Monday, December 20, 2010


An unexpected Christmas present for California’s school children came two weeks early when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in an address to state leaders declared the union leadership of United Teachers of Los Angeles an “unwavering roadblock to reform.”

The mayor acknowledged that his own career included stints as a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association and as a union organizer for UTLA. Yet facing schools that have become, in the mayor’s words, “drop-out factories” comprised mostly of Latino and African-American students, Villaraigosa grew a spine that probably signals his belief that more political mileage can be derived from shifting his allegiance away from teachers unions and toward students and their disenchanted parents.

While the mayor mentioned the predictable liberal litany of things that harm California’s public education system—inadequate funding and the under-representation of Latinos and African-Americans in the University of California system—his fire was directed primarily at UTLA as “the most powerful defenders of the status quo.”

The mayor noted that UTLA had fought against the city’s “Public School Choice program that is now allowing non-profits, charters, teacher groups—anyone with a proven track record of success—to compete to run new or failing schools.”

The fact that only 50 “choice” schools are anticipated for 2012 in the huge Los Angeles district shows the general success of UTLA in maintaining a stranglehold on the area’s K-12 system. And no wonder. Comparisons with charter schools are deadly for their bureaucratic, union-based counterparts—as Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby and Harvard’s Tom Kane have shown in their analyses of charter students in New York City and Boston.

Villaraigosa went on to note the passage of legislation in Sacramento that allows communities to shut down or take over failing schools based on petitions signed by a majority of parents. According to his honor, “At every step of the way...UTLA was there to fight against the change and slow the pace of reform.

What is true of UTLA is also true of the California Teachers Association and its local affiliates. As Michael Piscal of the Inner City Education Foundation noted in the summer of 2007, “I’m a Democrat, but, overall, I’m appalled by the power of the CTA and how it wants to stop charters.”

Whether Villaraigosa and other Democrats are willing to take this reformist rhetoric about the tenure-driven “dance of the lemons” to the next level is uncertain. A key indicator will be whether the mayor puts merit pay, parental empowerment, and placing quality teachers in every classroom above the union-driven insistence on more pay and smaller classrooms—“reforms” that not coincidentally increase union membership, dues, and power.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Near the end of a recent column about the November election I noted that the power of public employee unions and a seismic demographic shift have made California the bluest of blue states. That demographic trembler merits closer attention.

According to data gathered by the Public Policy Institute of California, in 1970 almost 80% of the state’s population was classified as white. A bit over 10% was Hispanic, and most of the rest of the Golden State’s residents were African-American or Asian.

Fast-forward to 1990 (after the immigration amnesty of 1986) and the Census Bureau identified a full quarter of the state’s population as Hispanic—over seven and half million of the state’s 30 million total.

The bureau’s 2009 estimate puts the Hispanic percentage near 37 and the white, non-Hispanic figure at 41 per cent--numbers that prompted the PPIC to label California a “Minority Majority” state.

Nothing but a continuation of this numerical trend is anticipated for the future--based on immigration data, birth rates, and figures fingering the folks moving elsewhere.

The political result of this population shift is that a state that voted nine times for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon just re-elected Barbara Boxer to her fourth Senate term by an overwhelming majority—despite an unemployment rate that stands above 12%.

California voters also returned Jerry Brown to the Governor’s Mansion where he is likely to sign the “Dream Act” bill that Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed twice.

That bill allows financial aid for higher education to go to “undocumented students” who have completed three years of high school in the state and possess a high school diploma or GED. The proposal, however, is only a minor immigration magnet compared to the Dream Act that Sen. Harry Reid is pushing in Washington D.C.

As currently configured, this legislation not only provides an educational or military pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants up to the age of sixteen, it also offers a green-card reward for family members who brought them here illegally—a bonanza that eventually extends even to relatives of the adult lawbreakers.

In short, what is portrayed as a bill specifically targeting educational opportunities for youngsters dragged illegally into this country as small children is, in fact, an attempt by open-borders politicians to cram as many Democrat-leaning voters into the country as possible.

A more narrowly tailored bill tied to strict border enforcement would deserve serious consideration. But legislation that excuses fraudulent applications and rewards even the relatives of adult scofflaws is primarily designed to turn every state into California.

But who then would pay for California’s public union pensions?

Friday, November 26, 2010


Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and butter rolls weren’t the only things associated with Thanksgiving this year. For thousands of air travelers random pat-downs and revealing body scans were put on the menu beside the partial disrobing that is standard fare for the Transportation Security Administration.

A couple of weeks prior to the holiday rush at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field an Oceanside resident named John Tyner caused significant TSA consternation when he refused the newly enhanced security measure that puts thinly-gloved hands in close proximity to what used to be called “the family jewels.” Tyner used a less exalted euphemism—“my junk.”

Tyner recorded this encounter on his cell-phone—an essentially audio reproduction that captures most of the exchanges between him and airport security personnel.

On the one hand you have Tyner—an opinionated fellow who previously checked TSA Internet information to determine (mistakenly, as it turned out) that San Diego International Airport didn’t yet have the vivid-image x-ray machines about which he had health and privacy concerns.

On the other you have TSA officials who go strictly by the book and can’t fathom a person’s unwillingness to comply with a “groin check” of his “inner thigh”—“two times in the front and two times in the back.” Tyner’s comment to his pat-down professional (“If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”) was greeted as akin to a remark about exploding loafers.

The stand-off between TSA and an American citizen unwilling to acquiesce to the latest indignity airline passengers are obliged to endure resulted in Tyner first being told to leave the airport and later advised that he faced a $10,000 fine for leaving without submitting to security procedures.

Apparently the unpromulgated law of the skies is that once a traveler enters the security area, the process must be completed to the satisfaction of TSA—or else. Thus, it would be wise to post large signs at security entrances that apprise folks of this crucial point of no return--something like “Abandon all rights ye who enter here.”

