CA Legislature Acts Like Sopranos Mob

JUNE 22, 2011


What exactly was Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, implying last week when he took offense, both personally and for all Italians, after Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, compared ABX1 27 to the type of extortion racket engaged in by Tony Soprano’s mob?

Wagner was making the analogy that requiring redevelopment agencies to pay for the privilege of being allowed to remain intact is similar to the Mafia requiring small businesses to pay for protection. “I think I saw this in an episode of ‘The Sopranos’,” said Wagner. Speaking as if a Mafia member talking about a redevelopment agency (RDA), Wagner said, “Nice little RDA you’ve got there — it would be a shame if anything happens to it.”

Wagner was making the point that the Legislature should not provide a loophole that could keep RDAs alive. “We need to make sure that these agencies don’t continue to violate liberties, don’t continue to unnecessarily tax,” he said. “Let’s not go for the bait and switch. Let’s not buy the insurance policy that Tony Soprano is selling us.”

Democrats were free to disagree with Wagner’s take on this pay-to-play legislation. Instead, Portantino chose to play the victim card: “I just rise because I take offense at the reference to ‘The Sopranos.’ As a proud Italian-American, I resent that, and I would respectfully ask the commenter to make an apology to Italian-Americans in California.”

Apology Is Policy

A logical response by Wagner could have been, “Why do you take offense to a reference to ‘The Sopranos’? I made no slur against Italian-Americans, whether living in California or elsewhere, and owe them no apology.”

Instead, Wagner half-conceded the legitimacy of Portantino’s faux umbrage, saying, “I will apologize to any Italian-Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams.”

When that was met with harrumphs by the Democrat Victimization Caucus, Wagner felt the need to expand: “My apology, if one is needed, is sincere. My reference is not to suggest — and I think my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially one who seems to be extraordinarily outraged over this for reasons I don’t understand — my reference is not lost on anyone here. This is not an attack on anyone. This bill is a bait and switch.”

That semi-apology led to Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-South Los Angeles County, rising not to take offense, but to get in Wagner’s face and shove him, which, of course, turned it into a national news story. It’s not clear whether Furutani, a Japanese-American with the build of a Sumo wrestler, was sticking up for the Italian-Americans in his district or just likes to shove people.

Lost in the kerfuffle was what exactly was Wagner’s offense requiring an apology and shove?

If anything, it’s Portantino who committed the slur on Italian-Americans by equating them with the Sopranos. Few (if any) people think that all or most or even a sizeable percentage of Italian-Americans are criminals or associated with organized crime. And everyone knows that “The Sopranos” was a fictional TV show. So it’s Portantino, by automatically assuming that Sopranos equals Italian-Americans, who has committed the offense and should apologize.

More Offenses?

What if Wagner had said that ABX1 27 reminds him of the low-life behavior on “The Jersey Shore”? Would Portantino been similarly offended and demanded an apology? Wagner also said in his opposition to the bill, “We are not going to blindly abolish RDA until we know what replaces it.” Should that have led a blind — excuse me, visually challenged — legislator to rise and demand an apology? Wagner also said, “We were asked to buy a pig in a poke.” A possible offense against pig farmers?

Liberals throw out the race or heritage card so often because it efficiently and effectively shuts up the opposition. It’s kind of like when Silvio whacked Adriana after she blabbed too much to the feds about the Soprano operation. The question is: When will Republicans stop apologizing for nothing and start hitting back?

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