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California And the World of Pretend

it's not the voters fault, though........

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

California has existed as a mythical Nirvana for the planet most of my life. Lovely state, energizing, home to exciting and important industry, and address of the world’s most beautiful women. When the Beach Boys forty years ago sang “I wish they all could be California Girls”, the world furrowed its brow and nodded sagely. Don’t we though.

Times change. California has become the nation’s basket case, and since its economy is bigger than the majority of nations’, it’s important beyond the norm. Yesterday, the beloved reactionary gun nut voters of Southern California and the cherished Crystal Pyramid Therapist Union of Northern California voted down a series of ballot measures that Governor Schwarzenegger claimed were the state's best hope – by which he meant ‘only’ hope - for dealing with its current deficit crisis. In a low turnout election, voters approved only one measure, banning salary hikes for politicians during deficit years, which qualifies as pointless petty punishment to legislators for doing what the voters wanted. The voters want to pretend.

Facing a huge deficit, the nubile and exciting California electorate chose to neither increase taxes nor reduce spending, which can be attributed to a faith that Washington will bail them out, or the fear they would have to live with less, or grotesque, numbing stupidity. I vote for door three, Grotesque Stupidity, because there’s a lot of that going around.

I’ve never been one to excuse the hallowed populace for innocence when they elect politicians that do what they actually said they would do, whether Bush or Reagan. The responsibilities in a democratic republic are high upon its citizens, yet we have centuries of evidence that populations granted the franchise want to pretend to an innocence too precious to believe even in a Hollywood diabetes inducing movie, and too craven a fraud to countenance in the 21st century. Take credit cards.

Holding digits damp to the thermals of an electorate blowing hot air about banks, the Senate voted 90-5 yesterday in favor of a bill imposing new restrictions on the credit card industry. The bill, says the Washington Post, "will force the card industry to reinvent itself and consumers to rethink the way they use plastic." The Los Angeles Times, desperate for good news after yesterday’s election, calls it "one of this year's few bipartisan success stories." In a way, that’s true. The bill restricts the ability of credit card issuers to increase interest rates and fees whenever they want to. This raises the question of why they were allowed that in the first place, but never mind. Also, under the bill, companies would actually have to give advance notice before any rate increase.

Also? The measure would make it more difficult for anyone under 21 to get a card. Why? Because we know credit card companies entice and entrap the supposedly innocent into a life of perpetual debt, be they inexperienced, senile, uneducated, or stupid. This raises the question of when Americans become adults. On the one hand they can vote and kill at 18, on the other they cannot drink or handle debt for three more years. That’s a stupidity that cannot stand, and is a house divided as sharply now as in Lincoln’s time. And it’s equally stupid to suggest that our morbidly obese nation of diabetics are not adult enough and responsible for the personal debt they acquired to obtain social climbing trinkets when not outright crap.

Further evidence for grotesque stupidity? This is presented as clear communism by our nation’s conservatives. Or socialism, anyway. Something. So, as a compromise with Republicans, in exchange for disallowing credit card companies - which at one time we called banks - from pillaging the population, an amendment was included that allows visitors in our national parks to carry handguns. Because it’s dangerous sitting in your air-conditioned SUV staring at scenery just like it was on television. Wow. Democracy works. We can look forward to seeing beer sales allowed at all sports stadium events if profits go to a health care charity or ACORN, and Republicans will support it if they can wear their Glocks to these events. Fair exchange. Perhaps that’s how to ease the conflict over abortions: allow them if everyone can be armed in hospitals or clinics. And church, of course, so that predatory priests can be brought to justice at the alter. There’s a topic for commencement at Notre Dame. In the near future, absent change, California will be bankrupt and public services will have to end quick. In the refreshingly cool atmosphere of California summers, with temps in the low 100’s, fires in the woods, crime in the streets, and nobody on the payroll to handle either, its voters can blame the government for allowing the counterproductive unions – who employ the voters – for the mess. Fortunately, everyone will be armed, stranded on freeways with day running lights in the rearview mirror burning into the eyes and mind.

Besides, everyone knows the Czech Republic has better looking women.