Category Archives: Media

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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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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A Dirty Dozen Reforms for Reinventing California

Main DogAs the dust settles and legislators and the governor peer up and out of their foxholes, let’s hope they see the citizenry circulating petitions for gutsy reform initiatives. The system is broken and beyond repair. Time to tear down the entire house and build a new one from a new foundation up. So checking politics at the door, here are a dozen nakedly brash ideas — old and new — that should be on the table.  

(1)  Establish a Constitutional Convention that is not beholden, created or otherwise connected with the Legislature or Executive Branch. The recommendations of which would ultimately be put into a ballot initiative. Reform measures the convention should recommend and/or consider:  

(2) Reducing the size of legislative districts, increasing number of legislators to achieve greater accountability (see earlier post)

(3) Eliminating term limits

 (4) Weighing pros and cons of a part-time legislature

(5) Eliminating the two-thirds majority vote on budget matters

(6) Mandating a two-year budget cycle and level of rainy-day cash reserves

(7)  Pegging expansion of state spending to inflation or another reasonable benchmark level; maybe tacking on a few percentage points; but basically establishing strict spending limits coupled with a mechanism for flexibility 

(8) Examining the evisceration of all sacred cows, especially Prop. 13 and Prop. 98

(9)  Investigating what responsibilities and funding should be returned to local governments, which are by definition closer to the people they serve 

(10) Mulligans. As naive as it may be, we need to find a way to get out from under expensive contactual obligations and mandated funding for programs. Can an initiative wipe the slate clean so we can start with a clean slate — i.e. – renegotiating everything in terms of benefits, salaries, services, etc.? 

(11) Requiring a boot camp for new legislators prior to assuming office so they aren’t learning the basics on the job

(12) Creating a legislative process that isn’t a joke. Specifically we need to ensure exhaustive discussion of complex issues. Too many times we see enormously critical decisions made with just “two minutes for each side” to present their positions in policy committees. This is an insult to the democratic process and irresponsible. Californians deserve better. 

The Blue Dog totally gets the latest spasm of voter anger. But it’s not enough anymore to simply stew. Let’s do something titanic and constructive with all the vitriol at our disposal. Let’s reinvent the business of government from the ground up.

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Humor Upon the Gallows

dog_withboneThe worse things get, the more we apparently rely on humor to survive. The fallout from yesterday’s vote and sudden momentum pushing California’s  death spiral into oblivion has brought about an unexpectedly large dose of humor from several anonymous CalBlueDog readers. One offered some creative ways to generate revenue. Another  a way to make difficult cuts. Another sent along a photo capturing some of yesterday’s carnage. Yes the sky is falling, but we might as well chuckle before it crashes down on our heads: 

*Revenue from Naming Rights: “The Legislature ought to start selling ad space and naming rights in the Capitol and at the various state agencies to raise money.” Here are some ideas:

– The Cache Creek State Capitol Dome (with Neon Sign instead atop for an extra Billion) . . . The Kaiser-Permanente Department of of Public Health . . .  The Chevron Department of Conservation . . . the Waste Management Integrated Waste Management Board . . . The Pfizer Assembly Committee on Health . . .  The ACLU Assembly Committee on Public Safety . . . The Senate Judiciary Committee brought to you by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association . . . The Toyota Air Resources Board . . . The Sierra Club Senate Committee on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials . . . The  CTA Assembly Committee of Education . . . The SEIU Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee . . . The Disney Assembly Committee on Water, Parks & Wildlife . . . The State Farm Assembly Committee on Insurance . . . the Wells Fargo Senate Committee on Banking, Finance & Insurance . . .  

Budget Cuts from Survivor Alcatraz: Another reader suggests taking all state agency and department heads and putting them on Alcatraz Island, where they must fend for themselves, their departments and make a case for their respective programs. Arnold’s Hollywood friends can produce the episodes pro bono and Californians can tune in to make the hard decisions by voting programs and public servants off the island. We can follow it up with a Series: Survivor: Catalina involving legislators. The state could reap millions in TV broadcast revenue from advertisers; if the program goes nationwide, we get the royalties. 

Eyewitness to Carnage: Finally, this photo came over the transom. 

SS STEINBERG RIP

While the shot unfairly singles out Senator Steinberg, the Blue Dog imagines there are plenty more boats sinking with other names, including a large vessel called the S.S. Capitol.  The Blue Dog thanks his readers, and welcomes more antics as he gears up for more serious fare . . . “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

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Trivial Pursuits & Greed in the Bag

dog_snarling“Give Me Men to Match My Mountains,” begs a caption chiseled into a building across from the State Capitol. It’s a majestic call for leadership from another, less cynical era. Here’s something more apt for today: “Give Me Men & Women to Build Our Mole Hills.” 

From all quarters, the inane seems to be the only arsenal available to our elected officials:  To wit:  Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who thinks the critical issue of our time centers on banning plastic bags – a plank in a platform he obviously thinks will catapult him into the state Assembly next year. Way to go Roger, you probably do belong in the Legislature, a place where every day seems disproportionately focused on playing trival pursuit on the malodorous tongue of a frothing, volatile multi-headed leviathan known as the budget crisis, health care crisis, unemployment crisis, homeless crisis, education crisis . . . 

