As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Culture Of Blackmail

One reason why I didn't particularly care for the Guardian's Failifornia article was that it was really a human interest piece masquerading as a serious argument. It's not because its data was flawed or its tone insincere - though there's some of that; the long section on Mendota neglects to mention that the city hinges entirely on agriculture and features 30% unemployment or more ANYTIME there's a drought, unconnected to the larger structural problems in the state - but because it didn't even try to assess the root causes of the crisis or the steps for resolution.

For example, it would be beneficial to take a look at the culture of blackmail we have here in state government (as an aside, did the writer even visit Sacramento?). Politicians have learned over 30-plus years of dealing with onerous budget requirements that threatening blackmail is really the best way to get anything done. Witness Arnold Schwarzenegger, threatening to veto nearly 700 bills that have passed both houses of the Legislature unless he gets his way on a water bill.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, apparently standing by a threat to veto hundreds of bills on his desk unless a deal can be reached on the state's water problems, has suggested to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg that all legislation before the governor should be withdrawn to avoid a veto. About 700 bills are awaiting action.

Schwarzenegger did not formally request that the bills be yanked, but that was the implicit suggestion in his proposal, Capitol sources said.

The communications between Steinberg and the governor were referenced in an e-mail sent from Steinberg to Senate Democrats this week. In the internal e-mail, which was reviewed by Capitol Weekly, Steinberg said Schwarzenegger "even mentioned coming back this week to withdraw bills from his desk and hold them until after water is done."

Arnold is absolutely ballsy enough to do this. He has only signed 3 bills in the past four weeks since the Legislature adjourned September 11, and with six days to go and the Legislature not scheduled to return until after the deadline on October 11, I'm convinced of his sincerity to basically flush the entire legislative session down the toilet.

You just don't see headlines like this in other states. And that's because the process here rewards blackmail. Arnold knows that there are no repercussions for vetoing 700 bills. There's no media willing to call him out, there's no possibility of a veto override because of some unwritten rule whereby that function doesn't exist anymore, and there's a high possibility of legislative Democrats simply capitulating to whatever shrieking Republican demands in order to appear "reasonable" or just move along the machinery of government. Arnold's just using good tactical sense because the system is set up to reward the most outlandish actions. So he'll probably get what amounts to a bailout of wealthy agribusiness interests at the expense of the environment and the working class.

This is truly the portrait of failure in California. Right-wing interests have learned how to hijack so well you'd think they attended one of those Al Qaeda training camps where they practice on the monkey bars. And the entire political class walks around as if this is perfectly normal. It's actually appalling.

If you want to drill down to why California is in crisis, it's because we routinely see political leaders walk into the capital strapped with dynamite across their chests, only to be given the key to the city and a milkshake as a reward for such behavior.

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