Archives for April 2012

Three strikes reform could save $100 million a year

From OC Register:

Last week, supporters of an initiative to reform the Three Strikes law submitted more than 830,000 signatures to the state  (they need just 504,760) to qualify for the November ballot. This would:

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Obama’s Record Spells Doom

Feinstein Offers Pact with Water Devil

Yesterday U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., responded to a Republican-backed water bill stalled in the U.S. Senate with a deal that might end up as a pact with the water devil for farmers and water agencies.

Feinstein included provisions in an amended Senate Appropriations agriculture and energy bill to possibly provide more certainty of water supplies for Central Valley farmers.

Feinstein also surprisingly dangled the carrot of an expedited federal review for approval of the proposed Sites Reservoir in Colusa County. Water for the Sites Reservoir would be diverted from the Sacramento River.

Stalled House Bill Would Repeal Feinstein’s 2009 Water Bill

The House bill that is stalled in the U.S. Senate, H.R. 1837 by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia., would have repealed Feinstein’s 2009 San Joaquin River Restoration Act, H.R. 146.

Feinstein’s 2009 bill took water allocations from farmers and transferred them to commercial fishing, recreational and real estate interests in northern California under the guise of environmental restoration.

Her 2009 bill also required future renewal of agricultural water contracts to go through an environmental review process. That would be like farmers and water agencies having to deal with the water devil by having to pay for contrived environmental mitigations payouts to so-called “stakeholders.”

The Apparent Deal at Hand

What is apparently on the bargaining table now is a trade of expedited federal review of a new proposed water storage reservoir and possible greater certainty of farm water in return for keeping the provisions of Feinstein’s 2009 bill intact. As it is often said, the devil is in the details.

Feinstein’s amendments to the Senate’s appropriations bill would:

* Provide for a six-month study by the Department of the Interior on ways to bring about additional farm water deliveries;

* “Urge” the Department of Interior to “facilitate and expedite” transfers of federal Central Valley Project water to farmers; and

* Expedite the Federal review for the new proposed Sites Reservoir.

A Deal with the Devil? 

The critical question with such a deal: Is it a pact made with the Water Devil — a bargain done for present gain without regard to future cost or consequences?

Would farmers and water agencies be willing to incur huge future environmental liabilities on the flimsy promise that federal agencies would comply with being “urged” to fast-track water transfers and review of a new proposed reservoir?  Why would federal agencies need “urging” to fast track review of a new dam when California only has a half-year of water storage capacity in its present water system?  Wouldn’t California’s thin water storage capacity be enough of an emergency to rush reviews?

And what would prevent such guarantees included in an agricultural and energy bill from being easily overturned? What would hold both parties to their part of the bargain in the long term?  California water history indicates that water deals obtained by “force and/or fraud” are bound to unravel while those obtained by “consent of the governed” are more lasting.

And why would farmers and water agencies be willing to deal with the Water Devil of environmental reviews of their water contract renewals when the outcome of the Department of Interior study six months down the road is uncertain?

Even Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of agricultural Fresno is cited as a backer of the “more aggressive House proposal,” HR 1837, rather than Feinstein’s deal.  However, Costa also said Feinstein’s deal was “helpful.”

Nunes said he would not reject Feinstein’s deal on its face but wanted greater assurances.

Maybe a deal can be struck now that negotiations have been re-opened.  But it is an election year for Feinstein. And that may mean floating up a deal for farmers and water agencies that is meant to buy votes.  Feinstein’s deal would not repeal her one-sided 2009 water bill that was ramrodded through Congress by force and fraud instead of consent of the governed.

‘Force, Fraud or Consent of the Governed?’

The Sacramento Bee described the pending Senate agricultural and energy appropriations bill as a “must pass” piece of legislation to keep the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation funded for 2013.  The 2013 fiscal year begins July 1.

It appears that Feinstein is back to the devilish use of “force and fraud” rather than obtaining the “consent of the governed.”  But there still is a small window of time to cut a deal for mutual benefit.

(Wayne Lusvardi is a political commentator and writes for CalWatchdog. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)

On ‘Face the Nation,’ Jerry Brown tries managing expectations

From Sac Bee:

Four months into his second year in office – still with major parts of his agenda unfulfilled – Gov. Jerry Brown this morning tried a little expectation control.

Asked by Bob Schieffer on the CBS public affairs show “Face the Nation” for any advice he might have for politicians, Brown said, “I’ve learned you don’t get things done overnight. It does take time.

