County election office comes stumbling out of the gate again

A special election is being help March 26 to pick a successor to former state Senator Ted Gaines and  as we’ve come to expect in the past, the Nevada County election office has come stumbling out of the gate.

The election office announced earlier this week that ballots would be mailed about Feb. 9 and that Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley would serve as a vote center beginning March 16.

Then a correction was issued Wednesday: Ballots will be mailed no sooner than Feb. 25 and Gold Miners Inn will function as a vote center only on election day.

Barry Pruett
He was right

This stumblin’, bumblin’ approach to elections has become standard operating procedure under the leadership of county Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz. People have become so conditioned to something going wrong they are surprised when there are no screw-ups.

Ballots sent to vote-by-mail voters for the 2016 general election were missing a page listing nine of 17 state propositions and three local measures. “The page just didn’t get stuffed in the ballot by the printer,” an election office employee explained.

Managing outside vendors has been a recurring problem for Diaz’s office. Ballots in 2016 (late getting verified) and 2014 (printing error) were delayed because of screw ups that weren’t caught by Diaz’s office. Then there’s his interpretation of election law, something he’s supposed to know.

Americans for Safe Access Nevada County launched a drive in 2014 to quality a medical marijuana initiative for the ballot. State law required the promoters to obtain valid signatures of 20 percent of county residents who voted in the most recent governor’s election.

In this case, that was 2010, when 45,657 votes were cast in the county for governor. That meant the promoters needed to obtain a minimum of 9,131 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

But Diaz came up with another number, claiming they needed to obtain 9,928 signatures, 20 percent of all voters even if they didn’t cast a vote in the governor’s race. Diaz was the only clerk/recorder in the state to come up with that novel interpretation. Heck, local attorney Barry Pruett, who Diaz beat in the 2010 election, pointed out the mistake before Diaz conceded he was wrong.

There is only one decision for voters to make in the special election and, as of now, only two candidates to choose from, so the election office should get this one right. But past history suggests this is not a slam dunk.

Posted in Barry Pruett, County Clerk/Recorder Gregory Diaz, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here’s an example of why the GOP has a racism problem

“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism. It is because of our silence when things like this are said.”–Tim Scott, black Republican senator, on Rep. Steven King

After years of ignoring his racist comments, House Republicans have finally had enough of Rep. Steven King of Iowa.

Republican leaders in the House stripped King of his committee assignments and Rep. Liz Cheney, chair of the House Republican Conference, suggested he resign his seat. A resolution condemning his comments had bi-partisan support in the House.

The GOP leadership apparently had enough of King when he told the New York Times:  “White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization–how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Here in western Nevada County, conservatives expressed confusion and hostility toward the House GOP’s action, apparently either oblivious to, or in agreement with, King’s long history of racist comments.

“What exactly did he say (as opposed to what his detractors claim he said) that caused the furor and the Republican leadership to censure him,” asked George Rebane, proprietor of Rebane’s Ruminations, a blog that’s a gathering place for the local conservative intelligentsia.

This apparent ignorance is hard to accept. Rebane is obviously well read, and it stretches credibility to suggest that he is unaware of King’s long history of racist comments. Perhaps he just reads conservative publications that don’t find King’s comments objectionable or worthy of criticism, or maybe Rebane just agrees with him.

He has drawn criticism locally for contending that people want to be with their own kind, and suggesting the U.S. would be better off if it was organized into a “confederacy of like-minded regions.” How you would accomplish this in the country with the world’s more diverse population is hard to fathom, but a lot of people see racism in the proposal. I’ll call it segregation and leave it at that.

Rebane’s bewilderment over the King dust-up was quickly dismissed by two of his regulars. “fish,” the only one of Rebane’s regulars who appears to have a sense of humor, responded: “Oh that hardly matters George…they’re running with the narrative…Mittens Romney wants him primaried. Even McConnell is wobbly! GOPe…craven cowards to the man.”

Todd Juvinall, who’s rude, crude and claims to have never witnessed racial discrimination in Nevada County, chimed in with this: “Yeah the lefty snowflakes can’t deal with that so they have to ban it. God help America.”

