Archive for the ‘California Budget’ Category



Calbuzz Classic: Mega Thanks From Your Turkeys

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Tom Meyer’s mandatory Thanksgiving turkey cartoon, featuring a big bird ogre whose cranium is festooned with hatchets, not only sheds a frightening bright light on the cartooning Calbuzzer’s just-below-the-surface sociopathic tendencies (which some day will likely result in us being quoted as telling some know-it-all, whippersnapper reporter that Meyer “was always a quiet loner”) but also offers a scary glimpse at the terrifying political threat that California’s  not-so-jolly giant budget deficit represents to Jerry Brown, who will have to  slay the awful monster if history is to judge as a success his gubernatorial second act.

And for those keeping score at home, that’s a crisp, three-year-old 100-word lede, three times as long as the traditional MSM  industry standard to which New Media over-the-hill guys thankfully no longer must adhere. But we digress.

Not since the Fifth Labor of Hercules, when another son of a famous political family was assigned to muck out the dung produced by a herd of immortal cows chewing their cuds in the Augean Stables, has a public figure faced such a daunting task as Brown. Even in a state familiar with chronic deficits — and with chronic, gimmick-laden “solutions” to them — the latest red ink estimate of $25.4 billion sent chills through denizens of the Capitol.

As a brilliant political analyst recently noted, Governor-elect Krusty will begin his term with policy options that are straitjacketed, both by a host of long-standing restrictions imposed by initiatives, and by a whole new batch of ballot measures just voted in by California’s have-it-both-ways voters – More services! Less taxes! – including Props 22, 24 and 26.

Add to that the disappearance of federal stimulus money, not to mention the pig-headed intransigence of Republicans to even rational new revenue ideas, and you’re left wondering why in the world Brown ever thought moving back to Sacramento would be a good idea at the ripe old age of 72.

During his campaign, Gandalf made few proposals to fix the budget, beyond a fuzzy promise to convene bipartisan kumbaya meetings, where sweet reason will allegedly replace the bitter ideological gridlock that grips the Capitol. Good luck with that.

“This will take all the know-how that I said I had,” Brown said the day after election, “and all the luck of the Irish as I go forward.” Indeed.

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Pilgrims rout Indians – lead series 2-1: As we approach the end of our second full year of publishing, our Department of Green Eyeshade Performance Based Measureables and Obscene Year-End Executive Bonuses reports that our page view total is certain to exceed the number of votes won by Meg Whitman.

Given that our little enterprise seems in much better shape than her out-of-business campaign, and that we’ve managed this feat by spending a teeny bit less on expenses than her, we feel entitled to celebrate by indulging ourselves in that hoariest of journalism practices – reprinting our annual Thanksgiving message to readers. Herewith a slightly updated version:

As Calbuzz joins in our annual national celebration of gratitude and gluttony, we recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous words of blessing for this special holiday:

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

With humble hearts and heaping helpings of snark, we want to thank the Calbuzz online community for all your support, encouragement, boorish comments and vicious critiques. We look forward to the next year, and hope you’ll stay with us for an exciting and entertaining ride with Gandalf  the Wizard, Prince Gavin, Lady Difi and all the other colorful characters who populate the ever-entertaining court of California politics.

Beyond that, we sincerely hope that on this joyous day, you’ll click on our ads a whole bunch of times, and that you won’t get a wishbone lodged in your throat while stuffing your pie hole. Also: take the Saints, give the points, and bet the under.

Our Department of Living History and Living Wills tells us that it was Abe Lincoln, not Miles Standish, who jump started this whole Thanksgiving thing.

Nonetheless, Calbuzzers of a certain age remember with fondness the Thanksgiving school pageants of years gone by, when pilgrim hats made of folded black construction paper oozed gooey globs of white paste at the seams, and Pocahontas was played by the smart girl in the front row who always had her hand up, and who ended up living in Newport Beach, botoxed to the max.

We leave you with our favorite commentary on that historic period, courtesy of Calbuzzer emeritus Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

Happy Turkey Day.

 

D.C. and Sacto: A Tale of Two Political Universes

Monday, April 11th, 2011

After speaking in Los Alamitos last weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown labeled as “pathetic” the last-minute deal on the federal budget that averted a government shutdown.

