Althouse | category: California



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"When California was drawing up its Constitution to join the Union, the state debated excluding Black people."

"The delegate who brought forth an exclusion resolution said that with migrating free Black people, the state could find itself 'flooded with a population of free Negroes,' which would be 'the greatest calamity that could befall California.' In that way, what [Scott] Adams said, while racist, was less outside the bounds of America’s troubled ideological canon and more in step with it on the question of having a functional, egalitarian, pluralistic society."

The last 2 paragraphs of "The ‘Dilbert’ Cartoonist and the Durability of White-Flight Thinking" by Charles Blow (in the NYT).

The population of California "dropped by more than 500,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022."

The L.A. Times reports.

We're told that "experts" attribute the sharpness of the decline to the pandemic, given the "high housing costs... long commutes... crowds, crime and pollution" and the new freedom to work remotely.

The experts, we're told, think the "rate of the exodus may now be slowing as the pandemic’s effects ease."

"I couldn’t really picture that weight. It’s like five circus elephants. Or 50-something grand pianos."

"It was a beautiful tree, it really was, but I kind of have a difficult feeling about it right now."

Said Eben Burgoon, after a 65,000-pound redwood fell on his house, quoted in "Trees were a California city’s salvation. Now they’re a grave threat" (WaPo).

Sacramento was once called "the 'city of Plains' because of its treeless vistas," but it became "The City of Trees" after the humans worked to develop a lush, shady canopy. But:

Stressed from years of severe drought, tree roots naturally die back. When this is followed by day after day of big storms and the soil becomes saturated, the weakened roots fail as anchors. Trees whose roots have already been damaged by construction, such as fresh concrete sidewalks being laid down, are especially at risk of collapse. So are trees with shallow roots that rely on sprinklers for irrigation.

During the recent storms, the Sacramento Tree Foundation found that wind direction compounded the problem. In the city and the surrounding suburbs, trees are accustomed to dealing with winds from the south, and they have built-in defenses. But when strong northerly winds arrived on New Year’s Eve — with gusts that reached more than 60 miles per hour — they pummeled the trees on their most vulnerable side....

Should the city have planted all these trees? Did it make sense at the time and now the wonderful "salvation" has been ruined by climate change or were all these trees always vulnerable to toppling with an unlucky combination of dryness and rain?

I'm trying to understand the use of the word "salvation" in the headline. It doesn't appear in the text of the article. Why are trees "salvation"? If the natural environment of a place is "treeless vistas," why not embrace treeless vistas? If the trees fall, they are falling not to nature but to human folly.

The scientists are suggesting that, instead of "eucalyptus trees, cedars, redwoods, pines, evergreen oaks, Italian cypress and acacias," the fallen trees should be replaced with trees better adapted to the local conditions: "desert willow, netleaf hackberry and the Texas ebony." I had to look up those recommended trees — they all grow only to something like 30 feet. That's not going to give the city the "salvation" of a lush canopy.

"[A]s of Jan. 1, we Californians will be able to jaywalk to a film audition, jaywalk to buy pot, jaywalk to meet an angel investor for a start-up, jaywalk for hot baby yoga classes..."

"... jaywalk for the benefit of paparazzi alerted earlier about where and when the jaywalking will occur, and jaywalk to any of the countless California-centric pastimes that the rest of the country finds so amusing. Or we might jaywalk across the street just to get to the other side.... [A]n enterprising individual can shoplift goods worth up to $950 without worrying about being tagged with a felony. Parking in L.A. is always a pain; if you’re hotfooting it out of a Macy’s or Target with an armful of pilfered goods, your ability to jaywalk worry-free to your getaway car is a cultural advantage right up there with being able to make a right turn on a red light. On a more serious note, the Freedom to Walk Act is a social-justice victory. As the bill’s author, state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) told CBS Bay Area news, jaywalking laws 'are arbitrarily enforced and tickets are disproportionately given to people of color and in low-income communities.'"

From "California greenlights jaywalking. It’s a step in the right direction" (WaPo).

Yeah, don't have a law you're not willing to enforce equally against everyone. We don't want chaos, but you've got to draw the line where you'd want it enforced against you and the people you personally favor. 

6 TikToks for you tonight. Let me know what you like best.

1. People in 5 different countries show what they would make with an orange.

2. How well could you do if you had to adapt to walking on all fours?

3. Hiking from one coast of Scotland to the other.

4. A West Coast Trail hike.

5. What it's like being one of the infinite monkeys who will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare.

6. The history of Roland the Farter.

"To distinguish themselves from NIMBYs, the current generation of housing activists has adopted new 'back yard' variants (YIMBY, 'Yes in my backyard'; PHIMBY, 'Public housing in my backyard'; YIGBY, 'Yes in God’s backyard')..."

