July 22, 2021

Victorville City Council Nonsense

A report in the Press-Enterprise about an exciting city council meeting in Victorville. If the Press-Enterprise is to be believed, a man was arrested at the July 20 city council meeting for the crime of recording the meeting. This was an open Brown Act meeting, and you can watch all of it on YouTube, so where's the crime? Naturally, I had to go watch the video to understand what really happened. The very short summary is: incompetent reporting from a mediocre newspaper. The longer explanation follows.

The Victorville city council has a problem that we've seen before in other governing bodies. There's one city councilmember, Blanca Gomez, who does not want to observe the rules of procedure for the meeting. Her need to express her opinion is immediate and more important than any other matter before the city council. She does not need to ask for recognition. She does not need to express herself politely. She does not have to contribute constructively to the meeting. We've seen this many times, and the person who behaves this way never seems to realize that they could actually accomplish something if they followed the rules of the meeting. I have no data to support my opinion, but I think a lot of these people imagine they are the heroes of the downtrodden and they "prove" that fantasy to themselves over and over by being shut down my meeting chairs for failure to follow the rules of the meeting. Far from benefitting the downtrodden, of course, this behavior just wastes time and disrespects those who voted her in, hoping that she might actually accomplish something. I call elected officials who behave like this "grashites."

In the video, please skip ahead to 4:13:07 where Gomez begins to remark on the motion before the council. Mayor Jones tries to interrupt her.

Mayor Jones is the other half of this problem. Grashites do not do well in a vacuum, but put them under an imperious, arrogant chair and they thrive (and get articles in the newspaper!). Mayor Jones does not see her primary task to be overseeing a cordial and effective meeting. Her job is to keep people aware that she is imperious and arrogant. After all, the mayor of Victorville (pop. 128,000) is not a figure to be trifled with.

Unfortunately, the audio recording system in Victorville is not quite up to snuff, and whenever Jones tries to stop Gomez from speaking, Gomez leans closer to her microphone and raises her voice, so nothing can be understood. I couldn't understand these comments of Gomez, nor why Jones considered them out of order. Gomez continued to try to talk as the council was voting! That particular vote passed 3-1 with Gomez being the only No vote.

Gomez continued speaking even as Jones introduced the next item on the agenda, and didn't stop when the city manager began to speak. Minutes later when Jones called on Gomez for comments, Gomez had to ask her to clarify what agenda item they were discussing. Her need to speak over everyone else was more important than paying attention to where the meeting was going.

At 4:19:39 a bald-headed man enters the video frame and sits in the second row of the audience, first seat to the right of the central aisle. We will call him "Bald Man."

Then, shortly after the council began discussion of filling a vacancy on the planning commission at 4:20:29, another man enters and sits in the third row, second seat from the central aisle. He is wearing a fedora and a suit jacket and appears to be wearing a neck gaiter as a face mask (of the sort that is currently acceptable as an anti-COVID mask). He is holding an awake smartphone in his right hand. This will turn out to be Robert Daniel Rodriguez. If he is recording the council meeting, that seems to be secondary to his recording other things around him. Shortly after he sits down, he aims the phone (as if taking a photo or recording a video) to his right. Later we will see that there is a person sitting two seats to Rodriguez'a right, but at this point in the video they are off screen. Then at 4:22:54 Rodriguez appears to aim his phone's camera over the shoulder of Bald Man (who is just in front of and to the left of Rodriguez) as if trying to record whatever documents Bald Man has on his lap. This is probably technically legal, but it is damn rude as he is getting right into the man's personal space.

At 4:32:59 Jones is introducing the next item and pauses as she leafs through some papers. Gomez, without seeking recognition, says "I'm sorry. We're being entertained...there's discussion between your husband - to the chair - and the two women that are next to Mr. Metzler [the city manager, sitting at the dais]. That's very distracting." Jones thanked her for that, but then lectured her on seeking recognition from the chair before speaking. Gomez interrupted Jones saying "It's on video!" I've no idea what she meant by that. Jones then moves on with the meeting, not addressing the issue.

At 4:39:15 Rodriguez leaves his seat, heading toward the back of the room via the central aisle. At 4:39:44 he returns to the same seat. After getting seated, he takes up some papers in his left hand. This suggests that he went to the back of the room to get a copy of the agenda and was now looking at it, but all you can see is that it's papers. It's difficult to tell (the video resolution is only 720 and the ZOOM logo overlays the area where Rodriguez is seated) if he is reading the agenda or holding it up so that council members cannot see what little of his face remains visible.

