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Posts Tagged ‘Dale Ahlquist’



Dr. H Returns, Calbuzz Classic, Weird Holiday Dogs

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Despite his annual struggle against Seasonal Affect Disorder, Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P. J. Hackenflack has bravely battled his way through the stacks of mail that have piled up since the election, and graciously agreed to return today to answer our readers’ burning psycho-political questions.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Now that the election’s over, is Meg Whitman feeling any regrets about the way she treated her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz?
– Gloria La Rouge, West Hollywood

Totally. She can’t find anyone to clean the kitchen or do the wash, let alone bring in  the mail.

To the Honorable P.J. Hackenflack,
I’ve noticed that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa all of a sudden is traveling around the country trying to raise his profile. Wussup with that?
– Cass A. Nova, Reno

Ignore the political speculation. Just happens Tony V’s run through all the female anchors in L.A. and feels ready to move up to network news babes.

Dr. H,
Why is Dianne Feinstein running for another term at her age? I’ve seen younger faces on cash.
– Tom C. Silicon Valley

She’s determined to pass Strom Thurmond on the all-time Senate geezer list.

Yo Doc,
A friend said Jerry Brown is going to make his wife his chief of staff in the governor’s office. Do you think that’s a good idea?
– Jacques B, Paris, France

Yo Jacques – the doc is still trying to finagle invites to the big inaugural parties, so no way I’m touchin’ that one, dude.

To whom it may concern,
One of the Hollywood blogs said Arnold Schwarzenegger is in line to play the lead in a remake of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” True?
–  J.M. Stewart, Indiana Pennsylvania

False. He’s actually signed to play Willy Loman in an update of “Death of a Salesman.”

Sir,
I saw on the news that Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton sat in the audience instead of onstage at Jerry Brown’s first public hearing on the budget. Do you think that was an effective protest?
– Darrell S, K Street Mall

Bob who?

Hello Dr. Hackenflack,
Ana Matosantos seems like a nice, smart person, but it seems strange that Jerry’s keeping on Arnold’s finance director. Can you shed any light?
– Harry P, Sacramento

Turns out Governor Gandalf was time traveling when he met her and thinks he’s rehired Adriana Gianturco.

Hey Doc,
Now that San Francisco’s mayor’s been elected lieutenant governor, there’s a big fight to replace him. Who’s the best candidate?
– W. Brown Mineola, Tex.

Clearly Gavin Newsom. He has absolutely nothing else to do for the next four years.

Calbuzz Classic: Less than three weeks before he takes the oath of office as governor, Jerry Brown is already making moves to assume the powers of the state’s chief executive.  So we thought it was an appropriate time to start measuring Brown’s acts against his words in the campaign. Here’s a piece we ran on April 13, 2009, based on the first major interview with Krusty that focused on his bid for governor:

Reflecting on his first incarnation as California governor, Jerry Brown says he was overly concerned with the importance of new ideas and not focused enough on the practicalities of getting things done.

In the first extensive interview about his 2010 gubernatorial bid, Brown told Calbuzz that if he wins back, at the age of 72, the office he first captured when he was 36, things will be different.

“Then I emphasized new ideas, now I would emphasize management more,” he told us. “It was very exciting then, but without losing that sense of innovation, I’d be more practical-minded, very detailed, focused on follow through and consensus building . . . I’d be looking for people who are seasoned administrators.”

In a telephone interview last week, Brown said he is motivated to seek a second turn as governor by his own “unspent potential,” a notion he credited to the anthropologist Gregory Bateson: “The key to flexibility is not spending all your potential.”

Speaking in rushing streams of high-speed sentences, Brown talked of everything from how to attack Sacramento’s partisan dysfunction to the hair products used by Democratic rival Gavin Newsom. Boasting that his two terms as governor were “good years” for California, he rattled off a list of accomplishments, while uncharacteristically acknowledging some shortcomings.

“My sense of management has been refined and developed,” said the man who, as governor, was known to mock and belittle the pathways, processes and procedures of state government and those who work in it.

His candidacy still formally undeclared, Brown only occasionally used the phrase “if I run,” in portraying himself as a master politician whose experience in elected office at every level – mayor, attorney general, state party chairman, to name a few – affords him unmatched understanding of government organization and operations which he would wield at California’s intractable problems.

“I have a greater sense of how things get done and don’t get done,” he said. “I have a much better, hands-on understanding of how (government) functions . . . a sense of how things work . . . a much better sense of sizing people up and how you go about building an administration.”

We wanted to interview Brown to ask his views on seven key questions we posed to all the candidates in one of our first posts. In his own fashion, he addressed most of them. However, Brown staunchly refused to specify what combination of cuts and tax hikes he would support to deal with chronic deficits, beyond stressing his view that California is a “very high tax” state and dismissing as politically impractical the proposal to amend Proposition 13 by taxing commercial and industrial property at higher rates than residential property.

