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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's whistle-blown weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen examines what finally led to the impeachment inquiry; (Th)ink has the final word on Sharpiegate; This Modern World ponders the reputation rehabilitation of former Trump administration officials; Red Meat discovers the scam behind all-you-can-eat buffets; and Apoca Clips allows Li'l Trumpy to speak out about that now-infamous call to Ukraine.

Published in Comics

Anyone who spent the weekend at the California Democratic Party’s convention—watching 14 White House contenders try to impress what one congresswoman called “the wokest Democrats in the country”—observed the following: Saturday’s most rapturous cheers went to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who declared “the time for small ideas is over," advocated “big, structural change” and said “I am here to fight.” Sunday’s thunderous applause went to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, when he demanded there can be “no middle ground” on climate change, healthcare or gun violence.

Those who strayed from progressive orthodoxy did so at their peril.

Ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dismissed the push for single-payer health care by insisting “socialism is not the answer” Saturday, drawing a sustained barrage of boos—not just from those who embraced the label, but from those who resented it. The following day, Maryland Rep. John Delany dismissed Medicare-for-All as “not good policy,” and faced heckles and jeers.

The San Francisco confab was the state Dems’ first get-together since last year’s blowout election returned the party to its national majority in the House and devastated the ranks of elected Republicans in California. The delegates left no doubt that as they prepare for the 2020 election against President Donald Trump, they are in no mood for compromise or equivocation.

At least not when it comes to ideas that energize them.

But state party conventions—dominated in decibels by faithful partisans and zealous activists—often offer an exaggerated, funhouse-mirror reflection of what the party’s voters statewide actually think. And even the delegates can be more temperate than the room might suggest.

In one of the few choices that the 3,200-plus delegates actually made, a majority eschewed more progressive candidates and easily elected as the party’s next chairman Los Angeles labor leader Rusty Hicks. He’s a soft-spoken white guy from Los Angeles who represented what many called the “safe choice.”

Still, they gave an effusive reception to speakers who jettisoned safe choices. Here was Warren: “Too many powerful people in our party say, ‘Settle down, back up … wait for change until the privileged and powerful are comfortable with those changes,'” she said. “Here’s the thing—when a candidate tells you all the things that aren’t possible … they are telling you they will not fight for you, and I am here to fight.”

Few of the presidential candidates addressed California issues specifically, in the way they become conversant about, say, ethanol in Iowa. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s made climate policy a thrust of his campaign, talked about visiting the wildfire devastation in the California community of Paradise, and some candidates called for greater regulation of tech firms. But their speeches mostly sidestepped California-specific concerns and aimed wide in appealing to what Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee called the “most progressive and the most democratic and the wokest Democrats in the country.”

“This is obviously a group of activists, and there are obviously some candidates who appeal more to the activists,” Dave Min told CALmatters at a meeting of the Chicano and Latino Caucus. He lost a bid for Congress in 2018 to Rep. Katie Porter, who was backed by Sen. Warren and supported Medicare-for-All. Now he’s seeking a state senate seat.

As if to illustrate his point, minutes later, Sanders—who has done more than virtually any other politician to turn support for universal Medicare into a litmus test for progressive Democratic candidates—entered the room and was nearly trampled by selfie-seeking delegates.

Next, Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas Congressman who nearly beat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, entered the room, unleashing fresh pandemonium. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a relative moderate, was treated to a much more restrained, if polite, reception.

That courtesy was not extended to Hickenlooper.

“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” he told the convened Democrats. He was booed for roughly 30 seconds by delegates who either objected to his characterization of single-payer healthcare as “socialism,” or, in fact, believe socialism is the answer.

Regardless, the scene was unadulterated Fox News fodder.

The next day, Delaney, of Maryland, took the same approach. On the heels of Sanders’ raucously well-received speech, Delaney told the audience that universal access to Medicare “is actually not good policy.” The audience disagreed, vocally and persistently. Even New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got in the act, tweeting that Delaney should just “sashay away.”

If this is the first time you’ve heard of Delaney or Hickenlooper, that may have been the point. Hickenlooper later told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was not seeking the crowd’s vitriol. But the fact that his campaign blasted out a press release the day of the event with the title, “Hickenlooper to California Dems: “Socialism Is Not the Answer” suggested he might have been aiming his appeal far outside Moscone Center. The following day, his campaign issued a press release citing coverage from The Washington Post and exulting: “Hickenlooper lost the room but gained a national audience.”

Besides, the Democratic Party has a history of candidates strategically saying something sure to elicit boos from a leftist crowd in order to establish their independent cred with moderates: Consider President Bill Clinton’s Sister Souljah speech, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s defense of capital punishment at her state’s convention—which her campaign gleefully turned into a TV commercial.

For Julian Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration and who has struggled to gain much popular support, the interpretation was clear.

“You heard the reaction,” he said, when asked by a reporter whether Democrats can compete without supporting a single-payer health-care policy. “Probably not in this state. Who knows?”

Joe Biden might disagree. The former vice president supports a policy that would allow those under the qualifying age to purchase a Medicare policy, which constitutes a moderate position among the current Democratic candidates. But at least for now, he leads in the polls—even among California Democrats.

The Biden campaign explained the candidate’s conspicuous absence at the San Francisco convention as an unavoidable scheduling conflict, though attendees of the 2018 Democratic convention may recall the chilly reception that Sen. Feinstein, another moderate, received.

The Democrats in attendance largely shrugged off Biden’s decision not to show up. Alex Gallardo-Rooker, who has served at the party’s chair since the resignation of Eric Baumann earlier this year, said that Biden was “being pulled all over the place.” Gov. Newsom also gave the former vice president a pass: “It’s a big country.” When asked about it, Sen. Kamala Harris literally shrugged—and said nothing.