A recent CBS poll provides a countervailing perspective. This random sample of 1,137 adults found that 80% of Americans favor the use of full-body scanners at airports. The poll didn’t ask about “groin checks” or say how many respondents were frequent fliers.

More to the point, over 50% opposed any form of ethnic profiling for security purposes. Apparently these PC clones of “The View” favor the bizarre theatrical performance whereby screaming three-year-olds and immobile grandmothers are subjected to needless and increasingly invasive indignities under the absurd assumption that all terrorists are created equal.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch famously quipped that the people had voted him out of office “and now the people must be punished.”

One might say the same of California voters who—apparently enjoying double-digit unemployment, massive state debt, environmental extremism, and unsustainable public pensions—sent Barbara Boxer back to Washington. Indeed, Democrats strengthened their stranglehold on Sacramento and returned almost their entire Congressional delegation to D.C.—by wide margins.

To top it all, the left-coast electorate put 70s retread Jerry Brown back in the Governor’s Mansion. This is the same fellow who opposed Prop. 13 and helped unionize the state’s public employees—a group whose exorbitant retirement benefits have been draining the state dry.

What’s so pathetic about the election results is that voters exhibited a general distaste for higher taxes by voting down Proposition 24—an attempt to reinstate recently lowered taxes on business—and by approving Proposition 26, a measure that requires a two-thirds vote on “fees” previously subject to only a majority vote.

On the other hand, voters were conned by a massive publicity campaign against “two Texas-based oil companies” to overwhelmingly defeat Proposition 23—the attempt to delay implementation of the greenhouse emission law, AB 32. The latter piece of “Cap and Tax” legislation is set to become the largest tax increase in state history—costing an average Californian, by an estimate in the pro-23 voter guide, up to $3,800 dollars a year.

Even voters in Riverside County went along, narrowly, with the massive media war against Prop. 23—a campaign largely financed by industries set to profit handsomely off the economy-killing “greenhouse” measure. So much hot air about hot air.

Riverside County voters also narrowly approved Measure L, a bit of political chicanery designed to protect unsustainable pension benefits for public safety employees. In this case the red herring of local politicians’ salaries and benefits (as in the city of Bell) were used as a head-fake to snooker voters about the real intent of the legislation.

The bottom line of the 2010 election is that the power of public employee unions, combined with a seismic demographic shift over the last five decades (fueled by illegal immigration) has made California the bluest of blue states—a state apparently immune to political change even given massive unemployment and government debt.

The one irony of the election was that despite the string of “progressive” victories,  the proposition to legalize marijuana flopped. Given the direction of the state and the tax-happy proclivities of Sacramento legislators, cannabis may be required to sustain the Disneyesque vision of reality cherished by Cal-voters and their representatives.


After going carefully through the various propositions in the state voter guide, I spied a mailer on my table that sported this partisan label: “Continuing the Republican Revolution.”

A bald eagle was prominently displayed beside an extended quotation that lauded Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday and his “ideals of limited government, lower taxes, and personal freedom.” At the left top was a cute red, white and blue elephant with a couple of stars dotting the pachyderm.

On the inside were listed CRR’s presumably conservative recommendations. Again, diminutive flag-colored elephants stood at the top left and top right of the page.

A small, unadorned column with miniature pics and names of seven Republican candidates running for statewide office stood in the far left section of the page.

The real message of this shameless deception focused on the statewide propositions that occupied the lion’s share of the mailer’s space. These recommendations were repeated twice—once in the inside page and again, quite prominently, on the back page (which could double as the mailer’s front page).

Moreover, each proposition contained a brief “argument” in its favor. The “No on Prop 20” case was stated as follows: “20 is an elitist attempt to force a new, costly bureaucracy down our throats. The California State Firefighters Association says, NO ON PROP 20.”

One would never guess, based on this “explanation,” that Prop. 20 is about redistricting and proposes a commission of 5 democrats, 5 republicans, and 4 independents to draw district lines without the political gerrymandering that’s made so many races uncompetitive.

The biggest shock was that the presumably “conservative” recommendations on the various propositions (20-27) turned out to be 100% contrary to what one would expect from a “conservative” group.

I checked CRR’s mailer against Jon Coupal’s “Howard Jarvis” voter guide—a group that’s unquestionably fiscally conservative. The “Save Prop 13” recommendations were perfectly in line with conservative positions—and the precise opposite of CRR’s.

A small asterisk next to each proposition ad in CRR’s mailer directs voters to a disclaimer that’s placed (inconspicuously in black and white) next to the mailing address. That disclaimer says CRR doesn’t really represent an official political party and that items with an asterisk have been paid for. Put bluntly and honestly, CRR isn’t what it represents itself to be in the mailer.

Personally, I wonder what brand of cynicism CRR embraces. Is it for money or is it out of ideology that Hart and Associates of Newport Beach chooses to deceive voters?

Friday, October 15, 2010


On the same day last week I received two slick mailers about Riverside County’s Measure L—one pro and one con. A voter would hardly guess (based on the information in the two glossy boards) that they were talking about the same proposal.

Measure L is designed to lock in the current generous retirement benefit formula for public safety employees in Riverside County--unless there is a majority vote of the electorate to the contrary.

An argument in favor of L in the voter information booklet implies, disingenuously, that the law is designed, “like Proposition 13,” to prevent the County Board of Supervisors from negotiating “higher pensions with the unions for public safety employees.”

Indeed, the list of pro-L arguments even includes this admission against interest for voters who read carefully: “In the past the Riverside County Board of Supervisors gave larger pensions to the unions that represent Riverside County’s public safety employees without a vote of the people.”

Put otherwise, Prop L would take the ability to cut pensions out of the hands of the same political body that previously negotiated the large benefits that the unions now want to protect. One’s head spins at the duplicity involved in this argument.

