Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fiorina - Sore Loser or Delusional?

NOVEMBER 3, 2010 12:20PM
The morning after Election Day is like emptying a really full dryer and finding that the lint trap caught more than its fair share of dog hair.

Lucky for California that the wave of angry white tea party-ish voters couldn't climb over the Sierra summit easily.  California sewed up 5 out 6 of the heavy races with Democrats.
Jerry Brown won handily, but not before Meg Whitman spent $168M trying to defeat the iconic 70 year old.   She lost by almost ten points which is enough of a statement.   And she somewhat gracefully conceded last night though she was clenching her teeth.

On the other hand, Barbara Boxer was declared a winner early in the evening here by none other than Fox News, followed by the LA Times.  The numbers were neck and neck for a while, but that was with few precincts reporting.  Later that gap widened yet Fiorina would not concede (52-Boxer v 42- Fiorina).

This morning and even with that ten point lead by Boxer, Fiorina will still not concede saying she has to crunch the numbers. 

Really, Carly?  Just give it up already.  Lose graciously and go home.

Here’s the rundown on CA races and props from the LA Times.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hubris and the midterms

There seems to be a lot of hubris going around these days.  Perhaps it will settle down after November 2, like allergy season does after the first frost.

In the meantime, paging the following:

I am not a witch O'Donnell

I signed an American Flag Grizzly Mama Palin

I'm gonna win the auction damn it Whitman

Please return to your Civics 1.0 class with Professor J. Stewart by the sound of the bell.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biting Back: Whitman's Nannygate

on the estate (did she fire the dog walker?)

Does it surprise anyone that Whitman would have undocumented workers toiling for lousy pay on her estate in Atherton?   Long before she was Candidate Whitman, she was citizen Whitman, and a busy one at that.  It would be a rare thing in that zip code for a household to not have undocumented (and documented) workers toiling away as housekeepers, nannies or yard help.

A little perspective might help since Silly Silicon Valley is a slightly different colored bubble than the rest of the universe.  The average (bell curve average) income in that zip code tops $240,000.   The average (!) home price is $3.92M.   When you think of Atherton, think of CEO-ville, Venture Capital-cove, and old wealth.  Atherton is an enclave nearby Stanford University that is well protected from peering eyeballs by high stone walls, huge foliage and lots of private security.  Nannies and housekeepers drive a Range Rover kept for that purpose. 

There are a ton of workers, documented and not toiling away in Atherton providing everything from housekeeping to mow, blow and go (that would lawn service) to shopping and nanny services.  And just because that zip code is supremely wealthy, it does not mean they pay the best wages either. 

If any papers were traded, and if (a big if) Ms. Whitman was paying payroll taxes including social security for this person, she would have known very early on that those papers were fake.  Even though we all know the IRS is slow, after half a decade you'd think they'd say something about it.  But nine years?  A more common practice is that the housekeeper, along with other household help were paid regularly with a check or cash - straight up for the hours without any payroll taxes removed.

If, as has been stated by the Whitman campaign, that the housekeeper came from an agency, then most agencies or companies that provide housekeeping services require that you pay the agency and not the individual.  The agency or company pays the employees directly.  If Whitman were to have gotten an employee from an agency, most provide extensive background checks and bonding, especially if they are sending employees to homes of very wealthy people (hello: security).  Something just does not add up.

There is truth to this matter somewhere in the facts presented by both sides, and undoubtedly it is rather simple.  However, the claims by the Whitman campaign so far are not making much sense.  But then again, having Gloria Allard as your mouthpiece tends to make things a little more sensational than they are.

It would, however, be surprising if Whitman had NOT employed anyone who had questionable immigration status as a worker in her home at some point in time.  The problem is more on the end where citizen Whitman became Candidate Whitman without a thought to how her past might factor into a public service job. 

All along Whitman has seen the CA Governorship as an extension of being a corporate CEO and still has no idea that past practices matter - like a voting record, or hiring household help.   It would be fair to say that Meg Whitman's housekeeper-gate will not be the only problem in her past that comes back to bite.

In fact, taken together, the growing list speaks to that attitude of arrogance: Goldman Sachs, her lack of understanding basic civics and the CA Constitution, the old absent voting record, and her waffling on immigration and green, and now housekeeper/nanny-gate.

