Musk on San Francisco: “Even if Attackers Are Caught, They Are Often Released Immediately”

(p. A3) A suspect was arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing in San Francisco of Cash App founder Bob Lee, police said, more than a week after the tech executive’s death shocked Silicon Valley.

Nima Momeni, 38, was arrested by San Francisco police Thursday morning and booked on a murder charge, said Bill Scott, the San Francisco police chief.

Mr. Lee, 43, was fatally stabbed in the early morning hours of April 4 [2023]. The suspect and the victim knew each other, said Chief Scott. He declined to elaborate on the motive for the killing.

. . .

Some tech-industry executives slammed San Francisco over crime after Mr. Lee’s murder. Last week, Elon Musk tweeted, “Violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.”

For the full story, see:

Alyssa Lukpat and Zusha Elinson. “Man Arrested in Killing of Cash App Founder.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 14, 2023): A3.

[Note: ellipsis and bracketed year added.]

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 13, 2023, and has the title “Suspect Arrested in Fatal Stabbing of Cash App Founder Bob Lee.”)

Elon Musk Says “Violent Crime in SF Is Horrific”

(p. A14) The fury erupted within hours, as word spread that the 43-year-old man who had been stabbed to death this week in an enclave of high-rise condominiums near the Bay Bridge was Bob Lee, a well-known tech executive.

The leaders of “lawless” San Francisco had Mr. Lee’s “literal blood on their hands,” Matt Ocko, a tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Palo Alto, Calif., tweeted. “I hate what San Francisco has become,” added Michael Arrington, the founder of the industry blog TechCrunch.

“Violent crime in SF is horrific,” Elon Musk, the chief executive of Twitter and Tesla, chimed in.

The drumbeat has built since then in the liberal city that only last year recalled its progressive district attorney amid calls for law and order and deepening frustration over the city’s homelessness crisis.

For the full story, see:

Kate Conger and Shawn Hubler. “Fatal Stabbing Stirs Outrage Over ‘Lawless’ San Francisco.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 8, 2023): A14.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 10, 2023, and has the title “Stabbing of Cash App Creator Raises Alarm, and Claims of ‘Lawless’ San Francisco.”)


Insurance Companies Leave California Due to Over-Regulation

(p. A13) The recent floods and wildfire season have also have saddled insurance companies with as much as $1.5 billion in losses. Insurance markets could weather these blows, but California’s government-controlled insurance system won’t let them. Thus, insurers are pulling out of the state or reducing their underwriting, leaving many homeowners dependent on the bare-bones insurer of last resort: the state-created (though insurer-funded) Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan. As Jerry Theodorou, an R Street Institute insurance expert, observed in the Orange County Register, the number of FAIR Plan policies has increased 240% since 2017.

Car insurers are backing away, too, Mr. Theodorou notes, as losses increased 25% in one year, while premiums rose only 4.5%. That statistic offers insight into the problem. In 1988 California voters approved a ballot measure backed by tort lawyers that turned the insurance commissioner into a rate-setting czar.

. . .

This regulatory environment explains why California insurers can’t charge rates that reflect their actual risks. It also shows why there’s so little competition in the state’s insurance industry. Over the long run, competition keeps rates low. Insurance commissioners can certainly hold premiums down by edict, but the result is a contracting market. Homeowners then have little choice but to buy inadequate policies in a government-run marketplace.

For the full commentary, see:

Steven Greenhut. “Insurance Companies Are Quietly Fleeing California.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 18, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 17, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Stanford Law School Associate Dean for D.E.I. Praises Students for Violating Free Speech of Federal Judge

(p. A15) Stanford Law School’s website touts its “collegial culture” in which “collaboration and the open exchange of ideas are essential to life and learning.” Then there’s the culture I experienced when I visited Stanford last week.

. . .

Before my talk started, the mob flooded the room. Banners unfurled. Signs brandished: “FED SUCK,” “Trans Lives Matter” (this one upside down), and others that can’t be quoted in a family newspaper. A nervous dog—literally, a canine—was in the front row, fur striped with paint.

. . .

When the Federalist Society president tried to introduce me, the heckling began. “The Federalist Society (You suck!) is pleased to welcome Judge Kyle Duncan(You’re not welcome here, we hate you!). . . . He was appointed by President Trump to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Embarrassing!).” And so on. As I began, the heckling continued. Try delivering a speech while being jeered at every third word. This was an utter farce, a staged public shaming. I stopped, pleaded with the students to stop the stream of insults (which only made them louder), and asked if administrators were present.

Enter Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Ms. Steinbach and (I later learned) other administrators were watching from the periphery. She hadn’t introduced herself to me. She asked to address the students.

