Category Archives: California

Why California Is Broke And Texas Is Not

(according to Richard W. Fisher, former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas)

California

The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks the Governor’s dog, then bites the Governor.

The Governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and then realizes he should stop because the coyote is only doing what is natural.

He calls animal control. Animal Control captures the coyote and bills the state $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.

The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is now free of dangerous animals.

The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote awareness program” for residents of the area.

The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

The Governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack. The state spends $150,000 to hire and train a new agent with additional special training regarding the nature of coyotes.

PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files a $5 million suit against the state.

Texas

The Governor of Texas is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks his dog.

The Governor shoots the coyote with his state-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $.75 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

The buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that, my friends, is why California is broke and Texas is not.

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No More Water In Restaurants! California Outdoes New York City In Feelgood Law Contest

For many years, California and New York City have been competing about who can pass the craziest feelgood nanny-state laws and regulations in America. To qualify, such laws must keep bureaucrats and politicians ostensibly busy, so it appears as though they are actually performing a valuable public service. Bold and fearless, our superhero politicians are fighting to save us from one urgent social ill or another! Bonus points are awarded for laws that are unenforceable and inconsequential. Double bonus points if the law’s effects cannot be measured, rationally examined or fiscally accounted for in any way.

New York City was clearly in the lead with the NY SAFE Act of 2013, which among other things prohibits the possession of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. (No official word yet on how many of New York’s criminals have turned in their now illegal gun magazines). The law also required that only 7 rounds could be loaded in each 10-round magazine. (New York gets one point deducted because this provision was struck down by a federal judge in 2013. According to rumors, the court’s concern was that many of New York’s criminals would not be able to count to 7 even if they tried).

This week, I am pleased to report that California is in the lead once again!

We first pulled equal with New York by creating a law requiring porn actors to wear condoms while acting their acts. No word on how this should be enforced, but perhaps “Motion Picture Genital Inspector” will soon be an actual job title. Or maybe law enforcement agencies will need special condom enforcement squads. The future will tell.

But it gets even better! This week, California took the lead by adding a new statewide ban on glasses (or cups) of drinking water being served in restaurants – unless the customer specifically requests it. (You must say: “Waiter, may I please have a glass of tap water?” Waiter: “Certainly Sir, I’ll bring it right away” or “Sorry dude, we’re out of tap water today. How ‘bout some bottled water?”)

Yes, you read that right. Of course, we have a drought here in California. Big draught, big trouble. (But not big enough to induce the state to reexamine its crazy stance on immigration, and its equally crazy industrial agribusiness). You see, California’s industrial, export-oriented agriculture consumes 80% of the state’s water. And, the state has been adding about 1 million new residents per year without actually creating more water resources.

California is North America’s biggest producer of almonds, avocados, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, grapes, lettuce, milk, onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and dozens of other commodities. (Source: 2012 Department of Agriculture report (PDF). Only a tiny portion of this stuff could grow naturally in California’s ecosystem – and most of it is exported to other states. This means that drought stricken California is actually exporting huge amounts of water to the rest of North American, and even to Asia.

Someone calculated that for the amount of water used for the irrigation of California’s almond trees alone (they produce a cash crop mostly for export), someone like me could take a 10-minute shower each day. For 86 million years.

Relative to the overall water consumption, water imbibing in restaurants is a microscopically tiny portion. Even if totally prohibited, even if we all stopped drinking water altogether and only drank imported beer – it would make no difference whatsoever.

As a matter of fact, eating out in restaurants is a much bigger culprit, because the restaurant industry is extremely wasteful with water (and food) when compared to home kitchens. And in fact, the law might even have the opposite of the intended effect. If it induces people to order bottled water instead, then there’d be a net increase in drinking water consumption. That’s because filtering and bottling water actually wastes a lot of it. For instance, reverse osmosis, a commonly used process to produce bottled table water, wastes up to 86% of the feed water – only 14% ends up in the bottle.

Well played, California. How can you trump that, New York? Your move!

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Merry Christmas From Los Angeles

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Downtown Los Angeles, 1930s?

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Christmas on Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles, 1940s

Nov. 28, 1952: Police officer watches traffic on Hollywood Blvd. after holiday lights were turned on. Photo looking east from McCadden Place. (Los Angeles Times Archives)

Nov. 28, 1952: Police officer watches traffic on Hollywood Blvd. after holiday lights were turned on. Photo looking east from McCadden Place. (Los Angeles Times Archives)

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Airdrop

This video shows a California Air National Guard C130J of the 146th Airlift Wing performing an approach and airdrop of fire retardant on the Rim Fire in the Yosemite area. Such maneuvers are very risky, and the professional skill these aircrews are displaying are immense. Here is what it looks like from the cockpit:


 

The aircraft is coming is so low that the automatic landing gear warning is going off repeatedly. (Normally, this warning is supposed to alert the pilot that the wheels are not deployed during a landing approach). In this instance, the warning is probably annoying, but it cannot be disabled easily.

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Let’s Keep Dryden

Congressman Kevin McCarthy has recently introduced a bill (HR 6612) to change the name of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert to “Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center”.

Although I greatly admire Neil Armstrong (who doesn’t?), I am opposed to the proposed name change. One reason is tradition, and another: The world does not need one more reminder of the first man on the moon. Every literate person knows who he was. But we should keep a reminder of the very significant and essential contributions of space pioneer Hugh L. Dryden, with whom the general public is less familiar. (Armstrong himself would be the first to point out that getting to the moon was a gigantic team effort and impossible to achieve without the likes of Dryden).

In an article posted on the Smithsonian Air & Space magazine’s web site, Paul Spudis makes a much more informed plea for Dryden than I ever could. Please read it here:

Hugh L. Dryden and the American Space Program

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Joyriding In Beverly Hills, 1935

This film was studio background footage shot to be seen from the rear window of a stationary mock up car supposedly driving with actors in the front seat. The film records the road scenes on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills from Canon Drive past Robertson Boulevard.The last part of the film records the street scenes on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, following the same route as previous. (Via ).

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Etta James, 1938 – 2012

Jamesetta Hawkins, born January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles to a teenage prostitute, never knew her father and grew up in various foster homes. She became a major recording and performance artist under the name “Etta James”. She passed away on January 20, 2012 in Riverside, California.

Etta James on Wikipedia

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Visiting Mount Palomar

Last weekend I was part of a group making a visit to the Mount Palomar Observatory.

When I was in school (voraciously sucking up astronomy books), Mount Palomar seemed to me like a place of magic and wonder. From its opening in 1949, and until 1992/93, the giant 5.1 m (200 inch) Hale Telescope was the largest and most important telescope in the world. (Actually, there was a larger Soviet telescope of a later design, but it is often omitted because it never functioned quite well).

The compound on the Southern California mountaintop also encompasses several smaller telescopes. Together, they account for most of the groundbreaking discoveries in the entire history of astronomy.

Here are some pictures. (Click to enlarge).

In front of the Hale Telescope dome, Mount Palomar. From left to right: Jed Laderman, Dave Yantis, Robert Lozano, Reinhard Kargl.

Standing under the massive, 200 inch primary mirror of the Hale Telescope.

Looking up to the secondary mirror, toward the top of the dome. In the old days, this is where the observer would have sat in a cage all night long, handling photographic materials. Today, the instruments are photo-electronic. Human observers no longer ride the elevator to the top).

The old control panel, preserved in a perfect vintage look. Doesn't it seem like something from Star Trek? (Today, the telescope operator sits in a heated cabin, insulated from the dome interior. This being on a mountain top, it gets extremely cold in the winter).

View from the Hale dome's circular catwalk. In the distance is the dome of the historic 18 inch Schmidt telescope. Beginning in the 1930s, Fritz Zwicky did his first surveys of supernovae here. The dome is no longer in use today.

More on Fritz Zwicky and the 18 inch Schmidt telescope.

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