San Francisco supes uphold flavored tobacco ban

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

In a cutting speech Tuesday, Supervisor Malia Cohen urged her colleagues to stand behind the flavored tobacco ban they passed unanimously in June and not be swayed by a petition sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — a company she called “a notorious killer.”

It was the dramatic high point of the board’s first meeting after the summer recess, during which the supervisors also passed laws to create an Office of Cannabis and to cap the number of marijuana dispensaries in Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s District 11 to three.

The board voted to keep its ban on selling e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and fruit- and candy-tinctured tobacco products. The petition received 34,000 certified signatures — well over the 19,040 required to put the matter to voters. Since the supervisors refused to repeal their ordinance, it automatically goes to the June ballot.

Also on Tuesday, Safai introduced an ordinance, co-sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee, to set up an assistance fund for tenants forced to leave buildings because of hazardous conditions. He said it was prompted by a horrifying discovery Fire Department officials made in January, when they walked into the cramped basement of a laundry in the Excelsior and found about two dozen people living there. …

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Freedom flourishes in San Francisco — if you can afford the rent.

San Francisco, CA, USASan Francisco, that most forward-looking of cities, has looked backward this summer. Half a century after an estimated 100,000 young Americans descended on the 20 blocks surrounding the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets to “tune in, turn on, and drop out,” the city has commemorated the birth of America’s counterculture. A frenzy of nostalgia—exhibitions, concerts, conferences, lectures, installations, street fairs, walking and “magical mystery” bus tours—has celebrated all things “hippie.” More than 50 of San Francisco’s best-known institutions — the California Historical Society, de Young Fine Arts Museum, University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University, San Francisco’s ballet and opera companies, dozens of art galleries, and private merchants — paid tribute to 1967’s Summer of Love, iconic shorthand for a decade that not only shattered the city’s and the nation’s cultural and political norms but also gave birth to a countermovement that elected Ronald Reagan as California’s governor—and, in 1981, the nation’s president. In 1966, Reagan ran explicitly against student activism in Berkeley, which was then merging with the growing youth movement across the bay in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to create the hippie counterculture.

California’s political schizophrenia, an enduring hallmark of the state’s politics, may have predated that fateful summer, argues Adam Hirschfelder, director of strategic initiatives for the California Historical Society, but it was “deeply exacerbated by the 1960s counterculture.” It is an irony not lost on some sponsors of these myriad anniversary “happenings” that, while San Francisco has been celebrating the youth culture that evolved into “San Francisco values” — left-wing or rigidly liberal politics, social tolerance, gender and sexual freedom, a shared sense of community, concern about the planet’s inherent fragility, and an embrace of change — President Donald Trump was marking a half-year in the White House by proclaiming in tweets and speeches the triumph of his own unorthodox, nostalgic political upheaval, one aimed at making America “great” again.

Today, San Francisco is better known as the home of another kind of revolution — that of high tech and Silicon Valley, which, by some accounts, owes much to the ideas and institutions that emerged during that fateful summer 50 years ago. It’s no accident, many argue, that the Bay Area became high tech’s geographic and spiritual global headquarters. Information, too, wants to be “free.”

By now, the information revolution has long since overrun the countercultural revolution, at least economically. Well-heeled techies have displaced latter-day hippies, says Stannous Fluoride, a wry, well-informed guide for Flower Power Walking Tours in the Haight. He spoke with me while guiding tourists along the Haight’s tree-lined streets and elegant late-Victorian houses, the so-called Painted Ladies, where Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane—and, yes, the mass murderer Charles Manson and Jonestown’s infamous Reverend Jim Jones—once lived or hung out. “What helped make the counterculture possible was cheap rent,” he says. But since 1987, San Francisco’s median home price has exceeded New York’s, and for years, the city has had the dubious distinction of being the nation’s most expensive; it appeared last year on the Guardiannewspaper’s list of the world’s ten costliest places to live. The older, avant-garde Beats and, later, the teenage hippies who flocked here could not have afforded to live in the city today. The musicians who combined elements of jazz, blues, folk, and rock and roll at the Fillmore West and the Avalon Ballroom to produce a quintessentially American sound would not be able to pay the rates at even a decrepit recording studio today, much less the run-down house at 710 Ashbury Street once shared by San Francisco–born Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead, the band that embodied the counterculture spirit.

