Patterico's Pontifications

4/12/2024

Patterico on Mona Charen’s “Beg to Differ” Podcast

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:51 pm



On Thursday I appeared on the “Beg to Differ” podcast hosted by Mona Charen, politics editor for The Bulwark. I had a great time talking about the Bragg prosecution of Trump, as well as issues about abortion and the failed attempt to impeach Joe Biden.

Having survived the Brett Kimberlin episode and prosecuted Mexican Mafia figures and such, I was not eager to be on camera, so Mona gave me a pass and let me keep my camera off. But you can listen to the audio at the home page for the podcast, here. You should be able to listen without a subscription. The episode can also be viewed on YouTube with a sort of hilarious looking silhouette of a fella in a suit in the shadows to represent me.

My goal was to avoid just blathering without purpose. I wanted any listener to come away knowing some facts or set of facts that they did not know going in. Let me know how you think I did on that score.

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:51 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First new item

Arizona’s new but old abortion law:

The Arizona Supreme Court gave the go-ahead Tuesday to prepare to enforce a long-dormant law that bans nearly all abortions, drastically altering the legal landscape for terminating pregnancies in a state likely to have a key role in the presidential election.

The law predating Arizona’s statehood provides no exceptions for rape or incest and allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Arizona’s highest court suggested doctors can be prosecuted under the 1864 law, though the opinion written by the court’s majority didn’t explicitly say that.

The Tuesday decision threw out an earlier lower-court decision that concluded doctors couldn’t be charged for performing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The attorney general said she will not enforce the law. The abortion ban won’t go into effect immediately.

The middle ground view on abortion in the U.S. continues to be allowing a reasonable period of time in which an abortion is legal, exceptions for rape and/or incest, and if the mother’s life is endangered.

Even MAGA candidates running for office are flip-flopping and pushing back on Arizona’s new law:

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake is actively lobbying state lawmakers to overturn a 160-year-old law she once supported that bans abortion in almost all cases, a source with knowledge of her efforts told CNN.

Lake is pushing for GOP lawmakers in her home state to repeal the law while leaving in place legislation signed in 2022 by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that would restrict abortion to within the first 15 weeks of a pregnancy.

Second news item

The level of childish self-centeredness is a sad commentary on today’s pro-Palestinian protesters:

A graduation dinner at the home of the University of California Berkeley Law School’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky devolved into an ugly incident after a Palestinian American Berkeley Law student who was invited to the dinner picked up a microphone and stood before the gathering…The purpose of this cartoon was to encourage students to protest a student dinner that Chemerinsky was scheduled to hold at his home.

About that dinner, as described by Chemerinsky:

On April 9, about 60 students came to our home for the dinner. All had registered in advance. All came into our backyard and were seated at tables for dinner. While guests were eating, a woman stood up with a microphone, stood on the top step in the yard, and began a speech, including about the plight of the Palestinians. My wife and I immediately approached her and asked her to stop and leave. The woman continued. When she continued, there was an attempt to take away her microphone. Repeatedly, we said to her that you are a guest in our home, please stop and leave. About 10 students were clearly with her and ultimately left as a group.

The dinner, which was meant to celebrate graduating students, was obviously disrupted and disturbed. I am enormously sad that we have students who are so rude as to come into my home, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda.

Note:

Remarkably, the student said she had a First Amendment right to protest in Erwin’s home. Erwin, ever the teacher, actually said “the First Amendment does not apply.”

SMDH.

Third news item

Ukraine in a vicious quandary:

Forced back, Ukraine is now digging in to stop a collapse across the war’s front lines as Russian attacks and American delays leave Kyiv and its allies to confront the possibility of a painful defeat.

A $61 billion aid package has been stuck in Congress for months, leaving Ukraine exposed on the front lines — running out of ammunition and men — while its energy system now faces an onslaught that is exposing its depleted air defenses.

The shortages forced Kyiv’s military to withdraw from a key eastern city in February, and with no progress in Washington, Ukrainian soldiers are now desperately trying to hold on to their positions along some 600 miles of the front line.

“Nothing has changed: We did not have any shells then, we don’t have any shells now,” said artillery sergeant Andriy, who was part of Kyiv’s retreat from Avdiivka in February after months of intense fighting. “The Russians continue to push in packs, without stopping,” Andriy, who did not want his last name revealed as he was not authorized to speak publicly, told NBC News last week.

Reportedly, Speaker Mike Johnson is in talks with the White House about advancing an aid package. However, it doesn’t look too hopeful:

House Republican Leader Steve Scalise told reporters that Johnson had been talking with White House officials about a package that would deviate from the Senate’s $95 billion foreign security package and include several Republican demands. It comes after Johnson has delayed for months on advancing aid that would provide desperately needed ammunition and weaponry for Kyiv, trying to find the right time to advance a package that will be a painful political lift.

“There’s been no agreement reached,” Scalise said. “Obviously there would have to an agreement reached not just with the White House, but with our own members.”

Two things: Johnson faces pressure from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has threatened to oust him as speaker if he pushes ahead with Ukraine funding, and per the report:

The Republican speaker is set to travel to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Friday to meet with Trump and has been consulting him in recent weeks on the Ukraine funding to gain his support — or at least prevent him from openly opposing the package.

This:

Congressional Republicans intend to travel to Normandy to honor the D-Day dead. But that gesture will be hollow—and worse than hollow—if they have failed to act to help the people of Ukraine in their life-and-death struggle.