The pro-L mailer headlines the City of Bell and an individual supervisor’s pay increase and pension benefits to suggest that the proposal directly concerns limiting outrageous salaries and benefits like those in Bell. Just the opposite is the case.

The list of largely retired authors of the pro-L arguments in the voter guide clearly indicates that the measure was designed by and for the public safety unions.

On the other side of the L-issue you have a broad coalition of interests that include, among others, the Howard Jarvis group, the president of Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, and a couple of retired judges.

Their arguments resonate with dozens of columns by Dan Walters over the last few years about the gigantic financial burden imposed on the state, counties, and municipalities by gold-plated public employee pensions.

According to the No-on-L mailer, “Riverside taxpayers are liable for $1.82 billion in pension benefits for public safety employees”—benefits that in only six years “will consume one-third of the county’s entire public safety personnel budget.”

The overstatement here is that L makes reforming pensions “nearly impossible.” It is certainly correct to assert, however, that the measure makes the process for reducing very generous pension benefits much more difficult than the process by which they were instituted.

If proposed laws were labeled honestly, Measure L would be named the Defense of Existing Pension Criteria for Public Safety Employees Act.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Last Tuesday attorneys for the Vista Unified School District filed a complaint in State Superior Court against the Vista Teachers Association, the California Teachers Association, and the National Education Association.

That’s big news for a board composed mostly of folks who sit where they do thanks to VTA support. (Jim Gibson is the glaring exception.) Perhaps it was the threat of personal liability that prompted this uncharacteristic action. Or perhaps it was the district’s dire financial straits.

Here’s the specific point at issue: Since 1995 the district has paid VTA Presidents about $500,000 more than VTA has reimbursed the district. This cozy arrangement whereby the district compensated union presidents based on their personal seniority while the district was reimbursed based on a lower pay scale (C-4) was actually written into four contract agreements over a period of fifteen years.

Unfortunately for both parties this union-friendly transfer of public monies to a private organization appears to be illegal. Tuesday’s filing repeatedly emphasizes that California Education Code (section 44987) requires that school districts “shall be reimbursed by the employee organization of which the employee is an elected officer for all compensation paid the employee on account of that leave.” Indeed, reimbursement of “all compensation” is required of the organization within ten days of receiving certification of payment of the organization’s officer by the school district.

The plaintiff in this case (VUSD) is making the argument that “all compensation” means “all compensation” and that the uncompensated five-hundred grand accruing to VTA since 1995 represents an illegal transfer of public funds to a private group.

VTA, on the other hand, would now like to “negotiate” the matter. Last November the union’s non-response to a district request for reimbursement indicated that they thought the issue should be ignored—a position that reflected the initial stance of most board members

Indeed, at one point an argument was made among the board that since a private employer need not recoup overpayments to an employee, the same approach should be taken here. Forgotten in this analogy was that government overpayments are regularly recovered, that the alleged overpayments went to a private organization, and that the relevant contracts were probably illegal. But what matters a few hundred thousand public dollars among political friends?

From the perspective of VUSD $500,000 could be used to restore programs like Middle School sports that were cut in this year’s budget. Alternatively, depriving VTA and its affiliates of a half-million bucks could mean fewer ads touting union-approved causes (like Prop. 25) in the next five weeks.

It might also mean that school districts statewide will begin to reexamine their own union-cozy contracts.

Monday, August 16, 2010


The 417,000 Riverside County citizens and 655,000 San Diego County citizens who voted for Proposition 8 are irrational—plus all major civilizations that ever existed. That’s the essential message in Federal Judge Vaughan Walker’s 136-page tome that dismissed the decision of over 7 million Californians in November of 2008.

According to this black-robed demigod, Proposition 8 "fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

The gay judge proceeds to list what he deems the assured findings of psychology and sociology about the beneficial effects of gay marriage—ignoring the fact that these studies are often conducted by persons with a vested interest in their outcome, are generally done on a very small scale, and are necessarily devoid of large-scale longitudinal studies about the effects of gay marriage on children and society.

Were the judge the wise philosopher-king he thinks he is, he might have heeded the warning of Peter Berger, a prominent sociologist who declared that his academic specialty is “an intrinsically debunking discipline that should be congenial to nihilists, cynics, and other fit subjects for police surveillance.”

Put otherwise, it isn’t hard to come up with answers you insist upon finding. All you need to do is construct an investigative tool that leads to answers that comport with standards the researcher already embraces.

Using this procedure researchers “discover” that children raised in homosexual homes are “more tolerant” (of homosexuality) than kids raised in traditional homes. Other studies once conveniently found that a gay household had no effect on a child’s sexuality. Now some say it does, but that doesn’t matter.

In the process one ignores, as Judge Vaughan does, all evidence to the contrary, including probable deleterious effects of the social innovation proposed.

The opposing evidence is so obvious that only a sustained, decades-long process of social brainwashing by the media and academia could blind one to its relevance: Marriage is intrinsically related to natural procreation, fidelity, and the raising of families. Children benefit from a stable family with a father and a mother. Both fathers and mothers bring irreplaceable qualities to the raising of a child. There’s lots more.

George Orwell observed that some ideas are so absurd only an intellectual could believe them. Given time and repetition, however, almost half the population of a once-moral nation now embraces the ridiculous notion that making legal distinctions between male and female when it comes to marriage is “irrational.”

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Now that federal Judge Susan Bolton has put on hold the most controversial provisions of Arizona’s new immigration law, cities that have taken their own measures to discourage illegal immigration may be having second thoughts.

Temecula, Menifee, and other city councils have recently passed ordinances that will require businesses to verify their workers are in the country legally. The method prescribed for checking immigration status is the federal government’s own E-Verify program—“an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 … to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website proudly declares that this mostly voluntary system is currently being used by “more than 200,000 employers.” It adds that “most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify” as well as some (but not all) employers with federal contracts.

