The Democratic Party has a Dianne Feinstein problem that they still haven’t solved. Several reports over the last few years have noted that Senator Feinstein is having cognitive issues, forgetting people and events, and generally displaying symptoms of some form of dementia. But she has not admitted to such, nor has she said anything publicly about resigning.
The other Senator from California, Alex Padilla was appointed to Kamala Harris’ seat by Gavin Newsom, then won his subsequent special election. The process needs to repeat so that a younger, mentally agile Democrat can serve in Feinstein’s place.
I assume there is furious lobbying behind the scenes, and that the political calculation includes demographic considerations. I don’t know California politics well, is there a black woman who has good name recognition, besidesKaren Bass? Barbara Lee?
Adam Schiff seems to have the gravitas and name recognition, but who knows what his relationship with Governor Newsom is? Same with Ro Khanna, and for that matter, Katie Porter, though she barely squeeked out a victory in her latest campaign.
Senator Feinstein’s term expires in 2024, will she resign before then? Perhaps they are waiting until there isn’t much activity on the Senate Docket? The extra vote might help pass something, especially now that Senator Kyrsten Sinema has left the Democratic party…
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday took steps to challenge California’s decades-old right to set its own air pollution rules, setting up a showdown between the federal government and a state that has emerged as a bulwark against the Trump administration’s policies.
The E.P.A. statement was part of the agency’s widely expected decision to reconsider, and most likely roll back, Obama-era rules requiring automakers to hit ambitious emissions and mileage standards by 2025. The statement, though, was notable for the forcefulness of its language suggesting that the Trump administration would take on California’s authority to set its own rules.
A rollback of the rules, which are designed to cut back on emissions of greenhouse gases, would reverse one of the single biggest steps any government has taken to tackle climate change. California has said it will stick with the tougher, Obama-era regulations, a decision that could effectively split the United States into two auto markets: one requiring cars to be more efficient and less polluting than the other.
California has long possessed the unique authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to write its own air pollution rules. Traditionally, a dozen other states follow California’s air pollution rules and together they represent one-third of the nation’s auto market. That puts California in an extraordinary position to stage a regulatory revolt, with much of the country’s car market in tow.
State officials indicated they would fight the Trump administration. “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards,” said Mary Nichols, California’s top air pollution regulator. California, she said, “will vigorously defend the existing clean vehicle standards.”
Scott Pruitt is a demon, and a meddler. Lower auto efficiency standards harms those of us who breathe, and actually harms automobile manufacturers as well, especially those that have already invested in the R&D necessary to reduce emissions and increase mileage, or those who plan on selling their cars to other nations. The only entities that these new proposed rules will help are the corporations that sell fuel1
Despicable behavior by someone who is despicable.
Take A Long Last Look – Kodachrome
Automotive companies are not necessarily idiots, as better engineered cars are what the majority of consumers want:
There have been some signs of discord within the auto industry over the Trump administration’s plans.
Mr. Pruitt had been expected to publicly announce the effort on Tuesday at a Chevrolet dealership in suburban Virginia. But those plans were complicated by an angry pushback from some Chevy dealerships who were reluctant to see the brand associated with the announcement, according to two Chevy dealers who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing their relationship with General Motors. Late on Monday, the Virginia dealership, Pohanka Chevrolet in Chantilly, said the E.P.A. event it had planned to host had been canceled.
“They don’t want the E.P.A. to highlight Chevy,” said Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, which runs Nissan, Honda and Chrysler dealerships in Maine, and who said he was familiar with dealers’ thinking. “They don’t want to be the bad guys.”
“Trump has been saying these standards are crushing the auto industry. But we’ve had record years for the past four or five years, in terms of sales and profit,” he said. “It almost makes you think he doesn’t have the facts.”
Wild! So there is hope that our upcoming Water War won’t be as dire. Well, maybe the Water War will get delayed long enough for the rising ocean to make it moot anyway…
LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population. As a character in “Chinatown,” the noirish 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson that churns through the city’s water history, puts it, “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”
Recently, however, Los Angeles has reduced its reliance on outside sources of water. It has become, of all things, a leader in sustainable water management, a pioneer in big-city use of cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies. Some combination of these techniques is the most plausible path to survival for all the cities of the water-depleted West.
One sign of Los Angeles’s earnestness is its success in conservation: The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million. Two projects — a nine-acre water-treating wetland constructed in a former bus maintenance yard and a water management plan devised for a flood-prone district of 80,000 people — won awards this year from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The city itself won one of the first water sustainability awards given by the U.S. Water Alliance, in 2011.
Another big fault line in the Republican Party: the Tea Party wing is rabidly anti-immigration, and they seem to be setting policy. The Agribusiness wing just wants to harvest their crops like they always have, with sketchily documented migrant workers.
California is home to an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants, more than in any other state. Perhaps nowhere else captures the contradictions and complications of immigration policy better than California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them living here illegally, according to estimates from agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis.
That reality is shaping the views of agriculture business owners here, like Mr. Herrin, who cannot recall ever voting for a Democrat. In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them. A work force that arrived in the 1990s is aging out of heavy labor, Americans do not want the jobs, and tightened security at the border is discouraging new immigrants from arriving, they say, leaving them to struggle amid the paralysis on immigration policy. No other region may be as eager to keep immigration legislation alive.
The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association, a group based in Irvine, Calif., that represents hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, says many of its members may withhold contributions from Republicans in congressional races because of the party’s stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
“We’ve had secure borders with Mexico for the last decade; we don’t have that argument at this point,” Mr. Nassif said. “Now we want people to see the real damage of not doing anything, which is a declining work force, and it means losing production to foreign countries.”
After the 2012 presidential election, as Republicans spoke enthusiastically about the need to court Latinos, Mr. Nassif was optimistic that immigration would become a top priority. But exasperation has replaced his confidence in recent months, and he said his group could withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races in which it has usually supported Republicans.
“I can tell you if the Republicans don’t put something forward on immigration, there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture,” Mr. Nassif said. “We are a tremendously important part of the party, and they should not want to lose us.”
Of course, if the Agribusiness wing of the GOP paid higher wages, they might be able to get some Americans to work picking crops, maybe. It is back-breaking labor, much harder than flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. And if farmers had to pay a living wage, produce would suddenly skyrocket in price, more than limes I’m guessing. Doesn’t matter anyway, the Steve “Cantaloupe” Kings of the party are opposed to any immigrant being let in.
Complications. This had sounded like an interesting way out of the national home owner crisis, but the banks are worried they will lose their paper money value. Of the 624 properties in discussion, 444 are still current in their payments, just that their houses assessed valuation is significantly less than the mortgaged value. Is eminent domain allowable in this sort of circumstance? The legal precedent is unclear, so presumedly, this lawsuit and similar is going to take a while to be settled.
Banks representing some of the nation’s largest bond investors filed suit against the city of Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday to block plans by city officials to seize and buy mortgages using their powers of eminent domain.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, could serve as a key test for whether a city can move forward with such a strategy, which would allow it to forcibly buy mortgages from investors at a price potentially below the property’s current market value. The city would then reduce the loan balance and refinance the mortgage to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
The legal challenge could serve as a key test for whether cities from Newark, N.J., to Seattle are able to follow Richmond’s lead.
City leaders in Richmond, a working-class suburb of around 100,000 on the San Francisco Bay, began sending letters last week to mortgage companies seeking to purchase loans on 624 properties and threatening to force sales via eminent domain if investors resisted. The city is partnering with Mortgage Resolution Partners, a private investment firm based in San Francisco, which was also named a defendant in the lawsuit.
Back in Feburary, 2013, The New Yorker’s Tad Friend wrote an interesting overview about Steven Gluckstern’s plan1
LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA about Steven Gluckstern’s solution for the foreclosure crisis. At sixty-one, Steven Gluckstern has extensive experience handicapping risk propositions on Wall Street. This past fall, Gluckstern, the chairman of a San Francisco-based group called Mortgage Resolution Partners, was in the midst of a tour of Southern California. In between hasty meals, he raced his rented Mercedes to meetings with mayors and activists and real-estate agents and developers, trying to interest them in his company’s sole product: a plan for cities battered by the foreclosure crisis to keep their citizens in their homes.
It’s a tool so ingenious that Wall Street treats it as the gravest threat to civilization since the breakfast burrito. Even as America’s home prices have risen for six of the past seven months, twenty per cent of homeowners remain “underwater,” owing more in principal than the house is worth. It’s a national problem that’s concentrated in a few locales, most notably California. Mentions Salinas councilwoman Jyl Lutes.
In places like Salinas, a large part of the problem is not the loans that are held by banks. It’s the ones that were pooled in “private-label securitizations.” Under Gluckstern’s plan, a city would use its powers of eminent domain to seize a homeowner’s mortgage in court, pay off the bondholders, then arrange a new mortgage for the homeowner at a price much closer to what the home is actually worth. M.R.P. started its campaign in San Bernardino County. In June, the county and the cities of Fontana and Ontario established a “joint powers authority” to examine M.R.P.’s plan. The foes of eminent domain rose up almost instantly and assailed the plan. A coalition of twenty-six financial-service and real-estate groups sent a letter threatening lawsuits.
The opposition often invoked what’s known as the “moral-hazard argument”: if you reward people for risky behavior they’ll just do it more. By the time Gluckstern visited the San Bernardino area, last fall, he was a marked man. When Gluckstern dropped by county C.E.O. Greg Devereaux’s office, Devereaux ruefully acknowledged that the opposition had gummed up M.R.P.’s plans. Without quite conceding in San Bernardino, Gluckstern began stealthier campaigns, in Michigan, Maryland, and southern Florida. He hopes to convince the opposition that his campaign will continue.
and from what I recall, it turns out the mortgages are often held by multiple entities because of the mortgage derivative market.
and it is unclear if these particular legal challenges are going to stand up in court:
Legal advocates of the eminent domain plan have said that constitutional challenges aren’t likely to hold up in court. The loan strategy wouldn’t burden interstate commerce “because it doesn’t prevent credit from flowing in any particular way,” said Robert Hockett, the Cornell University law professor who was an early advocate of using eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages.
“This is a bluff,” said Mr. Hockett. “It’s meant to scare city officials into saying, ‘Oh, who are we to argue with the big guns.”
Supporters say their plan would help not only specific homeowners but also the broader community by reducing foreclosures that are hurting property values and eroding the tax base. “It’s the responsibility of banks to fix this, and they haven’t, so we’re taking it into our hands,” said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in a call with reporters last week.
The Wall Street Journal attempts to smear Democratic governance by using the example of Illinois:
A favorite conceit of Democrats is that the U.S. budget and economy would be A-okay if congressional Republicans weren’t able to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. One counter-argument would be the state of Illinois, where one-party Democratic rule has led to a fiscal crisis that’s culminating in political paralysis.
…except California is also governed by the Democratic Party, and they seem to be doing ok:
After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.
In a move that could affect consumers nationwide, California officials Friday unveiled plans to scrap an obscure 1975 rule that led to the widespread use of toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture and baby products in American homes. The proposed changes would require upholstery fabric to resist a smoldering cigarette — the biggest cause of furniture fires. California currently requires the foam cushioning underneath to withstand a candlelike flame for 12 seconds, a standard manufacturers meet by adding flame-retardant chemicals. The rule also has been applied to baby products such as diaper-changing pads, highchairs and nursery rockers. If the changes are adopted later this year, scores of new household products might soon be free of flame retardants linked to cancer, developmental problems, lower IQ and impaired fertility. Studies show the chemicals migrate out of products into household dust ingested by people, especially young children who play on the floor…
As you might have noticed, I spent a few days visiting Manhattan Beach, ostensibly to help celebrate my mother’s birthday. I had never visited Southern California as an adult, so I took full advantage of the opportunity to be a tourist. We had a great time in Los Angeles, spectacular, in fact. I hope to visit again.
I won’t post every photo I took (including photos taken with Hipstamatic, I snapped nearly 500 images over 5 days), but all the decent ones will end up in a Flickr set called Manhattan Beach 2013 (slideshow is Flash-based). If you get this blog’s daily email, you will only see 7 images a day, as that is the limit that Google/Feedburner allows. Most days I don’t process that many images, but I probably will for the next few days while the memories are still fresh.
Anyway, here are a few photos that I uploaded to Flickr yesterday. Double click to embiggen, natch…
AA – 0651 – ORD
The Spirit Of Ecuador unfortunately, did not get to sample this, but the bottle was interesting
Parking Lot – El Porto The view from our host’s front porch
Keep Outta Venice – Number 237 Number 237 a quasi-inside joke re: Stanley Kubrick. This was photograph number 237 on my camera
Happiness Starts With Prohibited I was riding shotgun as we were driving away from LACMA, and saw this poster while stopped at a light. We discussed it in the car for a moment, but I didn’t get out my camera quickly enough. I was about to ask to turn around so I could photograph it, but then at the next stoplight, there was another version, and even closer, so I got a better photo.
OAKLAND, Calif. — For supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose diffuse anger has been a defining and sometimes distracting characteristic, the wounding of an Iraq war veteran here has provided a powerful central rallying point. Multimedia
The veteran, Scott Olsen, 24, was critically injured on Tuesday night when he was hit in the head with a projectile thrown or shot by law enforcement officers combating protesters trying to re-enter a downtown plaza that had been cleared of an encampment earlier in the day. Mr. Olsen, who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine, suffered a fractured skull.
And while Mr. Olsen’s condition has since improved, his injury — and the oddity of a Marine who faced enemy fire only to be attacked at home — has prompted an outpouring of sympathy, as well as calls for solidarity among the scores of Occupy encampments around the nation. On Thursday night, camps in several major cities — including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia — were expected to participate in a vigil for Mr. Olsen, according to Iraq Veterans Against the War, of which he is a member.
“I think people would have been outraged even had this been a civilian,” said Jose Vasquez, the group’s executive director, “but the fact that he survived two tours of duty and then to have this happen to him, people are really upset about that.”
and the backstory, if you hadn’t heard about it already:
An Iraq war veteran has a fractured skull and brain swelling after allegedly being hit by a police projectile.
Scott Olsen is in a “critical condition” in Highland hospital in Oakland, a hospital spokesman confirmed.
Olsen, 24, suffered the head injury during protests in Oakland on Tuesday evening. More than 15 people were arrested after a crowd gathered to demonstrate against the police operation to clear two Occupy Oakland camps in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Jay Finneburgh, a photographer who was covering the protest, published pictures of Olsen lying on the ground.
“This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up,” Finneburgh wrote.
And he’ll hopefully recover full faculties, though that’s uncertain still:
Scott Olsen requires surgery to relive the pressure on his brain, according to his roommate Keith Shannon.
“Neurosurgeons have decided he needs surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain and it will happen in a day or two,” Shannon said.
He added that Olsen’s parents should be arriving at the hospital to be with their son shortly.
Earlier on Thursday a spokesman for Highland hospital confirmed that Olsen’s condition had improved to “fair” from “critical”. It is understood he is in intensive care. Highland hospital could not be immediately reached for confirmation that Olsen would undergo surgery.
California is a step closer to getting the first Do Not Track legislation in the U.S., aimed at protecting Internet users from invasive advertising. The proposed Senate bill, SB-761, passed a Senate Judiciary Committee vote late Tuesday, but it still has a long way to go before having a chance of being signed into law. It now moves on to the Appropriations Committee, and must also pass the Senate and State Assembly before landing on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
Still, it’s the first time such a bill has made it out of committee, and that’s a big deal, according to John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. “This is the first time that a ‘do not track’ bill has actually had a hearing and been debated and then voted forward in the legislative process,” he said.