“You’re not the superpower of the world if you have to stay up half the night trying to make a few decisions over a fraction of your budget,” Brown said.

Krusty the Governor should know from pathetic: he’s surrounded by it in Sacramento. That’s not to mention what seems to have been his own feckless attempts to quietly persuade a handful of Republicans to do what they have no inclination to do: give voters the right to decide whether to extend some taxes instead of slashing another $15.4 billion from the California budget.

So now Brown is on a belated bully-pulpit tour of California, hoping to build pressure on Republicans to make a reasonable deal on the budget. “You got to wear people down,” Brown told reporters. “You have to persuade them, and you have to go out to as many parts of California to create the mood, the momentum, and the environment where people are ready to face the music.”

But even Gov. Gandalf now admits he’s facing dark forces that may be too strong for his wizardry.

“Getting some of these Republicans to let the people vote for taxes or cuts is like asking the pope to let Catholics vote on abortion,” he said. “Highly unlikely.”

Passive aggressive behavior: In Washington, House Republicans – who were in danger of over-reading their “mandate” – and Senate Democrats – who were in danger of placing their genitals in a mason jar – finally made a deal because not making a deal was seen by both sides as too politically perilous.

How that’s different from Sacramento is this: In Washington, the party leaders in Congress can actually make a deal because a) they want to, and b) they have the power.

In Sacramento, not only do the passive aggressive Republicans have no incentive to allow a vote on taxes – since the 2/3-vote requirement on taxes allows them to accomplish their goal by sitting on their hands – but their leaders have no power to make a deal.

This is something Calbuzz has hammered on for some time. As we explained back in July 2009:

The governor and the Legislature fulminate and flounder simply because no one in the Capitol in 2009 has the stature, clout or influence to cut a deal like Ronnie and Jesse or Pete and Willie once did.

Strip away all the policy wonkery, weed whacking and egghead analysis  and you find that a combination of term limits and politically-safe, gerrymandered legislative seats has created a political atmosphere in which every legislator is an army of one – and none of them fears the governor, the speaker or any other leader in the Legislature.

For the moment, the Democratic leaders appear to have a bit more sway over their members than the Republican leadership. But that too may disintegrate if Brown’s terms for a deal include a spending cap or pension reforms that the jefes in the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association or Service Employees International Union don’t find acceptable.

Reapportionment and the top-two election system may mitigate the wing-nut intransigence of Sacramento in coming years – perhaps replenishing the Legislature with lawmakers who don’t believe compromise is capitulation. But until term limits are eliminated, leadership will remain a huge impediment to deal-making in the public interest.

Talking to reporters on Saturday, Brown also argued that President Obama faced “the same problem I do, only worse.” He likened the need for supermajorities to overcome filibusters in the U.S. Senate to the Legislative votes needed to raise taxes in California.

Caving in to bullies: But there is a more important way in which Sacramento and Washington are alike, as outlined in a compelling essay by Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

“The right-wing bullies are emboldened. They will hold the nation hostage again and again,” he wrote the other day, urging Obama and the Democrats to take a stand.

All the while, he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans’ big lie – that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They’ll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans.

The President continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we’ll get the economy going again.

Even before the bullies began hammering him his deficit commission already recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. Then the President froze non-defense domestic spending and froze federal pay. And he continues to draw the false analogy between a family’s budget and the national budget.

He is losing the war of ideas because he won’t tell the American public the truth: That we need more government spending now – not less – in order to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

Likewise, Democrats in Sacramento – including Gov. Brown – seem to have conceded the argument that public employee pensions, extravagant state spending on social services, over-regulation and over-taxation are the causes of California’s deficit. All of which is simply not supported by the facts.

Bottom line: Jerry Brown won a huge mandate in large part because he said he would bring order to the chaos in Sacramento and that he would not raise taxes without a vote of the people. He did not win by promising to slash teachers’ pensions, eviscerate environmental regulation or cut taxes on rich people.

In Washington, the Republicans – now talking about eliminating Medicare — are overinterpreting their electoral mandate, as analyst Charlie Cook has noted.

But the Republicans in California have no such mandate to misread: what they have is the power of a minority veto in the Legislature. Still, they seem to think they’ve got the voters on their side; Brown and the Democrats need to  disabuse them.

