Now all the state GOP needs is candidates who can win

Nevada County’s very own congressmen—Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock—joined 104 other Republicans Thursday to support the latest Hail Mary attempt to overturn the November presidential results.

LaMalfa, who has been beating Donald Trump’s voter fraud drum since election day, and McClintock signed up for amicus briefs in support of Texas’ attempt to get the Supreme Court to overturn the presidential votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin.

LaMalfa also made a network appearance earlier to this week to denounce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest pandemic crackdown. Of course, it was on Newsmax, the new alternative reality for Trumpies. The network is said to be taking viewers from Fox News because it refuses to concede that Trump lost the election.

McClintock has also backed the claims of a rigged vote, and has lashed out at California’s handling of the pandemic. To their credit, Nevada County’s voters rejected both of these magical thinkers at the November election.

Texas is claiming the states in question violated election laws, and like the other cases pursued by Trump’s backers, are long on conspiracies and short on facts. The Texas suit repeats many of the claims already dismissed by other courts, including the Supreme Court.

The latest antics by LaMalfa and McClintock illustrate a quandary that’s facing California’s Republican Party—the party has broad support on many of the issues it backs, but has trouble finding candidates people will actually vote for outside of the state’s most conservative areas.

November’s election results illustrate the problem. On the one hand, California voters sided with Republicans on seven of the 11 state propositions where the state party took a position. On issues like rent control, affirmative action, property tax increases and letting gig workers remain independent contractors, Californians stood with the GOP. The state Democratic Party had four wins and seven loses.

On the other hand, the Democrats maintained a super majority in the state Legislature, just 11 Republicans were elected among the state’s 53 House members, and Joe Biden racked up a 5 million vote edge over Trump. No Republican has been elected to statewide office in 14 years.

But being right on the issues gives the GOP hope going forward. Gov. Gavin Newson, who faces reelection in 2022, looks less invincible than he once did, the Republicans won’t have to face Kamala Harris when her U.S. Senate seat comes up in two years, and Republicans are hopeful voters will turn on Democrats who run the state as they tire of whipsawing coronavirus rules and scandals.

“I would say continue to underestimate us at your own peril,” said Jessica Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party. “California Democrats have shown they are not focused on making our state great. They are focused on a radical left agenda that is not working for most Californians.”

The challenge for the party is to find candidates who will appeal to voters outside the state’s conservative strongholds. It has been clear in recent years that white guys taking conservative social positions can’t get the job done in California.

Part of the solution is to recruit more candidates who reflect California’s electorate, said Suzette Martinez Valladares of Santa Clarita, the only Republican to flip a Democratic-held assembly seat in November. She’s 39, Latina, and doesn’t come from the corporate world.

“There’s been a narrative of what Republicans look like, sound like and care about. And that’s not true in the California Republican Party now, and we’re seeing that through my election,” she said. “I’m a Latina, I’m a mom of a three-year-old. I’m a Millennial.”

Valladares was recruited to run by other elected Republican woman and Patterson, who is also a Latina. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield also sought out candidates who reflected the changing demographics of their districts. That led to the victories of Young Kim and Michelle Steel, two Korean-Americans who ousted incumbent Democrat congressmen Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda.

How this play out in a Republican Party that has become a haven for disillusioned whites and is still dominated at the national level by Trump remains to be seen. The most likely Republican to challenge Newson in two years is your basic RINO: A pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage, believer in climate change who says he didn’t vote for Trump, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. We’ll see how well that goes over with the Trump diehards in 2022.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here’s a group of people who are really overpaid

One of the things in life I don’t understand (there are several) is why sports play-by-play announcers are paid so much money when they have little influence over what sporting events people watch.

That thought occurred to me recently when I read that the two highest paid guys in field are Al Michaels of NBC and Joe Buck at Fox, each of whom reportedly make $6 million a year. Good for them.

But neither one of them influences what games I watch, and I’ve never heard anybody say they were going to watch a game because X was doing the play-by-play.

There are certain criteria that influence games I watch during a given week: Do they involve teams I follow regularly? Do I have any money bet on the game? Does the game figure to be competitive or entertaining?

If a game meets two or more of those criteria, I’ll watch even if Buck or Dick Stockton is calling the action. If I think the game is going to be dud, neither Michaels nor Brad Nessler can’t lure me into watching the game.

As any sports producer will tell you, the games that draw the most sustained ratings—that is, people who stay with them until the end—are close throughout with the winner decided at the end. They never mention the broadcasters.

Then there are the color commentators. With few exceptions like Tony Romo at CBS, they tend to tell you what’s obvious to anybody who knows the game or is paying attention to the broadcast. Then there are the people who think they’re getting paid by the word and butt into the point where they become annoying. Gary Danielson of CBS comes to mind.

