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Posts Tagged ‘Jon Fleischman’



Press Clips: Krusty’s Koans Stir Up Stormy Weather

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Jerry Brown shifted into full Zen mode this week, offering increasingly cryptic commentary amid a political atmosphere that grows ever more cloudy and gray.

As nicely illustrated by Calbuzz meteorological doodler Tom Meyer today, the cold front arising from  long-stalled talks over the Capitol’s budget mess has built up a mass of cumulonimbus thunderheads that threaten at any moment to erupt into a tempestuous political storm.

Press corps forecasters were hampered in their task of wringing clarity out of a muddy situation by contending reports offered by the Field and PPIC* polls, the Doppler radar twins of California political augury. (We refer you to a) our post-graduate dissertation on the high priest polling methodologies that generally account for some of the differences between the Two Marks and b) the secular humanist explanation offered Thursday by Joe Garafoli:  “Confused? Get in line”).

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Far more than clashing public opinion surveys, however, it was a series of odd and oblique  public utterances by Gandalf himself that blew a thick layer of mystifying mist over the political high pressure area (think we’ve tortured the weather metaphor enough yet? -ed.). Brown suddenly transformed his earlier Catholic rhetoric about the budget fight into a flurry of widely-reported Buddha-like pronouncements, which offered precious little enlightenment about what was going on with the budget in the here and now, let alone what would  happen in the next moment.

In a brave effort to end the epidemic of head scratching that followed Governor Gautama’s pronouncements, Calbuzz conducted its own unscientific polling, the better to capture a snapshot in time of what ordinary Californians think about whatever the hell it is Krusty’s been talking about the last couple days. Among the key results:

1-“Whichever way I look, I see bears in the forest.”

Four of 10 of those surveyed (40%) believe that Brown actually meant to say that he sees “bears shit in the woods” wherever he looks, while nearly one-third (32%) agree with the NRA argument that his statement proves there are way too many bears, and one-in-five (20%) back the Sierra Club position that he should not be walking in the woods without filing an EIR.

2-“We’ll know the deadline when we’ve passed it.”

Voters polled were evenly divided about the meaning of this gubernatorial  comment. One-third (33%) believe he saw a “teaching moment” opportunity to educate the public about the illusory nature of time; one-third (33%) felt  he was referencing the ultimately subjective nature of reality, and one-third (33%) said it was likely the first time Brown had ever used the word “deadline” and clearly had no idea what it meant.

3- “I can confirm I am not unconsidering anything that I ought to consider.”

A large plurality of Californians (49%) told our researchers that Brown has quickly tired of serving as governor and is auditioning to be the press spokesman for Meg Whitman’s next campaign. Nearly as many (48%) said that the governor was spiritually channeling Donald (“there are things that we know, there are known unknowns”) Rumsfeld, while a tiny minority (3%) felt he was just being plain inconsiderate.

4 “There is not as yet a clear delineation as to what will seal the deal. We’re still waiting for what I’d call a term sheet. What’s the bedrock of what Republicans need to put this before the people?”

Brown’s uncharacteristic use of business world phrases like “term sheet” and “seal the deal” convinced six in ten (60%) registered non-voters that he had stayed up too late trying to plow through one of wife Anne Gust’s old Management by Objective handbooks, while three in ten (30%) unregistered voters felt “very strongly” that he’d been spending way too much time with the “The Dictionary of Cliches”; the remainder (10%) of non-registered non-voters said the governor was quoting Dr. Irwin Corey.

5-”There’s a sense on the part of some that they’re going to come up with something good…There are positive vibes.”

A slight majority (51%) among those surveyed believe that Brown believes it is still 1976 and was feeling “groovy” when he made his remark to reporters, while the rest were divided evenly between those (44.5%) who said he’d been told there was going to be a Beach Boys concert in Capitol Park and those (44.5%)  who’d heard that Jacques Barzaghi will soon be joining the administration.

The Calbuzz survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 179%.

