The Condor: California Recall
Friday, October 10, 2003
  Condor Recall Blog in Suspension
This blog on the California recall has been suspended. For unknown reasons, the dates on the items are incorrect. For additional information, you can reach David Jensen, producer of the blog, at Thank you. 
Thursday, October 09, 2003
The Cream Is In Motion

Arnold's successful candidacy and the first ever recall of a California governor have set the stage for a 10X transformation of California politics, one that will ripple across the nation.

What is a 10X change? It is the alteration that turns cream into butter. If you stir water rapidly, it goes faster but it still remains water. But if you stir cream fast enough, it becomes butter -- a 10X change.

Prop. 13 was a 10X change in politics. In business, Napster, which pioneered swapping music files, set the stage for a 10X change. But like some change leaders, Napster ultimately lost out, falling victim to the powerful forces it set in motion.

Arnold put the cream in motion this week in California politics. Or perhaps we should say Republican congressman Darrell Issa did, by financing the drive to gather the recall signatures. Issa already has lost out.

One of the characteristics of 10X changes, a concept that originated with Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, is that many of the consequences cannot be foreseen. Some can, however. So what are the likely 10X changes in California's political landscape?

* An end to the sanctity of incumbency. No California governor will be safe again from the threat of a recall by any group that can raise a few million dollars, which is chicken feed in today's politics. Then there are the other states with recall provisions or ones that may enact recall laws. Political guerrillas will make it part of their satchel of weapons.

*Development of new models for political campaigns. The recall campaign was very short. Out of it will come one or more prototypes for "shock and awe" campaign blitzes. They could endanger the old campaign models -- the ones in which candidates for offices from the presidency on down perform weird mating dances for years as they court voters.

*A constant search for candidates with built-in star or celebrity appeal, such as Arnold and former President Reagan. The wealthier the prospective candidate, the better. Not that they have to come from Hollywood. U.S. Sen. S.I. Hayakawa had that built-in recognition. Lack of government service lessens the negatives and number of political enemies.

*Increased attention to the "minority," as in small groups with cash and devoted members who might take political action if they are irritated. The new wariness will accentuate the existing aspects of California politics that make it a government by minority. Arnold won with only 17 percent of total eligible voters, which is about the same as Gray Davis' 16 percent last year. A minority in the Legislature controls passage of the budget because it requires a two-thirds vote. Even local schools cannot raise funds for new schools because of requirements for approval by a super majority of voters.

At an early stage in the campaign, Willie Brown, Democratic mayor of San Francisco, predicted that a successful recall would mean "chaos." The results certainly mean chaos to those comfortable with the existing political game. It may mean bad government as well.

The story will continue to move very quickly until at least January, when it could get bogged down like everything else does when the Legislature comes back in regular session. Perhaps sooner, if Arnold calls a special session. But there is talk already among some disgruntled Democrats of an effort to recall Arnold. Will the political changes that he has pioneered lead in some perverse way to his own downfall? Probably not, but we do know that Arnold has not acted in many Western films. Otherwise he would know that the pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs.

(The subject of 10X change was first explored here Aug. 11.)

Politics and the Web
Money to be Made?

Beyond its political results and implications, the California recall demonstrated the value of the Web in conveying political information to a core audience. Value both in terms of readership and potential profit. Rough and Tumble, the electronic clipping service, and Dan Weintraub's blog from were exemplars.

Weintraub's blog was unique among California newspapers, or, for that matter, newspapers around the country. There may be another political columnist for a major newspaper blogging on the newspaper's website, but I have run not across him or her.

Weintraub provided information early and often that would not have been available to readers until the next morning's paper. It reflected favorably on The Sacramento Bee by showing its readers that the newspaper was willing to relay the news before it was old and stale. Weintraub also provided information that would have normally wound up on the newsroom floor. Nonetheless it was valuable to thousands of readers. He set a standard for high level blogging that will be hard to match. And other newspapers are sure to launch their own blogs based on Weintraub's performance and appeal.

The future of blogging sponsored by newspapers, however, is still unpredictable. In many ways blogging -- unreliable and opinionated in its raw, original form -- is antithetical to newspapers, which operate under almost ancient traditions that are guarded by the high priests of the newsroom. Their holy writ is credibility, as if ONLY material published by newspapers is credible. However, blogs have particular virtues that newspapers cannot match. They are much, much faster with news than newspaper. And they have a spontaneity and freshness that are more in keeping with today's readers. That can stir up trouble, even with Weintraub, who obviously respects the tenets of journalism. At one point during the campaign, The Bee began to edit Weintraub's blog before it appeared on the Internet. The move triggered a tiny tempest on the Web, with some claiming that Weintraub was being censored. One blogger, Mickey Kaus, said Weintraub had been given a "minder."

There were indications, however, that the flap inside The Bee had more to do with jockeying between various departments than questions about Weintraub's performance. The newsroom and the editorial board, where Weintraub works, have traditionally marched on different paths. The newspaper's website was also initiated some years ago by the marketing department -- not the newsroom, although it is managed by former top level news room editors. At any rate, Weintraub's blog did not seem to suffer from having a "minder."

Rough and Tumble, an advertising-sponsored site, enjoyed record numbers of readers during the election. It chalked up about 1.4 million page views for August, September and October through Oct. 8. That translated to an average of more than 4,000 unique visitors per day, which is about as close as you can get to individual readers. That daily average probably reflects the hardcore audience for California political news, meaning the group that has its livelihood tied up in politics. You can see R&T's figures by clicking here.

