Archive for March 1st, 2010
The buzzards are circling over embattled House Ways & Means Chairman Charles Rangel.
Speaker Pelosi’s defense of the veteran New York Congressman, who’s on the hot seat for undeclared income and corporate-paid trips to the Caribbean, has been tepid at best.
Now, House Republicans are pushing a resolution, and a vote later this week, to strip Rangel of his committee chair.
What if Republicans got their way?
Pelosi would have to decide if the Ways & Means gig would go to the man next in line for the job fellow California Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, the chamber’s resident atheist and resident loose cannon.
That is, unless she skips over Stark.
Which is what happened a few years ago when Rep. Henry Waxman jumped over Rep. John Dingell in a hostile takeover of the mega-powerful House Energy and Commerce committee.
Of course, that was one very powerful Californian (Pelosi) looking out for another (Waxman) – a stark contrast to what could be Stark’s fate.
Here’s what the Los Angeles Times had to say about Stark last October, in looking at Ways & Means’ life after Rangel:
“He once called the American Medical Assn. a bunch of “greedy troglodytes.” He assailed one Republican colleague as “a whore for the insurance industry,” called another a “fascist” and a third a “fruitcake.” Recently, when a pesky journalist asked the same question too many times, Stark threatened to throw him out the window.
“Oh yes, oh yes, I personalize it and I shouldn’t,” Stark says, slouched in a chair, confronting what he calls “my outbursts” like a chagrined schoolboy who might do it again anyway. “A member has a right to have a position different from mine without my challenging their mental capacity, their integrity, their manhood, their womanhood.”
As for other “outbursts” . . .
So Stark doesn’t play nice with others.
But there’s a bigger problem: he’s no ethics puritan either.
Stark originally said he did not recall completing the application online. Later in the interview, the memorandum says, he said he knew he completed the application.”
Leaving Speaker Pelosi to ask Casey Stengel’s question: can’t anybody here play this game?
Interesting little item in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle about California Attorney General Jerry Brown referring to the ancient Chinese general/strategist Sun Tzu as his political north star.
While reporters all rush to recite the most famous line from The Art of War – ”all warfare is based on deception” (even Charlie Sheen uttered it in Wall Street) – here’s another quote more apropos to the enigmatic Brown and his even more enigmatic run for governor:
“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
So is Sun Tzu the best role model for a past governor, at present, campaigning to be a future governor?
Sure, it worked wonders for Napoleon in Europe and the American brass in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.
And it’s a nice change of pace after the candidates’ preferred reading material — some of it good, some of it sketchy (Mitt Romney cited both the Bible and Battlefield Earth, by Scientology founder L. Ronn Hubbard) – from the last presidential election
Then again, Mao Zedog and Ho Chi Minh also read Sun Tzu’s book and put his tactics to use in 20th Century warfare, much to the chagrin of American interests (ladies and gentlemen, your first attack ad of the fall campaign: a side-by-side of Jerry Brown and a couple of Communist icons).
That, and there’s something uncomfortable about the word “sun”.
As in . . . Sun Microsystems, recently gobbled up by Oracle and whose CEO resigned via Twitter?
As in . . . the Phoenix Suns, always entertaining and always coming up short in their quest for an NBA title?
btw, a couple of side notes about Sun Tzu.
1) Some question whether he really existed, and if his work was the product of just one man. Sounds like a new project for the Obama birth certificate crowd.
2) Art of War was written ca. 500 B.C., a little before the Brown Administration.
The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, but in California playing fast and loose with wage and salary rules makes for a pretty nifty retirement for state employees.
Or so a California Watch investigation has discovered, and reported over the weekend.
Warning: if the thought of wasted tax dollars raises your blood pressure, then you might not want to read this. Otherwise, here goes.
Among the highlights (or lowlights, depending on one’s perspective):
– In the past four years, nearly 500 government workers earned six-figure paychecks mostly for unused vacation.
– One worker combined vacation and compensatory time to walk away with more than $800,000 (that’s not a typo!).
– In total, the state spent $486 million between 2006 and mid-2009 to pay more than 52,000 employees for time-off benefits – which includes a small percentage of unused comp time and holidays that weren’t taken.
– Many of those cash payments appeared to violate rules designed to limit how much vacation time state workers can accumulate during their careers (most employees are allowed to bank 80 days worth of unused vacation).
– Blame it, in part, on shady management. State documents estimate that nearly 20% of non-union workers, typically managers, had surpassed their caps as of late-2008, compared to about 4% of union employees.
– The abuse is worsening. Personnel documents show that as of December 2008, more than 14,000 active state employees had already exceeded their vacation caps (fyi, out of a pool of roughly 237,000 state employees).
– The news comes just days after the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee ok’d a request by State Sen. Leland Yee to open the books on the University of California’s finances. This, after a steady supply of bad press regarding the UC’s spending practices. Will anyone in the Legislature (and by that I mean a Democrat, with majority sway) put the same screws to the state’s payroll?
In the meantime, we have yet another case of deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra liked to say. Back in the 2003 recall election, then-candidate Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for a comprehensive audit of the state budget.
Which can mean only thing in this election year: talk of the big audit . . . will be back.