Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zandy's Bride

Local movie buffs with cable may want to dig into the Comcast On Demand menu and check out the 1974 movie Zandy's Bride. It's a 19th Century drama, starring Gene Hackman, about a Big Sur rancher who marries a mail-order bride. They don't get along particularly well, mainly because Zandy, a reclusive fellow, has no social skills. 

Zandy's Bride was filmed almost entirely in Big Sur, mostly in the mountains, and some scenes were filmed along the coast. A set built at Andrew Molera State Park makes an old frontier town, perhaps pretending to be old Monterey. It's a somewhat gloomy film, but worth a look. 

It will be available on Comcast Cable through December 30. Go to the On Demand Menu and select Free Movies, then Movieplex then Movies M-Z and scroll to the bottom of the list. Note that it is formatted (cropped) to fit your TV, so you don't quite get the full widescreen splendor. But, hey, it's free.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Political campaigns are frequently known for stretching, twisting, and mangling the truth, but a kernel of truth usually remains. Take, for example, the statement by Jerry Brown that he would not raise taxes without a vote of the people (a reasonable position, one that puts the voter in control). However, his opponent twisted that around to say Brown wants to ask voters for more tax increases. There is still truth in that, but the emphasis is altered. 

Outright lies are pretty uncommon. Yet two of this year's campaign ads have resorted to lies. Not twisted truths, but bona fide, genuine, actual lies. 

Take Proposition 24's opponents. They call Proposition 24 a "tax increase." That is a lie. 

Prop. 24 is a confusing offering. During the 2008 state budget process (and I use the term loosely), the legislature approved some tax breaks that primarily benefit a tiny percentage of large companies, many of which have their headquarters outside of California. Those tax breaks are not scheduled to take effect until 2011. They haven't happened yet. Prop 24 prevents these tax breaks from going into effect. This is not a tax increase, unless you believe that failure to subtract constitutes addition. 

Another lie is being told in campaign ads for Proposition 25. Prop. 25 affects the annual budget vote in the legislature, changing the requirement for a two-thirds (67%) super majority to a simple (50%+1) majority as it is in most other states. 

Prop 25 opponents are saying that it makes it easier for the legislature to raise taxes. This is a lie. Prop. 25 specifically states that a two-thirds majority will still be required to raise taxes - the same as it is now. Prop 25 opponents are apparently hoping you'll be too stupid to understand the difference between voting on the budget and voting on tax increases. 

So remember when you vote, that the opponents of Propositions 24 and 25 have not just been twisting the truth. They have been lying to you. Don't let them get away with it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes on 19

Before I go any further, let me state up front that I don't do drugs. I don't like to put anything in my body that may screw it up, so I don't smoke, drink alcohol, or otherwise ingest anything that isn't food. I don't even like legal drugs. My experience with prescription drugs has been mostly unfavorable, and I prefer to avoid even over the counter medications. I'm as squeaky clean as they come.

So when I advocate the legalization of marijuana, it is not for personal gain, nor do I take the subject lightly. I support Proposition 19 because it is painfully obvious that our decades-old war on drugs is not working. It never was working.

Yes, old Mary Jane is a seductive temptress. She is not good for you. Though relatively harmless in small quantities, she has the ability to make you dependent, impair your judgment, ruin your relationships, and wreak all sorts of havoc when used to excess. Of course, the exact same things can be said of alcoholic beverages, so if we are to be consistent as a society our laws regarding these two substances should be the same.

We could make alcohol illegal, but we tried that and we all know what happened. Organized crime became rampant, and people kept drinking, just not openly. And that's exactly what the situation is with marijuana. So why on Earth would we want to prolong this failed policy?

As a measure to legalize marijuana,
Prop. 19 takes a restrained approach. It limits personal possession to less than one ounce, limits growing space on private property to 25 square feet (a 5'x5' square), prohibits use by or sale to persons under 21, prohibits any public use, use in the presence of minors, and possession on school grounds. These rules are still much stricter than the rules for alcohol.

And, contrary to popular arguments,
Prop. 19 keeps in place all existing restrictions relating to driving while impaired. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) opposes Prop. 19 because they believe otherwise. They're wrong. Prop. 19 specifically states "This act is not intended to affect the application or enforcement of the following state laws relating to public health and safety or protection of children and others:...Section 23152 of the vehicle code (related to driving while under the influence);...or any law prohibiting use of controlled substance in the workplace or by specific persons whose jobs involve public safety."

Just so we're clear, Section 23152 of the vehicle code states: "It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle." This will not change under Prop. 19

A related argument against Prop. 19 is stated in the official California Voter Information Guide (page 17). It says "The California Police Chief's Association opposes Proposition 19 because proponents 'forgot' to include a standard for what constitutes 'driving under the influence.'" Well, guess what? There is no standard in existing California law, either. Prop. 19 maintains the status quo in that regard. Furthermore, there is nothing in Prop. 19 which prevents the legislature from enacting such a standard.

Finally, there's the pesky problem of federal law, which keeps marijuana illegal regardless of what we vote for in California. Prop. 19 will, however help save state taxpayers money by stopping the use of state law enforcement resources for a failed eradication effort. The money saved can be put to better use combating violent crime, such as the gang warfare in Salinas, which is largely the result of illegal drug trafficking - just as it was for alcohol during Prohibition.

I hold no illusions
that Prop. 19's proposal to allow taxation of marijuana sales will result in balanced budgets, nor do I expect that it will prevent marijuana abuse, as some of Prop. 19's supporters claim. But I do believe it will put a dent in organized crime, much as the repeal of Prohibition did, and that alone would be worth the price of admission. 

There is no question in my mind that marijuana laws need to be reformed. But to expect any action from Congress to change federal laws is a pipe dream. Congresscritters won't lift a finger to reform marijuana laws lest they be branded as "soft on crime." Reform of marijuana laws will have to start at - pardon the expression - the grassroots level. California can send a message loud and clear that we want something better than to continue with the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Judging by appearances

Late last night, well after midnight, I took my little telescope out front to look at Jupiter. I had the porch light turned off so as not to spoil my night vision.

While I was aiming the scope, a couple of noisy middle-aged Mexican guys walked by, speaking loud Spanish, and spitting a lot. It looked like they were walking home from work. I could see one guy was wearing a cowboy hat, but it was too dark to see their faces. Judging by their coarse manner, they didn't sound like people I'd want to meet on a dark night.

After they went past the neighbor's hedge I could no longer see them, but could still hear them. Their voices abruptly became hushed. I sensed they were talking about me and I grew worried. But it sounded as if they were still moving away, so I felt some relief.

Suddenly I looked up and saw the guy with the cowboy hat had returned and was staring at me in the dark. A little nervously, I said "Hello." He replied in a very friendly tone "Hello! Are you taking pictures?" I said, no, this was a telescope. He then said "My friend said there was somebody there, but I didn't believe him. I had to come back to look." Evidently, his friend thought I was creepy, since I appeared to be lurking in the shadows. Anyway, cowboy hat man then asked what I was looking at, and I told him Jupiter. He thought that was great and said goodbye and went on his way. I heard him speak to his friend in a cheerful tone and I gathered that he was telling him that I was harmless.

And to think I was worried about them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hawaii Five-0 No!

In this internet age of instant commentary, I'm behind the times, writing a review of something that happened three days ago - ancient history in the cyberspacetime continuum. But I'm an old dude, to anyone under 40, so bear with me. 

I was a fan of the original Hawaii Five-0 TV series. It was a well-written police detective show with just the right proportions of suspense, action and drama. The characters were well defined, had great chemistry, and they were true professional detectives. It didn't hurt that the show had the best theme and opening sequence in TV history. 

CBS unveiled a new version Monday, and it was every bit as bad as I was hoping it wouldn't be. It began with a truncated version of the original theme music, with familiar images that sped by a little too fast, and slightly out of sync with the music. The actors were pretty-boy Macy's men's catalog fashion models, roughed up just a bit to look like imitation tough action heroes. The one exception was the skinny girl who played Kono (a fat guy in the original). She was obviously cast as eye candy.

Except for Kono, who wasn't given much to do except stand and look embarrassed in her underwear, each of the main characters had some sort of trendy personal "issues" like seeking revenge for a father's murder, a divorce with a kid in the middle, and an ex-cop who was reduced to selling cheap souvenirs to tourists after being falsely accused of accepting bribes. There wasn't a real man in the bunch, but they pretended to be macho by playing fast and loose with firearms in the course of their duty. 

Their duty, by the way, wasn't to be police detectives. They were set up by the governor as a covert team to catch the worst of the worst bad guys any way they could, having been promised some vague (and probably unconstitutional) form of legal immunity for acting outside of the standard legal frameworks - including, apparently, rules on using firearms.

Not that it mattered. The plot was so thin one could see stars through it. The climax occurred as two, just two, of the guys drove a squad car, lights flashing, onto a Chinese container ship and started shooting like mad. They didn't get a scratch themselves, but somehow they managed to kill all but one of the crew members, most of whom were hiding behind large metal shipping containers. Regarding the one survivor McGarrett said "Book him, Danno" with all the authority of a slightly roughed up Macy's men's catalog fashion model. 

What I'm saying is that besides the title, character names, and theme music, this has about as much in common with the original series as A-1 Steak Sauce has with coconut cream pie. And they're just as incompatible. This is a completely new show, with a completely different purpose from the original Hawaii Five-0. I might be more forgiving in my comments if they hadn't tried to ride it in on the coattails of a classic. I don't think its too much to ask for a remake to have something in common with the original if it wants to use the name. Conversely, if it is a completely different show they want, it should be able to stand on an original name - if its any good. 

Needless to say I won't be watching next Monday, and I hope it ends up in the land of forgotten TV programs. But if anyone is running the original series, I'll be happy to tune in.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In-N-Out, In-N-Out, In-N-Out. Sounds like we're getting screwed.

It was reported in the Monterey Herald today that the Seaside City Council approved a six-month extension of negotiations for an In-N-Out Burger joint on Del Monte Avenue next to Laguna Grande Park. All I can say is "Sigh."

The City of Seaside is notorious for setting its sights impossibly high then settling for the ridiculously low. The property in question was zoned for a hotel. When they couldn't find a suitable developer they decided to settle for a hamburger stand. 

Isn't there something between those two extremes that would be both economically viable and appropriate for the site? I would suggest a nice locally-owned family restaurant, designed by a local architect so as to be aesthetically compatible with the lakefront setting. It might incorporate outdoor seating, perhaps on an upper deck, to allow diners to gaze across the water and view the waterfowl. Anyway, that's just one idea that pops off the top of my head. You'd think the planners at city hall would have some other good ideas at their disposal. You'd think.

You'd also think that Seaside, being the gateway to some of the most beautiful communities in California, would have developed some sort of aesthetic sensibilities when it comes to land use. Instead, the city has allowed itself to be defined by cookie-cutter corporate buildings where the dominant architectural feature is the parking lot. Chili's restaurant, which also fronts Laguna Grande, is a good example of this problem. (Incidentally, Chili's was supposed to have outdoor lakefront seating, but the city let that slide by, too.) 

Nearby, the city planned to build a train station, but settled for a Starbucks. The beautiful building at Broadway and Fremont has the aesthetic part right, but that corner needed a major anchor tenant, such as a department store, to encourage smaller businesses to move in around it in accord with the Broadway "downtown" plan. Instead we got a pizza parlor, a Kinkos, and a Starbucks that fizzled along with the neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against fast-food chains. I patronize them myself. Cities like Pacific Grove that ban them altogether are unreasonably extreme. So I have no problem having an In-N-Out Burger somewhere in Seaside, just don't put it in front of our lake! There are better uses for such prime real-estate. 

Seaside desperately needs better leadership, people with good economic sense, combined with an appreciation for the city's appearance and genuine concern for our reputation as part of the larger Monterey Peninsula community. Our Mayor, Ralph Rubio, talks up a storm about civic "pride," but he hasn't given us much, aside from some free music on city hall lawn and the occasional parade, to get excited about. Meanwhile, our major commercial neighborhoods still look like hell when compared to the rest of The Peninsula. And yet he still wonders why we get no respect.

