Tag Archives: legislation

There are Two Californias: Why Pretend there is Only One?

Scales of justice

In California, residents of the coastal cities are different from those who live inland. There is a similar divide between people who live in coastal states and people who live in inland states. Do these two factions enjoy equal say?

Inland states, less populous than coastal states, enjoy equal say in the U.S. Senate, where all states are represented by an equal number of Senators. However, residents of inland California have zero say, since the California Senate structure is based on population, exactly the same as the California Assembly. The needs of inland Californians might be entirely different from those of coastal Californians, but the inland people must live under rules developed and approved by the populous coastal people.

It was not always that way. At one time California operated under the U.S. Senate model, and all its Senatorial districts were represented by an equal number of state Senators. In those days farmers in the Central Valley had a change to compete with their big-city brethren.

That all changed in 1964 when an activist U.S. Supreme Court under the leadership of “Living Constitution” advocate Earl Warrant, declared in Reynolds vs. Sims that all state Senate seats needed to be allocated based on population.

One of the first things the newly empowered big-city folks did was to change the California Legislature from part time to full time. That happened in 1966. A full-time legislature is usually defined as one that meets throughout the year, while a part-time legislature meets for a portion of the year. For reference, today we have 10 full time state legislatures out of 50.

1966 marked the birth of the professional California politician, without other means of support, who keeps recycling through the state’s political system. It started the exponential growth in the volume of bills micromanaging every nook and cranny to be found. Staff, salaries, benefits, taxes, fees all grew as well.

For those readers interested in the first part of the new reality – Reynolds vs Sims, and the resulting neglect of farmers in the Central Valley – here is a link to an article in the California Political News & Views. Note that in his introduction to the article, publisher Steve Frank, mentions the ruinous results of California moving to a full-time legislature:  All California is Not Alike.

Would Even Bigger Government Fix California?

Big Government

The California Secretary of State cleared for signature gathering voters’ initiative 19-0012, that would do the following if passed:

* Replace the current partisan bicameral legislature with a non-partisan unicameral one.

* Increase the number of legislators from 40 State Senators and 80 Assembly Members to 250 legislators intended to represent by 2024 80,000 to 100,000 persons for each legislator.

* According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, if passed this initiative would incur a one-time cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the State Capitol in Sacramento to accommodate the new legislators, incur ongoing increased building maintenance costs of a few million dollars annually, and incur state costs of millions of dollars per year to oversee elections.

What are the Real Changes?

The substantive changes this initiative if passed would implement would be,

* A significant growth in government.

* A significant growth in legislators writing laws to govern California residents.

* A significant growth in costs, and thus presumably taxpayer obligations.

Can the Changes Accomplish Objectives?

Whether this initiative would accomplish its objectives might be questionable.

* There would be no change in California’s proportional representation based on population. Thus, the populous coastal areas would continue to dominate sparsely-populated inland areas.

* The hope that much smaller districts would afford residents better control of their representatives might be a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Representatives Without Representation

This Nation was born over the rallying cry “Taxation Without Representation!” Today perhaps the rallying cry should be “Representatives Without Representation!”

The Just Vote No Blog has often noted a new trend: Ideological legislators whose actions are based on what they believe is needed from their point of view, not based on what their constituents need or want.

We are not speaking here about unconstitutional proposals, which legislators should indeed reject. We are talking about ordinary things described in the Just Vote No Article Who Are California Legislators Working For?

Government Growth is Not The Solution But the Problem

Whether smaller districts at significantly increased costs would change the present ideological bent of legislators is something voters need to think about when considering increasing the size of our legislature.

Our Founding Fathers advocated a lean Federal government that focused on specific enumerated obligations.  They did not opine on how states should govern, as long as states operated withing the bounds of the Federal Constitution.

California’s government is anything but lean.  The volume of laws and regulations attempting to control every aspect of California residents’ lives is mind boggling.  Could residents in a smaller district control such a tsunami?

Lies, Hate and Disinformation – Should Facebook Decide What’s What?

FB Protesters - Copy

Crowds have been gathering in front of Facebook headquarters and Mark Zuckerberg’s home demanding that Facebook stop accepting political ads from users and stop availing users of targeted political ads.  The crowd that gathered on February 17 was organized by well-known groups like Media Alliance and Global Exchange

Some groups have demanded that Mark Zuckerberg step down as Facebook CEO. They cite Twitter’s ban on political ads and Google’s ban on targeted political ads as models for stopping posted content that mislead voters.

Although both major political parties use Facebook and other media platforms to promote their causes, the current demands focus more specifically on right-leaning political groups:

* Mr. Zuckerberg appears to be engaged in some kind of mutual assistance arrangement with Donald Trump that will help him to get re-elected. Facebook does not need to wait for government regulations to stop accepting any political advertising in 2020 until after the elections on November 4. If there is any doubt whether an ad is political, it should err on the side of caution and refuse to publish. It is unlikely that Facebook will follow this course. George Soros: Remove Zuckerberg and Sandberg From Their Posts. Letter from Soros to Financial Times, February 17, 2020.

* This year’s US presidential elections are in jeopardy—in part because San Francisco Bay Area technology company Facebook refuses to take responsibility for the lies, hate, and disinformation that are being spread using its platform. Crowd Outside Mark Zuckerberg’s Home Protests Political Disinformation on Facebook, Newsweek, February 18, 2020.

* Tech companies must play a more active role in regulating the content on their platforms, and we stand in full support of tech platforms removing demonstrably false content and instituting better transparency standards. That approach combats the spread of disinformation without harming civic engagement or limiting the ability of campaigns to connect directly with voters. DCCC, DNC, DSCC Joint Statement on Google’s Recent Changes To Its Political Ad Policy. November 22, 2019.

In spite of demands for banning all political ads or banning targeted ads, the real item on the left-leaning wish list is for Facebook to act as gatekeeper and ban false or misleading content. This is a tall order requiring ample resources, which does not help Facebook’s bottom line.

Facebook is not a content provider, it merely offers a platform for content generated by users. Therefore, Facebook is supposedly protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes websites from certain liability when they publish information provided by another source. This usually arises in the context of defamation, privacy, negligence, and other tort claims. It does not, however, cover criminal liability, copyright infringement, or other intellectual property claims. Findlaw:  Understanding the Legal Issues for Social Networking Sites.

The bigger elephant in the room, other than that Facebook benefits monetarily from political ads that might be misleading, is how would the folks creating Facebook algorithms determine what is misleading.

Say, a Facebook political ad states that immigrants helped build our nation, while another ad states that illegal immigrants are a burden to taxpayers. What ad should Facebook approve or prohibit? Could picking one or the other ever be considered objective? Would Facebook’s financial bottom line be affected by an effort to fact check such a complex question?

The point here is that what protesters are advocating is blatant censorship, and censorship outside the parameters of laws such as Section 230 is never good.

BART Considers Free Tickets to Remedy Dwindling Ridership

News from the San Francisco Bay Area’s rapid transit system is that ridership off-peak hours and weekends is dwindling, which impacts the BART District’s financial bottom line. In response BART is considering targeting that ridership with free and discounted promotional tickets, as well as a means-based ticket program.

Such response from marketing professionals is often routine. However, such response from BART is bizarre.

49% of people who responded to BART’s survey question “Why not ride BART on Weekends?” indicated concern about crime on BART (26%) and homelessness on BART (23%). There appears to be no follow up question whether if tickets were free potential riders would ignore these concerns, even if they could imagine the possibility of more homeless people and more people bent on crime also taking advantage of free rides.

BART ridership 2

BART Board Meeting February 13, 2020: Rebuilding Ridership

35% of respondents to the question “Why not Commute on BART?” indicated stations were too far from where the respondents lived. Would free tickets overcome that concern, even when BART officials eye removing “park & ride” spaces to get commuters out of their private vehicles, and even when there might not be viable ways for BART riders to reach stations other than by personal vehicle?BART survey

BART Board Meeting February 13, 2020:  Rebuilding Ridership

BART is not alone as a transit agency in its loss of revenue, but it serves as example of ravages inflicted by a cluster of intractable problems plaguing California:

* High costs of construction, operations and personnel leave little room for services such as providing sufficient security guards to ensure safety and custodians to ensure cleanliness.

* Astronomical housing costs that force people to move as far into suburbs as California’s stringent urban boundaries rules allow, where principal transit lines do not reach and local transit is scarce or non-existent.

* Large and growing numbers of homeless individuals that seek shelter in transit stations and ride public transit, especially during off-peak hours.

Homelessness is particularly problematic. Numbers are so large that they affect all social and economic sectors. Although BART finances are precarious, the agency can no longer focus on delivering effective transportation riders would be pleased to use. BART is now expected to divert resources away from transportation and toward dealing with homeless – and often mentally and emotionally impaired – individuals in stations and trains.

California officials fondly envision the death of the personal vehicle and the birth of a regional transit network serving Bay Area residents. At present, such vision falls under the category of cognitive dissonance.

