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Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Benefits of a Structured Community

 or,  “without rules we could look like this…”

 

 

 

 

 

My dad was a cattle rancher, my mom  a farmer from Iowa.  They had little experience with suburbia growing up. I, however was born in OakTown.  Kaiser Hospital, Grand Avenue.   Thankfully, they left that environment before my lack of pigment got me more than a couple of stiff beatings.  That was back when “down and out” was good.   No need for the .44 going off in your ear.

Having spent most of my life thereafter in country suburban settings, where “dogs run free,” I have never been exposed  to real estate developments as a remote possibility for a residence.

I am a minimalist.  My lovely and attractive wife is not. So now we live in a 5 bedroom 3 bath monster of a home in a brand new subdivision.  I have a 60’ x 60’ lawn in the back.  Like I need this at the age of 65.

At this age, I am retired from the 9-5.  I keep some rental property in California, but we have moved to Washington State to be near my wife’s aged parents, and her siblings. I still write my blogs and keep my tenants happy, but it only takes a few hours a day.  There are countless things to do in this playland of lakes, farms, parks, and trees.   Especially with my 4 year old Lab buddy, Lexie.

The neighborhood homeowners’ association was recently handed down to the community, from the developer.  Having all this extra time, and an interest in the community, I volunteered for service on the board.  It was the best decision I’ve made up here.

There is so much to learn, and we do every day. It seems as though we are reinventing the wheel, as this has to be happening in thousands of developed communities across the land. We find new resources every day, and have diverese opinions regarding exactly how far an HOA should go to “maintain order.”  My  philosophy is to live and let live,  just as long as the lawn are trimmed and nobody trys to paint their house bright red.  Others on the board are far more “by the book.”  There are rather obvious special interests that some of the members are sensitive to, and  others that we just ignore.

Responsibility and enforcement are key issues that we continue to struggle with.   Although the Community “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” or CC&Rs, spell out some guidelines, but the board has to interpret how literally we wish to enforce them.It’s harder to be objective when its your best friend and next door neighbor who has his panel truck parked in his driveway.  But, if its OK for one, then its OK for all.  There are issues with which we all agree, but are just too petty to inforce.  Then there are others that simply get taken out of our hands.  We agreed that the kids in our development could have those movable basketball hoops.  I hate them, but the kids gotta do something, right.  One of the members just would not leave it alone, and kept on digging.  You know what, he was right!  The County has forbidden it so it is now out of our hands.  Who would have known.   Now we have a set of rules that has been written down all along.  That would have been nice to have tucked into the “welcome to the Board” kit we never got.

 

It is  an evolution, but one I am proud to be part of.  It does remind one to keep an open mind, and an active participation.  I recently found myself in a development very near my house that did not put forth the effort to maintain these standards.   Let’s just say that I  feel the effort we are putting towards this is well worth it.

 

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Making Earthquake Safety More Intelligible

By THOMAS FULLER AND MATT STEVENS
Earthquake engineers attending a conference in Los Angeles on Thursday were encouraged to communicate more effectively with the public. Monica Almeida forThe New York Times
Good morning.
This week, as they do every four years, hundreds of earthquake experts huddled in Los Angeles in dimly lit rooms where complicated mathematical formulas representing such things as seismic energy and building strength were projected onto large screens.
To outsiders these discussions can be all but incomprehensible. And some experts who gathered at the conference here this week say that is symptomatic of a larger problem: communicating with the public.
But big questions remain: How resilient are buildings in earthquake-prone areas? Should we build stronger ones?
A number of speakers and participants at the conference urged engineers to be better at addressing the disconnect between what the public often thinks the building code protects them from — and what it actually does.
“The problem is that the public in general and building owners in particular really think that when they get a building to code they are going to get a building that is going to perform fine in an earthquake,” said Mary Comerio, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a proponent for stronger earthquake protections.
“The message to the public is that existing buildings are going to be damaged. That’s built into the calculations,” Professor Comerio said. “They are designed to help you get out of the building but you may not be able to go back in.”
A debate over the longstanding “life safety” philosophy of the building code — meaning that it is designed to protect your life but not much more — was central to discussions at the conference. A bill in Sacramento that could potentially strengthen the code to a “functional recovery” standard is moving through committees in the State Legislature.
But proponents of more resilient buildings and infrastructure like water, gas lines, the power grid and cellphone systems say more can be done even within the existing code.
Maryann Phipps, a structural engineer who gave the keynote address to conference participants on Thursday, urged engineers to explain to their clients that by spending an additional one or two percent a building is more likely to be usable after an earthquake.
“My takeaway is communication is important,” she said. “We need to keep it simple and clear.”
 

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Nestlé granted three-year permit to keep piping water out of California national forest

Where two creeks meet in the San Bernardino National Forest, one is flowing and the other is just a trickle. Nestlé’s bottled water operation is undergoing an environmental review. Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

The U.S. Forest Service has granted Nestle a new three-year permit to continue operating its bottled water pipeline in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The agency announced the decision Wednesday, saying the permit has been offered to the company “with measures to improve the watershed’s health” along Strawberry Creek.

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The Forest Service took up the matter in 2015 after a Desert Sun investigation revealed Nestlé was piping water out of the mountains under a permit that listed 1988 as the expiration date. The revelation that officials had allowed the company to use the permit without a review for 27 years generated an outpouring of opposition and prompted the permit review, as well as a lawsuit by environmental groups and an investigation by California regulators.

Nestlé’s special-use permit allows the company to use its pipelines, horizontal wells and water collection tunnels in the mountains north of San Bernardino.