"... to declare how they are for things (everything, subsidized housing, building on church parking lots) that a NIMBY presumably is not.... [Governor Gavin Newsom said] 'NIMBYism is destroying the state.' .... Encoded in YIMBY ideology is a belief that the best thing to do with NIMBYs is discard them. But since the successes of one generation become the burdens of another, they should first understand them.... Susan Kirsch was partial to 'Small Is Beautiful,' which was published in 1973 by the economist E.F. Schumacher. The book cast doubt on a growth-at-all costs mentality.... 'Part of how it influences me is I think greater self-reliance and self-resiliency are qualities that keep a community or culture strong,' Ms. Kirsch said of the book. 'And the trends we have now, with being able to have efficacy in your own life, is part of what I think is being diminished.'... Environmental activists came to define themselves by what they could stop.... Marin County, a woodsy enclave that sits across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, enacted some of the strictest growth control measures in the country — proudly.... Today Marin County is the most segregated county in the Bay Area."

From "Twilight of the NIMBY/Suburban homeowners like Susan Kirsch are often blamed for worsening the nation’s housing crisis. That doesn’t mean she’s giving up her two-decade fight against 20 condos" by Conor Dougherty (NYT).

I didn't notice that the acronym "NIMBY" had come to refer not only to the attitude but to the person with that attitude.

But according to the OED, the usages go back to 1979 and 1980. The oldest example of NIMBY to refer to the person was in Forbes: "Home builders and city planners have a new name for an old enemy—the ‘Nimbys’..those who want no construction that might disturb the character and real estate value of their neighborhoods."

Disparaging those who want to preserve the aesthetics of their neighborhood is an old game. Notice how the homeowner's sensitivity is portrayed as insensitivity. These people lack empathy. They're part of the mechanism of systemic racism. 

ADDED: Here's the Wikipedia article for "Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered." 

In the first chapter, "The Problem of Production", Schumacher argues that the modern economy is unsustainable.... Schumacher's philosophy is one of "enoughness", appreciating both human needs and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of his study of village-based economics, which he later termed Buddhist economics, which is the subject of the book's fourth chapter.

Have you heard of "Buddhist economics"

The most fundamental feature of Buddhist Economics is seeing "people interdependent with one another and with Nature..." 

Sri Lankan economist Neville Karunatilake wrote that: "A Buddhist economic system has its foundations in the development of a co-operative and harmonious effort in group living. Selfishness and acquisitive pursuits have to be eliminated by developing man himself."...

Buddhist economics holds that truly rational decisions can only be made when we understand what creates irrationality. When people understand what constitutes desire, they realize that all the wealth in the world cannot satisfy it. When people understand the universality of fear, they become more compassionate to all beings. Thus, this spiritual approach to economics doesn't rely on theories and models, but on the essential forces of acumen, empathy, and restraint....

I will restrain myself from divining how that translates into mediating the dispute between condo-builders and the owners of aesthetically pleasing one-family homes.

"I live in Los Angeles. Everyday I witness filth and disease laden encampments. What I see with my own eyes are people living in squalor..."

"... who are either drug addicted or mentally ill. Los Angeles does not have an affordable housing problem nearly as much as a mental health and drug addiction crisis. The status quo is not acceptable. It is hardly humane to enable people to suffer in illness and addiction as if it is somehow that’s a life style choice. Local residents and businesses are totally fed up. Governor Newsom’s CARE court approach is worth a try, along with a new mayor who actually is committed to solving the root causes of the problem."


"At this point, I’m beyond caring what type of housing or treatment or support the tent camping homeless get (as long as it’s compassionate, not abusive). It’s simply long past time to insist that sidewalks, parks, beaches be returned to the general public, for ordinary use. No more camping, period."

Those are the 2 highest-rated comments on a Washington Post column titled "Forcing homeless people into treatment can backfire. What about a firm nudge? California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed Care Courts have set off a debate about civil rights and human needs." It's by Neil Gong and Alex V. Barnard,  "sociologists who have studied California’s public mental health system."

"I was an older woman and I couldn’t get hired. I always wanted to travel the world, write and take photographs. I thought why not take 10 years and go?"

"If I run out of money and I’m not a famous writer, I’ll come back and be a Starbucks barista or a Walmart greeter." 

Said Heidi Dezell, 57, quoted in "Want to Retire in Portugal? Here’s What to Know, as Americans Move There in Droves. Retirees are drawn by a low cost of living, healthcare, a sunny climate and tax incentives" (Wall Street Journal). 

For some, Portugal’s newfound popularity comes with a cost. “Americans are challenging the loudness scale,” says Susan Korthase, 71, founder of the Americans & Friends in Portugal Facebook group. She moved to Portugal from Milwaukee in 2010 and says she now sees the “Californiacation” of Portugal. “You hear them in restaurants,” she adds. “Americans laugh with an open mouth and they laugh out loud. Other nationalities have a quiet chuckle.”...

We're being updated on trends by a newspaper that can't spell "Californication." They're writing about laughing while not perceiving the contents of the portmanteau. Maybe the Americans who laugh too much for Milwaukeean taste are getting more of the jokes. 

I think every person in this article is female. It ends with the story of Linda Correll, 52, an Ohioan who found a small apartment in Porto where "When it rains heavily, all the water comes into my apartment."

“I don’t know if I have met any men over 50 who came here by themselves,” says Ms. Correll. “You get a lot of couples, but single women are much more common for some reason.... It’s a safe country, and the people are friendly,” she says. “The healthcare, the food, the whole vibe is the reason I’m here. I don’t have any desire to go back to the States to live.”

She says "for some reason," and then she, unwittingly, gives the reason. You're leaving your home country for some very bland comforts and no excitement. But maybe this article will prompt some older male Wall Street Journal readers to quit their job now and retire to Portugal. There are lots of health-and-safety-loving Midwestern ladies there longing — in their leaky apartments — for a man maybe something like you.

ADDED: For those who think the Red Hot Chili Peppers coined the word "Californication," here's the Wikipedia article, "Californication":

Californication is a portmanteau of California and fornication, appearing in Time on May 6, 1966[1] and written about on August 21, 1972, additionally seen on bumper stickers in the U.S. states of Idaho,[2]Washington,[3] Colorado, Oklahoma,[4][5] and Texas.[6]

It was a term popular in the 1970s and referring primarily to the "haphazard, mindless development [of land] that has already gobbled up most of Southern California",[7] which some attributed to an influx of Californians to other states in the Western United States.... 
On November 7, 1972, in a statewide referendum, Colorado voters rejected a bond issue to fund the hosting of the 1976 Winter Olympics. The venue for the games would have been spread over 150 miles (240 km), and was widely viewed as license for unbridled development. As part of the opposition to the bond, the slogan "Don't Californicate Colorado" was coined, appearing on bumper stickers and placards across the state. This rejection by Colorado voters followed a trend in the western states to blame California-style "mindless development" for the urban growth problems experienced in states like Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon.[7]

The Chili Peppers' album and song "Californication" came out in 1999. Anthony Kiedis was 4 years old in 1966. So was Flea. The 2 little Peppers were 10 in 1972.

"In fact, Joshua Tree has been drawing artists, musicians, architectural experimentalists, self-identified 'weirdos' and others seeking inspiration and self-actualization for decades. But..."

"... part of what was different... was the way that many transplants were funding their dreams — by putting glamping setups or cabins on home-sharing websites.... Around that time, something else was changing that would set the stage for the rental gold rush: an appetite for an emerging aesthetic that some called 'high desert boho' or 'the Joshua Tree Look' on Instagram.... By 2018, there were so many renovated Joshua Tree rentals with the same metal cowboy tubs and wicker swings that an Instagram account emerged to mock them. Photos of these carefully curated spaces drew a new type of visitor, encouraging still more short-term rentals...."

From "Are 1,818 Airbnbs Too Many in Joshua Tree? A short-term rental gold rush is fueling concern for the area’s signature trees and debates about whether the nature of life in the desert of southeastern California is changing forever" (NYT). 

There's a link on "Instagram account" in "an Instagram account emerged to mock them," but it does not go to a mocking Instagram account. It goes to a place where you can book stays at Joshua Tree places.

I'm not sure what to make of the NYT article. It's awfully snooty! It seems to be trying to enlist the reader — presumably sensitive to environmental concerns — into serving the interests of the very rich. Is it really so bad to have rental cabins in the area near Joshua Tree National Park? Are we stepping on the privilege of our betters if we think it would be nice to stay somewhere like this or this for a few days?

The immortal Feinstein.

I'm reading "California Recall: Unpredictable Election Has Democrats Concerned About Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Seat" (CBS, San Francisco):
It’s the Democrats’ doomsday scenario: California Gov. Gavin Newsom loses his recall race this fall, and a Senate vacancy is later filled by a GOP governor. And the 50-50 Senate, currently controlled by Democrats, is run again by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

Nobody wants to talk about it openly, but Dianne Feinstein is 88 years old.

In an interview with CNN, Feinstein made clear the recall election won’t affect her plans to serve out her full six years — no matter the outcome of the race. “Why would I?” Feinstein said when asked if she would consider resigning in the period between a Newsom loss and before a GOP governor could be sworn in. Feinstein added: “It doesn’t affect me — the recall is just against him.” Asked if she had even considered stepping aside as the recall campaign has gotten underway, Feinstein said: “No.”

That's Ruth Bader Ginsburg style grit.

Now, maybe she'll cave to pressure if Newsom actually loses. There could be a 38-day period before the new GOP governor takes office. 

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