Consumer prices rise 5.4% on year, highest inflation in 13 years

We are going back to the Jimmie Carter years.  High inflation. Stagflation, job losses and a dead economy.

“Consumer prices rose 5.4% for the year ending September, according to a report by the Department of Labor released Wednesday, the highest pace of inflation since 2008.

Forecasters had expected a 5.3% increase.

“While some of the so-called transitory factors like used car prices, airfares, and apparel continue to ease after sharp run-ups in earlier months, inflation is broadening out,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate senior analyst. “Food and shelter increases together contributed more than half of the seasonally adjusted increase in the CPI. With home prices soaring and rents surging, this may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

In some places the inflation rate is north of 8%–California is a disaster area.  High unemployment, lots of job shortages and government mandating people be fired—like nurses, cops and fire fighters—when we have a massive shortage of those folks.  Their crime?  Thinking that they owned their body, not the government.

Consumer prices rise 5.4% on year, highest inflation in 13 years

by Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner,  10/13/21   

Consumer prices rose 5.4% for the year ending September, according to a report by the Department of Labor released Wednesday, the highest pace of inflation since 2008.

Forecasters had expected a 5.3% increase.

“While some of the so-called transitory factors like used car prices, airfares, and apparel continue to ease after sharp run-ups in earlier months, inflation is broadening out,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate senior analyst. “Food and shelter increases together contributed more than half of the seasonally adjusted increase in the CPI. With home prices soaring and rents surging, this may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

The news comes as inflation fears percolate among some economists who worry that the rising prices are not just transitory, as the Federal Reserve contends.

The Fed has maintained interest rates at near-zero since the start of the pandemic, a stance that has received plaudits from some economists but has caused others to fear that the central bank may be contributing to inflationary pressure.

The most recent jobs report was a major letdown. The economy added just 194,000 new jobs in September as the delta variant curbed business — far short of consensus forecasts of 473,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate is now at 4.8%, well above what it was prior to the health crisis.

Colman: PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS ARE WRECKING THEIR PARTY

This is good news.  AOC, Sanders, Pelosi and their friends are so far into socialism and communism that good Democrats are leery of the results—high unemployment, inflation, lack of jobs, government control of businesses, families and housing.

The latest flare-up involves Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) who apologized for voting “present” — instead of “yes” or “no” — on a $1 billion Congressional plan to support Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

Israel has been using the Iron Dome system to shoot down missiles coming from Israel’s enemies.

By a vote of 420 to 9, the House of Representatives, on Sept. 23, 2021, approved a plan to support Israel’s Iron Dome system.

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of a Democratic House group known as the Squad.  The Squad is known for opposing military aid destined for Israel.

At some point the Jew hating of the Progressives are going to backlash on the Democrats.  Could this happen in 2022?

PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS ARE WRECKING THEIR PARTY

By Richard Colman, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views,  10/15/21

A group of left-wing — so-called progressive — Democrats are attempting to wreck their party.

The latest flare-up involves Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) who apologized for voting “present” — instead of “yes” or “no” — on a $1 billion Congressional plan to support Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

Israel has been using the Iron Dome system to shoot down missiles coming from Israel’s enemies.

By a vote of 420 to 9, the House of Representatives, on Sept. 23, 2021, approved a plan to support Israel’s Iron Dome system.

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of a Democratic House group known as the Squad.  The Squad is known for opposing military aid destined for Israel.

In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, the Squad’s other members are Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts).

After voting “present,” Ocasio-Cortex was seen weeping on the House floor.  She had switched her vote from “no” (a vote opposing the Iron Dome) to “present.”

In Congress, the Republican Party is basically united in its support for Israel.  The Democrats differ on the matter of providing assistance to Israel.

In a letter dated Sept. 24, 2021, Ocasio-Cortex, according to The New York Times (Sept. 24, 2021), ” . . . told her constituents that she opposed the [Iron Dome] funding, citing ‘persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.’ “

For many years, Israel has been a staunch ally of the United States.  In recent times, Israel has become world leader in such areas as artificial intelligence, robotics, biomedicine, and Big Data (the kind of work that firms like Google and Amazon do).

Geographically, Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey.  Israel’s population is currently 8.7 million.  About three-quarters of the population is Jewish.

In Israel, there are 1.9 million Arabs.  The fastest growing segment of Israel’s population is Muslim.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Congressional district includes The Bronx and Queens in New York City.  The district has a significant Jewish population.

Over the last 100 years, Jewish Americans have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates for president of the U.S.  According to the National Jewish Democratic Council, American Jews contribute significant amounts of money to the Democratic Party.

In another area, the Squad is making passage of President Joseph Biden’s infrastructure plan and his plan to provide aid for medical care, higher education, child care, and pre-school.

Biden’s legislative agenda is reminiscent of social-welfare bills signed into law by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.  If Biden fails to get his agenda passed, he will presumably have accomplished very little as president.

If Biden fails to achieve his legislative goals, the Republicans, especially former Republican President Donald Trump, will be able to criticize Biden severely if Biden seeks a second presidential term in 2024.

In effect, the Squad and other members of the progressive Congressional Democratic caucus, will, if they successfully block Biden’s goals, have achieved something they despise:  giving Trump a second term in the White House.

Biden wants to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030. The question is where to put them.

Biden wants to control your every movement—and if you are allowed to move.  That is what is behind the Federal effort to build and control the Electric Vehicle rechargers.  One in place nothing stops the government from raising prices on the energy.  Nothing stops the government from mandating a monthly allowance of energy—enough to get you to work and to the grocery—not enough to visit Grandma in Phoenix.

“The Biden Administration is (maybe) close to securing up to $7.5 billion to fund public EV charging stations over the next five years, with the potential for an additional $5 billion in Department of Transportation grants as well. And while consulting firm AlixPartners expects it will require a lot more money to build out an adequate public charging network by 2030—try $50 billion—the EV charging companies we spoke to are hopeful this funding will kickstart a broader wave of investment.

“If we’re going to really change the carbon footprint of the vehicles in the United States, more is going to be needed after [the infrastructure bill] to keep this thing going,” Brendan Jones, president of Blink Charging, told Emerging Tech Brew. “But then the benefits will pay for themselves over time.”

Through the electric vehicle, government will be able to control our ability to travel, visit or explore.  Just like in any other totalitarian nation.

Biden wants to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030. The question is where to put them.

The main criteria: electricity, a willing property owner, and confidence that people will find the location convenient

Dan McCarthy, The Morning Brew,  10/13/21 

As fires, floods, and furnace-like temperatures batter the country—and the world—it’s evident that decarbonization needs to happen, like, yesterday.

In 2019, transportation accounted for 29% of all US greenhouse gas emissions, the most of any sector, and the majority of that came from passenger vehicles. Transitioning drivers to EV ownership would significantly reduce that figure, but in order to achieve that goal, the country needs a lot more EV chargers—fast.

With both public and private entities gearing up to spend tens of billions of dollars building out this critical infrastructure, here’s how private EV charging companies told us they approach putting a charger in the ground.

The need for speed(y and readily accessible public chargers)

The vast majority of EV owners will primarily charge at home, but the lack of public charging infrastructure remains a challenge, both for those who live in apartments and for exurbanites who don’t want to feel restricted.

“Having coast-to-coast highway networks is very important,” Rachel Moses, director of commercial services at Electrify America, an EV charging company that Volkswagen created as part of the settlement from its emissions scandal, told Emerging Tech Brew. “It might not be that a driver will ever do a cross-country route, but they need to know that they have the ability, if they wanted to.”