PS: The famous bear reference we think Jerry may have been trying to evoke was from the anti-Soviet 1984 Hal Riney ad for Ronald Reagan that began, “There is a bear in the woods.”

* What PPIC poll actually shows:

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There was a lot of breathless reporting about the PPIC finding that shows support for Brown’s proposal to hold a special election on tax extensions dipping to a mere 51% among likely voters, from 66% in January.

But if anyone explained what was behind the shift, we missed it.

Here’s what happened: there was a relentless, two-month partisan campaign against Brown’s idea and it worked; the move against the idea was double among Republicans what it was among voters overall.

With anti-tax jihadist Grover of Norquist, radio clowns John and Ken, Howard Jarvis Wannabe Jon Coupal and GOP gunslinger Jon Fleischman screaming their lungs out against the idea of putting a tax-extension measure on the ballot, lo and behold, Republican voters (and some independents who lean Republican) responded to the call.

While the net drop in support for placing a tax measure on the ballot was -7% among Democrats and -23% among independents (as self-identified by PPIC), the net drop in support was a massive -41% among Republican likely voters.

Among Democrats and independents, a little number crunching reveals,  57% of likely voters – about six in 10 – still support the notion of putting a tax measure on the ballot. It’s mainly Republicans who have been brow-beaten away from the idea.

Governor Brown has proposed a special election this June for voters
to vote on a tax- and-fee package to prevent additional state budget cuts.
In general, do you think the special election is a good idea or bad idea? (PPIC)
January March
Good Bad Good Bad
Likely Voters 66 31 51 40 -24
Democrats 75 23 68 23 -7
Independents 65 32 50 40 -23
Republicans 53 43 30 61 -41

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Press Clip Three Dot Lounge:

Sportswriter starts prostitution ring – publishers see new revenue stream to save ailing newspapers.

Just asking: Is a story about incendiary racist hate speech by a half-wit city council member really the best place to employ on-the-one-hand-on-the-other false equivalence journalism?

Jay Rosen reports that many cringeworthy MSM types still haven’t gotten the memo that Y2K has come and gone.

Stewart offers full coverage of the real inside stories unfolding in Japan and Libya.

ICYMI: To the moon, Alice.

Jerry’s Options Dwindle; Calbuzz Breakthrough Plan

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

At this stage of his life, Jerry Brown is at the end of his rope.

Biologically, the matter’s pretty much out of his hands. Politically, however, Governor Gandalf is still fighting the good existential fight, laboring day and night in an effort to craft a solution to the state’s budget woes.

As a political  matter, his biggest problem that needs fixing is this: most of the Republicans in the Legislature can just sit back and laugh at his exertions, getting exactly what they want by doing exactly nothing.

Not surprisingly, Brown is frustrated, exasperated and more than a little pissed off at the GOP members who are, variously,  inexperienced,  scared of losing their jobs and/or ignorant.

“If you’re not going to vote to extend taxes, if you’re not going to vote to cut, if you’re not going to vote to eliminate redevelopment, so what the hell are you going to do?” Brown said Monday night. “By the way, if you’re not going to do anything why do you take a paycheck?”

The boundaries of his dilemma are clear: He promised that he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people; he doesn’t want a Democrats-only majority vote to put a tax extension measure on the ballot; he’s so far failed to peel off two votes from Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to get a two-thirds vote for a ballot measure. And an all-cuts budget to eliminate the state’s $26.6 billion deficit is so draconian, it’s not clear Republicans would vote for it, not to mention Democrats.

So when he now vows, as he did Monday night, that a tax vote will happen “one way or another” — “no matter what anybody says across the street” — it’s clear he’s banking on some mechanism to get a measure on the ballot. But how, and on which ballot, are both unclear.

Brown’s approval rating of 48-21% (including 67-10% among Democrats, 45-23% among independents and 25-35% among Republicans) is far better than the Legislature’s at 16-70%, according to the Field Poll. But so what?