Rebane’s fellow travelers seem to be fearful of the encroachment of “those people” into California’s second whitest county. They were particularly aroused recently when some blacks tried to rip-off a local pot dealer, and two groups of blacks robbed the T-Mobile store in Grass Valley.

Rebane regular Walt Branson was particularly upset with this chain of events, referring to one of the invaders as a “city pavement ape” in a post on December 1. Rebane didn’t remove it, and nobody suggested it was out-of-bounds. It’s possible that nobody read the rant. The other possibility is that those who read it didn’t find it objectionable.

As Senator Scott has observed, this is why the GOP has an image problem.

Posted in George Rebane, Nevada County Republican Party, Politics, Racism, Republican Party | 8 Comments

Liking the people you cover can be dangerous for a reporter

Jeff “Podunk” Pelline took some victory laps recently because he was invited to a luncheon celebrating the reelection of county Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz, giving Jeffie an excuse to (again) drop a name and (again) infer that he’s an important fellow.

Pelline has been a reliable foot soldier for Diaz over the years, contributing money to past campaigns, running Diaz’s press releases on his blog unedited and with no critical comment, and taking regular shots at anybody who dares to run against him.

When Diaz misinterpreted the statute regarding how many signatures of registered voters you need to qualify a measure for the ballot, Podunk brushed it off as no big deal.

Jeffie has been in Diaz’s camp since he was editor of The Union, when he ran against incumbent Kathleen Smith in 2006 for the clerk-recorder’s job. She was appointed to the job when Lorraine Jewett-Burdick resigned, and was seeking election to a full term.

Smith was a real piece of work. She managed to screw up a couple of elections and didn’t think it was necessary to apologize. She spent no money on advertising, and did little campaigning when she ran for election. The Union endorsed Diaz, but she won anyway. (The paper hasn’t endorsed a candidate since then.)

The luncheon is the latest episode of Pelline’s ongoing campaign to impress the local yokels with how many important people he has met over the years, presumably making him superior to the rest of us.

He has certainly reminded me on several occasions, informing me that Larry Ellison and other corporate titans have praised his work in the past. (That would raise a red flag with most reporters I know, but I digress.)

Then there’s the recent email regarding Larry Baer, president of the San Francisco Giants. I mentioned Baer in my commentary on the death of long-time Giants broadcaster Hank Greenwald, suggesting he was less than sincere in his praise of Hank. That prompted the following from Podunk:

“Baer couldn’t pick ‘Bored Georgeman’ out of a lineup! I ran into him at the Arizona Biltmore at Spring Training in March, however, and he said, ‘Hi Jeff.’ Need an introduction? Let me know. Ha!”

So it shouldn’t surprise anybody that the recent death of Herb Kelleher, long-time head of Southwest Airlines, prompted Jeffie to write that it was a “privilege” to interview Kelleher during his big-time reporting days. (Privilege? You would think Pelline was granted an audience with a potentate.)

Pelline writes fondly of a “fun night” he had with Kelleher at a business editors and writers convention in Phoenix. “He had a great sense of humor,” we’re told.

Kelleher was certainly an unorthodox CEO, eschewing the stiff formality of most corporate heads to come across as one of the guys, a hail fellow well met. Just listen to Terry Maxon, who covered the airline industry for 25 years at the Dallas Morning News.

“For the time you spent with Herb, you were the only one who existed,” Maxon wrote in a blog post. “You were his best friend, the person he’d rather be talking to than anyone else in the world. You were awash in the glow of his admiration.”

This can be quite intoxicating for reporters, who are usually greeted with grudging acceptance at best or outright hostility at worst when interviewing corporate heavyweights. Imagine that, a friendly CEO!

“For a reporter, of course, this is dangerous,” Maxon continues. “At the core, we are not the friends of the people we cover. We are not their enemies. We are recorders of what they do, with an effort to put it into an accurate, balanced context that informs our readers. We are not cynics, but we are skeptics.”

So for all his conviviality, how informative was Kelleher? “From time to time, I would have sit down interviews with Kelleher, ” Maxon wrote. “I can’t remember any newsworthy secrets, any news he ever told me–ever.”

There are a lot of reporters who are susceptible to a kind gesture or compliment that colors their work, a phenomenon I witnessed many times during my years in corporate PR. They yearn for acceptance–or at least acknowledgment–from people in positions of power, and mute criticism to maintain access.

Of course, none of them would ever admit to such a weakness.

Posted in Jeff Pelline, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

It’s time to go bowling again for fun and profit

As ESPN is prone to say, it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” if you’re a college football junkie or a sports bettor. It’s bowl season again!

From the Cure Bowl this Saturday (Tulane vs. Louisiana Tech) to the national championship game Jan. 7 (probably Alabama and Clemson again), football fans will have 40 excuses to ignore relatives during the holiday season.

Place your bets.

Several teams that qualified have 6-6 records, a good working definition of mediocre, but none of them have losing records, unlike recent years. Still, that doesn’t mean coaches’ jobs are safe. Some have already been fired and two have announced their retirement.

Separately the wheat from the chaff is always difficult in this situation, but it also presents betting opportunities for the astute observer. The Vegas bookies can’t be right on every game. It’s up to the bettor to figure out where they have erred.

For those of you who want to root for your money as well as the teams playing, I’m going to list some general guidelines on betting bowl games that have worked in the past. Remember, the object here is to beat the point spread, no necessarily win the game.

But when you decide to bet, don’t be in a big hurry to get your money down. Things will happen between now and game time to influence the outcome: Coaches will get fired or leave for other jobs, key players will be injured in practice, and other players will get in trouble and either be sent home or spend game day in jail. Trouble seems to be a particular problem for these guys in Florida and the New Orleans area. There are 7 bowl games in Florida this year and 3 in Louisiana.

Another issue involving key players has surfaced in the last 2 years: Stars who skip their bowl game so they’re healthy for NFL draft.  As I write this, more than a dozen top NFL prospects have announced they won’t play in their team’s bowl games. Among them are West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and North Carolina State’s star linebacker Germaine Pratt.

With that in mind, here are some angles to consider:

Win one for the Urban

There is no denying that emotion plays a role in the outcome of college games, and two teams figure to be primed for a peak performance because their coaches are retiring: Ohio State (Urban Meyer) and Georgia Tech (Paul Johnson).

Disappointed teams

On the other end of the emotional spectrum are several teams that were riding high before experiencing disappointing finishes. Some are playing in lesser bowls than they expected, and others think they were slighted when bowl invitations were handed out. Either way, it’s going to be tough for them to get excited about the games they’re playing in.

Georgia and Michigan are two teams that may find it difficult to get fired up for their bowl games. George lost a big lead to Alabama in the SEC championship game and Michigan was embarrassed by Ohio State in its final regular season game.

Other major teams that had disappointing seasons include West Virginia, Washington State and Auburn. Then there’s the consolation bowl, aka the Holiday Bowl, that pits the runner-up in the Big 10 (Northwestern) against the runner-up in the Pac 12 (Utah). Pass on that one.

The Big 10 is overrated

Schools from the conference have historically been underachievers in bowl games, and you could make a lot of money  in the past just betting against them.

That trend has weakened in the last couple of years, and you certainly have to like Ohio State’s chances in the Rose Bowl. I would tend to avoid any of the other 6 games involving Big 10 teams until we can see which way the trend in going.

The SEC is mighty and should prevail

This is the premier football conference in the country, and even its second division teams are tough to beat. Eight teams are in bowl games and I like 5 of them. Skip Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia.

Support your military

Players for the military academies tend to be focused, mission-driven, and in bed at a reasonable hour, making them good bets in bowl games. Army’s the only one that made it this year, facing Houston in–how appropriate–the Armed Forces Bowl.

Bonus pick

I usually don’t include totals bets in these recommendations, but I couldn’t pass up the Cheez-it Bowl, pitting Cal against TCU. Each team has a stout defense and an anemic offense, which is why the total for this game is 40.5 points–easily the lowest total on the board. Even so, I think the teams will go under the total.

Posted in College bowl games, NCAA, Sports, Sports betting, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If Trump is innocent, why are all the president’s men lying?

Donald Trump has insisted from the start that the Mueller investigation into collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election is a “witch hunt” and that nothing illegal took place.

Telling the truth?

If that’s the case, why are all of the president’s men lying to Mueller’s investigators, a phenomenon not seen since the Watergate scandal? “This many lies is unusual,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan. “This group seems particularly insistent.”

The list gets longer every day:

–Paul Manafort, former campaign manager;

–Michael Cohen, Trunp’s personal “fixer”;

–George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor;

–Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor;

–Richard Gates, deputy campaign chairman.

Then there’s Jerome Corsi, who claimed Mueller pressured him to commit perjury. This is a guy who made his rep on the political right by spreading lies that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Corsi was working with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor, who said he would never betray the president.

Why would Stone say that if Trump did nothing illegal?

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We’ve forfeited our moral leadership for a few dollars more

In a rare display of backbone, Senate Republicans are actually protesting President Trump’s decision to give Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But this is likely to pass with no permanent impact on America’s foreign policy. If a Republican administration was unwilling to punish Saudi Arabia when 15 of its citizens participated in the 9/11 attack, why would you expect them to care about a journalist most of them never heard of until he was dead?

While the U.S. may now be the largest producer of oil in the world, Saudi Arabia is still a major producer that dominates the OPEC oil-producing countries, and who Trump depends on to help keep oil prices relatively low. The Saudis are also seen as a counter to Iran in the Middle East, even though they have shown little skill as a fighting force.

Little happens in Saudi Arabia without the knowledge or approval of MBS  (as he’s known to Washington insiders) and the CIA has concluded with a high degree of confidence that he ordered Khoshoggi’s killing.

The carrying out of the killing was truly inept, and Saudi security in apparently so bad that Turkish intelligence and the CIA were able to record practically every aspect of the hit. The only thing yet to be discovered in the location of Khoshoggi’s body parts.

But none of this concerned Trump. All he focused on was the $110 billion the Saudis are supposedly spending on military equipment and other things in the U.S. (As is usually the case with Trump, that’s not accurate. They have committed to spending slightly more than 10 percent of the total; they may spend the rest in the future.)

All of this was unfolding while Vice President Mike Pence was wrapping up a trip to Asia, where he lectured Myanmar officials on their campaign of genocide against the Rohingya minority in their country, and criticized China for persecuting its Uighur muslims. I’ll bet their leaders just snickered when they heard about Trump’s position on the Khoshoggi killing.

There used to be a time when the U.S. tried to provide some semblance of moral leadership for the world. But Trump has made it clear those days are gone. Now, it’s all about the Benjamins.

ONE MORE THING: As if to illustrate their importance, Trump publicly thanked the Saudis for keeping oil prices low. Uncharacteristically for him, Trump failed to take credit for his contribution to lower prices. That would the waivers the Trump administration gave eight countries that buy a lot of oil from Iran when the latest round of “sanctions” were imposed. Nobody’s saying how much oil the countries, which include China, are being allowed to buy, and for how long.


Posted in Donald Trump, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Will it be deja vu all over again when the Bruins face Colfax?

Will history repeat itself Friday at Nevada Union when No. 3 seed Bear River faces No. 1 Colfax for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V football championship?

If the answer is “yes” then the Bruins will take home the championship for the second year in a row. They claimed the title last year after losing their league game to Colfax, the same thing that happened this season.

Colfax beat the Bruins handily on their home turf, 41-14, for BR’s only loss of the season. The outcome surprised me: I had the Bruins 5-point favorites in the game.

Since then, the schools have become almost even in my calculations, mainly because the Falcons had an easier path through the first two rounds of the playoffs. With the game on a neutral field, it is basically a toss-up.

I think the outcome will be more one-sided when the third member of the Foothill 4 to make the playoffs,  No. 2 seed Placer, takes on No. 1 Capital Christian for the Division III title at Whitney High School on Saturday.

My predictions for the two games:

–Colfax by 1.5 points over Bear River

–Placer by 8.5 points over Capital Christian

The picks: I went 4-0 in the last week of the regular season to finish with a 15-3 record (83 percent). I should do that well in Reno.

Posted in Bear River football, Colfax football, Placer footballl, Uncategorized | 1 Comment