Sacramento

My Inner Joe Biden

Sorry for my silence. I spent the last two days on planes and (for a tiny handful of hours in between) in Sacramento, Calif., to sit on a panel about income inequality.

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Capital Tracks

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

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Why is this picture called Larry Crowne? Is it because the filmmaker and star, Tom Hanks, buys into the limp orthodoxy that he is an American everyman figure? Is it because he has vague hopes that this is a story about everyday, good-natured American stick-at-it-ness, in the league of Jerry Maguire or Erin Brockovich? Or is it because no one involved in the making of it really knows what the film is about? Just think for a moment how the film’s attitude toward us, and its sense of purpose, might shift if the title was, For Example, Larry Crowne? And why not?

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Some of the most interesting developments in health care policy these days aren’t taking place in Washington. They’re taking place in Sacramento and the rest of California, where public officials, private sector leaders, and activists are working to implement the Affordable Care Act. Remember, under the terms of the law, states must must do everything from setting up new insurance exchanges to slapping regulations on insurers.

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Not one, not two, but three different Olympic Games are in the news today. In California, a Sacramento group has announced a bid to bring the 2022 Winter Games to Lake Tahoe. Meanwhile, south of the equator, the government of Rio de Janeiro has launched an international contest to choose who will build its Olympic Park for the 2016 Summer Games. Most importantly, though, today is the final day for fans to purchase tickets to the 2012 Summer Games in London.

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After months of speculation, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee today is unveiling her next move. On this afternoon’s episode of “Oprah” and in this week’s Newsweek, Rhee is announcing the launch of an education advocacy organization called StudentsFirst. (The group’s website also went live this morning). Rhee is dubbing it a “national movement,” with headquarters online, but a source tells me she will be working out of Sacramento, where her new husband Kevin Johnson is mayor. Her office for the time being, I’m told, will be at conservative-leaning Mercury, a p.r.

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McCarthyism

In 2004, Fabian Núñez, then the Democratic speaker of the California State Assembly, received an odd phone call. It was the assembly’s sergeant at arms, reporting that Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, was sitting at the speaker’s dais in an otherwise empty chamber. “Kevin McCarthy looks like he’s presiding, but there’s nobody in there,” the sergeant at arms told Núñez. Despite their political differences, Núñez and McCarthy were friends; both had been elected to the assembly in 2002 and had swiftly risen to the top posts in their respective conferences.

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Brown Knows

It was mid-September, and I was driving around downtown Oakland, trying to find the campaign headquarters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. Some weeks earlier, I had decided to cover the close-fought California governor’s race, and, after contacting both campaigns, I promptly began getting several e-mails a day from the efficient operation of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. But Brown’s outfit was a different story. His press guy, Sterling Clifford, promised to put me on a list, but I never received anything. I called and e-mailed Clifford several times, but he didn’t respond.

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Which way are housing markets going? The recent national-level indicators have looked pretty bleak for housing bulls. Sales of new homes hit a record low in July. House prices in June topped their levels of a year ago but only, it seems, because of the now-expired federal homebuyer tax credits.  There’s a lively debate about whether housing prices will continue to fall, and David Leonhardt summarized the controversy nicely in his New York Times column last week. But this debate misses an important part of the story. Because housing markets are regional, not national, there may not be a single

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Christine O’Donnell is not someone you’d expect to be a Republican nominee for a competitive U.S. Senate contest, particularly in the staid state of Delaware, and particularly as the choice of primary voters over Congressman Mike Castle, who up until yesterday had won twelve consecutive statewide races. O’Donnell is a recent newcomer to Delaware and, since arriving, has managed to get into trouble with her student loans, her taxes, her mortgage, and her job. She also unsuccessfully sued a conservative organization for gender discrimination.

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