HEARD ON THE TOM/TOMS

HEARD ON THE TOM/TOMS

Stephen Frank, California Political News and Views, 1/22/20      

“A people that wants to remain ignorant and free … wants what never has been and never will be” ~ Thomas Jefferson.”

BIG STORY:

When is a Republican not a Republican?  The Orange County Republican Party has repealed their endorsement of Assemblyman Tyler Diep.  Reasons?  He was the only GOP’er to vote for AB 5, the socialist effort to kill jobs , force workers to join unions or to leave the State.  His union voting record is 39%  If a political Party is to mean anything, it has to stand for something.  After two others left the GOP, it is only a matter of time that Diep would do that.  I expected he would leave after the November election—now he may decide to leave after the March primary.

Under the Rules of the California Republican Party, no one may ask for a CRP endorsement unless they are endorsed by the County Party.  Now that the Orange County Republican Party has rescinded the Diep endorsement will the State Party, per the Rules, rescind their endorsement?

CONTENT

  1.  Few GOP’ers running for legislative seats
  2. More watch parties for Pres. Trump State of the Union address.
  1. AN UPDATE, from the Secretary of State office.  Here.

On the November, 2016 ballot there were 24 legislative seats without a Republican

On the November, 2018 ballot there were 41 legislative seats without a Republican

On the March 3, 2020 ballot there are:

15 Assembly seats without a GOP’er running

 7 State Senate Seats without a GOP’er running

11 Congressional seats without a GOP’er running

In total, before the primary there are 33 seats without a Republican.  After the primary that number will go up.  LEADERS LEAD  If you do not have candidates for an office, the Party atrophies in that district.  Without candidates to energize the volunteers they stay home, no new ones come on board.The San Mateo County Republican Central Committee endorsed President Donald J. Trump for President and took the position to OPPOSE Proposition 13 on the Mar 03, 2020 Presidential Primary.  (Note this Prop 13 on this election is not the split role. It allows school districts to float additional bonds.).  It can no noted that both the Placer and El Dorado County Republican Central Committee’s have endorsed President Trump and voted to oppose the March 3 version fo Prop. 13.

2. On February 4, at 5:00pm, President Trump is to present the State of the Union speech to Congress. This is a great opportunity to bring together Trump supporters, people new to politics and to expand our base of supporters.  The California Political News and View is promoting WATCH PARTIES.  If you want to know how to do it or need other help, please call me at 805-795-1271.

Here are some of the Trump State of the Union Watch Parties that I know about.  If you are not listed, let me know, via email, stephenfrank@sbcglobal.net  A few days ago I published many other Parties, add these to the list.

  1. You are invited to the Presidents State of the Union Watch Party on Feb. 4th at Round Table Pizza Clubhouse at 2201 Pillsbury Rd., Chico, from 4:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
  2. San Mateo County: Our 2/4 watch party will be held at San Mateo/Laurelwood RoundTable Pizza :

c.       Santa Cruz County, Mountain Mikes Pizza,   3715 Portola Dr Santa Cruz 95062

Hosted by Mike Lelieur

  • Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego County—at Dran Reese home—details to follow

(Periodically the California Political News and Views will publish tidbits of political news, to keep you in the loop of what the pooh bahs know.  The phrase “tom/tom’s” comes from my mentor, Lorelei Kinder who never passed a rumor, just called to tell me what she heard on the “Tom/Tom’s”.  This column is named in her honor.)

How More Conservative Cities Are Benefiting From California’s Demise

Once again, California has become a world leader.  By raising taxes, by using government schools as indoctrination centers, taking away zoning and permitting rights from cities and giving them to the State, killing off the oil industry, having half the nations homeless—San Fran is now officially the toilet bowl of the west—THIS FORMER Golden State has shown the world what not to do.

“According to the Associated Press, there are now “more adults in Nevada who were born in California than native Nevadans.” In Utah, as economist Stephen Moore wrote for the Wall Street Journal, “almost 80,000 newcomers (mostly young) over the past decade” have contributed to economic growth that has put the state at No. 1 in many categories. State income and corporate tax rates below 5 percent, and the absence of an estate tax has stimulated growth and attracted retirees to Utah’s ski slopes and sunny, red-rock deserts.

Idaho has also benefited from a combination of the Trump economy and the political and cultural, if not economic, decline of California, as Californians are arriving in the Treasure Valley in droves. Ongoing construction of apartment complexes and single-family home subdivisions with units numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands, are filling up the more traditionally rural parts of the area. Not all of this out migration is positive, of course: Boise and its environs are typical of many western cities in their shared traffic congestion and overcrowded schools, and such growth leads to higher property taxes as municipalities struggle to address infrastructure problems.”

Our demise is good for the rest of the nation.  Will the November election create more losers killing off California or will we start rolling back the bad policies forced on us by the unions and special interest milking us dry?

How More Conservative Cities Are Benefiting From California’s Demise

The roaring Trump economy, along with California’s political and cultural suicidal tendencies, will ensure the American West’s economic boom will continue for years to come.

Bill Croke

By Bill Croke, The Federalist,  1/21/20 

As the once great state of California continues its imperial decline, the cities of the American West are booming. The Golden State is losing its shine and is no longer the magnet of its post-World War II heyday, when American prosperity drew millions to its sunny shores.

Military veterans who had passed through on their way to the South Pacific liked what they saw and returned after the war. Other folks came west as they had in the age of manifest destiny. The state is the epicenter of the birth of 75 million baby boomers.

All that has changed. California, despite its $3 trillion economy, is now routinely described by pundits as the equivalent of a Third World country. It has some of the highest state and local tax rates in the nation. Mostly thanks to illegal immigration, 27 percent of people there were born in a foreign country, likely one in Latin America. Sanctuary city policies have increased crime rates, with local municipalities refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain or deport documented criminals.

Some 150,000 homeless people inhabit public places, and cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are increasingly unlivable, with the latter boasting the highest property crime rates in the country, rampant outdoor sanitation problems, and addiction and mental health problems in much of the homeless demographic. Always susceptible to wildfires, California has suffered horribly from them the last few years, resulting in lost lives and billions of dollars in property damage. Many of the fires emanate from decrepit Pacific Gas and Electric infrastructure, resulting in the blackouts that affect millions and cause economic chaos in towns and cities in wine country and the Sierra Foothills.

People and Businesses Are Leaving California in Droves

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, California’s population grew by 141,300 people between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019. Despite a positive “net international migration,” there was “negative domestic net migration,” resulting in a loss of 39,500 residents. California now has “more people leaving the state than moving in [legally] from abroad or from other states.”

The main beneficiaries of this outmigration are Arizona, Colorado, Nevada — roughly 50,000 Californians moved to Nevada in just one year: July 2017 to July 2018 — Oregon, Texas, and Washington state. California risks losing a seat in the House of Representatives after the results of the 2020 census are tallied. It also suffers from a baby bust. Los Angeles County, for instance, saw a “17% decline in the amount of children in the area over the last decade.”

If 2020 census projections are accurate, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and North Carolina will each gain one House seat, the latter likewise a recipient of outmigration from the Midwest and Northeast. Florida will gain two and Texas three.

The Lone Star State seems to be benefitting from California businesses, large and small, relocating to the booming cities of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and others. For example, the Charles Schwab Corporation is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Westlake, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, in the next 18 to 36 months. Oracle is moving its annual tech convention from San Francisco to Las Vegas due to the former city’s chronic homelessness and crime problems. San Francisco will lose $64 million in convention business from this one event. Ironically enough, the Golden State’s powerhouse economy is bleeding economic wealth.

Much of that is a product of California’s real estate market. The average price of a home statewide is $550,000. In upscale San Francisco, that number is roughly $1.4 million. The average price of a home in Boise, Idaho, is $323,540. Do the math. Californians are arriving in Treasure Valley with two to four times the equity needed to purchase a property comparable to the one they sold in California. This ratio applies in varying degrees to most other western cities.

U.S. Cities Are Benefitting from California’s Demise

Those cities over the last generation have benefited from The Golden State’s decline. Much of the out migration was a function of the technological innovation we have seen since the mid-1990s. The American economy was increasingly mobile. Entrepreneurs could do business anywhere.

Local amenities from skiing to hiking and fly fishing attracted outdoor enthusiasts — hence the economic growth in cities such as Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Boise, Las Vegas, and Reno. They all experienced exponential growth in building construction and retail expansion, with the attendant scourge of traffic congestion. Local pundits and demographers came to call this the “New West.”

According to the Associated Press, there are now “more adults in Nevada who were born in California than native Nevadans.” In Utah, as economist Stephen Moore wrote for the Wall Street Journal, “almost 80,000 newcomers (mostly young) over the past decade” have contributed to economic growth that has put the state at No. 1 in many categories. State income and corporate tax rates below 5 percent, and the absence of an estate tax has stimulated growth and attracted retirees to Utah’s ski slopes and sunny, red-rock deserts.

Idaho has also benefited from a combination of the Trump economy and the political and cultural, if not economic, decline of California, as Californians are arriving in the Treasure Valley in droves. Ongoing construction of apartment complexes and single-family home subdivisions with units numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands, are filling up the more traditionally rural parts of the area. Not all of this outmigration is positive, of course: Boise and its environs are typical of many western cities in their shared traffic congestion and overcrowded schools, and such growth leads to higher property taxes as municipalities struggle to address infrastructure problems.

The roaring Trump economy and the results of the 2017 tax reform, along with California’s political and cultural suicidal tendencies, will ensure the American West’s economic boom will continue for years to come.

