Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Education - and the CSU - are bullseye in budget wars

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The budgets of all the segments of public education are squarely in the sights of the state government finance people as the state of California attempts to grapple with a state budget that is badly out of balance and getting more so by the day.

Among the many time bombs ticking are the ever-lowering estimates of what homes are worth (which translates into lower taxes - if tax assessors do their jobs) and the race-to-the-bottom spiral of sales tax revenues as state residents hunker down, spend less and thus cut the tax revenues that have already been counted by the state - but not collected.

In the California State University, there is the additional problem of a university chancellor who is all-too-willing to rollover on his own 23-campuses to curry favor with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed

Reed this week agreed voluntarily to give up $31.3 million dollars when the governor asked for various state-funded agencies to chip in to put sandbags in front of the budget-deficit flood.

That seems so reasonable, until you consider that the CSU has already taken a $288 million reduction this year. Originally, the governor said the CSU would have to reduce its budget by $386 million, later relenting and restoring the difference.

And now the governor has gone after a portion of that restoration money, with the likelihood he will come back and ask for more of what he "restored."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

The California Faculty Association - the labor union representing the faculty - is furious that Reed simply agreed to give up the money, indicating in a letter to the governor that cutting the additional $31 million (about $1.3 million per campus) will not hurt the instructional program.

That's bad enough - and arguably untrue - but the union is doubly furious because last year, when budget cuts were looming, the CFA, students, Reed and the CSU Board of Trustees all linked arms and sang a political kumbaya, forming the Alliance for the CSU to show the governor and legislators a united front, spending huge sums of money on public relations in the process, though they didn't gain any real traction with Schwarzenegger, apparently.

Part of that united front meant that the CFA would keep its criticism muted of administrative goings on, including earlier this year when the chancellor got called out for handing out a no-bid contract for more than $2.45 million several years back - a contract that he engaged in specifically to fight the union over its demands for higher wages for faculty.

In early October the university system and Reed got slapped with a $7.7 million lawsuit by the whistleblower in that case (fired by Reed in March) who had publicly raised questions about the propriety of the $4,000-per -day, no-bid contract with C. Richard Barnes & Associates, LLC, of Lawrenceville, Ga. for consulting services.

  • Whistleblower story

  • If anyone was surprised by the chancellor's actions this week, they haven't been paying attention.

    Practically since the day he took over his job from outgoing Chancellor Barry Munitz (who annoited Reed and convinced the board of trustees to select Reed without a competitive search), Reed has kowtowed to the administrative branch of government while generally thumbing his nose at the legislature.

    That thumbing this week has now grown to include the faculty and students who set aside their many earlier differences with Reed to form the "alliance."

    And it was only a few years ago that Reed required nearly all the campuses of the CSU to install and operate a complicated computer system called the Common Management System, a software and hardware package that promised miracles but mostly delivered nightmares: cost overruns, technical glitches and conflicts of interest in the bidding process. It even got blistered - along with Reed and many of his staff - in a state audit and was the subject of legislative hearings.

    The software in the system remains such a mess, that most campuses refer to it as a full-employment-for-consultants scheme.

    The other portions of the Alliance for the CSU - the faculty and students - are regrouping, trying to see they can get back the $31.3 million that Reed turned over without a fuss.

    But to do that, they need Reed to agree and tell governor that he has changed his mind and won't turn over the money so easily.

    They might as well start singing kumbaya right now and put their energies into figuring out what to do when Reed says (sometime soon) that the CSU can turn over the rest of the 'restored' money without hurting the education of the university students.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    8-year-old kills himself - while test firing an Uzi

    WESTFIELD, Mass., USA - It was the kind of headline that makes your stomach do a flip-flop.

    An 8-year-old boy at a gun show test fired an Uzi today and had it kick up, with a 9mm bullet going into the boy's head, killing him.

    According to the news reports, the boy was at a gun show with his sixth-grader brother and his father to check the place out. Free firing of all kinds of weapons was available to anyone who walked in and paid the entry fees. The father and two boys were familiar with handling guns, though 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj had never fired an automatic weapon before, police said.

    All Second Amendment arguments aside, what the hell was anyone thinking, allowing a third grade kid to shoot a weapon like that? Or even letting someone that young in?

    Ah, thinking! Yes, thinking. Not much was going on with anyone running the show, or parents who took their children to it for the thrill of blasting a few rounds.

    Uzi machine guy
    Uzi machine gun

    The website that was posted for the gun show has been shut down - no doubt to avoid the hate mail or to serve as possible evidence in a lawsuit.

    Here's a link to the San Francisco Chronicle story:

  • 8-year-old dies
  • Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Christopher Buckley interview on Daily Show - must see

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Christopher Buckley (son of the late William F. Buckley) was a great guest on the Daily Show this week, doing an interview with Jon Stewart that was hilarious at times, and revealing throughout.

    Buckley gave up his column with the conservative National Review magazine after he posted a blog entry - on a publication edited by former New Yorker editor Tina Brown - endorsing Barack Obama.

    Buckley's best line in the interview actually is a paraphrase of something Ronald Reagan said.

    It's worth listening for.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Sarah Palin goes on Saturday Night Live - and is funny

    NEW YORK, New York, USA - The governor of Alaska, GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin, made an expanded cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live this week, showing that she can make a joke.

    Alex Baldwin only winced slightly when he got whacked pretty good with a carefully scripted retort from the governor.

    Tina Fey's sketch - which precedes Palin's appearance - is priceless, as usual.

    Here's the Fey-Palin portion of the show:

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Sarah Palin videos are flooding the YouTube charts

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The YouTube videos about GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin are flooding the bandwidth of YouTube.

    Every day some new video pops up; some are clever, some not so.

    And every day, in addition to my scanning of news wires and YouTube and Google Video, I usually get emailed a few links.

    The link to the video below was in my email box this morning and made me spray my Earl Grey tea on the computer screen when it got to the chorus.

    Interestingly, I felt the same way during the McGovern-Nixon campaign in 1972.

    Look how that turned out.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    More on the Willie Hortonization of Barack Obama

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., USA - The San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli has been following the presidential race closely and has started writing about the not-so-subtle racism that is creeping in as the GOP forces find themselves behind in the polls.

    And getting farther behind by the minute, attack by attack, it seems.

    Here's what Garofoli posted today:

    Garofoli political blog

    Another column, by conservative columnist Kathleen Parker took a look at what she calls GOP code, and how fluent GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin is at speaking in it.

    Here's the link to that column:

  • GOP code and Sarah Palin
  • Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Joe Six Pack(s) debate the merits of Sarah Palin as VP

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The columnists of the world - and would-be film makers - as well as, I suppose, everybody else with a political ax, are writing and blogging and posting videos about the upcoming presidential election.

    This YouTube entry - a couple of guys in a bar debating Sarah Palin's candidacy - should make most people (well, most Democrats anyway) laugh aloud.

    It is long, but worth watching until the end.

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    The Sarah Palin wink - what are we to make of it?

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The San Francisco Chronicle is running a guest commentary that suggests that Sarah Palin is actually trying to seduce Americans into voting for her.

    No, it doesn't really suggest it - it comes out and says it for the most part.

    Sarah Palin has the wink
    Sarah Palin gives U.S. the 'wink'

    The column does explain a lot about how Palin behaved in her debate with Joe Biden, and behaves on the campaign trail.

    The nation's top cheerleader? Gosh. Maybe we should be voting on that.

    Here'a a link to the column:

  • Wink if you like Sarah
  • Sunday, October 05, 2008

    Saturday Night Live 'coverage' of the Biden-Palin debate

    NEW YORK, New York, USA - The crew of Saturday Night Live nailed it again in its political coverage of the presidential campaign.

    I listened to the debate on the radio, but the areas that were lampooned were ones I heard and chuckled even as the real candidates were saying them.

    And having Queen Latifah as Gwen Ifill!

    They have geniuses writing those scripts.

    Here's the video clip: