A matched set: California is broke and we know why

One of my friends posted a great chart on Facebook:

Rich states and poor states

And then I remembered a post at The City Square which explains how California ended up at the bottom of that chart.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in more California lunacy (and remember, as California goes so has gone the nation), check out Laer’s Crazifornia blog (and please consider buying his delightful, informative book, Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State – How California is Destroying Itself and Why it Matters to America).

Dems lose supermajority in California

The State is too far gone for it to matter, especially because we’ve got Jerry Brown as governor, but it is worth noting that there’s been a slight, ever-so-slight, downgrade in Democrat power here in California:

The sudden resignation Friday of a state senator from Kern County robs Democrats of the supermajority that could have raised taxes without Republican votes, but could also slow efforts to scale back one of California’s landmark environmental protection laws.

Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, announced that he is taking a job as manager of California government affairs for the Chevron Corp., saying he is tired of the political life and wants to spend more time with his wife and two young daughters, the younger of whom was born with Down syndrome.

I wish Sen. Rubio much happiness with his family, since he’s certainly right that they are very important.  I also note that it’s somewhat interesting that he’s leaving Democrat politics to work as a lobbyist for Big Oil.

And that’s all I have to say.  Your comments, of course, will be welcome.

Lowering expectations in California

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article that both praises Governor Jerry Brown’s “balanced” budget and notes that California is in desperate financial shape.  Clearly, the Chron is lowering expectations in case Brown’s “balanced” budget doesn’t do what it promised.

The Chron is wise to keep its readers from getting too excited.  I heard from a fairly knowledgeable source that Brown achieved his balanced budget (a) by determining how much he wanted to spend and (b) by announcing that the amount he wanted to spend would be matched precisely by anticipated 2013 tax revenue.  The first number (spending) is real; the second number (expected revenue) is completely phony.  In other words, reasonable people can confidently assume that, by the end of 2013, California’s budget will be more out of whack than ever.

California-for-Beginners-copy

Both mandatory unions and mandatory professional organizations are antithetical to Constitutional Free Speech *UPDATED*

California Bar Seal

The State Bar of California, which I have to pay into in order to practice law in the State of California, long-ago abandoned its core responsibility of ensuring that people who hold themselves out as lawyers to California citizens are at least minimally qualified.  As with all these mandatory organizations, it’s turned into a political advocacy group and, again in sync with all these mandatory organizations, it advocates Left. That is, it forces me to pay money if I want to have a livelihood in my chosen profession, and spends that money on heavily politicized issues such as abortion.  (It hews so far Left that, even when I was a Democrat, I was offended by many of the political stands it took with my money.)

The State Bar isn’t the only professional organization that leans Left.  The American Bar Association is heavily political too in a Leftist kind of way. The difference between the ABA and the State Bar, though, is that the form is a voluntary organization. I was therefore able to cancel my membership when I realized that my money was being used to support political causes that were unrelated to law and with which I disagreed.  Sadly, I can’t opt out of the State Bar — not if I want to be a practicing lawyer, that is.

Looked at this way, I have the same lack of rights as union members who don’t live in in right-to-work states. Here’s the deal: if unions and bar associations limited themselves to their original function, which was to ensure that union workers have good conditions or that lawyers have reasonable qualifications, union dues and mandated bar memberships would be less of an issue. Unions and Bar associations, however, have drifted far afield from these core responsibilities.  They’ve branched out since the 1970s or so to become political action groups taking far Left stands on just about everything.

When states mandate that workers must join unions or that professionals must join professional associations, the state is effectively coercing citizens into funding speech with which they may disagree. Looked at this way, mandatory participation in activist unions and professional associations is a profound perversion of the First Amendment right to free speech. Free speech doesn’t just include the right to speak freely, it also includes the right to refrain from participating in speech with which one doesn’t agree.

All of this popped into my mind when I received an email from the president of the State Bar of California (emphasis mine):

Begging

By now, you should have already received your State Bar of California fee statement. Statements were sent out on Nov. 30, and many of you may be taking steps now to send your payments before the Feb. 1, 2013 deadline. If you have not yet received your statement, it may be helpful to know that you can sign in to My State Bar Profile to calculate and pay your 2013 fees.

As the president of the State Bar, I would like to take this moment to enlist your help with an important opportunity that you have through your annual dues.

As attorneys, other people’s problems challenge us to do our very best. We straighten out transactions gone awry. We resolve property and commercial disputes. We counsel our clients through criminal proceedings and personal difficulties and help with innumerable other problems that ordinary people have every day.

