Power outages, fires, water shortages, rising taxes, crumbling and congested highways, dismal schools, lawlessness …
August 25, 2020
It is now August in California.
So we can expect the following from our postmodern state government. There are the now-normal raging wildfires in the coastal and Sierra foothills. And they will be greeted as if they are not characteristic threats of 500 years of settled history, but leveraged as proof of global warming as well as the state’s abject inability to put them out.
When the inept state can’t extinguish them as it has in the past, it suggests that it’s more “natural” to let them burn. Jerry Brown’s team told us that the drought’s toll — millions of dead trees and tens of millions of acres of parched grass and calcified shrubs on hillsides — provided a natural source of food and shelter for bugs and birds and thus need not be grazed or thinned or harvested. And so the wages of drought could be in a sense good for an “ecosystem” that otherwise proved to be green napalm for the people of foothill communities.
We can expect power outages, because we don’t believe in releasing clean heat to make energy. Note that we do not mind people heating up in their 108-degree apartments without power. The planet is always more important than the non-privileged people who inhabit it.
For some reason, solar panels don’t create much power when the state is engulfed in dust, haze, and smoke.
Note the synergism of the California postmodern apocalypse: The hotter it gets, the more fires burn on ecological fuel and hillside natural “compost,” the smokier the air becomes, the less efficiently California’s solar pathway to the future generates, the more power outages ensue, the more real people are put in danger from either being incinerated by fire or suffocated by smoke or boiled inside without air conditioning. Last week, I asked an elderly patient at the allergy clinic whether, in the 108-degree heat, he preferred to stay outside to breathe smoke and haze, or stay inside his uncooled apartment. He gave a novel answer: He didn’t care about the power outages since he couldn’t pay the exorbitant electricity charges anyway to turn on his air conditioner. And he added that, in California these days, you can’t tell whether mask wearers are fighting the virus, the smoke, or the police.
We can expect shortages of water, because the state blocks new reservoirs and aqueducts, and drains those we do have to send millions of acre-feet to the sea. State officials now suddenly stop bashing “last generation” hydroelectric power as not really “green” (after all, dams are not quite “natural”) and instead try to use every last drop of stored water to generate hydroelectricity amid brownouts, scorching temperatures, and fires.
We can expect lots of crime, because in fear of COVID-19 and in line with no-to-little bail policies, lots of criminals roam our streets. The state was once far safer after the adoption of the three-strikes law, but as crime radically declined, the imprisoned criminal, not his prey, was recalibrated as a victim. Gun sales are soaring, in the bluest of states, as if carjackers and home invaders just might not extend exemption to the woke.
California, as some of the Democratic primary candidates bragged last year, is the progressive model of the future: a once-innovative rich state that is now a civilization in near ruins. The nation should watch us this election year and learn of its possible future.
After one of the primary debates in late 2019, I drove to San Francisco. On checking into the hotel, I was reminded (off the record) by the officious hotel doorman of the city’s Third World protocols:
1) Do not park your car on the street, because it most surely will have its windows smashed and its contents stolen, and the police will either not respond if called or the city would not prosecute the criminal if arrested.
2) Check the soles of your shoes before entering the hotel lobby to ensure that human feces or needle remnants are not stuck to the bottoms.
3) Do not offer food/money/“help” if walking along nearby homeless corridors, given the uncertain and possibly violent reaction that such outreach might incur.
As he warned me, I kept thinking of scenes in the Hitchcock films of a 1950s San Francisco with streets that were clean and safe, with people polite and mannered. No doubt that world is written off now as racist and exploitive by the morally superior San Francisco of the woke, who 60 years later have created their own wasteland and called it civilization. Once-successful civilizations implode not only from moral laxity, debt, inflation, and luxury, but also from a sort of psychological stasis by which the bureaucracy would rather die in place as it is than change and survive.
How to Destroy a Once-Successful State
I wonder whether their high-tech world reflects or advances such moral regress? Is there some strange unexplored relationship between having sophisticated phone apps that can plot San Francisco’s walking routes to ensure they’re free of human feces, and the fact that human feces from the progressive paradise on the sidewalks are thus far more common than they were 60, 70, or 80 years ago?
Our beleaguered governor Newsom is no longer just leveraging the lockdown and boasting of the virus as “an opportunity for reimagining a more progressive era.”
Instead, he is now worried about our the Frankensteinian Green New Deal state that he, in his earlier political incarnations, helped create: “We cannot sacrifice reliability as we move on.”
That means something like, “We built so many subsidized solar and wind farms, and retired or canceled so many clean-burning natural-gas power plants, that we don’t have enough electricity for 40 million sweltering residents when the annual green napalm hits.” Who would have figured?
So Newsom has announced that his state’s shutting off the power without much warning is “unacceptable.” He fears there will be lots of blackouts if the heat wave and fires continue. Apparently, Newsom now has some doubt that we have really “move[ed] on” to a green utopia. Could someone hooked up on electrically dependent dialysis actually be more important than taking a ranting call from billionaire Tom Steyer?
I would add lots to the governor’s list of California lapses: It might have been a mistake to cancel water projects, like the raising of dams on large existing reservoirs central to the California Water Project and Central Valley project, or the construction of the planned Sites Reservoir, or the Los Banos Grandes or Temperance Flat proposed reservoirs. The Left is instead talking about destroying dams in the far north of the state that store water, generate clean electricity, and stop flooding. We haven’t seen such year-zero nihilism since Mao unleashed the Red Guard.
Some 30 million of 40 million Californians live crowded along a desert-like coastal strip from La Jolla to Berkeley, with a water storage system designed for 20 million state residents that is now woefully inadequate. Yet most in the Bay Area seem to oppose more water-transfer investments.
Their ideology dictates that “dams are bad because they are unnatural and won’t allow rivers to run to the sea as we read about in the mid 19th century.”
Their new reality answers, “How else can we supply water in a state where two-thirds of the precipitation falls where one-third of the population lives, and two-thirds live where one-third falls?”
Is not the most green of all methods of power generation, the cheapest way to store water, the best method to stop flooding, and the most scenic of opportunities for recreation a mountain reservoir that allows gravity-driven water to create electricity, ensures water will flow to the cities without much pumping, stops flooding that destroys civilization, provides water for irrigated food, and endows the middle classes with clean, natural outdoor relaxation?
Was it not a mistake, Governor Newsom, for premodern California to attempt postmodern high-speed rail?
The skeleton of a now mostly canceled high-speed-rail project looms like Stonehenge about 15 miles from where I live. The frozen overpasses remain half-built and are now stained with graffiti. They are religious totems to a now discredited post-viral, post-quarantine, post-rioting/defund-the-police urban model of cramming citizens into trains to send them into crammed stations and on into crammed elevators up to crammed offices and apartments — whose thin margin of safety and efficacy hinges on mayors such as Bill De Blasio, Ted Wheeler, and Lori Lightfoot.
On one side of the high-speed proposed corridor, Amtrak trains sit still on their side turnouts while trains on the opposite side roar by. Would it have been wiser to first create two parallel Amtrak tracks to facilitate nonstop train travel than spend ten times more on a pipe dream now wafting away? Again, when California cannot solve the premodern problem, it hides its impotence by futilely pursuing the postmodern fantasy.
On the other eastern parallel side, Freeway 99 is often backed up with traffic because of constant ad hoc reconstruction. The old 1960s goal of having six lanes in the state’s major central longitudinal freeway was never realized — given the Jerry Brown theory that the worse California roads became, the slower traffic would move, and thus the more that exasperated commuters would cry uncle to mass or high-speed transit.
Might it also have been smarter not to raise income taxes on top tiers to over 13 percent? After 2017, when high earners could no longer write off their property taxes and state income taxes, the real state-income-tax bite doubled. So still more of the most productive residents left the state.
Yet if the state gets its way, raising rates to over 16 percent and inaugurating a wealth tax, there will be a stampede. It is not just that the upper middle class can no longer afford coastal living at $1,000 a square foot and $15,000–$20,000 a year in “low” property taxes.
The rub is more about what they get in return: terrible roads, crumbling bridges, human-enhanced droughts, power blackouts, dismal schools that rank near the nation’s bottom, half the nation’s homeless, a third of its welfare recipients, one-fifth of the residents living below the poverty level — and more lectures from the likes of privileged Gavin Newsom on the progressive possibilities of manipulating the chaos. California enshrined the idea that the higher taxes become, the worse state services will be.
Or is the state’s suicide one Orwellian nightmarish plan? The worse California becomes, the less attractive it will be for illegal immigrants?
The more who flee, the more affordable will be their abandoned homes? The fewer Californians, the less need for water and power? The more congested the ossified highways, the fewer will try to drive? The more the middle class shrinks, the more powerful the wealthy and the more dependent the poor?
