Bay Area Attacks on Asians and Cristina Garcia

Recently there has been a surge in attacks on elderly Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay area that has led to injuries and at least one death.

NPR quotes Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, as blaming a combination of COVID-19 and racist rhetoric from the Trump administration for the attacks,

These attacks taking place in the Bay Area are part of a larger trend of anti-Asian American/Pacific Islander hate brought on in many ways by COVID-19, as well as some of the xenophobic policies and racist rhetoric that were pushed forward by the prior administration.

Certainly, Donald Trump and his administration did everything they could to inflame anti-Asian bigotry, and that should be a black mark on all those who participated in that administration.

However, anti-Asian bigotry has a long, bipartisan history in California.

It is worth noting that California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia just won re-election to her fourth term.

As Politico notes, in 2014, Asian-American community activists successfully lobbied against efforts to overturn California’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions (such policies tend to discriminate against Asian students).

Cristina Garcia was so enraged by this that she told a legislative meeting,

This makes me feel like I want to punch the next Asian person I see in the face.

This offended the sensibilities of California Assembly Speaker John Perez so much that he “strongly admonished” her against such statements.

That’s a profile in courage right there.

How to Undermine Compliance with COVID-19 Restrictions

On December 5, 2020, bar owner Angela Marsden went viral with her complaint about the hypocrisy of Los Angeles’ outdoor dining restrictions. In the video, Marsden complains that a city-wide order shut down her restaurant’s outdoor dining, but the city approved outdoor dining facilities to be set up across the street for a movie production.

On December 8, 2020, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant tentatively blocked LA’s outdoor dining ban, ruling that it was not based on any evidence.

The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law.

What makes this entire episode even more disturbing is the response from Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Agency Secretary. I would have thought that Ghaly might want to provide evidence or a credible explanation of why the outdoor dining ban was necessary. Instead, Ghaly largely conceded that the outdoor dining ban is largely COVID-19 theater.

The decision to include among other sectors outdoor dining and limiting that — turning to restaurants to deliver and provide takeout options instead — really has to do with the goal of trying to keep people at home, not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining.

This is reminiscent of Anthony Fauci’s implication that he initially opposed mask usage, not because of any specific evidence that masks were ineffective, but rather as an expediency to deter the public from buying N95 masks, thereby reducing the supply of masks avaialable to health care workers.

These sorts of “good lies” and half-truths have the main effect of undermining support for COVID-19 restrictions by people. When people realize the ban on outdoor dining has almost nothing to do with outdoor dining safety, they will inevitably begin to wonder whether the ban on indoor dining has anything to do with indoor dining safety.

Ghaly and those like him risk undermining what little credibility government messages about COVID-19 restrictions have left. What they are doing is not as bad as Donald Trump’s dismissals of the virus as no worse than the flu, but they are cut from the same cloth.

Where Did California Get Its Name?

For some reason I had never heard about the debate over how California got its name until recently. Apparently 16th century Spanish explorers began referring to what is now Baja California Peninsula as “California” but didn’t leave behind any detailed explanation as to why they chose that name. The current best guess is that it is essentially a 16th century fanfic-style callout to a popular Spanish novel of the period.

The name “California” was applied to the territory now known as the state of California by one or more Spanish explorers in the 16th century and was probably a reference to a mythical land described in a popular novel of the time: Las Sergas de Esplandián.

. . .

California was the name given to a mythical island populated only by beautiful Black Amazon warriors who used gold tools and weapons in the popular early 16th-century romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián) by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. This popular Spanish novel was printed in several editions with the earliest surviving edition published about 1510. The novel described the Island of California as being east of the Asian mainland, “very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.” The Island was ruled by Queen Calafia. When the Spanish started exploring the Pacific coast they applied this name on their maps to what is now called the Baja California Peninsula, which they originally thought was an island. Once the name was on the maps it stuck.

. . .

For many years, the de Montalvo novel languished in obscurity, with no connection known between it and the name of California. In 1864, a portion of the original was translated by Edward Everett Hale for The Antiquarian Society, and the story was printed in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. Hale supposed that in inventing the names, de Montalvo held in his mind the Spanish word calif, the term for a leader of an Islamic community. Hale’s joint derivation of Calafia and California was accepted by many, then questioned by a few scholars who sought further proof, and offered their own interpretations. George Davidson wrote in 1910 that Hale’s theory was the best yet presented, but offered his own addition. In 1917, Ruth Putnam printed an exhaustive account of the work performed up to that time. She wrote that both Calafia and California most likely came from the Arabic word khalifa which means steward or leader. The same word in Spanish was califa, easily made into California to stand for “land of the caliph” ????, or Calafia to stand for “female caliph” ?????  Putnam discussed Davidson’s 1910 theory based on the Greek word kalli (meaning beautiful) but discounted it as exceedingly unlikely, a conclusion that Dora Beale Polk agreed with in 1995, calling the theory “far-fetched”. Putnam also wrote that The Song of Roland held a passing mention of a place called Califerne, perhaps named thus because it was the caliph’s domain, a place of infidel rebellion. Chapman elaborated on this connection in 1921: “There can be no question but that a learned man like Ordóñez de Montalvo was familiar with the Chanson de Roland …This derivation of the word ‘California’ can perhaps never be proved, but it is too plausible—and it may be added too interesting—to be overlooked.”

