When the details of the charges levied against Democratic California State Sen. Leland Yee were released, all eyes zeroed in on the gun-trafficking accusations. It made sense to do so—Yee was a notable advocate for tougher gun control, and yet he stands accused of offering assistance in smuggling guns and heavy weapons from a violent group in the Philippines to the United States. This wasn’t just a little bit of hypocrisy, like catching Michelle Obama eating a Big Mac. Yee actually introduced gun control legislation in Sacramento. It was like watching a pack of nuns rob a homeless shelter.
There was more against Yee than the gun charges though. He stands accused of more conventional legislative corruption, charged with taking money in exchange for access or support. Buried at the end of the 137-page FBI report (which led to arrests of 25 others besides Lee in a sting against organized crime in San Francisco) was an undercover effort to snag Yee that doesn’t highlight a crime so much as how the sausage of legislation is made, particularly laws that protect crony capitalists.
An FBI agent posed as a person involved in the medical marijuana industry in Arizona. He had meetings with Yee (and a consultant accused of assisting in the laundering of donations to Yee), claiming he wanted to become a major player in the medical marijuana community in California—the “Anheuser-Busch” of medical marijuana, in fact. To do so, he wanted to get legislation passed in California that would make it harder for competition to exist. He was willing to give Yee money for his campaign for secretary of state in order to push for a law requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to have a doctor on staff. The report noted the agent telling Yee “If state legislation set high barriers for entry, such as requiring a medical doctor on staff, that would make it more difficult for small operators to open a business.”
The details of conversations between Yee, Keith Jackson (the consultant) and the undercover FBI operatives about medical marijuana legislation take up the final 13 pages of the report. Yee accepted a little over $20,000 in donations in an odd dance where Yee repeatedly worried about pay-to-play accusations, pushing the agent away from giving him money directly, yet also complained about the guy not giving the campaign enough money. If anything, reading 13 pages of these carefully laundered arrangements highlights the absurdity of the way speech is censored when it intersects with campaigning, Yee reminding at one point that donations cannot be linked to any “items, bills or amendments.”
But, of course, the idea that businesses (and often individuals) give money to help political campaigns entirely because they support the candidate and not because the candidate will implement policies that favor said businesses (and individuals) is silly nonsense and everybody knows it. In every city, in every state, and in the federal government, there are thousands upon thousands of laws and regulations designed to do exactly what our pretend medical marijuana dispensary owner asked—control who may engage in trade legally and under which terms.
Are we expected to believe that Utah regulators just decided on their own that people must spend huge amounts of time and money getting a license to braid hair? Does anybody at all actually believe that state and municipal efforts to block ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have anything to do with safety and absolutely nothing to protect entrenched taxi company interests? Does anybody believe it’s just a coincidence that the renewable energy companies that spent the most money lobbying the Department of Energy got the most loans?
Of course everybody knows this, but some people seem to draw the wrong conclusion. At the Los Angeles Times, editorial cartoonist David Horsey attempts to pivot Lee’s corruption to a complaint about “dark money” (with all his examples coming from the right and the Koch brothers, of course—no mention of California’s powerful unions). He argues:
Apparently, they would rather voters not know that those nice-sounding, “pro-liberty” nonprofits are really a front for absurdly rich businessmen who want to kill healthcare expansion, environmental protection, fair-wage campaigns and workers’ rights.
And nobody has gotten rich off being on the other side of any of these issues, right? The “healthcare expansion” wasn’t essentially written by insurance companies or anything like that. Environmental protection laws aren’t used by unions to intimidate developers into expensive labor agreements in order to avoid messy, expensive lawsuits based off minute details of environmental impact reports. “Fair wage” campaigns aren’t used exactly the same way the legislation proposed by the FBI agent in Yee’s case would have been—to make it harder for small businesses to operate legally. Horsey deliberately sees only the outcomes of government regulations that he wants to see—no unintended (or secret) consequences here!
Horsey has the problem exactly backward. It’s not the power of rich people corrupting the government. The government is corrupt exactly because it’s so powerful. The ability of the state to control commerce, to make exorbitant demands upon people attempting to engage in business, the ability to shut businesses down and even threaten people with jail creates the environment—even the incentive—for the rich and powerful to bend government regulations into their favor. If they don’t, then somebody else will, and may well use the power of the state to try to put them out of business. When the rich go to war in America, government bureaucrats serve as their foot soldiers. Uber doesn’t have the option not to lobby various governments for regulatory relief. The alternative is to go out of business, because of the government.
A person cannot credibly argue against the influence of money in government without acknowledging the problem of the power of government. It is not a coincidence that spending on influencing the outcome of elections has increased as the government grows more and more powerful. It is a direct relationship. It’s the economics of government. You can’t get the money out of government until you get the power out of government.
