Saturday, March 29, 2014

Yee Gods!

The astounding story of Leland Yee.

You may remember Leland Yee. He's a state senator from San Francisco who's appeared in this column a couple of times before: in 2009, when he objected (unsuccessfully) to the appointment of a University of California chancellor who'd been linked to a possible scandal at the University of Illinois; and in 2011, when he demanded an apology from Rush Limbaugh for "mimicking the Chinese language" in a segment mocking Hu Jintao, then "paramount leader" of communist China.
Yee, who was born in China and immigrated at age 3, also made news two weeks ago when, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, he and two other Asian-American state Senate Democrats withdrew their support of a measure that would have brought back racial preferences at California public universities, which the state constitution has banned since 1996. "Yee said he had heard--loud and clear--from Asian Americans who fear that undoing the ban on affirmative action in college admissions would hurt their children's chances of getting into the highly competitive University of California system," the Chronicle noted.
This week Yee was back in the news--and was he ever.
Leland Yee Associated Press
As Fox News sums it up: "Call it 'American Hustle' gone West. An elaborate FBI sting culminated this week after two undercover officers--who posed as East Coast Mafia members--helped take down 26 Californians, including an influential state senator with alleged ties to an Asian mob." That would be Yee, who has reportedly dropped his candidacy for California secretary of state. TheAssociated Press reports Yee is expected to be suspended from the Senate along with two other Democrats who face unrelated criminal charges.
The probe's target was the colorfully nicknamed Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, described by Fox as "a notorious gangster who ran a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong." The San Francisco Chronicle has some background on Chow:
In recent years, the notorious Chinatown gang leader has been telling groups of troubled youths to resist a life of crime while touting his awards from politicians, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who praised him in July 2012 "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent."
Change agent indeed:
Despite his pronouncements of being reformed, Chow remained very much at the heart of a criminal network, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Emmanuel Pascua. . . .
Chow holds a "supreme authority" position in the Triad, an international Chinese organized crime group; heads the Hop Sing Boys, a San Francisco street gang; and serves as the "dragon head," or leader, of the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinese brotherhood that allegedly provided cover for criminal operations after Chow took over in 2006, according to the affidavit.
San Francisco Magazine, part of the Modern Luxury chain, has a summary of the allegations against Yee, "in descending order of [shock value]." Here are the first few:
Yee told an FBI agent to give him a shopping list of guns:"Senator Yee asked [the agent] to provide an inventory list of desired weapons [...] [The agent] told Yee he would deliver $2,000,000 cash."
Yee could arrange [for] some serious firepower: "[The agent] asked about shoulder fired automatic weapons. Senator Yee responded by saying the automatic weapons are the equivalent to the "M16" Automatic Service Weapon [...] [The agent] asked about the availability of shoulder fire missiles or rockets. Senator Yee responded 'I told him about the rockets and things like that.'"
Yee took personal responsibility for delivering the weapons:"Senator Yee said, 'We're interested' in arranging the weapons deal [...] and said of the arms dealer, 'He's going to rely on me, because ultimately it's going to be me.' [The agent] stated he would compensate Yee for brokering the relationship and arms deal."
Yee was in it for the cash: "Senator Yee said, 'Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the good [sic]? I think we can get the goods.'"
Yee masterminded a complex scheme to import illegal weapons: "Keith Jackson [a political consultant who worked as Yee's fundraiser] told [an agent] that Senator Yee had a contact who deals in arms trafficking. This purported arms dealer was later identified. Jackson requested [a campaign donation] on behalf of Senator Yee, for Senator Yee to facilitate a meeting with arms dealer with the intent of [the agent] to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey. During a meeting [...] Senator Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons [the agent] was interested in buying and importing."
Yee also allegedly claimed to have connections to a Filipino terrorist organization: "[The agent] asked about the major Muslim organizations in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Senator Yee responded by saying "M.I.L.F." [The agent] understood M.I.L.F. to be an acronym for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Senator Yee went on to explain there were several factions within the M.I.L.F. Regarding the M.I.L.F., [Wilson Sy] Lim [another defendant] told [the agent] they are his friends but he does not personally associate with them."
In addition, Yee stands accused, in the magazine's words, of taking "envelopes full of cash to influence marijuana policy" and of trading "favors directly for campaign cash" three times.
Yee was for the most part a liberal Democrat, but the Los Angeles Times notes a couple of heterodoxies in addition to his race-preferences reversal: "He opposed a ban on the use of plastic bags by grocery stores, for example, as well as a prohibition on the sale of shark fins that he called 'an attack on Asian culture.' "
A child psychologist, he backed a law "to ban the sale of violent videogames to minors," which the Supreme Court struck down by a 7-2 vote in the 2011 case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association . The most interesting aspect of that case was the two very different dissents: Justice Clarence Thomas would have upheld the law on the ground that the First Amendment was never meant to apply to children, while Justice Stephen Breyer argued that it was constitutional because it was based on sound social science.
But on one topic he held to the standard liberal line. "He was involved in efforts to regulate guns, particularly after the 2012 mass murder of children at a Connecticut elementary school, a tragedy that Yee said touched him," the Times notes. National Review's Tim Cavanaugh elaborates, noting that his arrest in the alleged gun-running conspiracy comes "less than a year after [he was] pushing wide-ranging bills to require micro-stamping, restrict magazine choice, and regulate private handling of legally owned weapons."
By contrast, the Times reports that in dealing with his alleged co-conspirators, "the senator's approach to arms dealing was 'agnostic,' the 137-page [affidavit] says. 'People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don't care,' Yee allegedly said. 'People need certain things.' "
One marvels at the evident hypocrisy. Was Yee's zeal for gun control an expression of a guilty conscience--a moralist's battle with his own inner demons? Or was he consistent in doing whatever seemed expedient? Perhaps that enigma will be unraveled as the case proceeds.
Does Anybody Care About ObamaCare? 
Harry Reid has some good news for his Senate Democratic colleagues who are worried about losing their seats and possibly costing Reid his position as majority leader: "ObamaCare, if you do a poll of anyone, that's dropped way down in significance," CBS News's Washington website quotes him as saying.
But some of those Democratic senators seem less than reassured. Six of them who are "up for reelection or hailing from red states proposed legislation on Thursday aimed at changing parts of the Affordable Care Act," the Hill reports:
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), whom Republicans view as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate, is leading the effort, and is joined by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), both of whom are facing difficult reelection races in 2014.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine) are also on board with the legislation. . . .
The first bill from the group of Democrats would add a new, cheaper option, a copper plan, to ObamaCare's existing menu of platinum, gold, silver and bronze plans. The bill also seeks to spur competition in the marketplaces by restoring funding to nonprofit healthcare co-ops.
The second bill would expand tax credits to small businesses. It would also expand the option for voluntary healthcare coverage from employers with 50 or fewer workers to employers with 100 or fewer.
The third bill would allow consumers to enroll directly through insurers and other Web-based entities besides
A February Wall Street Journal news story elaborated on the first proposal: "Copper plans would cover, on average, 50% of medical costs, and while consumers' out-of-pocket expenses would still be capped, that limit likely would be higher than the $6,350 maximum for individuals and $12,700 for families currently set by the law." In other words, copper plans would be cheaper only as long as the policyholder didn't need to use them.
The Hill has a quote from Landrieu that illustrates the difficulty of defending ObamaCare: "[Constituents] often tell me that they are extremely happy that this is coverage they can finally count on. However, from some constituents I have picked up a few recommendations about how this law can work better. As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No law is."
But some laws are good, and ObamaCare is worse than many very bad laws. When the best defense of a law is the truism that perfection is an impossible standard, that's an indication that the law in question is indefensible.
Out on a Limb 
"Obama: Putin May Have 'Additional Plans' "--headline,, March 28
We Blame George W. Bush 
"Condoleezza Rice Blames Obama for 'Vacuum' That's Led to Putin"--headline, Washington Times, March 27
Shortest Books Ever Written 
"China's War on Pollution"--headline, New York Times, March 29
That Must've Taken Some Arm-Twisting 
"US Forces Japan to Return Some Land to Japan"--headline, Stars and Stripes, March 26
So Much for the War on Drugs 
"Quebec Election Debate: Philippe Couillard Takes a Hit"--headline,, March 27
It's Duck Season! 
"Recent Graduates Want Bugs on America's Dinner Tables"--headline, Harvard Crimson, March 26
Question and Answer--I
  • "Pack an Umbrella, or Not?"--headline, New York Times website, May 14, 2013
  • "Rain, Heavy at Times"--headline, New York Times, March 28, 2014
Question and Answer--II
  • "Will French Be the World's Most-Spoken Language by 2050?"--headline,, March 26
  • "Saint-Paul: Non! Trop, C'est Trop!"--headline, Imaz Press Réunion, March 28
Look Out Below! 
"PLUNGE: New Poll Shows Obamacare Support at 26%"--headlline, Washington Times, March 28
It's Always in the Last Place You Look 
"Rat Outta Hell: Family Finds Enormous 'Ratzilla' in Their Kitchen"--headline,, March 27
News of the Tautological 
" 'Anti-Aging' Hormone May Actually Shorten Life"--headline,, March 27
Breaking News From Genesis 6:9 
"There's Something About 'Noah' "--headline, Chicago Tribune website, March 27
Bottom Story of the Day 
"Oversight Democrats Demand End to Benghazi Probe"--headline,, March 27
Baling Braley Out 
Iowa's Rep., Bruce Braley continues his struggle to recover from his gaffe, noted here Wednesday, in which he disparaged farmers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Des Moines Register reports:
The Braley campaign misspelled a couple of basic Iowa-farm-related words--detasseling and baling--in its press release defending the U.S. Senate candidate's street cred with farms and farmers.
A sharp-eyed Des Moines Register editor noticed that the news release said: "Bruce grew up in rural Iowa and worked on Iowa farms, detassling corn and bailing hay."
Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs also owns up to an error her own paper made earlier this month "by calling a combine a tractor in a photo caption." But the Register isn't running for Senate. Braley is, and he may find he has a tough road to hoe.
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Jeff Bliss, Tony Lima, Michele Schiesser, Todd Dierdorff, John Sanders, Macrena Sailor, Bob Wukitsch, Jameson Campaigne, Robert Paci, Howard Rosenberg, Hillel Markowitz, Ethel Fenig, Irene DeBlasio, Howie Mirkin, Eric Jensen, Merv Benson, Mark Finkelstein, Elliot Eisenberg, Miguel Rakiewicz, John Williamson, Eric Nilsson, Stuart Claghorn, Peter Grace, Wes Van Fleet and Bill West. If you have a tip, write us, and please include the URL.)

No comments: