This is about the drought in California, but it’s a roundabout story.
When I was in my early teens in the late 1970’s, I was into (board) wargames. Going hand-in-hand with that was an interest in military affairs.
This was the Cold War, so any intelligence coming out of the Soviet Union that became public was interesting trivia that got written up in some wargaming publication.
I don’t have any of those magazine any more, and I’ve tried to find this reference without success. But here’s what I recall.
There was some sort of exchange of military officers between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Basically, everyone goes to some events to reduce tensions, and spies as much as they can on the side.
So the magazine was debriefing one of these American officers, and he stated flat out (in maybe 1979 or so) that the Soviet Union was a paper tiger.
When asked why, he said that the most telling thing was that he visited a base that had been clearly spiffed up for his visit. These things are planned months in advance, so everything he was supposed to look at was clearly in tip-top shape. But his job was to look at stuff they weren’t expecting.
And what did he notice? That the grass at the base was dead and painted green. It was summer, and it was dry (I seem to recall that the base was in north Central Ukraine), but to that officer, it said a lot about the budget priorities of the Soviet Union that they couldn’t afford to water the grass at a base they knew in advance that they’d be showing off to visitors.
And then we have California. California has combined bad policies that lead to inefficient use of water with bad weather to create an epic shortage. Carpe Diem reports that there are now services in California that will spray paint your lawn green.
One of the third rails in California politics these days is pricing water reasonably. They’ll try just about everything but that.
We used to joke that California was full of fruits and nuts. It’s clear now that it’s just full of apparatchiks and Nomenklatura who won’t countenance any sort of market solution.