I don’t write often about overtly political topics, but from time to time it’s necessary. I’ve recently been corresponding with my high school friend Friedner Wittman about what’s happening in California, our mutual adopted state. Despite having been born in the east and taking up adult residence here only about 30 years ago (seems like no more than 25…), I consider myself a native. After all, my great grandfather Joel Eveland first came to California as an illegal immigrant from Ohio (see his story, here.) And I spent a lot of formative childhood years here. So for better or worse (or even worst), it’s my land. It’s still the only place I’d consider living, despite the San Andreas Fault being only a couple of miles away. Being about 600 feet up on my hill, the tsunami is unlikely to get up this high. And we still grow the best marijuana in the world (not that I’d know anything about that.)
Fried is somewhat more positive in his views than I. He offered a fairly impressive list of accomplishments under the Jerry Brown administration, most of which were along the lines of “well, we’re a little bit better than some of the others.” I agreed with him that California is generally muddling through, and has significantly beaten the national average on a lot of things, including health insurance in particular. Brown has done a really quite amazing job in many ways, and deserves a lot of credit; I’d probably vote for him again, particularly since the best candidate the Republicans are likely to propose would be Goofy, and neither the Libertarians nor the Greens (both of whom I support, to a degree) is likely to do much better. There really is no realistic alternative to Brown’s vision for the state, although I’m not sure that either he or I could tell you just what that might be. And there is some hope that things may continue to slog back.
That said, I worry about a number of trends. These include:
The enormous influence exerted over the state and Brown in particular by some of the larger unions, particularly the teachers (see below) and the prison guards (also see below). SEIU also has a lot of leverage, although considering their membership this tends to be for the good rather than for entrenching special interest power.
The continued crumbling of our educational system, from top to bottom – from the strangling and consequent commercialization of the UC and CSU systems down to the suffering of kids all through the K-12 system due to an inability of anyone to stand up to the intellectual thuggery of the “No Child Left Behind” mafia with its incessant test obsession driving out most chances for real learning (another hobbyhorse of mine on which I have opined and blogged on occasion.) The teachers’ union has been of little help, being more focused on locking down its members’ jobs and (although it’s never admitted) moving as many of them as possible into administrative slots that get them out of those nasty classrooms full of nasty kids. This latter agenda is the only possible explanation for the unions’ utter unconcern with the rampant growth of administration at the expense of teaching. Brown’s being so indebted to the unions essentially precludes his taking any initiative in education aside from the purely symbolic (cf. Murray Edelman).
The rapidly increasing chances of becoming a real police state, as a result of public surveillance and the growing militarization of local police accompanied by less and less accountability. The LA Sheriff’s deputies can break into a house by mistake and machine-gun an 80-year-old man to death in his bed and get away with calling it “self-defense”. Here’s a lot more along the same lines. The Feds are playing the same game with enthusiasm. If we’re serious about gun control, wouldn’t it make sense for it to start with the Fed as an example, instead of their leading the pack toward the police state with paramilitaries and total surveillance?
That’s it for Part 1; stay tuned for the next installment. I won’t say that it necessarily gets better, but there’s more.