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6:44 a.m., June 26: I am back from the longest vacation I’ve had in many years. I return with a humble request to Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy: Guys, Thursday is my birthday. How about a great gift from Scotus? Just this once, guys. I promise I’ll never ask for anything else again.

 

 

7:29 a.m., June 15: An e-mailer asks what I had written to prompt Jerry Brown’s caustic comments to me shown in the “What they’re saying about Chris Reed” scroll feature on the lower right part of Calwhine’s home page.

Here’s the link to the America’s Finest blog post that got Jerry worked up, subtly headlined, “Jerry Brown’s journey: From Governor Moonbeam to Attorney General Partisan Hack.”

Alas, it appears that all comments, including Jerry’s, are now gone from the blog archives, which I don’t maintain personally.

 

 

 

7:16 a.m., June 14: The narrative that holds that dogmatic Republicans are the worst problem facing this nation continues to be advanced by much of the media, with the inexplicable assistance of people like Jeb Bush. It’s amazing that the former Florida governor could contemplate how the national media treated his dad and his brother and think he should throw them a bone. I say that not just because I think it’s folly to try to kiss up to the East Coast media. I say because of stories like this that show the media should be attention to what dogmatic Democrats — the ones who hold most of the power in Washington — are doing with that power. It’s repulsive.

The Treasury Department estimates that taxpayers will lose $23 billion on the auto bailout. Sherk and co-author Todd Zywicki find that none of these losses came from saving jobs, but instead went to prop up the compensation of some of the most highly paid workers in America. They write:

We estimate that the Administration redistributed $26.5 billion more to the UAW than it would have received had it been treated as it usually would in bankruptcy proceedings. Taxpayers lost between $20 billion and $23 billion on the auto programs. Thus, the entire loss to the taxpayers from the auto bailout comes from the funds diverted to the UAW.

So who are the dogmatic fools/tools driving this country into the ground? Jeb? Jeb? Jeb?

 

6:02 a.m., June 12: It’s unbelievable that Dan Morain still prefers the status quo of entrenched union power dominating Sacramento to a version of paycheck protection. I refer him to the conclusion of The Los Angeles Times — back in 2005, even before the orgy of recent union power-flexing, when it endorsed paycheck protection:

At many levels of government, public employee unions, aided by their political war chests, have gained control over both sides of the negotiating process. When public employee unions wield the type of influence they now do in California, too much governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing.

Now that unions — err, Democrats — can pass budgets on simple majority votes, this self-dealing is more extreme than ever.

 

 

7:44 a.m., June 11: Stories like this one about the bipartisan support for the farm bill’s hundreds of billions in subsidies not only make me ill. They make me wonder how anyone can be enthusiastic about either party. There’s so much rent-seeking that politicians of both sides support so they can get campaign cash that it is close to absurd for any party to ever pretend it holds the moral high ground on any issue.

7:11 a.m., June 4: Jon Fleischman, Mr. Flashreport, is right. Let’s just end franked mail for state lawmakers and then re-evaluate its proper use. This sort of blatant misuse of tax dollars is too much to tolerate:

The postcard from Republican Sen. Tony Strickland invited constituents to coffee and conversation.

Democratic Sens. Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas mailed letters reminding residents of a tax credit for low-income workers.

“Is California Holding Your Money?” asked a pamphlet on unclaimed property sent by former GOP leader Bob Dutton.

The mailings were sent this spring, as all four state senators were revving up their bids for congressional seats. But their campaign accounts didn’t foot the bill – taxpayer-funded Senate offices did.

Six members of the state Senate running for Congress sent more than a third of the 1.01 million pieces of constituent mail processed by the upper house in the first four months of 2012, according to a Bee analysis.

This stinks, and everyone of all ideologies should agree. Time for an initiative.

 

 

 

8:04 a.m., May 30: You’ll rarely see as stark an example of this of how Democratic control of state public education helps the teachers unions and pulverizes poor neighborhoods. That’s a link to an article about how budget cuts are playing out in San Diego Unified. It notes that at one elementary school in an impoverished, mostly minority area, 26 of 27 teachers are going to be laid off. Why are layoffs concentrated there? Because the district, like so many others, is constructed for teacher comfort. Veteran teachers can transfer to richer, safer, less challenging schools, and so they do. Newbies go to the challenging schools, the ones that obviously could benefit from the best, most experienced teachers. When budgets are cut, the first teachers targeted are the newest, which means chaos at the challenging schools. This is insane. Why is it the norm? Because “social justice” is just not a concern of California Dems, at least when it comes to how they actually use their power. It’s just convenient camouflage for the teachers union agenda.

 

 

 

 

6:53 a.m., May 29: Will the California High-Speed Rail Authority be able to attract a respected new CEO for the bullet train project or not? This article hints the authority may be having problems by noting all the vacancies the agency has in its upper ranks. The very first question the new CEO should be asked is whether he believes the bullet train can make a profit. The last CEO, the elegantly named Roelof Van Ark, told California newspaers that it could, but back in 2009 told The New York Times something else entirely. The truth. No, it can’t. Not as profit is normally defined.

 

7:33 a.m., May 25: I had John Wildermuth on my KOGO 600 AM radio show many times and respect him a lot. But I’m surprised after all these years watching California politics that he can get indignant about a misleading attack ad going after a ballot prop that sounds good but isn’t. John points out some of the problems with Prop. 29, which would add $1 to a pack of cigarettes to vaguely fund cancer research and anti-smoking programs. But he thinks TV ads that never mention tobacco while going after Prop. 29′s weak oversight are even worse.

Not me. If you accept as a given that all sides try to dupe the public — and I do — then I’m not going to get in a huff if lies are told to undermine a prop I dislike. Prop. 29 is really poor public policy, and if it is blocked by deception, that’s fine by me.

6:43 a.m., May 24: The California High-Speed Rail Authority makes mistakes with the frequency that most people breathe. The latest: pushing to delete emails precipitously. Anyone who didn’t think this would be seen as part of a government coverup is, err, challenged.

 

 

 

7:12 a.m., May 23: What is “bizarre” here? That Gov. Jerry Brown, to curry support with the CTA, framed his 2012-13 budget in a way that gave schools $1.7 billion more than they should get under Prop. 98? Or that the Sacramento Bee’s reporter finds it “bizarre” that the CTA has most-favored-nation status? The difference between how the Sac Bee covers the state Legislature and how the Washington Post covers Congress is amazing and sad. The Post never buys the fake narratives — it mentions them, but normally only in quotes from promoters of the myths. The Bee goes for the surface theory all the time.

It’s simple: The CTA got more than Prop. 98 requires because of its clout. Duh. Duh. Duh. Why can’t the Sac Bee just say this?

7:55 a.m., May 22: The Occupy movement is such a farce that it’s been depressing to see the mainstream media continue to depict it as a constructive, cohesive force. Occasionally, however, someone who in theory shares Occupy’s values points out what a farce it is. San Diego Congressman Bob Filner, a liberal and a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement, is in that category.

Filner says he was disappointed at the activists’ lack of respect and frustrated by their anarchic decision-making processes. He says he found it particularly offensive when Occupy Atlanta wouldn’t let civil-rights hero John Lewis speak. 

“They didn’t want any help,” Filner says of the movement. “They didn’t have any historical understanding of what people have done in this regard. They had no interest in working with us…. I figured over time they would get a little more sophisticated, and it never happened as far as I can tell.”

Classify this as speaking truth to idiots. And the media.

