Tag Archives: California

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: The Los Angeles Billboard Wars Continue

Billboards of the Future

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Constitutionally-protected free speech essential to commerce? Hyper commercialistic eyesores and driving distractions? The Los Angeles billboard wars continue.
After digital billboards, what comes next?

For a hot second it looked as though Los Angeles’ ban on digital billboards – essentially giant televisions mounted on top and on the sides of buildings – had settled the matter. But a superior court judge struck down the ban as a violation of free speech under the state Constitution in October, kicking the issue back to the City Council. That rarely bodes well for a coherent solution anytime soon.

That said, there are a number of remedies to what critics describe as a blight of giant moving images reminiscent of the dystopian film “Blade Runner,” which incidentally was set in an L.A. that seemed to have crashed into Hong Kong during endless rain.

Among the possible solutions now being considered by council members are “sign districts,” outside of which digital billboards would be prohibited. However, the idea that seems to have the most traction at this point is to allow a certain square footage of new digital billboards in exchange for the removal of an equivalent, or greater, area of traditional static ones.

David Zahniser reports in The Times: “Clear Channel Outdoor said it favors a takedown formula that allows for new digital billboards. But it has been resisting the effort to scale back the locations where billboards could be permitted. If city officials are interested in eliminating a significant number of older billboards, said company spokeswoman Fiona Hutton, they will need to offer more potential sites for new digital signs.”

No one seems to be proposing an outright ban.

Since nothing in life is certain but death, taxes and advertising in increasingly – and annoyingly – previously off-limits public spaces, the future of digital billboards seems assured in Los Angeles. The only question is, how many will there be and how many of the old-fashioned ones will get taken down.

As a cartoonist who likes to consider possible future ramifications for public policy, I can’t help wonder about what comes next. America’s best minds don’t go into the arts or politics; they work for transnational corporations that hire other great minds on Madison Avenue to figure out how to sell us stuff that we didn’t even know existed, much less needed. Sooner rather than later, therefore, today’s wild and crazy digital billboards will become part of the scenery. Pedestrians, if they still exist, and motorists will learn to ignore them.
After digital billboards, what comes next?

There will have to be something new, and that something probably will include holographic projections that tower over the skyline. Ideally – in their thinking — companies would be able to transmit signals directly into our brains suggesting that we purchase their products. And when that happens, we will go through this process again, taking down ineffectual old digital billboards while issuing the right to fill the skies and clutter our minds.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Drought Goes On, California Goes On Too

Happy Hour

 

Some “deep green” environmentalists believe that the tab for two-plus centuries of industrialization is about to come due in the form of a catastrophic ecological disaster — one that might lead to the great sixth mass extinction on a scale similar to the meteor believed to have taken out the dinosaurs. (Yes, that means you, human reader.)

Here in California, the current drought — which some scientists believe may be the worst in 500 years — understandably leaves many Golden State residents, always aware of water restrictions in a region surrounded by deserts, with a sense of disquiet. What if this goes on? Will the California Dream turn to dust and blow away?

Apparently not. Like the Earth in general, California’s climate is surprisingly resilient, according to recent computer models.

State climate researchers ran a projection of what would happen after “even decades of unrelenting mega-drought similar to those that dried out the state in past millennia,” reports Bettina Boxall of the Times.

“The results were surprising,” Jay Lund of UC Davis told her.

If you own stock in the ag business, you might want to consider unloading them. Agriculture, the climatologists found, would be hit hard. “In their computer simulation, annual runoff into rivers and reservoirs amounted to only about half the historical average. Most reservoirs never filled. Under that scenario, experts say, irrigated farm acreage would plunge…The state’s 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could fall by as much as half, predicted Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. Farmers would largely abandon relatively low-value crops such as cotton and alfalfa and use their reduced water supplies to keep growing the most profitable fruits, nuts and vegetables. They would let fields revert to scrub or dry-farm them with wheat and other crops that predominated before California’s massive federal irrigation project transformed the face of the Central Valley in the mid-20th century.”

Biodiversity would suffer too. “Aquatic ecosystems would suffer, with some struggling salmon runs fading out of existence.”

Water prices will rise. Desalination plants will be built along the coast. While initially painful, the agrishock would only affect 4% of the state’s economy — notable, but not fatal.

Bottom line: “The California economy would not collapse. The state would not shrivel into a giant, abandoned dust bowl. Agriculture would shrink but by no means disappear.”

Paradoxically, this good news (or not-that-bad news, anyway) is bad news.

Political and economic leaders tend to ignore problems before they turn into a crisis — especially when heading off the issue would cost money. The news that California’s drought probably won’t lead to ruin within their lifetimes, or our children’s lifetimes, ensures that they’ll keep ignoring environmental destruction. Species will keep going extinct. Flocks of birds will continue to thin out. Invasive species will accelerate the process. These things may not sink the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but they really really really suck.

This is one of those rare times when I wish — almost — that the scientists had lied about what they discovered.

Neel Kashkari Takes to the Mean Streets of Fresno

Will Governate 4 Food

Yes, Virginia, the Republicans are running someone against California governor Jerry Brown. His name is Neel Kashkari.

Kashkari has been virtually invisible throughout what has passed for the campaign. (Not literally. There is no evidence that he has mastered the ability to bend light around himself so as to render his physical form undetectable to the human eye. Just in the media, which has decided that he isn’t worth covering because he probably won’t win. Which is true, since the media won’t cover him. Funny how that works.)

What do you do when the struggle for visibility gets tough?

Publicity stunt!

In what his supporters would likely say was an earnest attempt to showcase the ongoing problem of un- and underemployment in California despite the economic “recovery” — if anyone bothered to ask his supporters — and what everyone else, including pundits, would call a cheap ploy, Kashkari says he spent the last week playacting as a homeless person in search of work.

Seema Mehta of the Times reports:

“Kashkari wrote that he took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Fresno on July 21 with ‘only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush.’ He said he planned to find a job. “I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work. ‘Kashkari was accompanied by two videographers, who produced a 10-minute video. The footage shows a scruffy Kashkari saying, ‘This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life.'”

All Gen X smirkery aside, I think it’s admirable that any politician, especially a Republican — the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans don’t even pretend to care about poor people — is drawing attention to the misery experienced by millions of Californians suffering through grinding poverty with no foreseeable end in sight. Sure, Kashkari is a multi-millionaire who could, and did, go home whenever he wanted. But when’s the last time you slept outside to see what it was like? Hell, I don’t even like camping.

So, good on Kashkari.

Still, I have some logistical and logical questions for him.

Like, why Fresno? The economy isn’t that bad there, relatively.

Why forty bucks? Why not $20 or $100?

Did the $5 bus fare come out of the $40?

Did he panhandle? Steal? I would.

Why was a toothbrush deemed essential, but not floss? Was there even toothpaste, and if not, why not, and if so, why wasn’t it mentioned? How about mouthwash? (Note to Gov. Brown’s opposition research team: Kashkari’s commitment to oral hygiene halfhearted at best. 92% of voters say ‘ewww.’)

When the Man Who Would Be Governor approached foremen at Fresno area construction sites, how eager for work did he appear? After all, this was an experiment that would have failed mightily had his able-bodied 41-year-old self been scooped off the mean streets of the Raisin Capital and offered a zillion bucks to run a hedge fund. Did he, full of honesty and integrity, pledge to work hard at low wages with little concern for his personal safety? Or was he all Little Lord Fauntleroy about it: “I don’t do sweat, dude”?

So many questions. I’d ask them all, too. But that would be against the rules. He’s a long-shot gubernatorial candidate and I’m a pundit.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Dumbistan

Dumbistan

Silicon Valley zillionaires feel entitled. They like to get everything their way. They order off the menu. Steve Jobs, who famously parked across two handicapped spaces, prompted a note riffing on Apple’s famous advertising slogan: “Park different.” So it was bound to a matter of time — a short time — before they began screwing around with politics, and doing it in their usual brash, short-sighted way.

Timothy Draper made his money the old-fashioned way: his father made a bunch of smart investments that paid off. Like most members of the American nobility, being born at mile 25 ½ in the marathon of life has convinced Draper that he knows best how to cure everything that ails California:

Split the state into six smaller states.

