Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

GOP Magical Thinking: Pathway IS Crucial to Latinos

Monday, August 11th, 2014

latinovotersEvery now and then, some misguided conservative stumbles onto a poll finding that immigration is not the No. 1 issue for Latino voters and he cries “Eureka!” as if this were proof that the right wing can continue to oppose immigration reform and still attract this growing bloc of voters to their candidates and causes.

Our old pal Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, has made this blunder, egged on by the glassy-eyed analysis of the Republican pollsters at Moore Information (what role Democratic pollster David Binder played was unclear). Exclaimed Flash breathlessly: “Immigration is only the 6th-most-important issue for Latino voters in California when casting a vote for a candidate for U.S. Senator or for U.S. Congress.”

No shit, Sherlock. As Calbuzz has explained over and over and over again, when asked to list the top issues, Latinos, like everyone else, cite education, the economy and security, depending on conditions at any given time.

But that misses the point entirely. For Latino voters, immigration is what we call a threshold or gateway issue: in a list of issues, it’s never No. 1. But if a candidate is opposed to a pathway to legality or citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Latino voters don’t even want to hear what he or she has to say about education, the economy or security. (eMeg, take note.)

It’s that way with huge numbers of women for choice on abortion: They rarely declare it their No. 1 issue, but candidates who are opposed to choice are, by and large, dead meat among a majority of women voters.

wileecoyotePathway is the Way We’re not going to deconstruct the entire survey that Moore Methods did for Univision, which never asked respondent Latinos if they’d be more or less inclined to vote for a candidate who opposes a pathway to citizenship (or if they did ask, they didn’t release the data).

But a few findings from interviews with 930 registered voters who identified as Latinos are worth mentioning.

For starters, 86% — that’s a BIG number in polling – would “support a law that allowed undocumented immigrants, already in the United States with no serious criminal record, to apply for legal status, learn English, pay outstanding taxes and a penalty and then go to the back of the line and work toward citizenship.”

It was 88% in Los Angeles and Sacramento, 87% in the Central Valley and San Diego, and 80% in the Bay Area.

Even without all the qualifications, 71% of Latino voters answered in the positive when asked: “Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

What Fleischman seized on was the response to a loaded question that was kind of like asking respondents if they think child molesters should go to jail or be let go with a warning, to wit:

“Some people say we should require borders to be secured before providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants” or, “Other people say we should pass comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without requiring borders to be secured first.”

Despite this obvious attempt to get a number they could spin, the pollsters found only 58% favoring requiring border security first compared to 42% who favored passing comprehensive reform (and apparently doing nothing about securing the borders).

LonelyElephantLonely planet What Fleischman and his cronies still don’t grasp is that there’s a reason why Latino voters have a 60% favorable view of the Democratic Party and a 57% unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

“They mostly care about corporations and big business,” “their own self interests” and “they favor the rich” were offered to respondents as separate reasons for their disfavor; these added up to 48% of the reasons. “They are against immigration reform” was cited by 10% — a very large percentage as a stand-alone rationale for disliking a party.

It’s an exercise in self-denial to continue to hope that Republicans can draw Latino support without fundamentally altering their opposition to a pathway to legality (at least) for undocumented immigrants. Not that we expect the GOP to start listening to our advice, on their own pathway – to utter irrelevance.

DiFi: Putin’s Manhood vs. Schweitzer’s Sick Fantasy

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

difibathingsuitGender bender: As a convent schoolgirl, Dianne Feinstein was a drama queen, invariably picked to play strong males leads in all-female casts because she was precociously statuesque.

From Prince Rupert in “A Waltz Dream” and Peter Standish in “Berkeley Square,” to Bassanio in “The Merchant of Venice” and King Creon in “Antigone,” the teenage DiFi trod the boards at Convent of the Sacred Heart in S.F.’s Pacific Heights, typecast as a manly man.

Stalking the state in the garb of King Creon, 17-year old Dianne Goldman pronounced a sentence of death upon the rebellious Antigone.

“This woman has learned her insolence before this, when she broke the established law,” the high school Creon declared, condemning Antigone for daring to defy his authority. “When I am alive, no woman shall rule.”

The long-ago thespian career of the Senior Senator from California came to mind as we pondered the media huzzahs she earned across the political spectrum for her recent throw down on Vladimir Putin’s masculinity:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Russian President Vladimir Putin should “man up” and acknowledge his government’s complicity in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

“The nexus between Russia and the separatists has been established very clearly,” Feinstein said Sunday on CNN. “The issue is: where is Putin? I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up.’ You should talk to the world. You should say this was a mistake, if it was a mistake.”


putinEveryone, from Fox News to the liberal Mike Lupica, instantly applauded her macho posing, much favoring it over the spineless, wimpy wussiness of Barack Obama and John Kerry.

