Ed Driscoll

California at Twilight

Victor Davis Hanson sticks a fork in California, and declares it over:

So Much Taxation, So Little in Return

Thank God for Mississippi and Alabama, or California schools would test dead last.

Somehow, in just thirty years we created obstacles to public learning that produce results approaching the two-century horrific legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. About half the resources of the California State University system are devoted to remedial schooling for underperforming high school students (well over half who enter take remediation courses; half don’t graduate even in six years; and well over half have sizable financial aid). The point of CSU’s general education requirement is not so much any more to offer broad learning (who is to say what is “general education?”), but rather to enter a sort of race, class, and gender boot camp that allows some time off to become familiar with how the culture and politics of the state should continue.

The majority of the once-vaunted upper-tier University of California campuses now resemble second-tier CSU of old. Yet I think a Fresno State graduate of 1965 was far better educated than a UC Irvine or UC Santa Cruz student of today.

The state’s wealthiest and best-prepared students are perhaps only well-taught at its elite schools — the two UC campuses at Berkeley and UCLA, Stanford, Caltech, USC, Pepperdine, or Santa Clara — while the poorer but still serious students increasingly enroll in the new private online and tech schools that sprout up around failed CSU campuses. Why pay for the farce of GE, when you can just get the nuts-and-bolts job skills cheaper and quicker at a tech school?

Stagecoach Trails

Little need be said about infrastructure other than it is fossilized. The lunacy of high-speed rail is not just the cost, but that a few miles from its proposed route are at present a parallel but underused Amtrak track and the 99 Highway, where thousands each day risk their lives in crowded two lanes, often unchanged since the 1960s.

The 99, I-5, and 101 are potholed two-lane highways with narrow ramps, and a few vestigial cross-traffic death zones. But we, Californian drivers, are not just double the numbers of those 30 years ago, but — despite far safer autos and traffic science — far less careful as well. There are thousands of drivers without licenses, insurance, registration, and elementary knowledge of road courtesy. Half of all accidents in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs.

My favorite is the ubiquitous semi-truck and trailer swerving in and out of the far left lane with a 20-something Phaethon behind the wheel — texting away as he barrels along at 70 mph with a fishtailing 20 tons. The right lane used to be for trucks; now all lanes are open range for trucking — no law in the arena! The dotted lane lines are recommendations, not regulations. (Will young truck drivers be hired to become our new high-speed rail state employee engineers?)

When I drive over the Grapevine, I play a sick game of counting the number of mattresses I’ll spot in the road over the next 100 miles into L.A. (usually three to four). Lumber, yard clippings, tools, and junk — all that is thrown into the back of trucks without tarps. To paraphrase Hillary: what does it matter whether we are killed by a mattress or a 2 x 4? In places like Visalia or Madera, almost daily debris ends up shutting down one of the only two lanes on the 99.

Oh, and speaking of high speed rail, in a post at Red State, Moe Lane is “Anticipating the upcoming Great California High-Speed Rail Disaster of 2013+.” How bad is it? This bad:

This is the part from the LA Times that I want to quote:

The land purchases are waiting on the hiring of a team of specialized contractors, but they cannot start their work until the rail agency gets approval from another branch of the state bureaucracy. About 400 parcels are needed for the first construction segment, a 29-mile stretch from Madera to Fresno.

The formal offers will start an eminent domain action, the legal process for seizing land from private owners. The owners have 30 days to consider the offer, and then the state must go through a series of steps that can add 100 more days of appeals and hearings, assuming the state can get on the court calendar, according to Robert Wilkinson, an eminent domain litigator in Fresno. If the state fails to convince a judge that a quick takeover of property is justified, formal trials could stretch on for 18 months, he added.

“I would think a lot of these are going to end up in litigation,” he said. “It is a tight schedule, no question about it.”

And finally, Yahoo reports, “California police probe stunts that shut down freeways.”

Yes, how dare individuals pull stunts that slow California’s transportation infrastructure to a crawl. Don’t those poor fools know that’s the government’s job?

Update: “Growth boom out of steam: California Population Stagnates.” As Mark Steyn asked a few years ago, “what’s the point of creating a secular utopia if it’s only for one generation?”