Some Loudmouth Politicians Are Finally Wearing Out Their Welcome

Voters gave a cold shoulder to candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Los Angeles County voters gave the heave-ho to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In one typically funny Monty Python sketch, author Oscar Wilde walks into a drawing room and says something pithy to the Prince of Wales: “Your Highness, there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Bystanders laugh for an extended time in a sycophantic manner.

Wilde says something else and, again, he evokes laughter. Once again, Wilde says something similarly inane, but suddenly he faces stunned silence. The Python troupe apparently was poking fun at an incident in Wilde’s career, but I thought of the skit in the context of Donald Trump and the midterms.

First, we have a former president who can think of nothing worse than not being talked about. Second, I’m reminded of how Trump continues to make, er, unusual comments that for years have evoked thunderous applause, but suddenly fewer people find them funny anymore. Something changed after the GOP’s electoral flop.

After Trump gave his big speech on Tuesday, most networks and even Fox News downplayed the rambling talk. The New York Post—a reliably pro-Trump publication—featured this headline at the bottom of its front page: “Florida man makes announcement.” Buried on Page 26, the Post published a brutal short item under the headline, “Been there, Don that.”

“With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement that he was running for president,” the article explained. “Avid golfer Donald J. Trump kicked things off at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and classified-documents library.” Ouch.

Perhaps Trump Fever finally has broken, which is encouraging after digesting the substance of his speech. He championed law-and-order themes that are inappropriate in a constitutional republic. He vowed to restore public safety by sending the military into cities even if cities don’t want the “help.”

Trump even touted China’s model for handling drug dealers: “If you get caught dealing drugs, you have an immediate and quick trial. And by the end of the day, you’re executed.” Our Constitution assures due process for anyone accused of a crime. Only under totalitarianism can someone be accused of a crime, judged, and executed on the same day. That’s childish posturing, not serious policy.

Nationally, Trump was the biggest loser on Election Day, even though he wasn’t on the ballot. Fortunately, voters rebuked other politicians with a similarly un-American sense of justice. Los Angeles County voters gave the heave-ho to Sheriff Alex Villanueva. They chose former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, who seems like a normal reform-oriented lawman, by a 60-percent to 40-percent margin.

Unlike Trump, Villanueva at least conceded defeat. But his concession speech contained all the whiny, self-focused blather we’ve come to expect. “Every adversity I’ve faced throughout my years in law enforcement has always propelled me to a bigger stage, a bigger audience and a bigger voice,” he said. He certainly has a big voice, but perhaps voters had grown as tired of it as they’ve grown of Trump’s.

As NBC News reported, Villanueva “blamed defeat on what he claimed was a sweeping misinformation campaign and the use of ‘false narratives’ focused on issues including alleged deputy gangs, his alleged resistance of oversight by the county and Civilian Oversight Commission and other allegations of internal harassment and retaliation against purported whistleblowers.”

In April, Villanueva held a press conference where he pointed to a photo of a Los Angeles Times reporter and hinted that she may be a target in a criminal-leak investigation. He later relented, but instead of being observably concerned by the Times‘ reported allegations that “sheriff’s officials attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy knelt on the head of a handcuffed inmate for three minutes,” he harangued the reporter.

Then there are the deputy-gangs allegations. Some deputies “have been accused of celebrating police brutality, intimidating and retaliating against fellow deputies, and running a shadow hierarchy that operates outside the chain of command,” per LAist.

Deputy gangs undermine trust in law enforcement and could violate citizens’ rights, but Villanueva calls them “cliques” and claims to have handled the problem. He defied subpoenas to testify and viewed the allegations as a political smear. He seemed unconcerned that some of his deputies may sport tattoos with alleged gang names such as Banditos and Executioners.

“I don’t expect deputies to get tattoos of Hello Kitty,” he said during a re-election kickoff event. “These are grown men and women and the tattoos they put on themselves. That’s an expression of their First Amendment right.” Wow.

Click here to read the full article at Reason.com

GOP Rep. McClintock: We Need Audit, EU to Step up, Assurance that Money Paid to Bidens Isn’t Influencing Before More Aid Sent to Ukraine

On Tuesday’s broadcast of the Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said he will not continue to support aid to Ukraine until the European Union matches the aid already provided by the U.S., there’s a complete audit of the money sent by America, there are assurances that the country hasn’t had an illegitimate relationship with FTX, and “the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy.”

