California’s Failure to Store Water Exemplifies its Political Dysfunction

In 2017, when cracks appeared in the Oroville Dam’s spillway, more than 180,000 Californians faced the prospect of floods. The emergency came a few years after Californians had overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a ballot measure to spend $7.1 billion on water-storage projects. In the drought-stricken Golden State, where runoff from rain and snowmelt races uselessly into the Pacific Ocean, the proposition won wide support, with voters approving it, two-to-one. But four years after passage, the state water commission has yet to assign a dime of funding for storage.

California once performed miracles in building infrastructure to quench the thirst of its residents and agricultural producers. In the 1960s, Governor Pat Brown oversaw construction of the San Luis Reservoir, capacity 2 million acre-feet. Approved for construction in 1963, it was completed by 1968—five years from start to finish. Those days are long gone. Any surface-storage project now faces years of litigation from environmental groups such as the powerful Sierra Club. At every stage in the construction process, delays of months or years ensue to resolve well-funded lawsuits launched under every conceivable pretext, from habitat destruction to inundation of Native American artifacts.

Nevertheless, the California Water Commission has finally announced its plans to fund new projects with the money from Proposition 1. Many Californians were surprised to learn that the proposition’s fine print stipulated that only a third of the money was ever intended to fund water storage. The rest is earmarked for other […] Read More

How to Revive California’s Republican Party Which is Currently Dead

Anyone taking a look at California’s June 2018 state primary ballot would have plenty of evidence to suggest the Republican Party in that state is dead. For starters, California’s GOP has two credible candidates for governor, businessman John Cox and State Assemblyman Travis Allen, which in a normal state might be a good thing. But California’s Republicans are a super-minority party in an open “top-two primary” that pits them against at least two well-funded Democratic candidates, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Although Cox is polling better than Allen, they’re both likely to be aced off the ticket in November.

Worse, California’s Republicans have no viable candidate for U.S. Senate. The most recognizable candidate—indelibly listed as “Republican” on the ballot despite being kicked out of the recent GOP state convention—is Patrick Little, whose campaign website’s home page includes a “learn more” button on the topic of “How We Will End Jewish Supremacism.”

There is not one higher state office in California where a Republican has a realistic chance of victory. Nearly every position—lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, and state superintendent of schools—Democratic candidates are likely to win. The lone exception is insurance commissioner, where the respected Steve Poizner, who has already held that office as a Republican from 2007 to 2011, is now running as an independent.

California’s GOP Party Organization Has Failed If you go […] Read More

California’s Transportation Future, Part Three – Next Generation Vehicles

The next generation of vehicles will transform transportation in several fundamental ways. What is coming will be as revolutionary in our time as the transition from horses to horseless carriages was over a century ago. Some increments of this dawning revolution are already here in realized products. Electric drivetrains. Collision avoidance systems. Self-driving cars. Cars on demand. Aerial drones. Nearly all of the enabling technology for this dawning revolution is already here. Artificial intelligence. Visual recognition and sensor systems that use radar, sonar and LIDAR laser scanning. Mapping capabilities. GPS. Data collection. Memory chips. Communications systems. And every one of these technologies, along with investment capital, more than anywhere else, is concentrated in California.

As this revolution unfolds, our conception of what constitutes vehicular transport will change. Many vehicles will be modular and reconfigurable. On the road surface, the wheeled chassis, or “skateboard,” will contain the essentials to power and navigate the vehicle. Depending on the duty cycle, a skateboard chassis may be small, only capable of carrying a two passenger cabin, or small freight payload. Other skateboards will range in size from those capable of carrying a sedan or SUV sized passenger unit, all the way to the largest versions which, with freight or passenger units attached, would weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

Even more variation will be present in the passenger modules. An SUV sized passenger module, for example, might hold 6-8 passengers like a mini-bus. Or it might be a conference room or an office where […] Read More

California’s Climate Agenda Sets an Impossible Example

California has acted decisively and aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, with a state goal to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. – Excerpt from Introduction, Governor’s Budget Summary, 2018-19

Indeed it has. Glowing tributes to Governor Brown’s legacy understate how long California has been proclaiming itself the leader in fighting “climate change.” It actually began with Brown’s immediate predecessor, Gov. Schwarzenegger, who pivoted left after failing to reform public employee unions in 2005. Schwarzenegger promoted, then signed, AB 32, in 2006. This so-called “Global Warming Solutions Act,” set the initial targets for greenhouse gas reduction, empowering the California Air Resources Board to monitor and enforce compliance with laws and regulations aimed at achieving these reductions.