Heroin, opioids, and crime are on the rise again in Fog City. Homelessness has again become a plague, and not only in the Haight. Billionaires step over sleeping bags and dodge dog feces on sidewalks to enter some of the nation’s most expensive restaurants. A city with more dogs than children, San Francisco has become, like New York, a city of extremes of wealth and poverty, with too few of the middle-class adults upon whom urban cultural and economic vibrancy ultimately depend.

According to Salon founder David Talbot, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist and author of Season of the Witch, a sweeping chronicle of the counterculture, “San Francisco values” did not “come into the world with flowers in their hair,” he wrote. “They were born howling in blood and strife.” As his book and the most forthright of the commemorations make clear, San Francisco endured years of “frantic and often violent conflict” after that much celebrated summer of ’67—the political assassinations of a mayor and the first openly gay member of the city’s Board of Supervisors, bombings, riots, kidnappings, serial race murders, antigay street mayhem, the biggest mass suicide in history in Jonestown, and a panic-inducing AIDS epidemic—before the city finally “made peace with itself and its new identity.”

Still, as Talbot argues, the counterculture could have been born only in this city of outcasts. Despite its modern-day obsession with astrology and all things spiritual, San Francisco, or Yerba Buena, as it was initially known, has always been unapologetically ribald, eccentric, and moneygrubbing. While most of America’s eastern cities were founded by God-fearing Puritans seeking freedom to practice their faith and form communities of decorum, the men who came to the Bay Area were schemers and dreamers, attracted by the lure of gold, copper, and silver, or by the opportunity to sell life’s essentials to those hoping to acquire them. (See “California Emerges,” Winter 2015.) By 1866, Talbot reports, the city had 31 saloons for every place of worship. Even the great earthquake of 1906, which some evangelical preachers considered God’s verdict on “Sodom Francisco,” failed to dampen the raucous, bar- and burlesque-filled energy and profits generated by the Barbary Coast. William A. Kelley, a visitor in the early 1990s, described San Francisco as a city of “precocious depravity.”

By the 1930s, however, the city’s more staid, God-fearing Irish—and later, Italian-Catholic families—had solidified their political control and imposed a new, unaccustomed order. San Francisco’s upper class had long been at least half-Catholic, a distinction among American cities shared only by Baltimore and New Orleans, notes Michael Anton, a native San Franciscan and critic of the city and its culture. The Catholic Church’s influence permeated key institutions, particularly city hall and the San Francisco police department. Cops routinely rounded up gays and lesbians in midnight raids. At the same time, the radical longshoremen’s union and the Democratic Party became embedded in the city’s political DNA.

But San Francisco’s inherent rowdiness could not be suppressed forever. It erupted once again in the mid-1950s, says historian Dennis McNally, when poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Press (founder of the eponymous bookstore) published Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” warning that America was becoming a soulless monster of consumerism and conformity. “Howl” “lit a fuse and defined a mass of disaffected proto-artists who didn’t buy into mainstream values,” McNally wrote in an essay for the de Young museum’s catalog of its April-August exhibition Summer of Love, Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll, a display of some 300 rare and familiar concert posters, photos, films, interactive music-and-light shows, and the embroidered denim jeans and loose-fitting shirts and dresses that forever changed how young Americans, especially young women, dressed. Arrested and charged with obscenity for selling Ginsberg’s poem, Ferlinghetti and the clerk who had sold the book to an undercover cop stood trial. Their acquittal in October 1957 was a pivotal free-speech victory that helped fuel the 1964 Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. Another precursor of the coming upheaval came in 1960, when protesters ran the House Un-American Activities Committee out of San Francisco after it tried holding hearings in the city. In 1965, psychedelic proselytizers Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary, along with members of the Grateful Dead, began hosting “acid parties,” at which LSD and other mind-bending drugs spiked communal punch bowls and were distributed to runaways for free.

Many historians date the unofficial birth of the Summer of Love to the winter of 1967—specifically, to January 14, 1967, when tens of thousands of “freaks,” as hippies then called themselves, gathered in Golden Gate Park for a “Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In.” For a full day, they ate, chanted, sang, and listened to rock bands, poems by Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Michael McClure, and speeches by Timothy Leary, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (the “primary apostle for Zen Buddhism in America,” as McNally calls him), and Berkeley radicals like Jerry Rubin. At day’s end, audience members picked up the trash, leaving the park spotless, to the amazement of police. The media took note, finding in the gatherings in and near the Haight a sharp counterpoint to the bloodshed of the Vietnam War. Hippie culture made the cover of Time. John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas wrote a song encouraging people to attend the Monterey International Pop Festival in June wearing “flowers in your hair.” To ensure that they did, the festival flew in 10,000 flowers from Hawaii.