The bill would give California consumers a simple way of opting out of data collection systems that keep track of their online activities. “It puts up a no trespassing sign on our device,” Simpson said.
Opponents of the bill, including Google, the Direct Marketing Association, and the wireless industry group CTIA, say it puts an unnecessary burden on online commerce.
Disappointing decision by Eric Holder and the Obama administration. What purpose does locking up non-violent drug users accomplish anyway? Other than let politicians check off the box that says, “tough on crime” on their reelection mailers, that is.
LOS ANGELES — The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug. Related
The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.
Still, despite this opposition — or perhaps, to some extent, because of it — the measure, Proposition 19, appears to have at least a decent chance of winning, so far drawing considerable support in polls from a coalition of Democrats, independents, younger voters and men as Election Day nears. Should that happen, it could cement a cultural shift in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 and where the drug has been celebrated in popular culture at least since the 1960s.
But it could also plunge the nation’s most populous state into a murky and unsettling conflict with the federal government that opponents of the proposition said should make California voters wary of supporting it.
So which officials in California are for the bill?
The state Republican Party has officially come out against Proposition 19 and plans to urge people to vote no, said Ron Nehring, the party chairman. He called repeal a “big mistake” and mocked the notion that placing the proposition on the ballot would help Democrats.
“We call that their Hail Mary Jane strategy,” he said.
John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said his party had decided to stay neutral on this issue. Asked if he supported it, Mr. Burton responded: “I already voted for it. Why not? Brings some money into the state. Helps the deficit. Better than selling off state buildings to some developer.”
Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that polls showed the measure breaking 50 percent, but said that given the history of initiatives in the state, that meant its passage was far from assured.
Opposition has come from a number of fronts, ranging from Mr. Baca and other law enforcement officials to the Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that it would create workplace health issues.
Still, the breadth of supporters of the proposition — including law enforcement officials and major unions, like the Service Employees International Union — signal how mainstream this movement is becoming.
“I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol,” said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. “I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.”
Timothy Egan has known Jeff Dowd, aka The Dude from The Big Lebowski, since before he had a film based on him. So what does The Dude think about California’s Proposition 19?
But before the Coen brothers applied the Los Angeles slacker-noir treatment to my old friend and made him a cult hero on college campuses, he was a man of often unintelligible but occasionally brilliant political insights.
And on Proposition 19, The Dude speaks truth to power. We talked about the opposition to legalizing pot — the alcohol industry and people currently making the most money off California’s nutty medicinal marijuana retail scheme.
“If you take out the special interests, the entrenched groups, with any of these issues — whether it’s energy, the financial sector, or legalized marijuana — it’s always very clear what the right thing to do is,” said The Dude.
He was echoing, in his way, an old truth of politics: that the best way to judge what’s really at stake in an election is to follow the money. And the source of the funds being used to dissuade Californians from legalizing pot says a lot about the end-stage hypocrisies of the arthritic war on drugs.
and if we did follow the money, who are some of the organizations opposing the will of the people? Why, the beer and beverage distributors, and the people currently selling medical marijuana.
So, it’s not a bit surprising that one of the biggest contributors to the campaign against legalization is the California Beer and Beverage Distributors. Having branded their products with nearly every major American recreational ritual, Big Alcohol does not want marijuana to get a piece of that large pie of legal money spent to distract ourselves from ourselves.
The other major opponents appear, at first glance, to be somewhat of a surprise. The California Cannabis Association, representing medical marijuana dispensaries, has come out against legalization, claiming it would be “a direct assault on medical marijuana patients.”
Prop 19, in fact, would be a direct assault on the profits made by those dispensaries. A Rand Drug Policy Research Center study this summer found that the price for an ounce of pot could drop 90 percent — before a hefty tax — if it’s legalized in California. This is in part because the law would allow people to grow a small plot of their own weed, further cutting into the cartels — legal and illegal.