Legitimate Lawsuit Against Trump? Or Political Posturing?

donald-trump-2The big news last week was the lawsuit filed by California and 15 other states challenging President Trump’s declaration of an emergency related to border security and the building of a physical barrier on the southern border. The reaction was a great deal of political hyperventilating from both sides of the political spectrum.

So, after everyone has taken a breath, what should rational taxpayers think about this lawsuit and the dozens of other lawsuits filed by California against the Trump administration?

Let’s stipulate that there are times when litigation is appropriate between states and the federal government. The United States is a constitutional republic with a political structure based on federalism. Brilliantly, our founding fathers (with some intellectual help from our founding mothers, no doubt) devised a system of divided government. Not only was the federal power divided into three branches, but substantial political power was reserved to the states via the Tenth Amendment.

Controversies between the federal government and the states have been bitter and, when one considers the Civil War, they’ve been violent as well. Fortunately, modern disputes between the federal government and the states involve lawyers, not bullets.

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Trump Administration Demands California Pay Back Over $2 Billion for Bullet Train

High Speed Rail FresnoThe Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is exploring “every legal option” to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds spent by California on its now-defunct high-speed rail project, and also that it intends to cancel $928 million in federal grants not yet paid for the project to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The move was a dramatic escalation in the ongoing war of words and policy between California and the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared during his State of the State address last week that he was shelving plans for the $77 billion rail project that had been championed by environmental groups, admitting that “as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too long.”

In response to the Trump administration’s legal threat Tuesday, Newsom vowed that he would not sit “idly by” as the White House engaged in what he called “political retribution” against California. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Trump demands $3.5 billion back from ‘disaster’ high-speed rail project

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is demanding California return billions of dollars to the federal government following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to scale down the state’s costly high-speed rail project.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called the project a “’green disaster.’”

California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump added. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now.”

Newsom at his State of the State Address on Tuesday put the brakes on the $77 billion high speed project, an endeavor that voters authorized at the ballot box in 2008 with a plan to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News

Trump threatens to permanently close border if needed

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is seizing on an attempt by 500 migrants to rush the southern border to use immigration as an issue to bolster his presidency at a critical political moment.

Trump spent weeks ahead of the midterm elections warning that the United States was about to experience an invasion from a migrant caravan trekking north across Mexico, and sent troops to the border in what critics branded a political stunt.

He seized on unrest at the frontier on Sunday to hike pressure on Mexico and to squeeze his political opponents in Washington as he demands financing for his border wall in a looming government funding showdown.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump tweeted early Monday morning. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox 5 San Diego

San Francisco leaders hate Trump enough they voted to limit the city’s water rather than do this

Delta TunnelsFor months, San Francisco, a hotbed of anti-Donald Trump sentiment, has found itself in the awkward position of being aligned with his administration over California water policy.

On Tuesday, the city’s leaders said the alliance was unbearable.

In an 11-0 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors agreed in a resolution to support the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to leave more water in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to benefit struggling fish populations. The supervisors’ vote is subject to veto by Mayor London Breed, although the board could override the veto.

The vote splits the city from the Trump administration and instead moves its support to a state plan that its utilities commission warns could lead to severe drinking water shortages for its nearly 884,000 residents. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Trump memo orders Central Valley water changes

RB DroughtThe Trump administration has launched a bold effort to up-end water policies in the Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, calling for big changes that would favor farmers over endangered species in allocating water.

Helping craft the administration’s new approach: Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lawyer and lobbyist for the Westlands Water District, which is the nation’s largest agricultural water district with 600,000 acres of farmland in Fresno and Kings counties.

As CalWatchdog reported in June 2017, the prospect of having Bernhardt overseeing the federal government’s California water policies was opposed by nearly all Democrats in Congress because of his history. Meanwhile, to GOP lawmakers from the Golden State, his nomination was seen as confirmation of Trump’s 2016 campaign promises to abandon the old status quo involving Central Valley agriculture.

The Oct. 19 memo signed by Trump reflected Bernhardt’s years of calling for lesser regulatory burdens, specifically including long-lived protections for endangered species. It underlined the determination of the Trump administration to make sure farmers got more water. The memo also ordered that major water projects receive faster environmental reviews.

Trump signed the memo before a campaign rally in Arizona while flanked by three California House members – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Jeff Denham of Turlock and Tom McClintock, who represents a wide swath of Central and Eastern California. All have denounced what they see as excessive federal deference to environmentalists – including by the George W. Bush administration, not just the Obama administration.

“This will move things along at a record clip, and you’ll have a lot of water,” Trump assured them.

But veterans of the water wars – including those who back Trump’s new policy – have warned farmers not to get their hopes up for the rapid changes the president predicted. More modest changes in policies by the last Bush administration were fought in both federal and state courts by well-funded environmental law firms. They won not just stays of federal orders but full victories from judges who agreed with their interpretation of Congress’ intent when it adopted far-reaching water laws last century.

Fight over economic impact of rules looms

Bernhardt’s remarks at a May 2017 Senate hearing point squarely to one coming fight with broad implications for all of the federal government. When asked whether the Interior Department would keep its commitment to “scientific integrity” in enforcing federal laws, Bernhardt said, “I will look at the science with all its significance and its warts. You look at that, you evaluate it and then you look at the legal decision you can make. In some instances the legal decision may allow you to consider other factors, such as jobs.”

The idea that governments can consider such economic factors when interpreting laws has been one of the favorite legal arguments of conservative and libertarian law professors since it was advanced in 1973 by Richard A. Posner, who went on to serve 36 years as a federal appellate judge and to emerge as one of the most important and provocative legal thinkers of the 20th century.

If there is any evidence this philosophy is leading to new Trump administration interpretations of federal laws, a strong legal challenge is certain – not just because of what it would mean for water policy but because it would give business interests a powerful new tool to challenge a wide range of laws that create economic burdens.

Posner’s most crucial, basic claim – that the “common law” that is the basis of the legal system holds efficiency as a value – is scoffed at by many legal academics. A Stanford law school analysis that was otherwise sympathetic to Posner’s theories says it is based on “ambiguous” precedents.

The fight over the Posner-Bernhardt view of the law is in some ways the reverse of normal fights over the extent of judicial authority. Democrats say the claim that “efficiency” is part of how laws should be interpreted was invented out of whole cloth, with no evidence it reflected the wishes of the nation’s founders.

This is the line of argument often made by conservative strict constructionists, who reject the idea that the Constitution and other long-standing laws are “living documents” subject to new interpretations because of changing circumstances.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California’s War Against Trump Costs the State Millions

xavier-becerraThe ongoing war between California state officials and the Trump administration is costing the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars, data from the California Department of Justice indicates.

Since President Trump took office in January 2017, California has filed 44 lawsuits against the administration, while the federal government has filed three against California. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state’s tab for legal fees has been more than $9 million – up from nearly $3 million the previous year, the Sacramento Bee reported.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, has downplayed the costs involved in the California vs. Trump war, pointing out that it amounts to less than 1 percent of the state Department of Justice’s $894 million annual budget. He said the costs were a small price to pay to fight federal overreach.

“When you put into perspective that less than one percent of our budget is going to defend our people, our values and our resources, I think most people would say ‘Don’t stop,’” Becerra said. “[A]ny one of those items … would dwarf what we’d have to spend for all the litigation efforts that we’ve undertaken to defend the state of California against the federal government’s intrusion. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Making the DMV Audit a Reality

dmv

Motorists across the state have had to wait in hours-long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register their vehicle or license renewal. Some have spent an entire day waiting in line. Upset drivers have flooded my office with calls and emails.

To make matters worse, DMV personnel mangled 23,000 voter registrations. How did this happen?

In 2015, Democrats passed the Motor Voter Law, directing the DMV to automatically register new voters, unless they choose to opt out. State Senate Republicans warned that this would be problematic. At the time, my colleagues and I expressed our concerns of adding to an already overburdened workload at the DMV. Furthermore, the DMV is the wrong venue to register new voters since this is not the agency’s area of expertise.

Three years later, we learn that tens of thousands of Californians have been registered to vote even though they did not want to be registered. The DMV also made “mistakes” that assigned some voters a different political party preference than the one they chose. We sincerely hope this was not a case of voter fraud.

Once again, the DMV is the state agency that just can’t get it right. It already has been criticized by the public for long wait times, which it blames on an antiquated computer system and the federal REAL ID law – passed in 2005 and set to be implemented by 2020.

Before the legislative session concluded in August, a group of Assembly Republicans called for an audit of the DMV. At the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit hearing, DMV Director Jean Shiomoto apologized for the long wait times, asked for more money and reassured lawmakers that the problem would be corrected by the end of the year. The request for an audit failed after some Democrats did not vote for it.

The public has lost confidence in the DMV.

It has mishandled its core mission, along with a long list of problems including the erroneous registration of voter affidavits. Something needs to be done to regain that trust. The best way to do so is for the DMV to undergo a nonpartisan audit, which would reveal the extent of its problems and suggest recommendations for fixing them.

Enough excuses. Let’s audit the DMV now.

California State Senate.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Silicon Valley’s Political Perils

FacebookLast week’s news underscored growing concerns over the politicization of tech companies. With his inimitable style, President Trump claimed on Twitter that Google shows political bias by skewing the news found in online searches. Relatedly, a group of some 100 conservative-leaning Facebook employees formed an online community to escape the strictures of a “political monoculture” and provide themselves a “safe” place for “ideological diversity” among their 25,000 co-workers.

It’s a truism that Silicon Valley leans left, but the average tech millionaire is not easy to pigeonhole ideologically. A revealing, if little-noted, 2017 study from Stanford University compared more than 600 “elite technology company leaders and founders,” 80 percent of them millionaires, with more than “1,100 elite partisan donors” of both political persuasions. The distinctions are revelatory for anyone interested in mapping the future of American politics. “Increasingly, technology entrepreneurs are using their personal wealth and firms’ power to exercise political influence,” the survey’s authors observe. “For example, recent federal candidates have referred to Silicon Valley as a ‘political ATM’.” The study found that 80 percent of tech millionaires overwhelmingly donate to Democrats over Republicans; hardly a surprising finding.

But the key reveal of the Stanford analysis is not about party alignment in donations: it’s in what can only be called a kind of political schizophrenia around the core ideologies associated with each party. On one hand, the study showed that Silicon Valley’s titans are firmly aligned with Democrats on social issues, what the survey calls “liberal redistributive, social, and globalistic policies.”  But on the other hand, the survey shows that the ideologies—if not the financial support—of tech millionaires solidly align with Republicans on issues relating to the regulatory environment, specifically around such topics as drones, data storage, self-driving cars, and employee policies.

This ideological rift prompted the Stanford researchers to conclude that tech’s business elites are donating politically against their “self-interest.” For analysts and political operatives, the question is whether that’s an immutable or malleable political reality. After all, it’s not just Republicans like President Trump attacking Silicon Valley; Senator Bernie Sanders, the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, is one of many in that caucus taking on the tech giants on “fairness” issues surrounding income inequality in general and Amazon CEO’s Jeff Bezos’s uber-wealth in particular.

It’s risky for companies to become identified with a specific political orientation. The recent evidence of a political tilt at numerous Silicon Valley firms—or at least among their leaders—has ignited controversy, not just in Washington but also in the tech community itself. At least one Valley executive worries that “political correctness” could hurt innovation, the mother’s milk of the tech sector. Google’s firing of engineer James Damore for raising questions about gender differences on an internal discussion board showed the willingness of tech companies to police political expression.

There is a real existential risk for tech companies to be found in the historical propensity of governments to declare new tech enterprises, especially new means of communication, as inherently monopolistic—and thus inherently unfair. Back in 1949, on the theory that radio broadcast companies had monopolistic control of that medium, Congress ordered broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” The Fairness Doctrine would survive for nearly four decades, before it was revoked in 1987.

Some Democrats sought to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine a decade or so ago, in response to the rise of talk radio, which became overwhelmingly conservative after 1987. Now, some Republicans (and Democrats, too) are looking again at the notion of “fairness” in the context of the dominant market share enjoyed by the likes of Facebook or Google. Google’s global share of “search” has reached 90percent, and Senator Orrin Hatch has already sent a letter to the FTC to request an investigation of anti-competitive practices at the company.

When it comes to issues surrounding access to accurate and “fair” news and information in particular, the challenging question is whether anyone can easily see if there is (or isn’t) an algorithmic finger on the scale of fairness. In the history of the news business, this is an unprecedented concern. The designers and coders of the algorithms respond that the Web’s interstices are arcane and not easy for the layman to understand. In effect, the experts are saying: it’s complicated, so trust us. From a technical perspective, it would indeed be difficult to come up with a “user interface” that provided credible transparency about how news and information are curated or accessed on Web platforms. But one could have said the same thing, circa 1990, about converting the Arpanet’s technically arcane TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) into a Web system so simple that preschool children can use it now.

As Steve Jobs famously said two decades ago, “simple can be harder than complex.” But conquering complexity used to be what animated Silicon Valley. That is, in fact, how Google got started. It’s time to revive that zeitgeist, and make the power of news on the Internet not just easy to use, but easy to trust.

Kaepernick ads spark Nike boycott campaign

Nike Just do it KaepernickProtesters burned their Nike shoes, investors sold shares and some consumers demanded a boycott after the footwear and apparel maker launched an advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who sparked a national controversy by kneeling during the national anthem.

But the brand recognition that comes with the campaign may be just what the company wanted, and marketing experts predicted it would ultimately succeed.

The ad revived a raging debate in the United States that started in 2016 when Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest multiple police shootings of unarmed black men.

While some fans praised Kaepernick and other players who joined him in kneeling as patriotic dissenters, critics led by U.S. President Donald Trump blasted the protesters as ungrateful and disrespectful. …

Click here to read the full article from Reuters