Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Genuinely Unsatisfying Experience

This election, in part because I will be in Mexico on election day, I became a permanent absentee voter.  So last week my wife and I filled out our ballots and mailed them in.  Compared to the experience of going into the local polling place the experience was a bust.  I wanted to vote because there are several clear choices in this election both on candidates and on propositions.   While many of the views I hold are likely to not be held by a majority of the electorate, this is a chance for me to express my opinion.

I've participated in a couple of wave elections in my lifetime.  This one seems like it will also be a wave - although if the polls are right, California will not track the national polls.   We seem likely to re-elect Jerry Brown as governor after a 28 year hiatus (but one in which he continued to live off the public trough) and to re-elect the least competent member of the US Senate.

But the whole experience of expressing my opinion in the privacy of my home seemed less than thrilling.  It left me cold.   I wonder how others feel about this new way of voting - where at least in California will soon be the majority way to vote.  There are some odd consequences of this new procedure.  For my wife and I there was no chance to influence our vote after the middle of last week - sorry to all you national celebrities who phoned me to personally ask me to vote for X.   All those stupid - my opponent is a known (fill in the blank) - commercials have had no effect on me.  For those who voted earlier - even the new cooked polls (which seem to be almost predominant this year) cannot scare away my vote.   But as I said, the whole experience left me cold.  I wonder if they will continue to reduce the number of poll watchers for election day - we should not need as many as in the past.

If this new trend says we are all too busy to exercise our civic responsibility at one time - then too bad for us.  It also led me to think about whether an enterprising candidate will start to stage early voter election night parties.  Perhaps two weeks before the election, you could invite all your early voters to come and celebrate with you.   As I the whole experience of voting absentee left me cold.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

None Dare Call it Conspiracy - Redux

Angelo Codevilla is a professor of International Relations at Boston University.  In the August issue of the American Spectator he did an article (which was an abridged version of his book - at the left) where he argued that the people who run America have some common characteristics - regardless of their political beliefs.   I had this on my iPad but finally got around to reading it today.

His article reminded me of Gary Allen's classic None Dare Call It Conspiracy.  Codevilla asserts that a vast majority of the "ruling class" come from a small number of elite institutions.  He also argues that their values and the values of what he refers to as the "country class" are fundamentally different.  Included in those values of the latter are things like a belief in American exceptionalism (the understanding that the history of America is exceptional in many ways), support for religious beliefs and belief in the adage that the bigger the state the smaller the individual.  

He points out the the ruling class is distinguished by a number of characteristics - opposition or indifference to all of the things above plus an incompetence in coming up with solutions that make sense and a demand that they use "science" to trump any opposition to their point of view.   From Codeville's perspective,  people who raise questions about whether global warming a real are dismissed as kooks even though some of the opponents of the theories propounded by the allies of Al Gore have been torn apart by many in the scientific community with superb credentials.   He also argues that the economic solutions proposed by the ruling class are a) silly and ineffective (witness the effects of both the Bush and the Obama stimulus packages which raised debt and which most of the American public recognized were mostly bollix). Arrogance describes their MO - but as Churchill once said about Chamberlain - he is a very modest man with a great deal to be modest about.  Codeville also argues that the Obama health plan is a pure example of the roughshod way that these elites deal with opponents.  Few people who voted for the bill knew what it actually did - although outside sources recognized that the bill would raise not lower costs and diminish not increase the range of care options.  He argues that they make up for their incompetence by making their proposals complicated.   Remember (hopefully soon to be former) Speaker Pelosi saying (like good children) we did not need to know what was in the health care bill.

Where he lost me was whether this is a "conspiracy."  There are some valid criticisms of our most elite universities - he suggests it is impossible to fail there.   Also descriptions of the contempt that many elected officials have for individual opinion are quite accurate.  Even if all of those things are true, I am not convinced that this is an organized conspiracy.  Did all of the elite universities conspire to dumb down their curricula?

What Codevilla's article got me to think about was whether movements like the Tea Party (which most of the establishment has spent a lot of this year criticizing) are the beginnings of a way for the rest of us to fight back.  Seriously, even if you admit that the Delaware Senate candidate for the GOP is probably not up to the job of discussing policy intelligently - could you have watched the Senate debates with Barbara Boxer or Harry Reid and concluded that they were any more competent?  

