Sun, Jul

Voting With Our Feet

FAILED LIBERALISM-Bernie Sanders’ political corpse in the presidential race is still warm, but some of his prominent liberal supporters already are urging us to flee to Hillary Clinton. Sanders, who knows the game is up, will soon become the Democrats’ pied piper. 

Read more ...

The Source of Trump’s No-Brainers

EDITOR’S PICK--A lot of sensible people think the idea of Trump’s Wall is crazy. Maybe that’s because they aren’t blessed with Trump’s Brain. 

The brain is an essential part of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He cited it on “Morning Joe” recently when asked the identity of his foreign policy advisers. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he said. “My primary consultant is myself, and I have a good instinct for this stuff.” 

Read more ...

California’s Air and Coast: It’s a Buyer’s Market Out There

ENVIRONMENT POLITICS-While the media distract us with the shinier attractions of the presidential-candidate road shows, the dirty work of politics continues in the shadows. I do not mean to diminish the importance of who gets elected or even nominated, but the secret and behind-the-scenes work often makes for decisions that change public policy in favor of the rich and powerful. Those shifts impact our lives in a big way, as two recent examples in California illustrate. 

Read more ...

Hillary’s Wall Street Speeches: The Bootleg Tapes

[After eight debates and countless speeches, Secretary Clinton has repeatedly shared her views on Wall Street, trade and job creation. Once we parse through the focus group-tested lines, we can find clues about how she relates to the financial sector and the power it wields over our economy.

The real story will be revealed only if she releases the transcripts from the three speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs for which she was paid $675,000. Her unwillingness to do so strongly suggests she has something to hide. What did she really say? Here's a reconstruction.]

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for this opportunity to address you. I hope it contributes in some way to helping to heal divisions and build a brighter future for all Americans.

We should all be very proud of the public servants you have provided for our great nation:

Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin [applause],
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson [applause],
Senator Jon Corzine [applause],
Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel [applause]

These great men, along with many others from Goldman Sachs, have served our country proudly. They brought to government the financial and management skills honed at Goldman Sachs --skills that help our nation provide global leadership in finance, trade and economy development. We are all deeply indebted to you for that.

Let us speak frankly. This has been a very difficult period for our country and for the global economy. Financial excesses, promoted both by government inaction and by too much risk taken on by Wall Street, put our economy in jeopardy. Through careful regulations we've now removed those risks from our robust financial system and are growing steadily once again.

In our hour of need, the federal government provided badly needed capital to shore up our core financial institutions. Some derisively call it a bailout. I see it as an excellent investment. And now you've returned every penny... with interest. Well done! [applause]

Of course, Dodd-Frank is not perfect. I know that you are working hard with the administration to iron out the rough spots. That's a vital and necessary part of the process to make sure these new rules do not create unintended consequences that could interfere with the smooth running of our financial markets. We have to be sure that we don't inappropriately regulate derivative markets which are so vital for insuring risk. And we have to be certain that the increased capital requirements do not hinder lending to businesses large and small.

But, as you know very well, this legislation is important because it sends a signal to an uneasy American public that the economy is sound and heading in the right direction.

I realize there are some strident voices out there who want to extract revenge on Wall Street -- even to "occupy it." [laughter]

I can assure you I am not one of them. [applause]

No one sector of our economy should be ever be vilified. Childish taunts and slogans whether coming from the far left or the far right are entirely unproductive. Wall Street is fundamentally sound and our economy needs your skills and hard work.

I can assure you that as I seek ways to continue in public service, I will always help our country understand the vital role you play. We need to be in constant dialogue to make sure our financial markets and institutions are the finest in the world.

Furthermore, it is important for the American people to understand that we can't turn the clock back to re-instate outmoded policies like Glass-Steagall. This is not the 1930s. Breaking up the big banks is a nice slogan but totally inappropriate as American financial institutions compete with large integrated banks and financial firms from around the world.

Not only is big not inherently bad, but big is necessary in our globalized economy. [applause]

Similarly, we need to stay away from foolish new constraints like financial transaction taxes that would only drive investors away from our markets. Such ill advised "taxes of revenge" will move money away from our well-regulated markets and into market structures around the globe that are far more ;prone to irregularities. In the end such taxes will introduce more inefficiencies into our markets and make the global financial system far more volatile.

