Where’s Walter?

Shooting the messenger: Whoever it was who warned against starting public arguments with people who buy ink by the barrel was a wise and wary soul.

Luckily, we here at the Sacramento News & Review buy our ink in far bigger barrels than Walter Mueller does for his Community News, so Bites feels fairly confident in slamming Herr Mueller as a hypocrite who can dish it out but can’t take it.

Regular SN&R readers may recognize Mueller as a regular and vitriolic critic of all things that don’t fit within his narrowly arch-conservative dogmas, a perspective we frequently let him share with readers on our Letters to the Editor page.

In a recent letter, he responded to critics by writing: “I am absolutely elated to see these liberal jackasses being so upset over my letter. Hee, hee … no matter what you say, we’re in the White House! And, by the way, you two morons, stop talking about ‘our democracy.’ It’s a republic, stupid!”

Yet it turns out that Mueller is more than some garden variety conservative crank, instead serving as publisher and lead writer for Community News, which is distributed at more than 70 spots around Sacramento.

“Community News is your alternative to the liberal mainstream media. We don’t hush up or distort like the controlled press. We make no attempt to give you both sides,” the paper contradictorily boasts in its masthead.

The paper is your standard right-wing extremist screed—pro-gun, anti-government, paranoid about the New World Order, filled with thinly veiled racist rants—but it’s been controversial enough to generate a few letters to SN&R from people concerned about this “hate sheet.”

Mueller is also being lauded in press releases by the Council of Conservative Citizens, which supposedly believes that Mueller should be drafted into heading a commission to get Rancho Seco back on line.

So the editors here decided that Mueller was a colorful enough figure that he might make a good profile. They dispatched a writer to interview Mueller, only to have him deny the request without reflection and abruptly hang up on the writer.

Beyond the basic rudeness of the response, Mueller’s refusal to answer questions about his widely circulated views seems to imply a certain degree of intellectual cowardice.

C’mon, Walt, are you afraid to let people peek behind the veil? Or do you just prefer the insular environment of your openly one-sided publication? That other side can get awfully hard on the old dogmas, eh?

Hide-and-seek: It was probably no coincidence that every major Democrat officeholder who had been invited to speak at last week’s California Newspaper Publishers Association convention flaked, while all the Republicans showed up in strong voice.

After all, it’s Democrats that have decided to deal with the current energy crisis behind closed doors: private negotiations with utilities, secret agreements to buy power, focus group testing of blame-game political messages.

So what exactly would Gov. Gray Davis, Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton, or Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg have to say to a huge room full of journalists anyway? We’ll never know, but probably not as much as Republicans did.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte, Assembly Minority Leader Bill Campbell and Secretary of State Bill Jones all criticized how the current energy crisis has been handled.

Brulte bemoaned Davis’ closed-door approach and offered this bleak prediction: “Even if we do everything right, we still may have a problem this summer.”

Jones came out swinging like a gubernatorial contender, ripping into the powers-that-be for failing to invest in our state’s infrastructure needs—things like water, power and roads.

“We are only one drought away from a bigger catastrophe than this energy crisis,” Jones said, adding, “These are problems that are serious, and have been exacerbated by timidity and procrastination.”

But when asked whether he would like to see the state dump its entire multibillion-dollar budget surplus into beefing up the state’s infrastructure—rather than, say, the tax cuts his party perpetually advocates—Jones spoke in circles for a few minutes before saying, yes, he still wants more tax cuts, too.

We can always fix the infrastructure later.