The Condor: California Recall
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Latinos Could Be Hidden Bonus in Recall

Where are the Latinos -- the largest population segment in California -- in this election? The conventional polls don't tell us much; their results are all over the place. But one little noticed poll suggests Latinos could play a definitive role in the outcome.

The conventional pollsters are squabbling among themselves because of the hugely contradictory findings of their surveys. Some of discrepancies have to do with unique nature of the election. Some have to do with the difficulty of determining who is a likely voter. And some have to do with the difficulty of measuring opinion among Latinos. For pollsters, Latinos pose cultural and language barriers. They do not own phones at same the rate as Anglos while phone interviews are the tool of choice of pollsters. Even counting them accurately is no snap; just ask the US Census. Pollsters use various tools to compensate for those difficulties. But something remains awry in the polls in this election.

A few days ago, another poll surfaced that did not attempt to predict the outcome of the election. Instead, it attempted to measure opinions in the minority communities about issues in the election. The numbers of each minority surveyed were dramatically larger than those in the usual polls.

Called the 2003 Multilingual Survey of California Voters, it showed that Latino sentiment is much stronger for Bustamante (57 percent) and weaker for Arnold (13 percent) than many believe. It also showed that 45 percent of Latinos favored the recall, compared to 56 percent of Anglos, with 8 percent of Latinos undecided. When Spanish speaking Latinos were measured, the margins favoring Bustamante and against the recall shot up.

These findings become more important because of the many questions about the electorate in this election. A larger than normal turnout is expected. But we do not know which segments of voters are going to show up. Voter registration is up, but we do not have a good grasp on who those people are. Are they Latinos? Have they voted before? Why are they registering now? To cast a vote against the crooks or because a Latino is on the ballot?. The number of persons calling themselves independents is also up among the newly registered. Which way are they going to go?. What about the voters who sat out the last gubernatorial election? Who are they and who are they going to vote for?

Likewise turnout among Latinos is unknown, but if they vote in higher than past numbers, the findings of the multilingual poll may come into play. That could be a big surprise bonus for Davis. If it isn't big enough to reject the recall, it could make Bustamante the next governor of California.

For a different take on the poll results, see

The poll was sponsored by The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute and the Institute for Justice and Journalism, both at USC, and Pew Hispanic Center and New California Media.

Facts, Food and Racism

I am no Bustamante fan. If I could vote, the lieutenant governor would not be on my list of reasonable possibilities. But I think Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee has really done Bustamante a disservice. He has accused Bustamante of playing the "race card" based on an English translation of a Spanish interview on Univision, a Spanish language TV network. Weintraub also picked up a poor translation of a Spanish sentence to headline his blog and made Bustamante appear the fool. Weintraub's comments were based on a copy of the Univision interview in both English and Spanish that was shipped by the network to reporters.

The term race card is a harsh term that has been applied to white candidates who have used negative black images to frighten voters. Weintraub applies it to Bustamante because Bustamante says that criticism of contributions from Indian gambling tribes is sometimes based on "racial discrimination," the expression used by the questioner. While Weintraub charactarizes Bustamante's statement as a "race card," I am pretty sure that Weintraub would agree that at least some small portion of the opposition to Indian gambling and Bustamante's candidacy is based on racism. It is pretty clear that Bustamante can be accused of pandering to Latino viewers, inaccuracies and general bungling. But accusing him of playing a "race card" is over-reaching, to put it mildly.

Which brings up the second item about the headline on Weintraub's blog -- "They are against food."

That is a correct version of what appears in the English version of the interview. And it meant that Bustamante said Republicans were against food, if you believe the translation. However, I think it is a very poor translation of what Bustamante said. This involves the difference between literal and idiomatic translations. You can translate some literally, but it will be completely inaccurate. There are certain expressions and concepts in both Spanish and English that are nearly impossible to translate faithfully to the other language. While I am no expert on Spanish, I do have a working knowledge of the language. The translation offered by Univision was faulty; it made no sense. It should have said something along the lines of "they are against good nutrition."

Weintraub is a columnist, and his business is opinions. That said, he is pretty scrupulous about what are generally called facts. The race card business is something having more to do with opinion than facts, but the "against food" quote is another matter entirely.

Click here for Weintraub's blog, which links to the translation he used.

Rough & Tumble Keeps the Lights On

From Elverta in California to Iceland and Thailand, they are reading Rough and Tumble, the news tip web site that specializes in California politics and government. And they are going to the site in record numbers.

On a typical day, for example Tuesday Sept. 30, the site generated more than 25,000 page views as political junkies around the state and nation sat down with their computers and coffee to find out what is going on with the California recall election. That pushed the total for the month of September to about 577,000, a bit shy of August's record 606,399 but way beyond last November's 97,464. The daily record of 34,354 page views was set on Aug. 7, the day following Arnold's announcement By the time the campaign is over, the numbers will clearly be a record for a single election.

Political consultants, academics, politicians, journalists and the interested citizen have made R&T their tool of choice because it offers short summaries of stories in California newspapers, along with links to the stories. Other major national newspapers are listed from time to time as they write about California matters.

R&T is the brain child of Jack Kavanaugh of Sacramento. He has been a television reporter and host for 30 years and earned two Emmy awards. He began the site a few years back as the Web began to take off as a political information tool.

R&T is supported by advertising. "Without the ads, Rough & Tumble, as we know it, would have to go away. The site provides enough revenue to keep the lights on and the dog fed," Kavanaugh told us by email.

The attention the site has drawn since the beginning of the recall is extraordinary. The counts are also publicly accessible and tracked automatically by an outside firm called Webstat. (It is unusual for commercial sites to share such information widely.) Most of the readers are from the Sacramento area and California. But significant numbers are in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere around the nation. One wonders about the lone reader in Thailand.

The page view numbers are the largest, but the unique visitors numbers are probably more significant. They are about as close as you can get to measuring individual persons. That figure for August was 128,713, with many obvious repeats. During September, the number of visitors averaged about 4,000 with the number dropping to about half that on Saturday and Sunday. During the week, the numbers ranged from the high 4,000s to the low 5,000s. Most of them come to the site during the morning hours. Kavanaugh updates the site during the day as well, on a bit of a varied schedule.

Kavanaugh said, "I do Rough & Tumble because policy and politics and media capture my imagination. And there is a need to get public policy info out to as many as possible. I try to save people time, if I succeed, they are exposed to more info."

R&T is not Kavanaugh's only enterprise. He does media training for the University of Phoenix, Sutter Hospitals and others. He also writes a monthly column on TV and politics in Political Pulse.

Imperial Valley Watch Day 6

This series is an effort to track developments in and inform readers about the Imperial Valley, the bellwether county for gubernatorial elections since 1982. In each election since then, the county has voted for the candidate who was elected. See story Sept. 29 for more details.

Top Headlines

Members of the Calexico City Council and the Calexico Unified School District board keep talking about building a pool on the west side of town.

The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on 15-year-old murder victim Jovita Becerra testified the victim suffered pain while being stabbed 49 times by her murderer.

(No locally written stories on the recall on the web site, only streaming wire stories.)


Thirty-two percent of the population is foreign born. Three percent work at home, and 3.7 percent walk to work.

Celebrity connection

"You must not forget Iris Collen Summers, aka Mary Ford of Les Paul and Mary Ford fame in the 1950s. Mary was raised in El Centro and attended CUHS. She dropped out of high school at age 17 to join a country band, sang with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, etc. and married Les Paul in the late forties. Rock and Roll did them in. She passed away in 1974." (Contribution from The Old Country Lawyer in the Valley.)

Sunset Date

Taking a tip from Tom McClintock, who prefers sunset dates on legislation, this column has a sunset date -- Oct. 9. The last item will appear on the Wednesday following the election. If you have any secret or festering questions about the Condor, here is your chance to get them off your chest. Answers will be published Oct. 9.
Time for a New Truth-Telling Standard

Where are the brave hearts of the press in this campaign who claim to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted?" They are nowhere in sight, at least on the important issue of the tax burden on the California poor.

It's not like it hasn't been presented to them. But newsies sometimes seem to find greater pleasure in reporting campaign gamesmanship than in focusing on the main matter.

The facts are that California households that have $18,000 or less in annual income pay 11.3 percent of their income in taxes. That compares to the top one percent of households that have $567,000 annual income yet pay only 7.2 percent of their income in taxes. The taxes include all taxes -- income, sales, property, excise, etc. The figures were developed this year by the California Budget Project, a group which has no apparent major ax to grind. The reason for the relatively heavy burden on the poor is that they have to spend a greater percentage of their income just to survive.

Green Party candidate Peter Camejo has pointed out this gross inequity multiple times during the campaign. But the mavens of the media seem little disturbed by the blatant unfairness of the situation. I have to confess that when I heard the figures for the first time a few weeks ago, I was surprised and thought Camejo misspoke. Isn't the state famous for its progressive taxes, I thought. It is, but progressive only applies to income taxes.

