A Supreme Bench Slap

The Supreme Court has struck down California’s covid regulations limiting home Bible studies and prayer meetings. The per curium opinion closes with these words—

This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. … And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further “interests of the highest order” by means “narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). That standard “is not watered down”; it “really means what it says.”

The decision was 5-4, with Roberts in the minority.

Nothing to See Here. Move Along.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that Alex Padilla, who Governor Hairgel says he will appoint to fill out the remainder of Kamala Harris’ senate term, fought to pay out a $35 million state contract to a Biden-linked consulting firm. The no-bid contract was part of a “voter outreach” program run by Padilla as California’s Secretary of State. The state’s chief fiscal officer has refused to approve the contract because Padilla lacked the authority to grant it. Padilla has spent months lobbying to pay the firm, unsuccessfully thus far.

BTW, Harris still hasn’t resigned from the Senate, even though allowing her replacement to be appointed during this session of Congress would give him seniority over the newly elected members joining in January.

Yes, In One Sense It’s Donald Trump’s America

And Donald Trump’s America contains the following:

Kate Brown’s Oregon which contains
Ted Wheeler’s Portland

Jay Insee’s Washington which contains
Jenny Durkan’s Seattle

Gavin Newsom’ California which contains
Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles and
London Breed’s San Francisco

J. B. Pritzker’s Illinois which contains
Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago

Andrew Cuomo’s New York which contains
Bill de Blasio’s New York City

Tony Evers’ Wisconsin which contains
John Antaramian’s Kenosha

In fact, Trump’s America contains 50 states with thousands of their own political subdivisions over which the President of the United States has no direct control of local affairs—but the local elected officials should. Whether local officials do or not exercise control or whether they are effective or not is generally not a federal question.

Don’t Know Much About History

The California Assembly has passed a bill to set up a a task force to look at the question of slavery reparations. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Slavery was not legal in the California under Mexican law when it became a territory of the United States in 1848, and slavery was never legal in the territory afterward. In 1849, a black man who had been brought to the territory as a slave won a court case that resulted in his freedom and the legal precedent of the official non-acknowledgement of slavery in California. It entered the Union as a free state in 1850.

California was a part of Mexico before 1848, and Mexico outlawed slavery in 1829. Prior to 1829 (under both Spanish and Mexican rule), the indigenous people of California were treated as de facto slaves by the Hispanic settlers.

So the history of California is such that if any reparations for slavery are owed, they are owed to the members of the various Indian tribes of California—and they are owed by the Hispanics in the state. It’s probably a safe bet that essentially none of the legislators who voted for the bill are aware of their state’s actually history of slavery.

I’m pleased that Mrs. Hoge and I left California 30 years ago.

Follow the Money

The LA teachers’ union has announced that they don’t want to go back to work teaching kids who are physically present in classrooms until certain demands have been met. Among those demands are mandatory mask wearing in the classroom, a moratorium on charter schools, and defunding the police. They claim their demands are driven by a concern for safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States underscores the deep equity and justice challenges arising from our profoundly racist, intensely unequal society. Unlike other countries that recognize protecting lives is the key to protecting livelihoods, the United States has chosen to prioritize profits over people. The Trump administration’s attempt to force people to return to work on a large scale depends on restarting physical schools so parents have childcare.

In Los Angeles, this means increasing risk especially in Black and Brown working communities, where people are more likely to have “essential” jobs, insufficient health care, higher levels of preexisting health conditions, and to live in crowded housing. Meanwhile, the rewards of economic recovery accrue largely to white and well-off communities that have largely been shielded from the worst of the pandemic’s effects.

The profits vs. people cant in those paragraphs seems to be more about power than safety.

However, the real clue to what’s going on may be the teachers’ signing on to the campaign to defund the police. At first glance, it seems odd, setting one public employee union against another—until you consider the broader situation in California. The State of California is broke. The CALPERS retirement system isn’t properly funded. Unemployment checks are being delayed for lack of funds. State revenue is down because unemployed people don’t pay income taxes and make fewer purchases to generate sale tax revenue. And the state is now entering into a second shutdown, so the state’s revenues will continue to collapse.

It won’t be long before California and its counties and cities will no longer be able to pay all their employees. They will have to choose who to let go from among their host of teachers, bureaucrats, firefighters, and cops. Gentle Reader, given the current crime wave, who do you think the Inner Party will choose to keep to the bitter end? If the teachers’ union wants to preserve as many jobs as possible, it’s going to have to find ways to suck money out of other portions of the education budget. Reduction of physical plant expenses is the low hanging fruit in such an exercise.

It isn’t about safety.

It’s about paychecks.

Fire Season in California

Back in the early ’80s, Mrs. Hoge and I lived in Thousand Oaks, California. While we were there, a substantial (100,000+ acre) fire burned through the Los Padres National Forest 20 or so miles north of us. We went up to a hill on the north side of town to take a look at the fire. The crest of the hills on the far side of the Santa Clarita River Valley was a solid line of red and orange, dark smoke covered the sky, and ash driven by the strong winds was falling on us. Connie turned to me and said, “Mordor.”

