Archive for 2011

Press Clips: Skelton Wins the Big One

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The Sage of Sacramento: A Google search of the words “George Skelton” and “quotes” instantly guides you to one of the more profound thoughts ever written or uttered by a California journalist:

“Don’t worry. Things will get worse.”

We share this splendid existential insight today in tribute to Skelton, the L.A. Times lifer whose rare combination of craftsmanship, consistency and sheer crankiness has shaped political writing in California for the last century-and-a-half.

Last night, Skelton was to be honored by for his oeuvre by colleagues, friends and foes, not to mention the usual assortment of badge sniffers, hacks and hangers-on in search of free food and booze, at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Sacramento Press Club (an affair, we note, that conspicuously excluded Dr. P.J. Hackenflack who, we further note, never forgets a slight and always carries a grudge. But we digress)

Hours before the historic event, the Great Man himself took to the pages of his paper to preview his impending veneration with a typically clear-eyed commentary on his decades in the Capitol:

The Legislature has become weaker and the moneyed interests stronger. You’d think that governors also would have become stronger, filling the legislative power vacuum. They haven’t. They try to deal, but modern legislators too often lack the courage and skills to compromise…

But the entire legislative system has been corrupted by Democrats‘ fear of angering labor unions and Republicans‘ subservience to a few anti-tax opportunists and entertainers.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

Today, Skelton receives yet another, even greater, accolade, in the form of the Calbuzz  Little Pulitzer Lifetime Achievement in Investigative Punditry Award.

In granting the honor, the judges hailed him for a “a body of work that has edified, educated, elated, elucidated, engrossed, enlightened, entertained and enraged Californians about the state of their state government since his landmark coverage of the successful campaign for governor of Peter Hardeman Burnett in 1849.”

Ah, what a race that was.

For us, Skelton is the best at what he does for at least three reasons: 1) he never forgets that his first professional duty is to serve as a watchdog for his readers about the politicians he covers, and doesn’t surrender to the temptation of playing kissy poo suck-up games for access; 2) he possesses an encyclopedic institutional knowledge of the material of politics and government that disarms and disables any pols or sources who would spin or shine him on at their peril; 3) he actually cares about this stuff, and whether the government works in the public interest or not, notwithstanding the crusty, crotchety Mr. Cranky Pants sentiments reflected in his iconic quotation above.

Lest you doubt it, behold how Eeyore himself allowed a small ray of sunshine to creep into the kicker of his anniversary essay:

But after a three-decade slide in Sacramento, I see hope. The budget now can be passed by a majority vote. Independent redistricting and open primaries kick in next year.

One key lesson of the last 50 years: Emphatic voter actions have long-term consequences. They do more than just send angry messages.

Great work, man.

Splenetic in San Diego: A venerable California political strategist once explained to us the key to running a campaign when your candidate is far behind: “When you’re going nowhere, pick a fight with somebody.”

That nugget of political wisdom came to mind as we checked Calwhine, the latest blogospheric reinvention of San Diego U-T editorial writer Chris Reed, who marked his return to the internets by ingesting a vast quantity of Red Bull, chewing on the rug and then aiming a 1,000 word (!) hissy fit at Calbuzz.

We have a soft spot for writers who mainline invective as food and diatribe as strong drink, so it’s good to have Reed’s boisterous voice back in the mix, shrillness, stridency and adolescent petulance be damned. An arsonist running wild in a field of straw men, Reed has a huge and proven talent for afflicting the afflicted and easing the burdens of the embattled 1%, all the while woefully misreading and willfully misrepresenting the words of his elders.

Welcome back, Chris. We hope you’re feeling better soon.

Must read of the week: We’ve been kvetching for weeks about the Occupy movement’s need for political focus. Now Jane Mayer makes the most eloquent case for it yet.

Mystery Solved: Jerry Brown’s Fortress of Solitude

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Nobody begrudges Gov. Jerry Brown a vacation. But the people of California, who elected him to govern, have a right to know where he’s off to and for how long. So in the absence of any information about where Jerry and Anne went, we asked our Calbuzz Advisory Board of the World’s Leading Authorities on Practically Everything where they think he went and what he was doing.