Jack Kavanaugh operates R&T out of Sacramento. I asked him to elaborate on how he makes choices on what news and commentary he links to each day. For example, why the Riverside paper rarely appears in his links. Here is his response:

"Commentary is a judgment call. I avoid it if at all possible because I've found that readers of commentary seem to read only those commentary pieces that they agree with and there is little cross pollination of ideas. However, in the context of the recall, the commentary pieces can indeed add perspective to what's going on. Some commentary pieces are news as in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger's piece in the Wall Street Journal. Whenever I post commentary I'm very careful to balance it with other views. If readers of Rough & Tumble get a whiff of a bias or slant, I'm toast. So I'm very careful.

"As for Riverside, you've opened the newspaper registration can of worms. Rough & Tumble readers hate newspaper registrations and they pepper me with frustrated emails whenever I send them to sites that require them to hand over their email address. That said, I have little choice when it comes to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal -- which requires a subscription. The Washington Post asks for a registration, but it is anonymous -- all they ask is gender, age and zip code.

"A couple of months ago I decided to try an experiment. I dropped the Bakersfield Californian, the Riverside Press Enterprise and the Orange County Register because they required detailed personal information from the readers I was sending to them. I've been waiting for readers to ask me to again include those publications. Nobody emailed or called -- nobody. On a couple of occasions I've included Kimberly Kindy's pieces from the Orange County Register by converting them to a pdf file, but at her request.

"My problem is that I send my readers to multiple locations; they already get beat up with pop-up ads, and they go nuts when they encounter registrations on top of that. The whole idea behind Rough & Tumble is to remove as many barriers between readers and stories generated by reporters every day. Newspaper registrations are one more barrier erected in front of readers."

As for business models suggested by blogs or R&T, the clipping or linking service seems to be doing fine, according to Kavanaugh, who declines to offer numbers. But he does say it would disappear if it didn't pay for itself.

Blogging and profit are another matter, perhaps only adding to a newspaper's or website's general value to advertisers. But there is always the possibility of offering a blog on a subscription basis. It seems abundantly clear that hefty subscription fees could be charged for Weintraub's blog. The paying audience would be the hundreds or thousands of political professionals who already find it compulsory reading. If not Weintraub, perhaps another writer, whose information is exclusive to the blog and does not appear in the paper.

Both R&T and Weintraub, however, did not use the latest techniques in Web syndication, RSS feeds. Those will automatically deliver the information to requesting parties, ending the need by readers to search for new updates. The feeds, however, can be a problem for sites that rely on visitors coming to them so they will be exposed to advertising.

The key to generating revenue through either an R&T-type effort or a blog is an audience that has an intense interest and a subject that is reasonably narrow. Which made the recall election an especially good example of how the Web can be used. In fact, if subscription fees are to be successfully charged for any sort Internet information, I suspect the most successful ways to do it will be with narrow subject areas that have high levels of interests. The audiences will often be small, but they badly need their particular information fix.

Tiny Costs for Tiny Effort

As for the tiny effort put on at Condor Central, we did not start counting our readers until mid-August, although the blog began around Aug. 1. The total page views for entire counting period were 9,540, according to Webstat, the same service that counts R&T. By October, the blog was chalking up an average of about 250 unique visitors a day. The average was pulled down heavily when I would take the weekend off. It also dropped very sharply on days the blog wasn't mentioned in R&T, which shows some of the drawing power of that site. Promotion of the site was modest, basically alerting individuals that they were mentioned in the blog.

The Condor was started mainly for my amusement. It was a success in that regard. Costs were extremely low; less than $150 for the entire period. The largest expenditure was for a program called Internet Researcher, which allowed me to save Web news coverage much more rapidly than the usual methods through Internet Explorer. Internet Researcher can also serve as an alternate and much speedier web browser. I recommend it highly for any Web researchers. See it at

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

This is the readers' turn to lambaste the Condor or otherwise embarrass themselves.

From Jerry Ingle of Encinitas:
"Imperial County has kept the streak alive. They went for Arnold and the recall at higher rates than the state-at-large.  Yep, looks like all the smart voters who showed up and voted for Arnold  and the recall were able to find the polling places and navigate the "complicated" ballots. Too bad the stupid voters who would have saved  Davis and Cruz gave up and went home. It's just not fair! 

"Arnold received more votes than the 3 runners-up. He received  more votes than the number cast against recall. Arnold received more votes  and a higher percentage than did Davis in last November's election. Are  these three statistics meaningful to you?

"Time will tell but I think that  all this is simply a result of the 'throw the bums out' attitude of the  voters. Because this is California(liberal majority), I think Arnold was  attractive to the so-called moderates because he represented a change without the conservative label. The GOP faithful followed because he is a  registered Republican and had a good chance to win. Pete Wilson was successful at getting elected for many of the same qualities. 

 Hispanics almost split evenly between Cruz and Arnold, according to the polls I have seen. Have the Dems underestimated the Mex-Amer ability to analyze the issues  and personalities? That answer may be that Bustamante underestimated them, along with  getting little help from the CA Dem powerful.  I'm of the opinion that Arnold's plans, if they die, will not die  quietly as you proffer.

"Schwarzenegger would be well advised to blame the Dems  for not being prudent. Make the Dems the bad guys for raising taxes and  spending too much; and do it loudly. The Dems will certainly squawk at high  decibels and attempt to make his plans seem to be unworkable and  uncompassionate. All this after the obligatory 30-60 day honeymoon. I don't think  anything will live or die at the State Capitol quietly, for a while. 

"Recall Arnold? Bring it on. It would give me great pleasure to see  Rob Reiner and his ilk miserably fail to bring in enough signatures. The  CA voters are tired of this carnival....

"THE CONDOR has been fun and a refreshing departure from the normal news coverage of the CA Recall. The entertainment value of the past few  weeks cannot be over estimated! Thanks for your time and effort. I will miss  your (almost) daily "bone pickings."

From the Old Country Lawyer:

Welcome back to the real world of California politics. Mexican-Americans in California who vote have spoken, and they did not support Cruz Bustamante. As I said before, there is a big difference between Californians of Mexican descent and the various political organizations that claim to represent them. Many of these organizations evolved from radical roots in the sixties and seventies and still suffer the disability of being too far to one side of the political spectrum. Traditional Mexican families do not tend to be radical. They are hard working, family oriented, entreprenurial and patriotic people who suffer excessively from over-taxation and interference by governments in their affairs. Even they were able to recognize that after vetoing the driver's license bill twice, Davis was pandering to their vote. It did not sit well with them anymore than it did with other ethnic groups.

From Karen in San Mateo:
"Your blog's been a daily read. You'll be missed."

The Final Comment

I appreciate all the comments sent to me by readers. Virtually all were published. Cheers to all of you.

Re difficulties with the ballot, what can I tell you? It confused me when I saw it. However, I did not vote. I cannot since I am not a resident of California. As for the Latino vote, they never were a monolith although 187 seemed to be something of a unifying force. Latinos are a young and fast-growing group that has always been approachable by Republicans until Pete Wilson antagonized them. Apparently that antipathy is nearly gone, at least for voting purposes.

This is the last scheduled chapter in The Condor: California Recall. I will continue to check my e-mail address from time to time if anyone feels the need to communicate. It is

Tuesday, October 07, 2003
An Introduction for the New Governor

Arnold the Vulgarian meet John the Pro Tem. You are moving into John Burton's neighborhood, but do not expect John to be leading the welcome wagon.

Forgive my rudeness. Now that you are the new CEO for California, we should refer to you as Arnold the Conqueror. Certainly more fitting than Governor Groper, a term that should tell you that the groping business has just begun.

Democrats and dames (dare we use the term) will be dogging you for your entire term. Democrat John Burton is President Pro Tempore of the state Senate, the embodiment of your opposition. He is an explosive curmudgeon, and probably an ultra-liberal in the eyes of most Republicans.

But his party controls both houses of the legislatures. Without the votes of many of those Democrats, your ambitious plans will die quiet deaths. In many ways, Democrats will be more important to you than Republicans. But don't get caught waltzing the Dems too obviously. Tom McClintock will be watching from his state Senate seat, ready to fire off mighty bolts of righteous fury.

Despite the rejection of Gray Davis and your victory, don't expect the Dems to see the light. Yes, some will issue statements that the people have spoken and so forth. But the Democrats do not like your plans. They will disrupt, amend and generally play holy hob with your legislative proposals. But Burton does like basketball. Maybe a few sports conversations will help.

Then there are the two Democrats who want to have your job in three years -- state Treasurer Phil Angelides and Attorney General Bill Lockyer who coined the expression "trashy puke," which your campaign has now pilfered. Watch their hands carefully as they extend them in friendly greeting.

As for those women who are always hanging around and seem bothered by frisky fingers. Expect many more to surface. Expect some lawsuits and subpoenas for records. Your confidentiality agreements with staffers are not going to help here. It would be better to try to set a good example. Appoint a woman as chief of staff. Appoint a couple of women to high visibility cabinet posts. You must get a female press aide to deal with all the groping questions that will be coming in -- one who is really good on TV. Figure out what to do with the Fair Employment Practices Commission which may be receiving some of the accusations against you.

The stress of the daily commute is going to be rough and the trips time-consuming if you keep living in Brentwood. If you try to set up a real governor's office in Los Angeles, the press will be looking at each bill, ranging from pens and pencils to the ash tray for your cigars. Above all, do not try to bill the state for using your jet.

In short, as one governor used to say, lower your expectations.

A Recall against Arnold?

An effort to oust Arnold in March with a recall can't be ruled out. One Democrat who also has had Republican ties told me that Rob Reiner is a likely source for possibly funding an initiative effort against Arnold. Reiner has indicated political ambitions in the past. Financier George Soros also has been mentioned as a source of funding.

A snub for Brulte?

As Arnold was exiting his victory speech, he appeared to have snubbed state Senate GOP leader Jim Brulte. Arnold shook the hand of the man next to Brulte and then walked right by. My guess is that Arnold has no idea who Brulte is. But he should have. Brulte will remember the incident, and it will not accrue to Arnold's benefit.

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

This is the readers' turn to lambaste the Condor or otherwise embarrass themselves.

A Way of Not Seeing

From Tom Hall, the Berkeley historian:

"I found interesting your (much earlier) comments about Arnold and the problems of taking power. In particular, I noted that you failed to mentioned the role of your feckless friend, Jerry Brown, in making possible Prop 13. He and the legislature sat on a surplus and did nothing while the rest of us tried to figure out ways of paying our property taxes.

"I was also intrigued by your comments about staffing the governor's office and Arnold's relations with the legislature. Their logic leads to the conclusion that there should never be a change in the governorship, and no person should win that office if his party doesn't control the legislature. In short, you seem to have fallen prey to the crudest kind of conservatism -- all change is bad.

"I would be interested in a piece by you that talks about how Arnold may deal with the problems you outlined. For example, what sorts of interesting use of state power could bring the Indians to heel and in the process explode that silly legal fiction that they are sovereign nations. Beyond that your comments made me recall the instructions I used to give my students in their senior thesis seminar: A way of seeing is a way of not seeing."
The Trick Has Been Turned

Arnold will win today's election, boosted to victory by a complex and poorly designed ballot and the peccadilloes of former President Clinton.

Let's take presidential matters first. In 1992, when Clinton was first elected president, the public simply would not have tolerated a major candidate with 15 reasonably credible women saying he had groped them or worse. But Clinton's bad behavior and its explicit coverage wore down the public to the point where crude jokes on the topic were standard fare on network television.

So, while the accusations have stuck to Arnold, they are not enough to bring him down. Yes, he has lost votes, but Republican women are show an amazing tolerance for their favorite boy, just as Democratic women did for Clinton.

Problems with voting and the ballot, however, are another reason Arnold will win. Voters will become discouraged as they struggle to find new polling places, stand in long lines to vote and then will be frustrated as they try to find their candidate on the ballot.

Voting will be slow because of the lengthy ballot, running to seven pages or more. It is very difficult to find a candidate's name out of 135 because they are not listed in alphabetical order. Some voters in a hurry will just give up.

Voting also requires voters to think in reverse. If you favor Davis, you must vote no. Some voters will undoubtedly vote yes when they think it is a vote for Davis. In San Mateo County, for example, the use of bold printing tends to encourage that type of behavior.

All this works to Arnold's benefit. The most persistent voters, the ones not likely to drop out of long lines, are the ones who truly detest Davis.

Davis has campaigned manfully and made some gains. But it is not enough to demonstrate the kind of leadership that Californians hope to have. Arnold has demonstrated that he has a certain demagogic appeal, shouting out simple slogans that resonate with the huge crowds that greet him. And is the case in most elections, the only real choice for voters is to throw the rascals out.

Finally, two million voters have already cast their ballots absentee, most long before the latest allegations of "groping and goose-stepping" surfaced. I am sure some of those voters would like to have their ballots back.

There are some reasons to think that the recall will be defeated. The groping allegations, for example, but they came too late, contrary to some thinking. More women would have come forward, if the initial story had broken earlier. The Davis campaign would have then been able to mount more advertising tied to Arnold's frisky fingers. Latinos still could be a helpful factor for Davis, but there are no signs that the Hispanic community is electrified for the governor.

Team Arnold has turned the trick.

(For more elaboration on voting problems, see the Sept. 12 item.)

Interesting observations elsewhere

George Skelton, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has indicated Team Arnold was one of the forces that helped keep the groping allegations alive. His point was that Arnold's flacks should have shut up about the Times and gropings, after Arnold made his statement. Then they should have limited their comments to other matters. A very good point, and I agree with Skelton. Instead of keeping quiet, they built another story about the evil Los Angeles Times, which meant more publicity about the gropings. Mickey Kaus, a MSNBC political blogger, has an unusual theory about how Arnold was maneuvering in an extraordinary and costly fashion for many, many years to set up this election. Fascinating but hard to prove.

"Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend." - - Mao
This is the readers' turn to lambaste the Condor or otherwise embarrass themselves.

Clinton vs. Arnold

From Dylan in San Mateo:

"In the past couple of days several news sources, your blog among them, have implicitly compared Schwarzenegger's alleged gropings to Pres. Clinton's dalliances. There's just one problem with these analogies: Clinton didn't get impeached for having sex, but for *lying*. Even Ken Starr couldn't find anything criminal about Clinton and Lewinsky's behavior, which after all was between two consenting adults.

"The allegations about Schwarzenegger are a different matter entirely, since they have to do with him forcing himself upon women who, unlike Lewinsky, were clearly unwilling and who resisted his advances."

Thanks for you comment, Dylan. I am not comparing the alleged deeds of the men. I am just saying the allegations against Clinton inured the public to the ones against Arnold. The public doesn't care about the legalities. Hanky-panky is hanky-panky.

Freeway or My Way?

No single topic except illegal immigration has generated as much reader comment as an exceedingly minor item in the Imperial Valley Watch about a freeway that was built between El Centro and Brawley because of the extraordinary influence of then state Sen. Ben Hulse. Here are the latest responses.

From Tom Hall, the Berkeley historian:
"Forgive my pickiness about terminology. I think the best word for the highway between Brawley and El Centro would be expressway or maybe parkway. But freeway no. That term makes people think of something like the Santa Ana Freeway. I am quite sure you are right that Hulse was instrumental in getting it built. The express way, connecting the Valley's two largest towns, provides excellent access to the Midwinter Fair grounds. Hulse would have been concerned about that. There were constant accidents, even some fatalities, on the old highway next to the fair grounds. My guess is that the express way was built around 1947. It is the same design as Adams Ave. parkway which was built that year and did solve the problem of truck traffic on Main St.

"Hulse, by the way, always struck me as being very shrewd. He was an important businessman in Imperial County. He owned the Caterpillar tractor dealership in El Centro, which always had a prominent display at the county fair. But as far as I can tell he distanced himself (at least publicly) from the Associated Farmers, the rapid union-busting organization responsible for considerable violence during the 1930s. I would hope that some enterprising graduate student would take a closer look at his political career. He certainly deserves it. During 1938 his endorsement was actively courted by both the governor and the lieutenant governor. They visited him in the Valley during the winter of that year.

"Like many others, I am going to miss your blog page once the recall is over. Ever think of making it something permanent -- a page devoted to California affairs?"

From Jerry Ingle of Encinitas:

"The road between Brawley and El Centro would more aptly be considered an improved state highway. Some states call them expressways, some call them throughways, some call them main highways. In California a true freeway has no cross-traffic, only on and off ramps. In any event, Hulse certainly obtained state money that could have been more useful elsewhere at the time,and it (the freeway) has a bad turn going into Brawley, to boot."

This brouhaha about the road between El Centro and Brawley is in keeping with the finest Imperial Valley traditions of public debate. Is picky, picky, picky too harsh a phrase? If you gentlemen ever write about it again, I am not going to clean up your language and grammar..

Imperial Valley Watch Day Zero

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.

Local Headlines

Imperial Valley is on a roll. Republicans predict the county will continue as the bellwether to victory in the gubernatorial election.

Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo will open two new facilities in Niland and Winterhaven. The health clinics handled more than 182,000 patient visits last year.

A 9-year-old boy riding his off-road vehicle in the desert near Ocotillo Wells was reported missing by his parents and found by law enforcement agencies after an intensive two-hour search.

The Good Old Days

Traveling across the sandy desert was a bit tricky some decades ago. So prior to pavement, roads were built of wood across the Valley to Yuma in Arizona. To this day, remnants of the old wooden road can be seen by sharp-eyed travelers.


For those of you haven't figured it out already, I grew up in the Imperial Valley. I left as fast as I could to get lost in the mega-city, Los Angeles. But lingering ties and affection remain.
Monday, October 06, 2003
The Nation's No. 1 Political Soap Opera

A yapping pack of reporters chase the mysterious "woman in red" down the streets of Modesto. Commentators talk of "groping and goose-stepping." Google News shows 1,800 references to Hitler -- a number generated only because it is connected to Arnold. It's California politics today, taken to a nearly surreal level.

And it's all part of the nation's first nano-speed election, which began just two short months ago. The events have tumbled over each other, faster and faster as the voting draws near. Candidates have entered the race and dropped out, one time within days. Well over $3 million a week is being spent on TV ads during the last stages of the campaign. Another $2 million plus is going out for mailers. And two million voters have already cast their ballots, despite the fact that the election is still one day away.

By itself, California's first-ever recall election is a government-shaking event. But add the presence of a larger-than-life weightlifter with glittering star power who carried the hopes of the downtrodden Republican party, and you have a combination that has fired global attention. "Conan the Vulgarian" and "Win One for the Groper" are some of the headlines for the curious who log in on the Internet from Thailand, Iceland, Mexico and other points. How heavy is the news coverage? A Google News search on "California recall" generates more hits than "Saddam Hussein."

The recall first made California what many called a laughingstock. Circus was the most common word applied to the election. Then the recall became outrageous and even undemocratic, although the recall process may be the most democratic tool of all. Sort of a political WMD for the people. The TV jokes were endless, littering the airwaves and email throughout the state.

One of the most bizarre incidents was "The Woman in Red." Dan Weintraub related the tale in his blog on To do it full justice, read his exquisitely restrained account of the entire escapade on sacbee. Here is a summary.

The fuss started after Arnold's campaign rally in Modesto. Reporters were filing out and some gathered around a woman in a red top and black pants.

" 'She's looking for Arnold,' one reporter told another, who told another. More reporters gathered around. Cameras and tape recorders were thrust toward her face." Someone said there were photographs of a child. Questions about sexual harassment and shouts of "love child" arose. Reporters pushed and shoved as she talked to an Arnold aide. One reporter yelled to watch out for an elderly woman with a walker. The mysterious woman disappeared in a white Ford Escort; her only response that she was looking for her sister.

Then come allegations from conservative writer Jill Stewart that Gray Davis yells f---- endlessly and shakes female aides brutally.

Can the campaign become more bizarre? Will the groping charges cut significantly into Arnold's apparent lead? Will alienated voters sit on their hands? Can Gray Davis turn Arnold's frisky fingers into pro-Davis votes?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's last, exciting episode of the nation's No. 1 political soap opera -- "As California Quakes."

"Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend." - - Mao
This is the readers' turn to lambaste the Condor or otherwise embarrass themselves.

From Tom Hall, the Berkeley historian, re an item in The Imperial Valley watch:

"Ben Hulse, "the Father of the Midwinter Fair", certainly did have his connections. But being the father of one of the state's early freeways isn't one of them. For one thing, the four lane road between El Centro and Brawley wasn't a freeway since access wasn't controlled. For another, the El Centro city fathers tried for nearly 15 years to get an underpass built at the railroad tracks on at State and Fourth, and then at Fourth and Main. The argument was that the underpass beneath the Southern Pacific railroad tracks was needed to clear congestion on Main St. You will recall that until Adams St was developed in 1947 Main St. was part of Highway 80. Trucks would fill up Main St especially when the railroad blocked its eastern part. The underpass scene, with Hulse's backing never got off the ground."

Tom, thanks for comments, but actually I do not recall any of those events. But as for the freeway business, there certainly is cross traffic on it, but it is a four-lane road divided by a huge median strip. It was also built at a time when many urban areas needed such a freeway more. But perhaps you could fill in some details on the talk about how Hulse dealt fatally with an opponent.

From Anne Mitchell of Sacramento:

"Love your blog, it's like a breath of fresh air in a town (Sacto) otherwise buried in pollution. And I don't mean the kind you breathe. I hope I didn't actually read that you are deserting us on Tuesday. What's the name of your boat? Have I seen you gracing the pages of Latitude 38?
Keep up the good work - I'd rather be sailing too."

The sad or not-so-sad truth is that this blog is scheduled to terminate -- perhaps along with the rest of California -- on Thursday. If any of you have other long-festering questions, such as the name of the boat, send them along. All will be revealed on Thursday. But for just a hint, the boat's name is Hopalong after the cowboy star who was my wife's favorite hero. His popularity certainly was the equal of Arnold's, if not greater. Hopalong, however, never killed a villain in his long movie career. He made short films encouraging youngsters to play fair and not to call policemen (no lady police then) cops. Hopalong never ran for public office, although he was once known as a lady's man. He did appear on the covers of Time and Life and drew a hundred thousand to a parade in New York City.

Imperial Valley Watch Day 1

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.

Local headlines

The San Diego Regional Airport Authority Board with a unanimous vote cut its list of possible new airport sites to seven with Imperial County making the cut.

Work on a concert facility for Luciano Pavarotti's scheduled performance in Mexicali Oct. 18 was supposed to begin "no later than" Saturday, according to Mexicali newspaper La Cronica. On Friday afternoon activity at the site at Laguna Salada consisted of three police vehicles manning the entrance.

A City of White

About 20 miles west of El Centro lies Plaster City, so-called because they make plaster there. You know you are arriving because the desert literally turns white as you approach because of the plaster in the air. It is really more of a village than a city. A small number of people once lived there despite the white dust in the air. The Condor has not checked out the population recently.

A Love Letter

"I've never been attacked, treated badly by police, or robbed in Imperial County in over 15 years. I have yet to encounter rush hour traffic.. There is no smog to speak of. Most people are friendly and courteous. Material conveniences and accouterments are readily available. Food prices are reasonable. Wide open spaces abound. You can fish, hunt, boat, 4-wheel, rock hunt, gold and silver mine, farm, garden, manufacture or retail. Everything that makes a life feel full can be found in Imperial County. If you want solitude and serenity or a neighborhood full of people,you can find it here." From the website, Imperial Valley Gateway

Saturday, October 04, 2003
The Feeding Frenzy, Governor Groper and Gorman

is trying to shake off the groping allegations, but they seem attached to him like so many leeches. The blood letting will continue until Team Arnold can find another target for the media.

The big question about the sexual harassment charges was whether they would stick and become a major issue. Even some Democrats were saying the initial charges were not enough to bring down Arnold. But if the story continues to dominate the news, its significance could have a big impact on women voters, 26 percent of whom are undecided, according to the latest Field poll.

So far Arnold has not been able to put the allegations to rest. The story of gropings gained momentum as other women surfaced with allegations. Some of the Times victims went public with their names. One women's organization announced a $500,000 TV ad campaign against women. Women's rallies are scheduled around the state to denounce the Hollywood star. "Governor Groper" was the slogan of the day. Arnold's wife felt compelled to denounce "gutter journalism," although Arnold seems to have indicated some of the allegations are true.

Reporters were initially in a blood frenzy, according to Newsweek's Karen Breslau who was aboard Arnold's bus tour. She recounts how reporters cornered Arnold's flack, Todd Harris.

"(He) tried to cast Schwarzenegger’s admission as a virtuous act. 'Voters are going to see that when this issue came up he responded immediately and forthrightly,' Harris said. 'And voters can contrast that to anything in the way Gray Davis responds to problems.' How, reporters demanded, could Schwarzenegger get credit for responding 'immediately,' given that only a day earlier, another of his spokesmen had denounced allegations of misbehavior toward women as 'false and completely baseless?'

The only way to stem such a feeding frenzy in the press is to give them another big story to write about. Arnold's stop in a coffee shop in Gorman on the Grapevine, where he chatted up customers, was not enough.

Political blogger Mickey Kaus, who seems to have good sources inside the LA Times, has indicated that more sex charges against Arnold may be published in the Times before election day.

While the news is bad for Arnold, it may not necessarily be good for Davis. Can he count on defecting Arnold voters to vote no on the recall? Some may, but probably not enough to keep him in office, if the latest Field Poll numbers are to be believed.

A Republican Woman's Take

I asked Julie Gallaher, a longtime Republican activist and blogger at, for her take on the groping allegations. Here is what she sent me on Friday:
"I had expected it to be worse. If three professional reporters spent 7 weeks going through 30 years of my life, they'd find plenty I'd be mortified to have published. And I've never done anything really bad just embarrassing. I think most people who live in the real world will be grateful that the press isn't after them.
"A few things I'm curious about. If the women didn't come forth themselves, and no one steered the press to them, how did they locate them? And why couldn't they find more people to go on the record? If Arnold is really that all-powerful in Hollywood, wouldn't he have raised more money for his campaign from the Hollywood community?"

Thanks, Julie, for your comments. It is not at all unusual to spend that long on a story like this. I can speak from experience, having directed and edited other controversial stories and projects not too unlike the Times article. They take an ungodly amount of time. As for how the women were found were found, it is basic shoe leather. The rumors were already out there. Maybe somebody calls with a tip. You ask people who have worked with Arnold whether they have heard about anything like this? Do you know anybody who has? How can I find them? Will you introduce me to them? And so on and so forth. It is tedious and frustrating work. It is clear from the Times story that these women are afraid they might have their livelihoods jeopardized by talking publicly. And they are absolutely right. If their names become public, they will be pariahs in the entertainment industry. Whistle-blowers almost inevitably suffer serious economic consequences, whether they are right or wrong, according to a host of research studies on the subject. I am sure that the Times reporters did not tell the women that. Nor do most reporters when they are interviewing such persons. But the truth probably is that most reporters don't know that whistle-blowers are savaged economically.

Reality Check Time

The recall is generating huge interest and will stimulate a huge voter response, right? So far the answer is no. Statewide registration figures just released tell us that voter interest seems no higher than the last electrifying general election. In fact, the percent of potential voters who are bothering to register is fractionally down. Thirty percent of all possible voters don't care about this election. Only about 70 percent are registered. How many turn out remains to be seen. See the figures here.

Imperial Valley Watch Day 3

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.
Local News

Under the Quantification Settlement Agreement the Imperial Irrigation District would have a self-imposed consumptive use cap of 3.1 million acre-feet yearly. From that amount, the IID would transfer, among other things, about 104,000 acre-feet yearly to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California under a 1988 agreement, extended to the life of the QSA.
(This is direct from the Imperial Valley Press.)

Sheriff's officials launched separate homicide investigations after two bodies were discovered, one in Heber and the other in the west desert mountains.

The federal government announced a $60,000 grant to Imperial County this week, expanding a comprehensive program that helps bring businesses and jobs to the Valley.


The latest voter registration figures as of this week show that 53 percent of voters are Democrats, compared to 44 percent statewide. Republicans account for 29 percent, compared to 35 percent statewide. Decline to state is 14 percent, compared to 16 percent statewide. Thirty-three percent of the eligible voters don't care, compared to 30 percent statewide. They did not bother to register.

Sacramento Connections

Imperial County was one of the early locations in California to enjoy a freeway despite its sparse traffic and rural location. It was all the result of a man named Ben Hulse. He was a well-connected state legislator allied with another state legislator named Randy Collier, who was known as the Silver Fox of the Siskiyous. Collier was chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and thus had a major say in where new freeways were built. So his good friend, Mr. Hulse, wound up with a 14-mile stretch of extremely lightly used freeway between Brawley and El Centro, while other much more trafficked locations had to wait. Date of completion of the freeway is dim, but it had to be in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
Friday, October 03, 2003
Groping For an Answer
Will the Charges Stick?

