IRRATIONAL

A few months ago I talked about how conservatives and their antics are not funny because they always telegraph their punchlines – even the unintentional ones. When you know something is coming, humor potential is unlikely to be fulfilled. So when right-wing Californians started whining about how unfair it is that they can't use an unlimited amount of water to tend to their multi-million dollar estates, it was mildly amusing at best. Not ha-ha funny.

"I’m a conservative, so this is strange, but I defend Barbra Streisand’s right to have a green lawn," said Yuhas, who hosts a radio talks show and also has a home in Los Angeles. "When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna."

"I call it the war on suburbia," Brett Barbre, of Orange County’s Yorba City, said.

"It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture," Gay Butler, an interior designer who the Post apparently interviewed while she was out riding her show horse (!) said. "What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?"

Alright, someone using the phrase "It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture" to OPPOSE water conservation is funny. Ha-ha funny, even. And the best part is that she will eventually get what she wants; when all the water is gone, then no one will have to do any rationing!

Of all the deficiencies in the American character, the insistence that profligate consumption is our birthright may be the most destructive. The inability to accept the concept of scarcity – of anything, in any context, ever – guarantees that we will become attached to ways of living that can't be sustained. For example, people will demand large, verdant lawns while living in a goddamn desert. Not only do we insist on being able to use whatever we desire, we get angry when we can't waste resources as an ostentatious demonstration of wealth.

Seems like a strategy that will work out well in the long run.

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53 Responses to “IRRATIONAL”

  1. zombie rotten mcdonald Says:

    they also demand a supply of fiddles.

  2. HoosierPoli Says:

    I recommend California lift water rationing measures and let the free market take its course. When these mouthbreathers are paying fifty dollars to run a load of laundry they'll have all the freedom they can afford.

  3. Dbp Says:

    You'd think these people would import water if they were so desperate. Or move. Isn't that more or less the conservative answer to most poor people problems? "Oh your air quality is shit? Move"
    "Oh your job pays minimum wage and has a high likelihood of mangling you? Quit and find a new job."
    "Your neighborhood is dangerous? The schools barely function as anything more than a lax day care? Move."
    Etc. of course, when it is their time to "just move somewhere else" and they can easily afford it, Stand Your Ground goes into effect, except instead of attacking one random unthreatening person, they attack everyone. The one guy literally said "fuck you. I'm rich. I deserve this water more than poorer people." But he's the victim in this situation. Right.

  4. Xynzee Says:

    How about this.

    Every household is allocated x gal/qtr at the reasonable price.
    Go above that, then you have to pay a premium price/gal. Say $10/gal. for the first 50 above that. Then $50/gal for the next 50. $100/gal for the next 50 and so on and so forth.

    Now there's a market based price signal. At the same time the most vulnerable are protected.

    It'll certainly show those who are into ostentatious expressions of wealth, and at the same time they're gladly getting kicked in ghoolies to show everyone how stupid they are.

  5. Tom Says:

    Xynzee,

    They tried that and the courts ruled in unconstitutional.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/drought/ci_27954116/california-drought-court-rules-tiered-water-rates-violate

    There was a ballot prop passed that limits the state's ability to charge more for a service than it costs to provide.

    Also of note, the city quoted in the WaPo article is misstated as Yorba City which does not exist in Orange County; the actual name of the city is Yorba Linda. Perhaps they were confused with Yuba City which is in Northern California.

  6. chris y Says:

    I thought maybe they'd changed the name of the city out of shame:

  7. Major Kong Says:

    Yuba City and its neighbor Marysville are the meth capitols of California.

    Or so I was told the last time I was at nearby Beale AFB.

