Bull Testicles, Psilocybin and the Gunnison Admonition

Those zany state politicians. What crazy, kooky cut-ups!

An eight-paragraph, four-reporters-credited report in the June 18 Los Angeles Times – so it must be true – says the governor of the Great State of California, grappling with an unprecedented budget disaster, took the time to send the president pro tempore of the state Senate, a pair of metal bull testicles.

Get it? The president pro tempore, a Democrat, will need some cast-iron balls to do all the nasty slicing and dicing necessary to balance the budget the way the GOP governor wants it balanced. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Is there different material in the second show?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gift appears to be a response or, perhaps, retaliation, to an earlier gift given to him by Darrell Steinberg, the Senate’s pro tem, who the governor fondly refers to as “Steinie.”

The governor, who Steinie presumably does not call Arnie, recently described his budget-buddy, Steinie, as “hallucinatory,” if Steinie actually believed the governor would increase taxes to balance the $24-billion-out-of-whack budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Steinie responded by sending the governor a box of mushrooms. Not psilocybin, just the kind found at the supermarket. A box of sugar cubes would probably be cheaper but likely require a history lesson – potentially for both men.

Apparently such sidesplitting exchanges are not uncommon. Steinie’s spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, tells the LA “By God” Times her boss and the governor send each other gag gifts all the time.

Unlike his past devil-may-care hijinks with the guv-doggy, Steinie sent the bull testicles back with a testy note about how the budget is serious business and, to paraphrase, he has his own already and a second set is unnecessary, thanks ever so much. 

Move over, Sarah Palin and David Letterman, let Steinie and Arnie play through.

Nowhere in the Times’ eight paragraphs is the actual import of this exchange revealed, however.

Former San Francisco Chronicle colleague, Robert B. Gunnison, often voiced this political admonition:

“No matter how petty you think it is, it’s even pettier.”

Did Democrats hurriedly conclude the work of a special 10-member, two-house conference committee and jump to the budgetary equivalent of DefCon1, out of a profound sense of urgency over the state’s flagging fiscal condition?  Out of a passionate desire to protect the halt, lame and impoverished – particularly those under the age of 18? Did they experience the revelatory equivalent of being struck blind on the road to Damascus?

Under the Gunnison Admonition, the more likely reason would be Steinie is pissed.

Steinie’s frustrations over negotiating with the governor during the last budget go-round in February are about as well hidden as a newspaperman lurking behind the tattered veneer of objectivity.

Let’s see: Your negotiating partner calls you “hallucinatory” and insists he will sign no budget containing tax increases – even several he himself proposed in his revised May budget and his previous budget proposal in February. He wants to torpedo a half dozen of the safety net programs you think are super-important. Who wouldn’t get a little hot?

So there. We’re taking up our budget on the floor of our Legislature and you can go pound sand, Mr. Governator Thus-and-So. Ne-ner-ne-ner-ne-ner-ne-ner.

The Gunnison Admonition would also encourage a look at the other combatants as well.

Steinie and his buddy Denny – GOP Senate Leader Dennis Hollingsworth – are both equally unexcited about a tête-à-tête in the smoking tent with Schwarzenegger. A so-called Big Five meeting of legislative leadership with the governor isn’t a big deal to them.

How could that not hurt the governor’s feelings? There’s a ballgame going on and it’s not in his sandlot. If the game isn’t being played in the correct sandlot then there’s just not going to be any game. Take your tax increases and shove it.

The Gunnison Admonition has been proven empirically countless times. Here is but one historical example.

Fifteen years ago or so, during the governship of Republican Pete Wilson, passage of a budget ground to a halt. Republicans would not support a spending plan unless something was done about the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, affectionately known as the Little Hoover Commission.

Specifically, the problem was Sen. Milton Marks, a San Francisco Democrat, who, as a Republican Assemblyman, carried the legislation creating the commission in 1962.

The changing of Marks’ political spots was the problem. The commission is supposed to have two senators and two Assembly members on it, one Democrat and one Republican.

Because he had birthed the commission, Marks basically had lifetime tenure, which was fine until he got over being a Republican, some say after the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to him during a hallucinatory experience at the Bohemian Grove.

As a Democrat, Marks was preventing a second Republican from sitting on the commission. And, doggone it, enough was enough. 

Removing him was neither easy nor pleasant.

The answer to how it was resolved lies in the commission’s official name: The Milton Marks “Little Hoover” Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy.

Marks agreed to leave the commission only after it was tombstoned after him.

Pity such an easy solution can’t be used in this latest proof of the Gunnison Admonition.




Filed under: Venting


  1. Prof. Lucas,

    I am so delighted that the mass-authored story by the boy band that is the LAT Sac-town bureau has given you the raw material for your best piece in many a moon. Proof that there never can be too many cajones involved in a story about bull balls.


    Comment by Eric Bailey — 6.18.2009 @ 4:25 pm

  2. Brilliant story. Thanks. One small item: people always get it wrong. DefCon1 is the highest state of alert, basically war footing. DefCon4 and 5 are lesser levels. See, I can do petty….

    Comment by Dan Richard — 6.18.2009 @ 5:41 pm

  3. Thanks Dan. I’ve gotten it wrong my whole life. Im correcting the post now. xoxox

    Comment by admin — 6.19.2009 @ 12:56 pm

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    Comment by Raziya — 9.06.2009 @ 4:24 pm

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