California Dept. of Parks and Recreation Hid Millions for Decade

The Associated Press has a fascinating look at how — and more importantly, why — California’s Department of Parks and Recreation was able to hide tens of millions of dollars from state auditors beginning in 1998 and ending when the ruse was finally discovered in 2012.

According to the AP,

Parks Director Ruth Coleman, who had been director since 2002, resigned and a senior parks official was fired last summer after $54 million was found hidden in two special funds as up to 70 parks were threatened with closure because of budget cuts.

The report said the actual amount intentionally hidden in the State Parks and Recreation Fund was $20 million, and the remaining $34 million discrepancy was due to differences in the timing of the fund reports to the state finance department and the controller’s office. The amount of money kept hidden had grown as high as $29 million in 2003, the report said.

Apparently no employees took any of the money and because it was outside of the regular state budgeting process, there was no way for the Parks and Recreation Department to spend any of the money. So why hide it?

It appears the additional moneys started accumulating in the late 1990s and at some point employees decided that if they did report the money to the state it would result in a budget cut for Parks and Recreation as well as result in political fallout and embarrassment for those who had participated in hiding the money. So once they started failing to report the money, they were stuck having to keep hiding it until the state discovered it.

California’s Proposition 8 and the Double-Edged Sword of Judicial Activism

The Los Angeles Times ran an interesting story last week analyzing why Proposition 8 passed in California. Among other things, the story highlights the strategy by Proposition 8 supporters of trumpeting the alleged long-term effects of allowing gay marriage above and beyond the fact of the marriages themselves,

They were able to focus the debate on their assertion that without the ban, public school children would be indoctrinated into accepting gay marriage against their parents’ wishes, churches would be sanctioned for not performing same-sex weddings and the institution of marriage would be irreparably harmed.

Supporters of gay marriage, along with political leaders including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco) and the state’s superintendent of public instruction, denounced those messages as scare tactics, but they were not able to sway voters. Preliminary returns showed Proposition 8 passing 52% to 48%.

Repeatedly opponents of Proposition 8 said the idea that courts would force churches to perform same sex marraiges was absurd. But is it really any more absurd that a future court might require churches to perform same sex marraiges than it was that the California Supreme Court found a right to gay marriage in the state’s constitution to begin with?

After all, at one time it was probably considered absurd that courts would require Catholic charities Catholic Charities of Sacramento to cover birth control for their employees, but in 2004 the California Supreme Court ruled that, in fact, they were legally obligated to do so.

Or switch the positions here. In 2004, Michigan was one of 11 states that passed ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. One of the arguments that opponents of that ban made in Michigan was that the ban would have far-reaching effects including making it illegal for government agencies to offer health care benefits, etc. to domestic partners of gays and lesbians. Proponents of the ban ridiculed that claim and said all the initiative would do was ban marriage.

But in 2007, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that all domestic partner benefits (whether for heterosexual or homosexual couples) was unconstitutional under the marriage ban language, and earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court agreed.

That’s the problem with this wave of judicial activism, whether it be for conservative or liberal purposes — it creates a great deal of uncertainty so that claims that a piece of legislation will or will not have a specific effects are largely meaningless.

Would the California Supreme Court require churches to marry gay couples? Almost certainly not, but who is to really say in an era of judicial activism on all sides.

California Should Kill Stan Williams or Abandon Capital Punishment Altogether

The manufactured controversy over California’s plans to kill Stan “Tookie” Williams demonstrates once again why all but 12 states and the District of Columbia returned to executing prisoners after the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling authorizing its resumption. In a word, the anti-death penalty movement comes across as a bunch of loons.

Idiot actors like Jamie Foxx and rappers like Snoop Dogg glamorize a piece of trash like Williams, and don’t even get me started on the morons who nominated Williams for the Nobel Peace Prize (for the record, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination is about as easy to get as a nomination to appear in Who’s Who Among American High School Students, okay? How do you think a terrorist like Yasser Arafat won one?) I wonder if Foxx or Snoop even know the names of the four people Williams was convicted of murdering?

Meanwhile, what passes for the more serious side of the anti-death penalty movement keeps retreading bogus claims about racial disparities in the way the U.S. executes prisoners (since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, it is white murderers who have been executed disproportionately, not black killers).

Nonetheless, I still remain strongly opposed to capital punishment on general grounds, and it seems to me Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has two choices. He can either kill Williams and move on or he can grant him clemency and never authorize another execution.

In fact, if California cannot execute Williams, it should abolish the death penalty altogether. If capital punishment is morally permissible, Williams is the model of the type of person who should be executed. Williams not only killed those four people, he created a criminal organization — the Crips street gang — that was and is responsible for untold murders and other acts of violence.

Williams has more blood on his hand than any serial killer or other psychopath that California has killed. If California does not execute Williams, it has no business executing anyone else.