Tag Archives: Los Angeles Times

Prop 33 Game Changer

Prop 33 Billionaire Financier George Joseph

Incredible! With two weeks until Election Day, the insurance billionaire behind Prop 33 finally admitted his auto insurance initiative will raise rates on new customers.

Los Angeles Times columnist Mike Hiltzik drew the admission from Mercury Insurance Chairman Joseph in Sunday’s newspaper.

When the billionaire writing the $16 million check for Prop 33 speaks about his initiative raising auto insurance rates, voters should listen.  

But will voters hear Prop 33’s financier over the deceptive television advertising he has bought claiming only that Prop 33 will “reward responsible drivers”?

You can help us get out the word by posting the link to Sunday’s LA Times column (http://lat.ms/TCDqH4) on your Facebook timeline, tweeting it or sharing it with your friends from the newspaper’s site.

In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Joseph acknowledged that Prop 33 is a marketing strategy for his insurance company that will allow him to cherry pick his customers “if I could charge new people the proper rate.”

As Hiltzik reports, “He made no bones about the fact that the ‘proper rate’ for customers coming to Mercury as newly insured policyholders is much higher than what he can charge them now.”

Voters banned the power of insurance companies to raise rates on first time drivers and others who did not previously have auto insurance in 1988. Prop 33 would turn back the clock on auto insurance regulation in this state.

Will you help us spread the word about Prop 33’s big lie?

Joseph said that if Prop 33 doesn’t pass it will be “a tremendous waste of money.” Better his than ours!   Please share this critical news story today.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

CA-32: media roundup, T minus 6.

Six days left to go, and the chattering class is paying attention.  Here’s what they’re saying.

• The Los Angeles Times is doing their take on the ethnic divide on the race, and presents something you probably never knew–that voters tend to prefer voting for candidates of their own ethnicity over those of other ethnicities!  I guess Avenue Q was right.  Especially telling is the final quote:

“Ethnicity is a factor,” said Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC. “But it’s not the only factor.”

My world has been rocked beyond belief.  Sarcasm aside, though–if you’re going to do a piece on ethnicity in the CA-32 race, you could at least include some of the juicier, more intriguing aspects of the race–things like, what type of support will Emanuel Pleitez draw and how will that affect the race?  What will the impact of Betty Tom Chu be?  You know–more like our coverage.

• If national media coverage won local Congressional elections, Emanuel Pleitez would be in really good shape.  Following up on the positive coverage in the Los Angeles Times about his candidacy, National Journal has what amounts to a glowing review of Pleitez’ online strategy in today’s online version.  While I think that calling Pleitez a “web candidate” in the title does him a little bit of a disservice, the point is that Pleitez has tried something relatively new for a Congressional seat: using social media to facilitate a more lateral structure as a major part of the organization.

To me, the most interesting part of Pleitez’ run against two much better known heavyweights is the fact that if the same race had been run five years ago, someone like Pleitez would have struggled to even get off the ground, much less be talked about in the same breath as the major candidates in this race.  But the creation of easy-to-use online fundrasing through ActBlue as well as the massive proliferation of social media has allowed for the creation of an entirely different element to politics that really used to only apply at a more national scale, starting with Dean and perfected by Obama.  The most interesting thing will be to see what happens when today’s Facebook generation become political heavyweights themselves–how will the traditional and currently non-traditional elements of politics interact?  I expect that at some point in the future Pleitez’ run for Congress will become a reference point for political experts about both the benefits and the drawbacks of dependence on social media as a key element in the campaign.

• Presuming that either Gil Cedillo or Judy Chu advances to the expected runoff and then proceeds to victory in July, the game of musical chairs will continue–either for Chu’s Board of Equalization seat, or for Cedillo’s 22nd District Senate Seat.  La Opinión is reporting (Spanish-language) that if it’s the latter, Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes (District 1) is going to take a shot at the seat.  That, of course, would open up a seat on the City Council as well.  Just one more reason for Democratic politicians to really support Democratic Presidents–it opens up all sorts of opportunities for career advancement.

• I’m glad we have better commenters than the people at Mayor Sam.  This nugget is particularly entertaining:

I could dream that 3 Dems could split the enough so that the R can win but that is dreaming. If we were competitive in urban areas that scenario wouldn’t be out of the question.

Some people just don’t understand that this is a consolidated Primary election.  Just to clarify: if nobody gets 50%, the top vote-getter by party will proceed to the July runoff.

Mickey Kaus Is An Uninformed Hack, Pt. 4,425

Mickey Kaus, last seen publishing the contents of a private email list for his own amusement, has now come up with a new idea (he gets one a year that have nothing to do with “let’s destroy teacher’s unions”); he wants to see a newspaper covering the Westside of Los Angeles.  It actually starts off rather good:

Over a million people live here. Affluent people. People semi-obsessively concerned with local issues like crime, traffic, development, city and state politics and ill-served by the magisterial L.A. Times in far off downtown, which has to cover all of Southern California and seems to think paying attention to the West Side is somehow elitist, if not racist. … You could hire five reporters–cheap, these days–and you’d have about four more reporters covering the area than the Times has. If they’re the right reporters it shouldn’t be that difficult to steal the Times’ richest readers and the advertisers who want to reach them. (Many of those readers already get the New York Times for its national and international coverage. You would be the local supplement.)

There’s no question that the LA Times is too big and too poorly mismanaged to pay proper attention to the many communities of Southern California.  And it’s also true that cuts to staff at local papers leave the country open to political trickery at the local level.  So there’s a lot to like about a niche-marketed local paper serving a fairly well-off community that would pay for the privilege.  Instead of newspaper bailouts, fostering increased competition at the local level makes sense.

Which leads us to what Mickey Kaus, a guy who is somehow a paid writer, thinks is a good use of local resources for a new newspaper:

We want to know whom Mayor Villaraigosa is dating, and we want to see her picture. And if John Edwards visits his mistress at the Beverly Hilton and gets chased into a bathroom by National Enquirer reporters–hey, you know, maybe that’s a story! (The LAT didn’t think so.) By covering politics in a way that got at least a few hundred thousand readers to pay attention, you could take the first, big step toward changing the apathetic culture of Southern California (the culture that lets Democratic interest groups fill the void and call the shots).

That’s right, Mickey’s conception of a paper that would change the apathetic culture of Southern California is one that is essentially a tabloid with a selective bias toward people Mickey Kaus hates.  Amazingly, he thinks that would be a big seller!  I’d bet they could call it “The Things Mickey Kaus Obsesses Over Tribune” and print tens of copies!  What a well-informed citizenry that would engender!  Maybe a free pair of panties (perfect for sniffing) could come with every edition!

Since Kaus apparently Googles his name repeatedly and has emailed me in the past when I’ve called him out on his nonsense (and a guy who links to random Tumblr pages on his own site seems to have a real sensitivity to this kind of thing), I’ll repeat to him what he said to Ezra Klein: “All communications are on the record.”

Where Are The Spending Cut Calculators?

In both the Friday and Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times, right on page A1 above the fold, there was a graphic of a “tax calculator,” which projected the additional taxes an individual would pay based on certain factors like income, number of dependents and values of vehicles.  They have a corresponding tax calculator on their website where users can type in the data and get the precise tax hit coming to them.  The Sacramento Bee has the same thing.  Talk radio was having a field day with these calculators over the past couple days, getting people to call in and disclose their statistics and telling them how much money they will owe.  This led to perverse complaints like the lady making $126,000 a year ranting about an $800 tax increase.

