I was going to call this post, “California Dreamin'” because what finally broke through my “not writing on Unspun™” barrier has to do with California’s pension “crisis,” which is really just one more aspect of California’s generalized budgetary crisis.
But given what’s going on around the rest of the country, “Meltdown” seemed the more appropriate choice.
And while this post does mention fossil fuels, you’ll be happy to know the “meltdown” has nothing to do with global warming and the disappearance of snow and ice at Earth’s poles.
On the other hand, maybe you won’t be. When it comes down to it, there’s no reason to be happy about Unspun™ coming out of hibernation.
After all, Unspun™ was originally created by me because I got tired of all the “spin” that was coming from the then-relatively nascent abandonment of old-style news reporting. Faux News started it (of course, as one would expect of typically-stupid reactionary right-wing Americans, they pronounce and even misspell “Faux” as “Fox”), but these days, it’s the paradigmatic news form.
For me, I became an attorney, thinking I might help improve the world — ha! have I learned a lot over the last few years! — and Unspun™, I hoped, would be less necessary after we voted out the party and its Decider who made the Orwellian warp necessary in the first place. I turned my attention to legal blogging and decided to leave the political and social commentary to others.
A man’s gotta make a living. Or at least try to.
Alas, I was seduced by a new Decider, an even better Orwellian by the name of Barack Obama. A man not at all afraid to take responsibility and promise change before actually doing neither. “Yes, we can! ¡Sí, se puede!,” he told us, and the mere fact that America was about to elect an African-American as President caused me to believe, if only for a moment, that he was right.
The fact that “we can” was being translated as “se puede” in Spanish should have been my first clue that something was not right.
To simplify things only a bit, “yes, we can” is not a literal translation of sí, se puede. In fact, there is no good literal (that is, word for word) translation of the phrase. Sí clearly means “yes,” but se puede is problematic. “It can” comes close to its literal meaning but leaves out the vague sense of emphasis and/or completion that se provides.
But I’m not writing this article as a Spanish lesson. Maybe I can do that another day.
I’m writing to say, primarily, that Unspun™ is coming out of retirement and to explain why.
The world is, as I alluded to above, in the midst of a meltdown. And many of the responses to the difficulties spewing into the world — whether below or above the waterline — are quite frankly not only ridiculous, but more harmful than the problems which inspire them.
Sooner or later, people are going to start to realize that no small part of the cause is the irrefrangible deficiency inherent in Democracy. Mob rule has never been a successful method for governance. That’s why the Founders of the United States feared it so much. What we’re seeing going on around us is to a large degree the result of America’s — and the world’s — increasingly stupid embrace of Democracy.
California, so near as I can tell from personal knowledge, has embraced Democracy the longest and most seriously of all the States. For that reason — or so it appears to me — California is suffering the more serious effects of meltdown. (Not counting what BP is now doing to the coastal states; the real impact of that will not really be fully felt for some years, and it, too, will eventually be felt right here in California.)
The thing that scares me is that when people begin to understand the drawbacks of unbridled Democracy, they embrace Deciders who are firm in their convictions and whose simplistic promises give them comfort. We don’t want to hear how bad things are. We don’t want to hear that we cannot afford unlimited government “bailouts” that give corporations and individuals everything they could ever want. What we want to hear is “yes, we can!”
Perhaps that’s why James Madison said,
Democracy is the most vile form of government… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
And it’s already happening. In California, Steve Poizner, Carly Fiorina and, to arguably a lesser extent, Meg Whitman, are trying to out Mussolini one another in the race to govern on behalf of Californians. (Poizner and Whitman are running for Governor; Fiorina is vying to represent California in the U.S. Senate.)
All these people are busily clouding the issues. Fiorina, to give just one example, says,
I am an optimist and believe that people will make the right choices about their lives and their leaders if they know the issues and are equipped with the facts. So let’s talk about the issues…
On that same webpage, she is quoted as saying,
Tax, spend and borrow is not a governing philosophy, it’s a cycle of dependency.
Like it or not, though, taxing, spending and even borrowing are neither a governing philosophy nor a cycle of dependency. Wording it this way is just political craptrap in the best Orwellian tradition. Taxing and spending is a sad necessity; borrowing is, admittedly, less so. (I would have no problem with a constitutional amendment that forbade governments from borrowing money.) Without taxing, the government has no money to spend; without money to spend, the government cannot pay employees who deliver vital services, including building roads and bridges to somewhere, as well as maintaining fire and police departments. “Carly” appeals to the lowest common denominator by arguing that these things lead to “dependency” instead of pointing out that most of these services are enabling. If you have trouble imagining what it takes to move around California without roads and bridges, for example, just go to the library — another enabling service funded by taxes — and pick up a history book.
Appealing to the worst in human nature is also the reason these candidates are hammering away at the “illegal immigrant problem.” It’s also perhaps the scariest of their tactics. This appeal to all that is ugly amongst us is the sort of thing that allows for the restriction of civil rights that is prerequisite to a fascist government. To the extent that we may actually have a “problem” with undocumented people entering the United States without proper authorization, saying that Arizona got it right isn’t the solution.
For all the above reasons — and more — Unspun™ is coming out of retirement. I’ll still be blogging about law and disorder on my two law blogs, but Unspun™ is the more appropriate avenue for political and social commentary. Since I can no longer remain silent on those issues, since I can no longer maintain a focus entirely on law (which, partly for the above reasons, is going through its own Meltdown), Unspun™ will live again.
Y porque yo puedo.