Homeless Anarchy in Los Angeles

Anyone thinking about blaming the police for the anarchy that grips America’s liberal cities is not paying attention. The police know how to do their jobs, but the politicians, elected by progressive liberals, do not let them. And often enough, even when there are laws left on the books that might permit prosecution, activist prosecutors, also elected by progressive liberals, do not press charges.

Life in California, as usual, epitomizes this dysfunction. In 2014 voters approved Proposition 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. In 2016 voters approved Proposition 57, which released thousands of nonviolent criminals. Back in 2006, the ACLU prevailed in the Jones vs City of Los Angeles case; the judgment prohibits arrests for vagrancy unless there is a space available in a homeless shelter.

The result of these laws is predictable enough. California’s unsheltered homeless population is now more numerous than all the rest of the homeless in the United States combined. And why not? Along with great weather, there are no serious legal consequences for being intoxicated on methamphetamine or heroin, much less marijuana or alcohol, nor are their serious legal consequences for stealing to support your drug habit. And if you want to set up a tent, almost anywhere, nobody can make you move along until they provide you a shelter.

If California is ground zero for urban anarchy, Venice Beach is one of the epicenters. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-election planned rioting turned the anarchy up two notches, Venice Beach was already occupied, and terrorized, by well over a thousand homeless. Today, the homeless population in Venice Beach is estimated to have at least doubled to 2,000, in an area of only three square miles. Several factors caused this increase.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in thousands of prisoners being released from the Los Angeles County Jail, and many of them headed for the beach. A new homeless shelter was opened earlier in 2020 in Venice Beach, and while it only has 140 beds (at a cost of $8 million), it serves meals to many more, and has no requirements for sobriety or even a curfew. But how the City of Los Angeles responded to the COVID-19 crisis had an even greater impact on Venice Beach.

For years, once per week the streets would be cleaned. This forced people living in cars or RVs to move them to allow trash and debris including feces to get regularly swept up and washed away. But since March 2020 there has been no street sweeping. Also suspended in 2020 by court order was a 2016 LA County ordinance that prevented homeless people from accumulating more than what could fit into a trash bin (about eight cubic feet). If that weren’t enough, since COVID came along, the police have virtually stopped enforcing all laws and ordinances still in effect that might regulate the number of homeless and the behavior of the homeless.

Venice Beach residents are besieged as never before. When speaking with residents to prepare this report, one of them said “I feel like I have a house in the middle of a large homeless encampment.” Residents describe the mountains of trash that have begun to accumulate as a result of a breakdown in code enforcement, along with an explosion in the rat population. For those who have been assaulted or shot, of course, rats and trash are just a nuisance.

The degree to which civilization has receded in places where the homeless have taken over in Los Angeles is difficult to separate from the other epic distractions that have dominated the news in 2020. But these other distractions, COVID-19, economic hardship, mass rioting and vandalism, have compounded the problem of the homeless.

For example, on one residential corner in Venice Beach, for the past few months a man has lived there, working on welding projects. Many of these projects involve converting scrap metal into knives, machetes and axes. According to a neighbor, the man was approached by Antifa and offered marijuana in exchange for weapons, but he refused, stating he only would work for methamphetamine. The entire operation, the generator, the welding torch, the hammering in the middle of the night, is hazardous and disturbing. But despite hundreds of calls to the LAPD, this man continues to ply his trade.

Police Undermined by Progressive Prosecutors

What the City of Los Angeles needs to do is challenge the 2006 Jones ruling in federal court. They need to join with other California cities to put initiatives before California’s voters that will repeal Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. But under pressure from progressive billionaires and BLM activists, they are moving in the opposite direction.

The currently serving Los Angeles District Attorney is Jackie Lacey, an black woman who by most accounts would be considered light on crime. But not light enough. Running against Lacey in November is George Gascon, formerly the D.A. for San Francisco. Gascon is endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, and his campaign has already benefit from over $1 million spent by George Soros to defeat his rival. To say Gascon would not restore the ability of law enforcement to restore order to the streets of Los Angeles is an understatement.

One would think that a liberal black woman serving as the Los Angeles District Attorney would at least earn a respectful opposition from radical activists, but not Jackie Lacey. In March, Black Lives Matters protesters showed up at Lacey’s house, banging drums, pounding on their front door, and demanding a “community meeting.” In response, Lacey’s husband opened the door, pointed a gun at the protesters, and demanded they get off the porch. A Los Angeles judge has just ruled that California’s liberal attorney general, Xavier Becerra, should file charges against him, just in time for the November election.

Not long ago, Rudy Giuliani characterized places like Los Angeles as “criminal friendly cities.” This is an accurate description. On top of everything else, California’s state legislature passed SB 10 in 2018, designed to make California the first state to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials.” The legislation would replace the state’s cash bail system with “risk assessments.” This legislation was successfully challenged through a referendum petition, so this November California’s voters will decide if they want jails to release suspects without the hook of bail to improve the chances they’ll ever show up in court.

What is happening in Los Angeles is typical for California, and is part of larger and related policy failures. Everything California’s government has done for over 30 years, ever since the progressive grip on the state and local governments became nearly absolute, has made life more difficult for its once thriving middle class. Excessive regulations for the law-abiding small businesses, which big business takes in stride and the underground economy ignores. Urban containment, draconian building codes, and punitive permit fees that have made housing unaffordable.

California has become a feudal economy, and if entire cities are turned into fetid, ungovernable swamps, so what, as long as the right slogans are uttered, and fists are raised in solidarity with the oppressed?

