Life on the American River

…the colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces, of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you…
– What a Wonderful World, sang by Louis Armstrong in 1967

The American River runs through the heart of Sacramento, from the bedroom communities in the eastern foothills all the way into downtown. There is a wide expanse of parkland along both banks. Down on the river these days the sun doesn’t set till after 8 p.m., and on weekdays after work, and after the heat of the day starts to recede, people gather.

Some sit on the bank in beach chairs, enjoying the breeze that’s cooled as it passes over the water. Others fish for striped bass and shad that run this time of year. On the footbridge that connects the neighborhoods of Rancho Cordova on the south bank to those of Fair Oaks on the north bank, hundreds of people cross, passing fishermen casting their lines. There are cyclists, people walking their dogs, families, couples. The people are of every color imaginable: white, black, brown, Asian. And nobody notices. Nobody thinks anything of it.

On these weeks near to the solstice, the daylight lingers. The sun drifts north as it slowly sets, prolonging the day. From the south bank the sun hangs directly over a bend in the river, reflecting off the water. It turns the swimmers downstream into silhouettes, their identities extinguished in the glare. Only their common humanity is visible as they stand in the water, their legs chilled by snowmelt from the High Sierra, their torsos baking in the sauna of a Sacramento summer.

A short distance downstream, on the north bank, on a compound guarded around the clock by sheriffs and state police, is the mansion where Gavin Newsom lives with his family. But nobody enjoying these fine evenings on the river thinks about politics. They’re enjoying life. To be part of this, it wouldn’t take but five minutes for Gavin and his family to summon the bodyguards, pile into their armored SUV, and come down to the river. Don’t hold your breath.

This is unfortunate. This is a missed opportunity. It’s a teachable moment Gavin Newsom will never experience. Because if California’s posh leader bothered to mingle with real people for a change, instead of the professional hate-mongers who pass themselves off as spokespersons for “the people,” he wouldn’t see colors. He wouldn’t see group identities. He wouldn’t see warring factions of privileged and oppressed. He would see hundreds of Californians, Americans, united by simple pleasures amidst profound beauty.

Gavin Newsom isn’t the only member of America’s elite to ignore the resilient unity that still lives in the hearts of most Americans. A typical example of what is the current fixation of the media is ABC’s Nightly “News,” where for the past several months, whenever they weren’t hyping COVID-19 as the plague of the century, they were hyping something far more preposterous – that America is an endemically racist nation. Day after day, stories that shouldn’t even make local news are reported as if they’re events of national importance. The theme is always the same: a white person does something offensive or harmful to a black person. There is never any context. There are never any stories of blacks offending or harming whites, or other blacks. It’s a constant drumbeat: whites are racists, unworthy of anything they possess, living on land they stole, in a nation built on the backs of black slave labor.

There’s plenty of evidence to refute this nonsense, and it’s obvious as well why the networks are gripped by this obsession; they’re terrified that blacks will vote for Trump. So they’re willing to lie, misrepresent, selectively emphasize, and grossly distort events in order to foment racial resentment and hatred. In a bitter irony, ABC Nightly News always ends its 30 minute newscast with a “feel good” story. Somebody helping a stranger. Somebody triumphing over adversity. An act of courage, a gesture of kindness. Ironic, because this brief feature invariably follows 25 minutes of absolute trash, scientifically formulated to anger and terrify viewers. And by design, the Pavlovian repetition dulls the bullshit receptors of all who watch.

Back on the banks of the American River, thankfully, people aren’t watching television. An inordinate percentage of the people on the water aren’t even staring at their phones. Take a walk on the footbridge. Listen. A white man asks a black man “what did you catch?” Smiling, he answers “got some bass.” An Asian woman compliments a Hispanic couple on their beautiful German Shepherd. The dog pulls on its leash, attempting a friendly leap onto its admirer. Two men of indeterminate ethnic origins toss a Frisbee back and forth in the distance. A watchful mother’s child pedals their first bike, nearly wobbling into strangers who carefully step aside. The sounds of laughter rise above the murmur of conversations and the rush of the water under the pylons.

This is the America that Gavin Newsom doesn’t see, and ABC’s David Muir ignores. This is the America that endures, and will endure, long after the separatists and provocateurs are gone.

For the sake of one presidential election, America’s elite institutions, all of them, are fomenting racial strife and pandering to radicals. They are unwilling to put police violence into any realistic, fact based perspective. Instead of encouraging activism to build on previous reforms, they are fueling violent rioting and succumbing to ridiculous demands. It is a shocking dereliction of civic responsibility and a devastating rejection of our shared national identity.

Where are the leaders who will remind us that Christopher Columbus was a brave visionary, who defied the scientific wisdom of his time to prove, in a voyage that required unimaginable bravery, that the world was round? Who will step up and remind us that Father Junipero Serra was a man who lived a life of humility and compassion? Why can’t Gavin Newsom find the courage to say these things?

Instead he sits in his mansion, insulated from and in denial of the positive aspects of our history and the harmonious essence of our society today. And within sight of the same sycamores and cottonwoods, along the same riparian corridor that nurtures hawks, deer, jack rabbits and mountain lions, this harmonious human society is on abundant display.

Gavin Newsom needs to get out a little more. There are fine evenings to be had on the American River.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

‘Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue’ – The president’s power over foreign policy

From the book “Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue” by Bruce Herschensohn



The most pertinent excerpts follow from the decision of United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation in which the “external realm” and “external relations” are terms used at times for what is now more frequently called foreign affairs, foreign relations, or foreign policy:

“In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As [U.S. Congressman, later to become U.S. Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John] Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations’…The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a very early day in our history [February 15, 1816], reported to the Senate, among other things, as follows:

“The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee consider(s) this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch.

“It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations – a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course, like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution. It is quite apparent that if, in the maintenance of our international relations, embarrassment – perhaps serious embarrassment – is to be avoided and success for our aims achieved, congressional legislation which is to be made effective through negotiation and inquiry within the international field must often accord to the President a degree of discretion and freedom from statutory restriction which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved. Moreover, he, not Congress, has the better opportunity of knowing the conditions which prevail in foreign countries, and especially is this true in time of war. He has his confidential sources of information. He has his agents in the form of diplomatic, consular and other officials. Secrecy in respect of information gathered by them may be highly necessary, and the premature disclosure of it productive of harmful results. Indeed, so clearly is this true that the First President refused to accede to a request to lay before the House of Representatives the instructions, correspondence and documents relating to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty – a refusal the wisdom of which was recognized by the House itself and has never since ben doubted…

“When the President is to be authorized by legislation to act in respect of a matter intended to affect a situation in foreign territory, the legislator properly bears in mind the important consideration that the form of the President’s action – or, indeed, whether he shall act at all – may well depend, among other things, upon the nature of the confidential information which he has or may thereafter receive, or upon the effect which his action may have upon our foreign relations. This consideration, in connection with what we have already said on the subject, discloses the unwisdom of requiring Congress in this field of governmental power to lay down narrowly definite standards by which the President is to be governed.”

Bruce Herschensohn is a preeminent foreign policy expert, political commentator and author. He advised the greatest foreign policy presidents of our time, serving in the Nixon Administration and on the Reagan Presidential Transition Team. Herschensohn is a Senior Fellow in International Relations at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

Why Libertarians Are Unwitting Enablers of Socialism

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
– John Rogers, “Ephemera 2009,” Kung Fu Monkey

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New York

Libertarians are handing America over to socialists. That’s not what they want, but that’s what’s happening. How can this be? After all, if you want limited government, you’re a libertarian. So where’s the problem?

The problem, as John Rogers alludes to in his unforgettable quote, is with the “real world.” In the real world, America is a two party system, and if a strong libertarian candidate shows up, they take votes away from other candidates who also – despite all their other impurities – oppose socialist candidates.

When the anti-socialist vote is split, the socialist wins.

