San Francisco School Board President Scraps Pledge of Allegiance

American Flag 1The new president of the San Francisco school board purposefully skipped the traditional recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of his first meeting, choosing instead to read a quote from poet Maya Angelou.

Stevon Cook had pondered the idea of replacing the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance after his election to lead the school board. Cook replaced the customary pledge with a quote from Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”

“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook said, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is how I plan to do that.”

District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said that while schools are required to perform a daily patriotic exercise, public school district meetings are not.

“Although there is a requirement that schools conduct a pledge or similar activity, there is no such requirement for school boards,” Blythe said.

Nevertheless, in San Francisco, the Pledge of Allegiance has been the first order of business at school board meetings for decades, reports the Chronicle. As a member of the board, Cook stood for the pledge, but declined to recite the words.

“We should stand for (the pledge) because those ideals are important to me,” he said. “To speak them is another thing.”

Cook added he finds the current national political climate disappointing, and the Trump administration “has been attacking our liberties.”

School board member Rachel Norton said replacing the Pledge of Allegiance with the Maya Angelou quote “feels respectful and it feels thoughtful.”

“Maya Angelou is an alumnus of (San Francisco’s) Washington High School, so who better to start a new tradition?” she explained.

Cook said he will replace the pledge at each meeting with quotes from various inspirational Americans, including writer Toni Morrison, gay rights icon Harvey Milk and novelist James Baldwin.

“I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he said. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Why Gas Prices are Going Higher in California

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedIt has become raison d’etre to blame President Trump for everything wrong with California; including higher gasoline prices plaguing our state and contributing to a slowing statewide GDP. But in today’s world that is connected via air, land, sea and increasingly cyberspace; globalization and policies knit countries and states together like never before. Many times rendering geography and borders on maps obsolete – consequently, events in one region or country – affect continents, countries and states. California’s decision to never allow pipelines into the state, drill for oil and natural gas off our coasts and certainly not explore the billions in untapped fossil fuel reserves trapped in the Monterrey Shale is rippling across our state in the form of higher gas prices.

The Monterrey Shale – though considered technically hard to recover – is 64% larger than all other shale plays in the lower 48 US states. To believe the Monterrey Shale can’t be unlocked is economically unwise when you consider that in September Kuwaiti oil exports to the US dropped to zero for the first time since the first Persian Gulf War over rising US production. Furthermore, “U.S. net imports of foreign oil have dropped to a 45-year low.”

If California voters and policymakers wanted to lower gasoline prices, unlock poverty-alleviating affordable energy and create millions of high paying jobs then begin working with our world class universities to unlock the Monterrey Shale. It would be like when Governor Pat Brown built universities, highways and water systems that California and the US are still prospering from today. Our high gasoline prices have nothing to do with Trump, Iranian sanctions tightening supply or OPEC. This is a California problem that historically has some of the highest gas prices in the US, a newly instituted 12-cent per gallon tax and, “the most stringent regulations for its gasoline in the nation(US).”

On the ground it means few refineries are willing to produce gasoline for California and the situation becomes more dire when it was announced in September that the South Coast Quality Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD):

“Proposed an option that would ban a critical refinery process technology at two Southern California refineries that is required for manufacturing cleaner-burning gasoline.”

Consider this – of the 5 largest US states – California is #1 in poverty and Texas is #1 for growth. Texas is also the #3 exploration and production (E&P) producer in the world. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry used fracking as a policy tool, which achieved scientific breakthroughs, and corporate investment unlocking Texas shale basins into tax revenue that now has Texas being the #1 wind power generator in the US as well. Texas figured out how to use wind to their advantage and California could do the same with the Monterrey Shale.

The greatest impact a society can have on poverty, homelessness, and inequality along with overall human flourishing is abundant energy. California is blessed with billions of barrels of oil within our state and coastal waters. Moreover, we have enough natural gas to clean our air and continue dramatically cutting emissions like no continent, country or state can imagine. When the US began converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas this caused America to be the only industrialized country in the world to meet the Kyoto Protocol by dramatically lowering its carbon output and emissions through natural gas.

California should be the leader in natural gas E&P instead of legislating through Senate Bill 100 (SB 100) that our advanced society can only be powered by renewable energy (wind & solar). Imagine what gas prices will be like when renewable energy tries to replace the 6,000 modern-day products that originate from crude oil. Moreover, the 2015 US Department of Energy Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) unveils the biggest reason renewable energy will cause gas prices to continue rising in California when it states:

“Energy storage is a key functionality that can provide flexibility, but there is little information on benefits and costs of storage deployment at the state and regional levels, and there is not broadly accepted framework.”

If California fully deploys SB 100 and there isn’t available energy storage – and currently there isn’t according to the Los Angeles Times – then energy from electricity and gasoline prices will naturally rise. Supply will not be able to keep up with demand based upon storage capacity alone.

