Tag Archives: California

Calexit – Maybe Russia wants California Back

September 16th, 2018

Secession movements in California are nothing new. There have been some 220 different schemes to divvy up the state, 27 of which either made it to the state legislature floor, or were put up for referendum. Most of latest ones would have the effect of taking a big blue state and making one or two blue states, and three or four red states.

There have been at least four different secession movements since 1975, the most recent of which is the resurrected Calexit movement, run by a shady character named Louis Marinelli.

It’s a mistake to assume that everyone who wants to break the state up or secede from the Union is seeking partisan advantage, or working for a foreign power. One of the most famous secession movements of the 20th century, for the State of Jefferson, was sparked by a desire for decent highways through the region and a widespread perception that Sacramento had reneged on promises to provide such. Some secession schemes were idealistic in nature: Ecotopia and Cascadia were proposed with an eye to creating an environmental paradise. Most of these movements sought to improve things, one way or another. Even the ones that sought to gain were self-serving, rather than villainous.

Just this year a scheme to split California into three (Cal3, backed by venture capitalist Tim Draper), creating two red states and one blue died when the State Supreme Court ruled that the proposition constituted a “major revision” to the state constitution. Such changes can be placed in front of voters only by the state Legislature or a constitutional convention. The Court concluded, “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.” That would suggest that unless future initiatives specified that the existing state constitution be grandfathered into the mini-me states, such initiatives would be considered invalid.

Mind you, it was unlikely that two thirds of the state voters would turn the state water supply over to the thinly populated northern California, where the rain and snow like to congregate.

Which brings us to the Calexit movement. A year ago, it was moribund. The leader of the movement, the aforementioned Louis Marinelli, had suddenly fled the country, writing a manifesto that said, among other things, “I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life. Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home.”

OK, good riddance. Turned out that unbeknownst to most voters and even most of his supporters, he had moved to Yekaterinburg the previous September, and was surreptitiously running Calexit from there.

He set up a bullshit embassy in Moscow, supposedly representing the “Republic of California.” Putin, of course, isn’t daft enough to grant recognition to this endeavor, but in a land where he viciously suppresses demonstrations he finds embarrassing, Putin seems oddly tolerant of Marinelli.

Russia did once have a colony in California from 1821 to 1841, what is now Fort Ross. (The “Ross” was for “Russia”). Nearby Sebastopol was not part of the Russian Empire, but got its name from the winners in a bar fight in a mysterious and largely unknown process. Northern California has the best history…

I had heard that Calexit was still a Thing, even without the Tsar of Yekateringburg, and assumed it basically gave the Teabagger crowd something to play with to distract them while the GOP imploded. While a lot of liberal and progressive Californian also fantasize about escaping from Trumpistan, they give Calexit a wide berth, knowing that it’s where venture capitalists, sagebush rebellion zanies, religious whacks and baby authoritarians go to die.

The Santa Barbara News Press is one of three papers that endorsed Trump in 2016 (and has its own remarkable story of takeover by a self-absorbed plutocrat) and so it’s not unusual to find Op-Eds saying that Lincoln was widely condemned during his presidency, just like Trump, so therefore Trump is just like Lincoln, or (today) that Trump must be honest because he refused to accept the presidential salary.

Even so, yesterday’s headline was a bit startling: “Secessionists hope ‘hatred’ of Golden State will aid cause.” The article, from Foxnews’ website, elaborates that the Calexit people want ‘deep hatred’ from at least twenty-five state legislatures, Not just hatred; deep hatred. I guess that means the sort of hatred people have for pink Capri pants, or Justin Beiber, or Barney the Dinosaur. Rip-your-teeth-out-and-throw-them-at-it type hatred.

The rationale is that if twenty five state leges vote to ask California to leave, that they will have the constitutionally required consent, and Calexit will tell the California voters that they now have legal permission from the country to leave.

It’s utter nonsense, of course. But Marinelli clearly hopes that the resounding rejection would make California all butt-hurt and they would leave in a huff, taking 12% of America’s economy and 15% of their tax base with them. The new Republic of California anthem could be, “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.” It would be only fitting.

“Disentanglement” could cost California a cool trillion, and the rest of the country even more, and both would take massive hits in wealth and power.

Happy birthday, Vladimir. Stand by to pick up the pieces.

Maybe Louis Marinelli would be president-for-life. “Medals for Everyone!”

It’s not going anywhere. Yes, Trump is widely hated in California, but it’s a lot easier and far more productive to get Trump out of office than it is to break up the United States.

In the meantime, reflect on this: Calexit and Marinelli want to stoke hatred to their ends. That rarely involves benign intent, and the Russian influence is, as they say, clear and present.

To the Trumperdoos who hate California and want us gone: There is no such thing as a “California.” Never was. It’s just something ginned up by Hollywood and the Fake Liberal Media.

Just ask your President. Nothing here except illegal voters. Who you want to vote for Calexit.

Or something like that.


The Fire This Time — Vicious, Unparalleled Blasts of Flame

July 27th 2018

Back in 1990, I lived right on the border of Santa Barbara and the future city of Goleta. It was June 27, a time of year when the marine layer prevailed, producing night and morning low cloud, and daily highs in the low seventies (20-25C), humid but comfortable.

Sundowner winds—the hot, dry adiabatic flow off the mountains—were considered a late summer and early fall phenomenon. But this particular time, the winds were blowing fiercely, up to 60 mph with temperatures around 110. From my office, I had been keeping an anxious eye on the mountains. A fire had flared up in the county dump and fire companies were on it. As evening approached, the smoke plume vanished, and the air outside the office turned cool and moist. I heaved a sigh of relief. We had dodged a bullet.

It was a little after 6, quitting time, so I hopped in my SUV and drove the mile and a half home. I pulled in to the apartment complex, and stepped out into a blast furnace. The winds, fitful and very local, hadn’t let up there. I saw several of my neighbors standing around talking, clearly looking worried. I went over to see what was going on.

“Ed’s taping the fire,” one of them explained.

“The dump fire? It’s out.” It seemed a strange thing for Ed to do. The plume never did get very large and was white, about as harmless as a fire in sundowner wind could possibly be.

“Not that,” my neighbor replied, “THAT.” he pointed over my shoulder.

A huge column of black and gray smoke towered behind me, visibly growing and changing. Worse, it was coming right at us.

“Why aren’t you guys packing?” I asked, preparing to dash back and start loading my vehicle. “It’s going to hit us!”

My neighbor explained between us and the fire was a three lane main road, a six lane highway, a two-lane frontage road, and the spacious lawns of Saint Vincent’s Academy. We had a huge fire break.

The wind screamed, superheated and wild, and the first embers flew overhead. The fire was miles away, and burned debris was right over our heads. “I’m packing.”

A little over an hour later, the fire had reached us, burning brush behind the complex. The entire neighborhood was destroyed before it got dark. We were saved only became firefighters took a stand in front of our place, protecting a pool-supply place that threatened to throw clouds of chlorine into the major development behind us if it caught fire. We were collateral rescue—not that we weren’t grateful, mind you.

The fire killed one, and destroyed some 600 structures, burning 6,000 acres in a little over two hours.

It seemed a big deal at the time. It was the second most destructive fire in California history in terms of property damage and cost.

It seems quaint now. Just a little flare up, really, a match strike. Never mind the screaming wind, the heat, the strange hieroglyphics left on the lawn of Saint Vincent’s by fire tornadoes. Never mind the flaming debris twisting and hissing and spinning through the air, flying cats from hell. Compared to the fires to come, it was just overcooked brownies.

The Oakland Hills fire happened a few months later, and outside of Santa Barbara, the Painted Cave fire faded from memory.

Firefighters and forest managers and others involved in coping with wildfires were noticing a worrying trend: fires were getting bigger, more frequent, more destructive. To the layman, it wasn’t so evident because there was a lot of ‘noise’ in the trend. California still had ‘good’ fire years and ‘bad’ fire years, depending on the winter rains, the summer heat, and pure, dumb luck. But the trend was there, and it was promising a hellscape of fires to come.

Welcome to hell.

The Painted Cave fire is considered the eleventh worst in California history, and nine of ten have happened since then, eight of them this century. Some of the worst have happened in just the past two years: the Tubbs fire complex in the North Bay which killed 43 people and destroyed some 6,000 homes, and the Thomas fire, which burned from Filmore to Santa Barbara, 400,000 acres and which caused 23 deaths in the subsequent mudslides in Montecito.

And it was those two conflagrations that brought that which was discussed quietly amongst fire fighters out into the public discourse.

Tubbs was horrific, sparked in the middle of the night and roaring down on sleeping people. The smoke killed some before they even knew anything was wrong. The fire screamed and howled and reminded firefighters of the recent fires around Clear Lake, which also were extreme in their behavior, even though the weather conditions weren’t extreme. Yes, the winds were bad when the fire began, but the fire continued to behave like a blowtorch even after the winds let up and humidity rose.

The Thomas Fire, the largest in recorded history, was even more puzzling. It kept making runs in unexpected directions, flaring and jumping from ridge to ridge. Deniers shrugged and compared it to the Matilija Fire of 1932 which burned 220,000 acres. The Matilija fire started in June and eventually went out on its own in October when rains came, burning in suggest and nearly unapproachable terrain in what’s now the Sespe Wilderness. Or, they argued, there was the Santiago Canyon fire! It burned 308,000 acres or so! It burned in just two weeks in late September of that year!

Of course, in 1889 there were no fire retardant bombers, no smoke jumpers, no fire engines, only primitive pumps, no radio, no satellite, none of the tools needed to fight wildfires. The ubiquitous tool used by firefighters, the McCloud shovel, hadn’t been invented yet.

The Thomas fire burned 280,000 acres, despite nearly 9,000 firefighters, six air bombers, dozens of helicopters, and over 800 fire engines. For much of the time the fire burned, conditions were cool and relatively windless in most areas. The fire should not have been the monster it was.

Above all, it was December, two months into California’s rainy season. It was the first big fire in December in the state’s history.

And now we have a monster burning in Redding, 75 miles from the Oregon border. Fire conditions are extreme this time—temperatures above 110, single-digit humidity, and fitful and variable winds, and we’re seeing fire behavior that exceeds even the extraordinary ferocity of Tubbs or Thomas. The Carr Fire has featured pyrocumulus clouds reaching 45,000 feet, a mesocyclonic beast slowly rotating, in essence a fire hurricane. A fire ‘tornado’ some 50 feet wide was spotted in the suburbs of Redding. Wood burns like it was magnesium. There are already two firefighters dead and three injured, and unknown numbers of civilian casualties. It’s frightening that the agencies have not provided updates on the size and location of the fire in nearly 24 hours; they’ve either been too busy, or the scene has been too chaotic to determine such statistics, or both. The images from the fire are terrifying.

Some argue that poor forest management has led to overloading of fuels, and that’s definitely a factor. (It wasn’t a factor in either Tubbs or Thomas, both of which were mostly brush and chaparral and suburbs, with negligible forest growth).

But mostly, it’s climate change. Vegetation is very dry, and dying from thirst and insect infestation. Even areas that normally see six months without rain and temperatures often over 100 are terribly stressed as the hot, dry weather continues without any real surcease.

Even if humanity addressed climate change right this moment and somehow stopped the buildup of greenhouse gases, the damage for the next two decades is already forgone, and fires in the west will only get worse and worse.

Until there is nothing left to burn.


It’s the end of the world as we know it…

February 8th 2012


It’s chaos out there.

First, there was the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Walker ruling that found Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The populace of California, many of whom graduated from the eighth grade, did not have the right to deny legal rights to select parts of the Constitution.

I immediately ran over the the County Courthouse, and found thousands of married couples lining up to file for divorce. No surprise there, of course. This is, after all, California. But the crowd seemed more agitated than usual.

I spoke to one beefy looking lumberjack sort who was towing a sweet little eighteen year old thing while crying convulsively and wiping snot off on his flannel sleeve.

“Wrong team won the Superbowl?” I asked, cautiously.

“N-n-no! I won $50 bucks on that. It’s this faggot marriage thing!”

“Um, the Prop 8 ruling.”

“Whatever number it was. It’s wrong, just wrong. The bible sez so!”

“So why are you here?”

“Giting a dee-vorce!” I looked at his wife, who shrugged and gave me a fuzzy smile. Oxycontin is still popular in these parts.

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