The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

January 31, 2013
Not fully developed cartoon ideas on Obama, Kerry, Gore

Most days, I come across great topics for cartoons, but am swamped doing other things. Like drawing cartoons. Sometimes these micro-cartoon events may deserve their own comment, but usually I just either throw them away, or put them on Facebook, with my descriptions of what I ate for dinner involving arugula.

This week I saw a few things that lightly to heavily bothered or amused me.

--The Great Barack Obama Shotgun Assertion. This week the president said that he frequently went skeet shooting at Camp David, which has not previously been reported in the news media, nor have any photographs been released of this hobby. The CMM (Conservative Mainstream Media--Drudgefox, etc.) snorted that Obama was basically lying. Honestly, I cannot fathom why in the world the president would bother to lie about this. I suspect there are many hobbies this and previous presidents have enjoyed in the privacy of Camp David which weren't photographed, either, ranging from poker games to intern bathing. So, I believe Obama when he says he was skeet shooting.

KERRY.jpg--John Kerry LuvFest 2013. Remember when John Kerry was the stiff, tedious inappropriate windsurfer? Now he's the most qualified, bestest-ever in the history of the United States candidate for Secretary of State. This official re-baptism and re-apotheosis of former presidential candidates isn't new (#Hillary2016), but in Kerry's case, it was kind of surprising to me. After all, he managed to blow a very winnable 2004 election by acting like a more entitled, stiffer Al Gore. He was confirmed by his colleagues to the tune of 94-3 (only Sens. Cornyn and Cruz, R-Planet Texas, and some other cranky colleague passed on the coronation).

January 30, 2013
Jack Ohman, the new Sharpie in town...

After having spent my entire adult life in the lovely, damp confines of California's northernmost county, Oregon, I was a bit concerned that my new adopted state might not have, you know, any exciting political events to cover.

(Insert irony here).

After all, in Oregon, we worry extensively about things like the spotted owl, the wanderings of wolves, and, if there's big action, maybe a Japanese dock will wash up on our beach we can have our pictures taken in front of. So when I came to California, I was thinking that, sure, they're a faster league, but how much different could it be?


--We didn't have the Maloofs. Our basketball team owner, Paul Allen, was just like Steve Ballmer but more dashing and charismatic (really NICE pocket protector!), so he built Portland its very own arena, relieving Portlanders of the responsibility to do anything other than lightly observe the Blazers at their leisure. People in Portland don't really talk about the Blazers with any more passion than they would discuss the gas company. The Blazers are like a utility: they're there, they work, and, snore, get me another cup of overly-engineered coffee.

January 30, 2013
Who is Pelosi for? Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers?

Granted, there are more important issues than football facing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, such as immigration, the Amgen giveaway and why the feds are cracking down on Mendocino County for attempting to implement California's medical marijuana law.

But, we can't help but asking: As a native daughter of Baltimore, is she rooting for the Ravens or the 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday?

As it turns out, Carla Maranucci has already confronted Pelosi on this question. The minority leader's answer is here.

What ever happened to Charm City?

January 29, 2013
Rise & Opine: How the Seattle media is covering the Kings saga

Seattle, a diverse and sophisticated city, is reacting with a mix of opinions to news that the the city may revive the Supersonics by stealing the Sacramento Kings:

-- Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes how the Kings, throughout the team's history, have been the most transient team in the NBA. His lead?

"Here We Stay" goes the chant of Kings fans hoping the team remains in Sacramento. "There They Go," though, more accurately describes the history of the franchise that might soon call Seattle home.

-- The Editorial Board of the Seattle Times, meanwhile, is remarkably restrained, noting the potential challenges of developing a new arena for an NBA team. (Sound familiar?)

January 28, 2013
Sacramento may make tiny dent in retiree health debt

Sacramento City Hall could start making a small down payment on a huge debt it owes for retiree health benefits -- if the City Council goes along Tuesday evening.

As the city balances its books, it has found $9.3 million in departmental savings and one-time revenues in its general fund for the budget year that ended June 30, 2012.

Of that relatively paltry windfall, city officials are recommending that $2 million go to establish a trust fund for retiree health care costs. That would be the proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the $440 million liability over the next 30 years.

But it would set an important benchmark that the council is taking the issue seriously, as The Bee's editorial board called for earlier this month.

January 28, 2013
Rise & Opine: Does Sacramento have an inferiority complex?

Rise & Opine offers opinions on opinions being offered across California, three days a week.

Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times offers this declarative statement in a news story about the Kings: "The pending loss of Sacramento's only big-league sports franchise is a blow to a city with a long-standing inferiority complex."

Oh darn. The secret is out. I had really hoped the Times wouldn't reveal that we all feel like losers in Sacramento, every single one of us. If anything, Megerian didn't convey just how morose we really are here. Our persistent sense of inadequacy is palpable. Just walk down the street and ask anyone how they feel. "Inferior" is the answer. And if the Kings leave? That will be it for this city. We might as well just commit collective suicide because, as everyone knows, a pro team is really what defines a city, right?

I searched through Megerian's news story for the factual basis to back up his conclusion. Perhaps there has been an academic study on Sacramento's inferiority complex I had missed? Perhaps a poll or some other data to provide basis for his assertion?

Nadda -- just a blanket statement by a reporter who has been in Sacramento since January of last year.

January 23, 2013
Rise & Opine: If Obama targets weed, will he take our guns?

Rise & Opine offers opinions on the opinions being offered across California, at least three days a week.

Deborah J. Saunders pulls a well-worn trick out of the pundit's bag -- the art of false equivalency.

In a blog post and column, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist recounts the story of Matthew Davies, a 34-year-old Stockton medical marijuana dispensary owner who is facing a minimum of seven years in prison for his pot-grow warehouses that supply medical-marijuana clinics. Davies, in interviews with the New York Times and other media, said he got into the business because he trusted the Obama administration on promises it would not prosecute such operations. Saunders takes that "trust" of Davies to question if gun owners should trust the president's claim he won't confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens.

Saunders offers quotes from Obama in her blog post to back up her argument that the president can't be trusted. But I'd urge you to look at those quotes closely. On several occasionals, Obama has made clear the federal government should not be targeting recreational users. But he also made clear he won't give "carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana."

January 22, 2013
Rise & Opine: Obama's inaugural speech praised, panned

Rise & Opine offers a Swarm of opinion from California and beyond on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

The first speech of Obama's second term
It may have been a holiday for some, but editorial writers were watching President Barack Obama's inaugural speech and offering these takes:

January 21, 2013
Rise and Opine: Obama inauguration, MLK Day, Los Angeles mayor

Martin Luther King Jr. Day quote by MLK:. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Lots of California advice for President Barack Obama as enters his second term. The San Bernadino Sun and Long Beach Press Telegram urge him to cut spending and focus on education reform. The Desert Sun urges him to compromise.

My bottom-line advice to Obama: Try to make sure your daughter can use this phrase at the end of your term, as she did Sunday: "Good job, Dad. You didn't mess up."

January 17, 2013
NRA ad attacking Obama unleashes heated war of words

Here is the National Rifle Association's ad mentioned in today's Bee editorial. It attacks President Barack Obama for not supporting armed guards in schools when his daughters have guards at their school.

Critics say the NRA went too far by talking about the safety of Malia and Sasha. White House press secretary Jay Carney called the spot "repugnant and cowardly."

The NRA has not backed away from the ad.

January 17, 2013
State of downtown Sacramento: 'Slummy but sexy?'

Here is the award nomination video mentioned in an editorial notebook today about downtown Sacramento.

Carina Lampkin, owner of Blackbird Kitchen + Bar, describes downtown as "kinda slummy but sexy, all at the same time" when she talks about what drew her from San Francisco. Part of the attraction that downtown isn't fully developed, which creates opportunity for ambitious entrepreneurs.

"I want to be a part of the future, and I thought I could add some identity to a growing downtown," she says.

January 16, 2013
Rise and Opine: High-speed rail, Friedman, Obama

Rise and Opine is your morning source, Monday through Wednesday, for California opinion, push back from readers and news tips collected with a bit of attitude by The Bee's editorial board. Send tips and suggestions to

Is high-speed rail off track? The Bakersfield Californian doesn't think so, even though a powerful congressman from Kern County thinks it is a "field of dreams." The Californian argues that local governments will only lose by being bystanders to a project that is steaming ahead. It notes that the Bay Area is increasingly concerned about transit options; that negotiations with property owners have started on the alignment and that the state is in a better position, financially, to pursue big projects. "The winds are changing, and Kern County would be wise to adjust its sails," says the editorial.

I got a chance to spend some time with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman backstage last week, when I had the privilege of introducing him for the Sacramento Speakers series. He made it clear he is increasingly disillusioned with President Barack Obama, and that is reflected in his column published today.

Push back
A few readers were upset that our new cartoonist Jack Ohman would make fun of our couch potato GOP House. I would suggest they, like potatoes, should not be so thin skinned. Jack's toon also made fun of Obama as being ineffectual. Take a second look at it, and the rest of his cartoons.

January 15, 2013
Rise and Opine: Jerry Brown, High Speed Rail, Obamacare

Rise and Opine is your morning source, Monday through Wednesday, for California opinion, push back from readers and news tips collected with a bit of attitude by The Bee's editorial board. Send tips and suggestions to

, I noted all the positive editorials about Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal. As if on cue, UT San Diego (which used to be known as the San Diego Union-Tribune) rips into the governor's plan to fund education. The paper notes that $1.3 billion of the $6 billion dedicated to schools will actually go to "sate employees." Sate employees? I think the UT meant "state employees," but whatever. The point is a reasonable one: How much of the Prop. 30 money will actually go to classrooms, as opposed to members of the teachers unions that helped pass the measure?

David Lazeras of the Los Angeles Times writes about the cat bite that turned into a $55,000 hospital bill. He argues that Obamacare might take a bite, or a least a nibble, from these kinds of charges.

Friday is the deadine for engineering teams to submit design and build plans to build the first stretch of high-speed rail through the Fresno area. The high-speed rail authority is pushing ahead with the project, even though valley Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham say the project is a "field of dreams."

Push back
Richard B., a reader who often frequents the messages left on my voice mail, disagrees there are few transit options to and from the Sacramento International Airport, the point of our editorial Monday.

Richard says he has been pleased with the service provided by Super Shuttle. So I have I -- except, that is, when I am returning from the airport. Super Shuttle almost always picks us up on time. But on the return? My wife and I have had to wait an hour or longer for a shuttle to take us home, even when we have made reservations. We are a big enough city to have more competitive options than this.

And no, I don't want to prevail on friends for airport shuttles, no matter how generous they might be.

Did you miss it?
Sen. Michael Rubio and environmental attorney Tom Adams debate whether the state should make major modifications to its landmark 1970 statute, the California Environmental Quality Act. This will be a hot topic in this year's Legislature -- an ongoing focus of our Sunday California Forum section.

January 14, 2013
Rise and Opine: Michelle Rhee, Tom McClintock, Silicon Valley

Michelle Rhee, former DC schools chief and Sacramento-based head of Students First, is the focus of a lengthy article in Sunday's Washington Post. Her star power so annoys the American Federation of Teachers that the AFT maintains a "Where is Rhee?" map on this web site with an image of Rhee wearing a crown.
Our own Ginger Rutland last week offered her own take on Rhee, whose tenure in DC the focus of a recent "Frontline" show.

Push back
U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock is apparently no longer answering questions from Bee senior editor and columnist Dan Morain. Morain recently asked McClintock's communications aide, Jennifer Cressy, if he could interview McClintock about the congressman's views on disputes between California and Nevada on Lake Tahoe.

Cressy's response: "Civility makes it possible to discuss even the sharpest differences of opinion. When you question the loyalty and motives of an individual, as you did on Sunday, you abandon the civility that is the foundation of public discourse."

Cressy was referring to Morain's Jan. 6 column, in which he opined that, McClintock's "political machine of one" is the trend as California's GOP delegation in Congress becomes smaller and more conservative. "That doesn't bode well for California as it tries to get back some of the money it sends to Washington, and certainly not for the Sierra district McClintock represents."

There was an armada of editorials over the last week on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget, mostly positive, in the nautical sense. The San Bernardino Sun said the plan "points the way to fiscal sustainability" but could be messed by Democrats in the Legislature, tempted to go on "a drunken sailor spending binge."

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle opined on Gov. Jerry Brown's prison plan, partly agreeing with the governor that the state had made much progress on overcrowding, but also offering some guarded reservations, saying: "There is the great danger that California will retreat from pursuing more reforms and better treatment once the judges withdraw." By contrast, The Bee said clearly that the mission wasn't accomplished, whereas the Stockton Record said, "Enough."

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, who was in Sacramento last week, reflects on Silicon Valley's cutthroat competition and yet its ability to collaborate. By contrast, if Congress were a start-up, he writes, "the early stage investors would have long ago been wiped out and the firm shuttered."

In case you missed it: Our own Jack Ohman offered another large-format cartoon on Jerry Brown, this one focusing on the governor's love of charts.

January 10, 2013
Veterans homes in Fresno, Redding could open this fall
The long-delayed new veterans homes in Fresno and Redding could finally be on the verge of opening.

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget today that includes $27 million to staff the homes. If the Legislature goes along, the first residents could move in this fall.

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea of Fresno said that the state Department of Veterans Affairs plans a job fair on Jan. 23 to hire the first 70 employees at the Fresno home.

"We have all worked very hard to get the veterans home open and these funds are the result of that work," Perea said in a statement. "This facility will serve our local veterans well for years to come."

Sen. Jim Nielsen, who represents Redding, thanked the governor for including the money. "I will work with administration officials and my colleagues in the Legislature to ensure that the proposed funding stays intact," he said in a statement.

Construction has been complete for months and there are waiting lists to get in, but the state hasn't found the money for operations and employees. Federal money helped build the $159 million, 300-bed home in Fresno and the $88 million, 150-bed home in Redding.

I've been following this saga for a while, ever since visiting the nearly finished home in Redding in late 2011. You can argue whether the homes are too costly for the number of veterans they will serve, but it made little sense to spend $280,000 a month to maintain the homes and have them sit empty.
January 3, 2013
Senators call on CIA to come clean about 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Three key U.S. senators went after the studio behind "Zero Dark Thirty," the acclaimed but controversial movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Now, they're aiming at the CIA.

The senators -- Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein of California, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan and top Armed Services Republican John McCain of Arizona -- disclosed today that they have written letters to Acting CIA Director Michael Morell seeking clarification about the CIA's role in shaping the movie and what they call its misleading impression that torture helped lead to bin Laden.

As I've written previously, the senators say they're convinced by the Intelligence Committee's exhaustive review of still-secret CIA documents that "enhanced interrogation" did not provide the key information that uncovered bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan. They have expressed concern about previous statements by CIA officials that suggest the opposite.

In a Dec. 19 letter to Morell, the senators raise concerns that what they call the CIA's "unprecedented cooperation" with the filmmakers misled them on how the information was obtained. The honorables request documents and other information on the CIA's role in the movie.

In a Dec. 31 follow-up, the senators ask Morell for more detail and clarity on his Dec. 21 message to CIA employees about "Zero Dark Thirty." He told CIA colleagues that "strong impression" left by the movie that enhanced interrogation was the key to finding bin Laden is "false."

But Morell also said that some intelligence on bin Laden's location "came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well. And, importantly, whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggest, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitely resolved."

As the continuing controversy shows, there can be little debate about that. The movie, by the way, opens nationwide on Jan. 11.
January 1, 2013
GOP House painted itself into corner on fiscal cliff

It now appears that the U.S House, controlled by Republicans, will approve a Senate bill to avert the fiscal cliff that includes a tax hike that House leaders said they would never endorse, even with corresponding spending cuts.

How did this happen?

They were completely out-maneuvered.

Remember, it was just 12 days ago when House Speaker John Boehner proposed his "Plan B" proposal, which would have included a tax hike, but only on the super rich -- those making more than $1 million yearly. But Boehner did not bring that tax plan up for a vote because, he said, "it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass."

Had House GOP members gone along with their leader, they would have sent the Democrat-controlled Senate a bill that Harry Reid would have hated, and that the Senate might well have rejected. If that had happened, then Republicans would now be in the position of blaming Democrats for potentially sending the nation over the fiscal cliff. Instead, it is Republicans worrying about saddling the blame, which is why they are about to blink in a dangerous, reckless, stupid game of fiscal chicken.

True, as I write this, the House has not yet voted. The whole thing could still blow up. But in all likelihood, the GOP-led House will vote to support a tax hike on families making more than $450,000 yearly, instead of a $1 million threshold, as Boehner had proposed. And they will do so close to midnight, or else risk the wrath of Asian stock markets, which will render a verdict as the clock approaches 12 pm EST.

Those on the left are angry at the Senate and Obama for agreeing to this deal. According to White House figures, Obama only gets to extract about $600 billion from the wealthy, instead of $1.6 trillion he originally sought. That means more hard decisions ahead to reduce the deficit -- quite likely, spending cuts that liberals oppose.

But in the world of Realpolitik, , Obama and his V.P., Joe Biden, totally kicked ass. They live to fight another day, whereas the GOP House, from its perspective, is forced to chose between really bad and assuredly worse.

This blog item was modified from the original to correct cost figures on what the Obama administration originally sought in a fiscal cliff deal.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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