Posts Tagged ‘Irwin Corey’

Press Clips: Fox (Mis)Fires, Oligarchs on the March

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Joel Fox is a temperate and thoughtful guy whose online opinings usually skip the fact-free cant and bombast that mark so many offerings from elsewhere in California’s conservative blogosphere.

So imagine our surprise when Fox fired his latest broadside at Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds, a truly woeful – or was it willful? – misreading of our recent dispatch chronicling the state and nation’s steady march from democracy to oligarchy.

Filled with straw men, fatuousness and borderline hysteria, our friend Joel’s ravings served up a pungent hash of off-point platitudes, boiler plate bromides and red herring reasoning that did everything but attack our ancestors — while managing to utterly avoid addressing the central argument of our thesis.

Other than that, it was a helluva’ piece.

Dr. Corey meet Dr. Fox: We’ll spare you most of the gruesome details, except to note that, among other things, Fox fabricated his own premise for our argument (“Calbuzz…claim(ed) the way to save California is to tax the rich and tax businesses”); misrepresented the thrust of Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign (it wasn’t the flat tax, as Fox claims, which was only one issue that Brown employed to make the broader point that the political system is rigged to redistribute wealth upward – but what do we know, we only covered it); and leaned on sweeping, unproven assertions in lieu of evidence to make pre-cooked points (Tiger Woods and the tennis-playing Williams sisters prefer Florida to California because of tax laws, he says, and they “are just the tip of the iceberg” – Ah, the old ipso facto iceberg sum proof – Irwin Corey would be proud).

We could go on, but shooting at life boats ain’t our style. Except sometimes.

We’re political writers, not advocates like Fox, so we bring this whole thing up because we’re still scratching our heads about why he mysteriously neglected in his bashing to even mention, let alone critique, the analysis that we actually proffered.


1-There has been a massive shift in wealth in the U.S. over recent decades, to the overwhelming benefit of the richest one percent of the population and the detriment of almost everyone else.

2-This shift has occurred – and been enabled by – 30 years of policies based precisely on the tax-cut, low-regulation ideology that Fox and his cohort just love, and which they continue to champion, despite the fact its real-life impact has been to trigger the greatest recession since the 1930s.

3-Awareness of the accumulating evidence of how and why wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of a tiny, oligarchic class is growing; as it moves into the mainstream, this awareness over time will change the terms and framework of political debate dramatically:

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

Which, of course, would hardly be a boon for bumper sticker, anti-government orthodoxy or the cozy “taxpayer advocate” political network that’s so well served the interests of Fox et al. since Howard Jarvis was still stumbling around in a boozy haze.

Hey, maybe that’s why he didn’t mention what we said.

Recommended reading:

— Here’s a nifty infographic primer on what’s actually happening to real people in the U.S. economy.

–Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at Cal, writes about the implications of the oligarch economy in a clear, accessible, frequent and timely way, as in this recent essay on the subject.

–Also this and this or this. Or this or this and this.

Rip Van Calbuzz: Not sure how this one got by us at the time, but the eagle-eared Steve Harmon had an intriguing scooplet on Sacramento’s budget mess that mysteriously seems not to have been picked up.

Mike Genest, the finance director under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had a revealing comment in a wide-ranging budget discussion on Capital Public Radio today.

Genest, now a political consultant advising Republican senators who are in talks with Gov. Jerry Brown, was asked if Brown’s tax extension should be placed on the ballot. He said:

“As a Republican, I kinda hate to say it but our tax burden is less now because of recession. The amount of the economy going to state government is lower than it has been for several years. Except for right at the bottom of the recession, you go back 30 years to find tax revenues at this low a level. So, there is a case to be made that we might need to keep those taxes at a higher level for a while.”

He went on to say, however, that Republicans “shouldn’t lose the opportunity while contemplating doing this. We ought to take that opportunity to get serious reforms.”

Politics is all about exploiting opportunities, but the brazenness of the ask couldn’t have been clearer. A Republican who is advising GOP senators in talks with Brown, acknowledges that the tax burden is low and the current rates should be continued — but that they might as well extract as much as possible since they have the leverage of a two-thirds vote that’s required to put a tax issue on the ballot (with the goal, of course, of, as Genest said, “helping the economy grow”).

Guess that’s why Genest hasn’t moved to Florida with Tiger, Serena and Venus.

Where’s the Inquistor when you need him: Genest isn’t the only Republican talking out of school: we can only imagine what torments right-wing talk show host Eric Hogue will endure on the rack for uttering this heresy, suggesting that the children of illegal immigrants are actually, um, people.

For Republicans to spend time in crafting legislation that refuses qualified, achieving high school graduates is highly corrosive. Granted, Americans are rightfully frustrated with the lack of attention from the federal government toward illegal immigration and its impending fiscal costs placed upon taxpayer supported state and federal budgets – not to mention the effects (good and bad) illegal immigration has upon our private sector economy. But we must learn to restrain ourselves from legislation and ballot initiatives that do nothing but evolve into political wedge issues and cultural ‘cat nip.’ Funneling any initial state reforms through the children of illegal immigrants (to get back at the parent’s illegal behavior) is mean-spirited, politically corrosive and wrongheaded.

Fleischman! Fox! Hogue and Genest to the dungeon at once!

New Whitman Ad: The Three Faces of eMeg

Monday, May 17th, 2010

In the hours since Meg Whitman released a bizarre new ad Friday, Calbuzz has been hunkered down in our darkened media room, playing and replaying the 60-second spot in slow-mo, stop motion and mute, deconstructing the thing with the same painstaking care we devoted to Blowup and the Zapruder film.

Unshaven and unshowered, fueling our round-the-clock labors with Cheez Whiz nachos and Team Gulp cups of 7-11 coffee, we’ve been desperately driven to answer one key question about the ad:


The new spot marks a radical and utterly random departure for the eMeg marketing team, which previously was characterized by a confident, consistent and tightly focused message discipline.  Now, “Tough Business” suddenly lurches into unfamiliar, dangerous territory, like a drunken Rotary Club conventioneer stumbling after midnight into the Tenderloin district.

The ad presents to viewers a cue card-reading version of eMeg, who recites a whiny and rambling, if not incoherent, script.

Second-by-second, her expressions change and twitch – eyes narrowed in anger, brows lifted in self pity, mouth widened in rictus grin – a painful exercise that recalls nothing so much as the thespian exertions of Joanne Woodward in “The Three Faces of Eve.”

White-lettered talking point phrases swiftly unfurl and then disappear from the screen, like shards of Power Point on speed; the pastoral, Cezanne-like still life of pink roses, three oranges and a cozy coffee cup behind her is suddenly replaced by a discordant, grainy noir image of a border fence running to the ocean.

Beyond the uneven tone and whiplash aesthetics of the spot, however, what’s most curious is its insistent defensiveness, which appears aimed at answering in one swell foop every one of the countless attacks and charges that GOP rival Steve Poizner has hurled at her in the last six months.

To the extent it succeeds in that dubious goal, it seems to us that the ad does so solely on behalf of several hundred political junkies and paid campaign staffers, surely the only people in California familiar enough with the tit-for-tat warfare that’s unfolded to date to have enough background to follow the damn thing.

A couple of key points from the text:

1-“Sacramento politicians like Jerry Brown and Steve Poizner are fighting me every step of the way because I’m running for governor to clean up the mess they’ve made.”

Putting aside the inherent illogic of equating Brown and Poizner, the linguistic construct at the start of the sentence is at least a game, ju-jitsu effort to defend against the dynamic in which Whitman is being simultaneously attacked from left and right.

But as she delivers the second half of her assertion, eMeg’s face displays a flash of frosty anger aimed at the very notion that the two are “fighting” her at all – How dare they? – that not only reflects her own sense of entitlement but also makes her sound like a low-rent nagging mom telling you to go clean your room.

2-“I strongly oppose Barbara Boxer…”

This is the real Dr. Irwin Corey moment (“nonsensical observations about anything under the sun, but seldom actually making sense”) of the ad, when eMeg suddenly beams herself up into the U.S. Senate race, 17 words after she mentions in passing that she’s running for governor, with nary a pause for breath, and apropos of nothing.

Clearly, her wild swing on Boxer is meant to knock down what Whitman’s handlers must be polling as one of Poizner’s more effective lines of attack. But coming out of nowhere, without context or foundation, all it will do is confuse any  ordinary voter who encounters the ad while surfing in search of a “Gray’s Anatomy” re-run , making him feel like he’s walked in in the middle of the movie.

3-“Absolutely no amnesty, period.”

About 20 percent of the 150 words of the ad are devoted to immigration, a bid to blunt and co-opt the Commish’s apparently effective embrace of a bash-the-immigrants line. We don’t recall eMeg previously vowing to send the national guard to the border, a Poizner applause line he was trying out as least as far back as an interview we did with him last fall.

And her professed no-amnesty certainty is a clear shift from what she said  at an appearance on the border last year, when she stated that illegal immigrants “should do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization.” (In defense of Whitman on this point, it seems plausible that at the time of her earlier statement, she was ill-informed about the power and importance of code words, like “amnesty” and “pathway to citizenship” in the immigration debate; that was essentially the argument she made at the Republican state convention in March, when SacBee political writer Jack Chang pressed her at a presser about her quote and whether it represented an endorsement of amnesty).

As much as eMeg tries to muddy the waters on immigration, however, Poizner’s support for the Arizona immigration law, which he endorsed at last month’s big San Jose debate, just 48 hours after he said he opposed it, is now a sharp point of differentiation between the two that is working for him in appealing to conservative GOP primary voters.

Bottom line: eMeg’s new ad has a strong odor of desperation, and the look of a piece that was thrown together by committee on a tight deadline, a reflection of where things stand in the primary race with three weeks to go.

So different is it from the rest of her communications strategy that a rumor has spread on the internets that she has suddenly turned to the New York-based advertising firm BBDO to write it, a claim that eMeg’s mouthpiece, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, flatly denied.

“This is the musings (cq) of an internet gadfly,” she said.

From an undisclosed location: Big Dick Cheney’s endorsement of eMeg, in a Sunday op-ed in the Orange County Register, is a nice little coup, and its timing suggests a determination by Team Whitman to regain control of the news cycle, in a week when at least one new big poll will offer fresh, independent evidence of whether and, if so, by how much Poizner has actually slashed eMeg’s once-commanding lead.