“Black Lives Matter.” “All Cops Are Bastards.” Let’s hear you say it, if you want to have a political career. On your knees. Raise your fist. Say what we tell you to say, because “silence is violence.” Has it come to that? Is this all it takes to remain a successful politician?

But it isn’t just politicians who have brought Los Angeles and other progressive cities to the brink of complete chaos. Activist judges, activist prosecutors, and well funded activist attorneys have all played a role. In some respects the legal obstacles to common sense governance outweigh the political obstacles. The City of Los Angeles should just round up the homeless and put them into supervised tent encampments in inexpensive areas, but the lawsuits would stop that in its tracks. But in feudal California, there’s an innovative workaround.

Instead of solving the problem for pennies on the dollar, homeless advocates build “permanent supportive housing” for $500,000 per unit, using taxpayers money, and for every unit they build, hundreds of homeless remain on the streets. This utterly futile scheme has cost California’s taxpayers billions while the numbers of homeless have only increased.

The next step California’s progressive policymakers envision, well under way, is to erase zoning restrictions and allow investors and developers to collect subsidies and tax incentives to build rent-subsidized multi-family dwellings, randomly dropped onto the sites of demolished single-family homes. Imagine the feeling, when next door to the home you’ve worked for all your life, one of your many new neighbors, living for free in a looming six-plex, is a welder who works all night for methamphetamine.

Police in Los Angeles, like in all cities ran by progressive liberals, are up against a system that is failing. It makes their jobs nearly impossible. The only way their lot will be improved, along with that of residents in Venice Beach and other besieged communities across all of California’s urban landscape, will be through a sustained realignment by voters that categorically rejects progressive politics.

On the other hand, California’s cities offer the example that will be America’s fate if Biden wins in November.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

CA Wildfires: Apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change is undermining the fight for pragmatic solutions

The West Coast fire season still has months to run, but it’s already one for the record books. Some 3.3 million acres have burned in California, and another 1 million in Oregon. In some cases, separate fires have combined into fire “complexes,” or “megafires.” At least 35 people have died, with others still unaccounted for. Media reports have almost all focused on a single explanation. “California’s climate apocalypse,” read the banner headline on the Los Angeles Times’s September 13 edition. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and other outlets used similar doomsday language in linking the fires to climate change. Politicians echoed them. “We’re in a CLIMATE CRISIS,” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted on September 11.

The emphasis on climate is not incorrect. Higher average temperatures are linked to longer fire seasons, and hotter, dryer conditions do appear to lead to larger fires. It is reasonable to assume that rising temperatures increase the risks of fire in Western landscapes. Nonetheless, focusing on climate as the all-purpose explanation for wildfires is a dangerous oversimplification. In truth, the factors that cause large Western fires are complex. Climate is one. The impact of humans on the ground is another. People play a large role not only in igniting wildfires, but also in altering the conditions through which fires move and grow.

The 14,000-acre El Dorado fire still burning in Southern California’s San Bernardino County was triggered by a pyrotechnic device at an outdoor “gender reveal party.” In recent days, suspects have been arrested for allegedly setting wildfires in four incidents in California and Oregon. Sparks from power lines are an alarmingly common source of wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 86 people, mostly in the town of Paradise, California. In addition, decades of aggressive fire suppression have left enormous “fuel loads” in West Coast forests. Most forestry experts believe that this accumulation of flammable woody debris is a key factor driving bigger, more intense fires. Finally, despite the risks, people keep moving into wildfire country. The rapid growth of population and infrastructure in semi-wild regions means that even routine fires now threaten more lives and cause more economic damage.

For many climate activists—and a preponderance of mainstream journalists—disasters like wildfires and hurricanes are often seen as teachable moments. Activists hope that if the public can be convinced to see climate change as a here-and-now disaster—rather than as some distant threat—perhaps voters will be more willing to support pro-climate policies. That’s an understandable motive but a questionable strategy. Scientists who put advocacy ahead of objectivity risk undermining both the quality of their research and their own credibility. Journalists who take this route tend to oversimplify complex causes, and lapse into an “End Times” narrative that leaves readers feeling powerless.

It’s impossible to say whether a particular hurricane or single fire season was caused by climate change. Establishing the connection between climate and such widely variable events requires a solid baseline of data accumulated over many decades. The current West Coast fire season really is unprecedented—at least in terms of the recent past—but California’s 2019 season was relatively light, with only about 280,000 acres burned. Should that below-average fire season be cited as evidence that fears of climate change are exaggerated? Of course not. Outliers in either direction should be added to the data set, not seized on as “the new normal.” But overheated rhetoric—or, for that matter, blanket rejections of climate data—make judicious assessments of climate risks impossible. As writer Gregg Easterbrook recently noted on Twitter, today’s partisan environment “demands all issues be reduced to doomsday or denial.”

This is a nuanced point that demands clarity. I believe that climate change is a significant risk. And I think it’s worth hedging against that risk, even if some aspects of the science aren’t certain, and some worst-case scenarios might be overblown. I support using the best available technologies to reduce carbon emissions in ways that don’t hamstring the economy. That’s why, for example, I oppose California’s current plan to shutter the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, the state’s largest single source of carbon-free electricity. But the biggest question facing West Coast policymakers right now is not figuring out exactly how carbon emissions influence wildfires. The real question is, what tools are available today to bring down wildfire risks? Even if we assume climate models are accurate—and we also assume global carbon emissions can be cut fast enough to reach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s current target—it would still take decades for today’s gradual temperature increases to halt. In the meantime, a range of factors—aside from climate—are making wildfires more deadly and more expensive.

When scientists, the press, and policymakers respond to every wildfire by talking almost exclusively about climate, those other aspects of fire policy get neglected. For example, in 2016, California’s then-governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill requiring better oversight of power lines in high-fire-risk areas. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator John Moorlach, a Republican who represents Laguna Beach, later complained in a blog post that Governor Brown “relied on a weak excuse, saying the real issue is climate change.” (The Brown administration maintained that the oversight improvements the bill sought were already underway.) Two years later, sparks from a deteriorating PG&E power line set off the devastating Camp Fire blaze, the deadliest and most expensive wildfire in California history. Facing lawsuits charging that the company mismanaging its power lines, PG&E partially blamed the fire on climate change.

“If you think the only way to stop these fires is by reducing climate change then you are basically saying you are not going to be able to stop the fires,” the environmental contrarian Michael Shellenberger said in a recent online video. “That’s disempowering and wrong.” Shellenberger argues that the West would be facing megafires even if climate change was not happening. Moreover, he claims, properly managed forests would be better able to cope with the stresses of rising temperatures. More than half a century of forest-management experience supports that conclusion.

Forestry experts began warning about the dangers of over-aggressive fire suppression in the mid twentieth century. In a forest that burns regularly, fires tend to lick through the underbrush, mostly consuming fallen deadwood and litter. Healthy trees survive such routine burns, and forest ecosystems emerge from them healthier. But if every fire is snuffed out at birth, combustible materials build up. When fires move through these fuel-rich environments they become hotter and more destructive, reaching up into the living crowns of the trees and scorching the life out of forest soils.

The solution to this dilemma is carefully controlled “prescribed burns.” I can remember seeing such controlled burns in Yosemite National Park in the early 1980s. They would smolder for days consuming pine needles and deadwood. But, while prescribed burns are widely used today in the southeastern U.S., they were never deployed on a sufficient scale in the West. One obstacle was Clinton administration policies that aimed to restore Western forests to “pre-settlement” conditions. The goal was to limit logging and to restrict road use on federal lands in order to keep forests as pristine as possible. “To accept this idea you have to believe pre-settlement forests were ‘naturally functioning ecosystems’ untouched by human hands,” noted forest researcher Bob Zybach in 1994. “The fact is, people have been altering the character of this region’s forests for at least 11,000 years.”

Native peoples used fire actively to manage grasslands and forests. (Some still do.) As a result, Zybach’s research showed, Western woodlands were “virtually free of the underbrush and coarse woody debris that has been commonplace in forests for most of this century.” And, of course, prior to the twentieth century, there was no way to put out large conflagrations naturally sparked by lightning. Researchers estimate that, prior to the arrival of Europeans, California forests burned at a rate of between 4.4 and nearly 12 million acres a year. In a fascinating Pro Publica investigation, veteran forest scientists expressed dismay that prescribed burns are so rarely used today as a tool of forest management. “[It’s] horrible to see this happening when the science is so clear and has been for years,” said Tim Ingalsbee, founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. “Every year I warn people: Disaster’s coming.”

For Ingalsbee and other foresters, this year’s epic fire season is the fuel-driven catastrophe they have long feared. Some foresters argue that increased fuels, not higher temperatures alone, are the primary reason we’re seeing bigger fires today. But warming temperatures exacerbate that risk, making it all the more urgent to attack the problem. “We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load,” Ingalsbee said. It will be a big job. In recent years, California has burned only 13,000 acres a year. One recent study concluded the state would need to burn some 20 million acres overall in order to bring its forest back into stable condition.

As more Western residents leave cities for homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), it becomes harder to conduct prescribed burns. Residents complain, and the state’s air quality rules often shut down planned burning operations. Meanwhile, unplanned fires are encountering growing numbers of people and structures in their paths. That threat to lives and property puts pressure on firefighters to extinguish blazes that might otherwise roll harmlessly—in fact, helpfully—through uninhabited forests. And when fires do reach settled areas, the costs become catastrophic. Disaster researchers call this phenomenon the expanding bull’s-eye effect: even if the rate of fires stays the same, costs go up as people move in.

California and other western states have worked themselves into a vicious cycle: their forests are primed for disastrous fires, but increasing populations make it harder to conduct prescribed burns. The risks and potential costs go up every year. What can be done? One step would be to rethink how people live in the wildland-urban interface. Instead of focusing just on fire prevention, policymakers should plan for better fire resilience: helping communities and residents survive and recover from the fires that, sooner or later, are bound to arrive.

Another step would be to stop encouraging population growth in the most dangerous regions. Restrictive zoning in California’s cities has driven housing prices through the roof, while homes in the WUI are usually more affordable, especially for retirees. Reforming the state’s anti-development urban zoning rules would ease the pressure pushing residents into the fire zones. The promise of aggressive fire protection is also a subtle subsidy encouraging more development in these regions. If prospective homeowners knew they were likely to bear the true costs of fire risk, they might plan differently.

Right now, insurance companies are sending that message in the form of higher rates and cancelled policies for homeowners in the riskiest areas. Predictably, California regulators and some lawmakers want to force insurers to keep rates artificially low for WUI residents. That would be a mistake. Effectively subsidizing insurance in fire zones would only lead to more risky development and bigger disasters down the road. Instead, insurance companies can encourage their customers to build more fire-resistant homes and maintain “defensible space” around them. Just as most ancient redwoods can survive passing fires, a properly built home surrounded by a non-flammable zone should be able to withstand typical wildfires.

Fire has been a routine event in West Coast terrain since prehistoric times. Today’s megafires are the alarming but predictable result of decades of poor forest management and WUI development. Climate change makes these problems worse, but it didn’t cause them. And reducing carbon emissions, while a good long-term goal, won’t reduce these risks any time soon. Implementing effective fire policies in the West will require real political will on the statewide level. Communities and even individual homeowners can also take steps to improve their fire resilience. But when Governor Newsom and other leaders imply that only a global solution to carbon emissions can reduce fires, they undermine these efforts. A less histrionic approach would pursue affordable reductions in CO2 emissions, while also applying the best current tools to reduce the impact of inevitable wildfires.

James B. Meigs is cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast and the former editor of Popular Mechanics.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Good Bills this Session — Really

When I mentioned to our editorial committee at the Pacific Research Institute that I was going to work on a blog on good bills out of California’s recent legislative session, Kerry Jackson joked that I needed fewer than 100 words to cover that topic. After a few hours of hunting and a little help from friends, I did manage to turn up a few good ones:

CA Small Businesses Get Relief from COVID-19

Gov. Newsom last week signed into law several bills to help small businesses get back on their feet. In AB 1577, California business owners who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds will not have to pay state taxes on these forgivable loans. After being forced to shutter their businesses, paying taxes on these funds would have added insult to injury.  Tax credits will also be offered to California companies with fewer than 100 employees that saw at least a 50 percent drop in gross receipts due to COVID-19. These businesses will receive a $1,000 tax credit for each employee hired between July and November, up to $100,000 per business. Before COVID-19, California was already among the toughest states to do business, and the pandemic made it worse.  Some modest tax breaks to small business owners will help provide much needed relief.

More Freelancers Exempt from AB 5

AB 2257 exempts musicians, freelance writers, photographers, and translators from AB 5, the now infamous state law that outlawed many independent contractor jobs in the state. All total, the bill would exempt about two dozen professions — mostly in the creative fields.  AB 5 would have “single handedly crashed the California music economy,” said Ari Herstand, an L.A. musician.  It also resulted in companies firing California-based freelancers and hiring out-of-staters to fill the jobs.  “This is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation we could have ever put forward and that the governor could have ever signed,” said GOP Sen. Melissa Melendez.  While this “fix it” bill provides relief for some professions, to save their jobs, ride-sharing drivers’ have to wait for the results of Prop. 22 on the November ballot.

More Autonomy for Nurse Practitioners

Many Californians choose to see a nurse practitioner for many routine medical conditions, rather than a physician. The advantage: they get in the door faster and it’s often less expensive. Under the current law, a nurse practitioner must be supervised by a doctor, but AB 890 lifts that requirement.  Always cautious when it comes to deregulation, even the Los Angeles Times editorial board agrees with AB 890, “Unleashing the more than 20,000 nurse practitioners licensed in California can not only help plug that gap [primary medical care] but also increase diversity and provide a career path for more Californians eager to make their way into the healthcare industry.”  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many weaknesses in our health care system, one being the shortage of primary care doctors.  AB 890 frees nurse practitioners to serve even more Californians.

Eliminating Filing Fees for Non-Profits

SB 934, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Hills), will eliminate the $25 filing fee paid by non-profits applying for a state tax exemption. It will also remove the $10 filing fee for annual informational returns paid by tax-exempt organizations as well as a $25 late fee.  While this might not sound like much, don’t forget there’s all the paperwork that goes with it.  PRI has paid thousands of dollars over the years to states nationwide for various fees, including state registration fees.  Believe it or not, the regulations and paperwork are so onerous that there’s a growing cottage industry that helps non-profits sort it all out (which cost money, too). This is going to be a tough fundraising year for non-profits, and every little bit helps.

Microchips for Coco and Fifi

SB 573 sponsored by Sen. Ling Ling Chang, (R-Diamond Bar), requires dogs and cats to have microchips before leaving animal shelters. As readers know, Right by the Bay doesn’t take regulation lightly, especially if the added cost might be a burden for struggling families. But unlike past bills, this one contains an economic hardship exemption giving new owners access to rescue groups that can help with the bills and other low-cost services.

So, take that Kerry – I got 700 words.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute. 

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

USC Football Players Urge Gov. Newsom To Allow Them To Play

On Tuesday, the entire University of Southern California (USC) football team sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, urging him to allow them to play this season as other college conference holdouts announced they were returning to play this year.

“We want to play”

In the letter posted to Twitter by USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the USC players accused the state of having too many restrictions preventing them from playing, despite the NCAA Division I football season having already started with no major COVID-19 outbreaks or known transmissions.

“The reason we are writing this appeal directly to you is that the state of California and its legislators have been the staunchest advocates for student-athlete rights,” began the letter “Over the last few months, athletics departments across the country have started listening to the voices of their student-athletes. It is a credit to your leadership that the state of California has been listening to our voices for years, and we are counting on you to hear us now: we want to play.

“The current reality is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from returning to practiced and competitions.”

The players even pointed out the stringent measures and rapid testing the University has deployed, which has gone above and beyond other teams already playing.

“Daily Antigen testing with a turnaround time of less than one hour reduces COVID-19 infectiousness by 100%, continued the letter. “With the Pac-12’s commitment to daily testing … and the continued dedication to comprehensive health and safety protocols locally on our campus, we feel comfortable proceeding with the season. We are fortunate to receive a level of care from our school that achieves the highest standard in sports.”

NFL dreams, health needs, potential billions on the line

The letter was sent that the same day that the only other premier college football division, the Big 10, announced that they would be returning in October. The decision left the Pac-12 without a season as many Western Governors, including Governor Newsom, continue to push for advanced COVID-19 measures.

“Scholarships aren’t on the line, but NFL dreams sure are,” explained college football scout Joey Warner to the Globe. “The Pac-12 in the last major holdout. And if the players don’t play this year, the players looking to get into the NFL draft in the next few years are going to miss vital tape of their play and a critical season for NFL teams to look at. It’s hard enough with high school closures disrupting us from looking at them for prospective colleges. These players careers and livelihoods are now on the line.

“These athletes care about COVID-19 and not infecting others. But with these universities putting all the proper pieces into place, and the state still not allowing them to go on, you can see their frustration. They want to play to compete and go for their dream of the NFL. Plus fans want them back in action. But right now, that’s not happening, and they’re doing everything they can, including writing the Governor, to play this year so they don’t fall behind everyone else.”

“Colleges are antsy too. The NCAA brings in billions each year combined for schools in straight revenue. And these programs aren’t cheap, so they need to play to at least get money back from TV contracts and partial admission. Some have already preemptively cut some athletics because of budget issues. In some cases, they may be fighting to actually keep their team.”

Health experts have remained divided on what danger COVID-19 presents to NCAA players. The Pac-12 has specifically cited cardiac risks associated with COVID-19 as a major factor in not playing this year. However, the Big 10 also cited that last month and still chose to start play soon regardless.

“People are reaching different conclusions,” added Warner. “This is just adding confusion over the risk here. We’ll know for sure in a few weeks if cases among players and even fans being allowed in jumps up. But the question now is where that line of risk stands.”

An urgent plea from USC players

For the USC players, they not only feel that enough precautions have taken place on campus, but that they can also form some sort of agreement or arrangement to play.

“Governor Newsom, our request of you is that you work with us to find a path forward to resume competitions later this fall so that we can have the same opportunity as other teams around the country to play for a national championship,” said the players in the letter. “We have the utmost confidence that we can partner together to quickly develop a plan that allows us to compete in a 2020 football season. Please let us play.

“As California goes, so too does the Pac-12 Conference,” the letter states. “You can be the champion for the conference of champions and, most importantly, its student-athletes. We believe that if the state of California endorses our season, the conference, other states, respective county and public health officials, and university leaders will follow.”As of Wednesday, the Pac-12 has been under greater pressure to resume their college football season as more teams and players have been ramping up support to play. With the NCAA football season expected to end in mid-December, a decision is needed in the next few weeks to allow players to resume practices and begin an abbreviated season no later than October.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

If the Texas Economic Miracle Can’t Figure Out Renewables – Neither Can California

Any electrical grid relying on renewables (mainly wind turbines and solar panels) electricity prices can rise as much as 40,000% in Texas, and blackouts are inevitable. From New York to Great Britain – and now California – blackouts happen over heavy renewable usage.  

California’s conundrum is hardly prescient nor is Texas a fossil fuel powerhouse since approximately 20 percent of its electrical generation comes from wind turbines. Texas in 2018 had the massive spike in prices, and their entire reserve margin of generating capacity went away during a heat wave. California now suffers the same problems. More importantly for both, and likely California more than Texas is the push to electrify homes and entire sectors of the economy. Cost considerations alone should make California pause in this rush for decarbonization via the electrical grid. 

Federal data show a $900 a year price differential between homes that rely on natural gas for appliances, heat during the winter, and hot/warm water versus only electricity. The rush for renewables in California and Texas will lead to higher costs in coming years. Approvals for new oil and gas wells in California are up over unstable electrical grids. The Texas economic miracle could be fading if state doesn’t understand the “turmoil and true staggering costs of wind and solar” are having on consumers with limited transparency. 

Renewables are intermittent, chaotic in their production of energy to electricity, and mathematically unstable, but California and Texas both keep rushing headlong into collapsing their grids for reliable electricity. California is rapidly becoming a failed state over green energy policies. To Governor Newsome’s credit he says

“The transition away from fossil fuels has left California with a gap in reliability of its energy system. He says the state must examine its reliance on solar power and how that fits into its broader energy portfolio, report the San Francisco Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff.” 

In 2018 the California legislature passed a bill requiring the state electrical grid have “100% climate-friendly electricity by 2045.” During a recent August heat wave the state’s grid was at least 4,400 MW short of the energy to electricity needed for minimum electrical generation standards. The early summer documentary movie, “Juice” highlights how if a country doesn’t have reliable and stable electricity, they are a failed state. California is meeting that definition, and Texas is following that same standard.  

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is responsible for California’s grid and demand to ensure constant electrical generation. Western states are no longer exporting energy to CAISO during hot summer months, which facilitates CAISO ordering utilities to institute blackouts. Texas will follow California into blackouts, and the economic renaissance will end.

Texas is the largest source of wind generation in the U.S., attracting firms like Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola claiming 100% Texas wind to meet reliable electricity for the Lone Star State. Iberdrola has received over $2.7 billion in U.S tax credits without producing anything of electrical value through the Production Tax Credit program.