District Ranger Joe Rechsteiner said in a statement that the decision ensures “the water withdrawal and conveyance infrastructure is under a current permit, and it provides for protection of forest resources.”

The permit comes with new conditions, including a requirement that the company take less water if necessary to maintain “minimum flows” of surface water.

The Forest Service said the watershed’s health is now rated as “impaired” and that water extraction will be allowed “when there is water available consistent with the forest’s Land Management Plan.”

The agency said that the company has 60 days to accept the terms of the permit, and that the three-year period will provide time to conduct more studies to “inform a longer-term decision.”

Nestlé acquired the operation in 1992, and has been paying $624 per year to the Forest Service for the permit. In 2016, Nestlé piped 32 million gallons of water from its sources in the national forest.

The Forest Service says its permit fees aren’t based on the volume of water it removes, but rather on the market value of using national forest lands. The agency said the initial fee for the new permit will be about $2,050 per year.

Nestlé’s opponents have urged federal officials to shut down the company’s pipeline, arguing the siphoning of water harms spring-fed Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it.

Nestlé denies causing harm to the environment and has insisted it’s entitled to keep using the lucrative namesake source of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water.

The company collects water using a system of 10 gravity-fed boreholes and two water tunnels drilled deep into the mountainside. The water flows downhill through a 4.5-mile steel pipeline to a roadside tank, where it’s pumped into tanker trucks and hauled to a bottling plant.

Alix Dunn, a spokesperson for Nestlé Waters North America, said the company “appreciates the time and effort the U.S. Forest Service dedicated to this decision regarding the permit renewal process at Arrowhead Springs.”

“We will carefully review the specifics of the decision, and will continue to comply with all permit requirements,” Dunn said in a statement, adding that the company has cooperated with the agency by providing dozens of environmental studies and reports.

Nestlé SA, headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, is the world’s largest food company, and its Paris-based subsidiary Nestlé Waters is the world’s largest water bottling company. Nestlé Waters North America is the biggest bottled water company in the United States.

VIDEO: Nestle’s label of spring water draws criticism

MORE: Bottled water giant Nestlé tells California regulators it’s entitled to keep piping water

Water from Arrowhead Springs was first bottled for sale more than a century ago. It’s named after the famed arrowhead-shaped natural rock formation on a mountainside north of San Bernardino and the springs near it — both hot and cold. The hot springs were once the central attraction of a glamorous resort, which closed in the late 1950s and now stands vacant at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The wells and water pipelines on the mountainside have been authorized under various permits since 1929. Forest Service officials have said Nestlé’s most recent 1978 permit, which was issued to predecessor Arrowhead Puritas Waters Inc., remained in effect while they reviewed the company’s renewal application.

In 2016, the Forest Service had released a proposal to issue Nestlé a longer five-year permit. The agency said the new three-year permit may be extended for two one-year periods — if that time is needed for additional studies.

The decision was announced three weeks after environmental groups reached a settlement with the Forest Service in their legal fight over the permit. In the settlement, the groups agreed to drop their appeal and the agency agreed to issue a decision within 30 days.

The three groups — including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff Project and the Courage Campaign Institute — sued in 2015, accusing the Forest Service of violating the law by allowing the company to continue drawing water from the national forest. They’ve argued that the taking of water threatens a sensitive habitat and rare species ranging from mountain yellow-legged frogs to birds such as Southwestern willow flycatchers.

A federal judge sided with the Forest Service in 2016, ruling that the existing permit was still valid because in 1987 the company’s predecessor requested a permit renewal and didn’t receive a response.

Nestlé says it has valid water rights in the national forest. But starting in 2015, critics filed several complaints with California’s State Water Resources Control Board questioning the company’s water rights claims.

State officials conducted a 20-month investigation and concluded in December that the company doesn’t seem to have valid rights for much of the water it’s been drawing from the forest north of San Bernardino. Nestlé disputed the findings, arguing in a written response in February that it has rights to take at least 88 million gallons each year – nearly three times as much as the amount that ran through its pipes in 2016.

State officials have said they’re studying comments that have been submitted in response to their investigation, and they may revise their report based on those comments.

The Forest Service said its decision “leaves any issue concerning the extent of Nestlé’s water rights to the State Water Resources Control Board,” which has authority over questions of water rights.

Nestlé’s opponents had been hoping for a different decision from the federal government.

“We’re disappointed with the Forest Service’s decision to issue a new permit, particularly in light of the ongoing investigation by the State Water Board into Nestlé’s shaky claim to a water right,” Michael O’Heaney, executive director of The Story of Stuff Project. “While we need time to more fully understand the decision, in the days ahead we will certainly be studying our options for ensuring that the public’s natural resources are protected.”

Rechsteiner explained his decision in a 33-page memo, saying there are no “extraordinary circumstances” that would warrant additional analysis through an environmental assessment. In a seven-page appendix, he outlined an “adaptive management plan” that would require the company to reduce water extraction if necessary to maintain the flow of surface water downhill from Nestlé’s water sources.

The company had previously proposed voluntary measures, but Rechsteiner decided on mandatory conditions. He wrote that Nestlé will be required to carry out additional environmental and hydrologic studies, and to take less water “if monitoring shows that water extraction is impacting surface water flow.”

“The initial studies provided by the permittee suggest that water extraction is reducing surface flow in Strawberry Creek. The effect of this flow reduction has not been thoroughly studied,” Rechsteiner said. He said the company’s studies and field work by government officials “have demonstrated that the current water extraction is drying up surface water resources (springs and streams).”

The company will be required to study other sites in adjacent watershed for comparison, he wrote, “to determine what conditions would exist in Strawberry Creek without water extraction.”