But please, spare us the White House’s obnoxious new mantra — “winning the future.”

Jerry Brown vs. Charlie Sheen; Higher Ed Hypocrisy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

As Jerry Brown prepares to hit the road to campaign for his tax plan, our Department of Political Tour Logistics and Grateful Dead Wannabes has drafted a strategy memo with seven key words of advice for the governor:

Try not to act like Charlie Sheen.

As Tom Meyer illustrates today, there are eerie similarities between the  governor’s upcoming tax extension road show and the whack-job actor’s current “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour.

Both men are scions of a famous father who paved the way for his son’s success in the same profession; both now face an epic crisis that may define his career; both are seeking to escape his predicament by trying to get his hands on other people’s money – Brown in order to finance public schools and health care while cleaning up the state’s fiscal mess, Sheen to make up what he lost by being fired from his highly-rated TV show for the purpose of maintaining his party hearty jones for coke and hookers.

As Brown heads off to far-flung locales in a bid to bring pressure on Republican lawmakers, however, he’s well advised to avoid the blunders Sheen committed in venturing onto unfamiliar turf, far from Mulholland Drive orgies and sensory delights, for his disastrous opening night appearance in Detroit:

1-Don’t refer to women as goddesses. When Sheen hit the stage, he swiftly introduced his self-styled “goddesses,” the porn star and the alleged actress with whom he lives, who promptly locked lips, to wild applause.

Although Anne Gust Brown, Brown’s wife and most trusted adviser, would probably appreciate deification, the other most important woman in his life, Department of Finance director Ana Matosantos, would surely find it unprofessional, if not a matter for the EEOC. More broadly, Brown needs help from every women voter, the most likely group to back his pitch for public schools, and acting like a drooling degenerate creepo sleaze would run the risk of losing their support.

2-Don’t threaten to pummel Bob Dutton. Sheen keeps boasting about his “fire breathing fists,” and how he plans to use them on his former producer and his ex-co-star, as well as Dr. Drew of “Celebrity Rehab,” who said the actor should be on psychiatric medication (“I think me and [Dr. Drew] should jump in the ring and he should see how unstable these fists of flaming fury are,” responded Sheen).

As much as ex-boxer Brown might justifiably harbor similar feelings for Dutton, the whining menopausal GOP senate leader,  he’s probably better off maintaining a veneer of bipartisanship, at least in Dutton’s Rancho Cucamonga  district.

3-Don’t say “I’ve already got your  fucking money, dude.” Sheen used those very words to bait a booing audience member in Detroit, as others loudly demanded refunds. On his tour, Brown no doubt will face folks who are understandably suspicious of politicians treating the public treasury as a  personal bank account, so the governor needs to avoid sounding entitled, while selling his tax plan as an extension of his skinflint cheapskate brand.

In the end, the biggest difference between Governor Krusty and Crazy Charlie is this: Brown (who has never claimed to have tiger blood in his veins) lives in a world based on facts, and will appeal to voters on the basis of rational argument, while Sheen (a self-described warlock) lives in a la-la-land world of fantasy, much like, oh say, most legislative Republicans.

In the California GOP’s world, truth is whatever they say it is. The laws of arithmetic don’t apply, the poor and destitute are invisible, workers don’t have rights, education can be fixed in a jiffy with vouchers and home schools, and corporate loopholes and business-biased tax policies are crucial characteristics of “free markets.”

Selling tax extensions in Inland California is not an easy task for Brown – employing facts, figures and hard evidence to win over citizens whose elected representatives and anti-tax “advocates” have for decades  cynically fed them a steady diet of failed ideology, flat earth sloganeering and Fox News bloviation.

Be careful out there, governor.

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I’m studying for a Ph.D in Poltroonery: Calbuzz yields to no one in our support for California’s system of higher education: we have not only studied but also worked in the system ourselves, we have kids and friends on campuses throughout the state and we staunchly believe that high-quality public universities, colleges and community colleges are crucial to the civic and economic health and future of the state.

So it pained us to see that 250 administrators from public universities and colleges descended on Sacramento Tuesday to argue that they should under no circumstances be asked to absorb any more than the $1.4 billion in cuts they’ve been given because of California’s budget deficit.