Let's see in a little more than a week what happens.  The real test, as I stated earlier in the week, will the newly elected GOP members understand their role in governing?  Will they take it seriously and propose ideas which could role back the excesses of Obama's first two years and yet at the same time suggest ideas which are cognizant of the unique aspects of our history and culture.  We threw them out beginning in 2006 because they forgot what they were hired to do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The President's Increasingly Desperate Rhetoric

The President has been going around the country in an increasingly desperate line of rhetoric which is based on the notion of a car - D goes forward and R goes backward. I listened to his speech to a crowd in Nevada where he was trying to rescue Sleazy Harry.    Just how dumb does he think voters are?   His false cadence of populism strings together a series of cliches which basically argue that without government helping - he argues that the negative ads against democrats are paid for by "oil companies, insurance, speculators."   Presumably he does not mind the millions (more) dollars coming from the public employee unions.  He looks increasingly pathetic.  Although he was educated at Ivy League institutions his accent tries to sound like he came from somewhere south of the Mason Dixon.

A recent WSJ poll finds the American people divided between about a third who want to send a message that the President has been pretty good and a slightly larger group who want to send a message that he has gone too far.  What the poll also suggests is that the larger group is more motivated to express their opinion.

As I thought about the D and R analogy I came up with a similar one based on economic principles.  D equals depression or demagogue.  R equals resurgence.

In the election the choice, which seems to being made, is either continuing the massive move to more and more government or coming back to a more realistic assessment of what government should and can do.

The real test of Obama will not be whether he is successful in changing the direction of what seems increasingly like a wave election but in whether he can learn from the huge mistakes he made in the first two years of his very insulated administration.  If he can he could recover as well as Bill Clinton did.  If not he will be a one term president.

Boggling the mind

I have just gotten finished with an intensive two day annual meeting.  It was a wonderful event.  We tried to think about the future without me as the leader of the organization.  Tomorrow I am going to speak at the board of one of my members.   As I came into town I went to the hotel and found this sign.

Admittedly, I could be tired but the sign raised more questions than it answered.  How does the destination hotel for Fresno get designated?  If this is the destination hotel (about two short blocks from the airport) what does it say about the rest of the hotels in town?   Were these the only letters in the sign guy's kit?  Is that a backwards 2 or an S?  What is a destination hotel in Fresno?  Does that mean it is near a destination or would people from say Sanger visit here to see what happens in the big city?

The air terminal is called the Fresno Air Terminal (no grandiose designs about being an "international" terminal like Sacramento once was (with Mexicana now gone are we back to SMF - Municipal Field or will we cling to our past glory based on the notion that at one time one flight originated here in the middle of the night to go to Guadalajara).   I wonder what the acronym for the Fresno Area Rapid Transit System is?  But then as I said I may be tired.

Citizens United in Perspective

Earlier this year in a close decision by the US Supreme Court (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010) it was ruled that a private non-profit (called Citizens United) had the same rights as an individual in intervening in public electoral contests.  The left decried the decision as a fundamental breech of democratic traditions.

But let's look at the effects of the decision.  According to a story in the Wall Street Journal in this election cycle public employee unions have spent more than $160 million to influence elections.  Major conservative groups (including the Chamber) have raised and spent a bit more than $130 million.

Most observers would argue that neither of those large forces in society have advanced the art of democratic dialogue.  But there is another wrinkle in this issue.  Public employee unions raise and expend a ton of money to hire the people who will vote on their salaries.  True the conservatives try to influence government policy but the major part of their efforts are not influencing the compensation package that all of the people who work in the public sector.

At the time of the decision I argued that it was correct.   But there are consequences from allowing these new groups to work.  They have devalued the public discourse.  It might be perfectly appropriate to improve the standards of disclosure for the public employee unions and for the other groups.  But from my perspective that is about as far as we should go.   The absurd position of the left that condemns conservative groups and ignores the insidious influence of the public employee unions is simply not sustainable in any form of logic.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dissecting Christine O'Donnell and Rush Limbaugh

In the type of comment that she has become famous for, Christine O'Donnell wondered whether the term "separation of church and state" resides in the Constitution.  O'Donnell in a debate with here opponent (and the next senator from Delaware) said "You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?” The mainstream media was quick to pounce on her.  CNN Commentator Stephen Prothero (a religion professor) linked O'Donnell to Homer Simpson when here opponent recited the words of the Amendment and she expressed surprise that was how the clause is worded.  Prothero goes on to gloat "In fact, in a quiz I gave Boston University students a few years ago, only 41 percent were able to name the free exercise clause, only 23 percent the establishment clause."  Rush Limbaugh tried to defend O'Donnell.

