Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Another One Bites the Dust 

So Arianna is finally getting out of the race. About time, I say. What about her original plan to throw her support to Camejo if she polled lower than him? I guess that pesky ego of hers got in the way. I hear she's throwing her support to Davis. What a fraud. I knew it all along, the millionaire turned progressive is actually a shill for the corrupt career politician. Thanks for the memories, Arianna - time to drive off into the sunset in your gold plated Hybrid.

The election is just down the road, but for the non-millionaire candidates running behind the pack, we get to go the last few miles in style. We're taking the bus. The brainchild of candidate Jim Weir - the candidate bus will wind its way from San Diego to Sacramento, by way of the central valley and the Bay Area. It's supposed to shadow Arnie's bus route, or at least come close. And Jim will be following along in his Cessna, doing aerial reconnaissance.

It's not clear when or if I'll get on the bus, still working on logistics. But one thing's clear - the democracy ride will give the "minor" candidates a chance to meet the people in the small towns of the state and demonstrate the cooperation present in this disparate group of citizen candidates.

Recall Corporate Watch update:
In an earlier blog, I spoke about the online photo project set up by a company trying to sell digital cameras. The Candidate Camera site is now posting "the best" of these pictures for people to vote on. So out of all the one hundred plus candidates, the best pictures turned out to be from the "major" and wacky candidates. How interesting. You get to vote for Gary Coleman, Mary Carey, Arnie and few others. Like I figured, in the end, the corporate mischief makers will always turn the election into something silly. Hey, wasn't some famous photographer involved in this thing? I wonder what his cut was....

In the interest of good consumer reporting, here's my experience with the camera: it's a cute little thing, which makes pleasant chirping and whirring noises. In terms of functionality, it has some serious auto focus problems and no manual focus. And the anti-red eye feature is sort of hit and miss. An interesting anecdote, I submitted an image showing the red eye problem and even wrote about it in the picture's description. Oddly enough, when the picture appeared on the site, the red eyes were magically fixed! And there was no explanation about the picture being altered. Hmmmm. I guess they really are trying to sell cameras. Nice try, Gateway. By the way, I'll be sending the camera back.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Media Fair Play and The Dreaded Taco 

As we enter the final days of this nightmarish exercise in ego and hype, it's time to examine some lessons provided by the recall, from the perspective of the "minor" candidate. In a previous blog, (Sept 16), I looked at how the internet helped amplify the voices of us underfunded "tilting at windmill" types. Today let's look at role of the media and corporations in helping - or hindering - these same folks.

I've already sounded off about the Jay Leno ambush - dancing blue faced jesters and cheap insults designed to put the clown label on us little candidates. But not all in the media have been as devious as the man with the big chin and the small scruples. Some have actually shown fairness.

One of the first out of the chute was local TV station KRON - which offered a slot on their live morning show. My segment went smoothly, with a respectful interview of decent length, about 3-4 minutes. I saw a number a number of other candidates take advantage of this offer. It provided a good public service and proved a cool way to shock your co-workers, "Yeah, I was brushing my teeth watching and suddenly there you were on TV ...."

The next one to step up to the plate was the "California Channel," some kind of state government access operation. Usually their programming consists of state legislative proceedings - real snoozfests. But producer / host, John Hancock decided to try something unique: offer every candidate - big ones and little ones - a chance to answer very specific, very tough questions about state issues. It was a horrendous experience for me, but despite my poor performance, it was a fair deal - everyone got the same questions, in the same setting. And the crew was very pleasant. I did, however, have to travel to Sacramento - where I've never seen so many guys wearing bow ties on the street. That part was a bit chilling.

Infinity broadcasting, which owns radio stations all over the state, gave us all a one minute radio spot - to be played on some of their radio stations at non-specific odd hours. Not ideal, but hey, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And the Clear Channel stations gave us squat. So three cheers for Infinity. And I know mine played at least once, because some co-workers heard it and even repeated my slogan (I guess advertising does work).

Then a local television station, KTVU channel 2, allowed us all to tape a two minute spot. Of course, the "major" candidates got four minutes. This included Huffington - who's polling some pretty scant numbers these days, barely qualifying as "major." I would bet some of the more visible "minor" candidates would get the same numbers, if the poll takers ever bothered to ask about them. My spot plays at 11:00 pm on a Sunday - right when everyone is watching! Well, again, better than a poke in the eye....

So the responsible media types have done the right thing and in the process modeled how the media can participate in future clean elections. Surely, the minor inconveniences to these media outlets - who, by the way are using public airwaves - didn't put them out much. Such free access for candidates would go a long way towards making elections more about ideas, and less about big money. And it wouldn't cost taxpayers a cent. Something to think about.

Now onto the less responsible corporate entities:

Like a bad cold, the Taco Bell virus won't go away. I've gone into some detail about the "Taco Poll" before, now these corporate creepies have conjured another scheme to raise my hackles. This time it's an "online debate" to be presented on their trashy website. So they send me notification by express mail (with campaign style button included - oh joy), then, some overgrown cheerleader type named "Ashley" calls and leaves a perky message about the merits of the plan. She left her number and I, of course, phoned her back, wanting to get to the heart of the beast.

She was just as bubbly on the phone. Evil disguised with a smiling voice. After cutting through the crap, I finally determined the "online debate" is really a "guestbook" style presentation, where people leave comments and the candidate responds. Anyone who's seen such things on websites knows guestbooks = cranks. Every nut job with access to a keyboard will now be empowered to spew poorly worded hate missives. So some double digit job in Michigan makes a dumb comment and I'm supposed to spend my valuable time responding? Like I got nothing better to do. Sure, I'm only working 50 + hours a week and working on my campaign in my off hours - I got nothing but time.

It's bound to be yet another sinister corporate trick to make fools of us, but since since I've already debased myself on Leno, I got nothing to lose. Except maybe my marbles. Where do I get me one of them Burrito Stuffed Grilled thingees? Then I'll need my Official Chewy Recall mints afterwards. Wait, I'll take a picture of the whole thing with my Candidate Camera....

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Forgotten Man 

On October 7, you'll have important decisions to make - yes or no on the recall and who, if anyone, in the long list of candidates to support. While there are many concerns about the election, be thankful you can vote at all. When you walk into the voting booth, I want you to remember the name Charles Li. Mr. Li is a Californian who won't be voting that day. He won't be voting, because he sits in a Chinese prison.

Charles Li, a naturalized American citizen from Menlo Park, visited Mainland China about nine months ago. Mr. Li apparently ran afoul of the authorities because he's a practitioner of Falun Gong. As near as I can tell, Falun Gong involves meditating and thinking good thoughts. For some reason, good thoughts are threatening to the despots across the sea and they've been cracking down on anyone who follows this practice.

While avaricious American companies continue to trade with China, making easy millions selling cheap crap at Walmart, and George Bush is all grins and giggles with Chinese leaders, the forgotten man from Menlo Park continues to wait for help. And what of our other elected leaders, you might ask? Surely they'll help an American unjustly imprisoned in a foreign gulag? Think again. While there are some like Tom Lantos who've supported Li, others like the Senator who shares my last name, have been strangely silent. Maybe the silence isn't so strange given her personal connections to the lucrative Chinese trade.

