California’s expensive Infrastructure gambit

201610_california_golden_fleece_award_caltransIn recent years California Democrats have been quick to brand their latest initiative as groundbreaking or visionary, thus a statewide $15 minimum wage was the result of a “landmark deal,” Senate President Kevin de Leon similarly praised SB 350’s renewable power provisions, and at a signing ceremony for the Golden State’s renewed climate change law Governor Jerry Brown said he hoped it “sends a message across the country.” What a coup it is for Sacramento to lead the way again and steal Donald Trump’s thunder by passing and signing a 10-year, $52 billion infrastructure bill before Capitol Hill Republicans managed to move a projected $1 trillion dollar investment beyond the drawing board. Continue reading

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April 20, 2017 · 8:51 pm

Supreme payback shadowed Gorsuch nomination

nuclear-option-republicans-neil-gorsuch-supreme-court-confirmation-933x445In light of his months-long campaign to block Senate hearings on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination and tie the vacant Supreme Court seat to November’s presidential election it’s difficult to take Mitch McConnell seriously when he says Democrats have “brought the Senate to this new low.” In light of the importance precedent plays in law, it’s strangely fitting to see how much the rival parties are relying on history to explain away the part they played in a “nuclear” war over protocol. Senate Republicans like McConnell spent most of last year defending their stalling by citing the “Biden rule,” which Washington lore says demands that an election-year Supreme Court vacancy remain unfilled. The former Senate committee chairman went to the floor, mindful of a bitter battle over Clarence Thomas’ nomination, and called for “serious reevaluation of the nomination and confirmation process” that at the time would likely have been dominated by “partisan bickering and political posturing.” Continue reading

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April 12, 2017 · 9:27 pm

Caught up in a Trump/Russia Tornado

trump-putinThere was an odd sense of calm on Capitol Hill in mid-March while the House Intelligence Committee was questioning FBI Director James Comey. The congressmen seemed a bit flustered, hardly surprising for a group at the periphery of an ever-expanding tornado who have been charged with separating fact from fiction; the former federal prosecutor remained calm, the experience of testifying about a months-old, politically-charged investigation is not a new one. But it was strange to see an active counterintelligence probe casually discussed in a five-hour, publicly broadcast hearing that featured a set of tin-plated questions about Donald Trump’s wiretapping Twitterstorm, the infamous dossier revealed by Buzzfeed.com, and the number of White House aides involved. Continue reading

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April 4, 2017 · 8:51 pm

Nelson DeMille’s “Radiant Angel” a timely tale

1On a quiet September afternoon, Colonel Vasily Petrov received a satchel and a pair of sealed envelopes from Moscow that contained a short, coded message: the satchel held three 9mm pistols, two submachine guns, and several spare magazines for each weapon. A year of planning and preparation had ended. It was time to commence “Operation Zero.” Outside the Russian Mission in New York former NYPD homicide detective John Corey is watching and waiting. As a contract agent for the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, his job is to follow the Russian. Corey is at turns disinterested, even cynical — at one point describing a job where “we all…take pictures of each other” — but flashes of his “detective instincts” break through the sardonic humor. His partner in this follow-up to The Panther is Tess Faraday, an aspiring FBI agent who drifts between bubbly and unsure of herself on this mission as they head for a beach house in the Hamptons. Continue reading

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March 27, 2017 · 8:06 pm

Trumpcare revealed, then panned by dueling Critics

gettyimages-6492758981The long-awaited repeal of Obamacare can begin now that a curtain has risen to reveal the Republican replacement, but the audience is not happy. Some of this was to be expected; Democrats were never going to stand by and watch while Paul Ryan and Donald Trump dismantled what the Obama administration worked so hard to build. By Groundhog Day they had a catchy rallying cry and a headstart — Republicans were going to make America sick again — but nothing tangible to point at. It also meant the GOP did not have anything to placate intemperate crowds that filled town halls during a February recess, many convinced health care would be “taken away” from as many as 32 million Americans. Now Republicans are within reach of what, according to the House Speaker, “we’ve all been dreaming about” but the American Health Care Act is taking fire from Capitol Hill and a range of conservative activist groups who accept Rand Paul’s designation of the new bill as “Obamacare-lite.” Continue reading

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March 18, 2017 · 9:59 pm

Free Speech besieged, but not by the White House

thisdfjasdlfkjasIn this political environment that prominently features a president who prizes conflict with a so-called crooked media it would be easy to conclude the First Amendment is under siege after outlets like “fake news” CNN and the “failing” New York Times were excluded from an informal briefing at the White House. On its face the notion sounds crazy, at least it did before the Times responded by issuing a nearly Trumpian communique that described their exclusion as “an unmistakable insult to democratic ideals.” Before anyone in New York or Washington lights their hair on fire in protest, it’s important to understand that off-camera briefings are not new phenomenon — previous administrations have also used them. It is also worthy of note that the “gaggle” admitted to Sean Spicer’s office was not stacked with presumed allies like Fox News and Breitbart, but also included major networks, and presumed adversaries, like ABC, NBC, and CBS. Continue reading

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March 8, 2017 · 1:06 am

ESPN surrendered to wild Twitterstorm

454343602When the Supreme Court was confronted with the Jacobellis v. Ohio case in the mid-1950’s they were asked to determine if a French film titled The Lovers was obscene. Potter Stewart’s standard wasn’t exactly clear; in a concurring opinion the associate justice referred to his own sense when he wrote that pornography was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.” The decades since have brought plenty of change with them. Public concern over obscenity is not what it was in 1964, or the late 1980’s when Tipper Gore and Jesse Helms were pressing the recording industry to put warning labels on rap records. There are other demons to chase now. Continue reading

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February 27, 2017 · 6:04 am