Related: Who is Holding Us Back?:
So long as there are centers of power, those with means will aim to wield that power or work it in their favor. And there’s no greater power than the state’s monopoly on force. The state, therefore, will always serve the interests of the connected few above the masses.
If government cannot impose taxes or offer tax breaks, impose tariffs or offer subsidies, impose regulations or offer liability protections, impose fees and licensing or offer interest-free loans, impose wage and price controls or offer bailouts - then what good is it for a corporation [or the rich] to control the government?
Because, of course he does.
Why should taking money on the side deny a public employee a taxpayer-subsidized retirement? It won’t in Los Angeles, at least for now. Samuel In, a Los Angeles building inspector, was convicted and sent to prison for two and a half years for taking bribes. But he will keep his $72,000 annual pension. As the Los Angeles Times notes, this is because of city regulations:
Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure requiring public employees convicted of a felony to give up retirement benefits earned during the period when their crimes were committed.
But the forfeiture requirement doesn’t apply to Los Angeles because it is governed by the City Council under a voter-approved charter, and the City Council manages its own pension systems.
I think that state rule regarding convicted public employees is just about the only part of Brown’s modest pension reforms that is not being challenged by unions.
TheTimes mentions that council-member Mitchell Englander would support legislation forcing Los Angeles employees to give up their pensions if they’re convicted of felony corruption crimes. In’s attorney countered that his client had “earned” his pension through his years of service to the city.
That’s another good argument for shifting public employees out of pensions and into 401(k)-style defined contribution programs. As it stands, taxpayers are on the hook to make up the difference when In’s pension doesn’t perform as guaranteed. In a defined contribution program, the taxpayers’ obligations to In are front-loaded in the city’s contributions while he is still employed. Once In (or any other worker) is no longer a city employee, these obligations end. In a sense, both sides “win.” In gets to keep what he’s earned, regardless of his crimes, but the taxpayers are not on the hook for any additional money for his retirement.
There’s a reason pensions only exist in the government sector where things are paid for through threat of violence. California’s pensions and retirement liabilities reach over $220 billion. Definitionally unsustainable.
As reported in a Washington Examiner editorial on April 4th, the American Federation of Teachers – that’s “teachers union” in plain English – has circulated a pamphlet that:
“Calls on pension fund trustees to drop any investment managers that are tainted by connection to free-market nonprofits. They also want those same trustees to force any potential new managers to have to disclose any donations they may have made to the groups on AFT’s blacklist.”
That the AFT can circulate a document like this without generating an uproar in the media reflects a monstrous and tragic double-standard. Money supporting “free-market non-profits” is tainted, which – not entirely logically – also taints any analysis they may produce, or policies they may advocate. But the money supporting public sector unions, involuntarily and automatically taken from their paychecks, ultimately funded by taxpayers, is pristine. Whatever analysis or policies they come up with, including “blacklists,” are beyond criticism.
What the AFT just did may be more explicit than usual, but it’s nothing new. In states like California, politically dominated by public sector unions, almost no businessperson or financial professional is going to identify themselves as supporting a free-market candidate or free-market nonprofit that dares criticize public sector unions or question the sustainability of public sector pensions. They risk retaliatory legislation, official harassment, strikes or “slowdowns,” character assassination, sit-ins and other orchestrated protests, shareholder revolts and boycotts. And if they represent a sufficient threat, their partners, customers, investors and vendors will get similar treatment.
In the financial community, as AFT’s document verifies, union critics stand to lose their biggest customers – the government agencies who come to them to underwrite bonds, and the pension funds whose investments fuel their fees and commissions. Just in California, billions are at stake every year.
Since the American Federation of Teachers fired this latest salvo against the free market, here are a few facts about CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System:
Three of the nine current CalSTRS board members are union officials: The Chairperson of CalSTRS, Dana Dillon, “has been active in the California Teachers Association for more than 26 years… and was recently elected to the board of directors.” Their Vice Chair, Harry M. Keiley, is “chair of the California Teachers Association Political Involvement Committee.” Another board director, Sharon Hendricks, “also serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers, local 1521 chapter at Los Angeles City College.”
Most of the remaining six active CalSTRS board members are beholden to unions: Tom Torlakson serves while also serving as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, an office he was elected to with substantial support from public sector unions. Two more board members come from the financial community; Paul Rosenstiel from a municipal bond investment bank, Thomas Unterman from a venture capital firm. Three other members come from government, Michael Cohen from the California Dept. of Finance, John Chiang, the State Controller, and Bill Lockyer, the State Treasurer.
Would it be more than reckless speculation to say the unions have four votes locked, and only need one of the other five in any given decision they make? And who is going to support Lockyer or Chiang if they run for another political office if they cross the unions? The financial community? Unlikely, given the pressure they’re under from the unions.
At this point the reader may be reminded that without reform, without tough, responsible decisions, public sector pension funds are going to crash, and when they do they’re going to take down with them entire cities and states, if not the global economy. The obliteration of defined benefits will be a mere footnote.
CalSTRS pays hundreds of millions each year to financial professionals: Take a look at page 83 of CalSTRS Annual Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, under the bland heading of “Other Supplemental Information.” Here’s what’s on the table for the financial community, every year, from a fund that only represents about 30% of the public sector pension fund assets under management in California: Administrative expenses, $139 million (page 84). Investment expenses including management fees, advisors, consultants, research services, risk management systems, trading systems, etc., $310 million (pages 85-88). Don’t forget “Global Equity Broker Commissions” whose payees include the infamous Goldman Sachs, $25 million (page 104).
CalSTRS invests in companies and financial instruments they supposedly detest: Skip along in the CalSTRS Annual Report to page 101 and take a look at their “largest equity holdings.” They include Exxon Mobil Corp at the #1 position, and Chevron Crop at #5. Go back to page 45 to see where CalSTRS has $22billionin “Private Equity Investments.” How many Wall Street wolves fatten themselves on that rather substantial hunk of fresh meat?
What more does it take to make clear there is a phony war going on between public sector unions and the financial community? This isn’t an ideological battle, it’s an intramural struggle for dominance between two groups who are both elitist and privileged, who need each other far more than they need taxpayers.
“Dark money,” or money that doesn’t pass the “smell test,” seems to be a favored meme of public sector unions these days. Especially if that money is used to fund challenges to their interests, hence, a new “blacklist.” But why does public sector union money, sourced involuntarily, falling into their accounts automatically by the millions and billions, emanating directly from taxpayers, used to intimidate opponents, fund political campaigns and academic studies, organize activist groups, and feed Wall Street financiers, get a pass?
They’re seriously shameless. It’s become so incredibly blatant, one has to be willing to not see the deep corruption.
Another disturbing video has surfaced of a cop brutalizing a child at school.
A Santa Ana School Police Department officer is at the center of controversy after a concerned citizen, Elvia Fernández, filmed him putting a crying young boy in a chokehold.
In the clip, we see a man at the park yelling “You’re choking him” at an officer as a motionless boy screams “Help me! Help me!” Even though it was filmed in portrait and from a distance on a smartphone, the video clearly captures a cop lying on top of a sobbing child, whose tiny arms are prone on the ground. The cop’s arm is around the boy’s neck, as he yells “Stop fighting me,” only to have the boy scream in pain, “I’m not fighting you!”
According to OC Weekly, Elvia Fernández, said the kid looked to be around 10; his wails and pleas definitely peg him as a prepubescent. Fernández tried calming the kid down in a mix of English and Spanish, telling him,“No te muevas”,“Relájate”, and“Aquí estamos nosotros”–”Don’t move”, “Relax,” and “We’re here.”
At which point the cop yells, “Stop speaking Spanish!”
It’s hard to tell how much “brutalizing” is actually taking place, since the cop repeatedly barks orders to keep witnesses from getting too close.
Toward the end of the video, we see another cop hurry on to the scene. For a brief moment, we hope she’s one of those “good cops” we’re always reminded about that are the alleged majority even though sightings are as elusive as to be cryptozoological… but, unsurprisingly, her role seems to simply be to obscure the action from the cameras.
For people unfamiliar with how water works in California and the American west, they might conclude that this is a case of the government forcibly taking water form the farmers and handing it over to the environmentalists for their pet projects. This is, however, completely untrue. The first thing to know is that there is no functioning market in water in California, and there are no market prices. Virtually all water in California and the American West is controlled by, distributed by, and “priced” by government agencies. This system of water socialism (described by Bill Anderson here, and yours truly here) is what rules the allocation of water in the West, and by extension, it rules any industry or endeavor that requires water. Thus agriculture is a socialized industry in the West, where the main input for the industry, water, is allocated along socialistic lines. There is no market pricing, because the pricing is done in a way to benefit powerful political interests.
In many Western states, still including California, although cities are quickly eroding their power, the growers are very powerful lobbies who have for the past 70 years enjoyed the benefits of extremely cheap, subsidized water. They do not own the water, and so when one of the farmers commented on the delta smelt situation and said “We are not interested in welfare; we want water” he was being unintentionally funny. Cheap water for Central Valley farmers, who are growing food in a desert, and who only get water thanks to massive taxpayer-funded public works, is a major form of welfare for them.
So, it would be naive in the extreme to frame this story, as the conservatives have, as some sort of battle between the poor, beleaguered farmer who is having “his” water taken away, and the usurper environmentalists.
Indeed, the water situation is just the latest chapter in a long history of using government to pick winners and losers in California and the west using the allocation of water as a weapon.
The conservatives who have declared the farmers to be the rightful owners of the water are simply ignoring the history of river water along the West coast.
Long forgotten is the fact that once upon a time, there were massive fisheries of salmon along the West coast that supported large numbers of canneries, fishing villages, industrial fishing operations, and all the usual support economies that go along with any industry.
Those industries are all massively reduced now, not because of global warming or overfishing or some other environmentalist bogeyman, but because the fisheries were ruined by governments. The governments that dammed up hundreds of rivers long the west coast, and thus destroyed the salmon and steelhead trout breeding grounds, did so with the enthusiastic support and lobbying of the growers who now are whining about some water actually being allowed to flow out into the ocean.
Whole industries were destroyed at the behest of the growers and cities that wanted water storage for their favored interests. This is not limited to the west coast of course. The Colorado River delta at the Sea of Cortez was once a huge estuary where many native communities of fishermen thrived. The fishing industries there are now all also destroyed. They were destroyed so that American farmers can grow pecans (native to humid Mississippi) in scorchingly dry Phoenix.
All of this change came not due to shifts in the marketplace or the will of consumers. On the contrary, the fisheries provided extremely cheap protein to million of people for many, many years. There was huge demand for the industry. No, these industries were eviscerated because of decisions by governments and special interests. It was simply decided, for political reasons, that damming up the rivers and drying up the deltas was better than allowing the rivers to flow.
It is also a fact that without massive amounts of government capital, these dams would have never been built. The infrastructure of water storage and damming was only ever possible thanks to governmental central planning and taxation. Would irrigation still exist were it not for the governmental meddling in water? Certainly it would. Irrigation farming predates government dams. But the scale of government projects is much, much larger, and has far greater impact on the surrounding geography.
Once might counter that the fishing industries were also the beneficiaries of government largesse because the government-owned rivers were being used by the fishing industries to breed their fish. That’s certainly true as well.
So the question we should be asking ourselves is: “Which group has the right to take control of the rivers? Farmers or Fishermen? Or environmentalists? All want the “publicly” owned water for their own purposes. The answer is that none should be using politics so seize control of water. Ownership of the rivers, instead, should be decentralized, privatized, and the water should be sold to the highest bidder.
In contrast, I can tell you that sending in the government to centrally plan the whole affair, as has been done, is decidedly not the correct answer. This is of course the answer the conservatives are fine with, however. For them, the fact that the government one day went in and decided that growers are to be the winners, and the fisheries are to be the losers, is a-okay. For anyone who is actually concerned about finding free-market solutions, however, it’s all just more central planning.
As Kathryn Muratore recently noted, there is no easy answer here, thanks to 70 years of water socialism. Nevertheless, there’s no time like the present, and the best way to end drought is to establish a functioning system of prices and water ownership in the west. The farmers, the cities, and the politicians will cry bloody murder and complain that nothing can work in the West except the established system of prior-appropriation water rights. That system, however, we know has failed. History has shown that it requires government central planning, and is nothing more than water socialism, and is thus unsustainable.
Can other systems work? Perhaps a modified riparian system? We won’t know any time soon, because the farmers and politicians will cling to their precious status quo of “cheap” water for those who write the biggest checks, not for water, but for political influence.
A politician honored for his gun control efforts is arrested for attempted arms smuggling. He held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character.
The downfall of Calif. State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco should be an utterly captivating, fascinating story, and the national media should be sinking its teeth into the details. I joked when Yee was first arrested about how he is destined to be parodied in Grand Theft Auto. That was before the FBI’s report was even released. Now, I’m convinced the report could be the outline for an entire Grand Theft Auto installment (have they set a game in a parody of San Francisco yet?). Yee’s story of corruption, attempted gun-running and accusations of vote-selling (an undercover FBI agent posing as a medical marijuana clinic owner wanted him to support legislation introducing new barriers to entry for potential competition) is actually just a small part of a larger story about the crime scene in San Francisco. Beyond Lee’s role, the whole story (pdf) is full of drug transactions, stolen booze fencing, a home invasion by apparently Mexican gangsters, what appears to be counterfeit credit cards supplied by a Russian hacker, and more. It has everything. There’s even a money-laundering scene that takes place inside a massage parlor. It’s part FBI report, part Hollywood pitch.
And yet, it has not captured as much national media attention as one might think. Not long after the story came out, every Republican I follow on Twitter was noting how stories about Yee’s arrest were burying the fact that he’s a Democrat. I’m not particularly interested in an argument over which party is more corrupt. In the Corruption Olympics, each party is full of stellar athletes whose gold medals were paid for by taxpayers, manufactured by a company with cozy ties to both parties, and cost 300 percent more than they would in the private market. Nevertheless, given the media coverage of every time a conservative Republican politician on the state level says something dumb or controversial, it is worth noting. Today Glenn Harlan “Instapundit” Reynolds is calling out CNN at USA Today for failing to follow the story:
[O]utside of local media like San Francisco magazine, the coverage was surprisingly muted.The New York Times buried the story as a one-paragraph Associated Press report on page A21, with the bland dog-bites-man headline, “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.” This even though Yee was suspended, along with two others, from the California state senate in light of the indictment.
CNN, home (also until last week) of Piers Morgan, whom Yee had praised for his anti-gun activism, didn’t report the story at all. When prodded by viewers, the network snarked that it doesn’t do state senators. Which is odd, because searching the name of my own state senator, Stacey Campfield, turns up a page of results, involving criticisms of him for saying something “extreme”. Meanwhile, CNN found time to bash Wisconsin state senator and supporter of Gov. Scott Walker, Randy Hopper over marital problems.
But there’s a difference. They’re Republicans. When Republicans do things that embarrass their party, the national media are happy to take note, even if they’re mere state senators. But when Democrats like Yee get busted for actual felonies, and pretty dramatic ones at that, the press suddenly isn’t interested.
We’ve seen this before, of course: Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff dismissed the horrific Kermit Gosnell trial as a “local crime story”, even as the press was going crazy covering another equally local crime story, the George Zimmerman trial. Likewise, another state senator, Texas’ Wendy Davis, got national attention when she filibustered an abortion bill, a story that fit conveniently with the “war on women” theme used by Democrats.
Read more here. A search of Yee’s name on CNN brings up nothing past the year 2011. The most recent story is about California banning shark fins, and Yee is quoted with concerns that the ban targets Chinese-Americans.
Partisanship is as stupid as it is predictable.
In 2006, the Brady Campaign named Leland Yee [on their] Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll. Perhaps they should have done a background check first.
In 2006, the Brady Campaign named Leland Yee [on their] Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll.
Perhaps they should have done a background check first.
As a reminder: Leland Yee is the California democrat state senator who pushed heavily for gun control, and who was recently charged with corruption and involvement in mob-related illegal gun-trafficking.
Everyone is well-aware of record snow in the northeast and a drought in the west. I think back to when I was a Philadelphian who had never crossed the Mississippi and realize how foreign the weather of California is to the average east-coaster. In the San Francisco Bay Area and the Central Valley, alike, it does not rain between about April 1st and October 1st. I don’t mean “it doesn’t rain much.” I mean it Does. Not. Rain. At. All.
In the Bay Area, the winters are quite wet, with a light rain falling most days in certain areas (microclimates are another foreign concept to much of the country). In Fresno and the rest of the Central Valley, rainfall totals 6-12 inches on average, with all of that accumulating from October to March. But, we have the Sierra Nevada’s to our east to catch moisture in the form of snow, and store it for the dry season. The snow melts and, historically, flowed through large rivers such as the San Joaquin, to the Pacific. Prior to federal water projects, steamboats came to dock in Fresno. Here’s what the San Joaquin River looks like today. And here it is about 100 years ago(or here’s anotherbefore and after comparison). There is a dam right outside of town, built during the New Deal, of course.
Clearly, the state has not been a good steward of the environment. But at least clean water is getting to people who need it, right?
It doesn’t matter what constituency you belong to in California; chances are you are unhappy with your allocation or quality of water. Last week, it was announced that some farmers in the valley are getting cut out in the drought. They think the city folks in San Francisco and Los Angeles are taking more than their fair share. The “city folks” think industrial agriculture is taking more than its fair share. Residents across the state are constantly being admonished to conserve, with rationing of various types taking place. Cambria, a coastal community (where fog is the predominant form of moisture) essentially ran out of water, and that was before the current state-wide drought. Studies of tap water in poor agricultural communities shows alarming levels of toxins. And, of course, environmentalists are concerned about the effect of diverting water to people or wildlife.
None of these special interests are specific to a drought; this is an ongoing battle, even in “wet” years. This year, however, the stakes are raised. Not only is rainfall low, but the snowpack in the Sierras is low. There hasn’t been enough precipitation in the mountains, and when there has been precipitation, it has often been too warm for snow and it has fallen in the form of rain. That gives us some water now, but does not bode well for the long dry season ahead.