Meg Whitman doesn't even understand immigration - she has waffled continually on immigration status and immigration reform from the beginning.  From the Daily Kos on the 9/28 Brown-Whitman debate:

"Whitman Says She Is Unfamiliar With Illegal Immigration Terminology
[Whitman] has struggled to explain her past and current positions on the issue. She said...her lack of familiarity with the issue and her newness to politics had caused the misunderstanding. ‘When you’re new to politics, sometimes you use words that have like a meaning to people who have been in politics for 20 years,’ she explained." [The Washington Post, 5/31/10]"

Housekeeper-gate will ebb into the news abyss as have the other issues, but in the end the combination of all these troubling factors might be the difference between Meg being just Candidate Whitman rather than Governor Whitman come November 2.

One can hope that voters are paying close attention.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meg Whitman's Unfortunate Editorial Board Adventure: Fresno v. Detroit

Really?  Detroit is in Michigan?  Not Louisiana? (AP)
Meg Whitman stuck her fashionable, yet practical stiletto (ok, pump) in her mouth yet again.  This week she compared the economic plight of Fresno to Detroit.  That's right.  Fresno, where they grow almonds and make lots of raisins is what she compared to Detroit, that bigger city on a Great Lake where they pretty much grow shipyards, auto plants, and Motown, once upon a time.
And how did Candidate Whitman lose her shoe this time?  Through a time honored tradition, candidates meet with various newspaper editorial boards for interviews as the election nears.  Editorial boards then sum up the meeting and give a thumbs up or down to the candidate.

Candidate Whitman's editorial adventure with the San Jose Merc did not go well.   Meeting with the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News she began the conversation saying that Fresno was as awful as Detroit.  Really?

When asked to clarify, Candidate Whitman shoveled a little deeper.

"Fresno looks worse than Detroit. It's awful." She acknowledged it didn't go over well, and explained, "I made a comparison between Fresno and Detroit. It wasn't all that well received but what I was trying to say, what I meant to say, what was absolutely imbedded in those remarks is that it is not acceptable Detroit has a lower unemployment rate than Fresno."

But let's add a little logic to that simplistic comparison of "awful" made by Whitman.  Numbers are not always equally significant.   Fresno has a population of about 500K while Detroit's numbers are approaching 1M.  That 15% unemployment in Fresno and 14% unemployment in Detroit actually makes the automobile city's suffering much more "awful" (using the  Whitman awful-scale) based on real numbers of people out of work.  And a bright 5th grader might know that each city's various industries are not similar, the unemployed worker profiles are vastly different, and the overall recovery patterns would not be nearly the same. 

And just for fun, let’s help out Candidate Whitman with a few more relevant facts.

Fresno is steeped in California history as part of the gold rush and early railroad industry. But since it is in central valley, on the edge of the mountains, it also still serves as a great farming and orchard community; cotton, grapes, almonds and more are grown around Fresno.  Fresno is the world capital for raisins. About 60% of the world’s raisins are grown there and provide the majority of raisins sold in the United States. The largest employer in Fresno? The IRS.

Detroit?  It began as a flour milling town and moved into copper (you know, like gold only copper). And then there were the shipyards and ship repair, being not landlocked like that other city, Fresno. A big machine industry town, Detroit evolved into something we all think about when we think of Detroit; Motown and Gladys Knight.  Oh, and automobiles, too, as in General Motors and Henry Ford.

So much alike are these two cities, it is hard to tell where one begins and the other one ends.

While campaigning in the city of Fresno, Whitman was accompanied by Bobby Jindal, whom she calls a role model.  That would Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Rhodes Scholar and exorcist, who thinks creationism is great science; accompanying would-be CA Governor Meg Whitman, a Harvard Business School graduate who only began voting in 2002 and was the boss of Mr. Potato Head for a number of years. 

Is Meg Whitman smarter than a 5th grader?  You decide.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

11 Angry Men and One Citizen Whitman: Jury Duty Calling?

three angry men, one meg whitman and not one good excuse

Oh the conundrum.  This week, my husband, only a few short weeks into a new job was called to Federal Court for jury duty.  So far, he has yet to be required to report in person and has just a couple more days to call in.  With some luck and an approaching Federal holiday weekend, he may just not have to tell his new employer he will be away from the job.