Put in context, 200,000 is fewer than the number of businesses in Los Angeles County. So the boast that 1,000 new businesses are signing up each week means that in another year the system will cover the hiring equivalent of the nation’s largest county. At that rate the country’s estimated six million firms with employees will all be E-Verified in about a century.

There’s the rub. Cities that passed ordinances requiring E-Verify assumed that the existence of a federal verification system meant the feds wouldn’t object to mandatory implementation of that system. Yet if that were the case the Obama administration wouldn’t be aiming its legal guns at Arizona, whose SB 1070 largely mirrors federal law. Instead, they would be targeting sanctuary cities.

The real problem the White House has with Arizona is that the state takes federal immigration laws seriously. Similarly, states and cities that mandate E-Verify may eventually find themselves on the wrong side of legal suits directed by Obama’s Justice Department or its private legal arm, the ACLU, if such mandates become widespread and effective.

After all, if Arizona’s law requiring police to inquire about immigration status in the course of other enforcement actions is deemed an unacceptable burden on “lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked,” a similar argument could be made on behalf of individuals whose employment is affected by E-Verify issues.

That an opponent of E-Verify at a Temecula rally openly declared her husband was in the country illegally shows how unserious the feds really are about “unauthorized employment.” I’ll wager the lady’s husband will be deported when E-Verify is mandatory throughout the country—i.e. not soon, if ever.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


“Despite recent rains, California’s Water Crisis Continues.” That was the headline of an article in a 12-page brochure distributed in Riverside County by the Eastern Municipal Water District.

That pessimistic pronouncement reminded me of a column I wrote back in 1996 that parodied the media mantra discounting the beneficial effect of the heavy rains Southern California had been experiencing. My ironic conclusion was that if the drought got any worse, we were all going to drown.

History has a way of repeating itself--especially among bureaucrats for whom a crisis is a terrible thing to be without.

The aforementioned article in the 11x12 inch mailer focused attention first of all on “years of low rainfall.” Perhaps EMWD had as hard a time as I did securing annual rainfall totals—absent a paid subscription service. But the data I eventually found for Temecula showed above average rainfall for two of the last three seasons--and near average for the other. (Average seasonal rainfall is around 13 inches.)

Indeed, the last season of severe drought was in 2006/2007 (3.75 inches). Two years earlier the area was drenched with over 30 inches of wet stuff. The rainfall pattern for Fallbrook, relative to its 16-inch average, isn’t much different over the last six years.

In a rare doff of the hat to truthfulness, the EMWD booklet did mention the primary reason a “water crisis” exists in Southern California—namely, that “regulatory restrictions have required massive reductions in California’s water supply to protect certain fish species.”

The glorified minnow whose presumed endangered status triggered the “massive reductions” of water supplies to Southern California is the delta smelt—a species or sub-species that some folks argue is indistinguishable from a critter that flourishes back East.

Fortunately for most folks in the Southland the primary consequences of this bureaucratically mandated drought are higher water prices and regularly reiterated warnings about rationing. Unfortunately for residents of the San Joaquin Valley, the absence of water has contributed to an unemployment rate of around 16 percent in San Joaquin County.

The fact that our “water crisis” is largely government-manufactured puts a different face on the 11-billion dollar Water Bond that the taxpayer-funded EMWD information packet also urges readers to swallow. Measures to combat natural disasters and accommodate population growth are quite different from spending designed to combat the effects of misguided government programs.

Senate candidate Carly Fiorina recently weighed in on the delta smelt issue by denouncing “extreme environmentalists” and Senator Boxer’s “theology” that believes “fish are more important than families.”

Put otherwise, our biggest problem is with the crisis-makers themselves.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


At least one SoCal radio station has been promoting a charity that’s soliciting funds by asserting that many children in the area are going hungry this summer because they’re no longer getting the free meals that were provided at school.

This sales pitch raised a question in my mind because over thirty years ago I worked in a government food stamp office in Atlanta, Georgia. I knew first-hand that these benefits, even in the late 70s, were rather generous. And I knew they were available in short order for folks without assets and income.

So I decided to check on the monthly food stamp allotment in California for a family of three without assets. You can do your own figuring at

I recall from sheer repetition that the late 70s figure in Georgia was $120. Today the amount available in California to a three-person household without significant assets and any income is $526.

Note that $526 isn’t the total amount of welfare benefits for which this household qualifies. There are other sources of income like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that annually dispenses 6.6 billion dollars in aid throughout the Golden State (3.7 billion of which comes from the feds).

The benefits from the latter program, however, are distributed in the form of cash grants that can be accessed via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) debit cards and ATM machines. As was recently disclosed, these EBT cards even work at ATMs in 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state-licensed poker rooms.

The fact that the state has been oblivious to this absurd juxtapositioning of welfare cash and casino ATMs makes it a good bet that a lot of money dedicated to food stamps is also directed (by other means) toward less-than-nutritional objectives.

In short, most households have to be extraordinarily irresponsible with the money available to them for their kids to actually “go hungry”—school or no school. A different set of disclosure circumstances faces households where adults aren’t in the country legally. But the “hungry children” promo said nothing about that issue—for obvious PR reasons.

Bottom line: Folks should be wary of solicitations that employ the malleable “hunger” category—a term that describes almost everyone during certain hours of the day. What truly deserve support are efforts to prevent “malnutrition” and “starvation”—both of which are abundant in abysmally poor countries.

In the Southland, donations to character-focused programs like those of Father Joe Carroll’s Toussaint Youth Village are far more likely to do lasting good than bucks to assuage summertime gastric growls.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There were at least two reasons to vote for Proposition 14—the constitutional amendment that promised to save Californians from themselves by making primary elections non-partisan.
First, given the state’s fiscal fiasco, it’s hard to think that voters could do worse under an open primary system than they’ve done under the current set-up. Second, the fact that Nancy Pelosi was against the proposition pretty much guaranteed that the idea had merit.