The ones who are really a waste of time are the sideline reporters, who use their air time trying to figure out if some guy is injured when they aren’t spinning anecdotes that anybody in the booth could have told you. The only one worth the money is Lisa Salters of ESPN on the NBA broadcasts. When you listen to the pointed questions she asks the players, you figure it’s only a matter of time before somebody hits her.

The networks could save a lot of money by eliminating the sideline reporters and paying the guys in the booth what they’re really worth. Then maybe my cable rates will go down.

***

Last week was a disaster for my football selections, finishing the week at 1-5. That gets me to a season record of 25-22, a barely profitable winning percentage of 53%. To put it another way, if I was betting at the $100 level—risking $110 to win $100—I’d be up a whole $80 for the season. You could probably do better just flipping coins.

I’m modestly profitable on college games (15-11, 57%), but I’m 10-11 on NFL selections. But I’ve done well with my system over the last decade, I’m stubborn, and I have a lot of time to kill during these lock down days, so here’s this week’s choices. (Until I start doing better, I suggest you consider the following for amusement purposes only.)

College

–Wake Forest (+1) over Louisville

–Eastern Michigan (-6) over Northern Illinois

–Miami (Florida) (-3) over North Carolina

–Ball State (P) over Western Michigan

NFL

–Tampa Bay (-6.5) over Minnesota

–Pittsburgh (+1.5) over Buffalo

–Baltimore (-2) over Cleveland

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

QUICK HITS: Explaining Trump’s voter fraud fantasy

–I’d like the people who believe in Trump’s voter fraud fantasy to explain this to me: Why did all of those fake voters for Biden also vote Republican in sufficient numbers to let the GOP gain ground in the House and probably keep control of the Senate? If they went to the trouble of faking the Biden vote, you would think the miscreants would give him a working majority in Congress while they were at it.

–One of the reason religious leaders are fighting COVID restrictions on attendance at services is numerous studies that show people lose interest in religion if they don’t attend services on a regular basis.

–Which reminds me of an old joke: What’s the difference between praying in church and praying in a casino? In a casino, they really mean it.

–If Donald Trump pardons his adult children, they will still be exposed to charges brought by the state of New York. The state is particularly interested in a $2 million deduction the Trump Organization took for consulting fees, the same year Ivanka reported $2 million in consulting fees even thought she was already on the payroll.

–Sierra County is about the safest place in the state if you want to avoid COVID-19. Of course, there’s hardly anybody up there to make you sick.

–Placer County, which has shown a notable lack of enthusiasm when it comes to cracking down on violators of pandemic restrictions, still refuses to shut down a basketball camp in Rocklin that has been holding tournaments for schools that are spreading the disease over the north state.

–Getting fired by Trump are good career moves for former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and cyber security chief Christopher Krebs because it gives them a chance to rehabilitate their reputations. There are a lot of “good” Republicans in administration jobs who will have plenty of explaining to do after they become unemployed January 20.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You place your bets, and you take your chances

The latest COVID-19 surge is taking its toll on college and pro football games—and the people who like to bet on them.

In a sport where teams strive for stability and predictability, nothing is sure from day-to-day. Take the Steelers and Ravens: They were supposed to play last Sunday, a game that was moved to Monday and finally played on Wednesday afternoon. Pittsburgh’s game this week with Washington has now been moved to Monday, and Baltimore’s bout with CAVID-19 moved them to Tuesday against the Cowboys.

Others are being impacted too. Now that Santa Clara County has banned all contact sports for at least three weeks, the 49ers are going to practice and play their two remaining “home” games in Arizona. (Nobody knows yet what Stanford and San Jose State are going to do about practice and playing.) Denver had to play New Orleans with a quarterback called up from the taxi squad because their three regular QBs were declared out of the game.

College games are being canceled left and right, and schedules are being reworked on the fly. After BYU and Coastal Carolina had their games canceled, they decided to play each other this week. Besides, BYU needs more formidable competition than it has faced so far this year to boost its bowl prospects, and Coastal Carolina is the best one available.

So how are you supposed to handicap that game? BYU, which is undefeated against a cream puff schedule, has to fly across country at almost the last minute to play Coastal, which has played well enough to get ranked.

I’ll pass on that game, thank you. There are three other games that interested me this week, but have been canceled. The three I’ve bet on may actually play this week, or maybe they won’t. One thing I do know for sure: Football teams don’t handle disruptions to their routines well, and the home field isn’t worth much if anything this year. I have less confidence in my selections this season than I have in a long time.

But I did go 3-2 on last week’s selections, bringing the season record to a modestly profitable 20-16. Hopefully I can get closer to my season goal of 60% winners with this week’s picks.

COLLEGE

–Rutgers (+11) over Penn St.

–Central Michigan (-1.5) over Ball St.

–Tulane (-1.5) over Memphis

NFL

–Titans (-5.5) over Browns

–Cardinals (+3) over Rams

–Steelers (-7.5) over Washington

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Many are about to feel the bite of the economy’s nose dive

Certain aspects of the economy look remarkably strong almost 10 months into the coronavirus pandemic, resembling Donald Trump’s hoped for “V” shaped recovery.

The stock market is hitting all-time highs, corporate profits are better than expected, and real estate prices hit a 14-year high in October. But a granular look at the economy suggests what we’re really experiencing is a “K” shaped recovery.

For people on the upper arm of “K,” things are going well. These are people who can work at home with no disruption in their income and have investments that continue to do well for them. They are saving money—$1 trillion, according to one estimate—because they can’t spend it on fancy restaurants or trips to Europe.

People on the lower leg of the “K” tend to have jobs that can’t be performed at home, do public-facing work that is more likely to expose them to COVID-19, and have little in the way of savings and other assets they can utilize if they lose work or get sick.

These people have been kept afloat by the CARES Act that provided the one-time stimulus checks of $1,200, the short-term $600 a week boost in unemployment insurance, 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits, and moratoriums and other protections that are soon to expire.

For starters, nearly 12 million workers will lose federal unemployment benefits on Dec. 26 if Congress fails to reauthorize the payments. That will be followed shortly by the end of various moratoriums on mortgage payments, rent, student debt, utilities, credit cards and other debt.

At least 25% of renters are in arrears, and many of them will owe at least six months worth of rent come January. About 20% of Americans have less than $400 in the bank, according to a survey by the U.S. Federal Reserve. You do the math.

Most of that money is owed to mom-and-pop landlords, who have mortgage payments, taxes and other bills arriving on a monthly basis. They will have little choice come January but to start eviction proceedings; otherwise, they will be in default on their mortgages.

Home owners are in the same predicament. About 1.06 million borrowers are past due by at least 30 days on their mortgages and not in a forbearance program, according to mortgage-data firm Black Knight, Inc.

Another 250,000 of the six million borrowers who were in forbearance at one point since the pandemic began are again delinquent on their loans, according to Black Knight. They tend to be among those with lower incomes and weaker credit scores—the people on the lower leg of our “K” recovery.

Of course, forbearance doesn’t last forever and the accumulated debt eventually comes due. The sharks on Wall Street realize this and are already circling their prey.

The country’s two largest home landlords, Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, grew out of the housing bust of 2008. Backed by big investors, they scooped up thousand of houses at foreclosure prices and turned them into rental units.

Both companies see similar opportunities again. American Homes 4 Rent, which owns about 53,000 houses, has stockpiled more than $1 billion through loans and a stock sale to increase its inventory of houses as people lose theirs. Invitation Homes is buying about $200 million worth of houses about every three months.

Then there’s the issue of utilities. Since the pandemic started, 36 states issued moratoriums on utility shut-offs for people who couldn’t pay their bills. In other states, utility companies voluntarily stopped disconnecting customers who fell behind.

But that forbearance is ending. An estimated 24 million households have lost their protection since October as moratoriums ended in nine states (they had already expired in 14) leaving 13 in place, according to Carbon Switch, an energy efficiency startup.

But moratoriums are double-edged swords, particularly for the low income and poor. If they last until spring, some customers could have a year’s worth of unpaid bills that they will never be able to pay. Payment plans to avoid shut-offs often require customers to pay a portion of the past-due bill on top of the current bill, not practical for many people unemployed since the pandemic started.

Moratoriums on credit card and other personal debt will end in the new year, creating a cascading affect that will dampen the growth of the economy. A political deadlock in Washington probably means no help will arrive anytime soon.

Congress is deadlocked over the size of any new aid packages—Democrats want a big one, Republicans don’t. Trump isn’t likely to push for a deal before he leaves office, and the Biden administration will have to deal with a likely Republican Senate that is in no mood to add to the $5.6 trillion in debt racked up during the Trump administration.

New COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon, but the latest spike in the disease will create more than collateral damage to the economy before the vaccine turns the tide late next year. The recovery is starting to stall as unemployment claims rise and consumer sentiment falls. COVID-19 cases are increasing at 2.5 times the rate of the summer surge. 

All of this will fall into the lap of the Biden administration, which won’t be ready to hit the ground running Jan. 20 if Trump doesn’t start cooperating on a smooth transition of power. Joe Biden saw this movie in 2009 after the George W. Bush administration handed Barack Obama an economic mess.

None of this will make life better any time soon for the Americans on the lower leg of our “K” economy. As the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, concluded in a recent analysis:

“Without unemployment benefits and with savings badly depleted, families will be at high risk of food insecurity and loss of their homes…The nation’s entire economy will suffer.”

