Watch last’s night’s City Council meeting

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The Heroes Act just rewards bad behavior and poor governance

By Jon Coupal | “That which gets rewarded, gets repeated” is a principle equally applicable in business management, dog training and public policy.

As to the latter, when politicians and bureaucrats are rewarded with more money after wasting the taxpayer dollars they already receive, what makes anyone think their behavior will change?

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has passed a staggering $3 trillion stimulus plan called the Heroes Act. Nearly a trillion of that is slated for state and municipal governments.

While the previous relief package called the CARES Act helped the private sector, a good chunk of that also went to state and local governments for mass transit, Medicaid costs and direct dollars to local budgets that were related — more or less — to the pandemic.

But the Democrats’ new proposal envisions a huge portion of bailout dollars that are unrestricted.

The good news for taxpayers is that the Heroes Act is DOA in the United States Senate, at least in its current form. Led by Mitch the Impaler, the Republican-controlled body will undoubtedly pare it down and — hopefully — place many conditions on the release of the funds that will incentivize good behavior, not bad.

Given that there are infinite examples of governing malfeasance in California, the federal government could make several reasonable demands as a condition for receiving additional relief funds.

First and foremost is pension reform.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Protesters gather in downtown Fullerton, some recalling their own violent episodes with police

By Scott Schwebke and Tony Saavedra, Orange County Register | Some 100 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon at the Fullerton Transportation Center as violence and outrage continued to erupt nationwide from the death of George Floyd as he was being apprehended by a Minneapolis police officer.

The location was symbolic. The transportation center has been dubbed by activists as Kelly’s Corner in memory of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who was fatally beaten by police in 2011, near a light pole at the expansive facility.

Protesters held signs that read ” Black Lives Matter” and “Who do you Call When the Murderer Wears a Badge?”

A woman who appeared to be leading the demonstration used a loudspeaker to attack police for being at the rally. “Your presence is agitating us,” she shouted. The officers eventually retreated about 4:30 p.m.

Numerous protesters addressed the crowd, recounting violent encounters with police.

To read the entire story, please click here.

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California’s pre-existing condition

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How will we get around after the virus?

By Jon Coupal | The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives by putting our health at risk, disrupting our work lives and robbing us of most of our recreational activities. It has also evaporated all of our assumptions about transportation policy in California.

First, in one of the few positive consequences of the pandemic, California’s highest-in-the-nation cost of gasoline is way down. In October of last year, the average per-gallon price of gas in California was $4.18. Today it is $2.72. Naturally, no one could have anticipated the crash in the oil market because of rapidly diminishing demand. The low price of gas would be a cause for celebration if it were not for the fact that most are having to shelter in place at home.

Second, while the price of gas is down, the excise tax is not. Thanks to the 2017 gas tax hike of 19 cents per gallon, California now has 58 cents per gallon of gas taxes, 76 cents when the federal excise tax is included. Gas tax proponents argue the funding is necessary for road projects, but with the sudden onset of double-digit unemployment, a cut in the gas tax would be welcome relief for those who need to drive every day.

Third, the coronavirus is likely to sharpen the debate over whether gas taxes are a reliable and stable source of revenue to begin with. One of the justifications for the gas tax hike in 2017 was the decline in revenues due to more fuel-efficient vehicles at the same time vehicle miles traveled were increasing. The coronavirus is likely to accelerate this trend as high-risk individuals travel less frequently and those who can, work from home. Will this increase the push for a vehicle-miles-traveled tax as a replacement tax for the excise tax? Implementation and privacy concerns suggest that shift will not be rapid assuming it happens at all.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Bill Maher: We can’t sanitize the universe

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Why consider only one side of the lockdown equation?

By Steven Greenhut | As the pigs proclaimed in “Animal Farm,” “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Steven Greenhut

The oinkers ruled the farm with an iron fist and didn’t want the horses, sheep and other critters to get any improper ideas. George Orwell’s novel, of course, was an indictment of the Soviet government, which ruled in the name of the “people” — but only select people had a say in what went on.

The “Animal Farm” reference is useful these days, as a small group of politicians has suspended the usual checks and balances and is imposing edicts to protect us from the spread of COVID-19. Those who have questioned the wisdom, effectiveness or arbitrariness of specific policies have largely been shut out of the debate. In these uncertain times (as the tiresome saying goes), all ideas are equal, but some ideas are more equal than others.

The critics have been consistent in their response to my columns. As one letter-writer explained, “It is people like Greenhut who will cause more misery and more death — all because they want to go to the beach, the movies and to hell with everyone else.”

I have a daughter with a compromised immune system and a mom in a senior facility, so I do indeed take the contagion seriously and do not want people to die so I can head to the cineplex.

