Hablo revolución

Republistas: A little revolution every once in a while is a good thing. Thomas Jefferson recognized that, so did the Zapatistas who marched on the Capitol last week, and so did California Republicans, who recently decided to eat one of their own and start rattling their sabers.On the same day Secretary of State Bill Jones threw his well-worn hat into the governor’s race, Assembly Republicans ousted Bill Campbell as minority leader in favor of Sacramento County’s Assemblyman Dave Cox, a former SMUD board member.

Both men used the occasions to beat up on Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership for bungling the energy crisis, and both promised to get tough with a governor who seems content to try buying his way out of the crisis using the public’s checkbook.

While the GOP’s idea of letting unregulated power generators work the problem out without government help seems dangerously laissez faire, Davis’ approach of acquiescing to the extortion of generators is also taking heat from his own party.

Democratic state Controller Kathleen Connell last week announced an audit of the state’s power purchases, penciling out some of the troubling math facing the state: January’s general fund surplus of $8.5 billion has dropped to $3.2 billion, with the Davis administration now requesting another $5.6 billion for the power companies.

Her announcement came on the same day that the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition invaded the Capitol in protest of the visit from Mexican President Vicente Fox, decrying him as a puppet of large corporations with little regard for the commoners.

Except for the fact that the Zapatistas’ chants were in Spanish, it was a replay of a protest by public power advocates beating up on Davis during a protest a couple weeks earlier, and the many anti-globalization protests.

Free market capitalism may be firmly entrenched these days, but there’s revolution in the air. Wherever he is now, Tommy J is probably enjoying the show, and so is Bites.

Mouths of babes: Senator Jack O’Connell was into education before education was cool. The affable San Luis Obispo Democrat was the main force behind lower class sizes and the new High School Exit Exam, and he’s the favorite to be next state superintendent of schools.

So it was fun to watch a group of high-school students last week grill O’Connell over the issue of high-school exit exams in a way that should put the Capitol Press Corps to shame, in the process highlighting the underlying flaws in our current obsession with standardized testing.

Unfortunately for journalists, few showed up for the LegiSchool Project event, which featured nine student panelists selected in a statewide essay contest. Fortunately for students, the inquisition was videotaped and will be watched in 150 classrooms across the state.

Students peppered O’Connell with probing questions about whether the glut of new testing improves learning, whether it unfairly excludes wealthy private-school kids, why money is being spent on testing instead of textbooks and how the state intends to deal with a test that studies show will cause more dropouts.

“We know we are going to have to design other programs for students who are not on track to pass the test,” O’Connell said, conceding that such yet-to-be-conceived programs are needed to prevent graduation rates from dipping.

While clinging to the mantra that exit exams are needed to improve “accountability” and increase the value of high-school diplomas, O’Connell nonetheless admitted this was the toughest grilling he’s had in a while.

“They’re tougher than you guys,” O’Connell said, “much tougher.”

Access denied: Why is everyone so afraid of Bites? It’s just a pseudonym, folks. Bites doesn’t really bite.

Despite his claims that Gov. Davis is Mr. Openness and Accountability during our rhetorical pissing match a few weeks ago, gubernatorial mouthpiece Steve Maviglio has yet to answer Bites’ request for an interview with Davis with anything other than scoffing dismissal.

In Bites’ other standing smackdown challenge, conservative publisher Walter Mueller probably won’t debate Bites either. Harvey Taylor of the Council of Conservative Citizens (to whom Mueller is a minor deity) had offered to facilitate a meeting after Bites recently slapped Herr Mueller for ducking an SN&R interview.

Well, Bites got a follow-up letter from Taylor last week, saying he was rescinding his offer after concluding that “Bites is a typical journalist promoting hate agitprop.” (Insert laugh track here.)

If Taylor means that Bites hates hypocrites and isn’t afraid to agitate and propagandize against them: Guilty as charged.