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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Walters’



Little Pulitzers: Myers, York, Collins, Skelton . . .

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

john-myers-158x225Hiding in Plain Sight: This week’s I.F. Stone all-I-did-was-read-the-documents award goes to the steady John Myers over at Capital Notes, for his report that Gerry Parsky’s famous Business Net Receipts Tax would result in a $10 billion decrease in state revenues. We probably missed other takes on this, but Myers for sure got the full import of the Assembly Rev and Tax hearing Wednesday, when he noted that the Leg Analyst’s take on the fiscal impact of the pet project of Arnold’s guy “may be the final nail in the coffin” for the Parsky hustle.

The report uses 2007 tax data in finding that the commission plan would lower personal income taxes by $13 billion and completely wipe out $28 billion in sales taxes and $8.7 billion in corporate taxes. The BNRT, says the LAO report, would bring in $39.2 billion… thus, a loss of $10. 2 billion.

High time someone put this dog with fleas out of its misery.

Hiding in Plain Sight II: Sameway kudos to Anthony York at Capitol Weekly and to Beekeeper Dan Walters, who both wrote in plain English what everbody in the world already knows – that the well-pleased-with-himself  “Collectanator’s” brilliant strategy of shaking his fist at Washington has absolutely no chance of shaking the feds down for the imaginary billions of dollars he phonied up to skate through his budget presentation last week.

How many more times will the bookers on “Meet the Press” fall for this guy’s act before they catch on to what a total blowhard he is?

chestertonEnough already: Tom Campbell’s endless farewell-to-the-governor’s race tour, which feels like it dragged on since he last ran for Senate, put us in mind of G.K. Chesterton, author of our all-time favorite quote about journalism:

Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones is Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.

And speaking of whatever happened to what’s his name, we greatly enjoyed Capitol Weekly’s where-are-they-now feature on former Insurance Commissioner and GOP Golden Boy Chuck Quackenbush, hounded out of office by scandal just one step ahead of the posse and, it appears, was scared straight by the experience:

After his resignation, Quackenbush left California – he had lived in Rio Linda north of Sacramento – and moved to Hawaii. He also lived briefly in Ohio. In 2005, he moved to Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers and Bonita Springs, and became a sheriff’s deputy –quackenbush first as a reserve deputy, then as a full-time law enforcement officer. Quackenbush also planned to become a helicopter pilot for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

The 55-year-old Quackenbush had largely avoided the public eye until 2008, when he shot and critically wounded a suspect in a domestic disturbance who allegedly was resisting arrest. Quackenbush was cleared of any wrongdoing.

At least he was in Florida.

All right-thinking people agree with us: Rant of the week honors to NYT’s Gail Collins, who let loose on the spectacle of a gaggle of comb-over U.S. Senators representing states with more pumas than people setting policy for the U.S., regardless of that whole pesky election thing, a Calbuzz pet peeve made manifest by the terminally annoying Kent Conrad.

People, think about what we went through to elect a new president — a year and a half of campaigning, three dozen debates, $1.6 billion in donations. Then the voters sent a clear, unmistakable message. Which can be totally ignored because of a parliamentary rule that allows the representatives of slightly more than 10 percent of the population to call the shots.

Why isn’t 90 percent of the country marching on the Capitol with teapots and funny hats, waving signs about the filibuster?

Sign us up.

You can’tnone_skelton_ be serious: Investigative punditry award yet again goes to the ever-reliable George Skelton, whose tone of pure bafflement about the views of Prop. 8 backers, regarding the shaky institution of marriage, was delightful:

The idea that marriages are first and foremost about baby-making-and-rearing was expressed by (pro-Prop 8 lawyer Charles) Cooper in October in an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the suit filed by two same-sex couples against Prop. 8.

‘We say that the central and defining purpose of marriage is to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable, enduring unions for the sake of begetting, nurturing and raising the next generation,’ Cooper told U.S. Chief District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco.

‘Well,’ the judge replied, ‘ the last marriage that I performed, Mr. Cooper, involved a groom who was 95 and the bride was 83. I did not demand that they prove that they intended to engage in procreative activity. Now, was I missing something?’

‘No, your honor.’

Uhh, so what are we doing in court, exactly?

jerryhandsMust-listen of the week: Mega-kudos to KGO radio’s Ed Baxter and Jennifer Jones for scoring a splendid sandbagging interview with Jerry Brown, in which Crusty let loose with all manner of truth-telling.

Brown, who was on the phone to talk about Prop. 8, went on a real tear when the morning news anchors slipped in some “as long as we have you” questions about the campaign for governor, opposition search and his planting of a negative story about S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Some people pretend they don’t do that. But they hire their henchmen….and they whisper, whisper into the ear of the various reporters. And you find out that most of these reporters’ stories derive from the opposition campaign. That’s kind of the dirty little secret of the news media,” he told KGO.