When it comes to the total tax burden, not only are the poor treated badly, but middle income taxpayers get stung as well. Households with $30,000 to $47,000 pay 9.2 percent of their income, compared to the 7.2 percent that the wealthiest pay.

Instead of stories about how the vast majority of households are treated unfairly by California's tax system, our finest reporters write endlessly about Republicans complaining about how helpless California businesses, which spend tens of millions of dollars lobbying each year in the Capitol, are overtaxed. But then we also hear Tom McClintock, in the first debate, say businesses don't pay taxes, consumers do. His point, also a favorite of Ronald Reagan, is that the cost of taxes is passed along in the form of higher prices or lower wages or both. All is sacrificed except for the almighty profit margin. Nonetheless, Tom, you can't have it both ways. If taxes are a burden to businesses, they have to "pay" them.

Our leading Republican candidate also makes a great deal to do about how we are taxed from the time we flush the toilet in the morning until we go to bed at night. Arnold says the state budget should not grow faster than the family budget. But as Mark Paul, deputy editor of the Sacramento Bee's editorial pages, pointed out in the Bee's editorial board web log, Fly on the Wall, during the last decade the state budget actually fell behind the family budget.

I realize that there have been a number of stories pointing out the distortions, untruths, etc., in some candidates' blather about the California economy. But nothing really changes in the daily stories. The litany of the campaign -- taxes are too high, the economy is collapsing, the governor actually can do something about it -- becomes the litany of the front page.

I propose a new standard for the minions of the media. Next time a candidate says the California economy is collapsing, the immediate next sentence should say that is a lie. Okay, maybe that is a little harsh. The sentence should say it is untrue.

Next time a candidate says he can rescue the state's economy, the next sentence should say that is untrue. There is almost nothing a governor can do over the short term to affect the California economy.

And next time a candidate says taxes are too high, the next sentence should say, yes, they are too high on the poorest Californians but too low on the well-heeled gentry who pump millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates who service them rather nicely.

Imperial Valley Watch: Day Eight

This series is an effort to track developments in and inform readers about the Imperial Valley, the bellwether county for gubernatorial elections since 1982. In each election since then, the county has voted for the candidate who was elected. See story Sept. 29 for more details.

Top headlines

--Four people killed and 20 injured Sunday in the desert after the vehicle they were in blew a tire as the driver tried to evade U.S. Border Patrol agents.
--Schools cracking down on junk food (Imperial County has one of the state's highest childhood obesity rates and the second-highest rate of type 2 diabetes, which primarily stems from obesity.)
--Schwarzenegger endorsements putting squeeze on McClintock.

Local opinion -- Pat McCutcheon, a retired resident of Westmoreland, writes in the Imperial Valley Press, "It seems that every time we pick up the Imperial Valley Press lately someone is complaining about Hispanics (Mexicans) speaking Spanish. If the readers who complain would look around they'd see that Hispanics are the majority, Anglos are the minority….I'm shanty Irish by birth and by marriage, but my parents taught me to respect all nationalities because we don't know their stories, and because it's the right thing to do."

Recollections -- In a letter to the IV Press, Sandra Clary of Alexandria, Va., recalls growing up in Imperial, a tiny town by even Valley standards, but also home to the only commercial airport, "It was the very smallness of it that I loved so much: all the families at the Imperial Community Church who had known my grandparents and had known my parents as they grew up there; walking to the Circle K (even before it was on the highway) with change that my Uncle Jim had given to me and buying candy; attending 4-H and then FFA meetings in the school cafeteria; going to sleep with the sound of the stock car races from the fairgrounds in the background; the occasional meal at La Hacienda, seeing the same people who had been there forever, it seemed; walking across the runway at the airport, before there was a fence, to get to Mr. Worthington's house, where I kept my 4-H steers; being told how much I looked like my father and hearing all the stories of how people had been touched by small kindnesses extended to them by one or another family member."

(The Imperial Valley Press is at

Speaking of Truth-Telling

The view from Mexico about stories of illegal immigrants getting killed while trying to evade the Border Patrol is somewhat different than the view from the United States. We have lived in Mexico for the last five years. During that time, we have learned that many, if not most Mexicans do not trust their own law enforcement officers because of the well-known problems of corruption, police brutality and police connections with drug traffickers. Often, problems that would be settled by police in the US are not reported to the police and are forgotten or settled informally outside the judicial system because of the distrust. Combine that backdrop and the plentitude of horror stories about how illegals are treated in the US, and you have a tendency among Mexicans to believe the worst in such incidents as the one that left four Mexicans dead in the Imperial Valley desert. Many will believe that those four were simply murdered by patrol officers who then made up a story about a failed tire. Some of us may find such perceptions hard to fathom, but ours is not the only view of the world.
Monday, September 29, 2003
An Inside Look at the Bellwether County

If you are keen on knowing who will win the election next week, keep a sharp eye on the Imperial Valley -- if you know where it is.

Located in the only sub-sea level corner of California, it is a place of almost no rain but it has mud holidays. The opening of dove hunting season is nearly a holiday. And red-tag Levis are still the favored trousers.

As political insiders know, the fine people of Imperial Valley have voted for the candidate who was elected governor in every election since 1982.

Some reporters, such as Lori Aratani of the San Jose Mercury News, have made quick fly-ins to write "definitive pieces" about what makes Imperial voters tick. Few have plumbed deep enough. Until now, that is. With the help of former Valleyite Jerry Ingle, we are going to provide an in-depth look at the Imperial Valley, so-named because promoters wanted to attract land buyers eons ago. It is still a place that needs marketing.

A while back Ingle, now of Encinitas, put together a piece to help some amateur demographers grasp the true nature of the denizens of El Centro, which means the center in Spanish and which is also the seat of Imperial County, located in the most southeastern corner of California, abutting Mexico and Arizona.

While not everything Ingle compiled applied to all Valleyites, much of it did. Here are some of the characteristics by which Valleyites measure themselves.

You know a car will run on tractor gas.
You think crop duster gas will make your car go faster.
You know the major food groups are beef, fried chicken, and Mexican.
If lost, you look for the mountains to find West.
You call the refrigerator an ice box.
You know the four seasons are: summer, football, Christmas, and Fair Time.
Cold weather is under 70 degrees Fahrenheit..
Beer is hot if it is over 34 degrees Fahrenheit
You complain about the heat until an outsider does, then you tell them that it's not that hot.
You don't notice the smell of a cattle yard.
You think stores are "cooled by refrigeration", and air conditioning is only used on the coast.
You go to the show, not the movies.
"American Graffiti" is about your most favorite show of all time.
You never saw the irony of a drive-in restaurant named The Waikiki located in the desert.
Being a Valleyite is a bonus in social situations: If you mention El Centro or Brawley, someone always tells you, "My car broke down in the middle of the summer there one time, and the temperature was 125 degrees, and I about died, and I don't know why anyone would ever live in that place!"

As for the mud holidays, it takes only a fraction of an inch of rain to make rural dirt roads impassable. Thus mud holidays were declared at schools.

Because of the importance of Imperial County in determining the next governor, today we begin a feature called Valley Watch. Over the next nine days, we will scour the doings in the Valley and ask our Valley correspondents to keep us informed of significant trends and events as the election nears. The most important will be brought to Condor readers in countdown fashion each morning with their coffee and buns. Here is the first installment:

Valley Watch: Day Nine

Water -- A very big issue in the Valley, which is dependent on Colorado River water. The Sunday story was that the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors and the Department of the Interior have reportedly reached an agreement ending the lawsuit over this year's IID water order. This seems to be an important step in providing water to metropolitan areas in Southern California, but the story in the Imperial Valley Press was laden with incomprehensible jargon.

Politics-- Larry Grogan, an El Centro city councilman, said he would run against Imperial County Supervisor Hank Kuiper. Grogan, a pawnshop owner, said he would not be a pawn to special interests. The Imperial Valley Press did not report the political party of either man.

Descriptive background -- For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of visiting the area, here is how it is described when you drive beyond the lights of its big cities: 'There is hardly in the world a waste so barren but some creature will not cry out at night, yet here one was…." From the novel "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy

Celebrity connection -- The entertainer Cher grew up in Brawley, the second largest town in the Valley.

Population -- About 151,000, roughly two-thirds Latino.

California Rich with Immigrant Tradition

From Dan Smith of Sacramento:
"I think that what you fail to recognize about the present uproar over illegal immigration is that it is only another chapter in California's long and noble tradition of beating the crap out of whoever comes in the door last. Whether it was the anti-Chinese riots in LA in late 1800"s, the anti-Japanese laws in 1920-1930s, the police supported blockades of the Okies in 1930's, the Zoot suit riots in 1940s or any number of smaller reactionary incidents brought on by another wave of different looking or sounding individuals, this a part of our glorious state's history.

"I hope you are not suggesting that we all of a sudden become tolerant and accepting citizens.

Arianna a cocktail party candidate?

From Beatrice Reusch:
"In (last) week's debate Arianna was totally ungrounded, out of focus, mindless of the occasion so much so that she set a frivolous, cocktail-party tone for the whole debate -- while the state, the nation, the world looked on. Even though she had been given the questions in advance, she did not seem to have prepared any coherent answers or proposals.

"Or is it that she lost it because her guru controls her mind? She was utterly unable to break out of her gadfly personality. What a waste of a resourceful woman!

"As a Californian, a woman, and an independent, I feel betrayed by Arianna. I really do."

Different take on McClintock vs. Tony Hope

The Republican activist who produces the Irish Lass blog suggests that McClintock's long-ago lesson about being a good soldier for the benefit of the party was really something he did on his own. Read more here

Thursday, September 25, 2003
The California Sunset
Picture It Gone

The recall debates are over, for all practical purposes. Now we settle down to seeing what big money can do to with direct mail and TV advertising. Mailers are already dropping into voter households. Candidates are stepping up their TV ad schedules as the election day approaches.

And it may be that the best mailer wins.

This week's debate was pretty much the same dog's breakfast that voters have been served for decades. More histrionics, yes. A broader range of candidates, yes, including one with ostensible Hollywood appeal and an independent woman, but nothing really inspiring.

Most voters have already decided what they are going to do. But some need a push to make sure they vote. Those on the edge are going to need guidance and help.

That's where the mailers come in. They come right to your home. They address you personally: "Picture everything you care about, Karen.," says a mailer this week, along with a collage of warm, humanity-filled photos, including a couple strolling on a beach at sunset with two dogs off the leash. And then the mailer says, "Picture it gone."

How can Karen avoid this horrible fate? Return the attached postage-free, "vote-at-home card" immediately.

The card, an absentee ballot application, is already filled in with Karen's full name and address. The application, once signed, would be sent to First Americans for a Better California, Independent Expenditure Committee, PO Box 8325, Van Nuys, CA, 91499-4210.

The application requires a phone number and date of birth, which the First Americans will have after they receive it and turn it in to the registrar of voters. Of course, they will use the phone number to provide additional guidance to the voter. This particular mailer mentioned nothing about voting no on the recall. It had a full page devoted to Bustamante and his "humble beginnings" and how he is "one of America's most respected Latinos."

The "picture it gone" mailer is not something you can ignore in your mail. It is a four-page, full color production with your first name on the cover. It does not have to be opened as a letter would. The paper stock is extremely heavy, heavier than normal postcard stock. As for the cost, since I have been out of the business so long, I can't offer a really good estimate. But a very crude guess is $2.00 each, including production and all costs. Figure that millions are going out. (Correct me if I wrong, Richie Ross.)

Many political writers, over the years, have missed the impact of mailers, largely because mailers are not in the usual news arena of press conferences and speeches. Mailers also appear to be nothing more than junk mail, but they do work. Just as junk mail works, otherwise why would any business keep up with it. This year, mailers may be more powerful than in a normal election. That's because of the unusual nature of the ballot. It is extremely long and complicated and poorly designed. As we have commented before, it is so confusing that voters may vote for a recall when their intention is the exact opposite.

There is not a lot of history on complicated ballots and mailings, but Tony Quinn, a longtime and shrewd observer of California politics, wrote a piece about one election. If Quinn is right, "Picture It Gone" is only the beginning.

More on the debate

Aggressive, controversial, provocative -- All those of can apply to Arianna's performance during the debate. But there were a pretty fair number of commentators who applied more pejorative adjectives, such as irritating , shrill and cocksure. They were off the mark. The issue is how aggressive women are perceived. Huffington was no more aggressive than a man would be in her position. She was an underdog, below much of the news radar but well informed. She knew that Arnold's script was not based in reality. Was she supposed to sit behind her doiley and wait politely to be called upon? Indeed, few commented on how both Arnold and Bustamante repeatedly patronized her. At one point, Bustamante, as he smirked, seemed to be almost reaching out to touch her arm to ostensibly calm her.

Can You Believe This?

Here is a quote from the New York Times concerning the debate.
"Mr. Schwarzenegger did string together nouns and verbs and statistics. He cast out such phrases as "pre-election bogus," spoke of "pulling the wool over the peoples eyes," and of "three strikes and you're out." But he also demonstrated a knowledge of many of the issues facing the state."
The article was not labelled commentary, at least online. This is wonderful commentary for a blogger. But it ain't so great for a newspaper that pretends objectivity. The idiot child who wrote this paragraph is Charlie LeDuff. I can't blame him too much (reporters are like children, after all), but where was his editor? 
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Histrionics and Bluster
But Candidates Fail to Rise Above Expectations

Gray won. Nobody emerged as a leader from the pack of five. Few voters changed their minds.

There were plenty of histrionics, the new art form of politics, an outgrowth of TV political news shows in which supposedly intelligent people try to outshout each other. Some viewers found the display entertaining, others found it dismaying. Politicos should keep in mind that only a tiny fraction of the people have seen those appalling shows, and that kind of behavior is not acceptable in most living rooms.

Campaign debates rarely change the minds of any significant number of voters. This was no exception. None of the candidates rose above expectations. Arnold was not stellar. Bustamante was gray (pun intended). McClintock was a true believer. Camejo and Huffington were an entertaining and informative fringe duo.

Interestingly, the performance of the recall candidates may have pushed a few voters from undecided to no on the recall of Davis. Channel 5 in San Francisco had a panel of six voters who commented after the debate. Three said they had gone from undecided to no on the recall.

Part of their decisions seemed to be a reaction to the sometime rude interplay of the pack of five. Part also seemed to be a reaction to the rather ordinary performance and same old rhetoric of the candidates. The lack of a compelling voice for change can only stand to benefit the incumbent.

But, in one way, the format was inherently unfair to Davis. The primary question on the ballot is whether he should be recalled. Yet there was no one at the debate representing the governor's position. Bustamante made one stab at saying vote no on the recall. But his closing remarks significantly avoided mentioning a position on the recall.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown took part in the Channel 5 debate post mortem. He skewered Bustamante for failing to perform better.

Brown said much of Gray Davis' success is "the absence of quality in his opposition. He benefits again."

Weintraub Was Right

Let's give credit where it is due. Dan Weintraub of The Sacramento Bee came up with the idea for the format for the debate on Wednesday. And he was savaged mightily for what many complained was a dim-witted suggestion. But Wednesday's forum was spirited, lively and interesting albeit a bit bad-mannered. But it was easily superior to those dreary debates where candidates answer dreary questions from dreary questioners. Candidates should spar directly with each other. It is a better test even if it leads to rudeness that some would not want in their living rooms.

Recall's Most Imaginative Use of Technology

Dan Weintraub of The Sacramento Bee has posted an item on how Garrett Gruener is going to piggyback electronically on the campaign debate tonight.

So all you true geeky policy wonks are going to have to put your TV and computer side by side if you want to see all the action live. If you missed who Gruener is, he is a tech venture capitalist with a pretty interesting platform

Weintraub says, "Gruener will be in a separate building at Sacramento State University, with a television, a digital recorder and a web camera trained on him, and his own moderator. Gruener will answer any questions put directly to the candidates and then respond in real time to the discussion among the five who are allowed into the debate hall."

You can find details on Gruener's website and the full item here.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
A Preview of Arnold's Administration
Not a Pretty Sight

What kind of governor would Arnold really be? A question difficult to answer. But we do have some inklings based on a report last week.

In short, he would be a spendthrift with a slow-moving and bureaucratic administration. It would have more than its share of backstabbers eager to grab the money and run.

The clues came in a Los Angeles Times piece on Sept. 19 written by Mark Z. Barbarek and Joe Mathews.

A good portion of the piece was based on information from anonymous insiders in the campaign (true Arnold loyalists might call them backstabbers). They also were likely to have signed confidentiality agreements that legally bar them from making the kinds of comments they made to the Times. So one wonders about their motivations, although there are always information leakers in politics who seem to achieve their highest pleasure from whispering stuff in a newsie's ear.

At any rate, their comments do shed some light on how Arnold might govern and lead the state.

Will Arnold have a fast-moving and efficient administration? Not likely, if the campaign is the pattern. The Times quoted an unnamed Republican operative familiar with the campaign's inner workings as saying, "They threw this thing together so quickly, and really they have too many people not doing enough. It's just a giant layer of bureaucracy on top of a layer of bureaucracy, which is not how a campaign should operate"

The Times also quoted a Sacramento strategist as saying, "The campaign is very slow moving. They put out word that certain actions will happen: They'll put out different plans, hold specific press conferences, and they don't happen."

Will Arnold have a frugal administration? Again, the Times article raises major questions based on the campaign's behavior. The campaign has $22 million budgeted for an eight-week effort. Two-thirds is for advertising. That leaves about $1 million a week for expenses and salaries. The Times said staffers are "being richly compensated. A handful of top strategists stand to make more than $250,000 each for roughly two months of work. A platoon of press aides, fund-raisers, researchers and policy advisors are all making substantial salaries." (It reminds me a little of one of Pete Wilson's staffers who had a limo carrying him around Sacramento until the public noticed.)

Will he have a loyal staff dedicated to good government? One has to doubt the loyalty of at least some who leaked information and negative commentary to the Times, apparently in violation of a contract that they had signed. Others are planning to leave after the campaign, just at the time when Arnold would be attempting to throw together something of an administration.

There are plenty of caveats to assuming that a campaign organization equals a gubernatorial administration. Infighting is not uncommon in campaign staffs, but it is not uncommon in executive mansions. Campaigns sometimes seem have more money to spend than do the gubernatorial administrations they aspire to become. Private jets or chartered aircraft are essential in campaigns in a state as large as California. They may even be essential for a governor. In both a campaign and a gubernatorial administration, a strong chief of staff is vital. He or she should have the complete backing of the candidate. Among other things, that person keeps the effort focused, stamps out destructive in-fighting and keeps the candidate from being bogged down with minutia. Based on the Times report, that position is not being filled properly if it truly exists.

Arnold had two main ways to go when he began his campaign. Run a very lean, well-focused group that hung together tightly for the two-month campaign. Or throw money at it, Hollywood style, packing it with a mishmash of characters who may or may not work well together. It seems he chose the Hollywood version.

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

As some of you know, the phrase above is the title of the section for reader comments. But I have been caught by reader David Kennerly, who writes,

"Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend."

- - - Mao

Might as well attribute it! (someone upped the ante on the flowers.)

Thank you, David, for the note. I was aware of the Chairman's original remark. I chose to use the version that was obviously corrupted by capitalists. I thought it would be more familiar to readers. But now my pandering has been found out. My re-education continues. Hence forth, the section shall carry the proper quotation.

Kennerly, a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer, is editor of, which is a unique Web graphic effort. Recall candidates have been supplied with a digital camera. In return, they are supposed to ship shots to the site for posting. Davis has. Arnold has. Bustamante hasn't. McClintock has. Mary Carey has. Larry Flynt hasn't.

Remember Tony Hope?
McClintock Does

Now that the dog's lunch of legalities is over, Team Arnold can renew its focus on Job One -- pushing McClintock out of the race.

They may have gotten an assist from Darrell Issa, whose millions put the recall on the ballot. Issa dropped out of the recall race, knowing that he had no chance of getting elected. On Monday Sept. 22 in San Francisco, he basically told McClintock that he should get out too.

The Chronicle had the best take on Issa this morning. Jeff Wildermuth reported that Issa said that that McClintock has admitted to him that it was unlikely he could win a one-on-one race for governor.

" 'It's incumbent for the one who can't get to a majority to drop out,' Issa said. 'If Tom is still in the same position, with about half of what Arnold has, he's the one who will have to make the hard decision.' "

Issa also said he would rather have Davis as governor than Bustamante, so he would vote no on the recall.

How this plays with McClintock supporters is hard to tell. A good portion of them are True Believers, who would rather be right than in office. This sort of political gamesmanship may be unpalatable to them. They might stick with McClintock out of spite, or they may just sit on their hands, not fully understanding that is tantamount to providing support for Arnold.

As for McClintock himself, David Broder of The Washington Post noted Tuesday that McClintock had one of what I call those life-altering experiences a few years back that will make it very unlikely he will withdraw.

Broder talked to a friend of McClintock's for the last 20 years. Here is what the unnamed friend had to say, "Tommy is a true believer. He once gave up running for the House because they convinced him he couldn't beat Tony Hope, Bob Hope's son, only to see Hope lose to someone else in the primary. He'll never make that mistake again."

But there is no doubt that Arnold needs McClintock out if he is ensure a win on Oct. 7.
Monday, September 22, 2003
The Dark Side of Mr. Sunshine

Just as Arnold announced his support of some fine policies that would open up government to more public scrutiny and understanding, he fouled himself.

On Saturday newspapers carried stories about his support of expanding the public's right to know more about the internal workings of the Legislature and the governor's office itself. But, on the same day, the LA Times reported that Arnold's campaign staffers must sign a confidentiality agreement that bars them from revealing virtually any information about their employer or "related parties." If they violate the agreement, they are subject to fines of up to $50,000 for each violation.

Arnold's proposed constitutional changes concerning public records are far-reaching. They would close loopholes that legislators and the governor have long used to hide public records that they may portray them in an unfavorable light.

He said current open records law leaves "the public in the dark." He indicated that there was no reason to shield the government "from the antiseptic of sunshine."

But then a darker reality intrudes. As you may recall earlier in the campaign, when time came to disclose his financial records, Arnold did so only grudgingly. He gave reporters only a limited amount of time to examine complex documents and would not allow them to be copied. This is a tactic to avoid a serious examination of his finances, although such an examination is what he ostensibly agreed to.

Now he comes with his endorsement of greater access to records on the day that the LA Times reports that he uses legal contracts to slap gags on the people who work for him. Such agreements are common in Hollywood to prevent colleagues from telling the truth in public about their employers.

Arnold's confidentiality agreement was secret and was not public knowledge until disclosed by the Times. Presumably the agreement was given to the newspaper by a staffer who is now subject to a $50,000 fine. The agreement bars Arnold's staffers from revealing "information and items relating to or concerning (a) Arnold Schwarzenegger and his family, friends, associates and employees (collectively, "Related Parties"); (b) private and confidential matters concerning Employer or any Related Parties; (c) financial, business, medical, legal, personal and contractual matters and (d) any letter, memorandum, contract, photograph, film or other document or writing pertaining in any way to Employer or any Related Parties," according to the Times story.

The question is who do you believe. The candidate eagerly seeking to be elected as governor of California and who endorses "sunshine" legislation to expoose skullduggery in the Capitol? Or do you believe the man who is so afraid of what his underlings might say, that he wants to fine them $50,000 for each statement?

In this case, Arnold is engaged in an incredible act of duplicity and hypocrisy. And it may be motivated by greed. He may want to insure that he is the only one who can author the definitive, insider book about his campaign -- one that is surely like to garner a handsome advance.

Mini-Flap Over Bee Blog -- Part 2

For those of you interested in an update on the set-to about blogger Daniel Weintraub, see His latest version includes an interview with Rick Rodriguez, executive editor of The Sacramento Bee. Kaus is still incensed but acknowledges that there may be a rationale to having an editor. The problem remains that it appears that The Bee caved into pressure, Kaus says.

One aspect of this flap that has not been touched on yet is the round-the-clock nature of Web news operations. Newspapers basically have one deadline a day with rigid, tradition-cloaked ways of looking at and handling the news. However, there is a model that can be used to look at both the Web news publishing business and blogging. That is the old wire service news business. Joe Alex Morris once wrote a history of UPI called "Deadline Every Minute." The title reflected the way news services approached the business. They were worldwide organizations -- still are -- and they have to move extremely fast with news because, somewhere, someplace around the world, a client has a deadline every minute. Having spent seven years at UPI, including four in Los Angeles (the Sirhan, Manson Family, Santa Barbara Oil Spill, Nixon Western White House period), I can assure you speed was paramount. We did not wait until the full body count was released by officials, we went with the best information we had. And then we kept updating, rewriting, etc., as more and better information came in. As for the question of "minders" in the Weintraub debate, the UPI standard was that at least one other person read the copy as it went out. But there were no lingering debates.

If Web publishers are worried about procedures and standards in a 24-7 news world, they might want to chat with their local news service reps. They probably can find most of the answers to their problems there.

Sunday, September 21, 2003
Mini-Flap over Bee Blog

A baby brouhaha has sprung up around the highly regarded and well-read political weblog by Dan Weintraub on The Sacramento Bee's web site,

Fellow political blogster Mickey Kaus, who writes for Slate on MSN, says that The Bee "apparently caved" to complaints from the Latino Caucus of the Legislature concerning remarks by Weintraub.

"So now readers of Weintraub's blog are not getting his unfiltered, up-to-the-moment thoughts. They're getting the thoughts that are approved by an editor--an editor who is now well aware of how sensitive the Bee is to complaints from powerful constituencies," Kaus wrote in his blog Sunday Sept. 21. It should be noted that Kaus has sharply criticized Weintraub in the past for his views.

Here is what happened with the Latino caucus and Weintraub, according to a column by The Bee's ombudsman, Tony Marcano: "Weintraub wrote (on Sept. 1) that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 'certainly owed his elevation to the job of Assembly speaker to his ethnic background and to the support he received from fellow Latinos. If his name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher.'