But there is a new challenge. Sadly, our economy has experienced an almost unprecedented downturn with interest rates at historic lows. It is the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA)* revenue that pays for civil legal assistance for indigent people statewide; and it is barely a quarter of what it was in 2008. There is no cushion left as we struggle to close the justice gap – the gap between the legal needs of the poor and the legal help we can provide for them. This is an unprecedented crisis for those we are charged with protecting.

But there is a powerful step each of us can take in seeking a solution to the justice gap. Your tax-deductible donation to the Justice Gap Fund (a component of the statewide Campaign for Justice) will expand access to justice for the millions of Californians with nowhere else to turn. The Justice Gap Fund is the only statewide vehicle to restore critical funding to nearly 100 legal nonprofits that serve our biggest cities as well as the most isolated rural communities.

A gift made at line 10 of your annual dues statement, or online anytime at www.CAforJustice.org, will make a real difference.

Please join me in the Campaign for Justice. Make a life-changing gift to the Justice Gap Fund – it will make a real difference to those who most need our help.

I have to say that my heart strings remain un-tugged.  The Leftist policies of coercive organizations such as the California Bar Association helped lead to a long, deep economic collapse and painfully drawn-out recession.  The Bar, with its speech amplified by coerced dues, managed to out-shout someone like me, who would have had more money if the Bar hadn’t taken it away.  If I could have been left to my own political speech, I might then have been more amenable to contributing to a fund that helps poor people entangled in the political system.  Because the fund is owned and managed by the same group of people who contributed to this mess, however, I’ll hang onto my money until I find more worthy charities.

UPDATE:  You have to check out Michael Ramirez’s perfect editorial cartoon, because it distills to a single picture the whole free speech (or non-free speech) argument I made above.

California Department of Education fights school district for daring to spend money on children’s education.

Boy eating lunch

I wrote a few days ago about the fact that the State of California Department of Education has gone after the Kentfield School District in Marin County, because the District’s food program relies on PTA volunteers, rather than on paid union members.  Our local paper has an update on the story say that, for the time being, the School Board has decided to continue with business as usual, rather than acceding to the State’s demands.  What I love about the most recent report is a single sentence.  Look upon it and marvel:

One of the state’s concerns is that the extra revenue from the lunches are used to fund school programs, books and equipment. The letter said that it’s the district’s responsibility to oversee food service, employ staff and use cafeteria revenue for expenses only.

Think about it:  the State of California Department of Education is appalled that a school district would spend money on education, books, and classroom equipment.  How dare they!

I also learned one new thing from the story update:  the Kentfield PTA actually provides the food itself.  In my children’s’ elementary school district, the PTA was never more than a facilitator.  It did charge a slight premium, and the parents who paid for hot lunch knew that the premium would go to PTA activities supporting education.  In our case, though, when the state protested, the district caved immediately, kicked out the PTA, and started sending all the money (more than the PTA charged) to a third-party provider that didn’t give any residual profits back to the school.

The PTA president, who seems like a conservative in the making (if she isn’t one already), spells out the whole situation with great clarity:

PTA President Karen Loebbaka said what makes the program different is that instead of having a company come in and make profits, the PTA gets to put its profits toward education.

“We’re able to channel tens of thousands of dollars back to our district,” Loebbaka said.

She said the program is voluntary and doesn’t require students to participate.

“If you don’t like it, it doesn’t serve the needs of your family, pack a lunch,” she said.

School supplies

I am irresistibly reminded of the bad old joke:

First man: Come the Revolution, we’ll all drive Rolls Royces.
Second man: What if I don’t want to drive a Rolls Royce?
First man: Come the Revolution, you’ll have to.

AP report on thwarted terrorist attacks within the United States downplays Islam’s central role in the planned attack

The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle was simple:  “FBI: 4 Calif. men charged in alleged terror plot.”

California men, huh?  Did they have names like Big Kahuna and look like this?

“Yo, dude, I’m like going to, you know, like, attack the man. It’ll be, like, totally tubular.”

No? Well maybe these California men rejoice in names like Butch and look like this:

“Hey, everyone! We’re going to have a little whip and dip party. We’ll start with some fun bondage stuff, and then move on to the crudités. I’ve got a divine dip.”

Somehow that doesn’t seem right either. Maybe that’s because, when you read the story, you discover that these guys weren’t just any old California men. Instead, they had a lot more in common with these guys than with surfer dudes or San Francisco’s Folsom Street brigade:

That’s right — these “California men” were (a) Muslims and (b) three of them came from places other than America, let alone other than California:

Four Southern California men have been charged with plotting to kill Americans and destroy U.S. targets overseas by joining al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, federal officials said Monday.

The defendants, including a man who served in the U.S. Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release.