But those matters can wait while our elected officials dicker around with things like Assembly Bill 68 (Brownley), which seeks to impose a 25-cent tax on plastic shopping bags. Proponents trot out “Bag Man” at news conferences where they twist facts like taffy. A preponderance of science and research shows plastic bags to be a non issue. There is even a strong case to be made they actually are better for the environment than paper (note earlier posting here and again full disclosure that the Blue Dog has performed consulting work for firms that produce plastic bags and packaging materials).

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

The BlueDog- an avid recycler – is old enough to remember when paper bags were evil because they were made by raping our forests. But who the hell cares about  historical perspective? Or  pesky details associated with life cycle analysis, consumer choice, financial impact on shoppers or the Legislature’s abrupt abortion of its nascent plastic bag recycling program? 

This is, after all, California, land of endless opportunity to do something well-meaning, but ultimately amounting to a public policy mole hill. Someone should scratch at beneath the surface in search of motivations. Frustration on the part of our elected officials at their own self-evident impotence in solving what truly matters? A desire to distract us from reality? Control issues? Or is it something less cosmic and more base, like greed?

If you read the fine print of AB 68, you’ll see a provision that allows grocery stores and retailers to keep 5 cents for each bag they tax. Wow. The bag itself probably costs less than a penny. Bag bashers like Dickinson and Brownley claim “19 billion” plastic bags are sold annually. So if we do the math, that’s a $4.75 Billion reach into the pockets of Californians — of that, about a Cool Billion will go to grocery stores and retailers. Can they possibly need that kind of jack to administer the program? In an industry with razor thin profit margins, it’s no wonder their associations are on board with measure. Seems like an incentive to push more bags.

The winners in this game of trivial pursuit certainly aren’t average Californians, who have bigger worries on their minds and loftier expectations of their elected officials. Where is our Sir Edmund Hillary? Where are our fearless, dutiful Sherpas?

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Death By 1,000 Cuts & Tweets

dog_snarlingA state media insider tells the BlueDog that the Los Angeles Times has issued an edict to cut down the length of its front-page news stories. The new policy mandates that no A1 news story shall run more 28 or so column issues — a cut from the previous maximum length of 35 column inches.

This is a 20 percent cut, and is in keeping with a business goal of achieving a 50-50 balance of advertisements and news. Page A3 — the showcase for California and Capitol news — is a meager shadow of its former self. Consider the Thursday, May 7 edition, which contains just one article and a weather photo.

The Times has always considered itself a national paper — a claim increasingly suspect given erosion of interest in state news. Some speculate the short shrift stems from the fact the Times’ top two editors are alumni of its business page, which has now replaced the once robust California section’s mix of local and state news as the B-section of the newspaper.  With that shift, news from the state Capitol, matters of public policy, politics or state issues of import are now crammed into the A-section. Meanwhile California goes to hell. 

This internal news from the Times is hardly earthshaking. But it’s a another disconcerting symbol — not only of the amazing shrinking newspaper, but the anorexia Californians (leading the nation again) seem to have when it comes to substance in its media and information diet.  

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Bee eliminated its Monday morning commentary page, which now runs print advertisements opposite editorials. The op-ed is evolving into the ad-ed.  There is just something unseemly about this, even if it is sincerely designed to stanch the bleeding. 

The once derided USA Today even looks robust against the inevitable trend toward morsels of democratized, digital media. We are now compressing sound bites into nano bites; decentralizing news from established sources to random blogs (yes, even fairly credible ones like this one), Twittering “tweet”communiques maxing out just over 100 characters (not words or inches).  Against this benchmark, the 28 column inches in the Times is a veritable encyclopedia that warrants continued reverence. But the ink continues to ooze quietly from the newspaper industry like a shaving nick that refuses to coagulate. And we’re running out of band aids.

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Circling the Drain @ 14 Percent

main_dogThe BlueDog is still chomping on the latest Field Poll released last week about the California Legislature’s appalling approval ratings from the very people it purports to serve.  To realize just how truly abysmal the numbers are, let’s put them into a broader, more historical context of polling “lowlights”:               

Governor Schwarzenegger     33%
George W. Bush           29%
Gray Davis                   25%* 
Richard Nixon                       24%
Harry Truman     22%
California Legislature 14%

It’s a jaw dropping perspective. Can it get any worse? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes, especially if we peer into the mind of the legislators themselves.

“You know, the Legislature is generally unpopular, but people tend to like their own legislator, ” Senate Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg said in Kevin Yamamura’s coverage of the poll in the Sacramento Bee

The BlueDog about choked on his English muffin upon reading this. After all, Steinberg is one of the best and brightest in the Capitol. By all accounts he is as decent and dedicated a public servant as they come.  While there’s a kernel of truth to his conventional wisdom, it comes across as cavalier and tone deaf. Nuancing the  sentiment of 86 percent of California voters seems like a risky proposition.  

