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California Watch

Dumping Water in the Middle of a Drought Recovery

By 4.14.16


“What would happen if the communists took over the Sahara Desert?” William F. Buckley asked during a discussion in 1972. “Nothing for 50 years. Then there will be a shortage of sand.” That laugh line can apply to any case in which the government — even a democratic one — has long-term control of a resource.

One could ask, “What happened after the California (and federal) government controlled the state’s water resources?” The obvious Buckley-esque answer: “Well, nothing much since construction of the State Water Project began in the early 1960s. Eventually, though, California started running out of water.”

Another Perspective

For Presidential Candidates: The Alamogordo Test

By 4.14.16

Either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz would fail the Alamogordo Test. This could spell disastrous defeat in any general election.

What is the Alamogordo Test? I hadn’t realized it myself until I watched — with my Advanced Placement History students — a dramatization of the first atomic test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. It then struck me — with a blinding flash of insight — that this is what the American voters have been saying to us since that date:

We want a President we can trust with that terrible weapon!

This Alamogordo Test is not partisan. In 2012, Gov. Mitt Romney casually referred to Russia as “our Number One strategic enemy.” He then moved on to make other points in his foreign policy debate with President Obama. In making such an earth-shattering pronouncement almost as an aside, Romney failed the Alamogordo Test.

Churchill, it should be remembered, did not call Russia our enemy in his carefully laid out “Iron Curtain” Speech of March 5, 1946.

Freedom Watch

The War on Speech Takes an Ugly Turn

By 4.14.16

In any society, the prevailing power structure loathes dissent. It’s been this way since time immemorial — when Christians dared suggest that there might be some other path to follow than the Roman gods, for instance, or when the leading lights of the Age of Enlightenment dared suggest that science and reason ought to guide mankind.

We see the ugliest of both now combined in the most-sinister fashion with today’s War on Dissent throughout the world. That our own country was founded on the concept of protecting dissent as an essential element of revolution makes our nation’s steps in that direction all the more damning. Worse, while this has been a long-time coming, the attacks on dissenting or skeptical speech have found ever-more devious tactics in recent years.

The Public Policy

A Clear-Eyed View of the Contact Lens Debate

By 4.14.16

Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Veronique de Rugy.

The intensity with which some American companies try to use the government to trick or deceive consumers is astonishing. Yet the extent to which lawmakers seem content to cater to these crony pursuits never disappoints, either. Case in point: the current attempt to protect contact lens sellers from competition at the expense of consumers.

An estimated 40 million Americans wear contact lenses. That’s a $4 billion industry. Thanks to the heavy-handed government regulation of all things health care, contacts already cost more than they should. However, if an ongoing effort to reduce competition through government cronyism were to succeed, costs might soon rise even more.

The Obama Watch

Obama’s Surge — It’s Not Against Jihadis

By 4.14.16

Here comes the surge! No, not a military surge against ISIS or an increase in the number of security personnel guarding our mass transportation hubs. Here comes the surge in Syrian refugees.

And if you live in a preferred community, as I do in Walnut Creek, California, over the next year you are going to feel its impact.

There is an obvious and shameful reason that the federal government does not bother to make communities aware of what’s coming. It knows there will be resistance. Dumping refugees into the institutional structure of a community can have dire consequences for that community.

Many of these refugees will not be English speakers and they will not possess the skills to navigate in a post-industrial, highly technological economy. Their children will weigh on the educational system. They will have medical needs — physical, psychological, and emotional — that will weigh on the medical infrastructure.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

Science of the Times

By 4.13.16

This old Jewish joke makes me cry every day. Abe is commiserating with Sam for the break-in that just cleaned out his store. But Sam is cheerful; he says this was the best time for him to be robbed. Why is that?

Sam explains: “I just marked down my entire stock 40 percent!”

This is the fate of the modern Republican Party. First they allow their principles to be devalued. Then they get robbed, but it no longer hurts very much.

A Further Perspective

Another LGBT Lynching

By 4.13.16

It amazes that the tiny sliver of Americans disenchanted with the sex they were born into seem to have taken total control of American culture, and of the laws, policies, and etiquette to enforce their every whim, no matter how bizarre, or how contrary to nature or to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. And these folks are allowed a level of intolerance and personal vitriol granted to no other group in living memory. (See William Murchison’s fine piece in Tuesday’s TAS here.) Informed readers keeping up with recent events out of North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi know this is true.

Freedom Watch

Why Trump Is Wrong on Free Speech

By 4.13.16

From petty name-calling to louder-than-dog-whistle instances of racism, the level of discourse in this year’s presidential election has sunk to new lows. And the tone is being set by Donald Trump, the front-runner for bully-in-chief.

As primary voting continues, and we brace ourselves for a contentious Republican National Convention in July, voters are faced with a clear choice: Support a national leader who wishes to rule as an authoritarian, silencing political dissent, demeaning free speech, and attempting to crush his opposition at all costs, or fall back on our long-standing American tradition, that we are a free people  —  free to speak, free to dissent, and free to exercise the liberty of original thought.

Trump’s recent proposal to relax America’s libel laws is an affront on our civil liberties. He wants to make it easier to sue news organizations so that he can use the court system as a personal attack dog on those who dare to speak up against him.

Political Hay

Was Cruz’s Colorado Upset a Good Thing for Americans? Yes!

By 4.13.16

First, what happened in Colorado was a great lesson in civics, a course which is no longer taught in our schools.

When the Founders gathered in Philadelphia to construct a constitution, they asked themselves what system of government would be the best, given their beliefs about human nature. And one thing they all agreed on was that people in general were not to be trusted. In this they were no doubt influenced by the fact that, not far from where they were meeting, a mob attacked an old woman whom they accused of being a witch. And maybe also by the Shays rebellion in Massachusetts.

In any event, the Founders did not have much confidence in a democratic system of government. And so they gave us a Republic instead, if we could keep it as Benjamin Franklin observed. The purpose was to deny the ordinary people Hillary Clinton used to talk about the right to vote directly for the folks who would govern them. Instead, the ordinary people would vote for higher level people, who would in turn vote for still higher level people until, after much filtration, the cream would rise to the top and we’d be governed by the very best society had to offer.