Winning a War of Attrition Against Government Unions

Anyone involved in state or local politics in California soon realizes that government unions are the most powerful special interest in the state. From time to time, as the ride-share behemoths proved in spectacular fashion last November with Proposition 22, corporations will defy the unions on very specific issues. But by and large California’s corporations have entered into a profitable symbiosis with government unions.

Small wonder. California’s state and local government unions collect and spend nearly one billion dollars per year, mostly in the form of dues from workers in the state and local government bureaucracies. The teachers’ unions alone, when you include local chapters and bargaining units representing education service workers, have nearly a half-billion dollars to work with. Every year.

There is not one member of California’s state legislature who is not likely to acknowledge, off the record, that government unions in California exercise almost absolute political power. But they have one Achilles heel, California’s initiative process.

Every two years – it used to be every state election including primaries and special elections, but in 2011 the unions got rid of that privilege – California’s voters have the right to directly approve or reject new laws and new constitutional amendments that can supersede legislation passed by the union-controlled state legislature. Not only can laws and constitutional amendments approved via a state ballot initiative overturn existing law, but the state legislature cannot pass contrary legislation to nullify these initiatives. They can only be nullified by a new, contrary initiative being put before voters in a subsequent election cycle.

Putting an initiative on the ballot is no small task. For example, a constitutional amendment, capable of implementing fundamental political changes in California, will not qualify for the state ballot in November 2022 unless proponents gather not quite 1.0 million signatures from registered voters. To ensure that many signed petitions withstand the validation process, since inevitably there are duplicates and ineligible signatures, at least 1.3 million signed petitions have to be gathered. The campaign necessary to collect this many signed petitions can cost proponents anywhere between five and ten million dollars.

This isn’t a lot of money for government unions to spend. It also isn’t a lot of money for a consortium of large corporations to spend. That is evident from the quantity of initiatives that qualify for the state ballot every two years. But it is an absolute pile of money for any group that is willing to defy these unions to spend. It is a nearly prohibitive amount of money, which is why initiatives that pose an existential threat to government unions rarely make it onto the state ballot.

In the first two decades of this century, only a two major threats to government union power via ballot initiatives come to mind. In 2012, Prop. 32 would have banned unions and corporations from contributing payroll-deducted funds to state and local candidates. It would also have banned government contractors from contributing to candidates that may award government contracts. Unions fought this hard, spending $70 million in opposition, vs. $20 million mustered by the proponents. In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger – who up to that time had been an outspoken critic of government unions – put four initiatives on the state ballot. All of these initiatives challenged union power, and the unions fought back hard, spending well over $200 million to defeat them all, versus $50 million raised by the proponents.

Decouple Qualification Effort from Campaign for Passage

The historical record of ballot initiatives that challenged government unions in California has spawned a conventional wisdom that goes something like this: “The unions are going to grossly outspend us, so we can’t have any hope of victory unless we carefully pick a perfect, winnable initiative, preferably incremental in nature that will overwhelmingly appeal to voters. So let’s save our money and go at the unions once every ten or twenty years, because maybe then we can win a little something. If we try anything bolder than that, nobody will ever donate to conservative causes again in California.”

This logic, while timid, is safe and sound. But there is another way to look at these numbers. And it goes like this: “Unions may have $2.0 billion per year to spend, but they can’t use all of that for politics, and while what they do spend on politics is still insanely abundant, it isn’t limitless. If we know that unions are going to spend $50 million or more to be sure they defeat a ballot initiative that they consider an existential threat, then let’s make sure we have at least one, if not a half-dozen, existential threats qualified for the ballot, every two years from now until hell freezes over.”

Imagine the impact of this strategy. Instead of spending $5 million to qualify an initiative for the ballot and $50 million to try to win passage, drop that campaign for passage to $45 million, and use the $5 million you save to make sure you have another initiative on the ballot in two years.

This strategy can be examined from a lot of angles. Why even worry about the campaign for passage of an initiative? Why not form a committee focused on one thing only; qualifying initiatives for the state ballot every two years, as many as possible, where every one of them is an existential threat to the government unions?

It’s a target rich environment. Education reform, pension reform, work rule reform, collective bargaining reform. Take away their right to strike – they’re public employees that enjoy civil service protection. Or attack the leftist issues that government unions support in lockstep with corrupt corporations, i.e., roll back extreme environmentalist laws that have tied up in knots any attempts to develop land, energy and water in California. No wonder the state is unaffordable. Get rid of union make-work projects such as high-speed rail and direct the money into infrastructure that will actually benefit Californians. Require annual 3rd party audits of government agencies. Reform the government contracting processes.

