Opinion » Shredder

With friends like these


I’m going to talk about Sen. Abel Maldonado in a little bit, but first I’m going to tell you a story.

Aesop was some Greek or Roman or Etruscan guy—he was from what elitists like to call “antiquity”—who wrote stories about animals making bad decisions and paying for their mistakes. You know the shtick: Lazy grasshoppers starve to death while busy ants feast and laugh. Picture SLO locals stepping over homeless people on the streets—only they’re all bugs—and you get the picture.

Anyway, stick with me while I sum up one of my favorites for you. There’s this big war brewing between birds and beasts. It’s going to be big, it’s going to be bloody, and both sides want the bat to fight for them. The bat backs out, basically telling each side that he belongs to the other. He decides he’s a bird or a beast to suit his whims.

Then peace breaks out and the bat goes to celebrate, but nobody wants him around. The beasts tell him to take a hike. The birds tell him to get lost. Suitably shamed, he says, “He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.” Only he says it in Greek. Or whatever bats spoke back then.

Now let me tell you about Abel. He wanted to be everything to everybody. The Republican called himself an independent while trying to get on the ballot as a Democrat. He would’ve labeled himself a Bull Moose if there were any left.

It worked, I guess. He got elected, after all. But now the spotlight has been sitting on him, making little beads of sweat glisten on his forehead and roll down the back of his neck and his back, because for some reason he’s been the focal point for the whole California budget fiasco.

The Democrats have been trying to convince a trio of Republicans to turn their backs on the team and vote for new taxes to move the California budget along. The whole fiscal dance has been a dicey process. Every morning I wake up expecting to see foreclosure signs posted everywhere. Nevada could make one big down payment and buy the entire state. “Finally, some coastline,” they’d say.

With the specter of the Silver State’s grubby hands snatching up land from San Diego to Redding, the DNC finagled a couple members of the RNC into sucking it up and approving the taxes. But they needed one more turncoat. So they looked at Abel.

He’s crossed party lines before. He’s been a lone wolf, voting outside the pack to keep the government’s wheels turning. So he seemed like a natural choice to be the legislative Tylenol to cure the $40-some-odd-billion budget headache. Take two Abels and call me in the morning.

Only he wouldn’t budge. Nobody could figure out how to get his Democrat-proof cap off. Thousands upon thousands of Californians were leaving piles of chewed-off fingernails around their houses, anxious to see whether they’d even have a job in the coming days, and Abel suddenly decided to wear his staunch Republican hat. He folded his arms and told everyone to read his lips: “No new taxes.”

Aesop also has a story called “The Ass and the Lapdog,” which probably sums up the two sides of Abel as well, but I haven’t read it.

While a lot of Abel’s current position can be pinned on his party-hopping, I think there’s something more historic at play.

I remember when he and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were all buddy-buddy. Trading playful punches. Wearing friendship bracelets. Writing “Don’t Ever Change! Have A Great Summer ... K.I.T.” in each other’s yearbooks.

They’ve had a falling out since then.

A couple years back, Abel called Arnold a narcissist who didn’t care about Latino issues. Maybe Abel’s still got a chip on his shoulder since Arnold later neglected to endorse the senator’s bid to be state controller.

Abel’s obviously got a lot of anger built up about the issue. Remember a week or two ago when he lashed out at the current controller for stocking up on new office furniture? Talk about unresolved issues ...

I hope Abel’s stick-in-the-mud arm-folding over the budget isn’t posturing because of past treatment in his bid for controller. Or future hopes to land the job. If his name shows up on a ballot in the next couple years, I’m not voting for him. I’ll tell him to go court some Whigs .

Hell hath no fury 
like a Paso scorned

That heading’s probably a bit heavy considering the subject matter, but I’m in a literary mood.

A couple of days ago, the L.A. Times put out a map highlighting all of the stages on the Amgen Tour of California. I’m not much of a cycling fan—Lance Armstrong and I had a falling out once—but I was curious to see what cities besides Paso Robles landed a coveted spot on the route. There’s Sacramento at the start and someplace called Rancho Bernardo at the end.

But no Paso.

Paso Robles, in case you don’t know because you and Lance aren’t speaking, is the Stage 5 finish of the race. Lance must have mouthed off to the L.A. Times’ sister or something, because the paper didn’t seem to know what was going on, either.

Just to be sure, I double-checked the map. I saw Clovis, and then a big gap to the south, punctuated by Solvang. No Paso Robles. To be fair, Visalia isn’t on the map either, and that’s where the racers are supposed to start before rolling into darn near paradise. But who cares about Visalia?

I noticed that Santa Barbara gets credit, and it’s not even listed as a stage on the official tour website. Maybe the L.A. Times cartographers were looking at info from the 2008 race?

Whatever the reason, Paso got snubbed. As a SLO County Shredder through and through, I’m adding the Times to the list of people or entities who won’t get invited to my next party. So now I’ve got the Times, Lance Armstrong, Abel Maldonado, and Rachel Ray. ∆

Send the Shredder a SLO-based fable at [email protected].

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