Political Fix (20 August, 2015)

No Matter How You Vote, Crazy Wins

OK, it’s official. Those opposed to chickens and mini goats inside Visalia’s city limits are as crazy as those collecting signatures to pass an initiative in favor of making them legal.

Here in our office, for expediency’s sake, we refer to each side as pro-goaters or anti-goaters, and both have made some pretty ridiculous statements. An anti-goater claimed that the Urban Farmers for Food Freedom (UFFF) is “holding Visalia hostage” over the initiative process. A pro-goater said in referring to a city council public hearing on chickens, “why open up this microphone to the people if you are dictators in your hearts?”

Those of us in the middle are scratching our heads wondering “what’s the big deal?” Just go to the ballot box, mark yes or no, and call it a day. And if the initiative passes, go buy yourself a bulldog mastiff.

Now, the Valley Voice has become a target of the anti-goaters. A frequent user of social media posted on Jim Reeves Alternating Currents blog that the Valley Voice “dropped whatever adherence they felt toward journalistic ethics (you’d have to be at City Council meetings to get the whole picture), got carried away with the Gaggle of Goat Herders and became “one” –I mean ONE– with them, determined to personally march their movement to a victory in *our town.* This backfired badly. After that and a number of other serious oversteps I stopped reading and recommending the paper.”

While reporting on the impending small farm animal initiative, the Valley Voice has not taken sides. But because of the subject matter, the staff has had a hard time resisting publishing humorous cartoons, headlines and pictures when covering the issue. The pro-goaters have not taken notice or they have enjoyed our humor.

Not so for the anti-goaters. They became unglued over a T-shirt.

In July, The UFFF was giving away T shirts at the convention center before a city council meeting. I thought, “cool, a free T-shirt and in my color!” It had symbols of a shovel, fork, goat, chicken and a house that I guess is code for food freedom. My interpretation of food freedom is a second piece of cake–so I picked up two, one for me and one for my daughter.

I immediately slipped the shirt on over my dress because, for some reason, the city council can’t work unless their room simulates the same conditions as a meat locker. To my chagrin, I discovered I was caught on video with the UFFF shirt, and the video was posted on-line.

But chagrin is in the eyes of the beholder. I was chagrined because the effect of putting a shirt over my dress made me look fat as a pig, as yet not allowed in residential areas (the pig, not me). But the anti-goaters saw it as blatant support for UFFF’s initiative on allowing chickens and mini goats in residential areas.  One concerned reader emailed me and asked me to explain how I could wear that T- shirt and concurrently write an unbiased article on the initiative.

On hearing about the T-shirt incident, the other more experienced Valley Voice staff cast their eyes askance and shook their heads in disapproval at my egregious breach of journalistic ethics. I scoffed at them, and got on my computer and apologized to our concerned reader–so all is good. With the disgruntled social media user, I’m not so sure.

I have a few take-aways from this experience.  First, Jim Reeves’ blog is a refreshing break from the typical Tulare County fare.  Second, I’m going to be more careful what I wear to city council meetings or go on a diet.

Who Are the Pan Handlers?

After the measles outbreak at Disneyland in February there was an outbreak of hysteria about getting kids vaccinated. The conventional wisdom was that too many parents were getting frivolous exemptions and exposing school kids to deadly diseases. So California passed State Senator Richard Pan’s SB277 in July, banning exemptions based on religion. Now all children have to be vaccinated by July 1, 2016, if they want to attend public school. The only exception will be if the child has a compromised immune system.

This immediately spurred the anti-vaxers to mobilize, gathering signatures for a referendum repealing SB277. According to a local Tulare woman involved, “This referendum against SB277 is important to SO many parents of children who would otherwise hit the vaccine mandate at the start of the 2016 school year, because SB277 is slated to go into effect July, 2016. If we get the signatures in the next couple of months, this will go to a November, 2016 vote. This means that ALL parents will be able to enroll their children in school even if they are in kindergarten or 7th grade in September, 2016.”

The anti-vaxers position is that the law is an attack on parents’ rights and religious freedom. They also say that vaccinations contain mercury that may cause autism. Sen. Pan has been accused of being a mere mouthpiece for big pharma as his campaign last year received $95,000 in donations from the pharmaceutical companies.

So. in addition to the referendum, the anti-vaxers have filed papers to recall Sen. Pan.

Both causes are going to be an uphill battle for the anti-vaxers, but herein lies the fatal flaw with Sen. Pan’s recall. The last successful California recall was in 2003, between the amorphous Gov. Gray Davis and the Terminator. Hard choice.  Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to serve as governor for eight years. Gov. Davis has not been heard of since.

This current recall, on the other hand, is against a very popular Democrat in a strong Democratic district. Someone has to run against Sen. Pan on the recall ballot. As of yet no one has stepped up to the plate to be his replacement in case the recall is successful. Who is going to sign up for that job? I’m predicting no one electable.

Debating the Debate

In case you missed it, Fox News put on a Republican debate. The analysis started several months before the debate and hasn’t stopped since.