At 4:40:44 Gomez stands up while the city manager is answering her question. She walks over to stand behind Jones and appears to be looking at something on the dais in front of whoever is to our right (the mayor's left) of Jones. Jones doesn't react to this and it appears to be irrelevant to our story, but it was strange. Gomez immediately returned to her seat.

At 4:42:55 Gomez rises from her seat again, but this time walks to our left, off the dais and off screen. A moment later we see her walk across the bottom of the screen to sit next to Rodriguez. At that point Jones interrupted to point out Gomez had left the dais without her permission. You can see Gomez gesturing, and Bald Man turned around briefly to glance, so it seems that Gomez and Rodriguez may be in conversation. I have never been in any California government meeting where a board member left the dais to talk privately to someone in the audience while the meeting was in full operation. After a minute or so, Gomez rises and walks to the left and off screen again. At 4:44:01 Gomez is back in her seat on the dais. A few moments later, as the mayor pro tem was asking a question, Gomez interrupts to ask Jones if she will recognize that she has returned to the dais. If you make it your mission to offend every member of the council, you will not make much progress toward any other goals.

At 4:45:35 the camera pulls back a bit so that now we can see the tops of the backs of the seats in the row where Rodriguez is seated. This allows us to see that someone is seated two seats to the right of Rodriguez. While the city manager was answering the mayor pro tem's question (which she had to repeat because of Gomez's earlier interruption) Gomez interrupted again. "Thank you for moving the camera. I appreciate that targeting. I'm watching." Jones began, "Member Gomez..." whereupon Gomez raised her voice so Jones could not be understood. Gomez: "No, I'm going to put it on the record. I see what you guys are doing." [Grashites live in a world where they are surrounded by conspiracies.] Gomez continued: "You, [some unintelligible name], and all of the [unclear] are driving that man back there." Gomez continued speaking and gesturing, but since she had raised her voice and gotten closer to the microphone, it was mostly garbled and I could make no sense of it. Then it seems Gomez's microphone was shut off. Jones asked the city manager to continue. Gomez continued to rant and either they turned her microphone back on or she yelled loud enough to be heard clearly on others microphones. "You guys are all on camera," Gomez shouted. At 4:47:42 Jones says that Gomez is not recognized, so it seems she must have been speaking again, but her microphone was turned off so we couldn't hear what she said. Gomez continued gesturing and then spoke loud enough to be heard saying "Nobody says anything to you. If I'm..." Here Jones spoke over Gomez, so Gomez's speech became unintelligible until she said "You have to be honest don't you. So correct yourself when you're talking [something in Spanish]". Jones was speaking at the same time. Jones denied speaking to someone. Gomez responded "I don't recognize you either, woman. Yes, I'm speaking to you." Jones said Gomez was "very much out of order." Gomez responded "You are out of order." Gomez continued to speak unintelligibly with a raised voice while Jones spoke. Jones repeated the Gomez had not been recognized. Gomez responded "You haven't been recognized." Jones asked Gomez to bring herself to order. Gomez responded "You shall bring yourself to order." Jones apologized to the city manager who had been trying to answer a question. Gomez said "There's no need to apologize for your behavior."

While discussing an agenda item on translation services, Jones made a motion. That's at 4:51:55. After getting a second, Jones recognized Gomez who offered a substitute motion. But she then she continued on with commentary on her substitute motion instead of waiting for a second. Jones stopped her saying "The motion, not commentary, just the motion." Gomez responded "Well, you do it all the time, so I'm following after your..." Jones interrupted her. There was no second, so Gomez's motion died.

While Jones was discussing her original motion, Gomez (without seeking recognition, of course) asked "So, can you modify your motion and say that?" Jones said she was not recognized. Jones explained that she was commenting on her pending motion. Gomez replied "Oh, you're commenting. Got it." At 4:53:57 Gomez interrupts Jones again starting to say "Which is easy when you..." but Jones spoke over her. Then Gomez interrupted again saying "I'd like to modify your motion to add exactly what you said, because you've brought a point that is not part of the motion." Jones said Gomez was not recognized. Gomez said "So then your a bunch of talk." After more discussion, Gomez again spoke without seeking recognition at 4:55:22 saying "There is no timeline, so whenever you guys want..." Jones interrupted her saying "Member Gomez has not been recognized and will suspend and bring herself to order." Gomez responded "You can suspend and bring yourself to order."

