same script:

1-An introductory lie claiming that the sender “understands the tough choices facing the administration.” (In some cases, they “appreciate” the aforementioned tough choices instead, an equivalent canard, given that they wouldn’t have sent the damn email if they actually did).

2-A follow-up, phony compliment for Brown, declaring that the governor  no doubt did his best under the circumstances (despite his total short-sightedness in not recognizing the over-arching importance of the constituency now seeking special attention).

3-A hyperbolic assertion that this constituency, unlike all others, is being unfairly picked upon and so must be spared the cavalier and benighted treatment that Brown, apparently unaware that this issue is of “the highest priority,” is attempting to deliver.

So UC President Mark Yudof solemnly pronounced it “a sad day for California,” while Lakesha Harris of AFSCME Local 32 called the plan “devastating to the workers we represent” and state schools chief  Tom Torlakson protested that, as schools are “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” the governor’s budget proposal “extends the financial emergency” facing education (never mind that K-12 was about the only area largely spared).

On the other side, the head of the California Redevelopment Association insisted Brown meant to “cripple the local economy in cities and counties statewide” because redevelopment boards might have to compete with local agencies for budget dollars, as Board of Eek member George Runner decried the proposed abolition of the “enterprise zone” business scam as “irresponsible” and newbie GOP state senator Doug LaMalfa worked himself into a full lather to thunder that Brown “must remove government’s boot heel from business’s throat.”

Sheesh.

Actually, LaMalfa’s over-the-top rhetoric captured the spirit of most Republican legislators, whose big contribution to the important budget debate is to sit around in a circle, beat the ground with sticks and endlessly chant “No taxes, no taxes,” in a manner that recalls nothing so much as Jack and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” tromping through the woods and shouting “Kill the pig. Slit her throat. Spill her blood.”

Hey, we understand that Republicans need to oppose taxes on general principle. But nobody’s asking them to support taxes – just to give the voters of California the right to make the decision about them. What’s the big problem here, fellas? Inquiring minds want to know.

People! Listen up! Yes, you’re getting screwed. No duh. So is everyone else. Know why? BECAUSE CALIFORNIA HAS A BUDGET DEFICIT THAT’S MORE THAN $25 BILLION! So take the hit and let voters have the final say about keeping the tax rates now in place. Otherwise, you might as well start packing your bags for Mississippi.

How many Latinos on the head of a pin: Figuring out how many Hispanics are registered to vote in California and how many actually voted in any particular election is about 95% science and 5% art. The data are not actually in the Secretary of State’s voter file but the science is simple: there are sophisticated name screeners that identify Spanish surnames and are sensitive enough to distinguish Latinos from Portuguese and Filipinos.

The art is fuzzier. For example, how or whether to count foreign-born voters – say those born in Mexico or Latin America but who do not have a Spanish surname — is a fair question about which pollsters, consultants and advocates may honestly disagree.

It doesn’t make a big difference – about 1% is all. But for those who are intensely interested, it matters.

Calbuzz was lucky enough the other day to receive from pollster Jim Moore the first analysis of the voter file from November 2010 that had been done by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems, one of the most respected voter file vendors in California. It showed that of 10,211,396 voters who cast ballots, 1,627,967 or 16% were cast by Hispanics – that is, those identified as Hispanic by a name screener.

Our Department of Weights, Measures and Obscurata thought it was important to make the data public as quickly as we could, in hopes of knocking down what appeared to be on its way to becoming myth: the incorrect assertion that 22% of the electorate had been Latinos, as found in the Edison Research exit poll that the networks and major news outlets had commissioned.

After our post appeared, however, consultant Richie Ross (who had written a piece for us citing the 22% figure in the exit poll) informed us that we’d been both right and wrong. The percentage of Latinos wasn’t 22%, he agreed – it was 17%.

How’d he come up with that? From an analysis of the voter file done by Political Data Inc. of Burbank, the fountain of all voter file data, that he’d asked for. It showed that of 10,237,578 voters who cast ballots, 1,634,244 or 16% were cast by Latinos – as identified by their name screener. But the number was 1,740,878 or 17% when taking into account those who were foreign-born but who had not been counted by the name screener.

So who’s right? First of all, according to the Secretary of State’s Statement of Vote, 10,300,392 voters cast ballots or voted by mail in the election. Both of the data vendors had vote totals less than 1% off from the official count. No problem there.

By counting foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener, the PDI total – 17% — takes into account the possibility of a Latina, born perhaps in Mexico, who is married to an Anglo and has taken his last name. (Like the wife of a consultant we know, for example.)

On the other hand, the name screener (which both systems employ) already takes into account a non-Spanish-surnamed woman who has taken the name of a Spanish-surnamed man to whom she is married. She’s counted as a Latina whether she is or not.

Since the name screener is common to both systems and computes the same result – 16% — and already is increased by women who take the Spanish surnames of their husbands, it seems to us that it risks over-counting Latinos to also add in the foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener.

Calbuzz — dancing, as we are, on the head of a pin — goes with 16%. (Until we hear a better argument.)

Myth Busting: Latino Vote, Independents, Prop 13

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Calbuzz is here to correct two important myths from the 2010 general election in California, before they are committed permanently to history and passed along ignorantly like the so-called “Bradley Effect” and other dunderhead theories:

1) Latinos did not constitute 22% of the electorate as reported by the Edison Research exit poll and blabbed along by those who would make the Latino vote look more important than it is (for the record, our two posted references to the 22 % factor, one from a guest columnist, the other a suggestion, are here and here). Latinos accounted for 16% of the vote*,  just as the better pollsters had predicted (and just 1-point lower than the LA Times/USC poll found after the fact).

2) “Independents” did not account for 27% of the voters, as reported by the exit poll and some pollsters (we name no names) who rely on party identification – a practice Calbuzz can’t fathom when party registration is available. Actual independents, that is, decline-to-state voters, accounted for 17% of the electorate.

These facts, part of the data pulled from the final voter file by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems of Sacramento*, are important because they demonstrate that Latinos were not driven to vote in historic numbers (although they apparently voted en masse for Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman), nor was there a surge (or depression) among independents.

The 2010 turnout in California was not a Democratic blow-out. Nor was there any important enthusiasm gap between the parties, as so many Republican operatives had predicted. In fact, the partisan composition of the 2010 general election was just about what you’d have expected if you had never listened to any of the self-proclaimed experts: 45% Democrat, 34% Republican and 17% independent (DTS).

Despite Mike Murphy’s predictions right up to election day, the Armies of eMeg produced no discernible bump in the GOP vote. Nor did the Democrats do much to goose the numbers. What they did do – and it was no mean feat – was get the Democrats, including Latinos, to vote heavily for the Democratic candidates.

Target mail may well have been a factor since an historic 51% of the vote was cast by mail – including 49% by those who are permanent absentee voters. And in case you were looking for some massive surge by youth, forget about it: 56% of the vote was cast by people age 50 and older while just 12% of the vote was cast by people age 18-29.

The fact that just 16%* of the electorate were Latinos does nothing to diminish their importance as a voting bloc. The fact remains that Meg Whitman, who lurched to the right on the issue of a “path to citizenship” during the GOP primary and who unceremoniously canned her Latino housekeeper, drove Latinos to Jerry Brown.

But it’s important to understand that while the Latino vote is growing in California, it still has a long way to go. The Giant is awake and pissed off at the Republicans, but it has yet to throw its weight around as it will some day.

About Proposition 13:  Calbuzz readers know that we have already laid out the Path to Normalization of the California budget in excruciating exactitude but when Anthony York of the By-God LA Times reported the other day that Jerry Brown “walked right up to the third rail of California politics,” we think some confusion may have been unleashed.

We weren’t there (what’s new) so we’re relying on York and others who reported that Silver Fox said, “Proposition 13, because it took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part, it sent the decisions up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that.”

What Brown (and Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg) are NOT talking about, it should be made clear, is fooling around with the property tax on homes as permanently reduced by Proposition 13 (although splitting off commercial and industrial property off for separate treatment might be in the mix).

Rather it sounds like they’re talking about giving cities, counties and school districts the ability to raise other kinds of taxes and/or bonds with a majority or 55% vote (as opposed to the 2/3 vote required by Proposition 13) to go along with taking over the responsibility for programs and services that have been paid for by the state since Proposition 13.

So note to Sacramento tax watchers: It’s highly unlikely that Brown and his allies would screw with the property tax. But they might well want to make it easier for local entities to raise taxes and bonds on their own for the services they want to deliver.

For a good wrap of Brown’s budget challenges and intentions, check Ken McLaughlin and Paul Rogers of the Murky News. And for a well-sourced look at what the governor is likely to unveil today, check out Shane Goldmacher’s lookforward in Sunday’s By-God LA Times.

And thanks to Calbuzzer Jay Johnson, who sent us this cool Photoshop of  Jerry and the upcoming budget.

So much for taking personal responsibility: While it may be over the top argue that Sarah Palin has “blood on her hands” in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona, it’s revolting to watch Palinistas try to wash their hands of any responsibility by declaring they’re shocked – shocked! – that anyone could even hint the slightest connection to the horror  and her frequent, reckless use of violent rhetoric and weaponry images.

For Palin’s mouthpiece to claim that the crosshairs icon the loudmouth demagogue slapped on Giffords’ district last fall was really an innocent  “surveyors’ symbol”  not only ignores Palin’s own description of it as a “bullseye” but more importantly ignores her history of smirking viciousness in suggesting that those who disagree with her deserve the same fate as the caribou she delights in slaughtering:

“Don’t retreat, reload,” indeed.

And while we’re at it, we have to note our disgust with Palin apologists like the smarmy twit Howard Kurtz of the Beastly Daily Beast, who seems utterly incapable of understanding that the atmosphere of violence promoted by Palin et. al. is not just a riff on standard political fare.

Howie the Genius apparently sees poor St. Sarah as a victim of a media drive-by: “One of the first to be dragged into this sickening ritual of guilt by association: Sarah Palin. . . . This kind of rhetoric is highly unfortunate. The use of the crosshairs was dumb. But it’s a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sickening, too.

* After this post appeared, a respected Sacramento consultant passed along to us counts made by Political Data Inc. which, by adding in about 140,000 foreign-born voters who apparently did not have Spanish surnames, would increase the total Latino vote to 17%. It’s possible also, as a friend from the LA Times suggested to us, that some Latino voters, like Latinas who have married and taken their husband’s non-Spanish name, might also have been under-counted. But this can’t add much to the total percentage of Latino voters.