Back to no interstate pipelines – if California doesn’t alleviate that problem – then gasoline refined outside the state will increase and this will cause intensifying the carbon-intensive use of trucking and shipping petroleum for economic continuity. Domestic and foreign refineries that have less environmental regulations will lead to increased global emissions; and ironically trucking and shipping crude oil, petroleum and gasoline have higher carbon footprints. California will then continue increasing gasoline prices, its carbon footprint and endangering environmental safety since pipelines are the safest method to import oil over ships, trucks or railways. The wise environmental policy choice would be to build pipelines.

Our policymakers should begin understanding that unweaving the intricacies of fossil fuel from our economy is like undoing globalization for trade and commerce. Everything is now interlinked whether we like it or not. Oil and natural gas can power our future or increasing our use of renewable energy and demonizing anyone who doesn’t share the belief that the environment takes precedence over California economic activity can be our downfall.

But with gas prices rising and foolishly slashing fossil fuel use instead of taking Texas’ approach to energy (the all of the above approach: fossil fuels and renewables working together) California voters, citizens and policymakers only have ourselves to blame when gas prices rocket into the $5 per gallon range. With the US shale revolution taking place there is no reason why our prices shouldn’t be in the $2.50-$3 range. Environmental taxes and regulations are choking our economy, increasing our poverty and a big reason business is leaving California.

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

California has nearly a billion in unclaimed cash

money bagThe state of California is sitting on nearly $770 million in unclaimed cash belonging to Californians, and State Controller Betty Yee wants to return it to its rightful owners.

Yee says the state is sitting on nearly $770 million and urges people to check for unclaimed property by searching the state’s new, easier-to-use database at www.claimit.ca.gov, or by calling 800-992-4647.

“People should check today and see if the State Controller’s Office has their forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, insurance policy proceeds, stocks, safe deposit boxes, or more,” said Yee in a statement

The state is safeguarding 48.1 million properties, according to Yee’s office. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, property owners received about $309 million over the span of 580,000 claims with average payouts being $534. …

This article was originally published by the San Francisco Chronicle

California’s Socialist Oligarchy: Who They Are and How to Take Them Down

California’s policymakers have condemned Californians to endure contrived scarcity, unaffordability and inconvenience in all of the basic necessities of life.

This is a crime, but it’s not a conspiracy. Rather, it is caused by a collection of powerful special interests whose political agendas align.

Left-wing Oligarchs

At the top of the pyramid are left-wing oligarchs, crony capitalists who want to protect their business interests. Whether it’s renewable energy, “connected” appliances, or homes built on those rare parcels of land that are entitled for development, California’s left-wing oligarchs benefit from artificial scarcity. But these direct beneficiaries are only a segment of California’s left-wing oligarchy.

The indirect financial benefits of artificial scarcity are even greater. As the prices of real estate assets ascend once again into bubble territory, as the earnings per share of public utilities swell on the strength of selling overpriced kilowatts, and as Silicon Valley firms see their stock values ascend into the stratosphere, wealthy individuals and investment funds, most assuredly including California’s public employee pension funds which manage over $800 billion in assets, see their portfolio values soar.

Silicon ValleyWhich brings us to the final subcategory of left-wing oligarchs in California, the high-tech moguls of social media. These left-wing billionaires of Silicon Valley, along with their only slightly less well-heeled entertainment industry counterparts in Los Angeles, are the most influential opinion makers on earth. They shape values and behavior using tools that make the overwhelming mass propaganda breakthroughs achieved by radio in the 1930s appear as primitive as smoke signals by comparison. What is their agenda?

Social Media and Entertainment Complex

The communications kingpins of California have no allegiance to ordinary Californians — or ordinary Americans, for that matter. To them, ordinary people are Pavlovian proles, expendable parasites that pollute the environment. To the extent these kingpins have compassion, it is to profitably create for the expendable multitudes a benign zoo; smart cities of high rises, contained in areas as geographically minute as possible, so that only wild nature, corporate farms, and private estates of the super-rich exist outside the urban containment boundaries.

In these algorithmically managed metropolises, human values, including their voting behavior, will literally be programmed, using the most sophisticated and individualized techniques of manipulation ever devised. Borgcubes, aesthetically optimized by AI psychometricians, with soothing soft edges of gingerbread. Metaphorically speaking, Matrix-like cocoons. A Brave New World, complete with Sexophones and Soma. Get ready. Another innovation from California.

The Environmentalist Lobby

California’s socialist oligarchy probably can continue to consolidate their power without any help, but help is abundant. Most importantly, they have the help of the environmentalist movement.

The power behind this movement, apart from the oligarchs who financially benefit from scarcity, are the trial lawyers who populate and and control the boards of major environmentalist nonprofits. Leaving sensible, and vital, environmentalist causes far behind, these misanthropic organizations prevent any significant infrastructure investment or private development of land and other resources.

Collecting legal fees and settlements thanks to a sympathetic judiciary, California’s environmentalist organizations have amassed immense financial power and political influence. And when all else fails, they now have the boogeyman of “climate change” to stop literally anything, anything that so much as scratches the earth, dead in its tracks.

Public Sector Unions
Enforcing the edicts of California’s socialist oligarchy are public sector unions; their full-time paid armies of lobbyists, operatives, political consultants, PR firms, and litigators. Their membership is both cowed and co-opted. California’s unionized public servants, while not entirely immune to the higher costs imposed on them by the oligarchy, are nonetheless exempted from its worst effects, because they are the most lavishly compensated public employees in America, if not the entire world.

The average total compensation (pay and benefits) for a full-time city, county or state worker in California in 2015 was $121,843. In that same year, the average full-time private sector worker in California made $62,475 (with benefits), which is 51 percent of what the public sector worker earned. That’s not all. This pampered class of public servants also enjoys, typically, 72 paid days off per year (no, that doesn’t include weekends).

How that breaks down is as follows: A veteran employee typically gets 20 vacation days, 12 designated holidays, two floating holidays, 12 “personal days,” and if they are on salary and they work eight hours a day for nine weekdays, through the very common “9/80” program, they get every 10th weekday off with pay. When they retire, if they work 30 years (most private sector workers put in 45 years), their average pension is nearly $70,000 per year, not including health benefits.

Public sector unions, which ought to be illegal, are squarely to blame for “negotiating” pay and benefit packages that threaten to force California’s cities and counties into bankruptcy despite sky-high taxes. California’s public sector unions are the most powerful in America, collecting and spending more than $800 million per year in dues and fees. These unions are, in most cases, avowedly socialistic, and in virtually all cases these unions have a political agenda in lockstep with the California’s left-wing oligarchy. As the most powerful permanent political organizations in the state, they are the brokers and enablers of corporate power.

In stunning irony, these unions also play a vital role in convincing ordinary Californians to vote contrary to their own best interests. There are two big reasons for this.

First, these unions proclaim themselves in solidarity with the working class, despite the fact that they represent workers who are much more likely to have financially transcended the challenges facing ordinary private sector workers. They conflate themselves with private sector unions, despite the fact that unlike private sector unions, they elect their own bosses, they are funded through compulsory taxes instead of through profits earned in a competitive market, and they operate the machinery of government allowing them to use that to intimidate their opponents.

Second, and equally insidious, these unions have taken over public education from kindergarten through graduate school, and they have now infected two generations of Californians with their left-wing ideology.

Thoroughly Indoctrinated Voters

While the elites represented in the above categories do represent millions of Californians, it is the influence they have on tens of millions of California’s voters that give them their political power. This starts with college educated liberals, often living in homes they’ve owned for so long that they aren’t adversely affected by property taxes (Proposition 13), and often living on the coast where they don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per year to heat and cool those homes.

These people live and work in educational, corporate, and media environments that are saturated with left-wing propaganda, and they don’t feel the harmful impacts of these policies enough to question them. Many of these liberals work in entertainment or high-tech, where their business model is primarily virtual, which prevents their exposure to the intrusive, stifling laws and regulations that affect businesses in the real world.

The other voting bloc that determines California’s political destiny, perhaps more than any other, are ethnic voters, or, to use a ridiculous, pretentious, obligatory phrase that makes normal people cringe every time they say it, “people of color.” The POC vote in California overwhelmingly favors Democratic candidates for public office. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, among California’s “likely voters,” more whites are registered as Republicans (39 percent), than Democrats (38 percent). But among Latinos, registered Democrats (62 percent) far outnumber Republicans (17 percent). Among blacks, the disparity is even greater: 82 percent Democrat versus a paltry 6 percent Republican. Among Asians, where the disparity is less, the Democrats still have a nearly two-to-one advantage, 45 percent to 24 percent. But can the Democratic grip on ethnic voters endure?

An Alternative Future for California

If you poke at the supposed unbreakable hold by Democrats on ethnic and racial minorities, you find cracks. Many Latino citizens actually favor immigration reform. Many Asian citizens fear affirmative action will rob their children of opportunities. Black voters in recent polls are supporting President Trump in percentages greater than any Republican in recent history. All “POC” are becoming increasingly incensed at the way the teachers unions have destroyed public education.

It wouldn’t take much to persuade California’s racial and ethnic minority voters that the Golden State’s artificial scarcity and high cost-of-living is something completely engineered by Democrats. California’s current Republican candidate for governor, John Cox, is doing a good job of educating voters on that subject.

And for that matter, what does “people of color” even mean, as greater and greater intermarriage occurs? Who is to say that a Mexican-American, with Christian European roots and a shared heritage of settling the American West, would not, does not, embrace American pride and American patriotism just as much as any other proud member of the American melting pot? Maybe all that California’s kaleidoscopic electorate needs is a coherent and unwavering pro-growth, pro-freedom vision, from a new coalition of patriots.

