Pizza Hut vs. Welfare State

“Calif. fast-food chains slash workers as $20-an-hour minimum wage looms” (New York Post):

Michael Ojeda, a Pizza Hut driver for eight years in Ontario, Calif., received one of the notes from Pizza Hut franchisee Southern California Pizza in December telling him that his last day of work would be in February.

Southern California Pizza — which operates 224 Pizza Huts in the greater Los Angeles area — offered $400 in severance if Ojeda stayed through February, according to The Journal.

But Ojeda, who told the outlet that he made hundreds of dollars a week in wages and tips as a delivery driver, decided to claim unemployment instead.

“Pizza Hut was my career for nearly a decade and with little to no notice it was taken away,” said 29-year-old Ojeda, who was supporting his mother and partner on his Pizza Hut delivery wages.

Even if you don’t depend on Pizza Hut to maintain your BMI, there is much of interest in the above. The restaurant was out-competed for Mr. Ojeda’s time and effort by the Welfare State. Also, in the Department of American Family Disintegration, Mr. Ojeda is not supporting an intact mom and dad, but he’s instead supporting his mom and a sex partner who isn’t his biological father. (Though maybe it is instead a 2SLGBTQQIA+ love story? The “partner” could be Mr. Ojeda’s same-gender partner and not the mom’s partner.)

The article reminds us of the importance of connections in a planned economy:

Panera Bread, however, was ruled exempt from the $20-an-hour minimum wage hike by Gov. Gavin Newsom after the billionaire owner of several of the chain’s locations donated to his campaign, according to a report.


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People who say that border walls are immoral and ineffective stack up shipping containers and razor wire

“Border walls don’t make us safer or stronger, says political scientist” (, 2019): “[the partial border fence between the U.S. and Mexico is] not actually keeping immigrants out, but it has magnified the cost and peril for migrants on the one hand and created an enormous illegal smuggling industry on the other.”

Fast forward to January 2024 and the university-owned People’s Park in Berkeley, California, formerly a home for the unhoused, became home to a border wall of shipping containers and razor wire, with guards posted at all four corners. A photo from March 2024:

“UC Berkeley adds razor wire to part of People’s Park shipping container wall” (Berkeleyside, Janary 11, 2024):

UC Berkeley spokesperson Kyle Gibson said the “security wire” was installed on portions of the wall near buildings on the west side of the property, and would not fully encircle the site. Officials were concerned someone could scale those buildings, then have an easier time getting on top of the barrier that was constructed last week, Gibson said.

“It’s meant to prevent people from being able to easily climb on top of the containers,” he said. “It’s purely there for safety and security.”

The 160 double-stacked shipping containers, some of which have also been outfitted with security cameras and lights, are meant to secure the open space through construction of a 1,100-bed student and supportive housing complex now before the state Supreme Court.

In other words, the unhoused are making way for paying customers.

What are all the marks on the containers you might ask? Apparently, the containers were richly plastered in pro-Hamas signage until just a few days before I was there.

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Housing Justice in Berkeley, California

Here’s a photo of an unhoused person sleeping next to a classic Volkswagen Microbus used to advertise the availability, for those with money, of sparkling new apartments:

Housing is a human right, say the folks who live in the Bay Area, but somehow they never reduce their personal consumption in order to build housing for the unhoused.

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Warning to Californians about the chemical hazards of playing pinball

From the creative geniuses at Stern, a James Bond Premium machine, NIB:

A harmless diversion? Only if you think that cancer, birth defects, and “reproductive harm” are harmless! The warning to Californians about what might happen to them if they are brave enough to unbox this machine:

Speaking of brave, an 8-year-old confronts Carcharodon carcharias, with a little help from Keith Elwin, the designer of #1-ranked Godzilla and, most recently, Jaws:

(The Premium and LE versions are the ones to buy because the shark comes up from underneath the playfield, but our favorite Jupiter, Florida pinball dealer has yet to receive any of those.)

