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.

What’s the Matter With Iowa?

I trust you are all wearing your “Go Iowa” tee-shirts and buying corn chowder to serve at your Iowa Caucus cocktail parties tonight! That’s right, Californians, its time for that quadrennial political celebration in which the Golden State is reduced to an impotent spectator while Iowa and New Hampshire boldly lead the nation forward.

When I was in Russia during the 2000 Presidential primary season on a Fulbright lecture fellowship I discussed with my Russian students how the US picks its candidates for its highest office. The Russians were, at that same time, electing the successor to Boris Yeltsin.

Their approach was straight forward: each of the recognized parties put forth a candidate – usually their leader—and a national election was held. Whichever candidate received a majority of the vote became President. If no candidate did, the top two candidates would go on to a runoff a few months later. Yeltsin resigned at the stroke of midnight, New Years Day, 2000. By March Vladimir Putin had won the first round of the election—and the Presidency—with over half the vote (albeit it thanks to no small share of vote manipulation, to be sure.) While the integrity of the Russian process is problematic, the process itself—similar to that which most elected democracies use—is simplicity itself. Any candidate who wants to run is on the ballot and then the whole nation gets to chose from that list. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good, The Bad and The Uuug-Lee

A few quick comments on the doings around town and beyond.

The Good: California Republicans. Last month Republicans filed a state initiative for the June, 2008 primary to switch California from awarding its 55 electoral votes from a winner-take-all to apportioning them by Congressional District – which ever candidate wins a plurality in a particular district gets that district’s one electoral vote.

The motivations for the move by Republicans are obvious. Democratic Presidential nominees can count on winning all of California’s electoral votes under the current system. But George W. Bush won in 22 of California’s congressional districts in 2004. Under the proposed plan those electoral votes would go to a Republican candidate in 2008. As the Sacramento Bee points out, that’s like creating a new state the size of Ohio and giving it to Republican candidates.

If this change gets passed into law it is going to be that much harder for Democrats to take bake the White House.

Democrats are screaming that this is a naked Republican power grab. Duh. But since when are power grabs, naked or otherwise, illegal? What Democrats a really mad about is that they didn’t think to do this first – or to create a legal firewall before now to make it impossible to do what Republicans are doing. Like passing a law prohibiting changes to the California electoral system less than six months or a year prior to the election.

Meanwhile, Republicans, like ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve gotta admire their moxy. And Dems – maybe you guys better smarten up. This is hard ball, for heaven’s sake

The Bad: California Democrats. Not only are they letting Republicans possibly steal their state’s electoral votes, Democrats in the state legislature are letting 14 Republicans in the State Senate publicly spank them over the budget while all they can muster in return is to cry like little girls. Yo, Fabian, Don – Republicans play hardball, you play hardball. When you return from your Iraqi parliament-like summer recess (California grinds to a fiscal halt while the legislature recreates) time to bust heads. Call both chambers into floor session, invoke quorum and keep all lawmakers chained to their desks for the duration (turning off the A/C would be a nice touch) until the combined peer pressure/hostility and lack of personal hygiene drives the renegade fourteen to their knees. And then, after the dust settles, strip each and every one of them of any and all powers you can, right done to reassigning their parking spaces to the far side of Mongolia.

Or you might just try and address the root cause of this calamity which is the system of safe gerrymandered districts you’ve adopted in a Faustian deal to give Democrats enough safe seats to keep control in the legislature without ever having the chance to get the two-thirds majority needed to really achieve an agenda. Maybe if State Dems got a little more spunk they’d make more Districts in California competitive. Sure, you might lose seats. But you might gain ‘em, too. Competition might actually give the Sacramento Democrats more spine, more spunk and more soul.

The Uugee: San Diego Government. Just when you thought San Diego couldn’t become more dysfunctional, word comes out (from much maligned Mike Aguirre, please note) that City Development Czar James “I didn’t read that memo” Waring continued lobbying to let Sunroad developers exceed FAA height standards right up through last week. In other words, weeks after the Mayor said that it was the City’s position that the building had to be reduced to FAA standards.

Just who’s in charge at City Hall, Mr. Mayor? It doesn’t look like you are. And, given all the Sunroad shenanigans, it doesn’t look like you’ve been for a while. Yes, Waring has resigned. But the fact the mayor had no clue what one of his chief staffers was up to – either last year or last week – when it comes to Sunroad makes one wonder just how far out of the loop he is on other issues.

Voters voted for Jerry thinking they were getting an affable, capable administrator. Looks like only the former was correct. As I wrote a few weeks ago, any more problems and Jerry might become a one term mayor. Looks like those problems keep mounting up.