mAd Men

Okay, I lied.  One last parting shot and then I’m closing down the pundit pavilion for a break.

Best Commercial for Meg Whitman to run this summer (now that she’s finished running those “Hi, I’m Meg Whitman as in E-Bay and not candy samplers and I’m willing to go so far to the right to win the Republican Gubernatorial primary that I’ve ended up in Arizona” ads):

Rose Bird.

That’s it.  No more hippy vans and  Summer of Love spots.  Just Rose Bird with historical reference.

As for Jerry “Hardest Working Man in California Politics” Brown,  the obvious ad  shows  large stretch limo drives down the blocks of  Rodeo Drive luxury shops, coming to a stop before a Gucci/Prada type establishment.  Two handsome matronly women dressed to the nines emerge from the limo and enter the store, chatting.  The blonder of the women is complaining about the fact that, now that she’s cashed out her billions from her business she just is having the hardest time finding things to fill her time.  The other woman expresses her sympathies for her friend’s plight.  As they peruse row after row of purses with four and five figure price tags the Blonde stops in front of one labeled “Governor of California” with a price tag of $150 million. She picks it up, looks at her friend and says, “Hey, I like this one.  What do you think?”  Her friend says, “Oh honey, it’s you.  And you certainly can afford it!”

And so the bored, rich Blonde woman walks to the checkout stand and buys the Governorship purse.  Throw in a voiceover asking if Californians are really going to let  a bored, rich Blonde woman basically buy the governorship and, voila,   the spot sells itself.

Of course the answer to that question come November may well be “Eh? Why not?”

Now, make the Blonde’s companion look oh-so Carly Fiorina and you have a two-fer commercial.  The Carly character can pick up a purse labeled “United States Senator” with a $50 million price tag and say “I think I’ll get one, too.”

Yo Barb and Jerry, ever thought about combining forces on this one?

And, to be fair to Carly, her ad against Barbara B. is simple as pie.

The US Capitol

With a simple voice over:  “With the highest unemployment levels in thirty-years does ANYONE working in this building deserve to keep THEIR jobs?”

(Admittedly, this is an ambidextrous spot useful to all challengers of both parties but, hey, if the spot fits.

Sianara  for a few more weeks.

Summer Hiatus

I’m not teaching this summer and have several projects in the works so I’m taking a recharging break from blogging.  I’ll probably get back to these funny pages by the end of July.  So I leave you for a while to while away the dog days of summer with these final lunacy-driven observations.

Primary Election 2010

Hey, what do you know?  Money doesn’t always win.  I mean, PG&E’s vanity Prop 16 failed despite millions in energizer monies the utility company unleashed.  The measure failed to pass by five  percentage points.  That’ll teach PG&E to try and win on the cheap.  Of course money did triumph with Prop 17 aka the “Win One For Mercury Insurance” initiative.  Yes, the good citizens of Mercury Insurance saw democracy triumph for them.  And all you military-types heading out of country to go in country Middle Eastern and Himalayan style?  Just be ready for nice hefty fees should you turn off your insurance while you trade in your Ford pickup for a Humvee for the next year.  Courtesy of the wise California voters, of course.  And, from what I heard, money did play a teensy-weensy role in helping the GOP CEO Corps crush the GOP Professional Brigade in the Gubernatorial and Senatorial primaries.  Then again, it could have been the hair styles….

And, as long as I’m bringing up the GOP Gubernatorial race,  I noticed Meg Whitman caught a little heat for launching straight into her partisan general election campaign during her victory speech on election night.  I disagree with the critics.  I thought launching her 2012 presidential bid that night was ABSOLUTELY brilliant.  You can’t let the grass grow and all that.  And if anyone thinks the most important election in the country this November in terms of its impact on the 2012 Presidential isn’t California’s governor’s race, they are wrong.  THAT is the one to watch.  I can only assume President-elect Whitman is already working on her inaugural speech

Okey dokey.  Toodles for now.

Off to the Races

Well papers are graded and the semester is over.  All that’s left is administrative paper work – and the 2010 Primary Elections.

I’ll be providing analysis for KGTV 10 again this year, between 8:30 or there abouts  (depending on how long it takes the Lakers to dunk the Celtics) and 11:30.  This year I get to be in studio which means a) I don’t have to deal with all the noise and crazy people down at Golden Hall; and b) I don’t have to deal with the labor dispute at Golden Hall.

