Various Ghosts of Christmas Future
regarding the trajectory and momentum of the blue model
Can woke ever wake, or does it just keep going until acted upon decisively by an outside force? Three broadly applicable hints from everyone’s favorite bad example of a state:
The last two sessions of the California legislature were distinguished by their Jacobin madness, to the point that even a blue state lost patience for the most extreme measures — leading to complaints from emotionally wounded legislators about the mean and ungrateful public. A sizeable group is voting with its feet: California has lost 800,000 residents in just three years, which is like shedding a whole South Dakota. So: course correction in the next session? Yeah, no.
Newish Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas has announced his committee assignments for the upcoming legislative session, and they’re wonderfully bold and progressive. California’s state government spends about $310 billion a year, governing a nearly 164,000 square-mile place with 38 million people in it. Imagine what kind of knowledge and ability it would take to do that well. Now, here’s the new chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee:
Who’s Buffy Wicks? Here’s the “Meet Buffy” page from her campaign website, the most favorable version of her life story I can offer you. As you read this, keep “$310 billion” in mind:
That’s it. That’s her adult life. She’s a community organizer. The new chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee in a state with $310 billion in annual spending has never had an adult job. She has no finance background, hasn’t made payroll, has never worked in anything that anyone would recognize as a business. She started out organizing against the Iraq War, then organized for Bernie. Then she moved from organizing to public engagement! And now, if you want to spend a portion of California’s $310 billion, you have to go see Buffy to get your bill to the floor. Meanwhile:
Transportation is a giant portfolio in California, and includes a bullet train that maaaaybe might exist? At some future point? We’ve only been working on it since 2015, after approving it in 2008, so it’s hard to say when it may ever have actual tracks with actual trains, or where the route might actually go when some version of the thing starts “running.” Oh, and by the way:
Meanwhile, the headlines about public transportation systems in California are about the billions of dollars the state is throwing at them to stave off collapse as they descend into a “death spiral” that drives them toward a “fiscal cliff”:
And so on. I could turn this into a post about California’s many transportation disasters, but let’s leave it at that preview. So: Lori Wilson now chairs the Transportation Committee in the lower house of the state legislature. Who is Lori Wilson? Again, you can go read her own version of her life from her own website. Sample accomplishment: “Assemblywoman Wilson is the first legislator in the history of California to openly discuss being the parent of a transgender child.” So she can use that experience, you see, to budget for high-speed rail.
Curiously, Wilson actually has a background that might make her useful on budget or appropriations committees — she has an accounting degree, and worked in accounting and finance, though she doesn’t ever say where — but she has no noticeable experience in just…one…kind of…important field, if you want to run a committee that budgets and provides oversight for transportation. I’ll let you guess what field I’m talking about.
And so on. The Assembly Natural Resources Committee is responsible for “air quality, climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energy, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), coastal protection, forestry, land conservation, oil spills, solid waste and recycling.” The new chair of that committee is the 31 year-old Isaac Bryan, who has degrees in sociology and public policy. He has mostly consulted and organized in the areas of racial justice and criminal justice reform. It will be a pleasure to watch his expertise blossom as he takes charge of legislation for forestry and oil spills.
At the apogee of the technocracy, when authority justifies itself again and again with the language of expertise, the not-well-hidden middle finger is that the elected officials who run the whole show don’t have any. The whole thing reads like a deliberate joke, a Don Rickles routine in which the source of the humor is that you’re being insulted. Isaac Bryan is in charge of forests.
What all of this prima facie unseriousness signals, with bright flashing lights, is that wokeness has no pivot to seriousness or stewardship on the agenda. You’re shocked, I know. The game is free money and transgender everything, and this is what the game will continue to be. No one in the game is equipped for anything else. The chair of the transportation committee is the first legislator in the history of California to openly discuss being the parent of a transgender child, something something trains something something. The end.
Los Angeles has now had two genuinely devastating fires in places that were full of homeless encampments, and — as I wrote recently — has constant, more-than-daily encampment fires next to freeways and other critical infrastructure. This is still a quite recent event:
So I wrote to several government officials, recently, suggesting that it was time to consider preventing encampments from growing right next to freeways, and in other potentially dangerous places. I got this response from the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents my district:
Dear Mr. Bray:
Thank you for bringing this matter to the attention of the office. Both the State and the City are actively conducting an investigation to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to the current situation. As you rightly pointed out, there was material under the highway. The practice of stacking piles of material under the highway is commonplace throughout the state. It's worth noting that the site had been on CalTrans' radar, particularly because the state is reported to be involved in litigation with the proprietor of the business leasing the area where the fire occurred.
Until all the pertinent details are made available, our intention is to refrain from implying fault on anyone. We will continue to advocate for compassionate care and treatment programs for individuals experiencing homelessness while ensuring that public safety remains uncompromised.
For any further information or if you have additional questions or concerns, we can direct you to CalTrans. They will be able to provide more insight and address any queries you may have.
Thank you once again for your attention to this matter.
Office of Supervisor Kathryn Barger
Will you prevent future fires? “We will continue to advocate for compassionate care and treatment programs for individuals experiencing homelessness.” They know as they write that sentence that they can’t choose to do nothing about the freeway-adjacent encampments and also ensure that public safety remains uncompromised, but they still just say it, like they’re using words that have meaning. They will not act, because not having giant homeless encampments in massive piles of highly flammable materials under critical infrastructure is being mean. So the same event keeps causing the invocation of the same event-deflecting slogans, leading to the continuing occurrence of the same event. To change would be to not say the slogans, which is untenable.
Kathryn Barger, by the way, is the lone Republican on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. You see how her unique party affiliation gives her a distinct outlook on this important issue in a generally blue area.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health closed all comments to its social media posts, during the pandemic, and is now deep into the process of fighting off a First Amendment lawsuit over their decision to prevent the public from responding to things that they say in public forums. Their furiously-argued and very serious claim is that allowing the public to comment on social media posts from public health experts, who are very wise and important people, opens the door to dangerous disinformation.
How far are they willing to take that position? Far enough that they closed public replies to this important public health post:
Can you even imagine what kind of dangerous Q-Anon madness people might have posted in response to this important public health message from trained experts, in the disturbing event that the public was ever allowed to speak? Litigation continues over this important protective measure.
Once they start doing something, they forget the reason for it and just keep doing the thing that they get used to doing. Apply this conclusion broadly.
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