Archive for July, 2008

Yesterday evening, a woman I hadn’t seen in a year or more  dropped by much to my dismay. This woman is known for her tendency to drop-in unexpectedly, feigning sincerity and gushing over my wife and I.

Then she got down to business. She wondered if I would do something for her. Just a little thing. Could she use my computer to send an email with an attachment?

I hesitated. Boy, did I hesitate. I suspected at least two hours flushed down the tube while she panicked her way through the process of figuring out how to connect to her work e-mail account from my home computer.

But I was wrong. Two hours on the computer and two more hours later, she was sitting in our living room, moaning and groaning about everything that I could not have cared less about. Among other things, she’s a non-stop talker.

Which isn’t the worst part, really. More, she knows everything about everything, including how to screw up my computer.

She’s apparently paranoid, or at least frightened of most things in life except irritating me. One day, she walked over in a red-faced panic, carrying a small box she’d just received in the mail. She wanted me to open it for her. Why? She thought it might have had an explosive device in it. She didn’t want to be blown to smithereens.

But she didn’t mind if my brains wound up splattered all over the place.

Anyway, she sat in a chair in our living room and began rambling. Now, this woman is a sociology teacher in a local college. She has a lot to ramble about. I happen to believe sociology is bunk and she knows my tendencies along these lines. No matter.She applied sociological theory to the presidential race and wound up with a masterful non sequitur.

I hate Barack Obama! He’s arrogant, lacks experience, blah, blah, blah!

She repeated every conservative criticism of Barack that has ever been uttered and perhaps a few that haven’t.

I’m listening and nodding affably, hoping she will soon leave because my wife and I are a mite hungry.

Anyway, as I listened, I wondered what odd confluence in her life had turned her from a flaming left-wing liberal revolutionary who used to demonstrate in the streets into a John McCain lover.

The answer came to me in a moment of silence in her tirade. The once-young liberal had aged. She’d grown not old but cautious. Fear now ruled her life and change is something to avoid. She had fallen victim to the respectability that accompanies a successful career, the possession of a home and things, and a modicum of money in the bank. Now, in contrast to her youthful free spirit, she had a stake in things.

As she finally left, I felt sorry for her, not because she had become fearful but because she was alone. Her fear was a product of loneliness. Sad. Very sad.


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On February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Santa Barbara, fired several shells in the direction of some oil fields about 15 miles north of Santa Barbara, and then returned to sea unscathed.

The sub was the Imperial Japanese Navy Submarine I-17 captained by Commander Nishino Kozo. Before the war, Kozo had been a civilian tanker captain who landed at Santa Barbara to refuel his ship.

Why did he later decide to shell the Santa Barbara area?

In 1982, Parade Magazine reported that Kozo fell while walking up a hill and landed on a cactus. According to the story, Kozo felt embarrassed because he had to expose his private parts to remove the cactus needles. He thus vowed to take revenge.

Do you believe this story? The facts of the attack are true, of course, widely reported in the days following the incident.

But the motivation of the sub commander is something else. It seems like a pure fabrication to me. I hold another opinion based on information that would  suggest a more pragmatic motive.

In those days, discipline in the Japanese military forces was brutal. Some  ex-Japanese Army personnel have written about their experiences and of the rigidity of the system.

In one instance, a commanding officer ordered an errant pilot in training to don a fur lined flying suit and run around a runway in 100 degree temperature until he collapsed.

Given such harshness, a military officers would almost certainly control any whim to act out of pique. A renegade submarine commander most likely would have been severely punished if not executed for a wildcat act against orders.

More than likely the attack was planned and launched in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor to create panic on the West Coast.

The shelling of Santa Barbara wasn’t the only Japanese attempt to destroy American morale. Later, Japan released a thousand or more balloons filled with explosive gasses, hoping the jet stream would carry them across the Pacific to America where they’d eventually fall to the ground and explode. Only one known casualty resulted from the balloon attack.

The Japanese were widely accused of desperate lunacy, but the time and effort devoted to the project speak of a well-planned and executed action, given technology and knowledge then.

Americas today continue to assign motives to the acts of others that are inconsistent with reality.

We could cite many instances, but the most obvious is a constant barrage of accusations against Barack Obama that suggest some sort of hidden anti-American agenda on his part.

He’s accused of being a Muslim, an inaccurate charge that carries with it the idea, also untrue, that all Muslims are inalienable enemies of the U.S.

He’s accused of failing to wear an American flag lapel pin because he harbors a hidden bias against America and America’s servicemen and women.

His wife is accused of anti-Americanism because she recently said that for the first time in her life she is proud of America. Oddly, McCain once uttered similar sentiments with hardly any notice.

Now, we have tired but familiar charges that Obama hates American troops. This one arose from his “failure” to visit wounded soldiers on his recent trip to Germany. That the Defense Department advised against the visit is ignored.

I use the words “tired” and “familiar” to describe Republican attacks on Barack because they employed similar tactics against Bill Clinton in 1992, accusing him among other things of having written a letter indicating his intent to renounce his American citizenship.

On one occasion, the Republican administration of George Bush I accessed Clinton’s passport files in an effort to uncover the phantom letter.

Later, the FBI launched an investigation on specious charges by a Republican operative intended to prove that the letter had been deliberately removed from the file. The charge arose from two staple holes on Clinton’s passport application. To its credit, the FBI found nothing amiss.

The charges against Obama follow a similar pattern and  always contain an implicit or explicit message: Obama has a hidden agenda, a dark motive, an anti-American motive for his actions. Therefore, he is unqualified to become our commander in chief.

Some might suggest, if they knew the story of Santa Barbara, that Obama is like the Japanese submarine commander.

He’s fallen on a cactus. He’s thus emotional, sensitive, impulsive, and waiting for an opportunity to throw a barrage of shells against the first convenient target.

The charges are nothing more than idiotic pap, but unfortunately we live in paranoid times. I suggest that this sort of political campaigning is the ultimate un-American activity. We are a better nation than the behavior of our politicians would suggest.

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Did I read Willie Brown right? I think he wrote that the G&J wedding rehearsal dinner was held in a barn on a horse ranch with 200 guests sitting around the dinner table on hay bales.

I was somewhat taken aback by the scene Willie described because I just couldn’t picture the movers and shakers of the universe eating in a barn.

I’ve been in lots and lots of barns in my life but I’ve never eaten in one. No one eats in barns unless they’ve had surgery to remove their odor receptors. Even then, the pungent aromas of horses, cows, pigs, goats, and chickens have a way of seeping into the cells of the human body.

I can fully understand that Nancy Pelosi might agree to attend a catered dinner in a barn. She obviously was never a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). She has never been exposed to the scents of the natural world.

But as an ex-card carrying member of the FFA, a member who has attended stock shows and tromped around farms and, yes, participated, albeit unwillingly, in the slaughter of Rosie, my FFA project and pet pig who adored me and looked at me with her wide, innocent eyes, I know first hand the appetite depressing nature of up-close and personal relationships with all sorts of animals, including horses. If Jesus Christ invited me to the Last Supper in a barn, I would respectfully decline.

And what about Willie? He’s an East Texas kid. He ought to know better. The odor of farm residue hangs over East Texas from the Arkansas state line to the Gulf of Mexico. I write from experience. We made the drive from Beaumont to Mississippi recently, and the moment we swung north from I-10 and entered the real world, the familiar but unpleasant attar of cows hit me. My wife hasn’t recovered from the shock yet.

I suppose it’s possible that the clean air of Big Sky Country neutralizes the more unpleasant aspects of the environment. Barns in Montana may not smell like barns in East Texas. In that case, I understand. Just another case of the obscenely rich and powerful pretending to be regular folks. All’s well with the world.

By the way, I haven’t been able to eat pork since we dispatched Rosie to the dinner table.

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The 2008 Olympics will kick off in Beijing, China, on August 8. The airwaves will probably be saturated with wall to wall television coverage, and the big boys like CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC will add to the mix with a plethora of special reports about China. If non-stop repetitive “breaking news” were an Olympic event, Team U.S. would take the Gold Medal going away.

As for China, it’s busily preparing for an onslaught of aliens from all over the world by teaching its citizens how, among other things, to walk in the Western style. Their vision seems to be based on the strut of a stiff-backed British Grenadier of the kind that once roamed the streets of Shanghai when the city was largely under British control many years ago.

This year, in addition to the traditional Olympic contests such as track and field, the Olympics will include a new event most of us aren’t familiar with. For the first time, we’ll get to see something called BMX Biking. For the uninitiated, BMX means Bicycle Motorcross, an event that resembles a more-controlled version of dirt-bike racing. I’ll be interested in watching the Americans compete against, say, the Japanese.

An event that ought to be of interest to all Americans is Beach Volleyball, with its virtually-naked women and men scampering around on the sand, diving and coming up covered with sand and sweat, a most sexy combination. I’m surprised that some enterprising entrepreneur hasn’t bottled the aroma along with golden specks that adhere to the skin, creating a beautiful Southern California beach-girl glow.  We can dream, can’t we.

