California Politics

The Crumbling Moral & Ethical Pillars of American Society

Hector Barajas sits down to speak with the Cowboy Libertarian, Patrick Dorinson, to discuss the severe crisis in America that is threatening to crumble the already weakened foundations of our Republic. It is the moral and ethical crisis that has been building for many decades, which we can no longer avoid.

You can follow Patrick Dorinson, The Cowboy Libertarian, here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cowboy.liber…
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CowboySense
Website: http://cowboylibertarian.com

The Human Cost of Our Pollution-Free, First-World State

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 40,000 children work daily in the mines picking and checking the rocks for presence of “chocolate-brown streaks” of cobalt, an essential raw material necessary for the batteries that power electric vehicles.

Barbara Jones of the Daily Mail recently wrote that, “Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves. The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.”

Jones continued, “Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death. Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4764208/Child-miners-aged-four-living-hell-Earth.html 

California just enacted a $3-billion state subsidy program specifically for electric cars made by Tesla Motors. Tesla’s production will soon reach its limit for federal tax rebates, good for the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold in the United States. Business Insider noted, “Given Tesla’s ambitious U.S. sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018, after which the phase-out begins. A year later, the subsidies are gone. Losing a $7,500 subsidy on a $35,000 car is a huge deal.”

A big deal indeed: When Hong Kong discontinued its equivalent subsidy, Tesla’s sales in the Chinese city dropped from tens of thousands to ZERO.

Todd C. Frankel of the Washington Post wrote that, “Most Tesla models use batteries from Panasonic, which buys cobalt from Southeast Asia and Congo. Replacement batteries for Tesla are manufactured by LG Chem.” 

As California’s political leaders herald electric vehicles as the future backbone of our state’s private transportation system, they must not forget Barbara Jones’ cautionary warning: “Free from pollution, such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to life of hellish misery in the race to achieve its target.”

Time to Amazon California’s Food Supply

California’s elites have seized on Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods with a demand of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: “revolutionize the nation’s food system” by demanding that its food come from local organic farmers and ranchers, with the goal that food “can never be cheap.”


The big question that the rest of us, non-elite, have to ask: How much of a dent in our wallet will this “food revolution” cause?

To answer that question, Alice Waters, a Bay Area chef who brought seasonal and organic food to her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, recently told the Washington Post, “People [need to] understand that food can be affordable, but it can never be cheap.” Waters then went on to talk about having shoppers pay $28 for an organic chicken.

The current average price for a whole chicken at Costco, Safeway, and WinCo Foods is around $8.50 – $13.00.

The food snobs like Waters don’t seem to understand that not everyone can afford to pay $28 for a whole chicken. The same goes for our fruits and vegetables.

The goal should be to make all food readily available for everyone. This includes our middle and working class communities that live in urban and rural areas that may not have easy access to grocery stores.

In California alone, it is estimated that more than a million people live in food deserts, meaning that they do not have easy access to a grocery store.


A few years ago, national and regional grocers worked together with First Lady Michelle Obama “to bring fresh foods to impoverished neighborhoods by opening and expanding more than 1,500 U.S. grocery stores in those [food desert] areas.” Also, “In California, a $200-million California FreshWorks Fund will provide financing at or below market rates to encourage grocers to set up shop in under-served communities.”

In 2015, United Ways of California issued a report, Struggling to Get By, where they found that 31% of California households did not have sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. That includes 51% of Latino households and 40% of African American households. In addition, just over half of all California households with children under the age of six fall below the Real Cost Measure.


If people want to pay $75 at Chez Panisse for some sheep’s-milk ricotta and amaranth greens ravioli with basil and a grilled duck breast, it is their decision. But most Californians are living paycheck to paycheck and are just struggling to get by.

As Amazon revamps our food delivery system, it should devote itself to making fresh produce available for all – not designer organic food that only the Alice Waters types can afford.

The Activists Are Coming: How California Real Estate Companies & Property Owners Can Prepare for Attacks on Their Businesses

By Hector Barajas & Stevan Allen

California’s housing community is under attack by activists who have organized renters, foreclosed homeowners and minority based groups to help stage press conferences, local media interviews and protest marches under the banner of housing and tenant rights.

Too many property owners, real estate companies and housing organizations are caught flatfooted and don’t have a strategy when they see their reputations disparaged on the evening news.

In the past two years, three of our clients were confronted by various housing and renter activists’ organizations. These were not organic community groups, but rather orchestrated movements funded by the nation’s largest foundations, political contributors and politically motivated NGOs. Their aim was never really about helping tenants. Rather their hidden agenda was really about stopping development, putting pressure on lawmakers to regulate banking institutions and trying to strong-arm the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to sell their distressed properties to nonprofits and “mission-driven” organizations.