6:14 a.m., May 21: The Republican Party’s purification is something that’s been much commented on, but the Dems are doing a variation of the same thing, giving the boot to the white working class. Self-hating Dem journo Mickey Kaus thinks this is a crazy idea:

Hmm. Are there any other Dems out there who think basing the party on this New Coke Coalition is a really bad idea? Here’s alert kfreader Pollster Y:

For now, it’s not even an argument. This is the direction the smart people are taking the Democratic Party. Wheeeee! …

A college-educated whites plus blacks and Hispanics coalition is not the cruise I signed up for—and for many blacks and Hispanics, the door they came in was marked “for low- to middle-income working folks of all races,” and they will understand immediately that the old working class door is closed now and they are just votes to support the ascendancy of a college-educated whites agenda. Steerage class. …

The weakness Hillary exposed in Obama’s appeal in 2008 is Mitt Romney’s to exploit. Of course, a super rich guy isn’t exactly the ideal candidate to go after the white working class.

 

 

 

6:22 a.m., May 18: Is it possible that all the reporting and politician squawking about the Facebook co-founder ducking hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by renouncing his U.S. citizenship were flat-out wrong about how the tax system works? If his explanation is right, that’s an amazing indictment of the laziness of reporters and lawmakers. But in a state where the largest newspaper has a reporter this dumb writing about important issues, nothing is surprising. The L.A. Times’ Tiffany Hsu wrote Thursday that California has among the nation’s highest number of workplace discrimination complaints — 7.2 percent of the U.S. total — without mentioning that since the state has 12 percent of the nation’s population, this means California actually has far fewer complaints than what is seen per-capita in the average state. Last week, Hsu wrote a story implying that consumer loan terms are driven by racism, not colorblind mathematical formulas. Please, L.A. Times, find this woman an editor. She’s embarrassing herself on a consistent basis.

 

 

8:03 a.m., May 17: Another day, another display of stupid partisan obliviousness from George Skelton. What’s wrong with the state government? Here’s his answer:

The real blame rests with the recession, an outdated roller-coaster tax system, the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases, an outmoded Proposition 13 property tax system that has shifted power and responsibility from local governments to Sacramento, legislative term limits that stunt lawmakers’ growth — and political polarization.

The unions have NOTHING to do with the state’s dysfunction, you see, nothing at all. George Skelton’s descent into self-parody and hackdom was completed long ago, but fresh reminders like this of his tunnel vision and myopiz still amaze.

8:11 a.m., May 16: I like the Calbuzz guys and think they are far sharper and more observant than George Skelton. But it is in the literal sense of the word incredible that they could write a long essay about California’s dysfunction without using the word “union.” It reminds me of when the N.Y. Times wrote 8,000 words about dysfunction in the Golden State and never mentioned unions. Talk about ignoring the T. Rex in the corner.

 

7:29 a.m., May 15: On Prop. 29, it’s the editorial page of the L.A. Times going head to head with its lead Sacramento columnist, George Skelton, and demolishing him. This is from last month on the edit page:

Proposition 29 is well intentioned, but it just doesn’t make sense for the state to get into the medical research business to the tune of half a billion dollars a year when it has so many other important unmet needs. California can’t afford to retain its K-12 teachers, keep all its parks open, give public college students the courses they need to earn a degree or provide adequate home health aides for the infirm or medical care for the poor. If the state is going to raise a new $735 million, it should put the money in the general fund rather than dedicating it to an already well-funded research effort. Funding priorities shouldn’t be set at the ballot box.

Skelton has now responded, and he won’t address the thoughtful point his editorial page made. Instead, he effectively says it doesn’t matter how dumb Prop. 29 is because … because … because its ads as so misleading:

One could argue that [tobacco companies'] sordid history does not necessarily mean they’re distorting and deceiving in their current campaign ads attacking Proposition 29, the California ballot measure that would raise cigarette taxes $1 per pack to finance cancer research …

Maybe tobacco companies can kick the habit of prevarication. Maybe a leopard can change its spots.

Groan. Yo, George, is it smart public policy or not? That should be the key to the decision — not your broad hate of tobacco companies.

 

 

6:22 a.m., May 14: Newsweek and Time have gone around the bend with their ludicrously over-the-top covers. First was last week’s Time cover shot of a boy, said to be 3 but looking older, breastfeeding from his sexy 30ish mom. Now it’s Newsweek with the mag using President Obama’s declaration of support for gay marriage as a rationale to label him “America’s First Gay President” with its cover headline. I think one Newsweek gambit here is that it’s trying to see if it can introduce the headline, literally read, as a new fake theme of the Obama haters on the Internet — a 2012 version of the continuing birther insanity. We’ll see.

7:19 a.m., May 12: I’m sorry, this state is just incredible. In the other mega-states — Texas, New York and Florida — there are tons of Democratic politicians eager to help home-state industries. Where are these people in California? Don’t they understand that it’s, yunno, significant that CEOs rate Cali as the least-business-friendly of any state? Instead, we see stories like this:

An array of business and other leaders put into high gear an ambitious effort Friday, hoping to succeed where the state’s politicians have failed — implement strategies to help remedy California’s moribund economy.

Good luck to them. Good luck to us all.

 

8 a.m., May 10: How odd that it is Steve Lopez, not one of the L.A. Times’ columnists who focus on politics, who makes the obvious point about wealthy “Hollywood hypocrites” posing as good progressives by attending an Obama fundraiser at George Clooney’s mansion without knowing about or caring about the lives and plights on working-class Democrats. But expecting George Skelton or Michael Hiltzik to point this out is too much, I guess. Skelton has spent decades ignoring that state Democratic lawmakers are close to automatons programmed to do as their Democratic masters please. Hiltzik is a reflexive lefty ideologue whose columns are inexplicably in the Business section and whose next suprising column will be his first. Lopez, whom I almost always enjoy, is still capable of surprise.

 

 

 

7:13 a.m., May 9: Once again, the L.A. Times carries an article about alleged anti-minority bias in mortgage lending that doesn’t include the key fact that the terms of loan offers are based on formulas involving credit history and wealth that have nothing to do with race. The last time the reckless LAT reporter was Tiffany Hsu. This time it’s E. Scott Reckard.To Reckard’s credit, his story update includes context that suggests that what really upsets authorities is that whites are more likely to try to bargain and succeed in getting a better rate. Isn’t this worth exploring, this race gap between who fights for a better deal and who doesn’t? Isn’t it a much smarter and better story than pretending that math formulas are racist? Sheesh.

 

7:33 a.m., May 8: When is the L.A. Times going to get around to framing Los Angeles’ desperate finances in the stark terms they deserve? Why isn’t this the focus of the mayor’s race, or at least the mainstream media coverage of it? Good questions all.

… none of the five candidates for Mayor have presented any specific details on how they would balance the budget, finance the maintenance and repair of our lunar cratered streets and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure, and fund the City’s two pension plans that are underwater to the tune of $10 billion, and that is based on overly optimistic rates of return.  

The Mayor’s Proposed Budget attempts to cure the structural deficit of $238 million that is the result of huge increases in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions. But that budget gap is more than $1 billion when adjusted for overly optimistic revenue projections, understated employee related expenses, and the failure to adequately fund our crumbling infrastructure and massively underfunded pension plans. 

And over the following four years, the City is forecasting a cumulative deficit of over $1 billion, and that overly optimistic projection is based on the same set of bogus assumptions as the Mayor’s Proposed Budget.

However, if the wannabe mayors detailed their specific solutions, the City’s special interest groups would go ballistic if they were the target of any budget reductions.  

Read the whole thing here. I can’t be the only one who sees apocalyptic things happening in California in coming years. But most of the media look at the pension/budget crisis of local governments on an a la carte basis instead of noticing the breadth of the problem.

