Category Archives: Politics

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

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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Filed under Donald Trump, Immigrants, Politics

In Praise of the Righteous Republicans

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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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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, partisanship, 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

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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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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July 1, 2015 · 7:03 PM

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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Filed under California Legislature, Politics

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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Filed under California Legislature, Politics

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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Filed under 2010 Election, California Legislature, Politics, Reform