“We have done our part,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed told a crowd outside the Capitol at the start of a day of lobbying. “But you know what? That’s enough.”

Oh really? And if there are no tax extensions or other new revenue sources approved, who should suffer further cutbacks: widows and children, the elderly, blind and disabled? Please, oh self-interested scholars, spare us your self-pity.

Where were Charlie Reed, UC President Mark Yudof and community college Chancellor Jack Scott when the crucial need was rounding up two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to put tax extensions on the ballot to head off doubling the universities’ $1.4 billion haircut?

Where were the organized legions of trustees, boards of directors, alumni associations*, lobbyists and cronies putting the screws to GOP legislators? They didn’t have the guts to come out, push and pressure for tax extensions and now they want to be protected? What unmitigated gall.

Had the higher education lobby worked and argued fiercely and publicly for extending taxes and fees, they’d be in a far stronger position to fight against further cuts and scenarios of turning away 400,000 community college students, more from CSUs and UCs, not to mention raising tuition and slashing whole programs, institutes, courses and offerings.

Instead, the fainthearted “leaders” of the higher education community let Brown and the legislative Democrats do all the heavy lifting on the overall budget strategy while they singularly argued for more revenue only for California’s once-great system of higher ed. And now, caught once again in the divide-and-conquer budget trap, they call for special treatment.

All of which brings to mind the words of our most venerable mentor, sage and metaphysical consultant, the great Calbuzzer, Confucius:

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.

*UPDATE: Thanks to Adrian Diaz for informing us (after our post) that the Cal Alumni Association DID press its members to push for tax extensions with this letter:

Dear Cal Alumni and Friends,

On February 18, the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) Board of Directors, in an unprecedented action, voted to support placing Governor Jerry Brown’s current proposal for maintaining existing taxes on the June 2011 ballot.

Why did the CAA Board take this action? Without the maintenance of existing taxes, the excellence and access of UC Berkeley will be jeopardized by further drastic budget cuts.

In 2009-2010, all departments at UC Berkeley, including academic departments, took a permanent budget cut averaging 19 percent. Last year, approximately 600 staff positions were eliminated. Another 280 are slated for elimination this year. State funding for UC Berkeley is now less than federal funding, less than student fees, and less than private donations.

What can you do? Before Californians can vote on the maintenance of existing taxes, the measure first has to get on the June ballot. The State Legislature must decide by March 10, 2011 to get the measure on the ballot.

Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide whether to maintain existing taxes that will help save UC Berkeley.

Governor Brown’s budget already includes a $500 million cut to the UC budget. Without the tax extensions, the Legislative Analyst Office predicts that the UC budget could be cut by an additional $500 million. Of this $1 billion reduction, $160 million could be cut from the UC Berkeleycampus alone.

Californians face a difficult choice — do we balance the state budget by cutting expenditures alone or do we minimizing the damage to one of our greatest educational institutions by balancing the budget with a combination of expense reduction and revenue generation?

While we recognize that no one likes to pay taxes, we are also assured that the Governor’s current proposal does not include any new taxes, only an extension of the existing taxes. Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide.

Join the Cal Alumni Association in our efforts to ensure the excellence of our alma mater for today’s Cal students and future generations of Golden Bears.

Fiat Lux,

Alan C. Mendelson ’69
President, CAA Board of Directors

Hot Flashes from Sacramento; Campaign ’18 Update

Friday, April 1st, 2011

When Republican Senate leader Bob Dutton publicly complained that Governor Brown ignored him during budget talks – while First Lady Anne Gust Brown “yelled” at him – most Capitol insiders no doubt had a good laugh at his expense, all the while thinking, “That Bob Dutton – he’s sure a wussy wimp!”

But not Calbuzz.

No, around these parts, the immediate reaction of our Department of Emotional Intelligence and Sensitive New Age Guys was to dispatch a company-wide email urging a corporate show of sympathy for the 60-year old senator.

The reason? The aggrieved Sen. Dutton clearly suffers from one of the most tragic syndromes that can afflict a man: the heartbreak of male menopause.

“The governor never asked for my help,” Dutton told reporters Thursday, doubtless bottling up sobs as he was questioned about the collapse of budget talks. “Frankly, I was yelled at more than I was talked to…and mostly by Mrs. Brown, not even Gov. Brown.”

