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Posts Tagged ‘furlough’



The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

A candidate couldn’t say one thing one day – like, for example, that they were opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — and another thing another day – like they basically agree with an opponent who favors a path to citizenship. They’d be afraid of being called a liar in the papers, and that would actually matter.

But in the California governor’s race it now appears that we are witnessing the Death of Truth. From a cosmic perspective, this has come about because:

– The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically-sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

– The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

– It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

All of this feeds the corrosive cynicism that infects our politics, demonstrated most visibly in low voter turnout. Even among those who vote, healthy skepticism is often supplanted with a smart-ass, know-it-all facile sophistication that assumes all politicians are liars (they’re not) and that everyone in public life only wants to do well (we still believe there are some who want to do good).

Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs.

Exhibit A for the Death of Truth is Her Megness, eMeg Whitman herself.

Let’s be clear: Krusty the General (Gandalf) Brown and his Merry Pranksters in Oakland are guilty of their own special brand of spin. But it’s pretty much your normal, basic campaign (wink-wink) re-framing like you’d get from Gov. Schwarzmuscle, President Oybama or Golden Gate Feinstein.

Brown has failed to level with voters about how he’d deal with the state budget (we think he’d shift all the responsibility for services back to cities, counties school districts, with a local option to raise taxes, and get the locals off the state’s books), among most other issues. But his guy Sterling Clifford has a point when he argues that “Meg Whitman is trying to paper over her lies and deceptions with dollar bills.”

Indeed, when it comes to killing truth, eMeg is miles ahead in felony flip-floppery. The pro-Brown California Working Families tried to drive that point home last week with the release of an online ad titled “Lies.” detailing just a few recent examples of Megspeak:

– She was for double furloughs for state employees before she was against furloughs altogether.

– She was for a path to citizenship before she knew what it meant, and then she was vehemently against it, before she declared herself aligned with Brown, who’s for it.

– She was for sending state agents into work places to hunt down and arrest illegal immigrant workers until she decided she was against that (probably illegal) idea.

– She was against extending benefits to children of illegal immigrants (like admission to state universities and colleges) before she was . . . wait, maybe she’s still against that, but OK with letting illegal immigrant offspring get treated at a hospital.

– In the primary she said, “We have to prosecute illegal aliens and criminal illegal aliens in all of our cities in every part of California.” Now she says, “What has bothered Latinos for too long is the harsh rhetoric around the immigration debate. Too often, the debate has been tinged with hurtful words signaling intolerance or worse to many Latinos.”

If a candidate changes his or her position from A to B, he or she can be accused of flip-flopping (or changing his or her mind). What makes the Whitman campaign’s changes so special is that her paid mouthpieces are out there insisting that eMeg has NOT changed her position one iota. She’s entirely consistent and not a rank opportunist, they argue.

Calbuzz has been harping on this lack of truthiness by the Whitman camp for some time, and we’ve catalogued a partial list of prevarications. But where are the other non-partisan voices willing to hold Meg’s feet to the fire? Why isn’t every editorial page and columnist in the state thundering with indignation, instead of equating Brown’s admittedly infuriating avoidance of staking clear positions on policy with Whitman’s corporate style, black-is-white daily deceits and deceptions?

The beyond standard quantum limit nature of Whitman’s spending so far has enabled her, like no California candidate in history, to take advantage of Calbuzzer Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”

So far, eMeg has circled the globe several times, while the too-often-timid California media are still struggling in the dark to find their trousers.

Jerry Brown: Grasshopper or Lotus Flower?

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Today, Calbuzzard cartoonist Tom Meyer provides a rare, behind-the-scenes peek inside the inner sanctum of the state Attorney General’s campaign headquarters, and finds the Democratic nominee for governor… sitting on his ass. With anxious Democrats from one end of the state to the other wetting the bed over Krusty the General’s Sun Tzu fight-by-indirection approach to the battle for governor (“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious” ) to be disquieting, if not downright scary. Meyer reports that Brown is nothing if not focused. What exactly it is he’s focused on is another issue.

Just in time for Christmas! Calbuzzers interested in owning a full color print of a Meyer cartoon (suitable for framing) should email Tom at tom@meyertoons.com .

As the world of eMeg turns: It’s a close call whether Meg Whitman’s performance on the campaign trail this week bore more resemblance to a) one of those old Saturday Night Live skits where Chevy Chase falls down a flight of stairs, trips, knocks over a full banquet table and lands flat on his ass or b) Professor Irwin Corey explaining the meaning of life:

One of the things that you’ve got to understand is that we’ve got to develop a continuity in order to relate to exacerbate those whose curiosity has not been defended, yet the information given can no longer be used as allegoric because the defendant does not use the evidence which can be substantiated by…What was the question?

While endlessly entertaining for the California press corps, eMeg’s inability to keep straight what she said a day or two before, let alone the primary, about immigration or immigration or immigration or state worker furloughs put her at times in Sarah Palin territory, if not quite at the level of Michelle Bachmann.

Given eMeg’s proven inability to speak consistently, if not coherently, about major issues that you’d like to think she was catching on about by now, it’s no surprise that Calbuzz hears on the street that she’s doubling down on her current L.A. TV buys – putting her in the neighborhood of $1.2 million a week – a quick and nifty way to make sure voters hear what her handlers want her message to be, even if she’s not quite capable of saying it herself.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

P.S. We also hear that the next round of eMeg ads will include a batch of new positives. Concerned about the unfavorable image voters have of her, look for her well-paid and well-fed Svengalis to roll out the Meg Whitman Charm Offensive before long.

Anonymous sources always welcome here: A mere 28 months before the presidential election, coat holders for eMeg mentor Mitt Romney and potential rival Palin are already trading cheap insults under cover of anonymity granted them by national political reporters who just can’t wait to get things going.

It started when Time’s Mark Halperin quoted a couple of Romney advisers: “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble,” said one. “She’s not a serious human being,” chipped in another.

Then Politico joined the fray, quoting an unnamed Palin partisan returning fire. And Huffpost media writer Jason Linkins is the only reporter to date to notice the circle-within-circles absurdity of Politico’s sourcing of this blind quote:

“For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As Linkins noted: “It’s as if words have no meaning at all.”

How many times do we have to tell you guys to hire a copy editor: Speaking of linguistic nullity, the Empire of eMeg struck again after the big California Nurses Association protest outside her Atherton spread, when a newly-anointed member of the Meg Whitman Nurses Advisory Committee snarled that “this partisan union is going to obscene lengths to win Jerry Brown’s third term,” and then concluded with this clunker, captured forever by the Coco Times:

“The CNA is shamelessly misrepresenting a respected profession for partisan political gain and it’s a shame.”

Shamefully, their shamelessness apparently still has a shame. For shame.

Why Arnold’s “Legacy” Claim is a Fraud

Monday, July 27th, 2009

arnoldcigarThe day before the Legislature passed the third patchwork version of California’s budget in 10 months, Gov. Schwarzenegger took to “Flashreport,” the state’s leading conservative web site, to claim “a huge win.”

“(T)he biggest winner to emerge from our negotiations is California,” the governor bragged, “our state’s legacy, its priorities, and its budget stability.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!

Schwarzenegger’s triumphalist braying was little more than a one-step-ahead-of-the-posse exercise in spin control, a pathetically transparent bid to establish a positive narrative for the budget disaster over which he’s presided, in hopes that voters and his suck-up pals in the national media will buy his story without bothering to check it out.

(NOTE TO NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITERS: Schwarzenegger did NOT solve or stabilize California’s budget. Despite his assertion to the contrary, his budget – passed in February and now revised twice – actually RAISED TAXES by $12.5 BILLION. With the latest revision, he threw off enough ballast to keep his hot air balloon afloat but in no particular direction.)

As Fred Keeley, the elected treasurer of Santa Cruz County, put it:

“The governor set the standard when he said, at the start of the process, that this needs to be a complete solution. And then he violated his own standard by signing a budget which doesn’t solve the problem this year or next year and in fact, according to the Legislative Analyst and the Department of Finance, is going to create a multi-billion-dollar deficit next year.”

Keeley knows wherearnoldbuckof he speaks. He served on the Assembly Budget Committee for six years, was asked by former Gov. Gray Davis to be Finance Director and is a Senate appointee to the Governor’s 21st Century Commission on the Economy.

In truth, Arnold’s entire tenure has been one continuous failure of leadership. This is just the latest chapter.

From his first days in office (when he sowed the seeds of today’s never-ending fiscal crisis by his irresponsible cut in the vehicle license fee) to his ill-considered $15 billion borrowing bond (which helped make interest payments the fastest growing item in the budget) and his current shameful spending plan (which gives the University of California a major push into mediocrity while continuing the slow death of K-12 education and punishing the aged, blind and disabled), he has been little more than a narcissistic, tone-deaf poseur, surrounded by sycophants and devoid of principle or conviction.

At a time when the state’s economy is hemorrhaging, its schools failing and roads crumbling, Schwarzenegger has been utterly ineffective in explaining to Californians the reasons behind the problems we face, and even less so in proposing innovative solutions to any of them. His little touchdown dance about the current budget belies the painful truth that this is nothing but a stop-gap maneuver designed to escape the embarrassment of issuing IOUs and con the credit markets into a few months of cash to ease the state’s borrowing jones.

Schwarzenegger’s soaring claims about the wonders worked by his budget fail on three grounds:

1. It’s a short term fix. Amid all the high-fives and chest bumps in the governor’s circle, it’s important to recall that the latest budget plan comes just five months after the last one, which came only five months before the previous. In other words, California has had three budgets in less than a year and, given current revenue trends, it’s all but certain that Arnold and the gang will be back in the fall for yet another round of all-nighters. Filled with gimmicks, borrowing and Grand Theft from schools and local government, the “huge win” for California being trumpeted by Schwarzenegger is nothing but more of the same old same old.

2. It does nothing to address the state’s dysfunction. As Calbuzz has reported the ongoing budget mess is a symptom of a far more fundamental disorder – a state of permanent ideological gridlock shaped by term limits, gerrymandering and three decades worth of wrong-headed initiatives. The latest “drama” over the budget is just another re-run of Groundhog Day, and it will keep re-playing and replaying until the pols in the Capitol acknowledge and accept the need for fundamental reforms, and find the cojones and the political skill to sell them to their constituents across the state.

3. It will probably make things worse. While it is true that the state for years has had a structural deficit, caused by the governor and the Legislature’s effort to defy the laws of arithmetic, it is also true that the huge magnitude of the current deficit is overwhelmingly caused by the current recession, which slashed state revenues by nearly one-third in one year, reducing tax collections to the level of a decade ago. The bursting of the real estate bubble, and the structural decline of the economy that has followed it has put the entire state economy into treacherous territory that may yet turn into a full-blown depression.

Under these conditions, there’s a strong argument to be made that wholesale cuts that the budget delivers will make the recession more punishing: as layoffs of public employee push the unemployment rate higher, furloughed state workers spend less, as all the programs set up to help with those who fall on hard economic times are cut back at the very moment they’re needed most.

As Calbuzz reported about the latest forecast by California economist Bill Watkins: “California’s budget issues are likely to be made worse by continuing economic decline. Perversely, the budget then negatively feeds back into the economy. The problem is not likely to see relief, at least in terms of increased revenues, before late 2011.”