(Note to Jess Durfee:  Yo Dude, while it is commendable that you are holding the line in Union Solidarity—Go AFT 1931, my homies–and all by not crossing the line into Golden Hall do realize that means for most San Diegans tonight politics in America’s Finest City is going to be dominated by Republicans, Tea Partiers and the Really Really Really Whacked Out Right that thinks Ron Paul is still running while Democrats are the Party That Can Not Find There Way On To The  TV.  Hope you have a backup plan, dude.)

I’ll also be participating in City Beat’s first election night live chat room which you too can join at SDVOTES.COM.  Hope to hear from you.

I wrap up tomorrow with KPBS’s election wrap up on These Days at 9AM.

So, lots to do and talk about.  I’ve got three major questions for the evening:

1.  Is  California heading towards blissful Matriarchy?   Will Whitman/Fiorina/Atkins/Salas et al. triumph over their male rivals?

2. Is California heading deeper into Plutarchy?  Will PG&E and Mercury Insurance be able to show that it really is that easy (albeit pricey) to buy the legislation they want wholesale through the initiative process cutting out the legislative middlemen?

3. Combining 1 & 2,  with the megabucks spent by Whitman & Fiorina, Inc. will California now be ruled by Plutarchy with a Femine Face?

The next twelve hours will tell.

Go vote if you haven’t.  I am.

A (Red) Rose By Any Other Name

OK San Diego taxpayers, if you’re like me you’ve got your tuxes pressed and shoes shined, ready to attend THE social event of the San Diego  season. Set your watches for tonight at 7PM.

That , of course, is when I’ll be entertaining one and all by watching this Tuesday’s Lost on DVR !  I’ve got the widescreen and Bose sound system.  You bring the popcorn.  A good time will be had by all.

Unless, of course, you’re otherwise engaged.  Like in attending the San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s  15TH ANNUAL GOLDEN WATCHDOG & GOLDEN FLEECE AWARDS DINNER TONIGHT: Highlighting the Good, Bad and Ugly of Local Government soiree tonight at the Town and Country.

Me?  I’ve got too many bluebooks to grade and too many other things to do with the $200 or $250 ticket price (I forget the actual tab as I seem to have disposed of my invitation. )  And I really , really want to see how they resolve all those plot twists with Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the crew. (Twenty dollar bet it all ends with Jack waking up and saying, “Whoa dude, what a dream.”)

Look, I think the SDCTA is a fine group dedicated to its cause and doing no small public good in stimulating a community dialog on government accountability and oversight.   They are a civic minded crew, no bones.  My continual beef, petty though it is, remains that the SDCTA persists in claiming to be something it is not: a  nonpartisan group that represents San Diego County taxpayers. .

I’ve already bellyached about the representing county taxpayers bit.  There are plenty of county taxpayers (and, if you’ve bought a soda in the last year you, my friend, are a taxpayer) who do not see eye to eye (or adjoining universe to adjoining universe) with the SDCTA.

But I can forgive them that minor transgression.  A number of brands tend to overstate themselves.  Like the League of Women Voters which tend to come across of the League of Progressive Women’s Voters.  And the SDCTA’s name is accurate to an extent: it  is in San Diego County and does represent taxpayers.  At least some of them.

My bigger beef is that the SDCTA claims to be a nonpartisan organization.  It says so right in their Mission Statement, right between the claims to be a non-profit organization (true dat) and to be dedicated to promoting accountable government (true dat, too.) But then the mission statement goes on to say the SDCTA is dedicated to also  promoting “cost-effective and efficient government and opposing unnecessary taxes and fees.”

And therein lies my problem.

Ain’t no way, in this partisan age of ours that you can put the words “non-partisan” and “promoting cost-effective and effective government and opposing unnecessary taxes and fees”  into the same sentence without running into a massive contradiction.   It is precisely determining what exactly constitutes effective and efficient  government and unnecessary taxes and fees that forms the fundamental fault line between the two political major parties.

And the SDCTA consistently comes down on one side of that division.

The current June propositions are a case in point.  The SDCTA website lists its June ballot recommendations (here) . So do the websites for the  San Diego County Republicans (here) and the San Diego County Democrats (here).  I’ve summarized their positions  in the table below:

Of the six local propositions the County Republicans, Democrats and the SDCTA all took positions on  the “non-partisan” SDCTA lines up 100% with the GOP.   (In fairness, the SDCTA breaks 50/50 with the two parties on the statewide propositions.  This time around.)  I haven’t taken the time to track, election by election, SDCTA ballot recommendations and compare them to the two parties.  Maybe this summer.  My hunch, though, is that, over the long haul,  such research will  find a strong correlation between the SDCTA and the GOP.  I don’t think an organization that predominantly and consistently endorses the positions of one of the two parties has a lock on the claim to be “non-partisan.”

Indeed, the SDCTA’s claim to be non-partisan strikes me as something of a cop out.  If the organization truly has faith in its convictions shouldn’t it acknowledge  whom it aligns with and supports?  Claiming to be non-partisan is an attempt by the SDCTA to give itself an imprimatur of superiority over all those other crassly partisan groups wrestling down in the political mud and muck while the SDCTA stands proudly on its noble non-partisan pedestal above the fray.  It’s a brilliant marketing ploy, to be sure.  But most group today that  like to claim to be nonpartisan are like products that  claim to be “new and improved” or “low fat.”  The question is: Compared to what?

So I’ll spend tonight in watching the alternative realities that unfold on Lost.  Meanwhile the SDCTA can continue living in its own alternative reality where it is truly non-partisan.

Let Them Eat (Nonpartisan) Cake

San Diego’s Bonny DA, Bonnie Dumanis, was quoted on KPBS this morning bemoaning the politicization of local Superior Court Judge elections by partisan political groups.  The problem seems that one such group is targeting several such judges up for election this June  for not being ideologically acceptable to the group’s own partisan tastes.

I empathize with our for Primary Prosecutor’s concern over ideologically litmus-testing people who are really supposed to be fair and balanced  (as opposed to Fox which is fair and balanced in so much at it tells its audience demographic exactly what it wants to hear) in the exercise of their public duty .  At the same time I’ve got to ask, “Well what did you think is going to happen when you pick custodians of Justice like these judges—and officers of the court like yourself—by popular election?”

California operates under a noble (or simply foolish) myth that simply striking party affiliations off from the names of people running in local elections makes such elections, viola, non-partisan.   It doesn’t, it hasn’t and it never will.  Elections are by their very function a partisan affair.  For decades San Diego could participate  in the ruse of nonpartisanship when a homogenous voting majority (read “white Republican”) almost always got it’s way in municipal (read “city-wide”) and judicial  elections.  As San Diego has become more diverse ethnically, socio-economically and politically—in other words as the former political homogeneity broke down—non-partisan (read non-competitive) elections became increasing partisan.

So if the good DA doesn’t like the partisanship there is only one solution:  the Federal Model (you know, the one created by those pesky constitutional framers) in which the custodians of Lady Justice’s virtue are appointed (by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate) to a life tenure.   Such  longevity of appointment is supposed to provide insulation from the very form of ideological pressure Dumanis alleges these judges are being exposed to.  (It might be pointed out that her Federal counterpart is also appointed by the President with the Advice and consent of  the Senate though not for life.  These prosecutors—the Bush Justice Department notwithstanding—are then supposed to be allowed to proceed with their judicial duties in a judiciously nonpartisan manner.

The Framers in their wisdom (ok, they blew that slavery thing.  And the Articles of Confederation were a miserable failure.  And they didn’t think through the long term impact of the apportionment of senators, the electoral college or the rise of political parties transcending state-based politics.  But one quibbles…)  understood  that too much democracy—the kind that leads to the tyranny of the majority—can produce just as many problems as too little democracy. Tyranny is tyranny, if you are on the non-repressing side.  So maybe, what with all the other ideas being floated around for constitutional reforms in the Golden State,  reconsidering the election of judges—and Das—need be discussed.

Until then Californians need remember that you can not have your nonpartisan judges and eat your political election cake to.

(And on that strained proverb, it’s off to the obviously—on my part—much needed weekend.)

In Nobody We Trust

This week’s Pew Research poll showing public satisfaction and trust with government are at all time lows should come as no surprise to anyone.   The American People’s  trust in their  government has been declining since JFK was blown away in Dallas .  As the chart above shows, one assassination, Vietnam War,  Nixon Watergate Scandal and a decade of 1970s Stagflation later public trust had plummeted from  near eighty percent  to the low twenties. Reagan restored some degree of trust, Bush I lost it, Clinton restored some then Bush II lost it.  (Note to Americans: Next time a guy named “Bush” is on the ballot, vote the other way.)