“Most of the political news is dug up by the oppositon research teams and then handed over to the media, and then put out as though the journalist found it and it’s news. When it’s really just part of the ongoing war between the candidates,” he said. “If you’re not prepared for it, you gotta get out of it.”jennifer-love-hewitt-3

That’s what makes Brown so much fun as a candidate. Like he did in his irreverent interview with CNBC back in October – he’s unafraid to get caught up by conventional political and media bullshit. You can hear the whole thing at Thursday’s 8-9 am hour on KGO.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Is that a disco ball in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Pondering the GOP’s Future: New Ideas or SOS?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Dan vs. Dan: Our old friend Dan Scsickelephanthnur has been doing some serious wool gathering on the question of whether any of the three Republican contenders for governor have the political mettle, not just to win election, but to redefine the GOP in the process.

Mere hacks that we are, Calbuzz isn’t fully certain that we follow all the nuanced twists and turns of the baroquely reasoned argument made by Schnur, a former partisan turned neutral academic, who now reigns as the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

As best we understand his latest dispatch over at Flashreport, however, Schnur seems to posit that the current, sorry spectacle of a teabag-besotted  Republican party means that it’s time for the GOP to rethink the ideological framework that’s sustained it since Ronald Reagan’s first term.

schnur

While it has become fairly predictable for Republican politicians to wrap themselves in the flag of Reagan, the pessimism that currently infects our body politic does present the same type of psychological challenge that the Gipper confronted in his first successful presidential campaign . . .

We are currently witnessing the stirrings of a similar internal debate within the Republican party to that which the Democrats fought throughout the 1970s and ’80s . . . No credible voice is making the case that Republicans should abandon Reagan’s economic principles . . . (but) perhaps there is an argument to be made that those priorities must also be updated, in order to deal with the challenges of an era in which the economic centerpiece of the country has moved from Detroit to Silicon Valley.

Perhaps there is, but we’ll never know because Schnur doesn’t make it.

Instead he quickly steps back from the ledge of suggesting to Republicans, on the most influential Republican web site in California, that perhaps they should, just maybe, take a second look at the whole tax-cuts-and-deregulation-will-fix-everything-in-a-jiffy, Heaven’s Gate groupthink that afflicts them.

Putting aside the short shrift that he pays to the inconvenient fact that Republicans have held the White House for 12 of the 21 years since Reagan left office, Schnur’s hasty retreat from his own, intriguing ergo ipso facto is a disappointment. Wafting in a tepid bath of yes-we-can kumbaya, he treads water in concluding with the hope that someone in the Republican field – anyone! – might come up with a fresh idea to save the GOP,  if not the Republic itself:

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[Campbell, Poizner and Whitman] may be better positioned than any Republican politicians in the country to lead this next stage of ideological evolution. If one of them is able to do so, he or she will not only provide the tools to fix California’s economy, but its embattled psyche as well.

Or not.

For our money, Schnur’s magical thinking melts away before the force majeure of the fact-based argument, made by us and other right-thinking people, that California’s crackpot state political structure effectively prohibits the rational and effective exercise of governance. That view was stated most recently, and most emphatically, by California’s other boy genius named Dan —  Walters of the Bee Minus.

waltersA notion in the minds of a few pundits, including yours truly, a couple of decades ago — that California was becoming functionally ungovernable, its politics severed from social and economic reality — has since become conventional wisdom. And it will dominate this election year in the nation’s most populous and arguably most troubled state . . .

One of the four [current candidates] will almost certainly become California’s governor a year hence and begin what will more than likely be a doomed governorship.

Declaring the state’s next leader an utter failure 11 months before the election is held -– now that’s punditry we can believe in.

Feel free to use Pay Pal: We’re hardly the first to reach for the Enalapril whenever another of those astonishingly condescending e-blasts shows up from Obama’s Organization for America, purring on about how we’ve all worked so hard together to put special interests on the run and could you please send another $5 to the DNC?

Way back last year, lefty blogger Markos Moulitsas offered a minor gem of a rant, aptly called “Idiocy,” that got to the nut of the annoying treacliness of  these fake-sincere messages:

Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we’re supposed to get excited about whatever end result we’re about to get, so much so that we’re going to fork over money?…In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform.

hopelessWe’ve taken a couple of whacks, here and here, at analyzing why once-enthusiastic Obama supporters feel so betrayed by his late-blooming Clintonian corporatism (corporate Clintonism?), but Micah Sifry over at techpresident pretty much nails it in “The Obama Disconnect: What happens when myth meets reality.”