Sadly, all eyes have turned to local water officials, Governor Jerry Brown, and, of course, President Barack Obama. Obama recently came to visit the Central Valley for the first time ever for precisely this reason. The same constituencies have the same tired arguments and complaints with no play being given to ideas outside of the box. It is no surprise to anyone who reads the history of the state’s involvement in water issues: thestatus quois ingrained and it is extremely difficult to imagine an alternative. A transition out of this mess is even harder to imagine. But once you realize that it is not a question ofifthe system will fail, butwhen, you realize it is essential that we de-socialize water in the arid west immediately.
I just got off the phone with LADWP. I received another whopper of a bill (almost as bad as my September bill) despite the fact that - in addition to doing the absolute minimum watering necessary to keep my lawn alive - I had my sprinklers off for three weeks straight in late Feb./early March while we were getting that rain.
This time, it looks like they “estimated” my previous bill’s usage (or, rather, under-estimated) and just pushed the overage difference into the most recent bill - in which the “rate schedule” (price per hundred cubic feet) had been increased and the “tier allocation”(range on how much water can be consumed at the initial rate schedule before the price increases 20%) had been significantly decreased. In other words, they both raised the prices and lowered the amount I could use until prices got even more expensive. In short, they found a way to screw me even worse than they already were.
I guess I’ll just take my business elsewhere… oh wait.
Los Angeles City Council has voted to seize the local private business/large apartment trash hauling industry, take control of it, and sell off exclusive contracts to those it deems appropriate. The word “seize” is not used, of course, but instead it’s all being sold as a recycling and landfill-use reduction plan. It takes the Los Angeles Times nine paragraphs to get past the environmental back-patting to explain what’s actually going on:
Currently, landlords for businesses and apartments choose between competing businesses to haul their trash. Under the new “exclusive franchise” system, Los Angeles will be divided up into 11 zones. Haulers will bid for city contracts giving them the exclusive right to collect garbage in each zone.
The new system is hitched to environmental standards: To be eligible to win each zone, haulers would have to provide separate bins for recycling and use “clean fuel” vehicles, among other ecologically friendly requirements.
The plan is backed by environmentalists and labor groups, who say the system is the best way to help Los Angeles meet its goal of diverting 90% of its trash from landfills. Activists say the system will also mean fewer trucks crisscrossing city streets and safer conditions for workers in a dangerous industry.
The city is turning a private competitive service into a monopoly. The Times does note that the proposal puts unions and environmentalists against business and private property:
Business groups say the new system will put small haulers out of business and ultimately drive up rates.
"The environmental benefits are subterfuge for an effort to organize an industry that the unions couldn’t organize themselves," Central City Assn. of Los Angeles president and CEO Carol Schatz told The Times last week.
Indeed, labor unions were chanting “Si se puede" ("Yes, it can be done") outside the council meeting after the vote passed. Those union folks really, truly care a lot about the environment, eh?
Only one council member voted against the new regulation, Bernard C. Parks. He was also the only council member to vote against the city’s pointless plastic bag ban. Reason TV and Kennedy interviewed him in 2012. He was concerned this new trash plan would harm small businesses. A head of a local commerce association predicts the new monopolies could drive more than 100 small haulers out of business and suggested the city could require environmental and recycling policies among private haulers without resorting to exclusive contracts.
Speaking of small businesses being harmed in Los Angeles, the city is still shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries that don’t fall under the city’s protection racket put in place by a local ballot initiative. The Los Angeles Daily News notes the city is also extracting fines from and charging landlords who rent to unauthorized pot dispensaries, even though the city is still causing confusion by sending out tax certificates to applicants that don’t qualify to do business in the city. These certificates are then being shown to landlords as evidence that the dispensary is legal, even if it’s not.
Last Thursday, a San Diego Police Department detective fired into a home before serving a drug warrant, wounding two men. The detective apparently attempted to knock on a window, causing the window to shatter. She then says she saw one of the men reaching for a gun. There were six people inside the house. None of them had a gun.
In searching for more coverage of the story, I found a number of other recent and troubling police shootings in the San Diego area. Among them:
- Last September, a San Diego Police Department officer shot and killed a transient man who was armed with a pair of scissors.
- Last month, deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department shot and killed 33-year-old Michael Napier while serving a drug warrant. Napier was in the garage working on a bicycle when the police confronted him. They say they opened fire when he appeared to reach for his waistband. Police later reported that Napier was unarmed.
- Last April, police in El Cajon, a town in San Diego County, fatally shot homeless man Raymond Lee Goodlow after attempting to pull him over for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk. Police say they fired because Goodlow reached into his waistband. He was not carrying a gun, although they did apparently find two knives in other parts of his clothing.
- In another “waistband” shooting, a San Diego Police Department Officer shot and killed Angel Miguel Lopez, a fugitive parolee, last January when he fled as a SWAT team descended on the house where he was hiding out. Lopez is the least sympathetic of these victims—he had a long record, including a prison stint for armed robbery. But in the coverage of the shooting, I’ve yet to discern whether or not he was actually armed.
Still, if we dismiss the Lopez case, and even the scissors case, we still have three San Diego incidents within the last year in which police claim to have seen someone reaching for a gun, opened fire, then learned after the fact that there was no gun on or near the person they had just shot.
That seems troubling.
Don’t worry, it is highly doubtful that any cops will face consequences.
Is this the Democratic Party equivalent of when an anti-gay-marriage Republican is found to be having a secret gay affair?
In any case, he’s also the same state senator who tried to ban the sale of “violent” video games to children.
And this doesn’t look like some minor infraction or paperwork snafu either; there seem to be connections to organized crime (that is, aside from the organized crime that is his day job), and he seems to be quite directly involved in having arranged the illegal gun deal(s).
This - along with the two other California democrats and the North Carolina democrat who have been caught in crime scandals in as many weeks - serves as a good reminder that any politician who wishes to tell you how to peaceably live your life is a crook; it’s just that some are bigger crooks than others.
It happens time and time again. State agencies are rewarded for corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence.
Here in LA, the roads and sidewalks are atrocious. Easily some of the worst in the country. (A few years ago, I got a flat tire from a particularly nasty pot-hole. An Obama-campaign-working co-worker suggested that if people like me would stop resisting tax increases, that wouldn’t happen. To left-statists, we apparently can never pay enough!) And despite heavy city, county, state, and federal taxes (along with parking meters and citations) that ostensibly go toward maintaining the infrastructure monopoly - they want more. They always want more.
First, the roads:
If we need the government to pave the roads, then how come government can’t actually seem to pave the roads?
It’s a question to ask a lot in California, where citizens pay significant amounts of taxes, and yet the roads are often disasters. On the state level, the Reason Foundation notes, California spends more per mile than the national average for its highway system, yet ranks near the bottom of the list for road conditions.
On the local level, residents may see the same problems. Los Angles has high state and local taxes (sales tax in the city is 9 percent) and yet more than a third of the streets in the city’s streets are get failing grades for road repair (the Los Angeles Times has an interactive map here).
What’s the solution to the problem? Not shifting resources and rethinking priorities, obviously. Los Angeles just needs more taxes! From the Los Angeles Times:
One year after Los Angeles voters rejected a sales tax increase, the City Council is looking at trying again — this time by tying the money to the repair of the city’s deteriorating network of streets.
Two high-level City Hall policy advisors recommended Tuesday that lawmakers place a half-cent tax hike on the November ballot that would generate $4.5 billion over 15 years. The proceeds, they said, would pay to fix the most severely damaged roads and sidewalks.
Passage of a tax could add momentum to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “back to basics” campaign, which focuses on upgrading basic services. The proposal also could help city leaders resolve a potentially costly disability rights lawsuit filed by wheelchair users who say buckled sidewalks block their access.
Note: sales tax in LA is already 9%, among the highest in the country.
And this would also use $640 million (!) to address the completely useless sidewalks:
Ever walk down a Los Angeles city sidewalk? It may feel like climbing the Himalayas.
Tree roots have uplifted many city sidewalks across L.A., turning a quick walk around the neighborhood into a treacherous experience. According to The Los Angeles Times, the city receives about 2,500 claims a year from people who hurt themselves on these cracks.
"People get hurt and people can die from falling down on and hitting their head on the sidewalk," says Los Angeles resident Peter Griswold.
What’s the city’s solution to this problem? A three-year, $10 million survey of all of the city’s sidewalks.
Yes, you read that correctly. They first need three years and $10 million just to figure out where the bad sidewalks are. They literally don’t know. They want three years and $10 million to do what they’ve been paid to do for decades.
Residents like Griswold say that price tag is too high. He has come up with a plan of his own that involves photographs, GPS devices, and - most importantly - volunteers. Griswold is confident that his ragtag crew of sidewalk cartographers can find and report trouble spots more quickly - and cheaply - than city workers.
"What Peter Griswold is trying to do with volunteers, the advantage that has is that it’s decentralized," says Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.
Moore grants it may be hard to implement on a large scale but you have to stack that up against the usual way city governments fix local problems. Namely, writing a fat check to a contractor so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. Hence, the $10 million.
Moore points out that these uplifted sidewalk cracks are indicative of something bigger: bureaucracy run amok.
"One of the problems bureaucracies have, and LA in particular has, is nobody who manages these departments actually invests the management effort in saying lets be ruthless about prioritizing what’s most important," says Moore.
Of course, when cries for more money are tied to public suffering, you can be sure it is intentional. Never mind all the other things this giant influx in tax revenue is intended to pay for, the headline targets something that will affect the average citizen. This is the same mentality that attempts (and too often succeeds) to convince the public that tax increases are necessary to offset budget cuts. As I’ve pointed out, they want to make it hurt:
Inevitably, governments - which have unquenchable thirsts for expansions of power - are forced to face the reality that resources are not infinite. When such encounters with truth occur, the first solutions always (almost without exception) are cuts in those areas in which a plurality of people either expect government to have a role or government’s role is so entrenched (due to its monopoly) that immediate reversals would translate into inconveniences and relative misery for either a majority or a sympathetic minority. The plutocrats want to make it hurt, and often hurt the most people possible. The idea being that if the public can be agitated againstproposed cuts, they will acquiesce to tax increases to fund those things they obviously support.
It’s always cuts to police or fire, cuts to mail delivery days, cuts to teachers, and so on - all areas in which government monopolies leave the public without alternatives. This is always a dishonest ploy, and any politician or bureaucrat who employs this tactic is, in all cases, deliberately compromising the public’s safety and happiness for their own selfish, manipulative whims.
Here, Los Angeles points to a very obvious government failure: crappy roads and sidewalks. And then they claim that the only solution is to give them yet more money. Forget the thousands of things that could be easily cut with very little pushback - the answer is always: give the state more.
Reviewing eight primary forms of taxation:
- Real Estate Tax (this metric reflects the median real estate tax payment divided by the median house price – both at the state level)
- Income Tax – State
- Income Tax – Local
- Vehicle Property Tax (this metric only applies to VA & Conn.; data for those states is at the county level)
- Vehicle Sales Tax (this metric includes vehicle sales tax and registration fee; we used the Toyota Camry L 4D Sedan – the country’s top selling car – as a proxy)
- Sales & Use Tax (this metric includes state & local data for 2012)
- Fuel Tax
- Alcohol Tax (this metric includes state-level data for beer, which accounts for more than 80% of all nationwide alcohol sales)
- Food Tax
- Telecom Tax
The top five are Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, and South Dakota.
Meanwhile, the only state worse than California - that is, with a greater overall tax burden than California - is New York.
Incidentally, there was a measurable difference in tax burden between “red states” and “blue states.”
So for those keeping score at home, California is second worst in tax burden, second worst in economic freedom, fourth worst in personal freedom, worst in regulatory freedom, worst in civil liberties, worst in “nanny” laws, fifth worst in liability laws, second worst in occupational licensing, worst in labor and occupational freedom, third worst in property freedom, has the strictest gun control, and has by far the heaviest debt burden (more than double the second worst state). Oh, and cost of living is among the highest in the country, especially in L.A. and San Francisco.
If I could pursue my career anywhere else, I would.
In the course of seeking data about the Los Angeles Police Department’s automatic license plate reader program, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the police for some information. Specifically, what plates cameras had captured over the course of two years, and the department’s policies for using and retaining what those cameras nabbed. We can’t tell you, the cops replied, because every car we see is under investigation, which makes it a (sshhhh) secret.
Every car. Over two years.
Specifically, in their court filing (a hearing is scheduled for March 21), LAPD mouthpieces wrote:
Government Code section 6254 sets forth numerous categories of records that are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the [California Public Records Act]. One of those categories, found in subdivision (f), exempts law enforcement investigatory records from disclosure….
The ALPR data sought in this case—electronic records consisting of vehicles’ license plates, and the date, time and location those license plates were captured by the Department’s ALPR cameras—constitute “records of…investigations conducted by … any local police agency” which fall squarely under this statutory exemption.
Just so there’s no misunderstanding, the filing added, “All ALPR data is investigatory—regardless of whether a license plate scan results in an immediate ‘hit’ because, for instance, the vehicle may be stolen, the subject of an ‘Amber Alert,’ or operated by an individual with an outstanding arrest warrant.”
"May?" Well, yes, any car that drives by a camera "may" be a lot of things. "May" opens up a fascinating world of speculation, full of intriguing possibilities. But, as the EFF’s Jennifer Lynch wrote:
This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under “general warrants” that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.
The LAPD also said revealing the license plates it had tracked would threaten drivers’ privacy. Unlike, apparently, tracking them to begin with.