A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001.

The other two — 23-year-old Ralph Deleon of Ontario and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales of Upland — converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments.

They later recruited 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali of Riverside.

[snip]

Kabir is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan. Santana was born in Mexico, while Deleon was born in the Philippines. Both are lawful, permanent U.S. residents. Gojali is a U.S. citizen.

In a sane, honest world, the AP headline would have said “FBI: 4 Muslim men in So. Cal. charged in alleged terror plot.” But we’ve already established that we don’t live in a sane, honest world, right? We live in a world dominated by a media that is determined to pretend that Islam, with its institutionalized jihad and antisemitism, is just a myth, and that it’s purely coincidental that these mythical Islamists keep trying to blow up Americans.

Elizabeth Emken, with a little digital help, finally debates Dianne Feinstein

(You can read more about Emken here, or at her own website.)

As usual, Dianne Feinstein is nowhere to be seen when there is hard work to be done, so Elizabeth Emken went ahead and had the debate without her:

The fact that DiFi is a no-show has nothing to do with age. My sister went to pre-school with one of DiFi’s daughters. At Christmas, DiFi and my mom got assigned to work on a big project.  Fifty or so years later, my Mom still hasn’t forgiven DiFi for being a no-show, sticking my Mom with the work, and then attempting to take a “fair” share of the credit when my Mom’s efforts came to fruition.

Character is destiny: DiFi is lazy. She was then, she is now, and it’s time to get her out of the United States Senate.

If you have friends or family who vote in California, please share this video with them.  Voters don’t like DiFi and DiFi’s absentee campaign shows that she doesn’t like voters very much.  Don’t let Feinstein end up in Washington again simply by default.

Elizabeth Emken for Senate; Dianne Feinstein for forced retirement

A few months ago, I though Elizabeth Emken’s chance of unseating Dianne Feinstein in the Senate was about equal to the Giant’s chance of winning the World Series.  I was not optimistic.  Today, I believe that both are possible and, indeed, probable.  I’ll leave the baseball talk to others, and I’ll focus on Elizabeth Emken.  It’s not just that Elizabeth Emken is such a good candidate (which she is); it’s that Dianne Feinstein has refused to be any type of candidate at all (which is unsurprising given her embarrassing record).

Elizabeth Emken is impressive.  She graduated from UCLA with dual degrees in Economics and Political Science, and spent time at Cambridge studying China and the Middle East.  She worked for years at IBM running numbers and analyzing management in order to increase performance and decrease costs.  Elizabeth understands how complex financial systems operate and she understands effective management technique.

Sixteen years ago, when her son was diagnosed with profound autism, Elizabeth left the private sector to work in Washington to help fund cost-effective, productive programs for those who are unable to care for themselves.   I’m going to quote directly from Elizabeth’s website regarding her autism work, because it is a snapshot of her intelligence, her familiarity with Washington politics and procedures, and her no-nonsense approach to budget issues, even when federal funds have a direct impact on her own life:

Elizabeth is a fighter and a problem solver. She was “drafted” into a second career as an advocate for developmentally disabled children after her son, Alex, was diagnosed with autism. She served as Vice President for Government Relations at Autism Speaks, the Nation`s largest science and advocacy organization devoted to the public health emergency of autism.

Elizabeth coordinated advocacy for multiple pieces of federal legislation addressing autism, the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, the lead title of the Children`s Health Act of 2000, and the Combating Autism Act of 2006 which authorized nearly $1 billion over 5 years to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention.

A vital element of this accomplishment, Elizabeth led the charge to ensure transparency and accountability on how the NIH would spend autism research dollars. For the first time at the NIH, her efforts produced a portfolio analysis of autism spending that would have to withstand public scrutiny – a policy Elizabeth believes should apply throughout the entire government.

At Autism Speaks, Elizabeth launched a multi-state campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services. 30 states have enacted autism insurance reform laws, saving participating states millions in taxpayer funds that would otherwise have been directed to state health care and special education services. This groundbreaking legislation, aimed at ending marketplace discrimination against individuals with autism, passed into law in California on October 9, 2011.

Elizabeth doesn’t just have intelligence, skills, and a strong record, she also has charisma.  I was fortunate enough to hear her speak today at the Marin Republican Women Federated and I was blown away.  She is a smooth, but not glib speaker, who engages almost fiercely with her audience.  She is not a dilettante.  She is a woman who believes passionately in a government that maximizes individual freedom, while efficiently providing necessary services in the most cost-effective way.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to see many good conservative candidates come and go in California.  Why then do I think Elizabeth has a chance?  Because this is a year like no other year.  As in 2008, Republicans are fired up and want to vote.  As in 2008, even if they cannot affect California’s electoral college votes, California Republicans want to make a difference in local elections.  What makes 2012 different from — and better than — 2008 is the fact that Elizabeth is running against Dianne Feinstein, not Barbara Boxer.

I hold no brief for Boxer, but she is an energetic politician.  She campaigned hard in 2008, in part because her opponent, Carly Fiorina, was a very visible candidate, with a large pocketbook.  Boxer went up and down California, rallying her troops, and it’s the boots on the ground that will ultimately matter at the ballot box.

Dianne Feinstein, doesn’t have boots on the ground . . . or slippers . . . or delicate, expensive sandals.  She is the invisible candidate.  She has repeatedly refused to debate Emken. Feinstein takes her “no debate” stance so seriously, she won’t even talk to the press about debating Elizabeth.

Feinstein’s sudden shyness isn’t really surprising. Whatever energy Feinstein originally brought to Washington has long since dissipated. Having put in her 20 years, she seems to view serving as a Senator a giant boondoggle. She ignores her constituents, she ignores voters, she even ignores California itself, as she demonstrated when she failed to get any significant part of the $850,000,000 Jobs Bill earmarked for California. (By this, I’m not endorsing the stimulus. I’m only pointing out that, when there was money to be had, and when our state was — and is — hurting badly, Feinstein was supine.)  Further, given that Feinstein is already 80, there’s reason to believe that she has no intention of serving out yet another six-year term.  Instead, there’s a strong possibility she’ll retire early, letting Jerry Brown have his pick of California Progressives to fill her Senate seat.

In other words, Feinstein is running as the ultimate incumbent: she’s just assuming that her name on the ballot is enough to get her elected, and she’s probably hoping that an unelectable Progressive can hang onto her coattails to hold the same seat.

But this is 2012, and everything is different.  Before this election, Feinstein’s name might have been enough to win. But there’s a dirty little secret in 2012, one that the media has kept under wraps: Californians don’t like Feinstein. The rolling California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine School of Public Policy polls have some interesting numbers. First, for months more than 65%, and often more than 70%, of Californians have thought that California is heading in the wrong direction.  That attitude is bad for incumbents.  Second, specifically with regard to Dianne Feinstein, voters don’t like her:  she’s occasionally cracked the 50% mark, but she’s also spent a long time in the mid- to high-40% likability area.  As with Obama, it’s bad news for an incumbent who cannot stay above 50%.  An even more interesting number is the high percentage of undecideds polled:  20% of California voters are up for grabs.

Emken ended her speech by saying, “I’m a different kind of candidate. I’m a Mom; I work for a living. I understand what families are going through….  If you are mentally or physically unable to care for yourself, you have nothing to fear from me.”  Emken, like Romney, is not a monster.  Instead, she is an ordinary (albeit very talented) person who recognizes that California and the United States can be saved, and can still provide necessary support for the most helpless.  She also understands, though, that this can only be done through greater efficiency, not greater profligacy.  The current governmental approach, one the Feinstein embodies, works hard to kill the taxpayer geese who for so long have laid the golden government eggs.  Those days are over.  We need sound fiscal management, and Emken gets it.

If you’re a California voter, don’t let the fact that your Presidential vote is probably symbolic stop you from going to the polls.  There are important issues (“Yes on Prop. 32!”) and candidates out there that need your support.  Sending Elizabeth Emken, rather than Dianne Feinstein, to the United States Senate could be the most important thing you do on November 6.

(Cross-posted at Brutally Honest.)

Attention, California voters! Here’s a voter guide that’s not only helpful, it’s entertaining.

Laer, author of the fabulous Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State – How California is Destroying Itself and Why it Matters to America, has posted a California voter’s guide at the website’s a companion to his book.  Unlike all other voter guides, it’s not only informative (and, indeed, it’s more detailed than most voter’s guides), it’s vastly entertaining.

California propositions are enough to drive even the best informed voter absolutely nuts.  If you’re struggling with the California slate, make life a little easier on yourself and check out what Laer has to say.

The hidden costs of living in California

My computer is in its death throes, so I have a new one on order.  I just get the confirmation from Dell, and it contained this interesting little notice:

For shipments to California, a state environmental fee up to $10 per item will be added to invoices for all orders containing displays greater than 4 inches.  Dell Marketing LP collects applicable tax in all states.  Buyer is responsible for remitting additional tax to tax authorities.

Since I’m buying only the tower and not the monitor, this $10 green gouge doesn’t apply to me, but it’s still a telling sign of the way California nickels and dimes its consumers into bankruptcy or flight.