The Biden Administration is (maybe) close to securing up to $7.5 billion to fund public EV charging stations over the next five years, with the potential for an additional $5 billion in Department of Transportation grants as well. And while consulting firm AlixPartners expects it will require a lot more money to build out an adequate public charging network by 2030—try $50 billion—the EV charging companies we spoke to are hopeful this funding will kickstart a broader wave of investment.

“If we’re going to really change the carbon footprint of the vehicles in the United States, more is going to be needed after [the infrastructure bill] to keep this thing going,” Brendan Jones, president of Blink Charging, told Emerging Tech Brew. “But then the benefits will pay for themselves over time.”

Setting the parameters

At a minimum, building a charging station involves three actors: a site host (e.g., a public library, or a Target), a hardware/software provider (e.g., ChargePoint, Blink, or EVGo), and, of course, a utility—a charger can’t go where electricity can’t go.

But it can sprawl to cross-country-road-trip-like lengths. State and federal government agencies can be involved, offering incentives or directives about where chargers should go. Local zoning authorities have to issue siting permits. And site hosts come in many shapes and sizes—individual property owners, corporate real estate companies, municipalities, big box retailers, mom and pop shops—all of which have their own quirks.

Private charging companies are not always in the driver’s seat of these projects. Sometimes they follow paint-by-numbers directives from a state department of transportation, energy office, or municipality, after winning a request for a proposal or grant. Or a corporate client comes to a charging company, and says, “Hey, I want chargers in this specific mall parking lot, as an amenity for customers.”

“If I’m selling chargers, I have no control—they’re placed wherever that owner or buyer of the charger wants to go,” Jones said. He added that they’ll consult on the best location in these cases, but ultimately, “It’s not necessarily the ideal location: It’s a location.”

Direct sales like this make up the smallest part of Blink’s business, Jones said, while the majority comes from an owned-and-operated, full-service model, or from a “hybrid” approach, involving a revenue split with site hosts. Blink, the No. 5 charging company in the US, brought in around $3.3 million last quarter, per company filings, up 175% from $1.6 million in the prior year period (it lost $13.5 million in the same period).

Blink Charging

Meanwhile, direct sales are the entire model for ChargePoint, the largest EV charging network in the country. It doesn’t handle any of its own installations. ChargePoint did $56 million in revenue last quarter, up 61% year over year, per its filings (it lost $84.9 million in the same period).

But it’s more common for requests for proposals or grant-issuing bodies to draw general boundaries for charging companies, rather than pick out exact locations themselves.

A body, like a state department of transportation or a utility, will have funding for a set number of chargers, and a bunch of stipulations that come with taking their cash, like distance (e.g., the charging stations must be within 50 miles of each other), location (e.g., 50% of chargers in low-income neighborhoods), and access (e.g., the public must have 24/7 access). Then it’s up to the company managing the project, like Blink or Electrify America, to find the most ideal sites within those bounds.

These high-level stipulations around placement usually come from further up the food chain, ranging from state senates to the senate Senate (the infrastructure-bill money will require some chargers to be built in rural and low-income areas, for instance).

Another example: Investor-owned utilities, mostly in NY and CA, have invested $3 billion in building EV charging infrastructure in the past few years, and 25% of those funds went to disadvantaged communities. At least six states, including NY and CA, require utilities to incorporate equity considerations into their EV charger investment plans.

Charging criteria

In terms of site suitability, there are a few basic boxes to check. For one, charging companies need a willing site host, and for another, there needs to be (enough) electricity.

The latter is not usually an issue for L2 charging stations, which need up to eight hours to fully charge a car and make up 82% of public chargers in the US. But it can be for DC fast chargers (DCFC), which charge a car in 60 to 90 minutes and require more power as a result. Dedrick Roper, ChargePoint’s head of public-private partnerships, said a DCFC could require the equivalent of “a small convenience store” in terms of power.

Once those hurdles are cleared, charging companies told us the most important consideration is a simple one: Is the site in a place where people would want to charge their car?

“Much of the early infrastructure in this space, going back 10 to 12 years, was really given to hand-raisers that didn’t necessarily have convenient, safe, or even highly sought-after amenities,” Moses of Electrify America said.

To counteract that, she said EA has focused on convenient places “that have nearby amenities, that people felt safe [in], and that they were able to do something—go to grocery stores, go to the bank, go to malls whilst they’re charging.”

Electrify America

But not all well-suited sites are created equally. It makes little sense to build an L2 charger, with its hours-long charge time, on a highway. Same goes for putting a lightning-fast DCFC in an apartment complex.

“You have to have the right type of chargers. If you have high dwell time in the location, where it’s a two- or three-hour stay, you don’t want to put a DC fast charger there,” Jones said, mostly because it’s economically inefficient. One DCFC installation runs about $100,000, and Jones said you can build about five L2 chargers for the price of one fast charger. DCFCs can also take up to twice as long to go through permitting.

Charging companies also have their own idiosyncrasies that govern site selection. These can be self-imposed—Jeff Hutchins, CIO of EV charging company EOS Linx, told us he doesn’t totally understand the popularity of building in a mall, for instance—or externally driven.

For example, Electrify America was created with funds from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement, and as part of the settlement terms, it needs to build at least 35% of its stations—nearly all of which are DC fast chargers—in low-income or disadvantaged communities. As of June 2021, it was at 50% in California, per its most recent quarterly report to the California Air Resources Board.

In any case, gauging the suitability of a site does not mean obsessing over charger-utilization figures today. Or tomorrow. Instead, charging companies increasingly aim to understand if the characteristics of a site lend themselves well to charging in principle, with the expectation that eventually all cars will be EVs. Through that lens, a good site is a good site—whether or not everyone in the neighborhood already owns an EV.

“We used to talk about the chicken and the egg all the time, and now the reality is that the cars are coming, and the EVs are going to sell. And now you’ve just got to get the chargers in the ground,” Jones said. “So you shift your dynamic—now you’re not just looking at, ‘Is this an EV-centric market,’ you’re going to go, ‘It doesn’t matter—all the markets are going to be EV-centric.’”

A record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August, led by food and retail industries

Folks have had it—they no longer are willing to work, follow crazy and irrational rules—or ruin their long term health with unproved therapies.  Take the vaccine—you get the virus.  Do not take the vaccine—you get the virus.

“Quits hit a new series high going back to December 2000, as 4.3 million workers left their jobs. The quits rate rose to 2.9%, an increase of 242,000 from the previous month, which saw a rate of 2.7%, according to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The rate, which is measured against total employment, is the highest in a data series that goes back to December 2000.

Quits have been seen historically as a level of confidence from workers who feel they are secure in finding employment elsewhere, though labor dynamics have changed during Covid-19 crisis. Workers have left their jobs because of health concerns and child care issues unique to the pandemic’s circumstances.

So, they are willing to take time off—weeks, months, whatever.  Wonder why we have a labor shortage?  Government policy.

A record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August, led by food and retail industries

Jeff Cox, CNBC, 10/12/21  

Employment vacancies fell to 10.4 million during the month, a drop of 659,000 from July’s upwardly revised 11.1 million, according to the Labor Department’s JOLTS report.

  • The decline was well short of market expectations for 10.96 million job postings.
  • Quits hit a new series high going back to December 2000, as 4.3 million workers left their jobs.

