Posts Tagged ‘bipartisanship’

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.


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

Meyer on Arnold Fail; Obama Circles the Drain

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

The good news for Governor Schwarzmuscle this week is that he got off the best one-liner at the Sacramento Press Club’s Gridiron Gala: “I stand here before you as probably the second-most famous immigrant in California,” he told the audience of journos and political hacks. “The first is Meg Whitman’s maid.”

The bad news: The joke was pretty much the highlight of Arnold’s last four years.

Tom Meyer today details the final scene of mass destruction of the Terminator’s all-time worst movie – “Conan the Incompetent” – even as  Schwarzenegger keeps huffing and puffing a whirlwind of words on his own behalf, trying to gin up his alleged “legacy” in a desperate effort to declare victory as he leaves town with the Capitol in ruins.

The plain facts, however, are these: a) Schwarzenegger has utterly failed in leading California to a solution for its fiscal problems, the central promise of his election  in the historic 2003 recall, and is leaving things far worse than when he arrived; b) his job performance rating remains in the toilet, on a level with the recalled Gray Davis, as voters aren’t buying the phony shtick about what a swell job he’s done; c) he long ago lost any significant political influence in Sacramento, where both parties treat him as a joke.

In fairness, an attitude that occasionally descends upon us, the weight-lifting governor, whose biggest muscle always has seemed the genioglossus , has a few accomplishments: his play on public employee pension reform, while too little too late, is a good first step, his successful push for initiatives taking reapportionment  out of the hands of the Legislature is laudable, and may pay good government dividends down the road, and AB32’s climate change regulations are a signal achievement.

That said, his shameless pandering in rolling back the vehicle license fee blew a huge hole in the budget as soon as he took office, from which the state never recovered, his promise to “cut the state’s credit card” was a cruel joke, as interest on borrowing became the fastest-growing item in the budget, and his bone-headed play to put a reasonable spending cap initiative on the 2005 ballot along with three unrelated, largely partisan measures doomed his governorship just two years after it began.

When Schwarzenegger came into office, he made a solemn promise not to accept a salary as governor. In the end, he proved to be worth every penny.


Incredible shrinking Obama: As a symbol of political weakness, it’s too soon to say whether Barack Obama getting bashed in the lip while playing hoops will become the functional equivalent of Jimmy Carter getting chased by a Killer Rabbit. What is clear that the president now looks so hapless and enfeebled that he’s on the verge of becoming a national joke.

With national Democrats in disarray and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Obama seems completely unmoored, as the White House drifts politically amid a sea of ineptitude and bobs disconnected from the economic policy concerns of recession wracked Americans.

And all the while he just won’t stop droning in that annoying voice of clipped condescension and arrogance that he seems to think makes him sound authoritative. Calbuzz can just picture the out-of-work carpenter, sitting grimly over a draft in a Mission Street saloon, suddenly looking up and shouting, “Will you shut the fuck up!” to the image of a yammering Obama that flickers on the TV over the bar.

Even some of his most loyal defenders are looking for the exits:

But this week I have no blessed clue what the hell he’s up to. I’ve tried to look at this from every angle and each one leads me back to weak, weak, weak.

He’s following rules that no longer exist, pandering to voter attitudes that will have zero consequence in terms of both his approval numbers and his reelection chances. He’s completely off the rails — well beyond any notion of post-partisanship. In fact, if his intention has been to “change the way Washington does business,” he’s currently and epically failing because I simply can’t believe that the new and improved way is this way.

Within roughly 24 hours, President Obama preemptively capitulated to the Republicans and proposed an unabridged GOP idea — freezing federal worker salaries, then, almost as if on cue, the Senate Republicans put their unflinching childish obstructionism in writing and pledged to block everything unless the president extends the deficit-ballooning Bush tax rates. And in that mix, the Republicans blocked extensions of unemployment benefits. Twice.

The upshot? The president looks extraordinarily weak. Weaker than at any other time in his presidency. It probably didn’t help that he was literally beaten and bloodied when he announced the pay freeze, due to his weekend basketball fracas.

Of course the intention isn’t to appear weak. The intention is to appear magnanimous. The intention is to secure support from voters who buy into the ridiculous “both sides are the same” meme and who tell pollsters that they want more bipartisan cooperation, while incongruously voting for total gridlock and the potential of a government shutdown…

Unfortunately, however, bipartisan cooperation in this era has been entirely redefined to the point of virtual extinction. There’s no such thing as mutual cooperation between both parties. Modern bipartisanship is all about one party, the Democrats, flailing around and desperately struggling to appease the Republicans who return the favor by smacking the textbooks out of the president’s hands then kicking him in the ass while he picks up his crap off the floor — embarrassed and chuckling while muttering, “Oh, you guys.”

That character doesn’t look cooperative at all. He looks like a very smart and very serious… wimp.

Memo to Obama: Watch out for the wascally wabbit.

Sarah Palin takedown of the week: Don’t miss Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s superb essay drop kicking Half-Governor Whack Job’s no-nothing, breathtakingly presumptuous criticism of JFK’s famous speech on religion and politics.