That really makes our blood boil: What kind of woman does such a thing?

While more insensitive souls than ours instantly and cruelly tried to change the subject back to the state’s $27 billion deficit – “the dog barked at him, too,”  stone-hearted Brown flack Gil Duran said, for example – the alter cockers in our newsroom understand only too well the hurt and pain that come when other people ignore our emotional needs at a time of life when we’re at our most vulnerable.

So on behalf of those, like Dutton, who have suffered in secrecy, shame and silence for far too long, we offer some important information in hopes of building public awareness:

What are the Symptoms of Male Menopause?

Male menopause symptoms are very similar to those experienced by women during menopause, only much less intense. Common menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, muscle and joint aches. Men also suffer from emotional symptoms like mood swings,  irritability, depression, and listlessness. (emphasis ours).

The primary treatment…is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Like estrogen replacement in women, testosterone replacement aims to bring hormonal levels back up to a healthy level. Once testosterone levels are increased, most men begin to experience fewer symptoms. Unfortunately, testosterone replacement doesn’t always work well to combat erectile dysfunction. Because this is such a severe symptom for most men, other treatments for erectile dysfunction should be investigated.

Take heart, Senator Dutton, and please, get some help – it doesn’t have to be this way. And know that you’re not longer any more alone any longer.

We had to destroy the party in order to save it: Dutton’s little hissy fit highlights the utter inability of the current crop of California Republican leaders to see the big picture about their ongoing demise as a viable political party in the state.

Handed their biggest opportunity in years to achieve some cherished policy goals, Republicans instead snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and came away from budget negotiations with zilch.

Witnessing this sorry spectacle, one mad dog GOP blogger, of course, thumped his chest and did a little touchdown dance (“there is NO public policy trade off that makes it okay to then vote to place taxes onto a special election ballot”). Less, um, excitable party types (also less prone to using CAPITAL LETTERS TO MAKE THEIR POINT), have a different view, as the LAT’s Halper and Mishak ably report:

After the collapse of those negotiations, many in the Capitol are asking whether, in declining to provide those four “ayes,” the Republicans have cemented their fate as a dying minority party in this largely Democratic state.

“These opportunities don’t come up too much in Sacramento,” said Bill Whalen, a GOP political consultant who was an advisor to former Gov. Pete Wilson.

“If I’m the Republicans … I would argue for a minimalist approach,” he said. “Be able to declare victory and retreat. … That should have been part of the calculus.”

Or not.

In addition to the Republicans, however, our friend George Skelton sees plenty of blame to go around, listing for starters Brown’s kow-towing to labor and the apparent belief of state union goons that they, alone, should be spared from any budget pain, a pox-on-all-your-houses-view made manifest today by Calbuzz cartoonist Tom Meyer.

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A leisurely stroll through the 11th hour, 53-point list of demands that Dutton presented to Brown when a deal was close, however, makes clear that giving equal weight to Krusty’s serious effort to find a compromise acceptable to Republicans on pension reform and the GOP’s unwavering irresponsibility about the state’s finances is a big-time false equivalence.

Moreover, for the CA GOP to complain now that Brown broke off negotiations — after they damn near adopted a resolution to castrate any legislator who even considered negotiating with Brown — is just nuts.

Campaign ’18 update: Lite Gov Gavin Newsom’s political advisers are miffed over a blind source item that the Chronicle’s Matier and Ross proffered the other day, reporting that Lt. Starbuck is already gearing up to run for governor.

Only weeks after Calbuzz waved the starter flag on the most important political race in California — the 2018 Democratic primary for governor — the paper’s gold dust twins tried to speed up the pace even more:

Less than three months on the job, and already Gavin Newsom is prepping to run for governor again.

A city insider who asked not to be named tells us the new lieutenant governor approached him at a charity fundraiser the other day with a request for help to start raising money for a renewed gubernatorial bid…

Newsom has opened a re-election campaign committee for 2014 – but there’s nothing to stop him from transferring any money he might raise to an exploratory gubernatorial run.

“The Matier and Ross item is silly,” counters Jason Kinney, Newsom’s political adviser. “They’re finding a story where none exists.”

