INKED! California above all needs more Jello

Someone call Jello Biafra, Californians need him. We need a laugh, because nothing seems very funny in the Golden State these days.

The sublime brilliance of 1979’s “California Über Alles,” Biafra’s tour de farce with the influential Bay Area punks The Dead Kennedys, was the perfect satirical thumb in the eye for former — and current — Gov. Jerry Brown at just the right time.

The state was between Brown’s first and second terms as governor, and already California had gotten its laughingstock reputation as an enclave for the fruit loops of the post-hippy, pre-Gordon Gecko era.

Brown seemed to be the embodiment of the California aesthetic at the time, a carefully crafted caricature dropped in somewhere between the flower power burnouts emerging into the sunshine after the twilight of the Haight-Ashbury movement, and the coked-out, “greed is good” era of decadence, disco and DeLoreans. Sacramento seemed closer to Laurel Canyon than the geography would suggest.

This was reflected perfectly in Biafra’s send-up on the unfortunately named Gov. Moonbeam, with his rock star girlfriend and interplanetary aspirations for the state.

In 1979, the Capitol felt a whole lot like the Hotel California, with people checking out whenever they liked, but never really leaving. That’s the easy reference, of course, to the late ’70s Eagles classic, but, again, it was apt for California, as Brown was part of a mini-dynasty, following in the footsteps of his father, former Gov. Pat Brown (1959-1967), coming “home” for two terms, and, well, he’s in his old room today, although the scenery, circumstances and sheets have been changed.

Again, it shows how unintentionally prescient Biafra actually was. Although “California Über Alles” was liberally sprinkled with references to Brown’s hippy-dippy ways and allusions to auras, meditation, Zen Buddhism and organic poison gas, it also foretold Brown’s larger aspirations for the presidency, for big government and the dominance of the state.

Unfortunately, the third act of Brown’s story arc is more problematic. With California’s eroding economy and stature, it’s been more difficult for the state to remain “above all” and allow Brown to live up to Biafra’s vision.

Biafra needs to update his own work, to revisit, revise and reinterpret “California Über Alles” for a more cynical time, where moonbeams have been eaten up by black holes of never-ending credit lines, plummeting bond ratings and coffers as spartan as the governor’s hairline.

California is still a monster, one of the largest economies in the world. But that’s not saying much these days, and even then, it’s slipping. A couple of days ago, our fine state slid from the No. 8 spot into No. 9, behind Brazil, a Third World country.

With an economy valued at $1.9 trillion, I can’t figure out for life of me what we still produce other than bad movies, bad TV and utter confusion for the people who live here.

And yet somehow, some way, somebody’s making money in this crazy landscape. The Franchise Tax Board announced Thursday that the number of millionaires in California rose sharply from tax year 2009 to tax year 2010, by 27 percent.

Sadly that Butter Face Kim Kardashian is one of them, having made $12 million in 2010 for allowing the world a glimpse into her vacant, vapid life, her boudoir of brainlessness.

She, apparently, is what ails California — the millionaires who pay 10.3 percent in taxes, while the middle income family in this state pay 9.3 percent. Kardashian is now the target of an online campaign to raise the tax rate on California’s wealthiest residents.

That’s a no-brainer; do it already. What California needs is a no-brain tax, to penalize the people who contribute nothing to the economy or the culture of a fundamentally great state cracking at its moorings. Tax Brown, the Legislature, the incorrigible unions, the do-nothings who make sucking from the teat of the safety net a generational ritual.  

Come on, Jello. I’m laying this all out for you, softly tossing the ball in the air, waiting for you to take your shot.




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Plus
  • RSS Feeds
  • Mobile Alerts and Apps