McClintock stated, “I supported the initial assistance to Ukraine because I felt if they could defeat Russia or at least inflict massive damage on Russia, that it would cause other dictators around the world to think twice before attacking their neighbors. But of course, we’ve done that now. Ukraine is primarily a European security issue. Now, you look at the numbers, the United States has given about $54 billion of assistance to Ukraine through October 3…the EU had only 16 billion. So, they’ve got about half of our GDP. But they’ve only given about a third of the assistance that we have. Now, given the fact that’s happening right on their doorstep, not on ours. It seems to me they need to at least match what we’ve already done. So, that would be my first condition. 

Click here to read the full article at Breitbart CA

Former California police chief charged in CalPERS double-dipping fraud case

Criminal charges of grand theft have been brought against Greg Love, one of several Broadmoor Police Department chiefs and commanders that CalPERS said defrauded the pension system by collecting more than $2 million in excessive retirement payments. Another former chief, however, David Parenti, won’t be subject to any criminal prosecution. This despite CalPERS’ contention that he committed one of the largest frauds in its history. The pension plan said Parenti illegally received pension benefits of $1.8 million while with the 11-member department located 2 miles outside of San Francisco. The reason for a lack of criminal action? CalPERS misplaced the records for more than four years that detailed a complaint by a police officer at Broadmoor that his boss, Parenti, was double-dipping, collecting retirement benefits while drawing a salary as police chief and other positions, said San Mateo County Prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe. Wagstaffe said the four years is the statute of limitations for state criminal cases and CalPERS informed him of fraud violations in Parenti’s case only in 2021 after an audit of Broadmoor. That was more than four years after it received the original complaint about Parenti’s fraudulent behavior, Wagstaffe said.

“How they missed it is beyond me,” he said. “Purely on their failure to follow up on things is why Mr. Parenti is able to go free.” When The Bee reached out CalPERS officials, they did not address the missing complaint against Parenti. Instead, they disputed that the district attorney could have not proceeded criminally against him. “While charging decisions are the DA’s prerogative, we don’t necessarily agree that the statute of limitations has run in this case or that there aren’t other ways of pursuing this matter criminally,” CalPERS Chief Counsel Matt Jacobs said in a statement.