Something’s Got to Give

The biggest mistake that California’s socialist oligarchs can make is to assume they are unassailable. Their certainty could become their downfall.

It’s true that someday we will need to move beyond fossil fuel. It’s true that someday we will live in a world where borders slowly wither away and we are one global people. It’s true that eventually we will let machines do most of our work for us, and we will need to invent economic models that account for this new reality.

It’s even true that someday we may genetically engineer ourselves into transhuman beings. But those future days are not these present days, and for California’s socialist oligarchy to proclaim they have all the answers to trends this transformative displays stupefying arrogance.

While ordinary Californians are deciding between buying gasoline or paying rent, these elites are inventing new ways to make everything cost more. While immigrants from abroad and indigent Americans from east of the Sierras come to California to collect taxpayer funded benefits, these elites are prohibiting the types of economic and infrastructure development that might create the wealth to sustain them, along with those already here.

While commuters curse their way to work and back in clogged lanes on neglected freeways, these elites continue with their $100 billion bullet train project. While Californians pay more taxes than anyone else in America, California’s Democratic candidate for governor reaffirms his commitment to universal, single payer health care for everyone, free healthcare for non-citizen immigrantsfree public pre-schools, and free community college education.

Something’s going to give. Preventing broader private sector participation in competitive development of housing, energy, water and transportation guarantees eventual failure of California’s existing socialist schemes, much less the new ones they’re promising. But so far, California’s elites benefit from and promote these financially unsustainable policies. It cannot stand. Rebellion is brewing. Resistance is not futile. New alignments and alliances are forming. One economic hiccup could be all it takes.

California’s extraordinary potential is diminished by this ruling class of socialist oligarchs, and their coercive utopian supporters. They think they have all the answers when in reality they are flirting with economic and cultural disaster. Republicans, or some new movement, need to offer Californians a vision of abundance instead of scarcity, through competitive development of natural resources, market-driven urban and suburban growth, realistic immigration policies, and a proud, assimilative message to its residents to join together as a united and prosperous people. Concurrent with an agenda of growth that is as pragmatic as it is optimistic, California’s socialist oligarchs need to be exposed for their hypocrisy, their hubris, their venality.

Be warned, America. Democrats do know what they want. They’ve been building it for years in California.

Prop. 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – is a grassroots initiative

Gas PricesProposition 6 is an initiative measure appearing on the ballot less than one month from now that would repeal the tax hike on gasoline and cars imposed by Sacramento politicians last year without a vote of the people. If Prop. 6 passes, California’s gas and car tax would still be in the top five among all 50 states.

Supporters of Prop. 6, those advocating for the repeal of the tax hikes, have focused their campaign on several compelling points including California’s overall tax burden (highest income tax rate and state sales tax rate in the nation) and California’s high cost of living. Other arguments favoring Prop. 6 include the well-documented waste of taxpayer dollars spent on transportation, the lack of any reforms and a decades-long history of diverting transportation dollars away from roads and highways.

The Yes on Proposition 6 campaign is being advanced by a coalition of grassroots taxpayer organizations and the state’s Republican Party. It has virtually no big corporate support.

The opponents of Proposition 6, those who desire to retain our status as a high-tax state, consist of interests that benefit financially from public construction projects. These include construction companies, labor organizations and local governments who thirst for ever more taxpayer dollars. They have contributed tens of millions of dollars to the opposition campaign for an obvious reason. The millions they invest in a political campaign produce a great return on investment if the payoff is more than $5 billion of new taxpayer spending annually.

It is apparent at this point that the opponents of the gas tax repeal will outspend supporters by a 10-to-1 margin.

But the tactics of the opposition campaign have put it in hot water.

To read the entire column from the Los Angeles Daily News, please click here.

California’s DMV finds 1,500 more people wrongly registered to vote

VotedMore than a thousand people may have incorrectly been registered to vote in California, according to an internal audit of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles that was reportedly released Monday.

“Approximately 1,500 customers may have been registered to vote in error,” the DMV stated in a letter to the Secretary of State’s office, according to The Sacramento Bee. “This error has been corrected and is separate from the processing error we notified you about in writing on September 5.”

None of those affected by the improper voter registration were illegal immigrants, the agency reportedly said.

The DMV’s director told the news outlet that agency officials “have worked quickly with the Department of Technology to correct these errors and have also updated the programming and added additional safeguards to improve this process.”

Secretary of State Alex Padilla in response said …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

California’s Socialist Oligarchy: Making the State Unaffordable

Touted as the “fifth-largest economy on Earth,” and recently heralded as delivering the “greatest increase in average income,” these statistics obscure an alarming reality. California has become a feudal state, where the benefits of prosperity are unequally distributed, rewarding corrupt plutocrats and punishing ordinary working families. Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, characterized California’s current political economy as “Oligarchical Socialism.” This is a perfect description of a system that destroys the middle class at the same time it protects the ultra rich.