Despite the fact that a broken clock is right twice a day, it’s unlikely that Speaker Pelosi wouldn’t know where her partisan interests lay when it came to this electoral reform. Pelosi was joined in opposition by the California Teachers Association and other public employees unions that currently own Sacramento.

Now that Prop. 14 has been approved by a 54-46 per cent margin, it will be a while before Californians can judge whether the political means are (as Gandhi suggested) “the ends in the making.”

Unfortunately, anyone who peruses a pre-election report released by the Center for Governmental Studies will probably conclude that the primary rearrangement act is unlikely to significantly change the ideological complexion of our legislators in Sacramento.

The study shows that, based on registration, about one-third of all legislative districts are “supermajority” districts where one party has 25% more registered voters than the other. Not surprisingly, all of those supermajority districts are Democratic—most in the Bay area or Los Angeles county. (No wonder Pelosi and her union buddies weren’t wild about this proposition.)

But before anyone starts popping champagne corks, the study also shows that in 8 of the 19 state Senate and Assembly elections since 2006 where voters in the general election would have chosen between two candidates of the same party, the more moderate of the two primary candidates was already the party nominee—and in only 4 of the 19 races was the vote close enough that participation by independents or crossovers would likely have made a difference.

Given the fact that none of the San Diego and Riverside county districts are supermajority Republican, it seems the only local ramification of Prop. 14 will be to force the 6 to 9 per cent of Libertarian voters in Assembly Districts 74, 75, and 77 to cast their November ballots for a Democrat or a Republican—or to abstain from voting.

Perhaps over time open primaries might have a salutary effect, but they’ve not yet worked any magic in Washington state—nor in Louisiana where something like an open primary law was instituted in 1975 precisely to protect Democrat incumbents.

California’s next deus ex machina will be 2012’s non-partisan redistricting.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Recently State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth joined with Gov. Schwarzenegger in penning an article that calls for significant reform of California’s public employee pension system. That system, according to a group of Stanford University researchers, puts the state’s unfunded pension liabilities at a staggering 500 billion dollars.

Hollingsworth’s SB 919 is the specific legislation designed to transform journalistic rhetoric into government policy. The bill's provisions only apply to new hires. Among other features, it puts the retirement eligibility age for non-public safety employees at 65 and changes the system for calculating benefits for all employees from the highest single year’s pay to an average of the highest three years.

Other measures reduce the state’s contribution to retiree health care costs and add five years to the length of service one needs to be fully vested for health care benefits.

Today it isn’t unusual for public employees to retire at age 50 with annual pensions that amount to 90 percent of their annual pay. In some cases, by taking advantage of provisions that allow employees to “spike” their salary, yearly pensions that exceed an employee’s largest salary are possible.

A fire chief in Contra Costa County provided the poster-boy example of the “spiking” that’s common at both the state and local level. In this case sick leave, almost two years of administrative leave, an auto allowance, standby pay and additional management pay were all part of the formula that placed the 51-year-old retiree’s annual benefit at $284,000--$63,000 more than his final year’s salary.

Assuming the ex-chief lives another 30 years, his total pension payout will amount to over 8.5 million dollars—not counting adjustments for inflation.

Predictably, public employee unions that have a stranglehold on the large Democrat majority in Sacramento oppose Hollingsworth’s proposed pension cutbacks. One political observer noted that there’s no chance the legislature will embrace even this modest new-hire bill.

Representatives of the supposedly neutral California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) testified against SB 919 and put a happy face on debt obligations that currently cost the state over 3 billion dollars a year.

On the other hand, Schwarzenegger’s chief pension advisor, David Crane, reminded the committee of the CalPERS plan in 1999 that retroactively increased pensions and put California taxpayers on the hook to pay vast sums if the Dow stock average didn’t hit 25,000 by 2009 and 28 million by 2099!

Today’s elections will mean little if nothing is done to break the vicious circle whereby public employee unions buy politicians who then feed the beast that created them.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Only in the alternate universe of leftist thought could a law that basically requires state and local officials to enforce existing federal immigration law be compared to Nazism. That’s the “big lie” being drummed into the public mind in unintended tribute to that master of Nazi propaganda—Joseph Goebbels.

It’s no surprise that the supreme political panderer, Jesse Jackson, distorts the recently signed Arizona law by asserting that people can be interrogated simply for looking Mexican. It’s a bit more surprising that city councils in San Diego and Los Angeles (and places north) have joined in denouncing the Grand Canyon state—some going so far as to support a boycott of Arizona.

Speculative horror stories about the new law (like President Obama’s ice cream store fantasy) may have contributed to the (now-reversed) decision to cancel the December trip of Temecula’s Great Oak High School marching band to a Fiesta Bowl competition.

Even Miss USA pageant officials have gotten into the act—this year substituting a bogus rendering of Arizona’s law for the politically charged “gay marriage” query placed before Vista’s Carrie Prejean last year. Like Prejean, Miss Oklahoma’s un-PC response no doubt cemented her runner-up status.

Despite the river of lies disseminated by Jackson and the mainstream media, the general public still has the good sense to see that Arizona’s law represents little more than the state taking federal immigration laws more seriously than the federal government.

In a recent Pew poll Americans overwhelmingly support (by a 59 to 32 per cent margin) the Arizona law. Favorable numbers in a Rasmussen poll go even higher (69 per cent) when specific elements of the law are discussed—like police officers being required to check the immigration status of anyone stopped for a traffic (or other) violation if they suspect the person might be illegal.

Still, the political class continues to be up in arms against a law that also bans sanctuary cities and thus demands that the nation’s border and American citizenship be taken seriously. Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t even bother to read the short Arizona law to express his disapproval to a Congressional Committee.

