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Posts Tagged ‘Al Checchi’



The Secret Ads eMeg & Steve Don’t Want You to See

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

As Meg Whitman lobbed yet another stink bomb at Steve Poizner, Calbuzz rang up our friend Bill Carrick, the noted long distance runner who moonlights as a Democratic media consultant, to ask what he thinks of the escalating air war between eMeg and the Commish.

“I’ve had the alarming revelation that we have two dangerous left-wingers running in the Republican primary for governor,” he said. “I can barely sleep at night.”

With Carrick’s blinding insight fresh in our minds, we contacted sources close to our imagination to discover the secret plans of both campaigns for the final month of the race. Here’s how we see things playing out:

May 14 – Poizner launches a tough new weekend attack on immigration:

There are five million, border busting illegal immigrants in California.
Over half work at Meg Whitman’s house.

eMeg counter-punches hard:

Like goat meat in your tacos?
Then you’ll love Steve Poizner as governor.

May 18 – With three weeks left before the primary, Whitman consultant Mike Murphy rolls out a daring new theme, hammering Meg’s rival with a big swing on cultural values:

Left-winger Steve Poizner: Ever seen him in the same room as Castro?

After a quickly assembled, two-hour emergency focus group, Team Steve media strategist Stuart Stephens pulls an all-nighter producing a new spot to answer the assault:

Meg Whitman: The frappuccino-sucking, NPR-supporting, Bernie Sanders-loving, Lacoste-wearing East Coast elitist who Californians just can’t trust.

May 25 – eMeg’s tracking poll shows Steve still vulnerable on abortion, and her advisers take a huge gamble in airing a positive spot:

Meg Whitman has ALWAYS believed in the Immaculate Conception. The waffling Steve Poizner? Not so much.

Armed with fresh poll data micro-analyzing micro-targeted questions on the pro-life issue, Camp Poizner doubles down on their negative track:

Know what commie Meg Whitman and the Red Chinese have in common?
Just Google “same sex abortion” on your home computer.

June 1 – One week before the election, both candidates return to the bread-and-butter issue of taxes in making their closing arguments, as the Commish unveils a bold Prop. 13 message:

Ever wonder why Meg Whitman won’t tell us who killed Howard Jarvis? Hmmmm

eMeg fires back fiercely:

There’s only one big-spending corrupt Republican insider who wants to drive  old folks from their homes and pick the carrion from the bones of our seniors: Say hello to Steve Poizner, grandma.

I’m Meg Whitman, and I approved this message.

June 9 - Final returns show that Whitman and Poizner win only 12 votes apiece, as most Republicans stay home and those who don’t cast write-in ballots for the late Evelle Younger.

A few hours later, Arnold Schwarzenegger issues an executive order proclaiming himself Governor for Life, announcing the move in a brief statement: “I’m baaack.”

Let Checchi be Checchi: When we saw that former Northwest Airlines co-chairman and 1998 candidate for governor Al Checchi has resurfaced at the San Francisco Chronicle, and read with interest his essay on political reform posted on Carla Marinucci’s blog, we couldn’t resist tweaking Al, who had written:

Only the national media has (sic) the infrastructure and reach to provide a national forum for catalyzing change. There is a unique opportunity for a media outlet to provide that forum, assume a leadership position within and for the industry, and provide a vital service to the American people and the country.

So we asked him: What are you going to do about it? Here’s his reply:

If I were younger, I would buy CNN and repurpose it.

1.  Provide the public a source of comprehensive, independent, and unbiased information about the substance of the critical issues that we face and the range of policy options available to address them.

2.  Employ public polling and new media to gauge public opinion and use the network to amplify the general public’s position on the issues to facilitate the building of national consensus.

3.  Provide similarly unbiased information to the public about the experience, character, qualifications, and positions of the people who stand for public office to improve the calibre of people to whom we cede political power.

In other words, I would get back to the basics of a comprehensive journalism that informs, educates, and provides a vital and constructive service to a Democratic society.

Since I am no longer young, I must content myself with half a loaf and try to develop programming and persuade a major media outlet to broadcast it.

Thanks, Al. No one ever called us “a major media outlet” before.

P.S. Checchi’s best one liner re. Meg Whitman’s business experience as a credential for governor:  She’s just  “a marketing person who ran an electronic auction house.”

With Apologies to TMZ


Stop the Presses: eMeg Speaks, Sort of…

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

megCalbuzz caught one of Meg Whitman’s hothouse flower political performances Tuesday and, we have to admit, she’s pretty good in a controlled setting before a small, safe audience.

Preaching to the choir, she delivered a well-honed, crisp and occasionally funny monologue (many of her jokes seem to feature her neurosurgeon husband, who allegedly likes to say, “It’s not brain surgery”) to a mostly Republican crowd of about 120 at a muffin and fruit salad breakfast in Santa Barbara, the very epicenter of California politics.

Although Her Megness once again stiffed Calbuzz on our primordial, sit-down interview request, our constant caterwauling about her inaccessibility may be paying incremental dividends, as she consented afterward to answer questions from reporters for 8 minutes and 13 seconds (our Department of Measureables and MBOs makes that 2 minutes and 3.25 seconds for each of the four scribes on hand). Then she blasted off to her next event in a gray Chevy Tahoe (shortly after extolling the virtues of green energy).

Enough with the sucking up.

The thrust of her schtick, which stayed relentlessly on a boost-business-bash-government message, is a kind of Neo-Checchism, in which she made the case for her candidacy by extolling her virtues as a business executive, promising to bring her gimlet-eyed, bottom line attitudes and experience to bear on state government, viz:

“I bring 30 years of business experience to managing state government and I will tell you my core belief is we have to run this a bit more like a business.”

“First and foremost I have run a very large organization with $8 billion in revenues and 15,000 employees and I’ve done that for many years, and I’ve also created jobs.

“We have to run (state government) like a business, because there’s no question that we are driving businesses out of California, and we have a government we can no longer afford.”

As a political matter: Putting aside for the moment the existential issue that government is, distinctly, not a business –- i.e. not established for the purposes of making a profit; producing goods and services in response to market demands; or serving only those with the ability to pay for the service it does provide –  Whitman’s campaign positioning as the business candidate faces three big challenges:

1-The business of citizenship. As we’ve noted Californians have long been immune to the charms of wealthy private business types who consider the governorship to be an entry level job (see Governors Ron Unz, Al  Checchi, Bill Simon, etc.), doubly so when a candidate has failed to perform the most basic duty of citizenship; thanks to Chronicler Carla Marinucci, we know that Whitman has a spotty voting record, failing to register until 2002, missing over half the elections since (including the 2003 recall) and not signing up as a Republican until 2007.

2-The business of business. Checchi, who spent millions of his own fortune in a failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 1998, also showed how past business practices and decisions can ensnare a corporate executive candidate.

To cite just two examples of circumstances which invite the press and eMeg’s rivals to ask if this is the kind of financial expertise she’ll bring to Sacramento:

a) As CEO she hailed as a great coup her engineering of eBay’s acquisition of the online calling service Skype. The New York Times on Tuesday described it as “one of the worst technology transactions of the decade,” in reporting that eBay is about to sell Skype at a substantial loss.

b) Back in the halcyon dot-com days, as the B- has reported, she also “attracted controversy and criticism for accepting exclusive opportunities to invest in initial public stock offerings,” a practice that “led to a shareholder lawsuit against Whitman and others (and) also exposed Whitman to the national political scene when her investment drew a public thrashing by Congress.”

3-The boardroom business. While sticking to non-threatening, controlled venues, Whitman keeps ducking substantive interviews with serious California political media and debates with her rivals. The latest: her avoidance of the big Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s confab later this month which every candidate for governor except her has agreed to attend. Our friend Joe Garafoli also reports that KGO is having trouble dealing with her in their effort to put on a radio debate. This follows her earlier no-show at a Sacramento debate including GOP foes Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell, and her refusal to commit to another Republican event organized by Chapman University.

“We will certainly find time to debate between now and the primary, trust me,” she assured reporters when asked about this on Tuesday.

But being on the defensive about such an issue at this early stage of the campaign makes her look, well, afraid to venture outside her campaign cocoon, and suggests a sense of entitlement more befitting a penthouse boardroom maven than an elected official in the public arena.

As a policy matter: In her spiel, Whitman revealed an intriguing understanding of how government works. Asked directly how she can be effective in the swamp of Sacramento, eMeg claimed that she – unlike, oh say, all those stiffs who have preceded her – will use “all the levers you have as governor.” To wit:

1-Appointments. For starters, she talked about a “big infusion of the private sector into the government” and said that in selecting the 4,000 state employees under her purview she will get “exactly the right people in the right job.”

Well, actually not. There’s the small matter of attracting private sector talent – from Florida, Texas and elsewhere, she vowed – for public wages (we’ll also guess that all that far-flung talent just dying to move to River City will find California’s relocation benefits not quite up to eBay standards). Not to mention the power of the (Democratic) Legislature to torpedo or stall many of her star power appointments, or the thorny problem of trying to staff up an administration on the fly; as Obama is finding out, getting your team in place on the field while the clock is inexorably ticking is trickier than it looks.

2-Veto power. eMeg thundered about how she’ll whip the Legislature into shape: “You have to let the Legislature know what you will and will not put up with,” she said Tuesday. “You have to veto consistently so that they know what you will sign and what you won’t.” Bad dog! No peeing on the rug! Don’t ever do that again!

Excuse us, Your All-Mighty Megness, but every one of those 120 characters in what you might call your co-equal branch of government has his or her own narrow interests and constituency, and structurally none of them has much reason to fear you or your rolled up newspaper.

3-Ballot initiatives. Whitman called “the proposition process” a “double-edged sword” that needs fixing. The “pacing and sequencing of propositions is incredibly important,” she said, adding:  “I think you can only do one at a time.” Really? And the governor controls this how, exactly?

4-Leadership. Being governor, she said, is the “ultimate test of leadership and conviction” for which she is well suited because she’s “tough as nails” and has “a spine of steel.” She added: “If you have a huge need to be liked and to be popular all the time, this is not the job.”

The Calbuzz Aha Moment: Elections, it turns out, are not popularity contests. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?

Poizner Plays Prius to eMeg’s High-Rolling Hummer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

poiznerfingerInsurance Commish Steve Poizner on Monday offered himself as the Prius candidate for governor – the guy with “a hybrid mix of skills” – while taking a few whacks at his big-spending GOP rival Meg Whitman during his first campaign conference call with reporters.

Pledging to “get California back on track,” – an implicit critique of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Poizner argued that although he’s also a Republican, “I don’t think people look at the position of governor with a partisan perspective.”

The next governor’s top challenges will be [note: Calbuzz decoder ring translations in brackets] to “modernize and overhaul state government,” [cut spending throughout government] and “bring jobs back to California.” [cut taxes and regulations].

Sounding much like Schwarzenegger did when he pledged to “blow up the boxes” and remake California government, Poizner said he would cut spending not with an axe, but with a scalpel, agency by agency, department by department, as he said he’s done in the office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Asked why anyone should believe that he could do what Schwarzenegger has been unable to do, Poizner first gave a standard stump reply: “I’ve never been confused with Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Informed by an intrepid  news hound that while “cute,” this was not a real answer, Poizner added that he is an entrepreneur, an engineer and a problem solver with a track record [which Arnold did not have].

Voters, he said, are looking for “an outsider with a track record to deal with insiders.” That, he suggested, is one factor that separates him from eMeg – the former eBay CEO – who has no government experience. “Running the state of California is not like running a company – it’s not how to grow and gain market share” but modernizing and overhauling state government, he said.

Poizner stated that 3,000 people a day week are leaving California because of high taxes and a lack of jobs (his source is U.S. Census data on net migration for California – but his declared cause for it was challenged by a recent PPIC study). The solution, he argued, is to cut taxes.

What taxes, we asked. We’ll get to that within a month, he promised, saying he’s got a policy analyst from Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign – Lanhe Chan – and a “first class policy shop” working on a program of tax cuts. [Decoder ring update: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.]

He refused to say whether he’d support an oil severance tax, but he did say he favors the Tranquillon Ridge drilling project in Santa Barbara and other efforts to increase oil drilling from existing platforms and onshore facilities using slant-drilling technology. “I don’t support building new platforms,” he added.

[This makes him safe to all those Republicans in coastal counties whose homes overlook the ocean and who will vote for GOP candidates as long as they don’t mess with their views.]

As for eMeg, Poizner noted that “one of my opponents spent more in June than I’ve spent in total.” Californa, he added, “has a history of wealthy business people parachuting in” but that this has tended to backfire “when people think you’re trying to buy the election.” [hmmm...]

In round figures, Poizner has raised about $5.4 million, including $4.2 million from himself and $1.2 million from others, and spent about $1.7 million, leaving him with about $3.7 million in the bank.

Whitman, on the other hand, has raised about $25 million, including a whopping $19 million from herself and $6 million from others, and has spent a sort of   astonishing $6 million, leaving her with $19 million in the bank.

Poizner – a multi-millionaire himself – said “We’re going to raise all the money we need.” But, “If sheer financial wealth is all you need, we’d have had a Governor Checchi,” he said, referring to the former Northwest Airlines chieftain who lost the 1998 Democratic primary after spending more than $40 million of his own money.

He said he would “spend money carefully – I’m not going to go down the road of reckless spending.” And to underscore the point, his communications director, Jerrod Jarrod Agen, later sent over some helpful items from eMeg’s spending report including:

– Private Jets – $100,926.71: ACM Aviation, LLC
– Consultants – $2,111,774.29
– Crystal Valet – $9,283
– Wolfgang Puck Catering – $10,962
– Internet — $994,278.67: Including $943,067.54 to Tokoni Inc.*

“We were quite surprised that the Whitman campaign has spent over $6 million,” Agen said, “not necessarily to talk to voters.”

Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei had no apologies. “Meg has a budget that was created with the goal of winning on election day both in June and November of next year. And the money has been invested into campaign operations thus far is well within that budget,” she said.

“We’re allocating resources to put ourselves in the best position to communicate with voters about Meg’s vision for the future of our state.”

P.S. A Calbuzz tip of the green eyeshade to Poizner for making himself available for some serious questioning — something Her Megness, with her big fat fancy-pants consulting staff, has steadfastly refused to do.

* Tokoni Inc. was founded in n August 2007 by Alex Kazim and his wife, Mary Lou Song. Kazim previously held several top management positions at eBay, including president of Skype, eBay’s internet communications flop, a Whitman project that ultimately cost eBay about $2 billion.

Fishwrap: eMeg Spends, Steve Spins, Sarah Pales

Friday, July 17th, 2009

megauctionThe road to Damascus: While the Capitol Knucklehead Patrol keeps flailing in their efforts to pass a new budget, Calbuzz — issue oriented and solution driven, as always –- experienced an epiphany about how to stem the tide of red ink: Let’s let eMeg do it.

The campaign of Republican wannabe governor Whitman –- aka The Political Consultant Relief Act of 2010 –- announced this week that the candidate had kicked another $15 million of her own dough into the race, bringing her self-contributions to $19 Large to date.

This works out to $123,376.62 per day (or $5,140.69 an hour) since announcing her candidacy in February, according to sources in the Calbuzz CFO’s office; at this rate, she can pay off the deficit in a jiffy * and save all of us a lot of trouble.

Whitman’s early embrace of the famed Governor Al Checchi strategy seems designed with two basic purposes: 1) to intimidate and demoralize the opposition and 2) to bypass the media, old and new, in controlling the message and introducing herself to voters through a no-doubt stirring set of TV spots, a movie that Californians have seen before but never really warmed to.

For Whitman, the first problem with her Checchi strategy is that one of her primary rivals is Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who made his own pile in Silicon Valley and who keeps assuring us that his campaign will be “fully funded”; in other words, even though he’s currently throwing around nickels like manhole covers, when the deal goes down, he’ll spend whatever it takes.

“This election isn’t an eBay auction and you can’t win by out-bidding your opponent,” cracked recently arrived Poizner flack Jarron Agen. “With the economy in a recession, our message to Meg is: don’t stop at $15 million, spend it all and do it locally.”

Meg’s second problem is that while she seems intent on running a saccharine, Morning in America campaign – “Young voters find inspiration, common ground at San Diego MEGa WOMEN event,” her treacly website proclaims this week – both Poizner and the earnest Tom Campbell seem determined to talk about issues that actually matter to GOP voters.

Poizner noticeably stepped up his substance quotient in recent days, picking a fight with Nancy Pelosi in a speech about water delivered in Firebaugh, which was aimed straight at the heart of the conservative base in the drought-stricken Central Valley, where he also picked up another half-dozen ham and egg endorsements from local mayors, supervisors and tax assessors.

Next he showed up at Thursday’s big meeting of the tax reform Commission on the 21st Century Economy in San Francisco to ally himself with Republican true believers of the Arthur Laffer jihadist brigade: “As Governor, I will cut taxes for Californians,” he said after testifying to the commission.

While his woefully unspecific blanket statement at first glance seems kinda silly, Poizner’s red-meat-and-potatoes pitch is less designed for subtlety and weed whackers than for seizing hearts and minds among the true-believing anti-tax Republican base.

*(Calbuzz truth squad: Actually, if eMeg keeps giving her campaign money at the current rate, she’ll spend about $57 million of her fortune by next November’s election. Our Green Eyeshade Division advises that paying off California’s $27 billion deficit would take her slightly longer – until July 17, 2606. And we’re pretty sure she doesn’t have that much.)

palin winkStop the presses: Sacramento is not the worst state capital in America. In fact, according to the National Journal’s analysis of “The Six Most Dysfunctional State Governments” in the nation, California comes in a sorry sixth, scoring only 6.25 points out of a possible 10, and trailing South Carolina, Alaska, Illinois, Nevada and New York.

The magazine rated states according to four critieria, and while we scored big in “Policy Challenges” (10) and “Leadership Problems (8),” we lagged far behind in “Criminality” (1) and “Media Circus” atmosphere (6). Calbuzz notes that four of the five states finishing in front have had recent sex scandals while Alaska has Sarah Palin’s ongoing snowbilly soap opera saga. Memo to Arnold and Co. — Let’s get busy up there.

Calbuzz gets results: The worst idea of the year , Sen. Leland Yee’s effort to take control of the University of California away from the Regents and give it to the Legislature has died a quiet death at least for this legislative session.  “I guess the Regents have pretty powerful friends, that’s all I can say,” said Yee, D-S.F. Or rational ones, anyway.lorettacycle

Inquiring minds want to know: If Loretta Sanchez — she of the wacky Christmas cards – were to give up her seat in Congress and get herself  elected to succeed Arnold, would she forego the Governor’s Mansion for the Playboy Mansion?

Follow that story: Latest on the effort to free San Francisco journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, imprisoned in North Korea, is here , here and here.

Blue Plate Special: The Parsky Commission — you know, the bi-partisan panel charged by the governor with coming up with a unified proposal to restructure California’s tax system — on Thursday decided to accept for study the proposals from liberals to be thrown into the mix along with proposals from conservatives already in the hopper.

This is a smart move by the commission, which will now ask the governor for an extension of its term for at least another 45 days or so. The current leaders of the Legislature have pledged that whatever single proposal comes out of this group will get a straight up or down vote in both houses — an unparalleled  opportunity for a group of politically  and economically savvy outsides to affect fundamental change in California. If they don’t blow it by failing to find a compromise set of ideas.

Weekend Flea Market: Lie Down with Dogs, Come Up with Items

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

blankface1Whither Tony V?: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s abrupt cancellation of his appearance at the Democratic state convention, coupled with the consistent snarliness of his political handlers, has fueled speculation that Tony V. may not run for governor. But L.A. political insiders scoff at such gossip: “It looks like it’s going to be a Democratic year. If he doesn’t go now, in eight years he’ll be 66, and facing a whole new generation of young ‘uns,” said one savvy southland seer. “This is his shot.”

Still, local politicos are closely eyeballing the increasingly bitter brawl for city attorney between lawyer Carmen Trutanich and city councilman Jack Weiss as a measure of Villaraigosa’s strength. If Weiss, the mayor’s dog in this fight, loses on May 19, it will be one more bit of evidence, along with Tony’s unimpressive re-election numbers, that Antonio Alcalde’s standing with his political base ain’t all that.