. . .

My “work,” she said, “has caused harm.” It “feels abhorrent” and “literally denies the humanity of people.” My presence put Ms. Steinbach in a tough spot, she said, because her job “is to create a space of belonging for all people” at Stanford. She assured me I was “absolutely welcome in this space” because “me and many people in this administration do absolutely believe in free speech.” I didn’t feel welcome—who would? And she repeated the cryptic question: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

I asked again what she meant, and she finally put the question plainly: Was my talk “worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes?” Again she asserted her belief in free speech before equivocating: “I understand why people feel like the harm is so great that we might need to reconsider those policies, and luckily, they’re in a school where they can learn the advocacy skills to advocate for those changes.” Then she turned the floor back over to me, while hoping I could “learn too” and “listen through your partisan lens, the hyperpolitical lens.” In closing, she said: “I look out and I don’t ask, ‘What’s going on here?’ I look out and I say, ‘I’m glad this is going on here.’ ” This is on video, and the entire event is on audio, in case you’re wondering.

. . .

Two days later, Jenny Martinez and Marc Tessier-Lavinge, respectively the law school’s dean and the university’s president, formally apologized, confirming that protesters and administrators had violated Stanford policy. I’m grateful and I accepted. The matter hasn’t dropped, though. This week, nearly one-third of Stanford law students continued the protest—donning masks, wearing black, and forming a “human corridor” inside the school. They weren’t protesting me; I’m long gone. They were protesting Ms. Martinez for having apologized to me.

The most disturbing aspect of this shameful debacle is what it says about the state of legal education. Stanford is an elite law school. The protesters showed not the foggiest grasp of the basic concepts of legal discourse: That one must meet reason with reason, not power. That jeering contempt is the opposite of persuasion. That the law protects the speaker from the mob, not the mob from the speaker. Worst of all, Ms. Steinbach’s remarks made clear she is proud that Stanford students are being taught this is the way law should be.

For the full commentary, see:

Stuart Kyle Duncan. “My Struggle Session at Stanford Law School.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 18, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipses added. In the original, the word “taught” is in italics.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 17, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Extreme Weather Can Bring Enough Water to Recharge California’s Aquifers

(p. A15) After a long, dry summer, winter has brought the gift of water to California, via a series of atmospheric river storms. Unfortunately, as these sprawling rivers in the sky have met developed areas covered with concrete and rivers locked in by levees, they have brought destruction: floods, mudslides, washed-out roads, blackouts, uprooted trees and at least six deaths.

But California doesn’t have to passively suffer through the whiplash of drought and floods. To reduce risk from both, it can return some of its land to water, working with natural systems.

One way to do this is by making use of unique geologic features called paleo valleys. These buried canyons carved into the state’s Central Valley were formed by Ice Age rivers that flowed down the western flank of the Sierra Nevada and were later filled in with coarse sand and gravel from glacial melt.

. . .

There is enough unmanaged surface water from rain and snow statewide to resupply Central Valley aquifers, making more water available to farmers, urban dwellers and the environment. Even with climate change, the state will most likely have enough water for recharge in the future in part because of more extreme weather, according to a 2021 study.

For the full commentary, see:

Erica Gies. “California Should Capture Its Floodwaters.” The New York Times (Monday, January 9, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 7, 2023, and has the title “California Could Capture Its Destructive Floodwaters to Fight Drought.”)

The 2021 study mentioned above is:

He, Xiaogang, Benjamin P. Bryant, Tara Moran, Katharine J. Mach, Zhongwang Wei, and David L. Freyberg. “Climate-Informed Hydrologic Modeling and Policy Typology to Guide Managed Aquifer Recharge.” Science Advances 7, no. 17 (April 21, 2021), doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe6025.

California Bureaucracy and Regulations Block Nimble Use of Flood Waters to Recharge Depleted Groundwater

(p. A15) It sounds like an obvious fix for California’s whipsawing cycles of deluge and drought: Capture the water from downpours so it can be used during dry spells.

Pump it out of flood-engorged rivers and spread it in fields or sandy basins, where it can seep into the ground and replenish the region’s huge, badly depleted aquifers. The state’s roomiest place for storing water isn’t in its reservoirs or on mountaintops as snow, but underground, squeezed between soil particles.

Yet even this winter, when the skies delivered bounties of water not seen in half a decade, large amounts of it surged down rivers and out into the ocean.

Water agencies and experts say California bureaucracy is increasingly to blame — the state tightly regulates who gets to take water from streams and creeks to protect the rights of people downriver, and its rules don’t adjust nimbly even when storms are delivering a torrent of new supply.

During last month’s drenching storms, some water districts got the state’s green light to take floodwater only as the rains were ending, allowing them to siphon off just a few days’ worth. Others couldn’t take any at all because floods overwhelmed their equipment.

. . .

The permitting process is meant to ensure that the takers aren’t encroaching on other people’s water rights or harming fish and wildlife habitats. There are meetings and consultations to hash out details, and a public comment period to hear objections. The whole process can take months. And the resulting permit allows the holder to divert water only on a temporary basis, usually 180 days, and only when specific hydrological conditions are met.

. . .

The process is too slow and cumbersome to help corral big floods that come, like this winter’s, out of the blue.

The Omochumne-Hartnell Water District, which operates along a stretch of the Cosumnes River near Sacramento, applied for a permit last August. When the storms started up in December, its application was still pending.

“It was frustrating,” said Michael Wackman, the district’s general manager. He and his colleagues called up the State Water Board: “What’s going on there? Let’s get these things moving.”

Its permit finally came through on Jan. 11, more than a week after the swollen Cosumnes had crashed through nearby levees and killed at least two people. By that point, so much water was roaring down the river that it damaged the pumps that were supposed to send it away, Mr. Wackman said.

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong. “In Parched California, Rainwater Keeps Rushing Out to Sea.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 22, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 21, 2023, and has the title “Parched California Misses a Chance to Store More Rain Underground.”)

Americans “Vote with Their Feet” Against Higher Taxes

(p. A15) The Tax Foundation’s 2021 State Business Tax Climate report ranks California’s state and local taxes as the second highest in the nation, just below New Jersey and above New York. People are fleeing these states.

. . .

I analyzed all 50 states’ net domestic migration levels and compared those levels with each state’s overall tax ranking. The ranking includes a weighing of taxes on corporate profits, individual income, sales, property and unemployment insurance.

The 10 states with the lowest taxes gained an average of 948 per 100,000 total population. For states that ranked 11th through 20th on taxes, the average was 457. For states ranking 21st to 30th, the gain was only 97. Net domestic migration turned negative for states ranking 31st to 40th with a loss of 141. And for the 10 states with the highest taxes, the average loss was 809 per 100,000.

These findings strongly reinforce the popular saying that people vote with their feet. They will leave places with relatively high taxes for those with lower levies. It may surprise Mr. Newsom, but people generally want to keep more of the money they earn.

For the full commentary, see:

James L. Doti. “Californians Aren’t the Only Tax Refugees.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 11, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Tax Foundation’s report mentioned above is:

Walczak, Jared, and Janelle Cammenga. “2021 State Business Tax Climate Index.” Washington, D.C.: Tax Foundation, 2020.

In “Surprising Reversal” Federal and California “Democratic Leaders” Back Nuclear as “Reliable Power”

(p. B5) California’s last nuclear power plant received a $1.1 billion federal grant on Monday [Nov. 21, 2022] as the state seeks to extend the plant’s operations — currently set to end in 2025 — to meet electricity demand at a time of intensifying climate events.

. . .

The federal and state support from Democratic leaders for Diablo Canyon’s continued electricity production has been a surprising reversal. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had supported retiring the plant, wrote an opinion essay in The Sacramento Bee this year about why she changed her mind.

On Monday [Nov. 21, 2022], Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat from California, again backed Diablo Canyon’s operations, disputing Mr. Weisman’s argument that the facility is not needed.

“This short-term extension is necessary if California is going to meet its ambitious clean-energy goals while continuing to deliver reliable power,” Ms. Feinstein said. “This is especially critical as California’s electric grid has faced increasing challenges from climate-fueled extreme weather events.”

For the full story, see:

Ivan Penn. “Lifeline for California Nuclear Plant Is a Bridge to Climate Goals, Advocates Say.” The New York Times (Tuesday, November 22, 2022): B5.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 21, 2022, and has the title “U.S. Approves Aid to Extend Life of California Nuclear Plant.”)

“It’s Not Clear What We Are and Aren’t Allowed to Say”

(p. B1) When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that would punish California doctors for spreading false information about Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, he pledged that it would apply only in the most “egregious instances” of misleading patients.

It may never have the chance.

Even before the law, the nation’s first of its kind, takes effect on Jan. 1 [2023], it faces two legal challenges seeking to declare it an unconstitutional infringement of free speech. The plaintiffs include doctors who have spoken out against government and expert recommendations during the pandemic, as well as legal organizations from both sides of the political spectrum.

“Our system opts toward a presumption that speech is protected,” said Hannah Kieschnick, a lawyer for the Northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of one of the challenges, filed last month in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

That lawsuit and another, filed this month in the Eastern District of California, have become an extension of the broader cultural battle over the Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to divide Americans along stark partisan lines.

. . .

(p. B5) The plaintiffs in California have sought injunctions to block the law even before it goes into effect, arguing that it was intended to silence dissenting views.

One of them, Dr. Tracy Hoeg, a physician and epidemiologist who works in Grass Valley, near Sacramento, has written peer-reviewed studies since the pandemic began that questioned some aspects of government policies adopted to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Those studies, on the efficacy of masks for schoolchildren and the side effects of vaccines on young men, exposed her to vehement criticism on social media, she said, partly because they fell outside the scientific consensus of the moment.

She noted that the medical understanding of the coronavirus continues to evolve, and that doctors should be open to following new evidence about treatment and prevention.

“It’s going to cause this very broad self-censorship and self-silencing from physicians with their patients because it’s not clear what we are and aren’t allowed to say,” said Dr. Hoeg, one of five doctors who filed a challenge in the Eastern District. “We have no way of knowing if some new information or some new studies that come out are accepted by the California Medical Board as consensus yet.”

. . .

Dr. Jeff Barke, a physician who has treated Covid patients at his office in Newport Beach in Southern California, said the law was an attempt by the state to impose a rigid orthodoxy on the profession that would rule out experimental or untested treatments.

Those include treatments with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine that he said he had found to be effective at treating the coronavirus, despite studies suggesting otherwise. “Who determines what false information is?” he said.

. . .

“What comes next?” he said. “How I talk to patients about cancer? How I talk to patients about obesity or diabetes or asthma or any other illnesses? When they have a standard of care that they think is appropriate and they don’t want me going against their narrative, then they’ll say Barke’s spreading misinformation.”

For the full story, see:

Steven Lee Myers. “Law to Stem Medical Misinformation Is Facing a Free Speech Challenge.” The New York Times (Thursday, December 1, 2022): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 30, 2022, and has the title “Is Spreading Medical Misinformation a Doctor’s Free Speech Right?”)

Firms Nimbly Shift Shipping Away from Unionized and Bottlenecked California Ports

(p. B1) Sharpie maker Newell Brands Inc. is opening distribution centers in Pennsylvania and North Carolina to lessen dependence on seaports in California. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is moving more merchandise through New York and New Jersey to avoid West Coast bottlenecks. Air-conditioning manufacturer Trane Technologies PLC is sending most of its cargo this year through ports in the South, instead of the Los Angeles area.

The hierarchy of U.S. ports is getting shaken up. Companies across many industries are rethinking how and where they ship goods after years of relying heavily on the western U.S. as an entry point, betting that ports in the East and the South can save them time and money while reducing risk.

Their reasons range from fears of a dockworkers strike along the West Coast and a repeat of the bottlenecks that roiled supply chains early in the pandemic to a reduced dependence on Chinese production and the need to get products to all parts of the country faster.

In August [2022], Los Angeles lost its title as busiest port in the nation to the Port of (p. B6) New York and New Jersey as measured by the number of imported containers. It trailed its East Coast rival again in that measure during September and October, according to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and ports data.

The share of all U.S. containerized cargo handled by Los Angeles and a neighboring port in Long Beach fell through the first 10 months of the year to a combined 25% as measured by weight, according to census data analyzed by Jason Miller, interim chair of Michigan State University’s supply chain management department. That was their lowest level in nearly two decades, down from a height of 33%.

Other ports benefiting from this shift include Savannah, Ga., Houston and Charleston, S.C.

For the full story, see:

Paul Berger. “New Routes for Big Business.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022): B1 & B6.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 14, 2022, and has the title “California Long Ruled Shipping in U.S. Importers Look to East.”)

Steve Case’s “Heroic Push” to Encourage Entrepreneurship Outside Silicon Valley, in “Surprising Places”

(p. C12) This is why one of the most energizing books I read this year was Steve Case’s “The Rise of the Rest.” It chronicles Steve’s journey to nurture tech startups in what some might consider “surprising” places. Think: Milwaukee vs. Silicon Valley.

. . .

Steve’s book is a heroic push encouraging us to widen the aperture. With the right investments and visibility, we can change the American landscape for the better, leveling the playing field and creating a more inclusive economy for years to come.

For the full review, see:

Asutosh Padhi. “12 Months of Reading; Asutosh Padhi.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Political and Business Leaders.”)

The book praised by Asutosh Padhi is:

Case, Steve. The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places Are Building the New American Dream. New York: Avid Reader Press, 2022.