Other significant legislation followed. SB 107, also passed in 2006, mandated a “renewable portfolio standard,” wherein by 2010 at least 20% of California’s electricity would come from renewable sources.

The legislation has been unrelenting. SB 1, 2006, mandated utilities pay rebates to homeowners that installed photovoltaic panels on their roofs. AB 118, 2007, funded the “Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program,” the first step towards mandating a minimum percentage of electric and hybrid vehicle sales. SB 375, 2008, the “Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act,” directed cities and counties to increase the housing density of their communities.

When Jerry Brown took over as Governor in 2010, legislation accelerated. SBX1-2, 2011, raised the renewable portfolio standard to 33% by […] Read More

California’s Transportation Future, Part Two – The Hyperloop Option

In July 2012, Elon Musk sat down for a “fireside chat” with Sara Lacy, founder of the PandoDaily website. In between discussions of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX, 43 minutes in, Musk unveiled his idea for the “Hyperloop,” a new transportation technology that “incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.”

The concept wasn’t new. Hyperloop concepts have existed for nearly 200 years. Small scale “pneumatic railways” were actually built in Dublin, London, and Paris, mostly as a novelty, as far back as the 1850’s. In 1910, American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard proposed a train that would go from Boston to New York in 12 minutes. Goddard’s design advanced the technology, replacing wheels with magnetic levitation of the passenger capsule inside a vacuum-sealed tunnel.

Musk’s “Hyperloop Alpha” study was released by a joint team from SpaceX and Tesla in August 2013. This 58 page study remains an excellent investigation of the financial and engineering feasibility of Hyperloop technology. The concept is relatively simple. Passengers and freight travel in “pods” or “capsules,” through a tube that has had all the air pumped out, eliminating the friction of air resistance. Moreover, these pods ride on electromagnets, repelled away from the inner surface of the tube, eliminating the friction of wheels. Not only would these electromagnets keep the pods levitated off the inside surfaces of the travel tube, but through “linear induction,” they would provide the force to […] Read More

California’s Obsolete Transportation Solutions

AUDIO: A discussion of how California’s innovators lead the world in transportation innovation at the same time as California’s policymakers continue to ignore progress and fund obsolete solutions – 7 minutes on KOGO San Diego – Ed Ring on the Carl DeMaio Show.

http://civfi.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-03-Ed-Ring-on-Carl-DeMaio-Show-7-minutes.m4a

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California’s Transportation Future, Part One – The Fatally Flawed Centerpiece

California’s transportation future is bright. In every area of transportation innovation, California-based companies are leading the way. Consortiums of major global companies have offices throughout the San Francisco Bay area, pioneering self-driving cars that consolidate technologies from not just automakers, but cell phone manufacturers, chip designers, PC makers, telecoms, and software companies. In Southern California from the aerospace hub surrounding LAX to the Mojave desert, heavily funded consortiums experiment with everything from passenger drones to hyperloop technologies to hypersonic transports. It’s all happening here. It’s wondrous.

Meanwhile, instead of preparing the roads for smart cars, or designing hubs that integrate buses and cars-on-demand with aerial drones and hyperloop systems, the centerpiece of California’s transportation future is a train that isn’t very fast, being built at what is probably the highest cost-per-mile in the history of transportation, which hardly anyone will ever ride.

There is a stark contrast between California’s private entrepreneurial culture, as reflected in the marvels of transportation engineering they are developing, and California’s political culture, as reflected in their ongoing commitment to “high speed rail,” in all of its stupefying expense, its useless grandeur, its jobs for nothing, its monumental initial waste, situated miles from nowhere. Exploring that stark contrast, its origins, the players, the projects, the problems and the solutions, will be the topic of this and subsequent reports.