Fourth news item

O.J. Simpson passed away yesterday after battling cancer. Fred Goldman, father of Ron Goldman, whom Simpson was accused of killing, responded to the news of Simpson’s death:

Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, capping off what legal analysts described at the time as the “trial of the century.”

“The only thing I have to say is, it’s just further reminder of Ron being gone all these years,” Fred Goldman said in a phone interview. “It’s no great loss to the world. It’s a further reminder of Ron’s being gone.”

It’s funny how those of us of a certain age remember exactly where we were when the infamous chase on the 405 freeway happened.

Fifth news item

U.S. officials warn Israel:

Israel is bracing for a worst-case scenario that U.S. officials believe could materialize within just hours — the possibility of a direct attack on Israeli soil by Iran in retaliation for a strike almost two weeks ago that killed seven Iranian military officers. Iran has vowed to take revenge for Israel killing its commanders, who were hit by an April 1 strike on the Iranian embassy in Syria’s capital.

Two U.S. officials told CBS News that a major Iranian attack against Israel was expected as soon as Friday, possibly to include more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles aimed at military targets inside the country.

The officials said it would be challenging for the Israelis to defend against an attack of such a magnitude, and while they held out the possibility that the Iranians could opt for a smaller-scale attack to avoid a dramatic escalation, their retaliation was believed to be imminent.

—Dana

More Bunk from Comrade Bernard

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:06 am



[guest post by JVW]

I first encountered this last month in The Spectator but didn’t bother to write about it, but now that National Review has fleshed it out in greater detail I think this is a good opportunity to discuss Senator Bernard Sanders’ (Democrat Socialist – Vermont) truly batty idea to use federal legislation to lower the workweek from 40 to 32 hours while requiring that companies keep workers’ wages at the current levels. In other words, Lunchpail Larry and Hairnet Heidi would receive their current paycheck for working only 80% of their current workload. Overtime pay would begin on the worker’s thirty-third weekly hour, not the forty-first weekly hour spelled out in current law.

I don’t have to tell readers of this blog (with perhaps a few exceptions) what an ignorant and truly fanciful idea this is. We’ve known for a long time that the Granite State Gramsci was an economic dunderhead, a freeloader who has spent most of his adult life on the public payroll, an ideologue who has zero clue as to how private enterprise works and who labors (but not really) under a Marxist assumption that economic nirvana comes about when workers are paid more to accomplish less. To be fair, if I had drawn a legislator’s paycheck for most of my life I might be inclined to believe the same, but that’s a discussion for another time.

It doesn’t really faze me much to know that we have a United States Senator so woefully ignorant in the working of markets, so easily swayed by garbage academic studies conducted by disingenuous hacks intent upon muddying the waters with half-baked nonsense, so smugly certain of government’s ability to discover and implement the perfect solution to all that ails us. But let’s not discuss Elizabeth Warren just now, and please allow me keep the attention upon the elderly Maple Syrup Maoist. Bernard Sanders is a particular kind of useless, a shallow thinker recycling ideas that have failed elsewhere for the past 150 years as well as a rank phony and utter hypocrite living the high life while pretending to be a man of the people, even as the fruits of his ideology ensure that the people suffer from oppressive government. Writing at The Spectator, Charles Lipson sees no end to unintended consequences of Comrade Sanders’ meddling:

What do you think would actually happen if such Bernie’s law were passed, enforced and found constitutional? (None of those would actually happen, of course.) The immediate effects would be another 25 percent price increase for labor-intensive products, a huge burden on low-income consumers and an additional incentive to replace more expensive workers with machines and computers.

The substitution of capital for labor is an on-going process, but Bernie would supercharge the effort and create incentives for innovators to come up with products, machines and computer programs that performed those tasks at lower costs. The more expensive the tasks, the greater incentive to figure out ways to save money on them.

Bernie’s Magic Pay Raise would create a major incentive to hire people off-the-books (for the true market price) or to have them work extra hours that way. It would create new incentives for employers to hire workers as individual subcontractors, rather than wage workers. And, of course, it would lead to tens of thousands of court cases where employees were sued for violating the new wage rules. Since the wages would be above market rates (otherwise there would be no need for a mandate), the yearly increases would lag inflation so that real wages would gradually return to market rates.

Just so, and the ability of progressives to ignore the pretty obvious unintended consequences of their nutso legislative daydreams speaks to either cluelessness or dishonesty, or perhaps even both. For his part, Kevin Hassett at National Review eviscerates the “academic” studies used to bolster the insipid case for less work at the same wage:

As for the workweek, the 2023 study that has been cited extensively in the media was performed by researchers from Boston College, the University of Cambridge, and a self-described “progressive” think tank based in the U.K. called Autonomy. The study’s key finding is that 92 percent of the 61 surveyed companies (which were all in Britain) reported that they were continuing the four-day workweek after a six-month trial in 2022, and 18 companies said that this change would be permanent. For the 24 companies that supplied sufficient data, revenues on average went up 35 percent over a comparable period in a previous year.

How could the results be so positive? One sign is that the participating companies (11 percent of which were charities or non-profits) do not appear to have been randomly selected for the trial, but rather were “recruited.” In other words, the study examines the impact of the four-day workweek on companies that wanted to try it. A sign of possible sample-selection bias can be seen in a footnote disclosing that, “Initially, 70 companies had signed up to take part in the pilot — however, 9 of these did not begin the trial.” The most common reason for this was “a sense that the organization was not sufficiently prepared. . . . Other reasons include[d] difficulties measuring performance in some departments, struggles with the ‘great resignation,’ and two companies who decided shorter working hours were not right for them.” Of course, companies that really need workers to show up for the full five days would not have signed up in the first place.