Workers left their jobs at a record pace in August, with bar and restaurant employees as well as retail staff quitting in droves, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Quits hit a new series high going back to December 2000, as 4.3 million workers left their jobs. The quits rate rose to 2.9%, an increase of 242,000 from the previous month, which saw a rate of 2.7%, according to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The rate, which is measured against total employment, is the highest in a data series that goes back to December 2000.

Quits have been seen historically as a level of confidence from workers who feel they are secure in finding employment elsewhere, though labor dynamics have changed during Covid-19 crisis. Workers have left their jobs because of health concerns and child care issues unique to the pandemic’s circumstances.

A total of 892,000 workers in the food service and accommodation industries left their jobs, while 721,000 retail workers departed along with 534,000 in health care and social assistance.

“As job openings and hires fell in August, the quits rate hit a new series high, surging along with the rise in Covid cases and likely growing concerns about working in the continuing pandemic,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Covid cases have since been on the decline nationally, though some health care professionals worry about another rise during the colder months.

Job openings also declined sharply in August as hiring fell.

Employment vacancies fell to 10.44 million during the month, a drop of 659,000 from July’s upwardly revised 11.1 million, according to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Federal Reserve officials watch the JOLTS report closely for signs of slack in the labor market.

The total fell well short of market expectations for 10.96 million openings, according to FactSet.

“There is an enormous labor shortage in the country right now and it is not just because people are quitting or have child care problems, or can’t get to work due to the Delta variant,” wrote Chris Rupkey, chief economist at Fwdbonds. “The economy is strong as a bull, that is why there is a tremendous demand for labor.”

The job posting rate fell to 6.6% in August from 7% in July. That level was just 4.4% a year ago as the economy was still struggling to escape the Covid downturn.

Hires declined by 439,000 for a month in which nonfarm payrolls increased by 366,000. The hires rate fell to 4.3% from 4.6%, due largely to a plunge in leisure and hospitality. The sector, which took the hardest pandemic hit, saw hiring decline by 233,000, sending the rate down to 7.9% from 9.5% in July.

Government hiring also fell sharply during the month, down to 1.4% from 2.2%.

The JOLTS data runs a month behind the nonfarm payrolls report but still carries weight at the Fed. Central bank officials are mulling whether to begin pulling back the unprecedented policy help they provided during the pandemic, and are expected later this year to slow monthly bond purchases.

However, Fed officials have said they will not begin increasing interest rates until the labor market firms up.

California’s ‘New Normal:’ PG&E Power Shut Offs on Windy Days

Would you want to live in a place, like Cuba, China or California where electricity is not stable and blackouts and brownouts are normal?  How do you keep the doors open, the refrigerators and machines going if you are never sure that you will have energy to do it?

“PG&E’s alert says:

“A Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) occurs in response to severe weather to help prevent a wildfire. A severe weather system is moving through parts of PG&E’s service territory. Outages and outage risk will continue until the severe weather has passed. Once weather conditions improve, crews will begin inspecting and making repairs where needed. Power will be restored as soon as it is safe to do so. We attempt to notify affected customers by phone, text and email.”

A friend who lives in tree-lined East Sacramento in downtown said his power was off all day Monday, from 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM. I live in another downtown Sacramento neighborhood with massive trees, but our power remained on all day.

Lack of hydro-electric dams, no coal or nuclear, fossil fuel is being ended—you have to count on the wind for energy.  But, if you have too much wind, the power gets shut off!  We are a Third World State.

California’s ‘New Normal:’ PG&E Power Shut Offs on Windy Days

How is this going to work as Gov. Newsom pushes California to an all-electricity grid?

By Katy Grimes, California Globe,   10/13/21  

Thousands of Californians were without power Monday due to high winds, according to a PG&E alert.

PG&E’s alert says:

“A Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) occurs in response to severe weather to help prevent a wildfire. A severe weather system is moving through parts of PG&E’s service territory. Outages and outage risk will continue until the severe weather has passed. Once weather conditions improve, crews will begin inspecting and making repairs where needed. Power will be restored as soon as it is safe to do so. We attempt to notify affected customers by phone, text and email.”

A friend who lives in tree-lined East Sacramento in downtown said his power was off all day Monday, from 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM. I live in another downtown Sacramento neighborhood with massive trees, but our power remained on all day.

This is the new normal for Northern California residents every time the wind blows, because PG&E is concerned their power lines could topple over and cause fires, as has happened annually in rural areas.

Apparently it is more effective in California to shut ratepayers’ electricity off than to practice proper forest management.

How is this going to work as Gov. Newsom pushes California to an all-electricity grid? Frequent power shut offs while moving to an all-electric state goes against the tide of facts.

Newsom just signed bills banning gas powered generators, lawn mowers and leaf blowers – wholly ironic about the generators, as the power was cut to many Californians’ homes Monday – again.

Newsom has also pushed all-electric new construction. And PG&E has embraced this, despite providing gas to 40 percent of the gas customers in California.

“Rather than continuing to expand a fossil fuel infrastructure network that is not aligned with California’s climate and air quality goals, the state should require all-electric new construction,” Greenbiz opined, pushing all-electric new construction. But there was no acknowledgment in the article of PG&E’s frequent power shut offs and how this will impact an all-electric California.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) officially exited bankruptcy in July 2020 after paying billions in claims and settlements, and accepting responsibility in dozens of wildfire deaths.

As the Globe recently reported, “California currently buys 20% to 30% of its daily supplemental energy from other states. We do not produce enough of our own energy to support the state’s needs. And with the overwhelming push by the left to rid the state of natural gas production, oil, nuclear and hydro power, intermittent renewable energy cannot provide steady, reliable power for the state’s nearly 40 million residents.”

Cities are banning the use of natural gas and imposing all-electric appliance requirements in new and existing homes. The California Energy Commission rolled out new building code drafts in May, proposing building standards to require new homes have all-electric appliances instead of natural gas appliances. And Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in September 2020 requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035.

These policies, and not “extreme weather,” are leading to rolling blackouts.

The Globe recently covered how Gov. Gavin Newsom misled the public about his wildfire prevention efforts by 690%, and asked, “who is to blame for the worst fire season on record. Is it the governor? Is it CalFire? Is it agencies directly commanded by Gov. Newsom?”

As the Globe reported, CalFire Chief Thom Porter admitted “We didn’t have all of the environmental clearance that we were going to need to do all of that work. Nor did we have all of the agreements with landowners completely in place,” Chief Porter said, referring to California’s wildfire prevention efforts and forest cleanup plans, and Gov. Newsom’s claim that the state had in fact cleared 90,000 acres of forest.

The CalFire Chief took the blame for misleading the governor: “He acknowledged the figures cited by Newsom were incorrect and took responsibility for the governor’s misstatements.”

Despite Newsom’s bold public pronouncements the Cal Fire chief said the state was never going to be able to tackle all 90,000 acres in 2019.

And that is the crux of the issue: what were and are the environmental clearances needed, and who approves these? Why were they not granted knowing California’s recent and very deadly wildfire history? California’s worst fire season on record could have been averted – we knew what would happen and why.

Yet CalFire was and remains immobilized by the environmental clearance needed to do their jobs.

The Globe emailed and called CalFire and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the agency tasked as the state clearinghouse for review of all CEQA documents, to inquire about the environmental clearances needed to approve wildfire prevention and clean up efforts. We asked if the holdup was the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Even after several inquiries, the Globe never received a response from either agency.

If Gov. Newsom made wildfire prevention a priority on day-one in office, and many promises since, exempting the forest clean up and wildfire prevention projects from CEQA should have been the priority pre-requisite in order to prevent deadly wildfires – and the frequent power shut offs.

Walters: California bullet train funds stalemated

After lying about ridership, routes and costs, even the corrupt Democrats in Sacramento have decided the train to nowhere has to be stopped.  They do not want to pay over $100 billion for a train with no riders and that could not be finished for another 25 years.

“While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 770 bills passed by the Legislature this year, he couldn’t approve a big one that he wanted badly — a $4.2 billion appropriation to shore up the state’s much-delayed, increasingly expensive and obviously mismanaged bullet train project.

He couldn’t sign it because the Legislature, controlled by his fellow Democrats, won’t send it to him. Legislative leaders, especially Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, are disenchanted with the project and want the money to be spent, instead, on improving local commuter rail service.

The $4.2 billion is the last bit of a $9.95 billion bond issue approved by voters 13 years ago on the promise that it would attract enough other financing for a $33 billion high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles with future extensions to San Diego and Sacramento.”

California bullet train funds stalemated

by Dan Walters, CalMatters,  10/13/21 

In summary

Costs are rising for California’s much-troubled bullet train project and Gov. Gavin Newsom is having trouble getting more construction money from the Legislature.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 770 bills passed by the Legislature this year, he couldn’t approve a big one that he wanted badly — a $4.2 billion appropriation to shore up the state’s much-delayed, increasingly expensive and obviously mismanaged bullet train project.

He couldn’t sign it because the Legislature, controlled by his fellow Democrats, won’t send it to him. Legislative leaders, especially Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, are disenchanted with the project and want the money to be spent, instead, on improving local commuter rail service.

The $4.2 billion is the last bit of a $9.95 billion bond issue approved by voters 13 years ago on the promise that it would attract enough other financing for a $33 billion high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles with future extensions to San Diego and Sacramento.

For political reasons, it was decided that an initial segment would be built in the San Joaquin Valley but the starter line has never really gotten started. There’s been some construction, most notably some sections of viaduct in and around Fresno, but it’s years behind schedule and has only a fraction of the money needed to cover its ever-rising costs.

Los Angeles Times journalist Ralph Vartabedian, who’s been a one-man truth squad on the project’s managerial and financial woes, reported last week that two of the San Joaquin Valley line’s major contractors want an extra $1 billion-plus for unforeseen costs. That would raise it to nearly $23 billion or two thirds of what the entire 800-mile system was originally supposed to cost.

The $4.2 billion that Newsom wants is sorely needed to keep the project shuffling along, but the state is still a long way from having enough money to cover the entire cost of the segment, much less the $80 or so billion more that a full project would need.

Rendon and other like-minded legislators see it as money going down a bottomless sinkhole rather than being spent on projects that could be completed in years, rather than decades, and have a direct impact on traffic congestion in Southern California. A chunk of the bond money has already been spent on upgrading commuter rail on the San Francisco Peninsula and the Rendon faction is seeking parity for its region.

The odd thing about the situation is that Newsom himself seemingly was ready to abandon the project after becoming governor in 2019, virtually disavowing it in a speech to the Legislature. He then reversed course and said he not only wanted to complete the San Joaquin segment as then planned but extend it on both ends on the assumption that it could be linked to major metropolitan areas.

Newsom’s revised position had the effect of increasing the segment’s cost without declaring how the financial gap would be closed.

Newsom and the Rendon faction have been negotiating for months, ever since Newsom proposed to tap the remaining $4.2 billion in bond money, and the governor apparently was offered a roughly 50-50 split but insists on the entire amount. Diverting even a token amount of bond money would be tantamount to surrender and would whet the appetites of other urban areas for pieces of the pie.

It’s really time for those in charge to put up or shut up — either telling Californians when and how the project will be financed and completed or calling it quits before it becomes an even more embarrassing train to nowhere.

Newsom’s position — willing to keep it barely alive until he can will it to a successor governor — is somewhat cowardly for someone who purports to be decisive.

5 More Walgreens Closed in San Fran Over City’s Retail Crime Wave

So far 22 drug stores have closed in San Fran.  Thousands of jobs have been lost.  Watch as retailers and others close, joining the restaurants that are not re-opening.  San Fran is collapsing—mostly because it is a town without law, law enforcement or a justice system—it is the Wild West.

“According to Walgreens, theft levels in the city went up to 5 times the national average for the store while security measures went up by 46 times the chain average to maintain security for both the store and shoppers.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said on Tuesday. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco. Each store will transfer prescriptions to a nearby Walgreens location within a mile radius and we expect to place the stores’ team members in other nearby locations.”

Watch as San Fran begs for help—from companies that are leaving town.  The school district lost 3500 students last year—this year could be worse.

5 More Walgreens Closed in San Francisco Over City’s Retail Crime Wave

Experts link unpunished crime wave, store closures to Prop 47, decriminalization policies under DA Chesa Boudin

By Evan Symon, California Globe,  10/13/21 

Walgreens, one of the largest drug store chains in the country, closed an additional 5 stores in San Francisco on Tuesday, citing the skyrocketing amount of organized retail crime in the city.

According to Walgreens, theft levels in the city went up to 5 times the national average for the store while security measures went up by 46 times the chain average to maintain security for both the store and shoppers.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said on Tuesday. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco. Each store will transfer prescriptions to a nearby Walgreens location within a mile radius and we expect to place the stores’ team members in other nearby locations.”

Crime in San Francisco has gone up continuously since the mid-2010’s, with the largest spike occurring only within the last few years.

The first major rise is attributed to the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014. Prop 47, also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” increased the felony threshold rate for theft in retail establishments to over $950, with lower misdemeanor thefts having jail time limited to a maximum of  6 months.

“This was not the sole factor,” noted Frank White, a former police officer in the Bay Area, to the Globe on Wednesday. “But it laid the foundation for everything that came afterwards. Criminals saw this more as a slap on the wrist and began planning small robberies down to the dollar amount or smash and grabbed stores for a single larger-ticket item.”

“In San Francisco, they just needed someone stupid enough not to prosecute those who were caught to lower the criminals risk even more. That’s when Chesa Boudin was elected in as District Attorney.”

Following Chesa Boudin’s swearing-in as District Attorney in January 2020, he soon instituted policies to not prosecute for lighter crimes as a way to reduce the overall prison population. Since becoming DA, the city’s crime levels have shot up across the board in nearly every category. Reallocated SFPD funds following the  outcry from the 2020 George Floyd protests only worsened police response, with fewer officers being able to respond to robberies due to deep cuts in the budget.

With burglaries increasing by nearly 50% in less than a year, and no police, stores across the city have resorted to paying for more private security and reducing store hours to avoid high-crime times, or, as in Walgreens’ case on Tuesday, shutting down stores and leaving the city.

Along with the 5 closures this week, 17 have shut their doors in San Francisco since 2019, making store closures in San Francisco more and more of a recurring action there. Tuesday’s closures have also shaken many city lawmakers, now calling for increased measures to deter theft.

“I am completely devastated by this news – this Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades. This closure will significantly impact this community,” San Francisco City Supervisor Ahsha Safai tweeted on Tuesday. “This is exactly why we need more presence on our commercial corridors and an expansion of the “10A” program to reduce and deter commercial retail theft.”