As legions of teenagers eagerly anticipating summer break made plans to travel to San Francisco, city government looked at the impending human flood with indifference. Meetings between Haight merchants seeking help from the mayor and city officials came to naught. The Haight would have to fend for itself. The “Diggers,” political provocateurs and members of a former mime troupe, provided volunteer services for the youth pouring in to the city—free food and clothing, “feed-ins” near City Hall, and a parade to celebrate “the death of money.” The Diggers sought to “liberate San Francisco’s consciousness” by arguing that food, shelter, health care, and even entertainment were not commodities but fundamental human rights. Their posters and street manifestos were the most “passionate expressions of what would later be called San Francisco values,” McNally wrote.

To rescue teenage runaways from being swept up in police dragnets, activist lawyers formed the Haight-Ashbury Legal Organization, or HALO, funded by the Grateful Dead and other bands’ benefit concerts. In 1967, Huckleberry House, the nation’s first alternative shelter for runaways, opened its doors. That same year, Robert Conrich, a physician and LSD enthusiast, launched the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, which proclaimed: “Health care is a right, not a privilege,” according to Talbot. Kids freaking out during bad acid trips or bouts of suicidal depression filled the clinic’s “calm center,” where they received care from volunteer staff.

But these efforts were soon overwhelmed by the tens of thousands who flocked to the city that summer. Hard-drug merchants began replacing the dispensers of marijuana and LSD-spiked punch. The neighborhood’s fragile infrastructure crumbled under the weight of too many homeless people and too few city services, rendering the Summer of Love a “slightly cruel joke,” McNally observed. “By Labor Day, the Haight was a tourist carnival nightmare. By 1968, Haight Street would be inhabited by children shooting methedrine and heroin. The magic died hard.” Crime had doubled in the neighborhood by 1976.

Keepers of the counterculture flame note that some of what emerged from the Haight—especially what McNally calls a “Thoreauvian respect for the environment”—would eventually become mainstream beliefs. Many of the radical or fun-seeking counterculture pioneers may have left the Haight after the Diggers staged a “death of the Hippie” procession in October 1967, but they took their alternative ideas and lifestyles back home with them. Others went on to found communes and alternative communities elsewhere. Some activists would launch successful ventures—Stewart Brand, for instance, the army veteran who spent time on Ken Kesey’s bus, started the Whole Earth Catalog, which linked the counterculture to the digital future. “Counterculture values would be a significant part of the subsequent growth of Silicon Valley as the nation’s new technological center,” McNally wrote. “If you meditate in some fashion, or eat organic food, or do yoga, or support gay marriage, or are concerned about the environment and the survival of the planet, you are still swimming in the currents that picked up such a froth here in the 1960s.”

Others scoff at these ostensible achievements. San Francisco’s hedonist narcissism distracts from the huge challenges that the city now confronts—among them, scarce, overpriced housing and staggering income inequality. The top 1 percent of households in San Francisco’s metropolitan area earned $3.6 million on average in 2013, according to one report—44 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent. And San Francisco’s 1 percent, the Bay Area’s new gilded class, demands ever more from a city to which it gives relatively little philanthropically. Fund-raisers for impoverished children in South Sudan and to protect the Amazon are oversubscribed, while the city’s excellent opera company and ballet struggle financially.

It is San Francisco’s smug self-satisfaction that so enrages critics like Michael Anton, the San Francisco native who now works for the Trump White House in national-security communications. In a blistering 2015 critique in the Claremont Review of Books, Anton asserted that “San Francisco values” had come to reflect little more than a “confluence of hippie leftism and filthy lucre,” a marriage of convenience between “old-time materialism and hippie ‘morality.’ ” What kept the Summer of Love veneer going for so long, he asserted, is the implicit deal between the high-tech oligarchs and the hippie rank-and-file. “The latter not only decline to use their considerable propaganda skills to vilify the former, but cheerfully glorify and whitewash them,” he wrote. “The oligarchs in turn subsidize the lefties through nonprofits and make-work jobs” and, more important, “take their cues from them on matters of politics not directly contrary to their economic interests.” Both groups benefit from what he called this “socio-intellectual money laundering.” The resulting policies have done little to create opportunities for an aspiring middle class that is neither elite nor bohemian.

Anton is not wrong about the less savory aspects of the counterculture. A notable omission in the city’s much touted tradition of “tolerance,” for instance, is that it rarely extends to politics. There is no welcome mat out for Republicans, especially conservatives. Student mobs at Berkeley boast about preventing conservative scholars from speaking on campus. Socially liberal but fiscally conservative activists like David Crane, who worked as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finance director, struggle to raise funds for candidates willing to question the pension burdens being imposed on future generations by San Francisco liberals in the name of “workers’ rights.” Several Republican city residents confided that they would never display a Trump/Pence sticker on their car or home window for fear of vandalism.

Nor have many counterculture enthusiasts noted the irony of the use of the Summer of Love as yet another marketing tool for tourism, now a key industry for San Francisco. The San Francisco Travel Association predicts that some 25.6 million tourists will visit the city in 2017 and spend roughly $9.22 billion. Museums and other commemoration sponsors say that attendance is strong. “People throughout the world still care about what happened here when the counterculture was vibrant and organic,” said Hirschfelder of the California Historical Society, whose superb exhibition was curated by McNally.

McNally concedes that some of the commemorations have been “silly and trivializing.” The Summer of Love “wasn’t about love-ins and long hair,” he said. “It was about a movement and a generation that changed this city, the nation, and the world. It was about a serious challenge to the status quo. And that,” he said, “is always to be honored.” Or, at least, remembered.

Berkeley mayor asks Cal to cancel right-wing Free Speech Week

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

In the aftermath of a right-wing rally Sunday that ended with anarchists chasing attendees from a downtown park, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin urged UC Berkeley on Monday to cancel conservatives’ plans for a Free Speech Week next month to avoid making the city the center of more violent unrest.

“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin, whose city has been the site of several showdowns this year between, on the one hand, the left and its fringe anarchist wing, and on the other, supporters of President Trump who at times have included white nationalists.

“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem,” Arreguin said. “It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.”

The mayor wants UC Berkeley to halt plans by a conservative campus group, the Berkeley Patriot, to host right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. Berkeley’s right-vs.-left cage matches began with an appearance that Yiannopoulos was to have made in February at a campus hall, an event that was aborted when black-clad anarchists like those who broke up Sunday’s downtown rally stormed into Sproul Plaza, smashed windows and set bonfires. …

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California Democrat Proposes ‘Robot Tax’ to Protect Workers

HANOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 20: The robot "Nao" performs Tai Chi at the IBM stand at the CeBIT 2017 Technology Trade Fair on March 20, 2017 in Hanover, Germany. "Nao" has a face detection and can either play football, teach Tai Chi or just entertain. The 2017 CeBIT will run from March 20-24. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

HANOVER, GERMANY – MARCH 20: The robot “Nao” performs Tai Chi at the IBM stand at the CeBIT 2017 Technology Trade Fair on March 20, 2017 in Hanover, Germany. “Nao” has a face detection and can either play football, teach Tai Chi or just entertain. The 2017 CeBIT will run from March 20-24. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

California could soon be the first U.S. state to impose a “robot tax” to mitigate the economic effects of the replacement of factory workers by machines — if one San Francisco Democrat gets her way.

According to Wired magazine:

San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim, who Wednesday launched a campaign called the Jobs of the Future Fund to study a statewide “payroll” tax on job-stealing machines. Proceeds from the tax would bankroll things like job retraining, free community college, or perhaps a universal basic income―countermeasures Kim thinks might make a robotic future more bearable for humans.

The idea is being discussed in industrialized countries the world over, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to outpace human development in the workplace.

According to Swiss Info, an online European business publication, the idea is gaining traction across the globe: “South Korea this month introduced the world’s first tax on robots amid fears that machines would replace human workers. The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.” The report notes that the European Union is also looking at the issue.

YCombinator start-up guru Sam Altman has been experimenting with the idea of a universal income grant to offset displacement caused by AI. The idea has spread throughout Silicon Valley and is beginning to take root across the country, according to Bloomberg News.

Kim is not ready to push Sacramento for a new law yet.  For now, she’s pushing for an open dialogue with all stakeholders including business owners, tech experts, as well as government and union leaders.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Mandatory composting? Gavin Newsom isn’t shying away from his liberal record

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor running to succeed Jerry Brown, was nearly an hour into his town hall meeting late Wednesday when someone asked about protecting the planet.

“I was the guy who brought you the plastic bag ban in San Francisco,” the former mayor told the graying Roseville audience gathered in a community center 100 miles outside his progressive city.

“You thought gay marriage was controversial,” Newsom added to sustained laughter, “we required composting in San Francisco. That was controversial. They had garbage police out there checking in my cans to make sure the egg shells were in the appropriate bin.”

In the foothills of the Sierra, and at a stop last week in Salida, just outside of Modesto, the Democratic frontrunner whose national profile was born out of his decision to distribute the marriage licenses to same-sex couples offered the clearest indication yet that the tenets of his gubernatorial campaign are rooted in his liberal record. …

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Here’s what San Francisco’s highest-paid workers make

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

The City of San Francisco employed 39,634 people in 2016 (including part-time and construction workers), and the total spent on their salaries and benefits in 2016 was $4,262,344,675, according to the Office of the Controller.

That’s about the same amount as the budget for the state of Delaware, which has a population of 945,000 (100,000 more than San Francisco’s).

Salaries have increased 18.5 percent since 2012, and benefits have gone up 18.6 percent.

A deal announced by Supervisor Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee today will make San Francisco the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents.

The average salary (excluding benefits) per city employee is $83,227.14. A recent study found you need an estimated $110,357 salary to live comfortably in San Francisco. …

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San Francisco’s ban on menthol cigarettes is liberalism at its worst

ICigarettesn San Francisco, megalomaniacal tech millionaires gorge themselves on exorbitantly priced plates of nettle fazzoletti while thousands of people live in unimaginable squalor. If you are interested in dropping some coin to attend a live performance of something called Public Disgrace, featuring “sex between male dominant and female submissive; domination by female and male dom; secure bondage, gags, hoods, fondling, flogging, and forced orgasms with vibrators,” the City by the Bay has you covered.

If, on the other hand, you are one of the city’s lucky homeless, yuppie public health fanatics might graciously allow you the privilege of soiling yourself in public without the risk of a jail sentence.

But as of next April, it will be illegal to purchase menthol cigarettes in San Francisco.

For the knowledge workers indulging in “burgundy-braised lamb cupcakes with beet-whipped mashed potato frosting and chive sprinkles,” this arbitrary and capricious prohibition of a substance that offers less rarefied pleasure to thousands of their fellow citizens will not seem like much of a setback. Nor will they find fault with the reasoning of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that menthols are “starter products” that are “typically marketed to vulnerable populations including children and young adults, African Americans, and LGBTQ people.” I mean, like, seriously.

How many of these cauliflower popcorn-eaters and consensual BDSM aficionados have ever taken a big drag from a Newport Menthol 100? The assumption that African-Americans enjoy menthol cigarettes because they are the hapless dupes of Big Tobacco is the sort of risible condescension characteristic of liberalism at its worst.

It never occurs to me the 30 or so times a day when I put another tube of brown leaves in my mouth and flick my lighter to say, “Man, this is so good for my health.” But the fact that cigarettes are bad is not exactly occult knowledge. Millions of us smoke anyway and will never quit, San Francisco do-gooders be damned.

Has it ever occurred to self-satisfied liberals that some people smoke menthols, or any other kind of cigarette, because they find it enjoyable, the same way that some of their fellows get a kick out of watching women being contractually beaten and spat upon, albeit without the consequences to their immortal souls?

I also find it impossible to make sense of the city’s argument that the “financial cost to San Francisco in direct health-care expenses and lost productivity from tobacco use is estimated at around $380 million a year.” Never mind the rune-casting arithmancy involved in assuming that every person who has ever taken so much as a puff of a cigarette and then in the course of his three-score years and ten gone in for a routine physical is costing the city money directly attributable to the existence of the demon leaf. Far more mystifying — indeed mystical — is the notion that it is possible to calculate “lost productivity.” How do they know that people aren’t working harder because they have smoke breaks to keep them going?

But this isn’t only a question of public accounting jujitsu. It is far more sinister and pernicious. To say that smokers can ever ipso facto “cost” their fellow citizens money in “lost productivity” is to claim that they are not human beings made in the image of God but rather specimens of Homo economicus — animate clusters of matter whose telos is contributing to the increase in our per capita gross domestic product. It is the same argument that used to be made by General Motors against line workers who, before the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, were haughty enough to imagine they might be allowed to have conversations at lunch time. People are not economic variables — they are, well, people.

The consequences of the menthol ban are as predictable as they are unfortunate. People will not simply give up their cherished habit, especially when the product in question is available in nearby jurisdictions. Instead, this over-taxed consumable will become an illicit substance, and a black market for menthols will flourish. Is this really a prudent public policy decision at a time when selling loosie cigarettes can get you killed by the police on the opposite coast? This is exactly the point that Al Sharpton argued earlier this year at a series of public forums that banning menthols would only give law enforcement another excuse to lock up minorities.

I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the good reverend here. Banning menthols is class warfare at its ugliest.

This article was originally published by The Week.

The California caste system

Caste system IndiaAfter the Legislature imposed billions of dollars in new car and gas taxes on Californians last month, a friend emailed me to register his disappointment and disgust: “It’s like we live in an apartheid society where the politically powerful live in luxury and laugh at the working people of our state.”

Sadly, his point is accurate. The separation between the ruling class and the rest of Californians is becoming more extreme by the day. So much so, in fact, that California is beginning to resemble a society based on a caste system, meaning a formal structure of social stratification (usually associated with India) deriving from the hereditary division of the population into the highest caste (Brahmins) and various castes below.

California’s high cast Brahmins reside primarily in coastal enclaves including the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara, Malibu and the west side of Los Angeles but they are also numerous in the Silicon Valley and Hollywood. These elites tend to be high income or wealthy and can afford to separate themselves from the trials and tribulations suffered by average citizens. This immunity from “real world” problems allows them to obsess about issues like bathroom access, climate change or the president’s hair. They lack respect or compassion for less fortunate citizens and, if truth be known, they find those outside their caste to be annoying.

And a gas tax? This tax to them is nothing when they can avoid paying it by plugging in their $120,000, taxpayer subsidized Teslas. And if their cars do run on gas, they never even bother to check the price. These are folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Walmart.

Next in the caste hierarchy are the politicians and members of government employee unions. While the Brahmans may help to elect the politicians, as do the unions, this second tier caste is much less secure because they still have to scrounge for financial advantage. The unions — representing the highest compensated state and local workers in all 50 states — are constantly seeking more pay and benefits. And because the politicians are constantly trying to consolidate and expand their influence, they establish a symbiotic relationship with the unions to keep campaign contributions rolling in that guarantee reelection. (Some electeds, who have spent years living off the taxpayers’ dime, genuinely fear they may not be qualified for work in the private sector and so will do almost anything to keep a grip on power.)

These politicians will parrot the concerns of the Brahmins about matters like the environment, but they do not have a committed belief system. They trip all over themselves in their rush to make environmental law exceptions for projects like stadiums that are backed by wealthy interests or unions in a position to secure or advance the politicians’ careers.

The next rank on the scale of who’s who in California are the non-working poor. While the upper classes do not want to rub elbows with them, they are regarded as useful because their votes can be purchased through extensive entitlement programs that are paid for by the very lowest class.

On the very bottom rung of the stature ladder, the equivalent of the Indian’s “Untouchables,” are working Californians, and the lowest of these workers is anyone who labors at a job that requires perspiration — these are regarded as little more than beasts of burden.

When the elites bother to consider members of the working class, they regard them as a source of tax revenue and little more. Ideally, to their way of thinking, they exist to pay taxes and not make waves.

A massive new gas tax adding to the burden of working Californians? Why it is just the price of being able to share a beautiful state and great weather with their social betters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

California Squashes Its Young

MillennialsIn this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies — millennials, minorities and the poor — the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states — even historically poor Mississippi — in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

California is home to 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged” cities, based on poverty and unemployment levels. The population of these cities totals more than 12 million. In his new book on the nation’s urban crisis, author Richard Florida ranks three California metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — among the five most unequal in the nation. California, with housing prices 230 percent above the national average, is home to many of the nation’s most unaffordable urban areas, including not only the predictably expensive large metros but also smaller cities such as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Unsurprisingly, the state’s middle class is disappearing the fastest of any state.

California’s young population is particularly challenged. As we spell out in our new report from Chapman University and the California Association of Realtors, California has the third-lowest percentage of people aged 25 to 34 who own their own homes—only New York and Hawaii’s are lower. In San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the 25-to-34 homeownership rates range from 19.6 percent to 22.6 percent—40 percent or more below the national average.

No big surprise, then, that California’s millennials are more likely to stay at home with Mom and Dad into their thirties. Approximately 47 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 lived with parents or other relatives in 2015, according to the American Community Survey — but in California, the figure is 54 percent. California’s younger generation, particularly in the cities, seems increasingly destined to live as renters.

The biggest losers from California’s housing crisis are, ironically, the very people whom progressives claim to care about most: the poor and minorities, who also constitute most millennials. Hispanics, now approaching a majority of the state’s population, account for 43 percent of the 25-to-34 cohort. Rates of homeownership for African-American and Hispanic Californians have dropped at four times the rate of Asians and non-Hispanic whites in the last 10 years, while minority homeownership in the Golden State now lags most of the country, notably Texas and the southeast.

Much of this can be traced to California’s long-standing bias against suburban development. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions remains an obsession. But unless the rest of the country (or the world) adopts California’s strict emissions rules, the state’s regulations are likely to have little or no impact on climate change. Recently passed legislation will make things worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gases, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030. This represents the ratcheting up of a regulatory regime that will slow California’s already-torpid rate of issuing building permits, which is well below the national average.

California’s housing policies pose a profound long-term threat to the state’s social stability and economic viability. The state has seen a net loss of about 1.7 million domestic migrants since 2000. After slowing during the Great Recession and its aftermath, out-migration is again growing, even in the booming Bay Area. Some 29,000 more people left the Bay Area than arrived in 2016. The San Francisco metropolitan area saw net migration plunge from plus-15,000 in 2013 to minus-12,000 three years later.

Contrary to some reports, the people leaving California are not predominantly poor and uneducated. IRS data show that California’s outmigration between 2013 and 2014 was concentrated among middle-aged people with higher average incomes than households that stayed in California or moved there. This trend contrasts dramatically with Texas, arguably the state’s strongest economic competitor.

Here again, new policies will only make things worse. The Bay Area’s 2040 regional plan calls for concentrating 75 percent of new housing development on barely 5 percent of the region’s developed land mass. One alternative plan assumes that 78 percent of new housing in the Bay Area would be multi-family and 22 percent single-family (detached and attached). The regional Air Quality Agency has drawn up intrusive plans, seeking to levy tolls on all freeways, ban gas stoves, and urge less meat consumption.

Young people overwhelmingly prefer single-family houses, which represent 80 percent of home purchases nationwide for people under 35. If millennials continue their current rate of savings, notes one study, they would need 28 years to qualify for a median-priced house in San Francisco—but only five years in Charlotte and just three in Atlanta. This may be one reason, notes a recent ULI report, why 74 percent of Bay Area millennials are considering moving out in the next five years.

Regional planners and commercial chambers should indeed look to California as a model—of exactly what not to do. The state’s large metro areas are no longer hot growth spots for millennials, who are flocking to suburbs and exurbs elsewhere. Since 2010, the biggest gains in millennial residents have been in low-density, comparatively affordable cities such as Orlando, Austin, and Nashville. Ultimately, the battle for California’s future — and much of Blue America’s — will turn on how these regions meet the challenge of providing housing and opportunities to a new generation of workers and young families. A California that works only for the wealthy and well-established is not sustainable.

America’s “youth culture” was invented, more or less, in California in the 1960s, from the surfing spots of L.A. and Orange County to the countercultural hotbeds of the Bay Area. But today, California is turning on its young, with policies that ensure that most millennials will never fully “launch,” leaving many destined either to move elsewhere or become wards of an ever-expanding welfare state. The Golden State can still create an environment for growth and family formation — but only if it reclaims its historical role as the nation’s beacon of opportunity and youthful enthusiasm.

New Bay Area tobacco bans include non-tobacco products

VapingRestrictive new anti-tobacco ordinances are spreading across the San Francisco Bay Area like a cigarette-sparked wildfire. Northern California cities already have some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the nation, but a raft of new laws and proposals take aim at “flavored” tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and fruity mini-cigars.

Health officials argue that these flavored products are particularly appealing to teens, and that their bans are designed to keep young people from picking up an unquestionably dangerous habit. They also argue that the purveyors of menthol cigarettes, for example, target minority communities, and lead to ongoing health problems there.

The ordinances, however, share one trait that has advocates for tobacco “harm reduction” concerned. They make no distinction between combustible tobacco products – i.e., cigarettes, cigarillos, pipe tobacco and cigars – and smokeless products such as e-cigarettes and snus (Swedish-style spit-less tobacco that one places on one’s upper lip).

Tobacco “harm reduction” is a public health strategy designed to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking by encouraging smokers to switch to far-less dangerous – not safe, but less dangerous – types of tobacco-related products. For instance, Public Health England, the United Kingdom’s main public-health agency, argues that vaping is 95 percent safer than cigarette smoking and therefore is a potentially beneficial alternative to smoking.

“About 40 percent of former and current adult smokers predict that removing their ability to choose flavors would make them less likely to remain abstinent or attempt to quit,” wrote Carrie Wade, the R Street Institute’s director of harm-reduction policy, in a recent Washington Examiner column. “While the vast majority of quit attempts are of the ‘cold turkey’ variety, e-cigarettes beat out both nicotine replacement therapies like the patch or nicotine gum and prescribed drugs like Chantix and Zyban.”

Vape liquids are not actually tobacco but mostly contain nicotine. They almost always are flavored. Many adult e-cigarette users prefer vaping with flavored liquids than vaping with those that have a tobacco flavor. These local bans on flavors, by the way, follow a recent statewide law that taxes vaping liquids at the same rate as cigarettes. The California Board of Equalization is currently working out the details of that taxation edict.

Wade described the essence of tobacco harm-reduction policy: make it easier for smokers to switch to smoking alternatives that cause fewer health-related problems. It might be ideal, health-wise if every smoker simply went “cold turkey,” but that’s not likely to happen, so harm-reduction advocates see vaping as a reasonable alternative. They see efforts to limit access to liquids and to boost taxes on them as policies that work against this harm-reduction approach.

Even California’s official Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee explained, in a public meeting earlier this year, that insufficient numbers of smokers participate in medically approved nicotine-replacement therapies. The committee, however, made no effort to distinguish between degrees of harm, and one member depicted vaping as just another form of smoking. In Bay Area cities and elsewhere, public-health officials argue that vaping is still dangerous – and they argue (despite contrary evidence) that it serves as a gateway for teens to actual smoking.

As a result of the new rules, it will become increasingly difficult for nicotine-addicted northern Californians to purchase and use vaping products. That’s particularly true as neighboring counties and cities embrace similar bans. Supporters of these bans admit that it is one of their goals to have such ordinances spread from one community to another, thus making it more difficult for people to simply go to a neighboring city to grab some vape juice.

Some proposals have become law, such as one in the Marin County city of Novato. Others are under consideration. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is now considering a ban after one of its committees recently approved a new proposal. Likewise, officials in San Francisco and Oakland have also introduced flavor bans.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen’s public statements focus on the sale of mentholated tobacco products. She explains that 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol products. Nevertheless, her proposal includes all flavored tobacco, which includes vaping liquids. Oakland Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, who led a 2016 campaign to increase soda taxes in the city, has introduced a similar measure that includes vapor products in the flavoring ban.

Novato’s ordinance, which goes into effect January 2018, requires that all residential leases in the city include a clause calling it a “material breach of the agreement for tenant or any other person subject to the control of the tenant … to violate any law regulating smoking while anywhere on the property.” In other words, tenants can be evicted from their apartments not only if caught smoking – but if they or their guests are caught vaping.

The Contra Costa County health department justifies its proposal by stating that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and includes various chemicals known to cause cancer and lung problems. But harm-reduction advocates don’t claim that vaping is totally safe, only that it is far safer than cigarette smoking.

Given the political bent of Bay Area cities and counties, it seems likely that most if not all of these proposals will eventually become law. The question remains whether in their zeal to improve the public’s health, these officials are embracing policies that will make actual smoking-related health improvements that much harder to attain.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com