Many of California’s natural ecosystems evolved with fire. Indeed, some native plants’ seeds won’t germinate until exposed to the heat of a brush fire. Wrongheaded resource management practices have led to too much brush accumulating at once, and the resulting fires are larger and more disastrous than occurred when the land was unmanaged.

It may be hard to evacuate if your only vehicle is a Tesla and PGE has turned off the power.

I’m So Old …

… I remember when people (including my wife and me) moved to California because it was a place full of opportunities for growth. I also remember watching those opportunities slip away as the state became more tightly regulated. Eventually, Mrs. Hoge and I slipped away as well.

Of course, there’s nothing particularly special about California’s politicians and bureaucrats other than the size of the bureaucracy. They function with a typical level of incompetence. It’s no surprise to me that a state with significant energy resources is facing power blackouts because it has mismanaged its forests and energy production and distribution systems.

If you live in a well-managed state and you’d like a preview of a tightly regulated economy looks like, look at California. If you’re a one-percenter or the right kind of bureaucratic professional, you may like it. Otherwise, …

Afterthought— I used the term one-percenter in the paragraph above. That can refer to either an outlaw motorcycle gang member or a member of the wealthy elite. Either meaning works in that sentence.

As Green Fades to Black

Pacific Gas & Electric is seriously looking at power blackouts this summer. Bloomberg reports that

A plan by California’s biggest utility to cut power on high-wind days during the onrushing wildfire season could plunge millions of residents into darkness. And most people aren’t ready.

The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be days and days of blackouts.

Some residents are turning to other power sources, a boon for home battery systems marketed by Sunrun Inc., Tesla Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc. But the numbers of those systems in use are relatively small when compared with PG&E’s 5.4 million customers.

Read the whole thing. And if you’re in California, buy candles and a generator.

That’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature

Joel Kotkin has a piece over at City Journal about the failure of the California high-speed rail project. Reality has finally set in, and the new governor is pulling the plug on the wasteful endeavor which has been emblematic of the state’s elite class’s mismanagement of their fellow citizens’ subjects’ lives.

Some greens and train enthusiasts, such as the deep-blue Los Angeles Times editorial board, have criticized Newsom’s move, and others remain adamant in their support of the plane-to-train trope. But California, which has embarked on its own Green New Deal of sorts, has seen these results:  high energy and housing costs, and the nation’s highest cost-adjusted poverty rate, and a society that increasingly resembles a feudal social order. Attempts to refashion global climate in one state reflects either a peculiarly Californian hubris or a surfeit of revolutionary zeal.

It was the early warning signs of the attempt by rich Progressives who were certain that they knew better to take over California and make it in their own image that led Mrs. Hoge and me to move out of the state in 1990. Being in the upper 5-% of the income spectrum was clearly going to be insufficient to allow for protection from the coming changes. Indeed, it made us prime targets of upper-middle-class “wealth” to be taxed. We joined the first cohort of economic refugees.

California is now becoming a feudal society with rich Progressives and Democrat politicians at the top, a growing class of serfs at the bottom, and a disappearing middle-class. That’s fine for the folks at the top. For now. But it can’t and won’t be stable, and that instability isn’t a bug. It’s a Real World feature resulting from the Laws of Thermodynamics. What can’t go on forever, won’t go on forever.

California Mugged By Reality

In apparent proof that it is possible to run out of other peoples’ money, California appears to be aborting its high-speed rail project less than a week after the Green New Deal Great Leap Backward™ crowd announced that the whole country would be switching back to trains from air travel over the next 10 years.

I was going to write that none of the Green New Derpsters were available for comment, but that isn’t strictly true. However, the editorial standards here at Hogewash! don’t allow such language.

Oh, and everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.


Solar Plant May Need Carbon Offset

A solar-powered generating plant in California emits enough CO2 (46,000 ton per year) that it will be required to participate in the state’s cap and trade program. Investors.com reports that the plant which uses mirrors to focus sunlight on boilers atop three towers uses natural gas.

First, it burns natural gas to pre-heat the water at the top of the three towers before the sun comes up. Then, …  it “has auxiliary gas boilers that kick in whenever cloud cover blocks the sun.”
Ivanpah also has a nasty habit of cooking birds that happen to fly too close to the towers — 3,500 of them in its first year …
Somehow these bird deaths don’t seem to upset environmentalists very much.

Read the whole thing.

Obama Keeps a Promise

Most of Barack Obama’s promises come with an expiration date, but he’s keeping one of them.

Betsy McCaughey has a story over at Investors about how the Obama Administration is funneling over 900 million bucks into California’s health care exchange and what much of the cash is being spent on. For example, the Executive Director will be paid $360,000 a year (Governor Brown is paid $165,288), but some really big bucks are going to Democrat constituency groups for “outreach.”

NAACP $600,000
Service Employees International Union $2,000,000
LA County AFL-CIO $1,000,000

In all, $37,000,000 is budgeted for “outreach.” And on top of the outreach contracts, California’s enrollment process is also outsourced to employees of these community organizations, unions, and health clinics. Enrollment “assisters” will be paid $58 for each enrollee they sign up. During the first year, $49 million is budgeted to pay them, but after that, assisters will be paid out of the premiums collected by the exchange.

Well, the President famously said that he would reward his friends and punish his enemies. At least, there’s one campaign promise that he’s keeping.

A Family Affair

A guest post by Evelyn Asche, a member of the Vast Hogewash Research Organization.

SACRAMENTO — In what appears to have a been a joint effort by California Highway Patrol and the FBI, California State Senator Ron Calderon’s (D—Montebello) offices were raided Tuesday. An FBI spokeswoman said that search warrants were executed at two separate locations at the Capitol “in an effort to gather evidence” regarding “allegations of criminal activity.” The second location was the Latino Legislative Caucus.

While the FBI is not commenting on the reasons behind the raids, the investigation may stem from allegations that Ron Calderon was influencing legislation in order to benefit his brother Tom Calderon’s consulting firm. Ron Calderon has been associated with legislation advantageous to the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Los Angeles County for which Calderon Group, Inc., is a consulting contractor. According to the Central Basin’s records, it appears to have paid Tom Calderon more than $700,000 in consulting fees during the period from September, 2006 to January, 2012, without any explanation of what he actually does for the Water District.

The FBI may be looking into whether or not there was a quid pro quo arrangement with the Central Basin Water District in exchange for favorable legislation. Of course, it’s entirely possible this is just an instance of the Water District taking advantage of a former politician’s expertise. Tom Calderon is also a former California State politician.

In fact, several members of the Calderon family have been involved in state politics for over 30 years. Brothers Charles, Ron, and Tom and Charles’ son Ian have held California State office in one form or another since 1982. Politics are nothing new for them. The scandals and the investigations that come with them aren’t either.

Ron Calderon’s district includes such cities as Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Montebello, and Whittier. For those who are not familiar with Southern California scandals, Bell has been embroiled in it’s own corruption scandal involving the city council, the police department, the city manager, and the mayor. The criminal activity they were accused of ran the gambit from voter fraud, gross misappropriation, corruption, to civil rights violations. Most of the parties involved are still facing prosecution.

It’s important to take note of Bell. George Cole, one of the City Council members from Bell, is a close friend and business associate of Tom Calderon. Cole was charged with 8 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds in the Bell scandal. George Cole also sat on the Board of the Central Basin Municipal Water District during the time those annual contracts were being awarded to Tom Calderon.

And that “involvement” in legislation which turned out to be helpful to the Central Basin Water District? According to reports, Ron Calderon not only sponsored a law that would grant the Central Basin additional powers over another water district, but he also succeeded in blocking an audit of the Central Basin’s financial records. The third brother Charles Calderon got involved when he attempted to get a piece of legislation passed that was favorable to Central Basin.

Both Ron and Charles Calderon have repeatedly denied that their brother’s consulting contract with the Water Basin have had any influence on their political decisions.

After the raid, Charles Calderon told the Sacramento Bee, “Right now we don’t know any facts, and without facts you speculate about the worst.” That was in response to the newspaper’s questions about an investigation involving a charity controlled by the Latino Legislative Caucus.

* * *

Stay tuned. There may be more interesting information to come about this family.

A First Amendment Challenge to Gun Control

The Washington Times reports that a practicing Sikh, Gursant Singh Khalsa, in California is suing the state in federal court. He is asserting that his religious beliefs require that he be armed in order to “be at all time fully prepared to defend themselves and others against injustice.” The suit says that the Mr. Khalsa “fears arrest, criminal prosecution, incarceration, and fine if he were to possess loaded weapons with 11 or more round magazines within his home, within his vehicle on the streets, or within his temple. But his religious beliefs require no less.”

Read the whole thing.

Is Maryland the Next California?

That’s the question proposed in this oped at The Daily Caller.

The answer from my vantage point in Westminster, Maryland, is, “Yes.”

Until the 1990s, California’s growing public sector was supported by a net influx of creative and productive people into industries such as aerospace and electronics. These days, the flow of talent and capital is away from that state because of its policies that punish success. Maryland’s economy has been supported recently in large part by federal government spending. While many bureaucrats chose to live on the north side of the Potomac, many of the companies doing contracting work are moving to the vastly friendlier business climate of Northern Virginia. As federal spending is reined in over the next few years, the transfer of tax money from the other 49 states to Maryland will diminish, weakening that subsidy of the state government.

[Gov.] O’Malley’s lack of leadership has put Maryland on a path to fiscal insolvency. He is repeating California’s mistakes by foisting out-of-control spending on a shrinking tax base. If it weren’t for the federal government employing tens of thousands of Marylanders, O’Malley would be out of a job and most certainly out of the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.

Each year, Maryland’s politicians make the state’s problems worse by forcing the most productive Marylanders to pay for the least productive ones. In today’s world of extreme social and career mobility, the federal government shield won’t last forever and those with means will seek asylum elsewhere. It’s happening in California. If Annapolis continues on its current fiscal path, it will happen in Maryland as well.

To borrow a line from Glenn Reynolds, things that can’t go on forever won’t.