How global companies drive the home insurance crisis in California wildfire zones

The next crisis to face California, after the locust of the Democrats, the darkness of the Progressives  and the loss of livestock due to Sacramento policies creating massive forest fires, is the home insurance crisis—the lack of fire insurance and/or affordable fire insurance.

“Pimentel and her husband, who live in a rural area 30 miles east of Redding, got the dreaded notice in late November: Horace Mann Educators Corp., which has insured their property for 13 years, wouldn’t renew their policy. Pimentel, who’s still looking for new coverage, fears her premiums could triple, costing her thousands of dollars.

“I just don’t understand how they can do that,” said Pimentel, 77. “They don’t mind taking our money but they’re not covering anything.” A company spokeswoman wouldn’t discuss Pimentel’s case but said Horace Mann has paid out $157 million in California wildfire claims since 2017.

Why would any company, California, U.S. or foreign based issue policies in California—as long as Democrat government prefers fires to prevention and blames others for the destructive policies.  Watch as this becomes a massive crisis for homeowners, statewide.

How global companies drive the home insurance crisis in California wildfire zones

By Dale Kasler, San Luis Obispo Tribune,  1/20/20 

‘We can’t afford to live here anymore.’ Insurance commissioner meets over fire non-renewals

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara holds a town hall meeting in Grass Valley, Aug. 22, 2019, to discuss high rates of non-renewals and large rate increases to fire insurance in affected communities. By Jason Pierce

‘We can’t afford to live here anymore.’ Insurance commissioner meets over fire non-renewals

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara holds a town hall meeting in Grass Valley, Aug. 22, 2019, to discuss high rates of non-renewals and large rate increases to fire insurance in affected communities. By Jason Pierce

California enjoyed a comparatively mild wildfire season in 2019, but it wasn’t enough to save Bobbi Pimentel’s homeowners’ insurance policy.

Pimentel and her husband, who live in a rural area 30 miles east of Redding, got the dreaded notice in late November: Horace Mann Educators Corp., which has insured their property for 13 years, wouldn’t renew their policy. Pimentel, who’s still looking for new coverage, fears her premiums could triple, costing her thousands of dollars.

“I just don’t understand how they can do that,” said Pimentel, 77. “They don’t mind taking our money but they’re not covering anything.” A company spokeswoman wouldn’t discuss Pimentel’s case but said Horace Mann has paid out $157 million in California wildfire claims since 2017.

California’s continuing woes can be traced in part to a collection of mostly foreign companies that have become increasingly nervous about the widespread havoc caused by the state’s wildfires.

These companies sell reinsurance. That’s insurance purchased by other insurance companies that are offloading some of the financial risks of a major catastrophe.

Reinsurance companies — unknown to most Californians, typically headquartered in such far-flung locales as Bermuda and Zurich — are a quiet but powerful force in the state’s insurance market. The availability of reinsurance enables better-known primary carriers such as Farmers and State Farm to keep writing coverage in wooded foothill communities where wildfire danger lurks.

Now the relationship between reinsurance and primary carriers is beginning to fray. The wildfires of 2017 and 2018 caused $25 billion in damage. Billions in claims landed in the laps of reinsurance companies that had largely overlooked wildfires as major calamities.

Stunned by their losses, many reinsurance companies have begun scaling back their coverage in the state and jacking up the rates they charge the primary carriers. Not subject to rate regulation by the California Department of Insurance, some reinsurers are raising prices as much as 70 percent, according to a report last summer by market analyst S&P Global Ratings.

That, in turn, puts more pressure on the primary insurance companies. They have to get approval from the Department of Insurance to increase premium rates on homeowners. But the department won’t include the cost of reinsurance in the rate-making calculations.

Caught in that regulatory bind, primary carriers have little choice but to reduce the number of policies they underwrite, said Rex Frazier of the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

“You have to (reduce) your risk profile to match your revenue,” said Frazier, whose association lobbies for some of the major primary insurers.

Frazier said reinsurance companies used to gloss over wildfire dangers when selling coverage to his federation’s members. Now they’re scrutinizing wildfire risks like never before.

“It used to be, ‘Tell me about your Florida hurricane risk.’ Now it’s, ‘Please show me your modeled losses for your California wildfire risk,’ ” Frazier said.

Insurance companies have been dealing with plenty of high-cost disasters in the past few years. Large swaths of Australia are burning. Major worldwide catastrophes — from Hurricane Michael in Florida to Typhoon Jebi in Japan to the Camp Fire in Paradise — caused an estimated $219 billion in damage in 2017 and 2018, according to Swiss Re Ltd., the world’s largest reinsurance provider. It was the costliest two-year run of disasters ever recorded, the company said.

Some disasters are so destructive, they force the government to take the place of private insurance. The federal government sells flood insurance. Floridians buy hurricane insurance from a not-for-profit established by their Legislature.

And more than 1 million Californians get earthquake insurance from the not-for-profit California Earthquake Authority. It was created after the 1994 Northridge earthquake sparked a statewide insurance crisis. California law required homeowners’ insurers to offer earthquake coverage. Rather than risk another Northridge — which caused $10 billion in covered losses — insurers started pulling back from coverage altogether.

Nobody’s yet suggested the creation of a similar authority for wildfires. But Californians in fire-prone areas are continuing to lose coverage — despite the absence of major disasters in 2019, hundreds of millions of dollars in new fire-safety expenditures by the Legislature and an emergency order from regulators halting policy cancellations in certain parts of the state for a year.

Reinsurance executives say California still hasn’t turned the corner on wildfire safety.

Mark Bove, a meteorologist and catastrophe solutions manager at Munich Re, a German company that’s the world’s second-largest seller of reinsurance, said climate change, population growth in fire-prone areas and other factors are continuing to drive up the risk of doing business in California.

“We are happy for the residents of California that 2019 was much milder,” Bove said. But “the whole entire insurance and reinsurance industry still feel wildfire is a very significant, emerging risk in California. One relatively quiet year … does not change that fact.”

California wildfires now a major ‘peril’

Until recently, the reinsurance industry trained most of its brainpower — its computerized risk-analysis modeling — on what it considered “first-tier perils” such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. Wildfires were considered a lesser danger. Then came the fires of 2017 and 2018, killing more than 100 people, destroying much of Paradise — and forcing the industry to take a fresh look at its models.

Perhaps most shocking was the Tubbs Fire in 2017, which swept through urban Santa Rosa neighborhoods that were thought to be at a safe remove from meaningful risk.

“Those risk-selection tools that everyone was using were called into question,” said Doug May, president of Willis Re, a reinsurance broker and consultant based in New York. “They didn’t appear to be particularly effective, especially for wind-driven wildfire.”

Reinsurers are developing new forecasting tools, and are giving California wildfires the respect they deserve.

“California wildfires have emerged as a first-tier US catastrophe peril,” Moody’s Investors Service declared in a report last summer. Hiscox Re, a reinsurance company based in Bermuda and London, said in a white paper that the industry must recognize wildfire “as a serial offender.”

Zurich-based Swiss Re — the world’s largest reinsurer, with $36 billion in annual premiums — lost $775 million on California wildfires over the two years.

Butte County search and rescue workers in Paradise four days after the Camp Fire. The Paradise Irrigation District, financially ruined by the fire, now must fix Magalia Dam. Hector Amezcua Sacramento Bee file

Everest Re, out of Bermuda, took a $450 billion beating on the Camp and Woolsey fires in 2018. A French reinsurance company called SCOR racked up more than $200 million in losses in 2017-18.

When 2019 came and went with just one major wildfire, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, much of the reinsurance industry was not reassured.

In its annual summary of global insurance disasters, Munich Re said the 2019 result “does not change the sharply rising long-term trend” toward major fires. Bove, the company meteorologist, said that while industry-wide losses came to just $1 billion last year, that still placed 2019 among the costliest years in California wildfire history.

The end result is reinsurance is getting pricier and harder to find, which translates into less coverage available for California homeowners, said Mark Sektnan, vice president of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

“The reinsurers are saying they’re only going to take ‘X’ amount of risk,” said Sektnan, who represents primary insurers. “So you need to figure out which policies you’re not going to cover.”

Crisis for rural homeowners

Homeowners’ insurance is an $8 billion-a-year business in California. The vast majority of Californians have little trouble getting affordable coverage. The average policy — about $1,000 a year — is almost 20 percent below the national average, according to 2016 data from the Insurance Information Institute.

But in areas considered prone to wildfire, the situation has turned nightmarish. Starting with the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties, and ending with the November 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, the insurance industry has lost roughly $25 billion to California’s wildfires. The industry’s response: Nearly 350,000 rural Californians lost their policies from 2015 to 2018, according to state data.

Tens of thousands of homeowners have had to resort to coverage from unregulated “surplus” carriers like Lloyd’s of London or the California FAIR Plan, the state’s “insurer of last resort.” The FAIR Plan alone added 22,000 homeowners to its rolls during a 12-month span ending last August, according to a report to the Legislature.

The FAIR Plan is subject to rate regulation by the state. But it’s considered a less-than-ideal alternative for homeowners. It offers bare-bones policies and doesn’t cover perils like theft, forcing customers to get “wrap-around” insurance to fill out their coverage.

Bottom line: Homeowners who used to pay about $2,000 a year for coverage can find themselves paying $6,000 or more. While urban Californians who live outside of wildfire danger are immune, it’s become an all-consuming issue in wooded foothill regions and other fire-prone areas of the state. In some places, the lack of affordable insurance is causing the real estate market to dry up.

“Mercury just notified me of cancellation after less than 3 months – has anyone received coverage in the 95959 zip code recently? Thank you so much for any info,” wrote Michelle Harding Bodley in a recent post on a Facebook page devoted to the insurance crisis in Nevada County. The page has 1,000 followers.