Gomez is actually recognized at 4:55:38. She began to read the staff recommendation from the agenda. Jones interrupted her, saying "We're talking about the pending motion." "Is this not the pending motion?" Gomez asks. She's been so caught up in her own childish theatrics she has failed to notice Jones made a motion that was different than staff's recommendation. But, you know, there's no need to actually know what's going on if you are a hero of the downtrodden. Jones explains that her motion was different than the recommendation. Gomez asked Jones to repeat her motion which she did.

Amidst that, at 4:55:59 we can see that Rodriguez swings his phone around to the right and extends his arm, apparently trying to photograph the man two seats to his right. That man waves him away, then pushes his hand. Rodriguez pushes his phone close to the guy again. The man seems to speak to someone off screen and then holds up his hand, seemingly trying to block the lens on Rodriguez's phone. Rodriguez is not discouraged.

Jones interrupts her discussion with Gomez saying "Mr Jones! The gentleman. There will be no communication in the...Mr. De Bortnowsky, does a member of the audience have a right to record another member of the audience?" Mr. De Bortnowsky, the city attorney, answered that "Right now that looks like they're disturbing the meeting and you could ask them to leave if they're going to be disruptive."

Jones says "The gentleman in the mask will cease at this moment or I'm going to ask you to leave." At about the same time Rodriguez reached over to the man on his right and appears to touch or nearly touch his chest. Gomez says "He's been recording." Jones says "My husband does not record." Ah! So now we learn that the man two seats to the right of Rodriguez is Mr. Jones, the First Gentleman of Victorville. We can see he has his phone out too. Later he slips it inside his pocket. Gomez says "I know. He's on my camera. Don't worry about...I HAVE HIM RECORDING. DON'T WORRY 'BOUT IT. Don't worry about it, I got it on my camera. Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I got it. Both of them are recording." Jones directs a deputy to look at Rodriguez's phone to "see if he's been recording." This whole back and forth does make it sound as if Victorville council members think recording their meetings is not permitted. The deputy appears on screen at 4:57:35. Gomez gets up from her seat and walks to our left, off screen. Jones calls a 5-minute recess. Video ceases and resumes at 4:59:54 where we see Rodriguez and three deputies now standing in the central aisle with Gomez between them. Jones tries to continue the meeting while this now much more obvious disruption is occurring right in front of the dais. Gomez has her phone out and appears to be photographing the deputies, as is Rodriguez. Then, as a vote is being taken, Rodriguez and Gomez appear to cooperate with the deputies and walk toward the back of the room and off screen.

Remaining items on the agenda were skipped and the council returned to a closed session that had begun before this open session. The subject was the employee evaluation of the city manager. Gomez was absent from the closed session. Jones adjourned the meeting solely by gaveling without saying a word. Is that valid?

BTW, if you're looking for the agenda, the link on the city's website doesn't work. This is a link that works. And this links to the agenda packet for this July 20, 2021 meeting. There is nothing written on the agenda nor in City Council Policy and Procedures Manual to suggest that recording of meetings is prohibited. The only mention in the manual is to specify that it must not disrupt the meeting.

permalink | July 22, 2021 at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2021

The Mayor Of Springfield, Missouri, On The Subject Of COVID

He may be an independent, or at least he won't say he's a Republican or Democrat.

permalink | July 18, 2021 at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2021

Gubernatorial Candiate Forum At The Pickford, July 22

UNITE 911, a group whose name is appropriately all-caps, will host a gubernatorial candidate forum at the Pickford Theater on July 22 as part of their ongoing effort to save us from "the Marxist/Socialist/Communist agenda." So far they have commitments from six people who you never heard of:

  • Anthony Trimino. His website gives prominent placement to a video of his family in which two of his sons dress like carnival barkers. He's proud of the business he started, but he will not name the business nor even describe what sort of business it is. In his video he shows a building bearing the name "Traffik," so maybe that's his business. He is willing to specify that he is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, "an invitation-only, fee-based organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies." IOW, no big deal. On the issues, he says absolutely nothing specific. He does, however, say that he believes "faith" is a verb, and then proceeds to use it as a noun. I want to see him write a sentence using "faith" as a verb. I'm sure Shakespeare could have done it. Even on the perennial Republican subject of cutting taxes he can't name a single tax that he would cut. He avoids most of the so-called "dog whistles" that Trump supporters in other states use, but in his campaign video he does cite Critical Race Theory, but like all the other Republicans he fails to point out what schools are teaching it.
  • Steve Lodge seems to be best known as the fiancé of Vicki Gunvalson who was on Real Housewives of Orange County. I assume he is not a descendant of Henry Cabot Lodge, or he would mention that on his website. He has that annoying habit of capitalizing random words for no apparent reason, like this: "stared in the Television series." Ignore the spelling error, why is "television" capitalized? He's got a solution for homelessness: incarceration of drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill. "They’re doing something similar to this down in Dallas County, Texas," he said. (You hear so many Californians pining for the Elysium that is Dallas County, Texas.) He doesn't say what he's going to do with those single moms who lost their job and just couldn't pay the rent. Also, he seems to suggest California should build MORE hydroelectric dams, claiming the drought is not the problem, lack of dams are the problem. He wants to terminate the High Speed Rail project which is funded with a voter-approved bond issue, so he would have to submit that to another vote of the people first.
  • Sarah Stephens. This is NOT Anthony Trimino's family. One of her principles is "Believing we can change everything and Make California peoples home again" which, even if you insert the probably missing apostrophe, is still a tortured sentence. And she claims to have an English degree from San Diego State where she graduated Magna Cum Laude! "Having been married to her husband Daniel, who has served with the United States Air Force and San Diego Police Department, Sarah has forever known and lived the price of FREEDOM." What does that mean? She describes herself as a pastor. Simple Googling does not turn up her church. She says she is "pro-life" "Not only will we be increasing the amount of people in our state, but we will be helping women make the right decision for their lives that they will NEVER regret." Because we all know it's the state government that knows best whether a teenager should carry a pregnancy to term. And those teenagers will never regret that because in her Republican government there will be a vast expansion of state-funded child care services and cash stipends to the parents of all newborns, right? Sure! "She believes that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE should California churches or places of worship EVER be closed again!" So, no locks on the doors or gates. All houses of worship to be open to all 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. It's not like they're private property or anything. "Vaccinations should not have to require a reason to skip a vaccine." This woman was an English major?! I've gotten a lot of vaccines in my life, but none of them required me to give a reason to skip them. Mostly I just had to hold still for a moment. Check out this campaign video.
  • Doug Ose. This guy at least has some political history. He served three terms in the House of Representatives and ran for governor in 2018 (Ballotpedia). According to Wikipedia, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in business administration. On his campaign website he argues against COVID policies of the past. As for vaccinations, he says they should be decentralized. AFAIK they are decentralized, but maybe he supports something even more decentralized, like offering shots door-to-door. He says homelessness is due to drug addiction/substance abuse and mental illness. His solution is to greatly expand the courts so that every homeless individual could be taken into "protective custody," thence to put them in privately owned community care centers for treatment; and to create a cabinet-level homelessness authority. In short, to create a large, highly invasive health care program to force state-approved treatments on people who do not necessarily consent. This from the same party that says vaccines should be voluntary. He says that California has done nothing to plan for water infrastructure for the past 75 years! He, like Lodge, calls for the building of more dams. "Return to prison the 20,000 convicted felons that Newsom released in May 2020." Okay, so we're going to have to expand the courts even more. Other than all of that, the usual lack of specifics.
  • Jenny Rae Le Roux. This one's got an education: "a B.A. in Economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Columbia Business School." "She is a frequent presenter at Harvard Business School, the Wharton School of Business." She mentions starting at Bain, which is (was?) Mitt Romney's company. She's the only one of these candidates to say something about the wildfires on her campaign website: "Manage 4M acres of federal, state and private land using logging and controlled burn permits to reduce wildfires." Nothing specific, but it's a mention. She also says California should invest in "water storage," not necessarily dams. This suggests to me she might actually know something about water. But other than that, her position is platitudes and vagueness.
  • Diego Martinez. He makes no pretense of being an English major. Says he will fight to overturn Jones v. City of Los Angeles, meaning he wants to criminalize homelessness. Then he would "build state-run encampments." Manzanar is now a NPS-managed National Historic Site, so they can't use that, but there is still a lot of open space east of the Sierra. He wants to triple the amount of logging in the state. He wants to extend and widen highways throughout the state. "He will make the teaching of CRT or any other divisive Marxist, Socialist propaganda off limits in California school K-12." He thinks we have more than one state legislature. "Diego will end the gun roster restrictions, repeal the current ammo laws and bans on magazines." Neither he, nor any of the other candidates here, suggest how they will get any proposal through a legislature with Democratic super-majorities in both houses. "Diego’s first step will be to repeal the background check on ammo and will eliminate the non-California gun list, allowing all guns to be sold in California again." He would give illegal immigrants six months to turn themselves in, whereupon they would be given a 4-year work permit. After that, they would get a green card. The catch is, all of that is a federal issue and has nothing to do with who is governor of California. His solutions for homelessness are a sort of rambling wishlist. First, he says all the state's cities and counties should form a JPA. IOW, essentially recreate the state government. Why not just use the existing state government? That JPA should come up with a plan. He acknowledges that one of the problems is the lack of low-priced housing! Weirdly, this is something none of his fellow Republicans are aware of. "Every existing drug and needle dispensary throughout the state will be shut down." Drug dispensaries, as he calls them, are called pharmacies by most people. Shutting down all pharmacies is an idea that wouldn't fly even in Texas. "Faith based groups, habitat for Humanity, and other private building groups could build, remodel and repurpose buildings to provide shelter." And the money for this would come from where? Taxes? "Schools K-12 will no longer be able to indoctrinate our children with Anti American, Marxist, LGBTQ + propaganda." Oh, he said it out loud.

permalink | July 17, 2021 at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

Three Strikes for Gaetz and Greene

  1. First, they were kicked out of the Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center in Laguna Hills (Orange County).
  2. So they moved on to less sophisticated and more Republican Riverside County, but yesterday they got kicked out of the Riverside Convention Center.
  3. So the two quickly switched to the M3 Live Anaheim Event Center in Anaheim. But today that site has also given them the boot.

The rally was supposed to have taken place tonight. My suggestion (as if they would ask me) would have been to choose a venue in the Republican armpit of Riverside County, that is, the Temecula-Murrieta metropolis of fools.

UPDATE: Ultimately, they held a rally outside Riverside City Hall. The crowd was estimated at over 300 people.

permalink | July 17, 2021 at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 7, 2021

News to the Wall Street Journal

The headline for a front page article in today's Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Often Charge Uninsured People the Highest Prices, New Data Show. The article may be behind a paywall for you, but let me tell you it contains no surprises. For example...

Hospitals routinely bill uninsured patients at their highest rates. About 21%, or 319, of the hospitals did so for the majority of the services included in the analysis. At 171 of those hospitals, the cash rate was higher than all of the rates billed to insurers, or tied for the highest rate, for every service in the analysis. That was true at some hospitals owned by major systems including Sanford Health and Yale New Haven Health System.

permalink | July 7, 2021 at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 6, 2021

"No evidence of fraud in Riverside County 2020 election, grand jury says"

From the Press-Enterprise:

By JEFF HORSEMAN | jhorseman@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2021 at 1:39 p.m. | UPDATED: July 6, 2021 at 1:42 p.m.

A civil grand jury probe into how Riverside County handled the November 2020 election found no evidence of election fraud or malfeasance by those who ran polling places and counted votes.

While there were “minor departures from expected election procedures” that were later corrected, “the election was conducted as required” and “votes were accurately counted and verified,” read a 41-page report posted on the grand jury’s website Friday, July 2.

In an emailed statement, county spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the county is reviewing the report and will respond within the legally required 90-day timeframe. That means the county should respond by the end of September.

Civil grand juries are citizens empaneled by a judge to examine public agencies’ inner workings, identify problems and suggest improvements.

Hunt for Capitol attackers still on 6 months after Jan. 6
Questions and doubts about the Nov. 3 general election persist more than 7 months after the results were certified, driven by former President Donald Trump and his supporters who falsely claim the election was rigged. Courts have rejected dozens of lawsuits seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, and anger over Biden’s win fueled the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Roughly 82% of Riverside County’s registered voters — more than 1 million people — cast ballots in the general election, the highest turnout since at least 1999 if not in county history. Of those votes, 89% were cast by mail, according to the jury.

Unlike past elections, every California voter got a ballot in the mail to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the county consolidated its vast network of neighboring voting precincts into 130 voter assistance centers that could be used by any registered voter.

Locally, voters complained of receiving more than one ballot and getting their voter information guides after they mailed their ballots. Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer said built-in safeguards ensure voters can’t vote more than once and that her office sent the voter guides to the post office before the ballots, an assertion backed up by the jury.

Spencer also has accused District Attorney Mike Hestrin of interfering with her office. Hestrin denied any wrongdoing and the jury’s report did not address Spencer’s allegations.

Citing voters’ concerns and ongoing election doubts, the jury decided to investigate the county’s handling of the last election. Jurors interviewed dozens of election workers, city clerks, city managers, Sheriff’s Department staff, elected officials and others, visited Registrar of Voters’ facilities on Nov. 3 and 4 and examined 76 documents and 18 websites and videos.

City officials “expressed gratitude (to Spencer’s staff) for keeping them well informed” of election law changes and the county elections office “made extensive efforts to inform voters of their voting options,” the jury found.

Elections workers were well-trained, and while a technical problem temporarily disrupted in-person voting at voter centers and there were some long lines to vote in person, the county followed the law in conducting the election, the jury found.

While county registrars help fix inaccuracies in the statewide voter registration database, maintaining that database is up to the Secretary of State, the jury’s report read. Complaints about the location of ballot drop-off boxes and the practice of people dropping off other voters’ ballots — a legal practice derisively known in conservative circles as “ballot harvesting” — are beyond the jury’s purview, according to the report.

“The evidence is conclusive that ballots were accurately processed, counted, and reported,” the report read.

“The abundance of evidence leads to the conclusion, Yes, the November 2020 election within Riverside County was administered fairly and impartially and there is no evidence of fraud.’” The report noted that Hestrin’s office, which is responsible for prosecuting voter fraud, has found no evidence of widespread fraud.

The jury offered recommendations to improve future elections, including having the registrar submit a detailed plan on mailing voter guides and vote-by-mail ballots; more videos for voters explaining how ballots are processed and certified; allowing the public to view a livestreamed video of ballot processing and a plan to generate election results faster.

permalink | July 6, 2021 at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 2, 2021

January 6 Insurrection

permalink | July 2, 2021 at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2021

Amazing!

"The 2021 [Boston] mayoral race marks the first time in the city’s history that no white men are in serious contention."

permalink | June 30, 2021 at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

Tennessee Billionaire Rents South Dakota's National Guard

From the Washington Post.

South Dakota governor sending National Guard to Mexico border on mission funded by GOP megadonor

By Alex Horton
June 29, 2021 at 5:10 p.m. PDT

South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) will deploy up to 50 National Guard troops to the southern U.S. border, her office said Tuesday, with a highly unusual caveat — the mission will be funded by a “private donation” from an out-of-state GOP megadonor billionaire.

The Guard members will deploy in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s plea to augment border security with law enforcement resources from other states, Noem’s office said in a statement.

Like Abbott (R), Noem is a close ally of former president Donald Trump, whose focus on illegal immigration spurred his controversial deployment of military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border and remains a pillar of the Republican Party’s political platform. In a statement, she blasted the Biden administration over its immigration policies, which Trump and fellow conservatives have denounced as weak and ineffective.

Privately funding a military mission is an affront to civilian oversight of the armed forces, said military and oversight experts, describing the move — a Republican governor sending troops to a Republican-led state, paid for by a Republican donor — as likely unprecedented and unethical.

“You certainly don’t want our national security priorities up to the highest bidder,” said Mandy Smithberger, a defense accountability expert at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government watchdog.

About 3,600 service members are already on the border supporting Department of Homeland Security operations, the vast majority of whom are National Guard troops carrying out federal orders, defense officials said. Abbott’s request, and Noem’s fulfillment, is for a separate state-led mission overseen by Texas officials.

Ian Fury, a spokesperson for Noem, said the undisclosed amount was paid to the state of South Dakota by Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, a Tennessee-based nonprofit that donates to various groups, including churches and the National Rifle Association, according to 2018 tax filings. Willis Johnson has donated to GOP campaigns for decades, including at least $550,000 to Trump in 2019 and 2020, filings show.

In a brief interview, Johnson said his donation “100 percent” was meant to fund the border deployment. He declined to say how much he paid the state, or whether Noem approached him or he acted on his own accord.

“I want to protect America and that’s it,” Johnson said.

More than 180,000 people were taken into custody for crossing the border illegally in May, the highest one month total in two decades, as the Biden administration has undone some of Trump’s hard-line policies and struggles to find solutions that will abate the surge.

The South Dakota Guard members are deploying on state active-duty orders, Guard officials said, which means Noem is their commander in chief for the mission. As such, they are permitted to act in law enforcement capacities, which is forbidden for Guard members serving on federal mobilization.

The initial deployment will last 30 to 60 days, Noem’s office said, but it did not provide a further timeline.

But the mission’s political overtones, underscored by the growing speculation that Noem may consider a run for the White House, poses a significant problem for civilian-military relations, said Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

If Noem had decided it was a national-security priority to augment border operations, she could have found a lever to federalize her troops to support the DHS-led mission, Kuzminski said. Moreover, the governor’s method — using a private donation rather than taxpayer money — sidesteps potential questions from her constituents about the deployment’s cost and purpose.

“This subverts that the military is the instrument of the people,” Kuzminski said. “This puts a marker on individual soldiers as mercenaries they may not be comfortable with.”

The South Dakota National Guard did not say whether troops will volunteer for the mission, whether they will be involuntarily activated, or whether they have been informed about the nature of the funding.

“They owe the troops some transparency,” said Rachel E. VanLandingham, president of the National Institute of Military Justice and a former Air Force attorney. “I would want to know who is paying me.”

permalink | June 30, 2021 at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2021

The 20th Century Will Never Go Away

South Korea and Japan posturing over a border dispute. But of course, North Korea claims an interest as well.

permalink | June 14, 2021 at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2021

California Republican Proposes A Review Board For Trans Athletes

Because, as we know, Republicans always favor smaller government, except where vaginas are concerned.

permalink | May 27, 2021 at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2021

56% of Republicans....

...are actually willing to admit that they have their heads way up their asses by saying that Trump is actually President. Further, 63% of Republicans think Trump should run for President in 2024, which means that some Republicans want him to have a third term.

permalink | May 24, 2021 at 06:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2021

The Republicans

Insurrection Tour

permalink | May 21, 2021 at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

California Republican Party Settles A Lawsuit

From yesterday's Orange County Register. An uninsured campaign for a Republican candidate hired a person with no drivers license (and, presumably, no personal auto insurance) to drive around the district. The candidate had formed a joint venture with the California GOP which opened them up for liability...and they were the deeper pocket.

Man injured in car crash to receive $11M from state GOP

By Sean Emery

The California Republican Party has agreed to an $11 million dollar settlement with a Riverside County motorcyclist who suffered life-altering injuries in an Orange County freeway crash that a lawsuit says was caused by an unlicensed campaign worker employed by a then-state assemblyman.

The agreement tentatively ends a civil lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Richard Ruehle, who was left a quadriplegic by the traffic collision on Aug. 5, 2016, on the eastbound 91 Freeway near the Orange County-Riverside County border.

"In 2016, an employee of a California Assembly campaign was involved in a car accident that permanently impacted the life of the plaintiff," said Ashlee Titus, the California Republican Party's general counsel, in a statement.

"The individual involved in the car accident was not an employee of the California Republican Party," she said of the car's driver. "The settlement was entirely paid by our insurance company, Travelers Insurance Company, and not by the party. We continue to wish the best for everyone involved."

Ruehle was returning to his Riverside County home around 3:30 p.m. on a Yamaha when struck by a Chevrolet Malibu near Gypsum Canyon Road, according to court filings.

"Richard was really the family's breadwinner, so this accident was such a tragedy in so many ways, both to him physically and to the family's livelihood," said Megan Demshki, an attorney with Orange County-based Aitken Aitken Cohn. "It is our hope that this (settlement) will help him provide for his family and seek the medical care he needs."

The Malibu's driver was working as a paid employee for the 2016 Eric Linder for State Assembly campaign, Demshki said. The Linder campaign was uninsured, the plaintiff's attorney added.

Linder, a Corona Republican who lost the 2016 race after serving in Sacramento from 2012 to 2016, could not be reached for comment Thursday regarding the settlement.

Demshki said her team discovered that Linder's campaign had formed a joint venture with the California Republican Party. Along with seeking to get Linder elected, the attorney said, workers for the campaign were gathering data from potential voters that could be used in a statewide database for future campaigns across the state.

The plaintiff attorney's said this meant that the California Republican Party was also accountable for Ruehle's injuries and the actions of the Malibu's driver, who they described as having no experience canvassing a precinct or campaigning. Demshki said he had never had a driver's license, which apparently hadn't been checked before getting hired.

"Why should those large political employers be less accountable than Amazon drivers, Domino's Pizza drivers and others using our highways at potential risk to others?" Wylie Aitkin, the founder of the firm that represented Ruehle, said in a statement.

Ruehle is the father of six children and was an active hiker, martial artist and outdoorsman prior to the crash, his lawyers said. Along with physical therapy, Ruehle has taken up adaptive CrossFit to regain his strength.