Jacobs didn’t go into specifics. Parenti’s civil attorney, Scott Kivel, said his client’s position is that he did not receive illegal retirement payments. CalPERS is seeking the return of the $1.8 it said that Parenti obtained fraudulently. Love, who was charged on November 15 by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, collected around $700,000 in pension benefits after retiring from the police chief’s position in 2009 through 2012, Wagstaffe said. Love is scheduled to be arranged on December 9. His attorney Jeffrey Hayden did not respond to requests for comment. Love’s May 2009 retirement only lasted two days, even after receiving an unspecified workers compensation disability payout, which stipulated that he could no longer work as police chief, a CalPERS audit in 2021 showed. Love continued to be the full-time salaried police chief for Broadmoor through 2012 while continuing to collect the retirement benefits at the same time, the CalPERS audit determined. Wagstaffe said Love faces up to four years in prison. EQUAL JUSTICE? The District Attorney said he and his staff have had discussions about the different outcomes for Parenti and Love and whether that is fair. “Parenti is going to go free and Love is held accountable,” he said. “But in the end everyone gets evaluated individually. We have a job to do. We can’t try to even the playing field.” Wagstaffe, a long-time employee of the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, said he has had frequent dealings with Love in their roles as law enforcement officers over the years. “He is not a bad person,” Wagstaffe said. “It was a bad act that violated the law. He violated CalPERS rules and has to be held accountable.” The DA said he did ask the U. S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco to consider taking the criminal case against Parenti, because federal statute of limitations is six years, two years longer than the state rules, but officials refused without disclosing why. The Broadmoor police department audit by CalPERS in 2021 and subsequent CalPERS findings found that Parenti and Love committed most of the department’s alleged fraudulent retirement benefits, totaling $2.3 million. While Love was found by CalPERS to have collected retirement benefits and salary for three years from 2009 to 2012, Parenti was accused of defrauding the pension system for 12 years from 2007 to 2019. CalPERS contends the fraud included Parenti receiving workers compensation disability settlement from the Broadmoor Police Department of $108,500 on August 4, 2017. While the settlement should have ended Parenti’s career, he continued working as a commander for the department full-time for two more years. This occurred, the CalPERS 2021 audit said, while Parenti continued to receive retirement benefits. HOW DID CALPERS ERR? What remains a mystery is how CalPERS missed the original complaint against double-dipping at Broadmoor. The former Broadmoor police officer who told CalPERS of Parenti’s double-dipping, Steve Landi, said in a Bee interview in February that he had reported the fraud to the pension system in November 2016. “They were lining their pockets for years,” Landi said. “It’s corruption at its finest.” CalPERS had insisted to The Bee that it never received Landi’s complaint. Wagstaffe said CalPERS officials first denied to him that there was a previous complaint, insisting they learned of the Broadmoor fraud first during the 2021 audit. “CalPERS originally told us (in 2021) we knew nothing about this until a little while ago,” Wagstaffe said, referring to CalPERS audit findings that year. He said after his agency insisted CalPERS conduct a review: “They found the complaint from Landi in their records.” Wagstaffe said there was break-down at CalPERS that it missed the complaint of fraud for more than four years. “Ultimately, we pressed them and pressed them and pressed them and they looked at the records, and said oh yeah it (the double-dipping fraud) was reported to us by one of the other officers in Broadmoor.” Wagstaffe’s statements raise new questions about the effectiveness of CalPERS to root out double-dipping and other violations of pension system rules. AN EARLIER CONCERN Broadmoor was under scrutiny by CalPERS for failing to enroll some officers in the pension fund in 2017, CalPERS has previously disclosed, but not for the double dipping by top police personnel. Former CalPERs insider J.J. Jelinicic told the Bee in February that the CalPERS division that monitors employee enrollment issues has little coordination with another unit assigned to examine double-dipping and other state retirement rule violations. “The right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing,” said Jelincic, a former CalPERS investment staffer and board member. Even routine audits of CalPERS employer units, like the one that discovered problems at Broadmoor, are rare given the large size of the pension system, which covers more than 2 million active and retired members and has more than $430 billion in assets. Around 240 audits are done a year but there are around 3,000 separate employer units representing municipalities, special districts and school systems that are part of CalPERS. On that schedule, it would take 12 years for every CalPERS agency to be reviewed. The pension system also represents state employees. Broadmoor is one of the smallest of the 3,000 CalPERS employers. In fact, the Broadmoor Police Protection Department is an anomaly in the state of California. There is no town or city of Broadmoor. The police department covers an unincorporated part of San Mateo County of several square miles and is surrounded by Daly City on three sides and Colma on one side. It serves around 8,000 residents. While he is facing no criminal penalties, CalPERS continues to demand that Parenti return the $1.8 million in retirement benefits he received between 2007 and 2020 while working as a police chief and in other positions at Broadmoor. “We are continuing to aggressively address Mr. Parenti’s actions on the civil front,” said CalPERS Chief Counsel Jacobs in his statement. “We strongly believe he wrongly received some $1.8 million in retirement benefits and will continue to pursue repayments of those funds.”

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Republican Kiley Captures California US House Seat

 Republican Kevin Kiley, a state legislator who became a conservative favorite for his pointed and relentless criticism of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, captured a U.S. House seat Tuesday in northeastern California.

With 83% of ballots counted, Kiley received nearly 53% of the votes to defeat Democrat Kermit Jones, a doctor and Navy veteran.

The win will pad the margin of Republican control in the House. The GOP seized the majority from Democrats last week when California Rep. Mike Garcia was re-elected and gave the party its 218th seat. With Kiley’s victory, the tally stands at 220 Republicans and 212 Democrats.

“Voters want a new direction,” Kiley said in a post-election interview last week as he awaited results in the 3rd Congressional District that runs from the Sacramento suburbs down the interior spine of the state. “The House is going to be the vehicle for effectuating the change voters are looking for.”

Even with the win, Republicans will remain a small minority within the state’s congressional delegation. Of the 52 seats — the largest delegation in Congress — GOP candidates had captured just 11 districts with one race still too early to call.

The leading issues in Kiley’s race mirrored House and Senate campaigns around the country.

Kiley, a state Assembly member, argued that California was in turmoil under Democratic rule in Washington and Sacramento, with residents gouged by inflation and made anxious by rising crime. He sought to depict Jones as an eager foot soldier-in-waiting if Democrats kept their majority and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stayed in the job.

Kiley emerged as a conservative champion for his steady criticism of Newsom, particularly during the 2021 recall election that the governor easily survived. Kiley finished sixth in the field of candidates on the ballot to replace Newsom had voters wanted him removed.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

EDD Debit Card Program Rife with Fraud, Reports of Unemployed Californians Not Getting Their Money

With rent due, Daryl Stanczack was counting on money from unemployment, but on November 1, he found he was overdrawn.

“You expect to get it,” said the Long Beach resident. “You expect to have it there.” 

He says he soon learned someone had duplicated his Employment Development Department (EDD) debit card and stole his benefits payment. But what surprised him even more was Bank of America’s response. 

The bank is responsible for issuing and administering the cards for the state of California.

“I got to the bank and they’re, ‘Yeah, this happens all the time,’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, if this happens all the time they should change it, make it better.’”

He’s far from alone. In fact, a FOX 11 investigation found the EDD debit card program is rife with scammers, complaints and problems. 

SUGGESTED: California inflation relief payment scams: What you need to know

This past July, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fined Bank of America $225 million over the bank’s botched disbursement of unemployment benefits in multiple states during the height of the pandemic. 

But our investigation has found innocent people are still being left in the lurch. Enter the search terms “BofA” and “EDD” in the CFPB website and you’ll see more than 3 million complaints from about a dozen states.

In recent weeks, beneficiaries have complained that their funds have been frozen for a year or that they had thousands transferred out of their account. Bank of America says it froze accounts due to widespread fraud, but in a letter to California lawmakers, the finance giant admitted at one point as many as 488,000 accounts in California were frozen. 

Among them were legitimate beneficiaries who tell FOX 11 they were left without their money at a time when businesses were shuttered and they needed their money the most.

In a statement to FOX11 Bank of America said, “As California’s unemployment program faced tens of billions of dollars in fraud, Bank of America’s goal always was to ensure legitimate recipients could access their benefits. Bank of America partnered with the state to identify and fight fraud throughout the pandemic, identifying hundreds of thousands of suspicious cards and assisting the state in protecting billions of dollars.”

“We need more clarity about what banks can and cannot do in terms of freezing your money if there’s a problem,” says Lauren Saunders, the associate director of the National Consumer Law Center in Washington, D.C. 

The advocacy group takes on big banks as part of its mission to protect consumers. She says the state should have given beneficiaries should have a choice on how they get their payments.

The state of California rolled out the program back in 2010, partnering with Bank of America. The EDD argued many beneficiaries didn’t have bank accounts and so the EDD debit card was better than sending checks. 

Bank of America would issue the cards at no cost to the state and in exchange, California would get a share of the profits. Most of the fees come from merchants, who pay up anytime a customer uses the card, but Bank of America would also collect interest on the funds in people’s accounts. 

We wanted to know how much the agreement has brought in for the state. The EDD’s own documents show that it has collected almost $200 million from the agreement. The amounts were modest in the first year, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. But then, during the pandemic, those numbers jumped to six million in just one month.  In fact, 2020 was a profitable year for the state, raking in $47 million from the cards.

“Is the fact that the state is making money off it impacting their choices?” Saunders asks. “We don’t know.”

No one from the EDD agreed to go on camera, and when we asked for specifics on how the profit share is calculated, the EDD press office said they needed to check with their attorneys, then didn’t get back to us. 

“We definitely should know how much the consumer is paying in fees.” Saunders said. “We should know
if there is a way of reducing those fees.”

We don’t know how much came from consumer fees, but last year Bank of America told California lawmakers that it had brought in $687 million, but had spent $927 million. The Bank added it had lost $240 million between January of 2011 and the same month in 2021 in part due to criminals and fraud.

The bank now wants out of the EDD card business, but California said, “no.” The state exercised an option in the contract to keep the program going.

As for Stanczack, he got his money refunded, but wishes he’d been given a choice on how to get his money. He now has a new card and just interviewed for a job in his field of commercial plumbing, which he hopes will mean he won’t have to worry about EDD scammers stealing his money again.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNewsLA

Elton John Concert Attack: LA Couple Beaten at Dodger Stadium

Police have arrested one person in connection with the brutal beating of a Los Angeles couple in their 60s by a group of people following an Elton John concert at Dodger Stadium.

The Los Angles Police Department did not release any further details about the arrest but continues its investigation after video went viral on social media showing the battery incident that happened in the Dodger Stadium parking lot Thursday.

