Sunday, December 30, 2012


What do Gerard Depardieu and wealthy Californians have in common? Governor Brown is hoping the answer is “very little.” Several anecdotes and a spate of statistics, however, suggest they share more than Sacramento types would like to think.

Monsieur Depardieu, one of France’s most famous actors, has taken refuge in Belgium from President Hollande’s 75% tax on income over a million euros. The Cyrano de Bergerac star, however, is hardly alone in his search for a less taxing environment.

According to a Swiss magazine, 44 of that nation’s 300 richest residents are French and include famous names like Peugeot and Rothschild. Earlier this year London Mayor Boris Johnson, speaking fluent French, encouraged financial workers on the other side of the Channel to move to his city.

With the passage of Governor Brown’s Proposition 30, overall state-federal marginal tax rates for the Golden State’s top earners could exceed 50 percent—depending of the resolution of President Obama’s proposal to tax millionaires, billionaires, and those with adjusted incomes over $200,000.

As a consequence, the somewhat diminished flight of folks out of California could again become frantic—especially on the part of enterprises struggling in a business climate that ranks near the bottom of the Tax Foundation’s list of states. Among recent departures are 800 Chevron and 1000 Comcast jobs that are moving to other states, especially business-friendly Texas.

Ironically, folks in Hollywood are themselves increasingly prone to take productions elsewhere to secure tax breaks that aren’t available under the political regime they enthusiastically support. A double irony is that conservative Riverside County is pondering incentives that might encourage these “runaway” studios to film in the Inland Empire.

Beyond anecdotes, historical statistics suggest that Brown’s new taxes on the somewhat and actually wealthy are unlikely to produce significant revenues. As economist Thomas Sowell has noted, “high tax rates that people don’t actually pay do not bring in as much hard cash as lower tax rates that they do pay.”

The 1920s provide a poignant example. In 1921 a 73 percent tax rate on the wealthy brought in less revenue than a 24 percent top rate in 1925. Similar but less drastic cuts by JFK, Reagan, and George W. Bush produced similar results.

Rich folks, especially in a technologically enhanced economy, have many ways to avoid paying taxes. Tax-exempt bonds, even with low yields, beat paying half one’s dollars to the government. Or consider Google, an Obama-friendly California-based corporation that utilizes a Bermuda company to shelter two billion tax dollars.

Vilifying the rich may be emotionally gratifying, but it’s bad economics and socially destructive—as California, like France, may someday learn.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


“Oh my gosh, here we go.” Those were the thoughts of Newport Beach Deputy Chief David McGill when he got the call last week about a man firing a weapon at the city’s Fashion Island shopping center.

The previous day the lives of twenty young children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school were brutally ended after the killer murdered his own mother at home. Fortunately, the Newport Beach shooter “released his tension” in a less horrific manner—directing more than 50 shots to the skies.

The next day Los Angeles police arrested a 24-year-old Pomona man for threats made against “kindergarten and elementary school kids” via the college student’s Facebook posting.  L.A. County prosecutors, however, declined to file charges despite a large cache of firearms that police found at the parental residence where he was arrested.

According to neighbors the now-free young man is a “head-of-the-class student” and a “totally good kid.” Perhaps the threatening post was, for him, a form of humor—not unlike Jamie Foxx’s Saturday Night Live comment (prior to the Connecticut horror) that in his new movie (“Django Unchained”) “I kill all the white people. How great is that!” Audience laughter followed.

The absence of a recent body count in California perpetuates the illusion that such things happen “somewhere else.” Disappearing down the memory hole is April’s murder of seven at Oikos University in Oakland. Last year’s shooting at Seal Beach, where eight persons were killed, has become ancient history—an artifact as remote as the slaughter of twenty-one humans at a San Ysidro McDonald’s in 1984.

Many folks are eager to assure us that these horrific events are no worse than shootings in the past. According to one scholar, “mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929.”

Those individuals are quite literally “whistling past the graveyard.” The late Senator Patrick Moynihan, himself a distinguished scholar, noted that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, where four gangsters killed seven other gangsters, was a huge event meriting two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia. How many folks even remember  Seal Beach?

Only in the last few decades has violence been mass-marketed extensively via films, music, and video games to both adults and kids. Ten years ago when I was teaching at a La Jolla prep-school, one teacher felt comfortable showing another ultra-violent Quentin Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction, to students in a religion class. There was no administrative reaction.

When folks in authority are more worried about being called prudes than about setting high standards--for language, parenthood, and entertainment--that culture is in trouble. Not all shots will be fired into the air.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


A joke in the old Soviet Union concerned a departed leader who left his successor two envelopes with these instructions: “When you are in big trouble, open envelope number one. When you are in really big trouble, open envelope number two.”

A few years later the official was in a huge mess, so he opened the first envelope. It said, “Blame everything on me.” After a while the official was facing an even greater crisis, so he opened the second envelope. It read, “Prepare two envelopes.”

The moral of the story is that scapegoating becomes routine in a system that doesn’t work. California’s politicians have transformed this practice into a fine art.

For several decades the dwindling numbers of Republicans in Sacramento were regularly blamed by Democrats and their media allies for the state’s wildly imbalanced budget. As is the case now in Washington D.C., GOP opposition to tax increases took the political rap for deficits—not the other party’s penchant for spending that, adjusted for inflation, increased over 40 percent per capita in the Golden State from 2000 to 2010.

Now that Democrats possess sufficient numbers to make Republicans irrelevant, one would think this supermajority would have to own the consequences of their belief that, as one skeptical commentator put it, “California is only one massive tax increase away from being fixed.” This consequence seems especially reasonable given that voters recently approved Governor Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increases.

There is considerable evidence, however, that the big government crew is building up a new scapegoat beyond the GOP, oil companies, and those dastardly Koch brothers—just in case higher taxes don’t produce revenues that keep pace with continuing demands for more “stimulus and investment.”

The new scapegoat for failed economic policies in Sacramento appears to be Proposition 13. Recently State Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation that would reduce from two-thirds to 55 percent the majorities needed to increase local property taxes. Other ideas designed to “reform” Prop. 13 focus on assessments for commercial property.

The speed with which these proposals appeared after the passage of Prop. 30 suggests that Democrats don’t expect Brown’s new taxes to be the magic bullet that will cure California’s ills. This assumption is reinforced by recent figures from the State Comptroller’s office showing November’s revenues came in 10.8 percent ($806.8 million) below budgetary expectations.

In short, if new taxes don’t produce a flood of additional revenue and a balanced budget, Sacramento’s prescription will be more of the same. The two revolving envelopes for these legislators will always read “Blame the rich” and “Raise taxes.”

Saturday, December 08, 2012


What are politicians to do when problems are massive and solutions bound to offend the powerful interest groups that pull their strings? Answer: Focus attention elsewhere.

That’s what the Los Angeles City Council did a couple of weeks before the national election when it adopted a “Meatless Monday” resolution “in support of comprehensive sustainability efforts” that would also “encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health and protect animals.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district extends southward from downtown L.A., introduced this zany motion. As an encore, she hopes to ban new fast-food restaurants in the area—a move that would lessen the number of jobs available for her constituents where unemployment far exceeds the county’s dismal rate of 10.5 percent.

The councilwoman is only following in the footsteps of other politicians like New York City Mayor Bloomberg who, having little success doing what politicians are elected to do (i.e. manage finances and provide basic government services at reasonable rates) have assumed the mantel of Nanny-in-Chief.

In Bloomberg’s case the latest object of his wrath was sugary soft drinks in excess of sixteen ounces. Other Bloomberg crusades have been waged against trans fat, salt, and outdoor smoking.

In Southern California the specter of thin plastic shopping bags has captured the fertile imagination of officials whose schools are often performing as poorly as the public employee pension funds that were mindlessly expected to grow as quickly as the number of retirees tapping these exorbitant benefits.

