Mike Davis on the SoCal Flame Blame Game


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The search for someone to blame for the Southern California fires continues. Current top suspects: climate change and kids with matches. In today’s TomDispatch, master of urban disaster Mike Davis lays the blame for the San Diego conflagrations at the feet of former city mayor Pete Wilson. Before he went on to become “the baddest governor to ever grab the mic and go boom!”*, Wilson sparked the development boom that turned the city’s backcountry into “pyrophiliac gated suburbs and elite estates.” And if you think the appeal of these little tinderboxes on the hillside has gone up in smoke, think again, says Davis:

…the new fire cataclysm seems to be rewarding the very insiders most responsible for the uncontrolled building and underfunded fire protection that helped give the Santa Ana winds their real tinder. While conservative ideologues now celebrate San Diego’s most recent tragedy as a “triumph” of middle-class values and suburban solidarity, the business community openly gloats over the coming reconstruction boom and the revival of a building industry badly shaken by the mortgage crisis.

* For a recap of Wilson’s greatest hits, check out the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s 1992 version of “California Über Alles,” which memorably skewered the then-presidential aspirant: “I give the rich a giant tax loophole / I leave the poor living in a poophole.”

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