Archive for 2014

Quick Take: Wingnuts and the 1%

Friday, June 13th, 2014

wingnutOne way California’s top two primary has given at least a small boost to Republican candidates is in allowing GOP economic elitists to campaign free of the need to kowtow to the social issue right-wing.

Thus Neel Kashkari, a corporatist toady if ever there was one, became the GOP challenger for governor without having to embrace or finesse toxic political stands on abortion, gay marriage and immigration, which he freely handed to wing-nut champion Tim Donnelly; compare how Kashkari ran unencumbered by redneck baggage, in contrast to eMeg Whitman, who doomed her 2010 general election chances by absurdly posing as a nativist in the primary.

Now comes Paul Krugman to deconstruct how the stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor dramatically exposed the GOP’s fault line between economic royalists and social extremists; with Cantor’s loss in Virginia, the wing nuts finally caught on to the con game Republican 1% elected lackeys have run since Ronald Reagan:

Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.

It will be fascinating to see how and if The Imp is able to juggle the economic and social concerns of the GOP’s two camps in the general against Gandalf.

Op-Ed: How Brown Could Do Worse Than Expected

Friday, June 13th, 2014

ericcantorBy Chuck McFadden
Special to Calbuzz

Gov. Jerry Brown has to be thinking about the stunning upset of Eric Cantor in Virginia. If he isn’t, he’s not as smart as everyone says he is. Conventional wisdom says Democrat Brown will cruise to victory this November, just as conventional wisdom said Cantor would cruise to victory in the recent Republican primary.

So here’s a bit of unconventional wisdom: The governor will be re-elected but Republican Neel Kashkari will do better than today’s conventional wisdom dictates. Connect these dots and you’ll see why:

Money Isn’t Everything First, while it’s true that  Brown has tons of money — more than $20 million is the latest count — Cantor also had lots of money. He spent $5 million on his campaign, compared with the $200,000 spent by his Republican opponent, David Brat. And remember, that $5 million was spent in a measly congressional district, not a state with 38 million people. So maybe money isn’t as important as conventional wisdom says it is.

gaspumpmoneySecond, there’s a sleeper issue just waiting to foul up Brown’s re-election effort: a possible hike in gas prices. Starting next year, California’s cap-and-trade program will be applied to fuel producers. The Western States Petroleum Association, representing fuel producers, says the increased cost to producers could hike gas prices by 12 cents a gallon. Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board doubts cap and trade would have that much of an impact, but another fuel industry spokesman, Jay McKeeman of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, disagrees, saying fuel producers would not swallow the cost increase, and it would indeed be passed on to consumers.

Crazy Train Finances Third, Brown and Democratic leaders in the Legislature are proposing that 25 percent of the proceeds of future cap and trade revenue be used to fund Brown’s proposed $68-billion-and-counting high speed rail project. That creates an association between a hike in price for gasoline –caused by cap and trade — with high speed rail. A 2013 study by the Public Policy Institute of California revealed that 54 percent of likely voters opposed high speed rail.

In a state with an electorate that cast more than a quarter of a million votes for an indicted state senator running for secretary of state, the “thought” process among a sizable number of voters could be this: Gas price supposed to go up; that ripoff at the pump goes to (ugh!) high speed rail; Jerry Brown is governor; bad governor.

Granted, the issue that riled the rustics in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District — immigration — is a far cry from gasoline prices in California. But both are made to order for simplistic, emotional campaign themes, as Cantor found out the hard way. And few issues touch a nerve among California voters the way anything to do with driving a car does.

brownglareBorn-Again Tax Cutter? A proposal from state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg could be a bright spot for Brown. Steinberg — who is not running for re-election because he’s termed out — has suggested a flat 15-cent-per-gallon price hike on gasoline in place of any price increase from cap-and-trade. He’s not likely to get it approved by the Legislature, but if he does, Brown will be presented with an opportunity to veto it at the top of his lungs, thereby establishing his bona fides as an opponent of gas tax increases.

Admittedly, this is all conjecture. For one thing, there is something about Eric Cantor that causes a lot of people to dislike him intensely. Brown may not exude charm, but he’s not despised, like Cantor is. And Brown won nearly three times as many votes as Kashkari did during the June 3 first go-‘round. And, yes, the governor is a master politician. As Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently commented on Brown’s political skill:  “Most of us are playing checkers; he’s playing chess.”


But voters, especially in California, are volatile. And didn’t someone once say something about “A little unconventional wisdom now and then is relished by the wisest men”?

Calbuzz contributor Chuck McFadden covered politics for The Associated Press in Sacramento. His biography of our very own governor, Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown is published by the University of California Press. His opinion is his opinion.

Why Brown and Kashkari Will Not Meet in 10 Debates

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

tryionkashkaricroppedRepublican Neel Kashkari has challenged Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to 10 debates, which is what Brown did in 2010 when he was facing Meg Whitman. Then, however, the job was open, and neither was the incumbent governor. And eMeg had more money than she knew what to do with while Jerry was rattling his tin cup.

Joint appearances would “show the voters that we can act as adults and actually treat each other with respect,” Brown argued then. “We’ll certainly consider debating, providing we can work out the scheduling and details to offer something substantive and worthwhile to voters,” his spokesman says today with the back of his hand.

jerrygandalfKashkari is the Tyrion Lannister of California politics. Like the most popular character in “Game of Thrones,” he’s emerged out of the Republican party as a rare rational humanist from a tribe packed with vicious xenophobes, weapons fetishists and autocratic Tories; like Tyrion, aka “The Imp” and “Halfman,” Kashkari is a puckish, elfin figure; and like his HBO show counterpart, the GOP wannabe is way over his head in a high-stakes game of politics and power.

It would be amusing to see The Imp and Governor Gandalf square off. Maybe Kash could explain further his desire for California to more fully develop California’s oil and gas. (Ten debates would produce more gas for sure.) And the wonky wizard could expound in Latin (sic transit transit?) the value of investing in high-speed rail instead of highways.

Of course, we in the so-called “news media” always root for debates (but not 10, fercrineoutloud). In fact, we insist demand humbly propose that at least one Calbuzzard should be on the panel of journalists that questions the candidates.

But seriously, if you were Gandalf’s political adviser, would you tell him to give The Imp equal status and exposure by sharing the debate stage with the incumbent governor? Of course not. Calls for the free flow of ideas and a robust interchange of positions on the critical issues are always a function of ethical relativism. And even though Brown rejects transactional ethics, he’s also a savvy tactician.

grim reaperWhen you’re 30, 40 or some other factor of 10, points ahead of your challenger in the polls, you’d only agree to debate if a) you thought it was the right thing to do or b) you thought voters might think you’re a chicken-livered kissy-mamma if you don’t. And maybe not even then.

“I guarantee you he is going to duck and hide underneath his desk and avoid trying to debate me,” The Imp said on KFMB-AM radio in San Diego the other day. Seriously? You think you can bait Gandalf?

Kashkari is now arguing that Gov. Brown can be beaten. But in the June primary, Brown carried every county except Modoc and Lassen. And even in those,which Tim Donnelly carried, Brown beat Kashkari handily.

Sorry Neel, there’s only one challenger who might have a chance of beating Brown in November. And as far as we know, the Grim Reaper has not taken out campaign papers.

Note: Our exclusive mashups of Tyrion Kashkari and Governor Gandalf were made by the talented David Trounstine.

Why New Move On Rape Kit Backlog Is Needed

Monday, June 9th, 2014

nancy-skinner1-226x300By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

At a time when sexual assault is a growing national concern, legislation crucial to victims of rape has moved forward in Sacramento.

The measure, by East Bay Democrat Nancy Skinner, would require law enforcement agencies to “specify timelines for the testing of rape kits and for entering the information into a national database.” Rape kits are used to collect evidence from victims to held convict assailant.

The Assembly passed Skinner’s AB1517 late last month among increasing evidence of the dimension of the problem: the number of rapes reported at four-year colleges and universities “increased 49 percent between 2008 and 2012,” according to NPR, while congressional recently held hearings on rape in the military as the Pentagon reported that 26,000 cases of “unwanted sexual contact” occurred in 2012.

“Sending rape kits to the lab quickly tells the survivor we care, helps law enforcement solve this and other crimes and makes us all safer,” Skinner said.

The measure, expected to be acted upon by the senate over the summer after passing the Assembly 68-to-0, encourages the submission of forensic evidence to crime labs as soon as possible, but “no later than ten days after being booked into evidence.”

Within 60 days of submission to a law enforcement agency, the crime lab must “process evidence, create DNA profiles” and upload them into CODIS, the acronym for Combined DNA Index System, a national computerized data base for DNA samples.

hrwA political win for survivors:  The legislation represents a victory for women’s organizations and victims’ advocates, who have been fighting to end the backlog of rape kits since 2008.

In California the issue began to emerge in 2008, when Sarah Tofte a researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) began to investigate the status of untested rape kits in the City and County of Los Angeles. Local police and sheriffs departments denied there was a problem, but were unable to quantify the number of untested kits.

The 2009 Human Rights Watch research showed, however, that 12,000 kits remained untested in City and County police storage units.

L.A. media responded with articles and editorials on the backlog and elected officials soon agreed to fund the additional technicians needed to test all kits in storage.

In 2011, the City of Los Angles issued a statement that all kits in storage had been tested.  In the process, 753 matches to perpetrators were obtained through CODIS.

Cold cases: The rape kit backlog first came to national attention in 1999, when New York City uncovered 17,000 untested kits in storage.  In the course of four years, the backlog was cleared with all kits analyzed.

Today, New York is a model for effective processing of rape kits.  Most importantly rape victims are receiving fair and timely treatment in N.Y.C.

“The policy (of testing all kits) is a no-brainer given all the rapes we have been able to solve and prosecute,” a deputy district attorney in the New York City sex crimes unit told Human Rights Watch in 2008.

A special cold-case unit was established in New York to pursue new investigations when matches were found. According to the 2009 HRW report, two thousand hits occurred in CODIS, resulting in 200 cases that were pursued by the special unit. At the time of the report’s publication, New York City’s arrest rate for rape had increased “dramatically from 40 percent to 70 percent.”

labNew California protocols:  In 2011, the California Bureau of Forensic Services, a division of the California Department of Justice, issued a protocol to all state run laboratories.  It mandated an immediate delivery to the labs of three evidence samples collected by a sexual assault response team.  The program is called rapid DNA service or RADS.

The remaining evidence then goes to the police or sheriff’s department to be held, if needed, for future adjudication of the case.  Previously, local law departments determined if and when the kits were to be sent to labs to be tested.

Another factor expediting lab work is the growing use of robots to analyze multiple samples in kits. The use of robots has improved turn around times for processing rape kits.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies for the costs of mandated programs.  As these programs are to be paid for by the state, the local cost of the recently implemented protocol for DNA analysis in state-run labs is covered.

While some progress for victims of rape has occurred, however, the California protocol only applies to laboratories run by the state.  These facilities cover 46 out of 58 counties, but they represent only 25 % of California’s population.  Most large cities don’t use state labs and are not subject to the new protocol.

AB 1517 would fill the gap left by the new protocol that does not cover three quarters of the state’s population.

schwarzeneggerFailed Legislation:  In 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill  (AB 1017) that would have required local jurisdictions to report the number of kits in storage and whether they have been tested.  The governor’s veto message expressed his concern about the cost to implement the legislation, a greater priority for him than just rape victims.

In 2011, Governor Brown vetoed additional legislation to create a pilot project to test and analyze kits in ten counties (AB 322), objecting to counties being required to participate in programs they opposed.

Among advocates, there is an urgency and impatience for Skinner’s bill to pass.

A new urgency on AB1517: A 2013 CNN report estimates the number of untested kits nationally may be as high as 400,000.

“Our efforts must address the backlog throughout the State and Nation,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, “and this legislation serves as a vital step toward that goal.”

Susan_RoseThe real cost to society has been the loss of justice for thousands of survivors of rape in California, whose voices have not been heard while they have waited for years for resolution of their cases.

With neither financial resources nor technical expertise now a policy problem, Brown is likely to have the opportunity to begin to fix the problem and to send a powerful message to other states: rape victims are a priority in the California justice system.

Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is active with Human Rights Watch.