California’s leftist oligarchy benefits financially from precisely the depredations they accuse conservatives of committing. They have enacted policies that are designed to make California unaffordable to all but the wealthiest residents, and hostile to emerging small businesses, at the same time as their preexisting wealth and politically connected corporations reap enhanced returns and profits.

Plenty of Land, Impossible to Build

Nowhere are the consequences of California’s oligarchical socialism more evident than in the cost of housing. State legislation has made it nearly impossible for developers to construct new housing outside the so-called “urban growth boundary.” Instead, development is redirected into the footprint of existing urban areas.

While there is a natural tendency as population increases to see higher density redevelopment in urban cores, by restricting outward expansion of urban areas, the value of the limited remaining eligible land becomes artificially inflated. But established landowners and large development firms benefit from these restrictions. They are able to withstand years, if not decades, of expensive permitting delays and endless litigation. They are able to afford millions in permit fees because these costs are offset by their ability to sell residence units—from high-rise condos to detached single family dwellings—at prices far beyond what they would cost in a normal market.

These billionaire business interests get richer, while ordinary Californians who want to own or develop land cannot afford to go through the permit process. Meanwhile, the median cost of a home in California is $539,400 — nearly 2.5 times the national average of $216,700. And that’s not even in the tougher markets.

With all land development, environmentalist laws such as California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) create additional barriers. California’s legislature has now made it necessary for new home construction to be 100 percent “energy neutral” by 2020. Not only does this require installation of photovoltaic roof panels, but also more expensive insulation, as well as more expensive appliances that use less energy (and also happen to be less durable and don’t work as well). These mandates make homes less livable, for example, requiring smaller windows in order to make the homes easier to heat and cool.

The amazing fact that California’s legislators willfully ignore is the incredibly abundance of expanses of land that remain virtually empty in this vast state. California is only 5 percent urbanized. According to the American Farmland Trust, of California’s 163,000 square miles, there are 25,000 square miles of grazing land and 42,000 square miles of agricultural land; of that, 14,000 square miles are prime agricultural land. In other words, you could put 10 million new residents into homes, four per household, on half-acre lots, and you would only consume 1,953 square miles. If you built those homes on the best prime agricultural land California’s got, you would only use up 14 percent of it. If you scattered those homes among all of California’s farmland and grazing land—which is far more likely—you would only use up 3 percent of it. Three percent loss of agricultural land, to allow 10 million people to live on half-acre lots!

Instead of allowing land owners to build millions of inexpensive homes on, say, just a small fraction of California’s 25,000 square miles of grazing land, California’s lawmakers want to have “smart growth.” And as prices rise, the solution? On the ballot this November, propositions to enforce statewide rent control, borrow $4 billion to build “affordable housing,” and use state tax revenues to build more government-run homeless shelters. After all, expanding the private sector threatens the oligarchy. Best to expand the public sector.

Plenty of Energy Resources, Unaffordable Energy

While the cost of housing is an obvious example of how California has been turned into an enclave for the super rich and an expensive ordeal for ordinary Americans trying to live there, it is not the only example. California’s legislature has curtailed, if not completely shut down, development of oil, natural gashydroelectric and nuclear power.

In the summer of 2000, during California’s energy crisis, as brown-outs were rolling up and down the state, total disaster was averted because two nuclear reactor complexes, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, were continuously pumping 4.2 gigawatts of electricity — more than 10 percent of California’s peak demand at the time — into the power grid. But instead of retrofitting, San Onofre was shuttered in 2013 and Diablo Canyon is set to shut down by 2025.

And what’s replacing these power plants? Wind and solar farms, with their intermittent output backed up by natural gas power stations.

If the massive amounts of surplus electricity produced when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing could be stored, it might make sense to decommission clean nuclear power plants and ban development of fossil fuel. But despite decades of research, and dozens of promising but failed attempts, grid-scale electricity storage remains prohibitively expensive. But that’s OK. According to the state legislature, Californians can just pay more. And of course, when consumers pay more, utilities — whose percentage profit is limited by regulation — make far more in absolute profits, since they get to charge so much more per kilowatt-hour. The average cost for electricity is 19.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in California, compared to 13.1 cents per kilowatt-hour nationally.

And there’s no end in sight. True to form, California’s state legislature just passed a law that calls for 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045. With hydroelectric and nuclear power off the table, that’s going to be a neat trick.

With oil, it gets worse. We’re not talking about California’s aggressive formulation requirements that make tailpipe emissions cleaner. Perhaps California’s geography justifies this, as offshore winds blow the entirety of coastal city smog into the inland valleys where it is trapped and accumulates. But the reason gas is so expensive in California has little to do with that. It is nearly impossible to maintain refinery output in California, and California’s state gas taxes are among the highest in the nation. Gasoline in California costs around $3.87 per gallon, compared to $2.87 nationally.

While ordinary Californians suffer, left-wing oligarchs prosper.

Green technology entrepreneurs flourish, selling products that consumers are required by law to purchase. Not just solar panels and the related “balance of plant” systems. There are also “negawatts,” a good concept that is being taken to extremes. Sensors and chips designed to make appliances more “energy efficient” are designed by Silicon Valley companies whose prosperity depends on legislative mandates that compel Californians to purchase their products. Promoting the “internet of things” is purportedly justified on environmentalist grounds, while in reality it is a lucrative source of income for high-tech manufacturers, as well as a lucrative means of surveillance and data mining. These new appliances save some electricity. But are they durable? Easy to operate? Do they work as well as conventional appliances? Are they easy to use? Are they inexpensive? No to all.

Plenty of Water, Yet Water Is Rationed

Water is another area where ordinary Californians needlessly suffer inconveniences and pay more.

California receives between 150 and 300 million acre feet of rainfall per year, depending on whether it’s a drought year or a wet year. Regardless of the year, most of that water either evaporates, percolates, or runs off into the Pacific Ocean. And of the roughly 65 million acre feet that are diverted, fully half of it is saved for re-release into the environment, to maintain river flow and to prevent saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento Delta. Of what remains, almost all of it is used for agriculture. Less than 4 million acre feet of water each year are used by California’s households, and less than half that much is for indoor use.

You wouldn’t think that were the case if you reviewed California’s new laws regarding water, and the ways they’re going to be implemented. This year California’s state legislature passed a law requiring average daily indoor water use by California residents to not exceed 55 gallons per day, an amount that lowers to 50 gallons per day by 2030. Maybe you’ve encountered the “solutions” that will effect this reduction: Water faucets that spray eight tiny concentrated, 1.0 mm thick jets of water onto your hands, making it difficult to get them wet and nearly impossible to rinse off soap. Or “low-flow” shower heads with the same problem, magnified for anyone who wants to rinse shampoo out of long hair. What about “smart” laundry machinesthat start and stop randomly, ostensibly to save energy and water, that do a poor job of cleaning your clothes. Or supplemental “tankless” water heaters positioned close to your kitchen sink, that cost thousands of dollars and don’t work all that well, in order for residents to avoid running unnecessary gallons down the drain as they wait for the hot water to flow through their pipes.

All this expense and bother, to save what, at a statewide level, amounts to a trivial amount of water. California’s total residential indoor water use represents less than three percent of California’s total water diversions.

And California’s bureaucrats still aren’t done. In a hearing postponed till just after November 6—no coincidence there—California’s State Water Resources Board is expected to mandate increased “natural flows” in California’s rivers, which will create additional water scarcity, especially for farmers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Californians could easily escape water scarcity by investing in additional reservoirs, desalination plants, and wastewater recycling. But environmentalists torpedo all of these projects, successfully lobbying for laws that tie every project up in permitting delays that cost millions, if not tens of millions, and take years, if not decades, to overcome. When permits are finally granted, along come the lawsuits.

A good example of a project that makes compelling economic sense, but is bitterly opposed by environmentalists, is raising the height of the Shasta Dam. In exchange for construction costs under $2 billion, an annual yield of a half-million acre feet would be added to California’s water resources. Not only does this amount of water exceed how much water could be saved by additional household rationing, there’s even an environmental benefit, because summer releases of this water from Shasta’s deep, cool reservoir would improve fish habitat on the Sacramento River.

Roads Are Congested, And the State Builds a Bullet Train

traffic-los-angelesThere is nothing more versatile than the common road. On a road, anything on wheels, from bicycles to 80-ton trucks, can get from their point of origin to their destination. The simple flat surface delivers transportation options that nothing requiring rails or runways can hope to match. Moreover, cars and trucks are becoming cleaner and greener every year. One may argue vehemently over how exactly clean energy abundance will be achieved, but only the most pessimistic Luddite might cling to the notion that it will never happen.

Meanwhile, Californians urgently need new roads, wider roads, and upgraded roads. Californians may supplement these new roads with hyperloop technologies, or flying cars and other next generation vehicles, but what California does not need is the much criticized but seemingly unstoppable “bullet train,” a project that fails any rational cost-benefit analysis.

Using the California High Speed Rail Authority’s own projections, the system will not be profitable for 10 years. And what projections! The CHSRA assumes an average ticket price of $60, and average daily ridership of 120,000 people. Will 120,000 individuals actually be willing to spend $600 per month (and that’s only $30 per round trip, half what the High Speed Rail Commission is projecting) to commute from California’s less expensive Central Valley, into their jobs in coastal Silicon Valley and Los Angeles? And so what if they did? California has a workforce of more than 19 million people. How does spending around $100 billion on high speed rail help these other 18.9 million commuters?

To build a road in California takes years of permitting and litigating, then costs far more than it would in other parts of America. Environmentalist restrictionsproject labor agreements, and a bloated, inefficient State Department of Transportation are all contributing factors. Meanwhile, in comparison to other states, California consistently ranks at or near the bottom in terms of pavement conditions and traffic congestion. There is no end in sight.

Housing. Energy. Water. Transportation. These are the basic necessities of civilized life. And for power and profit, California’s socialist oligarchs have made them all prohibitively expensive. The social agenda of California’s Left is well understood. But the punishing economic agenda, engineered by California’s socialist oligarchy, is equally disturbing. It represents a devastating threat to the American way of life.

The second part of this report will identify the special interests that constitute this coalition of scarcity profiteers, and how they might be stopped.

Gov. Brown Rolls Back Restrictions on Homemade Foods, Sidewalk Vending, Craft Distilleries

Street FoodMy youngest daughter, a college agriculture student planning a career in dairy farming, cut her teeth at our mini-ranch outside Sacramento, where she raises Nubians. Those are great milk producers and goat cheese can be tasty, too. One of her early lessons about life in modern America came when locals would ask to buy the milk.

The state forbade such sales, but she heard of some people who adopted a workaround: The buyers would sign a form acknowledging that it was not for human consumption. What they did with the milk after they bought it was their business. My daughter wasn’t going down that route, but I’m glad she learned the wisdom of Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that, the law is a(n) ass.”

Americans love to brag about our wonderful freedoms, but sometimes they forget the level of red tape that entangles every commercial transaction. Take a look at the hundreds of hours in training and, often, the thousands of dollars in tuition the state requires to get a permit to perform virtually any occupation you can contemplate. The only thing that saves us are those bureaucratic workarounds—and the lack of sufficient inspectors to monitor everything we do. And black markets, also. If Americans felt compelled to followed every jot and tittle of every regulation, they might not feel so optimistic about the state of our freedoms.

I remember when my wife had to go to traffic school, in the days when one had to sit in a classroom rather than take the “course” online. The CHP officer told the class that every driver always is violating some traffic rule, and that they always could be pulled over for something. Even if that’s an overstatement, it is telling. In 2000, I traveled to communist Vietnamfor the Register to cover the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, and still recall locals laughing out loud when we told them about some of our state’s regulations. That’s telling, too.

But maybe the pendulum is about swing back in the other direction. Gov. Jerry Brown has been wrapping up his final legislative session, where he is signing hundreds of bills into law. Almost all of them add new rules and regulations. To his credit, he signed three laws that expand our commercial freedoms, albeit in relatively small ways.

The Homemade Food Operations Act (Assembly Bill 626) allows cooks to publicly sell food that they make in their home kitchen. This encourages small entrepreneurs and helps people earn a legitimate living. Of course, the law comes with many regulations. There are limits on the number of meals sold. Health concerns were overwrought. For heaven’s sake, we eat the food made in our own kitchens and our friends’ kitchens. And officials are allowed to inspect the facilities if some nosy neighbor complains. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Brown also signed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act (Senate Bill 946), which decriminalizes sidewalk vending. I was appalled at new stories of a police officer shutting down a street vendor and taking his cash. This should stop such nonsense. The new law will also remove past and pending convictions from people who sell the food we like to eat. (No, I don’t care about the sellers’ immigration status.) Again, the law gives the locals a lot of power to inspect, permit and limit vending carts, but people who sell and buy street tacos should be happy.

Yet I’ve read comments from people who have complained about the loosened rules because they allow these low-budget operations to compete with existing restaurants. Sorry, but it’s not the government’s job to assure that brick-and-mortar businesses are free from competition. A main reason for so many restrictions: Politically powerful existing industries often use governments to protect their market share. The other problem is many of our fellow citizens no longer believe in the “live and let live” philosophy.

Brown also signed the Craft Distiller Op-pour-tunity Act (Senate Bill 1164), which lets small distillers produce more of their products and sell it directly to the public, similar to the way breweries and wineries operate. Despite the silly name (Op-pour-tunity), it’s a sensible law. But I wonder how we got to the point where one needs a new law to allow such things.

This reminds me of a quotation from author Ayn Rand: “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” I’m not saying it’s government’s intention to turn us into criminals. But when a law-abiding citizen becomes a scofflaw for selling milk or frutas, the situation has gone too far. Kudos to the governor for rolling it back a bit.

This column was first published by the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

Facebook Employees in Uproar over Executive Who Backs Brett Kavanaugh

Mark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire recently due to a top Facebook global policy executive’s decision to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and appear at his hearing. One prominent executive claims Facebook is an “apolitical” company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, hundreds of employees at the social media firm Facebook have expressed their anger about top global policy executive, Joel Kaplan’s decision to support Brett Kavanaugh at his upcoming hearing. Employees questioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg directly about the Kavanaugh-supporting executive in a weekly question-and-answer session held last Friday, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg — a vocal Hillary Clinton supporter — also apparently weighed in on the issue.

An internal discussion thread was reportedly filled with hundreds of comments. Many Facebook employees were critical of the executive’s decision to support Kavanaugh. The topic became an issue after a photo of Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Joel Kaplan appeared to show the executive present at Kavanaugh’s hearing last Thursday. This resulted in an internal discussion about how Facebook’s executives felt about the #MeToo movement, freedom of speech, and President Trump.

Zuckerberg was relatively non-committal in his response to the employee’s issues, stating that he wouldn’t have made the same decision as Kaplan, but that his presence at the hearing did not violate any of Facebook’s company policies and that Zuckerberg was aware that Kaplan and Kavanaugh had been longtime friends. This, however, did not satisfy employees and the internal debate still continued with Zuckerberg and Sandberg planning to address the employees issues at a town hall meeting on Friday.

One employee stated: “This fire has been burning for a full week now.” Kaplan reportedly appeared defensive in his initial response, stating that he took the day off, but the executive’s tone shifted as further controversy over his appearance arose. Many were angered over Kaplan’s appearance at the hearing as since the 2016 election, Facebook has discouraged employees from expressing their political opinions publicly, but now the company’s head of global policy was appearing at a hearing that had become extremely politicized over recent weeks. …

Click here to read the full article from Breitbart.com/California

School Lead Contamination Remains a Concern in California

Drinking fountainAfter reports of problems with lead contamination of water at schools around California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed abill in October of 2017 meant to address the problem.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, mandates that every school test one to five water outlets for the presence of lead. If any of the tests shows over 15 parts of lead per billion, the parents or guardians of students must be notified. Young people exposed to lead can suffer permanent problems – sometimes extreme – with cognitive development and behavior.

Given the attention paid to the national scandal over dangerous water in Flint, Michigan, the state law came as a relief to concerned parents, school officials and health agencies. But a comprehensive new analysis by the EdSource website suggests this relief may be premature.

The key issue is whether the 15 parts per billion standard, which is recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is strict enough to protect students’ health. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers that standard to be so weak that it puts young people at risk. The academy calls for a maximum of 1 parts per billion.

Pediatricians say federal standard is risky

“We know there is no safe lead level,” Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, told EdSource. “Schools ought to work to remove that source of lead for these kids.”

Experts were also sharply critical of the California law because it didn’t require all sources of water to be tested at every school. While sometimes lead contamination is system-wide – as seen in large parts of Flint in recent years – a single corroded pipe, faucet or other plumbing fixture can be responsible for lead contamination.

Gonzalez Fletcher told EdSource she supports strengthening the law and said the 15-parts-per-billion standard was agreed on to gain enough support so her bill would pass. The California School Boards Association worried that a tougher standard could be financially onerous for school districts.

The CSBA’s concerns may seem dubious, given that schools have enjoyed large increases in funding in recent years, thanks to a strong economy and Proposition 98 – a 1988 state law mandating that public education get roughly 40 percent of state revenue. But every school district is likely to face at least one and more likely two fiscal crises in coming years.

School districts face fiscal double-whammy

The first is the immense cost of the 2014 California State Teachers’ Retirement System bailout. The great majority of the cost – 70 percent – is borne by districts, which face a phased-in increase of CalSTRS contributions, going from 8.25 percent of pay in 2013-14 to 19.1 percent in 2020-21. In many districts, increased state funding due to healthy revenue gains has been largely used for these new pension bills. By 2020-21, when the final increase takes effect, most school districts are likely to have compensation costs eating up 90 percent or more of their general operating budgets.

The second crisis is not an absolute certainty, just highly likely. That crisis is a recession that sends state revenue plunging. Because California is so reliant on the income taxes paid by the very wealthy, the Great Recession a decade ago prompted a 20 percent drop in revenue and a corresponding reduction in state funding for public education.

That is why in recent years that Gov. Brown worked so hard to get the Legislature to strongly increase state fiscal reserves. By summer 2019, the state could have $13.5 billion in hand, according to an analysis earlier this year. But given that Brown has warned that a recession could wipe out $55 billion in revenue over a three-year span, these “rainy day” funds won’t go that far in helping schools.

Against this backdrop, the next governor, state lawmakers and education officials face a difficult calculus next year: how tight a standard for lead in schools are they willing to set with such a gloomy budget picture.

In the last testing results made available by the state, 150 schools – or 4 percent of those surveyed – had one or more more water outlets with lead levels over 15 parts per billion. Just under 25 percent of schools had lead levels over 5 parts per billion – hinting at how costly it would be if the state went to a tougher standard.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com