Thursday, December 19, 2013

JFK and the Rape of History

In the old Soviet Union regime skeptics often observed that while true believers knew what the future held, the past was constantly changing. An example of this strange state of affairs is provided by a photo of Stalin standing next to several other Bolsheviks. The picture indicates, however, that one VIP has been airbrushed from the stage. To the chagrin of the artistic revisionist, comrade Trotsky’s uninhabited shoes testify to the renegade’s former prominence.

One wouldn’t expect this kind of deception in the United States, but much the same thing has occurred with the assassination of President Kennedy. The actual portrait of the real assassin—a pathetic loser whose delusions of grandeur are clearly revealed in his “Historic Diary”—has been airbrushed away to make room for grand conspiracies involving persons or institutions that folks like Oliver Stone wish to revile.

Of particular significance is the obsessive desire by leftists—including political wannabes like sportscaster Bob Costas—to connect Kennedy’s assassination to Dallas itself, a city that was then a hotbed of conservative opposition to the President.

The New York Times provided yet another example of this revisionism when it published an odious opinion piece by one James McAuley, a “Marshall scholar studying history at the University of Oxford.” It’s worth noting that the Times employed a callow history student to do the work that most self-respecting historians would not do—designating the city of Dallas as an “actor” and not merely the geographical “stage” for JFK’s assassination.

Not mentioned in this fatuous retrospective is the fact that a communist who adored Fidel Castro and had lived in the Soviet Union longer than in Dallas was the person who actually shot the President from the sixth floor of the building where he had recently secured a menial job. Nor do McAuley and most other “observers” care to note that seven months earlier this unstable fellow who didn’t drive a car attempted to assassinate a right-wing Texas politician, General Edwin Walker, with the same mail-order rifle he clearly fired on November 22nd.

On that fateful day, after failing to reconcile with his estranged wife, the high-school dropout and twice court-martialed Marine who attempted suicide in the Soviet Union carried an elongated object wrapped in brown paper to work—an odd package that he told his co-worker and driver contained curtain rods. One could continue for hours discussing definitive incriminating evidence like Oswald’s makeshift shooting blind, eyewitness descriptions, bullet cartridges, and the killing of Officer J. D. Tippit. 

According to a commemorative editorial in USA today a while back, evidence related to JFK’s assassination is “sparse” and presumably inconclusive. Those editors, like most Americans, have never seriously reviewed the evidence. Anyone who has read even part of the massive Warren Report could never assert that evidence in this case is “sparse”—a claim that would probably seem foolish even to folks who’ve perused Gerald Posner’s quite manageable “Case Closed.”  

Vincent Bugliosi, author of the monumental assassination work, “Reclaiming History,” demonstrated to a group of lawyers that they weren’t thinking logically about JFK’s murder by asking for a show of hands of those who had reviewed the Warren Report. The sparse number didn’t compare with the scores of hands raised earlier when he inquired about conspiracy proponents.     

Most Americans know little more about the assassination than what they’ve seen in Oliver Stone’s massively dishonest film, “JFK.” I regularly showed this dramatically gripping movie to seniors at the prep school in La Jolla where I taught for twenty years. That screening was followed by a condensed dose of real evidence as organized by Brandeis history scholar Jacob Cohen (“Yes, Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy,” Commentary Magazine, June, 1992). The typical result, at least for students who bothered to read Cohen’s article, was shock at Stone’s cinematic rape of history—at the director’s ignoring or twisting of obvious facts to make the event fit his own desires.  

Stone and others, however, get away with these monumental deceptions because journalists, intellectuals, and politicians have for decades been unwilling to provide to the general public, on a regular basis, even basic facts concerning Oswald that are clearly known—only a handful of which have been offered above. Like Stalin, they wish to airbrush out of the picture the “silly little communist” (Jackie Kennedy’s words) who clearly murdered the President and to manipulate a tragic historical event to further their own agendas.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


Robert George is Princeton’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and, mirabile dictu, a Catholic and a conservative. His new book, Conscience and Its Enemies, offers a concise and philosophically compelling counterattack against “the dogmas of liberal secularism”—especially the largely unscrutinized beliefs that have recently prompted a redefinition of marriage and continue to provide moral justification for the million-plus abortions that annually take place in the United States since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision transformed a deadly procedure into a constitutional right.

Professor George early on lays out what he sees as the three pillars of a decent society: 1) a fundamental respect for every human being 2) the institution of the family understood as marital commitment between husband and wife and 3) “a fair and effective system of law and government.”

Respect for each individual “as a subject bearing profound, inherent, and equal worth and dignity” begins with the child in the womb and extends to the very old as well as the mentally and physically impaired. George notes that societies that fail to nurture respect for every person will eventually “come to regard human beings as mere cogs…whose dignity may legitimately be sacrificed for the sake of the collectivity.”

This vital regard for the individual, rooted in both natural law and the Judeo-Christian tradition, is best transmitted from generation to generation by means of an intact family. When this basic structure breaks down, respect for human dignity, along with virtues like self-restraint, civility, and compassion, are ultimately undermined.

For traditional families to flourish, a “cultural ethos” that supports marriage and spousal fidelity is required. This ethos is bolstered by mediating institutions like churches and other voluntary associations that stand between lone individuals and the powerful state. Absent strong families and influential private institutions, government inevitably expands to fill society’s pedagogical and care-taking needs. In America this scenario has been playing out for several decades and should give pause to libertarians who don’t see social and economic conservatism as two sides of the same limited-government coin.

George’s third pillar, “a fair and effective system of law,” requires government institutions that value individual liberty and respect mediating associations (like the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church) whose beliefs may not correspond with the dogmas of secular liberalism.

The author argues persuasively that responsibility for keeping government within constitutional bounds isn’t the exclusive province of the Supreme Court. Indeed, he points out that this Constitutional heresy—a form of “judicial despotism” adamantly opposed by both Jefferson and Lincoln—was only explicitly asserted by the Court in 1958 (Cooper v. Aaron). George insists, by contrast, that judging a law’s constitutionality is “everybody’s business”—including the President, Congress, and even ordinary citizens. Elite opinion, of course, rejects these additional checks on federal power—especially the idea that folks like Tea Party protestors should have a voice in upholding the Constitution.

Far from embracing constitutional limits, George shows how governments and courts now regularly overstep their legitimate spheres of authority. Recent Obamacare insurance requirements vis-à-vis abortion, for example, constitute a major assault on religious liberty. The practical effect of these must-carry mandates is to eliminate conscience-based exemptions for religiously-affiliated institutions and to confine faith to a private closet that lacks the cultural clout or moral standing to challenge ideas promulgated by a growing governmental Leviathan.

On another front, various rights-based arguments have been employed to support the liberal redefinition of marriage as an institution based purely on feelings of affection and to stigmatize religious individuals and institutions that affirm the traditional view of marriage as a “one flesh” male-female union. This feelings-based understanding of marriage, as some of its prominent advocates openly admit, is ultimately destined to undermine the very notion of marriage as an institution intimately connected with procreation and spousal fidelity.

