The Appalachia of the West: California’s agricultural heartland threatens to become a wasteland. From Bookforum, Naomi Fry on California Haze: California is usually portrayed as a palm-treed Eden, wholesome and easeful, but as the Roman Polanski scandal has reminded us, this sunny vision has a lurid underside; and Sonya Geis reviews West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders, and Killers in the Golden State by Mark Arax. Commentators continue to see California as a beacon, for better or for worse, of the future, even as it remains stubbornly sui generis. An article on California as America’s first failed state. The Coast of Dystopia: Is the California dream really, really dead? An article on how tax cuts killed California. A look at how the L.A. suburb of Downey became one of the most toxic towns. The depth of California's political suckitude is hard to fathom — it's like a contest from hell, where both parties try to outdo each other in sleaze and contemptibility. Boom: A Journal of California, scheduled to debut next February, will focus on "informed, critical perspectives about the past, present and future of the state". Will California continue to lead the fight against global warming? California's Nuclear Nexus: A faux disarmament plan has roots in the Golden State's pro-nuclear lobby. A Factory Like a City: A photo essay on a California factory slated to close. Venoco Inc., which wants to begin round-the-clock drilling in the Carpinteria area, is pouring money into a ballot initiative that would exempt it from the city's industrial development and environmental rules. Loose in Obamalandia: John Ross on Dead Man Walking in California. The Great California Wine Mystery: Why superstar West Coast vintners don't (or won't) put out inexpensive bottles.