 

8:16 a.m., May 7:  Marcia Fritz has a very sharp take on pension reform here. Her key point:

California’s fiscal issues are as complex as they are plentiful.  Solutions are elusive and often painful. But there is a fix that will make resources available at every level of state and local government.  The Governor put it together, and Republicans said they wouldn’t change a word.

The most impactful provision of the Governor’s pension reform plan would require state and local government employees to pay half the cost of their retirement plans – not unlike those who are fortunate to work for private companies that match their employees’ 401(k) contributions. If public employees agree to pay half, the savings will begin immediately and support services and jobs that would otherwise be cut.

It would also make new employees very interested in opting out of costly defined-benefit pensions for cheaper plans seen in the private sector — if the Obama administration ever stopped its stalling and gave local governments and local government workers this option.

 

7:03 a.m., May 4: Bay Area Dem congressman Pete Stark has been so obnoxious and strange over the years that maybe he doesn’t deserve any sympathy or slack. But after his latest interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, does anyone have much doubt he’s got serious mental problems? I wouldn’t want him to make my lunch, much less be my House representative. On the other hand, Stark is keeping up with Bay Area tradition.

 

8:11 a.m., May 3: The state budget’s revenue shortfall and the dire need for reform of costly pensions are so interrelated that they amount to consecutive chapters in a book. But this L.A. Times’ analysis of what the Legislature’s up to — headlined “California pension reform may take back seat to budget fix” –won’t make that point. It waits until the last paragraph to let a GOPer note the obvious:

“The failure of the Legislature to pass or honestly engage in fixing our pension systems means the state’s debt will rise faster,” Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) said.

When does the civil war among Democrats finally begin in Sacramento? At the local level, lots of Dem mayors realize sweeping pension reform has to happen. Jerry Brown agrees. Somehow, however, in the Assembly and Senate, there’s more concern about the 1 million or so public employees in California than about the other 36 million people in the state. How can the “social justice” Dems go along with this as the safety net frays? You got me.

8:20 a.m., May 1: Dana Milbank, The Washington Post’s version of N.Y. Times’ snarky, unconventional liberal columnist Maureen Dowd, writes a largely straightforward op-ed depicting Barack Obama as a political huckster relentlessly using government resources to promote his political fortunes. Powerful stuff — read it here.

 

 

7:44 a.m., April 29: So Stockton’s City Charter — its equivalent of a constitution — says no elected officials shall receive retirement benefits. But three mayors and 14 City Council members have been given pensions since 1991. I repeat the observation I’ve made since my first month as a columnist writing about California in the summer of 1995: Local government often resembles ongoing looting more than sober governance. The Stockton theft is only the latest example. Ed Mendel has details here.

 

 

8:22 a.m., April 26: George Skelton has spent his entire career obscuring the fact that unions and trial lawyers have enormous power in Sacramento. Anyone who looks at the balance of power in state government and doesn’t acknowledge the primacy of the CTA, etc., is brain-dead. But now Skelton pretends corporate power holds sway in a column about AT&T’s heavy donations. Yes, it makes passing reference to unions. But that’s the norm for Skelton — the Sacramento status quo framed in a way that only vaguely resembles the truth. How liberals like Skelton who allegedly believe in “social justice” got in bed with the people who run Sacramento is understandable — their spiel sounds like they too believe in “social justice” How they stay in bed with these looters is the eternal mystery.

6:27 a.m., April 23: Wal-Mart did what it had to do to expand in a country in which bribery is as common in local government as sweating is in Vegas in late July. But count on the Wal-Mart haters to use it as a club to beat down the company that does more to help poor people than any other. A single Wal-Mart does more for social justice than any 20 lefty do-gooders combined. That’s not going to stop the orgy of Wal-Mart bashing we’re likely to see for weeks to come.

 

 

8:12 a.m., April 19: Tiffany Hsu and her editors at the L.A. Times are idiots. This story offers as an unchallenged presumption that bias is endemic in consumer lending. Anyone who has ever talked to anyone in the business knows that lenders use formulas pegged to credit scores, personal finances, etc. There is not a racial or gender element to lending. If some groups are poorer or tend to have worse credit scores than other groups, that may be unfortunate. But it is not de facto evidence of bias AT ALL. Sheesh.

 

 

8:06 a.m., April 19: Is the egocentricity of attention-craving Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa going to help Mitt Romney get elected? It could happen, say the Calbuzzers, and they make a good argument. Click through — it has none of the left-is-smart/right-is-racist liberal onanism that sometimes turns up on Calbuzz.

 

6:11 a.m., April 18: We’re habitually encouraged to believe that rich people don’t like and resent the poor. But in California, over and over and over again, that narrative is left out when rich communities in liberal areas complain about affordable-housing requirements. Instead, the benefit of the doubt is given, and we’re supposed to assume the driving factor is resentment of bureaucratic mandates, etc. — not the possibility that rich liberals, just like rich conservatives, don’t like being bullied in the name of social engineering.

7:44 a.m., April 13: Stories about the nightmares unfolding with proposed California solar plants have become so epidemic that we barely even notice them anymore. Here’s the latest from The New York Times. As I whined a few weeks ago, it’s time “green” became synonymous with “fraud.”

 

 

8:o5 p.m., April 12: Here’s my interview from Tuesday with the fun Armstrong and Getty, Northern California radio show hosts. Mysteriously, the link calls me “Steve Reed.” But it’s really me.

 

6:14 a.m., April 11: This story about an online English class at a Los Angeles County public high school points to the future of K-12 education. The key question is how long teachers union stalling will maintain the bricks-and-mortar status quo.

6:29 a.m., April 9: This will be perceived as a partisan ploy, but it makes sense. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has introduced a bill that would ….

require “the federal government [to] cite, as its official unemployment calculation, the figure that takes into account those who are no longer looking for work,” not only those individuals actively seeking jobs.

The U.S. unemployment rate is in real-world terms the worst it has been since the Great Depression. Government stats should reflect this fact, not hide it.

6:22 a.m., April 9: It’s amazing that this analysis of the coming revenue bonanza coming from AB 32 pollution fees assumes that there won’t be attempts made to grab the dough for the general fund. If the fees really can generate $14 billion a year by 2015, as the LAO reports, that’s amazing. A cash influx one-tenth that size would get the special interests’ attention. An influx far bigger will trigger all kinds of power plays. Duh. Duh. Duh.

7:33 a.m., March 30: Surprise, surprise … a labor attorney appointed to a political post uses his power to help public employees maintain their compensation, in this  case state lawmakers:

A political rift appeared Thursday in a citizens panel that oversees compensation for California lawmakers and statewide elected officials, as the new chairman accused members of overstepping their authority on benefits.

Labor attorney Thomas Dalzell, the chairman appointed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, said the commission overreached its powers last year in eliminating taxpayer-funded vehicles for lawmakers.

He also said he does not believe the panel has jurisdiction over lawmakers’ daily living expenses known as per diem. The Legislature has not challenged the commission’s decision to eliminate the vehicles.

California lawmakers are the nation’s highest paid, with a base annual salary of $95,290, plus per diem payments of about $30,000 a year for those who collect it.

That this involves state lawmakers doesn’t change its larger validity at all.

 

 

8:08 a.m., March 29: I’ve been writing about CalSTRS’ funding woes for five years, and every single time I do, I hear from a retired teacher or a current teacher who says CalSTRS’ newsletters paint a completely rosy scenario of pension funding. How long can the lies continue? We’ll see:

[The] annual increase in contributions needed to get CalSTRS to full funding in 30 years, more than $4 billion, is approaching the total amount of contributions CalSTRS received from all sources last fiscal year, $5.3 billion.

That’s from Ed Mendel. When you hear the gov talk about his tax play providing money for schools, keep in mind what he’s talking about: CalSTRS, not classrooms.

