Archive for 2011

News that Stays News: Perry, Coupal Shill for Rich

Friday, October 28th, 2011

It didn’t take long for Rick Perry to affirm the wisdom of Pat Robertson’s warning that the non-stop pandering to Tea Party extremists by the Republican presidential wannabes is not only shameless, but clueless too.

Hours after Rev. Pat issued his Nixon-to-China declaration that the GOP contenders should “lay off this stuff” if they are to have any hope of actually winning a general election, Perry offered the latest dimwit comment of his determined campaign to become President of the Republican Party.

“I don’t care about that,” Ranger Rick declared when it was noted that his new flat tax plan would result in a massive transfer of wealth to the, um, wealthy.

“I don’t care?” Really?

Never mind the policy stuff, and the fact that making the rich richer is surely and precisely what Perry wakes up every morning hoping to accomplish.

Purely as a matter of Political Self-Interest 101 — at a time when the 99% protests have moved the economics of wealth inequality onto the 2012 agenda; when even the minions of Karl Rove recognize the dangers of giving short shrift to “class warfare” arguments; on the very day when the Congressional Budget Office releases a report that shows the disproportionate windfall America’s richest 1% have reaped over the last three decades is even greater than we thought – why in the name of God Ronald Reagan would you not say something like, “the main effect of my tax plan will be to generate wealth for the middle class,” or “my plan is our best chance of helping those who’ve hurt by the Obama economy” or even “a rising tide lifts all boats”?

No, our manly man from Texas decides to man up without the slightest of nods to the 99% of registered voters who aren’t Steve Forbes. Next up: Rick announces he “doesn’t care” about curing cancer.

 P.S. If you’re disinclined to plow through reams of CBO-speak for the latest on the nation’s expanding wealth gap,  Talking Points Memo has performed a great public service by posting a couple of charts from the report that tell you all you need to know.

Ayn Ryan’s magical kingdom: Speaking of horse’s asses, the repulsive Paul Ryan, architect of the GOP’s effort to privatize Medicare and the MSM’s go-to “ideas” guy, did some preaching to the choir this week with a much-ballyhooed speech at the Heritage Foundation aimed at erecting an alternative reality to the world we live in, which is to say the real world, where the U.S. has morphed into a plutocracy.

Ryan, who has derived most of his oh-so-serious thoughts on economics from reading and re-reading the novels of Ayn Rand, not surprisingly was 100% wrong on one of the central points of his talk, claiming that efforts to address wealth inequality through tax policy would obstruct economic mobility in America, and turn us into one of those infernal European socialist hellholes.

 Turns out that is — not true.

There are a lot of data available on this issue, but the clearest chart comes courtesy of the Economic Mobility Project, which looked at the correlation between parent and child income in various countries. Turns out in America, you’re more likely to stay rich if born rich, and stay poor if born poor, than you are in most European countries.

For a more thoroughgoing Ryan dismantling, see the estimable Jonathan Chait’s takedown over at New York magazine’s Daily Intel, splendidly headlined “The Ideological Fantasies of Inequality Deniers.”

Ryan cannot process the realities of this world because they are so at odds with the imagined world of his ideology. After his speech, he was asked about the CBO’s report on inequality, and he brushed it off, falling back on Rand-esque lingo the virtuous rich (“takers”) and parasitic poor (“makers”):

“Let’s not focus on redistribution, let’s focus on upward mobility,” he said. “If these studies are used as justification for erecting new and more barriers for making it harder for people to rise, all that will do is reduce our prosperity in this country.”

 “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society and that could become very dangerous if it sets in as a permanent condition”…

Don’t confuse Paul Ryan with the facts. If studies run up against Ryan’s ideology, then the studies must give way.

 Tales of the Flat Earth Society: We recently noted Theo Anderson’s memorable epigram about the impossible challenge of governing with a political party that doesn’t believe in facts — You don’t believe an idea because it’s true. It’s true because you believe it- – and, really, there’s not much to say beyond that. Still, Katrina vanden Heuvel’s latest erudite outburst on the subject is well worth reading, if only for the icy stylishness of her understated outrage. 

The contempt with which the party views reason is staggering. Republicans have become proudly and unquestionably anti-science. (It is their litmus test, though they would probably reject the science behind litmus paper.) With the exception of Jon Huntsman, who polls about as well as Darwin would in a Republican primary, the Republican presidential candidates have either denied the existence of climate change, denied that it has been caused — and can be reversed — by man, or apologized for once holding a different view. They have come to this conclusion not because the science is inconclusive, but because they believe, as a matter of principle, that scientific evidence is no evidence at all.

 Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this kind of behavior is constantly rewarded by the media. As Al Gore noted in “An Inconvenient Truth,” while fewer than 1 percent of peer-reviewed scientific journals questioned the reality of man-made global warming, about half of all journalistic accounts did. In an age where media is obsessed with balance, facts are sidelined in favor of dueling opinions and false equivalence. That one is based on reason and science, the other on neither, is treated as entirely irrelevant. It’s a system ripe for exploitation, and conservatives are happy to oblige.

And now, for a dissenting view in the interest of journalistic balance, Rick Perry explains why states should have the right to adopt their own versions of the godless liberal Periodic Table of the Elements .

 Speaking of magical thinkers: The Prop. 13 Amen Corner suffered a sudden and severe outbreak of exploding heads this week, after Bloomberg News had the audacity and gall to point out some of the real world effects Howard’s Holy Grail has had on California.

 California voters approved Proposition 13 to rein in property taxes that had doubled in 10 years. More than three decades later, that rebellion has mortgaged the state’s future, saddling it with the nation’s highest debt and lowest credit rating.

 The measure led to reductions that dropped per-student school spending from seventh to 29th nationally, prompted cities to pursue sprawling retail development to compensate for lost revenue, and pushed the state into budget gridlock, including a $705 million revenue shortfall announced Oct. 10, by requiring two-thirds approval for any tax increase.

 “Proposition 13 set up an unfair and dysfunctional two- tiered system of property taxes,” said Kevin Starr, a history professor at the University of Southern California and the author of a series of books on the state. “It choked off a source of revenue, and the lack of that revenue has brought California to the edge.”

Which swiftly led maniacally raving Jarvis acolyte Jon Coupal to uncork a frenzied, incoherent rant against the heretic Palmeri:

Halloween is almost here and like a hoard of ravenous zombies, the politicians, the bureaucrats and government employee union bosses shamble along groaning “more, more” — more taxpayer dollars that is. They are accompanied by ghoulish cadre of minions including the occasional academic from a taxpayer supported institution and a handful of left-wing think tanks, followed by a gaggle of columnists and reporters who long ago abandoned objectivity when writing about Proposition 13.

Coupal didn’t pause for breath long enough to cite any actual facts to counter the Bloomberg argument on behalf of amending Prop. 13 with a split roll assessment plan, the better to make his corporate pals pay their share, but relied instead on such weasel wording as: “when taken as a class, business properties have been assessed at closer to market value than residential properties.” Huh?

Here’s the bottom line: The most comprehensive study of the differential effect of Prop. 13 on commercial and residential property, and of the corporate scams that have enabled this massive shift of tax burden, is a county-by-county analysis of data from the Board of Equalization and assessors around the state, researched and published by the California Tax Reform Association:

 And those numbers show that in 55 of 58 California’s counties, there has been a significant shift in the proportion of local property taxes paid over the past 30+ years, to the substantial detriment of those single family homeowners whom Prop. 13 absolutists just love to demagogue are the biggest beneficiaries of their iconic tax cut.

Their study is clear, nailed down and unrefuted. End of story.

 Golden State ATM: We leave you with Tom Meyer’s latest meditation on California’s singular role in presidential politics, coupled with a Little Pulitzer honorable mention for public service award to Chase Davis of California Watch, who reported out the fundraising hauls from the state by the GOP presidentials, so we didn’t have to.

Ed Lee Meets POTUS and Rev. Pat; Tim Hodson, RIP

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Ed Lee Goes Viral: Right up there with “Demon Sheep,” the new Ed Lee for San Francisco Mayor ad titled “2 Legit 2 Quit” and/or “Fear the Mustache” (as in “Fear the Beard,” i.e. SF Giants pitcher Brian Wilson), produced by Ashkon Davaran, is just too good to pass up.

Featuring Wilson Himself, ex-49er Ronnie Lott, MC Hammer, will-i-am, Willie Brown, Google’s Marissa Mayer, Twitter’s Biz Stone and YouTube’s Hunter Walk, the snappy, hip-hoppy endorsement ad went viral almost as soon as it popped into the intertubes Tuesday morning.

According to the SF Chron’s Lois Lane Carla Marinucci, “The ad is the latest effort, not of the Lee campaign, but of an independent expenditure group called San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government. The group is headed by Silicon Valley “angel investor” Ron Conway, who’s gotten help from powerful (and wealthy) helpers like Spotify’s Sean Parker and Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, who is also a major bundler and donor for President Barack Obama.”

According to Costco Carla, the ad cost just $18K with talent donated. Of course, running at 2:22 minutes, there’s no way it’ll ever make TV in this form. But it’s already created a buzz.

A scene from Marinucci's taboo video

Speaking of Carla: How stupid is the White House to keep local reporters out of President Obama’s visits to the Bay Area, like his funder at the W Hotel in SF Tuesday in which the only reporters allowed were a couple of traveling national WH scribblers who have no idea who anyone is who’s in the audience.

Worse than stupid, according to the Chronicle’s editorial page which argued: “The Obama White House’s restrictions on media access to its fundraising events makes a mockery of its claim to be the most transparent administration in history. If anything, there is almost a Nixonian quality to the level of control, paranoia – and lack of credibility – this White House has demonstrated on the issue of media access to President Obama’s fundraisers.”

The idiotic, paranoid lock-out seems to stem from the last time Marinucci was in a WH pool and she posted video of a protest that — according to the WH — violated the Rules of Pooldom when it’s a “print” pool (whateverthefk that is in this day and age).

“As per usual, the White House traveling press pool will cover the President’s remarks at his Bay Area campaign event and a transcript of his speech will be circulated to local and national media outlets,” White House spokesman Adam Abrams wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

Calbuzz, having been in pools, puddles and teacups, can tell you that being on the inside at presidential events is often a lot more trouble than it’s worth. but that keeping reporters out — just in case they see or hear something that might matter to their readers — is incredibly clueless, especially when it’s an alleged Democrat about whom lots of their readers really care. Get a clue, Jay. ‘Cause if Calbuzz ever wants into a pool, you’ll want to make sure we get access.
P.S. While infuriating the S.F. press corps, Obama also managed to annoy multitudes out at SFO yesterday, when his late afternoon departure on Air Force 1 scrambled flights, gates and connections for thousands of registered voters. Of particular concern was the damage done to United’s regional flight schedule; along with countless grumpy passengers coming and going to Sacramento, Modesto and other short-range destinations, a High Ranking Calbuzz Executive was serially inconvenienced by a two-hour delay and four gate changes for a one-hour flight to Santa Barbara, center of California’s political universe. Calbuzz was not amused, and is now taking a second look at Herb Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan..
Pot Calls Kettle Black, Film at 11: The Rev. Pat Robertson who blamed 9/11 on the ACLU, abortionists, pagans, feminists, gays, lesbians and secularists; who likened Muslims to “some fascist group”; who says other religions worship “demonic powers”; who says marriage equality is “so gross” it will be our undoing as a nation; who says the separation of church and state is “insane”; who said Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke because he was “dividing God’s land”; who says natural disasters and weather events are God’s way of sending messages — this same Pat Robertson now says the Republican Party’s candidates are sounding too extreme to get themselves elected. You can’t make this stuff up. You can watch and listen yourself.

RIP Tim Hodson — A.G. Block remembers: Tim Hodson died yesterday after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Officially, the 61-year-old Hodson was a professor of political science and executive director of the Center for California Studies at CSU Sacramento. The Center is home to the Capital Fellows Program, considered among the nation’s top post-graduate fellowships.

But those titles hardly begin to describe Tim Hodson or his contribution to California and to the understanding of state government across the country. A fixture in California politics and public affairs for more than three decades, Hodson first came to public service in 1978 when he served on the staff of the state Senate. Over the next 15 years, he became a leading authority on reapportionment, redistricting, local government, elections and election law. It was an expertise he continued to refine and share on panels, in his writing and as a news source long after he left the Legislature for academia. He was named Center director in 1993, a post he held until his retirement earlier this month.

Even in the mud trough of politics and government, Hodson developed a reputation for patience and gentle humor. He wasn’t shy about expressing his views or challenging the views of others, but he always did so with respect and with a deep appreciation for the value of civil discourse.

If a common theme runs through Hodson’s career, it is this: to educate a broad swath of California to the significance of active citizenship.

It was a theme that allowed Tim Hodson to touch many Californians in the most positive sense – a touch brought to life through countless groups that benefited from his time and expertise; among them, the National Council of State Legislatures, California Journal magazine, Capital Public Radio, Chicano & Latino Youth Leadership Program, New America Media, Black Legislative Caucus Internship Program, California Leadership Institute, and the California Center for Education in Public Affairs.

In addition, he co-founded, with colleagues at CSU Northridge, the “Envisioning California” conference, an annual in-depth exploration of issues vital to the state’s health and sense of community. In 2007, he was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to a four-year term on the state Fair Political Practices Commission. And through the Center, he inaugurated the California Journalism Awards, which annually recognize the best in public-affairs reporting about California.

Hodson is survived by his immediate family: wife Ruth Holton-Hodson, deputy for health and consumer policy in the office of Controller John Chang; son Matt Hodson and daughter-in-law Betsy Hodson of Minneapolis; and grandson Max.



Memo to Obama: Declare War Against Something

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Everybody knows that, barring some unexpected catastrophic event, the economy will be the No. 1 issue on Americans’ minds when they pick a president next year. And if a vote for president were all about the No. 1 issue, Barack Obama would be in even greater danger of being tossed out of the White House. Fortunately, for Obama, voting for president is about a lot more than issues.

First of all, you can’t beat someone with no one. Right now, the Republicans have no one they’re crazy about and the most likely nominee – Mitt Romney – inspires little excitement among the GOP faithful. The last two incumbent presidents to be thrown out after one term were Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush – and they were beaten by two extraordinary campaigners: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton (with a big assist from Ross Perot).

Secondly, voting for president is not all about the issues. It’s at least as much about picking someone people feel comfortable with as their national leader – someone with the right combination of hard head and soft heart, someone they can envision as Commander in Chief and the leader of the Free World. Voters don’t necessarily have to believe in the candidate they vote for president, but they have to believe that he or she has more of what it takes to be president than the other guy.

With only a relative handful of people citing terrorism and/or foreign policy as an extremely important concern in their vote for president (economy 54%, terrorism 36%, foreign policy 23%), it’s a reminder that just one year after George H.W. Bush’s smashing success in the Gulf War, “It’s the economy, stupid” became the mantra of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign.

“We’ve taken out al Qaida leaders and we’ve put them on the path to defeat,” Obama said last week. “We’re winding down the war in Iraq, and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now, working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”

Or, as Andrew Sullivan put it: “To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.”

The militant milquetoast: But Obama is not only not a Republican, he’s seemed constitutionally incapable as president of appearing to be much more than a milquetoast law professor. We know he’s got a soft heart, But where’s the hard head?

Yes, he personally gave the command for Navy Seals to take out bin Laden – a mission the braggart George W. Bush never accomplished. But Obama and his communications staff have utterly failed to make the point that under this president, America is leading, whether from the front, middle or behind, in a way it seemed unable for eight years under the tough-talkin’ Texan.

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women,” Romney said the other day, after Obama announced he would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year.

Romney went on to question “whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”

WTF, you might ask, is this guy talking about? As Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt rightly said, “Mitt Romney didn’t lay out a plan to end the war in Iraq in his foreign policy agenda — he barely even mentioned Iraq — but he is apparently willing to leave American troops there without identifying a new mission. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy experience is limited to his work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas.”

What’s astonishing is not that Romney, Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans continue to natter idiotically about Obama’s “failure” to provide leadership abroad, it’s that the White House has been so excruciatingly inept at making the case for the enormous success Obama has had.

Our old friend Karen Finney was out there the other day, making the argument: “Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn’t have Republicans obstructing him,” she said. Obama has delivered: bin Laden, al-Awalki, Qaddafi, Tunisia, Egypt – all the result of direct or indirect action, or assisted by careful diplomacy, of the Obama administration.

“It is very important for any incumbent to be able to talk about promises made and promises kept,” Finney said.

The galvanizing effect of negativity: So take some damn credit. Sure, Mr. President, you can’t overcome Americans’ concern about jobs and the economy. And with the Republicans in Congress openly dedicated to preventing you from accomplishing anything domestically, you may have to just hope things get better.

But you can do what Clinton did in his re-election – make it crystal clear that the Republicans are blocking progress, continue to call for a tax on millionaires (which the GOP finds incredibly threatening because it’s so popular) and point to the restoration of American leadership in the worldwide fight against terrorism and dictatorship.

It’s way past time to borrow from the GOP playbook, Mr. President. Republicans have been successful, in part, because they rally American against things – communism, terrorism, Islamic extremism, etc. The Permanent War on Whatever was the strategic brilliance of the Rovian strategy.

Obama has demonstrated the ultimate in being against some very bad things: he’s literally wiped them out or helped to do so. Sure, Democrats like to be for things – justice, peace, health care, democracy, etc. But there’s an angry electorate out there, the economy sucks and they want revenge.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. To borrow a phrase from a former mayor* we know, voters need to be galvanized — in a war on ignorance, apathy and greed.


* Tom McEnery of San Jose