Friday, February 28, 2014

Jerry Brown's Reelection Bid Suffers From a Lack of Imagination and an Absence of Social Responsibility

Some years back, in his inaugural address, Governor Brown described how “through the turmoil of change, and sometimes chaos, Californians have pressed on toward the good society—not for the few, not for the many, but for all”.  In his address he focused on infrastructure, social welfare, and education, remarking that California’s “public schools have begun shoring up their curricula to meet the stern demands of an age in which the only public cost greater than education is ignorance.”.  He went on to describe a “bold program to duplicate in ten short years a tuition-free system of higher education which already is the best in the world”. 
Jerry Brown | Photo: ohad/Flickr/Creative Commons License

An inaugural address with such progressive aspirations very likely sounds rather strange and unfamiliar to most Californians, and so it will undoubtedly make sense to learn that it was not Jerry Brown, our current Governor, who delivered that address, but rather his father, Pat Brown, in 1963.  Pat Brown helped to engineer California’s social welfare network, bits of which endure.  He promoted higher education and K-12 education in the state, and emphasized a communitarian mode of politics in which all members of society were asked to contribute in keeping with their success to the welfare of society as a whole.

Jerry Brown, by contrast, in his most recent tenure as Governor, has been a major proponent of dismantling the state his father helped to build.  Propelled by his ambitions, lack of imagination, and a fanatical Republican Party minority, Jerry Brown subjected the state to a blistering round of cuts, launching an opportunistic attack on the public sphere which dwarfed the efforts of his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Having hamstrung the public sphere, Brown pushed Prop 30, an initiative which he billed as a “fix” for education in the state, but which really did nothing more than slap a band-aid on the gaping wound inflicted by the Governor himself.  Brown has no aspirations for California, and talks ceaselessly of limiting our ambitions and finding ways to short-change our public sector.  When pressed on whether the state would seek to live up to its obligations to its public universities by restoring funding, Brown referred to state funding as a “bailout”, likening our state’s students to Wall Street titans.

On Thursday, Brown announced that he will run for re-election in 2014, which would give him a fourth term governing California.  His announcement comprised a list of “accomplishments”, but curiously, many of these “accomplishments” involved him making some amends for the problems he generated with his cuts.  Brown is like a mugger, who takes $50 from his victim and then asks for praise when he returns $10. 

Brown, largely by dint of out-lasting the competition with his chameleon-like political maneuvers which today leave him governing like a faux populist Tea Party Republican, has built up a considerable reservoir of trust with voters and the media (particularly that outside of California).  Some long-time California commentators are predicting an historic landslide for Brown. 

And yet Brown has chosen to do very little with this mandate.  All Californians would benefit from systematic political reform: the democratization of our voting system; the elimination of supermajority rules; the roll-back of propositions which deny Californians the right to make choices about their society; and the empowerment of our governing structure, which today operates under voter-imposed constraints which prevent our government from actively addressing voters’ concerns. 

Brown could choose to run on an ambitious platform which could transform our state’s capacity for self-government and restore principles of democracy and equality to a society increasingly dominated by elite interests and money.  Instead, he’s running on a self-contradicting policy grab-bag designed to appeal to diverse constituencies without accomplishing anything of significance.  He is promoting fracking while eliminating the regulation that could make the technology safe.  He’s pushing a bullet train while ignoring the ailing existing transit system, and declining to tackle the state’s incapacity to fund such a large-scale project.  He’s pushing a model of “fiscal responsibility” which makes the working class pay the price for the anti-social behavior of the wealthy, and allows our public institutions to become casualties of a broken system of government which he refuses to address.

Progressive voters, dissatisfied with Brown’s refusal to address the growing inequality and gap in access to public institutions in the Golden State will have no alternative candidate in the general election thanks to the state’s undemocratic Top Two primary system, which will see Brown and one of two GOP fundamentalists advance from the June election to the November ballot.  I will vote in the election, because there will be other offices sought by responsible candidates, critical initiatives, and much at stake at the federal level.  But I will probably leave my ballot blank when it comes to voting for a Governor, because a choice between a fundamentalist and a fundamentalist who pretends to be progressive is not much of a choice.

Pat Brown was not a perfect Governor, and progressives and right-wingers alike could find much to critique about his tenure.  But he did not give in to the temptation that has beguiled his son: to back away from the dream of a fair society by building up poll numbers while preaching about the need for introducing cruelty, inequality, hardship, and social demolition in our state. 

In his second inaugural Pat Brown declared that “We are here to prove that a civilization which can create a machine to fulfill a job can create a job to fulfill a man”, pointing out that all Californians want much the same thing: “A productive life in harmony with neighbor and nature— [which] will not be wrought in our lifetime … But here and now we can put our hands to good work. What we do here may not have its full impact on our own lives. Our children and their children will be the better judges of what we do.  They will measure our actions by the security of the lives they live; by the wisdom they acquire; by the way they invest their leisure; by the quality of the very air they breathe”.

By such metrics, Jerry Brown’s cynical campaign is very much lacking.  He should take the opportunity to make his final tilt at high office about something more than chasing a margin of victory.  He should think a bit longer about what he could do in his campaign to introduce a greater degree of democracy, equality, and social responsibility into our civic sphere and governing structure, and thence into the state he aspires to govern for a further four years. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fundamentalists Preach Hate in Both Uganda and the United States

In  the past day or two, fundamentalist hate groups won a critical victory in their campaign, and are hoping to make gains on their home turf in the United States.
Kampala, Uganda

I refer to the signing by President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda of a discriminatory bill which could imprison anyone convicted of “homosexuality” for life.  Museveni had delayed signing the bill under pressure from international lobbies, but then made his position very public in a defiant ceremony using his standard critique of neo-colonialism and efforts to invoke medical and scientific quackery to hide his desperate bigotry.

The Los Angeles Times posted a story on the matter on its website, and it was quickly mobbed by comments.  Many, many comments said something to the effect that this was Uganda’s problem and that the U.S. should mind its own business, or that each culture has the right to make its own decisions about morality.

What authors of those comments presumably did not know is that the primary proponents of the bill—and earlier version of which called for the death penalty—are fundamentalist hate groups in the United States.  Such groups, bringing financial clout and a vicious self-righteousness, are roaming the world in search of receptive ears now that they are on the back foot in the United States. 

That they find such ears in places like Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Russia tells us a little something about the character of the hate groups which masquerade as non-profits and do-gooders.  What Museveni, Mugabe, and Putin have in common is a tight but never quite certain hammerlock on institutions of power based on violence, intimidation, and a willingness to crack down on or lock up their critics.  (When I lived in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, Museveni was ruthless in cracking down on a demonstration in my neighbourhood...minding my own business inside the courtyard of my building, I was tear-gassed, and at least one person was shot outside on the streets as his thuggish police moved in.)

Regimes of this sort, particularly when buffeted by economic problems, have a habit of trying to find an internal or external enemy to turn their people against, lest their constituents start scrutinising their own behaviour.  In this case, these leaders get both internal and external enemies.  Backed by fundamentalist Christian hate groups, they seek to purge their society of people they label social deviants.  And then they can rail dementedly against the external critics of their regime as meddling imperialists, conveniently overlooking the meddling with intent to kill undertaken by the American fundamentalists.

One of the better-known fundamentalists is Scott Lively, who travelled to Uganda to talk about “the gay agenda—that whole hidden and dark agenda”.  In 2010, American visitors to Uganda “discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ‘to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity’”.  Their efforts resulted in a proposed “bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behaviour”. 

The fundamentalists played it coyly, disclaiming responsibility for stoking the hatred in Uganda which resulted so directly from their efforts.  But having seen the results of those efforts, Lively still proceeded to back Russian effort at discrimination and harassment.  Lively himself is an Oregonian who “wrote a book linking gays to Nazism” and put “an initiative on the ballot [in Oregon’ asking voters to discourage homosexuality as ‘abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse’”.  

Fundamentalist hate groups claim that they are defending “traditional African values”, an ahistorical claim which ignores their complicity in inciting hatred and violence, which belies the range of sexual identities historically in play in Africa (as elsewhere), and which assumes that the Christianity associated with much of Africa today has always been there, which is manifestly not the case. 

