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Is Golden State A Leaden Disaster? Debunking Right-Wing Mythology

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for decades, you’ve probably noticed that conservatives hate California. It’s an obsession.

Donald Trump’s disdain for the state is well known. But conservative anti-California hatred goes far beyond the ex-occupant of the Oval Office.

The enduring sources of these fusillades are conservative thought leaders. And as they portray it, California is a failing Banana Republic.

In their jaundiced view, the Golden State is a violent, poverty-stricken homeless dystopia that is overrun by thieves.

The facts show that California attracts more capital, creates more wealth, generates jobs with better pay, suffers lower rates of work-related fatalities and has safer streets and longer lives.

Short on facts, they’ve even stooped to posting a doctored video in an attempt to show that Black gang members were so fed up with crime that they stopped looters in Long Beach, a city of a half-million people. And they assert that California is run by street gangs and misled by incompetent criminal-coddling politicians whose radical, immigrant-loving, left-wing agenda is horrible for businesses, which supposedly are leaving the state in droves.

Yet some states beloved by the right are far more dangerous, data on reported crimes show.

For the haters, California is the quintessence of liberalism’s—or socialism’s—failure. All of the state’s problems, in the view of these self-proclaimed conservatives, are always the direct fault of its “far-left” policies. Always.

In a broadcast called “The slow, painful death of California,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson asserted: “The policies that destroyed America’s largest and most economically important state are heading your way.” Significantly, Carlson got out of a lawsuit after Carlson’s lawyers argued that you can’t believe what he says.

Never one to resist attacking California, The Wall Street Journal editorial board ran an editorial titled “California’s Covid Woes.” It obsessed over overcrowded hospitals and long wait times, which it blamed on MediCal, the state’s medical care program for the poor. It is another favorite target of Journal editorial disdain.

Curiously, the WSJ’s attack, which compared California’s Covid record unfavorably with Texas’, never mentioned a crucial fact: California’s Covid mortality rate was 30% below that of Texas and 36% below the nation as a whole.

Of course, there’s little wonder why the Journal editorial board omitted that statistic: including it would vitiate their argument. After all, it’s pretty hard to portray California’s response to the pandemic as a horror when its death rate from this pernicious virus is well below the rest of America.

That omission illustrates what’s missing from conservative jeremiads. It’s their tell.

Here’s what you won’t read in their screeds, starting with what arguably is the biggest lie about California:

Business and Investment

While California is home to 12% of the U.S. population, it attracted 47% of the most sought-after investment dollars deployed nationwide last year, according to National Venture Capital Association data.

The $156 billion of venture capital invested in California firms in 2021 was a 79% increase over its 2020 haul. And the 2020 sum was a 29% increase over 2019.

Far from a state in economic decline, California attracted more capital last year than at any point in the NVCA’s data set going back to 2005.

California is the most populous state so those total figures could suggest the state fell short in these investments when examined per person. But no. California got nearly four times its share per capital of all such investments in America.

Productivity

California is the fifth most productive population in the country, federal Bureau of Economic Analysis data posted at Statista.com show.

In 2019, California’s economic output per person was $79,000, almost 22% above the national average of $65,000, (Editor’s note: adjusted the data to 2019 dollars.)

Income, Wealth and Poverty

The typical California household took home more than 45 other states; 22% more than American households overall. The nearly $15,000 in extra income has not, however, deflated the state’s poverty rate. It is persistently high at 11.8%, yet still below such darlings of conservatives as Mississippi (19.5%), Louisiana (18.8%), Arkansas (16%), Alabama (15.6%) and Oklahoma (15.1%), federal data show.

A state study in 2019 found that while California is 12% of the American population, its residents own 17% of American wealth despite its high taxes and environmental protections. Of course it’s hard to get rich in states that don’t provide the commonwealth benefits that foster wealth creation and high-paying jobs with benefits such as quality research universities that Californians have long supported.

Crime

You were more likely to get killed in 27 other states than in California, the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported for 2020. Interestingly, you were far more likely to get killed in Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky than the Golden State. The highest rates were in Louisiana and Mississippi, more than triple the California rate, while the rates in Arkansas and Missouri were more than double the California rate.

