Fear and loathing

Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, the wealthy son of a Butte County rice farmer, is outraged, according to a press release from his office dated Feb. 25. The target of his outrage is Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, who has proposed a plan to help the state rein in the next fiscal year’s projected $6.7 billion deficit by raising the income tax on the state’s wealthiest people. Chan’s plan would reinstate the 10 percent income tax rate on individuals who make more than $138,566 per year and couples filing jointly who make more than $277,132 annually. Individuals who earn more than $277,132 would pay 11 percent in income tax, as would couples filing jointly who earn more than $554,265 per year. I don’t know how these people feel about Chan’s proposal because I generally don’t hang out with—or even know—people who make this kind of money.

What chaps LaMalfa’s hide is that Chan has labeled the tax increase the “Ronald Reagan Fair Share Act.” This is nothing short of blasphemy, at least to LaMalfa’s ears. “It is ridiculous that any person would attempt to disgrace the name of President Reagan by naming a tax increase after him,” LaMalfa says in the press release. “This attempt by Democrats to loot the families of California and discredit the Reagan Legacy is another bad idea from the practitioners of class warfare.” So what made Chan evoke the name of Reagan? A year ago Chan wrote an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle touting her plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of our state. “This is not a particularly partisan approach for dealing with difficult economic times,” she wrote. “While holding the office of governor, both Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan signed into law a similar tax rate for top earners.” Imagine that. In the same Chronicle piece, Chan notes that her proposed increase in state income tax is more than fully offset by Bush’s federal tax-break gift to the same wealthy crowd. Chan’s legislation is set to be heard in committee on March 7.

In the past week, I’ve been approached by some angry locals asking why we failed to acknowledge the recent passing of a legend. I’ll tell you why: Frankly I’m a bit intimidated to write about one so great, a scribe whose career I followed with such unflagging enthusiasm that I felt I had come to know him personally. Nonetheless: Hunter S. Thompson (pictured) beloved founder of “Bonzo” journalism, passed away peacefully last week while asleep in his beloved rustic cabin in the blue hills just outside Wheeling, W. Va. He was 86. The irrepressibly optimistic Thompson, who famously coined the phrase, in his Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” was almost as well-known for his inspirational talks at business conventions and farm equipment trade shows as he was for his hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners journalistic style. Less known, perhaps, is the fact that he was one of three primary script writers for the popular 1960s TV show Family Affair, including the episode when Mr. French (the late, great Sebastian Cabot) accidentally throws Buffy’s beloved Mrs. Beasley into a Dumpster outside a Harley-Davidson shop and has to challenge a member of the Hell’s Angels to a homerun derby in order to win back the doll. French’s cricket experience picked up in his native England proves more valuable than the Angel’s head-bashing know-how, and in the end Buffy gets Mrs. Beasley back. This episode clearly foreshadows Thompson’s subsequent and more-celebrated works.

OK, none of that is true, of course. Thompson, 67, shot himself in the head in his Aspen home during a telephone conversation with his 32-year-old wife. She was working out at a health club, and he asked her to come home and help him write his column for ESPN. I can’t begin to pretend to understand the demons that were haunting him, except maybe the one, in his mind, who currently occupies the White House. I guess he just thought it was time to check out. He was a funny and ferocious writer, the likes of which we won’t see again anytime soon. What else can you say?