Archive for 2012



Orly Channels King Arthur as Brad’s Mom Vanishes

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Amid the 713 must-read web sites Calbuzz reviews before hauling our Pilates-ripped glutes out of the sack 30 or 40 minutes after noon each day, only about 92% are more valuable in honing our prudent judgments and ADD-riddled focus than Wonkette.

Despite its unfortunate founding by the repulsive Nick Denton, and its disconcerting if discerning discussions about the intersection of politics, gin and anal sex, the site is the hands-down winner of this week’s Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry for scooping the world, not to mention the entire California press corps, with its exclusive report on a spectacular new web ad produced by the Orly Taitz for U.S. Senate campaign.

As loyal readers know, the cognoscenti smart money is on the Moldavian Mad Hatter to capture the second place slot in the wide-open primary for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat and swoop into a mano a mano one-on-one general election showdown with Herself.

The widely known leader of the responsible birther/dentist community may not be every Republican’s glass of raichu, of course. But CalWatchdog, our fourth favorite conservative web site, did an estimable job this week of reaching out to Republican Senate wannabes, of whom there are 14 (!), and found that the biggest beef among most of them is not with Orly, but with the California Republican Party putting the fix in for endorsed candidate Elizabeth Emken. But we digress.

After viewing the new Taitz for Senate spot, it’s hard to pick our favorite part: Orly calling herself “the Energizer bunny on steroids?” The photo of the Auschwitz  ovens to illustrate her view of the Obama Administration’s economic policies? The photos of Difi and Nancy Pelosi with bug eyes big enough to cast them as aliens in “Men in Black 3”? The tried and true dental lab coat shot? Her eyes peeking out of the helmet of a full suit of armor as she’s identified as “Warrior”? Misspelling the word “deprivation”?

Sigh. So many images, so little time.

WAIT first here is a preview, or more of a WARNING, that Dianne Feinstein will jump out at you like a squirrely hobbit…

Is this perhaps a new record for most themes covered in a single campaign ad? … Oh dear we are giggling, it’s like Orly Taitz has found out how to make the laughing gas contagious through the computer screen, it is MAGIC.

In other news, Nate Silver has moved the Feinstein seat from “likely Democrat” to “safe Democrat.”

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Goyim, choo-choos and Brad: Over at LA Observed, our friend Kevin Roderick posted an intriguing item showing two mailers from the Brad Sherman for congress campaign, one that included Brad’s mother, Lane, and the other without her. According to our sources in the district — where Sherman is battling Israel’s favorite Howard Berman — the mailer with mom went to Jewish voters and the one without mom went to the goyim.

Oy.

This  brought to mind vivid memories of an event near the end of the 1990 governor’s race, when Sherman rode along on Democratic nominee Feinstein’s whistle-stop campaign train tour of the Central Valley. Then a candidate for the Board of Equalization, Brad was hanging around, pestering reporters and generally encroaching on everyone’s personal space. As he is wont to do.

While the rest of the pols on the train stayed up in the car carrying DiFi and her entourage, Sherman trolled the press car, rather desperately seeking attention. So clingy and annoying did Sherman become, that the ink stain wretch crowd, trying to write their stories before adjourning to the bar car, became fairly exasperated.

On appeal from his colleagues, one scurrilous reporter (we name no names) approached the conductor and asked him to page Sherman. Moments later, over the train’s loudspeaker, came the announcement: “Brad Sherman, your mother is calling.”

Sherman raced out of the press car, whereupon the door was locked behind him, bringing to a swift end his close encounter with the assembled news media. Until the next stop, when Sherman confronted the by-now heroic reporter, wagged a finger at his face, and informed him that he had been scared nearly to death because his mother was advancing Brad’s journey by car along the train route and he thought something terrible had happened to her.

We criticize ourselves severely.

Since then, we understand, Lane Sherman has been Brad’s constant volunteer campaign go-getter. So it made perfect sense that when he put together a flyer with a family photo, that mom should be included. And she is – but only in the mailer aimed at Jewish voters. For the gentiles – poof – mom’s been Photoshopped out. (HT to Charles Mathesian at Politico for also noting that the Jews-only mailer includes a shot of Brad with Benjamin Netanyahu.)

Not only is this insulting to the very ideals of motherhood, Jewish and otherwise. It’s just plain odd, too.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Is that a piece of granite in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

 Must read of the week: Conventional Wisdom Cult punishes chief purveyor of Conventional Wisdom for departing from Conventional Wisdom.

Takedown of the week: Michael Hiltzik levels David Gregory for slobbering all over Jamie Dimon.

ICYMI: Kickoff of Santorum ’16 campaign.

Calbuzz Classics: How to Think About Budget Mess

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Watching the sad spectacle of Governor Gandalf yet again expounding on California’s budget horrors Monday was like going to see one of those dreadful,  anemic sequels to a long-ago tapped-out blockbuster franchise.

“Jaws 5: Devouring the Poor,” maybe, or “Die Hard Drowning in Red Ink” or even, “Groundhog Day 2: Punxsutawney Phil’s May Revise.”

The only thing worse was reading the inane Back East commentary, written by the usual assortment of Romney-sniffing blowhards, ill-informed thumbsuckers and right-wing mantra-chanters whose knowledge and understanding of California politics seems proscribed by the collected rantings of Flashreport freelancers and the world’s shortest book, viz. The Wit and Wisdom of Jon Coupal.

By far the day’s dumbest offering was submitted by the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn, who must have spent at least 10 or 15 minutes after lunch coughing up his hairball analysis comparing Jerry Brown to Chris “Two Man” Christie without mentioning what you might call some of your Key Differences between California and New Jersey like, oh say Prop. 13, Prop. 98 or the two-thirds vote. But we digress.

The funniest comment came from the governor his own self, who put a new entry into Krusty’s Collected Coinages by characterizing the maze of interlocking and convoluted political and financial entanglements that define the chronic budget mess as “a pretzel palace of incredible complexity.”

Spurred by that fine phrase, utterly exhausted by watching the wheezy old Lakers vainly try to run with the OKC Thunder and certain that, as past is prologue,  everything worth saying about the budget plague has long ago been said, we burrowed deeply into our incomparable Dustbin of History Archive, returning to the surface with three Calbuzz Classics that frame the issue for all time:

Why California is still broke(n). Once upon a time, before anyone had heard of Tanning Mom, Instagram or Dubstep, we proved with geometric logic that the state’s fiscal woes, far more than a simple matter of budgetary arithmetic, in fact result from a confluence of mind-numbing political calculus.

Since then, some incremental progress has been made in addressing the utterly dysfunctional structure of state government, most notably the terrific job done by the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission and the electorate’s willingness to throw down a bet on the new top-two primary system as a way to send at least a few more pragmatic pols and a few less ideological hacks to the swampland of Sacramento. Sadly, the bottom line remains the same:

As state and local officials struggle to weather a fiscal crisis that threatens to drive California into insolvency, they wield power with the damaged machinery of a patchwork government system that lacks accountability, encourages stalemate and drifts but cannot be steered.

In this system, elected leaders carry responsibility, but not authority, for far-reaching policies about public revenues and resources. That’s not governance — it’s reactive management of a deeply flawed status quo.

The Death of Compromise. In contrast to their hero Ronald Reagan, today’s Sacramento Republicans reject the very notion of compromise and good-faith negotiations in politics, as shown by their hold-our-breath-til-we-turn-blue act last year, when they refused to let California voters decide whether to raise taxes on themselves, a move that likely would have eased the impact of the financial train wreck now unfolding in the Capitol:

Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.

Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.

Oh never mind.

Friends make the worst enemies. Of all the budgetary idiocy that’s unfolded since Gandalf took office, not least of it the Department of Finance’s blue-sky, rosy scenario revenue projections last summer, the single lamest move may be the legislative leadership’s delay of previously agreed-to cuts that made the current awful problem worse, a shining example of a political dynamic we described with a major assist from Calbuzz Poet Laureate William Butler Yeats.

But for a governor of California in recent years – at least since the days of Pete Wilson and Willie Brown, when leaders had power and deals could be made and enforced — finding that one’s most difficult challenge is the opposition party is actually an anomaly. For Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger — and this year Jerry Brown — the most debilitating opposition force in Sacramento is the extreme wing of his own party…

Jerry Brown is a centrist. Like Wilson, Davis, Schwarzenegger, he is trying to hold the center while those filled with passionate intensity flap and swirl around him. It is no service to the civic good for those on his left to set loose mere anarchy…

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Amen.

CA Forward Reformers Sail Into the Perfect Storm

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The party line says California Forward is sailing steadily towards approval of its bipartisan reform agenda for repairing state government, either with a ballot initiative or through a legislative substitute that would satisfy critics on the left and right.

