Archive for 2012

Op-Ed: Who Will Speak for Women?

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

Governor Jerry Brown has defunded the California Commission on the Status of Women, eliminating its $265,000 in funding in the proposed 2012-2013 budget released Thursday.

Although Brown’s victory in the 2010 governor’s race was shaped by a 16 percent gender gap, he previously cut funding for the commission (CCSW) from $465,000 to $265,000 in the current, 2011-12 budget.

With future funding in doubt, it now is likely the 47 year-old Commission will close its doors in April.

In the last few weeks, a call to action went out across the state on behalf of the commission, encouraging women to send emails and call the Governor’s office.  An effort is also underway to raise money to fund the commission through June. The current Executive Director of CCSW is retiring which will further reduce the commission expenses, leaving a staff of two.  But can the commission survive?

What the commission does: Across the nation, a shifting political landscape is reducing the opportunity for women’s voices to be heard as well as support for the programs and services they need.

Commissions on the Status of Women are unique agencies.  They are advocates within the institutions of government, their members are appointed by elected representatives or are public officials themselves and their mandate is to advise on issues affecting women.  They exist throughout the country and are a result of President John F. Kennedy’s Council on the Status of Women that in 1963 recommended each state form a commission on the status of women.

Established in 1965, the California commission has a long history of advocacy for women in Sacramento.  Their motto is “No Woman Forgotten.”  To that end, the CCSW holds numerous statewide public hearings every other year; they are well attended and give women the opportunity to tell their stories and testify about the issues most concerning them.  The resulting information is translated into a “Public Policy Agenda and Proposals to the Governor and State Legislature.”

The commission analyzes bills, sponsors legislation and holds policy briefings for lawmakers each year.   Through their web site and emails they provide women with information affecting their daily lives.

Led by Executive Director Mary Wiberg, the Commission has successfully supported legislation to improve the lives of California women.  A partial list of CCSW-endorsed bills passed and signed by the last two governors include health insurance coverage for maternity care; protection for victims of domestic violence; eased requirements for In-Home Supportive Services recipients; sexual orientation materials for public school instruction; child custody proceedings; a crackdown on human trafficking and a gender based master plan for women in prison.

Why it matters: Women have advanced significantly since getting the vote, but are a long way from full equality.  They still have not gained equal pay for equal work; experience domestic violence in great numbers; provide the primary care for children and the elderly; need paid leave to balance work and family concerns; lack equal representation in public office and on corporate boards of directors, and face the potential of losing their reproductive freedom.

According to the California Budget Project, the current recession has resulted in a greater number of women losing their jobs; thus, more families are facing reduced incomes and loss of health care.

Next year’s proposed budget already will impact the day-to-day lives of California women, children and the poor.

In a Jan. 6th article on the Governor’s 2012-2013 budget, the L.A. Times reports that it will cut deeply in the following areas: public schools ($4.8 billion), childcare services and welfare ($1.4 billion), Medi-Cal ($1 billion) and children’s healthcare ($64 million).

Governor Brown’s refusal to fund the CCSW is a false economy. The annual budget of the commission has been $465,000.  With a population of 37 million women and men in California, the per capita cost to fund the commission is slightly more than one cent for each citizen in the state.  No lobbyist in Sacramento is more cost effective.

Few other voices: There are few voices for California women in the public arena.  Around the state, other Commissions on the Status of Women are struggling also. According to Suzanne Doty, Secretary of the Association of California Commissions for Women, there are approximately 15 commissions left statewide with varying degrees of support.  Most of these programs lack paid staff and are run by volunteers.

California Women Lead is a non-partisan organization whose mandate is to increase the number of women running.  Executive Director Rachel Michelin tracks current statistics in the state showing the status of women currently in office.  According to her findings, the number of women on California boards of supervisors and in the state legislature has decreased or remains static.

Mary Hughes, founder of The 2012 Project, (a non-partisan campaign to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures) reports there are 30 California state legislative districts with no incumbent running and no women candidates.

Without gender equity in public office, the need for the California Commission on the Status of Women is stronger than ever.  Sandy Gleysteen, chair of the Commission, provides an answer: “Women are bearing a disproportionate part of budget cuts, especially women of color and the underserved.  Now more than ever, women need to be represented in Sacramento.”

Brown falls short: Women who chose Brown over Meg Whitman in 2010 because of his record and commitment to women’s issues may well be surprised by his actions.

The governor wrote in last year’s budget message that he wanted to fund only “core functions” of government, but the commission works to support existing state programs that provide services for women, children and the poor.

Without the commission to serve as an in-house advocate, who will speak for women?

Susan Rose is a former Santa Barbara County Supervisor and served as Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.  She was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, an organization dedicated to helping women achieve elected and appointive office.

Press Clips: Lord Voldemort Meets Lindsay Lohan

Friday, January 6th, 2012

As every school child knows, it was Sir Francis Bacon in 1597, writing in “Maxims of the Law,” who first propounded the timeless dictum, “verba ita sunt intelligenda ut res magis valeat quam pereat.

Or, as the unschooled among us would have it: “When explaining a given subject, it is important to clarify rather than confuse.”

Bacon’s ancient adage for clear and commonsense usage is quoted in the full citation of this week’s Little Pulitzer Award for Belletrist Reporting, which honors John Myers for his splendid blog post, “Brown Interview: Pensive, Upbeat, More Latin.”

Beyond his tres drole headline, not to mention the characteristic resourcefulness with which he scored what appears to be the press corps’ only end-of-session one-on-one with Governor Gandalf, Myers furthered the interests of Krusty Classics Reference scholars everywhere, preserving for the historic record Brown’s latest Latin locution:

The 73-year-old chief executive summed up the hard work of politics via the Latin phrase Ad Astra per Aspera, which he said means, “To the stars through the thorns.” (In Kansas, apparently, they see Brown’s translation of “thorns” as the word “difficulty,” but the point is the same.)

 It is to Myers’ further credit that he conscientiously took the time to check out Brown’s somewhat esoteric, if lilting, English translation. “Ad Astra per Aspera,” which is more commonly translated as “a rough road leads to the stars,” serves as the definitional motto for a host of organizations and institutions around the world, from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the city of Embu-Guacu, Brazil and the South African Air Force to the Keila-Joa Boarding School in Turisalu, Estonia, California State University-East Bay and University High School in Fresno.

And of course you don’t need us to tell you it appeared on the right side shoulder patch in “Star Trek Enterprise,” was the battle cry of the Martian Imperial Commandos in Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Sirens of Titan,” and was uttered by Neil Patrick Harris in episode 18, season 4 of “Doogie Howser, M.D.”

As the boys in the Department of Timeless Learning and Phony Erudition are always saying, “Scientia Ipsa Potentia Est.”

Must read of the week: Jacob Weisberg over at Slate cuts through the endless fog of self-important fulmination, ersatz analysis and just plain silly speculation that have accounted for countless hours of cable babble and the wholesale slaughter of Lord knows how many trees since Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses with a no-nonsense declaration of what is undeniable to all with eyes to see: “Face It: Romney’s the Nominee.”

Yeah, we know that Newt is threatening to go all Lord Voldemort on Mittens (the only thing Gingrich is missing for the job is money); that Rick Perry had an epiphany while out for his morning jog about winning South Carolina (no word yet on whether any animals were harmed in the making of that fantasy); that Jon Huntsman is promising a big surprise in New Hampshire (one Mormon ex-governor with 32 Abercrombie catalog kids is plenty, thank you); that a handful of self-delusional evangelical Taliban types still harbor wing nut notions of getting together to push Rick Santorum across the finish line (wait until women voters discover he wants to allow states to outlaw birth control). And that goes for all the hot air being expended on crackpot scenarios about a “brokered convention,” too, a naïve and fevered notion that surfaces every four years and has produced such noted leaders of the free world as Presidents Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark and Lamar Alexander:

We journalists are sorriest of all, because Romney coasting to victory is a weak story. Were the press any other industry, cynicism about its self-interest in promoting marginal challengers would prevail. Local television stations…count on election-year revenue bumps from political advertising in important primary states. If the nomination contest is effectively over by, say, the time of the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, valuable money will be left on the table.

 But for reporters, rooting for the underdog, any underdog is really a matter of wanting a more dramatic story. The straight-laced front-runner winning Iowa and New Hampshire before securing the nomination early on does not count as a compelling narrative. Hence the media’s pretense of taking seriously a succession of nonviable candidates with outlandish views. Rick Santorum is not, under any circumstances, going to be the GOP nominee.

 This confluence of motives amounts to an insider conspiracy to resist the obvious.

 Calbuzz sez: Live with it.

Have you no shame? Jon Stewart’s takedown of CNN’s thoroughly embarrassing caucus night performance was uncharacteristically soft and incomplete, given the astonishing level of incompetence, unprofessionalism and self-indulgent sophomoric grabass on display from the “Best Political Team on Television.”

For those fortunate enough to have missed the CNN crew yuk-yukking it up late into the night for the benefit of their own amusement, Huffpost media man Jason Linkins’ much stronger mash-up indictment did the job first and better.

BTW, is there a more worthless talking head on cable than CNN new girl Erin Burnett, who distinguished herself Tuesday by cracking herself up with her own lameness in using one of the many over-the-top touch screen gee-gaws the network felt compelled to trot out for reasons that remain utterly mysterious?

Since her debut show a few months ago, when Burnett bravely defended the interests of the 1% by openly mocking Occupy protesters on camera, her show has remained cringe inducing. At its best, it rises to the level of derivative tedium, consistently lacking focus, intelligence and insight, not to mention original content. Memo to CNN suits: Give this airhead the hook, and let Soledad O’Brien have a shot in prime time.

Wake us when it’s over: Speaking of media bores, please spare us further coverage of Keith Olbermann’s latest adolescent tantrum, this time against the suits at Al Gore’s Current TV, who were foolish enough not only to give the witless windbag full sway over their news coverage, which is viewed by about 12 people, but also equity in the company.

Steadily working his way down the career ladder, Olbermann has become the Lindsay Lohan of the news business, acting out his obviously severe  psychological problems in public one embarrassing spectacle after another as he heads inexorably for the loony bin, or worse.

ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): Don’t look now, but Obama’s approval rating in the Real Clear Politics poll average has drawn even, 47-to-47, and his re-election chances at Intrade are now over 51%. Toldja.

Iowa Caucuses: Elephant Gives Birth to Mouse

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

On the night of January 19, 1976, New York Times political correspondent R.W. “Johnny” Apple pounded out a deadline story leading with the assertion that Jimmy Carter had won a “smashing victory” in the Iowa caucuses.

Merv Field, the dean of American political pollsters, was on hand in the press room that night in Des Moines, and recalls reading Apple’s lede over his shoulder and having a considerably different reaction.

“Johnny, I think you’re the one that’s smashed,” Field told him.

As every school child knows, Carter, then the still-obscure governor of Georgia, parlayed Apple’s story into an enormous burst of campaign momentum that helped him to capture both the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency that year.  Worse for the Republic, the episode also cemented the status of the caucuses as the crucial opening act of presidential races.

Tonight, the nation will wait breathlessly for the verdict cast on the GOP presidential field by Iowa Republicans (joined by some gate-crashing Democrats and independents). But Calbuzz stands firmly with Field on the thoroughgoing absurdity of how the crackpot opinions of an arithmetically meaningless number of utterly unrepresentative Americans have come to play such an outsize role in picking presidents.

Consider: On the night when Apple ‘s story changed the shape of the 1976 race, Carter’s “smashing victory” consisted of winning exactly 10,764 votes – about 27% of the 7% of registered Democrats who actually participated in the event,  fewer people than the Giants used to draw for a Tuesday night game against the Montreal Expos when they were stinking out the joint at Candlestick Park.

If that’s not bad enough, Carter didn’t even finish first: that honor went to “uncommitted,” which captured 14,508 votes, or 37%, in a field that also included Senators Birch Bayh, Mo Udall and Fred Harris.

But that was plenty, in the political netherworld where perception and expectation met the blowhards of the MSM, a meta media message dynamic that has only grown more goofy in the nine presidential cycles that have followed the Carter landslide.

And now the news: Odds makers (and the Des Moines Register’s respected poll) are telling us that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the likely winner, edging out Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. If the polls are correct, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will pull up the rear.

If past is prologue, the total votes cast will be somewhere just north of 100,000 – about the number of registered Republicans in San Joaquin County or the total number of registered voters in El Dorado County.

In 2008’s hard-fought GOP primary, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won with 40,841 caucus votes, followed by Romney with 29,949 and Arizona Sen. John McCain with 15,559. Of course, McCain went on to win the nomination because Iowa didn’t mean squat. Total votes cast were 104,696.