There’s no end to what sorts of policy initiatives could be introduced to voters that would draw the fire of government unions and deplete their treasuries. Dozens of policy areas, hundreds of detailed proposals, and they could be put forward again and again. How many times can these unions spend $50 million or $100 million to defeat these existential threats?

This is a war of attrition that underfunded insurgent reformers in California can win. The asymmetry between the cost of qualifying a state ballot initiative and the cost to the unions to defeat it will eventually drain them. For every dollar that’s spent by the insurgents, the unions will have to spend five to ten dollars. The more bold and disruptive the initiative is, the more the unions will spend to be certain it fails. And all those hundreds of millions they’ll spend is money they can no longer spend in Georgia, Wisconsin, or anywhere else outside California. It’s also money they’ll be unable to spend to control battleground school boards and city councils across the state.

The spinoffs of this strategy go beyond just breaking these unions financially and reducing their ability to control local and state elections. As outspoken opponents of government unions finally become a significant percentage of local elected officials, because they weren’t spent into the ground by their union supported opponents, a critical mass of young and rising reform-minded politicians emerge in California. Suddenly reformers have experienced candidates available to run for state assembly and state senate.

There’s more. Over time, the power of incumbency, the level campaigning playing field, and a host of enlightened new policies will enable the electorate to understand the value of political reform. Better schools. Better neighborhoods. A lower cost-of-living. Lower crime. Lower taxes and fees. An end to harassment of small businesses. Fewer regulations. More government accountability.

Eventually, to come full circle, unions will be so exhausted fighting initiatives that are mortal threats to their existence that voters will start to approve them, because the unions no longer have the capacity to out-spend the proponents in the general campaign.

Government unions are the root cause of bloated, inefficient, even hostile government in California. Making them fight for their existence via ballot initiatives is a cost-effective way to eventually break their power.

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.

Gavin Newsom Plots Recall Strategy

[Author’s note: Gavin Newsom’s gross inconsistency in dealing with sports and the performing arts requires criticism from both right and  left. The meeting described below may never have occurred, but millions of parents and their kids were really ticked off by the governor’s very appropriate year-long ban on sports, cheerleading and the performing arts. Was it coincidental that as their protests mounted and the reality of a possible loss in a recall election increased, the governor issued a series of announcements and clarifications as February ended that put ball teams back on the field and cheerleaders up in the air, but still left the singers and actors gagged? Whether the meeting occurred or not, the governor got the point, and this may be how he got it.]

California’s embattled governor Gavin Newsom unsuspectingly revealed his fear of losing his upcoming recall election during a secret meeting at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento on Friday, February 26. An open mic and video from a security camera reveal a worried governor plotting strategy to win over some of the millions of angry voters who have suffered through his almost daily TV Covid briefings and his irritatingly on-again, off-again state lockdown orders. The tapes were allegedly presented to his Republican opposition by an apparently snubbed female aide.

At that clandestine meeting, Newsom and several aides detailed plans to gain enough support to defeat the recall. His principal Republican opponent is expected to be Clint Eastwood, who, at 90, may not be the charismatic candidate that Arnold Schwarzenegger was when he ousted a Democratic governor in a 2003 recall. But Newsom’s fellow plotters weren’t taking Eastwood for granted.

“This won’t be as big a fight as the press is making out,” Gavin told his aides as the meeting began. “I won by 3 million votes, and Biden beat Trump by 5 million. That meant there are enough Republicans to get enough signatures on petitions for a recall, but not enough to beat me.”

An uneasy aide offered a different assessment. “You’ve alienated all those Republicans, but you’ve also turned off millions of Democrats with your lock down programs and your school closures. Those aren’t just Trumpites demonstrating at street corners, churches and schools. Those are a lot of our fellow Democrats, outraged by your mask requirements, social distancing and your ban on indoor dining, all restricting personal choice. We don’t have a poll, but I’ll bet you’ve lost a couple of million of our people. That could beat you.”

“Here’s what you need to do,” said a second aide, spreading out several different sheets with numbers written on them.

“First, you really turned off all those parents whose kids played school sports. The football crowd, and the soccer Moms, particularly. Kids haven’t played in over a year – any sport. The kids are mad, their folks are mad … and they signed those recall petitions.

“Look at the numbers! We’ve got 4,000 high schools in California. Each one has at least four major sports for boys and 3 for girls. That’s at least 160 kids, plus ten minor sports with another 140, a total of 300 athletes you’ve benched this year at each school. Multiply that by 4,000 schools is over a million kids you’ve grossly offended in a single year. Each kid has two voting parents… and you’ve already lost 2 million votes in the recall.”

The governor was silent.