Binyavanga Wainana, a Kenyan author who recently wrote about his sexuality, described to the Guardian paper the historical roots of the intense homophobia which now festers in many parts of Africa.  “‘In any forum where people discuss the issues—in the media, or in conversation—you will quickly hear almost the exact wording that has been distributed and disseminated in the churches”, he says...That language was no accident.  It entered Africa in the late 1980s on the back of the heavily funded right-wing Pentecostal movement, mostly imported from the rapture-obsessed white southern Churches of America.  ‘They came in the last days of those dictatorships in the 1980s, and they came with presidential sanction’, he says.  ‘From Malawi to Zambia to here to wherever.  Those churches talked a lot about obeying your leaders, and about the mortal dangers of decadent influences bringing in abortion and homosexuality”. 

The obsession over hatred of homosexuality in the United States undoubtedly has similar connections to the dying dispensation of the Republican Party, which today comprises an unsustainable alliance between the plutocrats and the people those plutocrats suck dry, but who happen to be religious.  The plutocrats supply the critical funding, but since we’re not yet at a stage where elections can be bought outright, they also need some constituents, and the fundamentalists supply a good many voters on the right.

The trouble, of course, is that sooner or later the working classes on the right—who suffer as much as if not more from the predations of the plutocrats—will start voting based on important economic issues rather than on social issues that do not affect them.  Today, there are unaccountably people who are more distressed by the sight of two men or two women at an altar than they are by the economic inequality which grips our country, and the hijacking of our democracy by the super-rich.  But that won’t be true forever.

Today, though, in the same way that Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, and Vladimir Putin attempt to silence dissent with their savage attacks on the sexual orientation of some of their citizens, the Republican Party is trying to hold together what will ultimately prove to be an untenable alliance by inciting discrimination, bigotry, and hatred against some of our fellow citizens. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Berkeley's Reputation Mis-Reads What Was Novel about the '60s

The University of California at Berkeley won the reputation that has dogged or adorned it—depending on your perspective—for decades with the Free Speech Movement, anti-Vietnam War, and Civil Rights protests of the 1960s and 1970s.  The protests associated with those causes gave a harder, political edge to an institution already known across the country for its academic excellence.  The protests catapulted a B-actor best known for doing commercials and snitching on his colleagues to the Governorship of what had recently become the most populous state in the union and, thereafter the Presidency.  The protests helped to revitalise the Republican Party by providing it with a narrative about something supposedly wrong with American culture.

Ronald Reagan famously whined about “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates”, joining with J Edgar Hoover to paint a picture in the mind of the public of students as uncouth, ungrateful, ill-informed, and destructive.  Their behaviour, Reagan suggested in the campaign that propelled him to an electoral victory over Pat Brown—probably the greatest booster of the state in its history—was gratuitous and emblematic of an indulgent generation who had wandered away from the moral rectitude of their predecessors.  The smears that he and the FBI director cooked up (the subject of Seth Rosenfeld’s book Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power) downplayed the political nature of the student movements and focussed on the supposedly aberrant and riotous behaviour of students in the 1960s.

But evidence suggests that disorder on campus was nothing new.  Rosenfeld’s book describes an episode known as “the great panty raid” wherein 3,000 members of fraternities rampaged from one sorority to the next “while groups of them forced their way inside, ransacked bedrooms, and grabbed undergarments.  In all, twenty-six women’s living quarters were invaded, and some doors and windows were broken.  One woman repelled the intruders with a hot iron, and hysterical phone calls lit up the police switchboard”.  The police took it all very casually, and the administration—perhaps foreshadowing the reprehensibly casual attitude of today’s administration toward sexual assault—accepted assurances that no real physical harm had been done, merely $12,000 in property damage (Rosenfeld 60-61). 

Rosenfeld remarks that such outbursts and the massive property damage associated with them were regular occurrences at Berkeley.  John Kenneth Galbraith, who spent some of the 1930s in Berkeley, recalled “walking along Piedmont at night [and hearing] the shouts of laughter from within [the fraternities], or occasional bits of song or what Evelyn Waugh correctly described as the most evocative and nostalgic of all the sounds of an aristocracy at play, the crash of breaking glass” (Galbraith in Berkeley! A Literary Tribute 52). 

This was Berkeley before the post-war democratisation of higher education, which took some time to alter the social, economic, and racial homogeneity of the University which had long functioned as a club for the children of elites.  What it proves is that it was not so much the “disorder” associated with the sixties that upset the likes of Reagan and Hoover as it was the change in formerly quiescent students’ politics.  It was one thing for students to scream and yell, light bonfires in the streets, assault young women, and destroy property if they were just working off what was regarded as good adolescent steam.  Boys, after all, will be boys, went the view.  What was less palatable was when some of those boys, and girls, too, started to make noise with a purpose.  Worse still, when that purpose threatened the social, economic, and political status quo of the state. 

And so the very behaviour which a generation earlier had been “condoned and even admired” by alumni and the faculty according to Galbraith (52), was suddenly very frightening to the political right whose offspring had formerly dominated the university.  It had to be redefined without reference to the students’ actual political claims—that would have allowed them to build bridges to the wider community which was equally affected by the political witch hunts, the war in Vietnam, and the drift away from social democracy. 

Rather, students’ behaviour had to be redefined in a way which destroyed their legitimacy, tarred their personal character, and suggested that they, rather than the fast-rising political right, were the ones posing a threat to the American way of life.  And so Ronald Reagan colluded with the FBI to do precisely that, and he launched waves of cheap, mean-spirited assaults on Governor Pat Brown and President Clark Kerr, two essentially decent men who took seriously the welfare of students in their charge.

Not so Ronald Reagan, who eagerly gave orders for police and National Guard military units to escalate violence on campus, effectively waging war on California’s youth for having the temerity to take to heart the University’s injunctions to political liberty and their own hard-won freedom of expression.  Students fell to the truncheons, guns, and tear gas of the forces of “law and order”, who hadn’t ever bothered to turn out when 3,000 students were launching what amounted to a mass sexual assault just a few years earlier. 

And Kerr and Brown fell to Reagan’s savage, scorched-earth brand of politics, and the illegal methods of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ushering to a close the era of consensus about the value of California’s public institutions. 

In his reflections on  his Berkeley years, Galbraith described as “a singular accomplishment of American higher education” the “control system” operating at American universities—public and private alike.  That structure “subtly suggested that whatever the students most wanted to do—i.e. devote themselves to football, basketball, fraternities, college tradition, rallies, hell-raising, a sentimental concern for the old alma mater and imaginative inebriation—was what they should do”, because “some deeper adult instinct suggested [that this behaviour] was a surrogate for something worse” (Galbraith 52).

Something like applying the things they learned in their studies to the world around them, finding that world sadly wanting, and advocating for political change.

Today, in addition to the attractions of the Big Game and the Thursday night parties, students are relentlessly warned that they should devote every moment of their time to their studies—and not one second of that to any contemplation of the relationship between their studies and the politics in which the university, their disciplines, or their future work might be embedded.  Those things are “someone else’s fight”, preferably someone who is old and grey and cynical and conditioned to ask “How high?” when the vested interests of the world tell him or her to jump.    

Protest, idealism, and politics...these things, students are subliminally instructed, are for naive dreamers who will never change the world.  To want to be good is to aspire to weakness and irrelevance, and therefore to fail.  Better, they are told, is a ruthless application of the technocratic skills increasingly emphasised at the University, to mow down problems facing their generation as they prepare to assume greater responsibility for our state, our nation, or the world.  Those skills, the story goes, can be applied without reference to political and moral frameworks.

Today, political consciousness at the University of California’s first campus smoulders rather than rages.  But in spite of the beatings meted out by campus and city police over the years, and through all the decades of attacks on the motives and character of the University’s students, and although the myths about the change represented by the 1960s protests spite of all these things, there are some students at Berkeley and elsewhere in the University of California who understand what it means to participate in a democratic, public system of higher education and are prepared to act on the injunctions the existence of such institutions provide them to act in a political and moral fashion on the world around them.

Fiat Lux


Galbraith, John Kenneth, “Berkeley in the Thirties” in Danielle La France, ed. Berkeley! A Literary Tribute.  Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1997.

Rosenfeld, Seth, Subversives: the FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.  New York: Picador, 2013.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Send in the Clowns, or, California’s Search for a Governor

Forget the 2016 Presidential race.  In 2014, voters in the most populous state in the union will set out to elect a chief executive.  The Governor of California operates with considerable constraints imposed by decades of accumulated checks on their power imposed by California’s voters, but the position remains the most important in the state. 

Californians will be in an unenviable position, faced with a veritable rogue’s gallery of candidates who range from outright loons who feel more threatened by a same-sex couple than by the spectre of economic inequality, to those interested in further enriching the 1%, to those who evince a total disinterest in actually living up to their responsibilities to govern the state.  The field of candidates remains in flux, but thanks to California’s expensive media markets and large voting population, will likely settle into place shortly.

Most unsettled is the Republican Party primary.

First there was Abel Maldonado.  A protégé of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had appointed the sometime state-level representative to the Lieutenant Governorship, Maldonado had lost that office to Gavin Newsom and had fared little better in his bid to reclaim his role as a representative.  He launched his campaign in a parking lot, attacking the Governor’s prison realignment program by citing a decade-old case as though it were the result of a year-old law.  Maldonado, whose bid was always going to be based on an epic series of flip-flops, was also dogged by various episodes of corruption, and so starting out the race with a big fat lie was perhaps in character

Nonetheless, he stuck it out for a good several months in the race, under some pressure, no doubt, because his leading contender for the nomination was an out and out nut.

The obligatory fanatic in the GOP race was Tim Donnelly, who crawled out of his Government-proof bunker in southern California to take his particular brand of insanity statewide.  An Assemblyman best known for carrying a loaded weapon into an airport and for being obnoxious to his colleagues in Sacramento, Donnelly espouses the garden-variety slash-and-burn approach to California’s public sphere which characterises his party.

Donnelly’s website claims that he is a “patriot, not politician”, an absurd claim on the face of it.  His not very novel argument is that the “government” is “wasteful”, and that therefore instead of investing in the common good, we should free up the corporate world in order that it can exploit us more and thereby funnel our money to that Oh-So-Efficient private sector that crashed the economy and plunged the country into recession.  Which, I suppose, if you’ve drunk enough of the kool-aid, makes much more sense than investing in people’s education, health, and economic security in times of hardship. 

One of Donnelly’s big concerns is “Freedom”.  Lest you be confused, when he talks about “Freedom”, he means the freedom to be exploited and cheated by insurance industries, and the freedom to fail through no fault of your own.  A proud signatory of the Anti-Tax pledge whereby representatives hire out their brains to corporate interests and give up the use of their little grey cells, Donnelly espouses the simpleton’s economic policy: “Cut, cut, cut.  It’s that simple”, he promises on his webpage.  “In the Assembly”, he boasts, “I have voted NO on EVERY tax increase and will veto any tax increase as your governor”.  In other words, no matter what the future holds, Donnelly’s Crystal Ball reassures him that we will NEVER need any more money to invest in our public sector.

Maldonado stepped out of the race and asked the GOP to pin its hopes on Charles Munger, a multi-millionaire best known for sponsoring anti-union initiatives and trying to defeat Prop 30, the measure which provided temporary if inadequate relief for schools and universities.  While Munger would have been a good advocate for the class of plutocrats which aspires to govern the nation, even he realised the improbability of a representative of the 1% winning an election that will be fought in part around issues of inequality.  Besides...why run for office and expose your suspect motives to scrutiny when you can pay for other people to do so?  I’m sure that the eventual GOP nominee with benefit from Munger’s largesse. 

Thereafter, at some point, I’m assuming that the GOP bigwigs sat down and had a think about the likelihood of a Minuteman (who recently violated the terms of his firearms-related probation) committed to turning California into a libertarian wasteland being elected in one of the country’s more progressive states. 

What they needed was someone who didn’t start foaming at the mouth at the sight of an immigrant, who can talk about taking punitive measures against the middle class in a nice, comforting voice, and who isn’t out to appeal to “single-issue voter[s] on the gun issue”.  

So they turned, in that charmingly tone-deaf way the GOP has, to a man who spent his life serving the financial interests responsible for the recession, and who was chosen to be the person to oversee the bailout of Wall Street.  Neel Kashkari’s “public service” career, as a friend put it, literally consisted of carrying cash from the public to Wall Street.  Unsurprisingly, Kashkari, who worked for Goldman Sachs and PIMCO, has had better luck than Donnelly in tapping into the resources of the financial elite.  (See Kashkari getting it in the neck for running a welfare program for wealthy Wall Street types.)

Kashkari is the kind of dishonest right-winger who has no problem shedding crocodile tears over the condition of our schools and universities while pretending we can afford to cut taxes and continue to starve them of revenue.

His “policies”?  “Transform[ing] our state’s public schools by ensuring that the money that taxpayers send to Sacramento actually gets into the classroom—not wasted in layers of bureaucracy” (without bothering to provide any evidence that “waste” is actually the problem); and “promot[ing a higher education] system that focuses on student outcomes and embraces new learning technologies that will transform traditional methods of delivering education, while making higher education more affordable”; and “embrac[ing] the advantages of our state’s natural resources through safe and environmentally conscious energy development while also unlocking the potential of all of our industries to grow and create good jobs”.

You know you’re in trouble when your policy page makes Tim Donnelly look like a wonkish intellectual.  Anyone can write a fuzzy wish list.  I’m assuming, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, and given his unabashed enthusiasm for that hoax called the “Free Market” (which actually involves regulating the market to the benefit of corporate interests), that Kashkari’s program will involve further cuts to the public service, cuts to school funding (from the fundamentalist perspective, teachers are “waste”), and outsourcing the duties of our universities to for-profit online educational profiteers who think you can conduct an intelligent seminar conversation through the ether and work in a science lab online.

Eager not to be outdone in terms of lunacy by Donnelly, Kashkari proceeded to blame our drought on Jerry Brown.  There are plenty of things for which our prevaricating Governor deserves some blame.  But for standard bearers of the party which has opposed investment in California’s infrastructure to blame the drought on the Governor is pure buffoonery (and also ignores the fact that the reason why the state has not been building more dams is that there are no longer any viable locations, leaving groundwater management as the best option). 

As though all of this wasn’t bad enough, neither Donnelly nor Kashkari has bothered to vote in roughly half of the elections of the past 10-20 years.  California is nothing if not complicated as a polity, and that level of disengagement as a citizen or representative (a lack of civic engagement shared by 2010 GOP candidate Meg Whitman) does not suggest that either of these people have given much thought to our state, its cultures, and the people living in it.  Serving the public should not be a lark, something undertaken for the heck of it, or because you’re bored with making your millions. 

The one thing you could not accuse their opponent of is being removed from the political process.  Our current Governor, unchallenged Democratic candidate for 2014, and likely next Governor, is the indestructible Jerry Brown, who has been in public life in California in one capacity or another for most of the years since 1969. 

Brown’s philosophy of government involves snuffling after poll numbers and revolves around the notion that “he who governs best governs least”, giving me the impression that he would be more at home in the Republican Party than in a supposedly progressive party.  Brown is driven not by the fundamentalism of the GOP, but rather by a kind of sad laziness and fatalism.  He prefers to see political problems as incurable conditions, a worldview which conveniently absolves him of any responsibility to take action.

Inexplicably, Brown has developed a good rapport with Californians over the decades.  But instead of using that goodwill to work for the public good, he chose to implement a harsh austerity regime, and follow up with a feel-good initiative (Prop 30) which did nothing to address California’s deeper, structural problems.  Brown is like a mugger who steals $50 from his victim, and later returns $10, expecting gratitude.  Brown has his own take on Kashkari’s former line of work, equating public funding for public universities to a “bailout”, and threatening students with massive tuition increases.  Joe Biden might have called Brown the “smartest guy in American politics”, but Joe Biden hasn’t had to suffer through years of misrule by the Governor who refuses to govern.

So this is what passes for “choice” in California, a state of extraordinary diversity and talent.  None of these individuals has the guts to say anything about political reform measures which could free California from the structural straitjacket in which it now operates, allowing us to make better choices in a more democratic fashion about our future.  One of the candidates wants to take us back to the nineteenth century, and neither of the others can offer anything better than platitudes by way of transitioning into the twenty-first century. 

The election will offer entertainment of a sort, but at the end of the day, the joke is on California’s public for constructing a political system which empowers fringe nuts, forbids the entry of dissenting voices into prohibitively expensive political contests, and offers such a paucity of imagination in a state with an embarrassment of talent.  

If these clowns are the best we can muster up, we clearly need to re-write the job description.