Activist Blogger Fails to See He is the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

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Today’s Flash Report is rich with irony.

Ever notice how when someone in government makes suggestions that run counter to Republican points of view, they are labeled an activist? 

Read today’s commentary from blogger Jon Flesichman here.

Jon writes:

Last month, Elizabeth Hill, the state’s “activist” Legislative Analyst, decided she was so unhappy with the Governor’s proposed budget (apparently) that she would introduce her own “Alternative Budget” into the mix.  I will save for another day the inherent problems with an unelected “analyst” weighing into the public policy debate with her own proposals, when in reality she should be limited to providing factual information on the proposals introduced by the elected representatives of the people…
Hill’s version of what the legislature should do was comprehensive and she, among other things, takes issue with the Governor’s “across-the-board-cuts” technique to reducing spending.  There may be some merit to her concerns — again, a topic for another day. 
What I do want to talk about today is that the unelected Analyst has taken it upon herself to weigh into the big political issue of this year’s budget debate — will the state’s massive overspending problem be resolved by significant reductions in spending, significant increases in taxes, or some mix of the two? 

Hmmm, an unelected budget analyst shouldn’t make recommendations about how to help resolve the state’s budget crisis.  But its A-OK for an unelected partisan blogger to do just that by demanding there be no tax increases and massive cuts in spending that are likely to cost 1,600 teachers their jobs in OC alone.  This is almost as funny as Jon’s column from last week declaring tax loopholes to really be tax increases. 


  18 comments for “Activist Blogger Fails to See He is the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

  1. March 3, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    It’s not pot calling the kettle black, Dan. It’s you comparing apples and oranges.

    Jon’s making a legitimate point: the appropriateness of an unelected bureaucrat (or public employee if that is more palatable) who’s supposed to provide objective analysis of legislation, instead seeking to initiate policy herself — apart from the merits of that policy.

    that’s a perfectly reasonable, legitimate point.

    I think your point has everything to do with your dislike of Jon Fleischman that you are seeing hypocrisy where none exists. If this were a Brian Leubitz post on Calitics, I doubt we’d hear a peep out of you.

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    March 3, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Matt —
    Here’s my rebuttal:

    But for those who don’t want to link to the site, here it is in a nutshell:
    Jon says Hill should simply provide factual information on the proposals submitted by the elected representatives of the people. This shows a complete lack of understanding of how the state budget process works. This is asking someone to provide an analysis of a $100 Billion budget between midnight and 0200 on July 23 each year. That is an impossible task. Getting out front is the only way for Hill to do her job. Kind of the way Jon is making comments on the budget and potential tax increases six months prior to a vote. No reason to wait until the pressure is on.

    ***Jon’s point on the appropriateness of the LAO making a complete budget recommendation could not be more off the mark. *** It is easy to point to a particular tax or program and reduce it. It is a much more intellectually honest approach to the look at the budget as a whole and make a complete recommendation.

    Not only do I think it is appropriate for Liz Hill and her staff to make a full budget recommendation but I applaud them for having the courage and integrity to do it. Democrats often point to programs they want to grow without any idea on how they are going to pay for them. Republicans tend to point to taxes they want to decrease without corresponding cuts in spending. Hill is willing to stand up and put forth a complete proposal. Good for her.

    The proposal by Hill is far more intellectually honest than anything we have seen come out of the Capitol in years. I disagree with the conclusions but we have to call it what it is. It is a budget balanced without games, smoke, and mirrors but with tax increases. Most of the “balanced budgets” and “budget proposals” that come out of the Capitol are neither balanced nor complete budget proposals.

    “I think your point has everything to do with your dislike of Jon Fleischman that you are seeing hypocrisy where none exists”

    I don’t dislike him; I don’t know him. I just think everything he has to say about my party is completely wrong. But then again, you defended a tax loophole for luxury boat owners while 1,600 OC public school teachers will face the axe. So Dick Ackerman saves a few bucks to buy lunch at the Yacht Club. And we’re looking at 35+ kids in a classroom in IUSD. It’s all about priorities.

  3. RHackett
    March 3, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Jubal. Next time you see Jon tell him he’s missing the best political story to come out of OC in some time. Carona’s been indicted and the Feds have released transcripts of him talking about untraceable cash gifts.

    I realize Jon is a busy guy, but he hasn’t mentioned a word about our disgraced sheriff on the FlashReport.

    Just trying to help him out.

  4. RHackett
    March 4, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Just trying to help him out since his tagline is:

    California’s most significant political news.

  5. March 4, 2008 at 8:24 am


    AGAIN — disagree with Jon’s opinions to your heart’s content. I don’t care. I made a very, very simple point: that Jon put forward a perfectly reasonable, legitimate criticism.

    Instead of iterating your disagreement with Jon’s opinion, you try to turn it into a character issue by accusing Jon’s of hypocrisy.

    But then again, you defended a tax loophole for luxury boat owners while 1,600 OC public school teachers will face the axe. So Dick Ackerman saves a few bucks to buy lunch at the Yacht Club. And we’re looking at 35+ kids in a classroom in IUSD. It’s all about priorities.

    Of course, it would be a Dan C. response without the change-the-subject non sequitur.

  6. Dan Chmielewski
    March 4, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Actually Hackett, Matt still hasn’t opined on the Carona case much at all; the transcripts came out and Mat used the “I haven’t read it yet” excuse and that was a few weeks ago. Nothing from Probolsky on it either. Carona is not the sherriff any longer; even if his lawyers get the tapes tossed, the public has already heard Carona talk about no trails and pinholes in the ceiling.

    And the irony of the original point of the post: Fleischman is an unelected blogger; he is a party official who advocates policy to the Governor and the Republican members of the legislature all the time. And yet he is concerned about recommendations from a budget analyst — someone who lives and breathes the budget every day.

    Jon lives in Irvine, as I do. And unless he is going to send his son to private school, his kid will likely attend schools in IUSD. When he sees how much of a hidden tax we pay annually for things our district can’t afford, perhaps he will change his tune on education funding. My annual out of pocket for my two kids is about half of what I pay in property taxes; a good school system has helped keep home prices in my neighborhood relatively stable. I remember even Hugh Hewitt being in favor of a parcel tax in Irvine.

  7. March 4, 2008 at 8:29 am

    And Dan: isn’t it amazing how Matt Rexroad was able to cogently and strongly express his disagreement with Jon without the petty personal swipes? And Jon was able to respond to Rexroad’s criticisms in a spirit of civil debate?

  8. just...asking?
    March 4, 2008 at 8:59 am


    I believe you have participated on various boards, I don’t know if you were elected or appointed but I would assume you’ve had some public budget experiance, if not …

    It is very common for expert financial staff members to bring solutions to the table for budget issues. And yes they do advocate…if you followed the San District discussion on the tax/fee increase you would know that the increase was not recommended by staff. But in both local, county and state most staffers know that their advocacy ends at the time of the vote. Then they put their heads down and try to make it work.

    State fiscal leaders have taken issue with the creative budget process for several decades. Just go back to the financial crisis Davis faced before the Arnold revolution. The state LAO made many of the very same recommendations they are making today. In the end, good fiscal managers will always have a problem with bad fiscal judgement. In the end it comes down to what Arnold Davis and the legislature hammer out.

  9. just...asking?
    March 4, 2008 at 9:02 am


    San District Staff did not recommend the fee/tax increase plan as presented and approved. They had a more responsible model that more closely reflected actual costs. It also included impact of environmental actions that are highly likely to occur in the short term.

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    March 4, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Hey, I never called Jon a hypocrite; you did. Not that I disagree with that assessment. But where did I call him a hypocrite?

    Matt — re-read the post. How is anything I wrote a personal swipe? I pointed out Jon is an unelected blogger who makes recommendations on issues of policy to the Governor and Republican legislators all the time, yet finds its necessary to criticize an “activist” budget analyst. Fact, fact, fact. A Pot/Kettle argument if I ever saw one. Sorry if you can’t see it. But that’s not my problem.

    And it is not a non-sequiter to point out you (and Jon in his column on tax loopholes are really a tax increase and the GOP legislators) defending luxury boat owners getting a tax break while calling for massive cuts in social programs including education.

    Might I suggest you take some of your own advice you freely give to those critical of you when you want to opine on our thought processes here. I believe the term is psychic powers….

  11. March 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Hey, I never called Jon a hypocrite; you did.

    Wrong, boyo. First, I never called Jon that. Second, the gist of your “pot calling the kettle black” accusation is that Jon has no business criticizing Elizabeth Hill for being “activist” in her role as Legislative Analyst. That’s simply untrue, and a twisting of the “pot/kettle” criticism because Jon and Hill occupy two completely different roles. You’re forcing square pegs into round holes trying to draw equivalence between a private blogger and a public employee.

    Pot/kettle is, for example, when a kid tells his brother, “Hey, you can’t play with game! I didn’t give you permission!” and the sibling responds, “You’re the pot calling the kettle black — you’re always playing my games without permission.”

    Jon’s a private citizen engaged in political activism. Hill is a public employee.

    Reasonable people can disagree on whether Hill should take an activist role. But your pot/kettle characterization has no bearing. By your logic, only someone totally disengaged from the politics — a non-activist — could express Jon’s criticism.

    And that was my point, which is why your yacht-owners attempt to change the subject is a non sequitur: it doesn’t follow logically from the preceding.

  12. March 4, 2008 at 9:35 am


    All you say is correct. To be perfectly clear, I didn’t say whether I agree with Rexroad or Fleischman on this matter, because I haven’t made up my mind.

    My point was simply that Dan’s “pot/kettle” criticism was unfair and off-base, but Ii think he’s primarily interested in writing petty “gotcha” posts about Fleischman.

  13. Dan Chmielewski
    March 4, 2008 at 9:53 am

    “Jon’s a private citizen engaged in political activism. Hill is a public employee.”

    “….you try to turn it into a character issue by accusing Jon’s of hypocrisy.”

    So to be clear, Jon’s the activist and Hill is not. Hill’s job is to know the budget and offer guidance; Jon doesn’t know the budget, as Rexroad points out, but can opine about what to do. And I did not use the word “hypocrisy” you did.

    And you haven’t made up your mind on this issue but clearly want to defend your friend.

    I am not saying Jon can’t comment on this, but his post clearly says the Hill shouldn’t offer recommendations largely because she advocate a combination of spending cuts and tax/fee increases. I believe that Hill’s knowledge of the budget and its processes better positions her on providing recommendations on practical solutions for the budget crisis.

    Why don’t you make up your mind before you jump into this debate.

  14. March 4, 2008 at 10:55 am

    IMO an accusation of the pot calling the kettle black is a de facto accusation of hypocrisy.

    FWIW, Wikipedia agrees.

  15. March 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Why don’t you make up your mind before you jump into this debate.


    Because I’m not jumping into the budget debate.

    I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible. My comments aren’t directed at the merits of Hill’s proposal, or even whether or not she should be wading into a political issue with her own policy recommendations.

    I took issue with your characterization of Jon’s commentary as a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In doing so, your saying Jon has no standing for criticizing Hill’s policy activism in the budget debate. I think your pot/kettle labeling is off-base, and I put forward my reasons why.

    That’s it.

  16. RHackett
    March 4, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Given Jon’s record of recognizing character flaws (“I know Mike Carona, and Mike Carona is an honorable man.”). I don’t think we have to worry about anyone of any importance being influenced by his commentary.

  17. Dan Chmielewski
    March 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    And I will make this as simple as possible too. Hill is better positioned to provide the governor and legislators with possible solutions for resolving the budget crisis than Jon is; calling her work “activisim” is off base as it’s her job to provide our elected with her best professional advice; whether or not the Governor or Legislature follows her advice is up to them.. I’m sorry her ideas don’t line up lock step with the GOP’s marching orders, but to call her an “activist” for doing her job is a loty of hooey.

  18. Chris
    March 4, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Actually, as an analyst for a quasi-state (LA County), Hill is just doing her job, which is to gather the information, synthesize it, explore alternatives and their implications, and produce recommendations. Her office is non-partisan, but she has to be labeled an “activist” because she didn’t tell the Big Baby Republicans what they wanted to hear. Phooey. No one has asked why Hill should even give a shit enough to stick her neck out and get in the political mix. It’s highly-dubious, Republican-style logic at work once again.

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