Behind the scenes, however, the group is as broken as the system it proposes to fix.

California Forward last week submitted its signatures for a six-part reform measure on the November ballot. But the proposal, as it stands, is a dead duck: it contains two elements that are toxic to key players among labor, environmentalists, local government and some anti-tax groups. These are what are known as the “pay-go” and “community action plans” provisions.

Whether a function of members’ hubris, slack internal accountability or outsiders’ sudden realization (including the governor’s) that the group’s measure was actually going to make the ballot, California Forward’s “Government Performance and Accountability Act” has run into a perfect storm of opposition. And their one guy who’s supposed to be negotiating with the legislature – former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg — has gotten nowhere.

High-class investigative reporting: On a conference call last week, one member suggested they simply fold their tent right now and accept some short-term embarrassment (but retain a potential future) rather than dragging out the inevitable, which would translate into greater, agonizing humiliation and a widespread conviction that bipartisan reform is simply unattainable.

One Democrat* and two Republicans have already resigned while others are on the verge, another member with ties to Silicon Valley money has said he won’t raise a dime for the measure, and several members have said they’ve been cut out of the decision-making loop by campaign co-chair Sunne Wright McPeak.

Despite some quibbling with specific language, few players in Sacramento have much problem with the portions of California Forward’s measure that would institute performance-based budgeting, a two-year budget, a three-day/72-hour requirement for language of new legislation or creation of a rainy-day fund.

“Pay-go” is another story. Under this provision, in California Forward’s words, “Lawmakers should be required to identify ways to pay for major policy choices, rather than putting all programs at risk of being cut in future years. The proposal requires major new programs and tax cuts costing $25 million or more to have a clearly identified funding source before they are enacted.”

That sounds good on the surface, but labor, social service advocates and others are concerned that because it takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise a tax or a fee this would essentially constitute a spending cap and could prevent what they see as needed new programs or stifle spending to restore previous cutbacks.

And environmentalists, in particular, are concerned about the measure’s “Community Strategic Action Plans” which would give local governments the ability to re-allocate local sales and property taxes to fund locally tailored plans to accomplish goals set by the legislature. The concern: that certain local communities would violate the California Environmental Quality Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Act – all in the name of local cost effectiveness.

Some taxpayer groups also are worried that a vote on a spending cap, scheduled for 2012, could get moved back to 2014, and that “pay-go” might also interfere with proposals to cut taxes.

Sunne’s paid posse: After about two years of meeting with every constituency known to man and getting little negative feedback, California Forward began hearing objections as their measure was about to qualify for the ballot and, perhaps co-incidentally, after Gov. Jerry Brown’s people made it know they didn’t want another measure on the ballot competing for voters’ attentions with his own proposal to raise income and sales taxes.

Although they had voted at a meeting in Los Angeles to turn in most – but not all – of their signatures, in hopes that Hertzberg could work out a deal with the legislature to put a measure on the ballot containing only the four widely accepted provisions, McPeak, on advice from her paid consultants (especially Mike Madrid), decided to override that vote and submit all their signatures last week.

Too late to take back the two provisions they now wish they’d never included.

Said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the California Forward Action Fund:

Today [last week], the remaining signatures will be filed to qualify the Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA) for the November 2012 ballot.  With the pending submission of other statewide initiatives, we are compelled to act to ensure timely compliance with Secretary of State requirements for signature verification.

In the spirit of compromise, we are committed to continuing negotiations with legislative leadership to provide a substitute initiative that includes California Forward’s core reforms, and puts off for another day the “Pay-Go” and “Local Strategic Action Plan” elements. While our research shows that all of the elements in the GPAA enjoy more than 80% of voter support, disagreements continue to exist on some elements of the initiative among important constituencies in California.

To be clear, we have provided the specific provisions of our reform effort that California Forward would agree to as part of a substitute initiative that can be placed on the ballot by a 2/3 vote of the legislature.

The critical elements of our budget reform measure must include:

1. Moving to a two-year state budget cycle.
2. Instituting performance-based budgeting for state and local governments.
3. Reviewing state programs through legislative oversight.
4. Ensuring greater transparency of legislation prior to approval.

We will continue our conversations with state leaders throughout the process.

Bottom line: In other words, California Forward realizes they went too far with their measure and now would like a do-over. But why anyone in the legislature would now negotiate with California Forward is unclear: they played their hand, players are leaving the table with their chips and they’re left holding a four-card flush.

*Another Democrat resigned Monday.