Workplace Deaths

In 2019, California employees were less likely to die on the job than in 43 other states, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The California rate was 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers compared with double that or slightly more in Louisiana, Montana and West Virginia; more than three times more in Alaska and four times more in Wyoming.

Longevity

CDC data show that Californians live longer than the residents of all but one state – Hawaii, another state conservatives love to bash. Life expectancy in California is 80.8 years, more than six years longer than in bottom-ranked Mississippi and West Virginia, both beloved of conservatives. Hawaii bests California by about two months of extra life.

These are among many inconvenient facts for conservatives about how California, with its high taxes and environmental protections, outperforms America overall and the Southern, Midwest and Rocky Mountain states where conservatives have the most sway.

There’s a reason the right omits the facts in their commentaries, columns, editorials and cable television rants attacking California, its voters and their elected leaders.

California’s successes defy conservative cosmology, which holds that taxes, unions, workplace safety rules, environmental protections and immigrants repel capital, kill economies, hurt families and denigrate life itself.

The facts show that California attracts more capital, creates more wealth, generates jobs with better pay, suffers lower rates of work-related fatalities and has safer streets and longer lives.

Those successes flatly contradict what GOP orthodoxy predicts. But rather than confronting reality, conservatives are trying to re-write it by leaving out salient facts and as a result producing political fiction.

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Flattened By Vote, Recall Activists Wanly Claim 'Success'

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On Wednesday, after the GOP effort to recall California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom officially came to an end in a resounding loss, Fox News hosted a roundtable of anti-Newsom activists who claimed they had achieved "success."

The recall results were not close. The ballot against recalling Newsom received 64 percent of the vote and held a lead of over 2.5 million votes, with 70 percent of the total counted.

However, Fox & Friends invited several guests who were a part of the recall movement to react to the results of the election, and many of them declared successes.

"I do think this was a huge success because a small group of people did put some fear into the governor to the point that he actually had to fly out the vice president and the president," Erica Kious, the former owner of a San Francisco hair salon, said, after saying she was "devastated" by the recall results.

In September 2020, Kious had released a video of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting her salon despite COVID restrictions.

"It was a huge grassroots effort," guest Aaron Bergh said. "It was great to see this revolution of small business owners and dissatisfied parents and just ordinary Californians to put their foot down and say we need change here."

The GOP effort to oust Newsom lost despite national support and fundraising campaigns.

While Newsom outraised his opponents, there were millions raised in favor of the recall campaign. The Los Angeles Times reported that pro-recall efforts received over $45.2 million in donations.

The recall campaign also had the support of the national Republican Party and the California Republican Party.

"Gavin Newsom has had three years to solve California's problems. He has only made them worse. His time in office is up," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in an op-ed column on FoxNews.com on Tuesday.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party, wrote a few hours before the election, "@CAGOP has grown to 72,000 volunteers and made 18 million voter contacts to #RecallGavinNewsom - the excitement and enthusiasm is there, Californians are hungry for change."

And then there was Fox News. As polling began showing a likely Newsom win, Fox began to promote baseless conspiracy theories alleging that the election would be stolen.

"The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud," Fox host Tomi Lahren claimed on the September 7 edition of the program Outnumbered.

On August 22, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich similarly alleged that "this is going to be an election where they go all-out to steal the referendum."

And on August 25, Fox host Tucker Carlson claimed that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigning for Newsom was a threat to democracy: "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now set to campaign against the recall — 'No more democracy for you!' You've got to wonder, will the state survive this? Will there be a free and fair election?"

Despite the efforts of the state and national Republicans and their allies at Fox, the leading Republican candidate in the recall, Larry Elder, conceded on Tuesday night.

"Let's be gracious in defeat. By the way, we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war," Elder said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Recall Results Show Trumpism On The Run

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

The overwhelming failure in the recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom should send a powerful message to those Republicans who think their future lies with Donald Trump and Trumpism. It doesn't.

By any measure, the vote to retain Newsom was a landslide. Almost 64 percent of voters cast ballots against recalling Newsom.

That's better than the record margin by which Newsom won in 2018. He won that race with just under 62 percent of the vote. It also equals the share of California votes for Biden against Trump in 2020.

The recall vote is a clear repudiation of the Trumpian tactic of trying to disrupt and delegitimize government when anyone but a Trumper wins the popular vote. Havoc will continue, but it can be defeated – always — if enough sensible Americans cast ballots.

Trumpism isn't dead, not yet. But it's not attracting new adherents, either. That's because all it offers is anger, the lethal rejection of medical science and cultish devotion to a deeply disturbed con artist who just makes stuff up like his very recent delusional claim of being rescued on 9/11 by two firefighters.

Trumpism is not an ideology, just political masturbation.

And no one in America is more captured by self-love than Donald Trump.

General elections, especially when the presidency is on the ballot, draw far more voters than special elections. That's why the Republican Party has long relied on them to put its people in office. The GOP simply does better at turning out the vote than the Democrats, or at least it did until 2020.

In spring, it looked like Newsom could become the third governor in American history to be recalled because rank-and-file Democrats weren't paying attention. Neither were the independents, whose numbers equal those of Republicans in California.

Newsom had loaded himself up with political baggage in the way he handled the worst of the Covid pandemic. His public health emergency order last fall imposed mask and indoor activities limits that infuriated not just the freedumb crowd but some struggling small business owners.

In an act of maddening arrogance and political stupidity, the governor enjoyed dinner in a Napa Valley French restaurant without a mask. He violated other Covid protocols as well. And he got photographed.

"Do as I say and not as I do" has ended the careers of more than a few politicians, yet Newsom is coming out of the recall much stronger than ever.

Newsom got lucky, but that stroke of political luck contains a valuable lesson for defeating Trumpism.

The leading candidate to succeed Newsom if the recall won was Larry Elder, a deranged Trumper radio talk show host. Elder made clear the recall was a referendum on Trumpism, a novice political move that professional Democrats exploited fully.

Under California's century-old populist recall rules, a small minority can force an election. Then if 50 percent plus one voter favor recall, the new governor is whomever gets the most votes the same day. That could, literally, be someone who earns less than ten percent of the vote. Elder polled at about 18 percent but won 45 percent of the vote in a field of almost 50 gubernatorial wannabes. Still, Elder secured far fewer votes than the number of votes favoring recall.

Let us hope the populist California recall, initiative and referendum rules will get modernized to make putting items on the ballot harder.

There is a lesson in what happened between June and September 14.

Elder is a longtime fixture in the Los Angeles radio market, a robust marketplace of music, news, ideas, and nonsense.

A true-red Trumper, Elder spouts crazy, illogical, half-baked, fact-free, absurd, and downright offensive ideas, sometimes contradicting himself just like his hero does.

After Elder complained that Los Angeles Times never reviewed his books, the paper obliged. The devastating result is an object lesson in being careful what you wish for because it may come true. Wrote reviewer David L. Ulin after reading four of Elder's seven books:

Elder is not a writer but a brand. As such, he is always on brand, regardless of the issue: the economy, the unhoused, law enforcement, immigration rights. His columns represent not so much a voice in conversation as a series of diatribes. When it comes to public policy, Elder offers neither subtlety nor nuance, not least because that isn't what his audience wants.

Facts are to Elder just as they are to Trump: They don't matter. Like Trump, Elder creates his own reality.

That goes over well among the American Taliban and their uncouth cousins, the American Yahoos. California is not poor Alabama or Mississippi or home to Covidiocy leaders as in Texas and Florida.

California, where I grew up and lived for 36 years, is rich. It would boast Earth's fifth-biggest economy if it were a nation because of education and science.

Be it growing strawberries year-round, making movies, or splicing genes, California's economy is science-driven. Trumpism rejects science as it preys on the minds of people who didn't pay attention in high school and couldn't explain the function of RNA if their lives depended on it. Among Trumpers, it's OK, indeed more than OK, to be ignorant.

Elder promotes some wildly crazy ideas. He proposed reparations for slave owners because their "property" was taken away by President Abraham Lincoln. He also said he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

By the way, Elder is Black.

On the day before the recall vote ended, Elder posted on his website assertions that the recall vote results were fraud and statistical analysis proved that.

That's a remarkable claim to make before any vote results are known and before the election ends. But it's consistent with the Trumpism practice of just making stuff up. The week before the election, Trump said the election was rigged for Newsom. He reiterated that on election day.

Elder's campaign also made clear that he intended to govern California in pure Trumpian style, by tweet rather than substance. That also alarmed voters in a state whose economy is heavily based on science.

Most Californians had never heard of Elder before the recall. Only when Democratic strategists started to get out the word about what a crazy loon Elder is, Democrats, independents and those Republicans not infected with Trumpism began mailing in their ballots in large numbers.

The lesson: Who votes is all that matters in elections.

Trumpers are a slowly dwindling minority. As a class, they don't understand how the world works, don't embrace logic, think they are smarter than the scientists they denounce, embrace stupidity and incompetence [see Dunning-Krueger Effect] and are easily taken in by slogans rather than substance. Many are as closed-minded as the Taliban.

Those people love Trump because he freed the inner racism of the Republican Party, which has always been there. Witness opposition to civil rights and voting rights. Trump told his followers that it was OK to use racial slurs and that violently attacking those you disagree with meant you were "fine people."

The insurmountable problem for Republicans – unless they steal elections – is that white supremacy continues to slowly fade despite its vicious public displays during the brief Trump era. That's because humans evolved toward cooperation, not Trump's Hobbesian notions of brutal power abused to make life nasty, brutish, and short for the many.

The lesson about building a better America is that to defeat Trumpism its opponents must make sure they get out the story of who Trumper candidates are and what they believe. Letting them hide behind slogans is a terrible strategy.

But most of all, people must vote. All that matters is turning out the vote. Period. Elections are won by those who cast ballots.

That's the whole point of the GOP proposing — and in many states enacting — laws to suppress the votes of people not in line with what's left of traditional Republicanism and politically flaccid Trumpism.

America is home to far more good, decent and caring people than losers drawn to Trump.

Vote. Be an owner of our government, not a renter or, worst of all, a squatter.

As Major Defeat Loomed, McCarthy Said Recall Is ‘Pretty Big Victory’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday claimed that even if the Republican-led campaign to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in California fails, it will still be a "pretty big victory" for his party. McCarthy represents California's 23rd Congressional District in Congress.

In an appearance on Fox News' Fox and Friends, he was asked what his expectations were for the outcome of the recall attempt, with polls set to close in California at 8 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

"Gavin Newsom has all the money, we just have the issues on our side," said McCarthy, adding, "Just getting it to a recall is a pretty big victory in itself."

California has some of the most lenient laws in the country as far as recalling a governor or other statewide official. The state requires that a petition collect signatures amounting to 12 percent of the votes cast in the last election for the office, the smallest percentage of signatures needed of all states. And due to the pandemic, recall hopefuls were granted an additional 120 days to gather signatures.

In spite of these advantages favoring the Republican-backed recall, polling has consistently shown opposition to the effort. In FiveThirtyEight's average of recall polls, 57.8 percent of respondents support keeping Newsom in office, while support for removal is at 41.5 percent.

The 12 most recent polls listed on the FiveThirtyEight site show the option to retain Newsom with a double-digit lead, ranging from 10 to 19 points.

From the September 14 edition of Fox & Friends:

AINSLEY EARHARDT, Fox News: What do you expect in California today, your state, with this recall?

KEVIN MCCARTHY: It's going to be interesting. Because here we are in California, Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, but you're going to have to really watch what turns out today.

If Republicans are – independents are voting to remove Gavin Newsom, because think about it for one moment, if you travel California, there's homelessness in every place of it. Crime rising. There's not one national park in California open because there's mismanagement of forest that comes every single year. And do you want to reward that?

He's been in Sacramento for more than a decade and he has no plan to turn it around. All he does is bring in Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and others to say, "Keep me, otherwise a Republican will win."

This is an opportunity to change the course. If we have a deficit going into election day, of a million or less, there's an opportunity that we can be successful here. But, you know, Gavin Newsom has all the money, we just have the issues on our side. Just getting it to a recall is a pretty big victory in itself.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trailing In Recall Polls, Elder Spews Election Fraud Lies

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

As polling grows grimmer for him, California gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder is baselessly warning of"election fraud" — parroting the same lies former President Donald Trump and his GOP defenders told in the wake of the 2020 contest.

"I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election," Elder, currently the GOP's top candidate in the race, told reporters on Wednesday, after he cast his recall ballot for himself.

Elder's comments came amid a spate of polling showing that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has opened up a wide lead and is heavily favored to hold on to his position — despite the Republican effort to remove him.

A Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found 58 percent of California voters want to keep Newsom, while 41 percent want to remove him, giving Newsom a 17-point advantage. According to the FiveThirtyEight polling average, voters want to keep Newsom as governor by a 12-point spread.

Election handicapping outlets also say Newsom is the favorite, with Inside Elections rating it a "likely Democratic" contest and the Cook Political Report rating it a "lean Democratic" race.

If voters choose to keep Newsom as governor in the recall election, the race for who will replace him won't matter; however, if Republicans manage to oust Newsom, Elder is the leading GOP candidate in the race.

The Suffolk University poll showed Elder having the support of 39 percent of voters, with "undecided" taking the second-place spot at 28 percent. No other major candidate received more than five percent support.

Elder has echoed many of former President Donald Trump's voter fraud lies, questioning the results of the 2020 election with the same kind of rhetoric repeated by Trump and his defenders both before and after the election and the riot by his supporters, stoked by such lies, at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

"The 2020 election, in my opinion, was full of shenanigans," Elder said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. "And my fear is they're going to try that in this election right here and recall."

Elder also said Wednesday that he's gearing up to file lawsuits if he loses.

"We have a voter integrity project, we have lawyers all set up all ready to go to file lawsuits in a timely fashion," Elder said.

He added falsely that the reason for the failure of the many lawsuits filed by Trump supporters and lawyers in an effort to overturn the 2020 election was that they were "filed too late."

In fact, the lawsuits failed because Trump's legal team and others who filed them provided no evidence that there was fraud, with judges dressing down the lawyers who filed the suits for their efforts to undo the democratic process.

In Pennsylvania, Trump-appointed Judge Stephanos Bibas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote in a decision in one of the cases, "Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

And a number of lawyers who filed lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, including conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell, have been sanctioned by a federal judge and face further disciplinary actions.

As of Tuesday, a week before the recall election in California, nearly 6.2 million ballots had already been returned, according to political handicapper Ryan Matsumoto, with Democratic voters far outpacing Republicans in the number of returned ballots.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

With Newsom Leading In Recall, Fox News Cries ‘Fraud’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News is rolling out the next round of election-related conspiracy theories: This time, by casting doubt on the idea that a Democrat could win an election in the heavily Democratic state of California, where incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election backed by Republicans.

For what it's worth, recent polls from SurveyUSA, the Public Policy Institute of California, and even Republican polling firm Trafalgar Group have all put Newsom ahead by significant margins in the key vote to remain in office.

Fox News previously served a major role in former President Donald Trump's efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election. And beyond that, attempting to cast doubt on any Democratic win is on brand for Fox — network personalities also attacked the Georgia Senate runoffs while votes were being counted, including by casting suspicion on the high voter turnout in the election. And in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, part of the network's immediate response was to push for changes to voting lawsthat would help to suppress Democratic turnout, which the network then supported in the months afterward.

In that context, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren claimed on Tuesday's edition of Outnumbered: "The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud. So as they say, stay woke, pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California, because it's going to have big consequences not only for that state, but for upcoming elections."

And on Monday night, when Republican gubernatorial candidate and right-wing radio host Larry Elder appeared for an interview on Fox News Primetime, it was rotating host Rachel Campos-Duffy who brought up the subject of supposed election fraud: "A lot of people think you have the wind at your back but you seem to be concerned about some shenanigans that could be happening at the ballot box — or maybe in the mail."

Elder has indeed spread conspiracy theories about voting machines having been rigged in the 2020 presidential election, and suggested that this might happen again in the California recall, but in this instance he simply gave some rhetorical boilerplate on being "concerned about voter fraud," and said that his campaign website had a "voter integrity project set up with a bunch of lawyers ready to file lawsuits if anybody sees anything suspicious."

And last week, on the September 1 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson said that expanded usage of mail-in voting in multiple states, including in the case of California, were being done because Newsom "knows that mail-in ballots, which by definition lack any form of voter ID, cannot be verified. Those kind of ballots overwhelmingly benefit his party because they abet voter fraud."

Carlson has also spread falsehoods about non-citizens voting in the recall, and he claimed on August 25 that the state would need outside observers to "to make sure this election isn't stolen."

Some in media have argued that these right-wing talking points picked up recently because the early statistics on returned ballots have indicated that Democratic voters are not sitting the election out, and therefore the groundwork must be laid for a conspiracy theory to explain a possible Republican loss.

To the extent that this explanation might be true, it should also be noted that the foundation was already being laid weeks ago, including by one of Fox News' most shameless and vitriolic promoters of election denialism: Newt Gingrich. Appearing on the August 22 edition of Sunday Morning Futures, in a segment reminiscent of host Maria Bartiromo and Gingrich's previous false claims about the 2020 election, the former GOP House speaker painted a lurid picture of vast election fraud in California:

NEWT GINGRICH (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Frankly, what people ought to look at is this is going to be an election where they go all-out to steal the referendum. The secretary of state of California has now said you can print your own ballots. I mean, you think about this. You talk about the opposite of election integrity. They're going to allow you to print your own ballots. They're going to allow people to come around and harvest your ballot.

So, the unions will be out there, and they will make sure that everybody votes, even if they don't vote. And I think this may well be the most rigged statewide election we have seen probably in at least a half century.

And I think people should look carefully at this, because there's pretty good evidence that, if Newsom is in a straight, honest count, he probably — he has a good chance of losing. But if they can stuff every ballot box in California and they can cheat in every way possible — and so [Vice President Kamala Harris is] part of raising the money to pay for the cheating. I mean, it's just that simple. It's not complicated.

MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): That is so extraordinary.

GINGRICH: Yes.

BARTIROMO: And that is the reason we continue to focus on all of these audits going on across the country. We want fair and free elections.

(Just to be clear, Gingrich's references to voters being able to "print your own ballots" involves a state program, known as the Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system, made in order to accommodate disabled voters and expanded during the pandemic, which has safeguards to ensure that a person can only print one ballot.)

At around that same time, Fox personalities also latched onto a local story involving a reported felon who was found in possession of 300 mail-in ballots — although it quickly became clear that these were among thousands of pieces of stolen mail, along with other items such as driver's licenses and credit cards, rather than the alleged thief having actually targeted the ballots specifically.

"There's nothing to indicate this was anything specifically to impact the election," a spokesman for the Los Angeles county clerk's office said. "It seems like this person was likely trying to steal mail."

The August 24 edition of Fox Business' The Evening Edit ran a segment with the loaded chyron asking, "Why were 300 mail-in ballots stolen in CA recall election?" — even though the ballots made up just a fraction of the overall theft of mail. Republican strategist Ford O'Connell claimed that "to be perfectly honest with you, with Gavin Newsom on the ropes, you have to think that this is just a little more than coincidental." He later upped the rhetorical ante even further: "Remember, Nancy Pelosi said she was going to activate her own operation. Maybe this is what she meant."

"We don't know — I know you're being facetious," responded host Elizabeth MacDonald, though there was not any indication of such an intent on O'Connell's part.

And on the August 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host claimed that Democratic efforts to campaign for Newsom were themselves a threat to democracy: "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now set to campaign against the recall — 'No more democracy for you!' You've got to wonder, will the state survive this? Will there be a free and fair election?"

He then interviewed Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who used the story as an example of supposed Democratic malfeasance: "Of course, they are playing fast and loose. We've seen some very alarming scenes of 300 ballots bundled together in the car of a person with a gun and some drugs, and so we are definitely looking into all of these issues."

Dhillon's invocation of the story was then followed by an on-screen visual of the stolen mail, which Carlson's production would have needed to already have prepared.

On the subject of ballots being thrown out, as well as the need to ensure a free and fair election, Dhillon previously served as a campaign legal adviser to Donald Trump in 2020. In the days following the election, she appeared with then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and spoke of the campaign's effort to have the Supreme Court intervene in the ongoing vote counts: "We're waiting for the United States Supreme Court — of which the president has nominated three justices — to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through."

So perhaps these people might not be approaching the California recall from a standpoint of supporting democracy.

California Wildfire Now Second-Worst In State History

Greenville (United States) (AFP) - The monstrous Dixie Fire in northern California has grown to become the second-largest wildfire in state history, authorities said Sunday, with three people reported missing and thousands fleeing the advancing flames.

As of Sunday, the fire had destroyed 463,477 acres (187,562 hectares), up from the previous day's 447,723 acres. It now covers an area larger than Los Angeles.

The Dixie blaze is the largest active wildfire in the United States, but only one of 11 major wildfires in California.

Over the weekend, it surpassed the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire to make it the second-worst fire in state history.

On Saturday, Governor Gavin Newsom visited the burnt-out historic town of Greenville, expressing his "deep gratitude" to the teams fighting the flames.

He said authorities had to devote more resources to managing forests and preventing fires.

But he added that "the dries are getting a lot drier, it is hotter than it has ever been... we need to acknowledge just straight up these are climate-induced wildfires."

Climate change amplifies droughts which dry out regions, creating ideal conditions for wildfires to spread out-of-control and inflict unprecedented material and environmental damage.

The Dixie blaze, which on Saturday left three firefighters injured, remained 21 percent contained Sunday, unchanged from the day before, the CalFire website reported.

Crews estimate the fire, which began July 13, will not finally be extinguished for two weeks.

Higher Temperatures Forecast

Weak winds and higher humidity have provided some succor to firefighters, but they are bracing for higher temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in the coming days.

Heavy smoke was making driving hazardous for fire crews in some areas, and steep trails also made access difficult.

The state's eight largest wildfires have all come since December 2017. The still-blackened scars of previous fires have aided Dixie Fire crews at times, reducing available fuel.

Thousands of residents have fled the area, many finding temporary housing -- even living in tents, and often unsure whether their homes have survived.

The Plumas County sheriff's office said it was still searching for three people listed as missing, after two others were found over the weekend.

The Dixie Fire has already destroyed about 400 structures -- gutting Greenville -- and CalFire said workers and equipment were being deployed to save homes in the small town of Crescent Mills, three miles (five kilometers) southeast of Greenville.

More than 5,000 personnel are now battling the Dixie blaze.

Despite repeated evacuation orders from the authorities, some residents have refused to flee, preferring to try to fight the fire on their own rather than leave their property.

By late July, the number of acres burned in California was up more than 250 percent from 2020 -- itself the worst year of wildfires in the state's modern history.

A long-term drought that scientists say is driven by climate change has left much of the western United States and Canada parched -- and vulnerable to explosive and highly destructive fires.

A preliminary investigation has suggested the Dixie Fire was started when a tree fell on a power cable owned by regional utility Pacific Gas & Company (PG&E), a private operator that was earlier blamed for the Camp Fire in 2018, which killed 86 people.

Prompted By Trump Attacks? Vandals Set Fire To Ballot Boxes

A ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library was set ablaze last Sunday, marking the second such instance in just over a week after another ballot drop box was burned outside a California library on October 18.

The two incidents come as Donald Trump eagerly pushes debunked claims of fraud regarding mail-in ballots.

The suspected arson attempt destroyed 35 ballots out of the 122 in the box at the time of the fire, according to the Boston Election Department.

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