Other faux-crises that fascinate Golden State politicians include endangered critters like the three-inch delta smelt—a species-of-sorts whose protection trumped the water needs of Central Valley farmers and put thousands of unprotected homo sapiens out of business.

Put simply, “meatless” diversions shift attention away from yawning budget deficits, a high-tax, high-regulation environment that’s driving entrepreneurs out of state, illegal immigration issues that have only been ameliorated by a lousy economy, a graduation rate of 61.6 percent in the LA Unified school system, and a plethora of problems related to crime, drug smuggling and drug abuse.

The situation reminds me of a scene at the beginning of the film “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” where Andie MacDowell is explaining to a psychiatrist her obsession with a garbage-laden barge searching for a friendly port-of-call—an extraneous event that allows her to ignore a dissolving marriage.

Politicians fixated on “plant-based diets” are engaged in a similar delusion that detracts attention from budgets, jobs, education, public safety, and infrastructure. Believe it or not, constituents can plan their own diets without bureaucrat tutorials.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


One of the consolations of living in Sun City (aka Menifee) is the nostalgic atmosphere that pervades the residential communities dating from the sixties and seventies. When cruising these holiday-enhanced streets, one could almost forget that in America today, and especially in Santa Monica, there are folks who devote significant effort to removing from public property scenes that have warmed young and old hearts since 1953.

Last year in that saint-christened city a group of atheists conspired to secure for themselves the lion’s share of spaces available for decoration based on a lottery that had been set up to ensure equal access by folks of different persuasions.

Many of these slots were, appropriately enough, left empty by folks who are skilled at destroying tradition but ill-equipped at putting anything uplifting in its place. A few other displays were used to mock religion—a good example of the new “spirit-of-the-solstice-season.”

Two slots housed a condensed version of the traditional Nativity scene, and one space commemorated the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

This year “The City of the Christmas Story” all-but-ditched the traditional displays at Palisades Park, insisting that any scene erected must have an attendant, presumably to protect it from vandals. A federal judge recently upheld the position of the municipality that seeks to wash its hands of what has become a legal and cultural battlefield.

Who knew that images promoting “Peace on earth; good will to men,” could be so divisive?

What most folks don’t know is that the modern judicial interpretation of the Constitution’s establishment clause would have seemed bizarre to the Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson Memorial, which is replete with religious references, pays tribute to an unorthodox President who nevertheless regularly attended church services that were held in the Capitol building itself for seventy years.

By contrast, the crew that gets its drawers bent out of shape over traditional Christmas displays on public property now insists that government-related acknowledgements of “the season” should shed all their essentially religious components and employ only images that don’t offend secular sensibilities—perhaps Black Friday fistfights or tasteful representations of a meaningless universe.

The logical kicker is that these dismal metaphysical preferences aren’t rational imperatives. Moreover, they offend individuals who lack a grinchly disposition and cringe at the idea that the only thing we have in common is government and black holes.

Here’s a novel thought. How about exhibiting some charity when in a government “of the people” some of those folks express their holiday traditions in the public square? That response certainly beats a cheerless, naked and rigorously intolerant public square.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Immigration Driving Shift in State Politics

Way back in 1964 Marshall McLuhan began his influential book, “Understanding Media,” with this anecdote from the New York Times: “A health director…reported this week that a small mouse, which presumably had been watching television, attacked a little girl and her full-grown cat. Both mouse and cat survived, and the incident is recorded here as a reminder that things seem to be changing.”

That odd case of turnabout might be used as a metaphor for the political transformation that’s occurred in California—from a state that four times gave electoral majorities to Ronald Reagan, twice as governor and twice as President, to a state that just voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in spite of an unemployment rate that’s been above ten percent for over three years.

In addition, Democrats recently gained supermajorities in Sacramento and now sport a 38-15 bulge in the state’s Congressional delegation—Mary Bono Mack and Brian Bilbray being two recent GOP casualties.

San Diego is another case in point. That city recently chose pro-union, liberal Democrat Bob Filner as its mayor. This is the same municipality that from 1971 to 1983 was headed by Pete Wilson and from 1983 to 1986 by Roger Hedgecock.

A major factor driving this Left Coast transformation has been demographic. As journalist Diana West has noted: “In 1960 non-Hispanic whites made up 82 percent of the population of Los Angeles County. Forty years later…the white population had dwindled to 31 percent while Hispanics…accounted for 44.6 percent.”

In the last decade those figures have continued to fall and rise—to 27.6 percent and 48.1 percent respectively. This demographic change brought with it significant economic shifts. Thus, during the 1990s, a period of rapid economic growth in the country at large, the poverty rate rose 28 percent in Los Angeles County and over 60 percent in Riverside County.

Other sociological trends have combined with these demographic factors to produce the political shift that’s turned the Golden State dark blue. These trends include a dramatic rise of out-of-wedlock births among Latinos. Indeed, according to Center for Disease Controls statistics for 2003, Hispanics had by far the highest unmarried birthrate in the country (92 children per 1000 unmarried women).

Link those numbers with a dropout rate of 20 percent, and you have a circumstance where, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes, many immigrants “aren’t assimilating successfully—or worse, are assimilating downward.”

Put otherwise, the family cohesiveness that was once touted as a strength of Hispanic culture is rapidly dissolving amid America’s media-driven culture. As it does, the government aid that both alleviates and promotes social dysfunction seems all the more necessary.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Proposition 30 Brings Smiles to Union Faces

It used to be said that patriotism was “the last refuge of scoundrels.” Nowadays the façade behind which political rogues reside are the happy faces of children.

A case in point was the ubiquitous political ad featuring Governor Jerry Brown and a group of cheering kids. The obvious message was that whoever voted for Proposition 30 was doing so “for the children.” By implication, those voting against Prop. 30 were Ebenezer Scrooge clones whose hearts were unmoved by the tears they brought to the faces of little tykes.

If there were a truth in advertising requirement for political ads, the cohort standing behind Gov. Brown would have been officers from the California Teachers Association. When these mugs lit up at the mention of Prop. 30, folks would rightly conclude that this “temporary” sales and income tax increase was primarily “for the union”—specifically for a pension program that’s unfunded by tens-of-billions of dollars.

As those officials know, the word “fungible” concerns a thing’s interchangeability—including the idea that money taken from pot A can easily be shifted to pot B, and vice versa. Thus, if more money comes into a vessel that’s designated for classroom education, it becomes easier to divert funds for other purposes.

Fungibility is why lottery revenue didn’t prove, as advertised, a tremendous boon to education in the state and why Prop. 30 won’t cure its “funding problem.”

Indeed, the only reason education and public safety were specifically on Prop. 30’s budgetary chopping block is because the governor placed them there to extort a tax increase from voters. In effect, he pointed guns at schools and public safety and said the only alternatives were a tax rise or shooting kids and police officers.

It’s not a strategy that would have worked if the budgetary “trigger” mechanism were aimed at the multi-billion dollar bullet train or insolvent public employee pension programs.

The biggest deception of all, however, is that a lack of money is education’s most serious problem. This fallacy has been illustrated and ignored countless times. Even the late Democrat Senator Patrick Moynihan concluded that the correlation between money spent per pupil and positive academic outcomes was “derisory.”

Instead of the much-ballyhooed teacher-student ratio, Moynihan pointed to the rigorously ignored parent-student ratio as the most critical factor related to student success—a measure largely beyond the reach of legislators.

Two things politicians could change for the better with respect to education include requiring greater teacher accountability and increasing parents’ power to choose where their kids go to school. Neither policy will change as long as happy-faced CTA lobbyists own Sacramento.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The audacity of incumbency: Feinstein’s no-debate strategy

How does an incumbent Democratic senator win reelection when unemployment in her not-so-Golden State has exceeded ten percent for over three years and its business climate continues to place near the bottom of various national rankings. Diane Feinstein’s approach was simple: Ignore your opponent and outspend her 15 to 1.

For voters who encountered the name only on last Tuesday’s ballot, Feinstein’s Republican adversary was Elizabeth Emken—a talented lady who graduated from UCLA in 1984, worked for years at IBM as an efficiency and cost-cutting expert, and served as Vice President for Government Relations at Autism Speaks, a major advocacy organization for developmentally disabled children like Emken’s son, Alex.

One reason this resume was never encountered by millions of Californians is because Senator Feinstein refused to debate Emken even once. Feinstein’s imperious attitude was on full display a couple of months ago when San Francisco reporter Mark Matthews asked the senator why she hadn’t agreed to debate Emken. Feinstein responded shortly that she was running her own campaign.

When Matthews pressed the issue by saying, “Wouldn’t it be better for voters to hear both sides?” Feinstein replied, “Thank you very much,” stood up, patted Matthews on the shoulder, and walked away.

The condescension exhibited toward Matthews was also an expression of contempt for California voters. Why give the poor darlings a chance to hear another perspective when you have a massive campaign war-chest and an overwhelming name recognition advantage?

“We need to get rid of career politicians,” is a refrain I’ve heard repeatedly over the years. In accord with that sentiment Californians established term limits for their state legislators. If voters wish to put limits on Congressional office holders, however, they have to reject the incumbent in an election—something that’s not likely to happen as long California’s union-dominated political landscape looks like it does.

A powerful 20-year incumbent like Feinstein didn’t need to employ any tricks from the Democrats’ political playbook. There were no kids voicing their enthusiastic toilet-trained support for her candidacy (a la Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30 ad). There were no menacing portraits of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers threatening to turn California into a vast corporate-controlled wasteland (a la “No” on Prop. 32 ).

There was simply a supremely confident (one might say arrogant) senator facing the camera and mouthing a few platitudes about Medicare, Social Security, and “a woman’s right to choose.”

The result: A landslide for entrenched incumbency—even a narrow win in Riverside County. Please, no more empty words about hating career politicians unless you’re prepared to vote them out of office.

Media ignore feeble response on Libya (11/3)

In the era of electronic bombardment most Americans don’t pay attention to events that aren’t emphatically repeated at least a dozen times in the mainstream media. For them the terrorist attack in Libya on 9/11, the Obama administration’s unbelievable response to that attack, and the stunning comments of a grieving father at his son’s repatriation service never happened.

The September 11 attack in Benghazi resulted in the death of four Americans, including a U.S. Ambassador and former Navy SEAL and Imperial Beach resident, Tyrone Woods.

In the wake of this tragedy the mainstream media for days focused negative attention on Mitt Romney for criticizing an apologetic embassy response to a non-deadly demonstration in Cairo—the pretext for which was a YouTube video of a crude anti-Muslim film produced in Southern California.

Five days after the attack U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows confidently asserting that the Libya attack wasn’t an organized terrorist operation but was precipitated by outrage over this same YouTube video.

Accordingly, mainstream news organizations scoured the Southland to expose the beliefs and background of the film’s “Coptic-Christian” maker and Hemet-based spokesman.

As information about the Benghazi raid dripped out, mostly via Fox News, the YouTube scenario about a “spontaneous demonstration” that morphed into a murderous, heavy-weapon assault became untenable. Yet even two weeks later the President denounced the video six times in a speech to the United Nations.

A few days ago Charles Woods, Tyrone’s father, raised a question one would think any honest journalist would pursue: Why was military assistance to his son not forthcoming during the 7-hour consulate siege? Related questions include the following: Why was the administration so reticent to attribute the Benghazi attack to an organized terrorist group? Why was the consulate’s security not better in light of prior local attacks and the fact that it was, after all, 9/11?

Almost totally ignored by mainstream media outlets were Mr. Woods’ negative comments about the demeanor of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton at an Andrews Air Force Base memorial service.

Recently President Obama declared to an impertinent Denver TV reporter that what happened in Libya “has nothing to do” with the election. An honest press corps would be demanding (with Watergate intensity) that the White House prove, before the election, that its Libya response and comments weren’t, as they appear, largely driven by politics.

Prop. 32: It's time to shake off union's yoke (10/27)

A popular aphorism defines insanity as repeating the same action over and over but expecting different results. By this standard, most voters in the Golden State should long ago have been institutionalized.

Again and again majorities vote for the same big government, easy entitlement, union-dominated, hyper-green legislators in Sacramento. And time after time they get a state characterized by high unemployment, bulging budget deficits, fleeing entrepreneurs, and mediocre schools.

Assuming the voting public in California doesn’t actually desire these outcomes, it might be wise to vote for some changes on November 6--changes that transcend political cosmetics.

One major adjustment would be Proposition 32. This initiative allows individuals to decide for themselves if they want to contribute to political causes rather than having such funds automatically deducted from their paychecks.

In addition, the law would prohibit unions and corporations from contributing directly to political candidates. Nothing in the law, however, would (or constitutionally could) prohibit these organizations from promoting whatever general causes they wish to support.

Leading the fight for Proposition 32 is former Democratic Majority Leader in the California Senate, Gloria Romero—an unlikely source of support for a law designed to reign in union domination of Sacramento.

Romero, who earned a doctorate in psychology at UC Riverside and subsequently taught at Cal State, Los Angeles, supports Prop. 32 because, as she discovered during many closed-door legislative meetings, California’s government is currently (and has long been) “owned” by unions.

Chief among these proprietary lords is the California Teachers Association, which according to the Wall Street Journal has already put up more than $24 million to defeat Prop. 32. According to Romero, CTA lobbyists in Sacramento “walk around like they’re god” and regularly squash even modest attempts at educational reform.

There are, after all, more than 300,000 CTA members from whom the union annually collects via automatic payroll deductions about $50 million that can be used to buy political influence. No wonder, as Romero observes, California legislators always want to know where “their sugar daddy” stands on any issue.

It’s revealing that folks who are adamantly “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion are generally determined to put as many obstacles as possible in way of teachers and public employees whose political choices might not coincide with those of their unions. Apparently choice isn’t such an important value when it comes to amassing and exercising political power—even when the results of that power are chronically dysfunctional political and educational systems.

Power and money explain union support for California’s status quo. Other voters who oppose Prop. 32 can only plead ignorance or insanity.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


“Wag the Dog” was a popular film of the late 90s in which corrupt politicians invented a phony war and manipulated the media to boost a President’s reelection bid.

Thus far the Obama administration has successfully pulled off a similar feat with the cooperation of a supine mainstream media that’s virtually indistinguishable from the campaign’s own PR flacks.

The “Wag the Dog” diversion in this case concerns the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. That attack resulted in the death of our U.S. ambassador and three others—Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith—all of whom had ties to the San Diego area.

For days after the attack the Obama administration pushed the idea that the Benghazi raid was a spontaneous uprising caused by a short YouTube trailer of a cheap anti-Muslim movie filmed in Southern California. The notion that the assault was an act of terrorism was repeatedly avoided—despite the fact that Libya’s president quickly concluded that the coordinated attack with heavy weapons was carried out by terrorists.

Indeed, five days after the September 11 attack, U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice (not Secretary of State Clinton) went on five Sunday TV news shows to reiterate the fiction that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous response to this Internet clip.

Adding to the dramatic distraction was fervid media focus on the producers and promoters of the film—including a faux perp-walk of the so-called “Coptic Christian” who probably violated his felony-based probation terms by putting the movie on the Internet.

Wagging along with the Obama media were local religious leaders who uncritically swallowed the administration’s spontaneous-demonstration script in a statement deploring the movie and, secondarily, the violence it supposedly spawned. I had to endure a reading of this “useful idiot” missive during a Sunday service in Menifee.

It’s now obvious (though inadequately publicized) that the September 11 attack on the Libyan consulate was a coordinated terrorist plot on a facility that was inadequately protected despite numerous attacks in the region—including an assassination attempt against the British ambassador in June.

The Brits closed their diplomatic office as a result of the June attack. By contrast, the Obama Administration devised a massive “Wag-the-Dog” diversion after four Americans were killed thanks to its negligence. Now it pretends that relevant information can’t be released because of a bogus FBI “crime scene” investigation.

I’d love to hear a pastoral letter condemning a government that repeatedly spiked the “bin-Laden is dead” football at its political convention and then repeatedly lied to the American people to cover its own “bumps in the road” negligence. Fat chance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


The September 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya resulted in the death of our American ambassador and “three others.” Two of those “others” were former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty of Encinitas and Tyrone Woods of Imperial Beach. The third, Sean Smith, was a San Diego native.

According to the Obama White House—which for days refused to call the violent murder of an American ambassador an act of terrorism—other individuals residing in Southern California were, at least indirectly, culpable for these deaths.

These “co-conspirators” had produced a low-budget movie that intentionally insulted Muhammad and Islam. The film was reportedly screened in a Hollywood theater to an audience that didn’t include a single paid admission.

The prime mover of this project, an Egyptian émigré named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was quickly tagged by the mainstream media as a “Coptic Christian.” This moniker was ill-suited to a felon who recently spent time in prison for bank fraud, previously pled guilty to drug charges and had tenuous ties to Coptic congregations in the Los Angeles area.

(No wonder some speculated that Nakoula might be a naïve publicity hound or a radical double-agent—not someone motivated by concern for Coptic Christians who would surely be targeted for even more persecution if the film were disseminated in Egypt.)

Subsequently a 14-minute trailer of the film was placed on the Internet, and Arabic dialog was dubbed in. This virtually unknown clip was eagerly employed by Islamic radicals to incite crowds in Egypt and has since become the pretext for dozens of violent demonstrations.

The American “spokesman” for the film, Steve Klein, is an ex-Marine who served honorably in Vietnam and whose insurance agency is based in Hemet. Klein says he had limited contact with or knowledge about Nakoula, aka Sam Bacile.

Klein’s anti-Islamic sentiments have been publicly aired on previous occasions but doubtless intensified after his son, an army medic in Iraq, was seriously injured by a suicide-bomber in 2007.

As more information becomes available, it seems the amateurish video had little to do with the apparently preplanned attack in Benghazi. Instead, the trailer was used as a convenient scapegoat for a politically-craven administration that on September 11 didn’t provide adequate consulate security in a highly unstable country loaded with terrorists.

Obama’s blame-the-video narrative did, however, divert attention from the failure of his apology-rich foreign policy and from the fact that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had previously called for revenge for the drone-killing of a senior Libyan terrorist.

I’d wager that deadly drone attacks provided more incentive for committed Islamic terrorists to kill Americans than an insulting Internet video.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Proposition 32: Ending Union Domination of California's Politics

If impartial analysts had to pick one reason for the perennial dysfunction of California politics, most would probably point to the inordinate power of public employee unions.

This circumstance was made possible long ago by legislation, signed in 1978 by then-Governor Jerry Brown, that allowed state employees to unionize. Since that time the Golden State has been transformed into the bought-and-paid-for Union State. The most powerful of these despots is the 325,000-member-strong California Teachers Association.

According to a 2010 study by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, from 2000 to 2009 the CTA spent more than any other group, $211 million, in political contributions and lobbying efforts. That’s almost twice as much as the next largest spender, the Service Employees International Union. Since then CTA has spent nearly $40 million more—including $4.7 million to elect Gov. Brown.

Among the major “accomplishments” of CTA has been the ability to fund and elect its own majorities in school boards throughout the state. In 1988 the union used its vast resources to narrowly pass Proposition 98—an initiative that now requires the state to allocate about 40 per cent of its budget for public education.

Those “achievements” haven’t produced discernable academic progress, but they have put California teachers, averaging $67,900, at or near the top of the national pay scale. Moreover, CTA has consistently opposed measures to make public schools more accountable.

The organization even went so far as to kill a bill recently proposed by Democrat state senator Alex Padilla that sought to facilitate removal of teachers who engage in “serious or egregious unprofessional conduct”—especially offenses involving sex, drugs, or violence.

Public safety workers and SEIU (which represents about 350,000 government employees) are other union groups that have established political fiefdoms in Sacramento.

In many cities, including San Jose and San Diego, police, fire, and other government employees secured unsustainable pension benefits from politicians that unions largely placed on the other side of the bargaining table.

Proposition 32 offers a way to pull the power plug from these unions. This initiative will ban union and corporate contributions to state and local candidates. It also bans automatic deductions of employee wages to be used for political causes.

It may seem like common sense to allow workers to opt-in to having political contributions deducted from their wages. But that’s a pro-choice position (along with school choice) that unions are determined to squelch.

The problem facing Prop. 32, of course, is the same massive, union-funded opposition that crushed Schwarzenegger’s reform propositions in 2005 and transformed him into little more than an empty gubernatorial suit.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Passing the Buck--Big Time!

Only folks who play with other people’s money and will be long gone when it’s time to pay the piper would feel free to enter into an agreement that obligates the borrower to repay almost a billion bucks to finance a loan of $105 million.

Poway Unified School District recently became the national poster boy for capital appreciation bonds whose delayed repayment schedule (beginning in 2033) accounts for the embarrassing interest-to-principal ratios for PUSD’s 2011 loan.

Unfortunately Poway isn’t alone when it comes to employing this borrow-now-pay-a-lot-much-later financial instrument. Most prominent on the list is San Diego Unified’s 2010 agreement to repay 1.25 billion dollars, starting in 2030, for a loan of $164 million.

Other bonds with similar interest-to-principal ratios, but smaller amounts borrowed, have been issued by school districts in Oceanside, San Marcos, and Escondido. A number of community college districts also issue capital appreciation bonds—most prominently the San Bernardino Community College District whose 56 million dollar loan would eventually cost almost half-a-billion dollars by 2048, the final repayment date.

Fortunately, some capital appreciation bonds, unlike those employed by the Poway school district, can be refinanced.

It should go without saying that this etched-in-stone bond with eye-popping repayment figures wasn’t clearly presented in the 2008 election when Poway voters approved the sale of $179 million in “general obligation bonds.”

A boldface declaration in the text of Proposition C assured voters that the maximum tax rates levied to pay for the bonds would be the existing rate of “fifty-five dollars ($55) per year per one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) of taxable property.”

Another incentive for reluctant voters was the prospect of $20 million in “free money” from Sacramento.

The impartial analysis of county counsel blandly noted in its third dense paragraph that bond interest rates could not exceed 12 per cent per annum or mature later than 40 years after issue—“pursuant to the Government Code.”

Prop C passed with 64% of the vote, but when funds ran out and planned construction projects were still incomplete, the easiest way to keep the “no tax increase” pledge and complete construction was to employ the capital appreciation bond alternative—a choice that passed the buck (a billion bucks, in fact) to a future generation.

Lacking the federal government’s power to run trillion dollar deficits, local politicians naturally latch on to convenient alternatives like borrowing with long-deferred repayment schedules and praying for another housing boom.

In both cases, however, our children and grandchildren are the ones left holding the bills.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2016: Obama's America -- D'Souza unveils Obama's background

Dinesh D’Souza and Barack Obama were both born in the same year (1961), lived in foreign countries as youngsters, and eventually attended Ivy League universities in the United States. That’s where similarities end.

D’Souza’s emigration from India left him profoundly grateful for a country that provided a talented foreigner entrée to Dartmouth, the Reagan White House, and a successful career that eventually financed living quarters in Rancho Santa Fe.

According to D’Souza, Obama’s upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia imprinted on the current President a set of ideas derived from anti-colonial, anti-capitalist mentors whose convictions were congruent with those of his absentee, polygamous father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr. These convictions, which included seeing America as an exploitative colonial power, were further embedded by Obama’s preferred professors at Columbia (Edward Said) and Harvard (Robert Unger).

This thesis is developed in detail in D’Souza’s book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and presented more succinctly in a documentary film now showing in Southland theaters: “2016: Obama’s America.”

Beyond Rev. Jeremiah (“God damn America”) Wright and former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers (whose influence upon the Democratic candidate were largely dismissed by the non-Fox media during the 2008 presidential campaign) D’Souza explores the profound impact of Frank Marshall Davis on young Barack Obama.

Davis, whose name “Frank” is mentioned 22 times in Obama’s autobiographical “Dreams from my Father,” was a card-carrying communist (#47544) whose views corresponded closely with those of the missing father Obama idolized.

“2016” doesn’t claim that the President embraces in toto either the up-to-100% tax-the-rich ideas of Obama Senior or the radically anti-American views of Frank Marshall Davis. It does, however, note that the fervid anti-colonialism and leftism of Obama Senior and Frank Davis make sense of various presidential actions from immediately returning to the Brits a bust of Winston Churchill to the downsizing of America’s nuclear arsenal and global influence.

D’Souza also sees policies that restrict American oil production, while touting Brazilian exploration, as congruent with a mindset that seeks to set right the “sins of colonialism.” The film further notes that Obama’s five-trillion dollars of deficit spending is consistent with a desire to undermine the nation’s (presumably exploitative) capitalist system.

One could apply a similar motivation, though the film does not, to recent immigration policies that abet millions of illegal aliens living in America.

Just how much the President’s views have been shaped by the radical mentors D’Souza highlights is hard to say. What’s clear, however, is that Senator Obama would never have become the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2008 if the national press corps had scrutinized his background with half the intensity they devoted to Sarah Palin’s family.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A High-speed Green-Labor Pipedream

Progressives are doubtless celebrating with Gov. Jerry Brown yet another victory for green ideology and union muscle over economic reality.

Three weeks ago Sacramento gave a 2.6 billion dollar send-off blessing to a high-speed rail system whose final cost estimate miraculously shrank from 98 to 68.4 billion dollars in the authority’s most recent business plan.

That .4 fraction (four-hundred million dollars) is a nice bureaucratic touch. It suggests to clueless Californians that the estimate is quite precise—a figure that taxpayers can take to the bank. Never mind that a politically-required recalculation had just lopped off almost 30 billion from the prior “guesstimate.”

A more reliable directional analogy for government-sponsored super-projects would be Boston’s “Big Dig”—a tunnel initially estimated to cost 2.6 billion dollars that wound up taking taxpayers to the cleaners for over 20 billion (including bond interest). But not to worry—much of that featherbedded tab was picked up by the flush-with-cash feds.

Brown and his green-union coalition hope for a reprise of that scenario with the ultra-fast choo-choo. Indeed, it’s doubtful that this ego-inflating legacy project would have been approved even by the economic illiterates in Sacramento were it not for free fed money—in this case 3.2 billion dollars.

Anyone who is confident that this monumental white elephant will be built within shouting distance of 68 billion dollars or will ever pay for itself, once constructed, should ponder this sentence that appears on the Rail Authority’s official web site:

“On November 1, 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) released a Draft 2012 Business Plan (Draft Plan) for public review and comment.” The message goes on to say how public feedback was solicited and received for this November 1, 2012, draft—including more than 250 website comments.

Many Californians are aware that the aforementioned All Saints Day is three months in the future. One might think an error of this sort would have been corrected by now, but such corrections are only common in private businesses that, according to President Obama, aren’t really built by the folks who started them.

Few Californians are aware that the currently projected completion date for the much-heralded Los Angeles to San Francisco leg of the bullet train project is around the year 2027. (Don’t hold your breath.)

As one wag put it, by the time Phase 1 of the project is completed in 2029, unemployed residents of the Golden State will be able to zip from L.A. to San Francisco “for the price of a Southwest Airlines ticket…in twice the time it takes to fly.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fast and Furious: A Bloody Scandal & Cover-up

Anyone who wants to know what’s at stake in Congressman Darrell Issa’s investigation of Attorney General Eric Holder should read Katie Pavlich’s book “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Coverup.”

Pavlich’s “Booknotes” interview (available on YouTube) offers a good introduction. Unfortunately, the damning details about this guns-to-killers scheme are being withheld from Issa’s Oversight Committee because of the President’s recent “executive privilege” claim.

The central question posed by Pavlich is why the Obama Justice Department (specifically its Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms branch) secretly pressured American gun dealers to illegally sell thousands of untraceable weapons to purchasers working for Mexican drug cartels—thus creating a more audacious and dangerous operation than the limited program the Bush Administration (in coordination with Mexico) had abandoned.

The most plausible reason for this decision, Pavlich argues, was Obama’s desire to promote gun control in the U.S. Evidence starts with a coordinated publicity campaign that began shortly after Obama became President.

On April 16, 2009, President Obama said this about Mexico’s drug violence, “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here (in Mexico) but in the United States.” He added that “more than 90 percent of the guns recovered” from Mexican crime scenes were from the U.S.

This mantra was echoed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats, including Senator Diane Feinstein. The truth, as subsequently revealed, was that less than 20 percent of Mexican crime scene guns were traceable to the U.S.

Not long after the 90% claim was debunked, the deadly Fast and Furious scheme was launched—a program that would greatly bolster the argument that American gun dealers were causing mayhem in Mexico.

A major goal of “Fast and Furious,” in other words, was to provide a compelling rationale for gun-control in the U.S. Two-hundred dead Mexicans and at least one dead American Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, were collateral damage.

It’s a damming indictment that explains the President’s belated “executive privilege” claim and Eric Holder’s prior stonewalling of Issa’s committee--including the Attorney General’s incredible statement (undermined by various memos) that he was unaware of the “Fast and Furious” program until shortly before his testimony in May, 2011.

Pavlich’s charge also makes sense of lies told by various officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Brewer, who in February 2011, sent a letter denying high-level involvement in the program—a letter that was subsequently “withdrawn” because of inaccuracies.

Whistleblowing ATF Agent John Dodson said he never heard an explanation from anyone involved in “Fast and Furious” that would justify the operation. That’s probably because its primary purpose was unspeakably callous and coldly political.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

"Baseball, Dennis & The French": Chronicling a Change of Heart

How do you convince your brother-in-law that conservatives aren’t hate-filled Neanderthals and that you haven’t gone off the deep end by becoming one yourself? A good place to start would be a film called “Baseball, Dennis & The French” that was directed by former Southern California liberal activist Paul Croshaw.

The operative term in the prior sentence is “former.” This lighthearted documentary takes viewers on a ninety-minute journey that begins with a homerun-hungry Little Leaguer whose parents were the lone McGovern boosters on their San Gabriel Valley block.

From there Croshaw focuses breezily on his high-school infatuation with French films and his growing involvement in liberal politics—culminating at one point with a side-by-side photo of the filmmaker-to-be with now Minnesota Senator Al Franken. \

Then comes the troublesome slow-motion “epi-phony” over the car radio—a Los Angeles-based talk radio host named Dennis Prager. When “Dodger Talk” gave way to Dennis, the invitation to philosophical introspection was too much to resist.

At this point moviegoers, like Croshaw himself, get heavier doses of Prager, but not Prager-uncut. Short monologues on various political and moral topics are interspersed with humorous vignettes about baseball, religion, and the French.

(France is the film’s example par excellence of a secular society that values cultural sophistication above all else and whose intellectual sensibilities are offended by traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and objective moral standards.)

At movie’s end Croshaw provides a summary of his intellectual and spiritual journey (in French) while removing mime makeup. Dennis’ happy conclusion is that he’s “thrilled that this Jew (Prager) has helped Paul find his Christian faith. Only in America!”

One viewing of the movie won’t convince hardcore ideologues of anything, but for folks interested in honest dialogue, “Baseball, Dennis, and the French” is a great starting point. Like the homer hit by young Croshaw, the film plants a seed that can grow in several directions—from confronting the practical goodness of most conservatives (cf. the book by Arthur Brooks, “Who Really Cares”) to posing serious questions about God, morality, and The Lawrence Welk Show.

The documentary has recently had several one-night showings at select theaters throughout the Southland. Close to 100 patrons were present at last week’s screening in Riverside. Readers can visit the film’s website for news about future showings.

And if your brother-in-law is averse to visiting a theater space largely populated by conservatives or to reading Dennis Prager’s recent book, “Still the Best Hope,” the fellow who doubts your sanity might be willing to devote an hour-and-a-half to watching a modestly priced gift DVD in his home—if only to understand his sibling’s benighted spouse!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


George Orwell famously observed that some ideas are so foolish, only a member of the intelligentsia could believe them. Had he lived another sixty-two years, the noted author might have revised his comment to include not-so-intellectual jurists and the current Vice-President--folks whose views have been inordinately shaped by sit-coms like “Will and Grace.”

A bit more than two weeks ago the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider the 2-1 ruling by a judicial panel that overturned the almost 600,000 votes by which Proposition 8 passed in 2008.

That proposition defined marriage as it has always been understood throughout history—as the union of a man and a woman. But Judge Stephen Reinhardt, utilizing his legal training to do just what he wanted to do in any case, penned a decision that invalidated Proposition 8 without ruling on the merits of the question that over 13 million Californians voted on.

In his opinion Reinhardt overturned a huge statewide election because, “California had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of ‘marriage.’” In fact, it wasn’t “California” but a handful of judges that extended the marital designation in contravention of the expressed wishes of California voters (61 to 39 percent) in the year 2000.

Topping that mischaracterization was the assertion that Proposition 8 had no rational basis—that its only purpose was “to lessen the status and dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

In his dissent to the court’s most recent Prop. 8 ruling, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain observed that Reinhardt’s opinion was based on a “gross misapplication of Romer v. Evans…that would be unrecognizable to the justices who joined it, to those who dissented from it, and to the judges from sister circuits who have since interpreted it.”

Lesser mortals without Reinhardt’s talent for legal sleight of hand might have had second thoughts about equating the druthers of a few black-robed jurists with “California” and impugning (through his misuse of Romer) the motives of seven million Californians.

Reinhardt and company, however, were eager to dismiss as hateful views that coincide with the mores of every major civilization and the traditional teachings of every major religion—views that embrace the formerly taken-for-granted idea that procreation and the care of both a mother and father are integral to an institution whose very existence derives from society’s view of a child’s best interests.

It is possible that the Supreme Court will take up this case. But if not, one could accurately say that an absurd policy will govern California largely thanks to a few ideologues and a Hollywood sit-com.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Chuck DeVore was elected three times to the California Assembly, serving the 70th District that includes Irvine and coastal constituents stretching southward from Newport Beach. In 2010 he sought, unsuccessfully, the GOP’s U.S. Senate nomination.

Nowadays DeVore makes his home in Dripping Springs, Texas—a growing recreational area 25 miles west of Austin. He’s also become a Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The exodus of a former legislator, aerospace executive, and army intelligence officer wouldn’t be newsworthy if the move weren’t repeated many times over by businesses throughout the state.

Recently DeVore explained his “Divorce from the Golden State” in an article for Fox News. The piece noted that while Texas and California both have an abundance of natural resources, long coastlines, diverse populations, and borders with Mexico, the states differ dramatically when it comes to their philosophies of government.

For example, while California subsidizes expensive solar projects and obstructs traditional energy production, Texas welcomes oil and gas exploration. As a consequence, that state added over 36,000 jobs in those industries last year—more than all the jobs in California’s solar sector.

The negative comparisons go on from there and include tax rates, government spending, pension obligations, business climate, teachers per-capita (Texas, DeVore says, has 17% more than California), and educational outcomes (Texas fares better on national rankings).

A couple of months earlier Professor Victor Davis Hanson observed that one percent of California’s taxpayers provide 45 percent of the state’s income tax revenue--and that income taxes fund half of the state’s budget.

He also noted that the number of upper-income earners in California decreased by a third between 2007 and 2009—either because they are fleeing the state or because they’ve become much less wealthy. I’m confident that “both” represents the correct answer to this statistical query.

On the other side of the ledger, California, with 12% of the country’s population, is home to almost a third of the nation’s welfare recipients (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, formerly AFDC). Furthermore, during the last two decades the state’s Medicaid population grew at 70 percent of its overall increase in population.

In the face of these daunting statistics, California’s political class has doubled down on spending (the high-speed rail system), cap-and-trade environmentalism (AB 1532), and higher taxes (Governor Brown’s November sales tax proposal).

Rather than junking disastrous government-centered, union-approved policies, left coasters focus public attention on second-hand smoke and plastic bag bans—just as their kindred mayoral spirit in New York City has taken aim at large soda drinks.

No wonder Mr. DeVore has taken refuge in the Lone Star State.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Governor Jerry Brown recently announced, to the surprise of no rational observer, that California still faces a 16 billion dollar deficit. It’s what inevitably happens when a state is largely run for the benefit of public employee unions, business-averse interest groups, and large voting blocs that support lax border enforcement and demand ever more goodies from Sacramento.

In view of this annual fiscal crisis, one might think the state’s deep-blue politicians would consider pulling the plug on a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project whose cost estimates have increased as dramatically as questions about its utility. That decision, however, would represent a rational approach, and rationality doesn’t count for much when it comes to legislators enamored with Tinseltown fantasies.

Accordingly, the California Assembly turned down Diane Harkey’s proposed “Lemon Law,” AB 1455, that would have terminated the flow of funds to a super fast choo-choo that’s currently estimated to cost around 100 billion dollars. Instead, the governor’s approach to our fiscal train wreck is higher taxes and a gun-to-head threat of cuts in “essential” services if voters fail to pass the proposed tax increases that will appear on November’s ballot.

Note that it’s always public safety, parks, and education that are tentatively placed on the budgetary chopping block—not an unpopular rail boondoggle or any of the redundant bureaucratic agencies that infect Sacramento and the state’s bloated university system. (Does UCSD really need, as Heather MacDonald noted in a City Journal article last year, a handsomely-compensated vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion—in addition to a massive diversity apparatus that includes more than a dozen different positions and various councils or centers all devoted to this PC obsession?)

In line with Sacramento’s bureaucratic mentality, Proposition 29 not only adds to the existing taxes on tobacco, it also sets up yet another committee with its (doubtless well paid) officials to distribute money for cancer research and anti-smoking education programs. Never mind that the state already funds a plethora of anti-smoking ads.

I suspect the most tangible beneficiaries from passage of this proposition will be those folks who oversee distribution of the estimated $735 million that will be raised from its dollar-a-pack tax. (According to the proposed law, approximately two percent of the funds raised, or about 14.5 million dollars, can go to administrative costs.)

This initiative would have greater appeal to non-smokers like me if all the funds from the new tax were applied to the state’s yawning budget deficit and not to the creation of yet another government commission whose designated pot of gold is exempt from rational budgetary review.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


"Overall, officials said most of the thousands of protesters were nonviolent."

Can you imagine such a forgiving comment being employed by the mainstream media when they covered Tea Party rallies--events where even a few less-than-tasteful signs were evidence enough for reporters to resurrect the "angry (and potentially dangerous) white male" motif that they used to explain the GOP sweep of Congress in 1994?

As the aforementioned LA Times quote suggests, major media outlets (alongside Democrats like Nancy Pelosi) have bent over backward to give the Occupy Wall Street movement better coverage and more significance than it deserves--the exact opposite of the stance they took toward Tea Partiers whom then House Speaker Pelosi dismissed as an "astroturf" concoction. Concerning the OWS movement, ABC's Diane Sawyer breathlessly and cluelessly announced last fall that it had "spread to thousands" of the world's (196) countries.