I wonder what new events might eventually become a part of the Olympic lineup? How about elbow bending (groan) or tongue wagging (double groan). My personal preference is Blogging. In this one, teams from around the world compete for the Most Outrageous Speculations, like “Barack Obama still can’t tie his own shoes.

Or, “Mixup in G&J wedding at the Bitterroot Springs Ranch in Montana. At the ceremony’s end, G kisses a horse instead of J.”

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This is the weekend that el Gavo and la Gavette will be united in the bonds of holy matrimony. Matier & Ross have the complete run down here.

Who cares?

Paparazzi maybe.

But then again, the average Bay Area denizen might hunger for more information than M&R have provided.

Like, for example, where the heck is the Bitterroot Springs Ranch?

For starters, it’s located at 110 East Bell Crossing, Stevensville, Montana, which is south of Missoula. That means la Gavette and I are connected. My mother lived in Missoula when she was young.

How did I happen upon the address? Like all Narrative Journalists, I have secret sources. In this case, the Internet.

A little Googling turned up a web page with a good deal of specific information on it, including the names of the owners, Ken and Judy Siebel, and the name of the ranch’s Breeding Manager.

If you aren’t familiar with Western ranch lingo, Breeding Manager is a well-respected and highly-paid job classification.

But that single web page doesn’t tell the whole story about the ranch. A click away and you’ll find rich illustrations of the ranch and it’s star performing horses. Apparently, the ranch is primarily a horse breeding ranch.

Further research turned up this map in case you want to arrange a helicopter flyover.

But all of this is irrelevant minutia. Sponge Bob SquarePants calls.

p.s. Thanks to Brock at Sfist for linking to this post.

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Well, golly, if he ever makes up his mind, he’s sure to carry Napa County.

He spread it on pretty thick at a speech before Napa County’s movers and shakers at the Silverado Resort a few Thursdays ago.

Among other platitudes, he called Napa County a model for San Francisco. He was talking about the county’s health care initiative, which he referred to as “a model for the state.”

There appear to be more “models” out there somewhere. Thirty counties altogether have signed on to a model initiative and Napa was the 10th county to join.

I suppose by some quirk of interpretation, Mr. Mayorspeak will also refer to those counties as “models” for San Francisco on his travels around the state drumming up support.

I could understand his use of Napa as a model if he were talking about a few vineyards along with the requisite tasting rooms.

Perhaps Lennar could handle the vineyard development contract, snuggling in a few luxury-view homes amid the grape vines, complete with a faux Tuscan sun over each residence.

As an added inducement, the City & County of SF could sentence its sanctuary population to perform community service as wine tasters. They’d be too drunk to re-infiltrate the city as drug hawkers.

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The media is filled with numerous polls which purport to demonstrate that Obama is ahead here, McCain there, Obama leads among Latino voters, and so on.

Perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about the Constitutional system for selecting a President of the United States.

The President is not elected by a direct popular vote. Rather, individuals called Electors, who hold their positions according to the rules established by the State Legislatures, elect a President. There is no specific constitutional “right” of an individual American citizen to vote directly for a candidate of his or her choice. Instead, as individuals, we vote for a slate of electors.

The system is complicated, cumbersome, and widely misunderstood. The link at the beginning of the preceding paragraph, which will take you to Wikipedia, explains the system as well as any other source.

In a nutshell, each state has a number of electoral votes equal to the total of their combined number of Senators and Representatives in the federal Congress. Thus, California with two Senatorial  and 53 Representational seats has 55 electoral votes for President.

In addition to the total number of states’ votes, the District of Columbia is entitled to three electoral votes under the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution.

The total number of electoral votes for the 50 states and the District in 2008 is thus 538. To become the President, a candidate would  require a majority of those votes, or 269 + 1, for a total of 270 electoral votes.

Basic 8th Grade Civics class stuff. But it’s important to remember because the polls can be misleading. A better gauge of how a candidate stands can be found by examining the current estimated state by state electoral vote breakout.

Here’s one excellent site, complete with an electoral map and supporting data in tabular form. According to this site, Obama leads in the solid electoral vote category 153 to 99.

In terms of states leaning toward one candidate or the other, Obama leads in that category as well with 85 to McCain’s 64. There are 137 tossup states.

Keep in mind that this is early in the game. The map will change, and other “experts” may have other visions of the electoral vote distribution.

But primarily keep your eye on Electoral College politics rather than side matter such as polls and trips to foreign countries.

Politics is pragmatic. In this game, idealism is for the untutored.

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