California Parole Board Recommends Release Of Crazed Manson Family Killer Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Van Houten, Manson Family Member, Recommended For Parole – CNN

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After 19 denials, Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten is a step closer to being free, after a parole board panel recommended her release, a spokesman for the California department of corrections said Thursday.

The full Board of Parole Hearings will review the decision during the next four months, then could send the case to California Gov. Jerry Brown, according to corrections spokesman Luis Patino.

Brown will have 30 days to decide whether to approve or deny the recommendation.

Van Houten and others were convicted for the 1969 murders of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Van Houten was sentenced to death in 1971 but one year later the death penalty was overturned. Her first conviction was overturned, too, because her lawyer died before that trial ended.

She was tried twice more (one ended in a hung jury) and in 1978 was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1994, Van Houten described her part in the killings in a prison interview with CNN’s Larry King.

“I went in and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor and I stabbed her,” said Van Houten, who was 19 at the time of the murders. “In the lower back, around 16 times.”

Van Houten reportedly has apologized to the LaBianca family.

She was not directly involved in the killings of five people at the home of film director Roman Polanski, near Hollywood. Among the victims that night was Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.

Van Houten, 66, was convicted of being involved in the conspiracy of those killings and for the murders of the LaBiancas the next night.

She has been described as a model prisoner who worked with other inmates and who earned a college degree.

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California’s Drought: Not An Environmental Problem. An Environmentalist Problem. (Steven Greenhut)

California’s Drought: Not An Environmental Problem. An Environmentalist Problem. – Steven Greenhut

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I was walking through downtown Sacramento recently when raindrops started falling. People on the street stopped dead in their tracks, looked up at the sky, and began acting giddy. “What’s that?” I asked a man. “I think it’s something called rain,” he responded. Such is the gallows humor in a state that hasn’t seen substantial rainfall in years.

The obvious lack of rain is the seemingly obvious reason for the state’s lack of sufficient water. Water levels in state reservoirs are falling, officials are cracking down on “excess” water use (lawn-watering, etc.), and voters passed a water bond on the 2014 ballot to help fund more storage. The Capitol crowd is obsessed with the water issue, while local planners use the crisis to clamp down on building permits.

State officials say California’s drought is “one of the most severe droughts on record,” and they warn that even an El Niño rainy season is unlikely to fix the situation. In fact, nothing seems to fix the situation. Californians have slashed their water use by 31 percent during July – well above the 25-percent reduction targeted by the governor. And there’s still not enough water.

But as this series will show, California’s drought is largely a man-made crisis. It is caused by a series of policies – some from the past, many ongoing – which has prioritized environmental demands above the basic provision of water resources to the public. More than half of the state’s water resources simply flow out the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

Even now, in the Sierra foothills, state officials empty reservoirs to protect “unimpeded” river flows to benefit small numbers of non-endangered hatchery fish. The California Coastal Commission, the powerful agency with control of development along the shoreline, is holding up a privately planned desalination plant over concerns about its impact on plankton. The environment-friendly commission want to force the developers to build a pumping system that destroys the economics of the plant.

Meanwhile, slow-growth activists see opportunity in the drought. Their goal is to stop new developments despite California’s growing population, so a lack of water is a useful tool in their arsenal. A state law forces developers to prove sufficient water resources for decades into the future – before being able to get a permit to build developments. This slow-growth lobby sees no reason to come up with water-storage solutions.

Even the federal government is in on the action. In the far northern part of the state, along the Klamath River, federal environment officials want to remove four dams that provide water storage near the Oregon border. Their goal is to help preserve the habitat of non-native salmon. The “destroy the dams” movement had gained so much steam in recent years that San Franciscans were asked in a 2012 advisory vote to destroy the O’Shaughnessy dam in Yosemite National Park and drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – the main source of water for the state’s third-largest city. Even that city’s notoriously lefty voters said “no” to shutting their main water spigot.

If one takes a map of the state of California and turns it on its side, with the Pacific boundary at the bottom, it’s easy to better understand the state’s water geology. Water flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through rivers that head toward San Francisco Bay. It all ends up in a place called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the West Coast’s largest estuary. That’s near the lowest point in your sideways map. Then it heads to the bay and, then, the ocean.

When you hear Californians argue about the Delta, that’s what they are talking about. It’s a 1,100-square-mile area with 1,000 miles of rivers filled with historic towns, orchards, swamps, islands, and marinas. That estuary serves as a giant water filter. Primarily, the mighty Sacramento River meanders through the delta, kept within its banks by a series of aged dirt levees. A pumping station at the south end near Tracy sends water along a system of canals to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley – and also to the Southern metropolises.