  8. Greg Says:

    Meanwhile, fans of Country Joe MacDonald are familiar with Yorba Linda from the classic "tricky Dick"- "he walks he talks he smiles he frowns/it's Tricky Dick from Yorba Linda, hip hip hip hooray"

  9. Greg Says:

    Meanwhile, fans of Country Joe MacDonald are familiar with Yorba Linda from the classic "tricky Dick"- "he walks he talks he smiles he frowns/he does what a human can/ it's Tricky Dick from Yorba Linda, hip hip hip hooray"

  10. Icarus Says:

    I don't understand why they don't just use the water from the Pacific Ocean..it's right there. amiright

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    This is the result of over 2 centuries of being told there's endless land and resources on this continent – all you have to do is to keep expanding, and get rid of the Native Americans already living there!

  12. Whatver Says:

    "Pioneers" on the Oregon Trail got VERY UPSET when they – after receiving free food and supplies from the US government all along the way – had to PAY for food from the Hudson's Bay Company in the British controlled Northwest. Go figure.

  13. negative 1 Says:

    When the water runs out and the farms wither I'll fight all comers for the right to eat Gay Butler's show horse.

  14. Skippper Says:

    As a southern Californian who uses very little water — all desert scape — and who lives in an area surrounded by wealthy entitled assholes, who I don't like either, let me quote a few facts that can provide a little balance, before people get wound up about what people here should or shouldn't do.

    First, 83 percent of water in CA is consumed by agribusiness corporations. Agribusiness accounts for two percent of the state's GDP. In contrast, tourism,which needs water to survive accounts for 11 percent of the GDP. The only ones who make any money off of agribusiness are the corporate bosses. The farmworkers get shit. And most of the produce, meat, etc is shipped outside of the state. And most of it could be grown elsewhere — in places where they have sufficient water. For example, one almond — one almond, not one almond tree — takes one gallons of water to grow. A pound of beef takes 5,200 gallons (more than I use in a month).

    Another major consumer of water is fracking. This benefits the international oil corporations, endangers/poisons what groundwater is left, and has been shown to cause or accelerate earthquakes, which is, of course, just what California needs. The state refuses to ban this massive misuse of water.

    Another consumer of water are millions of tamarisk trees. These are non-native invasive species brought in by the railroads. They breed like bunnies on meth and consumer water at an incredible rate. One — one — adult tamarisk tree consumes more water on an annual basis than my household. It's estimated that just cutting down all tamarisk tree could supply enough water for every household in CA almost two timres over.

    Homeowners consume only 10 percent of the state's water. But we're the ones being told that we can't even wash down our driveways or wash our cars — not that I ever wash my car anyway.

    To solve the water problem in CA, they need to ban fracking, cut agribusiness use, and form a conservation corps that would cut down the useless, water-guzzling tamarisk trees, which would have the side effect of creating a ton of new jobs.

    If they did that, there would be no other measures necessary, but it's much easier to pick on homeowners than on the corporations that own the legislature.

    Or, we could just do what Sarah Palin suggested and build more reservoirs — problem solved.

  15. John Danley Says:

    Once again, limited resources with unlimited access to those resources by a select group of entitled assholes.

  16. Mo Says:

    Thorstein Veblen – yet another classic author who, like Richard Hofstadter, unfortunately never goes out of style?

  17. Mo Says:

    ICYMI –

    Yes, Virginia, rich people are jerks

  18. SeaTea Says:

    My mind went immediately to the place that Xynzee did. You get so much water cheap, then as your demand goes up, the price goes up. To some point where it's more cost-effective to build de-salinization plants or whatever is needed.

  19. Brutus Says:

    There are numerous galling quotes by folks so self-involved they cannot fathom what is happening in California and elsewhere as resources and weather shift from their historical positions on the map. To defend their right to water-intensive lifestyles (fountains, swimming pools, golf courses, green lawns, etc.) while living in a massively overbuilt desert environment is pretty much defines cluelessness.

    Drought is California is not primarily an economic issue to be solved by economic incentives and disincentives. Rather, it is quite literally a survival threat (to communities, people, institutions, etc.) as an essential resource becomes increasingly less available and thus unable to meet demand and support the region. Las Vegas is in a similar situation, continuing to draw down its reservoir, which may get to the point where no water flows from the tap at all. If I’m not mistaken, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are somewhat further down the same path. It seems obvious to me that extreme, multiyear drought is primarily a conservation issue, where a limited resource must be conserved at all costs so that it doesn’t disappear entirely. Sorry, lifestyle has got to be sacrificed.

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  21. mothra Says:

    What Amelie said.

  22. Anubis Bard Says:

    I think you miss the point. It's not that "profligate consumption is our birthright." It's that the US has a well-established system for rationing goods that are in short supply and it is called "pricing." If water is in short supply, those with money should be able water their lawns with it and poor people who can't pay should drink their own urine. It's what Darwin intended.

  23. Pete Gaughan Says:

    We can't use pricing here; the problem is the amount of water available, not so much the cost of its delivery. (And the rich would simply pay whatever price anyway.)

    The answers have to be in allotments, quantity caps, and denial of service. Water "rights" in the West are hard to fight, but we have to dial up that fight. We made a good start by telling many farm companies they wouldn't receive as much as they used to; it's time to spread those caps to big urban users, and to start cutting some accounts off completely.

  24. Brian M Says:

    Kudos to Skipper for bringing up some key points.

  25. paintedjaguar Says:

    You wouldn't believe the number of golf courses and English lawned McMansions in Florida — literally built on sand, within sight of the sea, where nothing grows naturally except beach grass and scrub oak. Aquifers and inland reservoirs have been dropping for years and every so often the ground literally opens up and swallows things (sinkholes).

  26. Khaled Says:

    Skipper, nice work on the *real* culprits behind the water shortage.

    That being said, the woman with the stupid horse had a nice "let them eat cake" moment.

    The problem with water is that is acting as both a inelastic good/ necessity and an elastic good at the same time. To the ag companies, it should be treated as a elastic good, the supply and demand (and scarcity) should drive the price. Of course, people also need water to live, and so letting the market set the rate for the ag companies would have disastrous consequences for anyone who is not a millionaire in California. Hence the current problem. Because the companies that use the water to grow food are getting it at a subsidized rate, they are able to pass the cost onto the rest of California in the form of a water shortage. I'm unsure of how to deal with the current problem, but I do think that government needs to step in and solve the problem, since government helped create the problem in the first place. It's one of the little ironies of Republicans: They are all for government when it helps them (defense contracts are a great example of this) but otherwise scream about regulation when not polluting will cost them an extra nickel.

    BTW Skipper, just a note. My wife works in the environmental testing business, and most fracking companies try to reuse and ship the water from site to site, since the chemicals in them closely guarded secrets.

  27. eau Says:

    @Skippper: Good points, well made. But what would you wager that Gay Butler is the scion of the Butler Almond fortune or some such?

    @Khaled: It really seemed more of a "Let ME eat cake!" moment to me. :)

    "They aren't looking at the overall picture! What's that you say? The State? the ongoing crisis? No, no! I meant the aerial photo of our entire grounds I have hanging in the lesser ballroom. Just by the South-East wing's indoor fountain. That photo really shows why we require so much water".

  28. Xynzee Says:

    @Tom: had a feeling some "clever" lawyer and some dickhead judge had already gotten there.

  29. el mago Says:

    First, praises to Skipper, como siempre. Dude always nails it. Second, entitled clueless fucks just don't get it. Hey, as long as the golf course is green and the drinks cold, it's all good, yo. Yeah. Heard there's no water on the other side of the river Styx. Not that I believe in that cosmology, although analogues exist. Buena fucking suerte CA. Oh, yeah, and all the rest of us.

  30. Heisenberg Says:

    Khaled: Great points. But if water is priced, why must its price be constant for all users? Why can't the pricing scheme be designed such that household pricing and agricultural pricing are different? There are plenty of other products in society that are priced differently for different users. Doing so doesn't disable the fundamental effect of pricing signals on decisionmaking. It just divides one market into multiple sub-markets.

  31. Tim H. Says:

    The wealthy should stop bitching and put in a grey water reclamation system to use for making semi-arid property look like the midwest. Perhaps even invest in desalination, the price of it would surely impress the neighbors.

  32. Dave Dell Says:

    Mothra – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  33. Khaled Says:

    @Heisenberg-
    I believe that the pricing of water is regulated in California, and per law is the same no matter what the end user of the water is doing with it. Industrial uses of water should be more expensive. This is a good start towards the solution to the problem, but I can see all kinds of shenanigans going on so that industrial users would pay the lower household price.

  34. Mr. Frebus Says:

    The thing about the whole "drought in california" crisis that really frightens me is how, while using water as liberally as the rest of the country and faced with a water shortage in an area of the country that is ALWAYS short on water, californians are so quick to want to solve their problem by just looking elsewhere for more water. So many of these stories are filled with comments with californians asking why can't they just get more water from the columbia, or the great lakes. And they are 100% serious about it.

  35. mm Says:

    from today's NY Times (6/18/15):

    Almonds are a drought resistant crop?

    "Along with almonds, oranges, lemons and figs, dates are a drought-resistant crop that can flourish in desert conditions, and California’s Coachella Valley and the area around Yuma, Ariz., have proved ideal. (In that region, water for irrigation arrives via canals from the Colorado River, so the drought affecting Central and Northern California, which draw their water from the state’s northern mountain regions, is not as threatening.)"

    <a href=http://nyti.ms/1GLiwT1

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  37. Heisenberg Says:

    @Khaled: "I believe that the pricing of water is regulated in California, and per law is the same no matter what the end user of the water is doing with it."

    Well, of course any solution to this is going to involve changing the law.

    In fact, in your original post you said: "I think that government needs to step in and solve the problem, since government helped create the problem in the first place."

    Couldn't agree more.

  38. grondo Says:

    SCHADENFREUDE ATTACK!!!

  39. mothra Says:

    Along with almonds, oranges, lemons and figs, dates are a drought-resistant crop

    *sigh* The term is "drought tolerant," NY Times. Nothing really resists drought, but many types of plants tolerate it well. Gah.

  40. Phoenician in a time of Romans Says:

    Riffing on HoosierPoli's comment, allocate water rights to municipalities or communities on a per capita basis – and let them buy and sell rights to water over that on the free market.

    You want enough water to grow your McMansion lawn? Fine – pay this more frugal inner city community whatever they ask in order to get that water…

  41. DrS Says:

    Almonds are just one more reason to normalize some relations with Iran.

  42. Racer X Says:

    Dbp – "these people" ARE importing their water – from Northern California – this has been a sore subject in this state for a long time!

  43. Xynzee Says:

    Phoenician: that just might get around the ballot measure that Tom mentioned.

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  45. democommie Says:

    "Yuba City and its neighbor Marysville are the meth capitols of California."

    Is this from that "Perp-O-The-Week" app I don't got on my Bamaphone?

    I think that there were three meth labs busted within a quarter mile of my house in the last year or so.

    " all you have to do is to keep expanding, and get rid of the Native Americans already living there!"

    Well, that's Orange County area, right? Allathem 'baggerz are sho'nuff real MurKKKans which is even more native than the "Native" americans.

  46. Procopius Says:

    "When we bought …" When was that? California has been in a state of water shortage for about thirty years now. How anybody can be so inattentive as to not to have noticed that when they bought a house in California is hard to understand. Oh, have they noticed that when it does rain it causes mud slides? And if it doesn't rain, then you get brush fires that will destroy your house. The water they've been draining from the Colorado River has barely been sufficient for decades. People have been warning about this for as long as I can remember. Doesn't it go back as far as the '30s? Isn't this one reason they built Hoover Dam?

  47. Robert Says:

    It would be more realistic to describe California as being a desert with occasional anomalous periods of rain. I say this as someone who was born and raised here.

  48. BCS Says:

    Why can't we have a war on suburbia? Life in the USA would get so much better if there was one.

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