“Anyone who answers that (tax and cuts question) will never have a chance to be governor,” he said. “It’s very hard to discuss with particularity anything that can be turned into (campaign) fodder.”

Moreover, he added, “dictating from the corner office does not work . . . If eliminating the structural problems in the California budget were easy, Wilson, Davis and Schwarzenegger would have done it.”

How would he deal with fiercely ideological legislators on the left and the right?

“I’m going to become an apostle of common sense,” he said. “I will disabuse them of their ill-conceived predilections.”

“There’s an embedded partisanship that has to become disembedded,” he said. “In my bones, I’m not that partisan. I’m an independent thinker. That’s my tradition. I’ve been wary of ideology since I left the Sacred Heart Novitiate (in 1960).”

(Nostalgia footnote: Brown’s reference to “common sense” reminded us that when we covered his 1992 “Winter Soldier” campaign for president, he signed copies of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” at a bookstore in Nashua, New Hampshire.)

[Only later did we discover that there had been a TV series about one of Brown's intellectual inspirations, hosted by Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, titled " G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense."]

We asked Brown this key question: What do you want to do as governor?

He quickly ticked off four key concerns with specific ideas in each area: Renewable energy; prison reform; education reform; water policy (we’ll report details on these in future posts).

He acknowledged that pushing through innovative solutions on these issues would be difficult in the polarized atmosphere of Sacramento. He labeled as “a type of anarchy” the view of some GOP lawmakers that sending the state into bankruptcy is preferable to voting for a budget that includes tax increases.

“That kind of subversive attitude is unacceptable,” Brown said.

Asked about structural reforms, Brown said he doesn’t “think term limits have been helpful” because they create a revolving door mentality, with lawmakers constantly running for the next office.

“People being around 20 years is a problem. But people being around for just six years is a bigger problem,” he said. “They become more dependent on interest groups because they don’t have time to develop loyalty in their districts.”

While not a fan of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass budgets, Brown said he doesn’t think there is a “mechanical” cure to structural financial problems.

Sounding most unlike an old-school Jerry Brown Democrat, he argued repeatedly that regulations making California less competitive than surrounding states must be challenged. “We have to make sure that regulation does not curtail business,” he said, echoing the Chamber of Commerce more than the Sierra Club.

On the issue of his age, about which Newsom and others (including Calbuzz) have needled him – Brown said the question was “meaningless.”

“Is their premise that my opponents think faster than me? Do they want to challenge me to a timed multiple-choice test?”

Informed that he’s older than the ballpoint pen, Brown laughed. “I remember the ballpoint pen,” he said, recalling that when the instrument came out, it was available to students only in blue ink (and it leaked).

The age attack “has no meaning . . . If Feinstein is so old, how come she’s 20 points ahead (in polls listing her as a candidate)?”

“It’s all about creativity . . . The fact that they’re attacking me is a plus, not a minus . . . I don’t know that it’s bad to be associated with Linda Ronstadt and the Beatles.”

As for those behind the line of attack on his septuagenarian status, Brown personally chided Newsom and his strategist Garry South:

“I don’t know whether he’s sniffing his hairspray or what,” the buzz-cut Brown said of South. “Between the hairspray and the gel (favored by Newsom) I think they’re getting a little intoxicated.”

Ho, ho, ho: Just because we can’t resist pictures of dogs in goofy costumes.

God, Man & Jerry Brown’s Ignatian Indifference

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Our friend Dan Balz did a nice job after he scored a sit-down interview with Jerry Brown, in advance of Crusty’s formal annunciation that he’s running for governor. We were especially intrigued when we read this:

If she wins the GOP nomination, Whitman will have a sizable financial advantage over Brown. She has already put $39 million of her money into the race and could spend $150 million or more by the election in November. Brown can’t compete with that kind of money, but he said of Whitman, “Her money is not kryptonite.”

Asked how he will prepare for that, he offered a lesson from St. Ignatius. He would summon all the “Ignatian indifference” that he could. That is, he added, the idea of eschewing attachments to wealth or glory and preparing “to do the will of God, however it manifests.”

“Here we have the will of the people,” Brown said, “and how it turns out will be fine for me.”

Huh? Wussup with that ?

Was Jerry really saying he’s preparing “to do the will of God?” And if so, how come Balz didn’t make that the lede of his piece? Because if that’s what Jerry is saying – that he is bracing for Meg’s onslaught by preparing “to do the will of God” — then by golly, he’s right in there with Pat Robertson and Rick Warren, isn’t he?