It is for these reasons, and many others, that I am supporting Felix Bachofner for Mayor of Seaside. I have known Felix for twenty years, and can personally vouch for his integrity and good sense. As a former Seaside Planning Commissioner he has a good grasp on proper land-use policy, which will help make Seaside more attractive and more prosperous. See www.felixforseaside.com to learn more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monterey Regional Water Project

Someone on a discussion forum directed me to this website for the Desal Response Group. It provides the most concise explanation I have yet seen for the proposed Monterey Regional Water Project, which would build a desalination plant to provide for Peninsula water needs.

The more I look into this project the less I understand it. The physical plant seems straightforward enough. A desal plant in Marina, and a pipeline to The Peninsula. All well and good.

What makes my head spin is the array of different agencies who would have responsibility for the project. Apparently, one agency, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, would own the intake pipes. Another, the Marina Coast Water District, would own the desal plant while Cal-Am ratepayers (you and I) would pay for it. Yet Cal-Am would only have control over the pipeline to the Peninsula. Yet another agency would be responsible for the salty water discharged back into the bay. And the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is nowhere to be found.

So who would be responsible? So many agencies are involved that if something goes wrong it would be all too easy to do the BP Shuffle, with each agency blaming the others and none taking responsibility themselves.

In the mid '90s I voted for two water projects, a desal pant in Sand City and a new dam on the Carmel River. I'd vote for this plan, too, if the management agreement was as straightforward a the physical plant. But the management plan is such a bureaucratic mess that if it came up for a vote I would have to vote NO.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More fun with Comcast

Last week we had a little adventure with Comcast cable TV technical support. On Tuesday July 27th, we noticed that our on-screen program guide had disappeared, along with On-Demand service and every other on-screen display. We could still watch TV, but had to use the newspaper TV listings (remember those?) to decide what to watch.

The first thing I tried to solve the problem was to reboot the cable box by disconnecting the power for a few seconds and plugging it back in. That trick worked for some other problems we've had, but not this time. 

When the problem persisted into Wednesday I called Comcast and got a woman with an accent so thick I had to keep asking her to repeat things. She said she was sending a signal to our box to do something, but nothing happened. She then concluded that we needed a technician, and said one could be sent to our home a week from Friday. What? Nine days? I protested that was too long to wait. After all, I told her, the last time we needed service the guy came the next day. 

She said technicians who were qualified to handle On-Demand problems were few and far between, and that was the earliest one could come. I suggested that any technician could at least swap our box for a new one and determine if that was the problem. She agreed and said someone could come out Sunday. OK, that's better than a week from Friday, but still pretty slow.

About an hour later I remembered seeing a message indicating that Comcast was upgrading the on-screen menus on the 27th. Wait a minute! That would mean the problem was on Comcast's end, not mine. I called back and got a nice man named Howard who had an excellent command of English. He agreed this might have been the cause, and sent a signal to reboot our cable box. It didn't solve the problem. Howard said to keep our Sunday appointment because our box was apparently unable to take the new program guide and would need to be replaced. 

So we were resigned to using newspaper listings for the next four days to find our favorite programs. But on Thursday I turned on the TV and found everything was back to normal (except that our "favorites" channel lists were erased). It wasn't our box after all! As near as I can tell, Comcast just took its sweet time doing the on-screen menu upgrades, doing the deleting of the old program on Tuesday and not installing the new program until Thursday. 

One must conclude that Comcast's upgrade department didn't communicate this delay to the technical support department so the support people couldn't properly diagnose the problem. In other words, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.

The irony of all this is while we were in the midst of this problem Comcast was broadcasting commercials telling us how competent they were, and how they would respond to service calls promptly and effectively. Uh-huh. Didn't you guys learn anything from BP? Flashy commercials telling us how good you are don't mean a blasted thing. So, Comcast, drop your stupid commercials, and focus your resources on doing the job right. Remember that your actual practices are the only true form of public relations. Everything else is transparent fluff.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Specks and Logs

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? -Matthew 7:3

A week and a half ago, after a lengthy public hearing, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning Arizona's controversial immigration law. Now, personally, I can see why some people have concerns about the new law - there is certainly potential for abuse. But I also understand why it was passed. Thus I am cursed by the ability to see both sides of the issue, which pretty much leaves me in the crossfire.

However, barely ten days later, the Supervisors' resolution has pretty much been forgotten. Furthermore, it won't have any affect whatsoever on what happens in Arizona. So why did they bother? 

Some would argue that this is a human rights issue and we need to take a stand. Fine, but do it on your own time. Local governments shouldn't be second-guessing legislation that was passed in a completely different jurisdiction. Our country has legitimate avenues for addressing grievances, and those systems are being properly utilized by the opponents of Arizona's law. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is not a part of that system.

Whether it be right or wrong, Arizona's law is Arizona's problem. We have plenty of problems of our own to deal with. How would we feel if another state protested against Monterey County for taking ten years to write a 20-year General Plan Update that still isn't finished. Well, you argue, that doesn't have national implications. It doesn't? Monterey County agriculture feeds the entire country, and local agriculture policy is affected by the General Plan. Surely other states have a right to be concerned. 

So where do we draw the line? Is it ever appropriate for a county or a state to formally protest another state's legislation?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Terrible Tournament Transportation

Another big Pebble Beach golf tournament is half over tonight. The U.S. Open has two more days to go, giving me two more days to shake my head in dismay over the parking and transportation arrangements. 

I've been doing this every year for a decade or more now, usually during the AT&T Pro-Am. In a nutshell, here's how golf parking works. Golf fans come from all over the world and find lodgings in Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey, barely spitting distance from the Pebble Beach gates. But Pebble Beach doesn't have nearly enough parking places for all of them, so there is a problem to be solved. 

What tournament attendees are now asked to do is drive ten miles North, away from the Monterey Peninsula out to the parking lots at CSUMB, the university property on the land formerly known as Fort Ord. Everyone then gets on buses which retrace the same ten miles back to The Peninsula, into Pebble Beach. While there is no charge for either the parking or the bus ride, it is sort of like going from San Jose to San Francisco by way of Reno. Only the scale is different. 

Instead of making people drive to the buses, wouldn't it make more sense to send the buses to where the people are? Most local lodgings are clustered together in less than a dozen distinct areas, including downtown Carmel, downtown Pacific Grove, Asilomar Drive, downtown Monterey, Cannery Row, Munras Avenue, North Fremont, and a few other places.  I should think it would be fairly easy to disperse the tournament bus fleet to those areas and have plenty of tournament ticket holders waiting for pickup. The handful of remaining lodgings scattered about are located near MST transit routes which could feed passengers to tournament shuttles in downtown Monterey or Carmel.

Think of the advantages. Nobody would have to drive ten miles out of their way (20 miles round-trip), saving fuel and reducing traffic congestion. The bus trips would be shorter and faster for everyone, saving even more fuel and giving golf spectators more time to enjoy our beautiful area. It might even require fewer buses, since they will be able to haul more people in less time. 

A few years ago I had a letter published in the Monterey Herald with this very suggestion. I got a call from the man in charge of bus transportation for the AT&T Pro-Am Tournament and he asked me "Can you promise me my buses would be full?" Not being a transportation expert, I couldn't give him a definitive answer. Unfortunately, he wouldn't even consider the idea unless I could. 

Indeed, the current system doesn't require a lot of thought, just some quick and dirty arrangements for a big parking lot and a fleet of buses. But as I have already noted, it isn't particularly efficient. Just easy. My idea would require some careful planning, and maybe some tweaking over a year or two to get it just right, but to not even try just strikes me as lazy. 

For the U.S. Open, some local business associations apparently saw the absurdity of the CSUMB parking plan and dug up a gold mine in the process. They chartered buses for their respective business districts (Carmel, Pacific Grove and Cannery Row) and charged $20 per person per day to avoid the 20-mile detour to CSUMB. These buses hold some 45 passengers, so each full bus reaps a whopping $900 per round trip! Multiply that by three locations running buses every 30 minutes and somebody is getting very rich this weekend! 

One Pacific Grove resident noted in a letter to the Herald on June 16th, that the cost of the bus ride, $80 for her family of four, cost almost as much as the event tickets themselves. She called the fare "insulting." Indeed it is.

So the powers that be on The Peninsula are not only failing to serve our guests efficiently by providing well thought-out event transportation, they're also developing a reputation for price gouging. Word will no doubt get around.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When I say fresh, I want it FRESH!

Dear Safeway,
Your store is one mile from Monterey Bay, one of the richest fisheries in the world. It is three miles from where the local fishing fleet unloads its catch. So when I walk up to your fresh fish counter I do not want to see the words "farm raised product of China."

-Mr. Toy

Saturday, May 8, 2010

When unusual is the usual.

Do you ever notice that whenever we have a dry winter in California, come Spring fire officials warn us that the dry vegetation creates an unusually high fire hazard?

And do you ever notice that whenever we have a wet winter in California, that come Spring fire officials warn us that the rains bring more vegetation growth, providing excess fuel to burn, creating an unusually high fire danger?

Like clockwork, they're at it again, in accord with the rainy year scenario. I've seen it twice on the news recently. 

Californians should never be complacent about fire hazards, but we also need to be careful about how we use the language. Unusually high fire danger means that fire is more likely than normal. Yet fire officials tell us every year the danger is higher than normal, which means that unusually high fire danger is actually the usual, which means that every year is a normal year after all. 

Please be careful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Traumatic Cost

A couple nights ago a taxi driver was shot in the stomach during a robbery attempt in front of Borders book store in Sand City. The robbers got away, and the cabbie is recovering at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP). I wish the driver well, and hope the criminals are caught very soon. But that's not why I'm writing. 

In reporting this story, KION/KCBA News stated that a Calstar medical helicopter had been called to fly the victim to a San Francisco Bay Area trauma center. However, adverse weather conditions scrubbed the flight, and the patient was transported to CHOMP by ambulance. 

This raises a very important question. If CHOMP was perfectly capable of handling this case, why was it the second choice and not the first? Calstar flights take three to four times as long as an ambulance ride up Carmel Hill. In this case the ride to the hospital was no longer than the ride to the airport would have been. The helicopter would also have taken the victim far from the personal support he undoubtedly needs from family and friends. 

Furthermore, Calstar flights are damned expensive. They range from $25,000 to $37,000 per flight depending on the situation. Most of the costs are borne by health insurance, but can still leave victims with enormous bills if they are not fully covered. And don't forget, unnecessary medical transport costs raises insurance rates for everyone. 

The only statistics I could find on this matter was from another blog, which noted that Calstar transported 373  patients from Monterey County in 2008. That amounts to somewhere between $9.325 million to $13.8 million for the year. And that's just for transportation. It doesn't include a penny for actual treatment beyond what is needed to prep and support the patient for the flight. I can't help but wonder if that money wouldn't be better spent providing actual trauma care within Monterey County instead.

I'm not saying there is no need for medical helicopter services. But I do remember a time when they did not exist, and local hospitals took care of accident victims as a matter of routine. Today it appears that so-called "life flights" are now the first resort for serious injuries. Given their enormous cost, their longer transport times, the problem of separating victims from loved ones, and the apparent availability of at least some local trauma care, they should be called in only when no suitable local treatment is available.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cross Cave-In

On Good Friday the controversial Monterey beach cross found its final resting place in the San Carlos Cemetery on Pearl Street. A small ceremony marked an unsatisfactory end to a petty constitutional crisis. 

For those who just joined us, here's the story in brief. In 1769 a team of explorers marched up the coast from San Diego to Monterey Bay. They erected two crosses on each side of the Monterey Peninsula to signal their supply ship. Exactly 200 years later to the day, a similar cross was erected on the beach at Del Monte Dunes (near the Monterey/Seaside border) to commemorate the expedition. Last September a vandal sawed it down. 

Enter the American Civil Liberties Union, threatening the city with a costly court battle, citing separation of church and state as their battle cry. Crosses do not belong on public land, they said. Ever. However, because the cross had a legitimate secular purpose in replicating a documented historic event, the Monterey city council more or less decided to stand up to the ACLU by voting to restore the cross. However, there was one stipulation. A legal defense fund of $50,000 was to be raised first, because the city couldn't afford a costly legal fight in these tough economic times. 

But times being tough for everybody, about $5,000 came in shortly after the fund was established. Then donations fell off abruptly. The folks in charge of the fund (which was privately managed) apparently didn't consider that raising that kind of money takes time and effort. They didn't even post so much as a web page, much less showed any active attempt to solicit donations beyond the initial news reports last fall. Still, they managed to raise 10% of their goal with no effort whatsoever, suggesting that an active campaign over several months might have done the job. 

Apparently discouraged that money didn't automatically fall into their laps, they abandoned the effort last month. At the same time the city announced that a "solution" to the constitutional problem had been found. The cross would be relegated to a graveyard.

I am sorely disappointed that our community didn't have the patience and determination to see this matter through. By caving in to the ACLU's demands the constitutional questions remain unresolved.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that a religious monument can stand on public land provided it also has a legitimate secular purpose. In that case it was a stone monument of the Ten Commandments on the Texas state capitol grounds. The court recognized that it had a secular purpose to honor a private service organization that had done good deeds. It is still there. 

Here in Monterey, the ACLU apparently took advantage of the vandalism, along with the city's weakened financial condition, to force compliance with the ACLU's interpretation of the law. Thus they conveniently avoided a proper judicial review which might have gone against them. 

It's ironic on a couple levels that the cross ended up in a graveyard. First, the ACLU argued that a cross on a beach would be misinterpreted by viewers as a government endorsement of religion. Yet in a cemetery the cross is certain to be misinterpreted as a memorial to a dead person rather than a re-creation of a historic event that led directly to the first European settlement of Monterey. 

Second, it symbolizes the death of common sense. The cross on the beach harmed no one. It had no power to influence anyone's religious beliefs one way or the other. If anyone wondered why it was there a simple visit to read the explanatory plaque at its base would enable anyone with an ounce of curiosity to learn a little something about our colorful local history - and realize that the city was not trying to proselytize. But, alas, historical accuracy was murdered by political correctness. R.I.P.
For a detailed history of the cross see: The True Meaning Of The Cross. Also recommended, this KSBW editorial.

Friday, March 12, 2010

From Yo-Ho to Ho-Ho

Here's a topic of absolutely no importance. Does anybody remember that the confection we know as Hostess Ho-Hos was originally named Yo-Hos? 

If you're under the age of 45, you probably don't. According to the official Hostess site, the treat was introduced in 1967, but the company makes no mention of the name change. If memory serves, the change occurred two or three years later with absolutely no explanation. To this day I have seen no official acknowledgment that the change ever actually happened. Yet, it did! I saw it with my own eyes!!!

Now there's a subject for conspiracy theorists to ponder.
Why, in the dead of night, when nobody was looking, was a perfectly good product name changed by one letter? Was it political correctness? Perhaps pirates complained that Hostess abused their lingo and played on unfair stereotypes. Or did someone think it sounded like a pimp calling one of his girls? Did Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant use  their political and economic muscle to force Hostess to conform to their way of saying things? So many questions, and 40 years later we still have no answers. I demand a congressional investigation, dammit!

I still remember the original commercial jingle, which was sung by a manly sounding chorus:

Yo-Hos, Yo-Hos
Yo-Hos, Yo-Hos
Yo-Hos, Yo-HOS!
The chocolaty snack that gives you go,
It's candy and cake, 
All in one,
A new taste treat,
And loads of fun!
Yo-Hos Yo-Hos Yo-Hos Yo-Hos.....(fade out) 

Yo-Hos. A perfectly good name, abruptly abandoned. Why? WHY?!?


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How the Sheriff lost my vote

Tuesday evening KSBW News ran a 30 minute showdown interview with Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, and Fred Garcia who is running to replace Kanalakis in the next election. If you have followed the local news lately, you know that Garcia held, until recently, the rank of Commander in the Sheriff's department and he was head of the Homeland Security division until the Sheriff demoted Garcia two steps in rank for insubordination and improper campaign practices. Shortly thereafter Garcia resigned, and Monterey County politics got very interesting. 

After watching the interview, I am thoroughly dismayed with Sheriff Kanalakis on this matter. Yes, Garcia exercised poor judgment in using a county copier, mailing list, and rubber stamp to prepare some campaign materials. But that minor lapse of good sense pales in comparison to Kanalakis demoting Garcia for insubordination just because the two had an honest disagreement about the affordability of a helicopter.

The helicopter program in question was part of Garcia's Homeland Security division. Kanalakis had instructed Garcia to make sure the department got its helicopter. Garcia, however, did not feel that a helicopter was the best use of Homeland Security funds when the county budget was stretched to the breaking point. After analyzing the numbers, he concluded that the money could be used more effectively elsewhere. Garcia made his recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors, who agreed with Garcia and unanimously voted against funding the helicopter.

Since the Sheriff had his heart set on getting a helicopter, he was outraged and openly accused Garcia of "sabotage" and "insubordination" for disagreeing with the Sheriff's position, and he reduced Garcia to the lowest rank of deputy.

One might argue that an employee must carry out the instructions of a superior, and that is Kanalakis's position. But when one is the head of a division, as Garcia was, that person should be allowed to express his opinions on the best way to operate that division. Kanalakis takes the position that as Sheriff, his own judgment should prevail and that dissenting opinions undermine his authority. However, he is arrogant in suggesting that when matters involve taxpayer funds, only his opinion should be available to the county supervisors who must authorize the funds.

Equally disturbing is the idea that a member of the Sheriff's Department who seeks to run for the highest office in the department, should not be allowed to express a dissenting opinion during the campaign. According to Kanalakis, a subordinate must never question his boss in public, ever, even when an issue is relevant to a public election. When asked by KSBW anchor Erin Clark how a member of the sheriff's department could run an effective campaign without expressing differences of opinion Kanalakis said the individual must resign (and sacrifice half a year's income) before running against him.

Clearly, Kanalakis has little tolerance
for honest differences of opinion. An arrogant man with a thin skin is not someone I want running the Monterey County Sheriff's Department. This is not to suggest that I am endorsing Fred Garcia for Sheriff. He clearly showed poor judgment when using county resources to prepare his campaign materials. I'll certainly look at his record and viewpoints as the campaign proceeds, along with those of the third player, former Pacific Grove Police Chief Scott Miller. One thing is certain, Kanalakis is no longer under consideration for my vote.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"I am in control..."

With the recent passing of Alexander Haig, a famous old soundbite has been dragged up once again, and misinterpreted once again. 

On the day when President Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt there was, understandably, a fair amount of confusion in Washington. Al Haig spoke at a press briefing in the White House to explain what was happening.

One of the things he said was "I am in control, here at the White House, pending the return of the Vice President." I remember it well. I watched it on live TV. He was trying to reassure everyone that in the President's absence White House affairs were being attended to even though the president was in the hospital and Vice president Bush was en-route and temporarily unavailable. 

In the days that followed, the only part of the quotation anybody talked about was the "I am in charge" part. By taking the phrase out of context, Haig was widely criticized for assuming Presidential powers in violation of the Constitution. 

But somebody had to be in charge of White House operations under those circumstances. As Secretary of State, the highest ranking official in the building at the time, it was perfectly natural for Haig to take charge. He tried to choose his words carefully, limiting his authority to one building and only until Vice President Bush could arrive, yet still his words were twisted to make him look bad. 

And some commentators are doing it again today. Don't pay any attention to them, because most of them weren't even paying attention at the time it happened.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sarah Ward Events

A good friend of mine, Sarah Ward, is setting up shop as a freelance wedding and special event planner. I had the privilege of working with Sarah for about three years in a local hotel. At the time she was the hotel's wedding coordinator. I worked for the in-house audio/visual department and operated sound equipment for most of the wedding ceremonies she set up for her clients.

It never ceased to amaze me how the wedding coordinators managed to, well, coordinate a thousand details and create a fabulous event for all, sometimes dealing with as many as five or six wedding parties in a single weekend! Sarah was no exception, and I was particularly impressed with her ability to maintain her cheerful disposition and calm, orderly manner under a wide variety of challenging conditions. Even behind the scenes, when nobody was looking, she maintained her positive attitude. 

Sarah was particularly enthusiastic about the job, more so than any other wedding coordinator I worked with, so after being laid off due to the rough economy, she has decided to pursue her creative career as an independent event planner. I wish her every success.

For my three regular readers who, sooner or later, will need her services, I suggest you bookmark her new website www.sarahwardevents.com.