Draper has submitted 1.3 million signatures to state election officials, which allowing for disqualified signatures will probably be enough to meet the 807,615-signature requirement to place his referendum — the Chinese Communist Party would call his idea “splittism” — on the ballot for consideration by voters in November 2016.

California, Draper says, is too big to not fail. With six smaller states governed from six new capitals, he argues, these state governments will be closer to the people — geographically, anyway. Personally, I don’t see the logic. If geographic proximity led legislatures to take better care of constituents, wouldn’t the city governments of state capitals be cleaner, safer and less corrupt than cities and towns further away from legislators’ offices? From Sacramento to Austin to Harrisburg to Albany, however, there is no evidence of that.

Patrick McGreevy writes in The Times:

A Field Poll in February found that 59% of California voters oppose a breakup of the state, Maviglio noted, and the strategist predicted the business community and Democratic and Republican leaders will will campaign against it. “There is no groundswell of support  for this,” said Maviglio. California, he said, “is going to bea laughing stock on [TV comedy shows, including] Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman because of this idea. For anyone considering investment in our state, this raises a question of uncertainty.”

Even if voters approve the ballot measure, breaking up California would have to win approval of Congress, which he said is doubtful. “Is Congress going to give California 10 more senators?” Maviglio asked.

The Republican House? Give Democratic California 10 more senators? Probably not.

So this is a perfect referendum: except for its dubious constitutionality, political unpopularity and almost certain unfeasibility. Which makes me wonder: who are the 1.3 million Californians who signed Draper’s petitions? Sure, I know that voting to put something on the ballot isn’t the same thing as turning up to vote and then supporting a measure. Still, some ideas are so dumb we shouldn’t have to waste our time discussing them in the first place — and this one clearly qualifies.

Which has me thinking: maybe these people need a place all to themselves.

A dumb place.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: The Murrieta Blockade

Slippry Slope

 

Hands down, the most asked question asked of political cartoonists is: where do you get your ideas?

To which my first reply is usually some variant of “if you have trouble coming up with complaints about politicians or politics, this probably isn’t the right job for you.” Coming up with ideas, or at least topics, has never been an issue for me or any other professional cartoonist I know.

Like other artists, editorial cartoonists use their outlet to work out their issues in public. Most people get annoyed at the president and other political types. The difference between other people and we cartoonists is that, rather than random grousing over beers, we labor under the illusion that we can actually change things (yes, by drawing funny pictures…so we’re delusional. Whatever.).

Sometimes our cartoons reflect our visceral personal reactions to a news story. This week’s cartoon is an example.

When I first heard news accounts of people in Murrieta, California gathering to block federal government buses transporting women and children detained for entering the United States illegally from entering the town, I assumed the protesters were advocates for the immigrants — well-meaning liberals protesting the shabby treatment, such as being held in prisons for up to two years while awaiting deportation hearings, in inhumane conditions and often without adequate legal representation, suffered by people fleeing economic hardship and rampant crime in Central America and elsewhere.

Upon further investigation, however, I learned that the protesters were actually on the opposite side: right-the feds were cruel to what are, by any sane account, refugees from economic and political violence, but rather that they weren’t aggressive enough in enforcing border controls.

As a leftie, I am unusual. I agree that the border has been left open intentionally, and that it ought to be secured. You can’t call yourself a nation-state without controlling who comes and goes; to the contrary, strong border control is one of the defining features of a functioning nation-state. Also, it’s nonsense to complain that sealing the Mexico-U.S. frontier isn’t feasible. The former Soviet Union had a southern border many times longer than that to control, both to keep citizens in and to keep insurgents from places like Afghanistan out, and possessed fewer resources than the U.S. — yet it successfully managed to keep things under wraps.

I favor a wall, a strong border. But it will never happen. Republicans like the border open because their corporate backers like the depressing effect illegal immigration has upon wages; Democrats know that the legally-born children of today’s illegal immigrants are the Democratic voters of tomorrow. Both parties are in cahoots on this issue.

In the meantime, I can’t view the human traffic across the border, originating in some cases from countries destabilized by American intervention, as anything less than people who need and deserve our help. By all means, complain about the perfidy of a federal government that claims the right to invade sovereign nations on the other side of the world yet pretends not to be able to control who comes and goes from Mexico to California. But please don’t pick on the women and children — and the adult men — who are merely doing what comes naturally: trying to survive.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Senators Behaving Badly

Senatorial Rules of Conduct

The motto of California’s State Senate had might as well be changed to homines qui pravis — men behaving badly.

As Patrick McGreevy reports in The Times, three members are currently under suspension due to scandals.

Roderick Wright of Los Angeles County was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying about living in his district. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco have been indicted by the feds, accused of influence peddling. Yee, who presented himself as a staunch proponent of gun control, has also been formally accused of offering to connect an undercover FBI agent posing as someone in the market for automatic weapons and RPGs with an international weapons dealer.

Smarting from these blows to their reputation, Senate leaders put their heads together and decided to recruit potential candidates from only the most morally upright, self-sacrificing Californians.

Just kidding.

Actually, they really did come up with a solution: a proposed list of 12 “Standards of Conduct” members would be expected to abide by.

McGreevy calls the standards “fairly common-sense.” Which is true. They’re so common-sense as to prompt the question: why do they need them?

Among the highlights:

  • “A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not accept outside employment that is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his or her duties.”
  • “A Senator shall not use the prestige of his or her office, and an officer or employee of the Senate shall not use the status of his or her position, for material or financial gain or private benefit.”
  • “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to be informed and prepared, recognizing all sides of an issue.”
  • “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to make proper use of public funds.”

Um…duh?

May I suggest Rule 13? “Each Senator shall wear pants, or a skirt, or a pantsuit or other suitable article of clothing as to properly cover his or her private parts when conducting his or her duties in the Senate, with the exception of when nature calls, and then only in a suitable restroom and then with the latch firmly attached so that others may not observe.”

We have finally arrived, it seems, at the stage when it is no longer reasonable to expect behavior that society once considered so standard that it needed neither to be taught nor explained, much less enforced by law. Conflict of interest was always, obviously unethical. Diverting public funds for personal use was always embezzlement, clearly illegal, evidently wrong. Political service was a public trust; while one always had parochial, partisan interests to consider, it was a given that the greater good took ultimate precedence — at least that it should.

You know what would be a better way to improve the ethical standards of state senators than these painfully obvious Standards of Conduct? Subject them to an IQ test. Because if you don’t know this stuff by the time you’re old enough to run for public office, you’re too stupid to serve.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Why split Calif. into only six states? Go libertarian all the way!

40,000,000 Californias Can't Be Wrong

Before now I was unclear on why California should be divvied up into six smaller states. But I didn’t feel bad. Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist billionaire guy who is trying to collect enough signatures to put a California Balkanization proposition on the ballot, seemed unclear about his idea too.

Thanks for George Skelton’s column, however, Draper has finally shed some light on why California should fade into history, replaced by six new states (assuming Congress were to admit them to the Union), one of which would be called, um, Jefferson.

Skelton explains: “Draper’s split-up-California proposal, he contends, would result in more local control and focus on regional problems.”

Local control! Bien sur.

Draper may or may not be nuts, but you can’t reflexively dismiss the argument that Sacramento may be a too far away to understand the issues affecting people 600 miles away in Calexico.

But that’s where I get stuck.

If more local control is better, and if the way to get more local control is to divide the state into smaller statelets, the question locally follows: why six? Why not seven or eight?

Connecticut is a small state. It’s well run. Why not cut California into 49 Connecticut-sized states?

Actually, scratch that “well run” part. The Nutmeg State ranks 41st out of 50.

Um, Rhode Island? Smallest of them all?

Number 47.

Anyway.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there was evidence to support the notion that smaller is better. Where does it stop? Why not declare every one of California’s 38 million people the sole citizen of their own state, with their home their capitals? With 76 million United States Senators, that would give The States Formerly Known as California serious juice in Congress.

(Draper argues that ex-California would have 12 Senators, which would be better than two. Though he doesn’t explain why they’d necessarily cooperate with each other, what with having gone their separate ways in the first place specifically because they don’t have enough in common to stay together.)

Speaking of inconvenient truths, few people have brought up the fact that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow new states to be created by splitting up existing states (as happened, for example, when West Virginia left Virginia) without approval of Congress. With the Senate controlled by Democrats, it’s unlikely they’d sign off on a new configuration that would add a net of Republican seats.

Everything said, I don’t know if splitting the state would be a net benefit or net disaster. What I find fascinating is the transparently faulty logic being floated for a project with breathtaking implications — from a man who’s obviously smart enough to know better.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bruised Egos in Sacramento

Bruised Egos in Sacramento

 

Anything can be a point of pride. Your local baseball team. The weather. Political corruption.

The genesis of today’s cartoon is a barroom argument I found myself having at least 20 years ago with a Chicagoan. “The Illinois state legislature,” he stated confidently, “is the most corrupt in the country.” I made cases for my home state of Ohio and my adopted home of New York. Overhearing us, a third man approached, loaded for bear, to make clear that anyone who challenged Harrisburg, home of Pennsylvania’s state house, as the stinkiest cesspool in all of American politics would have to deal with him and his voluminous knowledge of the Keystone State’s seemingly infinite list of dirty deeds.

There was never any doubt that this week’s piece would be about Leland Yee, the pro-gun control state senator accused of attempted arms smuggling. As they say, you can’t make these things up. To think that people still ask me where I get my ideas!

“[Yee] held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character,” Scott Shackford writes in Reason. Me, I thought Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” Whatever. Hand slaps forehead, jaw drops.

But how do you cartoon a story whose central character is itself a cartoon? Exaggeration isn’t possible; it’s already too extreme.

You can go with straightforward editorializing. “Isn’t it just awful.” “One more reason people don’t trust politicians.” “What a hypocrite.” Trouble is, the ballpeen hammer to the skull approach disproves the cliché that “it’s funny because it’s true.” It’s true — Yee’s alleged misdeeds are awful and do nothing to help citizens feel good about government ­ — but it’s not funny. Nor interesting.

Instead I approached this story through the back door. Inspired by having recently watched the finale of “Breaking Bad,” a show in which viewers are simultaneously appalled by and admiring of a criminal character, I decided to turn the perspective around. Rather than single out Yee as a bad apple (whom, thanks to the FBI, we can feel happy has been extracted from the newly virtuous political gathering in Sacramento), I depict his corrupt colleagues bemoaning their own lack of ambition and scope compared to Yee’s staggeringly over-the-top perfidy. Given the string of recent scandals out of the state capital, from Roy Ashburn (the gay state senator who voted against gay rights, arrested for DUI) to Michael Duvall (the family values conservative caught bragging about his affairs over an open mic), Yee’s arrest does not likely signal a 99-44/100ths pure state assembly.

It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

With a little luck, it might even make you laugh.

Bitterly laugh, but still.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Homeless

20140319-111159.jpg

 

As a news junkie and student of the human condition, it takes a lot to make my blood come to a full boil. It takes even more to make me sympathize with wealthy corporations. Hand it to Gov. Jerry Brown — he managed to pull off both feats with the news that he diverted $350 million from California’s share of the 2012 national mortgage settlement in order to reduce the state’s 2013 budget deficit.

Now that California is enjoying a budget surplus, a coalition of homeowner advocates and religious organizations has filed suit against the state to force Brown to restore the money.

Back in 2008-09, the real estate bubble burst, taking the global economy with it. By many measures, especially real unemployment and median wages, we still haven’t recovered.

By 2010 a political consensus had formed. Though politicians were partly to blame, the worst offenders were the giant “too big to fail” banks that had knowingly approved loans to homebuyers who couldn’t afford to pay them back, sold bundles of junk mortgage derivatives to unsuspecting investors and secretly hedged their bets against their clients. After the house of cards came down, they played the other side. They cashed in their chips, refused to refinance mortgages even though interest rates had fallen and deployed “robo-signers” to illegally evict hundreds of thousands of homeowners — including people who had never missed a payment — to ding them with outrageous late fees on their way to profitable (for the banks) foreclosure.

On the Left, anger at the banks coalesced around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Though less widely reported, anti-bank sentiment also found a home in the Tea Party.

Politics ultimately play out in the courts. Lawsuits filed by state attorney generals forced the banks to the bargaining table. In 2012 they agreed to cough up $26 billion as penance.

The money was supposed to compensate people who had lost their homes and to help those who were hanging on by a thread avoid eviction, either by refinancing at lower rates or writing down principal to reflect lower real estate prices.

Enter the governors.

Jerry Brown wasn’t unique. Cash-hungry states siphoned off half of their share of the mortgage settlement to plug holes in their budgets.

We will never know how many families became homeless as a result.

The more you think about it, the more disgusting it is. Obviously it’s important for the state to get its fiscal house in order. But not at the expense of those least able to bear the burden. Desperate families lost — and are still losing — their homes so that holders of California’s state debt, much of it held by the same banks who caused the mortgage crisis, can be repaid.

This outrage is not without precedent.

Rather than the anti-smoking and health campaigns they were supposed to launch, the states siphoned off 47% of the $7.9 billion they received from the 1998 tobacco settlement for general budget purposes.

How many kids might have been reached by tobacco education programs that never got off the ground? How many will die of lung cancer? “Fifteen years after the tobacco settlement, our latest report finds that states are continuing to spend only a miniscule portion of their tobacco revenues to fight tobacco use,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in 2014.  In Fiscal Year 2014, the states will collect $25 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.9 percent of it – $481.2 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.”

This is the kind of behavior that prompts conservatives to characterize these settlements as government shakedowns of big business. It’s hard to disagree. As slimy as the banksters were and are — they’re sabotaging political solutions to the foreclosure crisis — they’re just greedy bastards doing what greedy bastards do. Public officials, on the other hand, are supposed to be on our side.

What Brown and his fellow governors have done with the mortgage settlement money is even more nauseating.

 

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Why is Gov. Moonbeam so afraid of legalized marijuana?

Here is my cartoon this week for The Los Angeles Times:

Stay Alert!

 

The statewide legalization of marijuana in Colorado, for recreational as well as medicinal use, has prompted serious consideration of the drug’s health effects and socio-political ramifications. Well, that sure took awhile.

On the pro side, it’s been pretty much established that driving stoned isn’t nearly as dangerous as driving drunk. Since 7% of California motorists are cruising the state’s freeways with cannabis in their systems, that provides some comfort. (Sorry, no word on what percentage of the stoners are drunk as well.) Pot also has proven medical benefits; for example, parents of epileptic children are flocking to Colorado.

But the legalize hemp crowd’s timeless rant that pot is harmless is taking some hits.

A recent study claims to have documented the first two known cases of pot-related fatalities. Other studies find that beginning to smoke weed as a teenager — the most common age to startcan affect brain development, causing memory loss, permanently impaired judgment and even reduced IQ.

In musings that might surprise those who remember his “Moonbeam” period (but not those who have noticed there’s no squarer square than an old hippie), Gov. Jerry Brown took to Sunday morning TV to worry aloud that emulating Colorado could leave the state defenseless against (a) foreign business competition and (b) terrorism.

“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown mused. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

The governor didn’t say whether his garbled grammar was attributable to pot or the shortcomings of his secondary education.

I’m always interested in policy appeals motivated by fear. Politicians have unleashed an awful lot of threats — a few real but mostly imagined — during the last decade and a half. And they haven’t exactly made us a better, stronger or more economically successful nation. Brown’s thoughts are nowhere close to the depraved paranoia of Dick Cheney; the idea that California will be morally and economically weakened, its security undermined, because a tiny minority of the state’s residents regularly indulge in the evil weed seems about as serious and substantial as a puff of smoke.

Stay alert? What’s going to happen if we don’t, governor? Are Chinese sweatshop workers going to take a fiscal victory dance on the bones of our stoner-sapped competitiveness? Will our collected stonedness open up the one big chance radical Islamists have been waiting for?

Californians won’t have the chance to vote for legalized pot until November 2016 — if they’re not too wasted to remember.