Size 11 Carbon Footprint

Writer and Political Commentator

I just finished another guilt-inducing article on the environment
that had two main points. First and foremost, it appears I am
personally responsible for the global warming crisis and the
resulting, unavoidable death and destruction. Second, no matter what
I do, or how I change my lifestyle, it will never be enough.

Much of the “frantic” messaging we are receiving reminds me of the
conflicting dietary messages from one decade to the next. Eggs are
good for you, eggs will kill you. Drink a glass of milk a day – if
you want to cut short your life. Alcohol is bad, except for the
glass of wine a day you should drink to live to be over 100 years
old. Early on I paid attention, but eventually, I simply tuned out
the back-and-forth between competing dietary “experts” and the
resulting media hysteria. Not surprisingly, the answer (simply
enough) appears to have been moderation, a lesson that would serve us
well now.

We are bombarded daily by dictates on how to live our lives to leave
the smallest possible “carbon footprint.” I understand why people
intuitively think “big cars, bad,” but then I watch my kids and their
friends take three cars to the beach when all eight of them could
have fit into comfortably into my SUV. I realize that ethanol may
save the planet but I worry about reports that the inefficient use of
corn to produce ethanol is driving the price of corn (and
subsequently many of our food staples) through the roof and will lead
to the starvation of millions.

I know that nuclear energy (which to the environmentally ignorant
among us seems like a possible solution) is morally wrong and
everything European is good. Then I read that France (and who says
“Western Europe” more than the French?) has more than 50 nuclear
power plants and gets more than 75% of their electricity from nuclear
power. I am switching to earth-saving light bulbs, but they don’t
fit in all my fixtures and I’m having trouble getting the carbon
footprint information on lamp manufacturing, so I’m not sure if I
should replace them or not.

Don’t get me wrong; I have a variety of different colored trashcans
for recycling, a compost heap and less grass in my yard than I did
years ago. I have turned down the heat, bought sweaters and
installed low-flow toilets. My shower delivers an uncomfortable –
but environmentally friendly – dribble of water and we now own our
own reusable shopping bags.

However, there is a limit. At a recent family gathering, a loved one
questioned our menu. First, the choice of a New Zealand wine was
assailed. Did I have any idea of the waste involved in shipping this
bottle from New Zealand to my environmentally unfriendly table? Then
on to on the main course… we were serving meat, an obvious no-no for
anyone who really cares about the earth and our children. A long
lecture followed. I wanted to quote comedian Ron White: “I didn’t
climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots,” but my wife
places a very high value on family harmony at these events, so I
swallowed the comment, along with my steak.

Our meal having been dissected, analyzed and critiqued, attention
turned to the driveway. I was berated for driving a gas-guzzling
SUV. We also own a gas-sipping Mini-Cooper, perhaps the most
honestly named vehicle of all-time, but that wasn’t enough. When I
said I needed the SUV to pull our boat, it was suggested that if I
really cared, I would sell the boat.

That’s when it hit me. It will never be enough. If you examine
America’s environmental progress over 20 years ago, the improvements
are admirable. But for the true environmental fanatics, it will not
be enough until we are living naked in caves, without fire (do you
know what burning a log does to the environment!?) and certainly
without resource-consuming children.

Allow me to state what many of us feel. Give me reasonable choices
and options that will benefit the environment, while at the same time
respecting the fact that a decent meal, a comfortable home, a car not
built for a contortionist, and a shower that actually removes the
soap does not make me a bad person. I wear size 11 shoes and I’m
afraid that in living a civilized lifestyle, I’m going to leave a bit
of a carbon footprint. Cut me a little slack and I’ll look into
getting some new light fixtures. Deal?

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CA Falling Behind in Science and Technology

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

You would think that if California came out fourth in the nation in a technology and science index that would be a good thing. Since California ranks higher than 46 other states it isn’t bad, but considering the last time this index was released California ranked second there is reason for concern.

High Tech and California should go together like bread and butter. However, according to the Milken Institute’s 2008 State Technology and Science Index California fell further behind number one ranked Massachusetts since the last study was released four years ago.

The big reason for the hit — California’s drop in one category labeled Human Capital Investment Composite Index. The Milken study could have done a better job identifying its measurable categories in easily understood English. However, the Human Capital Index has to do with the number of graduate students, PhDs and acquiring Research and Development opportunities, amongst a series of twenty-one indicators.

California now ranks 13th in this Human Capital category, falling six places since the 2004 study and nine places since the initial Milken Technology and Science Index was published in 2002.

So what’s California’s problem according to the Milken demographers? It seems a smaller percentage of Californians are getting college degrees and fewer foreign graduate students are enrolling in California universities to name two.

California ranks 16th in the nation in the percentage of its population age 25 and older holding bachelor’s degrees. The decline in foreign students is in the science and math fields. California graduates fewer scientists and engineers than it has in the past and does not score as well as leading states in verbal SAT scores.

The study reports the importance of knowledge skills for the new economy and it is there where the study says California takes its lumps. In the other four categories of Research and Development Inputs, Risk Capital Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Technology and Science Work Force, and Technology Concentration and Dynamism (I warned you about the category titles) California is in the top ten, especially entrepreneurial risk taking in which the state is number one.

As with most of the policy discussions in California, this study returns to the topic of education.

Take a look at the full study on the states here and the special California study here.

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New Committee Forms to Detail Devastating Impacts of Higher Property Taxes

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Property taxes may be back on the table because of the state budget deficit. But a group has formed to educate the public and opinion leaders on the negative effects of increasing property taxes. Along with Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, I am a co-chairman of the group, Californians Against Higher Property Taxes.

Our mission is to make people aware of the adverse effects of property tax increases, including “split roll” property taxes that might be levied against business and non-homeowner property. I have written previously about this subject on Fox and Hounds Daily.

The new coalition consists of many individual small businesses as well as notable associations including the California Restaurant Association, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Orange County Business Council, National Federation of Independent Business and many others.

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State could make money if it stopped taxing itself

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

For a great example of runaway bureaucracy at work, check out this article in today’s Orange County Register, which outlines a keen observation by Board of Equalization Member and F&H Blogger Michelle Steel on how the state is wasting millions of dollars by charging itself sales tax.

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Dude, Where Are All Our Cars??

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The estimate from the moving company seemed outrageous, $2542, to move my wife’s compact Mazda from the DC suburbs to our new apartment in Los Angeles.

I decided to see if I could do better.

In the process, I got a glimpse of California’s economic meltdown.

First I tried calling other major moving companies, places that had shipped cars for my friends. The competition immediately produced gains — a series of estimates between $1,400 and $1,600 — for the identical service. But on the phone, a kindly mover noted my itinerary — “going to California, eh?” — and suggested I might do well by submitting my particulars to a web site used by companies in the business of transporting autos.

I did. And immediately, I found myself to be a hot commodity, at the center of a bidding war between auto transport companies. They emailed twice a day. They called the house. With each email and call, the prices dropped further and further.

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A Tale of Two Summers, Philadelphia 1776 and Sacramento 2008

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

Thomas Jefferson kept a weather diary. In it he noted the unseasonably cool temperatures for a summer’s day in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. But inside Independence Hall, the debate was anything but cool.

There were heated exchanges between the delegates of the Second Continental Congress as they debated whether or not to declare independence from Great Britain, severing forever the political ties to the mother country and taking a giant leap of faith into the unknown.

In the end, after months of arguing the merits of the issue and after much deliberation, the vote was taken and late in the evening the die was cast as the thirteen colonies became the United States of America. A nation had been born.

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Here we go again…

Michael Shires
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University

Tuesday, July 1st, California will enter another fiscal year without having approved its budget for next year-again. It has gotten to the point that no one really expects it anymore, but we all moan and complain when it does not happen. The only years we come close are years when there is so much money, everyone’s thirst can be slaked from the fountain of money California’s powerful economy is capable of generating.

And little happens, at least for the first 30 to 90 days because the consequences are delayed by the timing of the billing and payment processes of the state accounting system. No big deal, right? But it IS A BIG DEAL! It shows just how dysfunctional our legislative processes have become.

For voters and workers in the state, it is almost insulting to say, “Go pay your mortgage, balance your checkbook and pay off your credit card bills on $45,000 a year, but don’t get mad at us for not being able to balance a $100 billion budget.” Californians are rightfully incensed.

The real problem at the heart of the budget process is not declining revenues, tax-and-spend liberals, greedy unions, obstructionist conservatives, or cheapskate taxpayers –it is the absence of leadership at the helm of the state. Between the governor and Democrat and Republican leaders, no one is willing to step forward, navigate a wise course and carry the message to the voters.

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Rubber? Meet Road.

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

One of the most important policy debates of the decade is about to commence in California – several years after the policy was enacted.

Yesterday, the Air Resources Board released the Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan, the most important document to date discussing implementation of California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. While labeled a “discussion draft,” it begins to lay out the nuts and bolts of how the Schwarzenegger Administration would have Californians reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The document still only hints at the costs involved:

“ARB has developed preliminary estimates of the costs and savings of the various measures considered in this Draft Plan. These estimates indicated that the overall savings from improved efficiency and developing alternatives to petroleum will, on the whole, outweigh the costs. This balance is largely driven by current high energy costs and the degree to which measures increase energy efficiency throughout the economy and move California toward ultimately cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels.”

The cost and savings information have not yet been released by the Board, and even what will be released is advertised as “preliminary and does not reflect all the measures under evaluation.” The Board promises supplemental economic evaluations later this summer.

The Board is not so reticent to advertise its vision of the consequences of no action:

“The potential costs of implementing the Plan pale beside the cost of doing nothing. Looking globally (citing a UK study) … the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent of losing at least five percent of global GDP each year, now and forever” or possibly up to 20 percent of GDP.

The rubber will meet the road when these economic analyses are released and can be evaluated according to their assumptions on costs, benefits valuation, discount rates, and sensitivity analyses. None of these economic questions were thoughtfully addressed during the debate on AB 32, and to date none of the presumed benefits have been shown to accrue directly to California as a result of these actions.

Therefore, the new documentation released over the next several months will provide the first opportunity to truly assess the cost to California consumers, ratepayers and taxpayers for our leadership in the climate change debate.

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The Redistricting Discourse Carries On

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Joe Mathews dismisses my analysis that the redistricting initiative might pass with all the usual arguments as to why past measures lost: support by good government reformers and the media is irrelevant; the public doesn’t care, it’s biggest booster, Gov. Schwarzenegger, is unpopular, etc. etc.

Joe is pretty much like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day, and this may be his hour. If the politics of the past is prologue, he is right — it will lose.

So what’s different? Joe points to “good government” and media support for Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77 in the 2005 special election. But Prop 77 got caught in the maelstrom that sunk it along with the three other initiatives on the ballot. It did call for an immediate election in the new lines that was interpreted (by me among others), as an attempted Republican power grab. These problems will not plague the 2008 initiative.

Joe also overlooks a key difference — that this measure has real bipartisan support, which the 2005 measure, and those before it, did not.

But the most important difference is the times. The electorate is angry, dissatisfied and open to doing very odd things. As I sit waiting for the Clinton-Giuliani presidential debate that will never be, I am reminded how wrong the conventional political wisdom has been. I fully agree with Joe that redistricting reform will not pass because media and reform elites love it, or the public suddenly wants a handful of marginal seats.

It will only pass if the public sees it as an assault on a selfish, arrogant, out of touch political class that cares only about perpetuating itself in power. Maybe they will never see it that way, but this year the public is certainly more engaged. If they have figured out that oil speculators in Riyadh are making them pay $5 a gallon for gas, maybe they can also figure out that an arcane ballot measure like this one really does strike a blow against the very people they rightly blame for so many of their ills.

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The Supreme Court and Presidential Politics

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The Supreme Court became a political football…again… with its 5 to 4 decision stating that an individual’s right to bear arms is constitutional. Even though Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama generally accepted the court’s decision, there will be plenty of advocates in his party who will argue that one Supreme Court appointee of a President Obama could reverse this decision in the near future.

Of course, on the other hand, this issue is one that may bring uncertain conservatives to finally embrace the McCain campaign using the same logic that one vote could change the result.

Thus, the Supreme Court’s right to bear arms decision will join the abortion issue as partisans try to use potential Supreme Court appointments as a persuasive debating point in trying to sway voters.

I believe the Supreme Court made the correct decision. Justice Scalia made an extraordinary effort to interpret the seemingly inconsistent clauses in this 27-word amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Scalia argued that the opening clause dealing with a "well regulated militia" – what he called the prefatory clause – is a logical explanation for what he sites as the operative clause: that the people have a right to bear arms.

Scalia argues that the prefatory clause is not a limitation on the operative clause but rather it announces the purpose of the right to bear arms. As way of illustration, Scalia says if one word were added and another changed in the amendment it would be clear that the first clause is the stated purpose for the second clause.

BECAUSE a well regulated Militia IS necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To have a needed well regulated militia, the people must have an individual right to bear arms.

Ironically, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, whose work is cited in the majority opinion by Scalia, states in his blog that he believes more conservative justices who sat on the court thirty years ago would have not accepted the individual rights view. Volokh argues that Chief Justice Burger was a supporter of the states’ right view of the Second Amendment and that most federal circuit court judges would have dismissed the individual rights view.

Now that the courts have spoken the issue will be handed back to the politicians and political activists.

Read the full decision here.

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