Let me say this: she has brought shame to the Feinstein name. Just so everyone knows, Dianne acquired the name through marriage to a fellow who has long since passed on. Perhaps she could have respected the name a little more before taking her benign approach towards an oppressive dictatorship. The name came into this country from my great grandfather, Abraham, who was forced to flee another totalitarian regime many years ago - one that also killed and imprisoned people for their beliefs.

This subject may at first seem distant from the concerns of California and the recall, but I think it has real significance. It shows the importance of democracy, however messy; where too many choices are better than no choice at all. It also shows how corrupted our political process has become, when even foreign dictatorships can buy and sell our elected "representatives."

Maybe there will come a day when honest citizens can run and be elected to serve the people, untainted by big money interests. Maybe the day will come when Americans won't be left in foreign prisons because craven politicians have sold their principles for a few lousy bucks. And maybe one day, the forgotten political prisoners in China will be set free.

Until that time, all we can do is use our vote and try to make the right choice. If you don't think what you do on October 7th makes a difference, just remember Charles Li - remember the forgotten man.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Where's Leno When You Need Him? 

Wednesday's "Superbowl of debates" was more like a cocktail party with bad guests and no drinks. In the much anticipated debate with "all" the candidates, we finally got to see Arnie join the festivities on the small screen. And what a useless spectacle it was. The format was an interesting one - the questions, known in advance, were hurled to the guests, who hashed them out in an annoying contest of interruption and insult. Occasionally, the flustered host would attempt to break up the resulting squabbles, but mainly the blowhards got the last word.

McClintock and Camejo fared the best - my assessment of them didn't change much from the first debate. They both clearly believe in their respective ideologies and did a good job of presenting them. Camejo was a bit more single note this time, harping on the "rich pay fewer taxes" theme to the exclusion of his other ideas. McClintock, was concise, got into specifics and was the only one who seemed to know what the hell he was talking about in terms of state government. Of course neither one has a ghost of a chance of winning because Californians don't like their politics straight.

In terms of the watered down candidates, they seemed to be acting out roles - including, strangely enough, Bustamante. I actually saw Bustamante just three days ago in San Jose. There, casual in shirt sleeves in front of a largely Latino audience, he spoke convincingly about his modest background and addressed issues with apparent ease. He didn't get into many specifics, but he conveyed what I took to be the real Cruz. And Cruz didn't seem to be such a bad guy.

Seeing him in tonight's debate was a different story. It looks as if he was coached to act "Gubernatorial" or statesman like. But the act came off looking a little arrogant and lacking fire. Several times Bustamante tried to say Arnold didn't know much - a good tactic - but he couldn't make it stick, as he seemed a little iffy on specifics himself.

Huffington apparently thought she was on "Crossfire" - using all her TV commentator skills to jab at her opponents. Something about the way she smirkingly did it told me all I needed to know. She's like the American remake of a good European movie - with the original movie (Camejo) playing on the next screen. Sure, she can take the Green party line and give it a little more pizzazz and Hollywood zest, but she lacks authenticity. If she really wanted to affect the system, she'd give her money to Camejo and let him run with it. Or even young Georgy Russell. But she wouldn't do that because Huffington's not about advancing the issues, she's about advancing her ego.

Arnie came out and did his normal routine. He was at his best when joking and delivering his rehearsed quips. But the joking bit only served to make him look superficial next to the serious McClintock. Arnie is a perfect match for Huffington; both appeared to enjoy the verbal jousting. But I sense the regular people of California didn't laugh much watching the two millionaires fake fighting each other on TV - the real people who are unemployed, the real people who can't afford to attend university, the real people who, on Oct 7, will cast their votes for one of these clowns.

Next time, just hire Leno to host the damn thing and add circus music. Now that's entertainment....

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Joke's On Us 

I suppose one day in the distant future, some cultural anthropologist will come upon the record of the Tonight Show from September 22, 2003 and wonder if it marked a weird merging of burlesque and politics or perhaps the emergence of a new Dadaist art movement.

As a participant in this tragicomedy, it's hard for me to gain perspective on it. I was at once enthralled and repulsed - as one might be at say, the collapse of a skyscraper.

But let's start at the beginning. This whole episode started soon after the candidates for the recall were certified. In those early days, when campaign mail was still a novelty, we all received an invitation. Printed on heavy stock, it read "...you are cordially invited to be in the audience of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno...." And this was about all the information we got. Be in the audience? As savvy media consumers, most of us figured the show would poke a little fun at the candidates. But we didn't have a clue what really awaited us....

Zip forward to the day of the show. After being forced to queue for twenty minutes in the blazing Burbank sun, and passing through three Baghdad-like checkpoints, we were allowed into the air-conditioned NBC facilities with our guests. There, we recovered from the heat exhaustion with complimentary beverages, until some smartly dressed NBC cadres marched in and divided us Auschwitz style - separating the fit from the expendable. Candidates were put on one side of the room and guests on the other. Car keys were furtively passed and hasty good-byes exchanged - so much for bringing a guest.

We were then herded into a hall where a squat, sweating guard kept us at bay until a further selection was made. Names were called out and those summoned came forward. "What's this all about?" Someone asked. Leno's well-coifed minions weren't answering. The five or so "select" candidates were ushered outside, with the rest of us following, passing a phalanx of penned in shutterbugs, lenses wide and leering. Some candidates stopped to pose, others waved, some shuffled by quickly. "Wave!" One of the ubiquitous NBC women chirped helpfully, "The cameras are over there, wave!"

We filed into the theater in front of the stage, strangely small and cheap looking - not the picture you get watching at home. We were directed by impatient ushers into our seats, then confronted by snarling guards admonishing, "no pictures!" This, even as the media swarmed in for a few minutes of frenzied picture snapping. I guess circus freaks aren't supposed to take pictures, they're only allowed to pose and be freaky. Leading a minor picture rebellion, Iris Adam convinced me to take out my camera and capture a few illegal photos of the proceedings.

After the media left and we received our instruction in how to be a good audience, the abuse - er, show - began. Leno went into a predictable recall filled monologue, ending with a zany segment where the five earlier selected candidates were shown on camera and insulted "humorously." The candidates chosen didn't seem to mind this "fun." Others, like yours truly, found it a tad disturbing - especially with the circus music playing during the segment. Did they somehow tap into my nightmares?

Then a little fun from the candidates. Just as Leno began move into the interview segment, one of the candidates, Bill Tsangares, began a one-man protest / art piece. With his head covered in some kind of rubber mask, he shouted, "Equal time! Equal time" while hurling crisp one and two dollar bills all around him. With the proceedings effectively stopped, Leno, now devoid of humor, shouted back: "This IS equal time!" Thus effectively completing the absurdist point / counter point art installation about equal time on TV - exhibited in the hallowed halls of media fluff.

After the art installation was moved by security to the exterior of the building, and Gary Coleman finished snatching all the bills he could grab, saying, "Hey, this is real money, guys...." the show continued. Leno interviewed actor Robert Downey Jr. about his troubles with substance abuse. Mr. Downey seemed in high spirits, exhibiting a strangely up tempo, jittery appearance - perhaps the result of too much caffeine. Leno, meanwhile, seemed especially keen on probing the minutiae of Mr. Downey's drug affliction, despite the obvious discomfort it caused the actor - there to tout some motion picture.

There was also a comedian - who managed to do her act without any cheap shots at the candidates, kind of out of place with the low brow hijinks happening around her. But this was a short respite, more "fun" was to come.