He can slap up a crappy You Tube behind-the-desk speech and argue “This is a matter of we, the people, taking charge and voting on the most fundamental matters that affect all of our lives.” He can go before Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference and cry “I say let California vote!” But he still seems stuck with just five options:

1. Get a 2/3 Vote: Threaten, bribe or cajole two members each of the Assembly and the Senate to agree to place on the June ballot a five-year extension of income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees passed in 2009. This was always Brown’s Plan A. But anti-tax forces have vowed to place on a stick the head of any Republican legislator who goes along with this idea, even if they get a spending cap, pension reform and regulatory relief for business in the bargain. “The moment of truth is rapidly approaching,” for this option, Brown said the other night.

2. Use the Majority Vote: Democrats in the Legislature have enough votes to place the extensions on the June ballot on their own by arguing that they’re part of the existing budget that’s in place until June 30. For starters, this might or might not be legally valid; worse, as a partisan measure, it might cause business interests who have expressed support to turn against it, to avoid being in league with the Democrats who will have conceded “only” budget cuts but no action on pensions or regulations.

3. Scramble for a June initiative: Some consultants have said it might still be possible to gather enough signatures for a June measure to extend the taxes, but writing a measure, getting approval, analysis, title and summary, circulating and collecting signatures would have to occur in record time. Most people think it can’t be done.

4. Adopt an All-Cuts Budget: Brown might still just throw up his hands and lay out another $14 billion in cuts. See above for why this option sucks.

5. Gather signatures for November: This could be a last-ditch attempt to keep his promise for a vote and avert massive cuts. The problem is that once they get past June, those extensions from the 2009 will have expired and continuing them, even temporarily, can more easily be characterized as tax increases. Polling has found about 55% support for extensions, 52% for temporary taxes and less than 40% support for tax increases.

Not a good choice in the bunch.

Voila! The Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

Such a move would fulfill Brown’s promise for a vote on taxes while ripping the mask from the Republicans’ phony we’re-just-protecting-the-taxpayers stance and forcing them to take public responsibility for the real-life consequences of what their position truly means: a massive reduction in popular public services, starting with K-12 schools and higher ed.

Right now the right-wing has the best of all possible worlds: they cry crocodile tears about government spending without having to lift a finger to take ownership of the painful steps necessary to reduce it enough to balance the budget exclusively with cuts.

Using political jujitsu, however, the Calbuzz Plan flips the framework on the whole debate, and denies irresponsible Republicans their current luxury of indulging in total unaccountability.

Is it legal? We have no idea, but we’ve paid enough attorney fees to know that it wouldn’t be hard to round up a whole stadium full of lawyers willing to argue that it is. If nothing else, that at least will boost employment.

Calbuzz Joins the Party with the GOP in Sacramento

Friday, March 18th, 2011

At least half of the Calbuzz Crisis Intervention and White Russian Affairs Desk will converge on Sacramento today to follow the progress of the Sovietization of the California Republican Party.

Our wall readers have been keeping close tabs on postings from secret members of the Comintern, and here are some of the key questions they’ve raised that may be answered this weekend:

1. Will the troglodytes triumph? Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly, has drawn widespread attention with her resolution to purge the party of the “traitors” who dare to take seriously their responsibility to govern. Next up: the CRA calls for exiling all GOPers who turn left at stop signs.

2. Will the GOP 5 be tarred and feathered? Senators Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Canella, Bill Emmerson and Tom Harman are already being denounced for negotiating with Governor Jerry Brown about the shape of the table. If any of them shows his face at the Hyatt Regency bar, here’s hoping a rabies-ridden delegate doesn’t try to chew it off.

3. Will Sutter Brown show up to debate Grover Norquist? Party leader Ron Nehring backed down instantly when the governor’s office offered First Pooch Sutter to accept Mr. Chairman’s invite for a debate with anti-tax jihadist Norquist. Now we hear the cagey Corgi may be prowling the lobby in an effort to sniff out Muppet Man Grover.