The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. And this is the big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn’t happen, in the first year of Obama’s administration. The people who voted for him weren’t organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and the special interests–banks, energy companies, health interests, car-makers, the military-industrial complex–sat first at the table and wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wanting.

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“People are frustrated because we have done our part,” one frustrated Florida Obama activist told the Politico. “We put these people in the position to make change and they’re not doing it.”Scholars may decide that his team’s failure to devote more attention to reinventing the bully pulpit in the digital age, and to carrying over more of the campaign’s grassroots energy, may turn out to be pivotal to evaluations of Obama’s success, or failure, as president. Calbuzz sez check it out.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Tila Tequila channels Jackie Kennedy.

Swap Meet: Keeley Blows Whistle on Parsky

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

keeleytestifyingYou may recall the much vaunted, blue ribbon, bi-partisan panel called the Commission on the 21st Century Economy, that Gov. Schwarzmuscle and the Legislature appointed to study California’s tax structure and propose ways to modernize and stabilize the system.

Under the leadership of Schwarzpal Gerald Parsky, the commission was supposed to be transparent, above-board and dedicated to truth, justice and the American way.

Sacramento shocker: That turned out to be a load of crap. Instead of delivering on any of its promises, the commission got itself entangled in a goofy proposal for a business net receipts tax – a quasi,  value-added levy meant to replace the sales tax.

Although an excellent cure for insomnia, the proposal was not only breathtakingly complex, but also had exactly zero political chance of ever being enacted. So we often wondered: where exactly did this idea originate?

The mystery was solved last Wednesday (while the Calbuzz Department of Tax Policy and Coupon Clipping was on a fact-finding mission to Puerto Vallarta), when Parsky and commission member Fred Keeley testified at the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Asked directly where the BNRT came from, Santa Cruz County Treasurer Keeley answered:

That decision was made by the chair, who apparently entered into a contract somehow with Ernst and Young to produce a fully-formed BNRT without any consultation with the commission and then present it and then suck all of the oxygen out of the room for any discussion.

As far as we can tell, no one on the commission was ever asked to approve the $185,400 paid to Ernst and Young to craft the proposal. It seems neither members of the commission nor the public even knew about Parsky’s secret and apparently unauthorized contract.

What a bloody waste of peoples’ time, energy and commitment. And, oh yeah, taxpayer’s money.

EmergDanger-Steep-Cliff-Sign-131129ency health warning: Those afflicted with Seasonal Affect Disorder are advised to avoid close readings of Dan Walters’ column through the holidays, in order to avoid risk of hurling themselves from the roofs of tall buildings.

In several recent scary columns, Walters has hammered away at the  dangers posed by the ever-increasing size of the fiscal nut California must meet for interest payments on its borrowing, noting that the annual cost for the vig on general obligation bonds alone now runs about $6 billion a year, or about the size of the current year deficit, conveniently enough.

On Friday, the Big Fella let fly with a real Old Testament-level jeremiad, which had Calbuzz reaching for the hemlock, until we gulped down another cup of spiked coffee:

So we’re squandering our limited debt capacity on nonessential things such as stem cell research and bullet trains while our existing infrastructure is crumbling, demand from an increasing population grows, politicians’ credibility is almost nil, and bankers deservedly treat us like a Third World country.

Ouch.

billwatkins

Teaming up with economist and sometime Calbuzzer Bill Watkins, Walters also triggered a mid-week Capitol kerfuffle when he reported on a new forecast by Watkins and his team at California Lutheran University that suggested scenarios whereby the state could default on its debt obligations.

That loud noise you heard next was the sound of Bill Lockyer’s head exploding. Within hours of Walters’ blog post, Treasurer Bill and outgoing Department of Finance chief Mike Genest both went nuts denying and denouncing  the very thought of a default.

Lockyer’s spokesman, Tom Dresslar, said in a statement that Watkins’ commentary “was nothing more than irresponsible fear-mongering with no basis in reality, only roots in ignorance.”

Dresslar noted that the state Constitution mandates that tax revenue go first to pay education expenses and second for debt repayment. All other expenses come after debt service.

“After paying lockyerfor education, the General Fund has tens of billions of dollars left to pay debt service,” Dresslar said. “Even at historically high levels, debt service does not come remotely close to needing all the funds left over after schools get paid.”

We’ll leave it to greater minds than ours to sort through the fiscal and constitutional issues embedded in the exchange, although we do admire the sang-froid and snark with which Watkins answered the caterwauling of California’s ranking financial gurus.

“There is also a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget by every June 30,” he said.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Anchorwoman gets the giggles as husband chops wife into teeny little pieces.