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What We're Reading

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In Orange County, a small business dream becomes a nightmare Blaine Eastcott's story is the definition of the American Dream. But as a consequence of California's Private Attorneys General Act, his dream may has become a nightmare. Story

100 days in, here's how Gavin Newsom is doing on 10 campaign promises From The Sacramento Bee, "One hundred days into his tenure, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken initial steps toward many of promises he made on the campaign trail, from proposing increased funding for homeless services to speeding up firefighting efforts. He's far from accomplishing many of his concrete long-term goals, however, like building 3.5 million new homes and creating half a million apprenticeships. He says he's nevertheless done a lot in his first months in office." On apprenticeship "In his budget proposal, Newsom specified that the state spend $27 million yearly for apprenticeship programs called for under California's cap-and-trade law, which Newsom's predecessor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2017. The apprenticeships would be concentrated in "disadvantaged communities" and draw from funds generated by cap and trade, which makes companies pay to pollute. Newsom's proposal would fund slots for 6,500 people in apprenticeship programs over five years - far short of his stated goal, although he told The Bee that he and his senior advisers are discussing augmenting that proposal." Story

Outrage exhibitionists. From Liz Marlantes, Politics Editor at The Christian Science, "Some people did something." Those four words, spoken by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., lie at the heart of Washington's latest outrage du jour. Ms. Omar, a Somali-American, was referring to the attacks of 9/11. She actually made the comments last month, in a speech to a Muslim group, in which she noted that the murderous actions of a few fanatics had had significant consequences for the broader Muslim community in the U.S., as seen in a subsequent rise in harassment and hate crimes. Last week, fellow freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Tex., who lost an eye serving in Afghanistan, reacted via tweet: "First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as 'some people who did something,'" he wrote. "Unbelievable." In the ensuring firestorm, The New York Post splashed Ms. Omar's words across its front page, leading some of the city's bodegas (many of which are owned by Yemeni-Americans) to stop selling the paper. After President Donald Trump sent out a video on Twitter juxtaposing her speech with footage of the Twin Towers falling, Ms. Omar called Mr. Trump's tweet "hate speech" and said she had seen an increase in death threats. Ms. Omar's defenders say her remarks were taken out of context and deliberately mis-characterized. They see a cynical effort by Republicans to stoke, for political gain, precisely the kind of Islamophobic sentiment that Ms. Omar was lamenting in her speech. Her critics say that her words, even if unintentional, reveal an inclination to trivialize the attack and whitewash the extremist ideology that inspired the terrorists. They say Democrats who are labeling the criticism of Ms. Omar as "incitement" are attempting to suppress free speech. Neither side, it seems, is willing to give the other the benefit of the doubt.
"Civic conversation in America is dysfunctional in part because we have so many ... outrage exhibitionists," notes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. "These folks strip inartfully phrased remarks of context, ignoring the speaker's intentions and imputing the least charitable possible meaning. This sets them up to display umbrage with the ostentation of a peacock. Though widely reviled, such displays are nevertheless widespread, on the left and right, as even many strident critics are only bothered when their own tribe is targeted."

Can Private Funding Save High-Speed Rail? Privately backed ventures, like Virgin Trains USA's Florida project, could help expand high-speed rail in the United States, according to a new report from analysts at Fitch. Virgin's so-far successful expansion to Orlando gives more credibility to private passenger rail projects, the report says. That's especially relevant given the high-profile failure of the government-funded high-speed rail project in California. But "significant challenges," including the lack of precedent for similar projects, political opposition and land rights issues, will continue for the private companies looking to fill the void. Virgin is also planning a route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and Texas Central is looking to develop passenger rail between Houston and Dallas (although the latter has been struck legal blows over eminent domain questions in recent months).

Unions Put Port Driverless Vehicles on Hold In LA: "The Port of Los Angeles' Harbor Commission delayed a decision Tuesday over whether to approve a permit that would open the way to automation in North America's largest terminal," following a protest of 1,200 dockworkers, Margot Roosevelt reports for the Los Angeles Times. It was the second delay requested by Mayor Eric Garcetti on a "controversial" construction permit for shipping firm Maersk "to replace about 100 diesel tractors, which are operated by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, with driverless electric vehicles, potentially eliminating hundreds of jobs.... If Maersk is allowed to automate, the rest of the port complex's 13 terminals will probably follow suit, the union contends." In related news, the ILWU is encouraging the prohibition of shipping containers.

Murray, Kaine Press For Epstein Report: Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tim Kaine(D-Va.) on Friday "asked the Justice Department to release findings from an investigation into Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's role in brokering a 2008 plea deal for billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein," POLITICO's Ian Kullgren reports. "In a letter to the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, the senators asked investigators to 'publish all of its findings without delay' when the review is complete."

Amazon's Fight For $15: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urged competitors to match the online superstore's $15 hourly minimum wage plus benefits in a letter to shareholders Thursday, even as those same companies struggle to catch up with Amazon's sales. "I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage," Bezos said in the letter, according to the Washington Post (which Bezos owns). "Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It's a kind of competition that will benefit everyone." Amazon boosted its wage minimum in November (although it also slashed warehouse workers' bonuses and stock option benefits). The letter drew some shade from Walmart Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Dan Bartlett, who tweeted Thursday morning: "Hey retail competitors out there (you know who you are) how about paying your taxes?" The tweet linked to a Feb. 16 news report by Yahoo! Finance that Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2017 or 2018. Bartlett added : "FWIW, the vast majority of our warehouse associates have been making more than $15 for a long time. And they still get quarterly performance bonuses."

Commentary: Why San Diego Airport PLA discriminates against non-union workers On April 4, less than 36 hours after a three-page staff report was released giving the rationale for the decision, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board voted 5-3 to place the new $3 billion Terminal 1 project under a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Despite a roomful of construction workers, apprentices, contractors and contractor association members opposing this blatantly discriminatory "agreement," the PLA was approved after less than 180 minutes of discussion.
This stood in contrast to the thoughtful weeks-long approach that the board took in 2009, which saw a workshop on the issue followed by a 20-page staff report that helped lead to a unanimous vote against a PLA on the $1 billion Terminal 2 "Green Build" project, a project built on time, on budget and with 85% of the workers being local.
So what changed in 10 years? Story