4. Will the Stalinistas strike a blow for authoritarianism? Fiercely  determined to shrink the size of their party as much as possible, ideologically pure apparatchiks are sponsoring a rules change to put all the power to decide which candidate in any top-two primary is or is not a “real” Republican in the hands of the GOPs most conservative bureaucrats. This one’s so far out even the Tea Party’s against it.

5. What will Fleischman’s bar bill be? Jon “Ice Axe” Fleischman, the noted bitter-ender Bolshevik blogger, has promised to buy drinks for the entire press corps. It’s a small price to pay for the ink slingers’ outstanding efforts to make him a Big Deal. You like me, right now, you like me!

We can only wish that we were making this stuff up. In fact, our key questions align quite closely with the actual struggles being waged within the Grand Old Party.

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Convention cognoscenti tip sheet

Barbourian at the gate: Beyond all the turf battles and litmus tests, the biggest behind-the-scenes convention story has been been the hair-pulling and garment-rending by members of the so-called “news media” about the awful timing of the speech by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, which has prevented Dr. P.J. Hackenflack from organizing one of his spectacular dinners.

Instead, people on expense accounts – we name no names — will have to listen to and report on the pearls of wisdom offered by the corpulent drawler, even though the chance that he’ll be the next president of these United States is about as likely as finding a Union flag in Yazoo City.

The only presidential contender who decided to come, Barbour will be the keynote speaker on Saturday night, although reporters may be more interested in asking him about how he made a fortune as a lobbyist for big oil, tobacco companies and the Mexican government (just for starters).

He also is still trying to explain his relationship to some of the less savory racial forces in the South. As this Wiki excerpt accurately puts it:

In December 2010, Barbour was interviewed by The Weekly Standard magazine. Asked about coming of age in Yazoo City during the civil rights era, Barbour, who was 16 when three civil rights workers were murdered in the state in the summer of 1964, told the interviewer regarding growing up there, “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”[54]

Barbour then credited the White Citizens’ Council for keeping the KKK out of Yazoo City and ensuring the peaceful integration of its schools. Barbour dismissed comparisons between the White Citizens’ Councils and the KKK, and referred to the Councils as “an organization of town leaders.” Barbour continued in his defense of the Councils, saying, “In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

Barbour’s statement did not address the role of the white supremacist group in publicly naming and blacklisting individuals who petitioned for educational integration and how it used political pressure and violence to force African-American residents to move This led to a considerable outcry in which critics such as Rachel Maddow accused Barbour of whitewashing history. In response to criticism, Barbour issued a statement declaring Citizens’ Councils to be “indefensible.”

Calbuzz will attend Gov. Barbour’s press avail: inquiring minds want to know.

At least it’s not Michael Bolton: In addition to informative and enlightening remarks from the likes of Congressman Jeff Denham and Damon “Hard Hat” Dunn, Friday night’s main speaker will be John Bolton, whose star-spangled career has included: fighting reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during WWII; neck-deep involvement in the Iran-Contra affair; derailing a 2001 biological weapons conference in Geneva; pushing for inclusion of a false statement in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address that British Intelligence had determined Iraq had attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger (inhale) and being named U.N. ambassador on a recess appointment (after losing Democratic and Republican support), having argued that “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”

Saturday’s lunch speaker will be alleged pollster Frank Luntz. His sparkling resume includes being reprimanded by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, censured by the National Council on Public Polls and called a “moron” by respected Republican pollster Bill McInturff for mocking Sen. John McCain’s inability to use a Blackberry (which he can’t because of the injuries he sustained as a prisoner of war in Vietnam).

Luntz is the wordsmith who coined favorites like “death taxes” (estate taxes), “energy exploration” (oil drilling), “climate change” (global warming) [he actually advised environmentalists against using "climate change"] and “government takeover” (health care reform). He also once argued in a radio interview that “To be ‘Orwellian’ is to speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening… and to do so without any pejorative whatsoever.”

We can hardly wait.

Meanwhile: Fully half of the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk will be in the Republican stronghold of the Central Valley, paying homage to the late David Broder by discussing the weighty matters being debated at the weekend confab with Actual Voters (and soon-to-be-in-laws). Vox populi, vox dei.