Two things have been driving this trust-deficit:  recurring  business cycles and increasing middle class anxiety.  While the public vents its frustration with the vagaries of their standard of living on Congress and government in genra, the   real  problems confronting America’s faith in its government (and, therefore itself) are far more systemic.  Which means, whatever the November midterm elections is going to have precious little impact on American’s trust in their government, no matter the outcome.

Look at the trust poll above.  Now look at the graph below with the  last 30 years with a rough overlay of economic recessions.

Trust in government always plummets with an economic downturn, as during the recessions of the early 1970s,  late 70s & early 80s, early 90s and today.  Then,  as recovery sets in, trust goes back up.  The Reagan boom saw trust go back up to a ten year high; the Clinton boom sent it even higher.  Americans seem to see the world through the narrow prism of their own pocketbooks.  (And, yes,  we ARE that simple and shallow.)  So, when times are good we trust government.  When they’re not we want to burn it to the ground.

The only other thing that spikes and depresses trust are major foreign policy events such as the 1st Gulf War and 9/11 (spike up) and the protracted Vietnam and Iraqi wars (trust down.)  How many congressmen are or are not reelected really has no impact on any of this.   Barring a major attack on America any time soon, the only thing that will bring a sustained return to trust will be economic recovery.

The second factor in all of this is the simple fact that, since the late 1960s, getting and staying in the broad middle class has become a progressively more tenuous proposition for an increasing number of people.  The pillars of the middle class have been growing incomes, secure home ownership, access to affordable healthcare and education and the promise of retirement.  All of these have come under growing pressure for the last generation.  This has made the middle class antsy.  Antsy people trust less.

Between the Second World War and the early 1970s the standard of living doubled in a generation.  It now takes 3 generations to replicate the gain.  Most Americans are living much better than in 1960or 1970–but it’s taking longer to see the gains of children over their parents.  Political Scientists call this “relative expectation,” the problem of people expecting improvement faster than government can provide it.  This leads, again, to middle class antsiness—like blue-collar support for George Wallace’s rebellion against “big government liberals.” (Read “government helping the poor and people of color and not blue collar whites who were starting to lose jobs not to affirmative action but to globalization.  Those textile jobs disappearing in the Southern US weren’t going to Watts or Harlem, they were going to Japan and Hong Kong.  Now they’re going to Vietnam and Bangladesh, exportation of low-end Chinese goods being SO early 21st century now.)

During really harsh economic times (like the Great Depression) relative expectation turns into “relative deprivation”—where the middle class, now desperate as it sees itself sliding back towards poverty, wants to find enemies to blame (and supports more radical political movements—aka fascist—that promise to restore the power of the Volk by making government more socially intrusive,  powerful—and authoritarian.) Thus the rise of the Fascists in the 1920s & 1930s.  We haven’t seen economies as bad as the 1930s in western democracies.  With each recession, though, more reactionary political movements form (e.g. the Wallace reaction to civil rights, the Militia movement reaction in the 1990s and even, one dare say, the Zonian reaction of this week, essentially criminalizing  being Hispanic while in the Grand Canyon State).

For most American households the Great Recession is far from over.  Even when it is in two or three years, most American households will probably find their buying power no greater than it was in 2007 which, adjusted for inflation, is not a whole lot better than it was in 1997 or even 1987.  Only this time Americans will not have an easy-credit gravy train to hitch on (those mortgages and credit cards becoming more elusive for the masses) which, in the long run, is a good thing. In the short run it’s going to hurt like hell.  And that means a prolonged visit by two really annoying relatives – Aunt Expectation and Uncle Deprivation.

So, for all of those who are hoping that a “Throw the Bums” out movement come November will make everything in America right as rain, lot’s of luck with that.  First, the bums rush ain’t gonna happen.  Congressional reelection rates have been averaging 90%-94% plus for several decades.  Even the 1994 Republican Revolution resulted in an incumbent defeat rate of less than 10%.  If, on the off chance, this November produces a changeover in the 10%-20% range (at the extreme – that’s 80 seats) it will hardly constitute a thorough housecleaning.

Second, even if we started over with a 100% new Congress (and imagine the fun with all those newbies on Capitol Hill—the lobbyists will think they’ve died and gone to paradise and their 77 legislative virgins) trust in government will not, Q.E.D., return.   Until the economy goes back up (meaning unemployment goes down and household economic security as measured by buying power and  mortgage viability goes up) trust stays low.  And until the middle class economic miracle of the 1940s-1950s get’s replicated again, trust never returns to the glory days of yesteryear.