UC workforce churn: Why a quarter of lecturers don’t return each year

Why are our government universities filled with bullying, racism and low grade indoctrination?  Because the real teachers are novices and most are not allowed to stay more than three years.

“Sami Siegelbaum loved teaching art history at UCLA even when his office space was a storage closet.

The pay, at around $27,000 a year for the part-time job, wasn’t great, though it was more than what he made at his teaching posts at two other colleges. 

But after four years, his UCLA teaching contract wasn’t renewed in 2019 with little explanation. The university wanted to “bring in new approaches” about every three years, his department chair wrote to him, noting that the decision had nothing to do with any evaluation. In fact, Siegelbaum said no one from the department ever observed his teaching.”

For this students are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year, foregoing real education—all in the hopes of getting a UC degree—which in the real world means very little.

UC workforce churn: Why a quarter of lecturers don’t return each year

by Mikhail Zinshteyn, CalMatters,  10/5/21   

In summary

The UC workforce has a churn problem. About a quarter of the more than 6,000 lecturers at the University of California don’t return annually. Relatively low pay and little job stability are some of the reasons why, a CalMatters analysis shows. If lecturers strike, more than a third of classes will be canceled.

Lea este artículo en español.

Sami Siegelbaum loved teaching art history at UCLA even when his office space was a storage closet.

The pay, at around $27,000 a year for the part-time job, wasn’t great, though it was more than what he made at his teaching posts at two other colleges. 

But after four years, his UCLA teaching contract wasn’t renewed in 2019 with little explanation. The university wanted to “bring in new approaches” about every three years, his department chair wrote to him, noting that the decision had nothing to do with any evaluation. In fact, Siegelbaum said no one from the department ever observed his teaching.

“I can’t overemphasize how much of a blow it was,” Siegelbaum said. It’s not just the financial hit while having one child then, now two, and living in an expensive city with his wife, a graphic designer freelancer. His identity as an academic was tied to UCLA. “It’s still a really raw wound.”

Each year, professors like Siegelbaum are among thousands of lecturers at the University of California whose teaching contracts aren’t renewed, underscoring the paltry job security available to a vital segment that provides one-third of the instruction undergraduate students receive at the vaunted four-year public university system.

About a quarter or more of lecturers working one year disappeared from UC employment rolls the following year annually between 2015 and 2020, according to a CalMatters analysis of UC personnel data that it acquired from the university through a public records request. The findings largely mirror the lecturer union’s internal data it shared with CalMatters. 

That’s a much higher rate than for other state and local education workers. Nationally, just less than a fifth separated from their jobs annually, according to federal labor statistics. But the nation’s labor force is a more volatile place overall: Among all nonfarm workers, about 42% to 45% separated from their jobs in each of the years between 2015 and 2019. 

The lecturer turnover — also known as churn — in that time at the UC has been an average  of about 1,440 lecturers annually and peaked at 1,618 in 2020. But paradoxically, the overall number of UC lecturers continues to grow, raising speculation among the union representing lecturers that the UC is relying on a cadre of part-time workers with few protections to educate its more than 285,000 students and keep costs low. The figures don’t say why lecturers leave, though the lecturers’ union maintains that most aren’t re-appointed by the UC rather than leave on their own volition.

The UC refers to the churn as “alleged” in a document posted on the system’s website in March. It counters that not all lecturers want to teach regularly, citing examples of professionals such as dentists and lawyers who have full-time jobs and also lecturers who seek other employment after a couple years. It also cites budgetary changes at departments and that courses lecturers teach aren’t always recurring. 

The UC declined to make anyone available to interview for this story despite multiple requests over several months.

The lecturers have had it. Over the summer the union’s members voted to allow union leadership to declare a strike. That gives the union some leverage in its negotiations with the UC president’s office in crafting a new contract. Helping the union’s efforts is support from tenured and tenure-track faculty who hold more sway in university affairs. By early October more than 400 tenured faculty had signed a petition saying they would cancel their classes in solidarity with the lecturer union if it strikes.

All told, the anger of the lecturers could lead to thousands of canceled classes affecting more than a third of undergraduates.

Lecturers occupy a tenuous position in the instructional hierarchy at the UC. Unlike tenured and tenure-track faculty who conduct research and are expected to publish scholarly papers in addition to teaching, lecturers focus on instruction and rarely have the assurances of continuous employment given to tenured faculty, who on average make three to six times more than lecturers at the UC. Lecturers can be full time but are often part time and typically have a doctoral degree or equivalent. They mostly teach lower division and general-education courses and so are often a student’s first introduction to academic life and frequently become mentors.

That many lecturers don’t last long can leave an interpersonal hole in students’ time at the UC.  

Current UC labor rules give lecturers more job stability if they work in the same department for 12 semesters or 18 quarters — the equivalent of six years — and pass an “excellence” review. Reaching that level of job security, however, can take even longer if lecturers aren’t assigned teaching positions every term or change departments. Before reaching that continuing status, lecturers can be let go for any or no reason, and generally don’t have any expectation of keeping their positions year to year. Once they get that continuing status, lecturers can still be laid off, but only with a year’s notice, buying them more time to find work elsewhere.

Lecturers are also guaranteed a 6% raise, often their first, after three cumulative years in the same department. But the average time of employment for UC lecturers is just two years, meaning many won’t qualify for that wage bump. 

Said Mia McIver, a lecturer and president of UC-AFT, the union representing the UC’s more than 6,000 lecturers: “What we’re fighting for is to stop the gig-ification of the university.” 

To her, the combination of lecturer turnover and prevalence of part-time work spells out a situation in which “the UC often expects us to take the pride and prestige of teaching at the University of California as part of our compensation package, which it is not.”

 A spokesperson for the UC Office of the President wrote that the “UC highly values its lecturers” and this “is reflected in the fact that UC lecturers enjoy some of the best pay, benefits and working conditions in the country.”

Lecturers push back on that characterization, with many pointing out that the UC is unique in California for offering no review process for lecturers, which allows campuses to dismiss the instructors without explaining why — arguably the biggest sticking point for UC lecturers. By contrast, lecturers at Cal State University are reviewed annually, typically by department chairs. 

That’s something Cal State faculty fought for, said Meghan O’Donnell, who represents lecturers in the Cal State faculty union. “Having something in writing is really helpful in us advocating for our faculty and showing that they deserve to be rehired,” she said. 

Tenured faculty in solidarity with the lecturers argue that the UC’s shortchanging of lecturers is part of a “cost-cutting logic” that “starves our academic departments and programs that tells us to do more with less,” said Debbie Gould, a sociology professor at UC Santa Cruz and co-chair of the campus’s faculty association. 

As the state’s third-largest employer, UC has an outsized labor role in California. For unions and workers’ rights advocates, the system can set the tone for labor issues both statewide and nationally.

Labor contract impasse

The union has been operating without a new contract since February 2020.  Negotiations with the UC president’s office are at an impasse after two years of failed efforts. Right now the minimum pay for full-time lecturers is $57,000. According to federal housing data, that’s a low-income wage in areas where six of the nine UC undergraduate campuses are located. The UC is proposing certain pay bumps for lecturers; the union argues those raises won’t keep pace with inflation

A key sticking point for the lecturers union is that it wants the UC to spell out what criteria it’ll use to determine whether a lecturer stays on the job or not. Currently, one doesn’t functionally exist.   

“When there is no evaluation, no performance review, no in-class observation of teaching, nobody really knows ‘How are teachers teaching?’ ” McIver said. 