During wet years, the estuary is filled with fresh water. During droughts, the salinity levels are high as water from the Pacific migrates eastward. That region remains Ground Zero for the state’s water fights. The fate of a tiny baitfish called the Delta Smelt is central here. Occasionally, a few dead smelt are found at the fish screens in Tracy, which causes administrators to shut down water supplies from the Delta toward the south. Water supplies are also stopped during drought years.

In 1982, our past and current governor, Jerry Brown, wanted to build a peripheral canal that would bypass the crumbling levees and take Sacramento River water around the Delta – before heading to the farm and urban water users. The state’s voters rejected that measure. Southern Californians were mostly indifferent to the idea, but Northern Californians resented having more of “their” water sent away.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan is to build twin tunnels under the Delta to provide a more consistent water supply southward. The planned cost: $25 billion for the total project, with a separate portion geared toward environmental restoration. Northern Californians are still mostly against it, as they claim it’s a water grab by Los Angeles-based users. (To understand the emotions, watch “Chinatown,” the 1974 movie about the deceptive way Owens Valley water was diverted to the Southland to spur the growth of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley).

Looking deeply into the plan, this much is clear: The newly renamed “California Water Fix” doesn’t even promise more water to southern cities. It simply promises a more consistent water supply. The twin tunnels are designed to change the flow of the rivers and protect the Delta Smelt. With the smelt protected, there will be fewer reasons to shut the pumps. In other words, this is a costly engineering solution to a political problem.

And therein lies California’s main water problem. No one here denies the importance of the environment or that some portion of the state’s scarce water resources needs to be used to protect wetlands and river habitats. But the balance of power has shifted from those who believe that people come first to those who seem to view the population as a scourge.

In April, I reported on a contentious meeting at the Oakdale Irrigation District east of Modesto. Farmers and local residents were aghast. The state and federal officials insisted on releasing massive amounts of water from the large New Melones Reservoir and Lake Tulloch, a small lake downstream from New Melones surrounded by homes. As the governor was threatening fines for people who take long showers, his State Water Resources Control Board was going to empty reservoirs to save about a dozen fish.

The local farmers and residents were asking for a temporary reprieve. I remember the words of one of the district officials, who was calling for “off ramps” during times of severe drought. That’s jargon for temporarily putting aside some of the more aggressive environmental demands at a time when farms and people are out of water. Bad publicity delayed the “pulse flows,” but by September water officials began insisting on new releases.

Recent reports showed that farmers use 80 percent of California’s water resources. It’s true that farmers are an important interest group. And because of the state’s old and quirky system of water rights, we see infuriating misuses of resources – e.g., farmers growing water-intensive hay in one of the driest regions on Earth, the southern Imperial Valley.

But that 80 percent number was deceptive because it completely omitted environmental uses of water, which constitute more than 50 percent of the state’s flows. Farmers, businesses, and residents fight over what remains. What we’re seeing – water releases to benefit a small number of common fish, removing dams along major rivers, delays of desalination plants, failure to build adequate water storage – is not an anomaly. It is the cumulative effect of water policies dominated by environmental interests.

It wasn’t always this way. In earlier days, California’s water policies had more in common (and with some admittedly ill environmental effect) with the ideas of capitalist defender Ayn Rand than John Muir, the famed naturalist whose environmental legacy dominates California discussions. California leaders were proud of taming the wilderness and building massive infrastructure projects – especially water projects – that allowed the state’s phenomenal growth.

In 1961, when Jerry Brown’s dad, Pat Brown, was governor, the State Water Project was begun. “The project includes 34 storage facilities, reservoirs and lakes; 20 pumping plants; four pumping-generating plants; five hydroelectric power plants; and about 701 miles of open canals and pipelines,” according to a state description. “The project provides supplemental water to approximately 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.”

I’ve toured a lot of the facilities and even was on an official tour of the Colorado River project, following the water as it flowed from reservoirs behind New Deal-era dams at the Arizona border down to the treatment facility in the Los Angeles. It was quite a feat to build these projects. As I argued in my Orange County Register column at the time, it could never be replicated today in a world of Environmental Impact Statements, greenmail lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act, and a political system dominated by officials more interested in quashing human development than providing the means for humans to thrive in this arid climate.

Sure, it would help if it rained – but the lack of rain is the least of California’s drought problems.

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Parasitic Leftist Update: California City Councilman Appoints 2 Illegal Aliens As Commissioners

Huntington Park Council Appoints 2 Undocumented Immigrants As Commissioners – KNX

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Huntington Park became the first city in California to appoint two undocumented immigrants as commissioners on city advisory boards, a lawmaker confirms.

City Councilman Jhonny Pineda has picked Francisco Medina to join the health and education commission and Julian Zatarain for the parks and recreation commission.

The 32-year-old lawmaker told CBSLA online producer Deborah Meron that he promised voters while running for office that he would create more opportunities for undocumented residents.

“Huntington Park is a city of opportunity and a city of hope for all individuals regardless of socioeconomic status, race, creed, or in this case, citizenship,” the councilman said in a statement. “Both these gentlemen have accomplished a great deal for the city. For that, on behalf of the city council, mayor, and our city, I want to say thank you to them both and I am confident they will do an excellent job on their commission posts.”

The announcement was met with uproar at a city council meeting held in Huntington Park on Monday night.

“You only want to appoint these specific individuals, only two, because they’re your personal friends that worked on your campaign,” one resident stated to Pineda at the meeting. “Shame on you.”

Community activist Sandra Orozco also spoke out against the appointments, stating that they send the wrong message to the community and to the country.

“We’re sending the wrong message to other cities that you can be illegal, and you can come and work for a city,” Orozco said.

Mayor Karina Macias, meanwhile, was vocal in her support of the appointments on Monday, arguing that those who live here deserve a voice, whether they are legal or not.

Pineda says he cleared the appointments with the city attorney, who confirmed there’s nothing that requires a commissioner to be a registered voter, a documented citizen or even a resident, which technically means someone here without legal residency can serve.

“We need to make sure that we bring everyone together to the table here in Huntington Park so that we can make sure we’re sharing the same vision,” Pineda said.

Appointees first passed a LifeScan background check.

Medina and Zatarain would not be paid for the volunteer positions and would not have a direct hand in constructing policy but would help advise the council on legislation. Other commissioners receive a $75 monthly stipend on months when they hold meetings.

Medina attended the meeting on Monday evening but did not want to get into a debate with critics.

“I’m not going to say anything,” Medina explained. “I’m just happy for the fortune that I have, and I’m going to do my best to represent every single resident in Huntington Park, regardless if you’re undocumented, regardless if you are a citizen. We’re just going to be working for everyone.”

Coming the same year that California allowed residents to apply for a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, this move is the latest in an effort to recognize an increasingly sizable demographic in the state.

Pineda says at 13 years old he emigrated alone to the United States. He established legal residency and told Meron he feels blessed to have been able to come here and work. He’s served as a district representative on the California State Senate and legislative assistant for the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently is president of the California Latino Leadership Institute, an organization designed for young professionals interested in leadership development and serving their community.

This is Pineda’s first year on the Huntington Park City Council.

The councilman touched on his childhood in Central America and says there would be nights he’d come home to a house with no food.

He says the criticism of people who emigrate illegally often comes without understanding the hardship they leave behind.

When asked whether he expected any reaction to his commissioner selections, Pineda said: “Having worked at the federal level, I understand that not everything that you do reflects good on the entire nation. Of course, we’re going to have people who disagree with me, but I’m fine with that.”

Pineda says he selected Medina and Zatarain primarily for their contributions to the city.

A graduate from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and Chicano studies, Medina interned for then-Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who now serves on the Los Angeles City Council, Pineda says. Medina also organizes immigration forums aimed a helping working-class communities.

Zatarain is a student at Santa Monica Community College who came to the U.S. in 2007, according to Pineda. At Huntington Park High School, he served as ASB president and graduated with the highest GPA in his class. He acted as campus representative for English as a Second Language program and created a club to help ESL students prepare for college. Pineda says he created a local chapter of the Red Cross and organized several blood drives. Zatarain wants to attend law school.

Pineda says the decision announced at the City Council meeting Monday became official after being processed by the council.

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Over Half Of All California Drivers Licenses Issued This Year Have Gone To Illegal Aliens

Most New California Licenses Go To Drivers In Country Illegally – Fox News

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More than half of all new California driver’s licenses this year have gone to people who are in the country illegally, the state said Friday

The California Department of Motor Vehicles reported it has issued roughly 397,000 licenses to people who live in the country illegally. A total of 759,000 licenses have been issued in the first six months of the year. The DMV only issued 435,000 licenses in the first six months of 2014.

The new law initially generated huge interest causing long lines at motor vehicle offices in January and February. The DMV expects to see about one million more applicants over the next three years who are covered under new law.

“We hope that all of those people will be able to pass the testing and have the necessary documents to obtain” a license, said DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez.

Supporters of the law say giving licenses to people regardless of their immigration status makes the road safer for everyone. New drivers say having a license means they can travel more freely for work or pleasure.

“It’s great that people are taking advantage of this new law,” said Jackelin Aguilar, community organizer for Placer People of Faith Together, an Auburn, California-based group that supports the new licenses.

“It’s definitely a step forward for the families, and having identification is huge,” Aguilar said.

Opponents say people who get into the country illegally shouldn’t be rewarded.

Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which advocates for legal and limited immigration, criticized California for making life easier for people in the country illegally, at the expense of citizens and legal residents.

“There are now 400,000 more signals to people all over the world that working illegally in California is encouraged by the government itself,” he said.

About 687,000 people have applied for the licenses issued to illegal immigrants. Applicants must pass driving tests and show proof of residency and identity.

The new license is marked differently than those issued to other drivers in the state and is not considered a valid form of federal identification, for example, to board an airplane.

More than 1.1 million people who qualify for the new licenses took the written driver’s test between Jan. 2 and June 30, and 436,000 have also taken a behind-the-wheel driving test.

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More Proof That Leftists Are Dumber Than Dirt… As If We Needed More

California To Force Porn Actresses To Wear Safety Goggles On Set – Downtrend

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In their never ending quest to control all aspects of life with silly regulations, the liberal ninnies that run California have come up with a long list of safety rules for porno film shoots. Among other things, they want to require actors and actresses to wear safety goggles while performing sex scenes. It would seem as if the state has become every adult in the movie A Christmas Story: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board released a 21-page proposal of porno regulations. If you find it funny that the state is pushing this volume of rules for porn shoots, it’s even more hilarious that they spent 5-years of hearings and research to come up with this stuff.

One of the big recommendations is to make condom use mandatory for all filmed sex scenes, something Los Angles passed into law recently. As unenforceable as that is, there’s even more hard-to-regulate regulations:

No one on a porn set would be allowed to pick up broken glass with their hands. They’d have to use a broom and dust pan.

Porn actors would not be allowed to share razors or any personal grooming devices.

Porn sets would have to be covered in plastic protective coverings capable of keeping the area safe from contamination.

There’s a set of rules regarding the cleaning of dildos.

Porn producers would have to provide soap to the actors that is not irritating.

Anyone handling clothing, including the actors, must wear latex gloves.

And the best of the bunch: If there is to be a facial “money shot” actors and actresses would have to wear eye protection. In fact, the facial as we know it would be outlawed by these regulations:

6. Barrier protection for the eyes, skin, mouth, and mucous membranes. The employer shall not permit ejaculation onto the employee’s eyes, non-intact skin, mouth or other mucous membranes.

In addition to this stuff, there are pages and pages of regulations requiring that porn producers provide vaccinations, laundry service, and my favorite: that they post warning signs on the set. It’s not real clear what these warning signs should be, but I imagine “Caution: Splash Zone” would do the trick.

In addition, there are 10 different regulations related to condom use, including mandatory lubricant. If a porn actor changes the point of entry, he must then remove the condom and put on a new one.

Cal/OSHA is holding public hearings on their massive porn regulation proposal and will soon make a decision on whether to implement these rules or not. This being California, it’s a given that they will vote in favor of unrealistic unenforceable regulations.

I think it will be hilarious to see a porno shot with all of these rules in place: the walls and furniture are covered in plastic drop cloths, the actor and actress are wearing latex gloves and safety goggles, every time they switch positions the actor stops to apply a new condom and lubricant, when it’s over crew members in biohazard suits rush in to quickly decontaminate the set. It should be pretty hot.

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Shocker! California’s Obamacare Exchange Plagued By Incompetence, Mismanagement

Incompetence, Mismanagement Plague California’s Obamacare Insurance Exchange – Daily Signal

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California’s health insurance exchange, established under the Affordable Care Act, has been held out as a national model for Obamacare. In some ways – not all of them good – it is. Whether it’s falling far short of 2015 enrollment goals or sending out 100,000 inaccurate tax forms, Covered California is struggling with its share of challenges.

Now, several senior-level officials integral to the launch of Covered California – who enthusiastically support the Affordable Care Act – are speaking about what they view as gross incompetence and mismanagement involving some of the $1 billion federal tax dollars poured into the state effort.

‘Somebody Must Have Been Smoking Something’

Consultant Aiden Hill became a “foxhole convert” to Obamacare in July of 2010 when he lost his insurance, had a serious medical issue and couldn’t get a new policy.

“I lived through a health care nightmare. That’s one reason why I took a cut in my pay rate to work for Covered California.”

In March 2013, Hill was hired as project manager over Covered California’s massive $120 million call center effort. In just six short months, it would face an avalanche of customers seeking insurance mandated under the new law.

But five months on the job converted Hill from avid supporter to disenchanted whistleblower. He says the secretive and dysfunctional culture was more interested in cheerleading than real results. After he persistently raised concerns, Covered California abruptly terminated his contract. He says the experience drove him to raise allegations about waste and cover ups at a Covered California board meeting.

Covered California quietly launched an independent investigation into Hill’s grievances. Nine months later, the results were summarized in four sentences stating that evidence did “not support” Hill’s complaints. Hill calls the probe a sham and says the inquiry didn’t include interviews with many witnesses he suggested.

Today, Hill describes himself as disgusted by the process – and soured on Obamacare.

“I really believe that we’ve created a monster – and it’s an unaccountable monster,” Hill told The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined comment on Hill’s allegations.

Other officials integral to Covered California’s efforts concur with Hill’s assessment. One of them headed the largest call center.

“They started this way too late for what they needed to do,” says the official who was hired in April 2013, five months before the website’s launch. He has since left that position and asked not to be named to protect his current job status.

“This program had to touch 58 counties, 11 federal agencies, all medical carriers and all advocates. To have a system that would be integrated seamlessly – somebody must have been smoking something if they thought that was going to happen.”

Disappointing Enrollment

It’s against that backdrop that Covered California finds itself now grappling with a big disappointment: low enrollment growth. California ranked near the bottom in overall growth, with a scant 1 percent increase over last year.

“It’s a tiny fraction of the growth they were expecting,” says an official who helped implement the Affordable Care Act and examined California’s numbers.

As recently as last fall, the official says, California hoped to increase enrollment by 500,000 this year. But only an additional 7,098 have “selected a plan” for 2015.

“Their total enrollment is a step in the right direction but nowhere near what anyone thought it would be for the largest state in the country.”

Covered California would not answer our questions about enrollment figures.

Another telling statistic is Covered California’s poor retention rate. Even though people are required by law to have health insurance, only 65 percent of Covered California’s 2014 customers reenrolled in 2015. The rest dropped off.

Covered California would not address our questions about lackluster retention and growth.

Last month, the agency issued a press release touting a younger and more diverse mix of customers.

“New enrollment for 2015 coverage is strong and has brought in consumers who our marketing and outreach targeted,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, overlooking the fact that his organization’s retention of last year’s customers was among the lowest in the country.

Hoping for a bump, California followed the lead of the federal HealthCare.gov effort and repeatedly extended this year’s enrollment deadline. The Feb. 15 cutoff was pushed back to Feb. 20 and then Feb. 22. Now, it’s been extended to the end of this month.

“I lived through a health care nightmare. That’s one reason why I took a cut in my pay rate to work for Covered California.”

In March 2013, Hill was hired as project manager over Covered California’s massive $120 million call center effort. In just six short months, it would face an avalanche of customers seeking insurance mandated under the new law.

But five months on the job converted Hill from avid supporter to disenchanted whistleblower. He says the secretive and dysfunctional culture was more interested in cheerleading than real results. After he persistently raised concerns, Covered California abruptly terminated his contract. He says the experience drove him to raise allegations about waste and cover ups at a Covered California board meeting.

Covered California quietly launched an independent investigation into Hill’s grievances. Nine months later, the results were summarized in four sentences stating that evidence did “not support” Hill’s complaints. Hill calls the probe a sham and says the inquiry didn’t include interviews with many witnesses he suggested.

Today, Hill describes himself as disgusted by the process – and soured on Obamacare.

“I really believe that we’ve created a monster – and it’s an unaccountable monster,” Hill told The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined comment on Hill’s allegations.

Other officials integral to Covered California’s efforts concur with Hill’s assessment. One of them headed the largest call center.

“They started this way too late for what they needed to do,” says the official who was hired in April 2013, five months before the website’s launch. He has since left that position and asked not to be named to protect his current job status.

“This program had to touch 58 counties, 11 federal agencies, all medical carriers and all advocates. To have a system that would be integrated seamlessly – somebody must have been smoking something if they thought that was going to happen.”

Disappointing Enrollment

It’s against that backdrop that Covered California finds itself now grappling with a big disappointment: low enrollment growth. California ranked near the bottom in overall growth, with a scant 1 percent increase over last year.

“It’s a tiny fraction of the growth they were expecting,” says an official who helped implement the Affordable Care Act and examined California’s numbers.

As recently as last fall, the official says, California hoped to increase enrollment by 500,000 this year. But only an additional 7,098 have “selected a plan” for 2015.

“Their total enrollment is a step in the right direction but nowhere near what anyone thought it would be for the largest state in the country.”

Covered California would not answer our questions about enrollment figures.

Another telling statistic is Covered California’s poor retention rate. Even though people are required by law to have health insurance, only 65 percent of Covered California’s 2014 customers reenrolled in 2015. The rest dropped off.

Covered California would not address our questions about lackluster retention and growth.

Last month, the agency issued a press release touting a younger and more diverse mix of customers.

“New enrollment for 2015 coverage is strong and has brought in consumers who our marketing and outreach targeted,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, overlooking the fact that his organization’s retention of last year’s customers was among the lowest in the country.

Hoping for a bump, California followed the lead of the federal HealthCare.gov effort and repeatedly extended this year’s enrollment deadline. The Feb. 15 cutoff was pushed back to Feb. 20 and then Feb. 22. Now, it’s been extended to the end of this month.

Call Center Chaos

The devastating crash of Covered California’s website and call centers on Oct. 1, 2013 was “the canary in the coalmine, an early warning of deep dysfunction,” according to Hill.

Pre-launch testing had proven disastrous. As with the national HealthCare.gov website, “it was breaking at the first click of the button,” says the former call center manager who worked under Hill. “Behind the scenes, states were worried. I know we were worried.”

Covered California contractors projected 10,000 calls the first day. The call center manager says he knew they were way off. “I and my training manager, who had launched call centers before, projected 20,000. We had 21,000 on day one. Our contractors were wrong.”

The HealthCare.gov website was on a parallel trajectory. It, too, suffered under hasty development and failed performance tests days before launch – all while the Obama administration put on a positive public face.

“Everybody knew it wasn’t going to function,” says a third Covered California official. “Calls start coming in and within the first hour, the entire system went down – phone and web.”

“The train was coming off the rails,” adds Hill. “The call center was going into meltdown.”

The meltdown lasted for months and fixes proved costly. Covered California would not provide a tally of expenses, but the agency ended up asking the federal government for an extra $155 million. That put the cost of Covered California at more than $1.06 billion federal tax dollars.

Enrollment Exaggeration?

Covered California’s disastrous debut triggered a house of cards. When the website crashed, consumers were directed to fill out paper applications; they were 33 pages long and took at least an hour to complete. What’s more, they couldn’t be coordinated with the electronic version because of a major design flaw. The forms didn’t match.

But Covered California counted duplicate applications as if they were enrollments, giving the impression that more people had successfully signed up. (The Obama administration did the same with national HealthCare.gov applications.)

For example, Covered California’s Lee publicly touted 30,000 successful enrollments for the first month. Hill says the actual number was closer to 4,000.

“A lot of the information that came out of Covered California was misleading or outright lies,” Hill insists.

Another Covered California official agrees.

“There’s no way he didn’t know he wasn’t telling the truth,” says an official, who still works at the agency and asked not to be identified. “We were fully aware that those numbers were inflated. It was horrible… morale busting. Things were being said that were blatantly untrue.”

The Daily Signal asked for Lee’s side of the story, but Covered California declined to make him available.

Hill says misinformation was aided and abetted by an uninformed press. In the midst of Covered California’s fiasco, he was stunned to read a New York Times article claiming the Golden State was an Obamacare utopia: the crown jewel of the health care reform effort.

On Nov. 24, 2013, Paul Krugman of The New York Times gushed:

What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website? Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California… The California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.

That assessment was far from the reality, say the Covered California officials who spoke to The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined to respond to our questions but issued this statement:

Covered California is proud that it has been the portal for nearly four million people to find coverage through one of our participating health plans or through low cost/no cost Medi-Cal; is helping more than a million people access financial assistance to lower their monthly health insurance premiums; through the Affordable Care Act has reduced the number of uninsured in California by half.

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