Pushing back on attacks from housing/tenant activists is crucial. It begins by being prepared, having a game plan in place and adhering to the following tips:

  • Everything Needs to be Written Down. How long has the tenant been in the property? How long since they last paid rent? Are there any complaints against the owner for health and safety reasons? Have you made any “cash-for-keys” offer?
  • Develop a Timeline. When dealing with the purchase of a foreclosed property, you need to have a timeline put together – from delinquency to the recent sale of the property. In California, the average foreclosure process takes 429 days and 1,123 days for a property to go from the delinquency stage to when the home is sold to a new owner; the entire process takes well over three years. By outlining the entire process and the current situation, the reporter(s) will get to better understand your side of the story and be more critical of highly emotional arguments activists tend to promote.
  • Put a Communications Plan in Place. Work with internal communications staff or outside consultants to develop protocols, draft media statements, approval processes, designate a spokesperson and identify third-party advocates who can speak on your behalf.
  • Run Everything Through Your Attorney & Public Affairs Team. Talk with your team to avoid any potential libel claims and to avoid any confusion of terms and dates in the timeline that you developed. All external communications should be vetted and approved in accordance with the communications plan.
  • Don’t Talk with a Reporter at the Property in Question. It could be a set up. The last thing you want is to get shouted down by the activists and elevate an already hostile situation. Avoid any direct confrontations. The activists will be videotaping everything. You will be made to look defensive, callous and as though you’re trying to hide something or avoid the truth.
  • Be Proactive, Tell a Story & Protect Your Reputation. We advise our clients to begin documenting their story. Develop YouTube clips of when you purchased a distressed home. Document the neighborhood, the condition of the property, and every step taken to get the home suitable for sale. Then, record the journey of the new homeowner from when they start the loan process, to the day she or he gets the keys to their new home – follow up a year later to get their testimonial. Populate your social media platforms with: newspaper articles where you are quoted, awards or events where you have been recognized for helping the local community, memberships in community based organizations, memberships in nonprofits and images of you leading a seminar on ethical property management.

With the advent of digital media, there are a tremendous amount of social media sites where you can write, manage and house your material. You need to build vast amounts of goodwill, should you have the unfortunate luck of dealing with California’s housing and tenant activists. Without any archived videos, news stories and/or testimonials, you are just playing defense, until the legal system runs its course and your reputation will suffer.

It is highly likely the activists will become more aggressive in the coming year. The good news is that real estate companies, property managers and housing organizations have positive stories to tell and can develop an effective plan that will help them respond to any attack. The key is to plan ahead and don’t wait until the protestors are on you doorstep before you start dealing with a potential crisis.

Hector Barajas & Stevan Allen are partners at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm. http://www.MBAINC360.com 

PoliticFact does a PolitiHack Job on Oroville Dam Crisis

Chris Nichols of PolitiFact recently looked at a claim by Assemblyman Travis Allen that the current Oroville Dam crisis “was entirely avoidable.” Here are the comments Nichols purportedly reviewed:

The Oroville dam failure was entirely avoidable: California passed a $7.5 Billion water bond in 2014 but Jerry Brown didn’t spend $1 on new water storage or improvements to existing infrastructure like Oroville,” Allen said in a press release on Feb. 13, 2017.

Nichols rated the claim by Allen “mostly false,” but here’s where Nichols/PolitiFact got it wrong:

First, Nichols uses the environmentalist FERC complaint to argue out of both sides of his mouth, that, on the one hand, ‘it was anticipated” and on the other, “No one could have known.” These are Nichols’ exact words: “But there’s no evidence, at this point, that state officials knew the dam’s main spillway was in jeopardy, something Allen does not point out.”

So, Riddle Me This, Batman: Nichols tries to distinguish between operating and managing without explaining how come there are PHOTOS showing obvious water seepage and repairs being made on the main spillway in 2013 at the exact point of the initial crater formation, something managing the dam entails, but operating it does not.

2013_Oroville

Just Ask An Expert: Anyone who know structural concrete construction — or anyone making a simple phone call to someone who works in large-scale concrete project construction — knows that if water is flowing or seeping under the foundation, slumping, cracking and failure are not far in the future.

Management, Not Operations: With a dam holding over 3 million acre-feet a few yards upstream, finding the source of that water seeping was a matter that should have been of great concern. It apparently wasn’t. That’s a management decision, not an operational one (operators control how much water goes down the spillway, into the hydropower plant, etc.).

It is also management’s responsibility to note that the generator outflows would be compromised in the event of the emergency spillway filling the river channel with debris from the unpaved hillside (as pointed out to FERC and DWR in the environmental complaint). Proper planning for such debris dams would be to raise the generator water outlet height or install a check dam between the dam’s base and the main spillway to prevent sediment and debris from eddying upriver to clog the generator plant outlets.

Again, that’s management’s decision to make, not operations.

Proposition 1 Water Storage Bond Funds: Nichols was also critical about Assemblyman Allen’s comment that, “Jerry Brown didn’t spend $1 on new water storage or improvements to existing infrastructure like Oroville.”

Nichols concludes that, Allen’s additional claim that the state has yet to spend bond money on new water storage projects, ignores the fact that that money was precluded from being spent until December 2016.”