The one exception was Sanders, who, during his speech in the convention hall on Sunday morning, referred to “presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room and those who have chosen, for whatever reason, not to be in this room.” The crowd happily booed.

Sanders was cheered as he argued that there is no “middle ground” on climate change, making a not-so-subtle dig at Biden who used the term to describe his environmental policy plan.

But to some, both supporters and detractors, the party’s choice of Hicks for chair represented its own kind of middle ground. Kimberly Ellis, Hicks’ strongest opponent who narrowly lost the race for party chair in 2017, had argued that the party needs to take a more assertive role in political messaging and agenda setting.

But with 57 percent of the vote, Hicks’ victory was decisive, and the party avoided an oft-predicted runoff election. Ellis got 36 percent.

For close observers of California politics, this might feel like deja vu. Earlier this year, the California Republican Party held its own election for chair in which Jessica Patterson, the pick of most of the party establishment, beat out an ideological upstart, Travis Allen.

At a Friday evening forum hosted by the Democratic Party’s progressive caucus, candidates for chair were asked, rapid-fire, about single-payer health insurance, a statewide ban on fracking, the Green New Deal and a moratorium on new charter schools. All six candidates were unanimous in their support.

Where disagreement arose, it was less about policy and more about the role of the party itself—whether the priority should be on building up the party as a political institution or promoting the most progressive agenda.

Asked whether the party should abandon the practice of automatically endorsing incumbent Democratic lawmakers or substantially reduce the power of elected office holders within the party, Hicks was the only candidate to say no.

Karen Araujo, a delegate from Salinas who supported Ellis, called Hicks “a safe choice.” Still, she added, “It was a clear decision. I’ll honor that and I’ll work hard for my party.”

Said Josh Newman, a former Orange County state senator who was recalled and is running for his old seat again: “It’s good to have a decisive moment where we decide, ‘OK, fair election, fair result; now let’s work on the next thing. And the next thing has to be 2020.”

Elizabeth Castillo contributed to this story. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

On this week's environmentally friendly weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World listens in as two Republicans discuss abortion laws; Jen Sorensen shares her hopes regarding Joe Biden; (Th)ink looks at a Re-Public-an transit map; Red Meat gets excited about a hot date; and Apoca Clips asks Li'l Trumpy what he thinks about the first Republican congressman to call for impeachment.

Published in Comics

On this week's heavily redacted weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips listens in as Biden and Li'l Trumpy discuss #metoo; Red Meat considers getting some ice cream; Jen Sorensen wonders what is in the Mueller Report; (Th)ink ponders what would happen if Jesus went to Notre Dame University; and This Modern World looks at the Mueller Report aftermath (so far).

Published in Comics

It's nobody's fault that the Coachella Valley happens to sit on top of the San Andreas Fault. Experts believe we're overdue for the Big One, which would cause a lot of shaking and baking here in the desert.

When it comes to natural disasters, people in other parts of the country have time to prepare, as meteorologists can issue warnings as a storm approaches the area.

In the case of earthquakes, however, you never know when one is going to hit. Some scientists believe there are subtle changes happening underground just prior to a quake, and special devices are being developed in an effort to create an early warning system, giving residents a precious few extra seconds to get out of harm's way. But until these devices are ready to be implemented, there are alternatives we could use to warn us of impending disaster.

The most difficult issue is determining whether the shaking is going to be a small temblor or a major earthquake. The best way to make that distinction is to find a person who can tell the difference between a false alarm and a big deal. The only person who fits that description would be Vice President Joe Biden. Using Biden for this purpose would involve moving his office to the Coachella Valley, of course.

If the shaking becomes strong, Biden would get on a loudspeaker and yell, "This is a big f---in' deal!" That would allow residents to take shelter immediately.

People who study earthquakes are familiar with P-waves, or primary waves, and S-waves, or secondary waves. Under the Biden System, a new F-wave would be added.

Another method we could use to warn us of earthquakes would be to study animal behavior. Most people have heard stories about how animals act unusually before a quake hits.

P-waves travel faster than S-waves, which are the ones that cause damage during an earthquake. Some animals can detect P-waves 60 to 90 seconds before the shaking starts. In the case of dogs, we could utilize their unique pee-wave warning system: If a dog begins to pee uncontrollably, that would be a good indication that a quake is on its way.

Another solution would be to distribute wild animals to every household in the Coachella Valley. Scientists have noticed that elephants move to higher ground before any shaking happens. If a resident wakes up to find an elephant on the roof of the house, it would be a good idea to take shelter.

Of course, there will always be people who prefer to be warned the traditional way, by watching the Emergency Alert System on their local TV station. Here in the Coachella Valley, we're very fortunate that tuning into almost any station will provide us with just about the same information: For example, KESQ Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 use a similar script for both of their newscasts. If a viewer tunes in to either channel and sees footage of Biden dropping an F-bomb, or an elephant stuck on a roof, they would know an earthquake is just moments away.

Watching these two channels would be a huge advantage over watching NBC affiliate KMIR Channel 6. Most scientific news is reported by meteorologists, and KMIR's weather reports are pre-recorded from Las Vegas. You can always tell if an earthquake is happening "Right Here, Right Now" (KMIR's slogan) if you see the ceiling of the studio cave in on the weather forecaster's head on KESQ or CBS Local 2.

So, remember, if you want to survive the Big One, make sure your canned goods have a long continental shelf life before you serve them on your tectonic plate. After all, we're all in the same boat, which would come in handy in case California falls into the ocean. "Better get ready to tie up the boat in Idaho," as the song says.

Published in Humor