The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Secret Battle on Pinocchio Hat; Flash Nixes Tax Vote

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Now it can be told: At a crucial point in the race for governor, an internal campaign debate among Jerry Brown’s top advisers broke out over a hard-hitting TV ad that portrayed Republican rival Meg Whitman as Pinocchio, Calbuzz has learned.

The key tactical question at stake in the behind-the-scenes political battle: Whether or not to put a little yellow Tyrolean hat with a golden feather on top of eMeg’s head in the spot.

We’re not making this up.

In a wide-ranging investigation, our Department of High-Impact Probes and Overstuffed File Cabinets ferreted out the story via a series of confidential interviews with High-Powered Political Sources.

Because of the extreme sensitivity of the matter, Calbuzz scrupulously applied Bob Woodward’s rules for wide-ranging investigations, promising our sources anonymity in exchange for their pledges of candor, with the agreement that we would tell the story in the omniscient third-person voice, with direct quotations more or less aligned with reality.

Sources gave this account:

Shortly after Labor Day, Whitman unleashed an ad with Bill Clinton hitting Brown on his most vulnerable soft spot saying he was a tax-and-spend liberal who could not be trusted. Brown compounded the problem by insulting Clinton’s proclivities at a public event. But after Brown apologized to Clinton for his loose lips, Elvis put out a statement saying the charge he’d made in the 1992 debate clip Whitman was using was in fact based on an erroneous CNN report.

Newspapers, TV and radio outlets and online sites all reported that the Whitman ad was simply not true. But eMeg stood by the ad, arguing that it was accurate. Brown’s people needed to say Whitman was lying — in the nicest possible way, of course.

No Relation to Steve Glazer

Their consensus on how to answer, suggested by adman David Doak, was a 15-second spot that pictured eMeg as Pinocchio, with her nose growing during the ad to the size of a baseball bat, as a narrator recounted some of the lies she was telling about Brown.*

The ad was quickly produced by Joe Trippi’s shop with the enthusiastic endorsement of candidate Brown (who to this day never tires of claiming credit for it, or of confronting complete strangers to demand they tell him whether they saw it during the campaign) through the use of not-very-sophisticated graphics technology that made Meg’s nose get longer and longer.

Then the trouble began.

When the media team turned in the ad, alarm bells went off in the head of campaign manager Steve Glazer. He was deeply troubled by one crucial detail: was placing the little yellow hat on Meg’s head too demeaning to her?

Demeaning?” one source who liked the ad replied to Glazer’s question. “Steve, we’re making her nose grow four feet – how could it be more demeaning than that?”

Still, when Glazer’s concern was communicated to Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, Brown’s Oakland command ordered up another version of the spot that did not have the little hat on Meg’s head.

“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” one source thought to himself.

Nonetheless, alternative versions were produced, as the difficult question – hat or no hat – continued to divide Team Brown. Finally, a coast-to-coast conference call was convened, and the issue was put directly to Brown’s most senior media strategist.

“Do you think the hat is too demeaning?” he was asked.

Long seconds passed, while the fate of the entire Brown effort – along with the future of California – hung in the balance.

“No,” the Washington-based strategist said.

The rest is history.

The ad went on the air on September 14, and Meg’s negatives kept growing and growing, not unlike her Pinocchio nose, as Brown steadily built a lead. The most astonishing thing about the story may be that the Armies of Whitman did not issue a snarky statement about the hat — practically the only thing they didn’t whine about during the entire race.

* (For the record, the ad was actually kind of a rip-off of our oft-used Pinocchio-Meg graphic, not to mention totally derivative of a stock campaign ad that goes back to at least 1988).

Redeveloping redevelopment: Tom Meyer today nails the full-on absurdity of the outrage over the governor’s move to shutter the operations of local redevelopment agencies that’s being voiced by local political hacks and real estate developers across the state.

