Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Zocalo Event

Yep, that's me in a necktie, carrying on. Joe Mathews of the New America Foundation asked me to participate in a discussion about California: specifically, whether it would be better off as a separate country (!) That's Joe on the right, and Abe Lowenthal (far left), David Dayen, and Darry Sragow.

I wasn't sure what my contribution would be, but Joe encouraged me to focus on what Carey McWilliams might have said about that question. Which I did, but as my earlier post indicated, I also added a few comments about the key issue where California has acted like a sovereign state: namely, marijuana use.

As I told the Zocalo people, I really like the way they run their business. They're well organized but keep it fun at the same time--a rare combination.

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Paris Review

I was pleased to see Karl Whitney's review of the Ramparts book in 3:AM Magazine, a literary magazine based in Paris. Happily, it also has articles on John Fante, Carey McWilliams's good friend and Charles Bukowski's hero. Check it out, I say.

P.S. Don't be misled by my title. Karl Whitney is based in Dublin.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This Just In


Lots to report since the last post.

I attended the cannabis expo this weekend at the Cow Palace with PoliPointPress author John Geluardi. John is writing a book on medical marijuana (Cannabiz) for PoliPointPress, due out this fall.

If you haven't been following the cannabis saga, you may be missing one of the most important political and business stories of our generation. At the very least, it's the latest example of what Carey McWilliams described as California's peculiar ability to act as "a nation demanding what it had the power to take." Ironically, California was the first state to ban marijuana (in 1913) as well as the first state to re-permit its medical use. And as everyone knows by now, the full legalization of marijuana is on the ballot this November. Even if that measure doesn't pass (this time), many observers think that the cannabis industry is the state's Next Big Thing.

The day before my trip to the Cow Palace, I attended a California studies conference at UC Davis. The California Studies Association, which I chair, was a co-sponsor. This was our first chance to partner with Boom, the new California studies journal published by UC Press, and the New America Foundation. I really enjoyed it, especially the chance to give CSA's Carey McWilliams Award to Peter Schrag. Peter's accomplishments made him a natural recipient, but it meant a lot to me personally because Peter was one of the first people to tell me about the importance of McWilliams and his work. (Former PPIC president David Lyon was another.)

One of the participants at Davis was New America fellow Joe Mathews, who invited me to participate in a Zocalo Public Square event in Los Angeles this week. The topic is "Would California Be Better Off as Its Own Country?" My role, I gather, is to channel Carey McWilliams on California as a nation-state. Should be interesting. I plan to mention medical marijuana as Exhibit A in support of McWilliams's 1949 argument that California demands what it has the power to take.