THINK GLOBALLY, ACT YOKELLY: Don’t look now, but experts with the Centers for Disease Control have warned we may be in for an outbreak of sanity. It’s possible this is yet another media-induced sky-is-falling frenzy of Chicken-Little-ism. Who, after all, can forget the keening disappointment when the worldwide paralysis promised by Y2K failed to deliver? Or when the mass swarms of Africanized killer bees never arrived as predicted? It’s too soon for hysteria, but there’s evidence to suggest sanity might be poised to go viral. For starters, the house of cards that is the world economy somehow managed to survive for one more week despite the debilitating fiscal crisis that brought Greece — a nation with a gross national product less than Yolo County’s — to the brink of economic extinction. And at least for the time being, Israel and Iraq have not begun chucking nuclear weapons at one another. On a related note, the Brookings Institute just released a report indicating the federal government could save $35 billion — over 10 years — by reducing the number of times the United States could blow up the entire planet. This savings would be achieved by reducing the number of nuclear warheads we keep at our proverbial fingertips. Even with this reduction, it turns out, the United States will still have the capacity to blow up the world more times than all the other nuclear powers combined.
Of course, some of this savings will be needed to be used to clean up the $100-million nuclear mess at the UC Davis campus — reported this week by the Sacramento Bee — which has been home to a an unlined toxic pit holding the carcasses of 800 dead beagles that were force-fed strontium-90 and a host of other intensely radioactive compounds. This was all part of a decades-long Cold War study, initiated in the 1950s, to determine exactly how much atom bomb fallout a human body can endure and still look good stuffed into an evening dress. The answer, they discovered, is yes, that mushroom cloud does make your ass look fat.
Last Tuesday, citizens of the late, great state of Mississippi voted in large measure to reject a proposed constitutional amendment hatched by ardent right-to-lifers that would have endowed any collisions of sperm and egg — whether in a Petri dish or the walls of a human uterus — with all the legal rights of a full-fledged person. Had the measure passed, the morning-after pill could have been deemed murder. Exit polls showed that Mississippi voters were nervous about what’s known as “the personhood” movement because of negative connotations stemming from the Supreme Court’s recent ruling giving corporations personhood status, as well. As such, the court gave corporations the same inalienable free-speech rights as the rest of us, meaning they can donate as much money under as many tables to as many political candidates as possible. In this new campaign-finance universe, it’s worth remembering that the only force capable of exerting any sustained countervailing pressure to uncontested corporate control are the labor unions.
Keep that firmly in mind the next time some well-intentioned but hopelessly misguided Ivy League libertarian utopian type starts spouting off about how unions are destroying society. And yes, Lanny Ebenstein, I am talking about you. Lanny, who now writes regularly for the News-Press — which both practices and preaches union busting at the highest levels — is pushing a statewide ballot initiative that would prohibit public-employee unions from any form of collective bargaining. I always regarded Ebenstein’s initiative DOA, done in by its own extremity. But after Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would severely hamstring public-employee unions there last week, I’m even more convinced Ebenstein’s political pitch pipe is in desperate need of recalibration. But similar retooling is clearly in order for Santa Barbara’s very own POA — short for the Police Officers Association — which, while not clinically DOA, is perilously close. For the first time in Santa Barbara’s existence, not one of the City Council candidates endorsed by the POA managed to get elected. (It should be noted that the firefighters union was joined at the hip with the POA in this failure.) Two of the more conservative candidates to win — Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse — were actively opposed by the guns-and-hoses bloc. Cathy Murillo, the real never-given-a-serious-chance lefty-progressive Cinderella story in the race, won without their endorsement.
That means when the new council is sworn in next January, there will be only one councilmember on the dais endorsed by the public safety unions — Frank Hotchkiss. The good thing about Frank is that he gets right to the point and he’s quick to make jokes at his own expense. But when you vote against opening up fire stations as repositories for babies that might otherwise get tossed into dumpsters —
as Frank recently did — then maybe such humor is a necessary defense. I know everyone is making a historical fuss over Murillo being the first Latina to be elected to the City Council. And that’s a big deal. But she’s also the first ex-Santa Barbara Independent reporter — she worked here six years as a staff reporter — and ardent champion of all things pit-bullish to achieve so exalted an office. Regardless of her multiple and historic genealogies, Murillo, I’m betting, will bring a freshness of spirit that will improve the otherwise congenially constipated chemistry of that body.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the citizens of Arizona — in their first recall election ever — yanked from office Russell Pearce, President of the Arizona State Senate and the man most responsible for Senate Bill 1070, which requires Arizona cops to enforce federal immigration laws and is not just “politically incorrect,” but really bad law enforcement. Pearce, drunk on his success, got in trouble when he upped the ante and tried to require teachers and medical professionals to determine the immigration status of their charges. Like I say, we might be experiencing the first wave of a sanity epidemic. I’m just hoping the federal government has a vaccine stockpiled in some underground bunker.