The couple’s daughter, Nicole, spoke with FOX 11 about the incident. 

“They were so excited to go have a random little date night, so they went to the Elton John concert,” Nicole said. “They had a really nice night and they wanted to beat the crowd so they left 10-15 minutes before the concert ended.”

Nicole said her parents were about to leave the stadium when they heard a loud thud.  

“They were in their car exiting Dodger Stadium and traffic got crazy out there. People were walking around all the cars, so they were in line to exit. A group of people walked around their car and they both heard this loud bang and someone had hit my dad’s mirror on his Tahoe,” said Nicole.

Nicole said her dad got out of the car to figure out what happened. 

“He looked and he was thinking his mirror was hanging off, and he looked at the people and said, ‘Who hit my mirror,’ and this group of about six people turned around,” Nicole said., “A female was like ‘I did,’ and she was intoxicated and witnesses claim that she swung [at] my dad first and he went to block. The last thing he remembers is these three or four guys just started hitting him all at the same time.”

Nicole said her mom was in the car, but got out to help once she realized what was happening.

“Her instinct was to get out and help him, and as my mom’s trying to pull men off of him, she was grabbed by the back of the head by a female in that group. Before she knew it, the gentleman in the black shirt, black backwards hat (as seen in the video), basically football tackles my mom and my mom just remembers flying and that’s it,” Nicole said. “Witnesses said that my mom hit her head so hard on the concrete that they heard her skull hit and everyone was certain she had cracked her head. My mom blacked out and when she came to, she was looking around and no one was helping them and she looked and my dad was lifeless on the floor, blacked out as well.”

Nicole said one man helped her parents and that man also recorded the video, but had a run in with the attackers. 

“The attackers witnessed him recording and went after him as well, so they broke his phone, and punched him is what I’m told,” said Nicole.

Nicole said her parents were not receiving help quickly enough, so her mom ended up driving them both to the hospital, and that’s where they made a police report with the LAPD. She said her parents suffered brain injuries and broken bones. Her mother was released from the hospital that night, but her father remained hospitalized until Saturday. 

“I didn’t know what to do. I had to really gather my thoughts, and instantly it was anger, just anger. My parents are much older than these people in the video and I can’t comprehend how people could throw away their lives and risk their livelihoods with just a careless act,” she said.

Nicole said the case got more traction after the video went viral on social media.

“As social media blew up, we were contacted today [by police] so we did give our part of the story so hopefully justice can be served and the legal system doesn’t fail us but already we’re being told LAPD is saying this started from a fender bender so from the get go, the story’s already wrong,” said Nicole. 

Click here to read the full article at FoxNewsLA

Victory Within Reach for Esmeralda Soria in 27th Assembly District Race Against Mark Pazin

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria continues to hold a slim, but increasingly safe-looking, lead over Mark Pazin in their contentious contest to represent the 27th Assembly District in the California Legislature. The latest results also bring clarity to many Fresno County races, but a seat in Congress remains too close to call. After updated election returns Friday afternoon from Fresno and Madera counties, Democrat Soria has 44,784 votes, or 51.2%, while Republican Mark Pazin, the former sheriff of Merced County, has 42,734, or 48.8%. The margin of about 2,050 votes is only a slight change from midweek totals. The 27th District includes portions of Fresno, Merced and Madera counties. Across all three counties, regardless of district, there remain a total of about 3,300 ballots left for election officials to process and count. For Pazin to make up the difference on Soria, not only would the lion’s share of those unprocessed ballots need to come from voters in the 27th District, but Pazin would have to garner the vast majority of them.

One North Valley race that remains very much in doubt is in the 13th Congressional District. That hotly-contested election pitted longtime state Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, against Republican businessman and farmer John Duarte of Hughson. Since Election Night on Nov. 8, the lead has see-sawed back and forth between the two men, and at no time has the margin even reached one percentage point.

That didn’t change after Friday’s updates from Fresno and Madera counties, which make up part of the district along with Merced County and portions of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Duarte now has 63,539 votes, or 50.3% of votes counted to date, compared to 62,674 for Gray – a margin of 865 votes or six-tenths of a percentage point. The California Secretary of State’s office reported Friday that Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties still have more than 60,000 ballots yet to process and count. But it is unclear how many of those ballots are from voters in the 13th District. The 13th remains closely watched nationwide because a Duarte victory would add to the narrow margin that the Republican Party has now secured in the U.S. House of Representatives, while a win for Gray would strengthen the Democrats’ position as the minority party. In addition to the multi-county races for the Assembly and House of Representatives, the newest update from Fresno County helped to solidify the results in a slew of local contests from the Nov. 8 midterm general election.

FRESNO UNIFIED In one of the most closely-watched Fresno Unified School District board races, incumbent Veva Islas widened her lead over challenger Karen Steed, a retired FUSD teacher, for the district’s McLane High School area seat. The margin between the two candidates, which was as narrow as 25 votes election night, has grown to 325 votes. That gives Islas almost 45% of the vote, to Steed’s 39.7%. Chemist Michelle Scire, a second challenger, trails with 15.2%. There have been talks of a possible recount in this race, according to Islas, although Steed neither confirmed nor denied her intentions to request one in an interview Tuesday. As for the other three Fresno Unified seats that were up for election, two incumbents and one challenger have maintained commanding leads with every updated tally since election night. In the Bullard High School area, challenger Susan Wittrup, a retired FUSD school psychologist, leads incumbent Terry Slatic, a retired United States Marine Corps major, by almost 6,000 votes. She’s taken 58% of the vote to Slatic’s 26%. FUSD teacher James Barr and retired FUSD campus safety assistant Michael Haynes are in third and fourth with 11.7% and 4.3% of the vote, respectively. Incumbents in the two remaining races ran out to early leads election night and have held onto them ever since. Keshia Thomas, the incumbent in the district’s Edison High area, maintains a commanding lead of over 2,000 votes over her sole challenger Wayne Horton. Thomas has 76% to Horton’s 23.8%. Valerie F. Davis, the incumbent in Fresno Unified’s Sunnyside High area, is in first place in a pool of four by a little under 2,000 votes. She leads with 47.4% to alternative educator Karl C. Diaz’s second place with about 23.3% of the vote. Educator Tammy McMahon-Gorans follows with 20.7% of the vote, and marketer Michael Osmer is in last place with 8.5%. CLOVIS UNIFIED Little has changed in Clovis Unified’s two races on the ballot as well. Nonprofit executive and former Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier still leads in the competition for the district’s Area 1 seat by over 4,000 votes. He carried 39.3% to communications consultant Samantha Bauer’s 32.4%. Businessman Chuck Der Manouel and Realtor Joanne Burton lag behind with about 23.5% and 4.6% of the vote, respectively. In the race for the Area 6 seat, parent and teacher Deena Combs-Flores handily leads by over 14,000 votes. She’s taken 62% to retired business owner Bill Whitmore’s 37.9%.

Click to here read the full story at Fresno Bee

L.A. Urges Return to Mask-Wearing Amid Winter Covid Spike

Los Angeles is urging that residents wear masks again in all indoor public settings amid a Covid-19 spike that’s expected to intensify in the winter months.

The county announced Thursday that it is once again “strongly recommending” people resume masking, although it is not requiring it in most indoor venues. However, masks are still mandated at health care and congregate-care facilities, for those infected in the last ten days, and in establishments that have imposed their own restrictions, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said according to ABC7 News.

Los Angeles and many other progressive cities finally lifted their masks mandates a few months ago amid a decrease in Covid-19 contraction nationwide. Children enrolled in public pre-school and daycare in New York City, who were not vulnerable to the disease and not likely to spread it, were among the last groups to be freed of masks.

Last January, Los Angeles forced students to wear high-grade, non-cloth masks indoors and outdoors in K-12 public schools and be tested as a condition of returning to class.

On Thursday, the local seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles increased to 100 per 100,000 citizens, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 citizens, the outlet noted.

“Now it is strongly recommended that all individuals wear a high-quality mask that fits well in the following settings: in public indoor spaces; when using public transit, including buses, ride-shares, taxis and medical transport; correctional and detention facilities; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

Davis warned that the number of reported cases is probably an undercount as many people test for the virus at home and don’t report a positive diagnosis to health officials. The number of Covid-positive patients being hospitalized is also growing in the county but reportedly only about 40 percent of them have been admitted because of Covid-related complications.

The county health officer told residents to be careful ahead of the holidays and when attending large gatherings.

While there is some evidence to suggest that wearing a well-fitting N95 mask might help curb transmission around the margins, research showsthat cheap cotton surgical masks, the kind the most commonly worn throughout the pandemic, are ineffective at preventing transmission.