Meanwhile, for those Progressives and Liberals hoping that things will tilt their way once the unpleasantness of the 2010 midterm is behind them, lot’s of luck with that, too.  The economic downturns of the 1970s & 1980s turned America from a center-left New Deal society to a Center-Right Reagan Revolution land.  Baring a quick turn around in the economy—or, worse, a further downturn—America becomes a plain old right society.   Which should give the GOP another grand decade or two of prominence before shifting demographics undercuts it.

Most pundits have fretted about the American left becoming like the European left.  They should be equally concerned if the decline in trust and middle class economic insecurity results in the American left becoming more like the European right.

Lights, Camera, Revolution!

I was listening to that incredibly talented entertainer Ricky “Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me” Roberts this morning  and got to hear one of  Bobbo “Its Common Sense Because I Say So” Basso’s Tom Paine takeoffs which inspires the following vignette:

INT STUDIO CHIEF’S OFFICE—DAY

THE SCENE: A standard Studio Mogul’s lair, self-aggrandizing celeb photos on the wall, lots of chrome and gleam and an acre-size executive desk.   The MOGUL, sits feet up behind the desk, requisite stogy clenched in teeth.  The WRITER stands before the desk, schoolboy at attention, making his pitch.

WRITER: I’m tellin’s ya, man, this story has it all.  It’s Mister Smith Goes to Washington meets BraveheartMeet John Doe meets Pulp Fiction….

MOGUL: (intrigued) Tell me more….

WRITER: Okay – Act One:  the handsome charismatic prince sweeps the country off its feet, wowing them with his repertoire of multi-syllabic sweet nothings…

MOGUL: Who you thinking’?  Pitt?  Clooney?

WRITER: No, no, here’s the twist.  The guy’s black .

MOGUL: Oh, Freeman.

WRITER: No, younger and hipper.  More a Don Cheadle or  a Denzel. So anyway, Act One he wins the country and sweeps into the White House

MOGUL: Black guy president?  So what, the world ends?  World always ends when a black guy’s president.

WRITER: No, no, that’s too cliche. I mean America as we know it almost ends.  But the American people come to their senses and save it.  So in Act Two  the country turns on him like a woman scorned!

MOGUL: Classic! Boy meets girl, loses girl.  So what brings him down?  Sex Scandal?  Corruption?  Corrupt sex scandal—I really like those? Bloody controversial war?

WRITER: No, bigger ‘n that.  The dude pushes through—are you ready for this—a healthcare reform.

MOGUL:  In America?  Get real.  Adolescent wizards and vampires are more believable.

WRITER: I didn’t  say comprehensive reform. Naw, just a little reform. You know, kinda a watered down Massachusetts thing that that guy with the really  good hair did before he ran for president.  Nothing as radical as that Nixon dude or Truman  talked about, for godsakes.  I’m not talkin’ fantasy here.   So, anyway, it gets it past and then all these mobs take to the streets screaming about how he’s a dictator bringin’ godless communism to America.

MOGUL: Serves the commie bastard right.  So in Act III he sees the error of his ways, begs America for forgiveness, repeals his ill fated reform and wins the girl—I mean the people—back!

WRITER: No, no.  Too obvious. The twist is in Act III the people, now driven  absolutely insane by this guy giving healthcare to millions of people rebel.  They take to the streets and storm the capitol.  When they’re done a new Republican congress populated by really good looking white people with really nice teeth (thanks to the dental plan their corporate employers provided them as top rank executives)  takes over.  They impeach the young, brash prince—and his trusty old F-bombing sidekick and make their handsome white Speaker with really good hair the new Prez.  Then the guy gets rid of the healthcare reform (and Medicare, social security, welfare, all environmental laws, meat inspection and the like). As the people rejoice in the streets (of course, a lot of them are living there by then) the music comes up – something really patriotic and uplifting…

MOGUL: How about Dixie?  That’s a catchy tune!

WRITER: Love it!  So the music comes up and we fade to black. Whadda ya think?

MOGUL: Love it, man, love it.  One thing—you think maybe you can tweak it so the healthcare reform turns out to have unleashed a virus or something that turns normal, rational people into invective-spitting deranged anti-government zombies?  Or even better, Libertarian Vampires ready to feed on the body politic? You know, Advise and Consent meets 27 Days Later.

WRITER: Don’t see why not.

MOGUL: Outstanding.  Only one problem though…

WRITER: What’s that boss?

MOGUL: We make fiction at this studio, not documentaries.  Whadda think we are—the History Channel?

FADE OUT