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California politics held prisoner

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Sacramento has never been a prime location for sequels of any kind, which is why the recall effort against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by the state prison guards union seems like one of those ideas that should never have been greenlighted.

Except for the historic wave of anger among voters that swept Schwarzenegger into office during the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, such movements have a higher failure rate than most Hollywood movies. And this latest effort has a fatal flaw — has anyone ever believed that people would fall in behind the lobbying arm of state prison guards?

There is one other problem with the latest recall weapon to be lobbed at the governor's office: it smacks of cynical self-interest. Schwarzenegger and the guards union have been at odds from the beginning over contract talks — their failure to reach agreement on a new deal allowed Schwarzenegger last year to unilaterally impose working condition on the union. And he's been in their line of fire ever since, with subtle negotiations no longer a possibility.

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So while union leaders can say it's all about the inability of Schwarzenegger to broker the budget impasse, voters might have a different perspective. Besides, it would probably take a celebrity with political ambitions that has equal star power to Schwarzenegger to give him a run for the union's money, and the last time I looked, Warren Beatty's popularity ebbed some time after the making of “Reds.''

It's true that the union does have a lot of money to spend on any campaign, but the governor has shown that he can raise money at speeds Davis couldn't even reach — no matter how much time Davis spent dialing for dollars.

Schwarzenegger can also say one thing Davis never could — he's never taken campaign contributions from the prison guards lobby. That may be a reason they have a few extra dollars to throw around.

Davis never experienced Schwarzenegger's level of popularity. The governor's rating have declined during the budget deadlock, but they're still higher than that of state lawmakers, whom most people blame for the impasse. This formula falls far short of the ingredients needed for a “Total Recall.''

But it does point out one thing that needs to be revised or removed. And that would be the fact that it only takes someone with $3,500 and 65 signatures to run as a replacement for the target of a recall. That's a threshold so low it deserves a label.

Call it the chaos theory of government.



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