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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« January 2007 | | November 2007 »
February 12, 2007

Moving on

After nearly four years in this space, California Insider now moves over to Capitol Alert, the Bee's subscription-based news and analysis site for anyone interested in what's going on in the Capitol. You can find my blog here.

Capitol Alert will feature not only my weblog but plenty of other exclusive journalism that does not appear either in the print or online versions of the Sacramento Bee. The site hosts the work of Shane Goldmacher on the Capitol beat, a daily calendar of events (including political fundraisers), a round-up of news and opinion from around the state, and contributions from Bee columnists Dan Walters and Steve Wiegand. Subscribers also get early access to the Bee's news and commentary at 8 p.m. each night, before it is posted on and long before it appears in print.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you there!

Daniel Weintraub

PS. The archive of my blog from its origin until its last day will remain available free at this location.

Also, you can still read my three columns a week for free at the Bee's opinion page.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:52 PM

How about a secretary for faith-based poverty?

The era of small government is apparently over. A Democrat and a Republican have each introduced bills to add a new agency to the governor's circle of advisers. Assemblyman Richard Alarcon, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley, wants a Sectretary for Poverty (shouldn't that be a Secretary Against Poverty?). And Republican Assemblyman Keven Jeffries of Riverside County wants an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the governor's office.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:17 PM

Dan Borenstein's cancer

Contra Costa Times editor Daniel Borenstein, the paper's former political columnist, is in the middle of a multi-part, first-person series on his battle with cancer. You can read it here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:06 PM

February 9, 2007

The early presidential primary

Someone asked me yesterday if I thought moving up the presidential primary would really benefit Californians in any tangible way. My answer: probably not.

Are the candidates going to come here and pander to our interests? First they have to figure out what "our interests" mean in a state of 37 million people divided along ethnic, income and ideological lines. Then they have to take some posiiton that somehow aligns with those interests, win the primary, win their party's nomination and win the general election, all before they even have a prayer of implementing whatever promise they might have made. So yes, California voters would get plenty of attention if our primary meant something. But it's a long way from that attention to any real action that stems from it. The general election vote is far more important: witness Bill Clinton's endless string of trips to the state and his efforts to steer goodies our way. That had nothing to do with the date of our primary.

The real benefit of moving the primary, if there is one, is in the sense that our votes made a difference in choosing the nominees. If Rudy is made viable by an early California primary or Hillary is put over the top or stopped in her tracks here, then Californians can be comforted by the realization that their votes mattered. So if that's important to you, then moving the primary might be significant.

On the other hand, with the rush to move all the primaries up, what happens if the California election comes and goes and there are still two candidates standing in each party's race? Then some tiny state voting in late February is going to deliver the knock-out blow to one of them. And we'll be long forgotten by then.

That could easily happen.

Bottom line: it's a crap shoot.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:25 AM

February 7, 2007

Mid-level changes in the horseshoe

Three changes today in the governor's inner office, two involving new employees and one with a new title.

One of the newcomers is Bob Gore, a veteran of the Deukmejian administration who has since been working with the insurance industry, as a government affairs consultant and with a health care consumer group. He is going to be a deputy cabinet secretary in the horseshoe, working for Dan Dunmoyer, another former insurance industry hand.

The other is Lisa Page, a former account manager for the Perry Communications Group who worked on the governor's re-elect. She'll be a deputy communications director working for Adam Mendelsohn.

The internal change comes with the bump of Jimmy Orr from chief deputy communications director to "Special advisor to the govrnor for Internet Communications." Orr, you might remember, was the brains behind "BarneyCam," which turned the president's dog into a videographer and put the result up on the White House Web site. He's been working with Schwarzenegger over the past year to vastly upgrade the governor's Web site with frequent live webcasts, blogs and other bells and whistles.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:06 PM

Schwarzenegger on immigration

Catching up on some old business – the tapes of the governor speaking privately with aides – the sexy parts obviously were his personal barbs directed at legislators, including Republican and Democratic leaders.

But after reading transcripts of all four conversations, I thought the most interesting part was his earthy, blunt assessment of the immigration issue (and not just because one of my columns came up in the conversation).

The immigration discussion was a rare glimpse at a politician working through a tough issue, one on which he is conflicted, and seeing how his mind works. And it wasn’t very pretty.

Schwarzenegger, speaking to speechwriter Gary Delsohn, says the 1986 amnesty and immigration reform “f----- the American people” because it legalized millions of immigrants while promising better enforcement of the border and employer sanctions, which never materialized. He complains about farmers wanting cheap labor but not being willing to pay for their workers’ health care. He compares the situation of illegal immigrants to “squatters” in Zimbabwe.

“They come and land, you can’t then get rid of them,” he says.

But then Schwarzenegger turns compassionate, or realistic, and acknowledges that it makes no financial or human sense to try to round up 12 million illegal immigrants and send them home. Many, he says, have children here who are citizens, or grandparents who are frail.

“So how do you split that family up?” he asks. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The governor then talks about the proposed border fence, which he says he doubts will work because it will either have gaps, or immigrants will tunnel beneath it, or both. Plus it reminds him of the Berlin Wall, and he worries that it will send a message that we consider Mexico to be an enemy.

He swings back again and complains about a shopping center in the Los Angeles area that was built entirely for Spanish-speakers, and he says that it reminds him of Mexico City. He complains that too many Mexicans don’t seem to want to assimilate into the dominant American culture the way he thinks earlier waves of immigrants have done. He compares Mexican immigrants to house guests who refuse to leave or help with the family’s chores. Interestingly, on this sensitive issue he notes that while he has mentioned it gingerly, he can’t really share his true thoughts in public.

“There are certain things you can’t say,” the governor tells his speechwriter.

But it turns out that Schwarzenegger did say some of these things in public later on. Probably because he knew that his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, had a copy of the recording and might leak it at any moment.

You can read the entire conversation in a PDF file you can download here.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:38 AM

February 5, 2007

I'll be back

Blogging will be light Monday and Tuesday as I am traveling on assignment.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:32 AM

February 2, 2007


Over at Capitol Alert, Shane Goldmacher has an item about Cruz Busamante being out of work and buried in debt.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:20 PM

February 1, 2007

Plz vot 4 my bil

Here is an interesting story about the movement to ban text messaging and emails to lawmakers while they are in session on the floor.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:44 PM

It's all about power

Today Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez will be rolling out his proposal for redistricting reform. Yesterday, in comments to the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., he noted that no legislative body’s majority party has ever willingly given up the power to draw district lines. But he suggested his might be the first.

“Power is something which once you gain you don’t want to give it away to anybody,” he told the publishers. “People don’t give power away.”

But, he added, “The time has come for us to show the way.”

Next door, in comments to the Legislature’s Latino Caucus, Senate Leader Don Perata continued his longtime love-hate relationship with the idea. He keeps suggesting he is open to reform, but never really seems to have his heart in it. Same story on Wednesday:

“If we have to do it, so be it,” Perata said. But he added: “We are not going to give up power easily.”

If anything happens, it seems certain to be linked to a term limits measure that would allow both leaders to hold onto their posts after 2008.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:43 AM

Nothing to make light of

In this piece she wrote a few years ago, Virginia Postrel takes the difference between incandescent and flourescent lighting very seriously. An excerpt:

If clean air were really the goal, the law would attack pollution directly. It would go after car exhausts and power-plant emissions, not incandescent spotlights. If energy conservation were the goal, the law would reward using less energy. Or it would raise the price of electricity to encourage people to use less. It would focus on how much energy people use, not how they get to that total. It wouldn't tell retailers what light fixtures to buy.

The dirty secret is that this is really an aesthetic battle. It's the latest version of the old American conflict between pleasure and Puritanism... Efficiency-minded engineers regard anything more than simple illumination as waste. Environmental activists are repulsed by "unnecessary" consumption. The boards that set energy codes and evaluate their effectiveness include engineers and environmentalists. They don't include artists or designers, much less lingerie shoppers.

In the behind-the-scenes meetings that establish the rules, no one speaks for pleasure. You can't measure aesthetic enjoyment with a light meter, so enjoyment doesn't count. We wind up with a law that makes it illegal to reproduce a Victoria's Secret. Legislators don't even know what they've passed.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:36 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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