 

 

 

8:33 a.m., March 26: Peter Schrag once again pumps out a column touting the Sacramento establishment’s absurd conventional wisdom that the biggest problem with California is that the Legislature can’t raise taxes more easily. Whenever this argument is made, it contains the implicit claim that California has low taxes. No, we don’t. Our sales, income and gasoline taxes are either the highest or among the highest in the nation. Our corporate taxes are the highest in the West and our overall business taxes are among the highest in the nation. Only our property taxes are relatively low, roughly in the middle or low middle of the 50 states, thanks to Proposition 13.

The obstacles that Schrag and the left so bemoan haven’t insulated California from heavy taxation at all. The problem is that California is so poorly run that even our high taxes can’t cover the cost of government. If only Schrag would ever bring this reality up instead of trotting out the same old bologna.

 

 

 

 

 

8:24 a.m., March 23: Do state Dem lawmakers really think the incredibly flawed boondoggle that is the bullet train is worth a long-term commitment of billions of dollars at a time when the safety net is fraying, schools are in trouble, roads are in disrepair, etc. etc. etc.? Evidently so, per Dan Walters:

... California’s bullet train project is very likely to get the green light from the Legislature soon.

That’s the consensus of those who have been counting votes among the Legislature’s dominant Democrats, who can give the California High-Speed Rail Authority authorization to sell bonds and begin construction of an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley..

And that’s true even though lawmakers still don’t know, in any detail, what linking the northern and southern halves of the state via rail would entail.

They don’t know how much the system would cost, who, if anyone, would put up its money, or whether it could draw enough passengers to cover costs without subsidies.

What, exactly, does this have to do with social justice? Or, for that matter, with rationality?

Why would any group of adults anywhere embrace something that looks like such an immense, all-encompassing boondoggle?

To paraphrase and borrow from what I wrote a few years back about a deranged San Diego school board, I’m reminded of Poul Anderson’s classic 1954 science fiction novel “Brainwave.” In the novel, Earth gradually moves out of a force field that has had the effect of suppressing human intelligence. Sooner or later, everyone has IQs of 400 – and life gets infinitely more complex.

When it comes to the bullet train, Jerry Brown and Dem lawmakers have been caught in an opposite vortex in recent months. Call it a “Dumbwave.” In my 22 years in California, I’ve never seen anything like it.

 

They don’t know how much the system would cost, who, if anyone, would put up its money, or whether it could draw enough passengers to cover costs without subsidies.

 

 

8:17 a.m., March 22: Still more hilariously extreme lies from the bullet-train pushers!

The authority’s business plan estimates an operating cost of about 10 cents per mile while large, well-established European high-speed rail lines operate at about 44 cents per mile.

Details here. Love it.

 

 

8:14 a.m., March 21: Occupy Oakland continues to advance the cause of social justice with compassion and style:

An Alameda County judge on Tuesday sent three Occupy Oakland demonstrators to trial on robbery and hate crime charges after three days of testimony about an altercation they had with a woman who confronted them at a rally.

The preliminary hearing offered a window into the contentious case. Prosecutors said one of the protesters repeatedly called the woman a “dyke bitch” as another grabbed her wallet … .

 

8:22 a.m., March 20: Stories like this one about the vast number of applicants for state jobs demolish the theories about how generous pensions are crucial to getting a qualified public-employee workforce. They also illustrate something I’ve been writing for years: You could freeze public employee pay for many years at a time without any difficulties at all.

Why not do it? Why not left the marketplace decide the true worth of these jobs?

You know why: the clout of public employee unions. We need what happened in Wisconsin to happen here.

 

 

 

 

8:11 a.m., March 19: Ed Mendel reports that …

Nearly all of the nation’s larger public pension funds, 99 percent, have better investment earnings than CalPERS since the economy began a steep drop five years ago, a Wilshire consultant report said last week.

… So maybe now the CalPERS board will stop using investments to reward labor-friendly companies and to engage in social engineering? Taxpayers have to hope so.

 

 

7:02 a.m., March 16: How ridiculous can you get? The “Courage Campaign” supports the big tax hike compromise involving Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers to sustain California’s status quo. Democrats won’t reform pensions. They won’t change teacher tenure or teacher compensation policies that are at war with logic and common sense. They won’t turn allow technology to reduce the government workforce in the same way that’s been seen in the private sector for 20 years. But call for higher income and sales taxes while opposing all these obvious reforms, and the “Courage Campaign” pretends that makes you morally superior. This isn’t “courage” at all. It’s providing cover for union leeches.

 

 

6:33 a.m., March 14: San Francisco’s health insurance mandate for employers still amazes me. It went against 35 years of court rulings involving ERISA, the sweeping federal law that was notable for many reasons, in particular its mandate preventing individual states from forcing multistate corporations to face different rules in different jurisdictions. But now the San Francisco law matters for a different reason: It’s giving an early warning sign to the rest of America about how businesses desperate to stay in business will try to game Obamacare once it is in place to minimize their costs.

Employers have three options: provide health insurance, use the city’s own Healthy San Francisco program, or set up health reimbursement accounts.

A16 Restaurant, a trendy cafe in the Marina district, enrolled most of its eligible employees in health reimbursement accounts, according to its own reporting. The cafe spent $71 per year per employee with those accounts.

Wayfare Tavern, an upscale pub on Sacramento Street, spent even less — $26 per employee — for all but one of its employees, for whom it spent $3,610. How? It enrolled all but that one employee in health reimbursement accounts, contributed $60,114 into those accounts and paid out only $601 in benefits — or an average $26 per worker — recouping the remaining $59,513.

By comparison, Zuni Cafe, which like the others depends on part-time workers, spent $738 on each of 41 employees it enrolled in health reimbursement accounts. Zuni bought conventional health insurance for 49 more employees.

And the Marriot International Hotel (admittedly in a different industry with more full-time workers), bought health insurance for 1,901 employees. The hotel spent about $9,368 on each and enrolled 34 more employees in Healthy San Francisco, the health care access plan run by the city, and spent $1,845 on each of those employees, according to the report filed by Marriot with the Labor Standards Enforcement Office.

Reading this, it occurs to me that Obamacare is one more way government creates lucrative work for lawyers.

Coincidence? Please.

5:59 a.m., March 13: In 1992, California was a different state than now, one with much more centrist politics. Pete Wilson was governor, and was headed for a landslide re-election win in 1994. Also that year, Prop. 187 would win a landslide victory and Republicans briefly seemed to control the Assembly. But in 1992, as AP’s Judy Lin notes in an analysis of the pension crisis, voters approved a crazy ballot measure by a narrow 51%-49% vote:

Proposition 162 … gave the labor union-friendly CalPERS board complete authority over investments and administration, shifting the pension fund’s allegiance from elected officials and taxpayers to public employees and retirees.

The inestimable Ed Mendel has more here.

Nexis shows no newspaper editorial page endorsed 162, but it still passed. Mysterious. Depressing. Ungood.

8:06 a.m., March 12: The California Watch story about how a state law is forcing explicit racial considerations into decisions made by local governments that could have the effect of diluting the voting strength of minorities is making waves. One of the strongest reactions is from Mickey Kaus, the widely read Democratic blogger from Los Angeles, who calls at least one of the developments related to the law “repulsive.” More here.

8:18 a.m., March 9: Brian Joseph does a great job in the O.C. Register of framing the idiocy of the Legislature’s obsession with Dan Richards

The obvious question, however, is why should Richards even be in trouble? He’s broken no laws, in California or Idaho. There’s been no suggestion, as far as the Watchdog is aware, that Richards was cruel in his hunting methods, or that he abused the animal before killing it. And it’s not like he killed the mountain lion and just left it to rot — he used it for food. The traditional things that set environmentalists off about hunters don’t seem to be at play here.

But as the San Jose Mercury News’ Paul Rogers recently explored, the controversy over Richards’ actions has exposed a major cultural shift in California, where “the traditional political power of hunters and fishermen is in steady decline while environmentalists and animal rights groups have grown in influence.”Hunting, in other worlds, just doesn’t have the support that it used to California.

On the other hand, the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters wrote that the Legislature has little reason to attack Richards when “it didn’t react when one of its members was caught by police with a prostitute in his car, parked alongside a busy Los Angeles highway, or when another crashed her state-issued car while driving recklessly, injuring two people.”

If the Legislature decided to fire people in state government for real transgressions — not because of culture war jihads — the upper ranks of just about everyone involved with financial decisions would be depopulated. And if legislators held themselves to the same standards, well, good luck ever getting a quorum.

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8:20 a.m., March 8: Oh, the media are going to be so bummed about this — support is dropping for the gov’s tax-hike plan already, even without a campaign to point out the obvious: that it props up a failed status quo:

Not surprisingly, Democrats (71% support) and Republicans (65% oppose) have the strongest reactions to Brown’s income/sales tax hike. Independent voters (49% yes, 41% no) are more conflicted.

But what’s fascinating is that overall support for the governor’s proposal appears to have dropped in just a matter of weeks by an astounding 20 points. PPIC’s January survey found 72% support among likely voters.

A state government that’s built on the assumption that spending always has to go up for every department by 6 percent to 8 percent a year is crazy. A K-12 policy framework that’s subverted by the fact that 90 percent or more of operating budgets goes to employee compensation is crazy. A broad tax hike that leaves these basic operating principles in place is craziest of all.

 

 

 

 

 

6:11 a.m., March 7: This New Republic essay depressed the hell out of me and shook my assumption a libertarian lite movement could take huge chunks of independent voters turned off by the major parties. Instead, many independents are what author and Dem strategist Ruy Texeira calls “IINOS” — independent in name only:

In 2008, according to the University of Michigan’s National Election Study (NES), 90 percent of independents who leaned Democratic voted for Obama, actually a higher level of support than among weak Democratic partisans (those who said they were “not very strong” Democrats), 84 percent of whom voted for Obama. Among Republican-leaning independents, a still-high 78 percent voted for McCain, compared to 88 percent support among weak Republican identifiers.

Evidently, these two groups are quite different animals. On the one hand, we have a group of “independents” who voted 90 percent for Barack Obama. Moreover, as Alan Abramowitz and others have shown, the policy views of Democratic-leaning independents look just like the policy views of Democratic identifiers. On the other, we have a group of “independents” who voted 78 percent for John McCain and have policy views that look just like Republican identifiers. Clearly it does tremendous violence to the data to lump these two disparate groups together and give them a label—“independents”—that implies they do not have partisan inclinations.

The implications of Texeira’s research for the presidential race? I think it’s mostly that turnout is of crucial importance. I was talking with a high-powered Democratic activist and former officeholder today, and he says his assumption that the flap over whether health insurance must always include contraception amounted to a carefully conceived strategem to increase the turnout of women voters — not a gaffe by the Obama White House. Could be.

I hope Mitt can come up with similar strategies to rile up Republicans or GOP-loving IINOs.

 

 

 

8:33 a.m., March 6: One more reason to be appalled with CalPERS and CalSTRS:

[It] is illegal for a state pension fund board to pursue any goals unrelated to state workers’ retirement security. Yet the managers of CalPERS and CalSTRS have allowed trendy political ideas to influence their decision-making. Instead of pensioners, they answer increasingly to the demands of union bosses, environmental advocacy groups, and activist institutional investors. How do they get away with this? To mask their political and ideological investment agenda CalPERS board members use phrases like “triple-bottom line.” As The Institutional Investor explained in July 2011 the “triple bottom line” would “incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance concerns – so-called ESG issues – across the Sacramento-based plan’s entire $232.2 billion investment pool.”

More on this pathetic situation here.

 

 

 

6:44 a.m., March 5: What is wrong with California in one paragraph:

What alarmed Deis was the depth of the city’s huge unfunded guarantee for health care for retired city employees, caused in part by a very generous policy that promises city workers lifetime coverage for themselves and a spouse after just one month of employment. Union leaders say the benefits are not excessive.

Lifetime health benefits for employees and their spouses after one month of work? And the union says it’s not excessive? If Stockton is overrun by rats, excuse me for not caring.

6:16 a.m., March 5: The green energy follies keep accelerating and will be a great tool with which to target Obama in the general election campaign. This is from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal — keep in mind GM is partly owned by taxpayers, and it becomes even more aggravating:

“General Motors Co. will idle production of its Chevrolet Volt battery-powered car for five weeks beginning this month because of slow sales … Launched last year with great fanfare, the Volt has had a rocky start as sales stalled, and the car became a lightning rod for critics of the Obama administration’s auto-industry bailout and support for alternative energy. … 1,300 workers at the Hamtramck, Mich., factory where the Volt is built will be out of work between March 19 and April 23 … ‘This technology is here to stay, we have all kinds of people who want to copy it and go after it. We are not re-evaluating anything,’ [Mark Reuss, GM's North American chief] said. ‘The only question here is what the rate of sales will be.’ … “GM spent hundreds of millions of dollarsdeveloping the Volt and has been hoping the car would put a halo on the company’s image, much the way the Prius hybrid won the favor of American consumers for Toyota Motor Corp. Volt uses a lithium-ion battery to power the car and has a small gasoline engine that kicks in when the battery runs low. … The vehicle’s relatively high price tag — $41,000 before a $7,500 government rebate — kept many consumers away. … GM on Thursday said it sold 1,023 Volts in February, up from 676 in January. It outsold Nissan Motor Co.’s all-electric Leaf, which had sales of 478 in February. But the Volt had a large backlog of unsold vehicles while the Leaf is in short supply.”

 

 

 

8:33 a.m., March 2: Here’s a great new website devoted to the vast waste and bureaucratic bologna that is California’s First 5 establishment. Here’s a link to a piece about my probe of First 5 creator Rob Reiner’s role in a scandal that the media stopped covering before journos got to the juicy part about illegally deleted e-mails or figured out what a weak job the state auditor did investigating the likely illegal use of millions in state First 5 funds..

 

8:17 a.m., March 1: What the L.A. Times describes as “cuts” to welfare is more correctly described as implementing the welfare reforms that most of the rest of the U.S. have adopted, to generally positive effect — putting limits on benefits to motivate people to seek work more aggressively. It’s the best part of Jerry Brown’s budget, and now it appears to be history. Do state lawmakers think we can just print money like they do in D.C.? Amazing.

 

 

 

8:14 a.m., Feb. 29: Dan Walters responds to the flap over the hunting official who actually likes to hunt with his best column in a long, long time:

So Richards appears to be guilty only of offending the sensibilities of the Legislature, whatever they may be.

This is the same Legislature that offends the sensibilities of most Californians, according to a recent Field Poll, because lawmakers habitually ignore important issues, carry bills of self-serving trivia, help special interests, and manipulate their schedules to maximize their incomes.

This is the same Legislature that didn’t react when one of its members was caught by police with a prostitute in his car, parked alongside a busy Los Angeles highway, or when another crashed her state-issued car while driving recklessly, injuring two people.

More recently, this is the same Legislature that didn’t respond when a member was nailed for shoplifting, or when another carried a loaded pistol into an airport security checkpoint.

8:11 a.m., Feb. 28: What are the odds this bill passes?

Under state law, whistleblower complaints of waste, fraud and abuse are sealed at public agencies — and Joe Citizen is never told of any findings or actions that are taken in response. A new bill by State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would change that.