“But that’s not all,” said another aide, with reluctance in her voice. “You also turned off all the girl cheerleaders when you banned cheerleading on the sidelines at games. Let’s say at leas 50 girls at each high school were miffed by your decision.  Fifty times 4,000, doubled and you just lost another 400,000 votes”

The governor remained silent, his cheeks turning somewhat ashen.

“It doesn’t stop there, governor.” Another aide offered still more damaging numbers.

“The performing arts students are just as mad at you. They just aren’t as vocal as the sports nuts. If you total up all the musicians in bands and orchestras, the choir kids, drama, dance and debaters that you’ve muzzled for over a year, your chances look pretty hopeless. I estimate you’ve turned off a hundred kids in the marching band, forty in the orchestra. Add to that 40 actors and stage crew, 50 in choir, 50 in dance, and a debate squad of 20 … all times 4,000 … and you’ve got a disaster. You just lost 300 more at each school, times 4,000 and doubled with two parents.  That’s another 1,200,000 votes for Eastwood.

“Your 3 million vote margin of victory in 2018 is gone and you’re a million votes behind Eastwood.”

“But,” the governor responded, “performing arts parents are more liberal than the Football Dads and Soccer Moms. They’ll still vote NO.”

“Not if you discriminate against them this way,” said the aide.

The stunned governor sat down, asked for a beer, then asked: “So what do I do?”

In early March, a string of announcements flowed from the governor’s office at the capitol. First, all contact sports were now exempt from his virus regulations. Athletes could return to the field. Next, all indoor sports were exempt as long as kids wore masks while on the bench. Third, cheerleaders could return to the field under an obscure rule that recognized cheerleading as a “competitive sport.” The performing arts, however, remained muzzled as a sop to public health officials who thought the governor had gone to far with his concessions.

A poll the next week showed the recall movement had lost steam. Eastwood would lose by three million votes. Meanwhile, infectious disease experts at the Center for Disease Control have detected a dramatic rise in teenage Covid cases among youth sports participants.

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona.
[email protected]

No Way to End California’s Homelessness Crisis

In late January, a survey conducted by Data for Progress, a progressive activist group, found that an overwhelming majority of Californians favor increasing taxes on corporations to fund “a range of efforts to help” alleviate the homelessness crisis in California.

But California is already home to one of the highest state corporate income tax rates and one of the least competitive business climates in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. Not only would imposing additional burdens make the state even more unfriendly to business than it already is, more revenues will not solve the crisis.

There are more than 150,000 homeless people in California, enough to fill the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium, combined. It’s an appalling statistic, up by nearly 40,000 since its 2014 low point, and is the highest homeless count we saw while researching our new book “No Way Home: The Crisis of Homelessness and How to Fix It with Intelligence and Humanity.”

While breathtaking, that number doesn’t fully illustrate the problem in California. This, however, might help: Though the state makes up 12% of the U.S. population, 27% of all homeless persons live in California. Further, while homelessness is rising in California and a few major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Seattle, it is declining most everywhere else. Clearly, California is doing something wrong.

Rising homelessness is a humanitarian concern. It also produces public nuisances, such as the homeless blocking sidewalks, building entrances, and other public spaces. Mounting homelessness is also a threat to public safety and health due to swelling crime rates, open drug use, and the spread of illnesses, including medieval diseases that had been virtually eradicated in the modern world.

To their credit, officials all across the state recognize the problem. But they’ve tried to solve the puzzle by throwing taxpayer money at it. Over the last three years, California has spent at least $13 billion on homelessness programs, while hundreds of millions more have been indirectly spent as hospitals and law enforcement are devoting more of their time and resources interacting with the homeless.

The results of the Data for Progress poll taken two months ago – nearly seven in 10 Californians strongly (40%) or somewhat support (29%) hiking taxes on “wealthy corporations” to “address the state’s homelessness crisis” – will only encourage them to spend more.

Unfortunately, the current approach is, at best, suspect. A February report from the state auditor says California “continues to struggle to coordinate its efforts to address homelessness,” its “approach … is disjointed,” and the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, set up in 2017, “cannot coordinate existing state and federal funding because it lacks expenditure data from state agencies.”

More of the same isn’t the answer.

A new approach is needed. To cut through the state bureaucracy, California should rely on private efforts to minimize homelessness. Private organizations are typically better equipped than the government to make real differences in the lives of the homeless because they tailor programs to meet the specific needs of individual homeless and can adapt where government cannot.

There are many successful examples that California could learn from. For example, Shelters to Shutters, a Virginia nonprofit, forms partnerships between private businesses and nonprofits that connect people experiencing situational homelessness with housing and job placement. In Nashville, the organization has collaborated with apartment management companies to place the homeless in entry-level jobs while also providing them with housing in the communities in which they work.