I also believe government and financial leaders need to work together to open up global markets for our financial industry. As Secretary of State, I've traveled to more than 100 countries. I know well how other nations support their key industries. We need to do the same. [applause]

This includes negotiating free trade agreements that level the playing field for American financial institutions. We need to reduce the unfair barriers to entry that you face as you try to provide products to restricted markets. The TPP, which I helped to push forward, is particularly important in opening up markets for U.S. financial services in the Far East.

Let me be candid about how we can move forward together. I am very interested in finding ways to continue to serve my country as I did as your Senator, and as Secretary of State. In the coming months we will be launching an exploratory committee to test the waters for a possible national campaign for the presidency.

To succeed I will need your support. I will need your creativity about how to expand economic growth and opportunity in our country. I will need help in crafting new policies and proposals to reduce financial risk, while providing our country with the capital and financial services it needs.

As we have done since I represented New York in the Senate, we will find ways to work together for the sake of our country. You are so much a part of what makes our financial system the soundest in the world. It will be an honor to work with you again.

Thank you for this warm reception and the public service you provide to our great nation. [standing ovation]

(Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute in New York is working with unions, worker centers and community organization to build a national economics educational campaign. His latest book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice  (Oct 2015), is a text for that effort. All proceeds go to support this educational campaign. This piece was posted most recently at Huffington Post


What Should Bernie Do?

GELFAND’S WORLD--An internet acquaintance asks, "What would Bernie do at the Democratic convention if he is close, but Hillary has the delegate majority?" Would he try for some major concession on the platform, or ask for speaking time, or what? I responded that if he asks for speaking time, but also asks for a chair to go with his speech, that would be the time to worry. 

In a more serious vein, I think it's time for all us Sanders supporters to talk turkey about this country's immediate future, by which I mean don't anyone do another Nader in this election. There is another way of putting the argument, which is what the rest of this column is about. 

I think people react positively to Sanders because he is a truth teller. He doesn't seem to be running through all the political calculations in his head when being asked a question, but instead answers based on his internal compass -- for example, his answer to one of the questions in the first Democratic presidential debate. His campaign had gotten into a little trouble over his staffers accessing the Democratic Party computer files. When asked whether he owed Hillary Clinton an apology, he didn't hedge. He just said that he did owe her an apology. He then extended the apology to his own supporters. 

We used to refer to this kind of person as a straight shooter. 

He also doesn't seem to worry a lot about carrying the label Democratic Socialist. That's significant, because avoiding being called a socialist is among the highest of priorities for pretty much every other American politician. Bernie just goes with it. 

We have good reason to support Bernie Sanders as a candidate and to vote for him in the primary. That's our privilege. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that our votes are most likely going to be symbolic statements at best. Hillary Clinton can coast to the nomination by taking about 40 percent of the remaining votes. Does anybody think that Sanders can run up a two-thirds majority in California or New Jersey? Seems unlikely to me. 

So we might rephrase the original question by asking what us voters and Bernie should do together, assuming that Hillary Clinton will go into the convention with about two-thirds of the available delegates. I am going to make the working assumption that Bernie is, indeed, an honest man and that he wants to do what is best for the country. It follows that the Sanders wing of the party should support the Clinton candidacy. That also includes us Decline to State voters and Greens who vote for Democrats. That much goes almost without saying, although there are a few folks out there who are saying that they will never vote for Hillary no matter who is running against her. 

For the rest of us who don't want to have to live through a Trump presidency and would very much like to see an end to Mitch McConnell's reign of error in the U.S. Senate, there is more to the equation than passively supporting the next member of the Clinton dynasty. 

If Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have any sense at all, they will create a smooth transition towards ensuring Democratic victories in both the presidency and the Senate this year. The alternative is a Supreme Court appointment that replaces Justice Scalia with someone even worse. Must we endure another 20 or 30 years of ultra-conservative control of the Supreme Court? Does anyone even need to consider this question? We need to recover those Senate seats and hold onto the oval office. 