The UC’s position is that if a UC campus wants to bring back a lecturer, they’ll do an evaluation. McIver calls that “putting the cart before the horse. How do you know whether you want to reappoint someone unless you’ve already done that performance evaluation?”

“You’re articulating something that people aren’t even recognizing as a crisis… I don’t hear people talking enough about the churn issue.”

Adrianna Kezar, faculty labor dynamics scholar at usc

Without an evaluation, lecturers don’t know why they’re being let go. The lecturer union contends that the UC is holding onto that power of ambiguity intentionally: to prevent lecturers from accumulating the semesters of service they need within a department to receive continuing appointments and the added job security that comes with it. 

Lecturers have long complained that the UC relies on their temporary status as a cost-cutting tactic. It’s partly why lecturers went on strike in 2002, when a union leader said the UC operates like “drivers in pick-up trucks who pick up day laborers and pay them for one day and then never see them again.”

The result of that work stoppage was the “continuing lecturer” status that gave some lecturers an indefinite teaching appointment.  

The UC doesn’t use terms like cost-cutting, but argued in 2002 that lecturers are an inherently temporary position to meet the teaching needs of the campuses. UC literature today makes similar references to the need for flexibility with lecturer hires, saying some don’t come back because of “academic programmatic or budgetary changes within a department.” 

Regardless, the UC has increasingly relied on their work to teach classes. Since 2011, the number of lecturers at the UC has risen by 41% while faculty on the permanent track have risen just 19%. 

The UC maintains that it provides generous job stability to lecturers, saying that it’s one of two universities in the U.S. where lecturers can continue their appointment indefinitely once they clear that six-year threshold to receive continuing appointments. 

But union data suggests there’s scant hope of continuous employment: About 1,200 of the more than 6,300 lecturers in 2019-20 had continuing status (the data CalMatters obtained through a public records request doesn’t contain continuing lecturer status).

McIver has continuing status now, but it took her 11 years, not six. Initially she taught at UC Irvine for five years, getting 75% of full-time work. When a full-time position at UCLA opened up for the same job in an identical department, she took it, but surrendered her service credit toward continuing status and started all over. Even changing departments within the same university restarts the clock on continuing status. 

National comparisons for lecturer churn are virtually non-existent. When CalMatters shared the UC churn data findings with Adrianna Kezar, a leading scholar on faculty labor dynamics at the University of Southern California, she said the numbers are evidence of a lecturer turnover crisis that isn’t getting enough attention. 

“I think you’re articulating something that people aren’t even recognizing as a crisis, which I think is important,” Kezar said. “I don’t hear people talking enough about the churn issue.”

Few job protections

The pursuit of stable academic work often requires lecturers to hustle, “but then it turns out that there is no tenure track position available,” Siegelbaum said, leaving the lecturer “clinging to these gigs that you have.” Other lecturers spoke of maintaining relationships with department chairs to continue receiving teaching work, made more challenging whenever a new chair emerges.

During his first year lecturing at UCLA, Siegelbaum would teach two classes back-to-back at Loyola Marymount University and then have an hour to crawl along the 405 freeway in his car before the start of his three-hour course at UCLA. 

“You’ve entered this track and rut and it’s not easy to make moves to a different industry or career or sector,” Siegelbaum said.

He now teaches at three colleges, none a UC, while seeking arbitration with UCLA after he and the union filed a grievance saying he was wrongfully dismissed. But because lecturers had weak job protections to begin with, he said the union wasn’t hopeful a ruling would land in his favor. 

Five years after earning his Ph.D in sociology in 2008, Michael Calderon-Zaks quit teaching altogether because he couldn’t land a university job at either a UC or California State University that lasted longer than a single term in Northern California. He moved to Los Angeles to attend a master’s program in urban planning, but left it after two terms because he got a job teaching at a community college near Los Angeles. That led to more work, ultimately resulting in lecturer positions at UC Irvine, UCLA and now UC San Diego where he’s starting his fourth year of teaching. At 46, “it’s only in the last five years that I’ve had some stability,” said Calderon-Zaks, who’s taught at six UCs.

It’s not uncommon for lecturers to learn they’ll be invited to teach again a month or less before fall of the new academic year begins, even though the union contract with the UC asks that campuses do so by or around June 1. 

David Walter was even once hired a week into the semester at Berkeley. Just before the start of this academic year he got notice to teach for two departments this fall, going from unemployed to beyond full-time in a flash. “One of the things you have to show the department is that you’re capable of working fast to put a class together,” said the professor of literature, who is also a local union representative. He’s still unsure if he’ll be asked to teach this spring, though.

Preserving more lecturers has equity implications, too. Lecturers are more likely to be women and people of color. While 65% of tenured faculty were white, the same was true for just 57% of lecturers in 2020. Two-thirds of tenured faculty were men in 2019; more than half of lecturers were women. Pervasive part-time appointments for lecturers often mean moonlighting shifts at other colleges or gig work. UC’s lecturers each earn $32,000 per year, according to a CalMatters analysis of UC wage data through a public records request, in part because so many are given part-time assignments.

Calderon’s main source of work, UC San Diego, didn’t offer him a winter position last academic year, so he received jobless benefits until spring quarter began. Walter, without enough lecturing positions at Berkeley to feel financially steady, is trying to sell payment processing systems to restaurants in San Francisco. He’d rather be a continuing lecturer, something that grants a reasonable assurance of stability and pays enough to dedicate time to writing book reviews or other scholarly tasks. 

The effect on undergraduate students

For students, the revolving door of lecturers upends valuable relations they’ve developed with educators who’ve inspired or mentored them in one year only to be gone completely the next. 

“It’s weird to get letters of recommendation from students and places I no longer teach at,” Calderon-Zaks said. Early this year a student from UCLA asked Calderon-Zaks to write her a letter of recommendation, even though he hasn’t taught there since last spring. “We have no security to show for it and, of course, the irony is that we’re still being asked even though we’re no longer there.”

Decades of research show that the more students interact with faculty, the more they gain from their college educations. 

“It’s incredibly problematic if the faculty are not there to develop these relationships,” said Kezar, the USC professor, in an interview. She co-wrote a paper on the effect faculty churn can have on student academics.

Chase Hobbs-Morgan, a political science lecturer at UC Santa Barbara, told the UC Regents in Sept. how they commit a lot of their personal time to mentoring struggling students. But “because I never know when my job will expire, I can’t credibly tell I’ll be able to support them down the line,” Hobbs-Morgan said. 

That would have been bad news for Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, a senior at UC Santa Barbara and president of the UC Student Association, who has taken Morgan’s classes several times and credits them with helping her feel more welcomed as a UC student who can academically thrive. 

In an interview, she spoke fondly of how Morgan parked themselves outside a campus cafe during finals week for several hours so that students could write their papers and ask questions. 

Lecturers tend to teach her favorite courses, said Quintero-Cubillan. While tenured professors focus on research, it’s the lecturers, by virtue of focusing just on teaching, whose instruction she appreciates more. Lecturers “are usually more dedicated to our lived experiences and our actual learning,” she said.

It wasn’t always like this

Faculty turnover wasn’t always a feature of universities, in large part because most university professors were full time and tenured. Until the early 1980s, “we didn’t have churn; faculty tended to stay at their campuses for most of their career,” said Kezar, the USC researcher. 

But a combination of state spending cuts and increased reliance on part-time faculty slowly chipped away at that standard nationally, leading to a situation where nationally 45% of faculty were tenured or tenure-track at universities and colleges with doctoral programs in fall 2018, down from 51% a decade earlier. 

Comparable figures for the UC are difficult to determine, but a researcher at the American Association of University Professors crunched federal data for CalMatters, showing that among full-time faculty, 61% were tenured or on the tenure track in fall 2018, down from 67% a decade earlier. 

California’s diminishing investment in higher education may also be a factor in fewer tenure opportunities.At the turn of the millennium, the state budget gave the UC about $28,000 per student. In 2018, it was half that, around $13,500.

In 1980, higher-education spending far dwarfed prison spending in California, receiving five times more in state dollars. Though higher education now still receives more from the general fund, state corrections gets comparatively much more than it did before: Last year, higher education received $17.9 billion while corrections got $12.4 billion.

Not all lecturers have a tortuous time reaching continuing lecturer status. Charlotte Smith, a continuing lecturer at Berkeley’s school of public health, said her experience is how it should be for every lecturer.  She was able to stay at the same department for six years before reaching continuing service. “I didn’t have that fear or that uncertainty,” she said. “I had confidence that every year that I would be brought back.”

Possible strike and looking ahead

There are steps to take before thousands of lecturers walk off the job. 

The two sides are now in state-led mediation through the California Public Employment Relations Board. If mediation doesn’t lead to both parties agreeing on a contract, state law allows either side to call for the creation of a fact-finding panel that can issue non-binding solutions. The UC Board of Regents, which oversees the UC system, then may have to vote publicly on whether to adopt those recommendations.

If it comes down to a decision by the Regents, expect fireworks. Several tenured faculty called during the July and September meetings to voice their solidarity with the union even though their jobs are secure.

Harold Marcuse, a history professor at UC Santa Barbara, said longer contracts for lecturers means less headache for administrative faculty in searching for new lecturers: “Once we have found them, we want to keep them, and keep them happy.” 

Leaving COVID Wonderland

We know that the vaccine is based on junk science.  Getting the vaccine or not getting it does not matter—you have an equal chance of getting the virus.  The only difference between Californians forced to take the jab and people in totalitarian States—like the USSR, Cuba, Nazi Germany is….nothing.  Folks are afraid not to take the jab—they could lose their job, they will be isolated, they will not be allowed to travel or go into gums, restaurants or movies.

“It was a great game that will likely be remembered as one of the best of the season, but to be honest, what was most gratifying was the normalcy of everything.  We tailgated, we watched the fans chant the traditional “chop,” there was abundant reverence for our military servicemen and our Flag, an awesome tribute to the late and legendary Bobby Bowden, and, of course, 70,000-plus Americans in a bowl enjoying the game and each other without any concern that the person sitting next to them was a vector for a deadly disease. 

Even there, a few masks could be seen, which occasionally lulled me back toward COVID Wonderland — but only briefly.  The fantasy that COVID lurked around every corner and in the very air we breathed, and the thought that innumerable gaggles of my countrymen are living in irrational fear of it, couldn’t last in this place, because a moment later the crowd would react to a big play, jarring my senses and reminding me that I was firmly planted in the real world where we can freely live our lives without calculating such incomprehensibly small levels of risks. 

Then came time to go to the airport, and descend once more into COVID Wonderland, which, when so closely juxtaposed with the place I was leaving, proved to be even more maddening and sillier than it once was. 

While the rest of the country is beginning to thrive, California is collapsing, our kids are fearful of breathing or being with others and the adults are fearful of speaking up and telling the truth.

Leaving COVID Wonderland

By William Sullivan, American Thinker,  10/14/21 

On the Saturday before Labor Day weekend, my son’s football team played its first game in almost two years.  An omnipresent feeling of gratitude could be felt in the air of my little adopted Northern California burg.  The sun was shining, Old Glory was flying, fans were laughing and cheering, and our boys were playing football.  Save the occasional mask, you wouldn’t know there was anything different about this year than any other.

Then, at the end of the game, something silly happened that dragged us all back into COVID Wonderland.  Rather than having the boys line up and shake hands at the end of the game, as usual, both teams lined up on their respective hash marks facing the other and waved from a distance.

I couldn’t believe it, and as I gathered from the loud chuckles among spectators, neither could they.  I looked at a fellow coach, whom I suspect is far to my left politically, and whispered, “Can you believe this?”  He just smiled, shook his head, and said, “Nope.” 

After all, we had met all the other team’s coaches earlier.  No masks, but there were plenty of handshakes and conversation without adhering to the entirely made-up standard for social distancing that everyone came to know in 2020.  No one in the crowd was distancing from one another, either, and the boys had just been all over each other without anyone having the slightest concern.  But somehow, the players and coaches shaking hands at the end of the game was just too dangerous?

That stupid visual of us waving at the other team was, like so many other things we’ve become accustomed to, just theater to keep us immersed in the fantasy that COVID lurks everywhere, and will mercilessly strike if you live a normal life. 

In reality, if you are at any significant risk of COVID, there are plenty of vaccines available.  And if the vaccines work, those people should feel comfortable enjoying their lives while appreciating a reduced risk of harm from the virus.  For me and my kids, and for most of us at that game, COVID is a nonfactor in our day-to-day lives, despite these constant and often silly reminders that we are supposed to be fearful.

On Labor Day weekend, however, I left my California enclave for the free state of Florida, which included an afternoon of boating at Destin’s Crab Island that could have been mistaken for a Trump rally (and I later found that we were there just a day before an actual Trump rally).  But the highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly our visit to Tallahassee where we watched the Florida State Seminoles as they hosted the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

It was a great game that will likely be remembered as one of the best of the season, but to be honest, what was most gratifying was the normalcy of everything.  We tailgated, we watched the fans chant the traditional “chop,” there was abundant reverence for our military servicemen and our Flag, an awesome tribute to the late and legendary Bobby Bowden, and, of course, 70,000-plus Americans in a bowl enjoying the game and each other without any concern that the person sitting next to them was a vector for a deadly disease. 

Even there, a few masks could be seen, which occasionally lulled me back toward COVID Wonderland — but only briefly.  The fantasy that COVID lurked around every corner and in the very air we breathed, and the thought that innumerable gaggles of my countrymen are living in irrational fear of it, couldn’t last in this place, because a moment later the crowd would react to a big play, jarring my senses and reminding me that I was firmly planted in the real world where we can freely live our lives without calculating such incomprehensibly small levels of risks. 

Then came time to go to the airport, and descend once more into COVID Wonderland, which, when so closely juxtaposed with the place I was leaving, proved to be even more maddening and sillier than it once was. 

Perhaps you’ve also been there, where we don our loosely fitting paper masks that haven’t been worn in days (despite our having interacted personally with hundreds of strangers without it) because, suddenly, COVID lingers on every droplet of moisture in the air and is deadlier than ever.

The intercom blares a stern warning to “socially distance” to keep one another safe, but then the airline employees and TSA prod us into tight-fitting corrals to check our bags and be inspected by government overseers. 

The masks disappear completely at the eateries and drinkeries in the airport, but once on the plane, we’re reminded that we have to replace the masks in between sips and bites.  Somehow, COVID becomes more prevalent and dangerous in the routinely disinfected airplane (with air filtration systems that reportedly remove 99-percent of viruses and pathogens from the air) than it was in the disgusting airport we had just left.

Then, we land.  We stop at a store on the way back to pick up some items but realize that this particular grocery store is on the “masking” side of the county line, and though you can throw a stone to the other side where no masks would be required, we’re entreated to take part in the show by wearing a mask as we enter. 