Whitman Sampler: On the Republican side, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner stepped up his attacks on GOP front-runner Meg Whitman this week, issuing no less than three statements ripping eMeg variously for ducking debates, stiffing the press and sugarcoating her tenure at eBay.

Weirdest move by the Poizneristas was a press release reprinting in full an article written for Capitol Weekly by Democratic consultant Garry South, Gavin Newsom’s strategist. The piece was South’s take on the problems faced by rich business executives who jump into politics, an issue we posted about on Monday. In recounting how he tackled the wealthy businessman Al Checchi while handling Gray Davis for governor, South saw similarities with Whitman:

“Whitman shares yet another commonality with Checchi – a spotty voting record,” he wrote. “Whitman didn’t bother to vote in four statewide elections since just 2003 – including the ‘03 recall election that put Gov. Schwarzenegger in office. À la Checchi, she hasn’t been able to verify whether she voted in the 1994 gubernatorial election, when the controversial anti-immigrant Prop. 187 was on the ballot. She has apologized for these lapses, saying she was busy running a company and had two kids. (Average voters with kids use that as an excuse for skipping the polling place?)”

Whitman has remained sanguine in the face of near-constant sniping from various corners, apparently believing that the Republican primary is more than a year away… Oh, it is?

Be that as it may, by remaining silent in the face of Poizner’s pounding, eMeg runs the risk that the narratives her rival is setting down – she’s afraid to debate, she’s afraid of the press, she’s doesn’t understand state issues – take hold, at least among the cognescenti and the media. If that happens, she may find down the road that her orchestrated efforts to “introduce” herself to voters will be hampered by a need for rehab, to undo the definition frame Poizner plunked on her early (now, about that Calbuzz interview request, Meg…)

Lust in his heart: Tom Campbell, the third Republican in the race, keeps plugging away in his terminally earnest energizer bunny manner, trying to make the race about…issues, fercryinoutloud.

Campbell this week delivered a big guest lecture on economics at UCLA, in which he raised the specter of unintended consequences arising from Obama’s John Maynard Keynes imitation:

“The growth in federal borrowing over the last six months has been greater than at any comparable time in American history, by a large amount,” Campbell said. “When the economy recovers, inflation is inevitable. A modest estimate, given the amount of money the federal government has printed, is in excess of 12% inflation.

“That has a direct cost to California because of the huge amounts our state borrows,” he added. “No one will buy a California bond at less than the expected rate of inflation. So, as systemic double-digit inflation, dead since Jimmy Carter, returns to our national economy, the effect will be particularly devastating on California’s ability to balance its budget.”

Oy.

Puff, puff, bail, bail: Greg Lucas, Calbuzz Capitol Correspondent, blogs his take on the dust-up over legalizing marijuana, over at California’s Capitol. His bottom line — not bloody likely anytime soon:

“Expansion of sin taxes hasn’t fared well in the Capitol… Although possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, lawmakers are reluctant to back legislation that could make them appear soft-on-crime, fearing campaign attack pieces. That would make legalization of marijuana that much more difficult.”

The long goodbye: Latest twist in the sad saga of newspapers twisting slowly in the wind was a Senate subcommittee hearing on “The Future of Journalism” this week; chairman John Kerry and other members of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body defended ink-stained wretches against the likes of print-killers Arianna Huffington and Marisa Mayer of Google.

Washington Post class clown Dana Milbank had the most succinct report here while the strongest testimony was delivered by David Simon, former cop shop reporter for the Baltimore Sun who took on the decline of newspapers in season five of his superb HBO series, “The Wire.”

Freudian parts dept: One of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s many signature moments in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” comes when he wields a giant tear gas launcher against a bunch of cops while escaping from Cyberdyne Systems: “It’s definitely you,” adolescent hero John Connor tells Cyborg Arnold.

Now, one day after the governor promised fire-weary Santa Barbara residents he would do whatever it takes to conquer the raging Jesusita blaze, local smoke eaters got the firefighters’ equivalent of Arnold’s Big Gun: a DC-10 air tanker, which made repeated sorties over the fire Friday, dumping 12,000 gallons of retardant in a single drop.

“Chill out, dickwad.”