Click here to read the full article at the National Review

McConnell Fends Off Leadership Challenge

He remains Senate GOP head, quashing bid by Scott, but vote shows caucus’ unrest.

Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected as Republican leader Wednesday, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the Senate GOP campaign chief criticized after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections that kept Senate control with Democrats.

McConnell, of Kentucky, easily swatted back the challenge from Scott in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with one other senator voting present. McConnell is poised to become the Senate’s longest-serving leader when the new Congress convenes next year.

“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the nearly four-hour closed-door meeting. He said he was “pretty proud” of the outcome but acknowledged the work ahead. “I think everybody in our conference agrees we want to give it our best shot.”

At a GOP senators lunch Tuesday, Scott and McConnell traded what colleagues said were “candid” and “lively” barbs. The 10 Republican senators joining in Wednesday’s revolt against McConnell and voting for Scott included some of the most conservative figures and those aligned with former President Trump.

“Why do I think he won?” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), among McConnell’s detractors. “Because the conference didn’t want to change course.”

The unrest in the Senate GOP is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of midterm elections that left the party split over Trump’s hold on the party. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination from colleagues to run for speaker, with Republicans seizing the House majority Wednesday, but he faces stiff opposition from a core group of right-flank Republicans unconvinced of his leadership.

Scott said in a statement that although the “results of today’s elections weren’t what we hoped for, this is far from the end of our fight to Make Washington Work.”

Retreating to the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber for the private vote, the senators first considered, then rejected, a motion by a Scott ally, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to delay the leadership votes until after the Dec. 6 runoff election in Georgia between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that will determine the final makeup of the Senate.

Cruz said it was a “cordial discussion, but a serious discussion” about how Republicans in the minority can work effectively.

In all, 48 GOP new and returning senators voted. Retiring Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska missed the vote to be home after his office said his wife was recovering from a nonthreatening seizure.

Senators also elected the other GOP leadership posts. McConnell’s top posts ranks remained stable, with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as GOP whip and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in the No. 3 spot as chairman of the GOP conference. Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines was elected to take over the campaign operation from Scott.

The challenge by Scott, who was urged by Trump to confront McConnell, escalated a long-simmering feud between Scott and McConnell over the party’s approach to try to reclaim the Senate majority.

Restive conservatives in the chamber have lashed out at McConnell’s handling of the election, as well as his iron grip over the Senate Republican caucus.

Trump has been pushing for the party to dump McConnell ever since the Senate leader gave a scathing speech blaming the then-president for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

McConnell has forcefully pushed back, blaming the Republicans’ problems on what he has called “candidate quality” after many of his preferred candidates were replaced by Trump-backed Republicans on the ballot. McConnell said Republicans put up the kinds of candidates who “frightened” independent and moderate voters.

Those voters held the view that “we were not dealing with issues in a responsible way, and we were spending too much time on negativity and attacks and chaos,” McConnell said earlier this week. “They were frightened.”

Among the many reasons Scott listed for mounting a challenge is that Republicans had compromised too much with Democrats in the last Congress — producing bills that President Biden has counted as successes and that Democrats ran on in the 2022 election.

The feud between Scott and McConnell has been percolating for months and reached a boil as election results trickled in showing there would be no Republican Senate wave, as Scott predicted, according to senior Republican strategists who were not authorized to discuss internal issues by name and insisted on anonymity.

The feuding started not long after Scott took over the party committee after the 2020 election. Many in the party viewed his ascension as an effort to build his national political profile and donor network ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024. Some were irked by promotional materials from the committee that were heavy on Scott’s own biography.

Then came Scott’s release of an 11-point plan early this year, which called for a modest tax increase for many of the lowest-paid Americans, while opening the door for cutting Social Security and Medicare, which McConnell swiftly repudiated even as he declined to offer an agenda of his own.

The feud was driven in part by the fraying trust in Scott’s leadership, as well as poor finances of the committee, which was $20 million in debt, according to a senior Republican consultant.

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Battles with Biden and Within New Majority Anticipated

Republicans secured the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, boosting the party’s ability to stymie President Biden’s agenda even though the midterm results stop well short of a mandate from the electorate.

It took more than a week for the Associated Press to determine the GOP had won the 218 seats needed to win control. The belated milestone underscored Republicans’ underwhelming performance in an election cycle when economic conditions, historical precedent and a sour national mood had been expected to give them a greater advantage.