Two suggested he was hanging out with accused sexual-harasser Jacques Barzaghi, his former confidant and aide de camp, in either Morocco or some remote village in France. A few said the governor went wherever First Lady Anne Gust Brown told him to go and was doing whatever she told him to do. And two suggested he had found a fortress of solitude: one even enclosed a photo of “the secret lair of the League of Shadows, where Bruce Wayne sought solitude and training as a spiritual warrior so that he might return to Gotham to fight evil and right past wrongs.”

One of our panelists made this trenchant critique:

I don’t give a shit where Brown went, as long as he’s not hiking the Appalachian Trail.  But it is irresponsible and cavalier for a governor of the largest state to leave the state clouded in mystery and with the citizens left clueless about where their chief executive is.  Arnold used to take jaunts to vacation spots unknown, too, but he was also a widely recognizable, world-famous movie star who presumably had security concerns wherever he went.  What’s Brown’s excuse?

A couple of panelists suggested Brown went to see his sister Kathleen in Chicago (and one said no, the family would have to come to him). Here are some other responses from the Calbuzz California Consultanate. As you’ll see, a few of our Republican panelists used the occasion to take a whack or two at Governor Absentius.

— I have no idea but maybe he’ll come back ready to actually govern.

— He was spotted at the LA Coliseum last Saturday night watching the UCLA/USC game, which explains the fact that UCLA fired Coach Rick Neuheisel on Monday.  The Governor realizes that you cannot raise UC fees and not score a point against the local private university.  

— He went to Hawaii to check out that resort where all those legislators went with powerful special interests. Or he went to Washington to thank CMS for approving those Medi-Cal cuts. Or he went to an undisclosed location to meet with top liberals who are looking for an alternative presidential candidate to Obama.

— He went to New Jersey to ask Chris Christie how to stand up to the unions.

— I’m hoping he was visiting New York State and studying under a fellow liberal Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, who actually is willing to take on the unions/other Dem special interests and challenge liberal orthodoxy in order to revive/reform his state

— He went to Greece for vacation.  He wanted to see the only politicians on Earth that are worse at handling a budget than the California Legislature.

 —  He and Anne were among the first people in a tent outside of Toys R Us waiting and successfully securing an Angry Birds toy of their very own.  After proceeding to other Black Friday sales (we know how thrifty he is) he proceeded to Small Business Saturday and did his early shopping from his trusty home laptop for Black Sunday/Monday. 

—  Two of the last three Democratic presidents had to run against Jerry Brown, no reason it shouldn’t be three of three. The governor was meeting secretly with Democrats in New Hampshire.

Two of our panelists said Brown was in Mexico, reading and relaxing. We don’t know if they actually knew something or if it was just a lucky guess, but according to an alert Calbuzzer who contacted us (not a Consultanate member),  Jerry and Anne were at Rancho La Puerta, a spa resort, just outside of Tecate, Mexico, about an hour’s drive southeast of San Diego.

“My aunt stayed there and saw him and Anne there all of last week,” said our intrepid Calbuzz crowdsourcer.

Our source’s info is confirmed by photographer Don Paulson, who taught a course at the spa and “rubbed shoulders” with the gov. Nor was this the first time Jerry and Anne hung out at the spa’s “guilt-free zone.”

Rancho La Puerta, according to its web site was founded in 1940 by Edmond and Deborah Szekely as the world’s first destination fitness resort and spa. The 3,000-acre property “offers world-class landscaped gardens, an organic farm, internationally known cooking school, and mountainsides and meadows of great hiking and walking experiences.”

The resort offers hiking, workouts, cooking classes, arts and crafts, jewelry making, gardening and lectures and “discussions on wide-ranging philosophies, archaeo-theosophy, cosmology, and history each afternoon beneath the oak trees.”