The mish-mash of government employees, greenies, labor unions, open border advocates, and jobless liberal arts majors that comprise the OWS movement was supposed to spring back to life with a gaggle of worldwide events on May first--piggybacking on the traditional "workers" demonstrations that were also employed with great fanfare in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately for these leftists without a coherent cause, even the largest events in cities like New York and Los Angeles were comparable in size with or smaller than the April 15, 2009 Tea Party rally in Oceanside.

Some protests reduced sympathetic reporters to using terms like "hundreds" or even "dozens" to describe the paltry gatherings that presumed to speak for 99% of the American citizenry.

Given the overhyped nature of these May Day events, it isn't surprising that little has been said about their size and ineffectiveness--or about the violence that accompanied demonstrations like the one in Seattle where a few protesters confused mindless vandalism with meaningful reform.

Imagine the heyday the Democrat media would have had if Tea Partiers had engaged in the disruptions and law-breaking that was hastily reported by network bigs on May second. Indeed, more sustained attention was given to a single alleged spitting incident among Tea Partiers in 2010 than to the numerous acts of violence perpetrated by OWS protesters on May 1.

I'm pleased that there were no reports of violence by OWS Temecula-Menifee--a group that rejects lawbreaking and whose numbers occasionally reach double-digits. I'm also gratified to note that most Oakland Raider fans (like their bay city OWS counterparts) are only irritating and obnoxious, not criminal.

It would be swell if I could also report that OWS now understands the greatest component of corrupt government is precisely its gargantuan size and scope.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


“A Crisis of Competence” is the 81-page document produced by the California Association of Scholars that was recently presented to the California Board of Regents.

While the study illustrates, as I noted in my prior column, the utter dominance of leftist beliefs in higher education, its focus is not on political opinions per se, but rather on “the associated question of competence and quality of education.” Moreover, the report doesn’t claim that “most” educators are derelict in their duties but rather that politicization is widespread, unprofessional, and mostly ignored by administrators.

Put succinctly, the document asserts that the one-sided leftist tilt of colleges and universities undermines quality education, especially in the humanities and social sciences. Below are some UC-centered observations:

On most UC campuses courses in Western Civilization aren’t offered at all. Similarly, at UC San Diego a literature major need not take a course on Shakespeare but must complete a survey course in Chicano, African-American, or Asian-American literature.

“At UC Davis a history major can avoid American history entirely, and the same is true of the Santa Cruz, Irvine, and San Diego campuses,” the report notes.

By contrast, at UC Santa Cruz (where Communist Party Vice-Presidential candidate Angela Davis was a professor from 1991 to 2008) courses on Marx are offered in five separate departments. (According to a national study by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, almost 20 percent of professors in the social sciences self-identify as Marxist.)

Several anecdotes in the CAS report illustrate the corrupting influence of political activism on specific courses:

A student in a writing program at UC San Diego’s Warren College, for example, reported that she composed an essay that called for legal abortion, but with restrictions. She was informed that in order to pass the course she needed to revise her essay “to support abortion in all circumstances.”

Even a computer science class at Berkeley included regular course-irrelevant harangues directed at George W. Bush and California’s “Nazi” Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The study also provides data indicating that the politicizing of higher education is getting worse—as younger faculty are more explicitly committed to leftist activism than older faculty. In addition, the report cites a study that links poor primary and secondary education with “the political preoccupations that now drive teacher training in the nation’s colleges.”

In calling for enforcement of the academic standards in the Regent’s own charter (and in California’s constitution) the CAS report sides with the view of John Stuart Mill that students must be able to hear arguments “from people who actually believe them” and that “he who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Most college-bound seniors have now received their letters of acceptance from admissions offices around the country. A lengthy document submitted last week by the California Association of Scholars (CAS) to the California Board of Regents offers compelling evidence that these incoming freshmen will be paying more money for a lower quality education that’s heavily corrupted by leftist activism.

The report notes that “the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982” while “an astounding proportion of students” are completing their studies “without measurable gains in general skills.”

Case in point: According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 80% of seniors from fifty-five of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities (including Berkeley and UCLA) received a D or F when asked basic questions about American history like identifying the Gettysburg Address or recognizing fundamental constitutional principles.

The CAS report views the politicization of higher education as a major factor that’s fostered this state of affairs. After all, instructors besotted with ideology focus on indoctrination—not on dispensing a balanced portrait of complex issues and developing a student’s ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives.

In the words of the CAS study: “political activists tend to have a very different attitude to alternatives to their own convictions.” In their view competing beliefs “do not deserve sympathetic consideration, for they are at best wrong, at worst evil.”

Those who believe that the academy has always been structured as it is today should consider the difference between the political makeup of schools in 1969 (when, according to a Carnegie Commission report, there was a 45-27-28 percent liberal-moderate-conservative split) with the 5:1 liberal dominance observed by Stanley Rothman in 1999. Since that time the imbalance has gotten much worse—especially in the Humanities.

At UC San Diego the CAS report shows a clean 27-0 leftist sweep in Politics and a 26:1 split in History—ratios typical within the UC system. The report also provides examples of the way ideology permeates instruction and affects the hiring of new faculty—where there’s significant bias against hiring Republicans but no measurable prejudice against self-identified Marxists.

Even non-political courses are often used as platforms for leftist indoctrination—as Luann Wright (founder of the website discovered when she investigated a UCSD writing course that ignored composition and instead became a “sociopolitical soapbox.” Wright was amazed that administrators were aware of but tolerated such malpractice.

The aforementioned CAS report is designed to get Regents to take seriously Article IX, Section 9 of the state constitution at their May 15 meeting: “The university shall be entirely independent of all political and sectarian influence…”

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Imagine you are an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent working on a clandestine operation designed to snag members of Mexico’s gun-smuggling drug cartels—especially Mr. A. The program involves tracking weapons that have been knowingly and illegally sold to persons associated with those cartels.

Now imagine you’ve caught Mr. A red-handed at an Arizona border town while he’s attempting to drive a BMW brimming with hidden ammunition into Mexico. What do you do? Here are your options:

A. Arrest Mr. A. and declare your operation a success.
B. Take Mr. A into custody and begin plea-bargain negotiations in hopes of securing more valuable information.
C. Talk with Mr. A about his connections, confiscate his ammo, give him your phone number jotted on a ten-dollar bill, then release the trafficker based on a promise of further cooperation.

If you answered C, you may have a future with ATF. That seems to be the route chosen by Hope MacAllister when, according to recently revealed documents, she interrogated a major gun-runner named Manuel Celis-Acosta on May 29, 2010.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, Acosta chose to continue his smuggling enterprise instead of keeping in touch with Special Agent MacAllister.

Perhaps Acosta mistakenly used MacAllister’s bill to buy some cigarettes and couldn’t remember the initials of the agency that stopped him on the border with an "AK type, high capacity drum magazine loaded with 74 rounds of 7.62 ammunition” hidden beneath his spare tire.

Or maybe Acosta just had a good laugh at the expense of government gringos who apparently released a prime target based on little more than hopes of landing bigger fish.

In the following months Acosta continued his gun-smuggling activities and ATF continued its gun-selling operation. The agency, however, lost track of about 1700 guns, many of which were discovered at crime scenes in Mexico and two of which were linked to the death of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry near Tucson in December of 2010.

It’s hardly a shock that ATF documents related to the botched release of Acosta weren’t provided by Attorney General Eric Holder to Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee—despite a subpoena covering documents related to this “Fast and Furious” operation.

Apparently what was touted as “the most transparent administration” in the nation’s history is only transparently interested in covering its tracks—as it was when it kept information about Solyndra’s moribund financial situation under wraps until after the 2010 elections.

Acosta was eventually captured in El Paso in February of 2011—but only after distributing hundreds of government-tagged guns to folks like the ones who murdered Agent Terry.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


It would have been nice if George Will had worn flashing-light glasses with Elton John flair when, a month ago, he made this statement on ABC’s “This Week”:

“This is what liberalism looks like. This is what the progressive state does. It tries to break all the institutions of civil society, all the institutions that mediate between the individual and the state. They have to break them to the saddle of the state.”