What does all this entail? 

The first and most important element does not require that Bernie Sanders drop out of the race. He can continue to campaign and win additional states and a few hundred more delegates. But he has to remember, as does Hillary, that they have to avoid doing damage to each others' credibility as leaders. She is going to need him in the general election, and for this to be effective, he can't be tarnished. They can continue to disagree on a few small items, and make clear their differences on trade agreements (getting narrower even as we speak), but Bernie has to recognize that there is going to come a time when he endorses Hillary. 

It has to be more than the weak sort of endorsement that we are seeing among the Republican dropouts. Bernie has to make clear that he wholeheartedly supports Democratic control of the White House and the Senate, and that he is keeping his fingers crossed about control of the House too. 

One remaining question is when the swerve on Bernie's part will begin. I'm guessing that it will be in mid-April or early May, even if both candidates officially remain in the campaign through the final primaries in June. If Hillary locks up the majority of elected delegates (leaving out the so-called superdelegates) by sometime in April or early May, then once again, we Californians will be left out of the primary process rather than being controlling agents. It seems to me that the last time the California primary was controlling was 1968, and even then it didn't work out. 

The other question -- the one that will obsess the pundits for the next couple of months -- is what Bernie himself should do. I offer my humble thoughts. First, the fact that Bernie will be endorsing Hillary does not mean that he has suddenly forgotten his principles or even his positions on specific issues. I think that Bernie, in keeping with his well established persona, should give a speech in which he points out not only the positions he has in common with Hillary, but also the positions in which they have differed. This won't hurt Hillary. To the contrary, it will demonstrate to voters that an honest man can admit that there are specific differences in the minutiae, while strongly supporting her candidacy. This could potentially be Bernie's speech at the Democratic convention. 

Bernie should also make a commitment to campaigning vigorously for the presidential ticket and for Democratic senatorial candidates. If his influence can swing a couple of House seats, better still. 

I have a small piece of advice to our next president as well. The Republicans have made mockery of the system by their persistent threats to shut down the government. The Democrats in the congress haven't handled this wonderfully well. The answer to such threats is for the Democrats to say, If we have to have the governmental shutdown, then let's have it right now at the beginning of the term. If and when the Republicans decide that they really do have to compromise on a few things, then we will talk. In the meanwhile, a lot of red states will be feeling the pain just as much, if not more so, then the blue states. 

This isn't a lot different from what Ronald Reagan said when he became governor of California. It would be a sign of strength, and (as discussed here previously), would cause voters in the more conservative congressional districts to demand that their elected congressmen learn to compromise. Their paychecks will depend on it. 

By the way, here are a couple of items that the Republicans will have to give in on if they want to get their side of the government back up and running: the expeditious appointment of Supreme Court justices and the support for Planned Parenthood. 

The alternative to the end of Republican game playing is that some big payrolls at southern military bases and government installations will get frozen. The rest of us had to put up with the governmental shutdown when Ted Cruz and his cronies forced the issue the last time. Let them feel similar pain if they want to test President Clinton's will. 

In other words, the threat of a shutdown can just as easily come from Hillary as it can come from the other side. Budget items that support red state economies should be put on the table right alongside of Hillary's judicial nominations, realistic action against global warming, and the social safety net. 


Sometimes I feel all alone in continuing to complain about the undue influence of Iowa and New Hampshire in picking presidential candidates. But there are a couple of bright spots. The first is that Iowa Republicans are now getting good at picking candidates who go on to disaster in the rest of the primaries. Cruz will most likely join Santorum and Huckabee in the loser category. 

The more interesting observation is one that I've been making for at least two decades: To get elected president (not counting popular incumbents running for reelection), you have to finish exactly second in the New Hampshire primary. We might just restate this by pointing out that winning the New Hampshire primary is the kiss of death for any candidate, just as winning the Iowa caucuses is the kiss of death for Republicans. We can with some confidence predict that New Hampshire is likely to become an irrelevance in future presidential seasons.


(Bob Gelfand writes on culture, science, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

What Might Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination Mean for California?