Another private nonprofit, Crossroads Welcome Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, leverages the safe place it provides the homeless during the day to connect them with services that can address their needs. The center offers bag storage, transportation, email and internet access, and a sitting room that keeps people off the streets.

California should reallocate the billions it’s spending to simply manage the problem toward supporting innovative nonprofits that have the demonstrated ability to sustainably address the causes of homelessness, be they economic, substance abuse, or mental illness.

Implementing more effective homeless programs is necessary, but not sufficient. Thanks to the state’s burdensome taxes and regulations, living in California is simply unaffordable. Further, recent court rulings are making it increasingly difficult for cities and localities to help the homeless. Comprehensive reforms that address these problems will reinforce the benefits created by more efficient homeless programs and significantly improve life on California’s streets.

Surveys continually show that Californians are fed up with out-of-control homelessness. And rightly so. Raising taxes and increasing spending is nothing more than a continuation of the state’s current failed policies. Instead, California should give deregulation and private sector know-how a chance.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute. Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D. is a Sr. Fellow in Business and Economics at the Pacific Research Institute. They are the authors, with Joseph Tartakovksy and Christopher Rufo, of “No Way Home: The Crisis of Homelessness and How to Fix It with Intelligence and Humanity” (Encounter Books, 2021)

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Resolution To Censure Maxine Waters Over Her ‘Get More Confrontational’ Remark

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Monday that he would introduce a resolution to censure Rep. Maxine Waters for comments she made over the weekend in Minnesota that Republican lawmakers said stoked further violence.

“This weekend in Minnesota, Maxine Waters broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence,” he said on Twitter. “Speaker Pelosi is ignoring Waters’ behavior — that’s why I am introducing a resolution to censure Rep. Waters for these dangerous comments.”

His tweet came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to Waters’ defense on Monday, saying that Waters did not need to apologize for her comments.

When asked whether Waters (D-Calif.) incited violence with her comments, Pelosi told a reporter, “No, absolutely not.”

On Saturday, Waters told demonstrators in Brooklyn Center, Minn., where Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer last week, “to stay on the street” and “to get more confrontational.” Her remarks came ahead of closing arguments on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

“Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement,” Pelosi said. “I myself think we should take our lead from the George Floyd family. They’ve handled this with great dignity.”

Republicans were quick tofire back after Waters made her comments. On Sunday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she would introduce a resolution to expel Waters from Congress, an effort that will likely fail in a Democratic-led House. Later that day, McCarthy said on Twitter that he would take action against Waters if Pelosi did not.

“Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past,” McCarthy wrote. “If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week.”

GOP lawmakers also took to the Senate and House floors on Monday to voice their displeasure over Waters’ behavior. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico.

Capitol Lawmakers’ COVID Hypocrisy in Full View on Packed Southwest Flight

Since March of last year, lawmakers in the State Capitol have shunned allowing the public to participate in the legislative process. Early on in Gov. Newsom’s statewide lockdown, legislators completely recessed and did not conduct any state business. Eventually they came back to work but fully masked and socially distanced. Some lawmakers wear two masks in empty hearings.

Legislators have been loathe to allow the public to attend and speak at hearings, preferring the public call in on the phone, or if they must attend in person to do it on the Capitol CCTV from another hearing room altogether. It’s a totalitarian way to “govern.”

So Thursday when Greg Burt with the California Family Council sent the Globe this photo, we had a good laugh at the hypocrisy of these lawmakers.

Greg Burt on Southwest Flight. (Photo: Greg Burt)

“Should I be worried this is going to be a super spreader event,” he messaged. “I saw 7 state legislators on this plane to Orange County. But legislators still will not let people visit them at the capitol. And they only let 15 people into a hearing yesterday although they had seating for 150 or more. This is what hypocrisy looks like. This southwest flight is full.”

And then he Tweeted his message.

“Legislators I saw: Sen. Umberg, Sen. Newman, Asm. Quirk*, Sen. Bates, Asm. Nguyen, Sen. Choi. I don’t blame the Republicans for this. Dems control the capitol,” Burt messaged.

He makes a good point. We are forced to stand in line 6 feet from anyone. We can’t reasonably attend hearings in person. State Capitol CHP order anyone on the grounds outside to wear a mask – no doubt under orders from legislative leaders.

But these same legislative leaders and elected lawmakers think nothing of cramming themselves onto a crowded Southwest 737 flight of 143 passengers – shoulder to shoulder – breathing that recycled air.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pinned Tweet still orders: “CA, you are now REQUIRED to wear a mask in public spaces. We’re seeing too many people with faces uncovered. Wearing a face covering is critical for keeping people safe and healthy, keeping businesses open and getting people back to work. Do your part. Wear your mask.” …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe.

Facing Down Fear of a Mega-Drought

Four years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of California’s historically severe drought by lifting various emergency restrictions. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” the governor intoned. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” Brown was right about the next drought now that 99 percent of our state is facing abnormally dry conditions, with more than two-thirds of it in an actual drought situation.

In fact, this latest dry spell has led to hyperbolic predictions about a coming mega-drought. No one knows what Mother Nature will bring next rainy season. This rainy season is at a close, however, and the Sierra snowpack is only 59 percent of normal, while the state’s reservoirs are again less than half filled. It doesn’t matter if California is facing a mega-drought or just a garden-variety drought of the type that comes and goes every decade or so.

The state simply needs to do more than promote conservation and even rationing — or to exaggerate fears of drought to highlight its concerns about climate change. Unfortunately, their goal isn’t to fix a basic infrastructure problem or find new ways to funnel more water into our plumbing systems, but to use short-term dry spells to say, “See, we told you so about the climate crisis,” and lobby for more intense emission standards.

“Drought has scorched western North America for the better part of two decades, withering crops, draining rivers and fueling fires,” according to an article last April in Smithsonian magazine. “Scientists now warn that this trend could be just the beginning of an extended mega-drought that ranks among the very worst of the past 1,200 years and would be unlike anything known in recorded history.”

Last year wasn’t particularly dry, but now that the West is facing low rainfall again, this concept is all the rage. Just Google “mega-drought” and you’ll be stunned by the amount of reading material. Such a drought could be coming, of course, but when environmentalists compare a drought that hasn’t fully arrived to historic, civilization-changing droughts from the Dark Ages, one has a clue that something more than water policy is in the offing.

Frankly, conservation already is a way of life in our relatively arid state. “California’s urban water suppliers exceeded the statewide conservation goal, saving over 59 billion gallons (about 182,000 acre-feet) compared to the same period a year ago. June conservation efforts put the state on track to achieve the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal by Feb. 2016, as called for by the Governor in his April 1 executive order,” Western Farm Press reported near the end of the last drought.

Since then, urban water users have continued to meet aggressive conservation targets even during years of hearty rainfall. In one typical example, residents of the San Jose area voluntarily reduced their water usage by 20 percent below 2013 levels through 2019 — and reduced their water usage by 16 percent below those levels last year, according to a recent Mercury News report.

A new law mandates individual indoor water-use targets of 55 gallons per day by 2023, with those targets falling to 50 gallons by 2030. Despite inaccurate claims to the contrary, the state won’t punish California residents or police their showers, but it could fine local water districts that miss the targets. The policy game is to keep reducing the targets. There are no limits on lawn-watering now, but it’s not hard to see how we might arrive there.

Californians have been remarkably thrifty, but to no avail. We use less water individually than the residents of many other states, despite the environmentalist finger-wagging about swimming pools and green lawns. The problem isn’t the public, but a state government that has squandered the last four years doing little about rebuilding our water-infrastructure backlog, boosting storage capacity, or permitting new desalination facilities.

On the last point, Gov. Gavin Newsom, to his credit, supports a proposed desalination facility along the Orange County coast (although it would be nice if he used more of his clout to secure the latest permits). State-imposed roadblocks have delayed the project for years, even though a similar facility in Carlsbad can meet 9 percent of San Diego County’s water needs. Projects such as these can make a real dent in our water supplies.

One recent column opposing the project offers this alternative: “There are plenty of things we can do to ensure that Southern Californians have enough water to thrive. Cisterns and rain barrels could be placed adjacent to every building to capture rainwater.” The writer also calls for the usual policies of drought-resistant landscaping, water recycling, and high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. I quote from the piece because it reiterates common misconceptions.

Residential consumers use only 5.7 percent of the state’s water resources, and, as noted above, they have conserved more water than anyone expected. Around half of the water flows out to the Pacific Ocean, with 40 percent going to agriculture. Eking more savings with more-efficient showerheads isn’t going to mean anything. Environmentalist writers can be expected to tout these non-solutions, but what’s the excuse for a governor and lawmakers?

As another drought comes upon us, California lawmakers need to embrace a simple and cost-effective suite of policies that feed more water into the system, rather than using it as an excuse to prattle about climate change and march toward water rationing.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He is author of the 2020 book Winning the Water Wars. Write to him at [email protected]

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Merchants of Revolution: California’s Ethnic Studies Initiatives Train Children In Marxist Theory

California public schools are embarking on a new experiment: education as social justice. Earlier this year, the state Department of Education approved an ethnic studies model curriculum, and individual school districts have begun to implement programs that advocate “decolonizing” the United States and “liberating” students from capitalism, patriarchy, and settler colonialism.

This will likely come as a surprise to most California residents, who may be familiar with the movement’s euphemisms—“ethnic studies,” “educational equity,” “culturally responsive teaching”—but do not understand the philosophical and political premises of these programs. As the state and many school districts begin to implement the state ethnic studies curriculum, however, details are emerging.

I have obtained documents from one such program, the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Ethnic Studies Initiative, that paint a disturbing picture of the ethnic studies curriculum and the activists leading the charge. According to the documents and to sources within the district, the Office of Education held a series of teacher-training sessions on how to deploy ethnic studies in the classroom. The leaders, including district staff, an advisor for the state Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, and a professor from San Jose State University, encouraged teachers to inject left-wing politics into the classroom and to hide controversial materials from parents.

According to slides and contemporaneous notes from the session, the Santa Clara Office of Education began the presentation with a “land acknowledgement,” claiming that Santa Clara County and the public school system “occupy the unceded territory of the Muwekma Ohlone Nation, the sovereign nation and original people of the skies, land, and waters.” The premise of this ritual, which has become common in progressive organizations, is that the American government, founded by white settlers, is an illegitimate colonial power that should return the land to the Native American tribes.

Next, Jorge Pacheco, president of the California Latino School Boards Association and advisor for the state Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, presented the movement’s conceptual framework. Pacheco explained that the ethnic studies curriculum is based on the work of Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, who invented the concept of the “pedagogy of the oppressed,” which holds that students must be educated to understand their oppression and develop the practical skills, or “praxis,” to challenge and eventually overthrow their oppressors. Pacheco acknowledged that the Marxist underpinnings to ethnic studies “scare people away” but insisted that teachers must be “grounded in the correct politics to educate students.”

Pacheco then argued that the United States is a political regime based on “settler colonialism,” which he describes as a “system of oppression” that “occupies and usurps land/labor/resources from one group of people for the benefit of another.” The settler colonialist regime, Pacheco continues, is “not just a vicious thing of the past, but [one that] exists as long as settlers are living on appropriated land.” The white colonialist regime of the United States is a “parasitic system” responsible for domestic violence, drug overdoses, and other social problems. In a related PowerPoint slide, Pacheco presented examples of this oppression, including “men exploiting women,” “white people exploiting people of color,” and “rich people exploiting poor people.”

What is the solution? Pacheco argues that teachers must “awaken [students] to the oppression” and lead them to “decodify” and eventually “destroy” the dominant political regime. The first step in this process is to help students “get into the mind of a white man” such as Christopher Columbus and analyze “what ideology led these white male settlers to be power and land hungry and justify stealing indigenous land through genocide.” Pacheco describes this process as transforming students into “activist intellectuals” who “decodify systems of oppression” into their component parts, including “white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, genocide, private property, and God.”

Teachers must be careful, though: Pacheco and the other panelists suggested that local educators hide this revolutionary pedagogy from administrators and families. “District guidelines and expectations are barriers,” said one panelist. “[We] have to be extra careful about what is being said, since we can’t just say something controversial now that we’re in people’s homes [because of remote learning].” In addition, teachers must acknowledge that they, too, can become oppressors in the classroom. “Inherently, [it is the] oppressor who sets the rules.” Teachers must “recognize [their] own privilege and [their] own bias” in order to align themselves with the oppressed and work toward dismantling systems of oppression.

The goal, according to the presenters, is to “develop, pilot, and refine an adaptable and scalable Ethnic Studies program design plan and curriculum that can serve as standalone courses or be integrated into core content areas.” This is already happening. Last month, the California Department of Education approved the statewide curriculum, which will bring the “pedagogy of the oppressed” to schools throughout the state. But for the movement’s leaders, the goal is to go further. At the end of the presentation in Santa Clara, Pacheco argued that schools should start transforming children into “activist intellectuals,” beginning in first grade. “[It’s] never too young,” he said, arguing that educators should be “cashing in on kids’ inherent empathy” in order to reshape their ideological foundations.

This is a dystopian project. As these pedagogical theories make their way into the classroom, California schools will be teaching millions of children to hate their own country. They will be oriented toward the work of “decolonizing,” “deconstructing,” and “dismantling” their own society. The ethnic studies activists grasp the destabilizing nature of their project—and believe that it provides them leverage for their broader political ends. During the Santa Clara presentation, Pacheco and the other instructors provided the audience with a handout quoting Freire: “Critical consciousness, they say, is anarchic. Others add that critical consciousness may lead to disorder. Some, however, confess: Why deny it? I was afraid of freedom. I am no longer afraid!” Though they are coy about their ultimate intention, the ethnic studies activists seek, at a minimum, a moral revolution—and, out of such tumults, political revolutions often follow.

California voters may not realize it, but they have installed a radical movement in the state educational bureaucracy.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal. Sign up for his weekly newsletter and watch his latest documentary, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” This article is part of an ongoing series on critical race theory.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Orange County Announces Pilot Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

There is much talk across the country about establishing vaccine passports as a way to provide evidence of vaccination for COVID-19 – all for a still experimental vaccine for a virus that is 99.98% recoverable.

“The vaccine passport should be understood not as an easing of restrictions but as a coercive scheme to encourage vaccination. The idea that everybody needs to be vaccinated is as scientifically baseless as the idea that nobody does,” a Wall Street Journal op-ed says.

Yet, Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency and acting county health officer has proposed a pilot program for “vaccine passports” in Orange County – a “show-me-your-papers” or “digital passport” program to provide COVID vaccination evidence.

What could go wrong with the Orange County Health Care Agency planning a pilot program to figure out how proving immunity would work in the real world?

Othena is a private company that the Orange County Health Care Agency will allow to collect personal medical data and sell it or share it. Many worry this could be a prelude to a social credit system like China’s where they regulate the citizens’ behavior based on a point system.

The coronavirus is not smallpox, which killed 300 million people in the 20th century. This is all for a virus that is 99.98% recoverable. Talk of a vaccine passport sounds wholly un-American and rather nefarious.

Additionally, the vaccine passport is a violation of HIPAA, as is contact tracing.

The Orange County Register first reported on this Monday:

“Dr. Clayton Chau, the agency’s director and county health officer, said he told state health officials Tuesday that Orange County could easily introduce a function to Othena for people who used the county’s system to get vaccinated to show anyone who asks for proof.

But Chau said he worries about leaving behind people who either haven’t been vaccinated yet, or who have but don’t have a smartphone or internet access to use a digital version of such a passport. He suggested also issuing printed cards.”

and:

“The county’s rollout continues to outpace other providers – Othena vaccinations account for 35% of doses given so far; CVS pharmacies are in second with 12%, according to the OC Health Care Agency’s latest data.

But what needs figuring out, Chau said, is how to bring the records of people who were vaccinated through traditional and private providers under the Othena umbrella for a passport system.”

All for an experimental vaccine for a virus that is 99.98% recoverable.

The Epoch Times did not pull any punches either: “California’s Orange County plans to launch a pilot program for digital CCP virus vaccine and testing passports, according to health officials.”

Many say if the gross mishandling of the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns and mask mandates felt like crushing government overreach, imagine how bad the vaccine passport will be.

Already large entertainment organizations like Disney and professional sporting events and venues are telling fans to prepare to prove they’ve been vaccinated if they want to be allowed into Disneyland, or a NFL game. Ticketmaster announced plans to verify proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID-19 using a digital health pass for sports fans and concertgoers who want to attend live events, MSN reported.

But the passports only serve to open a complicated can of worms and prolong the lockdowns, say Harvard Medical School Professor Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician, economist and professor at Stanford Medical School. “It sounds like a way of easing coercive lockdown restrictions, but it’s the opposite,” they wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. “To see why, consider dining. Restaurants in most parts of the U.S. have already reopened, at limited capacity in some places. A vaccine passport would prohibit entry by potential customers who haven’t received their shots. It would restrict the freedom even of those who have: If you’re vaccinated but your spouse isn’t, forget about dining out as a couple.”

Kulldorf and Bhattacharya warn, “The young are at low risk, and children—for whom no vaccine has been approved anyway—are at far less risk of death than from the flu. If authorities mandate vaccination of those who don’t need it, the public will start questioning vaccines in general.”

“The public has lost trust in officials in part because they’ve performed poorly—relying on lockdowns to disastrous effect—and in part because they’ve made clear their distrust of the public,” they said. “Trust, after all, is a two-way street. Coercive vaccination policies would erode trust even further. Even well-informed people may legitimately wonder: Why are they forcing me to take this shot if it’s so good for me?”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have already issued executive orders barring the use of vaccine passports. Expect more governors to do the same, because they witnessed that the residents of Florida and Texas are doing just fine, and there were no spikes or surges when the masks came off for good, and the states fully re-opened.

“Vaccine passports are unjust and discriminatory,” Kulldorf and Bhattacharya said. “Most of those endorsing the idea belong to the laptop class—privileged professionals who worked safely and comfortably at home during the epidemic.”

“Vaccines are one of the most important inventions in human history—the reason that before last year many in the West had forgotten that infectious disease could pose a populationwide threat,” Kulldorf and Bhattacharya added. “Those pushing for coercive Covid vaccination threaten all this progress by undermining public trust in vaccines. In this sense, they are more dangerous than the small group of so-called anti-vaxxers have ever been.”

Perhaps the most interesting and important comment in the WSJ op ed summed up one root problem – business liability: “What you need is to indemnify business from rapacious lawyers and I suspect you’ll see the cry for passports to vanish.”

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Will Vaccine Passports Hasten California Exodus?

Orange County is testing a digital vaccine passport, but so far, there’s been no movement at the state level to require all Californians to present their papers to freely move about. Meanwhile, Texas, Florida, and Idaho have banned vaccine passports. Other red states are likely to follow. Should Sacramento decide to demand passports, will it be yet another reason to leave a state that is already losing residents and businesses?

The state has dropped some hints about its intentions with its announcement that by June 15, businesses “may return to usual operations … with limited public health restrictions, such as … testing or vaccination verification requirements for large-scale higher-risk events.” Add to this California’s status as the state that had the strictest lockdown policies, and it’s reasonable to expect policymakers to eventually require proof of immunization.

At least Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin thinks that’s the plan. He’s writing legislation to block passports.

“You shouldn’t have to provide personal health information to go about your daily activities. I think that would be a very dangerous thing, it goes against fundamental notions of privacy and liberty and it’s not a road we want to go down,” he said.

As would be expected in our all-politics-all-the-time era, the lines are drawing themselves over vaccine passports. Some believe they “may help us move past the pandemic,” as J.D. Tuccille of Reason says, but, he adds, there’s also concern they could “add new intrusiveness and frustration to our activities.”

Will Californians who feel frustrated and intruded upon for having to show their papers say “enough” and move Texas, Florida, Idaho, or other states that will ban vaccine passports? The rest of the country is already home to a multitude of former Californians who left the state due to choking taxes, excessive housing and energy costs, poorly performing schools run by teachers unions, overwhelming homelessness, extreme cost of living, near-permanent drought and runaway wildfires, and a creaking infrastructure – all of it rooted in fourth-rate public policy. For some, a mandated certification just might be the policy that breaks them, or as Kiley has tweeted, the “last straw for many Californians.”

Responses (granted, they make up a small sample size) to Kiley’s tweet suggest that for quite a few, the edge is near:

  • “100% spot on. Precisely what I told our (real estate) agent.”
  • “That or permanent mask mandates and we are out of here.”
  • “Absolutely. Saving up to leave.”
  • “With this insanity in California … Plans are ahead of moving out! The ‘golden’ state has a bad ‘spirit.’”
  • “We will fight this, and not comply. Move away, if needed.”
  • “I’m 100% out if that happens.”
  • “As a business owner here in CA, I’m not prepared to leave quite yet. But I want to. And I will.”

Not all agreed with Kiley. Many were critical of his statement and of those who agreed with him or “liked” his comment. But a clear winner emerged from the dark cloud that is almost any Twitter thread on any given day. The man who wrote “pretty sure the last straw should have been the ban on real straws” summed up well a mood that might be behind California’s recall fever.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Recalling a California Governor, Explained

Gov. Gavin Newsom is fighting for his political life. He’s working to fend off a recall that began as a far-fetched effort by Republican activists — but has turned into a credible campaign that could throw the Democrat out of office.

It’s hard to fathom in this deep blue state where Newsom clobbered his 2018 GOP opponent, although his job approval among voters has plunged from its high in the early months of the pandemic. But the coronavirus pandemic shifted California’s political landscape in two significant ways: It prompted a judge to give recall supporters more time to collect signatures — keeping their campaign alive long enough to gain momentum — and it led Newsom to enact a slew of new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus that have frustrated some Californians and energized recall backers. 

The recall petition doesn’t say a word about the pandemic — it was written before the virus upended normal life. But it gained a surge of signatures after news broke in November that a maskless Newsom joined lobbyists for a dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant, even though he was telling Californians to mask up and avoid socializing. The count grew as the state’s unemployment system paid out billions to fraudsters, and its chaotic COVID vaccine distribution left people scrambling for shots. With many schools, churches and businesses closed by Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, the recall that began as a conservative rebuke of his progressive policies has morphed into a referendum on his pandemic response.  

So is it election year again in California? Will you be asked to toss a governor just a year shy of the end of his term? It seems likely. Recall supporters say they collected more than enough signatures necessary by the March 17 deadline to get it on the ballot. Here’s everything you need to know about recall elections in the Golden State. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org