Armed with the new PPIC poll, which shows two-thirds of Californians agree with him on the issue, Brown is playing a strong political hand, notwithstanding the heavy breathing and harrumphing by a coalition of mayors who called on him this week to protest the long overdue bid to end the redevelopment scam of skimming property tax revenues for the purpose of empire building and skid greasing for way too many sleazy projects in which oleaginous developers and greedy politicians engage in mutual back scratching in an atmosphere of soft corruption.

Latest evidence of how we’ll all manage to do just fine without redevelopment’s ’50s- and ’60s-era land use theory and practice comes in a dandy piece by Jim Miller of the Press-Enterprise.

In an impressive display of Actual Reporting, Miller checked the mandated state reports filed by a batch of agencies and found they “list few, if any, jobs created and little in the way of new construction or building rehabilitation.” Best stuff: the hemming and hawing by officials desperate to explain away the story told by the very documents they filed themselves, including this gem from John Shirey, president of the (all rise) California Redevelopment Association:

Unfortunately, those reports often get filled out by finance people because most of the report is financial,” Shirey said. “Finance people, they’re not in sales. They don’t take advantage of the chance to put down accomplishments.

“If it doesn’t get picked up by the redevelopment staff, then you see what you see, which is a lot of blanks,” he said.

So we see.

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No-diversity university: Here’s how bad the sexism was at last weekend’s big Berkeley conference on the governor’s race: Even Calbuzz noticed.

Somewhere between the first panel, featuring eight white guys, and the final panel, featuring seven white guys, we took a demographic stroll through the lineups for all of the two days of presentations. Counting panelists and moderators, here are the stats:

31 men
5 women
34 white people
2 minorities

Apparently, we weren’t alone in raising our untrimmed eyebrows at the disconnect between the conference population and that of, you know,  California. Soon after the event ended, some pretty pissed off political women started posting this video on their Facebook pages, and it’s now careening far and wide across the internets.  More from the estimable Joe Garafoli.

Flash tells why Brown’s tax measure should not be on the ballot

In response to the post on Calbuzz last week arguing that lawmakers should place on the ballot Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend, for five years, certain tax increases that were passed in 2009, we asked our friend Jon Fleischman, editor and publisher of the conservative FlashReport (whom we likened to a feudal yeoman), to present the other side. Here’s his argument.

The main reason why legislators should not put a tax increase measure on the ballot is that raising taxes is a bad idea, and the idea of placing a measure before voters in essence plays “kick the can” for four or five months, when problems should be addressed now.

Based on the fact that voters rejected the last seven tax-increase measures before them, and in fact rejected these exact tax increases (but for a shorter duration) in a 2009 special election, the Legislature should not be going to the public again. This is a democratic republic, and our elected representatives should do their jobs.

It is also important to look at the politics of a special election on raising taxes. The reality is that all of the various special interest groups (with the state’s cash-heavy public employee unions at the front of the line) will spend literally tens of millions of dollars to influence voters.

It will be a full-scale effort to use any means possible to connive overtaxed Californians into taxing themselves even more. Unfortunately the ability of taxpayer protection groups to raise the kinds of funds it takes to seriously debunk the landslide of misleading ads is very limited. That is why it is critical to hold the line against a ballot measure at all costs.

An additional consideration for Republican legislators is that after seven years of Arnold Schwarzenegger being the top Republican in the state (we saw some of the effects of the impact of that this last November), we need to restore the brand name of the Grand Old Party. Once a party that voters knew would oppose higher taxes, now that message is unclear. Nothing could be more damaging to a party trying to regain relevance that to abandon such a core issue.

You can be absolutely certain that a well-financed campaign for those tax increases on a special election ballot would make a huge deal over the “bi-partisan cooperation” to place the tax increase before voters. It would completely undermine the ability of the minority party to make the case for making a change in who is in charge of the Capitol.

If the left wants the public to vote on higher taxes, they can qualify a ballot measure (the unions can do that with just a fraction of their campaign funds). But at least if they go that route, it will be made clear to voters that Republicans had no part in it.