Just as Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, Calbuzz Staff Psychiatrist, had recovered his breath, and had taken anew to pondering the deeply mysterious sources of Feinstein’s Freudian blurting, however, yet another DiFi androgny-themed bulletin came across his desk.

This just in, courtesy of former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer:

This was the week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency’s treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration.

Schweitzer is incredulous that Feinstein—considered by her critics to be too close to the intelligence community—was now criticizing the agency.

schweitzer“She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying!” he says. Then, he adds, quickly, “I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor—but she was all in!”


BoomBoomSupervisorWhen real men were women: Schweitzer’s comment (one of several, btw, that collectively constituted an act of public political suicide within a splendid profile by Marin Cogan of the National Journal) aptly reminds how much Dianne represents a political Rorschach test, as befits a self-proclaimed “centrist” who alternatively has confounded or catered to conservatives and liberals alike for nearly 50 years.

Happily, it also offers a chance to remember bygone days when then S.F. Mayor Feinstein was herself confounded by the entertaining gender bending of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a political performance art troupe of transvestites habitually decked as nuns, whom Her Honor once angrily admitted “make me see red.”

Her greatest nemesis was Sister Boom Boom, aka the late Jack Fertig, who attacked her while running for supervisor in 1982 on the “Nun of the Above” ticket, papering the town with posters portraying her/himself flying over City Hall on a witches’ broom, trailing purple exhaust that read, “Surrender Dianne.”

Astonishingly, or perhaps not, Boom Boom won more than 20,000 votes.

Man up, sister.

Income Taxes Don’t Kill Jobs & Tyrion’s No AuH2O

Monday, July 28th, 2014

liarliar3You’ll recall that in the fall of 2012, as Jerry Brown campaigned for Prop. 30, his tax-hike plan to balance California’s budget and boost school funding, right-wingers argued vociferously that the measure would be a disaster.

“It allows the politicians to take money currently earmarked for education and spend it on other programs. We’ll never know where the money really goes . . .  it gives the Sacramento politicians a blank check without requiring budget, pension or education reform . . . it hurts small businesses and kills jobs,” cried Joel Fox of the so-called Small Business Action Committee (otherwise known as Joel’s Special Interest Laundry), John Kabateck of the alleged National Federation of Independent Business and Kenneth Payne of the Sacramento (We Don’t Like Being) Taxpayers Association.

And yet. After Prop. 30’s passage, California’s budget is balanced (with a surplus, thank you very much, Gov. Gandalf). And as our old friend David Cay Johnston found, in a terrific special report for the Sacramento Bee: “Last year California added 410,418 jobs, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2012, significantly better than the 1.8 percent national increase in jobs. California is home to 12 percent of Americans, but last year it accounted for 17.5 percent of new jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.”

So much for the contention that raising taxes on rich people kills jobs.

While raising payroll taxes might hurt job growth, raising income taxes does not reduce hiring, David Neumark, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at UC Irvine, told Johnston:

What firms care about when deciding how many workers to hire is the marginal product of workers and the marginal cost of those workers. So if you are an employer and your personal income tax rate is increased, that does not raise the marginal cost of your workers, but it may encourage you to work a little less hard.

David-Cay-JohnstonJohnston, a California native whose first reporting job was at the San Jose Mercury News when he was 19 years old, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his coverage of tax policy. These days, he teaches the tax, property and regulatory law of the ancient world at Syracuse University College of Law and writes for several publications. He recently completed two years as president of the 5,000-member Investigative Reporters and Editors association.

We’re sorry to report that David’s fine piece has gotten almost no pickup from other mainstream media types around the state. Which is too bad because, as Johnston told Calbuzz:

“Comparing election claims to actual performance is one of the most crucial duties for journalists, even if they have to wait years for the results to become known.”

The only other writer to take note of the wrongheadness of the Cassandras on the right that we’re aware of is Paul Krugman of the New York Times, who weighed in after Johnston’s piece (without crediting it – c’mon man) last week with an op-ed titled in typical NYT derision toward California: “Left Coast Rising.”

george-willGeorge Will Gets Stupid In one of the most inane and unsupported columns he’s ever written, St. George Will meanwhile suggested the other day that Neel Kashkari, the Republican who’s running 20 points behind Gov. Jerry Brown in both the PPIC and Field Polls, is California’s Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater, Will argues, lost his 1964 bid for the White House to Lyndon Johnson because “Americans were not going to have a third president in 14 months” and his “don’t-fence-me-in libertarian conservatism was ahead of its time.” (Not to mention that his insistence that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” sounded just a little too trigger-happy to a country that felt it had just narrowly escaped nuclear holocaust during the embargo of Cuba.)

Goldwater’s agenda, Will said, “was to change his party’s national brand.” And that’s what Kashkari — who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage — is trying to do in California. “Kashkari is not, as some careless commentary suggests, an anti-Goldwater, diluting the state party’s conservatism. He is Goldwater 2.0, defining conservatism a ­half-century on,” St. George argues. (Will does not tell us who the careless commentator is but apparently he was referring to an equally stupid article in the conservative American Spectator by Jeffrey Lord that argues Rand Paul is the embodiment of Goldwater.)

GoldwaterThis is, we report more in sadness than in anger, bullshit.

Maybe George had too many martinis wherever he was staying in Menlo Park when he wrote about Goldwater’s nomination at the “unfortunately named Cow Palace” “fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco.” Or maybe he just had to come up with something to write off his trip out to the hustings. But he has no point, at least not one he shared with his readers.

Because: The widely known political imp Tyrion of Kashkari has not for one minute shown an interest in re-branding his party. He’s desperately trying to make a case against a governor who balanced the budget and calmed the hyperpartisan dysfunction in Sacramento (with the help of voters who passed his tax measure, gave the Legislature the power to pass a budget with a majority of votes and approved measures to boost centrism).

tryionkashkaricroppedGoldwater, a U.S. Senator, campaigned against Soviet communism, social programs and civil rights (winning only five Southern states in addition to Arizona). His spectacular loss allowed Johnson to pass his Great Society agenda. Sure, he pulled his party to the right, but the Republicans who came after him who did win the presidency — Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — wouldn’t even be considered Republicans by Neanderthals who run the GOP today. Even Goldwater ended up fighting with the religious right at the end of his career.

Kashkari isn’t fighting for a cause or a movement or much of anything except to be governor. He’s a lot healthier face for the California GOP than Tim Donnelly would have been. And if his presence on the ticket signals a nudge toward reason among California Republicans, that’ll be a good thing for his party. But the suggestion that he’s the leader of some ideological shift is little more than the musings of a Washington Beltway scribe in search of a metaphor. And, no doubt, a fine dinner.

Another view, from far right field: For an amusing read by a deranged, confused and self-important right wing writer trying to make sense of conflicting attempts to appropriate Goldwater’s legacy, check out a piece by one Scott Mayer at the so-called American Thinker in which, among other oddities, the writer (perhaps suffering from PTSD) misremembers an encounter with one of your Calbuzzards some two decades ago when it appeared that Will was still a smart conservative, and we needed our electrics fixed.

Why Bully Boy Perez Should Concede to Betty Yee

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014


Editors Note: Two days after this article was posted, John Perez did the right thing, called off his recount and threw his support behind Betty Yee’s campaign for Controller.

Former Assembly Speaker John Perez is a bully. He was a bully as Speaker and he’s a bully now, weilding his financial advantage over State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee to use California’s screwed-up election law to cherry pick precincts in hopes of overcoming the 481 votes by which he took third place to his fellow Democrat in June’s election for Controller.

He’s giving “fat cat” a bad name.

When he announced he would be seeking a recount, he issued a statement about how important it is “to ensure that every vote is counted” and how he had made “the defense of voting rights a core part” of his career.

What a bunch of self-serving clap-trap. Perez isn’t interested in ensuring that every vote counts – he wants to manipulate the vote count in the precincts where he performed best in hope of overturning the tally and making the November runoff against Republican Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno.

Yee, as decent and intelligent person you can find in politics, has been remarkably restrained in her reaction, and in the meantime has picked up the endorsement of the California Democratic Party — along with some much-needed cash — and won the respect of myriad others who see her as the actual second-place finisher.

johnperezHow stupid does he think we are? Perez didn’t even show up for the CDP’s endorsement meeting. He’s so arrogant that he figures he can just throw his enormous weight around and power his way to victory, starting with his vote count in those great Democratic bastions that he selected – Kern and Imperial counties.

His supporters argue that he’s only doing what the law allows and that it’s every candidate’s duty to fight to win. Fine, but if you use a broken – and likely unconstitutional – law to selectively recount the vote where you think it’ll do you the most good, just don’t insult the voters by claiming it’s for some civic-minded cause.

As our friend Garry South, as ruthless a Democratic political consultant has you can find on the right side of decency, told Calbuzz:

“There’s no doubt the California law on recounts is completely screwed up and needs to be totally rewritten. But it’s another thing for a defeated candidate to try to take political advantage of the weaknesses of that law by covering it with high-sounding rhetoric about an obligation to make sure every vote is counted — but only in the counties and precincts where he won.”