"Further, he (Weintraub) alleged, 'it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity.' "

"The caucus protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy.

"Make what you will of Weintraub's statement, and of the caucus' protests. No matter what I or anyone else thinks," the ombudsman said, "he has every right to analyze the political scene and reach those conclusions. But no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review. That doesn't necessarily mean that Weintraub's blog should have been reworded, but an editor should at least have had the opportunity to question his conclusions."

The ombudsman continued, "Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on"

Previously he had apparently filed it directly to the Web with little review. It also should be noted that Weintraub is not a reporter, but a columnist, whose stock-in-trade is opinion -- not facts. Nonetheless, he has many years of experience as a reporter and an excellent reputation in the business.

Kaus comments, "Even if the Bee's move is just for show--to placate the Latino caucus with a procedural reform--and even if the editors involved have privately assured Weintraub they won't change a thing, it will have an inevitable degrading effect on Weintraub's blog.

"The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference. What if Weintraub has a good idea at 7:30 P.M. and the editors have gone home? By the time they come back in the next day to "review" his idea, history may have moved on--the idea will be stale, even if it might have actually made a difference if it had been posted in time.

"But I actually doubt the editorial approval process will be completely benign. Read the ombudsman's pompous report ('no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review') and you can see an edge-dulling, anti-controversialist mindset at work that is inimical to sound and well-established blogging practices. As long as nobody's libeled, why not publish analyses without an editor's review? If an editor (or a reader, or another blogger) comes back with a good objection, Weintraub can get another item out of it!

"If Weintraub's too much of an anti-liberal blogger, add a liberal blogger! Don't supress them both under a smothering blanket of bureaucratic timidity!"

It was not clear whether the ombudsman's column's or Kaus' comments were edited by an editor who had either the authority or the "opportunity to question (their) conclusions."

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

The issue of illegal immigration is triggering additional comment. I suspect the matter will also rise in public interest as the recall heats up in the next couple of weeks. But before we go on, let me restate my main point. Illegals are not going to stop coming to the United States or California. Campaign rhetoric urging a halt is nonsense or worse, playing to bigotry. Politicians and society would be better served by educating the public about the issue as they propose various solutions to the problem.

Crack Down on Employers of Illegals

This from Jerry Ingle of Encinitas:

"No one blames the illegals for wanting a better life. Making it uncomfortable to be here illegally should be the priority. It is disrespectful and blatantly unfair to those who followed the rules and lawfully entered this country to extend the same rights, privileges, protection, and welfare to those who unlawfully reside here. As the man said, "Show me the money!".

"It's difficult to believe that illegals pay their way in taxes, as you claim. I'm not aware of any other country in the world that would extend reciprocal benefits. Look how the Mexicans treat other Latin Americans without proper papers; how they treat tourists who are stupid enough to break their laws.

"Oh yeah, the next time you are in Mexico, try to get a Mexican driver's license without using a U.S. passport or i.d. that show you there legally. If the hypothetical illegal alien Canadians you mention standing on the corners were straining the system and getting preferential treatment, you betcha we would complain!

"The waterfall, as you put it, will never stop flowing. There will never be economic equality in the current environment between the have-nots and the haves until all have very little. Other nations cannot be allowed to just keep sending us those people they cannot or will not help, or do not want.

"Here is where our government, even the smaller and leaner government I yearn for, should be protecting us and using all leverage at its disposal to force change to that effect. Laws with teeth for hiring illegals should be enforced. The money now spent for immigration and border patrol could pay for employer enforcement many times over. Because the Federal Government refuses to come to grips with the border problem is no reason for the state government to contribute to encouraging the influx.

"The hotel and agricultural industries can be weaned slowly; remember the "guest worker program"(braceros)? It may be The Condor's opinion that concern for the illegal problem is nonsense but this over-taxed citizen is having a tough time putting his head in the sand.

My position on illegals is that they contribute more to the economy than they receive in benefits financed by taxes.
Studies Require Heroic Assumptions

From Tom Tanton:

"I like the approach you've taken--essentially providing a forum for those that wish to comment on your originals. However, re the substance of your reply, I think you must have misunderstood at least some of my original points. I agree that much has been written, by RAND and others, but for the most part they are simply political musings or op-eds dressed up as economic analysis. I have read Steve Lopez' LA Times article of a little while back (citing in part the RAND study) and provided some comments to him (although I haven't heard from him, which is ok)--you're reply to my comments however illustrate my point--the 'conclusions' of the RAND study are so dependent on heroic assumptions as to make the conclusions meaningless at best, and deceptive at worst. One (of several) is the assumption that 'most illegals' are single young men with no family, and consequently draw little on schools and other tax funded services. Has that assumption ever been tested?

"Another is the concept that illegals also pay taxes which may be true, but only to a limited amount in sales and some use taxes. They do not have SS or taxpayer ID numbers by definition and cannot pay payroll taxes (which may be entirely different than having the 'tax' withheld by unscrupulous employers and simply kept)

"I do not think the supply/demand argument you make passes the 'laugh test' -- if there were simply a shortage of workers (supply) and a surplus of work (demand) driving the immigration--wouldn't the flux of immigrants diminish during periods of high unemployment such as we currently have, and increase during 'full' employment? Data suggests otherwise."

My argument is that cash goes where it is most appreciated, goods go where they are most appreciated and labor goes where it is most appreciated. Mexican labor is more appreciated in the US than it is in Mexico, so it goes to the US where pay is higher (economic appreciation). Re high unemployment vs. low unemployment, as you know, the employers of illegals contend they cannot get American workers for these jobs. What they really mean is that they will not pay the wages that would attract American workers. I suspect most illegals have only the foggiest notion of unemployment statistics in the US. Can you tell me what the unemployment rate is in Mexico without looking it up?

Re payment of payroll taxes, illegals sometimes have false Social Security numbers. I know. I hired an illegal once who had the documents. Only later did she admit that it was phony.

McClintock a Stalking Horse for the Left

Little visible movement on McClintock leaving the race, but rest assured that Team Arnold is hard at work. Check this site, MensNewsDaily, for how some Republicans view McClintock as a stalking horse for the left.

Friday, September 19, 2003
Replacement Four Eye Boob Tube Boycott

It's a first. Gubernatorial candidates declare they do not want their mugs on TV. What next? Flying pigs?

Okay, that's a modest exaggeration. But most of the major candidates to replace Gray Davis are considering boycotting a bigtime opportunity to peddle their political wares on TV. The replacement candidates --minus Arnold -- are irritated that the Sac State TV debate organizers have provided the questions in advance.

That would not ordinarily bother them. But since this is the only debate that Arnold has agreed to, the Replacement Four don't like the situation. Presumably the four think they can outfox the aging bodybuilder if he doesn't have advance notice. On the other hand, he might kick their patooties if he can memorize his script ahead of time.

Debate organizers say the show will go on, regardless. Imagine four empty chairs surrounding Arnold. The other candidates may be standing outside the hall at Sac State, venting their views there. TV stations will be elated. They will no longer feel compelled to carry the entire debate and lose all that advertising revenue.

Political consultants around the country are taking notes on this. New political ground is being turned here in California --from the courts to candidates turning down free air time to bans on political contributions(Arnold's latest proposal.).

While there is good humor in this boycott business, it also makes for healthy politics. By healthy, I mean politics that engage the people, which it hasn't for years, based on voter registration and participation figures.

Politics is important, regardless of the TV viewer numbers. It affects people's lives. But journalists and politicians have been marching in a tedious and boring lockstep for decades. Some fresh thinking is much needed. The recall election seems to be promoting that, perhaps one of its most important long-term effects.

In a bit of a side note, enmeshed in this is Dan Weintraub, political columnist for The Sacramento Bee. He was the one who suggested the advance questions, which actually isn't as bad an idea as it sounds. He has an admirable defense of it on the website.

One interesting thing about Weintraub's involvement is that he is involved at all. In the "old days," Bee newsies were forbidden to take part in public appearances or to be involved in matters such as this.. The order of the day was that reporters and editors did not make news. Ultimately that led to a great deal of misunderstanding about the newspaper in the community, and the policy was changed some years ago.

But being part of a public controversy is always an uncomfortable position for a newsman, even a columnist.

Click on this for The Associated Press story by Erica Werner on the looming boycott.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Go, George, Go

George Will provided an inspiration to us all in his column Thursday Sept. 18 in the Washington Post. He used the court doings to launch a wide-ranging and readable commentary. Here are a few highlights:

On Arnold: ."An already stale novelty."

On McClintock: "An incurably unflamboyant person" determined to summon California "up from infantilism."

On Bustamante: "Blazingly undistinguished."

On California: "The sick man of the Republic," a "nanny state" that needs discipline.

Conclusion: "Letting California ferment as a cautionary example of vulgar democracy would be best for California."

An Uproar Over Aliens

The "nonsense about illegals" item on Wednesday triggered an outburst from Condor readers. Some of their comments follow. But let me be perfectly clear about this, as President Nixon used to say, some folks are not keeping up on their reading about the issue of illegals. They also should read this column more carefully. They are ascribing certain statements to The Condor which, in fact, he did not express.

A great deal of material has been written over the last 20 years about the impact of illegal immigration on California and the United States. Much of the alleged research on the subject has been performed by advocates on one side of the issue or other. Do not trust either side.

Determining whether illegals are a net gain or loss to the California economy is difficult. The experts are constrained by the limitations of data. Illegals are hard to find. Just ask the Border Patrol. Their economic activities are hard to measure. That said, I think the weight of the evidence is that they are a net gain to the economy. That is different than saying they contribute more in taxes than they use in services. They are poor, and the poor consume more in government services than they contribute in taxes.

The fundamental facts are: Illegals are here, they are going to stay here, and no government is going to be able to stop more from entering, at least in the short term.

So here are some reader comments.

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

Editor's note: I am changing the headline on the Readers Write section to Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom. I am hoping the new title will provide inspiration to all.

On the Impossibility of Stopping Illegal Immigrants

From Tom Hall in Berkeley: "I liked what you said about the illegal immigrant issue, although I don't share your romantic view of the guys on the corner, and my assumptions about national borders and immigration are different than yours. I think the task we face is how to create humane conditions for those coming here looking for work -- and that includes Canadians."

Thanks, Tom, for your comment. I have no romantic ideas about day laborers on the corner. That comment was meant to reflect how others might view them.

David Langston wrote: "O.k. everybody can come here, do I have to pay for all their basic needs? What about my own care? There must be limits to what the late arrivals get. Don't give away the store helping, and that's happening now."

Thank you, David, for your comments. Illegals pay for their own basic needs, such as food and water and housing at even the very low wages they receive or just by collecting bottles and cans They even pay taxes.

Here is one example of how they pay for basic needs such as housing. It comes from the Wall St. Journal Jan. 10, 2002:

"After 11 years renting an apartment behind a Chinese restaurant in Duarte, Calif., Maximiliano Garcia moved into a four-bedroom, $150,000 house in a nicer residential area of the Los Angeles suburb. The mortgage is $1,200 a month, yet the 65-year-old Mexican immigrant earns just $300 a month collecting returnable bottles and cans.
As night falls and people come home from work, the economics of the Garcia household become clear. A young factory worker, his wife and their two young girls stop by the kitchen to get a snack. They rent two rooms at the back of the house. Mr. Garcia's 22-year-old son, Javier, who sells truck accessories, rents a bedroom off the living room. Another immigrant factory worker slips wordlessly past the bouquet of artificial red roses on the living-room coffee table into the bedroom next to Javier's. Finally, there's Maria Nevin, who peddles American clothes across the border in Mexico. She sleeps on an air mattress in the living room. Nine people live in Mr. Garcia's four-bedroom house. Everyone pays cash to Mr. Garcia, who gives the money to another son, a worker in a salvage yard, who then writes a check to the mortgage company.

"If everyone was separate, there would be no house," says Mr. Garcia with a smile.

From Tom Tanton: "You can't really be serious with your ranting about illegals. First of all it has NEVER been shown that they contribute more to the economy than they cost, in burdens on the economy. Your recent note indicates--"We know that illegals represent a tremendous economic resource and contribute more than they consume in taxes." In fact we DON'T know that, and indications are quite the opposite.

Relative to the state and local budgets (an important issue right now...) we do know they cost and, if in fact illegal, do not contribute a penny to the governmental budget (how many actually pay taxes?) Secondly, while I am a strong supporter of free markets in general, I cannot fathom your point that the onslaught of illegal immigration is the result of a free market--it is as much because governmental programs and free services are given to illegal aliens (and now the worst travesty of all--drivers licenses,) which are paid for by taxing me (and even the legal immigrants) which is by no stretch a free market.

"Yes, it is unlikely that the military will or should be 'redeployed' to reduce the porosity of the border, but increasing the difference between what it means to be here legally vs. illegally would in fact go a long way."

Thanks for your comments, Tom, who has me on one point. I should have made it perfectly clear that I meant that illegals contribute more to the economy than they consume in services paid for by taxes.

The RAND Corp. has done a great deal of research into the economic impact of immigrants. You can find plenty of studies at their site. But Steve Lopez of the Contra Costa Times did us a service in a piece on Aug. 31. He interviewed James Smith, a senior economist at RAND, who said that it is hard to break down the impact of illegal immigrants, but the numbers suggest undocumented aliens are a net gain. According to Smith, that's partly because they're likely to be young adults who come here alone to work, they pay sales taxes, and they don't have children in school at state expense. I should add that many also have state and federal taxes withheld from their paychecks, although many work in the cash economy.

A further note of explanation on the free market and immigration. Labor (supply) will flow to an area where there is a demand for work, just as dollars will flow to where there is a demand for capital. In the case of Mexico and the United States, even though there are restrictions on the free flow of labor, the demand is so high that labor flows towards the demand, regardless of the barriers.

Then there is this from a man who prefers to be described as an old country lawyer. He wrote this before the original immigration posting but he certainly want to see his views registered on the point.

"I think (your) evaluation of what will happen to the election campaign as time goes by, is a pipedream. Davis has been selling the state down the river right and left. Signing laws that would never have been passed absent this current crisis, in blatant pleas for special interest support.

"The people of California are not totally stupid. They can see what he is doing and they do not like it. Mexican-American voters are going to be especially pissed off by the Governor's reversal on the issue of drivers licenses for illegals, as well as the authorization of financial aid to illegals at our state universities. Mexican-American political groups have pushed for these things, but they do not represent the vast majority of Mexican-American voters, who are more conservative in their views than any other group.

"Mexicans here tend to be family oriented, hard working people who don't like having their money taken away in taxes. They are not all poor and stupid, as the Democrats like to make out, and they have shown in past elections that they will not support aid for illegals. He may get money for the campaign from these political groups, but he will not get the votes he hopes for."

The country lawyer also recall fights around El Centro high school in the Imperial Valley during the 1950s. "These fights were most often between those Hispanics who were citizens and had lived here for long periods against those who were either new-comers or illegals. That situation has not changed. The old traditional families do not like the illegals coming in and stealing their jobs. They do not like the Mexican culture of disregard for authority, vandalism, criminality, and ignorance that these new people bring to the fore. And I suspect that they will not like Davis assuming that he has their vote because he is moving to enfranchise illegals in every way he can. There will be a backlash.

"(You) also dismiss the view that the recall election is about Davis's competence or about the deficit, but rather that it is about experience and leadership. He has been away too long, methinks. The deficit is a result of Davis's incompetence, and the election is about who is best suited to replace him. His spending spree for votes is not endearing him to voters who are concerned with the deficit.

Thank you for your comments. I have never said this election is about experience. It is about leadership, which is a far cry from experience. A 35-year IBM bureaucrat has experience. That doesn't mean he is a leader.

I also should note that in five years in Mexico, I have not seen rampant "disregard for authority, vandalism, criminality." In fact quite the opposite. Most Americans we have met in Mexico agree. They feel safer in Mexico than they do in the United States.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Stop the Nonsense about Illegal Immigration

It's about the free market place. It is prosperity vs. poverty. And it is as unstoppable as the ebb and flow of the sea.

But once again, the tens of thousands of Mexicans who illegally enter the state each year are becoming a hot topic in California politics. Recall fever has caused the delirium.

Illegal immigration is a phony issue and plays to the worst in California citizens. Phony because no one really expects the federal government to be able to stop the tide of illegal workers who are quickly snapped up by American businesses. Fifty percent of our armed forces are already located overseas and not available to patrol the border. The bills for our military forays are coming due, making it totally unrealistic to expect that more billions will be spent to catch illegals.

Beyond that, the heart of the illegal immigration debate holds an ugly core. My mind wants to balk at blaming racism, latent or otherwise, for the opposition to illegal Mexicans. It is an uncharitable view. But few people would be complaining if 400,000 Canadians entered California illegally each year. Who is going to be upset by a bunch of Canadian day laborers standing on a street corner looking for work? They would be praised for looking for work instead of a handout.

We know that illegals represent a tremendous economic resource and contribute more than they consume in taxes. Entire industries, such as agriculture and the hotel business, would be devastated in California if they lost their illegal workers, which is one of the reasons why employers are not being regularly raided.

It's a federal wink to the purveyors, the enterprises that provide the rewards that illegals seek. We will just slap some controls on the border, the feds say, but you businesses can continue to violate the law.