Who would have thought that former President Clinton would turn out to be Arnold's biggest campaign asset? In fact, Davis might want to scrub any plans to have Clinton campaign for him this weekend.

If President Clinton had not inured the public to sleazy sexuality in high office, the groping charges against the Arnold would have killed his campaign. But given today's climate, they may be old and boring news by election day.

The biggest question about the allegations is how they will play out today and tomorrow. Do they have sticking power? Gray's operatives are already trying to pump up the story. They sent emails to supporters saying that not one, but two respected organizations (ABC and the Times) were reporting groping allegations. Bound to come soon are references to the Hitler allegations.

The groping charges have probably driven any GOP True Believers back to McClintock. Some women are probably no longer Arnold backers. But will it mean major losses among women? I asked one 34-year-old Democratic woman who had only seen wire service reports on the Internet about her reaction. While not an Arnold supporter, she said she did not believe the charges would switch any of Arnold's female supporters. Another older woman said the most chilling aspect of the Times story, which she had read, was the chortling approval of Arnold's public gropings by his sycophants. She said the actions described by Times were so offensive that she would not want a 12-year-old to read the story.

Some clues to the stickiness of the allegations have to do with the details. The more you know about the gropings the more it becomes clear how offensive and debasing they were. Whether the details will spread to a wider audience depends in part on how much of the Times' story other newspapers pick up this morning(Friday). Of course, they also will be available on the Internet. The news will be coupled with Arnold's apology, which will help deflect the impact. But one wonders if any newspaper is going to have Groping, Hitler and Arnold all in one headline.

Arnold's apology came early in the day, a smart media move. It was a bit weaselly, somehow trying to ease the impact of the groping by indicating it occurred on "rowdy" movie sets. And, like some of Clinton's apologies, close scrutiny of it may only lead to more and more attention to the unpleasant allegations. Arnold again suffered from clunky syntax in making the apology, creating possibilities for the worst possible interpretation of it.

This said, voters should be aware that politicians and actors live in different worlds than most of us. Hollywood is renown for unconventional behavior and easy good times, the kind of stuff that is hard to get away with in Kettleman City, Ca. Many politicians also think of themselves as individuals set apart. They live in a rarefied world where they are waited on by aides and fussed over by supplicants. Groupies abound in both arenas.

Former President Clinton has already campaigned once with Davis in California as the governor tries to ride the coattails of Clinton's popularity. There is talk that Clinton may appear again with Davis this weekend. That could be a mistake. It will only remind voters that lack of common sense and sleaze can be found even among Democrats.

Staying On Top
Help for Any Recall Newbies

The stuff is flying at warp speed in the election. If you want to stay on top of the smarmiest and also important developments, you have check two key blogs religiously several times a day. Consider it a call to prayer. One is, which is loaded with material that many newspapers would never touch, which is not necessarily a disparaging comment. Mickey Kaus is the writer, and he is fast, well-informed and highly opinionated. The other is the less flamboyant California Insider, written by Daniel Weintraub, political columnist for The Sacramento Bee. He too files tons of good stuff repeatedly during the day. For example, here is his link to a blog that remarks on Arnold's "bizarre obsessions with power."

Conspiracy in Vote Counting

Some folks are fond of writing about conspiracies, such as newspapers that scheme to suppress or publish certain kinds of information about candidates. Others believe that particular governors or presidents have elaborate conspiracies to do various underhanded things. Most of those people have never worked in the office of a governor or president. Most of the time, the chief executive's staffs are pleased when they can put one foot in front of the other for eight hours straight. But if you like conspiracies, check out how the Republicans and Brits (a Bush ally, right) own or control the voting machines that count ballots. Read it here

"Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend." - - Mao
This is the readers' turn to lambaste the Condor or otherwise embarrass themselves.

From Erik Bruvold comes an important reminder that more than Prop. 13 was at play in centralizing school funding in California and making it an easy target for special interests.

"While Proposition 13 played a role (through a dramatic one year reduction that reduced school funding) the other building block for Sacramento's central role in education financing was Serrano v. Priest," he wrote.

He went on with more details, which I have not relayed since education finance is even more stupefying than legal mumbo-jumbo about the legality of the recall election. Not that I am saying that both are not important. Serrano had an enormous impact on schools in California, but my fury had me focused sharply on Prop. 13 restrictions on the ability of school boards to raise money.

Imperial Valley Watch Day 5

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.

Current Local News

Large concrete barriers that once blocked Bradshaw Road and Cruickshank Drive in front of a new Target department store on Imperial Avenue are gone.

Police officers in Imperial County and the rest of the United States have the power to detain undocumented immigrants, but their authority would be expanded under a proposal being considered by a House committee to enlist state and local police in making arrests.

The county is asking for grants to fund dunes enforcement officers. As the temperatures start to drop in Imperial County, a steady stream of visitors will begin to arrive in what has become an annual boon for the county: off-highway vehicle recreation.

The Westmoreland city council has approved a 1.6 percent increase in the city's trash rates and took steps toward solving the city's animal-control problem.


Twenty-four percent of the population has less than a 9th grade education. Nearly four percent has a graduate or professional degree. Fifty-seven percent of the adult population is married. Seven percent is divorced.


The Indians who lived in the Imperial Valley despite its ferocious heat left a distinct mark. The area is one of only three known places in the world to have geoglyphs. They range from a three foot high human figure to a geometric shape more than a mile in circumference.

Thursday, October 02, 2003
Arnold's 100-Day Wish List
Time for a Reality Check

October First was Fantasy Day for Arnold. He made his inaugural address as governor in Sacramento but the election was still six days away.

Arnold is a man whose livelihood is imaginary events, so it is not unexpected that he would deliver his inaugural address ahead of the election. It is also probably good campaigning on his part. The only voters who would be offended were not likely to vote for him anyway. But the presentation Wednesday was that of a man truly focused on a vision out of touch with reality.

All politicians, of course, engage in fantasy, promising this and that and setting unrealistic timetables. Most stop at some reasonable point, knowing that the public also knows campaign promises are not always matched with performance. But what caught my eye was Arnold's new promise to "consolidate" in 100 days the categorical education programs that special interests have spent decades in establishing.

These are programs that run into hundreds of millions of dollars and lock in funding for such things as handicapped children and the gifted and a myriad of other "special" needs. All worthy causes, but they carry state-mandated funding mechanisms that have stripped control from local school boards, which are in the best position to determine priorities in local schools.

The categorical programs are the evil spawn of Prop.13, which centralized school funding in one pot in the Capitol. That's when it became a fat, juicy and easy target for various special interest groups. It is far simpler to lobby and manipulate a 120-member legislature concentrated in one location than to try to influence more than 1,000 school districts statewide.

Prop. 13 was a much needed reaction to the pernicious effects of the property tax system, but fundamentally it also took money and control away from grass roots government and shifted both to Sacramento. Republicans ostensibly believe that the best government is the one closest to the people, but for unfathomable reasons they continue to support Prop. 13, despite the fact that its impact sustains many of the forces they hate.

Which leads us back to the 100 categorical programs that Arnold would consolidate/eliminate. The Terminator is nothing compared to the legions he will face. This will be a fight to the death. It took years to acquire the special funding. Relationships have been cemented. Betrayal comes at a high cost. Let's put up Arnold in a TV ad against a suffering, crippled child. Who wins?

Arnold's 100-day inaugural speech contained more fantasies. If he brings some of those former Wilson administration staffers with him, he will get at least a fast start on running the state. But those folks will barely fill the governor's suite. He will need at least initially hundreds and hundreds of loyalites to fill positions now occupied by Davis followers.

Let's say Arnold actually takes his oath of office in mid-November, after election results are certified and court challenges are set aside. If he were to appoint the key 1,000 persons before January, when the budget must be presented to the Legislature, he would have to sign off on something like 24 persons a day. They would all have to be vetted, investigated, interviewed by somebody, if not Arnold, and so forth. And they are necessary. This is a war that requires many soldiers.

Initially Arnold can get by with a much smaller number. Civil servants can take over and run departments instead of the political appointees. But that means stagnation. Few civil servants are going to do more than maintain the status quo, particularly since they are almost certain to be replaced in a matter of months by an Arnold appointee.

Arnold's program for the first 100 days includes an aggressive legislative program. But that effort will be different than the campaign. Instead of winning the support of California voters, he will need to win the support of the Democrats who control the Legislature. The Democratic majority will become, in a strange way, his new constituency. He will have to convince at least some of them to move before anything can happen. They are likely to be a cranky bunch. Their efforts to pass a budget earlier this year were stymied by a handful of Republicans. As a result they were subjected to vilification throughout the state. Some of Arnold's emissaries to the legislature are likely to be amateurish and offend "members," as they are called. The Democrats are very ideological as well, another product of Republican reforms a la Prop. 13, but in this case term limits. Why should they do anything that benefits a governor of another party who has made his living as something of a celluloid cartoon character?

Arnold is not likely to be able to say he has a mandate from the voters, probably having been elected with fewer total votes than Gray was in the last election. Nor is he going to be able to go easily to the people with TV appeals for his programs. Simply put, he has problems with English. His syntax is clumsy. While he has been unfairly criticized for awkward statements that are really matters of English being his second language, Arnold is not the Great Communicator. He is no Ronald Reagan.

As for his 100-day agenda, most politicians understand the difference between the rhetoric of campaigns and reality. I am afraid Arnold does not.

Bigtime Problems for Arnold

has been seriously damaged by a graphic piece in Thursday's Los Angeles Times about how he has groped a number of women over the years. The women were discovered by Times reporters rather than coming to the Times with their stories. Before talking to the Times and before Arnold ran for governor, they had already told their stories to friends or relatives. Their accounts have the ring of truth, although they are not identified by name, for a variety of reasons. It will be interesting to see how his campaign tries to deal with this tough issue.

By promising to consolidate special education programs, ranging from the gifted to all variety of handicapped, Arnold also may have exposed another vulnerable spot. Consolidation is going to be interpreted in a truly negative fashion by the advocates of these programs, who have worked hard to put them in place. Many of them are True Believers in the same fashion that many Republicans are True Believers. In fact, many of the advocates of the programs are Republicans.

What unites them strongly behind the programs are needy children. Youngsters who haven't been helped or who have been overlooked in the past. Sometimes ignored outright by callous educators and bureaucrats.

But between the two weaknesses, look for some heavy hitting TV ads in the next few days, mostly focused on Arnold and women.

Imperial Valley Watch Day Five

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.


Lawyers, farmers and concerned citizens packed the county Board of Supervisor's chambers to hear what the county's attorney on water matters had to say about the pending Imperial Irrigation District water transfer to Southern California cities.

The county's $230.5 million budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year was passed unanimously by the county Board of Supervisors, which also approved a master plan study for the Imperial County Airport.


Nineteen percent of households are impoverished. Five percent have no phone service. Thirty-five percent of renters are paying more than 35 percent of their income for rent. And 151 households rely on wood for heating.

Celebrity Connection

Actor Tim Holt , who came from the Valley, co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in "Treasure of Sierra Madre." Holt was the young American who joined up with Bogart to search for gold.

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
  • RSS feed for The Condor

    07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 /


    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.

    Powered by Blogger