If you have friends in devastated Christchurch, NZ (as we do), or relatives who survived the killer quake in Santiago, Chile (as we do) or if you lived through the deadly Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area (as we did), Monday’s narcissistic hysteria among the Eastern Establishment Media about the little 5.8 tremor that rolled through Washington was more than a little offensive.
No serious injuries or deaths. No widespread damage or dangers. Roads, buildings, bridges, power plants, railroad tracks, runways, homes – all virtually untouched. And we’re glad for that. But give us a freaking break! Anchors and correspondents for CNN and MSNBC went nuts. (Fox, btw, was the least wacko of the cable nets: “Some buildings shook. It scared some people. And it’s over.” — Shepard Smith.)
While rebels who had taken over Tripoli were hunting for Moammar Gadhafi and the stock market was shooting up 322 points, all the self-absorbed East Coast media were concerned about was their pissant earthquake (“massive” according to Wolf Blitzer).
With all the build-up, the headline we expected to see was something like this: MASSIVE QUAKE: Ceiling Tiles Fall, Press Conference Interrupted, Dozens Nervous!
(For a little context, see the, um, representative photo above, which was all over the internet Tuesday but actually was posted more than a year ago after a teeny earthquake in Maryland).
All the heavy breathing was just another object lesson in why the country is so ill-served by writers, broadcasters, editors and analysts who seem unable to focus on anything outside of the view of their beltway blinders.
Which reminds us of the prescient observation on the Republican presidential race by George Will in May of this year: “I think people are complaining that this is not off to a brisk start, I think that’s wrong. I think we know with reasonable certainty that standing up there on the west front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2013 will be one of three people: Obama, Pawlenty and Daniels. I think that’s it.”
Or, as the master humorist of our day put it in a tweet:
One other exceptional tweet, from our friend Mike (Pass the Cash) Murphy:
Another Shocker: Young Calbuzzer Sees Hope for California
It ain’t exactly end-of-summer beach reading, but state political junkies should definitely take a look at “A New California Dream,” the latest in the ever-expanding Whither-the-Golden State genre.
The book is penned by Patrick Atwater, the most unfailingly cheerful member of the prestigious Calbuzz College of Frequent Commenters (and most likely youngest too – no coincidence there), whose singular essays on this page consistently reflect an attractive brand of communitarian idealism, if not a thoroughly misguided belief in the perfectibility of man.
In search of solutions to its chronic dysfunctions, Atwater takes a stroll through the state’s history, crafting a nice, well-paced narrative that explores the political, economic and psychological underpinnings of the California Dream – and the harsh hard times that keep smashing up against it.
The basic problem with these myths is that they create a dream beyond this world that cannot but clash with the realities of living in it. So why don’t we come together to build a New California Dream – one freed from this sort of absurd utopianism – that is pragmatically focused on bettering the lives of all Californians?
Patrick is erudite and well-read, and appears to have consumed every worthwhile volume about California that’s been written, variously referencing not only Carey McWilliams, Robinson Jeffers and the Beach Boys but also Kevin Starr, Walt Whitman and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
And he’s a good writer, except for an occasional clunker guaranteed to stop a reader dead in her tracks:
This teleology is this synthesis of the ostensibly irreconcilable poles of California as naturally perfect and California as perfected through technology and the hand of man.
Medic! I need a copy editor here, stat!
While we didn’t highlight and annotate the book with the monkish discipline of medieval scholars, we did spend the better part of afternoon with it. So maybe we missed something, but we were left wanting more, more, more on the solutions side of the ledger.
True, Atwater makes the best and most extended case for a constitutional convention that we’ve seen. Sure, count us in, but the sad and sorry story of how Bay Area Council chief Jim Wonderman’s bid to qualify an initiative to convene such an historic event crashed and burned, as his corporate masters looked on indifferently and withheld financing for a campaign, is a realpolitik case study of just how hard it is to make bold changes in the status quo.
It’s not surprising that the “What We Can Do” section of “A New California Dream” consists of one page of specific prescriptions, which include volunteering in the schools, doing community service or getting active in a reform organization like Think Long, California Forward, Common Cause or Atwater’s own nascent online effort, OurCali.com.
Bottom line, it’s a real epic chore to devise and implement rational, pragmatic and effective solutions to what ails California at a time when one of its major political parties a) thinks ideology is far more important than ideas; b) finds the very notion of political compromise repugnant; and c) isn’t even all that keen about science.
Then again, we’re just a couple of caterwauling old cockers, and it’s uplifting to see a smart, caring and thoughtful guy like Atwater so committed to improving conditions in the state where his family has lived for four generations.
Calbuzz sez: check it out.
Calbuzz – political web site to the stars: In case you’ve been wondering, last Saturday’s $25 gazillion wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries in Montecito, center of the political universe, generated 21 calls to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office from pissed off locals, including:
-7 calls for loud music
-7 calls related to the helicopters
-2 calls related to trespassers
-2 calls related to traffic issues
-3 calls relating to the paparazzi
There were no injuries