I was going to post on the continuing collapse of newspapers, a cloud way closer than the horizon and plenty bigger than a man’s or even Kong’s hand, but this piece, alerting us to something way scarier than an asteroid on a collision course, puts today’s bad news, and smidgens of good news, in the shade. (I’m so upset I can’t even remember how I got to this to give a ht!)

I am an optimistic person and up to now expected us (I mean all the passengers on the spaceship, not just Americans or Californians or bloggers) to get through the crises of the moment by hard work, smart policy and programs, confidence, and some muddling. Sorry to blight the Christmas of the few people who are spending it in front of computer screens, but I have to report all this now to be deeply uncertain. Sandra Boynton summed it up many years ago on an immortal card: front page, “Things are getting worse”; inside page “Send chocolate.” Great challenges, widespread deprivation, and collective enterprise need more chocolate, not less.

Need, I said. I am off to rend the odd garment, brush my teeth for better gnashing, dig some ashes out of the fireplace, and try to find sackcloth pants and jacket that match (and weren’t rent in November ’04). Y’all have as nice a Christmas as you can under the circumstances.

On our way into the coming valley of despair, I can perhaps do our loyal readers a last favor: it’s every man, woman, and child for him- and herself now, sauve qui peut and like that, and you don’t want to be late for the hoarding, which begins tomorrow morning when the shops open except (this is important) in the Bay Area of California, where it begins Saturday morning, not before, is that perfectly clear? And don’t think about hitting my favorite confectionery mail-order websites before I get there either!

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.