Letter From California
02/20/05 0427.48 PST
San Jose, California
John Steinbeck wrote fifty years ago that California’s rain came in cycles: around 3-5 years of good rain to be followed by 2-4 years of little or no rain. Sometimes the off cycles burned into real droughts where there was no hay, very little fruit, less salmon and just generally more anxious times.
Climate change has crept along the California landscape in the last decade, for the last drought was nine years ago and yet again this year heavy rain has soaked the state. Aged natives have watched the skies thoughtfully every Fall for the past three years, knowing a dry time must start soon, but still the rains come.
For those who watch Sacramento cycles of anxiety have also become the norm. It was only seven years ago when Gray Davis proudly proclaimed he was the education governor and lush tax receipts fatly stuffed the state's coffers. It all blew up with the dot com crash, the great electricity theft and the incredible chucking of an election where Gray got less votes than the lieutenant governor.
California is five years into its political drought with no sign of a letup—indeed, the searing bad news from Sacramento only increases the state’s anxiousness by the day. Arnold, for those who need to be reminded, campaigned on a platform of fiscal sanity decrying high taxation and borrowing which, after cutting revenue and putting on an acutely embarrassing farce of budgeting, eventually did a lot of borrowing, rationalized as bonds.
It didn’t work. That nauseating harlot of traitorous centrism, Dianne Feinstein, actually made commercials last year for the bonds (they were public initiatives, the legislature not trusted to finance the state) saying to vote for them “so this can never happen again.” That awful moment, still vivid in its absurdity, is of course being repeated again only 12 months later.
Were Arnold a gadfly fluke of a governor—someone like Ralph Nader, say—he’d be finished. His proposed budget cuts this year have enraged the two very powerful unions of the teachers and the prison guards, his slithering, sinister plot to privatize the state employee pension fund is one of the most filthy acts against public servants in the state’s memory, and the long, long budget battle of 2005 is only just beginning. California is broke, in the hole, and has to severely cut, borrow, or both. The Republicans don't have the leadership guts to raise revenue fairly.
Arnold goes to DC begging for illegal alien prison money while the Dept. of Education threatens to punish our struggling kids by cutting funds. None of this insanity will ever lead to anything until we get a governor who tells the plain truth: our tax base in fundamentally busted and we can’t pay for what citizens demand. The real Democrat who eventually does it will spare the little guy as much as possible.
For Arnold, of course, the current debacle of governance means little, for he is a media god, an irresistible story of glitz, glamour, looks, and sex: The Governator. His high perch of fawning adulation by our disgraceful journalism corps has cowed the possible Democratic challenger field for 2006, and their unique ability to weave no memory or history into the current narrative means the 2006 Democratic outlook for Governor is searing, dry and parched, the drought still firmly in place.
Speaking of the memory hole, now is a good time to slap around that cretin George Miller (D-CA), who was a big help to Bush in 2001 getting No Child Left Behind passed. One goes to his website and sees a vociferous record of betrayal as NCLB was under funded, but apparently Miller doesn’t want to protest the punishment cuts coming by drawing more attention to his past stupidity. How Democrats like Miller and Kennedy ever were so gullible as to spread their butt cheeks for an election-stealer like Bush at the expense of our kids will forever be a source of Democratic shame. We haven’t forgotten, George.
Californians, of course, have lived through many droughts and come out all right. Not what we could have had it not been for them, certainly, but the republic is not a failed state yet. There is still hope that one day voices of simple truth and reason may soon predominate once again—it was never a place of governance perfection in the first place, so the usual return of middling elected mediocrity from Sacramento will probably get us on a semi-sane path once again. Maybe after Arnold leaves, five more years of drought seems likely.
Now is a good time to thank the Los Angeles Times for the good journalism in the education links here and to admit my own dysfunctional relationship to the American journalism corps. For an individual so contemptuous of them I still spend an awful lot of time reading them and referring to them when they do well.
Dana Milbank was interviewed in a Kos diary last week and I, regrettably, ranted my way to a place of irrationality I have yet to still fully internally resolve. It’s uncomfortably obvious, however, that when one writes Milbank is a media whore, gets gently reprimanded by Marie and then gets into a fight with Hamletta, of all people, that something has gone wrong I need to fix.
I am a media junkie with a very good memory living in times where the media monstrosities of Bush and Schwarzenegger trash American democracy and society, yes. There are still good journalists like Milbank out there deserving praise and respect, journalists should not be generalized, and the blogosphere could not exist without them. I don’t know how I’m going to stay cool in the future about this and I have no clue how to explain it to Hamletta and apologize, for surely it will take a long, complicated route of begging just to get the point where she’ll even speak to me again, if she ever does. Shit.
California is soggy and soaked, waiting for change in a severe drought of political courage. The sooner we face the truth, admit we need more revenue and actively work with steady sacrifice for the future of children, the better. The humility in honestly facing shortcomings is always a good start in such a process, something I’m keeping in mind as I listen to the rain, dream about what could be and yearn for Spring.