Moms 4 Housing vs. Private Property

Moms 4 Housing

Sameerah Karim raises her fist with supporters after filing a claim to fight her eviction notice at Alameda County Superior Court. (Molly Solomon/KQED)

The Story, Once More

Hundreds of news articles have reported for the last couple of months the saga of four homeless moms and their children who moved last November into a vacant house owned by the investment firm Wedgewood Properties in Oakland, California.

Given that the estimated number of unsheltered people in the U.S. is nearly 200,000 (45% in California), one could assume that many take shelter unobtrusively in vacant property. However, quiet occupation was not the intent in this story.

The moms immediately received strategic and legal help from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), admiration from public officials, and support from cheering crowds outside the house. They founded the collective Moms 4 Housing, and in the name of one of the moms, Dominique Walker, defended an eviction notice in court.

Dominique Walker’s argument was that the court must grant right of possession to the women occupying the house with their children, because housing is a right, the house had been vacant for two years, and the alternative to occupying the house would be living in the streets. Walker requested the court’s permission to offer expert testimony on the right to hosing based on federal and international law.

Judge Patrick McKinney on January 10, ruled that Dominique Walker had no valid claim to possession of the house, and eviction could take place. He indicated that Walker’s argument of housing rights under federal and international law were “outside the scope of this proceeding.”

Alameda County Sheriffs then conducted a pre-dawn raid with full swat regalia and battering rams, while many supporters of Moms 4 Housing surrounded the house and the press took it all in. Two moms and two supporters were arrested and soon released. Dominique Walker was not in the house at the time of the raid, since she was attending an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Although Wedgewood Properties offered to pay for a few months of shelter for the moms they refused to negotiate the mom’s request to purchase the house through the Oakland Community Land Trust “for exactly what they paid for it.”

Rights Under Federal and International Law?

There are a number of U.S. federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in housing, provide home-buying assistance, and help with rent payments. None of these statutes mandate a roof over everyone’s head or indicate that housing is a human right.

There are numerous trans-national declarations of human rights. Most of these declarations were implemented by the United Nations, including one of the most notable, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of its mane, the Declaration of Human Rights does not mandate a home for all who need one; instead it speaks of economic, social, and cultural conditions that should be respected. Perhaps most pertinent to the Moms 4 Housing case is the Declaration’s Article 17: ”Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

The Legal Perspective

The U.S. Constitution is clear on matters of property: no one can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public good without just compensation.” (Amendment 5, Section 1). The prohibition applies also to States: ” …nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, without due process of law…” (Amendment 14, Section 1).

Judge Patrick McKinney’s decision in the Moms 4 Housing case should have been anticipated, given the case’s lack of a Constitutional basis, lack of U.S. statutes affording possession of other people’s property due to an occupier’s hardships, and the fact that international declarations (as opposed to international treaties) have no standing in U.S. courts.

Economic Realities and Progressive Solutions

The U.S. Constitution’s clarity in matters of private property has always been a stumbling block to those who favor a more communal ownership of property. They make a distinction between classical liberals (presumably outdated liberals) who defend unrestricted private property, and contemporary liberals who adjust the concept of private property to modern times. Corporate ownership of property, the function of wealth in political power, and rising economic inequalities are realities of modern time cited by contemporary liberals.

Contemporary ‘classical liberals’ (and related, ‘libertarians’) still defend the classical conception … However, most contemporary liberal authors accept private property as a fundamental right but supplement this acceptance of unrestricted private property rights with a set of social rights. This supplementation strategy also reflects the practice of many international human rights documents and national constitutions. Social rights (to housing, health care, etc.) are meant to counterbalance the harsh effects to vulnerable individuals resulting from only recognizing unrestricted private property rights.” Private Property and Political Power in a Liberal-Democratic Society, Dutch Research Council, 2016.

The largely supportive response from the press and from public officials that Moms 4 Housing received evidences that private property is no longer universally viewed as the unrestricted right of owners. However, Judge Patrick McKinney’s court order was based on the classical concept of property. According to the research paper mentioned above, such dichotomy could be remedied by implementing an “institutional translation” of “abstract proposals for a fair wealth distribution.” In other words change the nation’s Constitutional and statutory framework to reflect a concept of communal, rather than private, property.

Remedy Worse than the Disease

The Just Vote No Blog has pointed out in several articles that although the U.S. is overall still economically powerful and politically free, there are serious underlying challenges that need correction. Such challenges have the perverse effect of benefiting some and devastating others. Profligate government spending, an unsustainable national debt, cheap money, stocks valued at several times earnings are root challenges that will not be corrected by simply distributing property. Moms 4 Housing and their supporters are sadly on the wrong track.