Proposition 1 Water Bond (2014) specifically excluded funds from being spent until December 2016.  What Nichols ignores is that the Prop. 1 was passed two years ago and with a 5 year drought, and currently floods, there still isn’t a single project listed on the state website as appropriate for funding.

It’s over two months since Proposition 1 money COULD be spent. With all the emergencies, water needs and shovel ready projects, you would think that the state would have broken ground January 1st.

There is also $168 million left in the Burns-Porter Act authorization, for which local needs and flood control were included in its purpose. With money in hand, no one seems to be leading by setting dam safety as a priority in the state budget, along with other decaying infrastructure.

Politifact’s Conclusions Are: MOSTLY FALSE: They ignore critical facts that give an entirely different impression. 

PolitiFact owes Assemblyman Travis Allen an apology, a retraction of its review and I give Chris Nichols 4 HATCHETS for his hack job on this story.

hatchethatchethatchethatchet

 

Xavier Becerra Gets No Love

Setting aside the snub of hiring Eric Holder to do the job Attorney General Xavier Becerra is supposed appointed and confirmed to do, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon was recently on Univision’s weekend political show Conexión. DeLeon talked about immigration, Donald Trump, defending California’s rights and the like. He mentioned Eric Holder several times, but failed to mention Xavier Becerra.

If California politics was a 90’s sitcom, Becerra would be Screech from “Saved by the Bell” – he is part of the cast, but no one seems to cares.

screechxavier

Transcript and video file below:

TV Anchor Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Thank you very much Sergio Flores. Well we have the senator, the president [pro tempore] of the Senate, Kevin de León to answer these questions about the contract with Eric Holder for legal help in case of the possible… a possible trial against the Trump administration. Welcome Mr. León.

Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León: Thank you Jairo!

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Tell us… tell us why hire Eric Holder?

Kevin de León: Well, I think that the candidacy of the President-elect is a threat, a real threat to our community, of the real interests of a great state like the great state of California. As the leader of the Senate, my role was to accept everything to defend the rights of our policies on the environment, climate change, health care, and the defense of the human rights of immigrants. I decided with my colleague, the Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon to contract the legal services of the ex-prosecutor of the country, the whole country of the United States under President Barack Obama, Mr. Eric Holder. To give us strategic legal tactics forbetter said, about what you can and cannot do to an administrator who continues to threaten the values of a great state like the state of California.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: How much will the state of California be paying Mr. Holder?

Kevin de León: It’s $25,000 a month. We split half of this bill, $12,500, from the Senate and $12,500 from the Assembly. But I think that…

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: For four years or for how long?

Kevin de León: For three months.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Three months.

Kevin de León: And then we are going to re-negotiate. I think that it’s a payment, or [rather] a small investment in comparison to what is at stake. We have billions of dollars hanging by a thread right now.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: With the decision of President Trump?

Kevin de León: [Yes,] with the decision of President Trump.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: For example, how much would you take away? How much are we talking about Senator?

Kevin de León: It can be billions; it can be twenty, forty, sixty billion dollars. It’s not known yet, for example…

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: In which sectors?

Kevin de León: In medical care, the ACA that is the health care coverage of President Obama. It’s $20 billion that we receive every year for the more than 6.5 million people that are already enrolled in this medical care program.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Sure.

Kevin de León: Of Obamacare. If the plan is to destroy and diminish the funds, as soon as possible, according to the statements of the Republicans in Congress as well as President-elect Trump, we will be left with a $20 billion dollar deficit in the budget in the state of California. That is true.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Senator, There are 800,000 undocumented people who obtained their driver’s licenses. The federal government could demand the government of California to hand over all that information of the undocumented [people] for them to be able to locate and deport them.

Kevin de León: Look, [let’s] make this very clear, because I was the one who negotiated the driver’s licenses for the more than 800,000 people that can drive their cars today without the fear, without the terror, of having their car confiscated by a tow truck. Or much worse, being deported for being undocumented. The files, the personal data, are at this moment frozen in the records of the state of California. So that means, in a nutshell, if the federal government comes and says that they want access to that data, we will not give it to them. Now or later, today or tomorrow, or the next day, we will not hand over that data because that is personal data that belongs to the state of California, not the federal government.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: In 30 seconds Senator, a message for the undocumented [people] that are going to live these next four years with Donald Trump.

Kevin de León: Well, we have to organize, we have to do everything possible, and my role is to do everything possible to defend the interests, promoting the necessary polices. In defense matters in a given case, if there are raids, massive deportations, the local police will not cooperate with the federal government. [We will] intervene in the deportation[s]. If someone has a crime, for example: a violent criminal, a violent bandit, an assassin, a [drug] trafficker, that’s another thing. But the majority of our working people are hardworking people.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Thank you very much Senator Kevin de León for being here on Conexión California

Kevin de León: No Jairo, it’s a pleasure for me. Thank you very much.

Jairo Diaz Pedraza: Thank you very much. Let’s take a break.

Video Filehttps://youtu.be/dDqfNiZRDl4