But it’s deeply disturbing that officials are only considering one side of the lockdown’s “death and misery” index. I’ve read that governments should never be willing to endanger anyone’s life. Good grief. Governments always make trade-offs with people’s lives. If that weren’t the case, then the national speed limit would be around 15 miles per hour. In fact, shutting down the economy and forcing people to stay inside imposes vast dangers, too.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Fullerton releases 2,400 pages of reports in the police beating death of Kelly Thomas

By Tony Saavedra, Orange County Register | When Kelly Thomas died nearly nine years ago, the initial police reports portrayed him as a criminal suspect, a homeless schizophrenic who “assaulted” six Fullerton patrol officers.

He now is remembered as the victim in one of the worst police beatings in national history, triggering major reforms in how officers deal with the homeless. That change in attitude is evident in the documents released Tuesday by the city of Fullerton in compliance with new state police transparency laws.

The initial reports in the Thomas case said patrol officers were injured on July 5, 2011, while trying to arrest him. Those injuries turned out to be a scratch on the arm of one officer. Thomas did not survive the encounter, dying of his injuries five days later in a hospital.

The records offer a detailed view into what happened the night that Fullerton officers, no longer with the department, hit Thomas, 37, with their fists, wooden batons and the back end of a Taser gun — smacking him so hard that he called out for his “daddy.” The officers called themselves victims.

To read the entire news story, please click here.

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Why renewables can’t save the planet

A talk by Michael Shellenberger | Environmentalists have long promoted renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind farms to save the climate. But what about when those technologies destroy the environment?

Michael Shellenberger is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” and is president of Environmental Progress, a research and policy organization. A lifelong environmentalist, Michael changed his mind about nuclear energy and has helped save enough nuclear reactors to prevent an increase in carbon emissions equivalent to adding more than 10 million cars to the road. He lives in Berkeley, California.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format, but independently organized by a local community. Learn more here.

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Hey, Governor, we bent that curve

By Charles Crumpley | Weren’t we told we needed to go into an economic lockdown so that the hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed?

And didn’t we all agree and obey? And haven’t we accomplished that goal spectacularly well?

According to the news coverage lately, hospitals are not being overrun. In fact, they’re seeing fewer patients than normal. The chief executive at one Simi Valley Hospital, for example, reported her overall admissions are down 35 percent.

So why are Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom easing the economic restrictions so very grudgingly and resetting the goal posts?

Let’s remember that all the talk a couple of months ago about “bending the curve” wasn’t about you and me forever avoiding exposure to the coronavirus. Sadly, that’s not likely for anyone who has even a teensy bit more social contact than Ted Kaczynski. It was about us delaying any exposure to it. The big fear was that if we all got COVID-19 at once, hospitals would be overrun by patients, there wouldn’t be enough ventilators for everyone, and an outsized number of deaths would follow.

So, the thought was, let’s stop going to work for a while to slow the quick spread of the coronavirus. We can’t stop it; that’s not reasonable. But we can slow it down so that more of us will get COVID-19 later rather than sooner. Bending the curve meant creating more COVID-19 patients in May, June and July so everyone wouldn’t show up at the emergency room in early April. It was all about managing the flow at hospitals.

But now that we have successfully bent the curve and the frantic worry about hospitals and ventilators has abated, the goal has changed. Completely.

Now, our political leaders are saying they won’t reopen the economy until . . . well, they won’t say. They’ve come up with all manner of vague markers. Oh, sure, they say they’ll definitely allow businesses to reopen when there’s a vaccine, but that could be a year away, if ever. In the meantime, they claim they’ll ease restrictions more when there’s a sustained decrease of COVID-19 patients. But that won’t happen for a long time because we were so successful at bending that curve, which means a sustained flow of patients probably for months. We sacrificed to achieve their bending-the-curve goal, and now the mayor and governor are punishing us for it.

The really big problem is the economic annihilation that is resulting from the extended lockdown. The loss of jobs, the lack of investment, the crushed dreams, bankrupt businesses and destroyed savings are becoming devastating. And those problems get exponentially worse, life altering, the longer this lockdown lingers.

Many political types stand in front of cameras and say they appreciate those concerns, but they clearly don’t. Our political leaders know about running an economy as much as those guys on “Tiger King” know about Verdi opera.

I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Economic despair breeds alcoholism, domestic abuse, drug use and suicide. Who knows how many deaths will accrue in the coming years? More than from COVID-19?

I can only speak for myself, but I gladly signed up to help bend the curve. It made sense. We needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

We have accomplished that goal. I did not sign up for a lingering economic lockdown with no end date and no clear purpose.

Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. This article appeared on the Fox & Hounds website on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

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