Utilities in California and Texas are pushing to rid themselves of fossil fuels in favor of renewables, but a recent study from the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment found:

“Among more than 3,000 utilities, only about 14% prioritized growth in renewable energy over gas or coal-fired power plants, while 10% and 2% had their highest growth in gas and coal, respectively. And even among companies betting on green energy, more than half continued to grow their fossil fuel capacities at the same time.” 

California has world-class universities and is the 5th largest economy in the world – yet cannot figure out how to stabilize their electrical grid using renewables. This is why utilities are betting heavily on fossil fuels for decades ahead. Supposedly the “future is bright, emissions-free, and electric,” when actually the International Energy Agency’s Key World Energy Statistics 2020 overwhelmingly reveals a world reliant on fossil fuels for electricity and the over 6,000 products that originate from a barrel of crude oil. California is reaping what it sows for grid blackouts, and Texas isn’t far behind.

California’s “60 per cent renewable supply by 2030,” is at 33 per cent currently; 27 GW of California’s renewable supply is solar, and 7 GW is wind. Both stop working when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. The State’s consumers have electricity prices “60 per cent above the US average.”

Grid reliability is so bad for California, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Sunday, September 6th  issued a Section 202 (c) “emergency order to help prevent California’s already-faltering power grid from being completely overwhelmed.” This order was in response to a record-breaking heat wave over much of Southern California. 

The DOE’s order “authorizes the emergency use of stationary and portable generators, as well as auxiliary engines onboard ocean-going vessels berthed in California’s port.” All laws, regulations and permits limiting the use of emission-belching generators are suspended to meet grid requirements for the CAISO.

According to Joel Kotkin of Chapman University electrical grid blackouts and fires are the new California norm unless voters decide to break with the one-party super majority. Then why doesn’t the Legislature address grid breakdown instead of passing a bill lowering criminal penalties for adults who have sex with minors. Heterosexual and homosexual men and women – need on-demand electricity – over meddling in their private affairs. 

Economic forecasters whether in California or Texas have assumed that Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for renewables would be used within a fossil fuel-based system since they are heavily subsidized due to intermittent output; a “green reset based on green energy isn’t possible.” My own book “Just Green Electricity” brings clarity to a world without fossil fuels. Just the math alone of new transmission lines, amount of new renewable installations, land-use requirements, physics and engineering all spotlight the hidden cost of renewables.

Green energy is also one of the dirtiest forms of energy over mining concerns. Michael Moore’s anti-renewables documentary, Planet of the Humans highlights ecological concerns. Texas and especially California need to ditch green recovery plans in a post-COVID world, and finally admit that all forms of energy to electricity based on renewables have never powered a modern society.

Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Mismanaged Forests Burn, Newsom Blames “Climate Deniers”

What we quaintly refer to as “super fires” have incinerated nearly 5,000 square miles of California’s forests so far this year. In response, Governor Newsom has declared he has “no more patience for climate deniers.” But it isn’t climate change that caused these superfires. It was negligent forestry.

When it comes to facts that matter on the issue of our burning forests, perhaps Newsom is the one who is in denial. Because when Newsom denounces “climate deniers,” he denies the following far more pertinent facts about wildfires and climate:

  • The timber industry in California has been cut to a small fraction of what it was in 1990 in terms of employment and board feet of timber harvested. In 1990, 6.0 billion board feet were harvested from California’s forests, today the harvest rarely exceeds 1.5 billion board feet.
  • Dense, overgrown forests result in unhealthy trees, because the increased number of trees are competing for the same amount of sunlight, water and soil nutrients. This is the reason so many of them cannot resist disease and infestations, not climate change.
  • Year after year, millions of acre feet of snow and rain fall on these dense tree canopies and either evaporate immediately, or are sucked up by the overgrown, water stressed biomass as soon as they hit the ground. Far less water makes it into the aquifers and rivers as a result.
  • The overgrown forests are not only packing up to ten times more fuel than what is historically normal, but because these trees aren’t adapted to being packed so close together, half of them are dead or dying, which means they are tinder dry.

Any honest mainstream journalist, if there are any left, needs to ask Governor Newsom one simple question:

“Under which conditions would be a lightning strike be more likely to cause a catastrophic fire: on a grove of stressed and dying trees, dried out and packed 200 per acre, on a 75 degree day, or on a grove of healthy trees, moist and dispersed 20 per acre on an 85 degree day?”

A child can answer this question, but perhaps Gavin Newsom isn’t interested in the truth.

How California’s Forests Turned Into Tinderboxes

For over 20 million years, forests existed in California at a much lower density than they are today. These forests were healthy and abundant with wildlife, and they stayed healthy through climate cycles that included droughts and so-called mega-droughts that lasted a century or more.

That all changed starting around 1850 when American settlers began logging operations that left vast clear cut areas. The second growth forests that filled these clear cut areas had a higher tree density, and this unnatural response to the original clear cuts is where the problems began.

Natural fires, usually caused by lightning strikes, probably would have burned through 2nd and 3rd growth forests, with the hardier trees surviving to restore the original ecosystems, but over the past several decades fire suppression tactics had become highly effective and were aggressively practiced. Fire ceased to be a significant source of natural thinning. Forestry officials and private landowners tried to do controlled burns, but ran into too much bureaucracy to ever do it at anywhere near the necessary scale.

The problems of overstocked forests magnified in the 1990s when logging operations throughout the Western United States came under attack from environmentalists. While logging practices needed to evolve, cutting logging activity to a fraction of what it had been for over a century caused additional density. For decades now, annual growth has far exceeded harvests.

Unhealthy, unnaturally dense forests. Far fewer smaller, natural forest fires. Almost no logging activity. It doesn’t take a genius to know what comes next.

Forestry experts including some environmentalists have been warning politicians about the fire hazards in the forests, urgently, for well over 20 years. But effective forest thinning has been prevented by environmentalist backed over-regulation.

If Gov. Newsom is in “denial” about any of this, he might explain: Why is it, if we knew this was an urgent problem, that California’s forests are still twice as dense, or more, than they were for the last 20 million years?

“Climate Change” Policies Are Misanthropic and Futile

Whenever there’s a wildfire, Newsom and all the others in denial over their epic policy failures, come shouting “climate change.” They have the audacity to tell us to turn our thermostats up to 78 degrees and refrain from using electric appliances, and they claim these fires are evidence of why this is necessary. They embark on a “renewables mandate” that jacks utility prices up to the highest in the nation in exchange for unreliable power.

More than anything else, what Newsom and all the rest of these politicians who want California to set a “climate example” to the world are in denial of is their own misanthropy. They know perfectly well that California only emits one percent of the world’s CO2. They know as well that China and India are not about to stop using fossil fuel to grow their economies. They know that fossil fuel accounts for 85 percent of global energy production, with hydroelectric and nuclear power accounting for another 11 percent. All renewables account for only four percent of global energy production. Four percent.

Although one often wonders, Newsom is smart enough to figure out, based on readily available and indisputable data, that if everyone in the world, per capita, used half as much energy as Americans do, global energy production would have to double. And it will. And for the next 20-30 years, fossil fuel is going to account for a large portion of that.

Someday, probably within the lifetime of most people alive today, there will be a series of breakthroughs in energy technology. Fusion power. Satellite solar power stations. Direct synthesis of atmospheric CO2 into liquid fuel. Who knows? But until that time, the only reason to impoverish the lives of ordinary Californians in the name of the “climate crisis” is so rich and powerful people like Gavin Newsom can get even richer and even more powerful.

Once this horrific fire season comes to an end, there is just one thing Gavin Newsom should be doing as follow up. He needs to figure out how California’s forests are going to be rapidly thinned from, using the Sierra Nevada as an example, 200 or more trees per acre, down to the historical norm of 40 trees or less per acre. No forest management solutions are perfect. But in search of perfection, we engineered a cataclysm. Have we learned? Or will we just watch the rest of our forests burn up, and blame it on climate change?

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

Progressives fret over Feinstein and judges

Progressives hoping for a Democratic White House and Senate next year are already voicing worries that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who would be next in line to lead the Judiciary Committee, will not commit to pushing a future Biden administration’s judicial nominees with the same aggressive tactics used by Republicansunder President Trump.

As Judiciary Committee chairman, Feinstein, 87, would wield significant political power if Democrats take control of the Senate. She would be responsible for reviewing and confirming the president’s Supreme Court nominees and other judicial appointments.

Fueling progressives’ concern is Feinstein’s refusal to say whether she would give Republicans power to block appellate appointees through a Senate practice known as withholding blue slips. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California Supreme Court Puts Taxpayers at Big Risk

On Wednesday of last week, the California Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the validity of a local special tax initiative that failed to secure two-thirds voter approval.

That requirement is found in Proposition 13 (1978) as well as Proposition 218 (1996), also known as the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, both of which were sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Taxpayers had petitioned the Supreme Court to review a lower Court of Appeal’s ruling refusing to apply well-settled law.

The significance of the Supreme Court’s failure to provide clarity on this important issue cannot be overstated.

Unless it resolves this question in other cases now working their way up through the court system, a gaping new loophole will have been created in the constitutional protections for taxpayers that voters have repeatedly ratified over the decades. Moreover, the failure to act is a green light to tax-and-spend interests to extract even more dollars from the most heavily taxed citizens in the United States.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Two deputies who survived ambush ‘a double miracle’

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shot in what authorities described as an ambush attack are expected to survive amid an intense manhunt for the gunman captured on video firing inside their patrol car and as the violence became a new flashpoint in the political debate about policing and crime.

Both deputies were shot in the head near the Compton Metro station but went through surgery and are now listed in stable condition. The attack sparked widespread outrage, from the presidential campaign to the streets of Compton, where residents fear it will heighten already deep tensions between police and the community after several high-profile deputy shootings and uses of force.

“It makes no sense,” said Setif Capelton, 22, who has lived in Compton nearly all his life and heard the burst of gunfire Saturday night. “It hurts this community more than anything else. Now, what if someone walks up to a police officer’s car, and they get scared and shoot that person?”

Authorities have offered no motive for the attack. But new surveillance video and dispatch calls provide a more detailed account of what happened. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Environmentalists Destroyed California’s Forests

Millions of acres of California forest have been blackened by wildfires this summer, leading to the usual angry denunciations from the usual quarters about climate change. But in 1999, the Associated Press reported that forestry experts had long agreed that “clearing undergrowth would save trees,” and that “years of aggressive firefighting have allowed brush to flourish that would have been cleared away by wildfires.” But very little was done. And now fires of unprecedented size are raging across the Western United States.

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

Year after year, environmentalists litigated and lobbied to stop efforts to clear the forests through timber harvesting, underbrush removal, and controlled burns. Meanwhile, natural fires were suppressed and the forests became more and more overgrown. The excessive biomass competed for the same water, soil, and light a healthier forest would have used, rendering all of the trees and underbrush unhealthy. It wasn’t just excess biomass that accumulated, but dried out and dead biomass.

What happened among California’s tall stands of Redwood and Ponderosa Pine also happened in its extensive chaparral. Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides and canyons of Southern California into tinderboxes.

In 2009, after huge blazes wiped out homes and forced thousands to evacuate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich observed: “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”

In 2014, Republican members of Congress tried again to reduce the bureaucracy associated with “hazardous fuel projects” that thin out overgrown forests. True to form, the bill got nowhere thanks to environmental lobbyists who worried it would undermine the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires thorough impact assessments ahead of government decisions on public lands.

In a blistering report published in the California Globe on how environmentalists have destroyed California’s forests, investigative journalist Katy Grimes interviewed Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents communities in and around the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. McClintock has worked for years to reform NEPA and other barriers to responsible forest management.

“The U.S. Forest Service used to be a profitable federal agency,” McClintock told Grimes. “Up until the mid-1970s, we managed our national forests according to well-established and time-tested forest management practices. But 40 years ago, we replaced these sound management practices with what can only be described as a doctrine of benign neglect. Ponderous, Byzantine laws and regulations administered by a growing cadre of ideological zealots in our land management agencies promised to save the environment. The advocates of this doctrine have dominated our law, our policies, our courts and our federal agencies ever since.”

But these zealots have not protected the forests. They have destroyed them. The consequences are far-reaching.

Decimating the Timber Industry, Disrupting the Ecosystem

Few people, including the experts, bother to point out how overgrown forests reduce the water supply. But when watersheds are choked with dense underbrush competing for moisture, precipitation and runoff cannot replenish groundwater aquifers or fill up reservoirs. Instead, it’s immediately soaked up by the trees and brush. Without clearing and controlled burns, the overgrown foliage dies anyway.

A new activist organization in California, the “California Water for Food and People Movement,” created a Facebook group for people living in the hellscape created by misguided environmentalist zealotry. Comments and posts from long-time residents of the Sierra foothills, where fires have exploded in recent years, yield eyewitness testimony to how environmentalist restrictions on forest management have gone horribly wrong. Examples:

“I’m 70, and I remember controlled burns, logging, and open grazing.”

“With the rainy season just ahead, the aftermath of the Creek Fire will challenge our water systems for years to come. Erosion will send toxic debris and sediment cascading into streams, rivers, and reservoirs, reducing their capacity to carry and hold water. Dirty air, dirty water, and the opposite of environmentalism are on full display right now, brought to us by the environmental posers who will no doubt use this crisis to unleash a barrage of ‘climate change did it’ articles.”

“Many thanks to Sierra Club and other environmental groups. You shut down logging/brush removal and had a ‘don’t touch’ approach to our forests. You shut down access roads and let them get overgrown, so now they can’t be used for fire suppression and emergency equipment. You fought ranchers for grazing, which helped keep the forest floors clean. You made fun of Trump when he said we need to rake the forest. Trust me these forest rakes and logging would have prevented the devastating fires we see now.”

The economics of responsible forest management, given the immensity of America’s western forests, requires profitable timber harvesting to play a role. But California has no commercial timber operations on state-owned land. And since 1990, when the environmentalist assault on California’s timber industry began in earnest, its timber industry has shrunk to half its former size. Reviving California’s timber industry, so the collective rate of harvest equals the collective rate of growth, would go a long way towards solving the problem of catastrophic fires.

Instead, California’s environmentalists only redouble their nonsense arguments. Expect these fires to justify even more “climate change” legislation that does nothing to clear the forests of overgrown tinder, and everything to clear the forests, and the chaparral, of people and towns.

Expect these fires to fuel a new round of legislation containing urban growth while mandating suburban densification, with increased rationing of energy and water.

Expect the “climate emergency” to accelerate in synergistic lockstep with the pandemic emergency and the anti-racism emergency. Expect all three of these emergencies to become issues of public health, thereby eliminating inconvenient constitutional roadblocks to swift action.

Misdirected Union Priorities

Meanwhile, tragically, expect California’s politically powerful firefighters’ union to do little or nothing to support the timber industry or rural inhabitants who don’t want to move into urban condos.

As Steve Greenhut explained in a recent column in the Orange County Register: “Frankly, union power drives state and local firefighting policies. The median compensation package for firefighters has topped $240,000 a year in some locales. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters earn less, but their packages still total nearly $150,000 a year. The number of California firefighters who receive compensation packages above $500,000 a year is mind-blowing.”

No wonder firefighters are overwhelmed during California’s wildfire season. The state can’t afford to hire enough of them.

And when these firefighter unions could have been pushing for legislation to clear the forests back in 2019, where instead did their leftist leadership direct their activist efforts? They marched in solidarity with the striking United Teachers of Los Angeles. The teachers’ unions have done to California’s public schools what environmentalists have done to California’s forests.

If an honest history of California in the early 21st century is ever written, the verdict will be unequivocal. Forests that thrived in California for over 20 million years were allowed to become overgrown tinderboxes. And then, with stupefying ferocity, within the span of a few decades, they burned to the ground. Many of them never recovered.

This epic tragedy was the direct result of policies put in place by misguided environmentalist zealots, misinformed suckers who sent them money, and the litigators and lobbyists they hired, who laughed all the way to the bank.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.