Tag Archives: LA Times

The Wrong Candidates For the Right Reasons

LA Times, SF Chronicle looks for balance

by Brian Leubitz

You have to give both the SF Chronicle and the LA Times some credit to promote moderate Republicans. The state is clearly better served by having (at least) two strong parties. With Tim Donnelly looking strong at the top of the ticket, you have to look for moderates elsewhere. Both papers endorsed non-partisan Marshall Tuck for the non-partisan State Superintendent position, because, you know, he doesn’t like labor and wants us to charter school and test our way to educational nirvana.

Unfortunately, ex-legislator Tom Torlakson, who now occupies that office, is much too deferential to the teachers unions. Torlakson, a former teacher, is a dedicated and knowledgeable advocate for education – but when tough choices need to be made, he too often ends up on the wrong side. For example, Torlakson has opposed attempts to consider student test scores as one factor in teacher evaluations, a dogmatic stance that cost the state federal dollars. (SF Chronicle)

It appears that the Chronicle is upset because Torlakson doesn’t support the failed “Race to the top” scheme. Note failed isn’t merely a personal opinion: it’s backed up by hard research. The grants were too small, the goals too big, and the guidelines were not necessarily the right path to meet our real educational goals. So rather than merely castigating (former teacher) Torlakson for standing up for teachers, perhaps we should investigate why he made those decisions. We simply can’t test our way to educational success, Torlakson knows this.

But you have to laud both papers for looking for better educational outcomes. But when we spend less per pupil than states with much lower cost states, perhaps we need to look in the mirror first. And perhaps we should be doing the same thing in the Secretary of State race, and it seems that both the Chronicle and the Times have looked to the Secretary of State race for some balancing.

The Times endorsed Pete Peterson this morning and the Chronicle endorsed Dan Schnur last week. Both are Republicans, though Schnur has now moved away from that label in an attempt to win the center. But neither has the looks of a career politician, and both editorials mention the fact that neither appear to be looking for the job as a stepping stone.

For the SoS gig, these are some laudable aims. But they’ve both looked past the best candidate. A candidate that has a history of working for a better campaign finance system, Derek Cressman. Cressman appeared last week in San Francisco to protest the big fundraising at the annual AT&T Speaker’s Cup, and would use the office as something of a bully pulpit. But more than that, he has the management experience to take on the real dysfunctions of the office that are the heart of the job.

Peterson and Schnur are both reasonable options, but in a Democratic dominated state, we need a Democrat with a history of advocating for real and substantive reform with the experience to run a big office. That’s Derek Cressman.

LA Times will not be sold to the Koch Brothers

Oil magnates think Tribune newspaper business wasn’t economically viable

by Brian Leubitz

In the end, their desire to make a buck overcame their desire to control the press in LA, Chicago and other cities.

Billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch have scrapped their efforts to buy the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers, a Koch Industries spokeswoman said.

*** **** ***

The Kochs’ decision not to pursue the newspapers was first reported by the Daily Caller, a news website founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The website, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the proceedings, said the Kochs conducted due diligence and determined that the newspapers were “not economically viable.” They have not been interested in buying the newspapers for “a couple months,” the website reported. (LA Times)

Well, I suppose they could have let the cat drift out of the bag sooner, but perhaps they enjoyed seeing progressive organizations get riled up on the matter. Or not.

Groups like the Courage Campaign and the California Labor Federation had been preemptively fighting any sale of the Times to the Koch brothers since word leaked out months ago. The Koch Brothers funding of anti-labor organizations worried many progressives that the sale would skew the editorial direction of the paper far to the right. Needless to say, many excited press releases went out today. Here is the statement from the Labor Federation:

“Today’s news that the Koch Brothers won’t buy the LA Times and others Tribune Co. newspapers is a major victory for proponents of a free and democratic press.

“For months, the California Labor Federation, media watchdogs and progressive groups have raised serious concerns about the effect of handing control of major news outlets over to the Kochs. The Kochs’ interest in the Tribune Co. was no doubt fueled by a desire to further their anti-worker, anti-environment agenda by using those media outlets as a megaphone for their extreme ideas.

“Journalistic integrity is vital to free society. The power of a free press is essential to providing the checks and balances needed to protect democracy. We’re pleased that the Tribune Co. won’t fall under the control of the Kochs, and we remain vigilant in our efforts to protect journalistic institutions from being corrupted by those who want to use them to serve their own agendas.”

LA-Mayor: Eric Garcetti Gets Times Endorsement

Multiple candidates aiming to get into top two in March balloting

by Brian Leubitz

While the value of newspaper endorsements has surely waned, in a municipal election where many of the candidates are finding difficulties distinguishing themselves from each other, the LA Times endorsement could grab a few votes. And this round, City Councilman Eric Garcetti gets that nod:

As council president, [Garcetti] worked behind the scenes to awaken his colleagues to the depth of the city’s financial crisis and to take action they did not want to take, imposing layoffs and requiring those remaining in the workforce to shoulder more of the burden of their medical and pension benefits. At times when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should have been on hand to close difficult negotiations, the task was left to Garcetti, and he came through.  …

Voters at first embraced Villaraigosa because they saw in him the power to inspire. Garcetti has that too, but in a different, quieter fashion, and he backs it up with experience in City Hall, a share of troublesome mistakes and 12 years of achievement. If he avoids a tendency to be glib when he should motivate, and if he avoids the tendency to allow his finesse to give way to a desire to be all things to all people, he could be just what Los Angeles needs. At this time, out of this field, he’s the best choice for mayor.(LA Times)

Polls have been all over the place in the race, but for now, it looks like Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are in the best positions to grab one of the two spots in the May general election. But Councilwoman Jan Perry, Republican talk show host Kevin James, and perhaps a few others, are within striking distance depending on what the turnout and field programs look like over the last few weeks.

Political Response Required To Respond To CA Physician Drug Abuse Scandal

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Leading consumer advocates today called upon the legislature to hold hearings and investigate strong new laws in response to recent Los Angeles Times reports on widespread drug overdoses due to physician overprescribing and the recent case of a convicted methamphetamine-using drug-dealing doctor who will be treating patients again within a year.
Consumer Watchdog asked the Governor and legislative leaders in a letter to consider random drug testing of physicians.  The advocates, who have already qualified one initiative measure for the next ballot to regulate health insurance rates, said that voters would not tolerate legislative inaction.

Click here to read the full letter.

The recent Los Angeles Times series, which uncovered 71 physicians whose prescriptions have led to three or more deaths, and the decision Friday by the state medical board to allow Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle to treat patients again after pleading guilty to felony drug dealing, prompted Consumer Watchdog to call for hearings and legislative action.

“The recent investigation and past decades of experience show that patients are not safe from drug using and drug dealing doctors,” wrote Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court and Carmen Balber. “One in ten physicians develop problems with drugs or alcohol over the course of their careers, yet continue to practice medicine. These physicians hold the lives of patients in their hands every day.”

”Pilots must undergo mandatory random drug testing because they hold the lives of so many passengers in their hands. Physicians who operate on patients and are in a position to overprescribe or use narcotics themselves should undergo similar mandatory random drug tests,” wrote the advocates. “Patients should not have to fear being treated or operated on by addicted physicians. Unfortunately, there is little deterrence to such malfeasance, as evidenced by the medical board’s restoration of Nathan Kuemmerle’s medical license.”

The letter also urged the Governor and lawmakers to consider moving authority for oversight and prosecution of over-prescribing to the pharmacy board, as is already the case in many states, to data mine information in the state’s prescription drug database to identify problematic prescribing patterns, and to strengthen the doctor disciplinary system and preventive measures to protect patients before they are harmed.

“Prescription drug abuse by physicians is something the public will not tolerate without a remedy that’s reasonable and effective. Though any action to detect and discipline dangerous doctors will undoubtedly bring protestations from the medical establishment, the small minority of physicians that overprescribe and use drugs need to be dealt with quickly and effectively to ensure the safety of California patients. Now is the time to act,” wrote the advocates. “An overhaul of the Medical Board is four decades overdue and necessary to protect patients.”

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.

Stay Should Be Lifted in Prop 8 Case

Last week, the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 litigation asked the 9th Circuit to lift the stay against enforcement of Judge Walker’s decision.  With the President’s decision to stop defending DOMA’s constitutionality, the legal team fighting Prop 8 felt that situations had changed enough to reconsider the stay.

The bigger issue seems to be in the way that the Supreme Court has defined the standard for these types of stays.  Traditionally, the party seeking the stay has to show not only a likelihood of prevailing on the merits but also that nobody will face undue prejudice due to the stay.  Of course, as we know, same-sex couples are facing unnecessary and painful delays.

But the issue that I found most intriguing, and that the City and County of San Francisco focused on in their brief (PDF) was the question of jurisdiction.  The 9th Circuit has already questioned whether the proponents of Prop 8 have standing to appeal, and the threshhold for a stay is fairly high. So, should there really be a stay?

As the Supreme Court has held, when jurisdiction is unsettled a stay of judgment cannot be maintained.  Here, this Court’s certification order makes plain that Proponents have not, to date, met their burden. The stay should be lifted unless  and until Proponents establish that this Court has the power to hear their appeal. (SF Brief)

Well, today, the LA Times joined the act, calling for marriages to resume in a speedy manner.

Although the federal courts expedited their handling of the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, the issues are far from resolved. And now that the California Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in, the case could be delayed for another year or more.

Enough already. Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to wed while the case works its way through the system. (LAT)


LA Times Reinforces Right-Wing Tax Frames

Today’s LA Times contains a “news analysis” by Evan Halper that seeks to explain why taxpayers seem to be getting less for their tax dollars. But the most obvious point goes almost totally ignored – that tax cuts have reduced the ability of government to provide for basic services. Since that isn’t part of this article, the effect is to mislead readers into thinking government is misusing tax dollars, and thus winds up reinforcing right-wing frames.

Reporting from Sacramento — Middle-class Californians have long griped about paying more taxes than they might pay elsewhere, but for decades this state could boast that it gave them quite a bit in return. Now that contract is in doubt.

A modern freeway system, easy access to superior universities and progressive health programs used to be part of the compact. Even local schools plagued with financial problems continued to offer small classes, innovative after-school programs and advanced arts and music curricula.

These opening paragraphs set the tone for a flawed article. That “social compact” has not really functioned as Halper suggests since 1978. Our freeway system was largely in place by that time. Additional freeways were mostly paid for by higher taxes – even Orange County has voted to tax itself twice since 1990 to build and expand freeways. The “innovative after-school programs” were created by ballot-box budgeting. Advanced arts and music curricula have been absent from most districts in the state since the 1980s.

In short, Halper starts from a flawed premise.

But at a time when taxes are about to rise substantially, the services that have long set this state apart are deteriorating. The latest budget cuts hit public programs prized by California’s middle class particularly hard — in some cases at the expense of preserving a tattered safety net for the poor — following years of what analysts characterize as under-investment….

“Twenty years ago, you could go to Texas, where they had very low taxes, and you would see the difference between there and California,” said Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University in Orange. “Today, you go to Texas, the roads are no worse, the public schools are not great but are better than or equal to ours, and their universities are good. The bargain between California’s government and the middle class is constantly being renegotiated to the disadvantage of the middle class.”

And here you see the right-wing framing – in some cases made explicit, that programs benefiting the middle-class have been cut to “preserve a tattered safety net for the poor.” Kotkin, a high-profile conservative think tank figure who has blamed “greens” for the state’s current crisis is never going to explain how tax cuts have caused California to fall behind in maintaining its once-great systems of education and health care.

The closest Halper gets to acknowledging the true nature of the problem is here:

The reasons are varied. The cost of services continues to outpace inflation. Programs are being squeezed out by things the government was not providing in the halcyon 1950s and early 1960s, including Medi-Cal and some welfare programs. And the state has been reluctant to embrace new ways of funding services while holding back state money to plug other holes in the budget.

In fact Medi-Cal’s earliest origins lie in the 1959 legislative session, as do some welfare programs. Halper gingerly discusses a state “reluctant to embrace new ways of funding services” but this is the closest his article will ever get to the truth, which is that the conservative veto has prevented California from raising taxes to keep the services flowing to the middle class. Even Ronald Reagan did this in 1967 but you would never know it from Halper’s article.

Nor does Halper explain, anywhere, the billions in tax cuts that have been made since 1978 – a structural revenue shortfall that costs California at least $12 billion a year. Halper does a good job of showing how our basic services are underfunded but totally fails to explain the reasons why. As a result he closes his article with comments from conservatives like Mitt Romney and Joel Kotkin that not only go unanswered by any progressive voices, but go unanswered by reality:

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to the frustrations of many California parents during a speech at last weekend’s state GOP convention in Sacramento. Pointing out all the taxes Californians are now paying, he asked, according to the Sacramento Bee: “With all that money, how are your schools?”

The simple answer is: Not what they used to be. And now the state is cutting billions more out of them, including money set aside to keep classes small and to fund arts and music electives.

“The social compact is: I pay taxes and good things happen,” Kotkin said. “But I pay a lot of taxes and can’t send my kid to our local public schools because they are terrible.”

Conservatives broke that social compact by telling Californians “you can pay less taxes and good things will happen.” It’s wrong for conservatives to turn around and say “oh gee the system’s screwed up” when they are responsible for the mess.

And it’s inexcusable for the LA Times to reinforce such right-wing sentiments with such an article that refuses to point out what actually went wrong, and who is responsible for it.

Arnold’s Media Enablers

Back in 2002-03 it was hard to get away from media coverage of the failing Gray Davis administration. At least, that’s how it got framed in the state and even the national press. At the time I was living in Seattle and all the coverage I saw was of Davis screwing up this way or that way. Friends would ask why Californians voted to reelect someone so clearly incompetent. With media coverage like that it was never any doubt that Davis would lose the recall.

Five years later California is in a worse situation than we were in 2002-03, when Davis was blamed for everything that had gone wrong in California and was recalled just 11 months after having been reelected. Arnold has given us a $40 billion deficit – larger than anything Davis grappled with. And when Democrats, facing a severe cash crisis, got creative in finding a solution and gave Arnold almost everything he demanded, Arnold vetoed the solution anyway. California bankruptcy seems more likely than ever, a direct consequence of Arnold’s actions.

But that’s not the story the media tells the public. The Arnold that you read about in the newspapers or see on TV is a strong governor willing to make tough choices for the good of the people. An environmental leader who has the people’s interests, but who’s weighed down by a typically screwy legislature, where Democrats and Republicans (though it’s mostly Democrats) are to blame for any problems we face.

Last night’s appearance on 60 Minutes was a classic case of media enabling of Arnold’s failures:

But now “home” is in trouble. California is the foreclosure capital, and unemployment is above eight percent. The governor proposed to close that budget deficit half with tax increases and half with budget cuts. Republicans and Democrats opposed him.

When 60 Minutes sat down with Schwarzenegger at the Capitol, he had just left the legislative leadership and he seemed in no mood. Before they got settled, Pelley was worried that the last thing the governor wanted to do was talk to him.

“I’m not sure that meeting went all that well. You seem pretty preoccupied. You got the ‘Terminator look’ on your face,” Pelley remarked.

That was basically the extent of the conversation on the budget and the economy – issues that dominate our state right now. The rest of the piece was typical greenwashing of Arnold’s environmental record. Arnold is touting green jobs as a solution to economic recovery, and in a hypocritical Newsweek op-ed he called for sustainable infrastructure spending as economic stimulus…just as the state had to suspend ALL infrastructure projects owing to the cash crisis.

That crisis – for which Arnold bears primary responsibility right now – is even jeopardizing crucial planning work on high speed rail, which will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in California – unless Arnold’s efforts to destroy the state succeed in derailing that as well.

Arnold’s 60 Minutes interview is an all too typical example of how the media has enabled his failures. The piece didn’t mention his role in the budget crisis or how it makes a mockery of his green jobs goals. And because he gets fawning coverage while bold and inventive Democratic efforts to save the state are dismissed as trickery by the media, Arnold gets away with trying to bankrupt the state while talking a big game on the environment.

In fact, nowhere in the 60 Minutes interview was it explained that among Arnold’s recent budget demands was a gutting of CEQA oversight of development. 60 Minutes doesn’t tell its viewers that while Arnold plays an environmentalist on TV, back in Sacramento he is doing everything he can to destroy environmental protections.

And yet there is some evidence that, maybe, just maybe, the traditional media is starting to wake up to that fact. More over the flip.

That’s where Evan Halper’s story in Sunday’s LA Times is so significant. It’s a welcome shift away from the hagiography of Arnold the Governator and a more accurate assessment of the risks to the state and to his own position that Arnold is taking with his reckless and destructive approach to our state’s budget and economy:

But rejecting the plan carries big risks for Schwarzenegger. It shifts responsibility to him if things get bad enough that the government has to shut down or go into default. He must get the Democrats to blink to keep the situation from careening out of control….

The governor gave no indication that the additional cuts he is seeking amount to less than 1% of state expenses. Nor did he let on that a day earlier, he had told the Capitol press corps the tax hikes were not what stopped him from signing the Democratic package; rather, he wanted lawmakers to incorporate more of his ideas…

Some rank-and-file Democrats say the governor is exploiting a crisis.

More like that, please. Honest reporting that doesn’t quite go as far as it should, but is a badly needed step in the right direction. By showing Californians that Arnold is a failure, a cause of and not a solution to our crisis, the media might actually help solve this mess.

Tuesday Open Thread

You know how this works, feel free to add anything you found interesting in the comments.

• Blue dog Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater) will not seek to replace Xavier Beccera as Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair if Beccera takes the trade representative post within the Obama administration. California progressive superstar Hilda Solis is still considering a run though.

• If you want your heart broken, read this story about the “Gifts for Guns” program in Compton.  The short version is that people are turning in their guns for groceries.

• It’s not just schoolkids who need subsidized lunches in this economy. Senior citizens are increasingly relying on public and non-profit programs that provide food for seniors.

• An F-18 crash in San Diego (near the Top Gun facility in Miramar) as the result of engine failure killed three yesterday.  Our condolences to the families of the victims.

• Sam Zell’s deal to buy the Tribune Company, owner of the LA Times, essentially stole from the pension funds of the Tribune employees.  The bankruptcy of the Tribune company is a sad chapter in American journalism.  One can only hope that the Times emerges stronger out of this disaster, this time without a right-wing idealogue holding them down.

Some investors are going to buy up a bunch of foreclosed homes, fix them up, and then help get qualified buyers to purchase some of the excess housing stock in the Inland Empire.

Rep. Joe Baca is having a Holiday Open House for his constituents in San Bernadino next week. Sounds like fun!

The LA Times Admits It: More Democrats Means A Better Budget

It’s really refreshing to see an article like this in a California newspaper. From today’s LA Times comes a story with the headline California’s next budget battle could get easier:

Democratic gains of even a couple of seats on Nov. 4 could ease California’s annual struggle to match spending with revenue. Eight Republican votes are now needed to pass a budget by the required two-thirds majority of lawmakers. If voters reject Republican candidates in some districts, Democrats may have a smaller anti-tax bloc to battle and fewer arms to twist to pass a budget.

This is something we at Calitics have known for years, but the media typically resists speaking this particular truth to the public. Instead they prefer to blame “partisanship” or some unknown budget god for creating this crisis. Of course the budget problems are a direct cause of Republicans, whether it was Prop 13, or their reckless 1998 tax cuts, or Arnold’s VLF and budget balancing bonds, or recent Yacht Party-induced budget delays.

The solution has always been obvious: elect more Democrats and punish Republicans like Mimi Walters and Tom McClintock who don’t vote for budgets at all.

Yet another reason for California progressives to Stay for Change – don’t travel to swing states, travel instead to the key swing districts in the Assembly and the Senate, races that will be the difference between a sane and fair budget and another crippling Republican-induced delay.

UPDATE by Brian: This should be paired with the Dan Walters article I put into the Open Thread yesterday.  Walters points out that after November 4:

As a practical matter, then, it will be easier, perhaps much easier, to enact the new taxes that Schwarzenegger, Democrats and groups such as the Education Coalition want when a new Legislature begins its session in December.

The chattering class is slowly getting it…