Having spent our fair share of time as part of the media throng that trudges across Iowa in the dead of winter – and believe us, we’re deeply ashamed of all the corporate expense money we burned up on corn-fed beef, rental cars and single-malt scotch – we are well aware of our friend David Yepsen’s advisory that Iowans are not all hayseed farmers in overalls and John Deere ballcaps.

As Yepsen, former political editor of the Des Moines Register, wrote the other day: “Of Iowa’s 3 million people, about 90,000 are farmers, and of those, 48,737 list farming as a principal occupation. Iowa’s manufacturing and financial services industries contribute far more to the gross state product than does farming. So media caricatures of snaggle-toothed hicks from an `American Gothic’ painting don’t fit.”

True that. But even Yepsen had to acknowledge that Iowa is 91.3% white and while he tried to argue that Iowa somehow winds up reflecting mainstream Republicans and Democrats – Hey! Didn’t Barack Obama win there over Hillary Clinton? – it’s a losing argument.

Waiting to die: “In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa’s not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state’s about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible,” Stephen G. Bloom of at the University of Iowa wrote recently in the Atlantic.

Moreover, Bloom wrote:

“Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in education) to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that ‘The sun’ll come out tomorrow.’  It’s no surprise, then, really, that the most popular place for suicide in America isn’t New York or Los Angeles, but the rural Middle, where guns, unemployment, alcoholism and machismo reign.”

So, as of this morning, Iowa GOP caucus-goers are leaning toward giving Romney – the flip-flopping Mormon — a first-place finish, although the religious conservative Santorum is said to have some momentum while Paul, despite his superior organization, is said to be losing favor.

Yada yada yada. It doesn’t matter whether Romney wins the Iowa caucuses, It would only matter if he came in fourth or lower – which he won’t. Just like it wouldn’t  matter if Paul or Santorum were to win.

If Iowans pick Romney, it will be because they’ve concluded he’s got a better chance to beat Barack Obama than the other two lightweight contenders in the hunt.  As the Des Moines Register found, about half the Republican caucus-goers say Romney is the most electable of the candidates. But on other measures — relating to ordinary Iowans, least ego driven, most knowledgeable, most likely to limit the size and influence of government, for example – Romney trails others.

The cost of democracy: According to our friend Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press, about $12.5 million* will be spent on TV by GOP campaigns in advance of the Iowa caucuses. If the caucuses draw 110,000 voters – which would be a big number – that’s more than $113 per vote. By comparison, the most expensive campaign ever mounted in California – eMeg Whitman’s attempt to become governor – spent about $39 per vote total in the general election of 2010.

Or consider that if the winning candidate in the Iowa caucuses should rack up a phenomenal 50,000 votes, that would still be less than the 54,202 votes Lawrence “Larry” Naritelli won in the 2010 GOP primary for governor of California. Who? We have no idea.

If you’re from California, Texas, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Illinois, you have to wonder how it could be that Iowa (and New Hampshire) should be so outlandishly important.

Because the national Republican and Democratic parties have no guts. They have allowed themselves to be bitch slapped by state parties and because our brethren and sistren in the national news media are like moths to a flame – however weak it may be.

Werner Heisenberg

The result of their collective attentions is nothing even the late, great Mr. Apple could have envisioned. So much attention is paid, so many polls, so many reporters and TV crews are focused on these tiny flyspecks that, like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the measurement itself alters the thing being measured.

Bottom line: As Yepsen put it in a note to Calbuzz:

“There is a lot of media overkill, especially in the closing days of a campaign. The sheer size of the media contingent changes the intimate nature of the events. But I don’t know how you’d change it – wherever you start the selection of an American president, you’re going to have a lot of media because it’s one hell of a story.”

* Tuesday morning, the folks at NBC’s First Read reported: “The campaigns and various Super PACs spent more than $16 million in advertising in Iowa. The breakdown for the major players: Perry $4.3 million, Paul $2.8 million, Restore Our Future (pro-Romney) $2.8 million, Make Us Great Again (pro-Perry) $1.6 million, Romney $1.5 million, Gingrich $980,000, Red White and Blue Fund (pro-Santorum) $530,000, Winning Our Future (pro-Gingrich) $264,000, Bachmann $180,000, and Santorum $30,000.

We didn’t update our math, but you get the picture.