The bill is readily available for reading on the Internet—along with Governor Brewer’s Executive Order that explicitly prohibits racial profiling. But inconvenient truths are of little interest to leftists who prosper politically by keeping the border porous and cramming as many illegals as possible into American voting booths.

That Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of the U.S. thanks to this cynical policy is, to such politicians, a small price to pay for their own “success.”


Recently a reader of this newspaper [the North County Times] sent me a detailed message that argued for a simple but important proposition: Apply the same conflict of interest laws and standards to elected officials that are repeatedly hammered into civil service employees.

One might think the same standard already applies to both groups. But judging by the ethics panel report that examined the sweetheart deals given to Senators Kent Conrad and Christopher Dodd, the “appearance of impropriety” civil service benchmark is apparently irrelevant when it comes to very tangible loans that go far beyond appearances.

According to the Senate ethics committee report these two Senators "were often offered quicker, more efficient loan processing and some discounts" by California’s Countrywide Financial. Yet those circumstances were not found to breach the Senate’s ethics rules.

Then there was the string of financial improprieties connected with Rep. Charles Rangel that finally became so long the powerful New York Congressman was forced to step down from chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel tried to fob off violations on his staff, arguing that he couldn’t be held responsible for illegal benefits to himself if his staff didn’t let him know about them.

Try using that excuse on the IRS, and see how far it gets you.

My letter writer noted that “reaffirming traditional conflict of interest definitions…would do much to improve government at all levels.” While I certainly agree that application of these strict standards to elected officials would be beneficial, the use of government itself for the benefit of specific interest groups (like public employee unions) is now a much greater problem facing the state of California and its municipalities—a problem that isn’t addressed by focusing attention on conflict of interest standards as applied to individuals.

The graft of the aforementioned senators is chicken feed compared to the 500 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities within California’s public employee pension systems. These compensation structures for state employees who collectively possess huge political clout constitute a 24/7 conflict of interest problem.

This self-serving system, by the way, was made possible by former Governor Jerry Brown’s 1978 signature on the “Dill Act,” a law that allowed state employees to unionize.

The fact that Brown is again a contender for governor suggests that the Tea Party message against ever-expanding government hasn’t penetrated the psyches of most California voters—much less the media-shaped mind of politicians like New York City Mayor Bloomberg who reflexively link opposition to big government with homicidal terrorism.

In truth, the greatest conflict of interest of our time is the use of government for the enrichment of groups that are increasingly part of the government itself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Friday has been designated a Day of Silence in most of the nation’s schools by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). On April 16, many high school (and some middle school) students won’t speak during the day in order to show solidarity with gay classmates.

This now-annual event raises a plethora of questions about student rights and the role public schools should play vis-à-vis controversial political and social agendas.

There would be little to object to if the Day of Silence were only dedicated to the proposition that students shouldn’t be subjected to slurs of any kind—racial, religious, ethnic, or sexual. In my twenty years in the classroom I enforced this no-slur policy across the board.

GLSEN and similar organizations, however, aren’t merely anti-defamation leagues. Rather, they have broader political agendas that concern fundamental social issues about which there is deep public disagreement—a fact illustrated in spades by the passionate debate on California’s Proposition 8.

The question that arises for school administrators is how to respond to these “silent” student demonstrations. Do they ignore them, discourage them, or facilitate and build upon them?

Given the fact that the California Teachers Association gave 1.3 million dollars to the “No on 8” campaign, it is safe to assume that most public schools will be inclined to take the “facilitation” route—with some teachers seizing upon this “teachable moment” to further indoctrinate students with their own Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender vision of society.

This vision, more implicit than explicit, includes the conviction that sexual orientation is purely a genetic given and that male-female households are no more beneficial to children and society than households or relationships of any other sexual configuration.

The fairly obvious truth, however, is that children benefit from male-female domestic models and that human sexual expression is a matter of gradations—not a function of gay-straight absolutes. Gradations, however, aren’t congenial to folks who place sexual activity in the same black-white categories as race.

Accordingly, the label “bisexual” is regularly employed by youngsters posting at GLSEN’s blog to lend an aura of genetic inevitability to actions once termed promiscuous.

Most public schools, I’m confident, would give absolutely no support to a student-led “Day of Silence” that defended the “silent scream” rights of an unborn child. Indeed, many administrators would likely cooperate with the ACLU to prohibit—like student prayers at graduation—the overt expression of these “religious” beliefs.

Parents who object to having public schools promote a GLBT social agenda should think seriously about keeping their kids home from school on Friday—especially if administrators aren’t forthcoming about their “Day of Silence” plans.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Recently a Los Angeles TV station announced that California lottery sales were down and efforts were afoot to boost this flagging source of state revenue--last year netting about a billion dollars.

That’s just the thing, I thought. Let’s tempt folks who can’t afford it to fork over more cash on the 15-million-to-one chance that their tickets will catapult them (and lift California) out of a deep recession.

Never mind that Californians overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 1C last year—with over two-thirds of San Diego and Riverside County voters saying no to expanding and borrowing against state-sponsored gaming enterprises. Apparently the geniuses in Sacramento still wish to find a way to up the lottery ante and increase the number of Golden State chumps.

On the other side of Easy Street are those who tout marijuana legalization as a significant economic boon to our debt-ridden state. This proposition, if passed, will at least have the advantage of dulling the senses of those who imagine that the road to governmental solvency is a one-way avenue that only requires a bit of chemical stimulus and legal flexibility—no downside scenarios permitted.

Such “budget solutions” are typical of the “anything painless” mentality that’s gotten California into a mess that lawmakers seem incapable of addressing realistically. Other versions of this mindset involve proposals to increase taxes on unpopular industries under the delusional assumption that one can have a continuous stream of golden goose eggs while strangling the fowl for dinner.

It never occurs to these folks that making an unfavorable business climate even more unfavorable isn’t a recipe for job creation--except for jobs in the burgeoning public sector.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently hosted a “jobs summit” in Irvine at which he offered various policy proposals: a two-year cut in payroll taxes, allowing small businesses to expense 100% of new equipment purchases, cutting the capital gains tax rate.

One might criticize these Washington-focused suggestions for exhibiting (from the other side of the political fence) the same “no pain” mentality demonstrated by last year’s massive $787 billion stimulus program. All gain and no pain.

Assuming that Gingrich’s pro-business proposals would be more effective than the President’s “Porkulus” approach, tax reductions of this magnitude would still need to be combined with serious budget cuts to avoid a fiscal train wreck.

Fortunately, California doesn’t have the authority to borrow and spend the state into prosperity—or rather, into oblivion. A truly pro-business, pro-jobs policy can’t simply be put on a gargantuan IOU and debited to future generations. It can only be implemented in conjunction with honest fiscal discipline.

Don’t bet on it.

Friday, March 26, 2010


My recent column extolling the vices of the Department of Motor Vehicles prompted several readers to send me their own DMV horror stories. One Escondido writer noted that, unlike my Temecula trip, no separate and shorter line existed for her appointment—making the entire system a farce.

Another wily reader mentioned how he trekked up from Oceanside to the San Clemente DMV where he was able to get in and out in only one hour—not counting the travel time.

Other readers focused on the health care analogy I was making in the article and provided anecdotes about medicine across the pond where, in England, “they do have to wait months for surgery, unless it’s life-threatening.”

Even in critical situations things might not go so well according to one writer whose friend with chest pains had to drive himself to the hospital when no ambulance responded to his telephone call. In another case a chap suffering from what turned out to be a bowel obstruction reportedly waited for hours after requesting an “emergency” home visit—a delay that could have been fatal.

Then there were those folks who saw no useful analogy between the DMV and a program for national health care because, as one critic noted, the former is a “state” agency. Presumably this gentleman would have had no problem with the argument had he been reading a column where I mentioned a very long line at an Oceanside post office that at one point was being served by exactly no one.

Now that Congress has passed, by hook or by crook, this much-touted more-for-less health care legislation, we will see if the law lives up to its billing—and down to its projected cost.

It was hardly an auspicious sign that approval of this bureaucracy-on-steroids construct was made possible by yet another ruse—the idea that an Executive Order about abortion (without legislative force) would prevent federal funding of that deadly procedure.

The glee in the Twittered bill-signing message of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards suggests that, like so many statements and representations coming from this White House, the pledge that abortions will not be funded with taxpayer dollars was just another piecrust promise by folks who seem to have a good deal in common with the author of that “made to be broken” statement.

I predict, with bitter confidence, that this no-abortion promise will be broken (or “circumvented”) the same way Obama broke promises about public funding of his presidential campaign and about C-SPAN coverage of the tawdry legislative process that resulted in this landmark “Louisiana Purchase” health care legislation.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Here’s a way to guarantee a “no” vote on the Obama-care legislation pending in Congress. Require representatives who plan to vote “aye” to first visit a California DMV office. Such a pilgrimage to the Mecca of governmental incompetence would doom any initiative that threatens to put health care in the same bureaucratic hands.

While living in Oceanside, I once considered transacting business at the Vista DMV. I quickly ditched the idea when I saw a swarm of vehicles and document-seekers inundating the office.

Unfortunately, with the impending expiration of my license, a DMV visit became imperative. The telephone gauntlet I encountered wasn’t an encouraging omen. After rejecting an appointment six weeks later at a nearby office, I was able to wheedle a slightly more palatable result out of my automated interlocutor—a Temecula tryst four weeks in the future and ten days before the license expiration date.

My 9:30 am appointment was like a decent into hell. Dozens of drivers searched for non-existent parking spots beyond the jammed parking lot. After about 10 minutes I was able to squeeze my 13-foot compact into a 14-foot parallel space that wouldn’t accommodate most vehicles.

A line stretched well around the corner of the modestly sized edifice. Armed with an “appointment,” I bypassed these patrons (most of whom would still be waiting hours later) and entered a building packed with adults sitting and standing in the few feet that extended on three sides of the partitioned work space.

After waiting in another line to get a ticket, I wandered about the restrictive area where perhaps a hundred chairs in two rows were all occupied. Despite my appointment ticket, I was ordered outside by a diminutive crowd-control enforcer who periodically announced that the place would be “shut down” as a fire hazard absent prompt compliance.

Fortunately for me, another ticket-holder offered his seat and traipsed outside. An elderly gentleman sitting in the next chair showed me his non-appointment ticket with a number that guaranteed he would be sitting in this wretched confined space for at least another two hours.

With an “appointment” and parking luck I was able to emerge from this bureaucratic nightmare in about an hour—leaving behind hundreds of folks who were waiting for tickets that would entitle them to wait yet more hours to conduct their vehicular business.

Those who think this scenario doesn’t apply to health care should ponder the case of Danny Williams, the Newfoundland premier who skipped to the U.S. for minimally invasive heart value surgery rather than jump, without an “appointment,” to the head of the long waiting line in Canada.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Yet another trial of the century is almost over. This one was held in San Francisco and dealt with the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Presiding was U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker—a jurist whose homosexuality doubtless had no bearing on his brazen attempt to transform the proceedings into a publicly telecast show trial.

This particular farce was dedicated to the proposition that Californians were somehow violating the United States Constitution when they decided by a 500,000 vote margin to reassert the male-female marital mores that have been in effect throughout civilized history and currently obtain in the vast majority of American states. Nearly 40% of that half-million vote margin, by the way, came from two counties: San Diego (75,000) and Riverside (119,000).

The Proposition 8 vote, of course, was necessitated by another judicial fiat—the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 reversal of Proposition 22. In that case our black-robed betters sifted through their tendentious legal tealeaves to conclude that a measure passed overwhelmingly by the electorate in 2000 violated the state Constitution.