The party’s gains mean Biden will contend with a divided government in the latter half of his current term. Democrats have cemented control of the Senate with 50 seats, and can further bolster their ranks if Sen. Raphael Warnock wins reelection in a Georgia runoff next month.

Republicans had projected confidence before last week’s election of a “red wave” that would yield them at least a dozen more House seats. But Democrats’ surprising strength, powered largelyby voter outrage over the Supreme Court’s reversal of federal abortion protections, blunted the GOP’s edge to single digits.

Republicans claimed their majority with a victory by Rep. Mike Garcia over Democrat Christy Smith in a northern Los Angeles County district that Biden won by 12 points in 2020. The AP called the race Wednesday, though official results will take longer. Six competitive races, including four California contests, remain to be called.

“Republicans have officially flipped the People’s House! Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver,” House GOP leader Kevin Mc-Carthy tweeted after his party clinched control of the chamber.

Biden congratulated McCarthy and pledged a willingness to collaborate with the GOP, reiterating his call to move past “political warfare.”

“The American people want us to get things done for them,” he said. “They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better. And I will work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — willing to work with me to deliver results.”

A Republican House is widely expected to clash with the Democratic president on policy, including potential standoffs over raising the debt limit and providing more aid to Ukraine. GOP members have also threatened impeachment proceedings against Biden and members of his Cabinet, and have vowed to launch multiple investigations, particularly into allegations against Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

But the GOP confer-ence’s relatively small majority could exacerbate its ideological fissures. Many of the incoming members from deep-red districts hail from the party’s right flank and are loyal to former President Trump, even as prominent Republicans grow increasingly vocal about his drag on the GOP. A narrow majority means that a small number of defectors can have an outsized impact on the party’s agenda.

McCarthy, who has doggedly pursued the speakership, has played down disappointment that Republicans didn’t pick up a larger number of seats.

“Remember, in the House, they don’t give gavels out by ‘small,’ ‘medium’ and ‘large.’ They just give you the gavel,” he told Fox News’ Jesse Watters, referring to the symbol of House control. “And we’re going to be able to govern.”

But his party’s slim margin leaves the Bakersfield Republican little room for error as he seeks the votes to become the next speaker. Though McCarthy had assiduously worked to strengthen alliances with the GOP’s most conservative faction, he nevertheless faced open hostilities from the right after he led the party to a lackluster midterm showing.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a staunch Trump ally, blasted McCarthy last week, tweeting that he represented “FLIGHT over FIGHT when the chips are down” and “is not a Speaker for these times.”

McCarthy cleared the first hurdle for the job on Tuesday after House Republicans voted for him to be nominated speaker. But with roughly 30 conservatives backing a challenge by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, it is clear McCarthy does not yet have the 218 votes necessary to cement his place as top House leader.

“My bid to run for speaker is about changing the paradigm and the status quo,” Biggs tweeted before the vote. “Minority Leader McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion.”

The speaker of the next Congress will officially be determined by a vote of the entire House in January.

The current speaker — Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco — agreed in 2018 to step down from House Democratic leadership by the end of 2022. Her spokesman said she would announce her plans Thursday.

“House Democrats defied expectations with an excellent performance: running their races with courage, optimism and determination,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “In the next Congress, [they] will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda — with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority.”

Republicans had reason for high hopes this election cycle. Large majorities of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, polls have shown, an indicator that theoretically should bode well for the party that does not hold the White House. Persistent inflation gave them an opportunity to run on the economy — an area where many people tend to favor the GOP over Democrats.

Biden threatened to be an albatross for Democrats. Only twice in the decades after World War II has the party that controlled the White House gained seats in Congress — in 1998 and 2002, when the approval ratings for Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, were in the 60s. Biden’s ratings, in contrast, have been in the low 40s.

That Democrats performed so well — not picking up House seats, but avoiding significant losses — makes this midterm even more of an anomaly, said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

“For the first time, it really does feel like midterm voters were willing to get beyond their dissatisfaction with the president,” he said.

The GOP’s underperformance was most apparent in its failure “to make inroads into places that they were hoping would be most competitive. … They were unable to claw back the suburbs. And they were unable to make New England Republicans a reality again. And they were unable to dislodge quite a few strong Democratic incumbents in places that they had hoped they could.”

Trump, launching his 2024 presidential bid this week, cheered Republicans’ House takeover, but acknowledged they should have done better.

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