Seven presidential candidates who ranked lowest in the polls participated in an afternoon pre-debate. The top 10 candidates in the polls participated in the primetime event. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who whined bitterly for weeks, didn’t make the cut for the adult table. He said that the polls had it wrong.

But actually, the polls nailed it. They have shown a bright light on how weak the Republican pool of candidates was in 2012. Two of the top contenders in 2012, Mr. Santorum and former Texas governor Rick Perry, with all of their name recognition and experience, couldn’t even break into the top 10 this year. That’s pretty telling. Instead of using all that TV time to whine, why didn’t Mr. Santorum roll up his sleeves and fight to get into the top 10 like late-comer and relatively unknown Gov. John Kasich from Ohio?


While Californians are convinced that if Dorothy threw a bucket of water on Carly Fiorina she would melt, the rest of the country was pretty smitten with her performance at the kid’s table. Political pundits fantasize that, should Senator Marco Rubio win the Republican nomination, he might pick Ms. Fiorina as his running mate. Sen. Rubio was seen as one of the winners of the primetime debate.

But Sen. Rubio might want to think twice about sharing the ticket with Ms. Fiorina, who could forget who is actually running for president. Her confidence and ego regularly outstrip reality, but has been an effective driving force in her campaign. Ms. Fiorina got fired as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2005, was fired from Sen. McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, and lost in a landslide senatorial election to Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010. On paper she is a loser, but on stage, and in her mind, she is a winner. She is incredibly intelligent and an entertaining and able debater. Who out there wouldn’t pay good money to see a debate between Ms. Fiorina and Hillary Clinton? Could this be HBO’s next high pay-out boxing match?

Trump versus Sanders

Right now, Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders are drawing the biggest crowds to their rallies, with Sen. Sanders winning on that score by far. In Portland, Oregon, Sen. Sanders drew 28,000 fans at a campaign stop, something the other candidates can only dream about. His poll numbers are great in Iowa and New Hampshire–comfortable stomping grounds for him.

Mr. Trump, the other perceived winner of the Republican debate, said of Sen. Sanders on MSNBC, “he’s struck a nerve on the other side and I’ve struck, I think, an even bigger nerve on the Republican side, the conservative side. It’s amazing.”

But how is Sen. Sanders going to do in the South Carolina primary against Hillary Clinton? African Americans appreciate Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record but they love Ms. Clinton. He has been targeted by the Black Lives Matter movement because it is perceived that Sen. Sanders’ platform does not highlight how he plans to combat racism. But Ms. Clinton, who addresses racism in the United States regularly, can also be said to be riding on the coattails of her husband, who was nicknamed “the first Black American president.”

The nation would see a Trump versus Sanders match up as the ultimate Republican/Democrat battle–but it would not be. Mr. Trump can actually barely be called a Republican, having switched parties in 2009. According to the GOP he is philosophically not a conservative. Not so long ago he was pro-choice, and pro universal health care. He criticizes cuts to social security, Medi-Cal and Medicaid and will not sign Grover Norquist’s ant-tax pledge. He and Sen. Sanders would actually make better running mates than adversaries.

And Finally ……

Does anyone really know what happens when you die? Ohio Governor John Kasich apparently does. Gov. Kasich was quoted as saying, “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he’s going to ask what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

My point exactly, “you better have a good answer.”

My husband said his answer when arriving at the pearly gates will be “trick or treat?”  But Gov. Kasich’s answer took my breath away. I was just saying a few days prior the exact same thing to my daughter. We were pondering over the karma of some extended family members and I said, “What are they going to have to say for themselves to St. Peter when they reach the pearly gates?”

I spend a lot of time with my teenage daughter. She does most of the talking because her and her friends’ lives are a tad bit more interesting than the Republican debate. When I do speak it is met with a lot of eye rolls. She calls me one of God’s special little people. I don’t know if that is a compliment or an insult, but she doesn’t believe in St. Peter or the Pearly Gates. So I get no traction with her.

But hearing a national figure, a presidential candidate no less, make the same comment validated the possibility. The difference between he and I is that I have no idea what happens after you die–I’m just hedging my bets.

That begs the questions, since no one really knows what happens after you die, why doesn’t everyone hedge their bets? What if there is a life review and you are held accountable for everything you have done?  At Heaven’s gates you can’t hide behind the same old lame excuses, self righteousness, money, or political power that always worked here on Earth. What if St. Peter is standing there guarding the gates to Heaven and asks, “did you serve God, others or just yourself?” What are you going to say?

Gov. Kasich is a conservative from my grandmother’s era. While governor of Ohio, he cut income taxes, government regulation, battled organized labor and approved new restrictions on abortion and voting rights. But he also spared several inmates from execution, supported higher taxes on cigarettes and fracking of natural gas deposits and expanded healthcare access under the Affordable Care Act. It was his explanation about providing health care to the poor that provoked his spiel about the pearly gates.
During the debate he was asked what he thought of same-sex marriage. He isn’t a fan, but said that if God gave him unconditional love then why shouldn’t he give same-sex couples unconditional love?
When his time comes, he is going to have a good answer.

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