How to Squander the Grassroots

From the beginning, political insiders questioned the wisdom of supporting a Governor Newsom recall campaign. But when Orrin Heatlie was picking up the pieces after the first recall effort, he recognized something that eluded most experts: From scratch, with absolutely no professional or financial support, a volunteer army had formed and gathered 352,271 signed petitions. This accomplishment has no precedent.

What has happened since March of 2020 has made history. Heatlie went on to mobilize this volunteer army to try again to gather 1.5 million signed petitions. Taking into account the inevitable share of duplicates or invalid petitions, they ended up turning in more than 2.1 million signed petitions. Newsom is now fighting for his political life. He’s one super fire, major power brownout, or French Laundry imbroglio away from retirement.

How Heatlie’s recall campaign evolved is a textbook example of how grassroots movements and political professionals can work together. Anne Dunsmore, a fundraiser and campaign expert with decades of experience in California politics, began assisting the recall effort in the summer of 2020. Relying on direct mail to complement Heatlie’s volunteer signature gatherers, Dunsmore’s committee spent $3.6 million, while Heatlie’s committee raised not quite $1.0 million.

Everything about this was not supposed to happen. Heatlie was not supposed to be able to muster thousands of volunteers who manned booths in parking lots, knocked on doors, recruited business owners, and networked with everyone they knew to gather well over a million signatures. Dunsmore’s gamble that direct mail would be […] Read More

Tragedy Highlights Obsolescence of Light Rail

Despite the fact that cars – personal autonomous vehicles – are becoming more versatile, more diverse, and more sustainable every year, and despite the fact that virtually every technology expert and social prognosticator has known this for decades, Americans have nonetheless poured countless billions of dollars into urban “light rail” schemes instead of improving roads. Metropolitan passenger rail does make sense in some of America’s most densely populated cities – New York City and Boston are examples of that – but in suburban California, they’ve never worked, and they never will.

A prime example of this folly is none other than Silicon Valley, where despite the presence of innovators that have already put onto the road EVs that do zero to sixty in under 3 seconds and drive themselves, and are about to put into the air passenger drones that will literally leapfrog surface transportation, billions have been squandered on light rail that hardly anyone rides.

Every weekday in Santa Clara County over 700,000 commuters drive to work. Before the pandemic struck, in 2019, an additional 27,000 used light rail for this commute. Post-pandemic, it is unlikely ridership on light rail will ever recover to 2019 levels. Commuting by car, for that matter, may have peaked, since one bright spot in the challenges of the past year is that work-at-home technologies have come of age. So why did transportation planners ever decide to invest billions in a light rail system that never took more than 4 percent of cars […] Read More

Fiat Dollars to Finance Feudalism

People throw political labels around a lot these days, to the point where they lose their meaning and impact. We’re trying to understand where we are headed as a society, but we get lost in the ideology labyrinth. And while we throw the labels around, some of us with certainty and others with caveats and nuance, reality marches on. And the reality is grim. We are being turned into livestock by oligarchs who share the perception that ordinary people are on the verge of becoming completely useless to them.

Who needs manufacturing workers when factories are within a decade or two of achieving complete machine autonomy? Who needs caregivers when robotics are within a decade or two of delivering androids that are smarter and better looking? Who needs universal healthcare that’s within a few decades of significantly extending the human lifespan, when all these billions of ordinary humans will do with their extra 50 years is eat, shit, and play games? Who needs billions of humans when their consumptive appetites are a pestilence on a brilliant blue planet?

What do you do, if you’re a multi-billionaire, and all of your multi-billionaire friends agree: It’s easier and better for us if we herd these useless billions into megacities, take away their jobs, give them a universal basic income, and cram them into subsidized apartments. We’ll immerse them in online fantasies, algorithmically calibrated to dopamine them into quiescence.

It’s a scary vision. No life extension for the masses. No jobs. No incentives. […] Read More

The Big One

Long before Trump flags became ubiquitous along California’s rural highways, there were signs proclaiming the State of Jefferson.

Across most of Northern and Central California, as soon as the outlying suburbs and strip malls give way to farms and oak woodland, the signs appear. Some are just sheets of plywood, makeshift billboards with “Jefferson” spray painted onto the weathering surface. Others are professionally designed, manufactured signs and flags, complete with the Jefferson state “seal,” a yellow gold pan with two intersecting X’s in the middle.

This movement, seeking to secede from California and form a new U.S. state, could be dismissed as a futile joke. But the signs and the flags are everywhere. They represent the sentiments of millions of Californians who know, with ample cause, that the politicians in Sacramento don’t represent them and don’t care.

Over the past ten years, beginning roughly at the same time as the Tea Party Movement became a national phenomenon, and further catalyzed by Trump’s popularity later in the decade, the State of Jefferson movement has acquired new momentum. But alienation in this increasingly polarized state is not restricted to its rural population.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper channeled the frustrations of additional millions of urbanites when he qualified the “Three Californias” initiative for the November 2018 state ballot. The initiative was struck down by the California Supreme Court, which deemed it unconstitutional, but not before it attracted international attention. Draper, who favors government decentralization and accountability, drew […] Read More

Dams and Desalination – California Needs Both

When Californians can take showers, without flow restrictors, for as long as they want, and when Californians can have lawns again instead of rocks and cacti in their front yards, water infrastructure in California will once again be adequate.

When California’s farmers can get enough water to grow food, instead of watching their suddenly useless holdings of dead orchards and parched furrows get sold for next to nothing to corporate speculators and subsidized solar farm developers, water infrastructure in California will once again be adequate.

One of the difficulties in forming a coalition powerful enough to stand up to the corporate environmentalist lobby in California is the perception, widely shared among the more activist farming lobby, that desalination is more expensive than dams.

That’s not true. It depends on the desalination, and even more so, it depends on the dam.

As a baseline, consider the cost of desalination in California’s lone large scale operating plant in Carlsbad north of San Diego. The total project costs for this plant, including the related pipes to convey the desalinated water to storage reservoirs, was just over $1.0 billion. At a capacity to produce 56,000 acre feet per year, the construction cost per acre foot of annual capacity comes in just over $17,000.

When it comes to the price of desalinated water, payments on the bond that financed the construction costs form the overwhelming share of the cost per acre foot.

For example, California’s second major desalination project, the proposed plant in […] Read More

How the People Can Fix California

The deadline to file citizens initiatives for the November 2022 state ballot is this August, and not nearly enough has been done so far. Active measures submitted to the California Attorney General include the highly necessary proposition to “prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude,” along with one to “require earth sustainability training in public schools.” Because apparently we’re still coping with slavery in California, and our public schools are not already inculcating sufficient climate change panic.

Other active measures carry more substance, for example, affecting child custody cases, gambling, and medical negligence lawsuits. But even these, while important, are nibbling around the edges of policy. They will affect the lives of some people, and that may be good or bad, but everyday life in California will not change.

Meanwhile, in a state that once offered hope and opportunity to everyone, most Californians now struggle to survive. The privileged classes – seniors in homes they bought two generations ago, tech workers who learned to code, and the upper strata of public sector employees – exist to serve the elites, a generous handful of billionaires and centi-millionaires. For everyone else, life is tougher every year.

For every essential – homes, rent, tuition, gasoline, electricity – Californians pay the highest prices in America. Californians endure the most hostile business climate in America, and pay the highest taxes. The public schools are failing, crime is soaring, electricity is unreliable, water is rationed, and the mismanaged forests are burning like hell. And all of this […] Read More

The Latinx of the Iceberg

Until I attempted to use the word Latinx in conversation, I was unaware of its pronunciation. Apparently it is not “Lah-teenx,” but “Latin-ex.” Oops. That was a faux pas.

My mistake was to even try to use this made up word. If “people of color” still sounds a bit contrived, “Latin-ex” is wholly contrived. And while “people of color” at least has the virtue of being the only awkward phrase people could come up with that was both adequately descriptive and sufficiently inoffensive, there is no justification whatsoever for adopting the word “Latin-ex.” It is being pushed on Latinos by Anglo Democrats.

At last count, less than 3 percent of Latinos have any interest in using the word Latinx. Most of them are public school instructors in California. For most Latinos, this word is recognized for what it really is – cultural imperialism by leftwing Whites with a savior complex who think they’re entitled to decide what everyone is supposed to think, how they’re supposed to talk, what they’re permitted to talk about, and which nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc. are permissible, and which are forbidden.

The type of person who invents a word like Latinx – leftist activists and academics and compliant bureaucrats – is the same type of person who comes up with words like “accompliceship,” “androcentric,” “cischeteropatriarchy,” “conscientization,” “herstory,” “hxrstory,” “hybridities,” “womanism,” “xdisciplinary,” and mucho, mucho mas.

Normal people, oops, that is an “othering” term, see this for what it is: gibberish. But the leftist […] Read More

Maximizing the Conservative Populist Movement in California

AUDIO: The rise of conservative populism in California and how it can be either nurtured or squandered, and how Californians of all ideologies can unite behind practical solutions to many of the state’s most challenging problems through the ballot initiative process – 42 minutes on AM 590 San Bernardino – Edward Ring on Unite the Inland Empire with Greg Brittain & Agnes Gibboney.

Revisiting Liberal Fascism

“When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown or black shirts. It will be in Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts. – George Carlin

Back in 2008, American Enterprise Institute scholar Jonah Goldberg wrote a bestseller entitled “Liberal Fascism.” With America’s entire political and media establishment claiming “right wing extremism” as the most urgent national security issue, Goldberg’s book has more relevance today than when it was written.

Only slightly outside the mainstream, the far left-press is is explicit in its references to right wing “fascism.” From the Daily Beast in January 2021, “Donald Trump Is Leaving, but American Fascism Is Just Getting Its Boots On.” From Open Democracy, also in January, “Donald Trump’s Insurrection is the beginning of years of street violence.” And just in from the high-minded journal Foreign Policy, “Trump’s movement is a uniquely American fascism, built on a century of American imperialism.”

How is it that “Trump’s movement” can be the target of so much fear mongering and growing repression, when literally tens of thousands of black clad Antifa and BLM have invaded the streets of countless American cities for over a year with rioting, looting, and beat-downs? Early on, Goldberg’s book made the claim, backed up now by ample evidence, that the “right wing” has no monopoly on fascist violence.

Here is Goldberg’s definition of fascism: “Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national […] Read More

Who Will Support California’s Populists?

A recent article published in the Kennedy School Review by American Affairs editor Julius Krein makes a strong case that conservatives have no future as a political force in America. The one flaw in this article, entitled “Can Conservatism Be More than a Grudge,” is it may be a little too pessimistic. It’s well argued and is a must-read for anyone serious about reviving conservative political power in places like California.

The only hope Krein offers is the power of populism, harnessing a multi-racial coalition of working-class and middle class Americans. But conservative populism, ascendant today in California, is about to be squandered by an establishment that lacks the leadership and authenticity to tap this extraordinary energy.

One of Krein’s understated but most powerful points regards patronage. He writes: “The Democratic coalition is no less incongruous than the Republican one. There are, however, two important differences between them. First, the Democratic economic base is composed largely of ascendant and prestigious economic sectors and firms, from Silicon Valley to Goldman Sachs, while Republicans are predominantly supported by declining sectors, like natural resource extraction. Second, the Democratic patronage system is coherent, even if the Democratic coalition is not. In other words, the Democratic Party is capable of using policy to directly benefit its various constituencies and to create new ones. Together, both of these factors ensure that Democrats’ patchwork constituencies have reasons to overlook their coalition’s internal contradictions. That is simply not the case on the Republican side.”

This single paragraph […] Read More