So we called Jerry’s office for some clarification. Brown wouldn’t come to the phone for a quick theological discussion, but spokesman, Sterling Clifford (who sat in on the Balz interview but who was raised Mormon, not Catholic and certainly not Jesuit) said Jerry was trying to explain “Ignatian indifference” as an acceptance of God’s will, which he distinguished from the election, which is a matter of the peoples’ will.

We weren’t convinced.

Wasn’t Jerry saying that in preparing to accept eMeg’s multi-million-dollar attacks, he would be doing God’s will? “Jerry was not saying that,” Clifford said. “He was saying he’s making an effort not to take the personal attacks too seriously.”

When we checked with Balz, he agreed that Brown wasn’t saying he’s preparing to do the will of God but, “That the will of the people is in this case like the will of God — that is, whatever the voters decide he will accept.”

OK, but flashback to 1998. We were there when former Attorney General Dan Lungren got in some trouble talking about the role of God in public life as he launched his campaign for governor.

Is Brown on the verge of doing the same thing? It’s a fair question because Brown’s theology is deeply embedded. He took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Los Gatos in 1958 where, according to biographer Roger Rapoport, “It seemed to Jerry there was no limit to what you might accomplish if you let go of your personal ambitions and committed your life to the greater glory of God, as his instrument.”

Of course, Brown was released from those vows two years later, when he left the seminary. By then, however, he was ingrained with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which were designed by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) to help “conquer oneself and regulate one’s life and avoid coming to a determination through any inordinate affection.”

Though not a Jesuit priest, as he might have become, Brown has never cast off the doctrine of contemplatio ad amorem – with its belief that the spirit of God can be found everywhere – in chaos and order, intelligence and ignorance, fame and obscurity — and that contemplation and action go hand in hand because being is active.

The same clash of concepts, unity of opposites, battling dualities (think: against Prop 13 and for it, for example) has been a hallmark of Brown’s theology, ontology – not to mention politics — throughout his life, as suggested in his comment to Balz that he would do the will of God and the will of the people at the same time.

It was no accident that the young Jerry was fascinated by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit paleontologist and phenomenologist. About the time Brown was in the seminary, Teilhard was silenced by the Jesuit hierarchy for his attempts to synthesize theology and evolutionary biology. As Brown biographer Richard Rappoport described Teilhard’s theories, he sought “to reconcile humanism and grace, nature and the Cross, prudence and heroism, freedom and obedience.”

It’s not hard to understand why Brown would – then and now — be attracted to a priest who wrote: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

In Jerry time, it was a mere nanosecond from the study of Teilhard to the Tassajara Hot Springs, the Carmel Valley Zen retreat that Brown and his one-time aide de camp Jacques Barzaghi used to visit; to E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” and onward to C.K. Chesterton, who was labeled “The Apostle of Common Sense,” in a book by Dale Ahlquist, published by (drum roll here) Ignatius Press.

It wasn’t coincidence that in his first interview heading toward this election – with Calbuzz back in April of last year — Brown said he is planning to be an “apostle of common sense.” We saw then, an echo of his 1992 Winter Soldier presidential campaign in which he autographed copies of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”

But the phrase – actually the title of Ahlquist’s 2003 book — pays homage to Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), the 300-pound, cigar-smoking English writer, journalist and Catholic convert who labeled common sense “that extinct branch of psychology” and who wrote: “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people.”

Chesterton, who attacked both socialism and capitalism, who defended the Catholic faith and the common man is just another in the line of thinkers whose ideas seem woven into Brown’s  rhetoric.

His thinking seems little changed from the window into his psyche he offered in the 1975 commencement at the University of Santa Clara – the Jesuit school he had attended for a year before joining the seminary. In part of that speech, Brown reached back to the Father Teilhard de Chardin who, he said:

“…saw that there was an evolution of the mind as well as the body. The evolution of the spirit was bringing the divergence of this planet together, not only the nuclear problems, the problem of learning to live with people who are very different, the problem of one generation accepting the different lifestyle, of accepting one another. I think we can very well think of the philosophy that all diversity is being converged toward a greater unit. That’s the way I see things and it won’t be done unless each one of us can do this for ourselves so that together we can do what none of us can do separately.”

His spokespeople can deny it, but Jerry Brown has always seemed to see himself as an instrument of God’s will and an instrument of the people’s will, simultaneously. He has never had any interest in imposing his religious beliefs on others but to assert that he is not shaped and driven by his Jesuitical ontology is to deny the obvious.

Brown’s first guru was not Baba Ram Dass, who published “Be Here Now” in 1971, but his forerunner — Ignatius — who told Jerry and all the other would-be keepers of the flame and sword from the 16th Century onward: “Age quod agis” – “Do what you are doing.”