“Will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?” sings the Mock Turtle.

Once home, it’s time to get back to work.  We’re told on a conference call virtual meeting just how seriously we need to take the COVID threat by socially distancing and wearing masks because cases are jumping and hospitals are overwhelmed nationwide.  We have to take it so seriously, in fact, that it was decided (and, for me, the notification provided just hours before Biden’s proclamation about a forthcoming vaccine mandate) that we need to be fully vaccinated to enter any company office in order to protect others, even though vaccination by no means prevents infection or spread of the virus — and we all know it. 

Curiouser and curiouser.

For now, of course, we are told that vaccination is a “personal choice,” but that we should provide a “confidential” update of vaccination status (and upload proof that you are vaccinated, if you claim to be) to the human resources department, which discloses that this “confidential” information regarding one’s “personal choice” may be freely shared with key company personnel and the federal government.  All of this fuels an eerie premonition, of course, that the government and the company will soon require that the “personal choice” they demand of you is made as a condition of future employment.  

“Confidential” means not private at all, evidently, and “personal choice” is being punished for not doing what someone else wants.  Because here in COVID Wonderland, nothing is what it is, and everything is what it isn’t.

If all of this isn’t madness enough, the governor of California has announced that he is demanding all schoolchildren be injected with a hastily crafted, novel vaccine that carries countless unknown risks to offset the virtually nonexistent threat of COVID upon healthy children. 

There are signs that America is increasingly doubting the illusions that children are at serious risk of harm from the virus.  Even the New York Times admits that a child is at a much lower risk of harm from COVID than a fully-vaccinated 70-year-old (but even that is minimizing the distinction regarding how relatively safe children are).  

Irrespective, like many people, jabbing my kids to introduce unknown risks to their health in order to stave off a virtually nonexistent one simply will not happen under any circumstances.

Up to now, I’ve been content enjoying my little reprieves from the COVID madness in my adopted state, like those aforementioned football games.  But if Gavin Newsom succeeds in making this irrational fear, these theatrical inanities, and medical tyranny permanent features of life in California, you can count us out.  As happy as we may have been here these past years, life’s too short to spend any more time in COVID Wonderland than we already have. 

And, based on the conversations I’ve been having with several others in my community, we certainly won’t be alone.

Blue-city politics meets wokester academia in Los Angeles: Corruption as far as the eye can see

Is this the second or third L.A. City Council member to be indicted in the past year?  The bigger question is why not most of them—they can join former council member Mitch Englander in the Graybar Hotel.

“A Los Angeles City Council member and the former dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work were indicted Wednesday in connection with a scheme in which the pol allegedly promised to steer lucrative contracts to the school if it gave his son a scholarship and a professorship.

Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, were expected to be arraigned in the coming days on charges of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and honest services wire fraud. They face decades in prison if convicted of all charges.

The good news of Thomas is that he will not be homeless for several decades.

Blue-city politics meets wokester academia in Los Angeles: Corruption as far as the eye can see

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

By Monica Showalter, American Thinker, 10/14/21 

Lefties love to talk about greed and “equity,” but they never seem to notice its phenomenal growth in the one-party rule of their blue cities.

Here’s the story from Los Angeles as the New York Post reports:

Los Angeles City Council member and the former dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work were indicted Wednesday in connection with a scheme in which the pol allegedly promised to steer lucrative contracts to the school if it gave his son a scholarship and a professorship.

Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, were expected to be arraigned in the coming days on charges of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and honest services wire fraud. They face decades in prison if convicted of all charges.

“This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public’s trust by taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself,” Acting US Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. “The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university’s high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play.”

This one’s interesting because Ridley-Thomas was no two-bit politician in Los Angeles.  He was a powerful county supervisor for many years before moving into his current slot at the Los Angeles City Council.  Both positions pay much more than any federal position supposedly above them, which is likely why a lot of Democrat federal elected officials, such as former Reps. Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, to take two examples, have moved back into Los Angeles blue-city politics, in their cases as county supervisors following careers in the House.  A Los Angeles County supervisor makes $214,601 a year plus gargantuan bennies.  A lowly congressional representative makes “only” $174,000 a year along with the bennies.  Some jobs pay better than others.  On paper, at least, Ridley-Thomas took home $224,000, along with the bennies.

It wasn’t enough.

In what’s been called a “political earthquake,” it turns out he was caught taking at least one bribe that we know of, according to the FBI indictment, from the now-former dean of the University of Southern California’s school of social work, Marilyn Louise Flynn.  His price was steep: $100,000 plus admission with a full scholarship to the school for his worthless son (who was being drummed out of the state assembly for sex harassment), complete with a professorship at the university afterward.  It’s actually not known if he completed that degree on that full scholarship, according to news reports, but it is well known that university professorships are convenient dumping grounds for wokester leftists who ought to be pariahs.  This little fellow did pretty well for himself at the University of Texas, as did Hunter Biden, another disgraced junior who “taught” at Tulane University.  So did Ridley-Thomas’s handsy son.  In return, Ridley-Thomas would kick over city contracts to the school instead of holding fair competitions for them with the private sector.

Rigging?  Lots of rigging.  And if the dean was doing this for the school instead of herself, then others above her may be involved.

Meanwhile — and Los Angeles Times metro reporter Julie Wick on Twitter notes the irony — Ridley-Thomas has a Ph.D. in “ethics” from the University of Southern California.  It sounds as though maybe his involvement with the school in those profitable ways he likes might just go a little farther than his paycheck with the dean.

It’s disgusting.  Ridley-Thomas is actually the third big Los Angeles city politician to go down like the Titanic.  Other big-daddy council members, Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander were indicted on comparable corruption charges in the last few years.  It’s almost as if we now just wait for the rest of them to get it.  Peter Schweizer, in his latest book, Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite, lists Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, as one of his eight, alongside the Biden family mafia, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders, so it could easily go as far as Garcetti.

What’s more, this information about Ridley-Thomas was already pretty well known.  The Los Angeles Times exposed some of the activity around the worthless son three years ago. 

A big part of the problem is all the cash sloshing around in the blue cities as congressional Democrats ramped up their stimulus packages — these date to the Obama era and involve huge cash transfers to corrupt blue-city machinery as well as pension and other bailouts.  Joe Biden, who’s calling for more money-shoveling through his $3.5-trillion budget “reconciliation” package and his $1-trillion infrastructure package, is happy to grease these corruption skids along.

Meanwhile, over in academia, the cash has flowed, too.  The University of Southern California finds itself in the midst of yet another scandal.  They’ve had three scandals already involving the blue-city elites and admissions, protections of perverts and dissolute behavior, plus their involvement with Harvey Weinstein.  Now they’ve got a political bribery, admissions, and sinecure scandal with this Ridley-Thomas and Flynn case.

What do we have here?  A press corps that tries to do its job can’t get traction.  We have a slow-moving law enforcement mechanism and one-party blue-city rule, where no one sees anything, apparently because these people are all so busy trying to make their own piles.  Meanwhile, federal cash flows in like gasoline to a burning Democrat dumpster, and the corruption cases keep coming.  And all along, the homeless crisis, the jobs crisis, the failing infrastructure, and the high crime in the city and county of Los Angeles continue.

If this isn’t an argument to voters at least to take a look at how to end this Petri dish of corruption found in blue-city rule and start voting for some party that won’t steal, what is?