SCOTUS WATCH--If this were not an election year, Merrick Garland would be a surprising choice. He is known as a moderate, he is older (63), he is a white male, and he has been a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for almost 20 years. If this were not  an election year, Senate Republicans would probably be racing to confirm him. 

His nomination remains an interesting choice, though, and may leave many city leaders wondering how this might affect cities. If Judge Garland becomes Justice Garland, how might he rule in cases affecting state and local government? 

State and local government do not consistently benefit more from liberal or conservative Justices. Whether they do or not depends on the issue and the specific case (which sometimes may not matter at all). Two other factors could give us a better sense of how he may view the interests of state and local government in cases. They are: his state and local government experience, and his previous decisions. 

The first factor is, unfortunately, irrelevant in the case of Judge Garland. Before his appointment to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he worked for the federal government and a big law firm.  

In 2010, Judge Garland was on President Barack Obama’s “short list” to replace Justice Stevens. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog, reviewed Judge Garland’s decisions in depth. His most notorious decisions, then and probably now, are a vote against Guantanamo detainees, subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, and a vote to rehear a D.C. Circuit’s decision to invalidate the D.C. handgun ban. 

More relevant to state and local government, Goldstein concluded in 2010 that Judge Garland has tended to take a “broader view” of First Amendment rights, which will often not favor state and local government. Goldstein also noted that Garland has “strong views favoring deference to agency decision makers,” which in many cases will not benefit state and local government. 

As challenges to the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States regulations work their way to the Supreme Court, Judge Garland’s record on environmental issues is particularly relevant. Goldstein concluded that, while sometimes Judge Garland has favored the EPA, in this area he has been “most willing to disagree with agency action.” 

As Judge Garland’s lengthy judicial record is sifted through more carefully over the next weeks or months, we will have a better sense of where he may stand generally and in regards to state and local government. 

At this point, while it may be difficult to predict how Judge Garland will vote, the bigger question is: Will he be confirmed?


(Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center. (SLLC.) This piece was originally posted at Cities Speak.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


California: Drones Out of Control … Need Tighter Regs

AIR SAFETY--A dramatic increase in the use of recreational and hobby drones in California during 2015 led to numerous instances of drones interfering with fixed-wing firefighting aircraft, as well as police and air ambulance helicopters.

The League and the California Police Chiefs Association joined forces in 2015 to co-sponsor a public safety measure, Senate Bill 168 (Gaines-Jackson), that sought to address the hazard posed by unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, operating in flight-restricted airspace during an emergency.

The bill would have provided first-responder aircraft operators with immunity in the event they damaged or destroyed a drone that was interfering with their emergency operations. Although Governor Brown vetoed the bill, citing its creation of a new misdemeanor offense that he believed to be unnecessary, the issue is far from dead.

Reports continue of drone interference with first responders and commercial airliners. A California Highway Patrol helicopter avoided a collision with a drone on Dec. 5, 2015, over Highway 4 in Martinez only by taking evasive action. Law enforcement personnel identified the drone operator and referred his case to federal authorities. Had a collision occurred with the helicopter crashing on the highway, there could have been significant loss of life and extensive injuries. This incident offers a prime example of why tighter regulations on the use of recreational drones are urgently needed.

New Regulations Require Registration for Recreational Drones

On Dec. 14, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new federal regulation requiring registration of all model aircraft, including recreational drones. The web-based registration process is reportedly user friendly. Under the new federal rule, anyone who operated a drone — also known as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) — before Dec. 21, 2015, is required to register by Feb. 19, 2016, at www.faa.gov/uas/registration.  Owners of any drone or UAS purchased after Dec. 21, 2015, must register before their first outdoor flight. Owners and operators must pay a registration fee of $5.00. In addition, drones will have to display a unique identifier, which is a registration number issued by the FAA.

These new regulations, while helpful, may not go far enough to adequately address the hazards and potential misuse of drones. For example, registration is largely voluntary, and for drones purchased after Dec. 21, 2015, registration is not required at the time of purchase or point of sale. Though registration is now required prior to operating a drone, it is unclear how such a requirement will be enforced without a point-of-sale registration requirement or a requirement for online registration with the FAA before an online drone sale can be completed. This raises doubts about the effectiveness of the FAA’s response, given the widespread abuse of this technology over the past two years.

Enforcement and Penalties

The Unmanned Aircraft System Registration Task Force, which made a series of recommendations that led to the recent FAA regulations, considered the difficulties posed by enforcement and the limitations of the FAA and local law enforcement agencies. The FAA’s primary enforcement mechanism will be outreach and education, which will likely be web-based (see “What’s Required Under Federal Law” below). The FAA may also employ administrative or legal enforcement action to ensure compliance with the new requirements. Existing federal law already provides civil penalties of up to $27,500 for failure to register a drone and corresponding criminal penalties including fines of up to $250,000 under 18 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 3571 and/or imprisonment up to three years under 49 U.S.C. Section 46306. However, under the new regulations there is no systematic mechanism to alert authorities about who has registered or to identify those who have not.

Why Tighter Regulations Are Still Urgently Needed

The Consumer Technology Association, a trade group, estimated that 400,000 drones would be sold in the United States during the 2015 holiday season. Given the many safety hazards drones pose and the current lack of comprehensive regulations and enforcement provisions to make such regulations meaningful, a number of states — including California — may take the initiative and pursue enforcement or other legislation, notwithstanding potential conflicts with federal law.

Background and Challenges

Manufacturers have often resisted legislation that would impose requirements such as placing unique identifiers on individual drones, building in “kill switches” that could incapacitate a drone instantly, or including transponders, which are devices that emit a radio signal used to track location. This resistance has frustrated authorities and limited their ability to hold wayward drone operators accountable. Even if state or federal legislative efforts are mounted to impose stiffer fines or even jail time for drone-related accidents, such efforts may not be meaningful if there is no feasible means of readily identifying drones or linking them with specific operators.

Past federal regulations have contributed to the current problem. Congress in 2012 declined to regulate recreational drones and ruled that the FAA could not require members of the public to register their drones, obtain training or fly drones with identifying features. As a result, the steadily growing use of recreational drones has risen to the level of endangering first-responder aircraft as well as commercial jetliners.

Federal law currently may pre-empt many state regulations in this area, and the FAA considers its body of regulations over UASs as “occupying the field” — that is to say, pre-empting state and local law. Federal regulations specifically addressing recreational drones seem to fall short given the extensive illegal activity. A few general guidelines that pre-date drones were initially issued to regulate model airplanes — these guidelines restrict drones’ maximum flight altitude to 400 feet and direct operators to avoid contact with other aircraft, keep the drone in sight and stay at least 5 miles away from commercial airports. Otherwise, federal regulations have not addressed recreational drones at all until very recently.

When it enacted the FAA Reauthorization bill in 2012, Congress decided that recreational drones would be outside the scope of most FAA regulations, which focus primarily on commercially operated unmanned aircraft systems. Another federal law (also enacted prior to the advent of drones) applies to model aircraft generally but also to drones and requires pilot certification if the model aircraft/drone weighs more than 55 pounds.

But the new regulations issued in December 2015 may not adequately address the many instances of less than responsible use of recreational drones. These regulations, which depend on voluntary compliance, may not be a sufficient response to the problem of those intent upon ignoring the law. To complicate matters, most drone flight education programs are privately sponsored, and manufacturers are not required to include in drone packaging the latest FAA regulations governing the use of recreational drones.

Multiple Incidents Highlight a Danger to Public Safety

Drones interfered with aircraft attempting to battle wildfires on at least 13 separate occasions in 2015, compared with only four such incidents during 2014, according to the U.S. Forest Service. In many instances, firefighting aircraft had to be grounded for safety reasons due to drones operating in flight-restricted airspace. The result of grounding these aircraft was never more dramatic than in July 2015 at the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County where a 3,500-acre wildfire destroyed four homes and 20 vehicles as the blaze jumped Interstate 15. A month later, an air ambulance narrowly avoided a collision with a drone in the skies over Fresno.

