After 15 years, interminable legal battles, a federal court
order and a suicide rate twice the national average,
the plight of California's overcrowded prison system is headed to the United States Supreme Court. The L.A. Times' David G. Savage and Carole J. Williams
have the story.
"On Tuesday, the problems of
California's prisons will move to a national stage
when the Supreme Court hears
the state's challenge to an extraordinary court order
that would require the
prison population to be reduced by about 25% in two years. That could mean
releasing or transferring more than 40,000 inmates, state lawyers say. The case is not just of interest to California."
"Lawyers for 18 other states, including Illinois,
Pennsylvania and Virginia, joined in support of California's
they feared a ruling upholding the prison release order
could trigger similar
moves across the nation. "Real world experience" suggests
releasing a large number of inmates would "inevitably
citizens at much greater risk," they said."
Proposition 13, the sacred cow of California politics, may get a second look from Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, who wound up backing the tax-cutting initiative when he was governor in the 1970s.
From Times' columnist George Skelton: "Then-Gov. Jerry Brown messed up 32 years ago in implementing Proposition 13, the insurgent property-tax slasher. Now he'll have a second chance to get
"The Legislature screwed up too. In fact, it led the
way. Those lawmakers are long gone from the Capitol.
But Brown is back, trying to piece together a new administration
and craft a state budget to address a seemingly bottomless
Speaking of money, the pork barrel aspects of California's bullet train
project get a critical look from the Bee's Dan Walters, who wonders about a train
"There are huge unresolved route issues, including
implacable opposition on the San Francisco Peninsula
to running bullet trains
through their bucolic communities and environmental
group criticism of the
route over Pacheco Pass."
"Despite this jumble of political and financial
uncertainty, the HSRA plans to spend billions of dollars
on a section of track
out in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley.
Is that crazy or what?"
San Diego legislators are doing a lot of traveling
on the public dime, but finding out exactly who is spending what isn't
as easy as it sounds, reports the U-T's Michael Gardner.
from San Diego County spent $188,000
flying on more than 520 round-trips in the 15 months ending in September, but
most details of the travel are secret. The Legislature has declined to
release the majority of the data on the grounds that
it might compromise
security to divulge travel routines between Sacramento and San Diego."
"Times, dates and destinations were provided for only
about three dozen of the trips, mostly one-time flights that would not show a travel pattern."
Marvin Levin, the guy who started it all when his tale to the FBI about legislative corruption
triggered a nighttime raid on the Capitol, died at his home in Florida. The Bee's Loretta Kalb
has the story.
"He approached the FBI about Capitol corruption in 1984. And in 1986, the
law enforcement campaign known as "Brispec" – Bribery Special
Interest – was approved by the U.S. Justice
Department. Ultimately, the FBI would
set up sham firms to lure legislators into asking for
"The cowboy boots that the FBI purchased for Levin so he could
hide his recording equipment for his undercover work
ended up in the custody of
a longtime friend, Uwe Quandt, of
Finally, from our "Good Earth" file, we find the tale of Macau gambling baron Stanley
Ho who paid $330,000 for two truffles -- mushrooms -- at a charitable auction. Clearly, the Great Recession
hasn't affected this guy.
"The pair included a huge truffle dug up in the central
Tuscany region weighing about two pounds (900 grams) as well as one found in
Molise weighing about 14 ounces (400 grams). The
auction was staged at Ho's Grand Lisboa hotel in the
former Portuguese colony
of Macau, with bidders participating simultaneously
in Rome and London through
a satellite link."
2007, Ho paid $330,000 for a white truffle unearthed in Tuscany weighing
3.3 pounds (1.497 kilograms). Slivers of the delicacy, with its strong aroma, are
prized for flavoring pasta sauces and rice dishes."
Why not mushroom soup?