Ruehle has also become an active volunteer with the Triumph Foundation, serving as a speaker and counselor for others who have been newly diagnosed with spinal-cord injuries, his attorney said.

permalink | May 21, 2021 at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

May 4, 2021

A Republican Being Republican

Read Martha Huckabay's remarkably misspelled rant defending slavery. Huckabay is "the president of the Women’s Republican Club of New Orleans" and was defending a state legislator who said schools ought to teach the "good" parts of the mass enslavement of African people. There is also another article in which she has some misspelled opinions on COVID vaccines.

permalink | May 4, 2021 at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2021

Riv. Co. Supervisor Costs Us

Riverside County taxpayers (not an insurance company) paid to get Supervisor Jeff Hewitt out of a sexual harassment claim. He was already the worst Supervisor. Now he's the most expensive as well.

permalink | April 10, 2021 at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2021

Georgia

Georgia election law

permalink | March 28, 2021 at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2021

Guns

gun control

permalink | March 25, 2021 at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2021

Andrea Sahouri Acquitted

From The Des Moines Register.

Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri acquitted after trial stemming from her arrest while she was covering George Floyd protest
William Morris
Des Moines Register

Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri was acquitted Wednesday in a trial stemming from her arrest while covering the George Floyd protests in May 2020.

Sahouri was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts, both simple misdemeanors. Police claimed she remained in the area of the May 31 Des Moines protest despite orders to leave, and tried to pull away when a Des Moines police officer pepper-sprayed her and tried to arrest her.

After a three-day trial, the six-member jury returned a verdict of not guilty on both charges. Sahouri's then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, was arrested with her and faced the same charges, and he also was acquitted on both counts.

Her arrest — and the fact that the charges went to trial — were widely criticized as an attack on press freedom. The three day trial did not broadly discuss the First Amendment issues but Sahouri, a colleague who was with her and Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter all testified that Sahouri's presence in the protest area was the very core of what journalists do.

“I’d like to thank my family and friends, my Des Moines Register and Gannett colleagues and people around Des Moines, nationally and globally who have supported me for nearly a year after I was unjustly assaulted and arrested,” Sahouri said in a statement after the verdict.

In an interview, Sahouri said the charges and trial have been a heavy burden for the past 10 months.

"It’s really a tough feeling to go through this trial and have the State of Iowa trying to bring you down and trying to make you seem like you’re doing something wrong, when you’re really just doing your job," she said.

Before the trial, prosecutors had offered to drop the interference charge if Sahouri pleaded guilty to failure to disperse. She said it was important instead to take the case to trial and win a full acquittal.

"One, I did nothing wrong, regardless of if I’m a journalist or not, but two, I know I’m not going to be the last journalist arrested, by any means," Sahouri said. "This will continue. We’ve seen an upward trend of journalists being arrested just in the past year, in 2020, and it’s really important to stand by your convictions and set this kind of precedent."

During the trial, defense attorneys argued Sahouri and Robnett did not hear a clear, unambiguous directive to leave the area of the protests. Both took the stand to testify in their defense and denied they had tried to pull away from Officer Luke Wilson as he arrested Sahouri.

Prosecutors countered with body camera footage of loudspeaker instructions to disperse well before the arrest, although the actual arrests were not recorded on Wilson's body camera.

"The job of the jury here is not to decide what the law should be. The job of the jury is not to like what happens," said prosecutor Brad Kinkade, adding that the jury was to limit itself to applying the "black-letter" law to the facts of the case.

After slightly less than two hours of deliberation, the jury delivered the not guilty verdicts.

Hunter and Gannett Media President/News Maribel Perez Wadsworth provided statements immediately after the verdict thanking the jury. Gannett is the parent company of the Register.

“Newsgathering is a fundamental part of press freedom. Reporters need to be at protests as the public’s eyes and ears, to conduct interviews, take photos and witness for themselves the actions of protesters and law enforcement," Hunter said. "If reporters are arrested and hauled away from protests, that denies people the right to know what’s going on in their community."

Perez Wadsworth described the verdict as a victory for the First Amendment as well as for Sahouri.

"It was clear Andrea was at that protest as a working journalist. It was clear that police were allowing other journalists to do exactly what Andrea was doing that day — reporting from a breaking news scene," Perez Wadsworth said. "Andrea was assaulted, arrested, charged and ultimately tried for doing her job."

Gannett funded Sahouri’s defense and will always stand behind its journalists when they are arrested for simply performing their jobs, Perez Wadsworth said.

The Register has reached out to Polk County Attorney John Sarcone for comment.

This NY Times article has more background information.

permalink | March 10, 2021 at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 3, 2021

Texas

permalink | March 3, 2021 at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)