In the real world, we have nations so that people with a common culture and heritage can govern themselves. This necessitates the existence of governments, laws, regulations, taxes, public spending, and a host of other nasty things. To oppose overreaching laws, bad regulations, high taxes, excess spending, wasteful spending, or inappropriate spending, is the duty of any fiscal conservative. But the role of government is to protect a national culture, not to just get out of the way so corporate multinationals can commoditize the world.

This ought to be embarrassingly self-evident, but libertarians don’t seem to understand the implications of these real world constraints on their ideals.

Thank God the libertarian presidential candidate in 2016 was a befuddled stoner. And pray to God their presidential candidate in 2020 is equally problematic.

Libertarian Influence is Harming America

The Libertarian Party hasn’t yet swung an American presidential election, but their influence is felt everywhere. And while their overall message – limited government – is far better than its opposite, but in its extreme that message can also cause grievous harm. One glaring example concerns the interdependent politics of immigration and welfare.

Libertarians, along with plenty of Republicans, are fond of quoting Milton Friedman, who once said “You can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.” Yet libertarians, if they are true to their principles, favor open borders. All the while, they insist that of course they’re also opposed to state welfare.

How many Republicans in the House of Representatives, influenced by libertarian donors, have to-date resisted legislation that would enforce America’s borders, whether through sanctioning employers who hire undocumented workers, or by funding more effective border security?

Other glaring examples include opposition to the war on drugs, where libertarians tend to think it’s just fine to let an entire generation of Americans marinate themselves in a pharmacological stupor, and foreign policy, where wishful thinking libertarians reject the reality of rising nations filling the vacuum wherever Americans withdraw.

When it comes to trade, powerful libertarian donors have actually worked to destroy Republican incumbents who recognize that selling America to the Chinese because that’s “free trade” is a recipe for national destruction, and if tariffs are the only way to get their attention, so be it.

And shall any of these issues be discussed openly on the most powerful means of communication ever known, the internet? Well, maybe. But not too openly. Progressives run the companies that monopolize the online platforms for search and social media, they exercise blatant censorship of views that threaten the progressive narrative, and libertarians applaud.

The Unwitting Libertarian Support for Unpleasant, Unaffordable Housing

Moving beyond the obvious, it is in the area of housing and infrastructure where libertarians also exert a destructive influence. The influence of libertarians in these areas is harder to immediately see, but it is causing, if anything, even greater long term damage to America.

It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that libertarians are against a free market where land developers can easily navigate their way through a streamlined, discounted permitting process so more homes can go onto the market which will lower prices. And indeed, libertarians are calling for those sorts of reforms. But these libertarians are ignoring the most critical variable – expanding the footprint of cities.

Instead of recognizing that housing cannot possibly become affordable unless new construction spreads outside the boundaries of existing urban centers, libertarians are, by default, joining with progressives who want to stack and pack all new residences into already established neighborhoods. The implications of this policy are cruel and far reaching.

Not only is it much harder, if not impossible, to increase the supply of homes enough to lower prices if the only new homes allowed have to be built inside existing cities, but when that happens the quality of life in these cities is tragically diminished. In Oregon, new legislation now permits multi-family dwellings to be constructed in any residential neighborhood, regardless of current zoning laws, in any city of more than 25,000 residents. Similar legislation is pending in California.

It may not be a “libertarian” concept to have zoning laws, but they exist for a good reason. People invest their life savings into a home purchase, relying on zoning laws to ensure the neighborhood where they expect to spend the rest of their lives is going to stay reasonably intact. Clearly this can’t always be the case, sometimes neighborhoods get in the path of dense urbanization, but it is a principle worth defending.

This nuance – how cities are permitted to increase their population – is far more profound than it may appear at first glance. As America’s population grows from an estimated 334 million in 2020 to an estimated 417 million by 2060, the progressive vision is to cram nearly all of those 83 million new Americans into existing cities. They want to do this despite the fact that the lower 48 states in America are only 3.7 percent urbanized, and despite the fact that such a policy will make a detached single family home with a yard unattainable to all but the most affluent Americans.

The libertarian position on urban containment is similar to their position on immigration. Just as they effectively support immigration but ineffectively oppose the welfare state, they effectively support making it easier to get permits to build homes but ineffectively oppose urban containment. The problem, again, is that accomplishing one out of two is not sufficient.

The de facto result is libertarians are offering substantial support to the progressive goal of turning American cities and suburbs into socially engineered, unaffordable, extremely high-density warrens.

Libertarians Prevent Vital Enabling Infrastructure

In a perfect libertarian world, every time you set foot off your personal property onto so-called public space, a meter starts running. The principle at work here is that you only pay at the rate you consume, rewarding the private interests who constructed – presumably at lower cost – social amenities such as roads.

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking plays into the hands of progressives who want to monitor and ration everything, at the same time as it benefits the high-tech companies and manufacturing corporations who sell “connected” appliances that are overly complex, high maintenance, expensive, and rarely perform as well as legacy products. But start the meter. Let the market work.

If forcing consumers to pay the government and their private partners for every vehicle mile traveled were the only innovation where progressives and libertarians affect infrastructure, that would be bad enough. But libertarians often oppose new roads from even getting built, regardless of the funding model. Instead of just letting the government blast new interstate highways and connector roads into rural areas where spacious new cities could be built, some libertarians have begun to reflexively oppose these projects because they don’t want taxpayers to “subsidize the automobile.”

And yes, in the drive to no longer “subsidize the automobile,” there is a whiff of “climate change” hysteria beginning to emanate from more than a few establishment libertarian think tanks.

What libertarians ought to be doing with respect to roads and other enabling infrastructure is fighting to reduce the regulations and environmental legislation that, at the least, has more than doubled the price and more than quadrupled the time it takes to build public infrastructure. Instead they fight against any new infrastructure that might consume public funds, playing into the hands of the progressive environmentalists who don’t want to build any new infrastructure, anywhere.

Libertarians have become pawns of the progressive left in America, and in an ironic twist, both of them have been coopted by globalist corporate interests. When everything is privatized, rationed and metered, corporate rent seekers gain new revenue streams.

When progressives put punitive regulations onto virtually all forms of land and resource development, existing holders of those resources enjoy artificial asset appreciation at the same time as emerging competitors lack the financial depth to survive.

In cities densified by urban containment, land values and rent soar to stratospheric levels, driving out independent businesses and turning every commercial district into a generic multinational corporate slurb.

And of course, when progressives cheer as hordes of unskilled immigrants pour across the U.S. border, libertarian donors applaud the free movement of people and goods – while paying impotent lip service to welfare reform.

The Libertarian Party has never been a serious contender in American politics. But their influence should not be underestimated, nor their role in tilting the political balance in favor of the progressive agenda across a host of important national issues.

The value of libertarianism is to remind us that the private sector performs most functions in a society more efficiently than the government, while preserving more individual freedom. But that’s as far as it goes. The real world is complicated, and culture is not a commodity.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

What a Schiff Show

Look who’s colluding now.

The New York Times just published a bombshell: Adam Schiff’s office met with the whistleblower prior to the complaint being filed, helped shepherd him through the process the way Schiff’s team wanted, and then played dumb and subpoenaed for the complaint they knew had been filed because they were part of the process.

The Times reports: “The whistle-blower’s decision to offer what amounted to an early warning to the intelligence committee’s Democrats is also sure to thrust Mr. Schiff even more forcefully into the center of the controversy.”  Obviously.

This report is yet another nail in the coffin of the Democrats’ bogus impeachment charade and further proof that this Ukraine sham is a disingenuous and orchestrated smear campaign led by Adam Schiff and the socialist squad.  

By getting an early account of the whistle-blower’s complaint, Schiff knew what to expect in the complaint and he was able to shape his phony narrative for his benefit.

As the Times reports, Schiff’s committee even helped guide the so-called whistleblower to an attorney. And who is that attorney? A partisan lawyer who worked for Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and donated to Joe Biden.

No wonder James Clapper called this complaint the “best written” complaint he’s ever seen.

Oh and by the way, here’s a clip of Schiff lying on September 17, saying his office had no contact with the whistleblower prior to the complaint being filed.

For Democrats, it has always been impeachment first, and fill in the blank with the reason after. In the wake of this new revelation, Democrats like Josh Harder, TJ Cox, Katie Hill, Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, Harley Rouda, and Mike Levin who jumped on the impeachment bandwagon must now be forced to explain to their Districts why their latest hoax is blowing up in their face.

Stop the madness: This is damning evidence that the Democrats’ impeachment push is a TOTAL sham. Voters in the California will remember these charades when they head to the ballot box in 2020.

Samantha Zager is Regional Communications Director

Death by Ecology: Killing California … God’s Best Green Deal

[An excerpt from a forthcoming book]

So you think the Green New Deal isn’t going to happen? Well, California is leading the way — good[?] intentions on the road to hell? Here’s an autopsy of the Green policies killing California and identifying the killers. For 15,000 years, millions of human beings migrated to California. It was the American Dream.

Millions of Californians go elsewhere to pursue life, liberty, property and happiness. From 1992-2018, California lost a net 4.2 million people to other American states. From 1990 to 2012, California lost nearly a million manufacturing jobs. That’s nearly half, 40%, of all manufacturing jobs. Similarly, industrial employment plunged 60% from 2005-2015. Two-thirds of the aerospace industry that sent America to the moon and won the Cold War has gone since 1990.

In short, costly environmental drove them out of jobs and out of state.

The New Left leader Jerry Brown, 1.0 and 2.0, and compliant Republicans Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger decided they could do better than God and a free people. These eco-gods demanded air, water and land made cleaner than God Himself made them. Human habitat, private property, had to give way to the needs of fish and wildlife.

In pursuing eco-utopia, deep state environmentalists often appear rather silly, even stupid. Yet they are deadly serious. They destroyed what was once the world’s happiest place.

Consider the California Crow. The California Air Resources Board is at war with milk and meat. They say cow farts, gases, are appalling dangers to the atmosphere of planet earth. The Water Resources Control Board is taking action against the dreaded enemy — cattle manure. 

Eco-warriors have convicted grazing cattle of a genocidal holocaust. They blame cows for killing all manner of species and destroying their habitat: fairy shrimp, Desert Tortoise, salmon etc. One cow on one acre at a time, are blamed for destroying all manner of wildlife.

Of Straws and Smelt. California’s war on all things plastic — bottles, bags and straws — shows its Lilliputian desperation to save the planet. California environmentalists are desperate to save the “fragile” 187 quintillion gallon Pacific Ocean from overflowing plastic. And the 100 million-acre California must not run out of spaces to put trash in landfills.

California sends half of its abundant fresh water to the Pacific Ocean. Water police order city folk to drink recycled toilet water and to live on 55 gallons a day. Ten percent of all water is too much for the serfs who may bathe every other Saturday whether they need it or not. Desalinated seawater at ten times the cost of reservoir water is also recommended. California demands its residents take a water conservation pledge … and to the utopia for which it stands.


The Deadly Serious.

Environmental authorities act as police, prosecutors, juries, and judges. They, do not yet conduct executions, but they do ruthlessly prosecute and assassinate the characters and livelihoods of resisters. They defame greedy businessmen for intentionally poisoning air, water and land. Fines, jail time, and costly regulations have driven tens of thousands of the smallest mom and pop enterprises (dry cleaners, body shops, independent gas stations) out of business. Few family-owned, independent gasoline stations remain. They once competed with Big Oil on gasoline prices.  


Tyranny of the Clerks–Eco-Police Powers.

Eco-zealots build authoritarian bureaucracies ordering all Californians, convicted without due processes, to conform to their delusions of an eco-utopia. TheCalifornia Penal Code grants armed police powers to state public employees policing food, drugs, and chemicals.


Drat those deplorable human masses yearning to breed free and plunder the planet.


California Environmental Law.

The most authoritarian elements of California’s Green Regime are the California Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65) and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). These laws and more enrich bureaucrats, environmental consultants, green industries, lawyers, and crony capitalists.

California Endangered Species Act. Under eco-ethics, every deplorable human is commanded to care about nobler species like the road kill scavenger, the California Condor. In time, the ESA zealots may recover the Unicorn, lost in ancient fables or more likely the Black Plague, the 1918 flu, and/or small pox.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  CEQA routinely extorts outrageous concessions, green blackmail, “mitigations,” of cash, land and project modifications from property owners. Only the very wealthy or large corporations can afford the consultants and lawyers required. Governments routinely grant exemptions for crony capitalist friends and privileged projects, e.g. sports stadiums, solar and wind projects, public transit, “bullet” trains and subways. 

CEQA limits economic growth and stops or delays vital housing, roads, bridges, dams, canals, refineries. CEQA delays efforts to clear away kindling, dead, dying and dry trees and brush, to prevent catastrophic firestorms. In 2018, like policies killed 88 people in Paradise California and statewide destroyed 10,000 homes, business and cars.

Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Unreal, but usefully scary, Prop 65 requires warning labels and regulations on nearly 1,000 chemicals. ‘The State of California has determined,” presumes, chemicals and their users are guilty for causing cancer or birth defects.  Yet the American Cancer Society says California lacks a scientific basis for its cancer warnings.

California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). A few“experts” of science and economics command and control major sectors of the economy. 360 major industries. Carbon is the prime target. Businesses buy and sell, trade, emission allowances. Like Soviet five-year plans, Cap and Trade demands quotas. Carbon emissions are ordered to decline every year. It is a phony market pretending to reflect the supply and demand for greenhouse gases.


California’s Environmental Apparatchiks

California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA). The second highest building in Sacramento, capital of California, is the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA). Cal EPA’s 5,000 employees have their own safe spaces from Nature, cars and citizens. They have bike racks and no parking. Caught using a verboten rodenticide to kills rats infesting the CalEPA environs, EPA caved under pressure. Rats, fleas, plague, hantavirus and typhus all breathed a sigh of relief.

The EPA building is the home of six omnipotent deep state bureaucracies: California Air Resources Board (CARB), State Water Resources Control Board (WRCB), Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHMA), Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the eco-state’s Air and Space Force, has summarily convicted carbon in air pollution for causing lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). In fact, compared to historical and geological time, carbon is now in very short supply, a drought.

Condemning the “economic poisons” of capitalism, CARB’s claims about air pollution are suspect. Smoking, not air pollution, explains almost 90% of deaths from lung cancer and COPD. Similarly, fine particulate matter (PM), dirt blowing in the wind ruins visibility, irritates existing lung conditions, but rarely kills. Bacteria, viruses and fungi, e.g. pneumonia, influenza and mold do kill. Compared to unhealthy individual behavior—smoking, dirty homes (cockroaches, rats, dust, mites), obesity, alcoholism—chemical pollutants are insignificant. The air inside the most sanitary homes is two and five times more polluted than the air outside.

California works tirelessly to drive people out of the mobility and safety of their cars. The Board blames the car for air pollution and death from lung diseases. Yet individuals are responsible for their own unhealthy lifestyles including reckless and drunken driving. The environmentalists care little about individual responsibility and freedom. California law aims to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), freedom.

California steals 80% of taxes on gasoline. California builds or repairs few roads and bridges. They recommend sidewalks, bike paths, buses, trains, telecommuting, car pools. Preferring “smart” growth, high-density housing, California opposes affordable suburban housing. Life in high-rise Soviet style housing projects, like rats in cages, is filthy and frightful.

In 1990, California ordered carmakers to produce electric cars, aka “Zero Emission” Vehicles (ZEV). Policy overlords expected to jump start innovation and repeal the laws of physics, the limited energy storage capacity of batteries.

California Energy Commission. The Commission has stopped Big Oil’s evilly profitable access to both America’s largest shale reserves in the Monterey Shale and off shore crude oil reserves.. The Commission has also succeeded in banning or tearing down nuclear and hydroelectric power plants producing cheap, clean and reliable electricity. The Commission has commanded all new single-family homes and apartments have solar panels by 2020.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (392 MW) got special permissions to kill Desert Tortoises. Taxpayers paid millions to relocate handfuls of turtles. subsidized wind projects kill Golden Eagles, hundreds of thousands of birds and millions of bats.

California leads the nation in self-imposed power blackouts and bankrupted utilities.The state schedules rolling blackouts and approves blackouts to prevent wildfires. These actions cover up California’s inadequate supply of electricity caused by its war on oil, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric energy. 

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) leads a totalitarian assault up your cars’ tailpipe and your pocketbook. Almost 100% of cars today have low emissions. Hence, California’s annual SMOG tests are a scam for collecting more taxes on Californians’ “perverse love of their cars,” freedom. Paying cash for clunkers separates poor people from affordable transportation.

The regulation of diesel particulate matter (PM), based on the flawed study of a CARB fake Ph.D., kicks thousands of small independent truck owners out of business.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, SCAQMD, the eco-states’ Army, Southern Command, has perfected bureaucratic art of exercising the death penalty on all stationary sources of air pollution. The District placed a moratorium on all oil production off the California coast after the Santa Barbara oil spill. Eliminating one bad smelling GHG, sulfur dioxide, has only succeeded in reducing regional hazy skies. A few days of wildfire, a volcano eruption or an steroid easily wipes out a full year’s emissions from all automobiles.

The all-powerful District has driven tens of thousands of the smallest mom and pop enterprises (dry cleaners, body shops, independent gas stations) out of business. While heavy metals and solvents from oils smell bad, there is little evidence their concentration in water are health risks (parts per billion and trillion). The independents once competed on gasoline prices with Big Oil.  

In short, The District has waged a war on economic opportunities for the poor, the young and the middle class.   

The Water Resources Control Board (WRCB), “control” being its Prime Directive, exercises near absolute power over California’s water, both its supply and quality. The Board has halted the building of major water storage, new dams, for forty years. It is working to tear down existing dams. The Board is diverting water from humans to fish.  

The water Board and the Department of Water Resources steal voter approved bond monies. Time and again, California voters are deceived into believing phony promises to build new water storage. Yet only 12% of bond funds are spent on new water storage.

Water Quality. WRCB’s second absolute power is water quality. It defines clean water as it wishes. It hypes up public fear of tap water, some of it the cleanest water on earth. Most violations of state clean water regulations and laws are clerical, technical, minor, even trivial and frivolous infractions presenting little or no danger to public health or the environment.

Less than one per cent of all the violations of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act involve organic chemicals like pesticides. A full 70 per cent of dangerous clean water violations are disease organisms, requiring increased use of chemicals, chlorine and a hot sun, to keep water safe.

The primary achievement of the WRCB is scaring citizens, corporations and local governments out of money to pay off lawsuit-chasing attorneys, environmental consultants, prevailing wage unions and state certified crony capitalist contractors to build water treatment plants releasing water cleaner than it comes out of the sky, rivers, lakes or wells.


California’s Chemistry Police.

California trumps up dangers of chemicals through its Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Toxic chemicals cause less than 3% of cancer.   

Within the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) California’s Ministry of Politically Correct Science, is the overlord for the health risks of about 1,000 chemicals. OEHHA and others have “determined” fire-fighting foam causes cancer or reproductive harm. Note the chemicals concentrated in chocolate cake are 250 times greater than typical risk guidelines for toxic chemicals.

Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Born, nurtured and grown to one thousand employees, the DTSC arose out of public outrage over alarming stories of hazardous toxic chemical waste sites and road spills. Easily deceived citizens blame  their bad health upon some dump, factory, farm, or refinery close by. The Superfund solution has been totalitarian, never ending and immensely profitable to lawyers and remediation companies.

DTSC has taken the lead in seeking safer alternatives to toxic chemicals used in nail salons. California’s has thousands working in hazardous waste teams responding to spilled milk and overturned trucks.

California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). DPR is a complex   bureaucracy dedicated to smothering regulation and the nations’ most stringent laws banning and restricting the use of the Devil’s own pesticides. California is the breadbasket of the world. There is no link between disease and pesticide residues on food. Recently listed food recalls of the Federal Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control are entirely for microbes, pathogens, bacteria and viruses, not pesticides. Glyphosate, Roundup, found in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream would take very mighty doses–200,000 pints of ice cream to  kill–roughly six pints a day for 100 years. One will run out of either ice cream or life before dying from Roundup.

The pesticide free world, willfully, if silently, protects deadly, killer, species of pests and microbes– fungi, malarial mosquitos, Bubonic Plague rats, Ebola fruit bats, E. Coli, salmonella, listeria, vibrio cholera, etc. The ban on DDT protects the deadliest predator on earth, the mosquito, transmitting deadly malaria killing 1 million every year– a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. Mosquitoes also spread dengue fever, yellow fever, encephalitis and West Nile virus.

California has experienced hysterical episodes over Malathion, Methyl Bromide, chlorpyrifos as well as Roundup.

 The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) prohibits the “taking” of the lives or habitat of any endangered or threatened species of wildlife. With the help of the feds, it has driven many loggers, farmers, miners (gold, sand, gravel), cowboys and land owners out of California. ESA’s absolutist takes or reduces the value of private property without just compensation and due process of law. Along with CEQA, the ESA has halted the building of adequate numbers of homes, roads, dams etc.

The California Coastal Commission, the eco-states’ Marine Corp specializes in driving private property owners off their own land and out of their homes. The Commission also usurps the powers of elected local officials. The Commission’s near-dictatorial powers extend in the “coastal zone.” That’s 1,100 miles from the Oregon to Mexico border seaward three miles and as many as five miles inland.

The California Resource Agency, and related entitiesare devoted to preserving all of California’s natural resources. The federal and state government owns about 52% of California’s 103 million acres. Not good enough, the Resource Agency has declared 75% of California is wildland. Unfortunately, about 28% of such sacred ground is still in private hands. Conservancies are “voluntarily” absorbing private land into woodland, wildlife, nature, or “agricultural” preservations. Access for recreation, logging, mining, farming, motorized recreation etc. is limited or outright prohibited. Banning logging and burns (controlled and natural), allied with bark beetles have killed 129 million trees fueling catastrophic firestorms.  Many owners squat as serfs on their own homesteads in the Kings’ forests.  

Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) works hard for a perfectly waste- free, “Zero Waste” regime. Otherwise, California’s 100 million acres might run out of space for landfill. A trash gestapo collects a tax, a “California Redemption Value” of a mere five or ten cents on each of ten billion or so pop, beer and juice cans and bottles a year.  Fewer and fewer Californians are feeling virtuous about giving their free labor picking rags, sorting trash, fondling “post-consumer” garbage, and diving into dumpsters. No wonder so much meticulously sorted trash quietly goes directly to a landfill. It takes a lot of indoctrination, technology and phony analyses to justify massive recycling. More people recycle than vote. How’s that for environmental indoctrination?

California’s education system, a wholly owned subsidiary of the California Teachers Association (CTA), successfully maintaining the second highest teacher salaries, has driven math, English, science and civics out of California schools keeping the serfs too ignorant, tired or intimidated to object to eco-tyranny.

Roger Canfield, Ph.D.

Mid career Dr. Canfield applied for a position with the California Forestry Association fighting the destruction of California’s timber industry by state and federal protection of the allegedly endangered Spotted Owl. The eco-terrorist Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, murdered Gilbert Murray the better man the Forestry Association hired.

Canfield has been researching and writing about environmental issues for over thirty years as a college professor, candidate, legislative staffer, consultant, journalist, and public information officer. Listening to the complaints of hundreds of Californians, he has first-hand knowledge of California’s environmental tranny.  

As a child, the author swam in an orange pond of an abandoned open pit coalmine down near the Ohio in southern Indiana and came away with a hard head and harder teeth. He worked three California summers spraying asbestos laden plaster upon the ceilings of new homes and businesses and came up 25 years later with a bad heart and lungs…from decades of heavy smoking.  He interned with the special Projects Office of the Navy building Polaris nuclear submarines. He worked a summer at a piece-work plastics factory in Sweden.      

As a Public Information Officer for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), he attended symbolic public meetings. In one series, he felt angry citizens were close to lynching the unresponsive DWR bureaucrats before them. Why had the DWR spent millions to study, but had no plans for new flood control dams, levees, flood plains? Why did DWR believe its computer models instead of the flood experience of citizens before them. A lynching appeared quite justified.

For over thirty years, he has supported building a water, power and flood control dam at Auburn to protect and serve the Sacramento region. Environmental groups vigorously opposed, claiming to protect the Delta Smelt, while fronting for rafting companies and the commercial salmon industry. 

In 1990, the author was campaign manager opposing a statewide ballot initiative, Prop 117, of nearly a billion dollars to provide habitat for Mountain Lions. Today Mountain Lions roam California farms and urban areas munching on livestock, pets, Long Horn Sheep and an occasional jogger.

On a long tour of the Klamath River watershed, he attended a rally in southern Oregon of angry homesteading farmers losing water to bottom feeding, bony suckerfish and Coho Salmon.

 For failing to care for levees because DWR protected elderberry beetle habitat on levees, DWR was successfully sued for the deaths and destruction following a flood in Linda California.

Working for the County of Placer where environmentalists, e.g. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Tree foundation, opposed cutting trees or clearing brush and pine needles to prevent wildfires. Therafter, the Agora fire destroyed 242 homes and 67 businesses in South Lake Tahoe.

Working for the City of Colfax, he observed a locust of lawyers suing city for petty paperwork violations of clean air law costing the tiny thousands to fix and millions to build a new water treatment plant producing cleaner water than pristine Sierra runoff.   

We Raise Taxes, Nothing Improves

When California’s gasoline tax went up a few weeks ago, there was a flurry of articles about how state motorists now pay the highest such tax in the country and how gasoline here typically costs $1 a gallon more than most other states.

I wouldn’t mind paying more if I could boast that we have the best streets and highways. Alas, we don’t. Various surveys regularly rank our roads poorly. Just recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave California a “D” for our road conditions, saying they are some of the worst in the country.

Excuse me if I’m skeptical that the new gas tax will improve the condition of our streets. After all, the state doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation when it comes to fulfilling promises from tax proposals. You know, if you agree to raise taxes, we’ll agree to do X.

In 2004, California voters approved a 1 percent surtax on millionaires. The money was to bankroll various mental health treatment facilities; after all, many of the homeless are on the street because of their mental challenges. But in 2016, the independent oversight agency called the Little Hoover Commission essentially threw up its hands, reporting that auditors couldn’t really say where the money had gone – $17 billion by that point. The state at the time vowed to do better. Three years have gone by and let me ask: Since then, does it seem to you that $2 billion or so a year, about the amount the tax raises, is being spent on mental health? Again, that’s $2 billion a year.

Likewise, the state has raised about 50 percent more on K-12 education since 2012, when a new tax was passed. But test scores have not improved. Where’s that extra money going?

In Los Angeles, we’ve passed taxes recently to help the homeless. Let me ask: Do you want to bet that the number of homeless will be reduced in the next few years?

Based on past performance, I’m betting that the state’s road conditions don’t improve as a result of the extra tax money.

Charles Crumpley is Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Things Aren’t so Bad for California Under the Electoral College

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, thinks that populous coastal states like California and New York are being done a grave disservice by the Electoral College. Warren recently bemoaned the fact that presidential candidates ignore these populous, but safely blue, states in favor of battleground states. That’s why she thinks we should supersede the Electoral College with a national popular vote to determine who holds the White House.

But do candidates ignore these states under our current system? Hardly. In fact, Hillary Clinton visited California nearly 70 times over the course of her 2016 campaign. By comparison, Clinton made only seven visits to Michigan – a state she narrowly lost to Donald Trump. Democratic front-runner Joe Biden has already hosted fundraisers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and is currently planning a tour of New York. Moreover, in 2016, both presidential candidates set up their campaign headquarters in New York City.

Blue, coastal cities will always enjoy political influence because they are the cultural and economic hubs of our country. Financial institutions, tech companies, and media conglomerates – the supermajority of which are located in New York or California – will always have an entrée to the Oval Office. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bob Iger are not the “forgotten men” even if they don’t live in swing states.

Coastal meccas are also where most wealthy campaign donors reside. Of the 100 top individual donors in the 2016 election cycle, over half live in one of four metropolitan areas: New York (26 percent), San Francisco (13 percent), Los Angeles (8 percent), and Chicago (6 percent).

Progressives may retort that, despite the frequent trips presidential candidates take to California and New York, they never see the plight, nor hear the concerns, of ordinary San Franciscans, Angelinos, or New Yorkers. During trips to the Bay Area and Manhattan, presidential candidates are hobnobbing at cocktail parties and swanky dinners, not pressing the flesh at greasy spoons and discount shopping stores.

While not all candidate visits are aimed at the same segment of the population, if the Electoral College were replaced with a national popular vote, every candidate’s campaign would focus on the same few zip codes. If winning an election was a simple matter of garnering the most votes nationwide, candidates would naturally focus their attention on the limited number of locations where the most voters live – namely, major cities.

Electoral campaigns simply do not have the time or the money to visit every part of the country; states with neither big donors, nor sprawling cities, would be left out. It is anyone’s guess how long voters in so-called “fly-over country” would be content to watch presidential candidates race by overhead, but they will inevitably start to feel that Washington, D.C., is hopelessly out of touch and alien.

While progressives ignore the negative consequences of a national popular vote, they greatly exaggerate the positive impact on voters in coastal states like California. It is unlikely that voters in Bakersfield or San Bernardino, Redding or Rio Linda would see any more of presidential candidates than they do now. If state borders no longer mattered in presidential elections, it is unlikely candidates would spend any time in rural – or even suburban – areas.

Under the Electoral College, presidential candidates journey to nearly every corner of hotly contested swing states. Even populous states like Ohio or Pennsylvania can be thoroughly canvassed over the course of a campaign and, knowing that a handful of voters can swing all of a state’s Electoral College votes, most presidential candidates do exactly this. So in these swing states, it is equally common to see presidential aspirants at rural coffee shops and industrial plants, suburban town halls, and metropolitan stadiums. With the national popular vote, a loop around the BART or Metrolink would become the 21st century version of the old whistle-stop tour.

No electoral system will force presidential candidates to visit all 3,000 counties in the country. But our current system ensures that the few cities that already shape our economy and culture do not thoroughly dominate our electoral politics as well.

The Electoral College gives a voice to broad regions of the country that might otherwise be ignored and unheard. Indeed, our mode of electing presidents is not just a boon for the forgotten men and women of the Rust Belt and Bible Belt, but for voters in central California and upstate New York, with which they have much in common.

John W. York is a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

Could You Pass the Citizenship Test?

American Flag 1Quickly now – name one of the authors of The Federalist Papers, and don’t you dare go to Google. Do you know the pseudonym used by the authors to hide their true identities? Do you know why the Federalist Papers were written? If you have difficulty with any of the above be thankful that you’re not about to take the citizenship test to become a bona-fide American, as all three questions are on the test.

An associate of mine recently helped a Panamanian immigrant friend study for the test and was impressed with the quality of the questions.  Applicants are given a study book containing 100 questions, of which any 10 can be asked at the final quiz. Anything less than 6 correct and you fail.  After looking at all 100 questions it occurred to him that a majority of American high school seniors would have a hard time passing it.

As the old saying goes, that is sad but true.

Recent ACT test results, while not testing history specifically, showed that only 60% of high schoolers met collegiate success benchmarks in English, 46% in reading, 40% in math and 38% in science. Only 36% of our seniors met “college ready” benchmarks in all four categories tested.  Most educators I’ve talked with expect that the scores in American History would be in the high 30% to mid-40% range. Put another way –less than half of our high school seniors would score 50% on an American history test.

Other questions on the citizenship test include being able to name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and how many justices are on the court, name the Vice President, name one U.S. territory, name two rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the purpose and the author of that document, define the rule of law, name the President during World War I, who we fought in World War II, describe one of the four Constitutional Amendments that deal with voting, name one power that belongs only to the states, one thing Ben Franklin is famous for and the number of members in each house of Congress.

While these are certainly not “gimme” questions, neither are they so esoteric that they should be beyond the knowledge of most American high school students. They are basic, foundational history questions, the answers to which should be known not just to applicants for citizenship but by every citizen.

Graduation from high school should entail a knowledge of American history at least as rigorous as that required to become a citizen. Newly elected South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem supports making passing the citizenship test a requirement for high school graduation.  I hope she is successful not only in South Dakota but in spreading this idea across the country. I look forward to supporting such measures in the individual states.

I can imagine that some folks will say that in today’s interconnected, digital world a highly developed knowledge of the STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is more important to success than American history. They are correct only in the most myopic sense. Knowledge of our past, and yes what makes America exceptional, is the glue that binds all of us together.  To mix metaphors, it is the corn starch that holds together the myriad ingredients in the American melting pot.

The Bible asks what it profits someone to gain the whole world if that person loses their soul. What would it profit our students to become successful in the world but lose their American identity, their freedoms, their heritage of American exceptionalism? Think that’s being melodramatic? The ACT scores, coupled with the widespread belief among many educators that a majority of high school seniors would fail our citizenship test, indicate that this is precisely what is at stake.

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough is the author of some of the best books on American history ever written.  Pick one up at random and start reading – you will be hooked. (My own favorites are his eponymous biography of John Adams and his history of building the Panama Canal, “The Path Between The Seas”). McCullough described the importance of teaching American history in schools this way; “You cannot love what you do not know”. We should not be surprised if many American students don’t love their country. They don’t really know it.

There is no one silver bullet to overcome this sad situation, but being able to pass the citizenship test would be a giant step forward for our high school seniors. Such knowledge is a requirement of new citizens. It would be an enormous gift to our students, and in the long run to our country. I am confident enough in our country, and our students, to believe that once they know America, they will love it.

Is Anything Off-Limits for California’s Police Unions?

Police tapeA few weeks ago the Costa Mesa Police Association (read: Police Union) and their former law firm agreed to pay $607,000 to settle a lawsuit after their scheme against two Costa Mesa city councilmen came to light.

As I wrote in my book, this settlement represents a small but important victory in the broader philosophical war between California’s public employee unions’ unquenchable demand for more and the handful of public officials willing to stand and say there is simply no more to give. This result should also give hope to public officials across the state who have been at the pointy-end of the public employee unions’ so-called “advocacy” during labor negotiations or an election cycle.

The plot that eventually led to the settlement sounds like the set-up for a Don Winslow novel, but everything you are about to read is true.

On August 22, 2012 a private investigator, Chris Lanzillo, who was employed by the police union’s law firm was tailing the two councilmen in hopes of digging up dirt for use against them in the upcoming November city council elections.

The two Costa Mesa city councilmen were in the police union’s cross-hairs because they were trying to cut-back public employee pensions and benefits. The city had a $5.1 million budget deficit that year, and the offending proposal reduced retirees’ pensions from 90 percent of their salary at age 50 to a mere 81 percent of their pay at 55. That same year, Costa Mesa had 99 employees who earned more than $200,000.  …

Click here to read the full article from Townhall

Towards a Grand Bargain on California Water Policy

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirWhen it comes to water policy in California, perhaps the people are more savvy than the special interests. Because the people, or more precisely, the voters, by huge majorities, have approved nine water bonds in the past 25 years, totaling $27.1 billion. It is likely they’re going to approve another one this November for another $8.9 billion.

The message from the people is clear. We want a reliable supply of water, and we’re willing to pay for it. But the special interests – or whatever you want to call the collection of politicians, unelected bureaucrats with immense power, and other stakeholders who actually decide how all this money is going to be spent – cannot agree on policy. A recent article in the Sacramento Bee entitled “Why San Francisco is joining Valley farmers in a fight over precious California water,” says it all. “Precious California water.” But what if water were so abundant in California, it would no longer be necessary to fight over it?

As it is, despite what by this time next year is likely to be $36 billion in water bonds approved by voters for water investments since 1996, the state is nowhere close to solving the challenge of water scarcity. As explained in the Sacramento Bee, at the same time as California’s legislature has just passed long overdue restrictions on unsustainable groundwater withdrawals, the political appointees on the State Water Resources Control Board are about to enact sweeping new restrictions on how much water agricultural and municipal consumers can withdraw from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

This is a perfect storm, and every conservation, recycling and storage project currently funded or proposed will not make up the shortfall. In 2002, well before these new restrictions were being contemplated, the California Dept. of Water Resources issued an authoritative study, “Averting a California Water Crisis,” that estimated the difference between demand and supply at between two and six million acre feet per year by 2020. An impressive response from the public during the most recent drought, combined with some investment in water infrastructure has narrowed that gap. But the squeeze is ongoing, with tougher challenges and tradeoffs ahead.

Abundance vs Scarcity

When thinking about solutions to California’s water challenges, there is a philosophical question that has to be addressed. Is it necessary to persistently emphasize conservation over more supplies of water? Is it necessary to always perceive investments in more supplies of water as environmentally unacceptable, or is it possible to decouple, or mostly decouple, environmental harm from investment in more water supplies? Is it possible that the most urgent environmental priorities can be addressed by increasing the supply of water, even if investing in more water supplies also creates new, but lessor, environmental problems?

This philosophical question takes on urgent relevance when considering not only the new restrictions on water withdrawals that face Californians, but also in the context of another great philosophical choice that California’s policy makers have made, which is to welcome millions of new immigrants from across the world. What sort of state are we inviting these new residents to live in? How will we ensure that California’s residents, eventually to number not 40 million, but 50 million, will have enough water?

It is this reality – a growing population, a burgeoning agricultural economy, and compelling demands to release more water to threatened ecosystems – that makes a grand political water bargain necessary for California. A bargain that offers a great deal for everyone – more water for ecosystems, more water for farmers, more water for urban consumers – because new infrastructure will be constructed that provides not incremental increases, but millions and millions of acre feet of new water supplies.

The good news? Voters are willing to pay for it.

How to Have it All – A Water Infrastructure Wish List

When considering what it would take to actually have water abundance again in California, the first step is to try to determine the investment costs, imagining a best case scenario where every good idea got funded. Here’s a stab at that list, not differentiating between local, state and federal projects. These are very approximate numbers, rounded upwards to the nearest billion:

Projects to Increase Supplies of Water

(1) Build the Sites Reservoir (annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

(2) Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir (annual yield 0.25 MAF) – $3.0 billion.

(3) Raise the height of the Shasta Dam (increased annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $2.0 billion.

(4) So Cal water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

(5) So Cal desalination plants with 1.0 MAF capacity – $15.0 billion.

(6) Desalination plants on Central and North coasts with 0.5 MAF capacity – 7.5 billion

(7) Central and Northern California water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

(8) Facilities to capture runoff for aquifer recharge (annual yield 0.75 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

Total – $52.5 billion.

Projects to Increase Resiliency of Water Distribution Infrastructure

(9) Retrofit every dam in California to modern standards, including Oroville and San Luis – $5.0 billion.

(10) Aquifer mitigation to eliminate toxins with focus on Los Angeles Basin – $7.5 billion.

(11) Retrofit of existing aqueducts – $5 billion.

(12) Seismic retrofits to levees statewide, with a focus on the Delta – $7 billion.

Total – $24.5 billion.

The total of all these projects, $77 billion, is not accidental. That happens to be the latest best case, low-ball estimate for California’s completed high speed rail project. Without belaboring the case against high speed rail, two comparisons are noteworthy.

First, an ambitious program to create water abundance in California and water infrastructure resiliency in California based on this hypothetical budget is achievable. These numbers are deliberately rounded up, and the final costs might actually be lower, whereas it is extremely unlikely that California’s high speed rail project can be completed for $77 billion.

Second, because people will actually consume these new quantities of water that are being supplied and delivered, private financing will be attracted to significantly reduce the taxpayer’s share.

The Impact of a $77 billion Investment on Water Supply, Resiliency, and Ecosystems

As itemized above, at a capital cost of $52.5 billion, the total amount of water that might be added to the California’s statewide annual water budget is 5.5 million acre feet.

This amount of water would have a staggering impact on the demand vs. supply equilibrium for water. It is nearly equal to the total water consumed per year by all of California’s urban centers. Implementing this plan would mean that nearly all of the water that is currently diverted to urban areas could be instead used to ensure a cool, swift flow in California’s rivers, while preserving current allocations for agriculture. The options for environmentalists would be almost unbelievable. Restore wetlands. Revive the Delta. Refill the shrinking Salton Sea.

The environmentalist arguments against the three dams are weak. Shasta Dam is already built. The impact of expanding the Shasta Dam is purportedly the worst on McCloud creek, where it will affect “nearly a mile” of what was “once a prolific Chinook salmon stream,” (italics added). That negative impact, which seems fairly trivial, has to be balanced against the profound benefit of having another 500,000 acre feet of water available every summer to generate pulses of swift, cool water in the Sacramento River. The proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir is proposed on a stretch of the San Joaquin River that already has a smaller dam. The Sites Reservoir is an offstream reservoir that will not interfere with the Sacramento River.

The environmental benefits of these dams are not limited to their ability to ensure supplies of fresh water for California’s aquatic ecosystems. They can also be used to store renewable electricity, by pumping water from a forebay at the foot of the dam into the reservoir during the day, when solar energy already brings the spot price of electricity down to just a few cents per kilowatt-hour, then generating hydro-electric power later in the evening when peak electrical demand hits the grid. This well established technology has already been implemented on dams throughout California, and remains one of the most cost-effective ways to store clean, but intermittent, renewable energy. It will also be a profit center for these dams.

The environmentalist arguments against desalination are also weak. The energy required to desalinate seawater is comparable to the energy necessary to pump it from Northern California to the Los Angeles Basin. The outfall can be discharged under pressure a few miles from shore, where it is instantly disbursed in the California current. The impact from the intakes is grossly overstated by environmentalists, when considering that even if all of these contemplated desalination plants were built, the water they would intake is only a fraction of the amount of water taken in for decades by California’s power plants that are sited on the coast and use seawater for cooling.

As for the Delta, the primary environmental threat to that ecosystem is the chance that an earthquake destroys the hundreds of miles of levees, causing the agricultural areas behind those levees to be flooded. Not only would agricultural contaminants enter the water of the Delta, but the rush of water flooding into the areas behind the levees would cause salt water from the San Francisco Bay to rush in right behind, creating conditions of salinity that would take years to remove, if ever.

This is why investing in levee upgrades and a Delta Smelt hatchery is a preferable solution to the Delta tunnels. The tunnels would ensure a resilient supply of water from north to south, but the Delta would still be vulnerable to levee collapse. Levee upgrades and a Delta Smelt hatchery would accomplish both goals – resiliency of the water supply and of the Delta ecosystem. Moreover, the presence of massive water recycling and desalination facilities in Southern California would take a great deal of pressure off how much water would need to be transported through the Delta from north to south.

How to Finance $77 Billion for Water Infrastructure

Funding capital projects depends on three possible sources: operating budgets, general obligation bonds, or revenue bonds. Operating budgets, which used to help pay for capital projects, and which ought to help pay for capital projects, will never be balanced until real pension reform occurs. So for the most part, operating budgets are not a source of funds.

A useful way to differentiate between general obligation bonds and revenue bonds are that the general obligation bonds impose a progressive tax on Californians, since wealthy individuals pay about 60% of all tax revenues in California. Revenue bonds, on the other hand, because they are serviced through sales of, for example, water produced by a desalination plant, are regressive. This is because all consumers see these costs included in their utility rates, and utility bills constitute a far greater proportion of the budget for a low income household.

The Grand Bargain – Creating Water Abundance in California
(MAF = million acre feet)

Projects to increase supplies of water

By financing water infrastructure through a combination of revenue bonds and general obligation bonds, instead of solely through revenue bonds, water can remain affordable for ordinary Californians. The $24.5 billion portion of the $77.0 billion wish list, the funds for dam, aqueduct, and levee retrofits, along with aquifer mitigation, are not easily serviced through revenue bonds. A 30 year general obligation bond for $24.5 billion with an interest rate of 5% would cost California’s taxpayers $1.6 billion per year. Some of these projects, to the extent they are improving water delivery to specific urban and agricultural consumers, might be funded by bond issuances that would be serviced by the agencies most directly benefiting.

To claim that 100% of the revenue producing water projects can be financed through revenue bonds is more than theoretical. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant financing costs, principle and interest payments a nearly $1.0 billion for the plant’s construction, are paid by the contractor that built and operates the plant, with those payments in-turn funded through the rates charged to the consumers of the water. The contractor also retains an equity stake in the project, meaning that additional capital costs incurred privately are also funded via a portion of the rates charged to consumers.

Some of the revenue producing assets on the grand bargain wish list may also have a portion of them paid for by general obligation bonds. Determining that mix depends on the consumer. For example, a revenue bond for the reservoir projects may be applied to agricultural consumers who are willing to pay well above historical rates to have a guaranteed source of water for their orchards, which have to survive through dry years.

For urban consumers in particular, making the more expensive projects financially palatable may require general obligation bonds to cover part of the costs, so the remaining costs are affordable for ratepayers. For example, desalination is a relatively expensive way to produce water, making it harder to finance 100% with revenue bonds. But without desalination, wastewater recycling and runoff capture are not sufficient local sources of water in places like Los Angeles. The overall benefit to Californians of adding another 1.5 million acre feet per year to the state’s water supply, using desalination which is impervious to droughts, may be worth having some of its cost financed with general obligation bonds.

To fund roughly 50% of the revenue producing water supply infrastructure ($26.2 billion) and 100% of the water resiliency and distribution infrastructure ($24.5 billion) on this list would cost taxpayers about $3.0 billion per year. While this might strike some as an unthinkable amount to even consider, these projects meet all the criteria for so-called “good debt.” Constructing them all would solve California’s challenge of water scarcity, possibly forever. All of the projects are assets yielding ongoing and long-term benefits that will outlast the term of the financing. At the same time, water would become so abundant in California that prioritizing water allocations to revive ecosystems would no longer provoke bitter opposition. And California’s residents would live again in a state where taking a long shower, planting a lawn, and doing other water-intensive activities that are considered normal in a developed nation, would once again become affordable and normal.

Other Ways to Help Pay for Water Abundance in California

Enable and Expand Water Markets

Even if a grand bargain is struck between environmentalists, farmers, and water districts, and massive investments are made to increase the supply of water, enabling and expanding water markets will help optimize the distribution of available water resources. Similarly, reforming California’s labyrinthine system of water rights might also help, by making it easier for owners of water rights to sell their allocations. Fostering water markets while protecting water rights have interrelated impacts, and ideally can result in more equitable, appropriate water pricing across the state. It might also help make it unnecessary to impose punitive tiered rates or rationing on household consumers.

Reform Environmentalist Barriers to Development

CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a “statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.” While the intent behind CEQA is entirely justifiable, in practice it has added time and expense to infrastructure projects in California, often with little if any actual environmental benefit. An excellent summary of how to reform CEQA appeared in the Los Angeles Times in Sept. 2017, written by Byron De Arakal, vice chairman of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission. It mirrors other summaries offered by other informed advocates for reform and can be summarized as follows:

  • End duplicative lawsuits: Put an end to the interminable, costly legal process by disallowing serial, duplicative lawsuits challenging projects that have completed the CEQA process, have been previously litigated and have fulfilled any mitigation orders.
  • Full disclosure of identity of litigants: Require all entities that file CEQA lawsuits to fully disclose their identities and their environmental or, increasingly, non-environmental interest.
  • Outlaw legal delaying tactics: California law already sets goals of wrapping up CEQA lawsuits — including appeals — in nine months, but other court rules still leave room for procedural gamesmanship that push CEQA proceedings past a year and beyond. Without harming the ability of all sides to prepare their cases, those delaying tactics could be outlawed.
  • Prohibit rulings that stop entire project on single issue: Judges can currently toss out an entire project based on a few deficiencies in environmental impact report. Restraints can be added to the law to make “fix-it ticket” remedies the norm, not the exception.
  • Loser pays legal fees: Currently, the losing party in most California civil actions pays the tab for court costs and attorney’s fees, but that’s not always the case with CEQA lawsuits. Those who bring CEQA actions shouldn’t be allowed to skip out of court if they lose without having to pick up the tab of the prevailing party.

Find Other Ways to Reduce Construction Costs

The Sorek desalination plant, commissioned in Israel in 2015, cost $500 million to build and desalinates 185,000 acre feet of water per year. Compared to Carlsbad, which also began operations in 2015, Sorek came online for an astonishing one-sixth the capital cost per unit of capacity. Imagine if the prices Israelis pay to construct desalination plants could be achieved in California. Instead of spending $15 billion to build 1.0 million acre feet of desalination capacity, we would spend less than $3.0 billion. How did they do this?

The bidding process itself adds unnecessary costs to public infrastructure projects. Moving to a design-build process could significantly reduce duplicative work during the plant’s engineering phase. Project labor agreements are another practice that at the very least deserve serious reconsideration. Would it be possible objectively evaluate the impact of project labor agreements, and determine to what extent those mandates increase costs?

What about economies of scale? If ten desalination plants were commissioned all at once, wouldn’t there be an opportunity for tremendous unit savings? What about creativity? Elon Musk, who has disrupted the aerospace industry by building rockets at a fraction of historical prices, said “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” Is he even partly correct? Is that worth looking into?

Shift Government Spending Priorities

Cancel High Speed Rail: The most obvious case of how to redirect funds away from something of marginal value into water infrastructure, which is something with huge public benefit, is to cancel the bullet train. The project is doomed anyway, because it will never attract private capital. But what if Californians were offered the opportunity to preserve the planned bond issuances for high speed rail, tens of billions of capital, but with a new twist? If voters were asked to redirect these funds away from high speed rail and instead towards creating water abundance through massive investment in water infrastructure, there’s a good chance they’d vote yes.

Cancel the Delta Tunnels: By investing in levee hardening, the Delta’s ecosystems can be fortified against a severe earthquake. Reducing the possibility of levee failure protects the Delta ecosystems from their worst environmental threat at the same time as it protects the ability to transfer water from north to south. Investing in hatcheries to increase the population of the threatened Smelt is a far more cost-effective way of safeguarding the survival of that species. And investing in infrastructure on the Southern California coast to make that region water independent greatly reduces the downside of a disruption to water deliveries through the Delta. Canceling the Delta Tunnels would save $20 billion, money that would go a long way towards paying for other vital water infrastructure.

Reform Pensions: The biggest out of control budget item, by far among California’s state and local agencies, is the cost of public sector pensions. A California Policy Center analysis released earlier this year, based on public announcements from CalPERS, estimated that the total employer payments for pensions for California’s state and local government employees is set to nearly double, from $31 billion in 2018 to $59 billion by 2024. And that is a best case baseline. If there is a severe market correction, those required contributions will go up further. No discussion of how to find money for other government operations can take place without understanding the role of pension costs in creating budget constraints.

Reduce State Spending: Other ways to shift spending priorities in California, while worth a discussion, are mostly controversial. Returning the administrator to faculty ratio in California’s UC and CalState systems to its historical level of 1:2 instead of the current 1:1 would also save $2.0 billion per year. Outsourcing CalTrans work and eliminating redundant positions could save $2.5 billion per year. Reducing just state agency headcount and pay/benefits by 20% would save $6.5 billion per year. Just enacting part of that, incremental pension reform for state workers, could stop the runaway cost increases that are otherwise inevitable.

California’s state budget this year has broken $200 billion for the first time. Of that, general fund spending is at $139 billion, also a record. Revenues, however, have set records as well. The rainy day fund is full, and an extra deposit of $2.6 billion has it overflowing. Why not spend that $2.6 billion on water infrastructure? For that matter, why not spend all of the $1.4 billion of cap and trade revenue on water infrastructure?

Financing more water infrastructure will more likely come via public and private debt financing. But redirecting intended future borrowings, in particular for high speed rail and for the Delta Tunnels, could cover most if not all of the infrastructure investments necessary to deliver water abundance to Californians. And at the least, redirecting funds from government operating budgets can defray some of the operating costs, if not some of the capital costs.

Work to Build a Consensus

How many more times will California’s voters approve multi-billion dollar water bonds? The two passed in the last four years, plus the current one set for the November ballot, raise $20 billion, but only $2.5 billion of that goes to reservoir storage. Only another $3.3 billion more goes to any type of supply enhancements – mostly to develop aquifer storage or fund water recycling. Meanwhile, consumers are being required to submit to permanent water rationing, and dubious projects are being funded to save water. Artificial turf is a good example. There isn’t a coach in California who wants their athletes to compete on these dangerous surfaces. On a hot day in Sacramento, the temperature on these “fields” can reach 150 degrees. They are actually keeping sprinkler systems operating on these horrendous boondoggles, just to reduce the deadly heat buildup.

Credibility with voters remains intact to-date, but cannot be taken for granted. If a grand bargain on California’s water future is struck, it will need to promise, then deliver, water abundance to California’s residents.

Change the Conventional Wisdom

California’s current policies have stifled innovation and created artificial scarcity of literally every primary necessity – not just water, but housing, energy and transportation. Each year, to comply with legislative mandates, California’s taxpayers are turning over billions of dollars to attorneys, consultants and bureaucrats, instead of paying engineers and heavy equipment operators to actually build things. The innovation that persists despite California’s unwelcoming policy environment is inspiring.

California’s policymakers have adhered increasingly to a philosophy of limits. Less water consumption. Less energy use. Urban containment. Densification. Fewer cars and more mass transit. But it isn’t working. It isn’t working because California has the highest cost of living in the nation. Using less water and energy never rewards consumers, because the water and energy never were the primary cost within their utility bills – the cost of the infrastructure and overhead was the primary cost.

Changing the conventional wisdom applies to much more than water. It is a vision of abundance instead of scarcity that encompasses every vital area of resource consumption. A completely different approach that could cost less than what it might cost to fully implement scarcity mandates. An approach that would improve the quality of life for all Californians. Without abandoning but merely scaling back the ambition of new conservation and efficiency mandates, embrace supply oriented solutions as well. Build wastewater recycling and desalination plants on the Pacific coast, enough of them to supply California’s massive coastal cities with fresh water. Instead of mandating water rationing for households, put the money that would have been necessary to retrofit all those homes into new ways to reuse water and capture storm runoff.

Paying for all of this wouldn’t have to rely exclusively on public funds. Private sector investment could fund a large percentage of the costs for new water infrastructure. Water supplies could be even more easily balanced by permitting water markets where farmers could sell their water allotments without losing their grandfathered water rights. If the bidding process and litigation burdens were reduced, massive water supply infrastructure could be constructed at far more affordable prices.

The Grand Bargain

Water abundance in California is achievable. The people of California would welcome and support a determined effort to make it a reality. But compromise on a grand scale is necessary to negotiate a grand bargain. Environmentalists would have to accept a few more reservoirs and desalination plants in exchange for plentiful water allocations to threatened ecosystems. Farmers would have to pay more for water in exchange for undiminished quantities. While private financing and revenue bonds could cover much of the expense, taxpayers would bear the burden of some new debt – but in exchange for permanent access to affordable, secure, and most abundant water.

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This is the third and final part of an investigation into California’s water future. Part one is “How Much California Water Bond Money is for Storage?,” and part two is “How to Make California’s Southland Water Independent for $30 Billion.” Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president.