Imagine you are considering a new weight-loss pill which claims to yield the most productive results yet observed. Would you be interested in knowing if the 100 people who had tested the regimen were volunteers who had eagerly signed up for the study and perhaps — just perhaps — had also at the same time instituted of regimen of healthier eating and moderate exercise, versus 100 people who were forced into the study and might resent having to participate? Doesn’t this seem similar to hand-selecting 61 eager companies willing to try out a 32 hour week versus foisting it upon the entire business world irrespective of participant buy-in?

And when you dig into the study, plenty more red flags emerge. In addition to the self-described “progressive” think tank, the study was conducted with the help of a New Zealand-based company called 4 Day Global and a UK outfit known as 4 Day Week Campaign. I don’t know about you, but those names make me suspect that both groups had incentive to ensure that the 32-hour workweek was successful. They recruited 70 companies for the pilot, but nine of them apparently couldn’t get their shit together and had to bow out, suggesting that the transition isn’t particularly easy to implement in all cases. Furthermore, the survey admits that “between 44-51 [participating organizations] provided survey data for the performance analysis of this report.” Excuse me? What the hell happened to the other 9-16 companies? And what does it tell us that they can’t even zero in on a precise number between 44 and 51? “Well, it might have been 44 organizations, but it could have been 46 or 48, perhaps 49 or 51.” What sort of data collection nonsense did these clowns employ? Presumably they mean that there were three separate phases of data collection, and not all organizations participated in each phase. Is this study starting to sound more and more like utter junk?

Finally, what if a mere three of the 61 participants had a really bad experience and ended up closing shop or laying off employees. After all, there are apparently at least ten participants who gave no data at all, and five participants confirmed that they no longer organize around a 32-hour workweek. And remember that these are companies who wanted to be a part of this study. If just three of them closed or had significant layoffs, you’re looking at anywhere up to five percent of employees in the study losing their jobs because of the shift to a 32-hour workweek (assuming that the size of the organizations is averaged across all participants). If that failure rate was the norm and if moving to a 32-hour workweek jumped the U.S. unemployment rate from the current 3.8% up to 8.8% in just one year’s time, would that really be considered an acceptable consequence of giving people one more day off per week? Given the smallish size of this study, the fact that the researchers don’t have a full picture of what happened to every single participant again speaks to the shoddiness of the methodology and the unreliability of this whole endeavor.

Thanks to some apparent skittishness among Senate Democrats at considering this bill in an election year and the fact that the House is at least nominally still under the control of the GOP, we can be reasonably sure that the 32-hour workweek isn’t coming any time soon. But today’s socialist flights of fancy have a crazy tendency to end up being tomorrow’s standard Democrat orthodoxy, so look for this crackpot Vermonter’s idea to be around long after the old codger has shuffled off to the one place where socialism actually works.

– JVW

4/11/2024

Naturally Gavin Newsom Has Been Fibbing about His College Baseball Career

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:07 am



[guest post by JVW]

This story is one week old; somehow I missed it when it was published in CalMatters last Thursday. I heard about it today on the wonderful “Radio Free California” podcast and found the story too insightful not to share it with everyone. As usual, bolded emphasis comes from me:

For their 2004 home opener, the San Francisco Giants invited a special guest to throw the ceremonial first pitch: Gavin Newsom, then just a few months into his first term as mayor of San Francisco.

As Newsom took the pitcher’s mound, wearing dress shoes and a button-down shirt underneath his custom Giants jersey, the announcer informed the crowd that “he played first base for the University of Santa Clara and was drafted by the Texas Rangers.”

The introduction was quickly overshadowed by Newsom nearly hitting a photographer with the ball. But it left a lasting impact on a few attendees that day — a group of former Santa Clara University baseball players who were struck by the glowing treatment of Newsom’s resume.

“It’s kind of the standing joke that Newsom played on the team,” said Vince Machi, who arrived at Santa Clara in 1985, the same year as Newsom, and played baseball for three years. “There’s always been kind of a joke between the guys who stay in touch.”

[. . .]

Through his rise over the intervening two decades, his baseball career has provided Newsom a triumphant narrative to push back on the perception that his upbringing was privileged and easy: The high school standout scouted by the major leagues, who overcame his dyslexia and academic shortcomings to earn a partial scholarship to Santa Clara University before an injury forced him to find a new purpose.

[. . .]

Newsom told the story himself again in January on the podcast Pod Save America: Because of poor test scores, he was headed to community college until he got a call from the Santa Clara University baseball coaches. “It was literally the ticket to a four-year university. It changed my life, my trajectory,” he said.

But former coaches and teammates said that biography, repeated again and again through interviews and glossy magazine profiles and coverage of his 2021 baseball-themed children’s book on overcoming dyslexia, has inflated Newsom’s baseball credentials, giving the impression that he was a more accomplished player than he was.

Most notably, Newsom never played an official game for Santa Clara University; he was a junior varsity recruit who played only during the fall tryouts his freshman and sophomore years, then left the baseball program before the regular season began. He does not appear on the Broncos’ all-time roster or in media guides published by the athletic department to preview the upcoming season.

Gavin Newsom is a liar about things both great and small. He is, I will remind you, a man who claimed to have gone into alcohol rehabilitation when his first marriage floundered in the aftermath of reports of his infidelity, only to later acknowledge that he had not actually checked into a rehab facility and remained a social drinker. He is the poster boy for the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do stereotype of obnoxious politician, repeatedly being discovered engaging in actions he has otherwise denounced. And of course, contrary to his stories of being raised by a single mom (after she and his father divorced) and barely being able to make ends meet, we hear a story about how he really managed to get into Santa Clara University despite a mediocre academic record (spoiler alert: it likely was not for his prowess as a ballplayer):

A deeper look at his recruitment also reveals that Newsom’s admission to Santa Clara University — like so many of his formative opportunities — was substantially boosted by friends and acquaintances of his father, William Newsom, a San Francisco judge and financial adviser to the Gettys, the wealthy oil family. One associate connected Newsom to the baseball program when he was in high school, while his father’s best friend, then a member of the university’s board of regents, wrote him a letter of recommendation.

The man is the walking, talking embodiment of the “privileged white male” whom progressives (especially feminists and the racial grievances crowd) are forever demonizing. Only Gavin actually deserves it. And his “ex-teammates” — or, you know, the guys with whom he attended a few practices and perhaps played a few scrimmage games — have a none-too-forgiving view of the governor’s decades-long habit of allowing his baseball history to be so grossly inflated:

Some Broncos players from the era, who said they still regularly get asked about Newsom when people find out they played baseball at Santa Clara, wanted to correct the record.

“He didn’t earn it. He didn’t earn the right to say it,” said Kevin Schneider, who pitched for two seasons and now runs a pitching academy in San Francisco. “I worked my ass off. So did everyone else on that team. For him to just go all these years, to say he did something he didn’t that takes not just talent but also dedication and effort and sacrifice, it’s not right.”

The story goes on with more detail about young Gavin’s high school baseball career. He was likely “scouted” by some Bay Area baseball talent evaluators who scouted hundreds of kids throughout Northern California each year, but was nowhere talented enough to be drafted or signed as a free agent straight out of high school. The story of his acceptance to SCU weaves between the coaching staff’s very moderate interest in him as an athlete and the important people who contacted the university on the boy’s behalf with letters of recommendation, including ex- and future-governor Jerry Brown and Newsom Family friend John Mallen, who just so happened to be on the Board of Regents of the university. Another family friend, investment banker and former SCU ballplayer Bill Connolly is thought to be the person who first contacted the coaching staff and encouraged them to recruit the Redwood City high schooler. Mr. Connolly just so happened to be a major financial supporter of SCU baseball, which may have helped Gavin secure a $500 athletic scholarship.

Read the whole story if so inclined. The governor has for years refused any and all requests to talk in detail about his baseball past, and his press agents repeatedly claim that their boss has consistently been truthful about his playing days (he hasn’t), that he was a legitimate recruit (he might have been, but 13 freshmen were on the roster for SCU in the 1985-86 season and none of them were named Gavin Newsom), and that any misconceptions about the length and breadth of the governor’s baseball career at SCU is somebody else’s mistake, but not theirs. In that latter claim, Team Newsom uses the same excuse that Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut trotted out to explain away how he managed to build a political career being described as “a Vietnam War combat veteran” when his whole military service had been performed statewide: somebody else said it, and I just never corrected the record.

Actually, the story as told by CalMatters suggests a lot which comports with what we know about Gavin Newsom’s character. At least one former SCU ballplayer of that era remembers Newsom as a fairly gifted athlete, but one who didn’t really seem to apply himself to the rigor of NCAA athletics, hoping instead to get by on natural ability and luck. Newsom would undergo ulnar nerve surgery in the fall of 1985, yet for whatever reason didn’t bother to rehabilitate his arm under the supervision of the SCU training staff or coaches, which suggests he was already disassociating from the team. Perhaps he determined that the grind of college athletics was just too much in those days before the NCAA placed limits on the amount of practice time to which athletes could be subjected. But if that’s the case then he’s been dishonest for years in claiming that the end of his baseball career was traumatic and left him lacking a sense of purpose.

Either way, it’s an interesting story and continues to paint a picture of a person who places far more stock in being somebody than in doing something. In our messed up times a chronic narcissist like him will probably eventually end up in the White House, perhaps sooner rather than later.

– JVW

4/9/2024

More Legislative Nonsense from the Avocado Republic

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:04 pm



[guest post by JVW]

California, if nothing else, is an abject lesson in the perils of living in a mono-party state. Democrats have dominated the state legislature since 1975, save for a brief respite in 1995-96 when the GOP had a narrow Assembly majority, though a quisling GOP Assemblyman voted to keep Democrat Willie Brown as Assembly Speaker. But other than that fluke of political chicanery, it’s been Democrats running things in the capitol building, and for most of the time since 2013 they have enjoyed a super-majority which allows them absolute power to steamroll their political opponents.

Thus, it will come as no surprise to anyone that part of that steamroller is the ability to avoid having members ever cast a “no” vote. A piece from CalMatters explains how this works, and provides ample clues to why it ought to be considered an affront to democracy:

Mike Fong has cast more than 6,000 votes since he joined the state Assembly in 2022 and never once voted “no.” Pilar Schiavo is newer to the Assembly, but she has yet to vote “no” after more than 2,000 opportunities.

Remarkably, their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature are not much different. Using our new Digital Democracy database, CalMatters examined more than 1 million votes cast by current legislators since 2017 and found Democrats vote “no” on average less than 1% of the time.

Why? It’s not something they want to talk about. Democrats have had super-majorities in both legislative chambers since 2019, so most votes involve bills from their political colleagues. But the legislative leaders and lawmakers contacted by CalMatters declined repeated requests to explain a pattern that might appear like a rubber stamp for deals made out of public view. And it seems to be sanctioned by leaders.