And as Becky Curry and Jamie Beutler argued in the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday:

A recount threatens to undermine what most Democrats consider a core value of our party – putting the public interest ahead of self-interest. This is not the first time Pérez has put his own goals ahead of party unity. This spring he ignored advice from party elders not to demand a vote seeking endorsement over Yee at the party convention in Los Angeles. Pérez, from Los Angeles and then still the Assembly speaker, pressed ahead with the motion to endorse – and lost, capturing less than 50 percent of the ballots. Calling off the recount now would only work to his advantage. It’s not too late to show party unity and back Yee with all the resources he’s got.

They’re being way to nice.

The ultimate sore loser: Perez thought he could blow by the talented Ms. Yee with a lackluster campaign and his ample political presence. Wrong. Betty eked out a slight victory that Speaker Bully Boy doesn’t want to accept – even though the Secretary of State now says the recount he’s asked for in 15 counties could take until after the November election.

Stand down, Mr. Erstwhile Speaker. And pray that if you ever seek higher office again, you’ll be seen as having done something gracious for your party.

Opinions About Obama’s Presidency Are Not Facts

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Obama rushmoreAs we recover from our schnockered spirited celebrations of the founding of our great nation 238 years ago, we can rejoice in our freedom to hold and express our individual thoughts and beliefs. But let’s also remember this empirical axiom: there are opinions and there are facts. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion but no one has a right to the facts – these exist independently of our opinions about them.

So, if a pollster asks a representative sample of American voters to name the best and worst presidents since World War II, what the survey reveals is a collection of opinions which may or may not align with actual facts.

The results don’t even have to be internally consistent: a particular president – Barack Obama, for example — might come in fourth among 12 as “best president” and tops as “worst president.” Which is exactly what happened when Quinnipiac University – which runs a reputable polling operation – asked the question.

Analyzed objectively – in terms of actual accomplishments – Obama, despite a Republican Party dedicated to stopping every initiative and despite a media phalanx (see: News, Fox) dedicated to misrepresenting and smearing his every move, has, as Washington Monthly put it, “gotten more done in three years than any president in decades.”

Measured in sheer legislative tonnage, what Obama got done in his first two years is stunning. Health care reform. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry. The biggest economic stimulus in history. Sweeping new regulations of Wall Street. A tough new set of consumer protections on the credit card industry. A vast expansion of national service. Net neutrality. The greatest increase in wilderness protection in fifteen years. A revolutionary reform to student aid. Signing the New START treaty with Russia. The ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Even over the past year, when he was bogged down in budget fights with the Tea Party-controlled GOP House, Obama still managed to squeeze out a few domestic policy victories, including a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction deal and the most sweeping overhaul of food safety laws in more than seventy years. More impressively, on the foreign policy front he ended the war in Iraq, began the drawdown in Afghanistan, helped to oust Gaddafi in Libya and usher out Mubarak in Egypt, orchestrated new military and commercial alliances as a hedge against China, and tightened sanctions against Iran over its nukes.

Oh, and he shifted counterterrorism strategies to target Osama bin Laden and then ordered the risky raid that killed him.

Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive, as Joe Biden put it during the 2012 campaign. And there’s so much more – much of it unappreciated, as has often been the case with presidential achievements until years later.

fdrApproval Years Later For example, as Paul Glastris notes in the Washington Monthly, when Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security in 1935, it offered scant benefits that were delayed for years, excluded domestic workers and was derided by liberals as a sellout until decades later, when benefits were raised and it became the popular program it is today. FDR’s first proposal for a GI Bill for returning World War II veterans was poorly funded and aimed at keeping returning veterans from flooding the labor market. Only later was it clear that it helped build America’s first mass middle class. Harry Truman chose the policy of containment over a more aggressive “rollback” of communism at the dawn of the Cold War. When he left office, his approval rating was 32 percent. Decades later he was hailed as a visionary on foreign policy.

Americans – egged on by Republican detractors and their propagandists at Fox – have been told over and over again that Obama is a feckless presence. Despite the fact that 288,000 jobs were created in June and the unemployment rate is down to 6.1% — its lowest since September 2008 – many Americans still are feeling financially under water.

The stock market has rebounded to a record high – with the Dow breaking 17,000 last week – yet the wealthy and their GOP lap dogs are still complaining that Obama hasn’t done enough.

There are plenty of things to complain about under Obama: his seeking consensus with partisans who always see compromise as capitulation, his fetish for government secrecy and expansive spying and his failure to punish big banks for bad behavior, for example.

Our biggest complaint is that his communications skills – so brilliant in his first campaign – have been abysmal in his presidency. He sounds aloof too often, fails to speak plainly about complex problems, allows himself to be cornered and defined by the opposition and allows idiots to publicly represent signature and critical initiatives and responsibilities.

But compared to his towering accomplishments against all odds –  in the face of subtle and overt racial animus – Obama’s faults will, we expect, be judged petty when the historical record is examined in years to come.

So whatever opinions a confused populace may express about the president’s effectiveness and proficiency, remember these are opinions, not actual facts.