As a reminder the First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

But there is a more fundamental issue here.  The establishment clause (which is highlighted in red above) says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.   Under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment the establishment clause has been widened significantly.  I believe you can make a case that the widening has been far in excess of what a reasonable interpretation of the religion clause states.   Liberals forget that there is also the second part of the religious guarantee about free exercise.  The American Civil Liberties Union seems to forget the second clause is even there.  Legal opinion has used the establishment clause to go well beyond what most scholars believe was intended in the establishment clause by prohibiting any display of religious activity in the public square.  While I am in no way defending O'Donnell's remarks, there is a balance here that people like Prothero seem to forget.   The Constitutional debates tried to achieve a balance between state imposed religions and the ability of individual citizens to practice their beliefs.  There is some evidence that the term religion when used in the context of Eighteenth Century language meant a denomination. (As in the Church of England)   So while I do not celebrate O'Donnell's lack of understanding of basic issues in the First Amendment, I also would argue that many on the left also fail to grasp the nature of the guarantees offered in those words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A self explanatory chart from IDC

IDC (International Data Corporation) is one of the key collectors of information about technology sales.  They release an influential report on a quarterly basis that tracks sales of computers by maker.  In their most recent report they suggest that if iPads are counted as Computers then Apple becomes the largest provider in the market.   The numbers are for Q3 - where Apple sold about 3 million units and that initial enthusiasm may wane a bit (unless of course the company continues to release additions to the technology - as they seem to be doing).  But the chart is a stark reminder about the power of an innovative idea.  (Note this post was not done on my iPad - but it could have been.)  The numbers from the Quarterly Results are impressive - 14.1 million phones, 3.89 million Macs and 250,000 new Apple TVs.  That does not include the number of sales in iPads.

Nonsense from a General Counsel

A student at Sacramento State, Ryan Stevens, for one of his business classes developed an idea for a website which would allow students to barter notes and use other social networking skills.  The site is called Note Utopia.   It turns out the the CSU system has decided to clamp down on this entrepreneur by issuing a cease and desist order.  This comes after Stevens paid money to several campuses to set up booths on campus to distribute advertising of the new service.

The education code stipulates that even handwritten notes cannot be offered for a fee, although the same law allows students to offer for sale things like study guides and released exams.  The law originally came about because there was a worry that some companies might infringe on materials of professors.  It is clear that even without the law verbatim transcripts or direct copies of presentations presented by professors cannot be copied for anything but personal use.  But this is fundamentally different.  What Note Utopia offers is a way for student notes to be traded with a small fee.

As an adjunct professor, not for the CSU system, I would welcome students trading notes and if some kind of financial consideration is offered so much the better.   The point is here that my work product is a direct video or audio transcript of my activities in class.  Students create their own work product in class that is derivative of my presentation but not an exact copy.  It seems to me that the statute, if challenged, would fall on the merits of the issue.

If CSU's counsel's office had any brains they would figure out a way to make this new service work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Timing in the California Election

The Rasmussen poll on the California Governor's race shows a six point lead for the democrat, Jerry Brown, for a survey that was in the field on October 13.  Rasmussen, if anything has a bias slightly toward Republican voters so that is not good news for former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman.  What is unclear is whether the last debate, which Whitman clearly won, will have any effect.  The poll shows a very small (4% undecided) which sounds a bit strange.   But there are two risks to Whitman not evidenced in the poll. First, if voters who vote by mail cast their vote before the third debate, or were not influenced by the debate, Whitman is not likely to turn the margin around.  Second,  if the effects of the phony lawsuit thrown up by media hound Gloria Allred have a negative effect on Latino voters Whitman may not have a chance to turn things around.   If voters have not cast their ballots and were aware of the third debate then Whitman probably has a chance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Governor's Debate in California

I thought we finally got a good notion of why Meg Whitman is running for Governor in the debate that took place at Dominican University.  Brown is a clear choice for the status quo - and if you believe that the former governor was not a great governor, then it would be hard to justify that he would be able to change his spots.

That does not mean that Meg Whitman is a perfect candidate.  In her first debate she was wooden.  But tonight she showed a good command of the issues and a willingness to engage.  Brown looked a bit stumbly in this one - especially in his almost gaffe about being in the "back pocket" of the police chiefs.

Either side represents some risk.  Brown claims he has matured, although there is no evidence from his role as Mayor of Oakland or Attorney General that he is substantially different from his earlier chances at "leadership."  A good friend who was a dean of the Senate and a liberal told me about a year ago he would never vote for Brown because as he said to me "Jerry will do anything and say anything to get elected."  Whitman clearly is inexperienced in the wiles of Sacramento and if you think the current governor was unsuccessful, you might look at her with reservations.   Her major difference between this governor and the next one is attention span.  Whitman made a strong case that a vote for Brown is a vote for the Status Quo.  While there are risks on both sides - Whitman is clearly the stronger choice.

The November Propositions

Here are my thoughts on the Propositions on the November California ballot - 

Proposition 19 - Legalization of Marijuana. - This is a tough issue for me  Right now Dope is a misdemeanor so the change is small.  I see little difference between alcohol and marijuana.  But I might well vote against this - not because I think it will degrade society (as the opponents claim) but because my general approach to all propositions is to start as a no vote.   But I do not feel strongly about this.  TOSS UP

First PAIR - Proposition 20 and 27 - Proposition 20 would extend the Commission that we created under Proposition 11 to congressional districts (right now it is limited to Assembly and Senate Districts).  Proposition 27 would abolish the Commission we created and thus put redistricting into the hands of the legislature.  If you supported Prop 11 (and I did) then the right vote is YES ON 20 and NO ON 27.

Proposition 21 - Increases the Vehicle License Fee by $18 to fund state parks.  I do not like dedicated taxes.  Parks have received cuts in the budget but I see no relationship between the VLF and Parks. While I do not feel strongly about this I will VOTE NO.

Proposition 22 - Would prohibit the state from taking funds from certain local sources of revenues when budgets are in trouble.  The basic problem here comes back to the way that Jerry Brown and the legislature of the time chose to implement Proposition 13 in 1978.  They decreased local authority in exchange for bailout funds.  Since then when the state budget has been in trouble they have raided sources of local funding.   My general approach is to vote no on things I do not care about - so I will VOTE NO

Proposition 23 - I will admit to significant skepticism on global warming.  Even if that were not true I have no rationale why the state should take the lead on what is a global issue.    The existing AB 32 allows the state to take a one year delay on the plan for this - which is what should be done.  I think this will help put California further behind the eight ball in terms of employment.  The bill would suspend AB 32 until employment is at 5% for a period of time. (IN reality that means the provisions of AB 32 would have to be rethought).  I would prefer that the state take the one year delay - but since that will not happen, I think the voters should take the option to delay AB 32 until it is better thought out.  I will VOTE YES

Proposition 24 - IN the 2008 budget three new tax breaks were established even though we had a significant deficit.  The three would, in theory , generate about $1.3 billion in tax revenue.  They relate to how complex entities are taxed, how losses are carried forward and how subsidiaries can share excess benefits.   I am not sure why these particular provisions were justified in 2008 but my general approach on these things is to vote no.  In this case a no vote (in essence rejecting the legislature's gamemanship to the companies) would be to VOTE YES

SECOND PAIR - Proposition 25 and 26 - Proposition 25 would reduce the requirement for passing a budget from 2/3 to simple majority.  California is one of three states that has a 2/3 requirement.   It also has some other nonsense in it.   I like the 2/3 and do not believe that the requirement is the source of delay in the budget process.  If the morons in Sacramento took their responsibilities seriously they could get 2/3 of their colleagues to pass a budget.  Lowering the decision threshold would allow the majority to do a lot of things they have a hard time doing now.  I want to make it hard to pass budgets.   Thus, I will VOTE NO.   Proposition 26 is a business sponsored measure which would establish the 2/3 requirement for most things that are called fees.    In recent years the majority (democrats) have increased revenues by calling things that most people would call taxes "fees."   I do not think this has been a big problem but my basic assumption is that revenues should be hard to raise.  I have mixed emotions about this because I think it is not much of a problem but I will VOTE YES.