“There’s only two fucking buttons on your desk: There’s a green button, and there’s a red button,” then-Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told the California Labor Federation last year in remarks reported by Politico. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the green button is the labor button. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the green button means you’re doing the right thing, and the red button means that you’re an asshole.”

Rendon’s office declined to comment or make him available for an interview.

That’s a pretty good outline of why the California Legislature has become such a joke. Instead of casting a “no” vote on a contentious issue that might rile up a key constituency of the Democrat caucus, legislators remain silent at strategic moments, knowing that their party has enough votes to spare. This allows the legislator to have it both ways: no record of him supporting a bill which might anger one important lobby group, yet also no record of him voting against the bill which might anger another important lobby group. The piece points out that last year there were 15 bills which died on the Assembly floor, not because they were voted down but for a lack of sufficient numbers of Democrats willing to go on record with a “yes” vote.

And this gamesmanship often happens on very important bills, the most notorious example of which was last summer, when anti-incarceration leftists in the Assembly withheld votes in a committee to advance a bill which increased penalties for people convicted of trafficking minor children. Fortunately in this case the media took notice and the outcry was enough to embarrass Democrats into reconsidering and ultimately passing the measure. It’s worth noting that the initial inclination was to let it die, not from receiving a majority of “no” votes, but from failing to receive enough “yes” votes as cowardly ideologues refuse to cast a controversial vote either way.

And even when a majority politician does go on the record with a vote, they reserve the right to revoke that vote if it doesn’t turn out to be necessary:

In another example last year, the former chairperson of the Assembly Public Safety Committee cast a “no” vote to kill a bill, AB 367, that would have led to longer prison sentences for fentanyl dealers. Seconds later, he withdrew his vote after all five of his fellow Democrats on the committee killed the bill by not voting.

The then-chairperson, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat who is running for Los Angeles City Council when his term expires this year, didn’t return a message from CalMatters.

He told the committee last spring that he was a mortician during the crack cocaine epidemic, so he empathized with families who lost loved ones to fentanyl, but he sided with activists who testified that people of color have unfairly and disproportionately borne the brunt of harsh sentences for drug crimes.

“Our communities were decimated by the War on Drugs,” he said.

I’m sure that many of his constituents might point out to Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer that their communities are also “decimated” by the crisis of opioid addiction. Nevertheless, I can almost respect him for casting the “no” vote (even if I mostly disagree with him on his rationale), but I have nothing but contempt for his decision to change his vote to “not voting” once it became clear the bill wouldn’t pass the committee. That is the sort of garbage which understandably gives the public such a low opinion of our elected officials.

The article goes on to record the huge number of Democrats who fail to vote rather than vote “no” on bills, and lists some whose numbers are ridiculously out of whack. The new Assembly Speaker, Robert Rivas, has cast only nine “no” votes in his more than 12,000 recorded votes over the past six years, compared to 673 times in which he failed to vote. Naturally he and other vote-shirkers did not respond to the reporter’s request for comment.

Republicans fail to vote at a higher rate than even Democrats do, but given that they are the super-minority party and have very little influence on the bills that reach committee desks and the chamber floors, it’s somewhat more understandable if not really that admirable. James Gallagher, the Assembly’s Republican leader, told CalMatters that oftentimes the Republicans might be interested in supporting a certain bill, except they have concerns about the language of the legislation or else want to address potential unintended consequences of the bill. Of course those concerns are almost always ignored by the majority and Republicans are not given the opportunity to offer amendments. Thus, even though Republican members don’t necessarily oppose a particular bill, they might have enough ambivalence about it to decide that neither a “yes” nor a “no” vote is appropriate. Assemblyman Gallagher suggests that instead of allowing for the non-voting option, members should be forced to formally announce that they are abstaining from voting, since that would clarify whether the member was absent from the chamber that day or whether they were present and not willing to go on the record.

But I like what former Democrat Assemblyman Mike Gatto has to say. While acknowledging that oftentimes withholding a vote avoids angering an activist group or risking reprisals from party leadership or just disappointing a friendly colleague, he still counsels fortitude: “When people talk about how a very strange or poorly conceived proposal made it all the way through the Legislature, the answer is because very few people stood up and said, ‘This is bunk.’ When people do, and they do it with something as clear and unambiguous as a ‘no’ vote, it encourages other people to have the same courage to tell a lawmaker, politely, that this idea might not be the best one.”

Amen to that.

– JVW

4/5/2024

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:56 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

IDF investigation into deaths of seven WCK workers:

The IDF fired two senior officers and reprimanded a top commander as it admitted a catalog of failures in a drone strike on an aid convoy in Gaza, including that it killed aid workers who had survived an initial attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Friday that “those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives,” calling the attack “a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification.”

It said the strike was carried out in “serious violation of the commands and IDF Standard Operating Procedures,” and dismissed a major and a colonel in reserve. Three other IDF officials were formally reprimanded: the commanders of the brigade and division involved, and the commander of the Southern Command, who bore “overall responsibility.”

Meanwhile, the World Central Kitchen is calling for an independent investigation into the tragedy.

Related

A warning to Israel:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns that Israel risks becoming indistinguishable from Hamas if it continues to fail to protect civilians amid the Gaza war.

“What happened after October 7 could have ended immediately if Hamas had stopped hiding behind civilians, released the hostages and put down its weapons, but Israel is not Hamas. Israel is a democracy; Hamas, a terrorist organization. Democracies place the highest value on human life, every human life. As it has been said, whoever saves a life, saves the entire world,” Blinken says during a press conference in Brussels, quoting a Jewish proverb.