Kinney, who oddly wasn’t quoted in the M&R column, told us he’s been in most of the meetings Newsom has had with political supporters, where the good lieutenant has made the point that he needs to put a political operation together for his re-election.

When Newsom’s asked, Kinney acknowledged, he discusses future options — like governor, Senate, whatever – as any other pol would do. But Newsom always makes clear that he will never run against Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer, he added: “He’s talking about future plans — six, eight, ten years down the road.”

Gavin for Senate in 2028!

(Secret P.S. memo to Newsom: Dude, what’s with that whole unbuttoned second button thing, anyway? What’s next — tying up your shirttails to show off your midriff?)

Budget War Looms; Why Backers Matter in CD36

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Racking up a big fat collection of political endorsements in an election doesn’t always mean much. But when it’s a low-information, low-turnout contest, where voters are looking for cues, endorsements can have a huge impact.

Which is why Democrats Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen have been scrambling like mad to snag as many as they can in the May 17 special election to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District.

Thus far, in the race for endorsements, Hahn, the LA City Councilwoman, is beating the pants off Bowen, the California Secretary of State.

There are, of course, other candidates in this contest including Democrat Marcy Winograd, the progressive left contender, and some Republicans, like Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, Realty Alert publisher Craig Huey and several others. Here’s the list of candidates and party preferences. In all there are five Democrat, six Republican, five “no party preference,” one Libertarian and one Peace and Freedom candidates.

But the real action – given the district’s partisan cast — is to see who’s gonna be the top Democrat.

The new rule under Proposition 14 is that the top two vote getters in the “primary,” regardless of party, face each other in the general election. But this is a special election and the rules allow that there’s only a runoff election between the top two contenders if no one gets 50%+1 in the initial balloting. And given the large field, it’s likely there will be a runoff on July 12. Whether that’ will be between two Democrats or a Democrat and a Republican depends on how the votes split on May 17.

All of which explains the frantic effort to win endorsements that tell voters who is allied with whose interests.

Bowen has won endorsements from the likes of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democracy for America (run by Dean’s brother), the Beach Cities Democratic Club and the California Nurses Association. Click here for Bowen’s endorsements.

But Hahn has U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,  Assembly Speaker John Perez, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the LA Police Protective League and unions representing firefighters, longshoremen, electrical workers, letter carriers, laborers, steelworkers, plumbers, communication workers, steamfitters, operating engineers, iron workers, yada yada yada. Plus eight members of Congress, the LA Sheriff…the list goes on and on and on. Here are Hahn’s endorsements.

With her name ID as a statewide elected official and considerable popularity among Democrats in the region, Bowen is by no means a dead duck. But . . .

“That’s a huge, huge tell,” Nate Monroe, assistant professor of political science and an expert in congressional elections at UC Merced, said after hearing the endorsement lists. Not only does the list suggest the range of interests who think one candidate is better than the other, but “they raise the probability that a given voter is going to have a common interest with a given endorsement,” he said.

Bruce Cain, UC Berkeley’s Heller Professor of Political Science and public policy director of the University of California Washington Center, agreed that simply knowing that Dianne Feinstein is on one side and Howard Dean is on the other may be enough for many voters.

“You get into these low-information, low-turnout elections and there’s no question that endorsements matter,” Cain said, in part because voters who do turn out will be more highly informed than the average voter and they will know who the people and institutions are who are lining up behind different candidates.

Hahn’s endorsements, he said, may or may not tell you about her ideology, but they tell you about her strategy: “She’s got a more centrist base.”

Time to Revisit the Calbuzz Plan: “War cannot be avoided,” Niccolo Machiavelli, one of our all-time favorite political writers, famously said. “It can only be postponed to the other’s advantage.”

Old Nick’s sage advice to the Prince came to mind when we heard on Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had finally thrown in the towel on “negotiations” with legislative Republicans in an attempt to win a handful of votes to put tax extensions on the June ballot.

“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands,” Brown said.

“Let me be clear: I support pension reform, regulatory reform and a spending cap and offered specific and detailed proposals for each of these during our discussions.  While we made significant progress on these reform issues, the Republicans continued to insist on including demands that would materially undermine any semblance of a balanced budget.  In fact, they sought to worsen the state’s problem by creating a $4 billion hole in the budget.”