It is hard to underestimate the draw that the United States has for Mexicans, who are struggling to improve their lot in a difficult economy that is riddled with inefficiencies. Unemployment is at record levels in Mexico. Border factories are closing as manufacturers move to lower cost locations in Asia. Middle-class Mexicans -- not to mention those lower on the rung -- find it difficult to take out bank loans to buy homes or cars. Interest rates are exorbitant. Instead of having lines of credits, Mexican businesses often find themselves having to make improvements only as they can collect cash from their customers. Pawn shops are big lenders to the middle class, who use them like Americans might use credit cards.

Take the case of Javier Gonzalez, whose small grain farm in the Yucatan has been ruined by a dry spell (He has no government-subsidized irrigation as many farmers do in California.) "I am thinking of moving to the United States," Gonzalez told the Wall Street Journal in a Sept. 16 story. In addition to drought, his operational costs are soaring. He complains that liter of pesticide costs $20 today, compared to $4 five years ago.

Then there is the vision of opportunity and high wages in the United States. Admittedly it is a gilded dream that is out of touch with reality. We have talked with scores of curious Mexicans over the last five years that we have lived in Mexico. They ignore what we say about the cost of renting a home in San Francisco. Instead they focus on what appear to be fabulous wages. And they all seem to know friends or family who are thriving in the United States.

This combination of poverty in Mexico and prosperity just to the north has created a movement not unlike a waterfall. Water will continue to pour over the edge until the levels are equalized.

Illegal immigration has snared California in a legal trap that is akin to the Prohibition of the 1920s. The law is one thing; reality another. What we need to do is better manage the problems associated with illegals. Society as a whole will benefit. But first we must face reality and stop the nonsensical rhetoric about illegal immigration.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
First Presidential Pique
Now Democratic Dismay

Golly guys, you should be glad for the relief. But no, at least some Democratic presidential types are peeved that they can't break through the California barrier.

The recall election is laying a something of a blanket on the fires of Democratic presidential aspirants, according to the New York Times on Wednesday.

In a piece by Adam Nagourney, Jano Cabrera, a senior adviser to candidate Lieberman, said the campaigns have been waiting for the first time this year to have the political field to themselves.

" 'It's a problem,' Mr. Cabrera said with obvious frustration. 'We've gone from Hillary's book to Gore-might-get-in to (Gen. Wesley) Clark to the California recall. The recall should have ended. If it keeps going, it's another distraction,' " the NY Times reported.

An anonymous Republican was quoted as saying, "The only way they can get ink is to do the equivalent of juggling fire. It creates a cloud which the only way to penetrate is to make your message incredibly strident."

Usually it is the other way around. California often has a hard time breaking through the East Coast media myopia unless an event fits the fruits and nuts stereotype. 
Sausages and Polls

"LA Times Poll Scandal?" the headline screams. Results seem to be tainted at the hands of politically correct editors at the newspaper. So goes Mickey Kaus' web log on the differences between the Field and the Los Angeles Times polls.

They are five points apart on whether voters favor the recall, among other differences. In a very unusual move, The Field Poll fired off its version of why the polls differ after the Times published its own version of the vagaries of polling.

Kaus, who does not like the folks at the Los Angeles Times, said it that the "LAT for some reason seems to have wildly oversampled non-white non-Latinos--i.e. blacks and Asians." He characterized Field's analysis of the differences as "a pretty convincing indictment. It resonates with the suspicion--hard to believe, but always present with the PC Times--that the results were somehow intentionally skewed."

If you really like to dig into the details of sausage-making and lawmaking and poll-taking, Field's analysis will be riveting. But Kaus' remarks on the matter seem a tad overdone.

How Well Did Arnold Do on Ophrah?

To find out, you should check the The Irish Lass blog, run by Julie Gallaher. She said that if she were writing for men, "I'd say Arnold's performance on the show was a grand slam, a hole in one, a touchdown and a three-pointer combined. But we're talking about the women's vote. It was a creme brulee/tiramasou/chocolate decadence with a glass of Villa Toscano Barbera."

The Irish Lass is a devote Arnold partisan and longtime Republican activist. Her blog does have a different perspective and can be fun to read. Here's her take on Arnold's speech to the Republicans during the weekend: "I didn't mention how great Arnold's speech was at the convention. I had a fabulous seat, front and center and he was marvelous. The speech was powerful, substantive, funny, inspirational ... everything one could have wanted. (And he looked very handsome)."

Readers Write

Was Bush Miffed?

Two readers differ with the account (Sept. 13 blog item) in Harper's magazine about Bush being miffed about the attention that the recall election is getting.

Julie Gallaher said she "watched the exchange between President Bush and the press about the biggest political story He didn't look irritated. He looked pleased at the opening they gave him. He used their comments to make a hit against the Democratic candidates for President."

Jerry Ingle of Encinitas agreed. "Lewis Lapham carefully chose his words to give the impression to readers that the President was being petty and shallow, according to what you quoted in The Condor. My opinions: Much ado about nothing. Lapham is obviously anti-Bush."

Republican Switch-hitting?

Ingle also commented, "Here's this common pragmatic Republican voter's leaning today: I fear Bustamante getting into the governor's chair more than keeping Davis. I thought recall was a bad idea from the beginning. From my conservative view point, Bustamante will do more damage as governor than Davis will. I may actually vote against recall if a Republican doesn't emerge as the likely winner over Cruz. This whole thing has very low uphill potential. I will wait until the last moment to make up my mind and be driven, Clintonian-like, by the polls."

One wonders whether there are significant numbers of others like Ingle who could pop up come election day. It won't take too many voters at the edges to create some big surprises.

Ingle also takes me to task for mispelling higgledy-piggledy and rightly so. There are variations on the spelling, but mine is not one of the ones listed. Thanks, Jerry.
Monday, September 15, 2003
The Politics of Higgely-Piggely

The next few days in the recall campaign are going to be pretty goofy in the wake of the court decision. It's all up in the air, but the play must go on. It's sort of like those challenges in professional football. Everything stops while men in funny outfits re-examine the issues. But in this case, the players still have to carry on -- not knowing for sure whether what they do is moot.

There will be a façade of normality -- candidates will make appearances, decline to answer questions and try to defend themselves. But campaign staffs will be chattering nearly full time about what the US Supreme Court might do. Tasks will be delayed or forgotten.

Some staffers will wonder about their jobs -- will they have one if the election is delayed until March. The burn rate (for money) is one thing for a three-week campaign and another for a 5 ½ month slog.

Some campaigns will have to begin at least a preliminary evaluation of whether they can maintain an effort financially for the longer campaign. It will be discouraging. The campaigns will also be re-examining their strategies, whether they still stand a chance in a March election, which is also a Democratic presidential primary.

If the US Supreme Court upholds a delay until March, my take is that Gray Davis is almost a shoo-in. The boy is no dummy. He knows what he needs to do to repair relations with voters and he will do it.

Time will pass. The economy will improve. Voters' attention will turn to the new movie releases, pro football, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, sunny vacations away from the dreary California winter. They have been overstressed, politically speaking, in the past few weeks. It will be a relief to assume their usual laid back California postures.

Arnold will begin to wonder whether he really has to do this 24-7 campaign thing. It ain't no fun for five months. Plus he will really have to crack the books on government and policy. And, boy, are they dull.

And overseas, our foreign brethren will once again puzzle about those crazy Americans and their higgely-piggely political practices.

Sunday, September 14, 2003
The McClintock Matter:
Arnold's Big Test

Arnold's biggest leadership test is upon him, and he is not yet even governor. The challenge is to remove one of the key stumbling blocks to becoming governor -- Tom McClintock. How Arnold handles the matter will tell a lot about how he would govern -- far more than any number of position papers or debates.

As readers of this web log know, the main issue in this race is leadership (see Aug. 20 item). Voters are looking for a person with a confident vision who will provide hope that solutions can be found to the problems affecting their lives and California. The issue is not the budget or auto license fees. Those and matters like them are just minor digits in a larger equation.

Without cutting too fine a point, the polls basically indicate that McClintock's presence in the race splinters Republican voters and severely endangers Arnold's chances of getting elected. With McClintock out of the race, Arnold has a much easier time.

Arnold has already set the stage for the elimination of McClintock. The former weightlifter has put himself above the fray and appealed to the gods of Republicanism -- Reagan and Nixon. He invoked their names at the Republican convention in Los Angeles during the weekend. And he uttered these lines, which were quoted in virtually all the major newspapers.

"We as Republicans have a choice to make: Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided? Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles or let the liberals win because we are split? Are we going to fight Davis and Bustamante or are we going to fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory."

With that Arnold took the high ground, a good position for a leader. He also has said he has not personally asked McClintock to quit the race. And he has treated McClintock with respect when they have met.

That said, it is difficult to see how Arnold can ease McClintock out of the way without causing a great deal of damage. But as you read this, Arnold and his staff are trying to do just that. Here are some of the questions they are addressing or should be addressing. They are the types of questions that governors and others who would be political leaders must deal with on a regular basis. How well they address them in a given case is what makes them good leaders.

