Sunlight sheds light on Congress’ hidden anti-ethics vote

On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

Our take


Driverless cars are almost here, but can California keep up? Artificial intelligence is almost ready for prime time – and the impact will be felt a lot sooner than many people think. For proof, look no further than the burgeoning industry for driverless cars.

Donald Trump’s move on ethics office was right, but will be rare: When even Donald Trump – who seems willfully blind to his own ethical shortcomings – has a problem with your plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, you know you’ve messed up.


Andrew Malcolm: “You better stop stealing money from your mother’s purse, young man, or I will punish you late this year or perhaps sometime in 2018,” said no parent who was serious about punishment. Yet that’s pretty much what President Barack Obama did with his old-fashioned expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.


Matt Cate and Carolyn Coleman. California can’t afford more delay on road repairs. Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders must reach a deal this year.

Kenneth A. Katz: California must do more to discourage indoor tanning to prevent skin cancer.

Toby Russell: California should be wary about borrowing under a Trump administration.

Take a number: 831

The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang details a fascinating tale of historian Alexandra Minna Stern’s discovery of documents detailing the 20,000 Californians who were sterilized during the eugenics movement of the first half of the 20th century. Zhang quotes Stern as saying she believes 831 may still be alive, and writes: “Ideally, says Stern, the state of California would take on the task of finding these patients and compensating them.” Eugenics was macabre and wrong-headed, although many progressives of the time believed it was wise. A version of the issue came before the California Supreme Court in 1985. The justices voted by a 4-3 vote to overturn a 1980 state law banning the sterilization of severely developmentally disabled people. A mother who lived in Santa Clara had brought the case, worried that her disabled daughter might become pregnant. “If the state withholds from her the only safe and reliable method of contraception suitable to her condition, it necessarily limits her opportunity for habilitation and thereby her freedom to pursue a fulfilling life,” then-Justice Joseph Grodin wrote for the majority. The late Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird dissented, citing California’s “ugly history of sterilization,” warning that the ruling “opens the door to abusive sterilization practices which will serve the convenience of conservators, parents and service providers.” Separately, another a court allowed the sterilization of a Milpitas woman.

Their take

San Diego Union-Tribune: When it comes to big public-works projects, Gov. Jerry Brown has a reputation that he is likely to soon regret: as imperious and arrogant boss who doesn’t want to hear back talk. This abrasiveness could come back to haunt the governor as he tries to win the Legislature’s support for his $15.7 billion plan to build two massive 35-mile water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Chico Enterprise-Record: The small-scale tent city on the south end of Chico may be unauthorized and illegal, but give it credit for one thing: starting an important dialogue about possible solutions for Chico’s homeless people.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: In 2015, over 61,000 Texans were arrested for possession of marijuana. Possession of 2 ounces or less has a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and/or $2,000 fine. Not only is that extreme, it also costs the state time and money to prosecute and house these offenders. Legalization of marijuana, especially for medical use, might not be something the Legislature tackles this year, but it should be discussed.

Philadelphia Inquirer: While the Eagles beat the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, team officials managed to upstage the win by tossing a sportswriter from the press box for talking loudly. Apparently the same code of conduct doesn’t apply to the laundry list of Eagles players who routinely make the police blotter for a variety of offenses.

Chicago Tribune: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing Yellowstone grizzly bears from the threatened and endangered species list. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the Interior Department, Rep. Ryan Zinke, has voted to remove wolves, lynx and sage grouse from the endangered species list. So the grizzly may face new threats in the next four years.

Syndicates take

Kathleen Parker: Convicted killer Dylann Roof is Exhibit A of loner-loser syndrome.

Ruben Navarrette: Let’s fix America’s broken conversation.

Dana Milbank: Trump and Conway’s transition of contradictions.

Trudy Rubin: The fate of Western democracies at stake in 2017.

David Brooks: The Snapchat presidency.


The first step (to protect and strengthen democracy) is to acknowledge that the Democratic Party did not act very democratically during the last election. It may have been nefarious Russian hackers who exposed those private emails, but it was the true and ugly inner workings of the Democratic Party itself that were laid bare. Pat Ford, San Francisco

Tweet of the day

“And while @CongressEthics has been preserved, we’re continuing to track which lawmakers voted to weaken OCE here: http://bit.ly/2hOjcma” – Sunlight Foundation ‏@SunFoundation. Showing the power of crowd-sourcing, the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation called on its followers to contact congressional Republicans to ask how they voted behind closed doors on the measure to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, voted no, Sunlight’s crowd says. Sunlight reports Reps. Jeff Denhman, R-Turlock, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, wouldn’t say how they voted.