Category Archives: Media

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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Filed under California Legislature, Congress, Donald Trump, Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Media, Politics

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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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, Media, partisanship, Politics

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

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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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

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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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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Filed under California Legislature, Healthcare Reform, Media, Politics, Reform

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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