How can we do this without damaging our voter base and alienating voters who prefer McClintock? We want them on election day; we want them when we have to deal on hard issues with the legislature and special interests.

How can we do this without damaging McClintock. This is closely related to the question above, but it also deals with McClintock personally. He will still be a very respected and senior member in the State Senate after Arnold is elected. He can be ally or a vicious enemy then. Besides that, we think he is a nice guy.

If we can't do this without damaging the voter base or McClintock, how much damage can we inflict and still get elected.

How can we do this quickly? The pain increases the longer it goes on. It also makes Arnold look weak.

What is McClintock all about? Is he purely an ideologue or a political horse trader? Can we offer him something? Support for higher office, a policy promise or ?

What is his constituency about? Will they follow Arnold if we draw and quarter Tom? If Tom drops out, can he deliver them to Arnold?

Is there something really unfortunate in McClintock's life, past or present, that could be used to force him out? If there is, after all, Democrats are likely to find it out as well and expose it to the public.

If there is dirty work to be done, who is to do it? Team Arnold staff? Or can we make it look like it came from the left? What happens if we get caught using the left to besmirch McClintock? Or better yet, let's have it come from conservatives.

How can we assure that no blood is spattered like so much egg on Arnold's sport coat?

Some of these are ugly matters, but please be assured they are matters which come up with some regularity in politics and governance. And they seem to come up with greater frequency today as more and more ideologues on the left and the right are elected to office. Ideologues -- let's call them true believers -- are not inclined to respect their opponents or to be willing to compromise since some supremely higher force or principle rules their personal and public lives.

But as for Arnold, the McClintock matter will tell us a great deal about how he would act as governor. It will show us his skills in handling the many true believers who populate the Legislature. It will show us whether he can do what is necessary to win -- achieve power, without which a leader is nothing. It will show us something about whether he has picked a good staff, which is critically important for a leader. And it will show us whether he knows how to do this in such a manner that it is a lesson for all those who would cross him in the future. He can fumble, stumble and bobble or he can move quietly with precision and swiftness.

And after that is done, he must crush Gray Davis.

More re Ballot Confusion

I should have noted in my Sept. 12 item on the ballot confusion that the ballot I saw was from San Mateo County. The potential for confusion is equal to or worse in other counties, which have different ballots. 
A Great Tidbit

Dan Weintraub has a wonderful item from Clinton's speech in Los Angeles supporting Gray Davis. As of this writing Sunday night it had not appeared in either The AP or Reuters stories. It is the kind of comment that rarely gets reported in daily coverage by reporters focused on "news."

The bottom line on the item is that after Gray Davis left Jerry Brown as his chief of staff years ago, Brown offered Clinton the job. You can read the full item here.

Saturday, September 13, 2003
What About Me?

So what does George Bush really think about California's recall election. Well, it turns out that he is a little miffed.

Writing in the October issue of Harper's magazine, Lewis Lapham reported about how Bush was surprised at a news conference Aug. 13 by the temerity of a reporter who said the California recall was the biggest political story in the country.

Here is the exchange, according to Harper's:

"The President (insulted): It is the biggest political story in the country? That's interesting. That says a lot. That speaks volumes.

"First reporter:..You don't agree?

"The President(irritated): I don't get to decide the biggest political story. You decide the biggest political story. But I find interesting that that is the biggest political story in the country, so you just said.

"Second reporter: You don't think it should be?

"The President (cute and sarcastic): Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories. Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up."

The October issue of Harper's also has worthwhile essay on American political journalism. Author Gene Lyons begins it with a nifty but borrowed quote that he applies to political journalists: "They're either at your trouser buttons or at your throat."

Unfortunately, neither of these stories were posted online at the time of this writing, but here is a link to Harper's.  
Friday, September 12, 2003
Poorly Designed Ballot:
Some Voters Will Be Confused,
Davis Penalized

It's the usual morning chaos on Oct. 7. You are rushing to take the kids to school and then speed off to work. But this morning, you also want to vote in the recall election. It won't take long.

Zip into the polling place, grab the ballot. Top item is Gray Davis -- yes or no. You vote yes, because you think the recall is a bunch of hooey. But just in case he does get ousted, you also want to vote for Arnold. But where is he on the ballot? Four pages of candidates and they are not in alphabetical order. You look at your watch. You are going to be late for that 9 a.m. appointment with a client. You give up without voting for a successor. You rush out the door, almost throwing the ballot at the precinct workers.

Later when you return home from work in the evening, you pick up your sample ballot (if you still have it), disgusted because it was impossible to find the candidate you wanted to vote for. Suddenly you realize your yes vote at the top of the ballot was actually yes on the recall -- not yes on Gray Davis.

"Why are they doing this," you yell at your husband.

The fact is that the ballot is badly designed. Whether the format is required by law or regulation, some voters are going to vote yes on the recall when they think they are voting to retain Gray Davis. Part of the problem is that Gray Davis' name is bold-faced in the first question on the ballot. The other part of the problem is that you usually vote for a candidate. In other words, a yes vote means you favor the candidate.

But in this case, a yes vote means you are against the governor. A no vote means you are for him.

Get off it, you are probably saying. The question is clear on the ballot: "Shall GRAY DAVIS be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?" How can anybody be so stupid as to not understand what that means?

The answer is that not everyone reads every word. Sometimes they are in a hurry. Sometimes they don't understand every word. We are also trained all our lives to take clues from graphics. If it is in large, dark letters, that is the most important thing -- GRAY DAVIS. Then the next large dark words are YES and NO.

New voters or those who don't often vote are likely to be more confused or discouraged by the format.

As for the candidates seeking to replace Davis, I suspect there is going to be a big fall off in voting participation on those choices. Out of every 100 who vote on the recall question, 10 or 15 are going to give up when they try to find their successor candidate. The list is very unfriendly. When I scanned it, I passed over Arnold's last name twice before finding it. And Arnold's last name is really big and unusual.

I am not saying this problem should hold up the voting. One of the best things about this election is that it is short. But the design of the ballot is going to impose a penalty on Davis and be a burden to harried and new voters.

(I should have noted that the ballot version I saw was from San Mateo County. It varies from county to county. From what I understand the potential for confusion is worse in other counties. This from 9-14.)

Good News for Gray
Bad News for Arnold
And Then There is Mom Feinstein

You can almost hear the cheers of joy and cries of confusion from the corner office of the state Capitol. The recall election is a toss-up, according to the latest poll from the Los Angeles Times.

A few weeks ago, even Democrats were rather unkindly calling Gov. Gray Davis road kill. But now, The Times reports for the second time since the recall was placed on the ballot that only about 50 percent of likely voters favor ousting the governor. While it is difficult to compare polls by different organizations, the Field Poll earlier this week reported an improving position for the governor, which accounts for the gubernatorial cheers.

Nonetheless, Field still showed 55 percent of voters favored Davis' recall. And a Stanford poll (see below) showed even higher numbers for the recall, which certainly has to trigger confusion about the whole mess.

In the succession race, Bustamante is ahead with 30 percent, but slipping. Arnold has 25 and McClintock has 18, up nicely. One Republican already has been quoted as saying the state Republican convention this weekend is going to be a bloodbath. That may be putting it mildly. Team Arnold is going to pull out all the stops to push McClintock aside so that the Republican vote will not be splintered. But conservative Republicans are becoming more and more encouraged and less and less likely to support McClintock's withdrawal given his improved standings.

The Times poll is chock-a-block full of other interesting stuff about voter opinions, which we deal with later. But in addition to the main poll story, check out a very informative piece by David Lauter on why polls vary so widely.

An aside on the Field Poll, some folks were reporting that Davis was 15 points behind because the poll showed that 40 percent of voters favor his retention compared to 55 percent favoring his recall. The real spread is about five points. The best way to look at these numbers is what Davis needs to do to win the election, which is to reduce the 55 percent number to less than a majority. That means he only has to shave off about 5 percent of those pro-recall voters. And that is exactly what the terrific Feinstein TV ad is aimed at -- Mom talking sense to the kids.

Text of the actual Times poll here.
This is a foray into the wilds of California's first-ever gubernatorial recall election. It will leave the usual, mundane coverage of the campaign to the media's finest and, instead, pick over the carcass. Your comments or questions are invited and will be posted in edited form if they are sufficiently interesting, regardless of whether they agree with the Condor. Please send them to
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    The Condor is written by David Jensen, a former, longtime newsie in Sacramento. He was a political reporter for UPI and worked for 22 years for The Sacramento Bee in a variety of editing positions, including editing the 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning series, "The Monkey Wars." Jensen served in the 1974 election campaign and administration of former Gov. Jerry Brown. (Total time served: Two years and one week.) He no longer lives in California. Instead he lolls about on a sailboat on the west coast of Mexico.

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