Patterico's Pontifications


From Prison to Public Policy: It’s Nice to Have Connections

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:11 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Here’s a news item from last month which escaped my notice. Do you all recall Esteban Nuñez, the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez? Patterico wrote about him nearly a decade ago when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the younger Nuñez’s sentence for manslaughter stemming from his participation in an attack at a San Diego State fraternity party which left a college student dead. The arrangement was unseemly, poorly-considered, and, by the governor’s own admission, a one hand washes the other gift from one politico to another. In many ways it was the perfect capstone to Arnie’s awful second term as governor, and it justly remains a stain on his legacy to this day.

So I was a bit surprised to come across the name Esteban Nuñez while reading through the great CalMatters news site yesterday. After receiving his early parole did Nuñez el hijo vow to live a normal life of quiet contemplation and service to his fellow man, far away from the limelight? Nah, he’s gone into the family business as a lobbyist.

In early March, before the pandemic closed the state Capitol to visitors, Esteban Nuñez led former prisoners through the regal building where his father was once one of California’s most powerful politicians.

He exuded know-how, his shiny loafers clicking across marble floors as they moved toward an elevator. Down a hallway. Into the office of a lawmaker they hoped to convince to grant voting rights to Californians released from prison, but still on parole.

Not long ago, Nuñez himself had been one of them.

Esteban Nuñez is an $80,000 per year policy director for a nonprofit group called Cut50, which is a celebrity-driven organization largely funded by the usual cast of Hollywood activists and leftist or libertarian foundations such as George Soros’ Open Society, the ACLU, the Charles Koch Foundation, Abigail Disney, the Ford Foundation, and others. It was on behalf of Cut50 that Kim Kardashian visited the Trump White House and lobbied Jared Kushner who has become the administration’s most notable advocate for sentencing reform and leniency.

Most recently, the younger Nuñez has devoted his attention to two reform-related items: securing the release of inmates at California prisons which have seen COVID-19 outbreaks and restoring voting rights for felons. According to CalMatters, Cut50 and their well-connected policy director have a Bernard Sanders/Kamala Harris-like belief that even incarcerated felons ought to be allowed to vote, though Cut50 acknowledge that controversial idea is still an uphill struggle and have thus shifted attention towards accelerating the process by which paroled felons can have their voting rights restored.

One person who will never be able to vote again is Luis Santos, the young man killed in the fight started by the younger Nuñez and his friends. Mr. Santos died on the scene from a knife laceration to his heart, and the father of one of the surviving victims of the Nuñez party’s attack strongly rebuts the claim that the knife-wielding assailants acted in self-defense. Indeed, after two members of the party cut plea deals requiring them to testify against Esteban Nuñez and fellow-stabber Ryan Jett, who is believed to have delivered the fatal blow to Mr. Santos’ heart, the Assembly Speaker’s son and his associate were forced to cop to a manslaughter charge or else face a murder sentence which could have brought them 25 years incarceration. Esteban Nuñez was released from prison in April 2016 after serving six years, and his parole period ended fifteen months ago after lasting three years. Mr. Jett, who had a prior conviction and whose sentence was not commuted by Gov. Schwarzenegger, is serving time in Valley State Prison and is eligible for parole next month.

Navigating a fairly fraught path, Esteban Nuñez strives to express remorse for the death of Mr. Santos while at the same time still failing to take complete responsibility for it. He also seeks to paint himself as a victim of an allegedly oppressive prison atmosphere which targeted him for his status:

At Mule Creek State Prison east of Sacramento, Nuñez was focused on survival. The young man who had once dined with his family at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s home was now a prison cook making 16 cents an hour.

“Everybody knew my father was a politician,” Nuñez said. “For people inside, it was like I had a life that I squandered away, which I understand and respect. And for correctional officers, I think it was like, ‘Oh, you’re in our house now. Let me show you how it goes down in here.’

“I think there was just a lot of desire to humble me.”

In contrast to Mr. Nuñez’s recollection, Bruce Henderson, the father of stabbing survivor Evan Henderson, reports that while at Mule Creek State Prison the politician’s son was “transferred to a ‘sensitive-needs’ unit after the Nunez family sent to the warden’s assistant a new Kindle, which was later returned.” Esteban Nuñez expresses a desire to “someday” apologize to the Santos family, and the CalMatters article suggests that he makes monthly restitution payments to them from his $80k lobbyist salary.

I would have a lot more respect for Esteban Nuñez had he become an engineer (he initially studied mechanical engineering upon leaving prison), a teacher, a salesman, a prison counselor, or any number of occupations that lack the taint of a well-connected Sacramento insider. Instead he has become a lobbyist, and no matter how much he tries to spin this as “giving back” or “trying to effect positive change” in the criminal justice system, I can’t help but see this as yet another offspring of the band of criminals who runs the Golden State making an undeserved living from family connections. Once Cut50 gets all of their agenda enacted — and make no mistake: in the post-George Floyd world a left-wing state like California will enact pretty much every item of criminal justice reform that Cut50 demands — don’t be too surprised if the younger Nuñez moves into the well-heeled boutique lobbying firm where his dad is currently a partner.

Speaking of fathers, let’s let Luis Santos’ father have the last word on what society “owes” the killers of his son:

“I don’t think people that committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote,” Fred Santos said. “Because they violated other citizens’ rights, they should not have their rights.”

Santos, a Bay Area software engineer, is resentful that Nuñez is trying to earn more rights for criminals while he and his wife still grieve for their son. The family visits Luis’ grave several times a year, Santos said, on Christmas, Valentine’s Day, his birthday and the anniversary of his murder. They return at the start of every football and basketball season to adorn the gravesite for Luis’ favorite teams: black and silver for the Raiders, blue and gold for the Warriors.

“People get together and talk to their children; we go to the cemetery and put flowers and decorate,” Santos said. “That’s as much as we can do.”


Politician Suggests That Wearing Face Mask May Have Caused Him To Test Positive For Coronavirus (UPDATE ADDED)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:05 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Hoo-boy. Mask naysayer politician tests positive:

Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Tyler Republican who peddled a nonexistent disinfectant for COVID-19 in April and is often spotted in the U.S. Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing him to miss a flight to West Texas aboard Air Force One.

Gohmert, 66, was scheduled to fly Wednesday morning with President Donald Trump for a fundraiser in Odessa and a speech on energy policy in Midland. He tested positive for COVID-19 at the White House pre-screening, he confirmed in a tweeted video from his Capitol Hill office.

“It’s really ironic because a lot of people have made a big deal out of my not wearing a mask a lot, but in the last week or two, I have worn a mask more than I have in the whole last four months,” he told Tyler local television station KETK in a Wednesday interview he also filmed from his Capitol Hill office.

Gohmert now wonders if it was because he wore a mask, that he now has the virus:

Moving the mask around, get it just right, I was bound to put some virus on the mask that soaked in…

So in other words, he was touching his face with unwashed hands. Some big no-no’s right there… Wearing a mask wasn’t the problem. It’s what Gohmert chose to do after the mask was in place. And what he chose to do after the mask was in place is what we’ve been cautioned not to do.

Anyway, look who Gohmert was in maskless contact with just yesterday:

One would think that any number of individuals present at yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, including AG Barr, will now be self-quarantining for the next two weeks…

Coronavirus is bringing out the crazy: Yesterday it was sex demons. Today it’s mask-wearing might be causing people to become infected. One shudders to consider what tomorrow may bring.

UPDATE: This is just damning:


Pulling U.S. Troops Out Of Germany: Some Will Come Home, Some Will Move To Other Parts Of Europe

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:07 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Decision made:

Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the U.S. will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,600 to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense leaders said Wednesday, detailing a Pentagon plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete.

The decision fulfills Trump’s announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, largely due to its failure to spend enough on defense. A number of forces will go to Italy, and a major move would shift U.S. European Command headquarters and Special Operations Command Europe from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said some moves will begin in months and will leave about 24,000 troops in Germany. He said that while the decision was “accelerated” by Trump’s orders, the moves also promote larger strategic goals to deter Russia, reassure European allies and shift forces further east into the Black Sea and Baltic regions.

Trump says the reduction in troops is due to Germany failing to meet their financial obligations:

“We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent.” He added that he might rethink the decision to pull troops out of Germany “if they start paying their bills.”

Last year, Trump noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel had not paid Germany’s agreed-upon bill. Merkel claims that Germany is working toward the 2% figure:

Trump has frequently dressed down NATO counterparts and threatened to reduce U.S. military support if allies do not increase spending. Last year while in London, Trump singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for not meeting the 2% of GDP spending goal set in 2014.

“So we’re paying 4 to 4.3% when Germany’s paying 1 to 1.2%, at max 1.2%, of a much smaller GDP. That’s not fair,” Trump said in December. According to the NATO figures, the U.S. spends less than Trump noted, 3.42% of GDP on defense, while Germany now spends 1.38%, which is an increase of about 11% from 2018.

The reduction of troops in Germany will allow for an increased troop presence in Poland, which is something that Warsaw and Polish President Andrzej Duda have wanted. Trump and Duda have developed close ties, and back in June, when Trump hosted President Duda at the White House, he suggested that he would send some of the troops he planned to pull out of Germany to Poland.

One of the problems related to the move, and noted by Republicans, is the cost of such an undertaking (estimated by Esper to be in the range of “single-digit” billions of dollars). Also, there is the question of whether the move of troops would continue on even if Trump were to lose the election. Given that the election is around 100 days away, is this really the best time to take on a big move? And, most importantly, what about Russia?

A number of Republicans have addressed some of these concerns:

Members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop moves as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security. Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression.

Sen. Mitt Romney has gone a step further, making public his disapproval for the withdrawal. His statement is preceded by a reminder that

Romney offered an amendment to the FY21 NDAA aimed at preventing such a withdrawal and reaffirming support for Germany and our NATO allies. The amendment ultimately did not receive consideration on the Senate floor.

On the troop removal:

The plan outlined by the Administration today to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression. And it is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops. The move may temporarily play well in domestic politics, but its consequences will be lasting and harmful to American interests.

I hope people remember Romney’s insight into Russia and Obama’s subsequent poo-pooing him for his warnings. Oh, and this:

Old enough to remember when many on today’s pro-Trump right (correctly) dunked on the Obama Admin for ignoring Romney’s warnings about Russia


The Supreme Court Is Leaking

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

At USA Today, Joan Biskupic has her third of a series of four articles on the inner workings of the Supreme Court. (Here are links to parts one and two.) Today’s article details ways in which Justice Kavanaugh attempted to persuade his colleagues to sidestep difficult issues such as abortion and the Trump tax returns:

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh urged his colleagues in a series of private memos this spring to consider avoiding decisions in major disputes over abortion and Democratic subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records, according to multiple sources familiar with the inner workings of the court.

In the abortion controversy, Kavanaugh wanted the justices to sidestep any ruling on the merits of a Louisiana law that could have closed abortion clinics in the state, CNN has learned. The case marked the first time in four years the justices were taking up the heated subject. Kavanaugh’s plan would have ensured the law — a credentialing mandate for doctors who perform abortions — would not go into immediate effect but also ensured that the justices would not have to put their own views on the line.

The same would have been true in the fight between Trump and the US House of Representatives. Kavanaugh’s idea — presented to the justices in an internal memo and conversations, sources said — would have had the high court avoid the subpoena fight over Trump financial documents, based on the judicial principle that courts should stay out of cases involving fundamentally political questions.

Although such insider views are nothing new — take Bob Woodward’s The Brethren and the far lesser book by Edward Lazarus as two examples I have read — these articles still raise in my mind the question: who is leaking? Ed Whelan asks the same question and has a surprising speculation as a possible answer:

This sort of flattery of the Chief would seem to focus attention on the liberal justices. We know that Justice Ginsburg has been indiscreet with Biskupic before—in an on-the-record interview -— and she has demonstrated in recent years a remarkable tendency to speak injudiciously on all sorts of matters, so she must surely be a prime suspect. But the level of detail provided Biskupic, as well as Biskupic’s own reference to “multiple sources,” makes me think that at least one of the other liberal justices might also have been a major source.

Suspicion in cases like this usually falls on law clerks. Whelan declares himself “skeptical, though, that any clerk would take the career-ending risk of leaking to Biskupic” — an odd observation, in my view, given how often they have leaked in the past. But it’s quite true that RBG has loose lips.

Something’s afoot. One would think John Roberts would want to get to the bottom of it. Or is he too pleased with how he is coming off in the articles to bother?

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