In addition to a written statement, Brown released a You Tube video of himself, dressed in a sweater, explaining his reasoning.

“The fact that the governor has now pulled the plug on any further budget talks says only one thing — the only immovable object in Sacramento is Jerry Brown,” replied California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

Brown’s extended efforts to use sweet reason to cut a budget deal, while laudable, were starting to make him look silly and weak anyway. The idea that legislative Republicans would ever negotiate seriously over a reality-based solution to California’s $27 billion deficit was probably always an illusion, but it was worth burning some political capital for Brown to at least try to treat them like adults.

But GOP leaders, with their puerile, 11th-hour, 53-point plan for undoing the 2010 election, made it clear that the whole notion that they were interested in helping to govern was a charade all along.

With a June ballot measure — if one could be pushed through by majority vote — apparently now out of the question, Brown and the Democrats are left with basically one option: a November ballot measure which should, as we’ve argued, re-frame the debate. Now that Machiavelli says it’s clearly time to go to war, Brown ought to make it one worth fighting, by battling on behalf of something like the Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

As Peter Schrag shrewdly opined this week, Brown let himself get perilously close to being played for as big a fool by the GOP as did Barack Obama.  Three days after his inauguration, Obama memorably told GOP congressional leaders at the White House that “Elections have consequences and, at the end of the day, I won.”

Then he went out and acted like he’d lost.

Obama’s hideous political blunder was to allow himself to be strung along by bad faith for nearly a year in hopes of getting a bipartisan health care reform bill. All he got for his trouble was months and months of bookend cable chatter about how ugly the sausage-making process was; at the end of the day, he finally rammed through a Democrats-only bill, which he could have done much earlier, with much less damage inflicted by the right-wing echo chamber framing machine to the perception the country had about what was actually in the legislation.

Brown — perhaps too much a believer in his own ability to charm and reason –behaved in much the same way.

Our Department of Second Guessing advises that had he moved early and decisively to use the Democrats’ big majorities in the Assembly and Senate to push a tax-extension measure onto the ballot instead of wasting months on no-negotiation negotiations, he now would be in a stronger position to advocate for the revenue proposal and frame the debate, having already pushed the Legislature to pass the painful budget cut portion of his plan.

Instead he’s got nothing to show for his efforts but the cuts, and a clown car full of Republicans who are only too happy to play Lucy-and-the-football with an ever expanding and evolving agenda of DOA demands.

“This is basically trying to ram through an agenda that does not reflect the fact that we have a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,” Gandalf flack Gil Duran said of the latest GOP move.

Well said and true enough, but we hasten to add that neither are the Democrats themselves acting like they’re a party that won a huge and sweeping statewide victory last November.

“One defends when his strength is inadequate,” as Sun Tzu, another of our old school fave political writers put it. “He attacks when it is abundant.”

Inquiring minds want to know: Perhaps the best measure of how unseriously California Republicans are taking their responsibility to help govern the state is the cowardly duck nearly all of them took on Brown’s bid to abolish redevelopment agencies in the state.

Lest some sensitive soul over at Flashreport start whining about biased Calbuzz sniping, we highly recommend having a read of Steven Greenhut’s excellent piece on the matter over at conservative Calwatchdog.com.

Redevelopment is about everything Republicans claim to loath: bureaucracy, debt, abuses of property rights, big government, excessive land-use rules, subsidized housing and fiscal irresponsibility. In California cities, redevelopment bureaucrats rule the roost and they leave a path of destruction wherever they go. They bully people and impose enormous burdens on taxpayers. The diversion of tax dollars to welfare queens mandates higher taxes, but the GOP sided with the redevelopment industry. They sided with agencies that run up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed indebtedness. They sided with government-directed stimulus programs, albeit local ones rather than federal ones…

The truth is California Republicans do not believe in limited government. They do not stand up for property owners. They are the party of corporate welfare. They oppose higher taxes, but that’s the only guiding principle of the party these days. And even that is suspect. Many Assembly Republicans, such as the pro-union members of the “no more cuts” caucus (Jim Silva, Brian Nestande and Paul Cook), vote in a way that virtually mandates higher taxes at some point. Then they get on their high horse and sign those bogus tax-fighting pledges. And you wonder why the GOP is fading away in this state?