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Outsiders vs. Insiders: California burns while the politicians ban straws; who’s truly at fault?

It used to be California made national news for positive things. In the mid-20th century, for example, the Golden State earned regular national headlines for its burgeoning entertainment industry where stars of the big and small screens could be viewed on practically every street corner in Hollywood (or so you might think).

Of course the state’s gorgeous beaches and diverse environments generated news as well. It could be argued California had everything – warm and sunny beaches, water sports, spectacular national parks, some of the Jerry Brown firesbest skiing in the nation, the Golden Gate Bridge, desert oases full of golf courses and a year-round climate in the southern part (San Diego) where the temperature is 70 degrees practically every day. It also boasted huge military bases and ports.

California also seemed like the political center of the universe since a succession of American presidents either made their homes there or spent significant time vacationing in the state’s friendly surroundings. Richard Nixon was a native Californian (born in Yorba Linda in 1913), Gerald Ford had a house in the Palm Springs area and Ronald Reagan made his adopted state appear to be a western symbol of the American spirit.

Growing up in California was like paradise. We led the country in fashion styles, entertainment crazes and political trends. If you couldn’t find happiness in California, where could you get it?

In the early nineties I noticed a different kind of focus on California though. Natural (and in some cases, man-made) disasters started being shown practically in real-time on national cable news channels. If there were a wildfire people all over the country got to see it as-it-happened; ditto for earthquake recovery (Northridge in 1994), mudslides from periodic torrential rains, floods and sometimes even heatwave induced brown-outs. Reporters looked gleeful as fires burned brightly behind them and their camera crews.

Suffering from nature’s fury became name-associated with California and the nation shared our pain. My midwestern relatives used to say they had to deal with tornadoes, but what’s that in comparison to the earth shaking violently while knocking down all the buildings?

Then there were the Rodney King riots and infamous OJ Simpson police chase (and subsequent trial and acquittal), which grabbed national attention and spawned many of the racial and cultural problems we’re still experiencing today.

California didn’t seem like heaven anymore in the national psyche – more like a confused and jumbled conglomeration of decaying glitter and social maladies together with crazy natural disasters complete with video pictures of lives being shattered. The deterioration of the state’s political situation into basically one-party rule didn’t help things. We found Democrats aren’t very good recovery effort managers.

In 2018 the slide continues. The Golden State topic du jour is wildfires (again). They’re particularly bad of late and California’s kooky ideologically-driven political class is only adding to the heat. Bridget Johnson of PJ Media reported last week, “With more than 20 active fires small and very large tearing across the state, California Gov. Jerry Brown warned today that ‘nature is powerful, and we’re not on the side of nature,’ and that devastating blazes are ‘the new normal.’…

“Brown said firefighters would have to adapt to increasingly severe wildfires in the years to come because of climate change. ‘We’re fighting nature with the amount of material we’re putting in the environment, and that material traps heat, and the heat fosters fires, and the fires keep burning,’ he said. The governor added that ‘since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.’

“’Some people don’t want to accept that, some just outright deny it,’ Brown continued. ‘I don’t say it with any great joy here – we’re in for a very rough ride. It’s going to get expensive. It’s going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation, not just for California, but for people all over America and all over the world.’”

You heard it here from outgoing Golden State governor “Moonbeam” Jerry Brown: the world is destined to burn up from massive fires, mostly because he and other junk science obsessed liberal politicians said so. Here in the east we’re struggling through day after day of deluge and (relatively) mild temperatures for this time of year. It’s so wet outside you couldn’t start a wildfire if you tried. Nothing would burn.

Having visited California a couple weeks ago I could see where fire was going to be a problem this year. The southern part of the state is always tinder-dry by summer and according to my dad temperatures have been a tad higher than “normal” this season. The day we returned to the east the forecast high for my folks’ place was 109 degrees. Couple that kind of heat with very low humidity and you’ve got a hot recipe for fire (not so ironically there was a brushfire just up the street from them a few weeks ago – thankfully no houses burned).

And the thing is – it’s not even fire “season” yet in California, which is in the fall when warm Santa Ana winds sweep down from the north. If the state is burning now we may not have seen anything yet.

But it’s curious how Brown -- and all liberal Democrats -- use this (and every) type of occasion to make a political point. Is climate change (which the governor says makes fire conditions the worst in recorded history, 10,000 years’ worth) truly to blame for the blazes making his state feel like hades? Or could it be that government had a role in the acceleration of burns as well?

Fire is fire, it’s always been here. Sure it seems like the problem’s gotten worse in recent decades but is it solely due to a slight upward shift in temperatures or because of something else more directly human related?

The Editors of the Washington Examiner wrote last week, “… This year's fires have so far burned more than 400,000 acres, a land area equivalent to Denver and Los Angeles combined. The wreckage and smoke is so bad that it can be seen from space, and fires in California and Washington state can cloud the skies as far away as Idaho and Montana.

“Everyone is quick to blame global warming for this and all other natural disasters. But changes to local weather in this or that part of the country are by no means part of the same scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused in large part by human activity. Western droughts and forest fires have been around a long time, and so has climate change, but the fires have gotten much worse very recently, and government mismanagement of forests is part of the reason.