2,000 to 1. The first rule of Fight Club, err, the First Rule of the state Capitol is don’t do anything that could come back to haunt public employees. I will keep tabs on SB 1336 and report back on its all but certain demise.

 

 

 

 

8:08 a.m., Feb. 27: The story about how Sac Bee columnist Dan Morain faced a vicious, coordinated online assault after questioning the tactics of those opposed to genetically modified food is telling for two reasons, neither of which the media ever acknowledge. The first is that it shows how for a fanatical subset of Americans, green beliefs are tantamount to religion, to be defended by any means necessary. Evangelicals can be subtly mocked in the media, but not green nuts. The second reason it is telling is that it is one more example of how the whole 2010 “civility” clamor in the media was a thinly disguised partisan effort to discredit the tea party movement. For years, there has been at least as much bile from the left as the right in this nation. When it comes from the right, the media see it as a terrible comment on what America’s become. When it comes from the left, there’s no attempt to place it in a larger context. The subtext of this is that there’s good reason for this bile. Give me a break, media, give me a break.

 

 

6:16 a.m., Feb. 27: The old theory was that any significant reform introduced by a Republican state lawmaker was DOA. So now a Democratic state lawmaker is proposing a freeze on the pay of state workers making more than $100,000, an audit of the Legislature’s spending, and an end to the practice of allowing current and retired state lawmakers to get vanity plates for free. So what is going to happen to these populist, sure-to-play-well-with-the-public proposals? They’re going to die without a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and not just because the lawmaker behind them, Anthony Portantino, is a thorn in Speaker John Perez’s side. They’re going to die because all the talk about spending and restraint and a new era in Sacramento are pure bunk. And because Appropriations Committee Chairman Felipe Fuentes is yet another Los Angeles Latino Democrat who talks up social justice on the campaign trail but in office defines social justice as protecting a status quo devoted to helping public employees first and foremost, and if the safety net is shredded, so be it

SACRAMENTO — As education groups battle over which California tax initiative would give the biggest boost to schools, advocates for low-income residents fear safety-net programs remain vulnerable no matter what happens on the ballot in November.

Proponents for three competing tax measures are focusing heavily on schools because voters prioritize education funding most. But it remains an open question how other programs will fare.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal raises several billion dollars for the state’s general fund that he says would help protect schools from severe reductions. But he has proposed deep cuts in welfare-to-work and child care in the first year even if his taxes pass.

But wait, Chris, that’s not fair. If you help schools, you help Latinos. So isn’t Felipe Fuente doing his bit for social justice?
Give me a break, unseen interlocutor. In case you haven’t been following the news the last few weeks, the school district that covers Fuente’s district is in the middle of a massive scandal over perverts preying on kids, often Latinos, and being protected by rules set up to insulate teachers from ever losing their jobs.

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8:43 a.m., Feb. 24: So here’s the headline in this morning’s S.F. Chronicle: California GOP out of sync with most state voters. This may well be true given the party’s deep social conservatism. But have you ever seen a headline saying California Dems out of sync with most state voters? California Democrats want higher taxes, oppose pension reform and pass laws seeking to insulate public employee unions from budget pain and the economic downturn. These are not at all things the public wants, so it is not a stretch at all to envision a story headlined California Dems out of sync with most state voters. But of course what I’m getting at is this: Here’s another story that could easily be written: California media out of sync with most state voters. Reporters are rarely social conservatives, so of course the GOP seems “out of sync.” But for reasons that defy logical explanation, reporters often buy the theory that since Dems hold the majority in Sacramento, they reflect the majority’s views. Bunk.

 

 

 

8:18 a.m., Feb. 23: Do you ever wonder if schools in California increasingly function as day-care centers, both before and after school hours, as a way to make lives so much easier for parents that they don’t care if their kids are getting a so-so or worse education? I sure do. Especially when I see all the stories like this one:

It was dinnertime.

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, 200 students clamored into the cafeteria at Union House Elementary in south Sacramento, forming a line in front of a mound of plastic-encased meals of sandwiches, pears and salads.

For years, schools have provided breakfast and lunch to low-income students, and now many are adding dinner to the menu – including Union House, an elementary school near Mack Road and Franklin Boulevard in the Elk Grove Unified School District.

The late-afternoon meals come courtesy of the federal government’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2010. The law provides federal funding for schools to serve dinner as part of their after-school program if at least half the students at the school qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches.

If your school takes care of your kid from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for free, including meals, you’re not really in a position to gripe about much, are you?

8 a.m., Feb. 22: So Jerry Brown wants more education decisions made at the local level, ignoring the fact that this model so shunned accountability the last time it was tried that it spawned No Child Left Behind. What would this mean if the gov got his way? The L.A. school district has given us a preview with its epic display of stupid micromanagement:

Following an uproar last year over a policy that limited homework to 10 percent of a student’s grade, Los Angeles Unified officials are recommending a cap of 20 percent, along with guidelines on how much time should be spent on outside assignments. …

During meetings that began last October, the Homework Working Group tried to find the balance between helping students master a subject and placing an unmanageable burden on their time or families.

“We want to make sure that grades aren’t being raised or lowered just based on homework,” Janice Davis, the district official who coordinated the working group, said Tuesday. …

Under the recommended limits, sixth-graders would be assigned 15 minutes of homework for each academic class. Seventh- and eighth-graders would be assigned a half-hour and high school students, 40 minutes per class.

Davis said the homework issue is part of a larger discussion of grading practices and procedures. For instance, would a homework assignment to solve five math equations be just as effective as one to complete 30?

“Should be we focusing on the quality of homework rather than the quantity?” she said. “These are also things we should be talking about.”

Yeah, the problem with LAUSD isn’t horrible test grades and a tolerance for bad and perverted teachers. It’s too much homework and too much emphasis on homework.

Also note the thinking behind the “15 minutes of homework” limit: All students are equal. Therefore, it will take all students the same amount of time to do the same homework.

These are the people Jerry wants implementing school reform? If you don’t have a kid in public schools, feel free to snicker. If you do, weeping is more in order.

 

 

 

7:42 a.m., Feb. 21: This L.A. Times article amounts to more evidence that my theories about the pending drastic revamping of the first phase of the bullet train are correct. I still expect the fiasco to die an ugly death. What interests me is whether smart people like Darrell Steinberg, John Perez and Bill Lockyer will end up being embarrassed by their support of this debacle — or whether they’ll have the good sense to bail out before the utter idiocy of the project becomes undeniable.

 

 

8:04 a.m., Feb. 20: The latest example that the state of California is rigged in favor of public employees and against the public in general:

California State University East Bay professors who played hooky to protest state budget cuts – but then put in for a full day’s pay – are getting a pass from the system’s chancellor.

Can you imagine that happening in the private sector? Of course not. It’s good to be a public employee.

Ca

Jerry Brown can bully and bluster and name-call all he wants to revive the bullet-train project, but there are Senate Democrats who just disregard the campaign and point to the basics.

“There’s an inadequate business plan,” state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said at a Friday luncheon of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County.  “A UC Berkeley study found the ridership projections were too high. We have $10 billion in state funds and $3 billion in federal funds for a $98 billion project. To start in the middle (of the state) when you have no (financial) commitment is too risky.”

For starters, Lowenthal said, the first leg of the line should serve higher population areas than the Central Valley, where groundbreaking is planned.

Lowenthal and Joe Simitian aren’t going to go along with Jerry’s Kool-Aid on this. They want something that makes sense. Good luck with that, guys!