Put simply, Will’s comment means that the “progressive state” increasingly tells both individuals and institutions what they may or may not do and say—imposing mandates that extend even to the type of light-bulbs folks buy.

One legal rationalization for this huge expansion of government power was Hugo Black’s 1947 Supreme Court opinion that claims the Constitution erects a “wall of separation” between church and state—a phrase subsequently used to eradicate vestiges of common religious belief and practice (like the Mt. Soledad cross) from the public square.

Consequently, a Constitutional amendment designed to protect the “free-exercise” of religion from federal coercion is now employed to prevent invocations at high school graduations. Similarly, because the Boy Scouts’ beliefs conflict with progressive ideology, they are denied municipal concessions for Balboa Park facilities that would be available to “non-religious” groups.

Novel renderings of “equal protection” laws are also utilized by progressives to break individuals and institutions to the saddle of the state.

Thus, a medical group in North County that refused to provide artificial insemination for a lesbian—based on the respectable belief that children shouldn’t be intentionally deprived of both a father and a mother—was told by the California Supreme Court in 2008 that its religious convictions violated state law when applied to professional services.

Similarly, Catholic Charities in Massachusetts gave up their longstanding work in the adoption field when that state required the organization to place adopted children in same-sex households.

With the expansion of federal power into insurance mandates, the potential for eroding liberty is almost limitless. A government that can require individuals to purchase health insurance is a government that can also require religious institutions (and insurance companies) to provide policies that cover abortions or other procedures that might violate their consciences. Such was the case with directives recently inserted into the massive Obamacare legislation.

Put succinctly, the vastly expanded government of a largely religious people is now expected to be rigorously secular and to reflect the condom-dispensing, abortion-ready convictions of secular elites.

Moreover, for progressives, religious liberty is largely restricted to the walls of a church. Soon, it may be confined to the space between the ears of their serfs.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


Laurie Boruff enthusiastically describes her husband of thirty-three years as a “tenacious” worker who can “move mountains.” John Boruff now has an opportunity to display those qualities in his bid to become the Republican candidate for Senate against Dianne Feinstein.

I chatted with John and Laurie last week in Escondido and asked the North County businessman what motivated him to undertake what many pundits believe is an impossible task—unseating California’s twenty-year incumbent Democratic senator. John responded as follows:

First, he has personally experienced the onerous burdens that governments at all levels place on business. He also knows first-hand that laws aimed at huge corporations are preventing businesses from expanding due to the additional regulations that typically kick in when an enterprise reaches the dreaded fifty-employee level.

Put succinctly, Boruff said he has more real-world business experience than all his Republican competitors—and certainly more than Dianne Feinstein.

Secondly, Boruff is convinced there are enough dissatisfied independent voters in California to make possible a GOP Senate victory in November. Moreover, he didn’t want to sit idly by while Feinstein was given a free pass for another six-year term—as was the case in 2006. The GOP, Boruff contends, needs a candidate who will do more than mail in a campaign—someone who can passionately articulate a set of policies that will, first and foremost, stimulate the state’s economy.

Neither Laurie nor John expressed reservations about the possibility of dirt being dredged up as a result of entering a senatorial campaign. The father of three said that his personal life has been quite regular. (An impartial observer, noting John’s civic involvement, his work as a Scoutmaster, and his stint as a Reserve Police Officer in Carlsbad, might employ the term “exemplary.”)

The fact that an individual whom Boruff once fired recently volunteered to work in his campaign suggests the kind of loyalty he inspires, even when John (as that former employee now confesses) is the bearer of deserved bad news.

Beyond reducing burdens on business, Boruff voiced support for expanded but sensible energy exploration, for second amendment rights, and especially for restricting the federal government’s intrusion into matters that are constitutionally reserved to the states and people.

Concerning immigration, Boruff stressed the need for both border enforcement and work visas. He also rejects forms of amnesty that put illegals in front of legal immigrants.

If Boruff succeeds in getting out his carefully-considered limited-government message, Californians may actually have an opportunity to vote for a genuine citizen legislator and to send packing one of the professional politicians so many folks claim to despise.

That would certainly be a mountain-moving political event.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moral Confusion Abounds: Ninth Circuit Panel Rules Traditional Marriage Unconstitutional

You know a culture is morally confused when the head of a Christian-affiliated high school can’t see the problem posed by a religion course that features the film “Pulp Fiction” within its curriculum.

Add to that graphic visual violence and vulgarity a novel (“Song of Kali”) whose principal images consist of dead or decomposing bodies and in which ritual human sacrifices are vividly depicted—along with a few sexual encounters.

Cap off these curricular elements with an explicitly anti-Christian work of science fiction (“Stranger in a Strange Land”) that revolves around a cult whose largely Nietzschean beliefs are expressed through the mouth of an alien hero who has intercourse with various group members—male and female.

The response I observed almost a decade ago within a supposedly Christian institution was a product of either indifference, ignorance, or lack of spine. Two years later the Massachusetts Supreme Court displayed a similar media-induced myopia when it declared illegal the limitation of marriage to persons of the opposite sex.

Last week that Bay State ruling was temporarily expanded by two of the three members of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled that California’s Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution.

According to Justice Stephen Reinhardt (whose wife, Ramona Ripston, recently retired as executive director for the ACLU of Southern California—an organization adamantly opposed to Prop 8):

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted… Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite sex couples.”

It requires an exquisite combination of smoke-and-mirrors legal rationalizing alongside a profound sense of ideological arrogance to arrive at the supposedly “narrow” legal basis on which Justices Reinhardt and Hawkins overturned a purely definitional law passed by California voters in 2008.

The nominal right this duo claims was taken away from a “class of people” was itself granted by judicial fiat—a brazen act that dismissed as irrational the moral views and practices of every major civilization and religion from time immemorial. Among these supposedly irrational beliefs is the conviction that children benefit from having both a male and a female parent.

Unfortunately, when moral compasses get wildly out of whack, they tend to point in any direction elites deem desirable.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


A high-speed railroad takes a long time to stop—not because the imaginary vehicle travels so fast and carries so many passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles and points south, but rather because career politicians like Jerry Brown are determined to build legacies for themselves, come hell or high-water.

The governor’s recent State of the State Address was vintage Moonbeam. Brown claimed credit for making serious spending cuts while simultaneously calling for tax increases—including a previously announced half-cent boost in the sales tax rate.

Most egregiously, the governor clung passionately to the whitest elephant in the budget—a high-speed rail system whose Phase I estimated costs have already mushroomed to around 110 billion dollars, give or take ten billion.

The California High Speed Rail Authority’s own Peer Review group recently offered this grim assessment of the project’s feasibility: “…we cannot overemphasize the fact that moving ahead on the HSR project without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and value to the State, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the State of California.”

Put in plain language, the group says it doesn’t know where the money to build this system will come from, and it doesn’t see a business plan that demonstrates a clear benefit to the state. What they see as likely (“an immense financial risk”) is that the railroad will become the costliest white elephant in the state’s history.

As General Custer might have said at Little-Big Horn, “Outside of those problems, everything is fine.”

This Peer Review assessment echoes many prior analyses including those of the Bureau of State Audits, the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Reason Foundation. Even Democrats, including Treasurer Bill Lockyer and a trio of state Senators headed by Alan Lowenthal have issued withering criticisms.

Were Governor Brown more concerned about the state’s fiscal welfare than his own legacy, he’d support Assemblywoman Diane Harkey’s bill, AB 1455, which halts state debt funding for the high-speed rail project. Instead, Brown holds a gun to the head of Californians and pretends the only alternatives are tax hikes or drastic cuts in education.

This bit of political theater reminds me of a scene in “Blazing Saddles” where the new black sheriff in a bigoted frontier town holds a gun to his own head and then threatens to shoot his hostage if town-folks don’t holster their weapons. The ruse works.

There is a more logical and poll-popular option for Governor Brown: Shoot the white elephant.