Some have voiced doubts about whether what are essentially hobby drones pose much of a threat and speculate that authorities may have overreacted in deciding to ground their aircraft for safety reasons. But in an Aug. 11, 2015, CBS news broadcast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection helicopter pilot Jason Thrasher underscored the danger drones pose to firefighting aircraft, when he made it clear that a collision with even a relatively small drone can bring an aircraft down. “If a drone … were to go into a tail rotor or a main rotor system, it could have catastrophic consequences,” Thrasher said.

A Growing Threat to Commercial Aviation

The federal government has tightened its grip on recreational drone regulation since 2012, but arguably not quickly enough. In June 2014, the FAA banned the use of hobby drones within 5 miles of airports, unless the drone operator has secured permission to fly in that airspace from the airport and its control tower. Despite this regulation, violations near airports continue to occur with increasing frequency.

According to a nationwide study (Drone Sightings and Close Encounters: An Analysis, December 2015) conducted by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, over 90 percent of incidents involving drones and commercial aircraft from Dec. 17, 2013, to Sept. 12, 2015, occurred above 400 feet, the maximum altitude at which drones are allowed to fly under FAA regulations. The study reported:

  • 51 incidents in which a drone was sighted 50 feet or less from an airliner; and
  • 28 incidents in which pilots had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

Often the drones were large enough to cause significant — possibly catastrophic — damage in the event of a collision; among the 340 drones identified in the study, 246 were multirotor and 76 were fixed-wing.

Bard’s study also included reported incidents at Los Angeles International Airport over a one-year period beginning Dec. 8, 2014. The study found 17 incidents of drone sightings in proximity to the airport. Eleven of the incidents, or 64 percent, were within the federally prohibited 5-mile radius. Ten of them were above 400 feet, ranging from altitudes of 500 to 4,000 feet.

In June 2015, a Southwest Airlines pilot reported sighting a drone at between 2,000 and 3,000 feet just prior to landing at Oakland International Airport. Such incidents are increasingly common in other parts of the country. The Denver Post reported on Sept. 20, 2015, that since June 2015, unauthorized drones have been spotted near Denver International Airport seven times, flying within 500 feet of approaching aircraft at altitudes as high as 3,600 feet, well above the maximum altitude of 400 feet for drones.

What’s Required Under Federal Law

In an effort to help the public understand what is required of not only recreational drone operators, but also commercial and public agency users of unmanned aircraft systems, the FAA has launched a website containing information on the federal requirements, including the many safety guidelines listed below, at http://knowbeforeyoufly.org.

Recreational drone operators are required to observe these safety guidelines:

  • Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA);
  • Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible;
  • Keep the drone/UAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed;
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations — see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times;
  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property;
  • Contact the airport or control tower before flying within 5 miles of an airport;
  • Fly no closer than 2 nautical miles from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure;
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions, such as in high winds or reduced visibility;
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in operating the drone/UAS;
  • Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property, such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways and government facilities;
  • Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property; and
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see the AMA’s privacy policy).

In addition, operators of commercial and recreational drones/UASs should be aware that in remote, rural and agricultural areas, manned aircraft — including fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters — may be operating very close to ground level. Pilots conducting agricultural, firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical and wildlife survey operations (and a variety of other services) legally and routinely work in low-level airspace. Operators controlling drones/UASs in these areas should maintain situational awareness, give way to and remain a safe distance from these low-level, manned airplanes and helicopters.

Recent Attempts at Regulation in California

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has taken a mixed approach in terms of drone policy. The governor signed a bill in October 2015 banning the use of drones to record audio or video of events occurring on private property without the property owner’s permission. This legislation is intended in part to provide celebrities some protection from paparazzi and protect the general public from illicit, unauthorized surveillance.

But Gov. Brown vetoed a broader measure, SB 142 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), that would have placed a blanket ban on drones flying over private property without the owner’s permission and made such activity trespassing. He vetoed two more bills, both by Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), that would have made it a criminal infraction to fly over a public school without permission (SB 271) and that would have created misdemeanor penalties for drone flights over prisons or county jails (SB 170). Gov. Brown also vetoed SB 168, which addressed first-responder immunity for damaging or destroying drones. In each case, the governor cited a policy objection to defining new crimes. However, his veto messages did not criticize the attempt to provide additional regulation in this area at the state level, which could encourage the Legislature to try again with a slightly different approach.