If you want to see how all sorts of people have come down on the propositions you can check out the following site:

Who is fooling who?

In a column titled Obama's Huge Expansion of government?  It's a myth.  for the Sacramento Bee this morning Paul Krugman commented "Here's the narrative you hear everywhere: President Barack Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can't create jobs. Here's what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: We never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need."

Krugman seems in a drug induced trance.  Unemployment nationally remains close to 10%.  Growth is puny.  And here is the clincher - from the Congressional Budget Office but via the WSJ - for the first two years of the Obama administration spending is up 21.4% - in this inflationary environment (even given the increases in Unemployment Benefits - which most economists have concluded,including the three who won the Nobel yesterday, that the extensions probably slow getting people back to work).  From my perspective the myth is that Krugman cannot seem to read a budget.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Football playing artist exhibits in Sacramento

The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento has been a community resource for a long time.  Today, it opened its new wing to fanfare.  Among the special events of the day were a group of art work done by children from three schools in the area.  Included among the artists were my oldest grandson.  The kids in this class did variations of Wayne Thiebaud.

My grandson was at the opening.  As you can see he took a frequent Thiebaud theme and then used ice cream as the inspiration.  It is not often you can watch a great offensive lineman be transformed into an artist with work in a major gallery in about 24 hours.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A couple of sports I do not understand

Today we were at our grandson's football game.  He is 8.  Accompanying this team is a group of cheerleaders.  Every time I see them I cringe.  They seem, even more than college cheerleaders, less in tune with the game than almost anyone in the stands.  A lot of their routines are prepared and don't seem to go with the game in progress.

Tonight we went to a fund raiser for our parish and as part of the entertainment, we had an accordion player and a group of young energetic tap dancers.  I understand the energy it takes to learn tap routines. But I just do not get the point.

Call me a cheerleading and tap dancing curmudgeon.  I am not denying the obvious preparation that either activity takes, but after all that work, I still do not get the point.  Both activities seem almost an anachronism to an earlier time.

Government Pervasions 2

Anyone who does not recognize the pervasive intrusions that government makes in our everyday lives must be blind.   I had two aunts who lived in North Carolina for most of their lives,  neither ever lived in California.   The last one died in 2008.  I served as their executor.   In that role I received mail from the estate.   Yesterday, I received a solicitation from the Department of Health Care Services to purchase long term care insurance for the older of my two aunts.  The solicitation was addressed to her, even though she died two years ago.   The Department's program "helps Californians receive the care they may need..."

There are many levels to object to "public private partnership."  Let me list several.  #1 - Are there not available alternatives from traditional insurance companies that could cover this need?  If you look at current providers there are plenty of individual and group programs offered by numerous insurance companies and groups.  The assumption must be that the state can negotiate a better group buying discount than national groups like AARP.  That is nonsensical on its face.   #2 - How did the state get my aunt's name?  It boggles the mind to figure out how the state got my aunt's name to send the solicitation.   My aunt never lived in California, and last visited here probably fifty years ago.  #3 - Does the state derive revenue from this program?  Most group buying programs generate some income for the organization that selected the vendor.   But presumably having a state program compete with private insurers and private groups that offer the coverage does nothing to enhance the competitive nature of this very competitive market.  #4 More importantly, does the state bear any expense for this program?  Here accounting is important.   I will guarantee you that when the program was created it was sold with the notion that there would be no state cost.   I will also guarantee you that the argument then was false.  The solicitation includes the name of the director of the DHCS and the Governor.

If you don't see the problem with a state government competing with the private sector in what is a very efficient market, for individual and group policies, then you should object to a government that can intercept personal information of a person and use it for other purposes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Government Pervasions

Still think government is not overly intrusive?

The sign was in a restroom in San Antonio, Texas in a restaurant.  I understand that there can be a case made for notifying women of the risks of drinking while pregnant.  Although why government should require such postings is beyond me.  The press has given lots of warning about the danger of alcohol.  So have doctors. It is hard to find a doctor or other authority who does not warn about the risks of alcohol.  I'm not sure whether the effects of alcohol are more toxic or whether the move in this direction is an example of over caution. These kinds of things should be a choice of the mother - and if we have a greater recognition of the small risks of moderate drinking then we should probably make pregnant mothers aware.    Although I am not sure what is so different generations of infants were raised by mothers who drank during pregnancy.  How successful is the record of government protecting people from themselves?  In my mind, not that successful.   Even with those cautions, I can live with the idea of putting these kinds of notices in places where women are likely to consume alcohol.

What gets me about the warning notice is that it was in the Mens room.  I wonder how many of the people who read this actually are likely to get pregnant.  Is it put there to encourage men to tell this to their wives/dates?    I guess some idiotic law requires the posting of these notices to follow "gender neutrality" rules.

Assessing the Opposition in Our Current Climate

My sister in law is a frequent Facebook poster and yesterday posted something about Tea Party adherents.  Her post "What can we admire the Tea Party for? Their dedicated efforts to "turn scattered, voiceless discontent into a united protest." Y'know, just like, say -- Saul Alinsky.   Like many of her comments - this one had a bit of irony. I suspect most of the Tea Party people would not like to claim Alinsky or his tactics.  But there is an element of truth in her post.  One of her commenters added  "Positive proof that there are far too many gullible people out there."

I disagree with a lot of what politicians do today in the spirit of advancing their ideas. John Kerry calls the people who will vote against his point of view "uninformed."  Kerry is not the only one.  During the 2008 election a lot of commentators from the right worried that Obama was some kind of "manchurian candidate."  This time the dems seem to have thoughts about how quirky the voters are at this point.  Part of the reason voters are grumpy is the contempt that many elected officials have for their constituents.  I'm not sure either side would get that one.   But from my perspective the claim about gullibility does not diminish that some of those opponents of a particular policy may well have come to their opinions because of their thinking about an issue not as a result of missing that process.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Modern Absurdities

I bought the new Apple TV - a neat little device that allows one to use content off your computer on your TV.  The new model also allows you to get things like movies from Netflix.   I have something like 300 movies, 10,000 songs and 30,000 photos on my MacPro so now you can use all those on a big screen.   I have the earlier model and so installed the new one on the other flat screen.

The new model costs less than $100 and is tiny. (Probably much smaller than the picture at the right.   But to be able to hook it up to your TV you need an HDMI cable (High Definition Multimedia Interface) which allows the content you have gotten from your computer to the device wirelessly to move into the screen at a faster rate with high quality.  I went to Best Buy and it turns out there were three models of cables - $25/$50 and $100 for the short cable.   I ended up buying the one that cost half the price of the device - then reading up on it many experts say the transfer rate on the cables (the higher priced ones supposedly move content at a higher quality quicker) is about the same.   So the real cost of the device is $150, still worth it but 50% more.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Five questions about the Bee editorial endorsing Jerry Brown

As noted in the earlier post, the Sacramento Bee's editorial endorsing the current AG for Governor is a mass of contradictions which seem to grant Brown every indulgence and applies a strict scrutiny standard to his opponent.  Presented below are five quotes (in RED) from the editorial which one should raise questions about.

Whitman is a student of what other states are doing to grow business. Brown shows little interest in such scholarship. California's position in a number of areas has gone from a leadership position to one which ranks us at the bottom.  For example, college going rate has been declining in recent years.  The business climate, which ungirds tax revenues as well as quality of life has been rated among the worst in the country.  Every major study of our current economic climate has suggested that a) businesses that can are moving either operations or new plants to other states.  Does the Bee contend that by not being interested in even understanding what other states are doing would not help the state recover its position?

Whitman proposes to freeze regulations and cut taxes, including the state capital gains tax. The former eBay CEO claims this will spur investment in California and grow jobs and state revenues. The editorial goes on to suggest that eliminating capital gains taxes would put $3 - $11 billion in revenues at risk.  Yet every business survey conducted in the last few years suggests that part of our sluggish growth has been conditioned on the difficulty in doing business in the state.  What is the practical effect of freezing regulations?  Would it not be beneficial to take a breath for a moment to understand what is happening or does the Bee support the same kind of head in the sand approach to what is happening around us, that they seem to endorse in the support for Brown's lack of inquiry about what others are doing?

Brown is more realistic than Whitman about what a governor can accomplish, given that California's fortunes are interdependent with the larger national and international economies. The Bee supports California's effort to control global warming through a series of tax and regulatory changes that are known as AB 32.  They have endorsed opposition to the measure which would delay implementation.  A major argument against AB 32 is that it neglects the interdependence of California with the rest of the world.  How do those two positions reconcile?

While we share her passion for reducing state pension obligations, she goes too far in advocating 401(k) plans that would expose state workers to the vagaries of Wall Street. The Bee's employees, like every other employee in the private sector, live under defined contribution plans not defined benefit plans.   One California study has suggested that the system of the largest three pensions are collectively half a trillion out of actuarial balance.  Why should public employees be granted pension rights that are significantly better than the people who pay the taxes to support those pensions?

And unlike in previous stints in office, Brown doesn't seem to have his eye on anything other than governing California. One of the constant criticisms of Brown has been that almost everything he does in office is political.   When you look at his management of every political office he has obtained he has used the office in a partisan manner.  One need only look at the odd decisions he has made in a number of areas as Attorney General, his current office.  The Bee asks us to take, evidently on faith, that he will (or has) change (d) in this quest.  Where do they develop that optimism from?

It is sad to see much of the media devolve into partisan mouthpieces, but that is the state of editorial boards at places like the Bee.

Why the Sacramento Bee is quickly becoming irrelevant

The Sacramento Bee today endorsed Brown for Governor.  The Bee's writers seem to have done much to take everything that Brown offers in this iteration of his public persona as fact but applies the strict scrutiny standard to Whitman.   Here is an condensed version of the Bee's "logic."  I have highlighted some of the best parts of the editorial.  

Whitman is far from a perfect candidate but the Bee's circumlocutions to endorse the perennial candidate Brown, who as one democratic legislator once said to me "will do or say anything to get elected" are an embarrassment to journalism.   

Every contest for governor is crucial, but the stakes couldn't be higher for California during this year's Nov. 2 election. The state's finances, economy, schools and institutions of higher learning all hang in the balance. Brown has spent nearly his entire career as a politician. Whitman is more scripted and efficient. Brown shoots from the hip and the lip. Whitman is a student of what other states are doing to grow business. Brown shows little interest in such scholarship. The attraction of Meg Whitman is that, as an outsider, she isn't yet imprisoned by the culture of low expectations that permeates the Capitol. She exudes a sense of possibility, and in many areas, offers a credible critique of what is wrong with California. Consider how the two candidates stand on the No. 1 issue of the day – the dismal economy, joblessness and the state's chronic fiscal problems. Whitman proposes to freeze regulations and cut taxes, including the state capital gains tax. The former eBay CEO claims this will spur investment in California and grow jobs and state revenues. Whitman slams Brown for a jobs plan that is vague and full of platitudes about "green jobs," a fair critique. But Brown is more realistic than Whitman about what a governor can accomplish, given that California's fortunes are interdependent with the larger national and international economies. (Note here the BEE endorses AB 32 which is an attempt to deal with global warming issues from one state - the Bee's editorial board does not get the irony here.) Government's role, as Brown sees it, is to provide the basic building blocks of commerce – roads, ports, rail, education and job training – and recognize California's unique strengths. Brown sees huge opportunity in making the state a leader in renewable energy and efficiency, partly by cutting regulation and consolidating overlapping permitting agencies. He is also open to reducing or eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, an unusual position for a Democrat. While we share her passion for reducing state pension obligations, she goes too far in advocating 401(k) plans that would expose state workers to the vagaries of Wall Street.  And unlike in previous stints in office, Brown doesn't seem to have his eye on anything other than governing California. That could well result in a Jerry Brown who is more focused, engaged and independent than we've seen before.
Newspaper editorial endorsements once counted for something.  With the Bee's current deteriorating situation in subscribers and ad revenue (some have quipped it should now be called the Sacramento Brochure),  this kind of nonsense is read by few and listened to by even fewer people.

Friday, October 01, 2010


When I was fishing in the Sierra a few weeks ago I slipped on a rock and jammed my shoulder while catching the fall. It was one of those painful things which I thought would work out and did not. So yesterday, at the advice of a friend, I went to a Chiropracter. We talked about how the problem had happened and then he had me demonstrate where the pain was. He then used a laser and some accupuncture to eliminate the stiffness.

What amazed me about the treatment was that I was immediately better, not completely cured but better enough to be able to sleep through the night without a pain every time I rolled over on the shoulder.

His name was Dr. Tim Johnson. I was impressed.  His office is in Citrus Heights, CA.