 

7:56 a.m., Feb. 17: I’m not an attorney, so I don’t pretend to know the legalities here. But if it is true that under state law, agencies that don’t rely on general fund revenues can’t furlough employees during tough times — as this Sac Bee story indicates –  that is ridiculous. Because it is evidence that state laws are written primarily for the benefit of public employees, not the public. Taxpayers? Take a hike.

6:22 a.m., Feb. 16: City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald may live 3,000 miles away — the city referred to in City Journal’s title is New York — but her habit of putting out sharp, incisive articles on California continues. Last year saw her amazing, appalling piece on how the diversity industry in the UC system had created dozens of make-work jobs. Now she’s got a new City Journal essay on the array of major problems facing California’s Hispanics, who will soon be the largest ethnic group in the state, and how many have been caught up in a “contagious underclass culture.” It is full of facts that never get covered by the Golden State media. Isn’t it, yunno, news that the group that will soon predominate has serious socio-economic problems? Of course it is. Perhaps eventually California’s media will figure this out.

7:55 a.m., Feb. 15: It was always obvious to just about everyone that the Assembly wasn’t going to be able to get away with keeping members’ budgets a secret. So much so that when you read stories like this about the futile effort yielding a $200,000 legal bill, it’s legit to wonder if this was just a way to funnel taxpayer dollars to a pro-Democrat law firm. I have no proof this is the case. But fighting this fight was so dumb that it leads to such speculation.

 

 

8:20 p.m., Feb. 14: Dan Walters’ column today does an excellent job of pointing out two things. 1) How insatiable the education lobby is; and 2) How Jerry Brown’s alleged mastery of California politics is a myth.

Brown’s got a big problem. While he claims that his plan would bolster schools and “public safety,” the two most popular governmental functions, many education officials are downright hostile. They complain that even if his tax plan passes, schools would get no increase in per-pupil financing, as a recent report from the Legislature’s budget analyst points out.

“In other words, education doesn’t get more funding if (Brown’s tax plan) passes,” San Diegp’s deputy schools superintendent, Scott Patterson, told his local newspaper recently. “Instead, we get less funding if it fails.”

A third big point, however, is that the public may be ready to give up on the present education funding model in favor of something much different. If the status quo is a flop, why just keep adding money to it?

 

 

 6:14 a.m., Feb. 14: Especially given the present president’s obsession with a command-and-control federal government, how strange is it that the two Democratic presidents before him were so crucial to two of the most libertarian public policies adopted in modern times by the federal government? Jimmy Carter famously helped usher in the age of deregulation, specifically in transportation, oil and telecommunications. (Also craft beer.) Now Forbes.com has an essay reminding us of how Bill Clinton explicitly defined the Internet’s future as a place generally free of onerous government regulation. Clinton has long looked good in comparison to the chumps who succeeded him. Obama, however, is so uniquely terrible that he threatens to make Jimmy Carter look good in retrospect.

 

6:08 a.m., Feb. 13: Oh, my, the Calbuzz boys are under the impression that President Obama has used his power to help the private sector, not protect government jobs through the transfer of tens of billions of dollars in 2009 “stimulus” funds to state capitals:

You gotta admire Hilda (Solis), who came from nothing to be in the White House cabinet, but we wonder: Is the Labor Secretary really just the No. 1 Business Rep for Big Labor? Good point: that while jobs have grown in the private sector under Obama, 400,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated.

That’s from their otherwise fun account of the Cal Demo convention here in San Diego. I know it’s become akin to conventional wisdom that Republicans have homogenized in kooky ways, but if the media really want to promote the idea that Obama has been center-right, well, that’s mind-boggling. Biggest deficits ever, biggest expansion of gov into private sector since the Great Society, greatest two-year onslaught of additional gov regulation since the Great Society, etc. etc. Being a hawk and an education reformer doesn’t add up to much of a fig leaf when Obama has that much else on his record.

 

 

7:17 a.m., Feb. 10: Today’s Merc-News lays it all out. Senate prez Darrell Steinberg may vow to pursue pension reform in the wake of Kamala Harris’ successful sabotage of a ballot initiative, but all labor overlords will allow is cosmetic changes to abusive practices, not a basic reduction in benefit schemes that are vastly more generous than those seen in the private sector and that are bankrupting many local governments:

Labor groups are vowing to resist any major rollbacks that they say violate collective-bargaining agreements or that would punish low- and middle-income workers. They say requiring current workers to contribute at least half of the cost to their retirement benefits is a nonstarter, as are hybrid retirement plans and increasing the retirement age.

They prefer to focus on the egregious examples that have enraged the voting public.

In addition to pension spiking, the abuses include “double dipping,” which occurs when a worker collects a generous pension while working at a new public-sector job.

Accumulating years of vacation hours for huge payouts at the end of careers — when salaries tend to be higher — is viewed as another form of abuse.

What’s painfully funny about this is the reference to labor not putting up with anything that violates collective bargaining agreements. What that means in practice is that anything unions have ever been allowed to get away with in the past is now a benchmark that can never be rescinded unless one side — labor — says it is OK. That doesn’t sound “collective,” now, does it? We live in a sham of a state.

 

 

 

 

 

8:08 a.m., Feb. 9: Does George Skelton realize how dutiful an establishment hack he appears to those watching how Sacramento covers state government? Today’s column rebukes those who have other tax-hike plans than Jerry Brown’s soak-the-rich scheme. Is the LAO’s concern about Jerry’s gimmicky plan mentioned? Nope. Is the fact that Jerry’s plan makes the state’s current overreliance on volatile revenue sources even more extreme mentioned? Nope. Is the fact that California already has among the highest taxes in the nation mentioned? Nope. George Skelton is in Jerry’s corner. The media establishment = the Democratic Party establishment. Go, Jerry, go!

 

 

7:51 a.m., Feb. 8: The precise way that the Chrysler ad’s narrative foreshadows the re-election campaign narrative of Barack Obama made me groan before it was even half over during the Super Bowl. When will Clint Eastwood realize he was used?

 

 

6:15 a.m., Feb. 7: The news that Jerry Brown has named a former senior exec at Washington Mutual to oversee regulation of California’s banks is just priceless. Jan Owen wasn’t just a minor player at WaMu, and WaMu wasn’t just a minor player in the nation’s economic meltdown. It was a key player, especially on the West Coast. Cue the Tacoma News Tribune’s Sept. 28, 2008, editorial after WaMu’s collapse:

The titanic collapse of Seattle-based Washington Mutual is more proof that the U.S. government must come up with a convincing strategy to rescue the financial sector.

It also illustrates why the public — now angry over the idea of a bailout — has so much at stake in a a rescue. The real victims of inaction are likely to be the little guys, not the big guys.

Washington Mutual has been run by big guys, of course. Until Thursday, when it was swallowed by JPMorganChase for pennies on the dollar, it was the largest savings-and-loan in the United States. In recent years, its corporate officers made many of the blunders that brought on this whole calamity.

They presided over the offering of billions of dollars in easy credit to homebuyers who couldn’t afford the houses they — with the help of WaMu — talked themselves into buying. When the bill came due, WaMu’s subprime mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, interest-only mortgages and other gimmick loans turned out to be a palace of bad paper.

And now one of these WaMu executives is rewarded with A BANKING OVERSIGHT JOB BY JERRY????

To borrow from Dick Enberg, oh, my..

10 p.m., Feb. 6: Happy Reagan’s birthday. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers while I was on a spiritual retreat at the sports books and blackjack tables of Clark County’s metropolis. Further thanks to Wes Welker for his seven catches and to the New York Giants for winning by more than 3.5 points, rewarding my faith in Saint Eli.

6:33 a.m., Feb. 2: Calwhine is on hiatus for a few days as editor Chris Reed goes on his annual spiritual retreat to the Mirage sports book. Please do not burglarize his home. And please wish Chris well and pray for his religious convictions that the New York Giants will either win or lose by less than 3 points and that Wes Welker of the Patriots will have more than 6.5 catches.