A New Approach From Japan: The Anti-Drone

On Dec. 11, 2015, Forbes.com reported that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department had recently released a video of a special net-wielding drone it will use to intercept rogue drones flying over the city. The issue of drones penetrating government security garnered attention in Japan in April 2015, when a drone dropped a small amount of radioactive soil from the Fukushima Prefecture onto the roof of the prime minister’s office.

The new police drone has six propellers and a 3-meter by 2-meter net, according to the Asahi Shimbun, a local newspaper. It will be deployed by the unit within the Tokyo Metropolitan Police responsible for patrolling critical governmental locations.

What’s Coming

The FAA released a list of recommendations in November 2015 to facilitate improved monitoring of recreational drones. A key recommendation required that most drone operators register their machine with the FAA, which will place the information into a national database. In addition to the new regulations that took effect in December 2015, discussed earlier in this article, the FAA has slated additional regulations for potential adoption as soon as March 2016, but possibly as late as June.

Regardless of the impact of the new rules, a larger difficulty remains: Many drone operators are ignoring a number of the existing rules with increasing frequency, under circumstances that clearly pose an imminent danger to public safety. Will drone operators comply with a registration requirement that appears to be largely voluntary?

Given the ongoing dramatic increase in drone sales, state legislatures throughout the nation are certain to revisit this issue in 2016, particularly if the latest wave of federal regulations do not seem strong enough. Areas of potential legislation include first-responder immunity, mandatory registration with local law enforcement, unique identifier requirements for individual drones and “kill switch” technology that can immediately disable a drone.

(This article was posted originally at Western City magazine and most recently at Public CEO


Across the Divide in 2016 – A Choice of Democratic Socialism vs. Corporate Capitalism?

AT LENGTH-The 2016 race for president seems to be spinning out in ever more curious and historical proportions without there being clear winners on either the Democratic or Republican sides. 

Clearly the Trumpers’ revolt on the conservative side is causing real teeth-gnashing among the Republican Party leadership. But even with his collection of primary “wins”, he still hasn’t garnered more than half the delegates he needs to win at the convention. 

Similarly, Hillary Clinton, the odds-on-presumptive candidate, is in the same position of not having broken the halfway mark to the goal of 2,383 delegates. What this means is that the downstream primaries of California and New York, where the bulk of voters reside, may still hold sway in both parties late in the season. That means that both the insurgent campaigns of Bernie Sanders and that of Ted Cruz could win enough votes to force a brokered convention in the two parties. 

Upsetting as this disruption is for the party elites and the Washington establishment, it does make for an entertaining political process that has historical precedent and is embedded in the DNA of American political culture. 

Think about the very birth of the Republican Party and the demise of its conservative predecessor the Whig Party -- founded in 1833 and dissolved in 1854. Political parties rise and fall based upon the politics of the day, but the democratic process continues. The only question is whether the Republican Party can survive Donald Trump’s candidacy? 

The fear of his nomination has to do with whether the republic could endure his presidency. This, I believe, would be America “making a great mistake.” Trump’s use of widespread fear mongering and race baiting would so drastically divide this nation, that his elevation to the Oval Office would make the current dysfunction in Congress appear slight by comparison. And, he wouldn’t even have the full backing of the Republican Party that nominated him. The July convention in Ohio should really be something to witness. 

What is really curious is how the Sanders campaign is serving as the counterpoint to Trump’s. It is a political uprising of the like we haven’t seen since presidential races of Sens. Eugene McCarthy in 1968 or George McGovern in 1972. 

The Sanders revolt is addressing the very core issues of inequality to which Trump supporters are reacting. The difference is that Sanders’ supporters are more educated and that Sanders’ attacks are specifically directed at the Wall Street banks, the big pharmaceutical corporations and the resulting decline of the American middle class. 

Sanders does this without demonizing Mexican immigrants and everybody else Trump has accused of making this nation less than great. 