This is exactly the type of mindset that insulates legislators from reality  . . . along with a highly deferential workplace environment in which they are fawned over, catered to and not always told the harsh truth by those around them as they travel up and down in their own private elevators.  Safe legislative districts and a broken political system only reinforce the illusion of being in sync with their constituents.

But this being a blog for Moderates, there is a one positive takeaway from the poll: the putrid view of the Legislature may be serving as a unifying bipartisan force.

“What’s remarkable about his job rating numbers is that there’s no differentiation between the two parties,” Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo told the Bee: “I can’t think of another elected official who, when getting negative ratings, scores just as poorly among his own party as among the opposing party.”

Sounds like a catalyst for reform. It won’t be long until the Legislature succeeds in flushing itself down the drain, and the 86 percent of us can commence the business of reforming California government.

* (Based on an online figure stating Davis’ approval ratings were in the “mid-20s” around time of recall election)

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When “Green” is Mean, Meaningless Garbage

dog_snarlingComing off Earth Day 2009 is a good time to take a closer look at the notion of “Green.”

California moderates generally embrace “good green” — sensible and effective things like recycling, conserving water, engaging in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and our respective carbon footprints. There certainly is no shortage of legitimate environmental issues to attack. California has a proud history of leading the nation in many landmark environmental policies. Most of us consider ourselves environmentalists. 

But precisely because of this positive association with being green, our state legislators are susceptible to any proposal masquerading as pro-environment. Among most legislative Democrats, if a proposal comes from an environmental group it must be sponsored by God him (or) herself.

Dance the Elitist Santa Monica Strut, throw out a sweet sounding name like “Heal the Bay” or “Save the Bay” and everyone collects a free pass to suspend common sense, ignore sound science and arrogantly ignore unintended consequences, including harm to average Californians, and yes, even the environment.   The Blue Dog has worked with the business community on related issues and has found the consistent disregard for facts (and constructive partnerships) to be staggering. 

As prime examples, consider the movement to ban Styrofoam food containers and tax or ban plastic bags. Sounds like a good idea, right? After all, activists claim our landfills and oceans are “choking” on this waste.  

While nice sound bites, these are colossal fibs unreflective of reality or the bigger picture.  No one wants this stuff on our streets or in our oceans. But these proposals exaggerate what amounts to a littering issue; they likely mean more harm than good. Consider:

* Plastic bags make up less than one-percent of garbage in landfills. 

* Significantly less energy and fewer carbon emissions are required to make plastic bags and polystyrene foam than paper or cardboard.

* Despite what you hear, San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags had no impact on litter from plastic bags . . . Check out the city’s own litter report.

* In SF delivery trucks dropping off paper bags to stores now need to make six more trips than it used to take for plastic ones, which are lighter and take up less space. That’s a six-fold increase in emissions. Would any serious environmentalist make this tradeoff?  

And what about the human and economic toll? 

* When recommending a ban on polystyrene foam — now embodied in AB 1358 (Hill) — the Ocean Protection Council callously and arrogantly dismissed concerns from real life workers who make these containers. “You can always find another job,” these mostly minority, blue-collar workers were in essence told.

(Hello?  They’re just good paying jobs with benefits in a state with an 11-percent unemployment rate. Anybody home?)

* In addition to the ban bills, AB 68 (Brownley) and AB 87 (Davis) seek a 25-cent tax on every plastic and paper bag given shoppers at grocery/convenience stores. In terms of tone deafness, this is on par with giving pay raises to Capitol staff. A number of local governments are considering the same bad move. 

* Also, don’t forget the legislature recently passed a bill to boost bag recycling – the first in the nation!  Prodded by activists, they now say recycling doesn’t work so it is time to go postal on plastic. 

Due to liberal Democrats’ inability to distinguish good green from bad, these bills can be expected to flutter to the Governor’s desk upon green halo wings.

After all, isn’t it easier to ban or tax than roll up the sleeves to do something substantive — like creating innovative green job programs with incentives to recycle more plastic bags and foam containers?  Or how about simply cracking down rock hard on people who litter? 

One hopes the Governor with see these measures for what they really are: well-intentioned, but ultimately mean and meaningless green garbage from elitist cocktail environmentalists who have perfected the art of insidiously trashing California with misguided ideas.

 

 

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Centrists Rising

dog_withboneWhile the phrase “groundswell of moderation” may seem like an oxymoron, the robust and quiet center of California is mobilizing to offer an array of reform measures intended to help fix state government.  In case you missed it, check out the piece today from the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters, “Two Strategies to Change California Government.”

Here’s a choice excerpt from his column: 

“California’s never-ending budget crisis has, if nothing else, solidified broader acceptance of what until recently had seemed to be a radical notion – that the state’s governance is deeply flawed and needs fundamental overhaul.

“Two centrist, bipartisan civic groups – California Forward and the Bay Area Council – are pushing two different and somewhat competitive reform strategies, both aimed at asking voters next year to take action of some kind, and both appear to be picking up steam.”

The message to California Blue Dogs: you are not alone.

Stay tuned.

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