Not Just Water Conservation Bills

Drought

Western states like Arizona, Nevada and California do suffer from droughts, necessitating at time severe water conservation measures.  However, at present California is the only state that has chosen to deal with its water challenges mostly by imposing draconian and now permanent restrictions on water use.  Meanwhile the state’s water infrastructure, such as reservoirs and canals, is either mostly neglected or on environmentalists’ chopping blocks.

The Just Vote No Blog recommends AB 1668 and SB 606:  Far From Just Water Conservation Bills, published today in California Political News & Views.

The article questions whether California legislators are searching for solutions to the state’s water shortages, or are simply thirsty for control over their constituents.  Why are legislators charging residents the highest taxes in the nation, and then letting the states’ infrastructure go to ruin?

California residents need to challenge AB 1668 and SB 606 before these bills become fully implemented during the next two years.

2020 Resolution: Get Out of Media Echo Chambers

Suffragettes

Feminism Portrayed as a War With Nature

Tucker Carlson is currently enjoying his 15 minutes of fame in our hyperbolic, fact-challenged media world. Thus, his recent proclamation on feminism made headlines:  “I don’t think anything has changed our society more for the worse … What we are describing is a war with nature.”

Carlson issued his invective during an interview with Suzanne Venker, and in response to Ms. Venker’s declaration that “we had that study several years ago that came out and showed that women are decidedly less happy than men after of course this last 40 years of supposed so-called liberation.”

First, let’s hope that Ms. Venker is happy, in spite of the fact that she can vote and is free to compete in the market place as a successful author and relationship counselor.

Secondly, let’s note that the echo chamber ran with Carlson’s declaration. The Washington Examiner published an opinion piece, sequel to Carlson’s interview with Ms. Venker, listing ills of feminism such as ideas that women don’t need men and children don’t need fathers. Those ills, Ms. Venker said have led to complete breakdown of marriage, relentless gender war, an explosion of kids in day care and home alone, and a full-scale war on men.

Thirdly, these dire proclamations sell well in conservative circles, just like grim predictions of climate change advocates sell in left-leaning spheres. Climate change alarm acts as a successful method of exercising control over populations. Attacks on the undefined principle of “feminism” serve the same purpose. Promoters of both issues are not shy about spurious claims, like climate change is the cause of deadly wildfires or feminism is the cause of today’s overflowing jails.

The Just Vote No Blog has discussed the view of climate change as method of control. Now, here are a few thoughts on the alleged evils of feminism.

That Study Several Years Ago

The study to which Ms. Venker refers is titled The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, written by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, and published in May 2009 (a decade ago).

The study is really quite interesting. It documents changes over time in women’s responses as to how happy they are. Indeed, the responses allude to a decline in happiness that coincides with the period in which women’s participation in the workplace increased. However, as expected of any bona-fide scholarly paper, the study does not take political or social sides. It only provides possible explanations for the apparent decline in women’s happiness during 1972 – 2006. Here are some of the principal explanations in the study.

* Women experienced increased participation in the market, but no decrease in responsibilities at home. This is the “Second Shift” syndrome discussed by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung in their best-selling 2003 book.

* Men were no longer solely responsible for providing for their family’s financial support. Women acquired some of that responsibility, along with the accompanying worries previously suffered mostly by men.

* Contraceptives decreased the incidence of shotgun marriages, and increased the pressure for out of wedlock sex.

* Women’s competitive arena grew, and so did inevitable comparisons of abilities and performance.

* The period under study was a time of economic and wage volatility – stagflation in the 1970s, inflation and the savings and loan institutional crisis in the 1980s, recession as well as great prosperity in the 1990s, and the dot-com bust in the early 2000s.

None of these findings in the study in question appear to have anything to do with women suddenly feeling they did not need men or fathers for their children. Even more damning for the blame-it-all-on-feminism crowd is one of the study’s conclusions:

If the burdens of entering the workforce are playing a role in declining female happiness then perhaps the decline in happiness will be concentrated among women who are employed. [But] both women who are employed and those who are not have experienced roughly similar declines in subjective well-being …

Once again, we see similar trends in happiness across these groups, casting doubt on the hypothesis that trends in marriage and divorce, single parenthood, or work-family balance are at the root of the happiness declines among women.

So much for the study as proof women choosing other lifestyles than full-time homemakers is the cause of much societal evil.

More Economic Reasons for Unhappiness

The study discussed above offers several economic reasons that could result in women’s unhappiness. One more economic event could be added, globalization and the migration of manufacturing jobs out of the U.S.