Sadly, this is not the first time this country has faced off with its own nativist form of fascism. The American author Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) wrote It Can’t Happen Here in 1935, a novel about the election of a fascist to the American presidency. This was a controversial book at the time of its printing and was a cautionary tale in light of what was rising up in Germany and Italy at the time. It was a thinly veiled critique of American politics of the Depression era. It should be used today by history and English professors to explain Trump’s rise as a populist. 

Sanders’ win in Michigan comes as no surprise. His fortunes in Wisconsin on April 5 could go the same way considering the strong Robert LaFollette progressive tradition there. 

However, if the California primary still holds sway come June 7, one might want to revisit the campaign of the other Sinclair -- Upton Sinclair, whose End Poverty In California campaign set the historical precedent in 1934. Like Sanders, Sinclair was also a socialist turned Democrat and he ran on a platform that is almost uncanny in similarity to this one. 

The battle lines have been drawn. The best contest would be one that gives the American people the choice of Democratic Socialism or national Corporate Capitalism. 

I fear that Clinton, with all of her baggage, will pull off the Democratic nomination and take the middle path, leaving loyal Republicans with the choice of voting for their party and a candidate who would do more harm than good or voting for the one person (Clinton) they’d rather indict in lieu of not voting at all. 

In the end the battle between Sanders and Trump would most clearly define the issues and the sides of the current political debate. That would be one debate worth watching.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen … and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)  Photo: Chicago Tribune. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Who Will Pay For the California Drug Price Relief Act?

PRICE PAIN--Big Pharma remains in the headlines, and those headlines have centered around the Golden State lately. After all, the California Drug Price Relief Act did earn itself a ballot measure next November with well over 500,000 signatures (only 366,880 were needed), and according to recent polling research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, over 70% of Americans think something should be done about the cost of pharmaceuticals. 

Read more ...

Politics On Stage: Let’s Not Pretend That Hit Musical ‘Hamilton’ Is History

EDITOR’S PICK-Hamilton is the hottest show on Broadway, filled with hip-hop songs, R&B rhythms, and tri-cornered hats. Its multi-racial cast portrays the pantheon of Revolutionary greats, and for many a starry-eyed critic this sing-along with the founders offers “a factually rigorous historical drama.” Those are the words of Jody Rosen in The New York Times, and he is not alone. As an academic who spent years studying Aaron Burr before producing a scholarly biography, I can say emphatically that rules of historical rigor do not apply to Hamilton.

Read more ...

California’s Physician Assisted Suicide: A Paradigm Shift

GELFAND’S WORLD--California is joining the states that allow physician assisted suicide. As of June 9, the right to die using legally prescribed pharmaceuticals will be the law. It is, admittedly, a limited sort of access to this form of chemistry, in that being terminally ill is the essential requirement. Society will still try to rescue people whose suicidal thoughts come from psychological turmoil. Still, the passage of this law signals a long term cultural trend. 

Read more ...

The Mexicanization of the United States

EDITOR’S PICK--The neoliberal ideology that is the engine of corporate capitalism spews its poison around the globe. Constitutions are rewritten by judicial fiat in a mockery of democracy. Laws and regulations that impede corporate exploitation are abolished. Corporations orchestrate legally sanctioned tax boycotts. Free-trade deals destroy small farmers and businesses along with labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders.

Read more ...

Dear Caitlyn: Stop. Please. Stop.

TRANSITION POLITICS--Dear Caitlyn: Much as I'm reluctant to further any infighting within the transgender and gender nonconforming community, I also have a responsibility to speak truth to power. Your visibility has gone from mildly annoying, to problematic, to atrocious, to outright detrimental, and so I ask you, politely: 

Stop trying to help though the media and public appearances. Please. Stop. 

Read more ...

Is the Mussolini Model Driving the Trump Movement?

GELFAND’S WORLD--Americans are justly puzzled at the behavior of Donald Trump and his crowds of followers. Episodes of people being expelled from Trump rallies just for looking or dressing differently are common. References to violence, or at least threats of violence, appear with regularity.

Read more ...

More Articles ...

Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays