Tag Archives: Moderates

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

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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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

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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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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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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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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Hating Conditional Outrage Over Hate

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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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