HIGH SPEED RAIL – THE FATALLY FLAWED CENTERPIECE

The fatally flawed centerpiece of California’s transportation future, the “Bullet Train,” unfairly dominates California’s transportation conversation. Unfair not only because […] Read More

Compassionate Nationalism

One might think that President Trump’s frequent references to “America First” would be palatable to all Americans, especially since Trump takes every opportunity to assure foreign leaders that he fully expects them to put the interests of their own nations and citizens first as well. But given the virulent opposition Trump seems to attract, particularly with respect to policies that embrace the principle of America First, it would be helpful to try to explain some of its moral foundations.

Just as conservatism suffers a rhetorical disadvantage when pitted against liberalism, nationalism suffers a rhetorical disadvantage when pitted against globalism. With measured success, conservatives have risen to the challenge, offering up versions of compassionate conservatism based on principles of prosperity, freedom, opportunity, liberty, and so on. So how might one define compassionate nationalism?

AMERICA CAN’T HELP THE WORLD UNLESS AMERICA IS STRONG

The crucial moral argument in favor of nationalism is that America cannot be a force for good in the world unless it is internally cohesive and economically strong. Ironically, this is a globalist argument, but differs from liberal globalism insofar as it asserts that America’s way of life is more effective than that of most other nations in delivering freedom and prosperity to its people. Therefore protecting the American way of life is a prerequisite to America helping the rest of the world achieve that way of life.

This is an arrogant claim. It makes people uncomfortable. But it’s true. Standing up for American values, and more generally, for […] Read More

Libertarians Will Turn America into a Socialist Hell

If you believe in limited government, then you need to know that Libertarians are the most dangerous people in America. Because thanks to Libertarians, Democrats – completely controlled by left-wing oligarchs and public sector unions – are going to extend government control into every facet of American life. If you doubt that, come to California, a one-party state where Democrats enforce everything from the trivial – outlawed plastic straws, to the tyrannical – water rationing, urban “densification,” confiscatory taxes.

Libertarians apparently believe their principles justify them running candidates that steal far more votes from Republicans than Democrats – for the obvious reason that people who favor limited government tend to vote Republican. But despite all their intellectualizing – go online and try not to puke as you read their high-brow badinage as they banter over Hayek and the Austrian School and “objectivism” – they can’t understand simple math: If you siphon votes away from Republicans, Democrats win.

Just this week, a Libertarian candidate in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District attracted 1,379 votes, which handed the election to a Democrat who won by 627 votes. Good job.

If the Libertarians, thank God, hadn’t ran a vapid stoner for President in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be our president today, falling down the White House stairs on her way to turning America into California, instead tripping while touring the Jahaz Mahal palace in India. Think about that.

And what of “libertarian” thought? On every political issue of significance to this nation, Libertarians are […] Read More

A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions

“If you do not prevail in this case, the unions will have less political influence; yes or no?” Kennedy asked. “Yes, they will have less political influence,” Frederick answered. – an excerpt from the Janus vs. AFSCME trial, quoted in the Washington Post, February 26, 2018

Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, is challenging the right of unions to charge “fair share” fees, because he disagrees with the political agenda which he claims his fees help pay for.

What if government unions were accountable to their members? What if the politics of these unions mirrored the politics of the members? Would Mark Janus still want out?

It’s already possible for public employees to “opt-out” of paying that portion of their dues that fund explicitly political activity, although in practice the unions typically make that opt-out process very difficult. But Mark Janus is arguing that all dues paid to public sector unions are political, because the consequences of collective bargaining in the public sector impact taxes, government debt, budgets and spending priorities. He is arguing that the agenda of public sector unions, including collective bargaining, is inherently political.

In reality, saying all public sector union activity is inherently political is itself an understatement. In California, public sector unions spend about $300 million per year on explicitly political activity – funding political campaigns, political action committees, and lobbyists. But they spend at least another […] Read More