The Boondoggle Archipelago

Across California, there is a growing string of islands, exquisite gems in the urban ocean. Dredged from the pockets of taxpayers, constructed by elite artisans, these pristine islands have been created at stupefying expense. But their beauty is seductive. Spend more!

Each time an island is completed, or even proposed, glowing reports are logged across the land. So fortunate are those who shall live on these islands! So wonderful are those who shall build these islands, and care for their inhabitants! What a magnificent, marvelous thing we have done!

Or have we? From deep within the ocean a seismic wave is building, triggered by reality and propelled by common sense. Because these islands, more properly referred to as homeless shelters, supportive housing, and “low income housing,” are far too small, and far too precious, to ever, ever accommodate every castaway that needs a roof over their heads. They will never offer the required land mass to solve the problem. Instead, history shall know them as California’s Boondoggle Archipelago.

The builders of the Boondoggle Archipelago hide behind laws they won’t try to change, and behind court rulings they won’t challenge, and happily follow the rules. Happily, because the rules are rigged to ensure that the vast majority of California’s homeless and low-income families shall remain forever adrift, and so long as there are castaways, there’s money for the builders.

A short cruise across the urban ocean from north to south, visiting various typical islands in California’s Boondoggle Archipelago, should offer ample […] Read More

The Seven Deadly Sins of California’s Political Establishment

To be fair, California’s politicians aren’t alone in their quest to destroy America’s rights, freedoms, prosperity, culture, traditions, and pride. They’re just more advanced in their quest. But since what happens in California often ends up happening later in the rest of America, it’s important to highlight just how bad it’s gotten in the Golden State.

Just as a theologian might argue there are more than seven deadly sins that are fatal to spiritual progress, there are more than seven policy areas where California’s political leadership have fatally undermined the aspirations of ordinary Californians. But in the interests of brevity and clarity, here are what might be the most damning seven deadly sins of California’s political establishment.

Law and Order – Californians have prided themselves on being trendsetters in human rights, but the pendulum has swung too far. Thanks to Prop. 47, the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative” approved by California’s voters in 2014, it is nearly impossible to arrest and hold anyone for possession of hard drugs, so long as they claim the drugs are for personal use. Prop. 47 also downgraded the punishment for property crimes if the value of the stolen goods are under $950 per offense.

The consequence of these laws are public drug use and rampant theft to support these drug habits. Other ridiculous laws include AB 953, the “Racial and Identity Profiling Act” (2015), that requires police to fill out an extensive questionnaire after every encounter with a member of the […] Read More

Saving California From Wildfires Requires Cooperation With Trump

President Trump recently tweeted “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management,” Newsom tweeted back, “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”

October 29th, former Governor Jerry Brown addressed the U.S. Congress, saying “California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all. The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up, because this is not politics, this is life, this is morality. You’ve got to get with it – or get out of the way.”

Despite that California’s current and former governors are both ardent members of the catastrophe chorus, climate change has almost nothing to do with California’s recent wildfires. These fires are the result of a century of successful fire suppression, combined with a failure to remove all the undergrowth that results when natural fires aren’t allowed to burn. Not only does excessive undergrowth create fuel for catastrophic super fires, but these excessive trees and shrubs compete with mature trees. This is the real reason why our forests are not only tinderboxes, but also filled with dying trees.

Forest professionals who were consulted for this article were in agreement that despite the antagonistic rhetoric, and notwithstanding the misplaced “climate crisis” scapegoating and fearmongering, state officials are working with federal agencies on practical solutions. But it isn’t easy to reverse a century of forest mismanagement overnight.

While a consensus […] Read More

Long-Term Solutions for California Wildfire Prevention

Nobody knew how the fire started. It took hold in the dry chaparral and grasslands and quickly spread up the sides of the canyon. Propelled by winds gusting over 40 miles per hour and extremely dry air (humidity below 25 percent), the fire spread over the ridge and into the town below. Overwhelmed firefighters could not contain the blaze as it swept through the streets, immolating homes by the hundreds. Even brick homes with slate roofs were not spared. Before it finally was brought under control, 640 structures including 584 homes had been reduced to ashes. Over 4,000 people were left homeless.

Does this sound like the “new normal?” Maybe so, but this description is of the Berkeley fire of 1923. In its time, with barely 4 million people living in California, the Berkeley fire was a catastrophe on par with the fires we see today.

When evaluating what happened in nearly a century since this fire, two stories emerge. The story coming from California’s politicians emphasizes climate change. From former Governor Jerry Brown: “In less than five years, even the worst skeptics will be believers.” From current Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking on the threat of wildfires in the state: “If anyone is wondering if climate change is real, come to California.”

The other story, which comes from professional foresters, emphasizes how different forest management practices might have made many of the recent fires far less severe, if not avoided entirely. Specifically, California’s misguided forest management practices […] Read More

How Trump Can Declare War on the Homeless Industrial Complex

California’s homeless crisis is now visible to everyone living in the state. Along with tens of thousands of homeless who are concentrated in various districts of the major cities, additional thousands are widely dispersed. If you drive into most major urban centers, you will see their tent encampments along freeway junctions, under bridges, along frontages, beside drainage culverts. Even in very small towns, they congregate by the dozens in parks and parking lots, along the streets and in the alleys. In California’s largest cities, by the tens of thousands, they erect makeshift housing along sidewalks, using tarpaulins draped over shopping carts, tents, boxes. It is completely out of control. Billions have been spent to ameliorate the situation, and these billions have only served to make the situation worse than ever.

It’s hard to identify ground zero for California’s homeless crisis. But the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County host, between them, well over 100,000 of California’s estimated 130,000 homeless. And in both of those metros, local government policies have utterly failed. This failure is partly because local elected officials are hampered by state laws which make it nearly impossible to incarcerate petty thieves and drug addicts, or institutionalize the mentally ill, and court rulings that prohibit breaking up homeless encampments unless these homeless can be provided free and permanent “supportive housing.”

The state and federal governments have even mandated that providing “housing first,” and getting every homeless person under a roof prior to any allocations of funds […] Read More

How Federal Intervention Can Ease California’s Homeless Crisis

On October 24, Curbed LA reported that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to provide an additional $24 million in homeless housing bonds to “repurpose a building (207) on the Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles for housing for veterans.” According to the article, the rehabilitated building would provide 59 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless and chronically homeless senior Veterans.”

According to Ryan Thompson, writing for VeniceUpdate.com, the developer’s budget for this rehab project is $54.6 million, which equates to a per unit cost of $926,000. In his write-up, Thompson not only questions the astronomical per unit price tag, but the entire process whereby these contracts were awarded and how the designated developers were selected. It warrants close reading.

Spending up to one million dollars per unit to not even create new housing, but to upgrade an existing structure, is not an outlier. These astronomical costs are typical. In Venice Beach, a new structure being proposed to accommodate homeless and low income residents is budgeted, including the value of the land, at over $200 million, in order to create 140 new apartment units. That’s a cost of $1.4 million per unit.

In order to assist the homeless, in 2016, Los Angeles voters approved Prop. HHH, authorizing $1.2 billion to construct “supportive housing.” As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the total project cost, on average, for the few thousand units that will eventually get built is $550,000 each.

Up north, the San […] Read More

The Many Derangement Syndromes of Our Time

The term “derangement syndrome” has made it into everyday speech, thanks to the now ubiquitous use of the term “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a term coined by Esther Goldberg back in 2015.

Writing for the American Spectator, Goldberg offered prescient observations as to how Trump Derangement Syndrome had afflicted “ruling class conservatives” such as George Will and Charles Cooke. These two were among the first “Never Trumpers, and since then Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, has spread across America. But TDS is only one of the many derangement syndromes of our time.

The British conservative author and journalist Douglas Murray made derangement a central theme of his recent book, “The Madness of Crowds.” Writing about his book for the Daily Mail, he says “We are going through a great mass derangement. In public and in private, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and unpleasant.”

In his book, Murray claims that in post-modern society’s retreat from the great narratives offered by religion, patriotism, and traditions of family and community, people have found new ideologies to absorb their passions: social justice, identity politics, and intersectionality.

At face value, these ideologies aren’t especially toxic. Who doesn’t want social justice? Who isn’t proud of their heritage? Who would not acknowledge that the various group identities embodied in any individual intersect in a manner that helps define how they view themselves in the world? The toxicity is introduced by what overlays these ideologies: oppressor vs oppressed, empowered vs […] Read More

Can Libertarians Be Honest About Immigration and Assimilation?

Balanced on the edge of the deplatforming abyss, but still standing, is Vincent James. He is one of the last prominent YouTube video commentators with outspoken views on America’s immigration policies and how they affect America’s electoral politics. Despite his channel being demonetized and algorithmically suppressed, he continues to produce videos that frequently attract over 100,000 viewers. Even if his arguments were odious, and unsupportable with data or logic, James would deserve to speak his mind. But what makes him dangerous is his arguments are always backed up with impeccable data.

In a recent video, James took on America’s libertarians, specifically calling them out on the issue of immigration. At the 9:15 point, he replays a clip of a student challenging Charlie Kirk (founder of Turning Point USA) during his Q&A with a college audience. Kirk repeatedly skirts the question of whether or not mass immigration is sustainable by attempting to change the subject to why America needs to attract the best and the brightest of the world. And of course, Kirk can’t help but remind his audience that “this growing anti-immigration portion of the Republican conservative movement is dangerous.”

This is a standard response from a member of what James and others have dubbed “Conservatism Inc.” It is condescending and disingenuous. Condescending because everyone knows we welcome the Albert Einsteins and Elon Musks of the world, disingenuous because that’s not the point. Millions of unskilled immigrants to America will drive down the wages of low income […] Read More

How Many Laws Does San Francisco’s Prop. A Violate?

Whether or not San Francisco’s upcoming appeal to voters to borrow $600 million to pay for for low income housing is a good idea or a bad idea depends on who you ask.

Proponents claim Prop. A, which will appear on the ballot this November 5th, is necessary because San Francisco doesn’t have enough affordable housing. Opponents argue, among other things, that Prop. A is mostly for “rehabilitation” of existing low income housing and therefore doesn’t significantly increase the supply of housing.

But does Prop. A’s proposed use of funds conform to state law that directs how bond money can be spent?

Does Prop. A’s Use of Proceeds Violate California’s State Prop. 46?

Eight years after the passage of the landmark Prop. 13, which California’s voters approved in 1978 to freeze property taxes at one percent of the assessed value at that time (with a maximum two percent per year permissible adjustment), Prop. 46 was passed by voters to offer some exemptions to Prop. 13. Specifically, Prop. 46 authorized local governments to increase property taxes if, by a two-thirds vote, ballot measures were approved to permit borrowing “to purchase or improve land and buildings.”

Prop. A’s proposed use of funds appears to skate very close to the edge in terms of complying with Prop. 46, because there is a difference between “improvement” and “repairs.” In the world of accounting and finance, this difference is significant. The distinction between capital improvements and repair expenses is clearly defined in […] Read More

Electricity and Ideology – Competing Priorities in California

“If I wanted the power shut off for days by bloated, corrupt utilities enabled by bloated, corrupt one-party politicians,” quipped Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and prominent conservative political activist, “I would have stayed in India.”

Dhillon’s observation pretty much sums up the frustration felt by millions of Californians last week. In Northern California, nearly 800,000 homes and businesses went without power. Some of them had power shut off for five days. In Southern California, even as the Saddleridge fire raged through neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, another 25,000 homes had their power shut off.

But while it’s tempting to accept Dhillon’s statement at face value, the causes of California’s wildfire challenges are many and complex.

For example, while any public utility as massive as Pacific Gas and Electric is bound to have pockets of bloat and corruption within, that isn’t the reason Californians experienced devastating wildfires in the summer of 2018. And while California’s one-party politicians have arguably enabled PG&E and other utilities by relieving them of a portion of their liability for wildfires, these same politicians have saddled PG&E with renewables mandates that diverted billions of dollars which could have been spent on wildfire mitigation.

Bureaucrats and politicians have used a shopworn phrase, “the new normal,” to describe California’s supposed future of endless and devastating wildfires. Last week we heard it again, this time in reference to massive power outages deliberately imposed to prevent these wildfires. But neither of these […] Read More