A BUCKET OF WARM SPIT: For the record, I’m done with nice. How about fear for a change? How about some cold-blooded retaliation worthy of Kevin Spacey’s character in the over-wrought House of Cards? I’m speaking of course about our exceedingly nice Congressmember Lois Capps, in what promises to be her umpteenth reelection campaign against a field of seven no-name, no-hope, why-even-bother candidates. Capps has run for Congress so many times now my abacus has run out of beads. And every single time, nice emerges as the dominant campaign subtext. Capps herself is quick to play the “nice” card, having her aides remind us how often she’s won the Nicest Member of Congress award. On the flip side, there are the multitude of surprised losers she’s consigned to the dustbin of history. Every single one launched their campaign against Capps by praising her — word-for-word — as “a very nice person.” And Capps actually is nice. Maybe that’s the problem.
Republican Congressmember Doug LaMalfa, a right-wing, homophobic nut-job representing a district in California’s farm belt, introduced a bill that would allow the Santa Ynez Chumash to take 1,400 acres of farmland now on the county tax rolls and annex it into the tribe’s sovereign nation; that’s called poaching. If someone poaches on your turf, you’re not supposed to let them get away with it. Capps needs to get mad, and she needs to get even. Instead, we get some namby-pamby pseudo-statement about how she’ll oppose the measure if and when it gets to the floor for a vote.
Maybe Capps needs to take that stethoscope she used to wear around her neck back when she was a school nurse and wrap it around LaMalfa’s until his eyes pop out. Certainly that’s what Capps’s opponent Chris Mitchum — star of many C-minus chopsocky sex-n-violence exploitation movies — would do. (Mitchum, we are to believe, was forced into accepting such lowly rolls only because Hollywood’s militantly sanctimonious PC liberal elite black-balled him after he appeared in a movie, Big Jake, with right-wing warmonger John Wayne. Somehow, Bruce Dern’s career never suffered even though he also appeared onscreen with the legendary Mr. Wayne. But then, maybe Dern was eventually forgiven because his character wound up killing Wayne’s character in The Cowboys. )
Look, if the Chumash want to build their housing elsewhere so they can maximize the hotel and gambling opportunities provided on their limited reservation acreage, I totally get it. It’s a nice scheme. And who among us doesn’t want to make more money? But why should we county taxpayers subsidize them by giving up all the property taxes now collected on this property? Are we supposed to cut mental-health services so the casino can more profitably bring Engelbert Humperdinck to the South Coast? And do we really want to put housing on land now zoned for agriculture without any say-so over so massive a land-use change? You don’t have to be a racist to ask, “What’s in it for me?” though admittedly some of those posing the question undeniably are.
LaMalfa may not be a household name in Santa Barbara, but elsewhere he personifies the adage that “Extremism in pursuit of opportunism is no vice.” When he’s not busy shamelessly feathering his own nest, LaMalfa takes care of his own. In the face of foreign olive oil imports competing with domestic producers — some of whom live in his district — LaMalfa has suggested the imports be subjected to new labeling requirements, replacing the words “extra virgin” with “extra rancid.” When it comes to out-of-control government spending, he is — as is often the case — a screaming hypocrite. LaMalfa owns major agricultural operations, which currently benefit from federal farm subsidies to the tune of $5 million a year. That, in his book, qualifies as a “hand up.” Food stamps, by contrast, qualify as a “handout,” and consistent with this thinking, LaMalfa has voted to cut Food Stamps by $40 billion over the next 10 years. Maybe if Capps weren’t so bleeding nice, she might introduce a bill to disqualify any member of Congress from receiving farm subsidies while in office. Obviously, it wouldn’t pass, but it would definitely send a message.
Likewise, Capps needs to take a legislative ball-peen hammer to the kneecaps of fellow Dem John Garamendi — who represents Contra Costa County in Congress — for intruding in the affairs of her district, as well. Garamendi has been humping Vandenberg Air Force Base’s legs so hard on behalf of Exxon and Sunset Energy that all the generals have bruised femur bones. The Holy Grail in this case is permission to open up the air-force base to a slant-drilling operation on behalf of Sunset, whose principal, Bob Nunn, has donated $13,000 to Garamendi over the years. In years past, air-force brass has refused to even consider such a thing, citing incompatibilities with its national defense mission. But with military cuts looming, their opinions could change. Capps, for the record, has opposed any and all new drilling in the channel. Nunn has sought to address that with a tour de force of double talk. Although the oil in question will be sucked out of offshore reserves, that word — “offshore” — should never be used, he said, because oil reserves are located under the floor of the ocean. Technically, that’s the ground. And besides, the drilling rigs would be onshore, too. Because Nunn’s family has extensive agricultural interests, I’d suggest Capps convene a Congressional fishing expedition to investigate any farm subsidies the Nunns may have improperly received. Or as a senior member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, she could convene a special hearing to explore the fracking potential of the subsurface mineral rights at Garamendi’s personal residence.
But what do we get instead? A press release announcing that Capps has formed a bipartisan committee to promote the cut-flower industry. How nice.