“That’s our strength. It’s what distinguishes us from terrorists like Hamas. If we lose that reverence for human life, we risk becoming indistinguishable from those we confront.”

Second news item

Ukraine on the move:

Ukrainian officials claimed Friday they used a barrage of drones to destroy at least six military aircraft and badly damage eight others at an airfield in Russia’s Rostov region. Russian defense officials, however, claimed they intercepted 44 Ukrainian drones and that only a power substation was damaged in the attack.

The Associated Press could not independently verify either side’s claims.

The assault appeared to be one of Kyiv’s biggest air attacks in the war, coming as its forces stepped up their assaults on Russian soil. Russia has also escalated attacks on civilian infrastructure, including Ukraine’s power plants, in recent weeks, signaling a new and potentially dangerous phase in the conflict as both sides struggle to achieve significant advances on the ground.

The overnight attack targeted a military airfield near Morozovsk in Russia and was conducted by Ukraine’s Security Service in cooperation with the army, Ukrainian intelligence officials told the AP.

Related

About the House Speaker and that long-awaited aid package for Ukraine:

House Speaker Mike Johnson is pledging to act on Ukraine aid when lawmakers return to Washington next week, but behind the scenes the Louisiana Republican is still undecided on the best path forward and keenly aware of his narrow majority and the threat to his speakership that looms.

It’s a confluence of issues that sources say has left Johnson entertaining a series of options as the speaker has continued his outreach to members about how to proceed during the two-week recess.

“He’s got a gun to his head right now,” Rep. Don Bacon, a swing-district Republican, said of the speaker. “But we need to have a Churchill, not a Chamberlain right now. He could be on the right side of history.”

Third news item

Donald Trump’s conditions for a debate with President Biden:

Asked by Hewitt whether he thinks Biden will agree to a debate before their expected rematch in November, Trump replied: “I don’t think so, but I hope he does … You know that white stuff that they happened to find, which happened to be cocaine in the White House? I don’t know, I think something’s going on there, because I watched his State of the Union, and he was all jacked up at the beginning. By the end, he was fading fast. There’s something going on there.”

“I want to debate,” Trump continued. “And I think debates, with him at least, should be drug-tested. I want a drug test.”

Hewitt asked the presumptive GOP nominee if he was suggesting that Biden is using cocaine.

“I don’t know what he’s using, but that was not ― hey, he was higher than a kite,” Trump replied.

“He’s obviously, he’s being helped some way, because most of the time he looks like he’s falling asleep,” Trump added. “All of a sudden, he walked up there ― and did a poor job ― but he was all jacked up.”

Fourth news item

Israel on high alert:

Israel’s military was on high alert Thursday as the country braced for Iran’s promised revenge after an Israeli strike in Damascus this week killed senior Iranian commanders and stirred fears of widening war across a region on edge.

The strike — in broad daylight, on a diplomatic building adjacent to Iran’s embassy in Syria — was an escalation in Israel’s multi-front battles against Iranian-backed groups, which have intensified during its war in Gaza. The Israeli strike drew threats of retaliation from Tehran’s leaders and condemnation from their Arab neighbors. The European Union, which also condemned the strike, said in a statement that “further escalation in the region is in no one’s interest.”

“We will make them regret this crime and other similar ones with the help of God,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement Tuesday, the day after the attack.

Fifth news item

Scotland authorities clarify nutty new law:

Social media comments made by JK Rowling challenging Scotland’s new hate crime law are not being treated as criminal, Police Scotland has said.

The Harry Potter author described several transgender women as men, including convicted prisoners, trans activists and other public figures.

The new law creates a new crime of “stirring up hatred” relating to protected characteristics.
The force said complaints had been received but no action would be taken.

Reacting to the news, Ms Rowling posted on X: “I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women – irrespective of profile or financial means – will be treated equally under the law.

“If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.”

Good on Ms. Rowling.

More speech, not less.

Have a good weekend.

–Dana

Bonus item from JVW

This is absolutely heartbreaking video from a stroll around Oakland’s Lake Merritt. If you’ve ever been to that city, Lake Merritt is slightly east of downtown and is bordered by nice townhomes and condominiums in a mostly upscale neighborhood. I have taken this very walk a few times, fortunately before it apparently went all to hell. So very sad, and a complete indictment on a very left-wing city in an increasingly left-wing state. This is from the Twitter feed of Seneca Scott, who proclaims himself “the Mayor of Gotham Oakland.”

4/4/2024

President Biden Cautions Prime Minister Netanyahu

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:06 pm



[guest post by Dana]

President Biden had a strained conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the heels of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers killed by Israeli military forces. (WCK head José Andres said that “he believed the seven aid workers killed by the strike in Gaza were targeted “systematically, car by car.” An investigation is underway.)

“President Biden emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable,” the White House said in a statement. “He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers. He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Additionally:

John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said the president wants to see “concrete tangible steps” to reduce the violence against civilians and increase access for humanitarian aid to Gaza. He said the White House expects Israel to make announcements of specific changes within hours or days.

But Mr. Kirby would not outline specific metrics for judging Israel’s response or what Mr. Biden would do if not satisfied. “What we want to see are some real changes on the Israeli side and, you know, if we don’t see changes from their side there will have to be changes from our side,” he said.

Hamas should be feeling pretty encourage right about now.

