David Brooks: Dems, please don’t drive me away

This BitesAn interesting piece by David Brooks about the trajectory of the Democratic Party and the dilemma of moderate democrats. The radical parts of their party are pulling them in a direction that cannot win in the fall. Read More at (Registerguard.com)

Here’s an excerpt:

I could never in a million years vote for Donald Trump. So my question to Democrats is: Will there be a candidate I can vote for?

According to a recent Gallup poll, 35% of Americans call themselves conservative, 35% call themselves moderate and 26% call themselves liberal. The candidates at the debates this week fall mostly within the 26%. The party seems to think it can win without any of the 35% of us in the moderate camp, the ones who actually delivered the 2018 midterm win.

The progressive narrative is dominating in part because progressives these days have a direct and forceful story to tell and no interest in compromising it.

The party is moving toward all sorts of positions that drive away moderates and make it more likely the nominee will be unelectable. And it’s doing it without too much dissent.

Finally, Democrats aren’t making the most compelling moral case against Donald Trump. They are good at pointing to Trump’s cruelties, especially toward immigrants. They are good at describing the ways he is homophobic and racist. But the rest of the moral case against Trump means hitting him from the right as well as the left.

A decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions. Trump is a disrupter.

The debates illustrate the dilemma for moderate Democrats. If they take on progressives they get squashed by the passionate intensity of the left. If they don’t, the party moves so far left that it can’t win in the fall.

Right now we’ve got two parties trying to make moderates homeless.

 

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Moderates Emerge as a Democratic Power in US House

main_dogBy Julie Hirchfeld Davis

An interesting piece by the New York Times discusses the growing power of a  moderate democrat faction in the United States House. Hopefully this new development will allow Democrats to wield power more effectively and move forward with Republicans on some issues of dire importance.(Moderates Emerge as a Democratic Power in US House)

For all the talk of a Tea Party of the left, the true power in the House revealed its face last week — the Mighty Moderates.

The failure of House liberals to attach strict conditions to billions of dollars in emergency border aid requested by President Trump highlighted the outsize power of about two dozen centrist Democrats, mainly from Republican-leaning districts, who are asserting themselves to pull the chamber to the right.

Their views diverge sharply from the mostly liberal cast of Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination and from the diverse new crop of outspoken liberals in the House who have captured the public’s imagination and infused new energy into the progressive majority of their caucus. But their victories in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016 are the reason Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, a staunch liberal herself, holds her gavel. For now, they are proving far more effective at wielding their influence than those in the party’s vocal and headline-grabbing left.

The moderates’ latest use of that clout played out in sometimes ugly fashion last week in the Capitol, in heated scrums on the House floor, angry exchanges between erstwhile allies, mudslinging on Twitter, and late-night meetings with leadership. One liberal accused his moderate colleagues of enabling child abuse. A moderate clapped back that the name-caller, Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, was just chasing followers on social media.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, whose rock-starlike popularity on the left has given her a louder than usual microphone for a first-term lawmaker, accused the moderates of being the new Tea Party.

But unlike Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her like-minded colleagues, the moderates have taken a tactical page from the roughly 40 Republicans who make up the Freedom Caucus, whose sway in the Republican majority came from their willingness to defect from the party line on crucial votes unless they received concessions.

While the House’s liberal superstars are adept at promoting their progressive positions and routinely generate headlines for breaking with the party line, they have not made a habit of lobbying their colleagues to defy Ms. Pelosi en masse. Last week, the foursome known as The Squad — Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts — announced their opposition to a Democratic border spending bill that included strict rules on the way the money could be used, saying it was not liberal enough. But when that first vote was tallied, they were the only four Democrats opposed, and the measure passed easily.

“The question was, would you rather just obstruct and delay, as some wanted to, or were we going to get humanitarian aid to children at the border right now?” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and the co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 23 Republicans and 23 Democrats that presses for bipartisan compromises.

The group met on Wednesday and discussed the mounting anxiety many of them had about going home for a July 4 recess having failed to pass the border bill. After taking a vote, members decided to issue a news release calling for the House to pass the Senate bill, effectively surrendering a politically risky fight over immigration so the aid could go through.

“There was a very significant and real concern that we wouldn’t act at all and leave town with no immediate humanitarian aid for children at the border,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “That was unacceptable.”

The result was a bitter pill for liberals who had insisted they could not vote for the aid package without tough new restrictions and higher standards for facilities that hold migrant children.

Ms. Pressley conceded that the left had work to do to figure out how to wield its power more effectively.

“We are building new muscle,” she said in an interview, “and as we build that new muscle, we will better understand how to flex it.

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Joe Biden is normal — and that sounds really good to me

Main Dog

Interesting piece by Anna Navarro. Shows there are Republicans out there looking for a Democratic alternative to Trump. The Progressive faction of the party shouldn’t dismiss the importance of bi-partisanship, which some radical Dems are viewing as a dirty word. (Joe Biden is normal — and that sounds really good to me)

Here’s an excerpt:

“I have given up any realistic hope of Donald Trump getting a serious challenge in the Republican primary. He will be the Republican nominee. Also, I have zero expectations that Trump will be impeached.

I am begging and pleading with Democrats not to screw this up. Please nominate someone who can win, someone that can unite the Democratic base, energize the Obama coalition and not alienate right-leaning independents and Trump-rejecting Republicans (like me).

Joe Biden brings a lot to the table. He is everything Trump is not. He knows policy. He is a uniter. He calls for our better angels. He is empathetic and draws on his own grief to console and encourage others through theirs. He laughs easily. He is decent. He is devoted to his wife, and she is to him. Gold-leaf and wealth do not define him. He is not perfect and he has the humility to accept that.

Biden is not a shiny new toy. He is not flashy. He is not going to set hearts racing. He is comfortable, knowledgeable, experienced, reliable and dependable. We know what we’re getting with him. He inspires a feeling of trust and confidence. He is normal.

After the chaos and turmoil of the last three years under Trump, “normal” sounds really good to me.”

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Republicans Push to End Executions

By Dan Frosch Febuary 20, 2019

Main Dog An interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal suggests another move by Republicans to center themselves through criminal justice reform — this time “Republican lawmakers in at least six states are pushing to eliminate the death penalty, signaling a broader reversal by many conservatives on an issue that has long been a bedrock for their party  . . .

The about-face on an issue that has long been key to the GOP’s tough-on-crime credo is the latest sign of a nationwide, bipartisan shift on criminal justice reform.

“Conservatives pride themselves in limiting government, having fiscally responsible policies and believing in the sanctity of life,” said Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “When you look at the death penalty and say ‘Does it meet any of these qualifications?’ The answer is, ‘It does not.’ ”

 

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Cal Republicans Push Back on Trump

California Republicans get a bad rap. On Capitol Hill, they are viewed as too liberal. In their own state, Californians are eager to unfairly paint them with the Trump brush.

But in this no-man’s land, several California state legislators are not afraid to take on Trump for a callous tweet the president issued this morning to announce FEMA will no longer help California’s fire victims.

In a news release today, Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) and Assemblyman James Gallagher(R-Yuba City) pushed back on Trump, saying:

“The President’s threat to withhold FEMA funds from California is wholly unacceptable. He made a commitment to the people who have lost everything in these fires, and we expect the federal government to follow through with this promise.”

Nielsen and Gallagher should be commended for reminding us that we are Americans first regardless of party or if we happen to live in a blue state.

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Newsom Gets Off on Right Foot

Bone In a small but symbolic step, today’s newly minted Governor Gavin Newsom, has decided to move his family to Sacramento into the Governor’s Mansion because the daily commute to the Bay Area was too taxing (something a lot of folks looking for affordable housing know about).

But staying in Sacramento sets the right tone in a number of ways, including it shows this as a full-time gig. It also forces Newsom and his family to experience life outside of San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the nation and a place out of touch with average Californians. Hopefully, he will be less detached and more in tune.

Beyond the move to Sacramento, Newsom appears to be saying and doing all the right things, including steering from left to center, holding down government spending and allowing businesses to breathe more freely and without fear of more and more red tape. We all know that will be a tall order. But let us fiscally restrained moderates give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves us wrong. All Californians, regardless of politics, should wish the new Governor well and pray that he can accomplish his bold agenda  with minimal damage to the economy and taxpayers.

 

 

 

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The Death of Representative Democracy in California

 

Like Sandra Bullock drifting untethered into outer space in the movie Gravity, the California Legislature continues to disappear into the ether of unreality.

In one of the most tone-deaf, self-serving moves in recent memory,  Governor Brown signed a measure (SB 1250) that gives lawmakers permission to NOT reside in the districts they were elected to represent. Yes. You read right. There is no requirement that your representative live in your community.  They just need to be registered to vote there.

There is not a lot of commentary necessary on this one. Hard to find any gray area of rationality here. Senate and Assembly districts are so huge that lawmakers are already pretty detached from their constituents.   This offensive and outrageous new law just makes it worse while blatantly eviscerating the most fundamental values of a representative democratic government.

Regardless of party affiliation, voters should make a mental note to reject anyone pretending to represent them. The gross symbolism of this law is disgusting and further alienation of an already alienated populace.

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DiFi Deserves Credit

Feinstein cartoon

While it is hard to see the Kavanaugh circus as anything but a blatant, last-minute political smear campaign, there is one thing worth noting that has been lost amid the noise: Senator Dianne Feinstein’s conduct. By all appearances, she has been reasonable, restrained and respectful throughout. When someone upsets both parties, they are probably doing something right. DiFi upset the left-wing Dems by being “too polite” during the initial hearings. And the right-wing Republicans have accused her of waiting until the last minute to release a letter by Kavanaugh’s accuser; though it is unclear if she is even the one responsible for making it public. What’s wrong with being respectful and civil?

The answer is nothing. The real problem is the demise of civility and integrity in American politics. Even though I do not always agree with her, we need more people in Congress like DiFi. Let’s hope she continues to set the bar for decorum tomorrow. Apparently, no one else will.

 

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Governor Brown’s Most Important Legacy

Gov Brown

 


dog_withboneDuring Governor Brown’s time in office, those in the Capitol community trying to assess his support or opposition of legislation have often factored one big question into the mix:
How will he view his decision in terms of his legacy?

 This was on full view in his State of the State address, which confirmed the long-held conventional wisdom that Brown wants to leave a lasting legacy for the Golden State on par with his father, Governor Pat Brown, whose contributions to the state’s infrastructure are legendary. This helps explain the Governor’s fixation on building the Delta tunnels, high-speed rail and zipping off to Europe for climate change summits.

Whether he is able to have success with those lofty global ideals is hard to say, which is a polite way of saying he may fall far short. Time will tell.

But Brown’s legacy has been astonishing and praiseworthy for something far more mundane: He simply has been the adult in the room more often than not.

His concern about the fragile nature of the California economy, his attention to the ticking time bomb of public pension obligations and his disciplined focus on building a rainy-day fund for the state is a major accomplishment – especially when he has had to deal with a liberal Legislature that thinks it prints money and seemingly believes every problem – real and imagined – requires new laws, bans or an expensive government program.

Governor Brown has not been perfect. He has signed some serious anti-business measures into law that could very well come back to haunt the state. Many of his agencies are rogue fiefdoms wildly running amok without checks and balances. But the fact at one time or another he has upset those along the entire political spectrum suggests he has been entirely beholden to few, if any, special interests save Californians and California.

The state’s moderates and independents should be grateful for his fiscal restraint and ability to balance the books. Hopefully, the next governor has been taking copious notes on this vital yet hardly sexy topic.

Governor Brown should be proud of his legacy and contributions to California no matter what happens to his massive pet projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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McCarty + Ting Attempt to Pull Off Lame Heist

suit-business-man-business-man-37547.jpeg

Bone Kudos to the Sacramento Bee editorial board for its royal beat-down on the illegitimate brainchild of Assemblymen Kevin McCarty and Phil Ting (Assembly Democrats offer a dumb tax bill. Republicans love it”).

The lawmakers are proposing Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22, in an effort to ask voters to impose on corporations doing business in California a “surcharge” of 10 percent on net earnings of more than $1 million.

These are probably the same jokers who actually think Amazon has any serious interest in locating its HQ2 in California. Furthermore, ACA 22 completely contradicts other measures being considered to find ways to offset the disproportional tax hit on such blue states as California.

ACA 22 is a great example of why the Capitol needs a strong bloc of moderate Democrats who don’t possess an audacious entitlement mentality when it comes to stealing money from the private sector.

Again, nice job to the Bee for blowing this horrifically irresponsible measure out of the water before it has even had a chance to float.

 

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What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding?

This BitesIn surveying the myriad assaults on freedom of speech and thought, there appears to be a unifying culprit: Groupthink. Borrowing from George Orwell’s 1984, the principle is simply that enormous pressure within a particular group or political party stifles independent thinking or alternative viewpoints.

One of the most honorable aspects of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is that the organization will defend the right for individuals and groups to speak their minds — regardless of how abhorrent they may be (i.e., the KKK).  This basic freedom is under assault from all quarters.

The left and right and media continue their march to the extreme fringes of discourse. They are all complicit in this disgusting trend, which feeds off controversy, fear, emotion, hyperbole, the demise of civility and power of social media. The results are as shameful as they are sickening:

  • In the nation’s capital, Sen. Elizabeth Warren if yanked off the floor for reading a statement by widow of Martin Luther King.
  • Last week in Sacramento, the Democrats did the same thing by removing Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) as she sought to deliver a speech criticizing the late Tom Hayden for his anti-war activities.
  • Panel discussions on both CNN and Fox News are nothing but forums for bias and shouting under the guise of journalism.
  • President Trump bans news outlets from news briefings in retaliation for unfavorable coverage.
  • Universities – including UC Berkeley (birthplace of the free speech movement) cancel speeches from controversial figures.
  • Protestors disrupt town halls with no intention of finding common ground.

What is happening, America?

We have become a state and nation of thin-skinned people who already have their minds made up in lockstep with their peer groups and according to their respective Groupthink labels. In this type of environment, anyone holding a different view is public enemy number one and a target for attack.

This is especially damaging to moderates, who often find themselves in a no-man’s-land that seeks to balance and find   valid elements of opposing views in an effort to reach consensus or compromise. One would think this approach would prevail because most people want solutions. Yet extreme Groupthink drowns it all out. This reality only confirms the adage that the only things in lying in the middle of the road are dead.peace-love

Enough with the labeling. Enough with the intolerance. Enough with hate.

About the only silver bullet the Blue Dog can come up with is to change our national anthem to Nick Lowe’s “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” as performed by Elvis Costello.

Since this song was written by a Brit, maybe everyone can agree to this. Go ahead and laugh. Got any better ideas?

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Immigrants Make America Great

dog_withboneWhile a lot of protests taking place these days appear more destructive than constructive, it is hard to argue with  today’s “A Day without Immigrants” boycott, which underscores the tremendous role immigrants play throughout our economy and daily lives.170213-milwaukee-protest-immigration-ok-1629_5619dc2b4f55c921746c3ba87f26f47f-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Certainly, convicted felons should be deported. And we need to secure borders like every other country in theworld. But  the vast majority of immigrants in California and throughout the United States are vital to our economy and are decent, hardworking people who simply want a better life for their families. If every immigrant or undocumented magically disappeared from our society, the nation would grind to a halt. Period.

Many immigrants are professionals. They are engineers who write the software we use on our computers and phones. They are doctors and nurses who provide medical assistance to our families. They work in government, education and social services. Immigrants also do the essential jobs most Americans shun. They clean our hotel rooms. They harvest the food we eat. They wash dishes in the restaurants where we dine. They mow our lawns. They build our homes. After Hurricane Katrina, it was immigrant labor that rebuilt New Orleans. The list goes on. It would be interesting to see what kind of impact today’s boycott had on President Trump’s resorts.

Let’s be clear: most immigrants are law abiding people who are productive and pay their taxes. They need to be appreciated, valued, protected and appreciated as integral to the fabric of American society. Today’s boycott reminds us that immigrants in fact are Americans. They should not be vilified. Rather, they deserve our respect every day of the year — not just today.

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Governor Should Sign Breathalyzer Bill

 

Untitled

Human willpower is no match for the disease of alcoholism. For many, the urge to drink obliterates any recognition for public safety. This has been proven time and time again. And deaths from drunken drivers is a scourge that results in countless loss of lives that could and should be prevented.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Senate Bill 1046 (Hill) would mean that “starting in 2019, first-time DUI offenders would be required to install an ignition interlock device for six months to reinstate their full driving privileges. The penalty goes up from there: a year for a second offense, two years for a third offense, and three years for a fourth or subsequent offense.”

dog_withboneMaybe there is some controversy under the surface of this, but the BlueDog isn’t seeing it. SB 1046 makes perfect sense.

More importantly, what this bill should really do is spark a debate about the legalization of recreational marijuana and how that will likely result in a spike in the very crimes — driving while impaired — that SB 1046 is trying to prevent. It makes little sense to mitigate one terrible addiction while promoting a positive climate that allows similar addictions and fatal accidents to thrive.

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In Praise of the Righteous Republicans

open.spotify.com:track:5Xhqe9xu6bKRSqLj1mS1SB

 

dog_withboneIt’s refreshing and down right righteous that so many high-profile Republicans are behaving more like moderates and independents than blind party loyalists. After all, loyalty is a key ingredient of politics, which often mandates people bite their tongues, hold their noses and toe the party line. The pressure to do so is intense. That’s why it is so remarkable and commendable that big name Republicans are not only speaking out against Donald Trump, but breaking ranks and going so far as to endorse the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

The BlueDog wants to throw a bone to these upstanding Republicans for putting country over party. Rank and file moderates of both parties undoubtedly arrived at this conclusion quite some time ago.

The most recent high-profile defection was from HP CEO Meg Whitman, who laid out her thinking via Facebook, as reported by Verve:

“As a proud Republican, casting my vote for President has usually been a simple matter. This year is different. To vote Republican out of party loyalty alone would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division.”

She continued to say that “Trump’s reckless and uninformed positions on critical issues — from immigration to our economy to foreign policy — have made it abundantly clear that he lacks both the policy depth and sound judgment required as President.”

Earlier this week, Sally Bradshaw, a top adviser to Jeb Bush, said that not only is she leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, she will vote for Clinton.

Bradshaw told CNN in an email interview that the Republican Party is “at a crossroads and have nominated a total narcissist — a misogynist — a bigot,” she said, referring to Trump.

Certainly, Ms. Clinton has her baggage. But if there was ever a case for crossing party lines, running away from Trump and to a proven, experienced and stable leader like Clinton is about as obvious a no-brainer as we’ve seen in a long, long time. Probably ever.

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Willie Says: Don’t Count Trump Out

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally May 5, 2016 in Charleston, West Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SmialowskiBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, AFP/Getty Images

Main DogWith Republicans and Democrats, including this one, casually dismissing Donald Trump as a crazed carnival barker whose novelty act will ultimately go down in flames come November, it was interesting to see this perspective from a guy who knows a few things about politics — former Speaker Wille Brown. Check out what he had to say recently in the San Francisco Chronicle:

President Trump? It could happen

By Willie Brown   May 6, 2016

I’m probably the only Democrat who will say it publicly, but Donald Trump could wind up being elected president.

It’s not that he’s the best person for the job, or that he has tapped into some vast pool of “voter anger.” The real key to Trump’s success is that he is just flat-out exciting, and these days, we as a nation are addicted to excitement.

 Eight years ago, a largely unknown Barack Obama created a tremendous wave of excitement with the idea that he could become first black president. On the surface, Trump would seem to face a far steeper climb — what’s so unusual about a 69-year-old white guy wanting to be president?

But Trump has proved to be the most media-savvy candidate not only in the Republican primary, but maybe in the history of U.S. politics.

It’s not that he knows how to handle the pundits and spin the media. It’s that he creates his own media. Every morning he is somewhere on TV or in the Twitterverse, feeding the frenzy.

He is also the only candidate I’ve ever seen for whom making mistakes and misstatements is an integral part of the agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s message — I’m competent, experienced and rational — didn’t work out when she ran in the primaries against Obama in 2008. She’s basically running the same campaign this time. For all his appeal to young people, Bernie Sanders isn’t exactly Obama, and Clinton is still having trouble putting him away.

In November, we know what we’ll get with Clinton. There’s a lot of loose talk about how the electoral map is stacked against Trump, but a lot of that talk presupposes that he’s a typical Republican.

He’s not. He’s a mystery novel, and people keep turning the pages, waiting for the next twist.

Clinton is an owner’s manual that you’ve already read. For Democrats, that’s a big danger.

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Rise of the Mod Squad

dog_withbonePity the state’s coastal liberals, who thanks to the growing force of moderate Democrats were reminded that they don’t have a blank check in Sacramento any more.

In the waning days of the legislative session, The Mod Squad flexed its common-sense muscles on a number of measures, most notably blocking attempts to cut gas consumption in half by 2030. While perhaps a noble concept, the reality is that Assembly Bill 350 represented government overreach with the likely potential to harm the economy and low-income Californians, especially in the the Central Valley and inland communities.

It is disingenuous to attack these moderate representatives for not toeing the line in support of too-far-to-the-left  proposals, including AB 350, which would have spiked California’s gas prices, already among the highest in the nation. Accusations that these Mods were bought off by the oil industry ring hollow and are an insult to lawmakers and the constituents they represent.

After all, the rise of the Mods is exactly what the voters called for in 2010 by supporting an open primary system, which passed in the hopes it would lead to greater responsiveness to the public,  an end to rigid partisanship and more free-thinking leadership focused on solving problems, not creating more of them.

Like it or not, that is exactly what we have recently witnessed. Moderate Democrats, they should be applauded for standing up to knee-jerk notions that may sound good, but in reality are just bad public policies being promoted by California’s elite.

 

 

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CA Bureaucrats Are Playing God

dog_snarlingWhile Governor Brown roamed the Vatican praying for rain recently, we hope he also asked the big guy upstairs to do him a huge favor:  to remind California bureaucrats that there is a God, but He  just isn’t them . . .  no matter how much they seek to arbitrarily lord over the masses.

There is an incredibly disturbing pattern emerging within the Brown Administration that is going largely unnoticed by the public, unreported by press corps and perhaps even flying under Governor Brown’s own radar. Rogue boards and commissions that are pushing personal agendas and openly defying the will of judges, the state Attorney General, the courts, the Legislature and even Governor himself.

We’re talking about unelected bureaucrats exhibiting the brass-balled temerity to pull rank on (and the rug out from under) the very people voters have elected to represent their interests and protect them.

Bureaucracy running wild promises to be a rich vein for the BlueDog to tap for months to come. But for now, let’s just point out a couple current examples:

Exhibit A – The State Water Resources Control Board Above the Law?

As the result of lawsuits filed by local water and irrigation districts with longstanding water rights, numerous judges and the state attorney’s office told the SWRCB that it cannot curtail water allocations to water districts without citing proper cause and providing those districts with the opportunity to present their positions.

But instead of obeying  these court rulings, the SWRCB has gone ahead and proposed fines to some of the districts that sued the board. In one case, as much as $1.5 million. Those fines were been issued in direct defiance of the court’s requirements. Such actions are as arrogant and retaliatory as they are punitive.

Exhibit B – Brewing Scandal at the California Fish & Game Commission?

Bear, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and other predators increasingly are surfacing in California urban areas due to sprawl and drought conditions. These wild animals are ransacking homes, killing pets and attacking children like something out of Little Red Riding Hood. Such episodes highlight the need for responsible predator management polices that protect both animal populations and the public at large.

Historically, responsible hunting and trapping programs have served as a critical tool for keeping wildlife at bay and managing wildlife populations.

In the next few days, the California Fish & Game Commission will be considering proposals that will essentially eliminate bobcat trapping statewide and set a dangerous precedent for effective predator management in the Golden State.

Bobcat Photo

 

 

 

 

These proposals are moving forward in open defiance of the California Legislature and Governor Brown, both of whom supported Assembly Bill 1213, legislation requesting regulations to tightly limit bobcat trapping — but with the clear condition that such policy be made only after comprehensive bobcat population study and thoughtful review of the scientific facts.

The governor should be commended for underscoring this notion when he signed the bill into law. And he should pay attention to what Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) recently told the Sacramento Bee on this issue:

“It’s real simple: There was a bill before the Legislature to ban the bobcat trapping that didn’t pass. You don’t need much more clarity than that to know what the Legislature was OK with. For a regulatory body to go out and basically go against the role of the Legislature is inappropriate . . . One of the real detriments of term limits has been that one branch of government has far exceeded its jurisdiction. The Legislature has so much constant turnover that no one’s there to hold folks accountable.”

We all know what happens when power goes unmonitored and unchecked.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) and AB 1213 author (Bloom) have dropped the ball on funding research since the bill passed in 2013. They need to step up to the plate to make sure the necessary data is gathered before promoting regulations.

But rather than obey the Legislature and Governor, the commissioners are being presented a false choice that exploits a narrowly constructed law. It would be a sad commentary on the democratic process if the commission ignored the will of the Governor and Legislature.

One hopes that cooler heads on the commission will prevail, especially since the Governor, to his credit, recently replaced two commissioners whose terms had expired. The new members can play an important role by applying the brakes to this process so that a thoughtful and responsible set of regulations can be developed. There is no urgency on this matter.

Otherwise, the actions and attitude exhibited by both the Fish & Game Commission — and those of the SWRCB — will remain jaw-dropping in their hubris. We’ve already seen how dangerous this can be (CPUC, CalFire, etc.)

Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability? Where is the oversight? Where is the hammer?

Governor Brown is a measured and thoughtful leader. It is hugely disrespectful to him for his  Administration to operate unchecked and contrary to his policies. The Governor needs to focus on reigning them in and demand his bureaucrats stop playing God . . . or heaven help us.

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Filed under California Drought, California Legislature, Environment, Media, Water

The Donald Rocks the Free World?

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It’s getting close to the weekend so let’s keep it light.

Check out this entertaining USA Today piece on the music the 2016 presidential hopefuls are identifying with to brand their campaigns. Some pretty unlikely pairings to be sure:

I mean, how can you say Donald Trump and Neil Young in the same breath? The Donald’s highjacking “Rocking in the Free World” has to gall Mr. Young to no end.

Or Scott Walker and the Dropkick Murphy’s?

And the blowback from some of the artists is hilarious.

The BlueDog says check it out and enjoy.dog_withbone

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CalTrans Mocks Water Conservation

This BitesThis just in from the California Department of Hypocrisy:

“CalTrans landscaping project would use more water daily than one family uses in a year.”

According to this Riverside Press Enterprise storyCaltrans intends to plant more than 1 million square feet of freeway landscaping through Riverside that will be irrigated with overhead sprinklers, despite a drought-driven state crackdown on water use.

Yes. You read correctly. And, yes, your jaw should be hitting the floor about now.

In stark contrast: As the BlueDog writes this, he is sitting in the Central Valley backyard of his 82-year-old parents,  conscientious model citizens who are earnestly doing what the Governor has told them: conserve water.  They have let their gorgeous lawn turn as brown as a hay. They save their shower and kitchen water in buckets to water plants. They have cobbled together foam panels to float on their pool to save hundreds of gallons of water from summer evaporation.

They are doing what our government is imploring every Californian to do.

So what’s with CalTrans? Why is it above our water conservation edict? If you read the story, they parse and nuance better than former President Bill Clinton before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury. But no amount of twisted rationale can justify the CalTrans landscaping project if we are to believe everyone is supposed to be making sacrifices to conserve water.

Governor Brown and the legislature should be hammering CalTrans like Thor for this tone-deaf plan. Otherwise it sends the wrong signal to the populace. Pure and simple. If California government can’t take the drought seriously, why should we?

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Filed under California Drought, California Legislature, Water

The Pursuit of Happiness

dog_withboneHard to believe it has been nearly five years since the Bluedog wrote in support of gay marriage, “Let’s Tie the Knot & Move On” (Aug. 12, 2010).

Even harder still to believe is that some Republican presidential hopefuls are vowing to fight an issue that should be over now that the Supreme Court has ruled. In the wake of the court’s decision, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal reportedly called for the elimination of the Supreme Court. Not sure about you, but dismantling one leg of this nation’s checks-and-balances stool would not appear to be the key to the White House.

While moderates are typically open to crossing party lines to cast votes for moderate Republicans, making gay marriage the 21st Century’s abortion battle would be a grave mistake and further marginalize the Republican party. If people want to oppose same-sex unions for religious or other reasons, they have that right and their views should be respected. But they should stay on their side of the street. Live and let live.

Shouldn’t government be staying out of our personal lives as much as possible? Sure, don’t tell people who they can marry. But this notion should transcend ideology and not be restricted to selective items from the liberal agenda. For the most part, less regulation and government interference (with the obvious exceptions of public health, safety, social welfare) is a tenet for moderates:  Don’t tell me how to run my business. Don’t tell me how to raise my kids. Don’t tell me what kind of bags I should be able to get at the grocery story. Ad infinitum.

While the Bluedog’s position on same-sex marriage was laid out in full in the previous blog, the bottom line is that if two people love each other and want to commit for life, then why not allow this and grant the full rights that go along with that?

With a national divorce rate in the 40-50 percent range, God knows we heterosexuals have not exactly safeguarded the sanctity of marriage. [Note: The Bluedog has just completed the divorce process after 23 years of marriage. In case you are wondering, that’s a big reason for the Bluedog’s disappearance for more than a year]. There was a time not so long ago when divorce was a cause for shunning and judgement among traditional families. Times and values change to a degree.

Gay or heterosexual, marriage is a tough gig — all the more reason society should support same sex couples as they pursue happiness in their own lives. They’re not hurting anyone. It’s the Fourth of July in the year 2015. Time to love one another, respect different viewpoints — both liberal and conservative — and celebrate our collective and individual freedoms.

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by | July 4, 2015 · 7:47 AM

A Booster Shot for Common Sense

dog_withboneChalk one up for sound science and common sense.

In state that too often makes policies, laws and regulations based on spasms of emotion, half-baked medical studies, distorted reality and political pressure, the approval of of Senate Bill 277, Sen. Richard Pan’s bill to require vaccines for schoolchildren, represents a major victory.

Major kudos to Governor Brown, who signed the bill into law yesterday, and to all those who voted for the measure in both houses.

For moderates, the significance of SB 277 is even bigger than the actual policy contained within the new law. It is a triumph over the hue and cry of a sincere, vocal minority of people holding passionate but extreme, irrational views. That includes moronic, mush-headed buffoons like Jim Carrey, who today called the Governor a “fascist.”

Right. We all want Jim Carrey dictating public health policy in California.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Whether it’s pesticides, ingredients used in consumer products or how water is best allocated, highly organized fringe groups will continue to push for policies based on the assumption of problems lacking credible science or data to support their positions. Just because these groups are loud, aggressive and committed does not make them right.

The nascent effort to eventually overturn SB 277 via a referendum will go down in flames, further making this point. So bring it on.

The success of  SB 277 suggests that maybe, just maybe, the lunatics really aren’t running the asylum after all. That common sense and science, not white-hot rhetoric, can in fact rule the day.

Here’s to hoping the Governor, California Legislature and the state’s quiet voters can keep it that way.

 

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by | July 1, 2015 · 7:03 PM

Achtung: A Consensus Crisis

dog_snarlingAs gridlock once again descends on Capitol Hill in the form of a government shutdown, a recent Washington Post piece by E.J. Dionne, Jr. provides a thoughtful perspective on how the United States is falling behind in much more than education and the global economy. Our history as a government of and by the people is also at stake. We are no longer leaders in the art of compromise and consensus building.

Germany, our post-WWII progeny, has something to teach us on that front.

“The Germans don’t buy the zero-sum thinking that government and markets — or liberty and equality — can’t be pursued jointly,”  Jackson Janes, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies told Dionne. “They argue about the same issues we face — how much social, how much market and how much government do we want? — but their starting point is that all three should be working together: capitalism with a strong welfare dimension steered by a government which is an ally, not the enemy.”

Berlin Wall

California leads the nation in many ways – some good, some bad. Our state’s recent history suggests that Washington is following Sacramento’s inability to develop consensus in legislation, regulation and public policy issues.  The extremists on both ends of the spectrum too often hold the state, and now the nation, hostage. Ironically, when government shuts down, our elected officials still collect their paychecks and are frequently immune from the impacts of the laws and red tape they impose.

California and the U.S. have built their own version of the Berlin Wall with ideology, not concrete. Instead of dividing people, they are severing the ability to hammer out bipartisan agreements that constructively benefit the citizenry. A mantra of this blog is bipartisanship. But that appears to simply be vapor, a naive dream.

Sometimes I think what we need, if not a forceful third party of moderates from both sides of the aisle, is a parliamentary system. Multiple parties would force coalitions. And gridlock could be broken up at anytime by calling for a vote of confidence at any time irrespective of the eternal election cycle.

When it comes to learning from Germany, Dionne sums it up nicely:

“Germans applied to their own best traditions some useful pointers about reaching workable compromises in a democracy fromus — from the America of FDR, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Why do Germans remember ideas from our history that the shutdowners dearly want us to forget?”

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Filed under California Legislature, Media, partisanship

Panetta: Partisanship A Major Threat to National Security

Bone

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci had a nice profile recently on Leon Panetta, a native Californian and statesman par excellence.

I’ve always thought of Panetta, who recently retired from a long and distinguished career, as someone who always viewed his responsibilities the way all elected officials should: as public servants. From congressman and White House chief of staff to director of the OMB or CIA, here is a man who has always seemed to act and speak with a profound respect for our nation and its democratic institutions. Pragmatism over ideology. Policy over politics. Respect over vitriol. Duty over personal aggrandizement.

What really jumped off the page of Marinucci’s piece was Panetta’s concern over extreme partisanship and how it poses one our country’s most serious threats to national security. This, remember, is coming from a guy who was in charge of the CIA and Department of Defense. He knows a little bit about what the United States is up against. When he says one of our greatest dangers is ourselves, that bears attention.

Leon Panetta

 If you wonder why we need more people like Panetta in government, check out this passage from the Chronicle piece:

“The avuncular Panetta gets deadly serious when he talks about what he believes is one of the greatest dangers to America’s future – political partisanship that, he said, has never been more divisive or discouraging.

Washington “has really become dysfunctional,” said Panetta, who began his political career as a Republican, “and when that happens, in many ways that becomes a greater national security threat than almost anything else.”

“I’m sensing that – for whatever reason – we’re in a testing period now as to whether some of this can change,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think this is a time when change is going to happen – not from the top down – but from the bottom up.”

His mission now, Panetta said, is “to get young people who are not trapped by partisanship to recognize that things can be different – if they’re willing to take the risk involved with getting elected to public office.”

He’s encouraged, he said, because the new crop of students who hope to become public servants is less attached to “strong ideological edge” of their parents’ generation.

“They’re much more pragmatic; they’re much more willing to see if problems can be solved,” he said. “I don’t see them as being tied to the kind of party label as you see playing out in Washington – and in Sacramento for that matter.”

Let’s hope Panetta is as successful with this mission as he was throughout his career. We need more leaders like him.

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Filed under California Legislature, Congress, Journalism, Media, national security, partisanship, Politics

State Republicans Dead Wrong on Budget

For as pro-business and anti-tax as this Blue Dog is, California’s Republican state legislators are way off base by rejecting Governor Brown’s call for putting a tax extension vote before the electorate. It is a pathetic, albeit classic, case of extreme ideology getting in the way of problem solving, sacrifice and compromise.

Extending taxes should really be a no-brainer that the Legislature and Governor should man-up for and even pass on their own without seeking the political cover of the ballot.

First, this is an extension. The taxes are already in existence. Our politicians are fond of putting things in terms of kitchen-table talk, so look at it this way: If a household is in dire financial straits, it cuts expenses and seeks to preserve existing income. Christmas money from relatives? Check. Bonus from work? Check. Rental deposit? Check. Refunds from car insurance or other sources? Check.  You get the idea.

Second, Brown is exhibiting dogged determination in making harsh cuts. We all know there is a ton of government waste and programs on the bubble that should be cut. But he also appears to be going all the way to the bone in a way that will shock liberal Dems. The Republicans need to bring more than the word “NO” to the table.

Third, perhaps worse than taxes, most moderates and independents despise spinelessness. But this dearth of leadership and lack of problem-solving is precisely what we are seeing and hearing from the California GOP.

To wit: “This is really not our problem,” Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said Tuesday after meeting with Brown.

And this, in the Los Angeles Times from Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) the highest-ranking Republican budget leaders: “Listen, the drill is, we come up with a budget, it gets vilified by everybody and at the end of the day we don’t have the ability to pass it. It’s a majority-vote budget. We’re not the majority. We respect that. We’ll be part of the process but it’s not like we’re going to lead with all the things where we become the bad guys. The majority has the ability, they have the authority. God bless them, we’re here to help.”

Whining, hand-wringing and lobbing grenades is no way to attract people to your cause. The Republican position here is pure Stone Age. It’s embarrassing and exactly the type of unreasonable position that has marginalized the Republican party in California. Also it is why conservative and moderate Dems cannot bring themselves to embrace the party.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate taxes as much as the next guy and would not support new taxes. But the $9 billion or so already on the table needs to stay on the table until we get out of this mess. Republicans should hold their noses and see the common sense in this.

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Where is Governor Moonbeam?

Happy New Year, Californians.

While it is easy to remain cynical about the fate of the Golden State, Governor Jerry Brown’s first week on the job, as well as his run-up to taking office, has indeed been heartening. In terms of both symbolism and substance, one cannot help but be impressed by his sober, workmanlike approach to his job.

Whether a holding a low-key hotdog inaugural, making it a priority to open the lines of communication with Republicans or making the effort to meet key stakeholder groups in their own offices — Brown is drawing raves from both sides of the aisle.

Obviously, style must soon give way to substance. On the eve of his budget unveiling tomorrow, Brown appears dialed-into our crisis in a way we have not seen for the past eight years. Sure, closed door meetings discussions with Brown have been described as like watching a Super Ball bouncing all over the room. Yet, there is little, if any, public evidence of the old and quirky Governor Moonbeam. Instead, we are seeing a sure hand and steady grip at the helm of the Titanic.

By making it clear no-one is immune from deep, ugly cuts; that voters should approve tax extensions; and that the state must push more responsibility to local government, he is asserting a pragmatic no-nonsense, non-partisan approach that offers a glimmer of hope for our dire situation. It has not gone unnoticed that many believe the large contingent of  liberal Democrats is going to be Brown’s biggest nemesis.

The business community is on pins and needles waiting for all Brown’s appointments to be made. Already there are rumblings and concerns being voiced around Sacramento his appointments thus far are too partisan. But none of that matters if Brown continues to set the right tone and stays true to less government and living within the state’s means. By definition, that should curtail government’s insatiable appetite to regulate and stifle business.

If Brown stays tough, smart and fair, California might just have a chance.

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Let’s Tie the Knot & Move On

How about a cease fire in the endless legal ping pong battle over gay marriage?

On the right, you’ve got the folks who say gays will destroy the fabric of society before they all burn in hell. On the left, the activists render similar inflammatory judgments by equating the issue with slavery and branding those who don’t support them as hate-filled bigots.

Enough already. Both sides are out of line. This is one of those classic issues that conflicts millions of moderates and independents, including this Blue Dog, who has been bouncing with the ping pong ball and legal machinations.

On the one hand the institution of marriage possesses centuries of history and grounding as a sacred and rite and legal status synonymous only with a heterosexual relationships. To one way of thinking, gays can’t be “married” any more than heteros can pronounce themselves to be “gay.”

On the other hand, you’ve got a group of people who can make a damn good case they are the victims of discrimination. They want to form a union with another person and express it in the ultimate frame of reference: marriage. And who can blame them for wanting to be a part of society in that way?

This Blue Dog – an openly heterosexual coming up on 20 years of marriage — has gone back and forth on this one, balancing a traditional upbringing and legal issues with changing societal values and the pursuit of happiness. All court briefs and vitriol flying from both sides doesn’t make it any easier to sort things out. In fact, it seems whichever extreme bellows last is the one to disagree with.

But after much thought, the conclusion reached here is that gays should be allowed to marry. Pure and simple, it is the only decent thing to do. The rationale?

(1) With divorce rates at more the 50 percent, marriage is hardly as sacred as heterosexuals purport it to be. We have not done a very good job preserving the institution in a way that shows much respect for it.

(2)  If two consenting adults love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together under the banner of marriage, that should be a good thing.

(3) The nuclear family has been disintegrating all around us and is at the root of so many social ills. There are millions of neglected kids who would benefit from two-parent families regardless of gender. Before you mock that notion of family, just think about the transformation of heterosexual families. The Blue Dog has an adopted son. And what about  blended families, second marriages, shared custody, adopted kids (here in our own state and from as far away as China), invitro fertilization, grandparents raising children, foster families, etc. Rather than destroy the family unit, married gay couples have an opportunity to be part of a new and bigger solution to help raise the next generation children.

(4) We need unity now more than ever. Married gays will encounter all of the same trials and tribulations every married couple faces. Marriage can be damn hard. Is there not the distinct possibility that extending marriage across the board can actually be a force that will help people relate to one another in new and surprising ways? It’s not so polly-anne-ish to see this upside.

(5) The majority is not always right. A lot of ballot initiatives are later found to be illegal.

(6) The face of Norman Rockwell’s United States is changing. In addition to a piece on gay marriage and its impact on politics, last Sunday’s New York Times included a disturbing trend story on community movements nationwide seeking to ban the construction of mosques. Below that story was one on a reunion of senior citizens who served as models for Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting. If a young Rockwell were alive today, his version of Americana would almost certainly include Muslim families and gay couples.

(7) God is love. Doubt that is a legal term judges are considering. But it kind of sums the whole thing up in this camp; the concept should be one the anti-gay marriage crowd should ponder in their Christian heart of hearts. Conversely, gays should exhibit tolerance and understanding of the fact that many, many people were raised in traditional families with traditional values. They should be respected and allowed some slack and time to get used to the concept of gay marriage as it becomes a new norm.

One last thing. How about some talk about restoring the word “gay” to its original meaning? The one my grandmother used so freely over Christmas dinner while everyone else snickered?

So let’s tie the knot, California, and attack much bigger challenges as one people.

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A Coyote-Ugly Truth

The Blue Dog typically takes a pass on email jokes, but here’s one worth sharing that apparently is making the rounds around high places in the State Capitol:

CALIFORNIA: The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. a coyote jumps out, bites the Governor and attacks his dog.

1. The Governor starts to intervene but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2. He calls animal control. Animal Control captures coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3. He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.

4. The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5. The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is free of dangerous animals.

6. The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote awareness” program for residents of the area.

7. The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8. The Governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack somehow and for letting the Governor attempt to intervene.

9. Additional cost to State of California: $75,000 to hire and train a new security agent with additional special training with regards to the nature of coyotes.

10. PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files suit against the State.

ARIZONA: The Governor of Arizona is jogging with her dog along a nature trail. a coyote jumps out and attacks her dog.

1. The Governor shoots the coyote with her State-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that’s why California is broke.

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Can Party Leaders Afford to Dismiss Sentiment Behind Prop. 14?

Few things unite Republican and Democratic party hardliners more than a threat to the status quo. The current two-party stranglehold in California has yielded a virtual monopoly on ideas and public policy. This reality, coupled with ridiculously uncompetitive legislative districts, is a prime source of the gridlock we see daily in Sacramento.

Candidates pander to their liberal and conservative bases in the primaries, then try to convince everyone in the general election they are moderates in the center. Once they get into office they revert, with very few exceptions, back to lapdogs for the extremes of their respective parties and special interests. This is a sham Californians obviously see through given their approval for Open Primaries — just as they did in rejecting some of the big corporate power plays in the other statewide propositions this week.

But rather than catching a clue about voter sentiment and realizing how smart the electorate actually is, the entrenched party apparatchiks condescendingly dismiss the will of the people. John Burton, old-guard Democrat and Party Chairman, vowed as early as Tuesday night to consider filing a lawsuit. The Republican establishment, also voiced strong opposition to Prop. 14’s passage, and seemed content to stand with Burton, albeit in a crouched position.

Of all things, our politicians fear moderate voters and independents who care more about common sense problem solving than capital D or R ideology. An open primary will mean candidates will actually have to appeal to a broader range of the electorate from the get go — not just the extremes as has been the case for too long. One look no farther than Steve Poizner for a timely example. Long considered a moderate Republican, Poizner transformed himself into the second coming of Bill O’Reilly during a campaign in which he sought to brand himself as the only “true conservative” on the Republican ticket. A big reason he was trounced, besides winner Meg Whitman’s financial largesse, was that he was simply too disingenuous to believe.

Prop. 14 is emblematic of voter frustration and disenfranchisement. The measure, which passed overwhelmingly, is perhaps not as revolutionary as Prop. 13 and and term limits. But neither is it as draconian. The Blue Dog has seen first hand the chaos of term limits, which despite their intent have ironically backfired for a whole host of reasons. And Prop. 13 is at the root of many problems the state is facing today. But Prop. 14 would not appear to be in that camp. As political columnist Dan Weintraub writes in today’s Sacramento Bee, Prop. 14 is a victory for centrists/moderates and independents who deserve a voice earlier in the process.

Rather than scrambling like cockroaches for attorneys to overturn the will of the people, the Democrat and Republican Party Corporations should seek ways to broaden their appeal with more mainstream candidates. Tuesday’s election should make one thing clear to them: the majority of voters (of all parties) are standing by with cans of RAID.

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Banning BPA = Blind Pandering to Activists

Senator Dianne Feinstein has a well-earned reputation on most issues for her pragmatism, moderation and critical /independent thinking. So it is surprising that she seems to have gotten caught up the swirl of irrational Chemo-Phobia that has long afflicted Sacramento (where, in the interest of full disclosure, the Blue Dog has worked on this issue for industry) and now spread to Capitol Hill.

Feinstein is usually too smart to get suckered by emotion and policy making by anecdote. But there she is, sponsoring legislation to ban a chemical known as bisphonel-A  (BPA) used to ensure the safety of food, packaging and other consumer products.

Never mind that, according to a public policy research article: “On January 15, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a long-awaited update of its policy regarding bisphenol A (BPA)–an industrial chemical used to add strength and flexibility to many plastic products–finding it safe as currently used. The FDA review was undertaken after intense campaigning by advocacy groups and the media to ban or severely restrict BPA use, which continues even in the wake of the FDA decision. The campaigners’ focus has now expanded to include other regulatory bodies, as well as states and localities. If they are successful, they will jeopardize the system for making regulatory decisions based on sound science.”

If you did not know this and other facts, Feinstein would sound totally reasonable in her May 18th news conference. But when you listen to what she says, there is “no there there.” Just an uncharacteristically rambling statement that cobbles together bits and pieces of information, emotion and childhood memories. Obesity and breast cancer linked to BPA? She always ate from jars and tin cans? In favor of the precautionary principle?

Honestly, Di-Fi, we deserve better from you. Is this really worth your energy and stature?

The Senator would do well to apply her ample and usually open mind to more reading. Perhaps a review of  the American Cancer Society’s recent criticism of the President’s Cancer Panel Report, which it says vastly overstates the risks from environmental sources. According to a story in the New York Times, only two percent of all cancers are related to community or household environmental sources. Di-Fi would should also cuddle up with the body of serious science — and not crumbs of research scattered along her path.

Feinstein should pick up the latest edition of the New Scientist, which features a cover story on “The Age of Denial: Why So Many People Refuse to Believe the Truth.” The special report points out that we live in an era in which special interests — of all stripes — will cherry pick information to make their case. And the  “commitment to a belief takes precedence over the evidence.”

We see science being ignored by the Right and some in corporate America with the denial of  global warming. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Yet we also see this equally on the Left, which for years has been blaming vaccines for autism based on a single bogus study now fully discredited. The attack on BPA and other widely researched chemicals used in commerce are likewise misguided and without credible scientific basis. These issues are being driven by a narrowly focused band of elitist environmentalists bent on injecting terror into consumers on everything from sunscreen, plastic bags, sippy cups and plastic baby bottles (products, incidentally originally created to better protect health and the environment)

If Di-Fi really wants to advance public health, here’s an idea: Transfer the $30-million for yet another BPA study to a another research project — studying the adverse mental and physical health impacts from repeated worrying about unsubstantiated, phantom dangers.

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Filed under Congress, Environment, Media, Politics

Much Ado About Palin

For being such an irrelevant lightweight, Sarah Palin still manages to get under the Left’s thin skin (more on that in a minute). While this is hardly a news flash, it is ironic that Palin is now, according to CNN and others, showing skill at also alienating the right — especially Chuck DeVore supporters — with today’s endorsement of Carly Fiorina, one of three seeking the Republican spot to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

Boxer certainly isn’t the Blue Dog’s cup of tea, but it is hard to see how Palin’s endorsement helps Fiorina attract the middle once the primary is over and Palin is hanging on her back like Clint Eastwood’s orangutan in “Every Which Way But Loose.” Carly’s camp is dissing Tom Campbell for a track record of losing big races because of his moderate credentials. Perhaps a valid point. But that may have more to do with public persona than partisan orientation. On paper, Campbell would appear the best person to unseat Boxer. While Fiorina remains intriguing — she would appear to be much less so for independents and moderate Dems with a Palin endorsement.  Seriously, is the Official Palin Stamp of Approval really the holy grail for Republicans? They are in big trouble if it is.

As for Palin’s ability to burrow like a crazed tick under the thin skin of liberals . . . The BlueDog – while no fan of Palin – finds all the contrived controversy about her Cal State University Stanislaus speech utterly ridiculous. An AG Jerry Brown investigation? State legislative news conferences, dumpster diving and conspiracy theories involving Palin’s agreement with a non-profit university foundation? You gotta be kidding me. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry?

You couldn’t pay the Blue Dog to hear Palin speak. She is a dim bulb on a huge ego trip. She was not vice presidential timber, but that’s what elections are for. The reality is that plenty of people relate to Palin and want to hear her blather on about whatever is on her mind. Like it or not, she is a big draw among an ardent group of voters, commands large fees and can help organizations like the CSU-Stanislaus foundation raise funds for worthwhile causes like scholarships.

Good for her. The  last time we checked this was still the United States and citizens (and illegals, apparently) had a few rights involving freedom of speech, expression, assembly and getting paid what the market will bear.

If Bill Ayers or Reverend Jeremiah Wright were speaking on a public university campus, this type of flap wouldn’t even be on the radar. Instead, we see an ongoing witch hunt against Palin by the Left – a energy that only gives her a credibility she wouldn’t otherwise possess. Moderates and independents in California — even those with no love for Palin — have little interest in seeing precious state resources and legislative energy wasted on character assassination.

So, to the Lefties: “Get Over Her” . . .  To the Republicans: “Get Over Her”

To the Rest of Us Suckers in the Middle: “Pray we don’t get stuck with two extremes in November.”

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Filed under 2010 Election, California Legislature, Congress, Politics

The Unifying Irish Force

While most people associate St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness and boozing it up, the Blue Dog is struck by the holiday’s ability to bring people together. We see and hear so much about Americans splintering into individual silos and talking to themselves in Internet echo chambers. Yet for the second year in a row, the Blue Dog has been surprised how many people of all political and ethnic stripes don GREEN on this day — Tea Party activists, gays,  Hispanics, Chinese and African Americans.

With moderates and independents big on consensus and harmony, it is refreshing to see something other than hatred or a national calamity / tragedy (War,  September 11, Katrina, etc.) bring people together.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that St. Patrick was originally associated with the color blue. So celebrate this unselfconscious, celebratory and apolitical holiday. And be sure to toast more than Ireland — cheer  the larger symbolism of St. Patrick’s Day: Hope.

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Fabian’s Right: Dems Should Jettison BS & Approve Maldonado

The Blue Dog applauds former Assemby Speaker and Democrat Fabian Nunez for his eloquent, reasoned opinion piece in this morning’s Sacramento Bee: “Confirm GOP’s Maldonado, show Legislature can function.”

In his commentary, Nunez articulates a number of central Centrist themes in championing Republican state senator Abel Maldonado for the vacant Lieutenant Governor post. More political leaders should come out to exhibit the same type of common sense and statesman-like leadership as Nunez. The Capitol circus needs more responsible outside ringmasters.

We will let his piece speak for itself and encourage you — and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership — to read it.

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Obama’s Rush to the Economic Right: Will Sacramento Follow Suit?

Taking in President Obama’s state of the Union speech while frying patty melts for his kids, one thing struck the Blue Dog big time: Obama came out of the gates running for the center. In fact, his momentum seemed to carry him across the line and into Republican territory on jobs and the economy. Obamas’s most surprising, and apparently sincere, admission that business is still the engine that drives the economy was refreshing and even startling. Good for him. And let’s hope the Republicans find it in themselves to work with him instead of trying to sabotage the country for political gain in November.

And Obama should get credit for stabilizing the economy and starting to clean up the crap left by the previous Administrations. But his claims of jobs creation, however, rang a bit hollow. After all, the avalanche of recovery funds have chiefly been absorbed in protecting public sector jobs. In fact, the Stimulus Project suggests as much as 75 percent of the mega funds have gone to entitlements and government works.

Saving taxpayer-funded jobs ain’t the same thing as creating jobs. Government may employ people, but it doesn’t create the underlying wealth and new revenue. It absorbs, redistributes and transfers wealth. And yes, it plays a critical role in curbing private-sector abuse. This is all the subject of a whole different conversation. The point here is that government jobs are the offspring of taxpayers and especially the loins of business.

One wonders if the liberals in Sacramento heard Obama. Or were they too busy watching Nancy Pelosi and Joe Binden grin ear to ear as if they had just sipped the Kool-Aid or were in on the same joke?  One worries if the California Left really does get it. Here’s a classic example: A few months ago, there was a “Jobs Summit” held in Sacramento to explore  ways to create jobs. According the press account, there was an array of traditional Democratic stakeholders — labor, public employees unions, government, academics, think tanks and the like. But guess what? No mention of the economic engine Obama talked about. Apparently business wasn’t important enough to have a seat at the table. Never mind business is the table, as Obama pointed out in his speech.

We are in big trouble if this “summit” mentality mirrors the current mindset in the Capitol, a notorious Slaughterhouse for pro-business and private sector job growth initiatives. Growing business is serious business, and is getting more urgent. Consider that California’s nearly 13 percent unemployment rate is nearly as high (about 2 points less) than Michigan, which has been decimated by the gasping auto industry.

Obama called on policy grounded in “common sense”  and post partisanship. Whether this can happen in DC is anyone’s guess. Here in Sacramento, the stakes are higher and the divisions perhaps even greater in terms partisan rancor.

Nonetheless, let’s think big, and positively. So here’s a call — albeit a naive one –  from the millions of silent Centrists who would love to see the following from the California Legislature:

(1) Make private sector job creation its number one priority. And that doesn’t mean hiding behind the long-term dream of  “green job creation” at the same time regulations and laws are passed to ban products, shut down what manufacturing is left, hamstring farmers, mandate bureaucratic reporting of information that is already readily available just to curry favor with special interests and activists groups, etc.

(2) Steinberg and Perez should each reach across the aisle and name a moderate, respected Republican in each house as a Job Czar, who would serve as advisors on job-related legislation.

(3)  Run every bill through an economic filter with analysis from an independent third-party group of economists — as well as from Capitol staff and their bosses.

(4) Create a legislative Siberia for any bill that creates a new program or bureaucracy.   State office buildings already are littered with programs that don’t have adequate funding.

The Blue Dog likes to start from the ideal and work backwards, lowering expectations as we go. So let’s think big. Sacramento Dems – take a page from the Democrat in Chief. Create an environment friendly for jobs growth and you’ll ultimately have plenty of tax revenue to address the many ominous ills in our state.

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What Scott Brown Means for Jerry Brown, et al

Depending on your pundit, Scott Brown’s stunning ascension to Ted Kennedy’s vacant Massachusetts Senate congressional seat is either a crippling defeat for the Democrats or a harbinger that Republicans will soon hold sway throughout the nation.

In reality, these are both oversimplifications and miss the point. From this Left Coast moderate perch, Brown’s surprise win is a victory for the great swath of independents and moderates who cut through both sides of the aisle.

What moderates lack in colorful political personalities and a party all their own, we make up for with a nasty habit of abruptly slamming on the brakes when we see either fringe taking control of the wheel. President Clinton learned this. So did Newt Gingrich. This is what seems to have just sent shockwaves through the nation’s political circles.

Anyone listening? There is a reason the nation’s fastest growing political force is gathering around the independent, moderate center. We may not have the power to hold conventions and catapult candidates out of the primaries. But we serve as critical check-and-balance calibrators and defiant momentum changers.

Massachusetts’ liberal base is legendary. So there is no denying Brown’s victory sends a powerful signal. But is it one Senator Barbara Boxer will understand or heed? If she exhibits the entitlement mentality and arrogance displayed by Democrats along the Eastern seaboard and in DC . . . she could well be toast. No matter what, the likes of Carly Fiorina and  Tom Campbell should suddenly feel very, very emboldened.

In the race for Arnold’s seat, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner will have to look over their shoulders as they pander to the Republican’s hardcore right. It seems Jerry Brown would do well to take advantage of being unchallenged (for a race he hasn’t officially entered) and stake out centerfield while his adversaries charge wildly to right before trying to veer back to the middle post June.

The moderate pendulum is not just swinging, but rather assertively at that. November is suddenly getting interesting.

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What’s Your S.O.S.?

Governor Schwarzenegger delivered his final State of the State (SOS) address this morning. It was a mixed bag. Sober reality check. Wistful glorification of California’s can-do spirit. A vague, punch-drunk plan of attack for rescuing California.Protecting education, cutting prisons, tax breaks. They all sound wonderful. How this stacks up with financial and political reality is highly suspect. But give the Governor credit for connecting the dots and trying to move ahead in the face of insurmountable odds.

Depending on your viewpoint and situation, S.O.S. can mean a lot of things.

* For castaways desperate for salvation, it’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass – “Save Our Souls.”

* For soldiers sick of canteen food, it’s “Sh*! on a Shingle.”

* For cynics in the capitol press corps and in The Building, it’s “Same of Sh@#.”

* For liberals, to paraphrase Democratic ex-Speaker Karen Bass, it’s “Save our Shreds” of what is now the social safety net.

* For Arnold, it boiled down to the “Same Optimistic Speech.”

The Blue Dog thinks it was very well-written and delivered pretty well. But the feel-good tone evaporated minutes after the speech . . . just inventory the pitiful track record of a Centrist Governor sandwiched between too-far right Republicans and the dominant left-wing Liberals. They are all talking about collaboration now. But as Sacramento political pundit Steve Swatt so nicely put it: “By summer the olive branches will be fire wood.”

Achieving some measure of budget reform should now be Governor Schwarzenegger’s drumbeat to a proud legacy, It’s a worthy goal and the Governor should be applauded for that. The Legislature should, but of course, won’t, do anything meaningful or visionary to help him.  After all, a broken system cannot fix itself.

Yes, Governor, California is a wonderful place indeed. But her glow has faded and she can’t rely on her looks any more. The fresh-faced beauty queen is now a haggard middle-aged woman with missing teeth and a crack pipe in her hand.  Optimism alone is not going to change that fact.

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Governor Confirms Bradshaw’s Departure

Bone A few hours after the Blue Dog’s previous posting, the Governor’s press office confirmed the the news about Vickie Bradshaw’s departure from her post as Cabinet Secretary. The press release issued this afternoon spins forward about her new role in promoting a green economic miracle, but predictably doesn’t answer the obvious question, “Why?”

Will be interesting to see who they can get to fill such a short-term, yet critical, role in the horseshoe.

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Source: Bradshaw Leaving Horseshoe

Pay AttentionA well-placed source tells the Blue Dog that Vickie Bradshaw will be leaving her post as Cabinet Secretary to Governor Schwarzenegger, whose office is expected to make the announcement next week. Her departure is a blow to most state agencies because she has been their only pipeline to the Governor. She has also been credited with playing a moderating and stabilizing influence within the horseshoe. She and Paul Feist,, her likewise highly regarded chief deputy, are said to be returning to the agency from which they came a year ago — The Labor & Workforce Agency.  No reason given, however, rumors suggest possible tension between Bradshaw and the Governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy (aka SBK), who has been a frustrating firewall between agency chiefs and the Governor. Some say, Bradshaw’s departure is disconcerting especially given the ominous 2010 that is shaping up around the budget, and the predictable exodus of staff that is expected as the Administration winds down.

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Blinding With Science

Main DogYesterday’s post on bisphenol-A and Senate Bill 797 (Pavley) drew a healthy reader comment as well as a few offline requests to see links to the research mentioned in the post.  And why not? We should be making policy on facts and science — not emotion. Here is some of the science underlying the worldwide regulatory view that there is no compelling evidence at this time that BPA poses a health and should be banned. But read and draw your own conclusions:

State of California [OEHHA]:   “Following the staff presentation, comments from the public and committee discussion, the DARTIC determined that, based upon current scientific information, bisphenol A has not been clearly shown to cause reproductive toxicity; and therefore the Committee declined to add it to the Proposition 65 chemical list.”

[As an aside, how do the scientists at OEHAA feel about being dismissed at political appointees? They looked at the research trumpeted by Pavley and bill proponents and rejected it. So how come their public employee union — the California Association of Professional Scientists — isn’t standing up to defend them and their work? ]

Health CanadaHealth Significance of the Survey Results – The provisional tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 25 µg/kg body weight/day has been pre-established by Health Canada as a conservatively safe level for BPA presence in food. Based on the average BPA level in canned drinks (0.57 µg/L*), if an adult (60 kg body weight) consumes one canned drink (355 mL) per day, the dietary intake of BPA would be equivalent to 0.2 µg/day which represents 0.0135% of the provisional TDI. Based on the highest BPA level in canned drinks (4.5 µg/L*), an adult (60 kg body weight) would have to consume approximately 940 canned drinks in one day to approach the provisional TDI set by Health Canada.

The results of this survey clearly indicate that exposure to BPA through the consumption of canned drink products would be extremely low. The low levels of BPA found in canned drink products available for sale in Canada confirm Health Canada’s previous assessment conclusion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population.

European Union: European safety watchdogs reaffirm belief in safety of BPA

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)FSANZ has assessed the risk to infants from exposure to BPA and concurred with the conclusions reached by the US FDA and the EFSA that the levels of exposure are very low and do not pose a significant health risk.

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Can We Bottle All That Phony Hysteria?

dog_snarling

As California prepares to turn loose tens of thousands of prisoners, extreme factions of the Legislature and activist groups are getting all lathered up about – get this – the supposed hazards of shatter-proof baby bottles (which incidentally have likely saved countless lives by preventing young children from choking to death).

As David Letterman would say: “I’m not making this up.”

Activist groups today are planning to adorn the State Capitol grounds with a 15-foot baby bottle as a PR stunt to push for Senate Bill 797 (Pavley), which would create the Toxin-Free Infants & Toddlers Act.

[Full Disclosure: The Blue Dog is working with opponents to kill this ridiculous bill]

In essence, SB 797 would ban a chemical known as Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and other drinking containers used by children three and under. This would be a necessary and commendable goal if there were any serious science underlying the concern. Trouble is, even the state agency lauded by the environmentalists, doesn’t even see any reason for concern.

A scientific advisory board of The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently determined that BPA doesn’t even belong on the state’s Prop. 65 list of known carcinogens. Even wine and beer are on this list – but not BPA. Specifically, July 15 OEHHA’s Development and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) unanimously voted NOT TO ADD BPA to the Proposition 65 list.

The Committee – consisting of experts from several California universities spanning a wide range of relevant scientific disciplines – serves as the “State’s Qualified Experts” for determining whether a chemical has been clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause reproductive or developmental toxicity. If the state’s scientific experts do not believe products containing BPA deserve even a warning label, how is an outright ban warranted?

And the irony here gets quite tasty. Last month some of the proponents of SB 797 lobbied against the agency’s possible elimination, touting OEHHA as leaders in protecting public health through independent scientific research. They sent out press releases and wrote opinion pieces going to bat for the agency.

Now, when science-based policy doesn’t support activist driven policy, OEHHA’s science advisory board becomes the focus. Activists are now pouting that the “committee is made up of political appointees who do not necessarily have the research and science background best-suited to interpret cutting-edge science, as evidenced by this decision.”

So let’s get this straight: last month OEHHA worth saving from the budget ax, but this month the agency is being advised by political appointees who don’t have the expertise to make these decisions? Please, give us all a break.

The SB 797 special interests have also got to be annoyed with our northern neighbors and friends across the pond. After all, the U.S. activists love to fawn all over the EU and Canada when it comes to their chemical policies. So the following facts must also be hard for them to swallow:

  • Just last month, Health Canada released studies of BPA in infant formula and baby food containers and concluded “Based on the overall weight of evidence, as described in the Health Risk Assessment of BPA from food packaging applications, the results of this survey further confirms Health Canada’s previous assessment conclusion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the consumer
  • Regulatory agencies in the EU, Japan, United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand have looked at BPA as used in these applications and have not issued any restrictions.  Do we assume that those regulatory agencies are made up of unqualified political appointees too?
  • Finally, SB 797 flies in the face of the Green Chemistry initiative – the Governor and Legislature’s landmark measure to take chemical policy out of the hands of Legislators and into the hands of state scientists.

Why is a bill like this even circulating?

Pavely is a teacher and land use expert. Most, if not all of her colleagues have no serious scientific credentials. I don’t believe there is a toxicologist among them. Yeah, tree-tall baby bottles may make for snappy PR events and great TV news, but if you look inside this big bottle all you will see is special interest scare tactics and specious science.

Meanwhile, how about those freed inmates?

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461 Days & Counting

Bone


While the BlueDog has been away for the past few weeks tending to some family matters, he has been keeping mental notes of things we will be catching up on in the next few posts: juicy hypocrisy, the elevated status of moderates in DC and, if we can stomach it, our new state budget.

Today let’s circle back on a wonderful cover story in the New York Times Magazine a few Sundays ago profiling the 2010 race for California governor. Not only is it a great, albeit highly subjective, read, it provides a refreshing and sharp brand of insight that only a perceptive outsider can offer.  How Mark Leibovich, a reporter in the paper’s Washington bureau, and his editors, portrayed the candidates was fascinating, as was the respective candidate views on Governor Schwarzenegger and California’s battered condition. CalBuzz weighed in a while back with its take on the story. Here are some of the BlueDog’s top-line impressions from the article (in alphabetical order):

Jerry Brown: Comes across as the elder statesman. A far cry from the Moonbeam days. “An unlikely grown-up in the field, Jerry Brown recently dubbed himself as the Apostle of Common Sense . . .  Brown delights in deflating overblown rhetoric,” Leibovich writes.

Tom Campbell: Glowing appraisal of his resume [“immaculately credentialed policy marvel”] and his stance as a socially liberal Republican with strong acumen in government finance. “The perception lingers that he will be seriously outgunned” but could benefit from the entry of a social conservative candidate, who would siphon support away from Whitman and Poizner.

Dianne Feinstein: While not a focus of the story, the Senator’s towering presence was mentioned in passing. No insight into her plans, just the usual: If she gets in the race, she is the immediate front runner.

Gavin Newsom: Suprisingly big play for the SF mayor. He garners a nice cover photo as the “Gavinator.” Inside he gets similar star treatment with another full-page photo on the beach. You’d think he was the heir apparent to Arnold judging from all the fawning and attention. In terms of content, the SF Mayor’s struggle with dyslexia humanizes him in an endearing way. But he ultimately comes across as a flakey lightweight trying to claim he isn’t a liberal. A description of a Newsom visit to the Central Valley is pretty comical. And the fact Newsom (he who reigns over the self-proclaimed greenest city on earth) zooms away in a gas guzzling SUV is a classic image.

Steve Poizner: Strolling through what appears to be the Capitol Rose Garden, Poizner’s photo is flattering and he looks like a governor. But Leibovich suggests that he is dead in the water. “Poizner faces many obstacles. For starters, he is the state’s insurance commissioner (bookish, with a beakish nose) and is little-known, and his name sounds like poison.”  Ouch. That hardly seemed necessary.

Meg Whitman:  While she got a fair amount of ink, Whitman was the only one of the five profiled candidates with no photo in the story. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Unless the former queen of eBay declined a photo session, this was a major slight and an inexcusable omission.  After all, she is the only woman in the race, and many consider her a highly formidable candidate. Like Poizner, she was the recipient of snide editorial comment. It’s not like the NYT is going to decide the 2010 election but she got glaringly short shrift; her campaign consultants should still be steaming at the treatment. NYT editors should know better.

A winner on this early national media stage?

Newsom if you just glanced at the pictures and scanned the piece; Brown and Campbell if you were looking for substance and took time to read the story. Come to think of it, the latter two would make for an interesting race in November. Brown has aged in way that appears to bring him closer to the center as a visionary pragmatist. Campbell brings many of those same qualities to the table as a seasoned, moderate Republican.

But take time to read the piece and decide for yourself. By the way, no one really answered the big question boasted in headline: Why do the candidates want the job? We have 461 more days to find out.

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Comfortably Numb in Neverland

Main Dog

“After the ecstasy, the laundry,” goes the Zen adage.

Or in Sacramento terms: “After Independence Day celebrations, the grindstone.”

And it looks like the grindstone is still winning. Big 5 leadership noses rubbed raw. Budget gridlock continues. Tough, impossible choices are delayed. No news here.

And really, does anyone really care outside of Sacramento? Isn’t it totally plausible that our elected officials are getting more calls from constituents wanting help getting tickets to the Michael Jackson memorial service than are grousing about the budget? Our legislators have got to be breathing a huge sigh of relief that the Michael Jackson Saga is sucking so much media and public attention from away from the impasse. Nothing like a good soap opera to relieve the pressure.

For a minute, let’s suspend reality and dream of a world when Californians and the media gave even a fraction of the attention and energy into our dysfunctional government as is going into the King of Pop’s funeral arrangements and second coming [The Blue Dog, swear to God, actually saw a newscast this evening devoting coverage to some local guy who says a knot in his birch tree contains the face of Jackson].

One percent of that kind of interest in the Capitol and we’d have a budget. Five percent, a revolution . . .

Yeah, Independence Day is a time for feeling good about our country, state and freedoms. But that is only half of the bargain. The other piece is that we all possess a responsibility to be passionately engaged in our Democracy. When we pay obsessively more attention to birch trees and dead celebrities we shouldn’t complain too much about the government we get.

The contrast between what is going on in LA and Sacramento over this past Fourth of July and well into the foreseeable future is almost too much to bear. Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot of laundry piling up.

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High-Priced Escorts?

This Bites

Did you hear the one about the convicted murderer, an elderly female prisoner with breast cancer? How many prison guards did it take to provide an escort to her chemotherapy appointment?

In California, the rumored punchline is: FOUR.

A little bird, albeit not a jailbird, dropped this tidbit in the Blue Dog’s dish. Can’t vouch for the veracity of the information, but if true, this has to be a candidate for the  annual “$72,000 Government Toilet Seat Awards.”

We already know the sweet arrangement the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) has going. Sure we need to respect, protect and fairly compensate our prison guards, who no doubt have phenomenally difficult and thankless jobs. But this type of story may hint at why California needs what — 30,000 prison guards and a budget some three times that of a state like Texas? And if true, this quadruple burly escort service for old ladies — even if it would happen to be a mass murderer like Dorothea Puente — would seem obvious overkill. Are these the policies written into contracts from which California cannot escape?

While a card-carrying member of Amnesty International who is all for humane treatment of inmates, the BlueDog is compelled to ask if we’ve taken things too far. Do prisoners receive better healthcare than the working poor or even the middle class? Is their food service of higher quality than the lard and dough we feed our school kids? (A produce company has complained to the BlueDog that inmates are mandated to receive top grade fruits and veggies.)

Perhaps above all else, the moderate faction abhors the imprisonment of common sense and balance. Prison reform is a massively complex matter requiring a lot of legal maneuvering. But there’s a simple way to have your voice heard — either regarding questionable corrections or other agency expenditures: report it to Governor Schwarzenegger’s Waste Watchers Program.

After all, this is your government. And the time is ripe for speaking out.

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Docs’ Eye View of Healthcare Reform

Pay AttentionBefore mowing on a tasty Father’s Day dinner of BBQ spareribs, grilled corn and summer salad, the BlueDog posed the following question to his own father and brother-in-law, Mayo and Cleveland Clinic-trained Central Valley physicians with a combined 103-years of experience in American medicine:

If you could wave a wand and fix the healthcare system in the United States, what would you do?

Here is what they said. Bear in mind, these are fiercely opinionated and incredibly intelligent, ethical doctors who entered medicine as a calling and out of a love for medicine. They are on the far downside of their careers. They have no turf they need to protect.  They aren’t being paid to defend anyone’s position, including the AMA’s. [“Too many doctors nowadays think MD stands for much dough,” my brother-in-law even lamented.]. They just speak bluntly, as doctors often do, about how things should be. It’s about as pure a viewpoint you can get these days. You might be surprised at their views:

(1) The delivery system should be a single payer system -think Medicare for everyone – but run by a quasi-governmental organization such as the Federal Reserve, Tennessee Valley Authority or Base Closure Commission with strong input from respected professionals and medical economists and a minimum number of politicians.

(2) Cost containment is key and depends on properly placed provider incentives for efficiency – that is, (a) budgets negotiated with large physician run, cohesive, integrated multispecialty medical groups with strong leadership and experience in utilization review and quality assessment (there are many now in existence – Mayo’s, Cleveland Clinic, Sutter, Kaiser, etc., most participating in HMOS), (b) avoid physician-owned facilities and (c) negotiate a national drug formulary.

(3) Evidence-based medicine. Define quality using the most recent information from data-based medical studies. Require, as much as possible, that treatments and diagnostic procedures are in line with current standards as determined by professionals.

(4) Systems should be funded by a pay-as-you-go, transparent, fund from visible personal and business taxes, which over time would replace all or most of present private premiums. This should not be funded from general tax revenue. A reasonable administrative cost allowed, perhaps not over 5 percent. Commercial insurance would remain only is a supplemental form, covering deductibles and co-pays as is now allowed in Medicare.

(5) A federal cap on pain-and-suffering awards for malpractice. Experience in several states, including California suggests it lowers malpractice premiums.

When the BlueDog’s father speaks to community groups and seniors, he defines socialized medicine for them and asks if they are in favor of it. No hands are raised. But when he asks how many like Medicare, all hands go up. “This is socialized medicine,” he tells them. “And it basically works.”

So consider the source of these reforms. Two big-brained guys who have committed their lives to medicine and medical economics. No axes to grind. No skin in the game anymore. Just a passionate wish for medicine to be much more than it is today . . . in the richest nation on earth.

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Hating Conditional Outrage Over Hate

dog_snarling

A core moderate value is fair play. We bristle at double standards and identity politics. The PC Thought Police are getting on our nerves, and we wish they’d burn their energy pursuing culprits of an under-appreciated and highly insidious crime: Hypocrisy. Nothing rankles us more than when one person or group conveniently operates two sets of books – one for them, and one for everybody else.

Or, as Sacramento’s civil and measured morning AM radio duo of Armstrong & Getty so beautifully call it: exercising “conditional outrage.”

On this front, we’ve had a lot of fodder the past few weeks both in Sacramento and nationally.

Across the fruited plains, the Blue Dog has noted a surprising number of blanket accusations being tossed around by liberal commentators (especially Paul Krugman) in the New York Times that the conservative media is somehow responsible for the violent murders of a Kansas abortion doctor and a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum.

Really?

The Blue Dog never bought into the liberal media conspiracy, and he’s not buying into this mush-headed attack on conservative pundits either.  These killers are hateful, ignorant whack jobs. Period. If we’re really playing this sophomoric blame game, then we will have to blame liberals for the breakdown of the American family, the welfare state, AIDS, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.

The latter topic, of course, serves as a rather tidy transition to the David Letterman controversy.  The comedian’s foot-in-mouth joke about the promiscuity of Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter(s) has been fascinating to watch, especially how it raised some interesting challenges to women’s groups, who one imagines weren’t exactly walking precincts for her in November.

While the Blue Dog doesn’t think much of Palin and is a lifelong Letterman fan, personal favorites or what side of the partisan boundary one is on should be irrelevant. The comedic Hoosier deservedly ended up in the crosshairs because he crossed way over. That was obvious. But what wasn’t so self-evident was how strong a backlash he would get. To its credit, the National Organization for Women (NOW) eventually stood up by inducting Letterman into the NOW Hall of Shame.

As an aside, did anyone notice if the City of San Francisco is now moving to become a Letterman Free Zone? Has the California Legislative Women’s Caucus put together a resolution to show their solidarity with the Palins?

Didn’t think so. If the joke had been doled out by a conservative about a Democrat’s gay or transgender child, the outrage meter would have broken the needle compared to what Letterman is getting.

Which helps make the point: Respect and common decency isn’t about right or left or middle. It should transcend all those artificial labels. Situational rules are confusing, hypocritical and ultimately a disservice to serious, legitimate issues.

We may wonder why President Obama gets a free pass on gay marriage, but the former Miss California is held in contempt and is fair game for her views when they basically mirror Obama’s. Shouldn’t she be accorded the same respect as the transgender community, which was on the receiving end of a recent Sacramento shock jock attack?

Although their formats and subject matter differ, why is Letterman merely a comic, but Rush Limbaugh somehow the voice of an entire party – and not simply the bombastic entertainer he really is? And if the N word is as despicable as the Blue Dog was raised to believe (the most offensive word in the English language his parents always told him), then shouldn’t it be so across the board?

Outrage becomes suspect the very moment we start hedging, making exceptions, parsing and partitioning our outrage to fit one given ideology, ethnicity or lifestyle.  It cheapens the respect we all ought to have for one another.

If we can’t figure this out and live by the Golden Rule, then we need to pass a law that says even feeble attempts at humor cannot be considered hate crimes.

If we can’t figure this out as human beings, we need to make every joke or comment about any subject socially acceptable again. Get respectful, or get thicker skin.

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Race to the Bottom

Pay AttentionAs hard as this may be to fathom, a few other states are competing with California for the distinction of most screwed up state.

It’s a Gong Show out there.

Illinois has given us a former well-coifed idiot of a governor accused of selling a U.S. Senate seat. Blogo’s wife is now putting food on her family’s table and paying for legal counsel by eating tarantulas on reality TV. Florida will feel eternal shame for the infamous hanging chad incident.

But according to Gail Collins in a recent New York Times column, New Yorkers are grousing THEY  have the worst government — While California quietly sinks in a sea of  almost quaint Alfred. E. Newman “What, me worry?” incompetence and stubborn ideological warfare, New York’s sports a different variety of dysfunction — scandal, absurdity and partisan musical chairs.

Here’s some of the juicy stuff pulled from her column about the goings on in the Albany statehouse:

* Two Senate Democrats defected to the Republican side of the aisle, throwing things into chaos. (One recently bounced back, tying everything up in knots)

* One of these fine gents is “about to go on trial for domestic violence . . . I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to see the fate of the legislative agenda hinging on a person who is under indictment for stabbing his girlfriend with a broken glass.”

* The only happy campers have been reporters, “who have not seen anything this interesting since Gov. Eliot Spitzer was driven out of office in that sex scandal and [now Governor] Paterson marked his succession by calling a press conference to confess he had cheated on his wife.”

Collins goes on to talk about besotted bathing-suit-wearing Louisiana lawmakers being dragged back to the Baton Rouge state house by state troopers a few years back. She reminds us of Pennsylvania legislators giving themselves four years ago an enormous pay raise at 2 a.m. [They now have a curfew for legislative sessions].

But New York, she says, is working overtime to earn the distinction as worst state government.

Collins never mentioned California. Not once.

Should we feel comforted by this omission; that our bleak situation is flying under the radar and that things aren’t really so bad after all?

Or insulted by another demeaning East Coast slight to the Left Coast?

The Blue Dog will flip a coin on that one.

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npr: National Prosperous Radio

Bone While we watch helplessly as many newspapers struggle to stay afloat, it is encouraging to know that at least one serious purveyor of in-depth news is thriving: National Public Radio.

Before anyone tries to gore the station as a bastion of liberalism, consider  independent market data that draws a very different and eyebrow-raising conclusion: 34 percent of NPR listeners define themselves as conservatives. That’s nearly equal to the 37 percent who say they tilt far left. The rest, or 29 percent, say they are middle of the road (us blue doggies).  

An NPR insider explained there remains a strong appetite among the radio’s demographic (typically college-educated with good incomes) for substantive programming regardless of their political viewpoint. And just for fun, even if it were it to be documented that NPR is massively liberal in its content, wouldn’t this suggest conservatives are more open-minded than liberals? After all, can you imagine 34-percent of The O’Reilly Factor viewers identifying themselves as liberals?

But we’re chasing a tangent. What is fascinating about NPR is that it is running counter to the trend we’re seeing with the Incredible Shrinking Attention Span (ISAS) throughout our society. Get this: There actually are people out there who prefer five and ten-minute segments as opposed to 30-second snippets . . . People who are gravitating to calm, thoughtful voices rather than the political rants and raves that infect the AM band and the cable TV talk shows.

And while the downturn in the economy has impacted corporate underwriting, the Blue Dog is told that donations from listeners are way up, as is the overall listenership locally, statewide and nationally, which has seen a 47-percent jump in the past seven years. More than 34 million people listen to NPR each week. More people tune in to “Morning Edition” than watch NBC’s “Today Show.” And can  you wrap your mind mind around the fact NPR has more bureaus (38) nationwide than CNN?

In Sacramento, Capital Public Radio’s KXJZ 90.9 FM has catapulted from the 16th ranked station in market to number two, only behind KFBK, according to Arbitron ratings comparing Fall of 2005 with the same time frame last year. Listenership has nearly doubled in that time. It is remarkable that contributions from just 10-15 percent of its listeners can sustain the enterprise. 

Some media watchers toy with the idea of developing a similar non-profit funding model for the newspaper industry. Free it from the shackles of Wall Street. That may be a stretch, but certainly anything should be on the table to save print or transition it safely to digital terra firma. Should we get to that point, the Blue Dog will be first in line with a contribution. In the meantime, stay tuned in to public radio.

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It Could Be Worse

 

A Snooze While there can be no state in the union more dysfunctional than California, we can rest easier and take heart in the goings on in South Carolina, where Governor Mark Sanford is fighting, of all things, federal stimulus funds. You read correctly — he is refusing to accept a $700 million (quaint by our standards, but with a potential to rise to as much as $3 billion ultimately) over the objections of the Columbia statehouse, which says it (not the Governor) have authority over the matter. The squabble is heading to the Palmetto State’s Supreme Court, and it looks like Sanford will get the short end of the stick.

For political observers here it is interesting to note that Sanford is largely seen as posturing for a national run and sees his ideological stand as a way to pander to the hard right. The Governor claims the money will bloat programs and create more government he won’t be able to sustain when federal funds disappear. Glenn McConnell, the Republican president of the state legislature, told Wall Street Journal that : “I believe politically he’s already moved beyond the state of South Carolina.” 

Outside of being hit by a plague of locusts, this is about the only fiasco or brand of gridlock that hasn’t befallen Sacramento. It also reflects on the relative sanity of Governor Schwarzenegger, who has welcomed the aid and sees the federal government as an ally. Just imagine if Tom McClintock were our governor. 

Oh yeah, there is another splinter of inspiration we can pull from our brothers in SC and it’s not drawn from Hootie & the Blowfish. Rather, the state motto: Dum Spiro Spero — “While I breathe, I hope.” . . . Here’s to California’s iron lung.

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No Moderate Is An Island

Pay AttentionSometimes, the Blue Dog would rather have someone else do the barking about the state of Moderate Nation. Some good mind chow in CNN.com’s “No One Represents America’s Center.”

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. . . Open Primary Makes a Baker’s Dozen

dog_withboneA Blue Dog reader with decades of experience inside the Capitol weighed in with another reform measure omitted in the 12 reforms mentioned in the last post. Here is what he says:

 “I think a lot of the reforms you mentioned would be helpful, but the key reform we need is the open primary.  Both of the parties are controlled by special interest groups so it is very difficult to win a partisan primary unless you are owned by them.  At least an open primary gives moderates of both parties a real shot.  It also helps make members from now safe districts a little more responsible since they could face a November election running against a member of their own party.  A little fear and/or respect of the voters would further help the system.”

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