 

 

8:08 a.m., Feb. 1: How is it possible for Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times to write an entire on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand ambivalent column about the state high-speed rail project without mentioning one key fact? That key fact: Taxpayers have been lied to from day one about virtually every key detail. Lopez mentions the ever-escalating estimates of the project’s overall costs, but without mentioning the context that this isn’t just a case of a big infrastructure project turning out to be more complicated than first thought. It’s a case of the rail authority intentionally putting out a dishonest estimate of costs in 2008 to win voter support despite warnings from lots of independent experts. Lopez also accepts as credible the claim that an L.A. to San Francisco ticket on the bullet train would cost less than a plane ticket. Yeah, surrrrrreee. Please, Steve, consider the larger fiasco here. It’s not just project costs. It’s a million things.

As I’ve written before, the rail project has been trashed by independent experts for years for deceitful estimates of ridership, ticket cost, job creation and pollution reduction, and for the inability of its staff to craft a legal business plan that avoids future taxpayer subsidies. The bullet train is also slated to have its first segment built in a lightly populated area despite the state legal requirement that the second segment can only be built after the first segment breaks even or is making money. It also faces deep skepticism from private investors and from the folks on Wall Street who would be asked to buy billions in state bonds to help pay for the project.

Look at the big picture, Steve. Puh-leez.

 

 

 

8 a.m., Feb. 1: Jerry’s weekend comments on the bullet train in a Los Angeles TV interview got the attention, but his remarks about K-12 policy also deserve attention. The gov said the following: “I’d rather leave as much authority as possible at the lowest level, closest to the people.” When will the people who cover education in California connect the dots on this? The main reason education reform ended up manifesting itself in top-down efforts like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top is because of a lack of accountability at the lowest level. If school boards are controlled by teachers unions, as is so often the case, then school districts are run first and foremost according to the interests of adult employees. Duh. Duh. Duh. So much for helping students. Now Jerry wants to return to this old state of affairs, and he bills it as reform. Incredible. And worthy of coverage by someone besides Calwhine, don’t ya think?

 

 

6:15 a.m., Jan. 31: Flag-burning. Using IEDs against cops. Forcing an impoverished city to spend $5 million. If the Democrats continue to give any encouragement to Occupy, they risk a huge backlash. If this is social justice, social justice is garbage.

 

 

 

. Officials said vandalism and activities related to Occupy Oakland have cost the financially strapped city $5 million since October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:04 a.m., Jan. 30: Before the media buy the vast exaggeration that the California economy is on a serious rebound, there’s this:

Federal surveys indicate the state’s real rate of unemployment or underemployment is more like 20 percent.

Thanks to Dan Walters for putting that in his column and for not being a Dem echo chamber like at least two of his colleagues.

 

 

 

6:22 a.m., Jan. 30: An instant classic of a New Yorker cover. But what’s behind the GOP tumult? I don’t think it’s just dissatisfaction with Mitt, or Mitt and Newt both. I think this essay gets it right: It’s driven by the fact that the average GOPer thinks very little of GOP leaders and looks for ways to challenge the status quo.

The Republican rank and file have been sending messages to their party leaders for years, but without avail.The GOP has touted itself as the party of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, but for too many years, their supporters have seen government and spending continue to spiral out of control, even when they put Republicans in charge.

Amen.

6:11 a.m. Jan. 30: If the tea party movement had done one-thousandth the horrible stuff the Occupyers have done, the media would have led the rush to crucify the movement. Yet even after more obnxious, nihilistic stuff like what happened in in Oakland over the weekend, the subtext of the coverage continues to be that these are noble people with a good cause. It’s just incredible that Obama is going to run on Occupy themes. The attack ads linking the prez and Oakland write themselves.

Occupy Oakland protesters broke into City Hall, stole an American flag from the City Council chamber and set it on fire Saturday night, punctuating a wild day in which police deployed tear gas, arrested more than 400 marchers and dodged hurling objects. …

Saturday marked the first major clashes between protesters and police since November and left three officers with minor injuries, as protesters threw bottles, metal pipes, rocks, spray cans and “improvised explosive devices,” police said.

Re-read that last part: Occupy-ers are using IEDs against police. Oh, yeah, their hearts are in the right places.

 

 

 

 

8:15 a.m., Jan. 27: California Watch does a lot of good work, but there are times when I read some of its copy and I want to scream because of its smug NPR-ness. This dismissive, snide item about George Joseph and his wars with Consumer Watchdog over how auto insurance rates are formulated is a classic example. Will Evans gives zero context to show that Joseph’s approach is friendly to millions of consumers, not a money grab for evil insurers, and then he goes on to depict Consumer Watchdog as a benign advocacy group. Yo, Will, Consumer Watchdog is as shady an operator as there is in California politics, as people on both the left and right have figured out. Yo, Will, why aren’t you dismissive and snide about Consumer Watchdog, too? Sheesh.

 

 

 

 

cars like the Chevy Volt. Hey, S.F. Chronicle: The U.S. is a net exporter of petroleum. You could look it up. The media is so deeply in the tank on issues like this that it amounts to an assault on reason.

 

 

8:08 a.m., Jan. 23: This quote in today’s Los Angeles Times from the gov about pension reform is absolutely wacky and inconsistent with his past comments on how important it is to cut pension costs:

When we’re dealing with a 40-year matter,” the governor told a legislative hearing on pensions last month, “you don’t have to deal with it in 40 minutes or 40 days or even 40 months. We have time here.”

Just as his coolness to education reform serves the interests of the CTA, his stance on pension reform — needed, but why hurry? — serves the interest of public employee unions in general. Jerry Brown isn’t some Zen genius. He’s the tax collector for the union state. He’s a more skilled version of Gray Davis. Yo, Jerry: Lots of local governments will fall apart without pension relief over the next 40 months.

<em>8 a.m., Jan. 23:</em> This quote in today’s Los Angeles Times from the gov about pension reform is absolutely wacky and inconsistent with his past commentso n how important cutting pension costs is:

“When we’re dealing with a 40-year matter,” the governor told a legislative hearing on pensions last month, “you don’t have to deal with it in 40 minutes or 40 days or even 40 months. We have time here.”

Just as his coolness to education reform serves the interests of the CTA, his stance on pension reform — needed, but why hurry? — serves the interest of public employee unions in general. Jerry Brown isn’t some Zen genius. He’s the tax collector for the union state.

 

7:47 a.m., Jan. 20: It’s stunning to see this lead from a journalist who has spent his entire career building a reputation as a thoughtful, careful analyst:

“President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity.”

Good for Robert J. Samuelson. Bad for America.

 

 

7:33 a.m., Jan. 20: Jerry Brown is working hard to change the narrative on high-speed rail. This piece does a great job of pointing out the baloney factor in Brown’s great-things-can-get-done-in-tough-times narrative. The state did not build “the Golden Gate Bridge and the Central Valley Water Project during the Great Depression,” as the gov’s spokesman said. The federal government did. This is not a small distinction. The federal government can have unbalanced budgets and print money to cover its debts. The state government can’t.

 

 

 

10:41 p.m., Jan. 18: I have grown resigned to Mitt Romney being the GOP nominee to the point where I almost talked myself into liking the fact, because Romney so plainly was the opponent the Obama team most feared. But when I see stories like this – “Romney Parks Millions in Cayman Islands” — even when the details aren’t nearly as bad as I expected, I have to groan and feel ill. And wonder yet again how such a vulnerable Democratic incumbent could have lucked out by having such an uninspiring, vulnerable bunch of potential Republican opponents.