Jobs in manufacturing, mostly held by men, were the backbone of America’s middle class. Those jobs started to migrate out of the U.S. around the 1970s. Contrary to the prediction of the hopeful manufacturing workers did not easily flow into emerging technology industries. Not only did manufacturing workers lose well-paying jobs, but they also lost benefits such as health insurance.

Households affected by globalization need to regroup, which might mean two working parents and children in day care or home alone. This is hardly a problem with feminism.

Two Reasons Other Than Economic

Besides the economic events mentioned above, there were two legislative decisions that forever transformed our society.

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty

The War on Poverty, a cluster of legislation implemented during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, could easily be described as the war on the poor. It decreased the tragedy that concerned President John F. Kennedy, children going to bed hungry, but it unleashed the welfare state – the curse behind much of the societal dysfunction that Tucker Carlson attributed to feminism.  The following quote is from a Forbes article published May 2014, The War on Poverty Wasn’t a Failure – It Was A Catastrophe.

… the War on Poverty has not just been a failure, it has been a catastrophe. It was supposed to help America’s poor become self-sufficient, and it has made them dependent and dysfunctional.

What turned the War on Poverty into a social and human catastrophe was that the enhanced welfare state created a perverse system of incentives, and people adapted to their new environment.

The adaptation of the working-age poor to the War on Poverty’s expanded welfare state was immediately evident in the growth of various social pathologies, especially unwed childbearing.

Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs

President Richard Nixon established the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In 1971 he declared drug abuse “public enemy number one.” In 1973 he established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a special police force that targets illegal drug use and drug smuggling. Thus the War on Drugs was born. It popularized swat teams, filled up prisons, and removed Dads from homes.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 45.3% of inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. For comparison, that percentage is followed by 19.2% of inmates in prison for offenses involving weapons, explosives and arson.

Understanding the Word “Feminism”

The word “feminism” should not be used without specific context, since it describes several distinct events. To say that feminism is a “war with nature” is to say that women should not be allowed to own property, vote, go to college, or make decisions on behalf of their family. This is control in the name of saving children and the family.

Controlling any group means preventing members of the group from effectively obtaining rights and privileges enjoyed by individuals outside the group.

Feminist events, often called “waves,” gradually afforded to women rights and privileges enjoyed by men.

The First Wave:

The middle 1800s brought women basic individual rights such as owning property and filing patents under their own name. During the 1800s universities started allowing women to attend. Prior to that few women attained higher education, and those who did attended female institutions.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1920 granted women the right to vote, previously enjoyed only by men.

The Second Wave:

Historians usually view the Second Wave of Feminism as a movement that started in the early 1960s and ended in the early 1980’s. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique and President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women are considered the movement’s first salvos.

In her book, Friedan reported anxiety and discontent experienced by suburban homemakers. As a result of her research, Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW), which lobbied for and achieved several landmark pieces of legislation, such as the Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1972, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, enacted in 1963, recommended legislative action to correct inequities experienced by women. Among the most notable recommendations was expanded adult education, public childcare, equal opportunity employment practices, expansion of widows’ benefits under Social Security, and paid maternity leave.

The Third Wave:

This latest wave is said to have started with the Anita Hill incident during Clarence Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings. A journalist by the name of Rebecca Walker wrote in Ms. Magazine,

So I write this as a plea to all women, especially women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power … I am not a post-feminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.

Unlike the First and Second Waves, the Third Wave deals with numerous micro-issues affecting micro-populations.  The First Wave won the major Constitutional battle — women’s right to vote.  The Second Wave won major legal battles of equal protection under the law.  Therefore, the Third Wave is left to fight a myriad of disparate social issues that go far beyond the early objectives of the First and Second Waves.

From the day of its publication, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was criticized by more radical feminists for being elitist. The charge arose out of the fact that the book dealt with suburban homemakers who were mostly white, well educated and relatively well-off economically.

The Third Wave moved beyond those constraints and became open ended. Today battles for transgender rights, for fluidity of gender identification, against perceived male social aggression, and numerous other issues dominate what was once a movement for equal Constitutional and legal rights.

Suggested Resolution for 2020

Being informed of latest events is a good thing. However, today’s purveyors of news appear to reside in compartmentalized echo chambers that encourage their audiences to become equally compartmentalized.  Tucker Carlson’s recent attack on “feminism” is an example of a sound-bite pretending to stand for a wide and complex subject.

A good New Year’s resolution might be to acquire more of a 2020 vision, and think of alternative reasons for events described by your favorite news sources.