“While liberals waste their time on solutions that won't even scratch the surface of climate change (green buses that either don’t work or that no one rides are not going to make forests less flammable), man-made mistakes in policy are going uncorrected. One of the biggest problems is the overcrowding of Western forests with dead trees, and the areas between stand with dry, flammable grasses…”

Ah yes, the leftist “save the forests” lobby is a more likely fire-fostering culprit than the gases from your car’s tailpipe. Humankind is certainly capable of mass destruction but it’s usually done comparatively quickly through enacted laws rather than by the slow trickle of carbon dioxide emissions. If California’s environmentalists pushed through a law limiting or preventing logging, the “fuel” for future fires just accumulates exponentially faster.

Add in a few dryer than normal years and there’s a wicked combo of man-inspired and natural factors to burn, burn, burn. Meanwhile “climate change” may or may not be happening, which again theoretically could increase surface temperatures by a degree or two. So, what’s the real offender here, a law which stacks “fuel” literally on top of each other waiting for a spark or average air temperatures that are marginally above where they were a century ago?

What’s the solution? Is it wrecking the American (not world) economy by trashing industries that are already heavily regulated for air pollution or perhaps we’d all be better off by letting a modern-day Paul Bunyan go in and harvest excess trees in the forest? Or, as the Examiner editors suggest, devote a greater amount of the forest management budget to clearing and controlled burns rather than blowing all the dough on emergency firefighting?

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that today’s firefighting crews must dedicate a greater chunk of their precious time to battling fires threatening homes instead of setting up firewalls and conducting preventative maneuvers like they may have done in the past. It’s no secret to anyone living in California that new housing communities sprouted up all over the landscape, many of which are in areas considered high-risk for fires (and mudslides, but that’s another story).

If a thousand homes now occupy land that thirty years ago was open prairie fire crews wouldn’t have had to spend time putting out an inferno in that vicinity back then. More homes, more threats, more resources needed to battle fires. It’s clear to see.

Yet California’s inane government preoccupies itself with far-off fantasies and solutions that won’t immediately help solve the environmental problems. Nothing demonstrates this better than San Francisco, which is moving to “ban” practically everything in pursuit of liberal nirvana.

Steven Greenhut wrote at The American Spectator, “[I]n San Francisco, two supervisors last week proposed banning companies from having cafeterias that offer employees free food and drink. That’s a big thing in that city’s tech community. ... Who would have guessed that cafeterias would even be a public-policy issue? I’ve worked at companies with them and without them. But I would have found it more likely for lefties to require such things rather than prohibit them…

“What did I miss? ‘The supervisors introduced the legislation because they say tech companies’ employees are hurting local restaurants by taking advantage of the perk and eating in-house, rather than patronizing neighborhood eating establishments,’ reported Smart Cities Dive. In other words, this ban is designed to help local businesses. Got it now? It’s important to keep competing social causes straight as you play the ‘ban or subsidize’ game, but it can be perplexing.”

In his article Greenhut goes on to talk about the now infamous plastic straw ban (which is intended to keep plastic out of the ocean but won’t really address the root of the problem, which is centered in underdeveloped countries) and probably the most harmful “ban” of all. Greenhut added, “San Francisco supervisors last month voted unanimously ‘in favor of a resolution to urge the city to screen insurers for their investments in coal and tar sands…’”

So if an insurer invests in an energy company it could face repercussions and penalties in places like San Francisco. You can’t make this stuff up. Greenhut says San Fran’s ruling class is just following the lead of California’s legislature which has desperately tried to get insurers and businesses to divest from fossil-fuel based enterprises.

Again, we’re back to mind and behavior control to stave off the dreaded “climate change.” It doesn’t get any dumber than this. Only in California…or is this a trend that will spread like (pardon the expression) “wildfire” to other liberal legislative enclaves across the country? We’ll need to keep an eye on it for sure.

Liberals will blame just about anything or everyone for all problems – usually President Donald Trump makes for a convenient target. R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. wrote at The American Spectator, “President Trump has been compared to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Benito Mussolini, and, of course, Richard Nixon by his critics. Thus far the President has not been compared to Stalin by them, but one would not expect it. Many of them still have a warm spot in their hearts for Stalin or ‘Uncle Joe’ as FDR was given to calling the vaunted Man of Steel…

“Yet as I go to press, the President has not been blamed for the California fires or even for Leslie Moonves’ problems with women, many of whom have now apparently changed their minds about his good intentions, in some cases after decades of reflection. Good show, Mr. President! Stay out of California and the Moonves business.”

Sage advice. Trump won’t benefit at all from being associated with California – and I’m sure if you look hard enough you can find someone out there blaming him for the state’s fire problem. It's what liberals do best – identify a scapegoat and then flog it mercilessly.

As would be expected California’s fire troubles are inexorably linked to the mindset of its political leadership. Instead of buckling down and addressing the root of problems, Gov. Jerry Brown prefers to blame “climate change.” Remember this the next time you see a house in flames on TV.

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