In my life, I have never seen a “spending cut calculator,” where someone good plug in the services they rely on, like how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and how much they stand to lose in THAT equation.  Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being piled away for nothing.  A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

But of course, people who are perceived to depend on state services probably don’t log on to the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee websites very often to calculate their tax burden.  In reality, we all depend on the state for roads and law enforcement and libraries and schools and county hospitals and on and on.  And in Los Angeles County, one in five residents – almost 2.2 million people – receive some form of public aid.  So wouldn’t it make sense to portray the real cost of spending cuts in the same way that tax increases are portrayed?

Contra Dan Walters, it is completely untrue that “liberal Web sites” are unilaterally condemning cuts to education and health & welfare spending.  We fully understand that a $42 billion dollar hole cannot be filled by revenue alone.  We certainly condemn corporate tax cuts at a time of massive deficits, or counter-productive actions like selling the lottery, which will produce net losses in the long-term.  But there is no question that the media mentality is to highlight the tax side of the equation over the spending side, and dramatically portray the tax increases – splashed across the front page – while relegating the spending cuts to further down the page.  It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate.  And it’s completely irresponsible.

The Incredible Shrinking Local Media

Under the stellar leadership of Sam Zell, the LA Times is cutting another 300 jobs and eliminating the California section:

Editor Russ Stanton said in a second memo that the cuts will include a 70-position reduction across the editorial department, or 11 percent, in the coming weeks.

Hartenstein said the paper will reduce the number of sections on March 2, folding the California section into the front section, which includes local, national and international news, while keeping Business, Sports and Calendar as daily fixtures.

The feature section lineup, including Health, Food, Home, Image, Travel and Arts & Books, will remain unchanged, he said.

Good thing there’s nothing special happening in the state that would require coverage.

Anyone who thinks that the Times will continue to cover California in the same way by folding the section into the front page is delusional.  The staff cuts will certainly come from the local beat.  Keep in mind that this is the biggest daily in the state.

We have 38 million residents and maybe 10 full-time reporters making sense of Sacramento.

Let’s not wonder why nobody will have good information on why they’re getting IOUs in the mail in a few weeks instead of their tax refunds and public assistance checks.

$63 Billion?

Not sure where the LA Times is pulling this figure from.

A $5-million plan to replace 78 wood piles that support the pier is among the hundreds of California projects that stand to benefit from the federal stimulus measure. In fact, the first major initiative of the Obama administration could deliver as much as $63 billion to the state.

Some of the money would help ease California’s budget crisis, although officials in Sacramento say it would cover only one-quarter of the nearly $42-billion deficit […]

The $63-billion projection for California — provided by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with ties to President Obama — includes about $44 billion to help pay for things such as infrastructure projects, healthcare for the poor and increased unemployment benefits.

The remaining $19 billion would cover the cost of the individual tax cuts to Californians.

To be fair, the story does make clear that state and local government relief would only directly impact about 1/4 of the budget hole.  But I think it’s dangerous to throw around $63 billion when there’s still going to be a need for tough solutions on revenues and cuts in the budget.  That number throws in the kitchen sink – it includes tax cuts to individuals and businesses, unemployment insurance extension, food stamp benefits, everything.  The fact that more people have money to spend may positively impact the bottom line if California catches some of that cash in sales taxes, but the story – and really the projection by CAP – makes it sound like California will be handed a $63 billion dollar oversized novelty check.  This will only serve to aid the radical Yacht Party agenda, allowing them to say that California just got a bailout so there’s no need for tax increases.  Every sane person knows that the federal windfall will help but not fix the budget, and talk of $63 billion like it’s a sugar plum fairy really hurts the ability to make that fix happen.

For example, when citizens all over the state don’t get their tax refunds in the coming months, with taxpayers on the low end of the income scale feeling the greatest effect, and they read stories about $63 billion flowing to the state, who do you think they’re going to blame?  And I’m sure the Yacht Party will be around to direct that blame, too.

It’s fairly irresponsible to headline “$63 BILLION!” when we know only $10 billion of that will directly hit the budget.

Finally, Someone Points Out the Elephant in the Room

That someone is Peter Schrag in yesterday’s LA Times, calling the Yacht Party California’s Kamikazes – a party in terminal decline in the state but determined to take everyone else down with them:

In a state where whites have been just another minority for the better part of a decade, and where Latinos will in another generation be an absolute majority, it may not be surprising that that GOP narrowness leads to a gritty sense of besiegement and a kamikaze mentality that seems ready to take itself over the cliff, and the rest of the state with it….

But in the current crisis, the Democrats have in fact agreed to major cuts; the Republicans remain adamant on revenue. That resistance, as most people must know by now, is made possible by California’s nearly unique constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to enact a budget or increase taxes. If five Republicans — two in the state Senate, three in the Assembly, both of which have Democratic majorities — broke ranks, there’d be no gridlock.

But that’s only part of the story. In a survey last year by the Public Policy Institute of California, 52% of the state’s Democrats identified themselves as liberals, 31% as “middle of the road” and 17% as conservative.

Republicans were far more rigidly conservative: 67% called themselves conservative, 21% called themselves middle of the road and 8% said they were liberal.

So Democrats are not quite as hard-line as the folklore suggests.

One wonders if the LA Times editorial board read Schrag’s column closely. Schrag is making many of the points we have been making here at Calitics, but he makes them especially effectively, and hopefully the rest of the state’s media will listen and stop lying to their readers that the problem in Sacramento is that legislators won’t negotiate – that instead the Yacht Party is determined to claw back some political relevance at the cost of the state’s viability.

The Republicans in California are the equivalent of a failed state. The party hasn’t been viable on a statewide basis since 1996. 2002 and 2003 saw some momentary gains but those faded, and the only Republican with meaningful statewide success – Arnold – has made distancing himself from his own party a key to his electoral victories. So they exploit the 2/3 rule to maintain a semblance of power and arrest their slide into irrelevance – the Libertarian Party with a few more votes and some actual seats.

Schrag recognizes that the only way this death cult’s death grip on the state will be ended is by eliminating the 2/3 rule:

The fastest way to restore responsibility all around is to rejoin the rest of the democratic world and bring back straight majority votes to enact budgets and raise taxes. That would break up the GOP cult, make both parties more responsible to the voters as a whole, force them to make the tough choices and take the heat for the consequences, and — most important — get on with the business of governing.

This is an eminently sensible conclusion. It’s a shame it’s taken weeks, if not months, for the LA Times op-ed page to start making sense on this, but they couldn’t hide from reality any longer. The Yacht Party are now the Kamikaze Party, determined to sink the ship of state out of spite and desperation.

Note to LA Times: Legislators Are Not Children

The LA Times today has a bizarre editorial in support of a proposed initiative that would fire all the legislators and the governor if they do not agree on a budget by the Constitutionally-mandated deadline of June 15:

Brad Morisoli of Livermore has proposed an initiative that provides, among other things, that if the Legislature fails to adopt a budget by midnight on June 15, every elected lawmaker’s term ends. The governor’s too. Right then, right there. See ya. None of those people could hold office again for at least two years. The “Pass Our Budget Act” is not just cranky, it’s kooky. Simplistic. Destructive. Where do we sign?

What this would do is essentially turn California government into a parliamentary democracy, where a government falls and an election is called if a budget is defeated. I’m not entirely opposed to that concept. But this is not a solution to the budget crisis.

Once again the media, in the form of this LA Times editorial, ignores the elephant in the room. The budget crisis is being caused by Republican obstruction alone. Democrats have bent over backward to try and get a budget done. But instead of telling its readers that fact, the state’s largest and most influential paper has this to say about the Legislature:

But no, Democrats, Republicans and the governor are acting like brats on a playground. “They started it!” “Did not!” “Did so!” “We did everything we could.” No, folks, you didn’t.

All those angry and irresponsible ballot measures Californians have adopted over the years have exacerbated the situation, but it’s hard to believe that we deserve the childishness we are getting from the Capitol in this fiscal emergency.

Adopt a budget. Now.

This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read in a newspaper in quite a long time. Legislators aren’t children – they’re adults engaged in a political process. One side – the Democrats – are willing to piss off their base and cut a bad deal to balance the budget. The other side – Republicans – refuse to do anything, placing Grover Norquist above the economic security of 36 million Californians.

The LA Times editorial is the equivalent of a driver standing over a mechanic screaming “fix it! fix it! fix it! fix it!”

Except in this case, the state’s paper of record could actually help fix it by refusing to mislead its readers about the situation in Sacramento, and tell Californians the truth – Republican obstruction is the only reason California lacks a balanced budget.

Our Political Media Crisis and the Disclosure Problems Of The LA Times

I’ve noticed a strain of thought which believes that all that is needed to achieve Democratic goals in the state is better framing and messaging, because that can get into the media and convince more Californians of the need to restore sanity to the budget process and reform state government.  This assumes that there’s any kind of substantial political media to begin with.  There’s shockingly little on local news and radio, and even the newspapers have scaled back their local political coverage.  What is currently out there reaches at most 1% of the electorate, and cuts to Capitol bureaus in Sacramento have decreased that gradually over the last year.  No media outlet is willing to carry information to the public, a dangerous scenario for a state in crisis.

And because of this breakdown, this provides an opportunity for those with an agenda, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and right-wing think tanks (or even the false equivalent nonsense of a California Forward) to pursue their goals under the cover of “news.”  They infect what little coverage there is and provide ready-made content in the form of editorials for papers to print.  A sorry example of this showed up in yesterday’s LA Times, when Bret Jacobson wrote a screed about Hilda Solis’ choice as Labor Secretary.

Solis regularly sides with organized labor’s demands, including the biggest of them all: union leaders’ desperate campaign to boost their membership by getting rid of secret ballot elections. That privacy allows millions of American workers to vote their conscience when deciding whether to start paying dues to a union boss. Consequently, it’s easy to see why union bosses prefer “card check” — a dubious method that requires employees to sign a legally binding card stating their preference in a way that would allow anyone to know if they are pro-union or not.

The fight over card check has already been a precarious affair. And this week, with the announcement of Obama’s pick of Solis, the situation got even stickier. Solis has a hypocritical history of demanding secret ballots for herself but not for working Americans.

I don’t think I have to go too much further with Jacobson’s propaganda.  As I’ve argued elsewhere, what he calls a “secret ballot” is actually a flawed system of union elections that needs to be fixed.  If labor elections were legitimate, there wouldn’t be the need for legislation.  Instead, think of it as your “secret ballot” Presidential election marred by: mandatory pro-McCain training sessions held across the country, mandatory meetings where “Obama is a Muslim” propaganda is foregrounded, threats to take away your job if you vote for Obama, and threats to close your workplace entirely if Obama wins.  There is nothing democratic about these one-sided farces characterized by intimidation and harassment.  That’s why we need a new system for determining whether workers want to collectively bargain, and majority signup is simply the best practice out there.

But that’s not my biggest beef with Jacobson’s argument.  It’s that, at the bottom of his editorial, the LA Times credits him by writing “Bret Jacobson is founder and president of Maverick Strategies LLC, a research and communications firm serving business and free-market think tanks.”  What they don’t say is that he has a long history of union-busting, partnering with the man who is leading efforts to fight the Employee Free Choice Act.  Matt Browner Hamlin discloses the lack of disclosure:

Here’s what the highly-informative BretJacobson.com has to say:

“Prior to founding Maverick Strategies, Bret co-founded the Center for Union Facts, overseeing that organization’s research activities, guiding its communications, launching its new-media capabilities, and helping plan its strategic national advertising and earned-media campaigns.”

And just for those not paying attention at home, here’s Sourcewatch:

“The Center for Union Facts is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman’s family of front groups including the Employment Policies Institute. The domain name www.unionfacts.com was registered to Berman & Co. in May 2005.” […]

In short, the Center for Union Facts is the key organization in Big Business efforts to stop the progress of labor in America, most notably through fighting against the Employee Free Choice Act. One of their co-founders, Bret Jacobson, was given license to push the Center’s anti-union, anti-worker agenda in an op-ed against the nominee for Labor Secretary, while the Times failed to disclose the only informative part of his biography. He’s the founder of a research firm? What is that supposed to tell the Times’ readers? Pretty much every person I know who works in politics does some level of consulting. The most important piece of Jacobson’s biography – his professional connection to one of the biggest anti-union groups in America – is left out of a column that specifically pushes the Center’s agenda. In an AP article three days ago, a spokesman for the Center attacked President-elect Obama’s pick of Solis for Labor Secretary (though, amazingly, the AP cited the Center as “a group critical of organized labor”).

Matt works for the SEIU.  There, I just disclosed that.  Congratulations to me for having more integrity than the Los Angeles Times!

The Employee Free Choice Act is a national issue.  But when you have a corporate-run media (the LA Times editorial board has a history of anti-worker pontificating) combined with a nearly invisible political class so that Californians have no base of knowledge about their government, the ease with which propagandists can place their beliefs into what little political media exists is frankly breathtaking.  There is plenty of blame to go around in California’s current crisis, but the lack of any responsible (or even present) certainly contributes to it.

Let The Majority Rule

Maybe George Skelton took my post last week to heart, or maybe the self-evident truth smacked him upside the head, but in today’s column Skelton calls for eliminating the 2/3 rule:

It’s a good bet that 51% of the Legislature would have voted for a budget by now — maybe even had one in place for the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. But 67% is required.

Only two other states have such a monstrous hurdle. And both are better positioned to deal with it because, unlike California, their legislatures are lopsidedly dominated by one party….

State Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), a hero of fiscal conservatives, long has favored allowing a majority budget vote.

“The two-thirds vote for the budget has not contained spending, and it blurs accountability,” McClintock says. “If anything, in past years, it has prompted additional spending as votes for the budget are cobbled together.”

The rub is that while McClintock is willing to support a majority vote for a budget he is not willing to support majority vote for taxes. That is the one that really matters. If we had a majority rule for the budget but 2/3 for taxes, it would do nothing to change the current budget standoff as Republicans would still use their numbers to block a tax increase and therefore block a budget.

The column has some good quotes from Steinberg and Bass, who are showing welcome interest in fixing the odious 2/3 rule:

Both incoming Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) say they’ll consider developing a 2010 ballot initiative to permit majority-vote budgets.

“I’m telling you, I’m very serious about it,” Steinberg says. “We can’t keep doing this. This is ridiculous. It’s unproductive.”

Bass figures there would be plenty of financial support for a ballot campaign from labor unions, healthcare providers and others who rely on public funds and are frustrated by incessantly tardy budgets.

“This budget crisis we’re in is a perfect example of why we need to be like 47 other states,” Bass says. “I’m not sure what we have in common with Arkansas and Rhode Island. . . .

“We would have had a budget by the constitutional deadline, June 15.”

Both Bass and Steinberg need to move on a fix for the 2/3 rule. But since that won’t happen until 2010, we need a solution to THIS budget crisis – a solution which will require voters to hold Republicans accountable for their hostage tactics.

Lest we let Skelton off easy today, he still shows he believes in the Media’s First Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Republicans:

Don’t blame Republicans either. They’re being asked by the governor to break their pledges — however misguided they were — not to raise taxes. Moreover, most are philosophically opposed to taxing people more — particularly during a recession — and are sticking to their principles. That’s supposed to be an admirable trait.

Nonsense. The 2/3 rule isn’t a problem unless one party makes it a problem. The Republicans are using the 2/3 rule as a weapon to destroy this state and make its residents suffer. Don’t let them get away with it.