So many homeowners have been forced onto the FAIR Plan lately, the insurer of last resort is now worried about becoming overburdened. Last fall Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered the FAIR Plan to start offering full-fledged insurance coverage, in addition to its bare-bones policies.

The FAIR Plan — which was created by the state after insurers abandoned inner cities following the 1960s riots — responded by taking Lara to court. The plan is funded by insurers and doesn’t receive tax subsidies.

The impact of Lara’s other big order remains unclear. In December the commissioner imposed a one-year moratorium prohibiting carriers from dropping homeowners living in and around the major fires that occurred in 2019 — a move that protects about 1 million homeowners. Lara had the authority to order the moratorium under SB 824, a bill he authored while in the Legislature in 2018.

The commissioner also asked insurers halt cancellations for a year in the rest of the state as well. So far no company has agreed to it, but “we continue to be in discussions” with insurers about Lara’s request, said Department of Insurance spokesman Michael Soller.

Randy Fletcher, a Marysville insurance agent, said Lara’s efforts are falling short. Until the state does more to reduce underlying wildfire dangers, he said insurance carriers will remain reluctant to underwrite coverage in wooded areas.

“They’re telling me, show me proof it’s safer and profitable to write in the forests,” said Fletcher, a Yuba County supervisor whose district bore the brunt of the 2017 Cascade Fire. “The solution isn’t from the insurance commissioner putting a one-year band-aid (on the problem).”

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara speaks to an overflow crowd at a town hall meeting in Grass Valley, Thursday, August 22, 2019, to address the concerns of local residents after a rise in homeowners insurance premiums and non-renewal letters due to recent California wildfires. Jason Pierce jpierce@sacbee.com

Soller acknowledged the moratorium isn’t a remedy but is designed to give “breathing room for consumers” while more long-lasting solutions are developed. Those include more intensified efforts by the state to reduce wildfire risks — and then finding ways to get insurers to make coverage more available.

“We’re going to push for a stronger commitment from insurers to write policies in wildfire communities, to address this non-renewal issue,” Soller said.

In the meantime, insurance carriers insist California also needs to raise premium rates.

Frazier said the Department of Insurance has kept premiums artificially low over the years. Companies are loathed to seek rate increases of more than 6.9 percent because that’s the threshold that triggers hearings that could last a year or longer, he said. At the same time, he said the companies are prohibited in California from incorporating reinsurance costs into their rate-hike requests.

“Companies can’t match the risk to price,” Frazier said. “Why are we acting surprised that there are non-renewals in the high-risk areas?

“(Regulators) are trying to shield people from big price disruptions and that’s understandable,” he added. “But if they push too hard, the insurance system doesn’t have enough money to insure everybody.”

Soller said the primary carriers have gotten plenty of rate relief — the department approved rate increases totaling $388 million a year in 2018 alone. “It’s not accurate to say the department has put a lid (on rate hikes),” he said.

Michael Wara, who runs the Stanford climate and energy program and has been advising lawmakers on wildfire issues, said any substantive fix for the insurance market is going to need insurance executives “at the table.” But he said questions about political donations from insurers to Lara’s political campaigns “makes it harder” for the commissioner to hold those discussions.

Soller disputed that. “He’s going to continue to do the work of meeting with consumers, meeting with the industry, really as the voice of California homeowners,” the department spokesman said.

Sinaloa Cartel Drug Lord Extradited to California

Good news—another drug kingpin is going to be put on trial.  It took the efforts of President Trump to get this done.

“Sanchez-Villalobos had built two major drug tunnels from Tijuana to the Otay Mesa Industrial Park in San Diego County and had run them at the behest of cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. For years they had trafficked numerous types of drugs, with the cartel charging other traffickers who wished to use the tunnels as well.

Sanchez-Villalobos was indicted in 2012 on nine counts of conspiracy to distribute and import illegal drugs and four counts of building, financing, and operating tunnels for the purpose of smuggling drugs across the border.  That year he was also arrested in Mexico by Mexican authorities, but due to different administration changes in Mexico and the United States, an extradition wasn’t possible for many years.

His handing over to American authorities over the weekend was the culmination of nearly eight years of requests and negotiations.

While Washington Democrats are fiddling with the Constitution, trying to kill off the Presidency, Trump is doing the job we hired him to do—protecting our nation.  Think of this as you watch the Impeachment scam.

Buds are removed from a container at the “Oregon’s Finest” medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon’s largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES – Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) – RTR3KMHE

Sinaloa Cartel Drug Lord Extradited to California

The extradition and trial of Jose Sanchez-Villalobos may have an impact on San Diego area elections

By Evan Symon, California Globe,  1/20/20   

Sinaloa cartel drug tunneler and trafficker Jose Sanchez-Villalobos has been extradited to the United States from Mexico to face trial.

Sanchez-Villalobos had built two major drug tunnels from Tijuana to the Otay Mesa Industrial Park in San Diego County and had run them at the behest of cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. For years they had trafficked numerous types of drugs, with the cartel charging other traffickers who wished to use the tunnels as well.

Sanchez-Villalobos was indicted in 2012 on nine counts of conspiracy to distribute and import illegal drugs and four counts of building, financing, and operating tunnels for the purpose of smuggling drugs across the border.  That year he was also arrested in Mexico by Mexican authorities, but due to different administration changes in Mexico and the United States, an extradition wasn’t possible for many years.

His handing over to American authorities over the weekend was the culmination of nearly eight years of requests and negotiations.

While the successful extradition has been viewed positively by people in San Diego County, the upcoming trial may bring a side effect with broad consequences: an effect on numerous political races in the area.

“San Diego has always had stories of drug tunnels and ‘El Chapo’ like drug lords in the area,” said Bob Brewster, a San Diego-area pollster who has helped conduct polls on every major race in the county since the 1990’s. “But this one is different. He was high up there in the organization, and he mainly helped traffic marijuana, which was illegal to smoke ten years ago, but is now common.”

“San Diego hasn’t seen a major drug trial like this in a while, and it’s going to make this a hot button issue again. In fact, based on the security precautions they usually take during large drug kingpin trials and the media around it, it will be a big factor during the election.”

“Right now, within San Diego County in November, we have Assembly and State Senate races, as well as Congressional races. And let’s not forget that huge mayors race in San Diego itself. That’s over a dozen races in an area that will have a huge drug trial. And this won’t just be a ‘drugs-at-the-border’ issue. We’ll have drugs, border relations, law enforcement funding, drug legality, possible mandatory minimum echoes, and several other issues this can influence.

“Housing and homelessness are big, but this may ramp up crime and drug issues by a lot. And some candidates out there are weaker on that than others. It can be a game changer for them.”

The trial of Sanchez-Villalobos is expected to be in Southern California court later this year. Nearly all the counts against Sanchez-Villalobos will carry a life in prison sentence.

13-acre church project in Rimforest could move forward – 16 years after first pitched

Why are folks fleeing California?  This is one example.  It took a church 16 years—NOT a typo—to get permission to build a new facility.  Folks that started the project have moved on to other causes, left the State, died—maybe became Atheists because prayers did not work.  This is a church—the same  red tape, abusive regulations are used to stop new businesses and facilities—thus raising the final finish cost of the project.  Why is California so expensive—because it takes 16 years to get a new church approved?

“On Thursday, Jan. 23, the Planning Commission will consider giving Church of the Woods a permit to build a 13.6-acre religious facility that would include a youth center, gymatorium, recreational facilities, sports field and assembly building, on 27.12 acres of vacant land north of Highway 18.

The project has been criticized by environmental groups and residents concerned about its size and the potential impacts to wildlife and traffic.

Pat Hopkins, the church’s project manager, said the plans are well done.

The project was first approved by the Planning Commission in 2004, but was delayed after environmental groups appealed to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors over the lack of an environmental impact report, Hopkins said.

Note it was members of the Church of the Environment that caused a 16 year delay, from the first approval till today.  This is a scandal—and the media promotes the radicals at the expense of the people.  Shame on us, as voters, for allowing this to happen.

13-acre church project in Rimforest could move forward – 16 years after first pitched

By Sandra Emerson, Press-Enterprise,   1/20/20   

A Lake Arrowhead church’s plan to build a new campus in Rimforest is headed to a San Bernardino County panel — 16 years after it introduced the idea.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, the Planning Commission will consider giving Church of the Woods a permit to build a 13.6-acre religious facility that would include a youth center, gymatorium, recreational facilities, sports field and assembly building, on 27.12 acres of vacant land north of Highway 18.

The project has been criticized by environmental groups and residents concerned about its size and the potential impacts to wildlife and traffic.

Pat Hopkins, the church’s project manager, said the plans are well done.

The project was first approved by the Planning Commission in 2004, but was delayed after environmental groups appealed to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors over the lack of an environmental impact report, Hopkins said.

A proposed school and a second sports field were eventually removed from the plan, Hopkins said.

“The project has changed quite a bit since the original proposal,” Hopkins said. “The new changes, we feel are positive, and the county asked us to make some changes, which we did.”

The project would include:

  • A 27,364-square-foot, two-story youth center/gymatorium
  • Recreational facilities and a sports field
  • A 41,037-square-foot, two-story, assembly building with room for 600 people
  • A 1,500-square-foot, two-story, maintenance/caretaker unit
  • The remaining 13.5 acres would be open space and include hiking trails and undisturbed forested areas

The church has yet to decide what to do with its current building, which it owns, after the new complex opens, Hopkins said.

The new campus would be public as well, Hopkins said.

“The field would be open to the youth sports league up there,” he said. “We never have enough fields in the mountains.”

Residents can watch the meeting and speak during public comment remotely at the Twin Peaks Government Center, after a request by Supervisor Janice Rutherford. Rutherford represents the 2nd Supervisorial District, which includes Lake Arrowhead and Rimforest.

“This project has been in the works for 17 years, and there are a lot of residents on both sides that want to be heard,” Rutherford said in a Tuesday, Jan. 14, news release.

IF YOU GO

What: The San Bernardino County Planning Commission will consider Church of the Woods’ proposed complex in Rimforest

When: 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 23

Where: County Government Center, 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., in San Bernardino. A remote broadcast will be at the Twin Peaks Government Center, 26010 State Highway 189, Twin Peaks

Elias: Rent control again: Is this vote needed?

All of us oppose AIDS.  Many have donated to organizations promoting education, prevention and helping those living with AIDS.  None of us think that helping such a group would actually be supporting a socialist organization wanting Rent Control.   In 2019 Sacramento passed an onerous, property stealing rent control law.  To socialists that is not enough.

“That’s also how it was last year when state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted what they billed as America’s toughest rent controls just one year after voters decisively nixed them.

Now comes the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, seeking even tougher controls than voters rejected in 2018 or what’s been state law since Jan. 1.

The initiative would end the practice of vacancy decontrol.

That new law limits rent increases to 5 percent per year, plus the local rate of inflation in locales where there previously was no rent control, while letting existing city rent control laws stand in places like Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Glendale, San Francisco and others that have had controls for years.”

In 2018, the people of California overwhelmingly voted NO on Prop. 10, a rent control ballot measure, proposed by the AIDS organization, which spent millions meant to help the AIDS victims and prevention.  The legislature, against the wishes of the voters, passed rent control—and no outrage by the voters.

Thomas Elias: Rent control again: Is this vote needed?

Thomas Elias, The Union,  1/20/20 

It was a head-scratcher the other day when the AIDS Healthcare Foundation submitted more than 1 million voter signatures aiming to place comprehensive rent control before Californians next fall, just two years after they rejected the same idea by a 20 percent margin.

But no one in politics today seems to heed what the voters want: Anti-abortion advocates keep losing as they try again and again to enact parental notification requirements for pregnant teenage girls who seek abortions. Bankruptcy judges and state regulators try hard to keep irresponsible utility companies and their monopolies afloat when the public and many elected officials would rather convert them to localized co-ops. And so on.

That’s also how it was last year when state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted what they billed as America’s toughest rent controls just one year after voters decisively nixed them.

Now comes the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, seeking even tougher controls than voters rejected in 2018 or what’s been state law since Jan. 1.

The initiative would end the practice of vacancy decontrol.

That new law limits rent increases to 5 percent per year, plus the local rate of inflation in locales where there previously was no rent control, while letting existing city rent control laws stand in places like Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Glendale, San Francisco and others that have had controls for years.

For what it’s worth, those controls have not ended the housing affordability crisis anywhere; some of the highest-priced rentals in America exist in Santa Monica and San Francisco, both of which have had strong controls for decades.

These are also among the densest areas in California, with scores of new apartment buildings rising in recent years to replace older, smaller ones. New construction – usually defined as less than 15 years old, but extending as far back as 1978 in some cities – is exempt from rent controls under most city laws, so it pays for developers to buy up older buildings, evict longtime tenants and build newer units where they can charge market rates, which keep climbing.

The new state law was designed partly to mitigate this and give tenants more stability by making evictions of paid-up renters more difficult, whether they are designed to build new units or merely to raise rents.

The main difference between the new law and the upcoming ballot proposition is that the initiative would end the practice of vacancy decontrol, where a state law passed in the 1990s now allows rents to rise to whatever the market will bear whenever a unit is vacated. The proposition would hold rents at the same limits even when a tenant leaves.

This stricture, claims the California Apartment Association, could drive many landlords out of the rental business. That was one of their main arguments against the losing 2018 Proposition 10, and most voters apparently agreed.

But vacancy decontrol and the lack of controls on newer buildings has put San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego all into the top 10 most expensive rental markets in America for the last 20 years.

So maybe there is justification for ending vacancy decontrol, if that could make housing more available to the millions of Californians who can’t afford to live where they like. Here’s what the affordability crisis means in real life: The average minimum-wage worker would have to put in 92 hours of labor merely to pay the monthly rent on an average one-bedroom California apartment. The situation is tighter than in any other state.

But compared to the new controls the state has already imposed over the wishes of its voters, the new initiative’s main change would be minimal.

In some ways, it’s a form of hectoring voters who believed they decided the matter in the last statewide election.

Of course, as abortion activists and others can attest, no matter is ever really decided permanently in California. The populace is too fluid, with millions moving into and out of the state each decade, to rule out fast and significant changes in public preferences. Which means rent control won’t be the last issue on which voters will get multiple chances to vote.

Proposition 47 Criminal Justice Reform Projected to Save State Over $122 Million

Disreali said there are three types of lies, “lies, damned lies and statistics.”  This story is about a one sided economic study—showing the lack of spending on crime being a “savings”.  What it does not account for is the economic cost of 31,000 car break ins in San Fran, in just one year.  It does not factor in the economic cost of shoplifting in grocery stores—the street thefts of under $950 which are no longer crimes—just ticketable offenses—when a ticket is usually not given.  Least we forget the economic cost of a rape, which is no longer a violent crime if the person raped used or was given drugs or alcohol.

Crime has an economic cost—government tries to pretend it does not.

“Five years after California voters embraced a ballot measure aimed at sending fewer people to prison and investing more in victims services, schools and treatment programs, Proposition 47 is projected to save a record $122.5 million next fiscal year by keeping 4,569 inmates out of state prisons.

The decrease in inmates, and commensurate savings, has allowed California to end its contracts with private, out-of-state prisons, while reducing a prison population that was at crisis levels a decade ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently.

Hundreds of thousands of VICTIMS, yet government refuses to care about them—or integrate the cost of doctors, replacement of items stolen, fear by the population as a “cost”.  Another example of Fake News.

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Proposition 47 Criminal Justice Reform Projected to Save State Over $122 Million

Marisa Lagos, KQED,  1/16/20   

Five years after California voters embraced a ballot measure aimed at sending fewer people to prison and investing more in victims services, schools and treatment programs, Proposition 47 is projected to save a record $122.5 million next fiscal year by keeping 4,569 inmates out of state prisons.

The decrease in inmates, and commensurate savings, has allowed California to end its contracts with private, out-of-state prisons, while reducing a prison population that was at crisis levels a decade ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently.

The more than $122 million represents the biggest estimated Proposition 47 savings to date — a $44 million increase from the previous fiscal year — but it comes as the criminal justice reform faces its biggest challenge, in the form of an initiative slated for the November ballot that would roll back some of its provisions.

But Lenore Anderson, founder and president of Californians for Safety and Justice, which wrote Proposition 47, said she sees the budget news as an opportunity to educate voters about the benefits of keeping the reforms in place.

“We are very excited that the amount of money saved annually keeps increasing — that’s certainly the goal,” she said. “The idea was not just reduce incarceration at the state level, but to reduce the imbalanced way that state public safety dollars are invested in the state. We can’t continue to put all the money at the back end in these sort of bloated and costly prisons and expect an effective approach to public safety.”

Proposition 47, which was approved by 59% of voters in 2014, calls for many nonviolent crimes, such as drug possession and petty theft, to be charged as misdemeanors instead of felonies. That’s resulted in fewer people being sent to state prisons, providing the monetary savings reflected in Newsom’s budget.

Anderson said the result of that savings is two-fold: One, the money is reinvested in programs aimed at preventing future crimes from occurring. That includes trauma recovery services for victims and public school programs that support kids who are at risk of dropping out or are victims of crime themselves. It also includes grants for mental health, substance abuse and diversion programs for criminal offenders.

“The number one predictor of someone becoming a victim of crime in the future is if they have been a victim in the past,” Anderson said. “When we talk about giving victims a chance to recover from crime and get safe and get on a pathway to recovery, we are actually talking about preventing future victimization.”

The second impact: Californians are no longer being sent to costly private prisons in other states. Anderson said the benefits of that change are enormous as well, since inmates have a much better chance of succeeding once they exit prison if they’ve been able to stay connected with family and community.

The measure has also allowed some Californians to turn their lives around. The law allows people previously convicted of these nonviolent crimes to petition courts to have their sentences reduced to misdemeanors, a change that has allowed many people to leave prison or jail early, and to wipe clean past conviction records that can prevent ex-offenders from getting jobs or participating in society in other ways.

But law enforcement groups have long opposed the measure, saying it has resulted in an uptick of shoplifting and property crimes, such as car break-ins. They are running a ballot measure in November that would allow prosecutors to charge some theft and fraud crimes as felonies again.

It would also require people who benefited from Proposition 47 by being charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies to hand over their DNA to state and federal government databases.

State assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, who was a 30-year law enforcement veteran before being elected to the Legislature, helped write the new ballot measure. He said while saving money and ending private prison contracts is a good thing, Proposition 47 has resulted in more shoplifting by theft rings, more crowded county jails and less success in drug courts.

But Cooper rejected the idea that his ballot measure would reverse the positive gains from Proposition 47, saying it could result in more people being sentenced to county jail but not state prison, and that any increase in corrections spending would be minor compared to the overall savings.

“The biggest thing is that [my ballot measure] does not send anybody back to prison,” Cooper said. “So the folks that are opposed to it, to be honest, are just liars — they are being dishonest and disingenuous when they talk about it.”

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is also backing the new initiative, added that Proposition 47 removed leverage from judges in drug courts, and that the November measure would help fix that.

“There is nothing about the 2020 ballot initiative that would increase the prison population,” she said. “Rather, it enables the justice system to impose meaningful sentences that will encourage those with drug addiction to seek rehabilitation and treatment. Prior to the passage of Prop. 47, our drug courts showed demonstrable success, but were gutted when Prop. 47 became law.”

The new initiative would also roll back portions of another ballot measure, Proposition 57, which voters passed overwhelmingly in 2016, and make it harder for some inmates to get parole from state prison. Proposition 57 will reduce the prison population by some 8,600 inmates next fiscal year, according to state estimates; the new ballot measure would likely reduce that number, though it isn’t clear by how much.

Newsom, who has embraced criminal justice reforms like Proposition 47, indicated last week that he will campaign against the 2020 ballot measure; and former Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote Proposition 57, has indicated he may use his remaining campaign funds to oppose it.

But Cooper said he hopes to convince voters that his ballot measure makes sense. He noted that California has embraced a number of wide-ranging criminal justice reforms over the past decade — many led by Brown — but that some need tweaks to succeed.

“We’ve done a lot reforms, there have been some good reforms, but there’s been no look-back on the reforms, and people here in the [Capitol] building will tell you quite candidly that there’s been some mistakes made in those reforms,” he said. “But no one is willing to go back and change those mistakes.”

The House Democrat Taking On Silicon Valley

A Rhode Island Democrats is working hard to kill off the California technology industry.  But this is not a California problem, it is a global problem.  Silicon Valley is the global home of innovation, advancement in living standards and brings an economic prosperity to a State, which without the Valley would be in a severe recession.

“Cicilline is an unlikely leader of a bipartisan coalition. He’s a feisty combatant for the left on Fox News and a pugnacious tweeter. That morning, he had written on Twitter that the Republicans at the impeachment hearings were asking questions that were “absolutely bonkers,” adding, “I’m half-expecting to hear them bring up the grassy knoll or jet fuel melting steel beams next.” This month, during the debate over Iran, he wrote that there are “real questions about whether the president knows what he’s doing.” But for his Silicon Valley investigation, he’s drawn unexpected allies to his side, not just Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin moderate who is his Republican counterpart on the subcommittee, but top Judiciary Republican Doug Collins and Rep. Matt Gaetz, both fervent Trump allies who have harangued Cicilline and his Democratic colleagues over impeachment.

Sadly, Facebook, Google and others have abused the laws and created a political operation opposing freedom and capitalism.  Even worse, the Zuckerbergs of the Valley spend their political money trying to kill off cheap energy, raise taxes on the rest of us (though they fight to protect their tax credits and exemptions).  They have brought on these investigations and proposed laws on themselves.  They violated our moral, ethical, political and legal bounds—now Congress—GOP’ers and Dems, are fighting back.

The House Democrat Taking On Silicon Valley

Practically everybody in Washington is mad at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. David Cicilline might actually do something about it.

By NANCY SCOLA and CRISTIANO LIMA, Politico,  1/21/20   

 “If we don’t fix this, we’re not going to have a democracy anymore,” David Cicilline gravel-voiced into the microphone, as go-go music thumped behind him. Just that morning, Cicilline’s Democratic colleagues in the House had started impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump, and spirits were high at this left-leaning gathering on a November night at the bar Baby Wale in Washington’s Shaw neighborhood. Yet the existential threat to the republic under consideration was not the occupant of the Oval Office but something Cicilline and his allies see as another dire menace: Silicon Valley.

People all over the political map are angry at the American tech industry right now, from Democrats who want to break up the “big four” of Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook to Republicans—including Trump himself—who think the industry and its products are biased against conservatives. Cicilline, however, is in a position to do something about it. He’s the chairman of the House subcommittee on antitrust, which makes him the only Democrat in Washington running an institution charged with countering extreme concentrations of power in the U.S. economy.

This summer, Cicilline—a 58-year-old representative from Rhode Island—announced that, with the backing of his Republican counterparts on the House Judiciary Committee, he was throwing his subcommittee’s resources into an investigation of whether digital markets are illegally anti-competitive. Have the Big Four, worth a collective $4 trillion, bullied suppliers, mishandled data and throttled their rivals, while both political parties in Washington have not just looked the other way but actively celebrated the companies as the very best America has to offer?

Cicilline is an unlikely leader of a bipartisan coalition. He’s a feisty combatant for the left on Fox News and a pugnacious tweeter. That morning, he had written on Twitter that the Republicans at the impeachment hearings were asking questions that were “absolutely bonkers,” adding, “I’m half-expecting to hear them bring up the grassy knoll or jet fuel melting steel beams next.” This month, during the debate over Iran, he wrote that there are “real questions about whether the president knows what he’s doing.” But for his Silicon Valley investigation, he’s drawn unexpected allies to his side, not just Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin moderate who is his Republican counterpart on the subcommittee, but top Judiciary Republican Doug Collins and Rep. Matt Gaetz, both fervent Trump allies who have harangued Cicilline and his Democratic colleagues over impeachment.

“I’m very encouraged that we might be able to unite the populist right and the populist left,” Gaetz said in the early days of Cicilline’s investigation. He still counts himself a supporter of the effort.

Perhaps one reason for the strange bedfellows is Cicilline’s willingness to take on his fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, for abdicating their responsibility—in his view—to rein in the Big Four over the past two decades. The party in Shaw was to celebrate the release of Matt Stoller’s book Goliath, which grew out of a widely discussed Atlantic article about how corporate Democrats “killed their populist soul.” Giving speeches alongside Cicilline at the event were Faiz Shakir, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign manager; and Rohit Chopra, a Democratic Federal Trade Commission commissioner who has strongly criticized his own agency for what he sees as its inadequate approach to Silicon Valley. Cicilline called Stoller, a staunch proponent of more stringent antitrust enforcement, “an inspiration,” and thanked him for telling such an “important story.”

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But Cicilline has also drawn allies because his investigation is regarded as scrupulous and serious, something Congress does not always have a reputation for these days.

As the investigation has rolled along, Cicilline’s questions have gotten more precise.

Why, exactly, did Facebook decide to cut off Twitter’s Vine video app’s access to its data caches?

What percentage, exactly, of Google searches point users to sites Google owns?

How, exactly, does Amazon decide which vendors get featured its prime real estate “buy boxes”?

Who, exactly, inside Apple can listen to the things we say to Siri?

And so people are watching closely to see where David Cicilline’s high-tech investigation ends up, which he says he expects to happen sometime in the next few months. Will it do anything to reset how Washington copes with Silicon Valley? Or will it turn out like much of the anger being directed at the Big Four by political leaders: a loud, attention-getting exercise that only underscores how little Washington has done to check the enormously profitable and powerful tech industry?

***

Unlike the Federal Trade Commission, Cicilline can’t issue fines. Unlike the Justice Department, he can’t bring criminal charges. He can’t single-handedly pass new laws. He needs the blessing of his committee chairman, New York’s Jerry Nadler, just to issue subpoenas. What he can do, and has done, is to convene high-profile hearings, inscribe evidence extracted from the tech companies into the public record, and turn his office into a safe space for those frightened by the Big Four. But that doesn’t mean that Silicon Valley’s critics haven’t invested a great deal of hope in what David Cicilline does next.

“It’s been decades since Congress has undertaken an investigation into a sector like this. You have to go back and look at the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group fighting against economic concentration that has emerged as one of the most prominent critics of the tech industry in Washington. Mitchell testified before Cicilline’s subcommittee in July.

Anyone who recalls the widespread mockery of the questions posed to Mark Zuckerberg when he testified before a couple Senate committees in 2018 knows that this isn’t even a dirty secret in Washington: Nobody, from lawmakers to regulators to reporters, really and truly understands how companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, work, day in and day out. So Cicilline says he wants to lift the hood, and then describe in intricate detail to the rest of Washington exactly how the engines of Silicon Valley work.

And that, the thinking goes, could lead to changes in the country’s long-standing antitrust laws or compel competition regulators to act.

Cicilline has held five public hearings so far, but those close tothe probe say that he and his staff are also doing crucial behind-the-scenes work with companies that fear testifying in an open hearing room and whose grievances could serve as key evidence in future legal cases against the Big Four.

One top executive from a tech-sector firm would discuss Cicilline’s inquiry only anonymously, writing in an email: “We are greatly encouraged by the Chairman’s work, and the expertise of his staff. To ensure the investigation has the maximum impact, we hope he will provide strong and specific protection against retaliation for companies that have the courage to come forward.” (The Big Four companies all say they don’t engage in such retribution.)

As Cicilline sees it, Washington has been too deferential to tech for too long. He describes himself as seriously underwhelmed, for example, by the FTC’s July settlement with Facebook over data privacy complaints, including the $5 billion fine he and other critics have called largely inconsequential for a company of Facebook’s enormous resources.

Even so, the investigation needn’t be antagonistic, Cicilline insists. He got on the phone with top tech company executives, including Apple’s Tim Cook, back when he started his investigation, he says, just so their firms’ first experience with the subcommittee wouldn’t be at the other end of a subpoena or document request.

Still, he says, the relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley does need to change.

“These big technology companies have sort of been the golden boy or girl of the American economy,” says Cicilline, sitting at the head of a conference table in his second-floor Rayburn House Office Building office in July. An Apple Watch was strapped to his left wrist.

To Cicilline’s left sat Slade Bond, a long-time Judiciary Committee staffer who serves as the subcommittee’s chief counsel. Absent was Lina Khan, a lawyer who wrote a landmark 2017 Yale Law Journal article called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” and is perhaps the closest thing to a rock star in the tech-meets-antitrust world. She often sits behind Cicilline at hearings. Her hiring in March was taken as a sign by many in the antitrust world that Cicilline was serious about wielding his new powers.

***

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“This smell is not the normal smell of this office,” says Cicilline by way of greeting, at the start of an interview. He’d just sprayed himself for poison ivy. “That’s what happens when you do your own yardwork,” he says. “I don’t recommend it.”

Compactly built, deeply tanned and typically clad in conservative suits paired with a colorful tie, Cicilline has the vibe of the hard-charging lawyer he was before he entered politics. Born in 1961 in Providence, Rhode Island, with a father who was a lawyer who represented East Coast mafioso, Cicilline attended Brown University—where he started up a chapter of College Democrats with John F. Kennedy, Jr., before heading south to D.C. to attend Georgetown University’s law school.

In 2002, he was elected mayor of Providence, the first openlygay mayor of a U.S. state capital. He served until 2010, when, this being New England, his fortunes were shaped by another Kennedy: Patrick, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s youngest, who announced that he was retiring from his Rhode Island seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cicilline ran and won a close race.

And in the decade since, Cicilline has climbed the Democratic ladder. He now holds a post in the Democratic House leadership, as chairman of his party’s policy and communications committee.

He has a sharp edge, and on cable news or the hearing room dais, he can come across as impatient with ambiguity, disdainful of those who disagree with him—whether it’s a witness before him or a TV host. “Maria, that’s just not true!” he once shouted at Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo to contest a point on tax policy. To an Amazon attorney in July he thundered, “I remind you sir, you’re under oath.”

But again and again, in interviews with colleagues, friends and former staffers, Cicilline is described as charming, funny, caring, generous, warm, trustworthy, thoughtful, the life of the party. Ciciline has “a delightful personality,” said Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat. “Most people [in Congress] are either very serious and, frankly, kind of grumpy, or they swing to the gadfly—always cheerful but never really digging in,” Kuster said. “David has struck a balance that I admire and try to emulate, of being friendly but doing serious work.”

When in Washington, Kuster, Cicilline and several other members of Congress stay in an apartment building in Washington’s Navy Yard neighborhood, where Cicilline held a recent debate-watching party, with about five dozen attendees. He is, Kuster said, “reliable on the potluck.”

Cicilline came into office nearly ten years ago with little real background, or interest, in tech or antitrust, as he now admits. He joined the subcommittee when, he says, Nadler told him to try something new. When he started doing the homework on economic concentration, he started to appreciate the stakes of having a handful of big companies dominating Silicon Valley.

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As for any more personal experience with the perceived threat posed by the Big Four, Cicilline points to this: His path to the mayor’s office was smoothed, as a 41-year-old member of the statehouse, by the corruption conviction of Mayor Buddy Cianci, whose misdeeds were documented by the Providence Journal.

Like other local newspapers, the Providence Journal has struggled of late, a decline that Cicilline and others attribute, at least in part, to what the “digital duopoly” of Facebook and Google has done to the journalism business, sucking up advertising dollars that, the thinking goes, should go instead to publications like the ProJo.

“This is about access to trustworthy and reliable news and information,” says Cicilline in his office. “If we lose that, I think we put our democracy in real peril.”

***

Baked into Cicilline’s criticism of Washington’s failure to, as he sees it, establish any sort of guardrails during Silicon Valley’s historic rise into an economic, political, and social powerhouse is the fact that while much of it was happening, Democrats were in charge.

It’s a critique heard in some segments of the left of late, where some critics argue that the Obama administration was distracted when it came to tech, whether by Silicon Valley’s fundraising prowess, or a genuine belief in the information revolution as a force for enormous good, or the rise of ISIS, or the Great Recession, or the prospect of future job offers out west. White House press secretary Jay Carney joined Amazon after leaving the White House, senior presidential adviser David Plouffe went to Uber, and other administration officials ended up in places like Facebook, Airbnb and Square.

Elizabeth Warren now leads a small but vocal coalition of Democrats who argue that the time has come, right now, to break up companies like Facebook, an argument that hasn’t been heard much in the tech industry since the 1990s-era antitrust investigation of Microsoft. Other Democrats, though rattled by everything from Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 presidential election to online shopping’s apparent effect on Main Street, aren’t ready to go that far. Some even suggest that naming and shaming companies you don’t like before the end of a congressional or agency investigation sounds very much like something Donald Trump would do.

And Trump, to be sure, has done just that, issuing mostly unsubstantiated claims that the Big Four are endemically biased against conservatives in ways that are manifested in their products. Those thoughts are also voiced by some of the Republican caucus’ most vocal members, like Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Ted Cruz of Texas. But the libertarian wing of the right recoils at the idea of Washington interfering with the free market, or, shudder, rewriting the country’s antitrust laws to target companies that politicians don’t like. And that thinking influences a broad swath of Republicans who are wary of Silicon Valley for its power and cultural influence but blanch at the idea of Congress jumping to the conclusion that this or that private company is irredeemable.

Cicilline—who argues that the break-up talk is getting ahead of things—has largely managed to maintain this fragile coalition, which agrees that Silicon Valley’s power is worrisome but sharply disagrees on what, if anything, to do about it. So far.

“He’s asking important questions to try to get a sense of what the real issues are,” says Justin Brookman, an Obama-era FTC official who is now the director of consumer privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. “It’s not as simple as, ‘Let’s break them up all.’ It’s a bit more involved than that.”

Near the start of December, reports started circulating that Warren was drafting legislation to ban so-called mega mergers involving multibillion-dollar companies—and that she was working on it with Cicilline. The news called into question Cicilline’s insistence that he would propose antitrust reform laws, if any, only after he completed his investigation.

Asked about the reported collaboration, Cicilline said he and Warren haven’t had direct talks on any such bill, but left open the possibility that his staff and hers might have had informal discussions.

The rumors of Cicilline’s would-be alliance with Warren didn’t publicly cost him any members of his ad hoc coalition, but the odds are good that the weeks or months until he wraps his investigation will involve not just hearings and document requests but a careful navigation of the political minefield before him.

If Cicilline manages to hold together the coalition he’s assembled while also reaching some politically palatable but powerful conclusions—that, for example, regulators have been left no choice but to crack down on personal-data-based business models, or that Congress has been compelled by events to overhaul the country’s antitrust laws—Cicilline has the chance to leave a lasting mark on Washington.

That’s exactly what his critics are afraid of.

***

“You can’t just ignore facts that don’t prove your presupposed conclusions. That’s not how ‘investigations’ work,” says Carl Szabo. “Especially from the Judiciary Committee? We should be better than that.”

On a warm Friday in October, sun streamed in the window of Szabo’s K Street offices, decorated with thick books on telecommunications law, a LEGO R2-D2 and framed mock patent applications of heavy machinery from the “Star Wars” universe. Szabo is the outspoken vice president and top lawyer for Silicon Valley’s most aggressivelobbying presence in Washington: a group called NetChoice, which counts Facebook and Google among its members.

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Szabo’s job is to say what the tech companies don’t want to be seen saying themselves, which, in this case, is that Cicilline is unfairly targeting them. That he isn’t after going after bad corporate behavior but simply taking scalps from some of the highest profile companies in the world. That, despite his declarations that he is keeping an open mind, the result of his investigation is a foregone conclusion. Cicilline, the argument goes, is convinced there’s no competition left in the tech industry. Says Szabo, ever heard of TikTok?

Cicilline’s investigation won’t add up to much of anything, Szabo insists, because there’s no there there. The worry, though, is that he adds his powerful voice to the “cacophony of people complaining about technology”—many of whom, Szabo argues, are motivated, somewhat perversely, by the desire to get their name in headlines smack up against mentions of Facebook, Google and the rest. “I think the whole reason we’re even talking about these groups is because of SEO,” or search engine optimization, Szabo said.

And Cicilline has sometimes given ammunition to those who believe that he’s in it for the headlines and that he’s being vindictive when he’s not enjoying it all a bit too much.

During his investigation’s second hearing, in July, he got into a back-and-forth with a witness from Amazon, associate general counsel Nate Sutton, over how the company uses the shopping data it collects to decide its own product offerings. “You do collect enormous data about what products are popular, what’s selling, where they’re selling,” Cicilline said. “You’re saying you don’t use that in any way to promote Amazon products?”

Sutton attempted to testify that offering house brands is a common practice among retailers, and, what’s more, that Amazon uses data only in the aggregate to inform its retail decisions, not insights gleaned from individual sellers. This is when Cicilline demanded a clarification and declared, “I remind you sir, you’re under oath.”

Days later, Cicilline sent a letter to Sutton’s boss at Amazon saying he was “troubled” by the lawyer’s testimony. Nor did Sutton’s fellow witnesses, from the rest of the Big Four, get off easy. Cicilline’s chiding note to Facebook said that company’s witness “claimed he was unfamiliar with basic facts” about the business.

Cicilline returned to the topicin mid-September, when he fired off letters to the companies asking scores of questions about their operations. The letter to Amazon had 158 separate requests for information, including on its contested use of seller data.

While waiting for answers, Cicilline tweeted out a news story detailing Amazon’s tweaking of its search algorithm to benefit its own offerings, adding, “Lying to Congress is a serious crime with serious consequences”—an unusually combative move during an open investigation.

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Cicilline can be said to have won the round—eventually. When Amazon responded to Cicilline’s information request, its technical answers were interpreted by some to award the points to the congressman. Read a CNBC story on the matter, “Amazon admits to Congress that it uses ‘aggregated’ data from third-party sellers to come up with its own products.”

***

Ciciline has said his investigation is on track to wrap early this year. One possible outcome:The report it produces ends up so hard-hitting that it alienates centrists—including the Republicans rounding out his bipartisan coalition. With Washington so utterly divided, that would make his subcommittee’s work easy to dismiss as yet one more exercise in partisan point-scoring. The news cycle would move on nearly instantaneously, and with it the rest of Congress.

Another possible, even likely, outcome: that his investigation keeps its bipartisanship while avoiding a call for sweeping reforms, and thus also gets ignored in a political landscape that doesn’t register anything other than full-volume declarations of misdoings. The news cycle would move on nearly instantaneously, and with it the rest of Congress.

Or, Cicilline’s subcommittee could write the most exquisite report, laying out a path forward for the future of technology in the United States that strikes a perfect balance of preserving the public good while fostering innovation—and it gets ignored by a Senate that has shown little interest in rethinking antitrust rules and which is at the moment utterly consumed by the fight over whether Donald Trump should be removed from office.

All that makes Cicilline’s chances for fundamentally revamping the country’s antitrust laws or resetting regulators’ approach to Silicon Valley slim. But as Cicilline sees it, it’s too important a battle to stop waging.

For years, says Cicilline, people in Washington like him let Silicon Valley run wild. “I think they’ve been more familiar with letting them go, letting them flourish—just sitting back and watching,” he says. “I think we’ve reached a point now where we have a responsibility to do more than that.”

Why the University of California is fighting for DACA

Over the next five years the UC system is going to raise tuition EVERY year.  Only a small number of qualified California students are allowed to enroll in the UC system.  A larger percentage, each year, of foreign students are enrolled, at full cost, to the UC system, making fewer seats available for California students.  Then you have tuition and student fee money used to attract illegal aliens, give them scholarships and attorneys, to fight Federal immigration laws.  These campuses have become a hotbed of bullying, hate, bigotry, hate America, hate the Rule of Law and the Constitution.  Mention Trump did something good and be ready for the physical attack.

“But things did change. In 2012, when Medina was 12, President Barack Obama announced the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, or DACA, which provided temporary deportation relief and work authorization to undocumented young people who had come to the U.S. as children. To qualify, young immigrants had to meet certain requirements, including not having a serious criminal record and having earned (or be in the process of earning) an American high school diploma.

Medina begged her mother to let her apply, so she could work legally and make more money. Her mom, who was also undocumented, did not trust the program, but eventually relented and in 2016, Medina received DACA. For the first time in her life, Medina felt like she had options. She started thinking about college and chose UC Santa Cruz, in part because its leafy campus near the sea felt like a fresh start, far away from her life in the Mojave Desert.”

An honest California student, that did not break the law LOST a seat in the UC–and Democrats led by Obama stole it.  Then gave it to a lawbreaker.

Protesters chant during a May Day demonstration outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco on Monday. Thousands are expected to take to the streets across the United States to participate in May Day demonstrations.

Why the University of California is fighting for DACA

From a campus legal clinic all the way to the Supreme Court, UC stands up for Dreamers.

Sarah Tory, High Country News,  1/13/20   

For most of her life, Stephanie Medina felt adrift. When her classmates in San Bernardino, California, were dreaming of college and careers, Medina hesitated to think about her future. Because she was undocumented, it was easier to forgo her dreams and ambitions, accepting her life as it was without the hope that anything would change.

But things did change. In 2012, when Medina was 12, President Barack Obama announced the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, or DACA, which provided temporary deportation relief and work authorization to undocumented young people who had come to the U.S. as children. To qualify, young immigrants had to meet certain requirements, including not having a serious criminal record and having earned (or be in the process of earning) an American high school diploma.

Medina begged her mother to let her apply, so she could work legally and make more money. Her mom, who was also undocumented, did not trust the program, but eventually relented and in 2016, Medina received DACA. For the first time in her life, Medina felt like she had options. She started thinking about college and chose UC Santa Cruz, in part because its leafy campus near the sea felt like a fresh start, far away from her life in the Mojave Desert.

A year after Medina got DACA, in September 2017, Jeff Sessions, who was then President Donald Trump’s attorney general, announced the end of the program, claiming that Obama had acted unlawfully and circumvented the country’s immigration laws by creating the program via executive order.

“The compassionate thing to do is end the lawlessness, enforce our laws,” said Sessions, defending the decision.

AS A UC STUDENT, Medina had access to an indispensable resource: the University of California’s Immigrant Legal Services Center. Headquartered at the UC Davis Law School, it was launched in 2015 by UC President Janet Napolitano to offer free immigration legal help for the estimated 3,700 undocumented students enrolled at UC campuses. As the Trump administration escalates its crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration, the center has become a lifeline for students trying to navigate the increasingly bewildering U.S. immigration system. A little over two years ago, when the Trump administration ended DACA, the University of California stepped up its efforts, not only supporting its undocumented students, but actively fighting the government on their behalf.

That fight has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court, with a lawsuit the university filed in 2017 challenging the government’s decision to end DACA — the first legal effort by a university to preserve the program that has helped tens of thousands of undocumented students access higher education. With a decision expected sometime in 2020, attorneys at the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center are doing what they can to keep the door open for undocumented students. Without DACA and the work authorization it provides, María Blanco, the center’s executive director, fears that undocumented students will struggle to pay for college or even see any point in finishing. “I’m really worried that we’ll lose students from this population,” she said.

ONE MORNING IN NOVEMBER, I met Blanco in her office at the UC Davis Law School. She had just finished interviewing a candidate for the staff attorney position and emerged wearing a navy blazer, earrings, and a whiff of perfume. In conversation, Blanco has a deep laugh that comes out often, despite the nature of her work. She had recently returned from Mexico City, where she met with deported families and discussed their legal options for returning to the U.S. “It was pretty heavy,” she admitted. “One of the things that was really disturbing is a lot of the kids haven’t been able to go to school because they don’t have a Mexican ID.”

For Blanco, who was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. with her family as a toddler, it was a reminder of what is at stake with her work at the Legal Services Center — and why it matters that the UC has taken such an aggressive role in the fight to preserve DACA.

During college, Blanco was involved in Chicano rights activism before attending law school at UC Berkeley. After graduating in 1984, she went to work as a civil rights lawyer defending low-income immigrant women, many of  them undocumented. As she learned the particulars of the women’s situations, she realized how much their immigration status compounded their vulnerability to discrimination.

In 2001, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois authored the first DREAM Act, which would have provided legal status and a path to citizenship for many undocumented young people or “Dreamers.” But it died in Congress, as has every new version introduced since then.

For nearly 20 years, congressional efforts to reform America’s immigration laws have gone nowhere. But Blanco has continued to fight for immigrant rights in other ways. At the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Blanco convinced California legislators to pass AB 540, a 2001 state law that allowed undocumented students who are California residents to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

Despite the success of AB 540, many undocumented students still struggled to afford college. Without work authorization, they could not get jobs on campus, and many had to drop out of school when they ran out of money. When Obama created DACA, not only did the number of undocumented students enrolled in the UC system jump; the number who graduated rose as well.

FOR MEDINA, THE END OF DACA meant a return to the vulnerability that had defined her life without a legal status — and marked the beginning of another ordeal. Her mother had recently married a U.S. citizen, making her daughter eligible to apply for a green card. Last summer, after all Medina’s paperwork had been approved,  she went to Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, for the final step in the green card process: an interview at a U.S. consulate in Mexico.

That part — leaving the country — had always terrified Medina. At home in Santa Cruz, she had a new job at a law firm and had recently been offered a competitive research position with the university’s Human Rights Investigations Lab. She was earning money and felt like she was succeeding. But what if something went wrong in the green card process and she wasn’t allowed back into the U.S.? “Don’t be stupid,” her mother told her. “You’re going to go to Mexico to do the interview.”

She was earning money and felt like she was succeeding. But what if something went wrong in the green card process and she wasn’t allowed back into the U.S.?

Last July, Medina faced the U.S. consul, who sat behind a glass window inside an office building in Ciudad Juárez. The consul asked about her sponsor. In order to petition for a family member’s green card, a sponsor must prove that he or she can financially support the immigrant and his or her own household members. Medina’s stepfather’s epilepsy prevents him from working, though, and her mother’s $20,000-a-year factory job did not meet the financial requirements. A family friend had offered to become Medina’s “joint financial sponsor,” but the consul told her that his income was also not high enough. Even though Medina was working three jobs and an internship and paying her way through college, the consul denied her green card.

When Medina told her mother the news, she started weeping. “What are we going to do?” she asked. It had taken a lot of effort to find a family friend to act as Medina’s financial sponsor. Who else would be willing to accept that kind of responsibility?

Medina, still in shock, tried to think of people who might be able to help. She called her mentor from her campus internship and the provost of her college at UC Santa Cruz. Both agreed to sponsor her and put her in touch with the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center.

The next day, Medina’s mother had to return to California for work, leaving her 19-year-old daughter alone in Ciudad Juárez. For the next two months, Medina was stuck in Mexico, staying with relatives in Mexico City and Oaxaca while she waited for Anna Manuel, an attorney at the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center, to help sort out the new sponsorship paperwork. Medina tried not to think about the worst-case scenario: that she would be stuck in Mexico for years, unable to finish college and pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.

SITUATIONS LIKE THE ONE Medina found herself in last summer are why the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center exists — and why the future of DACA matters to the president of the University of California: Janet Napolitano. Years ago, under Obama, Napolitano served as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where she authored the memo that created DACA. But UC students remembered her for another reason: She also oversaw a record number of deportations during her tenure as DHS secretary. When Napolitano became UC’s president in 2013, student protests erupted over her immigration record.

Partly in response, she set up a committee to advise her on how to better serve the needs of undocumented students, who, among other things, suffer disproportionately from clinical level stress — 30% compared to just 5% among the regular college population. Kevin Johnson, the dean of the UC Davis Law School and a prominent immigration scholar, suggested that she set up a free legal services center to serve both students and their families, since the students’ stress is also caused by their relatives’ risk of deportation. In January 2015, the center opened with a staff of three and Blanco as the executive director.

The first two years were optimistic times. Blanco liked to say, “We’re building the plane as we’re flying it.” Many of their cases involved helping undocumented students apply for DACA, which had a provision that allowed undocumented students to travel abroad.

“It was such a big deal for them,” Blanco said. “If they were French majors, they could go to France. They could leave the U.S. for the first time in their lives to visit ailing grandparents.”

Blanco was learning things, too. The majority of the students and families that come to the center are originally from Mexico, but the second-largest number are from South Korea. Many of them, as Blanco learned, don’t think of themselves as undocumented, because their parents came to the U.S. legally on a visa and then overstayed. She recalled meeting an undocumented Korean student during the early years. “Can I get DACA?” he inquired, adding, “I’m not undocumented.”

“It was such a big deal for them. If they were French majors, they could go to France. They could leave the U.S. for the first time in their lives to visit ailing grandparents.”

Then came the 2016 election. For Napolitano, the new administration’s decision to rescind DACA felt like a personal attack. She was the one who had made the program possible, after all, said Blanco, who meets regularly with the college president. “She knew that there would be a lot of lawsuits, but she wanted hers to be first.” 

On Sept. 8, 2017, just three days after Sessions announced the end of DACA, the University of California’s lawyers filed their lawsuit. “Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency that I led,” Napolitano said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. But “to arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits our country as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy.”

JUST AFTER NOON on the afternoon of my visit, Blanco walked to lunch at a cafeteria across campus with attorney Anna Manuel, discussing the two DACA renewal appointments scheduled for that afternoon. In 2018, a San Francisco judge granted a request by California and other states to stop the administration from ending DACA, at least until lawsuits can play out in court, allowing existing DACA recipients to renew their DACA status until the Supreme Court decides on the case.

In 2018, the center processed 500 DACA renewals. This year, it was 960, out of a total 1,495 cases. The jump in renewals encouraged Blanco and Manuel, but they were anxious about what will happen to these students if the Supreme Court sides with the government and allows DACA to fully expire. “I hear a lot of ‘Why should I bother continuing in school if I can’t get a job?’ ” Manuel said.   

The two women entered a cafeteria buzzing with students carrying backpacks and trays. “This is where I really feel old,” Blanco joked, getting a bowl of hot noodle soup and making her way towards one of the few empty tables.

The previous week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the university’s lawsuit, which has been combined with several other lawsuits arguing that the President ended DACA without thoroughly considering the impact the decision would have on its 700,000 recipients and their families—more than a million people in total. Their argument rests on a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires government agencies to base policy changes on sound reasoning that is explained to the public. Instead, the lawsuit argues, the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious,” violating the law.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case with so many people at risk.”

Given the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, Blanco is nervous. She had recently conducted a webinar on the possible outcomes for TheDream.US, a nonprofit that helps make college affordable for undocumented students. After the presentation, questions flooded the chat box.  The first one read: “Are they going to round us up if they strike down DACA?”

“My heart sank,” she said. The question made her realize the fear people were holding. Immigration enforcement officials have already targeted DACA recipients who have spoken out against U.S. immigration policies, so it hurt to know that she could not truthfully say that their fear was unwarranted. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case with so many people at risk,” she said.

Still, Blanco is grateful for the UC lawsuit, which has energized both the center’s attorneys and the undocumented students they support. “I know I always get a little excited when I see the name of the case and it’s University of California vs. U.S. Government.” Blanco laughed and turned to Manuel: “Don’t you get that feeling?” she asked.

“Totally!” said Manuel.

The lawsuit garnered 36 different letters of support, or amicus briefs, from a wide swath of U.S. civil society, ranging from the normally conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The lawsuit has boosted the center’s work in other ways, too. When it opened five years ago, many undocumented students didn’t trust the initiative, believing it was just Napolitano’s attempt to make amends for her immigration record under Obama. But after the lawsuit was filed, Blanco sensed a change in those students. “It made them feel like somebody has their back,” she said.

Medina had mixed emotions when she received her green card. She was no longer afraid of getting deported, but the experience had left her uneasy. “I still have these doubts about whether I belong in this country,” she said. Private information has been concealed.

WHEN MEDINA WAS IN MEXICO, waiting anxiously for her second interview at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, she took comfort in knowing that so many people were doing what they could to help her. After years of feeling invisible, it was reassuring to know that her education and her life in America mattered to them.

Manuel hastened to get Medina’s new sponsorship paperwork ready. She was worried about the student’s mental health. “She went through this range of trauma, where she just kept imagining everything she was going to lose,” Manuel said.

Nearly two months after the ordeal began, Medina submitted her new sponsorship paperwork to the U.S. Consulate. A few days later, she picked up her new passport.

Medina had finally received her green card, yet she found herself feeling strangely ambivalent: She was no longer afraid of getting deported, but she didn’t feel any more welcome in the U.S.

“I still have these doubts about whether I belong in this country,” she said, as we walked back from the restaurant where we met to her dorm, through the sun-dappled redwood forest that envelops UC Santa Cruz.

At college, though, she felt at home.  A gifted student, she threw herself into her politics and legal studies classes and the other opportunities available for students. “I apply for everything,” she admitted, smiling sheepishly. Though she had always tried not to get too attached to anything — possessions or people — her education had always felt different. No matter what happened, it was the one thing that nobody could ever take away.

Sacramento/Environmental Cabal Concerted Attack on Oil and Low Cost Energy

Guv Newsom—close down the California oil industry and raise the cost of energy in the State for families and businesses.  He is working to close down the Kern County oil industry.  Environmentalists have sued to close down the Central Coast oil industry.  AG Becerra is suing the Federal government, to close down the oil industry on Federal lands.  Coincidence?  This is an organized attack on the jobs and people of California.

““Gov. [Gavin] Newsom just announced curbs on oil drilling, but BLM is charging full speed ahead with it,” said Ann Alexander of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the environmental plaintiffs in the parallel action. “California is trying to find a way to rationally address its limited water supply, and now BLM is greenlighting activities that can contaminate it with toxic chemicals. This federal war on California really needs to stop,” she said. The plaintiffs also include Patagonia Works, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Central California Environmental Justice Network.

From that last group, Director Nayamin Martinez worried about the health of his community: “California’s Central Valley already suffers from some of the worst air and water quality in the state, and the decision allowing leases for oil extraction in public lands would be catastrophic for our region and especially for the health of our communities.” He said that monitoring by his group near oil and gas facilities, pumps, and storage tanks shows the surrounding community is constantly exposed to “benzene and other VOCs that are carcinogenic.”

Junk science is used by socialists to kill the economy.  Glad we have President Trump, using real science and common sense.  Why do Democrats hate hard working Americans?

State and Enviros Take on Federal Oil Leases

Attorney General and Eight Groups File Separate Lawsuits Against Newly Opened Drilling and Fracking Lands

By Jean Yamamura, Santa Barbara Independent,  1/20/20  

The air quality in Kern County already fails to meet California standards, but Kern and seven other counties, including Santa Barbara, now have a total of more than a million acres of federal lands open to bid for oil and gas extraction as of mid-December. Kern also fails to meet federal environmental standards, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday morning while announcing a lawsuit to end the oil lease sales, the state’s latest fight against Trump administration actions. Earlier this week, Los Padres ForestWatch and seven other environmental organizations filed a similar suit against the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Oil and gas operations produce methane, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and other toxic constituents of air pollution that increase rates of asthma, heart and lung diseases, and cancer, the state pronounced in a press release. “The risks to both people and the environment associated with fracking are simply too high to ignore,” Becerra said at Friday’s press conference. “But that’s essentially what BLM is doing. We won’t ignore the facts and science when it comes to protecting our people, economy, and environment — and we’re taking the Trump Administration to court to prove it.”

In the BLM’s environmental analysis of the oil and gas lands proposal, only four wells were estimated to use fracking per year, Becerra’s office noted, “grossly distorting its consideration of environmental impacts.” Fracking uses toxic chemicals that can pollute groundwater and the air, Becerra said, which are known to lead to small earthquakes, land subsidence, and harm to species. The environmental organizations filing the parallel lawsuit cited a 2015 study that concluded that fracked wells in California are unusually shallow, bringing them closer to groundwater.

“Gov. [Gavin] Newsom just announced curbs on oil drilling, but BLM is charging full speed ahead with it,” said Ann Alexander of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the environmental plaintiffs in the parallel action. “California is trying to find a way to rationally address its limited water supply, and now BLM is greenlighting activities that can contaminate it with toxic chemicals. This federal war on California really needs to stop,” she said. The plaintiffs also include Patagonia Works, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Central California Environmental Justice Network.

From that last group, Director Nayamin Martinez worried about the health of his community: “California’s Central Valley already suffers from some of the worst air and water quality in the state, and the decision allowing leases for oil extraction in public lands would be catastrophic for our region and especially for the health of our communities.” He said that monitoring by his group near oil and gas facilities, pumps, and storage tanks shows the surrounding community is constantly exposed to “benzene and other VOCs that are carcinogenic.”

The San Joaquin Valley, and Kern County in particular, contains more than 95 percent of the federal drilling in California, Becerra’s office said. Along the coast in Santa Barbara County, areas near Jalama Beach, Lake Cachuma, and Cate School are up for lease, options opposed by county officials.

Becerra further noted that the feds’ decision interferes with California’s goal to zero-out carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2045. Together with Governor Newsom, the state air and water quality agencies, and Fish and Wildlife, Becerra’s lawsuit asks the Central District Court to set aside the decision to allow the land leases. The counties affected are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.