Rates start at $2,985 per person per week for a cozy casita with private bath up to $4,510 per person for a two-bedroom villa suite — not too shabby since rates include all meals, guided hikes and walks, fitness classes, use of the fitness facilities, evening programs, lectures, and scheduled transportation to/from the San Diego International Airport on Saturdays. However, spa services (facials, massages, etc.) and cooking classes/demos are a la carte.

The governor’s office – in the person of the officious and high-handed Elizabeth Ashford – informed Calbuzz that Brown’s vacation plans were private, that no state funds were used to pay for airfare and that she would not discuss whether the governor’s protective detail was with him.

We asked who looked after Sutter, but got no response.


Here’s a shot posted on Facebook by Angelino Mark Fleischman of himself, his wife Mimi and California’s first couple, taken last week at Rancho La Puerta:

What Jerry Brown Should Have Said About UC Davis

Monday, November 28th, 2011


Dear Jerry,

Welcome back to California from wherever you were. As you may have heard, while you were gone, campus police at U.C.  Davis, acting on orders from the chancellor to clear peaceful protesters out of an open public area, pepper sprayed students who were posing absolutely no danger to anyone or anything.

Of course missing out on important goings-on as an absent governor is nothing new for you: your constant travels as a presidential candidate in 1979 and 1980 left your loathsome Republican lieutenant governor, Mike Curb, as acting governor and he used his status to veto legislation, issue executive orders and make appointments.

This time – and by the way, it’s absurd that your alleged press office wouldn’t say where you’d gone (not the Appalachian Trail, we assume) – your lite gov played nice, if a bit milquetoasty for our tastes.

“UC students and the people of California deserve a swift, just and thorough independent investigation into this matter,” Gavin Newsom said in a prepared statement. “Concrete remedies need to be implemented to ensure that peaceful protests on our university campuses are never again met with senseless violence.”

“President Mark Yudof and his staff have kept my office appraised on the events of the last week and I made it clear that the University has a profound obligation to its staff and student body — not to mention its worldwide reputation — to better balance protecting the public safety with protecting the constitutional right to free speech and political expression,” Newsom said. “After contact with William Bratton earlier this week, I am pleased that the University of California has retained the former Los Angeles Police Chief to lead an independent investigation of the pepper spray incident on the campus of UC Davis last Friday. I have every confidence that Chief Bratton will be thorough and frank in its findings.”

Here’s the problem, Jerry. Wherever you were – and we gotta believe you knew about what happened because a) your alleged press office said so and b) the video was all over the friggin’ planet – you should have issued a strong, compelling and unambiguous statement.

You should have said something like this:

The use of pepper spray and night sticks against peacefully protesting students at UC Davis represents exactly the wrong message our great universities should be sending to our young people.

Instead of supporting and encouraging students who have become productively and non-violently engaged in the important issues of the day, university authorities unleashed overwhelming military force against them.

It is not enough for University of California officials to call for a review of policies and procedures. Those responsible for this outrageous assault on human rights must be held fully accountable, Students and parents must be reassured that the University of California and all higher education institutions in this state respect and applaud young people who reject apathy and embrace personal involvement in what ails society.

You still could if you just man up, governor. It’s not too late to demonstrate that the actual Office of the Governor encourages students to take direct, peaceful action in support of their convictions and expects California’s universities to cherish exactly this kind of informed engagement.


Late Monday, Brown’s office released a letter the governor sent earlier in the day to Paul Cappitelli, executive director of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, saying:

“I am seriously concerned that the rules governing the use of force, in particular the use of pepper spray, are not well understood in the context of civil disobedience and various forms of public protest. The recent ‘occupation’ protests in cities throughout California and on campuses of the University of California underscore the urgency of articulating guidelines that are crystal clear and comport with constitutional requirements.

“In view of widespread public concern, I am requesting that POST carefully review its 2003 Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines and, without delay, make whatever changes are necessary to ensure compliance with First and Fourth Amendment protections against excessive force.”

Brown’s press office said the governor also had spoken to UC President Mark Yudof and former LA Police Chief Bill Bratton. What Brown said, we don’t know.