As if they really tapped in to my nightmares, some fellows in shiny blue faces came out and wanted the candidates to play a kind of "Simon says" game, accompanied by loud music. If I had been on the sort of drugs Mr. Downey used to enjoy, maybe it would have made sense, but this was as far from addressing the issues of our state as one could get. It was at this point I regretted not joining the earlier protest to make my escape.

Maybe if a group is invited to be part of a staged burlesque, it might be polite to let the participants in on the gag. The manner in which we were suckered into this media ambush suggests a level of disdain and mean spiritedness one wouldn't expect from the light entertainment crowd. Mr. Tsangares' efforts may have made some uncomfortable, but at least he didn't humiliate individuals to get his point across. The same can't be said for Mr. Leno's show.

But that, I guess, is show business.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The Art of Politics 

Over my desk is a poster from WWI depicting a somber looking cemetery with the words: "They GAVE their lives, will you LEND your savings?" This is an example of the persuasive pitches made during WWI and WWII for "war bonds," a tool for raising huge sums of money during the world wars. Citizens in those days were convinced to lay down their money because they knew it was for the common good. And a little guilt trip like the above, helped in the convincing.

I know the problems with the state can't be compared to war, but the current financial crisis does demand serious solutions. Way back when, the leaders had the common sense to encourage the "we're all in this together" attitude. These days, with California's budget problems, all we see are droopy-faced bureaucrats gloomily describing the painful taxes they'll have to impose on us. It's more of a "it's your problem - pay up" message.

Sure, they may be right in terms of the numbers, but they lack an understanding of the human element. If some guy approaches me on the street aggressively demanding money, I'm unlikely to give him a dime, but if one of my friends is in trouble and needs to borrow a few bucks, that's a different story.

This is where my plan comes in. We use voluntarily increased tax payments to help the people of the state - in a sense our friends and neighbors in trouble. Those who can afford it, pay more now. And it's not a gift, there's a pay back later on, once the economy is better. It's a simple idea, but explaining it usually results in a lot of blank stares or expressions of derision. "It'll never work." People say, "No one will pay more taxes - everyone hates taxes."

This is because detached, frightened politicians, like Gray, have seen the people as walking dollar signs ready to be plucked. People don't like to be compelled to pay up every time - especially by the "leaders" who got us into this mess to begin with. So how do we turn the situation around?

First of all, we need to see a commitment at the top to cut the fat. That's why I propose the Governor, Lt. Governor, members of the cabinet and other top executives take a voluntary 20% pay cut. And then start cutting all the dumb political appointment jobs - like most commissioners and agency heads. Plus create a "whistle blower" program to find areas of waste and fraud. If the public sees these good faith efforts, they'll realize the people on top are serious. And of course, a new Governor wouldn't hurt either....

It's all about trusting the people - not dictating to them, or treating them like kids. Tell the people the truth and give them the opportunity to help out. We see how much money is being thrown around in this campaign - visit recall watch and look at all the individuals donating money. The money is out there, we just need the proper approach to get it.

Perhaps for all those people who'll feel sorry for Gray after he loses his office, a poster featuring him with the following: "He GAVE his political career, will you LEND your savings?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

All the News That Fit To Spin 

I noticed the LA Times finally published something from one of the lower tier candidates. In a selfless gesture of fair play, they finally fulfilled the highest obligation of their profession and gave voice to the voiceless. They published an op-ed piece by porn star Mary Carey.

Now the issue Ms. Carey addresses is legit; the CBA limiting the debates to only those "important" candidates the CBA feels are suitable for public display. But by letting an adult video performer deliver the concerns of the underdog candidates, they belittle the entire argument. Yet another, not so subtle, attempt by these Hearstian manipulators to bend public opinion.

It's as if they interviewed Monica Lewinsky on the relative merits of Gray's job performance. Sure, she might make a few good points, but I wonder what impression the reader would be left with?

And this brings up another issue: the treatment of the female candidates in this election. They could have talked to Iris Adams, or Cheryl Bly-Chester, both articulate, intelligent and capable women. I've spoken to them and they're among the most qualified of the lesser known candidates. But the LA Times decided to paint the female citizen candidates with a porno brush.

And in the same vein, it's interesting to note how young software engineer Georgy Russell has been covered. While her issue statements are at least as cogent as say, Arianna's, the only issue leering male reporters seem fixated on, is female undergarments. Without being sexualized, it seems, the women candidates just aren't interesting.

Unless of course they're millionaires like Arianna, then they get the same pass the guy millionaires get.

Now listen, don't think I'm one of those whining no names decrying the lack of media attention. As lower tier candidates, we could have done a much better job campaigning and giving the reporters something real to cover. But...the ease with which the publishers decided to delegitimize the less publicized candidates - especially women - speaks volumes.

Maybe it's not ideological. It could just be a sign of differing cultural influences. Perhaps the citizen candidates took "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to heart, while the publishers of the LA Times were more taken with "Debbie Does Dallas."

The news is all abuzz with the recent decision to postpone the election until March. While we wait for the Supreme Court to hear the case - or not - we can imagine we're in the eye of a political storm. During this lull in the recall, it might be instructive to look at some lessons we can draw from this experiment in expanded democracy.

The Computer Mouse That Roared

There have been a number of articles about the candidates use of computers in the recall. Michael Falcone wrote the first one for the NY Times. In this article, I gave the following quote: "Say this whole thing had happened in 1971; how would a regular person have gotten his message out? There would have been no way."

Back then, information campaigns were restricted to mimeographed pamphlets, posters, or maybe early portapak video equipment. And distribution was quite limited. If you employed guerilla theater tactics, you might get some press attention. But if you got on the evening news, you wouldn't be able to record it, because there were no VCRs. Reaching a big audience was limited to the well monied elite.

Nowadays, the internet has allowed regular folks to compete on a level playing field with the big guys. With a click of the mouse, a Republican can move from Arnie's site to Cheryl Bly-Chester's site . A Democrat can click from Cruz's site to Georgy Russell's site - or blog for that matter. Same screen, same potential audience.

And in addition to the relatively static storefront of the website, we have the dynamic weblog. Like posting your pamphlet on every telephone pole in front of every house in the state. To be able to write something every day and have anyone with a computer see it - now that's power. To quote a dusty old phrase heard in '71, it's "all power to the people."

In 1953, the great journalist Edward R. Murrow gave a speech about the new medium of television:

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, and yes it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is nothing but wires and lights in a box...."

The same yardstick can now be applied to the internet. What would Mr. Murrow think of the regular folks coaxing these "wires and lights" to their full potential?

The amateur candidates of this recall election, with their ideas and drive and not much else, used the internet as a democratizing tool. In the best American tradition, they improvised, they pushed the limits and made it work. The most interesting websites and blogs were from citizen candidates. The fully polished, big money candidates had sites with a cold corporate feel and didn't have a clue about being real in a blog.

In Arnie's last flick, "T3, Rise of the Machines," computers enslave and imperil the humans. In the reality beyond the silver screen, humans have harnessed the power of computers to better humanity. Maybe even to defeat Arnie. It's not about the technology, it's about the real people behind the computer.

In fact, if you look closely at the credits of T3, you might notice the name of one such person. One who helped build the movie fantasy, and is now helping to build the political reality.


(here's the latest report from the cockroach with a penchant for prose, Arty)

boss i went
to interview your fish ginger
she as you know is
a green
like the fungus you
still need to clean from her

greetings said i
i hope things are
going swimmingly
for you

i d invite you in
said she
but my decor is too watered down
for your dry humor

i ll take a plunge
into the murky recall
voting pool said i
you voted nader in the
last election
a nadir for elections
some democrats might say

i elect to vote
my conscience
said she

what about the recall
i asked
will you again cast your vote
into the wind
instead of for the win

if we only vote for those
who will win
said she
maybe we all lose
tis clear to me
even from inside
my clouded tank

boss she said it all
more later
leave the computer on
more snacks


Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Big Poll Lie

So another poll was released by the LA Times which gives a glimpse into the horse race so far. I suppose the results would be valid if there were only six people running. But I recently got my voter guide and it has around twelve pages of candidate statements. And I've seen the ballots - and while I may be bad at math - I counted over a hundred candidates.

The Times does concede determining who will vote is not an exact science saying "the unprecedented nature of the recall makes it even more difficult this time." Yeah, you bet. And real voters in real voting booths will have the entire 132 to choose from. Much different than a phone poll where the respondent is spoon fed the six media favorites.

Dan Weintraub has an interesting piece about a lot of voter opinion "flying below the traditional radar." Scroll down to "The extra electorate."

The Washington Post may have ignored my efforts in their piece on candidate blogs, but the more tuned in and astute Ken Goldstein hasn't. See the Tale of Two Feinsteins

And now a little change of pace....

What's Bugging Me

I need to relate a strange story. Last night, in between nightmares about unsolicited boxes of candy, weird political tacos and endless email, I awoke to the sound of typing. Did I just imagine it? Through crusty eyes, I saw the familiar bluish glow from my computer - I must have left it on. Then I heard the typing again: Tap, tap....tap...tap, tap - hunt and peck style. "What the...?" I thought, "Do I have a ghost?"

Then I saw it....an insect on the keyboard, jumping up on down on the keys with great purpose. I approached cautiously, shoe in hand. As I got close enough to smash the offending bug, I saw the following words on the screen:

expression is the need of my soul
i am a direct desendant of archy
the cockroach ghost writer friend
of don marquis
in the spirit of the past
i tap into great great grandfather s work
you can call me arty

Now I wasn't pleased with the idea of a cockroach in my apartment, but this one seemed to have more merit than the average pest. So I put the shoe down and watched the little guy jump about the keyboard on my Mac, hammering out more prose:

recall election is just
a symptom of noticeable discontent
I saw it with the ants who used
to live in your apt
the queen ant you stepped on
recall by shoe
then the ants tried to vote for
the ordinary ant workers
oth ers wanted another queen
and had more honey
the little guy got the boot

I stopped the bug here and introduced myself. We talked about the "Archy and Mehitabel" tales he referenced, concerning a poet cockroach, Archy, and his feline cohort Mehitabel. I vaguely remember reading some of these stories when I was younger. I wasn't totally convinced Arty was the direct descendant of Archy, but he did at least have the ability to type - more or less. His grammer and punctuation, however were atrocious. He blamed it on the difficulties of keyboard navigation, saying he had to watch out for full body carpal tunnel syndrome. I agreed to employ him now and again as a guest commentator, then went back to bed.

When I woke up this morning, I noticed Arty ate almost a full box of the "Official Chewy Mint of the Recall Election." Even talented roaches still revert to nature I suppose. But he did leave me the following:

boss i noticed you
had a puzzled expression
when i mentioned my great great grandfather
have some bites of his wisdom
more filling than recall mints:

"insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat"

"if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
of course it won t cheer
you up much if
you expect to go there"

"boss the other day
i heard an
ant conversing
with a flea
small talk i said
and went away
from there"

boss now you know
where i get my appetite
more later after I digest
the recall news and what you left in garbage
leave computer on
more mints


Dedicated to Don Marquis, creator "Archy and Mehitabel" - born July 29, 1878
From the Dan Feinstein for Governor Campaign - born July 29, 2003

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Dear Reader,

It has been brought to my attention the recent offerings from the Feinstein Campaign Report have been altogether too serious and lacking in levity. "Where's the funny Dan?" People ask. And, "You're really bumming me out man, Sharon Davis' blog is much more effervescent."

Ouch. This last one really hurt. To hear I've lost effervescence, is disheartening. To insure my eight readers are appropriately entertained, I've lightened things up with a piece I call:

Picking up Litter Along the Information Superhighway

Like all the other candidates, I've been receiving a huge - and I mean huge - amount of candidate junk mail, both snail and email varieties. Questionnaires, political pitches, cranks touting some issue, companies selling ads in obscure publications, on and on. I can barely find the familiar smut and Viagra spam anymore with all this candidate clutter.

The other day I got an email from the "Lawyers for Artists Coalition" saying they were reducing their rates for a statement published in their publication. Only $250 for 250 words - such a deal! First of all, who in the hell are "Lawyers for Artists?" And why would I pay good money to state anything to them? Bizarre. Well imagine my surprise when this was followed up by an email from "Microbiologists for Knitting consortium" and a pitch from the "Plumbers for Creative Writing Alliance."

Then of course there are the Nigerian money scam emails asking for help to get some money and you'll get a cut, etc...you know the deal. Recently, I got some weird variation on this scheme from a group calling itself the "California Democratic Party" inviting me to some "endorsement convention" in LA. Yeah, right... I read on and, uh huh - you have to send them $100 to "register." No dice, pal - I'm not falling for that one. Sheesh.

And then yesterday I get this package from a mysterious "Jennifer Norton" in New York. First thought, 'Hey, I didn't order anything, what the...?' I'm immediately suspicious because the name is clearly a pseudonym. I shake it and it makes a disagreeable rattling noise. Shrapnel? Taking no chances, I hide behind the Fridgidaire door and poke the sinister box with a broom handle. Nothing. I hit it with great force. Still nothing. Then take it to my bomb sniffing goldfish Ginger. She registers nothing,but I do note a peculiar look on her face. I'm thinking the best course of action is to hurl it into the ocean and let the Coast Guard deal with it.

Before I do this, I check out fellow candidate Diana Foss' latest blog always a source of clear headed thinking. There I learn she too has received a similar package and it's just candy. Whew! I open the box and yes, it's some dumb promotion from a candy company known for annoying commercials. It includes some crap about the candy being the "official Chewy Mint of the California Recall Election." What, are they getting marketing advice from Taco Bell now?

Dear Chewy Mint mavens,

The next time you want to send me some delicious treats, don't be so mysterious about it. Now every time I see your damn candy, my heart starts beating like a rabbit. You'll note I've written this letter in crayon and have enclosed it in a soiled box tied with string - see how it feels?

Thanks for nothing.

Your pal,

Dan Feinstein
California Gubernatorial Candidate
(and candy hater)

Here's a questionnaire for my readership. In keeping with the spirit of the recall, I have devised a two part ballot:

Question one
Should I continue with the blog after Oct 7?

Question two
In the event question one passes, pick a post election blog name:

- Conversations With a Potted Plant
- The Feinstein Report
- The (not Dianne) Feinstein Report
- The New Governor Sucks and Here's Why
- Why Am I Doing This?
- The Ex Candidate Report
_ Other....

Cast your votes by email to dan@feinsteinforgov.com - before October 7th.

And if you include a mailing address, I'll send you a bumper sticker and/or campaign button FREE! Specify English or Spanish.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Fanfare for the Common Candidate

Some of you may be familiar with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" a musical piece inspired by the soldiers of WWII. It was a tribute to the dignity of ordinary Americans - people like you and me. It could also apply to the ordinary people running in the recall.

Lately though, "Fanfare for the Common Man" is being replaced by the strains of festive clown music. The tilt of the coverage on the underdog candidates is leaning towards the silly and insulting. Bored with the obvious clowns; the aging child star, porn king etc., the news outlets are turning their sights on us ordinary folks.

So I get a call from a reporter, wanting to know what special thing I'll be doing on election night. Clearly, kind of a fluff piece, okay. So I mention I'll probably go to a bar with some friends and then I get: "So are you a beer guy, or a whisky guy?" And I'm thinking, this isn't why I ran - if I'm going to be quoted, can it be about my candidacy? The reporter was pleasant enough and just doing her job, I know - but come on.

Then there was the persistent LA Times photographer doing the pictorial spread on the candidates - with a twist. In order to be photographed, we had to bring a little prop or knick knack to help define our personality. Something cute and gimmicky: Surf board, broom, whatever. You know, fun stuff! Without a prop, the photographer said, it would just be a bunch of people in suits - boring. After all, was the subtext, a clown in a suit is no fun. Somehow, I don't envision Tom McClintock standing there grinning, holding some goofy prop.

And the latest foray into "fun" coverage of the citizen candidates - a questionnaire sent out by a columnist for the SF Chronicle asking "What was your wildest date?" "What's your recurring dream?" "What is your guilty pleasure?" For a brief moment, I was tempted to play along, because I like jokes. But my candidacy is not a joke. I've used humor and satire in this blog to lampoon the big guys, not to denigrate my candidacy or the efforts of my fellow citizen candidates. These sorts of belittling exercises are designed put clown make up on us. Sorry, but I didn't shell out $3500 to be a clown.

I don't see the problem coming from reporters - good people just trying to do their job. The reporters I've talked to have been thoughtful, engaged and have asked incisive questions. I figure the problem has more to do with those at the tiller - the ones controlling let's say, the "direction" of these stories.

Here's a question for these folks: What interests are served by attacking ordinary people trying to break into the political system? The message you're sending to the regular folks - who buy your papers and watch your TV news - is become involved in politics at your peril. Do so, and you'll be made the fool, so just shut up and watch your sitcoms.

I suppose this is what some at the top, the career politicians and their 'familiars' want. But without citizen involvement in the political process, we'll have a system where the political elite dictates to an ever more disconnected and angry population of "clowns."

Thursday, September 11, 2003

My liver favors yOU

There are these people called the Berbers who live in Morocco. Once a year the unwedded Berbers travel from all over to meet in a happening spot called Imilchil, so reports yesterday's Wall Street Journal. There, a three day dating ritual of display and assessment takes place. The marriageable women walk among the teeming crowds and receive offers of affection from a variety of marriage minded men. If a fellow takes a liking to a young lady, he might woo her with "You have captured my liver." Which apparently is a good thing.

The ritual taking place in Morocco is not entirely dissimilar to what we're seeing in the recall. Like the young women walking about the marketplace of Imilchil, the California voters are being wooed by many potential suitors - 132 at last reckoning. With centuries of tradition behind them, what can we learn from the Berber women of Imilchil?

First off, they don't look at just one or two men, even if one claims his liver has been captured. The women look at many gents, a wide variety. In this recall, we're only getting to judge a few suitors - the sleazy types with the old pick up lines - the rest are shielded from view, perhaps by the jealous competition. The women in Imilchil wouldn't stand for that and neither should we.

In the latest Field poll We see something interesting, the people choosing "Other" or "Undecided" add up to some pretty impressive percentages. Who are these Other or Undecideds? People tired of the usual choices, people who maybe don't vote usually, in short, the people looking for something different - call them OUs. Everyone talks about Cruz's 32% or Arnie's 27% but not about the OU number of 20%.

Broken down along party lines, we see some startling figures: 24% of the Democrats are OUs, 25% Republican and among the Non-partisans, a whopping 43% are in the mysterious OU category.

Why haven't we heard this before? Like the lesser known candidates hidden from view, the OUs don't get a mention. I say recognize the independent state of the OUs and release the citizen candidates from their exile. The article about the Berber dating ritual talks about the origin of the practice: Legend tells of a young couple who were prevented from marrying by their families - with a sad Shakespearean ending. Even though Berber society favors arranged marriages, after this tragedy, they created the three day ritual for those wanting to find their own mates.

In a sense, the voters have been in an arranged marriage with the major political party and millionaire candidates. And what an unhappy union it has been. Maybe if the two overlooked groups; the citizen candidates and the OUs, can be brought together, we'll have a more perfect union. My liver tells me it will.

Here's an article in the NY Times written by Michael Falcone about campaign blogs - with a minor mention of me.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The California Experience

I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle - here's the article by Carl Nolte.

The article speaks about my "real life" experience and how it relates to my qualifications for public office. This brings up a question: In what way does a person's background affect their understanding of the issues?

What difference does it make if say, one candidate was raised as a child of privilege, sent to Stanford by his parents, and only had political jobs his adult life? Does it make a difference if a candidate was born and raised in another country and came to the US as an entertainer? What about a candidate who came from a modest background in an agricultural community, but fled to the seamy world of politics, where he's lived comfortably ever since?

All these candidates have interesting and unique backgrounds. They're accomplished people who caught some lucky breaks and exploited them. But how many of these people know what it's like to have a real job, be educated in the California public education system, and understand the day to day realities of life known to the average Californian; housing, commuting, schools, tolls, public transit, jobs, speeding tickets, taxes?

Let's get to the nuts and bolts and pick an issue - say education. Who among the three leading contenders knows what it's like to go to a rotten, underfunded, dangerous elementary school? Well I do. Photo opportunities with inner city kids doesn't give you the gut wrenching experience of trying to get to school without being attacked. Reading a report on K-12 reform doesn't give you the experience of a poverty ridden school where even the teachers are scared and the kids don't have enough to eat at lunch.

And who, among the top three, know anything about public higher education? Sure, Arnie attended some Community College. Cruz went to Fresno State for awhile, then got distracted by politics (completing his degree only recently). And Gray as mentioned, got his free pass to $tanford - hardly the foundation for a real understanding of the state's higher education system. Did any of them go through the process of paying for their education themselves? I certainly have. I know fee hikes caused students to quit school, affecting those most in need of bettering their place in society; poor Latinos and African Americans. These were the people I worked with in fighting fee hikes at San Jose State.

During this time, I had a conversation with a Stanford grad about working and going to school at the same time. He was genuinely puzzled by the concept. "Why not just go to school full time?" He asked. Well let me answer him here - hey smart guy, it's because I had to, we don't all get a free ride. It's easy for a politician to make big changes with the stroke of a pen, but it's not so easy to understand the real life consequences. The Stanford grad didn't get it. Does Gray? Does Cruz? Arnie?

Am I playing class warfare? No. Certainly Mr. Bustamante came from a very humble background before being absorbed into big time politics. It's more about applying the word "experience" correctly. Everyday experience and common sense is what's missing in Sacramento. We've left policy making in the hands of the politically experienced - but the reality inexperienced - for too long. It's time the life experienced people begin to shepherd the decision making process.

Life looks a little different from the tinted windows of a limo - the world has a different hue when you're sitting in a high backed leather chair in a wood paneled office. And understanding the everyday indignities of life faced by ordinary people is hard to imagine when you're facing adoring fans and ten million dollar paychecks.

Maybe the regular folks will think about this before casting their vote. The political elite certainly won't think much about the regular folks once they get into office.

My experience tells me that much.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Poor Candidate's Almanac
Monday, Sept. 8, 2003

This is the 22nd time I've appeared in this blog to comment on the current conditions and chalk out what may soon come to pass in this peculiar political aberration known as the recall.

It's been getting darker earlier, telling us the seasons are changing and soon fall will be upon us. Time to plant some ideas for the next spring's political harvest.

This current recall season started with an early spring and a bumper crop of new candidates trying to compete with the entrenched, political weeds. We're starting to see the season change and with it an onslaught of attacks by the dreaded pests of traditional politics, the swarming personal attack. Just today; Arnie is a racist according to some old work out buddies, Gray is a racist for making fun of Arnie's accent, Cruz attacks Arnie for being from Planet Hollywood and not being "one of us." Arnie's camp shoots back, saying Cruz uses "race-based politics."

These pests will last till early October, when, un fortunately, they'll be replaced with a more virulent variety, the "dreaded surprise scandal." Expect these to appear just before Oct 7. This could spoil some candidates before the election harvest, so pick early.

Mars is predominant in the sky - shining brightest in the next few days - three times brighter than Jupiter. It is almost as bright as the hypocrisy coming from Arnie in his sudden burst of special interest money gathering. Previously, this candidate "of the people" pledged not to take any special interest money. He has now eclipsed that promise to actively solicit money from land developers and big agricultural interests. Meanwhile, Jupiter emerges in the predawn eastern sky and shows above Mercury after the 21st; the two are strikingly joined by the Gray's massive orbiting ego on the 24th .

The weather for the week begins with a giant Cruz cloud formation settling in the Central Valley to pepper the population with small snow jobs. This is a welcome change for the population, who has been through a dry spell. After Oct 7, expect the clouds to dry up again.

Fall begins with the autumnal equinox on the 23rd, at 6:47 a.m. just a day before the debate featuring "all" the candidates. That is, if your definition of "all" is millionaires and influence peddling career politicians - with the occasional Green guy thrown in for fun.

Borrowing from a writer of an older almanac:

"Besides the usual Things expected in an Almanack, I hope the profess'd Teachers of Mankind will excuse my scattering here and there some instructive Hints...."

"He's a Fool that cannot conceal his Wisdom."

"Half the Truth is often a great Lie."

"Vice knows she's ugly, so puts on her Mask."
(Indian Gambling Tribes)

"Fools multiply folly."

"A light purse is a heavy Curse."
(any lesser-know candidate)

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Cloud Formations

Today was a beautiful day, so I feel I should write about cloud formations. You know when you look up, and see the white, billowy clouds forming pictures - look, there's a cat...ahhh. There's a rabbit...oooh and over there - it looks like a giant campaign contribution to Cruz from the Indian Gaming Tribes...ahhh. Oh wait, it's changing...it's looks like it's becoming a contribution to the anti prop 54 campaign. Oooh.

Today, Cruz declared he has "decided to resolve the questions raised by the Republicans about my campaign finances" by moving suspect Indian gambling money to the No on Prop 54 (racial privacy initiative) campaign.

So Cruz says Republicans raised questions about his campaign finances. Here's a quote describing Cruz's clever use of loopholes, "in such a high-profile case, you'd think he would not be so clever about it." this was from Art Torres, a Repub..no, make that Democrat Party Chairman. Oops. Well here's another quote: "I think it is a political mistake to be engaged in activity that raises this question in a campaign. I think this is a major political problem for him." This was from Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi - who, let me check....is a Democrat.

So I guess it wasn't just a Republican conspiracy this time. But what was the "question" Cruz referred to? If the question was, "Hey buddy, what are you going to do for the Indian gambling folks now that they've given you a king's ransom?" Then I don't see how he answered it. If the question was, "Do you think it's right to go against the will of the people who voted for prop 34, by using sleazy loopholes?" I'm not sure he answered that one either. Based on the answer, it sounds like the question was: "How do I weasel out of this?"

Oh and in case anyone is wondering, the anti prop 54 ads will feature the most qualified person to speak on the subject - one Cruz Bustamante. Yes, the ads will feature Cruz, not saying "vote for me" exactly, but still up on the podium, looking and sounding just like the Cruz who's running for Governor.

I suppose if someone gave me $1,000,000 to break someone's legs and it was found out and then I gave the money to some charitable group - who then broke the person's legs, it would be about the same thing. But would it still be wrong?

I suppose the answer is clear to everyone. Everyone, except those who have their heads in the clouds.

Friday, September 05, 2003

The Lost Cause Found

I've been interviewed a lot lately, and inevitably one question always comes up: "you know you can't win the election, why bother?" This is a valid question and I answer by explaining my definition of winning in the context of the recall - namely, by getting my ideas seen and heard.

But something about the subtext of the question bothers me. Does everything have to be a safe bet in life? Should one pay heed to the naysayers? How high should one aim?

While this blog isn't about me per se, I'll relate a personal story. Way back when, I wanted to study filmmaking with the idea of working in motion pictures. So I applied to a bunch of film programs and got into NYU film school. In the time I was there, the professors made it very clear to us we were the best of the bunch. Each of us was led to believe we'd excel and be able to do work someday in the movie industry. I attended for a time, took some compelling courses but eventually had to leave because I couldn't afford it.

When I ended up at the more affordable San Jose State University, I found a whole different perspective. I remember one especially pompous, pipe smoking professor asking why we were taking film classes at all - there were few jobs in motion pictures and the ones that existed, we'd never get. At best, he assured us, we'd end up pulling cable at some local TV station.

So the NYU people told me I could make it and the SJSU people told me I couldn't. Who was right? And just about this time the fine folks in Sacramento foisted a 40% fee hike on all us students. I was putting myself through school at the time and this wasn't welcome news.

Did I change majors or quit? No. I didn't give up, I did what I could to fight the bums in Sacramento and ignore the creeps in San Jose. And got my degree.

Fast forward to today: I work in visual effects for motion pictures. And now I'm running for Governor. And one of my issues is fighting fee increases in higher education.

So what's the moral to this tale? I'll answer it with another story - this one about a fellow classmate at SJSU, a guy who took the same courses and graduated the same year as me. The last time I saw him, he was working the counter at a car rental place. Now there's nothing wrong with working in car rental, but he revealed the job wasn't totally fulfilling. How'd he end up there? Maybe my classmate took the "aim low" crowd a little too seriously.

So I'll stick to being a starry-eyed idealist going after lost causes. Why am I running, you ask? Ask the guy at the car rental counter - ask him about lost causes.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Of Debates and Used Cars - A Critical Analysis

Part one: winnowing the field

Out of the five, only three, Bustamante, McClintock and Camejo are serious candidates. Now I'm sure Huffington and Ueberroth are decent people, but I sense they don't have the drive or street smarts for the job. And I suspect both will leave the field soon.

Let's face it, Huffington is a very rich lady who takes on liberal social causes out of a sense of "noblesse oblige." She sticks to her well-worn sound bites and makes good sounding, but facile proposals. "Books, not bars" is cute, but - hello - if we don't fund prisons sufficiently, we'll have a California version of Attica on our hands (or was Huffington still living in Greece when that happened?). Has she ever heard of prisoner's rights? Does she want crowded, third world style prisons? Did she investigate the issue or talk to someone in corrections before cooking up her tasty sound bites?

Huffington smiled and mugged her way through the event, clearly the most comfortable of the bunch in front of the cameras - and she should be, she's a professional commentator. Though I give her points for calling out Bustamante on the bribery issue, in general I got the feeling she's doing this as a lark and doesn't have the core knowledge or horse sense to do the job. Wouldn't buy a used car from her because there'd be something wrong with the engine - which she wouldn't even know about. But the paint would be perfect.

Ueberroth cuts a sort of avuncular figure, pleasant and eschewing personal invective. He is short on specifics, business oriented and like Huffington, gives the impression he doesn't take the campaign totally seriously. When asked how he'd ferret out waste and fraud in Medi-Cal, he hemmed and hawed and gave some generic platitude. A common sense approach would have been to say, "look, I don't know - but I'll find out." Now if Mr. Ueberroth looked at my website, he'd have seen my "whistle blower" proposal. It's not a new concept, but one that worked in California in the 70s and would work for Medi-Cal now.

I think Ueberroth would be better off as a business advisor or maybe just a doting grandfather. Might buy a used car from him - you'd know it got every oil change and tune up. But it would be a big, old boring car I'd never drive.

Part two: Right, Left and the squishy Center

McClintock is the sort of guy you'd want in the foxhole if you were in the Ardennes fighting the Jerrys. He's a straight talking, no nonsense guy with a good grasp of the facts (at least his facts). He knows his mind and he'll give you a piece of it. When asked about controversial issues like prop 187, licenses for the undocumented, or the death penalty, he gives his answers straight, without sugar coating: Yes, no, yes.

Very much to the right, he's unlikely to find a willing audience among the touchy feely crowd, but at least you know what you're getting - unlike some other Republican candidates. I think I'd buy a used car from this guy, but he'd probably be selling an armored personnel carrier and I'm not in the market for one of those.

Camejo did a good job as the passionate voice for the underclass. He was, like McClintock, well versed on the issues and had facts (at least his facts) at his fingertips. And he infused his numbers talk with some true gut feelings.

Probably the most energetic and vital of the bunch, Camejo is a true believer. When he talked about the rich only paying 7%, while I pay 11%, I started getting ticked off along with him. Of course h ave the rich SOBs pay more, damnit! But are those the correct figures? Hmmm. At least he got me thinking. I wouldn't buy a used car from this guy because he'd detail the karma of the battered car, how it took him to Colorado and back, how it has good "energy," blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, he wouldn't know the last time he changed the oil.

It was Bustamante's debate to lose as the front runner in this group of polling midgets. He didn't lose, but he didn't win either. He lacked the fire of a Camejo or the steely determination of McClintock. He was at his best when he defended giving social services to undocumented workers. He spoke of his own time picking cotton and pears, saying he still understands what it's like to toil in the fields. Here we saw the true Bustamante, the emotions were authentic and used to define an issue.

The rest of his performance was uneven; some over practiced lines, some terse answers, Clintonesque self-righteousness about the Indian Casino money, and moments of creeping Grayness. Like his campaign slogan, he's sort of the No, Yes man in personality - the average guy one minute, cagey politician the next. Who's the real Bustamante? I might buy a used car from him, but I'd take it to a mechanic and have it thoroughly checked first.

Random thoughts

First thought: Gray's pre debate chat only pulled him further into the arrogant, self possessed category. In answering questions about what he'd do differently, he went back to the "it's been a sobering experience...it's no fun being attacked in the press" routine. Again, all about him. Hey dummy, we don't care about how you feel - how are you going to fix what's broke?

Second thought: I've seen and talked to many of the less publicized candidates and now I've gotten an impression of the "major" candidates as well. Honestly, a lot of the lesser known folks are better speakers, more committed, and better versed on the issues.

Third thought: Explaining the debate set up, one of the moderators said they "obviously" had to limit the numbers of candidates. But why limit it to five? Look at the Democratic contenders for President - at last count nine. Surely, a few of the "citizen candidates" could be added to the next debate; let an objective group of political analysts look at the less publicized candidates and pick the person(s) with the most serious grasp of the issues. Or poll Californians on the "below the line" candidates.

We have to be wary of the salesmen trying to steer us to the shiny cars up front, let's get a look at the whole lot.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Circus Has Come to Town

Over in sleepy burg of Walnut Crick, the caravan of dusty satellite vans has rolled into town. Barking dogs and curious little kids have come to look at the bland meat puppets with their dangling microphones and creamy smiles. The glinty-eyed cameras sit poised, ready for activity, the air heavy with excitement and gossip. Shortly, a few jackasses and at least one small elephant will trample in, heralding the start of the show.

Thus will begin the first debate of the recall election. All the media crowned candidates will be there save Arnie, who no doubt is too busy studying the collected works of Pythagoras. The questions to be answered today: will Gray be defiant, or will he finally apologize for being an arrogant bastard? Will Cruz bust out as the champion of the oppressed, while trying to play down the loot he's garnered from the unsavory gambling interests? Will Peter Ueberroth and Tom McClintock manage not to put everyone to sleep? And the biggest question of all - will anyone even watch?

They're starting the show at the wrong time - 4:00 on a Wednesday, when most people are still at work. Am I the first to mention this? Arnie at least knew when people would be around: Labor day at the fair. What a better place to peddle his cotton candy messages to the corn dog media?

Perhaps it's not about reaching the people. After all, what do the people matter in an election molded by smart pollsters and clever media buys? Maybe only political analysts and professional opinion makers should be privy to such displays. And let the yapping, powder-faced TV talkers explain everything later - using small words.

Well this time, I think people will think for themselves. They may not watch every debate - this is why people have become disgusted with politics in the first place. But the people have spoken by putting the recall on the ballot and the people will speak again Oct 7. Will one of the major candidates win? Probably. But now people have seen regular citizens run as legitimate candidates, whether the politicians think so or not.

So I say let the circus begin. Once the caravans have left Walnut Crick and the jackasses have left the stage, maybe everyone will have a second look at the serious citizen candidates.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Running scared

After a long hiatus in a "secure location," we've finally seen Governor-in-waiting Arnie hit the campaign trail. Yesterday, he was at the Sacramento fair, appearing before a crowd of cheering fans - evidentally confused about whether it was a movie premiere, political event or farm animal display.

America's favorite action politician campaigned in the best movie star fashion - excitingly brief appearance, peppered with pleasing sound bites. "Dis administration is not representing you (indicating someone in the adoring crowd) "It's not representing you, (pointing to someone else) it's not representing you,(indicating one of his own security people) it's not representing you. It's representing dee special interests." His thoughts on education? "More teachers, more classrooms - everything." This eloquent oratory was followed by much shaking of hands and smiles.Fade to black, roll the commercial.

According to his "people," Arnie is so darned busy with these important appearances, he has little time for debates. He'll only do one - the one where he's gets the questions in advance. To quote Monty Python: "he may be an idiot, but he's no fool." He's clearly scared. The big man with the marquee muscle is afraid to speak about specifics, afraid to debate the Gray milquetoast and the portly number two man. How hard can that be for the allegedly learned man with the advanced degree?

On the other hand, we have candidates not afraid to speak on specifics, not afraid to speak to the press. As hard as Arnie is trying not to be specific, these less publicized candidates are struggling to get their specific ideas heard. And they're doing this surrounded by a constant drumbeat of scorn: labeled as "joke" candidates,"lesser" candidates, the untouchable "others." For these folks to continue in the face of such insults shows a level of courage not seen in our he-man movie hero.

In the interest of advancing the public's knowledge, I'll present a few of these specific ideas from the citizen candidates.

WARNING: the following contains well thought out, specific ideas - this may be new and alarming to those used to safe generalities. Proceed with caution - at the first sign of mental activity, take two aspirin and watch T3 until the feeling passes.

Feinstein on cutting state spending:

First, cut the governor's and executive staff pay 20% and challenge the legislature to do the same. Second, eliminate unnecessary state jobs, especially bloated administrative staff - keep the people who do the work, lose the people who just think about the work. Third, we get rid of most "special commissions" designated by the governor - these are political payback positions.

To a degree these moves are symbolic, but before we ask people to take a pay cut - in the form of new taxes, the leaders need to show they're willing to take a hit as well.

To help find and get rid of waste and fraud, we establish a "whistle blower." The whistle blowers are give a 2% cut of the savings gained by the state, both sides win.

Cheryl Bly-Chester on reducing the deficit:

Those taxpayers who itemize their charitable deductions will be encouraged to give a portion of those contributions to the State. The incentive will be that for every dollar they volunteer to the State, the contributors will be able to claim $1.50 charitable contribution on their tax returns to the Franchise Tax Board. Therefore, they can get into a lower tax bracket and reduce their overall tax liability to the General Fund.

The contributors can allocate their contributions to the specific budget items that they want to support. In this way, they can give directly to their pet state-funding program instead of giving money to political campaigns intending to influence a vote for that project.

To avoid competition between state and other charitible organizations, contributions to the state could not exceed 50% of the total charitable contributions made in a single tax year - you can still give to your church or other non-profit organization. To take advantage of the tax benefit, the tax-payer would have to make equal contributions to other causes.

Jonathan Miller on the reviving the economy:

I propose waiving state income taxes for all newly hired employees for the first 6 months of employment. In order to qualify for this tax break, the employee must currently be qualified to receive unemployment benefits by the California EDD department, and the employee must be hired by a company other than his or her last employer.

This proposal has two benefits:

1. It will put more Californians back to work, improving their own economic situations and our overall economy.

2. It will reduce the unemployment burden on our state budget, making it easier for the state to pay its bills and improve its credit rating.

My proposal will work, because it will reduce the total payroll expense for new hires. A company can hire an employee at a reduced salary, because the employee's net pay will be the same, since no state taxes are being deducted from the gross pay. This will provide an incentive to employers to hire more people. Companies will see increased productivity and growth as a result of their increased staff, and our economy will get back on track.

Georgy Russell on creating clean elections:

Money has undeniably corrupted our electoral process. The notion that a typical citizen might ascend to the governorship is so ridiculously foreign to Californians, most believe it is impossible. The only candidates with an outside chance of winning are increasingly those who succumb to special interests or those who spend millions of their own dollars.

With a Clean Election Act in California, we can level the playing field and give "ordinary" citizens with ideas a chance to run. Candidates who demonstrate broad support by collecting a signature and a few dollars from few thousand people will receive public funding for their campaign costs.

Imagine a state where great ideas are valued over great amounts of money. Imagine the new leaders and innovative solutions that would emerge. This is true campaign finance reform, and we can make it happen.

(and since this is my blog, one more from me)
Feinstein on higher education:

Restore funding the the CSU and UC system; lower fees to previous affordable levels and implement a program of guaranteed baseline funding for CSU and UC - similar to Prop 98 funding protection used in K-12.

Impose special taxes for businesses who use more than four H1B visa workers - this money is then earmarked for the higher education fund.

Unify educational requirements between the CC and CSU / UC systems so transfer students don't have to retake introductory courses, this will reduce the time it takes to graduate. Flatten the organizational structure of the the UC and CSU systems - make sure the money is used for teaching and not bloated administrative staff.

Just a few specific ideas from the "joke" candidates. You now may return to your regularly scheduled "real" candidates....

Last Thursday, three Gubernatorial hopefuls appeared before the Indian Gaming Board seeking praise and gobs of money from the civic minded Native Americans. After their presentations, the candidates and their hosts retired to a "donation tipi" for a pow-wow. In a Feinstein Campaign Report exclusive, we have the transcript of that meeting.

In attendance: head of the Indian Tribal Gaming Counsel, Chief Bags O' Money, assisted by lieutenants Bob Small Bills and Little Change Purse. The candidates included Gray, Cruz and the Republican standard bearer Tom McClintock, in a rare moment of bipartisan money grubbing.

Chief Bags: Welcome, welcome. Sit down everyone. Here, have a peace pipe....

Cruz: That looks like a cigar.

Chief: Pipe, cigar - what's the difference? At least it's not the dope.

Gray: Who you calling a dope?

Chief: Somebody's a little sensitive...Anyway, let's dispense with the formalities, what's the opening bid?

Cruz: For a mere $300,000, you get all the slot machines you want. More than will fit in your casinos - the place will be lousy will slots I tell ya; I see slots in every bakery, coffee shop and barbershop. Slots in nursery schools and maternity wards...big slots, little tiny baby slots....

Gray: That's nothing, I'll give you the slots, plus I'll throw in the right to appoint members of the gaming commission, and for a limited time only, veto power on any bill.

Chief: Ooooh!

Gray: And I'll throw in set of steak knives absolutely free!

Chief: Does that include shipping?

Tom: Forget about it, I can go one better - once I'm elected, I'll make Cruz the official greeter at your casinos. You can put him in a headdress, face paint, whatever you want.

Cruz: Hey!

Tom: It's not like you're doing anything important...

Cruz: Listen, Mr. No Chance In Hell, I'll busta-mante your frickin' face...

Chief: Please, please, don't fight. You're like little kids. Vito - er, I mean Small Bills, break them up.

SmallBills: You want I should knock some sense into them, boss?

Chief: Not just yet...

Cruz: You know, you guys don't look Indian...

ChangePurse: What! Indians - where!?

Chief: What are you trying to say? So because we wear pinky rings we can't be Native American? For your information paleface, we're the, uh... Cosa Nostraeca Tribe, yeah. Sicilian Band. Very old and respected.

Cruz: Never heard of that one.

Chief: Please. Everybody have a peace cigar. Let's get back to the wampum talk.

Gray: Okay, here it is, final bid. We make the capitol building into the state's biggest casino - imagine, the sound of slot machines echoing in the rotunda, sports betting in the legislative chambers, John Burton could deal blackjack and Brulte can do the Pai-Gow poker. And we'd put a baccarat table in the Lt. Governor's office....

Cruz: Not so fast, mannequin hair!

Chief: Wait a minute, sounds like Gray is moving in the right direction. How about a giant lit up sign as you drive into downtown Sacramento: "The biggest Little Corrupt City in the World?"

Tom: Excuse me, when do we get the money, I have an appointment with the Zenith Insurance people.

Chief: Aren't they the worker's comp insurance guys? They just raised my rates again - it's a crime I tell you. Wish I was in that racket.

Gray: Yeah, yeah that's them. But you're too late, Tom - they already got me.

Cruz: Oh don't be silly, we're all getting a piece.

Gray: That's right, what was I thinking...duh.

(All laugh)

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