Whatever decision Judge Walker renders about the constitutionality of Prop 8, the case is probably destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. There the decision about overturning thousands of years of legal and moral precedent will absurdly rest on the shoulders of one lone justice--Anthony Kennedy.

That way of putting the issue correctly suggests that what is at stake here is more than a few same-sex weddings. Consider that one witness in the Frisco fiasco was forced to disclose and defend his political and religious views so the court could ponder their propriety. Earlier in the proceedings plaintiffs were allowed to submit evidence of the “improper” influence of religious communities in support of Prop. 8.

A major component of most arguments against Prop 8 has been that limiting marriage to male-female unions is akin to racial discrimination. As a result, discrimination against traditional religious beliefs and institutions is considered more than OK.

Indeed, such discrimination is already taking place. In Washington D.C. the Catholic Archdiocese recently announced that it is ending an 80-year foster-care program. Four years earlier in Massachusetts Catholic Charities ended its adoption work. The reason? Both groups were required to ignore their religious beliefs and to place children with same-sex couples. So much for the free exercise of religion.

Anyone who can’t see that variations in skin pigmentation aren’t analogous to the profound differences between males and females has no business making decisions about the “constitutionality” of distinctions that most sentient beings recognize instinctively.

Kids need two parents—one male and one female. In some venues that truism is already considered hate speech.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Flood plains began to resemble the Father of Waters during recent storms that dumped in excess of five inches of rain on much of Southern California. It wasn’t exactly the “Grapes of Wrath” scenario that’s been spun by global warming enthusiasts.

Though a week-long storm constitutes only anecdotal evidence, it’s worth noting that prudential caveats are almost never mentioned when a weather event or natural disaster can possibly be spun in favor of the catastrophic global warming theory.

Hurricanes, and even earthquakes, have been utilized by the carbon-dioxide-is-a-pollutant crowd to create evidence that global warming is bringing about one apocalypse after the other. Unfortunately, to the great chagrin of climatological catastrophists, recent hurricane seasons have been remarkably mild—and now much of the hoped for California Sahara has already met its seasonal quota for rainfall.

If that good news isn’t bad enough, consider the catastrophic revelations from East Anglia, the intellectual epicenter of England’s immensely profitable climate disaster industry. E-mail suggest that the “settled science” of global warming is being “settled” by massaging data and silencing reputable critics.

Now comes news that the ballyhooed melting of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 was a fraudulent assertion promoted to encourage reluctant Asian countries to jump on the global warming bandwagon.

But never mind those incriminating e-mail or bogus predictions or flourishing polar bears. Global warming, as George Will has noted, has become the religion of the elite—and a godsend for Marxists without another credible rationale for placing everything from auto companies to cow toots under government control.

Like any religion, believers in global warming have an answer for any eventuality. Thus, “climate change” accommodates even global cooling. In the words of MSNBC’s true believer, Rachel Maddow: “global warming probably means extreme weather of all kinds.”

Anyone familiar with the philosophy of science knows that a theory that accommodates all possible data isn’t falsifiable. And any theory that isn’t falsifiable, as the philosopher Karl Popper observed, is ideology—not science.

For those who like their science without a heavy ideological dressing, I recommend Ian Plimer’s recently released book, “Heaven and Earth.” It’s a work by a highly respected Australian geologist that Gov. Schwarzenegger should consult the next time a government-enhancing “green” bill lands on his desk.

In the meantime climate-changers can only hope that polar bears stop propagating and that Southern California starts to resemble the desert it’s supposed to become. Absent such bad news, ordinary citizens might start to consider the very tangible jobs and revenue available from offshore oil wells.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Gov. Schwarzenegger delivered his final State of the State address earlier this month—a rhetorical swan song that combined Terminator tough talk with budgetary ideas reminiscent of Kindergarten Cop.

While blasting the state legislature for its inaction on the deficit (now estimated at 20 billion over the next 18 months), the governor engaged in his own bit of Last Action Hero melodrama.

Specifically, Arnold proposed yet another inflexible formula for the state budget. Under his proposed constitutional amendment, beginning in 2014 California would spend no less than 10% of its budget on certain higher education items and no more than 7% on state prisons. Currently, according to the governor, those ratios are roughly reversed, with 11% going to prisons and 7.5% to higher education.

The rationale for these rigid mandates was straight out of central casting: “What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns?”

Lost in this verbal posing was the fact that the current (and inscrutable) Prop. 98 mandate for K-14 spending is the subject of ongoing legislative dispute. Also ignored was the fact that no statistical correlation exists between excellent schools and money spent on the educational bureaucracy—a point famously made by the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan.

In a scholarly paper printed in 1993, the New York Democrat noted that the parent-child ratio (two-parent households) was strongly correlated with academic success, whereas per-pupil expenditures were far less indicative of achievement than the proximity of state capitals to the Canadian border. In view of these findings the impish Moynihan suggested that states consider moving their capitals closer to Canada.

On the other side of Schwarzenegger’s equation, it isn’t clear what the governor proposes to do if the number of prisoners in the state exceeds its legal financial ability to incarcerate them—especially given the cost of corrections employee contracts. Prisons bursting at the seams point to severe social problems, but it is a Batman and Robin fantasy to think that an arbitrary limit on expenditures won’t result in significant Collateral Damage.

Only academics and actors are surprised that the national decline in crime rates that began in the 1980s was accompanied by a precipitous increase in the prison population. Put simply—so even Conan the Barbarian can understand—when criminals are incarcerated, they can’t commit crimes.

Fortunately mayors throughout the Southland don’t have significant educational line items in their budgets. Consequently, they’re free to focus on public safety as a primary concern--without the True Lies demagoguery that assumes “too much spending” only applies to health care and prisons.