These and other secular ideas, George notes, are seldom critically scrutinized. The philosophical basis for liberal policies typically involves utilitarian sentiments that place personal desire or a vague social calculus of well-being above the sanctity of human life. Princeton professor Peter Singer provides a stark example of this perspective. The controversial ethicist has not only advocated extending “abortion rights” to cover cases of infanticide but has also condoned a theoretical society that breeds children simply to utilize their spare parts. As George observes (and as Singer’s views illustrate in spades) utilitarianism has no use for the concept of natural rights—including the idea that human beings may not be reduced to mere means to achieve other goals.

The last section of George’s work is devoted to brief, morally-focused sketches of a handful of important intellectual figures—including Andrew Sullivan, Richard John Neuhaus, and Elizabeth Fox and Eugene Genovese. These vignettes serve to put human faces on central themes of the book: the right to life, a defense of male-female marriage, academic integrity, and the intolerance and philosophical obtuseness of secular liberals.

Though Conscience and Its Enemies is organized as a collection of essays (several of which were previously published) the book manages to focus consistent attention on the three principles adumbrated in George’s initial chapter. The author’s legal training and philosophical education are both evident in his vigorous defense of these ideas. Rarely, however, does one confront details or arguments that might be considered obscure or daunting for the reasonably informed reader.

In short, it would be hard to find a book that does a better job of providing accessible legal and philosophical defenses of male-female marriage, the right to life, and limited government than Conscience and Its Enemies.

Monday, June 03, 2013

In Prison for Blasphemy in America?

Whatever happened to the Southland’s most infamous YouTube video maker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Mark Basseley Youssef, aka Sam Bacile? As someone who follows the news closely, I was surprised to learn that the rogue producer of “Innocence of Muslims” is now cooling his probation-violating heels in a Texas prison.

According to National Review’s Rich Lowry, the L.A. fraudster is the first person jailed in the United States for violating Islamic anti-blasphemy laws. In Lowry’s words, “As a practical matter…Nakoula wouldn’t be in jail today if he hadn’t produced a video crudely lampooning the prophet Muhammad.”

This opinion is bolstered by some highly regarded legal scholars, including Jonathan Turley, who point to oddities in Nakoula’s case that range from a highly publicized perp-walk to the year-long prison sentence assessed for technical probation violations.

One might think the legal status of someone falsely held responsible for the murder of four Americans by the President and his Sunday morning mouthpiece, Susan Rice, would be an item of press interest. But apparently the mainstream media’s political biases preclude serious inquiry into a story about the killing of an American ambassador along with San Diego native Sean Smith, and two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty of Encinitas and Tyrone Woods of Imperial Beach.

A free press worthy of that title would also show significant interest in the comment of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Charles Woods at a September 14 ceremony honoring his murdered son and the other Benghazi victims. According to Woods, Clinton offered him these words of retributive comfort: “We will make sure the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted”—a remark apparently aimed at a politically troublesome act of free speech.

Unfortunately, Beltway journalists who magnified the non-lethal outing of former CIA-agent Valerie Plame into a years-long scandal are uninterested in Clinton’s chilling promise to Mr. Woods. Indeed, the non-Fox press and its entertainment surrogates have done everything within their power to disparage reporting about a scandal that harms their man in the White House.

Case in point: Congressman Darrell Issa, head of the House Oversight Committee, was recently lampooned for his group’s Benghazi investigation by the moral deviants at Saturday Night Live. This tasteless spoof echoed the MSM’s constantly reiterated “partisan witch hunt” theme—a political redundancy that only becomes newsworthy when GOP probes target Democrats.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have also offered dismissive comic takes on the Benghazi hearings—but not on former Secretary Clinton’s astounding “What difference at this point does it make?” response to a Senator’s question about circumstances surrounding the September 11 terrorist attack.

Memorial Day reminded us that myriad Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of liberty. That liberty, however, requires diligent journalists who protect free speech and hold lying politicians accountable. Given the performance of the mainstream press to date, America’s liberty is seriously imperiled.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Schools Suspend Common Sense

Last week the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted 5-2 to halt the practice of suspending students for acts of “willful defiance.” Instead of sending kids home, alternative disciplinary methods will be employed—including placing defiant students in “intervention rooms” where tutoring and “reparative justice” conferences are supposed to occur. It’s unclear, however, where personnel for these new psycho-judicial sessions will come from.

Observers should note that “willful defiance” is a catch-all category that includes acts ranging from wearing baggy pants (a euphemism, I suspect, for the blatant display of underwear) to mouthing off in class or refusing to comply with an instructor’s directives. These generic offenses accounted for about half of the district’s 700,000 suspensions issued last year. Serious violations like theft and acts of violence can still result in suspension.

Numerous news accounts link the frequent employment of “willful defiance” suspensions to “zero tolerance” policies that were instituted after the 1999 Columbine massacre. Anyone familiar with education bureaucracies knows that “zero-tolerance” is a popular title for policies applied without recourse to common sense. Accordingly, under such rules plastic knives may be equated with stilettos and Hello Kitty bubble guns with assault weapons.

Given such circumstances, doing away with a vague category that results in automatic suspension doesn’t seem unreasonable. On the other hand, the racial profiling argument proffered by “willful-defiance” opponents is positively perverse.

According to these advocates, the fact that black students account for 26% of all suspensions while constituting only 9% of the district’s school population is prima facie evidence of disciplinary racism.

The elephant-in-the-room that this race-centered logic ignores is that nearly two-thirds of all black children in California now live in homes without a father present—a staggering statistic that politically correct educrats are loath to acknowledge.

Anyone who dismisses the well-documented correlation between father-absence and a host of social pathologies shouldn’t be allowed near children. Yet this is precisely the head-in-the-sand perspective of officials who establish policies for the nation’s largest school district.

This same race-based reasoning was used a few years back to explain why African-American kids in L.A. County wind up in foster care more frequently than other groups—a convenient explanation that’s being abandoned now that most social workers are themselves black or Hispanic.

Schools can’t themselves rectify a community-based disaster, but educators should at least acknowledge the truth and present to students stories and statistics that relate father-absence to crime, health, and educational achievement—a task they are eager to fulfill when it comes to tobacco-related damage.

Unfortunately, the thing most often suspended in today’s public school systems is common sense.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Free Condoms for 12-year-olds

Imagine a wife seeing off her husband on a business trip, giving him a hug at the door, then tucking a package of condoms in his pocket. “Honey, we both feel that being faithful is important, but we also know that spouses are having sex outside of marriage. So I want us to be protected--just in case. Have a great trip!”

That’s doubtless the kind of conversation that takes place in homes occupied by workers at the Condom Access Project—an undertaking run by the California Family Health Council. This group is currently making taxpayer-funded condoms available online for kids as young as twelve years old—no parental consent or knowledge required.

The CFHC’s website happily publishes the following headline for young browsers:

“Looking for free condoms? You have come to the right place! The Condom Access Project (CAP) is a free service that provides condoms for youth in California (12-19 years old)…. Enter your info below to find out how you can get free condoms near you.”

By utilizing this service, middle-schoolers in San Diego county can now obtain free condoms delivered in confidential packaging—just to make sure their parents don’t catch on. Kids in Riverside County can view a list of clinics where freebie prophylactics are disseminated.

The rationale for expanding this Internet perversity to San Diego is that the county currently ranks second in the state in chlamydia and sixth in gonorrhea cases. Moreover, we are informed by CFHC that California is rampant with STDs—a state of affairs supposedly facilitated by the fact that “teens continue to face many barriers to accessing condoms including embarrassment and concerns related to confidentiality, cost and accessibility.”

CFHC assures us, based on a study in New York City schools, that giving kids easy access to condoms doesn’t affect sexual activity. The agency doesn’t and can’t, however, provide evidence that a society that regularly undermines parental authority and treats twelve-year-olds as responsible adults has less promiscuity and related problems than a society that honors and supports parents as necessary guardians and educators of kids.

It’s inconceivable that the progressive undermining of parental authority and the proliferation of professional parent-excluding enablers hasn’t negatively impacted the immature psyches of youngsters who are anxious to prove their adult credentials.

Only “progressives” are sufficiently removed from reality to argue that the primary impact of increasing teen autonomy and lessening teen “embarrassment” about securing condoms will be a decrease in STDs. The primary impact of such policies has been the very STD mess the CAP program is supposed to address-- plus kids having more casual sex and soon self-administered morning-after abortions.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Greasing a Pathway to Citizenship

What will they think of next in Sacramento? Moving on from “gender identity” legislation, unwarranted incursions into psychiatric standards, and mandates that impose San Francisco sexual mores on all non-profits wishing to retain their tax-exempt status, the absurdity du jour from the state capital is a bill that seeks to extend jury service to non-citizens.

This legislation, AB 1401, passed the Assembly (45-25) on a largely party-line vote and is now proceeding to the Senate. One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), said the law would expand the pool of prospective jurors and help integrate immigrants into the community.

However, as Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) observed, there is currently no shortage of jurors—an assertion that appears to be confirmed by statistics that show only 165,000 jurors were seated in 2010-2011 out of an available pool of 3.2 million Californians who reported for duty.

Moreover, it seems odd to pick jury duty as a way to “integrate immigrants into the community” since this obligation typically arises only once every couple of years and since fewer than half of the Californians summoned end up waiting in a courthouse or being placed on call.

I certainly didn’t find my most recent jury experience in Riverside one that bound me closer to the community—an ordeal that began with an early-morning forty-minute drive and an around-the-building queue for a time-consuming security check that was conducted by inarticulate and unfriendly personnel who expected citizens reporting for duty to magically decode mumbled directives.

Then there was the protracted solitary confinement period in a waiting room with a few hundred other county residents that I’ll never see again—a time punctuated with repetitive announcements apparently aimed at a third grade audience.

Nor can I say I bonded with anyone or found myself brimming with civic pride during the voir dire process which several years ago actually ended up placing me on a jury—even though I had taught the defendant’s daughter in school.

Given the preceding facts and experiences, any reason for extending jury service to non-citizens appears to be more politically than practically based.

I suspect the real reason for this Democrat-backed legislation is to further diminish the distinction between citizens and non-citizens—a precursor to greasing the “pathway to citizenship” for folks who in the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press will no longer be called “illegal” immigrants.

While this proposed jury law does not apply to those individuals Jay Leno labeled “undocumented Democrats,” it will, along with driver’s licenses, welfare assistance, and schooling, serve to make citizenship a critical irrelevancy in California.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Hate-center Head Dispenses Hate

You know things are bad on campus when even Bill Maher can identify the politically correct nonsense that regularly emanates from institutions of higher re-education. In this case the recipient of Maher’s well-deserved barbs was Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Maher is able to call a spade a spade if the truth happens to coincide with his deep anti-religious prejudice—especially in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. For Levin and many of his PC pals, however, all religions are created equal, with tons of hypocrites that make any indictment directed specifically at Islam unacceptable.

Maher’s retort to Levin’s jejune observation that “We have hypocrites across (all) faiths” was that the professor was spouting liberal BS and that there is “only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith.” Maher added, “Talk to Salman Rushdie…about Christian versus Islam.”

Instead of arguing the point, Levin, a putative intellectual, simply implied that Maher was an Islamophobe.

Maher then asked the professor if he had seen the show “The Book of Mormon.” After Levin said tickets were hard to come by, Maher sealed his argument by asking whether a show called “The Book of Islam” could be produced on Broadway.

When Levin incredibly responded, “Possibly so,” Maher asked the former Associate Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center what color the sky was in his world.

This dialogue (available online) is instructive because it illustrates how a professor can be so committed to a PC position, he’s unwilling to speak the obvious truth.

No reasonable person believes most Muslims in the United States are terrorists or support terror. But no honest individual can deny that Islamic cells pose a threat that far outstrips the danger posed by other religious groups.

Were Cal State’s prof devoted to truth, he would acknowledge not only that “The Book of Islam” could never be produced on Broadway but also that Yale University Press even declined to print the cartoon depictions of Muhammad in a scholarly book it published about the widespread violence spawned by those images.

By contrast, Levin’s former digs, the Southern Poverty Law Center, was eager to label the Christian-based Family Research Council a “hate group” based on its support for traditional marriage—a designation that inspired a violent follower of SPLC’s website to enter FRC’s headquarters “to kill as many (FRC employees) as possible.”

It’s ironic that so many academics have jettisoned discourse in favor of insults. Simply calling one’s opponent a hater ends all rational inquiry.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A High-speed Fiscal Train Wreck

Governor Brown, frantic to secure a lasting political legacy, is intent on building a bridge to the nineteenth century—even if it takes Chinese financing to do it.

On his recent trip to the communist country, Brown gushed with enthusiasm about all the building that other one-party state had done—especially the 5000-plus miles of high-speed rail it has laid in the last five years. Said the governor, “When I get back to California, the bulldozers are going to roll.”

What really ought to roll are political heads that pushed this hundred-billion dollar (or more) high-speed choo-choo. The governor, however, ignored China’s infamous find-a-scapegoat political tradition along with the 2011 Wenzhou train wreck that cost 40 passengers their lives and caused the commies to dial back rail speeds to 190 mph.

A recent analysis of California’s bullet boondoggle by the Reason Foundation reaffirms the group’s 2008 findings about the project’s costs, financing, and ridership—findings that show the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s business plans have been “inaccurate, misleading and in violation of the laws guiding the project.”

One such violation is the statute that requires the train to link L.A. to San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes or less. Reason’s study, which takes into account reduced speeds due to tracks shared with other trains, including freight trains, puts the time at around four hours or longer.

Slower speeds mean fewer riders and higher costs. Even CHSRA’s ridership estimate has been dramatically reduced from a minimum of 65.5 million in 2035 to a maximum of 31.8 million and a minimum of 19.6 million. (Decimal points are obviously added to give the false impression of precision.)

Reason’s study, however, notes that even if the train reaches ridership levels in Europe, the number of passengers would only hit 7.6 million. Thus, ticket prices that were first projected at $50 in 2008 and are now put at $81 will go even higher. As prices increase, ridership will decline further.

Given these scenarios, the Reason Foundation estimates the annual subsidy for this white elephant on wheels will be anywhere from 124 to 373 million dollars.

Perhaps the governor can use his political charm to persuade the Chinese to cover some of the exploding costs for his bullet dream by giving them naming rights. CHSRA would doubtless love to market an exotic ride from Merced to Bakersfield on the Orient Express.

Or maybe Brown plans to import non-union Chinese workers to construct and ride his high-speed legacy.

Failing those fanciful options, what California taxpayers will be facing for decades to come is a high-speed fiscal train wreck.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


By now most college-bound high school seniors know which institution they’ll be attending. Those students may not, however, be prepared for the one-sided ideological environment they will almost certainly encounter—a place where objectively presenting various sides of issues often gives way to heavy-handed indoctrination.

An example of professorial browbeating and bias was recently exposed by a student at the University of Southern California. The instructor in this case was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science Darry Sragow, a Democrat operative who was secretly taped spewing partisan venom at his mini "re-education camp."

The tape, available online, shows Sragow attacking Republicans as “really stupid and racist” and their party as “increasingly the last refuge of old, angry white people.” The professor even suggests ways to suppress Republican votes: “You lose their information on voting in the mail,” he said, adding that there are “lots of ways to do it.”

Ironically, Sragow (himself an angry old white guy) indignantly offered a speculative anecdote about GOP voter-registration drives in which, when a person registers as a Democrat, “the allegation is that they throw those forms in the trash.” In a court of law such testimony would be dismissed as hearsay.

The not-so-brilliant Sragow also informed inmates in his class that politics is all about power and employed this example: “Al Gore won the Presidency of the United States. Didn’t get to be President. That’s power.”

Presumably Bush people snookered Gore out of Florida’s electoral votes. Overlooked by (or unknown to) Sragow was that most credible reviews of the 2000 Florida vote (including the New York Times) showed Bush would have won a recount. Sragow’s implication that Gore won because he got more votes nationwide represents an elementary mistake, or a deliberate misrepresentation, by a putative political science professor.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Sragow were a rare exception. Unfortunately, a slew of analyses demonstrate that diversity of thought isn’t prized by most universities whose ideological makeup and political contributions tilt overwhelmingly to the left.

Indeed, the chair of the “Africana” program at Cal State University Long Beach, Dr. Maulana Karenga (inventor of the pseudo-African holiday of Kwanzaa) spent four years in prison for felonious assault. Yet shortly after his release this Marxist felon began teaching at San Diego State University and then at UC Riverside. Only fourteen years passed between prison and heading the Black Studies program at Long Beach.

Unfortunately, the academy is packed with radicals like Karenga, UC Santa Cruz’s retired communist prof, Angela Davis, and Northwestern’s former-terrorist law professor Bernadine Dohrn, wife of former professor and fellow-terrorist Bill Ayers. By comparison, USC’s bad-boy is an ideological piker.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

California Ranks Next-to-last on Freedom Scale

In a Peanuts-based cartoon traveling around the Internet, Lucy loudly informs Linus that she’s pro-choice. Linus asks if he can smoke, but Lucy nixes the idea for health reasons. Similar exchanges occur about large sodas, dangerous guns, planet-endangering incandescent bulbs, environmentally harmful coal, and offensive God-language. When Linus asks what exactly he’s free to choose, Lucy responds, “An abortion.”

The cartoon provides a darkly humorous summary of freedom in the state of California. A more scholarly overview is available at George Mason University’s libertarian-oriented Mercatus Center.

According to that analysis, the Golden State ranks 49th out of the 50 states on various scales of economic and personal freedom—placing more restrictions on liberty than every state but New York. Only California’s libertarian-endorsed lassitude with respect to marijuana, marriage, and so-called “victimless” crimes saves it from occupying the index’s bottom spot.

Not surprisingly, the union and environmentalist-dominated state ranks dead last on freedom from various types of regulation—a position that dovetails with its cellar standing on factors that affect an individual’s ability to find a job.

Sacramento’s fiefdom also leads the nation when it comes to restrictions on gun ownership, a dubious honor that could be further solidified by new proposals to tax and regulate ammunition.

In addition, California ranks first in nanny laws—and thus last in terms of freedom from a grab-bag of regulations that range from trans-fat bans to bicycle helmet requirements.

Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, however, have concluded that all these restrictions are insufficient to safeguard their residents and to create the ideal balance they feel is needed within imaginary ecosystems. Consequently, they’ve instituted bans directed at another public menace—single-use plastic bags typically distributed by retailers.

Not to be outdone by mere municipalities, California legislators are pondering a statewide ban on these inexpensive and convenient petroleum byproducts—another dubious environmental mandate that will force shoppers to pay for paper sacks or pack a number of durable totes in their cars’ trunks. Dutiful “health officials” assure us that the latter conveyances will remain largely free of bacterial contaminants.

All these laws designed to combat an ever-growing list of perceived dangers have contributed greatly to the exodus of Californians to other states—an outflow also documented by the Mercatus Center and indicating, in their words, a desire to find “more employment opportunities or a better quality of life.”

On the other side of the ledger, California legislators are now considering AB 154—legislation that will allow nurses, midwives, and physicians’ assistants to perform the only act of freedom many Californians passionately embrace—the freedom to extinguish nascent human life.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Obamacare Bureaucrat Gets Things Backwards

Folks who work for the government have a talent for getting things backwards. Such is the case with Robert Ross, a board member of the new state agency responsible for implementing the three-year-old federal healthcare law—aka Obamacare.

It seems that this agency, Covered California, needs 20,000 temporary workers to enroll millions of residents in the state’s health insurance exchange. Plans currently call for workers to receive $58 for each application completed.

One might think Americans would rush to put themselves into this historically wonderful program—without assistance from paid recruiters. But such retrograde thoughts only occur to folks who find it disturbing that the government uses ad campaigns to recruit food stamp recipients.

Mr. Ross’ backwards mentality, however, doesn’t involve the sign-up program itself. It rather concerns the fact that these temporary workers will have access to highly sensitive consumer materials—Social Security numbers, birth dates, income and tax information.

Right-thinking persons would want to make darn sure that anyone with access to such data would be fingerprinted and undergo a thorough background check. Mr. Ross, however, works in the government. His primary concern is for the burden a careful background check might impose on the cohort of workers he envisions collecting this fraud-inviting personal and financial information.

Ross prefaces his true agenda with a comment about “bureaucratic mountains that slow us down.” That’s rich, coming from a board member of a new state bureaucracy.

The real problem Ross has with extensive background checks is revealed in this remark: “There are people who have turned their lives around and who are trusted by the most difficult-to-reach populations. Not having their talent and expertise could be a problem.”

Translation: Many of the workers Ross would like to employ have criminal records that would disqualify them from being hired. He thinks it’s more important to employ individuals with dubious backgrounds to get as many people as possible into this program than it is to safeguard Californians from fraud.

For most Americans this Batman-goofy rehabilitation mentality went out with the skyrocketing crime rates it spawned in the seventies. Ross, however, works for the government and shares the same perspective as the non-profit official who insisted that “background checks would create barriers for a lot of communities of color… We need a massive amount of people to help with outreach.”

By the way, “community groups” (think ACORN) and non-profits like the one represented by the quote above (Greenlining Institute), will be charged with hiring sign-up workers.

It isn’t trivial that the latter government-minded officer spoke of human beings as “amounts”—i.e. as volumes, not as fraud-susceptible “individuals.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gender Identity Laws vs. Religious Freedom

It’s hard to overstate the arrogance of legislators who regularly fail to take care of basic governmental responsibilities—education, prisons, infrastructure, budgeting—yet impose laws about social mores that have no civilized precedent.

