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The problem with being California is that we can't have a decent crisis without the national media turning it into an occasion to plumb our collective soul or decry our collective guilt.

The outlanders are already turning rolling electrical outages into the stuff of moral and cultural analysis. "California's Power Crisis Replays a Familiar Theme," a New York Times front-page headline blared the other day, as a reporter tried to connect the electricity crisis - "no problem in a century and a half can compare" - to the fate of the "California Dream."

Commentators across the country treat the outages as a fitting punishment for our "fanaticism" of valuing the environment over energy. . . .

When a hurricane tears up the Gulf Coast or the Carolinas - blowing away towns and flooding communities - the country extends sympathy and help.

But when the flood, fire, earthquake or recession hits California, the story told to . . . the country seems always to have a biblical tinge, the trouble visited upon us treated as a kind of retribution for those who improvidently choose to live in the sun. . . .

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