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Photo courtesy of Freedom to Marry, flickr

As scandal winds down, aging state Treasurer Bill Lockyer sets sights on controller’s job

From Contra Costa Times:

He’s almost 71. And his wife just resigned from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors after a drug-fueled affair with a meth addict. Her sensational downfall included shocking allegations that he once supplied her with drugs and encouraged her to commit suicide during a recent argument.

So now, after months of personal turmoil and four decades as one of the state’s most powerful Democrats, is state Treasurer Bill Lockyer preparing to quietly fade away?

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Photo courtesy adrielhampton, flickr

Book opens up history of valley’s farm labor struggles

From Bakersfield Californian:

I recently finished reading “Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal,” by UCLA history professor Devra Weber, and I was reminded of the times I spent interviewing Spanish-speaking farmworkers and listening to their stories of struggles, dreams, fears and hopes.

Although the book focuses on migrant agricultural workers in the cotton industry from 1919-1939, some of its themes — familial and social networks, unionization and living conditions — remain a focus of conversation for many farmworkers today, and such topics will likely be shared May 18-19 when the United Farm Workers will hold its convention, marking its 50th anniversary, in Bakersfield.

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Photo courtesy sheagunther, flickr

Young Voters Back Obama, but Many Aren’t Poised to Vote

From Gallup:

President Obama continues to enjoy a substantial lead over Mitt Romney among voters under 30, but these youthful Americans are significantly less likely than average to be registered to vote, and significantly less likely than those who are older to say they will definitely vote in next November’s election.

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Photo courtesy of secretlondon123, flickr

Arianna Huffington rips Obama for Osama ad: ‘One of the most despicable things’

From Daily Caller:

Who would have seen this coming?

On Monday’s “CBS This Morning,” Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington condemned President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign for an ad questioning whether or not presumtive GOP nominee Mitt Romney would have killed Osama bin Laden.

The campaign ad features former President Bill Clinton applauding Obama, and takes what some say are Romney’s own words out of context to score political points. The Romney campaign condemned the ad and Huffington agreed.

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Electing a New President and a New Supreme Court Majority

The stakes in this year’s election are higher than normal because the next president may have the unusual opportunity to impact the ideological direction of the Supreme Court, untypical of any one presidential term.

During the next presidential term, starting in January 2013, of the nine Supreme Court justices, “three of the justices will be in their 80s,” notes Clint Bolick, author of the new book, “Two-Fer: Electing a President and a Supreme Court.”

“[W]hoever is elected in November may have the rare chance to reinforce or alter the courts balance,” he said.

And with Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United in 2010 – and perhaps the upcoming decisions on Obamacare and the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona’s illegal-immigration law –  hinging on the opinion of a single justice and setting longstanding precedents, the court’s balance ought to be top of mind for voters in November.

There is no guarantee when a justice will retire nor can they be forced to do so. Supreme Court justices are constitutionally guaranteed a life term and can serve for as long as they wish to.

Of those justices reaching their eighties in the next presidential term, two of the three are regarded as being on the conservative side of the court. Among the liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 80 in 2013. Conservative Antonin Scalia, 76, turns 80 in 2016. Anthony Kennedy, often portrayed as the swing vote on the typically divided court, turns 77 this summer and 80 in 2015.

President Barack Obama was able to make two Supreme Court nominations is his first 16 months in office, Justices Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010. Should he be reelected this year, he may have the ability to shift ideological balance of the court, which most people now believe to be generally a 5-4 conservative majority. Conversely, if a Republican were to win the White House, he would conversely have the same opportunity.

The president is first and foremost the commander in chief, that is to say, most of the autonomous powers of the presidency are over the military and foreign policy. Domestically, because Congress is assigned the power to make laws, the president’s most significant authority is in nominating justices to the Supreme Court, a power, Bolick notes, often overlooked in terms of its importance when selecting a president.

Bolick argues that in presidential campaigns, the power to appoint federal judges and nominate high court justices plays almost an “invisible role,” though it gives the president the ability to affect generations of Americans. The court-appointment authority is even more powerful today than it had been in previous generations.

“The average term length for a Supreme Court justice is 25 years,” according to Bolick. Also, justices are being appointed at younger ages and living much longer, “so life tenure is a bigger prize than it was when the Constitution was ratified.” For example, Justice Clarence Thomas was 43 when he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. On the current court, Justice Kagan is the youngest member, having just turned 52 on April 28.

In the past few years the Supreme Court has decided some pivotal cases down ideological lines in 5-4 rulings. One was the Citizens United decision in 2010 when the court ruled that corporations and unions had First Amendment rights allowing them to spend unlimited money on political speech.

This year, many legal scholars suspect the court will align in similar fashion against Obamacare, or at least the health care law’s mandate that all Americans buy government-approved health insurance. And just last week, the justices gave Solicitor General Donald Verrilli a flogging during oral arguments for the Obama administration’s lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial illegal-immigration law.

If the balance of ideology of the Supreme Court were shifted even by a single vote, the social and political impacts would be vast.

In the presidential term following the 2016 election, Justice Stephen Breyer will turn 80 (Aug. 15, 2018), meaning whoever is in the Oval Office the next two terms could potentially nominate nearly half the court.

This year’s presidential election and the next one may, in fact, be “two-fers,” allowing the American electorate to simultaneously choose a president and influence the future for generations of Americans whose lives are affected by rulings from the Supreme Court.

(Brian Calle is a columnist and editorial writer for the Orange County Register and editor of Originally posted on his blog, Uncommon Ground.)

Gov. Jerry Brown Is No Chip Off The Old Block

If Jerry Brown doesn’t bamboozle Californians into supporting his tax-raising initiative (assuming it qualifies) on the November ballot, his governorship, whenever it ends, will almost certainly be considered a failure. Even if the tax increase passes, Brown would appear headed for a failed incumbency because of his unwillingness to say no to the source of the state’s problems – the unions and very liberal Democrats in the legislature.

Jerry likes to play the “row a bit on one side of the canoe, then row a bit on the other side” moderate, but he is nothing of the kind. Like his predecessor Ah-nold, Brown lied during his election campaign by promising to be a fiscal disciplinarian. The record of his first year and a half shows him to be deep in the pockets of those who think Greece and Italy have economic plans we should follow. California’s budget makes the Greeks and Italians look like misers.

Jerry’s father Pat was also a liberal Democrat, or at least what passed for one in the 1960’s. He, however, was a patriot who feuded throughout his two terms with the far-left fringe of his party, represented by Alan Cranston. He was also one who believed that government revenues existed to help – not hinder – our citizens.

Pat Brown was a builder – of the state aqueduct, dams to feed that aqueduct, much of the U.C system and much of the state highway system. Jerry Brown is a control freak and a destroyer – of personal freedom, economic freedom and what’s left of the California dream. His father Pat would be appalled. It is worth noting that both Pat Brown and the other “liberal” icon of the time Jesse Unruh would be considered far too conservative to win a Democrat primary election today.

Pat Brown’s last budget proposal called for spending $4.7 billion, which translates to a $33 billion budget in today’s inflation adjusted dollars. The state then had a population of 19,000,000. Jerry Brown’s current budget calls for spending $132 billion to serve a population of 37,000,000.

For the mathematically challenged, this means that while our population has not even doubled our “real dollar” spending has quadrupled. Population increased 94.7 per cent while spending has increased almost exactly 300 per cent.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, are we better off than we were when spending per capita was a quarter of what it is now? Are our roads better? Are our schools doing a better job of educating? Do our workers have an easier time finding jobs? Do companies that might provide those jobs have a smoother path to opening their doors in California?

The answers of course are all “no”, and frankly the Democrats want it that way for most Californians. For the past 20 years Liberals have executed a conscious plan to drive the middle class out of the state. They are succeeding wildly.

Steve Greenhut of The Orange County Register recently wrote about a study out of USC showing the state’s annual growth rate had slowed to one percent, found here. He reports demographer Joel Kotkin pointing out that four million more people have left California for other states in the past two decades than have come here from other states.

Those leaving have been middle class Californians, our small businesses, their workers and their families. That’s fine with our liberals. What miniscule growth there has been has come from immigrants and in-state births.

Greenhut quotes Kotkin, who he describes as “an old line liberal”, as saying that the state is now run for the very rich, very poor and public employees. Precisely correct and this is exactly the outcome the Democrats want. Liberals don’t understand business and wealth creation, don’t understand or like the middle class and hate its bourgeois values.

Were Jerry Brown made of sterner stuff, were he not the strutting popinjay and poseur he has become, he could stem the tide. He would stand up to the ultra leftists in his party who are putting the last and fatal torpedoes into an already foundering ship of state.

His father built a state that well served all Californians, that honored hard work, job creation and the middle class. Jerry is a pale imitation of his father. He would rather pose and preen than fight the battles that, if won, would get California back on the path to prosperity. We are all suffering for that.

(William E. Saracino is a member of California Political Review’s editorial board.)