But some other people called for jury duty this week are not facing the same good luck.  For instance, Meg Whitman.  Candidate Whitman who lives in Atherton, CA (look up the zip code, and average income and prepare to choke on your coffee) was called for service in the county in which she resides, Redwood City Courthouse in San Mateo.   Apparently, Candidate Whitman's handlers could not think of one way to get her out of that conundrum given that the election is about to heat up for that final stretch.   Hint: we hear that a Doctor's note works, but not so much a note from John McCain, Dick Cheney, or Michael Steele (especially not Steele).  

Monday, among the jurors called in was Citizen Meg.  When the judge asked if anyone had anything interfering with their ability to serve she raised her hand and responded with: I am running for Governor.  Note to Meg:  I find telling the Judge you have recurring migraines, or hate child molesters, or have a bias, or even urinary incontinence generally resounds better than “I’m running for Governor”.

Guess what?  The Judge was not impressed.  Citizen Whitman is back in court and being considered as a juror for a molestation trial.  It should take about a month they say.   Her campaign thinks she would be excused because of her busy busy schedule with the campaign.  

The trial Judge?  A democrat appointed by Gray Davis, ex-Governor - actually recalled (like the eggs) Governor Gray Davis.

California - where things that seem ridiculously boring (like the campaign) never are when you add a zip like  90210 94027 to the mix.  Oh, and the fact that Candidate and Citizen Whitman might be under the impression that she is shoe-in as Governor Whitman (who gets to appoint judges) based on those unreliable early polls – and just a tad too big a citizen for jury duty.

Maybe her friend, Mr. Potato Head can email her an infomercial on civics.  Again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Katrina

in better times - only one place this happens: the child and associates
That last phone call was not going well.  From 2500 miles away we were doing our best to convince (read: beg) our girl to leave the city ahead of the storm.  In the past decade since she'd made New Orleans her home, she'd stayed behind for every other hurricane, but to us this was different.  She was always an exceptionally stubborn child and this moment was no different.  She had yet to reach a conclusion about the impending Katrina.  But before we could talk again the circuits were overloaded and we only had the ability to communicate by texting - and even those were spotty.  

The moment we got a message that she was in a car heading west, with one of her paintings, two dogs, a cat (or two?) some small critters - I can't remember - various other treasures along with more people than there were seats, and  on her way to someone's grandmother's house in Texas, we breathed that first sigh of relief.  The hurricane hit New Orleans the next day.

But only a few days later she turned around, got on a bus and met up with another friend and drove back into the devastated city when most people were still holed up far away glued to their televisions watching Anderson Cooper.   When George Bush was telling Brownie that he was doing a heck of a job, my child was making her way back home.
They drove in through a back way with a carload of supplies including as much dog and cat food as she could find.  The Red Cross wasn't even fully set up and in fact, left town not much later when Hurricane Rita was looming.  The only support system aside from the National Guard that remained was the Salvation Army.

She would send me texts that the Salvation Army were the ones roaming the streets looking for residents and giving them MREs (meals ready to eat) and bottles of water, no questions asked.  It was the Salvation Army who stayed through Hurricane Rita and never abandoned the people who stayed behind.  For that alone, I never pass a ringing bell anymore without dropping something in that bucket just in gratitude for their silent willingness to go where no other organization would in those early days of Katrina.  And for providing my kid with water and yummy meals in a bag.

She found her apartment building still standing but the roof in perilous shape with gaping holes.  Her latest canvas, stored high on a closet shelf was the only thing dry.   Her camera was still on the table exactly where she'd forgotten it, untouched, but the remainder of the space was soaked and battered by the hurricane.  The building next door where an elderly man lived and did not vacate was also devastated.  She wrote that one wall was entirely gone, but the shelf across the room, full of papers and other stuff was not touched - it looked like a macabre diorama ready for viewing.  Yet he remained in his home.

She was able to charge her phone through the generosity of the firehouse next door and the various generators they were using.  They even gave the elderly man a little power so he could have a television in his newly ventilated apartment.
She roamed the neighborhood daily feeding cats and dogs.  Some she managed to free from the tie-ups that were used pre-storm in what was once a backyard.  She was there well before animal rescue could get into the neighborhood.  The animals were terrified and hungry.  It would be weeks and sometimes never before people were reunited with their animals.  She never stopped feeding those that were still left behind. 

When George Bush came to Jackson Square, some residents (including the kid) tried to get there to talk to him.  She said the National Guard was ordered to keep residents away.   Those residents included those who never left and those, like my daughter who managed to come back home to lend a hand.  But the President wasn't there to see them - he was there for a photo opportunity that fell flat.

Through all this time our only means of communication was short texting.  The cell towers that were destroyed in the both hurricanes crippled communication along with the overload.  
It would be a long time before we talked again.  But each day she faithfully sent a text just so we would know she was safe.  She didn't evacuate for Rita.  She just taped up tarps and hoped for the best which was what happened. 

It would be months before mail service was restored.  It would be weeks before those dangerous and smelly refrigerators were removed.  There all kinds of circles of hell within Katrina, but one of them - the fact that animals couldn't be transported with the half-assed public evacuation was inhumane, heartless and needless.  Thankfully it will never happen again to the extent it did with Katrina.  

I can only say that on this anniversary, a half decade already - that the face of the city is changed forever because of the devastation from Katrina's battering, but New Orleans, like my kid, is never one to give up and call it a day.  To that, I raise a glass and say Salud, and please pass me a beignet.

And the artist's collection is here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Aging of Meg Whitman: Campaign Fatigue is Only the Beginning

The ageless Brown and the aging Whitman
It's the end of August and the November 2010 elections loom large; time to take a minute to skewer a candidate.  That candidate, of course, would be gazillionaire Meg Whitman who is running for CEO Governor of California against the venerable Jerry Brown.

Campaign fatigue is taking a toll on Whitman.  While Jerry Brown is aging well, Meg Whitman is rapidly aging; the stress of seeking a political office for which she offers no credible experience is showing.  Brown is 72 and Whitman is 54.  Side by side, one would have quite the time discerning that almost 20 years separate the two.  Important?  Not at all, but perhaps it is a fleeting look of how well each holds up under stress.  

My money is on Brown.

Recent polls show that both candidates are tracking evenly; about 34%(Whitman) to 37% (Brown) with about a quarter of registered voters undecided.  No one should be anxious about the numbers that favor either candidate at this point.  The undecided numbers are more compelling.  Brown will woo them with his pragmatic pitch about experience and public service.  Whitman will woo them with her undeniably slick brochures and eBay experience, and the love from Romney, Gingrich, Cheney and her best pal, McCain.  Some say Palin endorses Whitman, but she isn't listed on the candidate's website.   Kudos to Whitman for avoiding the mama grizzly.

And speaking of wooing - Whitman just dropped another $13M into her campaign bringing her self-funded total to a grand $104M, just a few million short Michael Bloomberg's landmark total.  It seems quite likely that she will surpass Bloomberg in the Guinness Book of Idiots who spent entirely too much personal money on their political campaigns.  Jerry Brown has a hot $23M at his disposal and is saving most of it for late fall.  His assist comes from the unions who are currently spending their own funds on several advertisements supporting Brown which counter the argumentum ad nauseam that is the Whitman television, radio and print barrage.

Whitman's campaign has printed up another booklet/brochure/pretty book with pictures, the sequel to her first attempt at telling voters what she is all about.  Both publications are mostly graphs, charts and pictures.  They give the reader sound bites that encompass a travelogue of what a good politician ought to be doing.  Both editions while slick and pretty, are poor substitutes for conveying actual knowledge and experience.  We know that Meg has had a steep learning curve with regard to the California constitution and general civics; she had trouble getting her private citizen self to the polls to vote in past years and made public gaffes while on the campaign trail that a 12th grader who studied civics would not make.  No one should mistake the Whitman candidacy for anything but a facade of what a politician ought to look like.  Like many Silicon Valley businesses and real estate during the boom years, bricks but no mortar. 

Divided on Prop 8, and with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring all briefs to be filed before the election, it is likely that both candidates will reach out to both sides to seek support.  In Brown's case, as the current Attorney General for California, he is already on record siding with overturning Prop 8 on the merits of the law (not to mention general fairness).  Whitman was an understated supporter of Prop 8.  Her campaign may reach out to Prop 8 supporters with message that a Whitman government would not support overturning the prop.  However, even the conservative Orange Country registered slammed Whitman when she naively gave her opinion about the matter to the press after Judge Walker's ruling, parroting the right wing/religious message that marriage should be between a man and woman.  Too bad she didn't follow the court case which was not about that.  

Perhaps next time one of her campaign staffers might actually give her a more reliable soundbite; that is, something that is prepared for her to read since she is proving to be as clueless as ever about what it takes to run a state like California.  If only she and current Governor Arnold were on speaking terms - he might give her a hint about how fickle employees citizens can be.

Whitman, a thousand years younger in 2009