Franco a Fiasco for the Oscars?

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Hollywood is a land of contradictions.

In the aftermath of the sexual impropriety scandal that has engulfed the entertainment capital, the Golden Globes Awards ceremony found itself immersed in the aftereffects of the #MeToo movement, with themes that took the form of black fashion dominating the designer palette, professional presentations being replaced with surreal sanctimony, and a former daytime TV queen toying with a future presidential run.

The sudden explosion of sexual harassment allegations has resulted in a string of unexpected consequences for the entertainment business, including the unceremoniously exiling from the Academy of former Oscar master Harvey Weinstein and the digitally redacting of actor Kevin Spacey from an Oscar hopeful film “All the Money in the World.”

It is expected that the Oscars telecast will follow the lead of the other awards shows and make Hollywood’s sex scandals a frazzled thread woven throughout the proceedings.

Of concern for the Academy, though, is something involving actor James Franco, who in taking home a Globe award managed to increase the awards season buzz for his chances of also snagging an Oscar. Franco additionally won the Best Actor award at the Critics’ Choice Awards, boosting his inflated profile even further.

Franco is scheduled to attend the Screen Actors Guild Awards (prior to the Academy Awards) on Jan. 21, where he is nominated for lead actor.

The Hollywood star has been viewed as an actual contender, not only for a nomination for an Academy Award for his work in “The Disaster Artist,” but also as a top tier candidate for a Best Actor trophy at the Oscar telecast.

Critics are raving about Franco’s portrayal of the real-life director of “The Room,” which is said by critics and fans to be the worst film ever made.

The particular predicament for the Academy, at this extraordinary time in Hollywood history, are some allegations that have been raised against Franco concerning sexually inappropriate behavior. Five women have accused him of inappropriate or sexually exploitative conduct, according to an investigation by The Los Angeles Times.

Franco may regret his decision at the Golden Globe ceremony to wear a pin that supported Time’s Up, the initiative recently formed by 300 women in the entertainment industry with the ostensible purpose of combating workplace sexual harassment. The sight of Franco’s donning of the pin during the Globe telecast prompted several women to call out the actor via their Twitter accounts.

Two of the women cited by the L.A. Times sent out tweets, as did actress Ally Sheedy, who posted the following: “James Franco just won. Please never ask me why I left the film/tv business.”

The actress had appeared in the “The Long Shrift,” a 2014 off-Broadway production that Franco directed. Sheedy subsequently deleted the tweet.

Franco has denied the allegations. Whether or not he receives a nomination will be decided by the actors’ branch of the Academy, which is the largest group of voters, with over 1,200 members.

Nominations are scheduled to be announced on Jan. 23, and Franco will be facing some stiff competition from other heralded A-list actors, including Gary Oldman for “The Darkest Hour,” Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Timothee Chalamet for “Call me By Your Name,” Daniel Day-Lewis for “Phantom Thread,” and Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out.”

There was a great deal of consternation when another actor, Casey Affleck, took the Academy Award for Best Actor last year for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” despite the fact that he had two sexual harassment suits that he settled out of court.

But that was long before the Weinstein story broke and changed Hollywood forever.

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Trump’s Twitter Account Is Keeping Us Safe

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President Donald Trump’s tweet, which was in response to Kim Jong Un’s posturing, has put CNN media reporter Brian Stelter into an even greater degree of hysteria than usual.

Stelter was in an agitated state when he disclosed to CNN host Anderson Cooper that he had contacted the authorities at Twitter to prompt the social media giant take action against the president.

The exchange between the North Korean dictator and the democratically elected leader of the free world dealt with the subject of the “nuclear button” of each country. Stelter apparently saw an opening in the digital realm to put a stop to President Trump’s tweets, something that those who are opposed to the Trump administration’s agenda have been trying to do since day one.

Stelter evidently wanted the Twitter censors to act in some policing type way against the Trump Twitter account phenomenon, @realDonaldTrump. The CNN propagandist cited the social media platform’s terms of service and claimed that the president’s tweet had somehow violated the Twitter-verse rules.

In a New Year’s Day address, North Korea’s leader, now branded as “Rocket Boy,” declared that the rogue nation’s nuclear capabilities are “reality,” not mere threats, and boasted of having a nuclear button on his desk.

“The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table,” Kim said, adding that “the entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range.”

In the reply tweet, President Trump posted that he also has a nuclear button, and made it clear that “it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his [Kim], and my Button works!”

Stelter also claimed, as many of his fellow fake news purveyors have of late, that President Trump’s tweet raises questions about his cognitive abilities, another transparent effort by the liberal media to distract, since their Russia-collusion allegations have fallen flat.

The CNN fiction reporter said that social media should be used by politicians to “persuade the public to come to their side.” However, Stelter is asserting that President Trump is doing something other than trying to persuade via his Twitter account.

Stelter essentially tried to play the role of snitch by reporting the president’s tweet to a Twitter spokesperson. Although there have been repeated demands from adversaries of President Trump to have Twitter shut down the now famous account and remove it from service, Twitter has unequivocally refused to do so.

In a recent blog post, Twitter indicated that tweets posted by world leaders ought to be discussed, and additionally noted that removing such statements from the Twitter platform would not be effective.

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the Twitter post read. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, concisely highlighted the usefulness of the president’s Twitter account by explaining the diplomatic value of the “nuclear button” tweet.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” when asked whether the president’s tweet was a good idea, Haley responded, “I think that [Trump] always has to keep Kim on his toes. It’s very important that we don’t ever let him get so arrogant that he doesn’t realize the reality of what would happen if he started a nuclear war.”

Haley said North Korea should clearly understand that the United States means business when it comes to Kim.

“We’re not going to let them go and dramatize the fact that they have a button right on their desk and they can destroy America,” Haley said. “We want to always remind them we can destroy you too, so be very cautious and careful with your words and what you do.”

Hollywood Picks ‘Man Show’ Kimmel to Host Post-Weinstein Oscars

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It is difficult to decipher what exactly is driving some of Hollywood’s questionable decisions of late.

On the heels of the entertainment industry’s choice of Anita Hill as sexual harassment czar, the announcement that former co-host of “The Man Show” and current late-night political pawn Jimmy Kimmel will once again take the Oscar stage as host of the show.

This will be Kimmel’s second consecutive year as emcee, despite the fact that the results of his last go-round were anything but stellar. The telecast scored low ratings, and there was the infamous gaffe in which “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as the winner for Best Picture, when in fact “Moonlight” was the movie that had taken the top spot.

It could be that Kimmel’s recent hyper-political correctness caught the attention of the Academy, particularly when he jettisoned comedy to do opinion pieces on controversial political topics, including health care and gun control. He purposely used his show to lobby against the effort of the Republican Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he received the gratitude of many on the left for helping to thwart the legislation.

CNN went so far as to declare that Kimmel was “America’s conscience.” Oddly, though, the would-be moral authority has been largely silent about the Weinstein scandal and its many offshoots.

There is a good reason for Kimmel’s reluctance to speak. Before he became the darling of the left, Kimmel and fellow comic Adam Carolla created and co-hosted “The Man Show,” a highly sexualized program, which aired on Comedy Central from 1999 until 2003.

Frequently engaging in the objectification of women and showcasing some racially-charged sketches, in a segment from one of the programs Kimmel approached women on the street and asked them to guess what he had inside his pants.

“I’ve stuffed something in my pants, and you’re allowed to feel around on the outside of the pants. You’ll have 10 seconds to then guess what is in my pants,” he said to a woman, adding that she “should use two hands.”

Kimmel later asked another female participant to “put her mouth on it,” and he made sure that another woman was at least 18 years old because “Uncle Jimmy doesn’t need to do time.”

When one of his contestants was touching him in a more aggressive manner, he told her that she was “gonna make a fine wife.”

At the end of the skit, Kimmel revealed that what he had stuffed in his pants was a zucchini with a rubber band on it.

Other crude segments featured on “The Man Show” included a faux commercial for “Bosom Springs,” a fictitious company that provided water for wet T-shirts, and a “Juggy Talent Show” in which women in sparse swimwear attire would demonstrate their implicitly sexual “talents.”

In other shows, Kimmel can be seen asking individuals he encounters on the street if they would show their underwear and enlisting advice from porn stars on domestic chores.

For the first decade or so of his ABC late-night gig, Kimmel stayed away from controversial topics and became well known for his comedic fare, including pulling practical jokes on Hollywood stars or having celebrities read mean tweets about themselves.

A politically charged Kimmel emerged in early 2017, when, after being fed Democrat talking points from Sen. Chuck Schumer, began attacking GOP legislative proposals. He also politicized the deadly Las Vegas shooting to launch into a gun control rant.

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, which owns ABC, noticed Kimmel’s departure from comedy and excursion into activism.

“That show is to entertain,” Iger told The New York Times.

Then the Hollywood executive said something that Kimmel would be wise to pay attention to as he readies himself for the upcoming Oscar hosting gig.

Iger advised, “I think he should be careful.”

Box Office Down Again in 2017

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As 2017 draws to a close, the entertainment industry is discovering it has to deal with the reality that this year turns out to be the worst ever for the Hollywood brand.

The sex scandals surrounding movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other major Hollywood players certainly did not help matters. Neither did the vitriolic politics that routinely spewed from left-wing celebrities’ mouths and wound up alienating folks from coast to coast.

This year the movie box office, once the primary gauge of the entertainment business, suffered yet another decline. Despite the fact that over the last twenty years or so gross box-office revenues saw an increase, for the last decade and a half actual ticket sales have consistently taken a dive.

The final 2017 tally for the North American box office appears as if it will be in the range of 2 to 4 percent less than the previous year, somewhere slightly above $11.1 billion.

It is only the third year that the domestic box office has ever made it over the $11 billion level; however, the number of tickets sold turns out to be the lowest amount since 1995.

Basically, a smaller audience is paying a higher price to see movies at the multiplex, and although the price increase is somewhat tied to inflation, it is a combination of factors that is responsible for a shrinking theater-going audience.

Big studios have been relying on existing franchises, and the creation of new ones, to fill the seats. However, the annual revenue performance was down, in part because of some underperforming sequels and remakes.

Additionally, some of the old film franchises are beginning to fade, as seen in the following examples:

— “Alien: Covenant,” Ridley Scott’s installment in the “Alien” series, came in far below expectations.

–“Transformers: The Last Knight” produced the lowest revenue of the franchise so far.

— The attempt to create a DC version of Marvel’s “Avengers” with “Justice League” essentially fizzled.

— Universal released “The Mummy” in order to launch a new “Dark Universe” franchise, but it was dead on arrival.

— “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” “Valerian,” and “The Dark Tower” were all produced and released with the hopes that they would each result in a stream of sequel progenies, but the hopes failed to materialize.

The sequels that fared well created new variations on the super-hero theme. “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” yet another in a series of reboots in the franchise, used a high school setting to insert universal teen angst into the storyline. Similarly, “Thor: Ragnarok” surprised fans of the god of thunder, involving him in a comedic romp.

The horror and comedy genres still have the power to pack the traditional movie setting, thanks to a reliance on the shared audience experience. Unfortunately, the current comedy formula of potty humor laced with profanity produced a series of bombs in “Baywatch,” “The House,” and “ChiPs.”

On the other hand, it is a safe bet that Hollywood will release more films in the horror genre. “It” was a blockbuster, and the box office successes of “Split,” “Get Out,” and “Annabelle: Creation” produced large profit margins due to relatively inexpensive production costs.

Just prior to the start of the summer season, studio heads were taking heart in the early releases that did do well, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Fate of The Furious.” In June, the singular DC success “Wonder Woman” ended up scoring well enough at the box office to create a valuable new franchise.

Still, by summer’s end it was clear that the movie business would have to overcome a season splattered with non-performing releases. The summer of 2017 produced the lowest box-office totals in a quarter of a century, placing studio executives under a deep dark cloud.

It was clear that executives were in a box-office hole as a result of the disappointing performances of installments that were previously proven franchises, including “The Mummy,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

There was, however, a pleasant summer surprise that arrived in the form of “Dunkirk,” a World War II epic and one of the best films of the year. Director Christopher Nolan demonstrated how one can create a film experience that is exquisitely dependent on theater attendance. He used IMAX cameras in the filming of the movie and promoted the need for filmgoers to view the movie on wide screens as opposed to streaming it on a device.

Hollywood insiders were waiting for the anticipated galactic revenue flow from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to rescue the year, but here, too, the numbers did not hit the high mark.

No doubt Hollywood’s image has taken a beating in fly-over country and beyond, due to the sexual harassment and assault allegations, outrageous celebrity political posturing, late-night’s unfunny agenda-ridden routines, and the like.

Perhaps the movie business, like the NFL, is simply reaping what it sows.

Hollywood’s Wrong on Choice of Anita Hill to Lead Sexual Harassment Commission

It has been a couple of months since allegations of sexual improprieties began to rain down on Hollywood, and the entertainment community has been struggling to come to grips with the continuing fallout.

Bombshell accusations that began with Harvey Weinstein have continued to flow and alleged perpetrators of wrongdoing now include Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and Tavis Smiley.

Elites from the highest ranks in Hollywood have been under pressure to demonstrate major concern and provide reassurance to the public that something is going to be done to remedy the situation.

Amid all the trepidation and turmoil, the awards season quickly approaches. This is traditionally a high intensity time when the spotlight shines on the entertainment industry to the maximum degree, and the whole world tunes in to prestigious events that include the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, Grammys, Golden Globes, and, of course, the apex of awards shows, the Oscars.

The mood in the greater Los Angeles community, though, has darkened as a result of the scandals, and the awards shows themselves cannot help but be affected.

Next year’s SAG Awards ceremony, which will dole out thirteen acting awards, will feature female host Kristen Bell and will additionally have all women presenters. The Golden Globes will address the sexual impropriety issues by having all of the actresses involved, including nominees Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, and Meryl Streep, wear black outfits while on the red carpet as well as during the ceremony itself.

As for the form of seriousness and sorrow that the Oscars will display has yet to be made known. It is highly likely, however, that a similar approach will be taken during the Academy Awards telecast.

The general form-over-substance expressions are, in many instances, rather harmless. This is not the case with regard to a recent appointment to head a new presumably powerful Hollywood group.

If there were any doubts that the entertainment community remains decidedly out of touch with the majority of its customers, the choice of Anita Hill to chair Hollywood’s newly formed Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace is the latest manifestation of a kind of tone deafness on the part of Tinseltown, especially when it comes to the Hollywood brand.

Hollywood executives have decided to follow the lead of politicians in the nation’s capital, the ones who routinely convene a “blue ribbon commission” to give the perception that problems are being solved. A similar body has been created to deal with the growing list of Hollywood sexual abuse scandals.

Hollywood executives have chosen precisely the wrong individual to head the commission. The announcement that Hill would be taking the top spot came after a meeting was spearheaded by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Nike Foundation Founder and Co-Chair Maria Eitel, entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein.

Hollywood’s deep concern over the issue of sexual misconduct is reflected by the power players that attended the event, which included Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, CBS Corp. Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Universal Chairman and CEO Jeff Shell, Sony Chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, William Morris Endeavor Co-Chairman Ari Emanuel, CAA Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, and Founding Partner of ICM Chris Silbermann, along with the heads of the motion picture, recording, and television academies, and the actors, writers, directors, and producers guilds.

Hill achieved fame in the early 1990s when she brought forward allegations of sexual harassment during the Senate confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The problem for Hollywood is that Hill failed to tell the truth. Her behavior was inconsistent with someone who had been a victim of sexual harassment. Hill followed Justice Thomas from one job to another, made numerous personal telephone calls to the man she claimed had sexually harassed her, and the calls continued even after she was no longer working for him. She denied having ever made the calls but changed her story after phone records were produced.

Hill initially asked that her name not be mentioned when the accusations were presented to Justice Thomas. The accusations referred to events that were supposed to have occurred when only she and Justice Thomas were in the same room, so if the allegations were true, Justice Thomas would certainly have known who had made them. The anonymity request only made sense if the charges were false.

On several occasions, Hill denied that she had communicated with a Democratic staffer. She later reversed herself when under oath.

A witness that was supposed to be corroborating Hill’s accusations claimed that Hill told her details about the supposed sexual harassment in a telephone call. However, it turned out that the call took place before Hill worked for Justice Thomas.

Polls taken following the hearings, which had been televised daily, showed that twice as many Americans believed Justice Thomas over Hill.

The left continued to attempt to smear Justice Thomas in the intervening years and even went as far as producing an HBO film, which disingenuously attempted to make Hill into a heroine.

Misguided Environmentalism Is the Root Cause of Devastating California Wildfires

 

thomas-fireCalifornia is in the midst of battling some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history, which have resulted in the wholesale decimation of forests, extensive destruction of property, and massive disruption of people’s lives.

Governor Jerry Brown recently characterized the dire situation by stating that these types of fires “could happen every year or every few years” and that Californians are simply “facing a new reality.”

A new reality? Hardly comforting words from the Golden State’s chronic political presence.

Certainly the “new reality” warrants a deeper investigation into what factors have been contributing to the escalation and what steps could be taken to mitigate and/or prevent future catastrophic events.

The fact of the matter is there has been a decided increase in unusually devastating fires over the last few decades. The wildfires that are occurring today are twice as large as they were forty years ago, and the fires themselves are much bigger, significantly more powerful, and consequently more dangerous.

The left claims that the mega fires are happening as a result of global warming. However, according to a recent Reason Foundation study, changes in climate cannot adequately account for the “pattern of fires observed over the past century.”

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is the agency responsible for managing the nation’s wilderness areas, which constitute almost two-thirds of U.S. forests. The USFS once had a great deal of success in mitigating the risk of major fires in the early part of the last century. Over the past few decades, though, forest management policy has become overly centralized and increasingly bureaucratic, while also presenting a growing detriment to public safety.

During the 1970s, after legislation was passed that claimed to protect the ecosystem, the USFS altered its policies in a manner that would have extremely serious consequences for those parts of the country that are concerned about wildfire hazards, particularly the Western part of the nation.

Decades of politicians employing central planning while pandering to environmentalist groups have resulted in overgrowth in the nation’s forests. Methods that had worked to lower fire danger were abandoned, and the USFS spent appreciably more money for significantly fewer results as it used its resources for questionable environmental practices.

Excess fuel in the form of overly dense wilderness areas became a mega fire hazard that created a danger to the public and to regional economies. Additionally, severe limitations on the harvesting of timber on federal land created dangerous conditions in forests that led directly to the massive fires of late. If the logging industry had been permitted to clear more wilderness areas, the fire threat would have been dramatically reduced.

The public needs to be alerted to the fact that when forests are too dense they become susceptible to the kind of explosive infernos that actually end up harming the ecosystem, killing wildlife and destroying habitats. Logging, controlled burns, and natural low-intensity wildfires not only assist in making mega fires less likely but contribute to the creation of healthier ecosystems as well.

Removing the wood fuels in naturally dry forests helps to greatly reduce the probability of high intensity fires while assisting the environment. It is imperative that the excess growth caused by decades of bad policy be removed. Dry forests, which were historically cleared by frequent, low-intensity fires, may need the careful implementation of controlled burns to protect the life and property of adjacent communities.

Republican leaders in Congress, who have been working along with the Trump administration, are attempting to reform the legal landscape that is plaguing America’s national forests. The congressional members are seeking to increase logging in order to thin out the overly dense and dangerous forest conditions that now exist.

In November the House passed legislation called the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 in order to allow salvage logging and other forms of tree cutting on federal properties.

House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated that the bill was necessary to protect the nation’s federal forests “from the kind of devastation that California experienced.”

The bill would remove draconian environmental restrictions that have dramatically curtailed timber harvests on federal lands. The legislation is currently awaiting action in the Senate.

Justice Politicized

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On a beautiful July day, a young woman was showing her father the piers of San Francisco. Without warning, a bullet entered her back. Holding his daughter in his arms, the last words the father would hear his daughter say were, “Help me, Dad.”

The woman’s name was Kate Steinle, and the man who would cause her life to come to a tragic end is named Garcia Zarate. Kate’s story will go down in history as being one of the most flagrant travesties of justice the legal system has had to endure.

Zarate had been deported from the United States five times. He had also repeatedly re-entered the country and was a felon seven times over.

Prior to the shooting, Zarate had just completed a nearly four-year federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the country. After he was remanded to San Francisco law enforcement on an outstanding warrant, which involved a minor charge that was ultimately dismissed, local officials released Zarate, ignoring a request from federal authorities to keep him in custody.

Zarate was acquitted by a San Francisco jury of first and second degree murder as well as the charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic weapon. The only charge of which he was actually found guilty was the one of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The prosecution argued that the defendant had fired the murder weapon intentionally. The defense claimed that the shooting was accidental, that Zarate found a stolen gun on the waterfront, and that the firearm had somehow fired itself.

Considering the facts, it is disturbing that the jury was able to exonerate Zarate in this way. He held the murder weapon (the handgun) in his hand. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet ended up robbing Kate of her life.

Even if the jury bought into the defense contention that Zarate did not intend to kill Steinle, reasonable deliberators would come up with a charge of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

The whole idea that this homicide was one in which no one is responsible runs counter to the law and to common sense. The jury’s verdict omits individual fault for Steinle’s untimely death.

Zarate possessed a firearm illegally. He fired it into an area where other people were likely to be seriously injured or even die. His actions were reckless and could have yielded a verdict of second degree murder. The jury went further, however, by choosing to bypass his obvious criminal negligence, which would have, at a minimum, resulted in involuntary manslaughter. Apparently, non-judicial factors played into the jury’s deliberation.

Judge Samuel Feng had repeatedly admonished prospective jurors, asking them not to consider the politics that had thrust the Steinle case into national headlines.

Still, immediately after the verdict was announced, defense attorney Francisco Ugarte evidently could not wait to engage in politics.

“From day one, this case was used as a means to foment hate…I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants,” Ugarte stated.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez and Public Defender Jeff Adachi also entered into the political fray by attacking the president, vice president, and attorney general.

The Steinle verdict was not due process but rather a politicized miscarriage of justice to further advance the highly illegal and dangerous “sanctuary” cities policies. The city of San Francisco had set up “sanctuary” rules, which stopped federal agents from removing a five-time deported criminal from the country.

Zarate had reentered the U.S. illegally and had additionally been in federal custody. However, he was handed over to the San Francisco sheriff in order to be prosecuted on a marijuana case. He was released weeks before Steinle was killed, and the sheriff did so without notifying federal authorities.

The “sanctuary” policies of cities such as San Francisco and states such as California prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents. The tragic truth is that, if the policy had not been in place, Zarate would have been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Spring of 2015 and Steinle would still be alive.

Politicians who are supposed to foster public safety, but instead create rules that stop cooperation with federal law enforcement officers, are exposing their constituents to grave danger.