Two years ago our philosopher-kings in Sacramento passed a law, AB 887, that added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of non-discrimination categories that apply to employers and housing officials.

As that piece of social engineering explained, “Gender identity refers to a person’s deeply felt internal sense of being male or female. Gender expression refers to one’s behavior, mannerisms, appearance and other characteristics that are perceived to be masculine or feminine.”

In abstract language the provision sounds benign, but when one asks how this idea plays out in real life, questions abound about the wisdom of this radical innovation.

Specifically, this bill requires employers to accept male employees who express themselves by wearing blouses and skirts to work. Conversely, biological females who feel the need to express their inner maleness can dress accordingly without fear of workplace repercussions.

The situation gets stickier when these “let a thousand sexual flowers bloom” rules are applied to students—a scenario now playing out in Massachusetts schools where “gender identity” laws allow gender-questioning students to use bathrooms of the opposite biological sex or to play on the sport teams of the sex with which they identify.

According to Bay State directives, the fact that female students feel uncomfortable about a boy in the bathroom “is not a reason to deny access to the (sincere) transgender student.” The absurdity extends to eliminating gender-based clothing at graduations—a policy that would logically require the elimination of gender-based bathrooms.

One should also ponder the application of these regulations to teachers—a hypothetical that, as one can see on the website, isn’t entirely hypothetical in Massachusetts.

Not content to extend a middle finger to traditional mores in schools and the workplace, California legislators are now considering withdrawing tax-exempt status from private organizations that don’t follow their unprecedented gender-identity rules.

SB 323 requires organizations with tax-exempt status to abandon any discriminatory criteria related to “gender identity” and sexual orientation. The most obvious group targeted by this recent expression of liberal fascism is the Boy Scouts, but private schools and other groups like the American Youth Soccer Organization are also explicitly mentioned.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, describes SB 323 as “an extreme example of intolerance” to the “convictions held by private benevolent non-profit organizations.” He also warned that, if successful, the next target of the LGBT lobby will be non-complying churches.

Thus does “tolerance” reveal itself as intolerant libertine secularism.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


California, the epicenter of environmental religiosity, leads the nation in purchasing electric cars. These zero-emission vehicles not only make their owners serious candidates for eco-sainthood, they also bestow on them a number of more tangible benefits.

Being allowed to drive in carpool lanes with only a single occupant is one nifty perk. Other bonuses are the steep government subsidies given to purchasers. The feds dole out up to $7,500 in rebates while the oh-so-green Golden State could kick in an extra $2,500.

Despite these emotional and financial incentives, 2012 sales for electric vehicles came in at only about 50,000. These numbers make President Obama’s nationwide goal of a million EVs by 2015 as unlikely as achieving a balanced federal budget by that date.

The good (or bad) news is that the environmental efficacy of EVs has been vastly overstated. This conclusion comes not from an oil-industry analyst but from “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg’s recent “Wall Street Journal” article on this topic focuses on the entire “life-cycle” of electric vehicles, not just on their post-production carbon dioxide emissions.

Taking into account the carbon emissions needed to produce a vehicle, electric cars begin their exhaust-free existence with more than twice the emissions required to make a conventional automobile (30,000 vs. 14,000 pounds). Then there’s the problem of recharging, a process that typically employs electricity produced from fossil fuels.

Here is Lomborg’s bottom line with respect to emissions: “If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.”

Another discouraging word for EV aficionados is that the Nissan Leaf has only a 73-mile range per charge and, according to one test, recharging takes so long that on extended trips the average speed is about six (yes, 6) miles per hour. Add to that tidbit the fact that within five years battery degradation brings the car’s range down to 55 miles. Thus, the likelihood of achieving any positive “carbon offset” with this vehicle is slim.

Despite these inconvenient truths, California and the feds continue to generously subsidize these hugely expensive vehicles—more out of blind allegiance to the green lobby and the goddess Gaia than out of a reasonable cost-benefit analysis.

California’s Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors greatly appreciate governments that dish out billions of dollars to battery and electric car manufacturers like themselves—all so that benighted greenies can feel good about themselves.

Informed taxpayers and honest environmentalists shouldn’t feel so swell about these dubious investments.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


A voice breathlessly commenting on a dramatic emergency scene declares that “every second counts when it comes to saving lives” and that without Proposition A “your safety is at risk.” Los Angeles’ Police Chief appears on screen and grimly announces: “I’m Charlie Beck. Public safety is now in danger. Please support me by voting ‘yes’ on Proposition A.”

That’s the choice for voters: Support Proposition A or put public safety at risk. What exactly Prop. A is, isn’t stated, but obviously only sociopaths would oppose it. Such is the nature of today’s “my way or the apocalypse” political discourse.

For the benefit of the more than eighty percent of registered Angelinos who sat out this election, Prop. A called for a permanent half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax—a rise that the city council hoped would generate over $200 million in additional revenue.

Buoyed by the success of Proposition 30 last fall, which linked tax increases to the welfare of California’s school children, L.A.’s city council rushed through this local tax measure without public hearings and hoped for a ‘yes’ vote by tying it to emergency responders.

Fortunately, enough sentient citizens went to the polls to defeat this measure (55-45%). At a minimum this new pile of municipal cash would be an important bargaining chip that public employee unions would employ in upcoming contract negotiations.

The issue never addressed by proponents of this and other new taxes is why the most essential and popular government services are in jeopardy if new taxes aren’t approved. Why, in other words, is funding for emergency services, schools, and parks always at risk and not exorbitant pensions, proliferating bureaucrats, and dubious programs?

In his teaching days economist Thomas Sowell told students to “imagine a government agency with only two tasks: building statues of Benedict Arnold and providing life-saving medications to children.” Sowell then asked how the agency would respond to a budget cut. The bureaucrat-savvy answer is that medications for children would be reduced because that action would likely result in getting the budget cuts reversed.

The Obama White House is playing the same cynical game with the puny $85 billion cut to a federal budget projected to be over $3700 billion (3.7 trillion). Thus, school children planning a visit to the White House are turned away in order to make cuts as painful and obvious as possible.

The worst case scenario, as one Obama lackey opined, would be if “the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens”—a result that would confirm the obvious truth that most governments are awash in redundancy, regulatory overreach, and graft.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The ancient Greeks said to count no man happy until he dies. After all, one never knows what unexpected turns a person’s life might take.

Two years after I moved to San Diego in 1984, the city chose as its mayor a perky 38-year–old woman named Maureen O’Connor. “Mo” was first elected to the City Council in 1971 when she was only twenty-five. She served in that capacity for eight years, and then had a five-year stint as commissioner of the Port of San Diego prior to becoming mayor. In 1977, during her rise to political power, she became the wife of Jack in the Box founder, Robert Peterson.

In short, by the early 90s O’Connor was respected, powerful, and wealthy. Currently the former mayor is facing prosecution for taking over two million dollars from her deceased husband’s charitable foundation—money that she gambled away, along with much of the fortune she inherited.

A deal struck with federal prosecutors allows the 66-year-old O’Connor to defer prosecution for two years as she attempts to repay her debt to the foundation. O’Connor, who underwent surgery for a brain tumor in 2011 and suffers from its aftereffects, now lives with her sister and is virtually broke.

The former mayor suffered the loss of her husband in 1994, and according to her attorney the deaths of several other close friends contributed to his client’s compulsive “grief gambling”—a habit that reportedly began around 2001. During the next decade she wagered, won, and lost over a billion dollars. But her net losses topped $13 million.

It’s hard to imagine the number of hours O’Connor must have been spent in front of lifeless video poker machines to reach those staggering figures. But gambling houses in San Diego, Las Vegas and Atlantic City were happy to accommodate a presumably wealthy patron who would occasionally drop $100,000 in a day. It’s a portrait quite at odds with the happy scenes conveyed by casino ads on TV.

O’Connor likened her gambling habit to heroin addiction and suggested that her brain tumor may have added to the compulsiveness. Federal prosecutor Phillip Halpern, however, observed that a ten-year fuse for a brain tumor is unlikely.

My own guess is that the absence of children, the loss of intimate friends, and separation from the reins of power all combined to create a vacuum for which even millions of dollars could not compensate. A politician out of power can be like an ex-athlete who misses the adrenaline rush of competition, cheers and victory.

And when those “celebrities” find themselves short on close friends, a video poker machine is cold comfort.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Black Gold Versus Green Religion

Gas prices in the Southland are again well above four dollars, and in some regions of California over five. The typical political response to this state of affairs is to blame the dastardly oil companies, as Dianne Feinstein did last October when prices spiked even higher and the senator demanded a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the presumably nefarious cause of this rise.

Even a non-conservative source like NBC news, however, was still honest enough to report that Californians have only themselves and their elected officials to blame for soaring prices at the pump. Boutique gas blends, limited refining capacity, and the second-highest gasoline tax in the country (almost fifty cents a gallon) are three factors that regularly combine to push pump prices into the stratosphere.

Fortunately, the once-Golden State is now sitting on a vast store of oil within the Monterey Shale formation. This geological region measuring 1,750 square miles and stretching from southern to central California constitutes two-thirds of the country’s estimated shale oil reserves and dwarfs the ample supply in North Dakota that has fueled an economic boom in that state.

Unfortunately, the chances that California’s Green political machine will allow this resource to be effectively tapped—to reduce unemployment, erase budget deficits, and eventually trim gas prices—are slim and none.

Hollywood, the prime source of misinformation for many West Coasters, has already launched a major theatrical broadside against the fracking process by which oil is obtained from shale. In the film “Promised Land” Matt Damon is the celebrity employed to show that oil companies are ruthless and will go to great lengths to discredit environmental concerns. The movie, not coincidentally, was largely funded by an enterprise owned by the United Arab Emirates—an OPEC nation that clearly hopes to stifle U.S. oil production.

Ironically, there are significant potential environmental upsides to accessing this huge oil reservoir—like reducing tanker-spill risks and cutting greenhouse gas emissions in refineries due to the quality of Monterey oil. But it’s unlikely the oil-is-evil crowd will care about these considerations since, as one pundit observed, “their opposition is more religious than rational.”

Radical environmentalists have so cluttered the Internet with apocalyptic fracking scenarios that it’s hard to find unbiased expert information. Geologist Ian Duncan’s sober analysis, for example, is buried beneath scores of anti-fracking screeds.

Last October Senator Feinstein declared that forcing motorists to pay dearly for gasoline was “untenable.” But don’t count on Feinstein’s support for accessing a resource that could actually lower those prices. Her position will likely follow the theological urgings of the state’s green, wealthy coastal elite—not the distress of reddish inlanders.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Did Dorner Have a Point?

A hundred years after Lincoln’s assassination the following question might have taken on a humorous hue: “Putting aside the shooting, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

It’s indicative of the moral vacuity of our age that within twenty-four hours of the time Christopher Dorner murdered San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin could pose this question to four panelists: “Take the murderous rampage out of it, would he have had a point?”

Even worse than Baldwin’s question was the positive response proffered by Columbia Professor Marc Lamont Hill. Hill was almost giddy in his insistence that Dorner’s “manifesto” had prompted “an important conversation” about police brutality and corruption.

Hill also noted that Dorner had been “like a real life superhero to many people” who were rooting for him to extract vengeance against a system that had wronged him. Judging by his tone and enthusiasm, Hill clearly sympathized with those moral cretins for whom Dorner’s murderous rampage was “almost like watching ‘Django Unchained’ in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”

Parenthetically, Hill conceded that “what [Dorner] did was awful” and that “killing innocent people [is] bad,” but quickly refocused on the murderer’s manifesto that proved “he wasn’t entirely crazy.”

One wonders if Hill bothered to read this document that combined vulgar self-justification and bizarre cultural commentary with angry accusations against the Los Angeles Police Department. The manifesto reached all the way back to Dorner’s bitter resentment toward a first grade principal who “swatted” both him and a “fellow student” that young Dorner had punched and kicked for calling him the n-word.

Those collected “injustices” (real or perceived) were used by Dorner to justify the murder of 28-year-old Monica Quan, an assistant basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton, along with her fiancée, Keith Lawrence—a promising young black officer at The University of Southern California’s Department of Public Safety.

Dorner’s feelings of victimization also justified, in his self-obsessed mind, the killing of Riverside police officer Michael Crain and the aforementioned deputy Jeremiah MacKay, neither of whom worked for LAPD but both of whom left behind wives and two young children.

Put more accurately, Brooke Baldwin’s question would look like this: Putting aside the murder of two completely innocent young people and putting aside the murder of two non-LAPD police officers and ignoring the pain endured by those officers’ wives, Regina and Lynette, and dismissing from consideration the tears of Regina’s children, Ian (10) and Kaitlyn (4) as well as those of MacKay’s 7-year-old stepdaughter and 4-month-old son—did Dorner have a point?

No one who asks such a question or responds with a positive answer possesses a functioning moral compass.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Celebrities can only safely spout leftist dogma

Rancho Santa Fe’s Phil Mickelson landed in a gnarly political hazard a few weeks ago when he said he might be making some major changes due to recent increases in state and national tax rates—increases that specifically target rich folks like him.

The mavens of permissible public discourse immediately descended on Lefty for these “insensitive” remarks. This feeding frenzy produced a couple of quick mea culpas from Mickelson for exercising the freedom of speech that’s employed in intolerant spades by celebrities whose ideas mirror those of President Obama and his adoring media gallery.

Mickelson noted in his two recovery attempts that he shouldn’t have used his golf fame as a forum for airing thoughts about his “personal” economic situation. He also issued an apology to those who might have found his remarks “insensitive”—such as “people who are not able to find a job” or those “struggling paycheck to paycheck.”

Since Phil’s originally unscripted comments included the figures 62 and 63 percent, CNN and CNBC dutifully published articles designed to discredit Mickelson’s math and to assure the nation’s tax-the-rich entitlement crowd that the golfer was “only” paying about half his income to various governments. The exact percentage depended, one piece speculated, on the skill of his tax accountant and the amount Mickelson donates to charity.

It speaks volumes about the mindset of this analyst that Mickelson’s substantial generosity would be employed against him and that those funds would be placed on the golfer’s side of the accounting ledger simply because they aren’t dispersed by the duffers in Sacramento and Washington D.C. By this reasoning Mickelson could keep most of his money—as long as he gives it away.

Significantly, no major repercussions ensued when Chris Rock and scores of other celebrities thoroughly trashed former President Bush or employed their professional forums to lionize Mr. Obama. Similarly, Alec Baldwin received much less grief in 1998 for passionately “kidding” about “stoning” GOP Rep. Henry Hyde “and his family” than Clint Eastwood encountered last year for his comic anti-Obama performance at the Republican national convention. Indeed, Baldwin is now the commercial spokesman for Capital One.

Clearly Mickelson’s tax comments were closer to the middle of the fairway than the outrageous political hooks and slices regularly proffered by leftwing celebs.

It’s uncertain if Mickelson will follow the advice of Texas governor Rick Perry and the example of Tiger Woods and move to a state that doesn’t practice the politics of envy or hold rich folks responsible for the economic distress of others. What’s obvious is that mainstream media will severely penalize any public figure who doesn’t meekly accept Gov. Brown’s and President Obama’s dubious economic club selections.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

CTA and API: How to Frustrate School Reform

If a parent knew that in 2012 Menifee’s Paloma Valley High School had a score of 814 on the state’s Academic Performance Index and in the prior year received a score of 819, how helpful would that information be?

Moms and dads can easily discover that the state sets a target score of 800 for all schools and thus be assured that Paloma Valley meets this basic standard. Knowing more precisely what goes into calculating the API number, however, is an exercise best left to folks who don’t mind observing how sausage is made.

I invite individuals with a strong cognitive stomach to peruse the state’s Academic Performance Index information guide—and especially it’s multi-page answer to the question, “What is the API?”

The short version is that the API combines a number of variously weighted tests into a single number between 200 and 1000. Dangerously inquisitive minds can explore the specific weights and tests on the California Department of Education’s website.

I commented back in 1999 when the Public Schools Accountability Act was passed by the legislature that if politicians wished to obfuscate information about education, they could hardly do better than creating this hyper-opaque system.

Not surprisingly, various components of the API have been tweaked since its inception—a fact that makes it impossible to accurately compare results from earlier years with more recent data.

Moreover, last fall Governor Brown signed a bill (SB 1458) sponsored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg that will further modify the API by de-emphasizing standardized tests and including in the numerical mix factors like technical training, graduation and college attendance rates.

In his effusive praise of this educational placebo, Steinberg graciously acknowledged that the API is not “the cause of all our school woes” and even conceded that his numerical sugar pill didn’t constitute a “singular solution.” The notion, however, that this new tweak might, in the senator’s words, “fundamentally change public education in California” is laughable.

What might actually change public schools where an Hispanic mom discovered that her sixth grader was reading at a first grade level or where two veteran teachers were recently accused of molesting dozens of children within the same L.A. Unified District would be institutional changes that reduce the power of the California Teachers Association—a group that actually helped kill legislation making it easier to fire teachers accused of sexual misconduct against students.

For now, laws giving parents the ability to restructure failing schools (the “parent-trigger” law) and to transfer their kids to different public schools are two of the best tools available in a state where the CTA exercises immense change-frustrating power.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Politicizing and Sexualizing of History

In July of 2011 Governor Brown approved a first-in-the-nation bill that requires California public schools to add lessons about gay history to social studies classes.

More specifically, the law puts “sexual orientation” alongside women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other classifications as groups that must be included in lessons about their members’ social contributions. Starting in the 2013-14 school year, this legislation also prohibits schools from using instructional materials that reflect adversely on gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

When he signed the law, Brown declared that “history should be honest.” In all likelihood this new requirement sponsored by San Francisco State Senator Mark Leno will make classes even more politicized than they already are.

Significantly, SB 48 places homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals alongside various racial and ethnic groups—implying that “sexual orientation” is a purely genetic trait and that teachers could find themselves in hot water if other possible causes for these “orientations” are considered.

Despite decades of ideologically motivated attempts to find a purely biological basis for homosexuality, it has become clear that genetics is only one among many possible causative factors—like parental dynamics, abuse, and cultural mores. The inclusion of bisexuality and transgender folks into this omnibus classification makes a genes-alone, same-as-race assumption even more problematic.

One wonders whether presenting the cultural component for homosexuality in ancient Greece’s Spartan culture would fit into or violate this law’s inclusive-but-non-discriminatory requirements. (I’ve never heard anyone address this obvious example of the impact of culture on “sexual orientation.”)

Even before SB 48, students have regularly been given misleading information about AIDS as an equal opportunity disease—in the name of political correctness. In fact, the vast majority of these cases impact homosexuals and IV drug users.

The Center for Disease Control’s website notes that among American men 13 and over, almost 80% of new HIV infections in 2009 and 2010 involved homosexual relations—a statistic that could “reflect adversely” on a now-specially-recognized class of individuals.

One also wonders if California’s new history standards would permit teachers to honestly discuss the fraudulent and even criminal activities undertaken by the bisexual sado-masochist Alfred Kinsey—an individual whose “contribution” to society can be measured by the proliferation of pornography and the frequency with which adults now abuse children, a group Kinsey grotesquely sexualized.

I doubt that Dr. Judith Reisman’s books about the perverse zoologist’s legacy (“Sexual Sabotage” and “Kinsey, Crimes & Consequences”) will be on the reading list of SB-48 conforming classrooms this fall—or any information that conflicts with PC renderings of the past.

In sum, history designed to boost the self-esteem of select groups isn’t “honest” history.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Murderers Who Are Released to Murder Again

Last November Californians narrowly defeated (52-48 percent) a proposition that would have abolished the state’s death penalty. Riverside County, like most inland regions, voted more decisively (62-38) against the measure.

Dennis Fink Stanworth is one reason folks who aren’t entertainers with personal bodyguards or wealthy liberals living in gated coastal communities tend to favor the death sentence for first degree and especially “special circumstances” murders.

The seventy-year-old Stanworth recently confessed to killing his own mother in Vallejo. In 1966 a much younger Stanworth raped and killed two girls, ages 14 and 15. For these crimes he was sentenced to death. Three years later the State Supreme Court set aside that sentence despite the defendant’s insistence that he deserved to be executed.

A second jury invoked the death penalty for Stanworth in 1974, only to have their judgment again overridden by the state’s highest court. This time those black-robed demigods ruled that California’s death penalty constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and reduced Stanworth’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In 1990 this double murderer with four other rapes on his rap sheet was released on parole. Three years later parole oversight ended, and he was only required to register as a sex offender.

At the recent arraignment for his mother’s murder Stanworth exclaimed, “It’s the third time. I plead guilty to everything.” Stanworth isn’t the only murderer sentenced to death that’s been released from prison and murdered again, but he is the most recent—as far as we know.

Opponents of the death penalty often raise the possibility that an innocent person might be executed—totally ignoring the killed-by-released-murderers side of the equation.

Proposition 34 supporters (who outspent opponents by a 20 to 1 ratio) also argued that death penalty cases are much more expensive than non-capital cases. They failed to note, of course, that capital trials and appeals are costly precisely because of legal redundancies that are multiplied by the same folks who cite money as a reason to abolish executions.

Currently the existence of a “life in prison without the possibility of parole” punishment makes it unlikely that today’s double-murderers will be released from prison. But the constant agitation for penal leniency by reformers for whom victims quickly become bloodless abstractions should give pause to anyone who thinks California’s no-parole prison sentences (like Stanworth’s two death sentences) are written in stone.

The myopic mindset of the most ardent bleeding hearts is reflected in the astounding sentence given to Norway’s recent murderer of 77 human beings—twenty-one years. That’s 100 days for each life snuffed out by Anders Breivik.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is California Being Run by Eco-fascists?

One might think a book called “Eco-fascists” would emanate from a conservative think tank. Elizabeth Nickson, however, is a committed environmentalist and mainstream journalist who was mugged by what she now calls “the tyranny of the environmental movement.”

This “mugging” occurred when she attempted to subdivide her twenty-eight acres on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and was met with a green fury that was only matched by an authoritarian bureaucratic structure that squelched any resistance to environmental dogma.

Californians would be well advised to peruse this work that provides several Golden State examples of the devastation wrought by government agencies and green groups working largely under cover of the Endangered Species Act.

Nickson cites the Klamath River Basin in California as “a case study in how the movement destroys a region in order to turn it first to wilderness, then, seemingly inadvertently, to desert.”

Thanks to unnecessary spotted owl forest shutdowns, only two of that area’s twenty-two sawmills now function, and unemployment stands at 25 percent. Moreover, vast amounts of wood that could be harvested is left on the forest floor to fuel an environmentally catastrophic fire.

Due to such ideology-driven policies, California, which has the second-largest forest in the country, now imports 80 percent of its wood.

Environmentalists are also pressing for removal of the four low-cost energy-producing dams on the Klamath River, the largest dam removal in history—all for the sake of a species, the coho salmon, that never thrived in the chemical-rich riverbeds of the upper Klamath.

The Klamath’s green disaster has a counterpart in Del Norte County. There the creation and expansion of Redwood National Park resulted in dramatic losses of forestry and service-related jobs. By 1998 that county’s poverty rate was almost 23 percent.

The tourism that was supposed to compensate for all those lost family-wage jobs never materialized and is even discouraged by “wilderness” policies proffered by the California Coastal Commission. In the words of one county supervisor, “The park expansion turned us into a welfare county.”

The anti-rural devastation Nickson describes in Northern California is also evident in the dramatic reduction of San Joachin-Sacramento River water sent to Central Valley farmers. The dubious ecological rationale? A three-inch sub-species called the Delta Smelt.

Even San Diegans living in areas with puddles designated “vernal pools” can wake up and discover environmental activists and government bureaucrats confiscating their property rights in the name of a tiny fairy shrimp.

The final irony, as Nickson argues persuasively, is that “ecosystem” science is deeply flawed and often destructive of the nature it supposedly preserves--all at the worldwide cost of millions of human lives and trillions of life-enhancing dollars.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tax Breaks for Hollywood Hypocrites

Hollywood has long been a goldmine for big-government Democrats who inveigh against wealthy folks who aren’t paying “their fair share” in taxes.

Thus, it seems fitting that the first annual “Al Gore Height of Hypocrisy Award” should go to those Tinseltowners who last year received a two-year extension of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit program. (Gore, by the way, recently sold his Current TV cable channel for a bundle to a news outfit funded by the oil-rich Emir of Qatar.)

The aforementioned Sacramento stocking stuffer provides 100 million dollars in tax credits to lucky California productions randomly selected from the hundreds of applications submitted to the California Film Commission. The lottery continues until all the year’s goodies have been allocated.

This giveaway provides a 20 percent tax credit for feature films with production budgets between one and seventy-five million dollars. Made-for-television and mini-series productions with budgets of at least $500,000 also qualify—as do new television series licensed for original distribution on basic cable.

According to a study by the self-interested Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, this modest program (by government’s lax standards) generated more than $3.8 billion dollars in economic activity in California and “supported” more than 20,000 jobs during its first two years of operation.

A more somber portrait was offered by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. It concluded that the policy “appears to result in a net decline in state revenues”—an odd outcome for a program that, if the law’s L.A.-based authors are to be believed, would end the state’s economic woes if only it were dramatically increased.

This special deal for TV and film productions is needed, it should be noted, because folks in that industry have been fleeing California to sites where tax burdens are less onerous and various tax breaks are available.

According to one estimate, “the number of studio-backed feature films shot in California dropped from 66 percent in 2003 to less than 40 percent last year.” Other reports spotlight a dramatic decline in TV productions. Tax incentives offered by various states and Canada were cited as a major reason for the drop.

Riverside County Supervisors Jeff Stone and John Benoit are hoping to cash in on this exodus by offering Hollywood hypocrites financial incentives that are closer to home.

Here’s a thought: If tax incentives work for Hollywood liberals, why not employ the general principle throughout the economy and abolish special perks for political cronies—like the estimated $430 million slice of filmmaker pork that was stuffed into the recent fiscal cliff deal in Washington D.C?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Will Politicians Prescribe Therapy?

The Ninth Circuit Court recently provided an example of the aphorism that even a broken clock is right twice a day. In this case those black-robed demigods issued a post-Christmas injunction against implementing a bill (SB 1172) that prohibits state-licensed therapists from counseling minors to eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions.

That first-in-the-nation bill, signed last September by Governor Brown, was scheduled to go into effect on January 1. Now our pathologically narcissistic Sacramento politicians must secure an OK from the nation’s most eccentric federal court.

Apparently even those hyper-liberal jurists were swayed by arguments about freedom of choice and privacy that were made by groups opposing the bill. Among those groups is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. NARTH’s website summarizes various objections against this legislation that places interest-group-obsessed politicians between minor patients and their licensed therapists.

The law, spawned by Torrance State Senator Ted Lieu, dictates to parents, minor children and their licensed therapists that they must not seek “to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex”—an amazingly broad prohibition that calls in question even counseling designed to curb sexual impulses.

The list of horribles that supposedly accompany such therapies are typically paired in the legislation’s self-justification by weasel-words like “can” or “may” and concern possibilities that apply to any serious therapy. Moreover, the law’s vague recitation of negative outcomes applies in spades to the popular antidepressant prozac.

Even the American Psychological Association (a group long dominated by ideologues) only “advises” parents and youngsters “to avoid” therapies that “portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder.” The APA also notes, with uncharacteristic modesty, that the “scientific value” of such therapy “is questionable.”

By contrast, Sacramento’s know-it-alls, whose ignorance of climate science and psychology only matches their exaggerated self-esteem, cast aside all doubt by outlawing a practice that the premier professional association only discourages.

Also ignored by these legislative super-egos is the dangerous precedent set by government’s intrusion into matters related to parental authority and mental health—or the likelihood that parents will seek out less qualified, less sympathetic counselors to achieve goals that the capital’s pretend-shrinks have made it impossible to pursue within a professional context.

That the bogus but once-revered notion of self-esteem is scattered generously throughout SB 1172 gives anyone familiar with trends in pop-psychology a sense of how intellectually shallow this legislation actually is.

SB 1172 is championed, I should add, by the same folks who insist with contorted red faces that government mustn’t interfere with maternal decisions that relate to the life or death of a healthy nine-month fetus.