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What Would A Centrist Do?

The notion of centrism invites scorn from true believers. In many cases it is justified. A politician or person who just bends to the wind and prioritizes staying out of the crossfire, can often be accused of believing in nothing. Those in the so-called center deserve no respect if it is merely a hiding place for cowards and opportunists. But there’s another way to consider centrism.

Introduced as far back as 1976 by Donald Warren in his book, The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation, the concept of a centrist being a “radical” is based on the idea that a concrete, uncompromising political agenda can form that rejects extremism on the Right and on the Left. This concept is further explored in Ted Halstead’s more recent book The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics, published in 2002.

What Warren came up with in 1976, or Halstead in 2002, may or may not be applicable to America in 2021. But they expressed a powerful idea: The center does not have to be the refuge of cowards and opportunists. It can represent a vision and an agenda that is as revolutionary and as precise, if not even more precise, than the ideologies on the Left and Right that it rejects.

One of the liberating factors in proposing a radical centrist agenda is that it doesn’t have to adhere to ideological dogma from either extreme. It can focus on pragmatic policy solutions that rely on popular support […] Read More

Newsom’s True Opponents? Water and Fire

Not quite one year ago, Gavin Newsom did something that took political courage. It was also the right thing to do. He removed from one of the state’s local water boards one of the most outspoken critics of a desalination plant proposed for Huntington Beach.

Unlike critics of desalination (once referred to as desalinization, and swiftly being rebranded yet again as desalting), Newsom understands a fundamental fact: When the Colorado Aqueduct reduces its annual contribution to the water supply of Southern California from over 1.0 million acre feet to zero, and the Delta pumps stop sending additional millions of acre feet of water down the California Aqueduct, in the midst of a drought that lasts not three years, but twenty years, all the water conservation in the world will not slake the thirst of Southern Californians.

Water conservation, when pushed to the limit, does more harm than good. It raises the price of water, since the entire operational infrastructure delivering water has a relatively fixed overhead that must be paid even when quantities delivered are reduced. It results in rationing, with consequences that are glibly dismissed. When lawns and trees die, more than “culture” is lost. Life is lost. Trees and lawns are life. They filter and cool the air, they nourish the human spirit. And every place you see a lawn, what you are really seeing is water resiliency. Surplus in the water system is healthy. Bend every fraction of surplus out […] Read More

Why the Newsom Recall is Nonpartisan

If you’re searching for an accurate term to describe the Newsom recall effort, it’s not easy. With 48 percent of the electorate planning to vote for Newsom’s retirement according to the latest poll, and only 24 percent registered Republicans in California, characterizing the recall as a “Republican Recall” is inaccurate. But that’s not stopping California’s Democrats from doing that, because it works.

The demonization of Republicans in California has its origins in Prop. 187, championed in 1994 by Pete Wilson, the Republican governor at the time. Approved by 58 percent of the electorate, but later struck down in court, the measure would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from using social services, public schools, and public healthcare services except in cases of emergency.

Ever since, Republicans in California have been successfully stigmatized as racist. The next step in the demonization of Republicans in California came with Prop. 8, approved by 52 percent of voters in 2008. Defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and also struck down in court, the legacy of Prop. 8 is to taint California’s Republicans as not only racist, but homophobic bigots as well.

If these factors weren’t enough, California’s Republicans are now tagged as Trump supporters. Since California’s electorate is thoroughly conditioned to associate Trump with every negative right-wing stereotype imaginable, that, too, works.

No wonder we have a national politicians like Elizabeth Warren appearing on television ads in California, where she equates supporters of the Newsom recall with “Trump […] Read More

Cover Art from the Woke Bookshelf

If you’re running an independent bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Area, what sort of window displays will bring in foot traffic? Conversely, what sort of window displays will not invite ideologically driven vandalism? Here, based on a colleagues recent trip to “Book Passage – The Bay Areas Liveliest Bookstore,” are a sampling of what you may expect.

To fully appreciate the politicization of the leftist literati, you have to view these cover photos. In this first example, notice the use of socialist realism in the cover art. Published by Simon and Schuster, the cover of “Kamala Harris, Rooted in Justice,” portrays a heroic profile. It uses bold, primary colors and incorporates patriotic images. From Britannica.com, consider this definition of socialist realism in art:

“Socialist Realism was also the officially sponsored Marxist aesthetic in the visual arts, which fulfilled the same propagandistic and ideological functions as did literature. Socialist Realist paintings and sculptures used naturalistic idealization to portray workers and farmers as dauntless, purposeful, well-muscled, and youthful.”

Well, dauntless and purposeful, anyway.

Where Kamala Harris got her own book, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, and others, are part of a series, “Queens of the Resistance,” brought to you by Penguin Random House. Might these books be fulfilling “propagandistic and ideological functions?”

One might also wonder why Elizabeth Warren is pictured raising a clenched fist, whereas Pelosi is merely crossing her arms. But in both cases, their countenance is dauntless, purposeful. […] Read More

Restoring the California Dream

AUDIO: A discussion of solutions to California’s policy challenges, with a focus on water and housing – 18 minutes on KUHL Santa Barbara – Edward Ring on the Andy Caldwell Show.

https://civicfinance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2021-07-29-Edward-Ring-on-Andy-Caldwell-18-minutes-KSMA-Santa-Maria.mp3

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Unheralded Flavors of Socialism

The mantra of socialists, and the rallying cry that generates populist support for socialist movements, is the desire to make life better for ordinary citizens. The calls for a mandatory “living wage,” “universal health care,” housing and utilities as a “human right,” free education; the entire apparatus of the expanding welfare state are all manifestations of this goal.

To what extent the state provides services and entitlements to its citizens is an endless and necessary debate. It’s a debate that can’t be waged without also considering what citizenship itself ought to mean. What the state can afford for its own citizens is greater than what the state can afford if citizenship is secondary to mere residency. But lost in the question of what the state should offer, and who should be the rightful recipients, is a question that is too easily dismissed by partisans on both sides: when does state spending result in less authoritarian regulations and a lower cost-of-living?

If there were such a thing, and there is, then it might be possible to unite otherwise partisan factions behind certain projects that rely on state spending. This notion, anathema to libertarians and many conservatives, is in fact a way to fulfill libertarian and conservative goals. There is no better example than with respect to infrastructure.

In today’s political environment, of course, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of “infrastructure,” which has been corrupted beyond recognition. Infrastructure, properly defined, are the projects – primarily relating to delivering energy, water, […] Read More

It’s Not a “Republican Recall,” Mr. Hastings

Consumers of broadcast television were treated to a barrage of ads over the past week lambasting the “Republican Recall.” Revealed at the close of these ads was the source of major funding for the ads, Netflix founder and billionaire Reed Hastings. Compared to other Silicon Valley notables such as Mark Zuckerberg, who spent $400 million to tilt the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Hastings flies mostly under the radar. But that’s changing fast.

Last year, Hastings contributed nearly two million to a dirty campaign that got George Gascon elected to Los Angeles County District Attorney not by extolling his virtues and qualifications, but by maliciously maligning the incumbent. Angelenos are paying an awful price, as Gascon implements a crime friendly regime that has aroused open rebellion among his subordinates and enraged so many residents that the vast county teeters on the precipice of political realignment.

Not content with supporting the problematic Gascon, Hastings now has his eyes on the whole state. But what motivates him to do this? Why is keeping Newsom in office so important to Reed Hastings that he’s willing to throw additional millions into a statewide political campaign? Hastings, like dozens of his progressive billionaire counterparts in the Silicon Valley, is not stupid. So what part of Newsom’s legacy is he so determined to protect, and what is it about the recall movement that he consider so toxic?

It’s fair to wonder the rhetoric you’ll hear from the fringes of any […] Read More

Cry the Beloved California

Back in the waning days of the apartheid era, South African Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi made an observation that echoes across the centuries. “We cannot have freedom if we don’t have bread.”

Such a predicament does not exactly repeat itself in California today, but there are echoes aplenty. Californians are oppressed, in different ways, for different reasons, than the blacks of South Africa during the apartheid years. But instead of demanding the equivalent of bread, in the form of affordable and reliable water, energy, and housing, Californians are divided into two warring tribes, with one side demanding pedagogy and policies oriented to critical race theory, and the other side rising up to stop them.

Meanwhile, in California today, water is rationed, energy is expensive and unreliable, and the prices of homes and rentals consume the incomes of all but the most fortunate.

It might be forgivable to obsess over issues of race and gender if California’s people of color, women, and gays were subject to anything remotely akin to the brutal regime of the Afrikaner. But California is the most tolerant state in the most tolerant nation in the most tolerant era in the history of the world. The hardships that members of California’s so-called protected status groups endure are indeed the result of systemic oppression. But this oppression is not the product of discrimination. It is caused by a ruling oligarchy and its retainers making the calculated decision that there is power and profit in denying economic opportunities […] Read More

CAGOP Should Not Burn Up the Recall Jungle

The latest hot rumor, circulating among the disaffected rebels, the insiders, and the wanna-be insiders (guilty), is that the California State GOP is going to endorse Kevin Faulconer as the official Republican candidate in the upcoming Newsom recall election.

Officials at CAGOP have dismissed this rumor as unfounded, claiming the process has just begun and the outcome is uncertain. Apparently the party’s rules committee will convene later this week, and then the party’s executive committee will meet over the weekend. If these committees approve an endorsement process, then candidates will be asked to each collect 200 endorsements from among the roughly 1,400 party delegates. Since party delegates will be permitted to endorse more than one candidate, this was represented as a reasonable requirement.

But coming at the last minute, this is not reasonable. It’s also a flawed strategy. GOP voters who feel burned may stay home on September 14.

Candidates with strong ties to the state party organization and established relationships with party delegates will have a decisive advantage acquiring delegate signatures, especially since the petitions themselves, apparently, won’t be available until the party decides they’re going forward with an endorsement selection process. Therefore, if they’re only given a week or two to go track down delegates, it is possible that candidates that have already invested a lot in this contest will be froze out of even being considered.

One of the things that may elude officials at CAGOP is that in order for the recall ballot’s question one (should […] Read More

Fixing California, Part Nine – The Prosperity Economy

The policy topics considered in this series—energy, water, transportation, housing, law enforcement and the homeless, forestry, and education—have all been hijacked by ideologues.

Because of this, and regardless of the relevance, climate change and racism are the two broad and urgent themes that dominate policy discussions and decisions on these issues. And in all cases, these alleged crises are used to distort policies and derail projects. They become the primary focus, limiting options, enabling impractical and expensive schemes, and always with a pessimistic outlook. This series has offered a different set of perspectives through which to view these topics: abundance, pragmatism, and optimism.

There are other big challenges that dominate the political dialogue in California and throughout America. It is a broad and diverse list. But the seven topics chosen, if properly addressed, fulfill a practical goal. They give back to Californians—all Californians—something that’s been missing for decades: a prosperity economy where anyone willing to work hard can afford to live a secure life.

The governing ideology in California today is corporate socialism hiding behind the moral imperatives of fighting climate change and combating racism. California today is run by an alliance of special interests—tech monopolies, public-sector unions, leftist billionaires, extreme environmentalists, and social justice warriors—who are crushing the middle class. Their motivations differ, and their intentions may not be so explicit, but their actions share the same goal. Environmentalists believe the middle-class lifestyle is ecologically unsustainable. Social justice warriors believe the middle […] Read More