The Japanese Shinkansen “bullet train” runs at high speeds, but only when you see it up close do you realize how fast. This 16-car express train takes only a few seconds to whip through the Shin-Hanamaki station on its way from Tokyo to Hachinohe in northern Honshu island.

Others have been more eloquent, of course. But allow me to join those who mourn the death of this great journalist.

I grew up in an era when Walter Cronkite told us that’s the way it was. It usually was, and he and his CBS News team earned a nation’s trust.

Many people think of the Kennedy assassination when they remember Cronkite — his moment of visible pain after announcing the president’s death. It was, indeed, one of those moments that stays forever in one’s mind and heart.

I prefer to think of him from the day that brought the greatest joy to an American generation: the first moon landing in 1969. Like so many others, I was watching CBS. The landing was a closer call than most of us knew at the time. Clearly, in retrospect, Cronkite understood how close the lander came to running out of fuel. The relief and happiness on his face after the Eagle settled onto the moon’s surface was a great moment, helped along by a great journalist.

Walter Cronkite was, as we all are, partly a product of his own times. There won’t be — there can’t be in a media ecosystem like the one we’re creating — another like him.

Even though I’m now legally a resident of Arizona, I come back to California frequently and keep in close touch in any case. So watching the state’s finances reach the catastrophic stage has been a fascinating and scary experience.

California’s government is, in a word, dysfunctional. Yes, the hapless Legislature bears much of the responsibility, and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s tenure has been a pathetic joke. They have persistently enacted laws that make the problems worse, and refuse to face up to reality. Posturing has replaced politics, and the state’s on the brink of a true financial meltdown.

But residents might consider looking in the mirror as they decide whom to blame the most. They are the ones who elect these clowns. They are the ones who have voted for fiscally irresponsible policies via the proposition system, beginning with Prop 13, which was and remains the seed that grew into the forest of fiscal destruction.

Now the state is issuing IOUs instead of actual money to its creditors, including taxpayers who were expecting refunds. If the state doesn’t default on its obligations outright I’ll be amazed.

Unbelievable. Yet predictable, and sad.