The New Dark Ages
Through history, Dark Age man relies on his own arms for protection. He travels as little as possible. He trusts no stranger. He has no state service for aid. He fears disease, eats no food not his own, and does not ever sleep far from home. And he prefers only those of this tribe. In other words, whether 900 b.c. or a.d. 900 or 2020, he is a Californian.
It might have been wiser for Newsom and his predecessors to have ensured a secure border and legal, diverse, meritocratic, and measured immigration. Some 27 percent of the state was not born in the U.S. They arrived at a time when California was championing sanctuary cities and a “diversity” K–12 curriculum, and the state was treating with contempt the ancient idea of the melting pot.
The state’s implicit message to new arrivals was that the now long dead who built California — which everyone wished to come to — were racists deserving of contempt and Trotskyization, despite immigrants’ dependence on their strange 1950s and 1960 freeways, UC/CSU/JC master education plan, once-modern airports, and ingenious water projects.
The result of lots of fresh newcomers, a politicized education system, and an inert infrastructure is now that Californians live in something akin to the Greek Dark Ages. They wander about looking at the ruins of prior civilizations and seem dumbstruck at the nature and purpose of decaying monuments in their midst. The problem is not just that the state does not wish to build a new dam, but it is questionable whether it can anymore, even if it wished.
Millions drive along the California aqueduct and have no idea who built it or why, only perhaps that it gives them life. Californians love their Sierra reservoirs but haven’t a clue how hard it once was to build them or why they were ever created in the first place, much less who planned and constructed them — and who is draining them.
When so many poor came to California from abroad, many without English, a high-school diploma, or legality, the state was faced with two choices.
One was a radical plan of assimilation and integration — to ensure that their new home would be what they expected, something far superior to what they had left — and an educational curriculum that apprised newcomers of why and how California’s infrastructure, universities, and industries had led to such wealth.
Unfortunately, the state preferred the easier alternative strategy of reassuring poor and future voters that upon arrival they were victims of native-born citizens, who had rigged the system to benefit their own race and class.
The latter message of victimization and exemption only fueled immigrant poverty.
In response to the new pyramidal society, the exasperated state decided that it could hardly apply California Bay Area utopian standards of regulation and nanny-state control to the poor and the foreign-born. So they created two sets of laws: one for those who would follow them, and another consisting of exemptions for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t follow the laws.
Translated, that means millions of Californians from Sacramento to Bakersfield, from the foothills to the Sierra, live in shacks and trailers.
They eat at roadside canteens without running water or bathrooms. They buy gas at rural stations that have no facilities. In other words, they are poor and do not care to follow the hyper-rules made by the rich.
In the most highly taxed state in America’s history, there is a huge black market of cash exchanges, much of it run by the poor and the recent immigrants, that the state doesn’t dare stop. When I leave my driveway, I see four “restaurants” on the side of the road, without running water or flush toilets — mobile canteens that almost always remain immobile.
On the next two intersections, I can buy flowers, homemade soft drinks, even clothes or tools — for cash only. The local “swap” meet on Sundays near my house is a huge mostly tax-free sort of outdoor ad hoc Costco.
Darkness at the End of the Tunnel?
When will the madness end?
Not until Nancy Pelosi’s Napa Valley estate is without power and her boutique ice cream collections all melt.
Not until the Silicon Valley private academies are forced to diversify, as inclusion trainers recruit the very poor and undocumented from Mexico and Central America into their student bodies.
Not until the Google and Facebook employees leave their beds in parked cars and buses and break into their employers’ lobbies to sleep better at night.
Not until the Malibu “help” strike, demand unionization, and are paid for nannying, housecleaning, yardwork, and cooking at the going SEIU rates.
Not until Antifa and BLM begin prying up 2,000–2,500 terrazzo stars of all the Hollywood Walk of Fame living and dead who did not meet their 2020 woke requirements.
Not until a retired Jerry Brown is forced to commute daily to a new consulting job on the 99.
Not until the showers in the Zuckerberg estates blast out sand rather than water.
And not until Gavin Newsom finally is forced to pay own his delinquent property-tax bill and comply with tax laws governing the huge gifts bequeathed to him.
Not until they put homeless tents and shelters on the curb outside Diane Feinstein’s mansion.
Not until the homeless and paroled are put up at the Fairmont and the Mark Hopkins.
Not until Barbra Streisand gets a recording when she calls 911 after her seaside estate is besieged.
Not until Hetch Hetchy and its artificially constructed aqueducts dry up and the Bay Area has no water delivered from afar, as it resorts to its preferable natural arid state.
When all that happens, California will begin to change.
In other words — never.