Assessing blame for water price

Published in the Monterey Herald – July 31, 2017

By Lawrence Samuels

Special to the Herald

A report from the Food and Water Watch has Cal Am water rates as the most expensive in the nation. Maybe. But who is really responsible for the high rates?

The story began with a 1995 proposed dam in upper Carmel Valley. The dam would have been the lowest-cost alternative since the fresh water is already free, naturally. Moreover, the dam would let the river flow during the dry summer months to accommodate the steelhead salmon, red-legged frog and other important species. Easy peezy. But no, the radical environmentalists said that a desalt plant would be better, although far more expensive. The dam was voted down. The cost of water seemed to be unimportant.

When the dam was no longer politically viable, the radical environmentalists changed their tune. No, the desalt plant would not do. As for the temporary government agency—the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD), explicitly organized to resolve our water problems—they seemed impotent to do much of anything. After spending around $100 to $150 million dollars to find a new water source, there was little to show. In fact, the taxpayers’ money spent by MPWMD would have provided the lion’s share of the funds to build a dam. Ironic.

Other alternatives to provide water got the attention of Clint Eastwood, who offered to donate a large parcel of land for a reservoir near Carmel River in early 1990, a project called the Cañada Reservoir Project, which most people wholeheartedly supported. That is, almost everyone except the MPWMD that had elected a number of radical environmentalists who opposed the lower-costing water gift. The project died. Apparently, cost was again no object.

It took the local city mayors’ Monterey Regional Water Authority to get a desalt plant off the ground after almost 25 years of do-nothing. But here again, the radical environmentalists sued, obstructed, and delayed in every possible way to stop the desalt plant. This pattern only increased water rates. And even if Cal Am had been a public entity, the water rates would be still be high, since the State’s court order forced the water provider to get customers to use less water, thereby making the production of water more expensive per gallon.

So, what is the game plan of the radical environmentalists? We know they don’t like water because it might inspire some growth, despite the harsh restrictions against building anything in Monterey County. Maybe they simply want to show their political muscles by actually stealing the water company before they eminent-domain whole neighborhoods into wildlands, returning Monterey to its pre-Columbian days. But that would bring up another problem; water would be fairly cheap then, and the make-water-expensive crowd could never allow that.

Lawrence Samuels is author of the 2013 book, “In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.”

Using eminent domain against Cal Am is like stealing

Published in the Monterey Herald, June 29, 2017

By Lawrence Samuels

In an effort to expand the government sector, Public Water Now not only advocates a buyout of California American Water, but if the water company refuses to sell, an expropriation of their business. This ideology of stealing has an ugly history that few people today would publicly support.

The story begins with Willian Lloyd Garrison, leader of the American Abolitionist movement that eventually led to the demise of slavery. Garrison was famous for labeling slavery “manstealing,” a word that connected enslaved labor with a type of stealing. At the time, most Americans saw stealing as morally wrong, so Garrison’s association of slavery with stealing was a powerful argument against the theft of a man’s time, life and assets. So, in this sense, the ballot measure proposed by the pro-eminent domain ideologues to forcibly seize Cal Am, is reminiscent of antebellum slavery.

Garrison was also a proponent of “self-ownership,” meaning that people owned themselves and therefore cannot be stolen and enslaved. He worried that if government itself attained the authority to legally steal, it could take anything by force. Government law had already given private citizens that power, but if government itself engaged in such authority, to legally steal people and their belongings, another kind of enslavement would rise.  John Locke had earlier addressed this issue, warning that without private property rights the individual had no rights whatsoever.

There were numerous ideologies in the 20th century that opposed classical liberalism by promoting stealing in the name of community good; plundering nations and minorities. In fact, these collectivists from the 1920s-1940s believed that the state could take anything from anybody, even their labor. One such social justice militant in 1920 Germany demanded the “nationalization of trusts” (corporations) and “the common good before the individual good.”

Of course, the pro-stealing cohorts don’t like being victims of stealing themselves. They would rather be the stealer, not the stealee. So, to avert this dilemma, they seek political dominance with the muscle to impose their brand of utopia upon society.

Nonetheless, one could argue that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander? If stealing becomes acceptable, should we eminent domain Public Water Now supporters, confiscate their homes and bank accounts for the common good, bulldoze their buildings for public parks? Wouldn’t this be the appropriate karma?

But alas, this scenario would lead to a kleptomaniac society where nobody owned anything and the bigger the brute the greater his violent plunder. Fortunately, America was founded on the idea of equal treatment for everyone, which would include the owners of Cal Am. That should be the focus of Public Water Now, not its political demand to steal from others.

Lawrence Samuels is author of the 2013 book, “In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.”

Why so hell-bent?

May 5, 2017

by Lawrence Samuels

George Riley and his crew of anti-water advocates say they want to save money for ratepayers by seizing control of Cal Am and turning it into a government agency.Well, the opposite will happen if such a measure passes. Since Cal Am has no intention of selling, ratepayers will have to pay attorney’s fees to prevent the takeover. On the other side, taxpayers will pay attorney fees to a government agency to pursue the eminent domain procedures against Cal Am.

Most citizens will pay for both attorneys, on both sides. The court battle could last for a decade, costing tens of millions of dollars or more.

Why spend so much money to exchange one monopoly with another? If Cal Am had been a government entity, ratepayers would still have to pay higher water rates due to the State of California’s order to sell less water. Moreover, there would still be a huge cost of building the desal plant.

Why is Riley so hell-bent on taking over companies by force, like the leaders of Italy and Germany in the 1930s and 1940s? Why would anyone want to emulate such horrendous ideologies? Whatever the motive, Riley’s actions will be extremely expensive.

(Letter to editor published in the Carmel Pine Cone concerning a 2018 ballot measure to eminent domain the local water company.)

Lawrence Samuels: Sailing into uncharted fascist waters?

POSTED: 04/29/2017 Monterey Herald

By Lawrence Samuels, Guest commentary

In response to the Herald’s reflections on the denial of free speech at UC Berkeley (“The battle over free speech on campus”), the question that begs to be asked is whether the political left has sailed into uncharted “fascist” waters. Are they intolerant, closed minded and violent? After all, the use of violence to silence opposition was a trait of the squadristi thugs in fascist Italy and the brownshirts in National Socialist Germany. But many prominent historians would take a different opinion, arguing that the extreme, modern left has always exhibited these reprehensible traits, essentially since they were the ardent midwife at fascism’s birth.

Historically, the “ideology of fascism,” which first surfaced in France, was according to one of the world’s leading experts on fascism, Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, “a revision of Marxism” that was assisted by the pro-violence teachings of Georges Sorels’ “revolutionary syndicalism.” A. James Gregor from UC Berkeley concurs, professing that “Fascism’s most direct ideological inspiration came from”… “Italy’s most radical ‘subversives’ — the Marxists of revolutionary syndicalism.”

Even Hitler was heavily influenced by such collective ideology, who was elected Deputy Battalion Representative of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1918. Here, he followed the Jewish Marxist reformer Kurt Eisner, who was eventually assassinated. In solidarity, Hitler attended Eisner’s funeral, where photographs showed him wearing a black armband on one arm and the red communist brassard on the other.

So, what is the actual meaning behind the left and right? Historically, the political spectrum first appeared during the French Revolution. The original leaders of the French Revolution were the bourgeoisie, capitalists, merchants and artisans who first attacked tax collectors before assailing the Bastille in 1789. According to their seating arrangement, the left wing was the classical liberals, which included Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson under the “Girondins” faction of the Jacobin Club. They lowered taxes, limited government, supported private property rights and emancipated the Jews. The right side represented the authoritarians and monarchy.

But by 1793, the revolution was hijacked by Robespierre’s social revolutionaries (Montagnards faction) who sought greater power for government to impose social changes. On Oct. 31, 1793, 22 free-market French Deputies were charged with treason and guillotined, ushering in the Reign of Terror, where even Thomas Paine was arrested, jailed and almost guillotined.

So, what to make of all of this? It appears that the left is sometimes the right and the right is sometimes the left. It behooves political writers to first define ideologies before quickly slapping them with inaccurate left or right labels. Maybe this is why American is so divided today. Maybe nobody understands the nuances of the political spectrum and the ideologies that inhabit them.

Lawrence Samuels is a local author with a forthcoming book on the political spectrum.

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