The Forest Service is asking the company to submit a study plan, which may involve “suspending extraction for set time periods to evaluate any changes in streamflow.”

Last October, Desert Sun journalists visited Strawberry Creek to investigate how Nestlé’s use of water may be affecting the watershed. At a fork in the creek, the eastern branch was a free-flowing stream, but the western fork — downhill from Nestlé’s boreholes and water tunnels — was just a trickle, forming a series of shallow puddles hidden in a thicket of trees and bushes.

Under the new permit, the company will be required to monitor the streamflow downstream from its water sources and install “shut-off valves or other flow control devices.”

The extraction of water “will only be authorized when it is demonstrated by the user, and/or agreed to by the Forest Service, that the water extracted is excess to the current and reasonably foreseeable future needs of forest resources,” Rechsteiner wrote.

The Forest Service received more than 40,000 comments from the public on the permit renewal proposal. Some people voiced concerns that if Nestlé is tasked with carrying out studies, the findings may be biased.

Responding to that point, Rechsteiner said although Nestlé will pay to conduct the studies, as is typical, “the qualifications of the scientists and resource specialists completing the work will be reviewed and approved by Forest Service staff,” and the studies will be independently reviewed.

The company will be required maintain “minimum flows” in two locations near the springs and boreholes: 20 gallons-per-minute in one spot and about 6 gallons-per-minute in another.

“Nestlé must manage extraction to maintain those minimum flows,” the agency said. “If the initial actions do not maintain minimum flows, all extraction must cease until flows reach minimum levels required to meet hydrological and biological concerns.”

Some of the activists who’ve been pressing to shut down Nestlé’s pipeline said the measures seem insufficient.

“This new permit will allow Nestlé to continue draining this fragile watershed without adequate resource protections,” said Lisa Belenky, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest Service downplayed information about the damage Nestlé’s bottled-water operation is already doing and failed to do a robust environmental analysis, as the law requires. It doesn’t appear that the limited mitigation measures are adequate to prevent Nestlé from destroying plants and wildlife that have relied on Strawberry Creek for thousands of years.”

Ian James writes about water and the environment for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at ian.james@desertsun.com or @TDSIanJames.

 

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The Reason Cristiano Ronaldo Refuses To Get A Tattoo Might Surprise You

Athletes love their ink – but not Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who is adamant he will never get a tattoo.

His reason may surprise you.

why cristiano ronaldo does not have tattoos
Getty Images

Regarded by many as an arrogant pretty boy, Ronaldo has made substantial donations to help children with debilitating diseases.

That’s right, he passes on the permanent ink so he can continue to donate blood.

In many countries around the world, tattoos can impact a person’s eligibility to give blood due to risks of cross-contamination and hepatitis.

“I don’t have tattoos because I donate blood very often,” Ronaldo told the Diretta News.

why cristiano ronaldo does not have tattoos
Getty Images

In 2015, Ronaldo was named the world’s most charitable sportsperson, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

In June, he donated his €600,000 Champions League win bonus to good causes.

One month later after winning the Euro Cup with Portugal, he donated his £275,000 Euro bonus to a Kids Cancer foundation.

 

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What California Voters Should Focus on When Voting on Tim Draper’s “CAL 3” Initiative

It is time for an update on a proposal—about which I wrote two columns (the second of which is here) last summer—that seeks to carve California up into three separate states. Last week, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, the driving force behind the proposal, announced that his organization had gathered more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters throughout the state’s 58 counties. That volume of signatures, if verified by the California Secretary of State, would easily exceed the number of signatures required by state law to put the measure on the statewide ballot this November. If California voters were to adopt the measure, it would then move on to be considered by the federal government; the US Constitution requires federal as well as state approval before new states are added to the union.

Given that the measure may be before California voters in a matter of months, I offer below a brief summary of the proposal, and then three key clusters of considerations the voters of California—the large majority of whom lean towards the Democratic party—should want to keep in mind.

What the Measure Would Do

The proposal, premised on a belief that “political representation of California’s diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable,” seeks to “(1) [e]stablish new boundaries for three new states within the boundaries of the [current] State of California; (2) [e]stablish a procedure for the transformation of the single State of California into three new states; and (3) [p]rovide [California’s] legislative consent for the formation of three new states to Congress as required by the Constitution of the United States.”

The three proposed new states are: “Northern California” (consisting essentially of the San Francisco Bay Area counties and counties extending eastward of the Bay Area to the Nevada border, and everything north of the Bay Area to the Oregon border); “California” (consisting of the coastal counties from Monterey to Los Angeles, inclusive); and “Southern California” (consisting of Orange and San Diego Counties, the Inland Empire, and vast majority of the Central Valley).

Each of these three new states would have more than 10 million people, keeping all three among the ten biggest in the resulting nation of 52 states (a powerful reminder of Mr. Draper’s point about how large California has become.)

(Legal and Political) Considerations Voters Should Bear in Mind

Federal Law Hurdles

There remain federal legal obstacles that could easily bog down the measure and consume significant resources in court. One question under the federal Constitution is whether the people of a State can validly authorize the creation of a new state by popular initiative.  Article IV, Section 3, of the federal Constitution requires, for the creation of new states, the “Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned.” Can the people act directly as a “legislature” for these purposes, or do the elected folks in Sacramento have to sign on? I think a state should be able to consent by initiative (especially given the recent and correctly decided Supreme Court ruling upholding the initiative-created Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission), but there still could be litigation over this.

Another federal question is whether new states can be validly created out of territories located entirely within existing states? Founding history and past practice (especially the additions of Kentucky and West Virginia) would suggest that the answer to this is clearly yes, but some scholars (most elaborately Michael Paulsen) have pointed out that Article IV’s text and punctuation could easily be read to mean that while new states can be formed out of the territory formerly belonging to two or more states, a single state cannot be carved up into multiple ones.

Yet another open question under the federal Constitution is whether the people (or their representatives) of each of the newly created three states have to consent to the new arrangement, or would it be enough for the people (or legislature) of the state as a whole (as California currently exists) to agree? In other words, when Article IV speaks of the need for the consent of the “States concerned,” are the states that would be created “States [that are] concerned?”

(Even Bigger) State Law Hurdles

Perhaps the biggest legal obstacles exist under the state, rather than the federal, constitution. In particular, there is a very strong argument that Mr. Draper’s proposal would constitute a “revision” to rather than an “amendment” of the California Constitution, and, if so, would require a more involved process than the simple gathering of signatures and placement on the statewide ballot that Mr. Draper is pursuing.

An “amendment” can appear on the ballot for voter approval if two-thirds of each house of the state legislature votes to place it on the ballot or if enough voter signatures are gathered to qualify the measure (the route Mr. Draper is trying to use). But a proposal to enact a “revision” can be placed on the ballot for voter consideration only if two-thirds of the houses of the legislature vote to place it, or if a legislatively proposed state constitutional convention decides to place it on the ballot. Thus, under current law, revisions must go through a process that starts in and runs through the legislature, whereas amendments can bypass the legislature altogether and rely on signature gathering.

What changes constitute “revisions” that trigger the more legislator-driven process? The California Supreme Court says we must look “quantitatively” (that is, to the number of existing constitutional provisions a proposed change affects or the number of words the proposed change involves) and “qualitatively” to see whether the proposed measure “substantially change[s] our preexisting government framework,” makes “a fundamental change in our preexisting governmental plan,” or “involves a change in [the] fundamental structure . . . [of] California government.” Under both of those lenses, Mr. Draper’s proposal looks like a revision. Certainly breaking California up alters, as a quantitative matter, most every provision in the state constitution, by shrinking its effective reach. And I think dividing up the state into three states also is a “change in [the] fundamental structure . . . [of] California government.” “Structural” changes are often distinguished from changes to the “rights” aspects of a constitution, which concern the relationship between all institutions of government, on the one hand, and private individuals (or groups of individuals), on the other. Divvying up a state certainly could affect individual rights, but such a division is first and foremost a matter of structure: structure is literally all about the edifice, about how something is put together, about constituent parts and elements, and how they do—or don’t—fit together to form a whole: What is of greater importance to a state’s overall structure than its geographic boundaries?

(As an aside, I note that it would be nice if there were a way to get the California Supreme Court to weigh in on this revision/amendment question before things get very far along—that is, before voters actually cast ballots on the measure).

(Larger Still) Justified Political Skepticism in a Blue State

As large as the legal obstacles are, the political challenges loom even larger. While it may be true that California (like the nation and like many other states) has endured problems in self-governance over the last few decades, whether Californians are ready to make such a radical change as to carve up the state is far from clear. There are, to be sure, tensions between different parts of California—the communities that make up the large and densely populated metropolitan areas on or near the coast have very different demographic, economic, cultural, and political characters than do the less-populous but geographically expansive communities located to the east and far north of the state. And there are rivalries between the Bay Area/Silicon Valley region, on the one hand, and the sprawling Southern California, Los Angeles-based region on the other.

But there are also important centripetal forces at work. Many, many families are spread—and linked—throughout the state. Various parts of the state have deep economic ties with, and reliance on, other parts. College students from all over the state relish the ability to be treated as in-staters for purposes of admissions and tuition at all the University of California and California State University campuses. Water rights, projects, and policies (hugely important in the western half of the nation) are currently integrated throughout the state. So dividing California up into three separate full-blown states would pose very complicated economic and public policy challenges.

In this vein, one problem with the CAL3 plan is that one of the three newly envisioned states, Southern California, would have a per capita income of only $45,000 (placing it below the median of all states), whereas the two new states of Northern California and California, respectively, would have per capita incomes of $63,000 and $53,000, placing them well above the vast majority of all other states. Even though each of the three new proposed states contains a mix of coastal and inland areas, a mix of urban and rural regions, and a mix of economically thriving and economically challenged areas, one of the three new states would have a far smaller income tax basis for things like universities, K-12 schools, healthcare, infrastructure, etc.

Yet the largest and likely insurmountable hurdles relate to factors not internal to California, but rather to California’s place in the national political structure. Let’s start with congressional approval. There at least two axes on which one might imagine opposition in Congress—interstate federalism and partisan advantage. As to interstate federalism, some states (and their representatives in DC) might be reluctant to reduce their current relative voice in the federal government (especially in the Senate), a consequence that would result from increasing California’s share in the Senate from 2% (2 out of 100) to 6% (6 out of 104, because three states new states would mean replacing California’s two existing senators with six new ones pursuant to the federal Constitution’s command that the “Senate shall be composed of two Senators from each State.”) Getting low-population states—that currently enjoy the fact that they have equal say with more populous states in the Senate—to effectively dilute their share of congressional clout might be difficult.

Perhaps some members of Congress, when considering a measure like Draper’s, may be moved more by political-party considerations than by the influence their states wield in DC. Indeed, some analysts have argued that partisan considerations, more than other factors, have driven earlier episodes in American history in which new states have been added. If that was, and remains, true (and today it does seem that political party is often the single most important factor in predicting political behavior), we need focus carefully on the partisan consequences of Mr. Draper’s current plan.

Under the lines CAL3 proposes, of the six senators who would come from the three new Californias, four senators (the two each from “California” and “Northern California”) would almost certainly be Democrats, and the partisan identity of the other two (from “Southern California”) would be harder to predict. The counties that make up “Southern California” lean Republican (and collectively voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012), but did favor liberal Democratic Senate candidate (now Senator) Kamala Harris over a more conservative (yet also Democratic—under California’s “top two” primary system, the general election sometimes features two Democrats) opponent Loretta Sanchez in the most recent US Senate election in California. (But query whether Republicans would have put up someone more competitive had they known they were competing only in the “Southern California” counties; since Harris had so much support in the “Northern California” and “California” counties, it was hard to recruit plausible Republican opponents against Harris in a statewide race in what is currently California.

So the Senate implications are hard to predict. It is possible that the adoption of Mr. Draper’s CAL3 idea would (generally and for the foreseeable future) lead to the election of four Democratic and two Republican senators, preserving California’s current +2 (2-0) edge for Democrats in the Senate. If that were the case, neither Dems nor Republicans (assuming they were focused mostly on partisan considerations) may have reason to oppose the measure.

But the implications that are easier to predict, and that would likely pose a deal breaker among Democrats, both in California (a heavily Democratic state) and in DC (to the extent Democratic support in DC were needed), arise with respect to presidential elections. Right now, Democrats can count on California to deliver a 55-0 electoral college bloc in their favor. (Remember that virtually all states—quite rationally—deliver their entire electoral college allotment in winner-take-all way to a single candidate. For analysis of a recent legal challenge to this regime, look here.). And the newly created states of “Northern California” and “California”—containing the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, respectively—could continue to be counted on to deliver for Democratic candidates their 39 or so (combined) electors.

But—and this is the crucial point—because the newly created “Southern California” state could easily vote for a Republican presidential candidate (as noted above, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in 2012 in this region) and give its 20 or so electors to a Republican, then Democrats would run a serious risk moving from a 55-0 advantage in California to something like 39-20 (a total of 59, because the creation of two additional states would increase the electoral college denominator by four, and every state gets two electors on account of having two senators), a net advantage of only 19, considerably less than half of the 55-electoral-vote edge the Dems currently enjoy.

Even if Democrats could hope to win “Southern California” from time to time, Democrat party loyalists —both in California and in DC—should be very reluctant to run the risk that inheres in Mr. Draper’s proposal. There is very little upside, and considerable downside, presented by CAL3 for Democrats when it comes to presidential elections. And risk aversion looms large in these matters, which helps explain why no new states have been added to the United States in over 50 years, and no new state has been created out of an existing state for more than 150 years (when West Virginia was created out of territory wholly located in Virginia.)

So until we move closer to a National Popular Vote model (about which I have written extensively, e.g., and recently here, under which every vote counts the same regardless of where state lines are drawn) I think Mr. Draper’s plan—given the current electoral and partisan landscape—will and should have a tough time winning over rational Democrats, who dominate California elections.

Vikram David Amar is the Iwan Foundation Professor of Law and the Dean at the University of Illinois College of Law. Previously, he served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis School of Law. He is a 1988 graduate of the Yale Law School and a former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun. He is a co-author, along with William Cohen and Jonathan Varat, of a major constitutional law casebook, and a co-author of several volumes of the Wright & Miller treatise on federal practice and procedure. Before teaching, Professor Amar spent a few years at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

 

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Donald Trump Has Scarred the Caged Kids – and America – for Life

Separating the children was the dog whistle to end all dog whistles. Abusing those kids was red meat for the Nazis of today, of America. America’s future? The midterms are looking more crucial by the day

U.S. President Donald Trump announcing his executive order his policy separating immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S. border illegally during a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, June 20, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump announcing his executive order his policy separating immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S. border illegally during a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, June 20, 2018.Bloomberg

It took 500 days and two thousand children in cages for America to see Donald Trump for what he truly is.

In campaign rally after campaign rally, tweet upon tweet, Trump let it be known in no uncertain terms: I am the president of all the people who look at those kids in the cages, and like what they see.

Trump had found the dog whistle of all dog whistles. On his order, not only were brown kids who have no English, stopped at the border, stripped from their parents and even their favorite toys, and warehoused in a repurposed Walmart.

Forget, for the moment, the debate over whether the separation policy was reminiscent of the Holocaust. One thing is for sure – abusing those kids was a master stroke of unambiguous cruelty, red meat for the American Nazis of today, true Nazis, admirers of Hitler, the “very fine people” who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia under the banners of the Confederacy and the Klan and the swastika, and who hail Trump for his evident sadism in deriding the handicapped, women, Hispanics, Muslims, and all migrants of color.

You could see it all in a Tuesday Fox News appearance by Trump’s violent, contemptuous, contemptible former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. When a fellow guest analyst began sympathetically telling the story of one of the children – a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, taken away from her mother – Lewandowski took evident joy in mocking the girl’s plight. He interrupted the story by making a “Womp Womp” sound – an expression that trivializes sadness, or makes fun of failure. He scored further points by refusing to apologize.

Corey Lewandowski Says ‘Womp, Womp’ About Girl with Down Syndrome

What has Trump done? For starters, he has scarred two thousand kids for life. And even though the president made an extravagant show Wednesday of appearing to re-unite the separated families, within hours it emerged that the executive order would not apply to families already separated by the policy. There is no plan in place to re-unite these families.

The children won’t forget this. We know because of the reactions of others who were separated by their parents by the edicts of authoritarian regimes.

In a shattering account, retired teacher and psychotherapist who worked extensively with victims of childhood trauma, Yoka Verdoner, a child survivor of the Holocaust, wrote of her reactions to the Trump border policy in an article titled “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime.”

 

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When Did Caging Kids Become the Art of the Deal?

By NYT The Editorial Board-

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed sectionL.

Watching President Trump blame Democrats for his administration’s inhumane practice of snatching immigrant children from their parents at the border evokes nothing so much as an abusive husband blaming his wife for the beatings he delivers:

Why do you make me do this? I hate doing this! If you’d only be reasonable and listen to me, things wouldn’t have to be this way.

As anyone paying even minimal attention to politics knows, this immoral policy is not “the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime,” to quote one randomly spelled and capitalized tweet out of three to that effect in a little over 12 hours. It’s not really Republicans’ fault, either — at least not yet. Both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations began efforts to curtail the flow of people across the southern border, but neither went so far as to pursue a “zero tolerance” approach that tore apart families en masse. Congress has not passed any bills requiring the practice since then. This bit of nastiness belongs entirely to Mr. Trump — he has made a choice to torment undocumented families — and his attempt to pass the buck is dishonest and gutless. In other words, it’s what we’ve come to expect when Mr. Trump finds himself in an uncomfortable spot.

But the horror show at the border has gotten awkward for Mr. Trump. When the normally fawning Rev. Franklin Graham and other conservative religious leaders start publicly questioning this president’s inerrancy, you know Mr. Trump has really distinguished himself in his iniquity. Even the first lady felt moved to publicly distance herself from her husband’s cruelty, calling for a nation “that governs with heart.” Things have gotten so radioactive that, at a Monday briefing, the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, found it easiest to fall back on incoherence, alternating between blaming Congress for the situation and denying that any such situation existed.

Perhaps recognizing the growing political hazard, the president is headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday evening to try to drag Republican House members deeper into his dumpster fire. Marc Short, his legislative affairs director, has said that the president will explain to Republican lawmakers the logic and “history” behind the decision to split up families. “The policy is incredibly complicated, and it is one we need to do a better job of communicating,” Mr. Short said.

Right, that’s the root of the problem here: inelegant messaging.

Mr. Trump is also expected to inject himself into the conference’s already fraught debate over immigration legislation, voicing support for two proposals that the G.O.P. House will likely be voting on in the coming days.

The president’s preferred bill is a hard-line plan fathered by Representative Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. That bill would, among other steps, tighten asylum standards, slash legal immigration by 25 percent by ending both the diversity visa lottery and doing away with most family-based immigration, and consign Dreamers to permanent limbo by requiring them to re-up their status every three years. And, of course, the bill would fund The Wall. It all fits nicely with Mr. Trump’s tendency to talk about immigrants as though every one of them is an aspiring MS-13 foot soldier.

The president also has said — after some initial confusion on his part, according to the White House — that he’d be willing to sign the “compromise” plan hammered out in large part by House leadership. The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, much like Mr. Goodlatte’s bill, would tighten asylum standards, kill the diversity visa and fund The Wall. It would be somewhat more flexible about family-based immigration and make provisions for some Dreamers to ultimately apply for green cards. It would deal with the current policy of splitting up families by allowing for children to be kept in ICE detention along with their parents. Jailing families together: This is what is considered progress in the current immigration climate.

Whatever the details, Mr. Trump will be using the Tuesday meeting as an opportunity for some additional arm-twisting. If Republican lawmakers have any sense of self-preservation, much less moral decency, they will refuse to engage with Mr. Trump over immigration while he is attempting such grotesque political blackmail.

For the president, this vile border mess has become a test to see how hard he can squeeze lawmakers. The White House has made clear that it regards immigrant children as useful levers to force Congress to pass legislation. With the midterms looming, Republican House members are desperate to look like they’re making progress on this issue. Mr. Trump (whose administration is planning a fresh wave of immigration crackdowns in the coming months) is betting that, with enough pressure, he can bend enough nervous moderates to pass a bill through the House on a party-line vote — and maybe, if he keeps hammering away at Democrats, even squeak it through the Senate.

In reality, by making the immigration topic even more radioactive, Mr. Trump has made a rational legislative debate much less likely. House Democrats would be nuts, politically and on policy grounds, to swallow either of the unpalatably conservative plans they are being offered. And even if a bill passes the lower chamber, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is unlikely to let his troops take a politically noxious vote during a high-stakes election cycle. No matter how much Mr. Trump beats his chest, it’s hard to see any proposal becoming law any time soon.

Lawmakers should not negotiate with the president until he puts a stop to this “zero tolerance” insanity. Even if Republican members can’t be swayed by the immorality of the practice, they should look at this situation in terms of preserving their own power: If they let Mr. Trump roll them by using innocent children as hostages, he will learn the lesson that brutality is the key to getting what he wants.

Maintaining checks and balances can be tricky with any president, but that’s especially true when a commander in chief has authoritarian impulses. As made evident by his slavering over such brutal autocrats as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump believes that effective leadership is all about crushing anyone who stands in your way, collateral damage be damned. If lawmakers aren’t willing to stand up to him in a case where justice and public sentiment are so clearly on their side, they might as well hand him the keys to the Capitol right now.

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With wildfire season at hand, California on slightly safer footing this year

When Anne Faught got a knock on her front gate recently, she was surprised to find two uniformed men at her rural Marin County property, one with a clipboard.

The firefighters had come to her home for an impromptu safety inspection. They were making sure she had cleared hazards like flammable brush and overgrown trees, both common in the small town of Woodacre, where houses like Faught’s nestle against a landscape of picturesque but perilous fire-prone hills.

“I just did $3,000 worth of tree work,” Faught said, pointing to two compost bins stuffed with leaves and branches. “We all saw what happened last year.”

In the wake of the most destructive fire season in California history, peaking with the fast-burning Wine Country blazes that killed 41 people and wiped out nearly 9,000 homes and other buildings, pressure to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire has been immense. And in many ways, the response has been proportionate.

The state stands on at least slightly safer footing this year as a new and perhaps equally challenging fire season approaches.

More firefighting power is in place as California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews are repositioned to hazard areas and equipped with new suppression gear, including a fleet of civilian Black Hawk helicopters.

Large-scale tree removal and prescribed burns are in the works with new funding from state and federal coffers.

PG&E is expected to face new sanctions, including the possibility of having to de-energize power lines on windy days, after the utility’s electrical equipment was blamed for sparking several of last year’s blazes.

And fire warning systems are better. State emergency officials are making sure more people will be alerted by phone of an approaching wildfire, having learned from Sonoma County’s failure to send out Amber Alert-style messages as October’s Wine Country fires bore down. Weeks after the disaster, when fires broke out in Southern California, notification to residents there already was improved.

But as significant, and plentiful, as the new fire-protection measures are, they merely nip at the edge of an underlying issue: that fire is a constant in California, and as long as people choose to live in and around the state’s wildlands, experts say, the threat remains.

“I would not be surprised if we have another big fire,” said Bill Stewart, forestry specialist at UC Berkeley. “I just don’t think we’re where we need to be.”

Short of keeping people from living in high-risk areas, which is hardly possible as Californians seek the space and serenity of life outside cities, experts say the most effective strategy for minimizing danger is hardening vulnerable communities to wildfire — much like what Marin County is trying to do, with firefighters going door to door to make sure every property is prepared to withstand the inevitable.

It’s not an easy task, especially in the Bay Area. Unlike national forests in the High Sierra, where government agencies can reduce the severity of potential fire by logging or burning large tracts of unpopulated land, coastal areas consist mostly of smaller, inhabited parcels. That puts the onus for maintaining safe surroundings on untold numbers of private landowners.

Not only are property owners often lax in securing their lots, experts say, but there’s too little regulation and enforcement of sound land use, namely where houses should be built, what they can be made of and how much vegetation must be cleared around them.

The Wine Country firestorm underscored these problems. The deadliest of the blazes, the Tubbs Fire that devastated Santa Rosa, blasted through well-known hazard spots, some of which had burned before. Still, homes were developed there, often lacking modern fire-resistant materials and without adequate fuel breaks.

“We really haven’t put together the pieces of a resilient fire strategy in local areas,” Stewart said.

A handful of policies have been drafted, although not yet put into law, in the aftermath of last year’s devastation to improve how lands susceptible to fire are managed. But none will completely eliminate the danger.

At least two bills in the Legislature seek to discourage homes from being built in fire-prone forests and grasslands. Both propose giving the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection more say on the general plans of cities and towns. These plans, which are done periodically, guide where new houses and subdivisions take shape.

The legislation, though, doesn’t necessarily require the communities to do what the state fire experts recommend, whether it’s refraining from developing in a wooded area or requiring more protective open space around homes.

One of the bills, by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale (Los Angeles County), calls for updating statewide standards for fire-safe building materials required of houses in high-risk areas, items like ignition-resistant roofs and tempered-glass windows. Already, the state is planning to add staff to work with cities and counties to enforce these building codes.

But like the provisions on where homes can be built, requirements on what homes should be made of apply only to new housing, meaning most structures wouldn’t be covered by the regulation.

According to the state Department of Insurance, about 3.6 million homes in California, more than a quarter of the total, stand within or near fire-prone areas. Nearly 1.3 million are located in high-risk spots.

Marin County Fire Department firefighter trainee Alex Mercer trains a hose at a small blaze during a training, session in San Rafael.

Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

A recent executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown on fire safety reaches out to those living in hazardous wildlands. It seeks to streamline permits for landowners who want to reduce fire danger by clearing trees and brush, and calls for the state to provide assistance with such projects.

Tens of millions of dollars in the state budget for next fiscal year and in California’s cap-and-trade program, which generates revenue by charging businesses for polluting, are earmarked for vegetation management. Also, the finances of the U.S. Forest Service are being restructured to enable more thinning and burning. Most of the new state and federal money, though, is likely to go toward big swaths of public land.

“Resources are an issue,” said Stephen Gort, executive director of the California Fire Safe Council, which focuses on community-level vegetation projects, often on private parcels. “There just may not be enough chain saws available in the state to make a difference.”

Gort’s neighborhood north of Napa organized years ago, and came up with the money, to create a 3-mile fuel break around homes. All of the properties there survived the October fires.

Additional legislation in Sacramento seeks to fireproof the state’s energy infrastructure. Bills introduced by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, would require utilities to upgrade equipment so it’s less likely to spark and to de-energize transmission lines when fire danger is high.

Already, PG&E has taken voluntary steps to improve safety, such as establishing a wildfire operations center in San Francisco, along with a network of weather stations, to better anticipate risk.

Whatever changes are made to safeguard California’s wildlands this year, they’re likely to come up against another difficult fire season.

The National Interagency Fire Center is expecting above-average fire potential for much of California through fall. Late-season rains this spring have spawned a bounty of combustible brush and grass, and the summer is expected to be hot and dry, according to the federal forecast. The fire threat is greatest in the East Bay and Sierra foothills, as well as along the Southern California coast, the report shows.

“We’re already seeing brushfires and the size of the fires increasing,” said Steve Leach, a meteorologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Redding. “I wish I could put out a below-normal (forecast), but we just don’t have a situation like that.”

Christie Neill, a battalion chief for the Marin County Fire Department, said landowners seem to be bracing themselves for the elevated risk, at least in the North Bay.

“I think people are just really more alert this year,” Neill said. “The fires (last year) were so close to us. People were either impacted or they had friends who were impacted. Hopefully, they’ll work with us to take action.”

That appeared to be the case in Woodacre.

After firefighter Cole Rippe finished his inspection of Faught’s property, he advised her to sweep some leaves off the roof and remove brush around a propane tank. Otherwise he applauded her for the amount of vegetation she had cleared.

“It needed to be done,” Faught said as she looked out at some pruned bushes. “I’d been meaning to do it for a long time. But after what happened in Sonoma (County), I knew it had to happen now.”

Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:kalexander@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kurtisalexander

 

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These celeb dads are showing total support for their breastfeeding partners. Here’s how.

by 

Breastfeeding can be awesome — but it can also be difficult, physically exhausting, and isolating.

Parents may choose to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and have a range of experiences with it, but one thing is universal: It helps to have help.

People often tout the natural beauty of breastfeeding, and that can certainly be true. But it’s equally true that nursing can be physically demanding, time-consuming, and — thanks to society’s squeamishness — socially isolating. Even those who love breastfeeding need moral and logistical support, especially from their partners.

Here are some celebrity dads who show us what supportive breastfeeding partners look like:

Keeping breastfeeding partners well-fed and hydrated, like The Rock did, is a good place to start.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson melted hearts with a photo on Instagram of him lovingly feeding his girlfriend while she fed their baby.

“Mama @laurenhashianofficial has her hands full nursing/feeding Baby Tia,” he wrote, “so I’m feedin’ mama her dinner. My pleasure. So much respect to her and all mamas out there holding it down and running things.”

Not only does breastfeeding require hands, it also burns 300-500 calories a day, which can make for ravenous hunger. Nursing requires extra water too, so partners can help by bringing a breastfeeding person food and liquids.

Expressing appreciation for breastfeeding like Justin Baldoni did is another way to show support.

“Jane the Virgin” actor Justin Baldoni didn’t hold back in sharing his awe in watching his wife breastfeed their baby, Maxwell.

“I love watching Emily feed our son,” he wrote on Instagram:

“They share such a deep bond and I can see how much joy it brings her when everything stops and it just the two of them connecting … It still blows my mind at how incredible the female body is and that the only thing my son has eaten since he was born has been produced by my wife.”

He also shared a photo he took of her breastfeeding, with words of praise for her as a mother and wife. Beautiful.

Andy Grammer modeled how to support breastfeeding in public without shame.

The singer/songwriter shared a photo of his wife Aijia getting sassy with public breastfeeding shamers on Twitter and sent a shoutout “to all the moms feeding their babies without a care and in style.”

Andy Grammer

@andygrammer

God help anyone that tries to shame @aijiaofficial breastfeeding in public 👊 Visiting me on tour and it’s good to have her sass around. Shout out to all the moms feeding their babies without a care and in style 💅

And check out this adorable video of Grammer beatboxing in time to his daughter Louisiana’s hiccups. (Another way to help is burping the baby after feeding time, BTW.)

Partners can also step up in unexpected ways when breastfeeding goes wrong, like Dax Shepard did.

Actress Kristen Bell shared a story on her online show “Momsplaining” about one of the times she had mastitis and wasn’t able to get to the doctor. Mastitis is a painful and potentially dangerous breast infection. Their baby had recently quit breastfeeding, and she needed to express her milk to relieve the pain and pressure.

Bell said she told her husband, “We can talk about it, we can be weird about it, or you can just go ahead and nurse.” So Shepard extracted the milk — yep, like that — and spit it into a cup.

“I’ve never been more in love,” said Bell.

 

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Nevada pimp wins GOP primary, rejoices with Hollywood madam

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Pimp Dennis Hof, owner of half a dozen legal brothels in Nevada and star of the HBO adult reality series “Cathouse,” won a Republican primary for the state Legislature on Tuesday, ousting a three-term lawmaker.

Hof defeated hospital executive James Oscarson. He’ll face Democrat Lesia Romanov in November, and will be the favored candidate in the Republican-leaning Assembly district.

Hof celebrated his win at a party in Pahrump, Nevada, with “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss at his side.

“It’s all because Donald Trump was the Christopher Columbus for me,” Hof told The Associated Press in a phone call. “He found the way and I jumped on it.”

Hof, who wrote a book titled “The Art of the Pimp,” has dubbed himself “The Trump of Pahrump,” and held a rally with longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone. Hof was in the limelight in 2015, when former NBA player Lamar Odom was found unconscious at Hof’s Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nevada, after a four-day, $75,000 stay.

If Hof wins in November, he wouldn’t be the only brothel owner in elected office — Lance Gilman, the owner of the famous Mustang Ranch in northern Nevada, is a Storey County Commissioner.

Voters in November will decide on closing down brothels in at least one of the seven Nevada counties where they legally operate. The question will be on the ballot in Lyon County, where Hof owns four brothels. Activists are also gathering signatures to try to get a measure on the ballot in Nye County, where Hof owns two more brothels in the desert outside the city of Pahrump.

He painted the anti-brothel efforts as political retribution that’s tied to his opponent, but Oscarson and the referendum backers deny any connection.

Most brothels operate in rural areas of Nevada. They’re banned in the counties that contain Las Vegas and Reno.

Hof said Tuesday he’s downsizing his business by selling off some brothels to focus more on politics.

Oscarson and Hof previously faced off in 2016 when Hof ran for the seat as a Libertarian. Oscarson won with 60 percent of the vote.

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