Loosely related:

  • Straight Outta Compton… “Body of California pit bull breeder killed by his own dogs found in backyard kennel” (New York Post): “A California dog breeder was mauled to death by pit bulls he was raising, authorities said as his dog-ravaged body was found inside a kennel in the backyard of his home on Friday. … His father consented to sign over the dogs to Animal Care & Control for “impoundment and examination.” (the pups will be available for adoption soon and with no warning label?)
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California continues to bleed high-income residents due to its deep dive into coronapanic

I was chatting with a software engineer who has been at Facebook (“Meta”) for about 10 years. His wife works an Excel-oriented analytics job for a company on the Peninsula. After their employers went 100-percent remote, they began spending more and more time in Hawaii. They grew to love it out there and now have purchased a family-sized house in Hawaii and are planning to move there full-time. Together they probably earn between $500,000 and $1 million/year. They’ll stop paying over $30,000 per year in property tax in California and start paying property tax on a multi-$million place in Hawaii. They’ll stop paying California income tax and begin paying income tax to Hawaii. What about schools? “The public schools in California are terrible,” said the Facebooker, “and the private schools are extremely expensive and in depressing facilities. The public schools in Hawaii might be even worse, but the private schools are cheap and they’re in beautiful natural settings between the beach and the mountains.”

This is plainly not a financially motivated move. Hawaii’s Department of Taxation proudly states that it is one of the highest tax places in the U.S.:

Hawaii has one of the highest income tax burdens of any state for all income levels

… The state ranks between first and the third place for highest income tax burden for every income level. Hawaii has the highest tax burden for very high-income taxpayers making over $500,000 filing single and $1,000,000 filing jointly, highlighting the progressivity of the state’s brackets.

In addition to paying high taxes, they’ll incur higher-even-than-California prices for many significant items.

This is a move that never could have happened, however, if California hadn’t developed a culture of maximum coronapanic, which necessarily spawned a culture of remote work.

Maybe Shohei Ohtani moving in to collect $700 million will help Gavin Newsom? ABC says he’ll likely pay California tax on only 3 percent of the headline number:

The Dodgers will pay Ohtani $20 million over the next decade, when the baseball star will be hitting and, health permitting, pitching for the National League powerhouse.

It’s the decade after that when the Dodgers will really start to pay Ohtani — $68 million per year from 2034-43. Ohtani will turn 40 in 2034, an age when most Major League Baseball players have retired. By then, Ohtani could stop playing baseball and choose not to live in California, potentially avoiding for the bulk of his salary the state’s 13.3% income tax and 1.1% payroll tax for State Disability Insurance.

With 97% of Ohtani’s Dodgers income deferred, it means California — where there is an estimated $68 billion budget deficit this year — will have to wait at least a decade before it can collect taxes on the bulk of his salary, if it can collect at all. California could collect taxes from Ohtani’s significant endorsement deals, assuming Ohtani is a California resident.

Loosely related, one of my favorite Hawaii snapshots, captured on 6×6 cm film with a Rollei.

(I personally wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii. The topography makes it mostly impossible to build standard walkable/bikeable towns and cities with a grid of roads. The typical Hawaiian island is a strip of development on a ring road and that ring road has become extremely congested. For those who love Asia, Hawaii seems like it might be a reasonable choice, but it is a 9-hour flight to Tokyo and 11 hours to Korea. You’re not going to go to Asia for a long weekend.)


  • “The wealthiest Californians are fleeing the state. Why that’s very bad news for the economy” (LA Times, December 2023): “… in the years 2015-16, an individual or couple who had moved from California to Texas reported an average income of $78,000, about the same as Texans who relocated to California. But by 2020-21, California transplants in Texas reported an average income of about $137,000, while tax returns from former Texans who moved to California showed an average income of $75,000. The income gap between those coming into California and those going out is even bigger when it comes to Florida, which, as far away as it is, has become a top five destination for emigrating Californians.”
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Gavin Newsom is the best-qualified governor to serve as U.S. President…

…. because he has experience with running a government at a structural deficit, something that states are theoretically not allowed to do.

California has been in the news lately for its forecast $68 billion budget deficit, about 30 percent of total spending by the state government and about $7,000 per significant taxpayer (in just one year) if we assume that only about 10 million Californians are earning enough to live an unsubsidized life. The report that is the basis for these media stories has a more interesting figure, though:

Like the federal government, the California state government is set up to spend more than it collects in tax revenue. California can’t print money the way that the Feds do. I’m wondering what their theory is for how they can run deficits indefinitely. Do they believe that the U.S. is in a huge slump right now and better economic times are around the corner once another 10 or 20 million undocumented cross the border? And that migrant-fueled economic boom will increase tax revenue to move the state back into surplus? In the previous version of this report, the analysts said that the budget had to be balanced every year (but reserves can still be spent to allow a deficit?):

What’s the near-term solution that the legislature’s analysts propose? Cutting spending on education! I can’t see a proposed long-term solution in these documents, though.

Oh yes, let’s also look at how good the best and brightest humans are at economic prophecy. The previous year’s report forecast a deficit for 2024-5… of about $17 billion.


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Proper burial for an aviator: Portal of the Folded Wings in Burbank

After a business trip to Pasadena, I caught a flight to Las Vegas (for 9 minutes of Formula 1) out of Burbank. On the way, I stopped at the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation. This 1924 structure is a fitting final destination for those who have tackled the challenges of flying. Here are some photos:

There is a Space Shuttle memorial in the front:

It’s California, so help yourself to whatever you want at CVS, Apple, or the Nike store, but don’t steal any flowers. That’s an actual “crime.”

Who are some of the people memorialized here?

John Moisant, who made it across the English Channel in a Blériot XI and died four months later on the site of the big New Orleans Airport shortly afterwards, and sister Matilde:

If you don’t mind your ashes being interred in a lockdown state, it looks as though there are still spaces available because folks who died recently are under the floor (I think):

I wonder if EAA could build something like this in Oshkosh. There is actually a cemetery right next to the airport:

Pricing at this cemetery is quite reasonable: $1,100 per plot.

If it’s just ashes, though, and a bronze plaque, maybe there could be a structure like this Portal almost anywhere within the annual EAA AirVenture event grounds or, perhaps, near the EAA Museum.

For aviators who did not appreciate lockdowns, perhaps there could be something like the Portal in the Florida Free State? Orlando has a rich aviation history, is 100′ above sea level in case Professor Dr. Greta #FreePalestine Thunberg, M.D., Ph.D. proves to be correct about future ocean height, and is a common destination for travelers who might wish to pay their respects to a departed aviator.

Who’s an expert on cemetery startups? If there are no full caskets/bodies, is it tough to get zoning approval? It could even be a monument with no ashes at all. Since the deceased were aviators, their ashes could be scattered in the air. Maybe airport management would then be happy to have it on airport grounds. Pay your respects, return your rental car, catch your flight out of MCO.

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Checking the COVID-19 Olympics scores for Florida and California ahead of the DeSantis v. Newsom debate

Governor French Laundry and Governor Science Denial are debating this evening. Let’s do a little pre-debate fact-checking. Americans have agreed that all of a society’s success can be measured by the society’s score in the COVID-19 Olympics. A society that achieved 0 COVID-tagged deaths by pushing all of its citizens into Hamas-style tunnels for 10 years (until a vaccine-style vaccine became available that definitively reduced deaths on a population-wide basis) would, for example, be celebrated as the best of all possible societies.

Lockdown-champ California starts off in the lead in the COVID-19 Olympics by having a lower COVID-19-tagged death rate. Once you adjust for the percentage of the population over 65, however, the death rates are about the same and the excess death rate may actually be higher in California (the CDC makes these data available, but somehow doesn’t bother to make it easy to compare states).

Where is SARS-CoV-2 having a field day right now? The CDC’s wastewater page:

The Science-denying Republican strongholds of Minnesota and Vermont are seriously plagued (God hates Republicans and loves #Science). California is moderately plagued and the plague level in Florida is “low”. In other words, if we accept that current Scientific dogma that humans, especially politicians and bureaucrats, are in charge of viruses, Gavin Newsom’s lockdowns, mask orders, forced vaccinations, school closures, etc. have resulted in a higher rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection than the Team Sweden approach that Ron DeSantis adopted in the summer of 2020 (see Ron DeSantis and Coronapanic for excerpts from the not-so-great man’s book).

I continue to maintain my position that Nikki Haley would be more likely to prevail over Joe Biden in November 2024 because Ron D doesn’t have the soothing optimistic tone that Americans love. For example, Americans want to believe that someone who hates Jews and loves jihad will do a 180-degree flip once exposed to suburban life in Michigan or Minnesota. Ron just says “no”:

(Possible influence for Ron D’s rejection of Immigration Dogma: Florida is where, in 2016 (prior to Ron DeSantis assuming the governorship), first-generation Afghan-American Omar Mir Seddique Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub. Mr. Mateen came from a “moderate Muslim” family and had spent his entire 29-year life in the land of Diversity is Our Strength (TM).)

Loosely related:

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The wheels of justice move even slower than traffic in Los Angeles

“Under the 10 Freeway: Immigrant businesses scraped by while landlord dodged Caltrans” (Los Angeles Times):

Their landlord, Apex, owned by Ahmad Anthony Nowaid, had failed to pay rent on the 48,000-square-foot triangular lot at South Alameda and East 14th streets for more than a year, and owed $78,000, according to Caltrans, which sued the company for back rent in September.

The property was one of five that Caltrans was attempting to evict Apex and another Nowaid company from, including a plot along the 5 Freeway in Sun Valley and another a block away from the fire. All told, Nowaid owed about $620,000 to Caltrans in unpaid rent as of September, the agency said in court filings.

In April, court records say, a Caltrans employee visited the lot and told tenants to stop paying their rent to Apex as the state planned to evict the company.

Several tenants, including Serafin, said they stopped paying Nowaid this month after receiving notice from the court to appear for the lawsuit in December. They said that the moment they stopped paying rent, Nowaid threatened to lock the gates again.

The story is interesting because you’d think that the government would have great access to its own courts, yet a California state agency was apparently unable to use the California state courts to evict a nonpaying tenant. Via their strong tenants rights laws, Californians managed to flambée their own 10-lane freeway (not sure if freeway is masculine or feminine in French, but in California it can identify as any gender, presumably).

Separately, the headline references “immigrant businesses”. Diversity was supposed to be the freeway’s strength. The primary tenant was named “Ahmad”, an Arabic name that is a diminutive of “Mohammed”. The article describes the subtenants as immigrants from Mexico. As a group, they should have been super strong, yet the article describes the result as economically marginal.

“I lost everything,” Serafin said. “We are not educated people. Most of the people are people that crossed the border, work hard, or maybe grew up here. But we are working-class people. We break our back to barely make a good living.”

The triangular tract was chaotic, with no clear entrance or address, and with unhoused people living in tents and trailers outside its gates. Graffiti was scrawled around the perimeter. Inside, workers and equipment shared close quarters amid the stacks of pallets.

Serafin said fires regularly broke out in encampments around the property, but calls to police or for cleanups often went unheeded. He and others would sometimes pay homeless people $20 just to move away from their businesses.

“We’re living paycheck to paycheck,” said Jose Luis Villamil Rodriguez, 53, who had a mechanic stand under the freeway.

Maybe it works better for private landlords? An aviation friend owns some apartment buildings in California. He says to budget $80,000 to $200,000 in legal fees to evict a tenant who doesn’t pay rent and 1-2 years of time, but “if the word ‘Covid’ is mentioned they get 4 years.”

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Grand Theft Auto comes to life in Los Angeles

Someone torched a homeless encampment and a pallet storage facility underneath a 10-lane freeway, melting the guard rails and resulting in a shower of concrete that had been supporting the freeway. A gaming enthusiast striving for a high score in Grand Theft Auto? No. Real life in Los Angeles this weekend. The Daily Mail:

Coincidentally, our tender 8- and 10-year-olds were at a birthday party this weekend where the hosts brought in a “gaming truck” with Xbox. Their mom was supervising, saw Mario on the outside of the truck, and decided that it would be okay if the boys played “a racing game”. At dinner, the boys recounted the fun that they’d had smashing into buildings, running over criminals, stealing and punching, etc. “Were you playing Grand Theft Auto?” I asked. “Yes, that was the name of the game!” they responded.

I had always thought of Grand Theft Auto, which I’ve never played, as American. What other country has a lot of cars and social decay? Wikipedia, however, says that the creators are Scottish.

Proving that there is always balance in the universe, just as Los Angeles was being trashed by this fire San Francisco was being cleaned up. Also from the Daily Mail“Outrage as San Francisco boots vagrants off streets ahead of Xi Jinping visit – as California Governor Gavin Newsom admits woke city was only given polish to impress world leaders”:

  • In the span of a few days, the city scrubbed seven intersections in the notorious Tenderloin and South of Market – leaving the hotspots almost unrecognizable
  • Where tents were once propped up, sidewalks are clear and spotless. Locales where homeless once congregated are cleared, video from the sites shows
  • Hangouts along Mission Street and Market are no more, along with an open drug market that for over a year has been outside the Nancy Pelosi Federal building
  • Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted the clean-ups were only done to provide a good impression for visiting world leaders

Gavin Newsom said that the idea of a border wall was “a monument to stupidity” and “a distraction” when Trump proposed it. Here’s the new San Francisco border wall:

Let’s check on traffic in LA at 10:30 am on a Monday:

It doesn’t look worse than usual!

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