—Dana

The Heat Is On

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:19 pm



[guest post by Dana]

It will be interesting to see if this gains any traction with Democrats:

A Democratic senator is turning up the heat on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to step down while Democrats can select her replacement.

Speaking with NBC’s Sahil Kapur for a story published Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) made a veiled reference to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who ignored calls to step down for years during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. She passed away in 2020, with former President Donald Trump choosing her successor.

“I’m very respectful of Justice Sotomayor,” Blumenthal told NBC. “I have great admiration for her. But I think she really has to weigh the competing factors. We should learn a lesson. And it’s not like there’s any mystery here about what the lesson should be. The old saying — graveyards are full of indispensable people, ourselves in this body included.”

Can’t you just hear the cries of “Ageism!,” “Racism!,” “Sexism!”?

Of course RBG’s refusal to step down cost the Democrats. However, I don’t know if pressuring the first Latina Supreme Court Justice is going to do anything but rile up the left which prides itself on embracing and promoting minorities in every field. And how would the Hispanic voting bloc react to Sotomayor being pressured to step down just as President Biden is trying hard to win them over for 2024?? (Of course, what’s so amusing about this is that Sotomayor remains in control of her faculties at 69 years young, while Democrats are firmly endorsing the re-election of a sometimes seemingly confused elderly man 12 years Sotomayor’s senior.)

Anyway, this is something that I imagine Democrats would need to consider:

“Wouldn’t a replacement for Sotomayor that Senator Joe Manchin has to approve be less progressive, and more centrist, than our sole Latina, super-progressive justice?” Hasan wrote. “Perhaps. But, again, consider the alternative. Would we rather Biden replace Sotomayor with a centrist in 2024 … or Trump replace her with a far-right Federalist Society goon in 2025?”

Can we now all agree that both sides of the political aisle stack the Court to the best of their ability when they are the ones in power?

—Dana

4/2/2024

When Your Tax Plan Is Such a Failure That Even the LA Times Admits It

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:03 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Back in November 2022, the voters of the City of Los Angeles briefly diverted their ballot attention away from endorsing the continued rancid leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom and welcoming the rancid leadership of Mayor Karen Bass, and voted to raise taxes on the rich. Specifically, city voters approved Proposition ULA which imposed a 4% tax (“surtax” would be a more apt description, but I’ll use the language that the proposition’s framers used) on sales or transfers of properties valued $5 million and above, and a 5.5% tax on sales or transfers of properties valued above $10 million. It will come as no surprise that this proposition was sold to voters as a “soak the rich” scheme which would raise all sorts of money ($915 million annually, Angelenos were promised) that could be used for affordable housing and — yes, that old progressive favorite! — helping the homeless. Because we are generally an intellectually frivolous people living in utterly shallow times, the tax measure passed with 57% of the vote and went into effect on April 1, 2023, some 367 days ago.

In the least surprising development, the tax has not worked the way that proponents planned, the revenue raised by the tax has fallen way short of expectations, and the tax has put a huge chill on luxury home development and sales in the City of the Angels. All of this was forecast by the opponents of the measure, yet like true lemmings progressive Angelenos charged ahead anyway. Even the Los Angeles Times has taken notice of the gulf between what was promised and what has been delivered, and reporter Jack Flemming lays out the details:

When the tax first took effect on April 1, 2023, it all but froze L.A.’s luxury real estate market, with many sellers pulling their homes off the market at the prospect of paying an extra few hundred thousand in taxes if they sold.

A year later, the market is still just as icy.

The striking slowdown is partly due to chilled buying across Southern California, as soaring interest rates keep many prospective buyers out of the house hunt altogether. But in L.A. — the only city affected by the tax — home sales above $5 million have plummeted at twice the rate of other affluent cities, as buyers opt for homes in neighboring areas that aren’t subject to the tax.

From April 2022 to March 2023, the year before Measure ULA hit, L.A. had 366 single-family home sales of $5 million or more. In the 12 months since, there were just 166 — a drop of roughly 68%.

The tax-and-spend crowd which orbits City Hall counters that the whole state and country are struggling with high interest rates which is putting a damper on home sales. This is indeed true (please, nobody tell the Biden/Harris campaign this since it runs counter to their obnoxious “the recovery is here” narrative), though it is painfully obvious that Los Angeles is suffering far more in high-end real estate than neighboring cities. The 68% drop in luxury home sales mentioned in the article is compared unfavorably to corresponding drops of 24% in Beverly Hills, 28% in Malibu, and 29% in Santa Monica, and luxury realtors have plenty of stories of clients who consider buying homes in Bel-Air, Hancock Park, and other tony Los Angeles neighborhoods only to eventually decide to instead locate in Pasadena, Manhattan Beach, or the aforementioned other twee communities, specifically citing the tax as a reason. And it’s not just the extra 4% or 5.5% which is driving them away; it’s the realization that Los Angeles voters are happy to use the ultra-wealthy as whipping boys and girls (and nonbinaries) and will likely raise those taxes again on a whim whenever they feel that they could use a few more bucks in the city treasury.

But hey, at least this measure poured hundreds of millions of dollars into city coffers to help with Los Angeles’s various housing issues, right? Yeah, hardly. When proposed to the voters, the measure’s proponents anticipated $915 million in annual revenue from the so-called Mansion Tax. But last March, just one month before the tax would come into effect, the City Administrative Office lowered that estimate to $672 million. This is far from the first time that tax proponents have grossly overinflated the amount of revenue which can be expected from their plundering ways as the taxers consistently and aggressively ignore unintended consequences, especially when it is a very localized tax. Still, $672 million will go a long way towards helping the housing and homeless issue here, right?

The new tax rates raised a total of $215 million dollars in the first year.

Ruminate on that for a moment. The tax ended up raising less than one-quarter of the revenue that was promised by its sponsors. I know places in our great country where over-inflating value to this degree would subject you to criminal penalties for fraud. In a desperate bid to put a happy face on this obviously massive failure, the taxers now insist that the measure raised a paltry $5 million in each of its first three months, but has since averaged close to $25 million per month. Be that as it may, that $25 million per month figure which they confidently now forecast going forward works out to $300 million per year, one-third of the original promise and less than half of the revised estimate. Naturally the LA Times article quotes some mush-minded city bureaucrat who gives us the “every dollar is valuable in our fight against poverty” spiel which is as obnoxious as it is disingenuous. This is a massive failure by the rapacious city bureaucracy, and it is yet more proof that progressive governments are out to lunch in terms of understanding how markets work.

This past October, a local judge quickly dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality Proposition ULA. Opponents of the tax, including the Howard Jarvis Association, believe that the tax runs counter to taxpayer protections secured by Proposition 13 as well as limits on the initiative process outlined in the City of Los Angeles Charter. At the heart of their objections is the contention that this sort of tax cannot be passed with a simple majority of voters, it requires the Prop 13 mandated supermajority of 2/3 assent. The lawsuit is currently on appeal.

Whether it is the stupid bullet train, single-payer health care, luxury taxes, or so many other progressive goals, the people should not let themselves be fooled by fatuous promises which ignore unintended consequences and bear no relation to the real world. The ultimate Holy Grail of the tax-and-spend crowd is naturally a repeal of Proposition 13, so that governments will be unencumbered in their desire to raise endless funds from property owners and anybody who has to interact with property owners. Their latest attempt to repeal the part of the measure which pertains to commercial properties fortunately failed, but rest assured they will be back time and time again, forever promising that we are just a few million (billion) dollars away from solving all of society’s ills. Don’t let them sucker you or the people you know into this nonsense.

– JVW

4/1/2024

Lou Conter, 1921-2024

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:10 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The final surviving crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, famously sunk by Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, died today at his home in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102. Mr. Conter was the last of the 335 survivors of Arizona, with 1,177 of his shipmates having been killed on that fateful day. Mr. Conter’s daughter told reporters that her father had passed away from congestive heart failure, surrounded by his family.

Louis Anthony Conter was a 20-year-old quartermaster on Arizona that infamous Sunday morning when Imperial Japan plunged the United States into the Second World War. Born in Ojibwa, Wisconsin, Lou’s parents moved the family first to New Mexico then to Colorado then to Kansas and finally back to Colorado. Lou’s father and uncle were both laborers working on road construction crews, while his mother and aunt ran the mess tent for the crew. As with many Americans in the interim between the two World Wars, money was tight which led the Conter family to live on farms and raise vegetables on the side for extra income. Lou recalls being sent out to hunt rabbits so that the family could have meat for dinner. In Denver, Lou’s father found work at Swift & Co. meatpackers, and once Lou graduated from Wheat Ridge High School he too found work at the packing plant.

Lou Conter joined the United States Navy shortly after his eighteenth birthday, in September of 1939. He was sent to San Diego for basic training, and was assigned to Arizona in January of 1940 as a Quartermaster, Third Class. During the Japanese attack, Lou was briefly knocked out by an explosion of an ammunition magazine aboard the ship, then upon reviving helped tend to his wounded shipmates before moving to a lifeboat once the order to abandon ship had been given. In the days to follow, the young sailor would have the difficult task of helping to put out fires and to recover the bodies of the over 2,400 Americans and Hawaiians killed that day.

After his time at Pearl, Lou enrolled in flight school and received his pilot’s wings in November of 1942. He was assigned to VP-11, a Navy patrol squadron, where he flew the VPY Catalina model patrol bomber in the Pacific Theater, near Australia, New Guinea, and Guadalcanal. The squadron, known as the Black Cats, flew nighttime runs in planes that were painted black to avoid detection, and their missions could last for up to thirteen hours. Shot down twice (once by friendly fire), he managed to crash land safely both times and avoid capture, though one time in shark-infested waters near New Guinea the crew had to wait a couple of hours quietly treading water until an allied plane could drop a lifeboat nearby. After being shot down the second time, the crew received a visit from General Douglas MacArthur to boost their morale.

After the war, Lou Conter remained in the navy as an intelligence officer. During the early stages of the Korean War when the U.S. had a shortage of trained pilots, he returned briefly to the cockpit and flew a few missions. He was credited with helping to create the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training program, and served as a military advisor to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. He retired in 1967 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and became a real estate developer in California. In 2021, the year he turned 100, Mr. Conter published his autobiography.

If you have ever visited the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, you’ve likely been awed by the solemnity and quiet dignity of the setting. Part of the memorial is dedicated to U.S.S. Arizona, and is a floating bridge from which visitors can peer down into the water and see some of the sunken remains of the ship. Survivors from the December 7 attack eighty-two years ago have long had the option of having their ashes interred with their fallen shipmates, and it is said that witnessing this ceremony is a moving experience. I don’t know if Lou Conter has chosen interment aboard his old ship, but he will be the last person with this option. And thus, nearly four score years since the end of the Second World War, a chapter heralding our nation’s entry into that conflict has now come to a close.

May Mr. Conter and all of his shipmates rest in peace, with the satisfaction of having served their country so faithfully.

– JVW

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