Happy New Year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newspapers now embracing a social conscience ethos

This post is not intended to denigrate or harm the feelings of any reader who feels afflicted by social injustice, threaten the ability of reporters to do their jobs, or get any editors fired.

I thought I’d better start out with a disclaimer because reporters and editors at various newspapers around the county have suddenly become woke to alleged misdeeds of their publications in coverage of the peaceful demonstrations and criminal behavior that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and other incidents involving Black men and white cops.

This is quite a change for our nation’s newspapers, which have traditionally served as neutral arbiters, tasked with helping their readers understand the community and world they live in. But it appears this tradition is no longer sufficient as recent incidents at three of the nation’s largest papers have cost two editors their jobs and created turmoil in the newsroom of the third. The old standards are giving way to a new social conscience ethos, which doesn’t bode well for print journalism.

The best known case involved the New York Times, where James Bennett, the paper’s opinion editor, “resigned” in the wake of an opinion piece written by Senator Tom Cotton that outraged liberal subscribers and members of the paper’s editorial staff.

In the article, “Send in the Troops,” Cotton called for deployment of troops as a last resort to quell riots and looting that broke out in the wake of the Floyd shooting. That prompted a staff protest followed by a sick-out, and a review by management that concluded the article didn’t meet the paper’s standards.

“There was a significant breakdown in our editing process, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” publisher A. G. Sulzberger said. In this instance, the breakdown appears to be that Bennett didn’t review the opinion piece that offended the sensibilities of management and employees. (The editor who green-lighted the article was demoted.)

This dent in the paper’s liberal armor came in the midst of the Times’ ambitious 1619 Project, intended to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contribution of black Americans at the very center of the national narrative.” (In case you missed the reference,”1619” was the year slaves first arrived in North America.)

Some conservatives have attacked the project, claiming the Times is rewriting American history to make it look as if everything we’ve ever done was driven by slavery and its consequences. While it is easy to make the case that slavery is America’s original sin, it hardly requires a publish lashing to expiate our sins. Apparently you aren’t a true liberal these days if you don’t feel guilt.

Another opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer cost the newspaper’s editor his job. In this case, the offense was committed in a headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” over a piece that expressed concern that historic buildings in the city could be damaged during protests over the death of Floyd.

That prompted 44 minority employees in the editorial department to sign an open letter to the paper’s editors, complaining their work to gain public trust was “eroded in an instant by careless, unempathetic decisions.” The paper’s editors apologized, saying the headline was “offensive, inappropriate.”

In both the New York and Philadelphia incidents, we’re talking about people expressing opinions the newspaper might not agree with, traditionally a means of broadening the discussion of issues of the day. When newspapers wanted you to know what they thought about an issue, they wrote an editorial. Now, apparently, even commentary has to toe the company line.

The third incident involved the touchy subject of reporters taking a neutral stance when reporting a story. That created a problem at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where a Black reporter, Alexis Johnson, said she was barred from covering local protests after the following tweet went viral:

“…horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS…oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate.” (Chesney’s annual concert in Pittsburgh is reported to prompt much debauchery.)

Johnson has declined to speak with media, but one of her colleagues claimed that several articles she proposed were rejected by editors, and that two online stories about local demonstrations were killed. It was reported that Black staff photographer Michael Santiago, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was removed from coverage of the demonstrations.

I’m a fan of Johnson’s style of humor, but she should have enough sense to keep that remark in the newsroom. The joke put her editors in a difficult position at a time when newspapers are receiving close scrutiny over how they differentiate legitimate protests from vandalism and looting, with some critics suggesting they are making excuses for looters.

Some of Johnson’s colleagues see this as an attempt to stifle Black voices in coverage of events that are exposing the deep wounds blacks have experienced in America. They have a point in an industry where institutional bias has caused many stories like Floyd’s to be underplayed, defended or ignored.

Some newspapers appear to be confronting this legacy. The Los Angeles Times has launched a project to examine the paper’s attitude toward race and racism over the years. Since the paper was owned and run by archconservatives for decades until Otis Chandler took over the family business in 1960, this will cause a lot of printers ink to be spilled.

Closer to home, the Sacramento Bee has launched something called the Equity Lab and staffed it with three minority reporters, who will presumably devote their time to rooting out inequity in the community. But it may not last long. The effort was championed by editor Lauren Gustus, who left the Bee for a job in Salt Lake City after it was bought by the same outfit that publishes the National Enquirer.

Abandoning the traditional standards and rules that govern the conduct of newspapers and embracing the latest social outrage will make them no better than social media, where news coverage often consists of “news” from unverifiable sources, extremist meddling, agenda shaming and unsourced outrage videos.

If this is the future of American journalism, newspapers deserve to die.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment