|From The Editor
In need of a vacation without a schedule or obligations, we pointed the car north to Oregon and hit the road.
An old habit from days of hot, dusty driving along the old Baja highway is that when I see a body of water, I find a place to stop and take a swim.
So we stopped at Gaviota beach, where the 101 turns inland just above Santa Barbara. I paid the ranger ten bucks to take a quick swim on a hot day. The camp ground and the small beach under a train trestle were full of white and Latin families either barbecuing or swimming in the ocean.
Thus refreshed, we returned to the 101, north to San Luis Obispo. From the car, my girlfriend Sanae made reservations for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Goshi, where she is recognized as Japanese and treated especially well.
The next day, we stopped in the wine country for a visit to St. Jean's winery which I wrote about a long time ago for the Boston Globe. At the time the winery had been bought by a Japanese beer maker, Sapporo, and there was protest against what was described as an invasion of foreign owners.
As I started researching the story, which naturally involved checking out some wineries, I found that some of the biggest wine makers in the valley had long been English and Australian companies.
That foreign ownership had elicited no protest at all.
St. Jean's has since changed hands a couple times and is now owed by an Australian beer maker. The winery was as hospitable as I remembered it. Tourists brought their sack lunches to tables under awnings surrounded by vines after buying a bottle of wine from the reception area.
North we went along the coast.
In Eureka, the town was full-up, from the bed and breakfasts to the roadside motels. We managed to get the last room at the Quality Inn for $250 a night. In a rough little town that is largely white, a helpful, black concierge with an British accent explained that the hotels were booked by firefighters, parents bringing their kids to college, and tourists in the last throes of summer.
We asked for a local place to eat and he recommended the fish and chips at what has become a destination brewery, Lost Coast. From the outside it looked like an ordinary tavern on the 101.
But inside, the big, bustling, unpretentious hall was packed. Our waitress was wide, friendly and efficient. She brought us our fish and chips, which has been justifiably recommended, and a couple blonde beers.
It was around Eureka that the trip settled into an easy routine. We would drive north along the coast, stop somewhere for lunch, and see how far we got by late afternoon.
Then Sanae looked for motels on her smart phone, checked recommendations and we found a place for the night, before walking around town to find a restaurant and have dinner and a couple glasses of wine.
The only felt obligation was to wake up in time for the free breakfast of oranges and grapefruit, oatmeal, toast and coffee in a paper cup, and then point the car north.
In the early days of Courthouse News, when I was hiring a reporter in Eureka and checking out press access at the courthouse, I had fallen on a humble fish restaurant and bar on the road between Eureka and Crescent City.
It was part of a fishing lodge near Trinidad Bay.
So this time I wanted to check out the bay. It had a stark cold beauty even in summer. With steep, dark-gray rock sides and almost-black kelp heads dense on the dark water, it seemed like it should be somewhere in the north of Scotland.
Vertical rocks stuck up out of the water like huge, dangerous teeth. Among them was anchored a fleet of fishing boats.
A rusted boat launcher ran boats down a steep, weathered, concrete ramp for $25 a launch. A sign in the window of the operator's shack said it closed at five except when the salmon and steelhead are running.
As we cruised by on the 101, I spotted the old bar and restaurant, off on a side road. So we doubled back and stopped to get a cup of coffee. The place was empty and we started talking with the young bartender who wore a t-shirt and had long hair.
He said the bar hosts reggae night on Fridays, is normally packed, and the deck out back among the redwoods is generally wreathed in marijuana smoke.
He gave a good analysis of why a recent initiative to legalize marijuana in California was soundly defeated in all three counties in California's golden triangle of pot, Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino.
The vote against was made up of two elements, he said. There were those looking out for their economic self-interest, voting to protect black-market profit margins. And there were those who thought the measure had too many shortcomings, including the absence of an amnesty for those serving pot-related prison terms.
A couple who own a bar in Washington, and were on vacation riding their Harleys down the coast, stopped in for a morning cocktail. And it was time for us to get back in the car and point it north to Oregon.
Surely the most admirable person in the United States today is Gail Collins, The New York Times' political columnist.
Never have I seen her write a rancorous word.
Even in her Thursday column this week, when she compared flailing Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal to rabid otters, there was no sting in it. I don't know how she does it.
The best newspaper columnists of the 20th century - H.L. Mencken and Mike Royko - never attained Collins' blithe sublimity. Mencken said the only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down. Royko let his rage show. Only one other great columnist managed, like Collins, to sail above it all. I'll get to him later.
It's obvious that U.S. politics today is insane. Nasty. Dishonest. Prostituted to money and fantasy.
Wednesday night's three-hour commercial for co-dependent enablers is as good a place to start as any.
Jeb Bush got his biggest hand of the night by saying that his brother, W, "kept us safe." The crowd at the Reagan Presidential Library went nuts.
Actually, W ignored alarms from his own advisers that al Qaida was preparing an attack, allowed turf battles between the FBI, CIA and NSA to drown that evidence, then got us into the stupidest wars in U.S. history, which have killed and wounded 57,614 U.S. soldiers - only 27 percent of the casualties we suffered in Vietnam, but hey, that war's over.
The "debate" seldom rose above the level of name-calling, which the unelectable Gov. Chris Christie pointed out - and good for him.
Donald Trump's ignorance was on full display, but it didn't hurt him much, and we all know why. It's because U.S. voters like people who make us feel good. Whether they do this by lying to us makes no difference.
That's what Trump understands that the rest of them don't. It's why Ronald Reagan is still a Republican god. And there is some wisdom in this. Never take advice from, or vote for, an unhappy person. A man with a chip on his shoulder is the last person we need for a president. That's why W was such a disaster.
And everyone on that stage Wednesday night was unhappy but Trump.
Scott Walker thinks unions are a communist plot.
Marco Rubio dazzled with comments such as: "Forty percent of the people who come here illegally come here illegally." And, "I stopped voting in the Senate because they weren't doing anything."
Great, Marco! Who's paying your salary?
Mike Huckabee said the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses should be given a break because we let Muslims grow beards.
Ted Cruz dissed Jeb Bush for the liberal justices his brother and father appointed to the Supreme Court - folks like Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.
Need I go on? Please, don't make me go on.
The evening did clarify a dream I had this week. I couldn't understand it until Wednesday night. Then I realized the dream was about U.S. politics.
Famous people often appear in my dreams. I've had Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton and Obama. Muammar Qaddafi gave me a beer. Probably this is because I'm more fabulous than Donald Trump, but let's save that for later.
Tuesday night Dave Barry showed up - the only columnist other than Gail Collins who's never written a rancorous word. We were at a party and I wanted to tell him a joke. Mr. Barry graciously stepped into a corner with me and I told him about a torture victim I know. I used to work with torture victims. Halfway into the story I realized, "This isn't funny. This isn't the story I wanted to tell."
Dave Barry was politely smiling at me. Last thing I remember was pulling my hair, thinking, "Think! Think! There's got to be something funny in this."
|From The Courts
At Least One Person Arrested (Maybe)
It's so disappointing when a headline doesn't mean what it says.
This headline appeared in the online version of The Washington Post last week:
"Every minute, someone gets arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S."
Who could this person possibly be and why does he keep getting arrested?
Is he or she too stupid not to realize it's a bad idea to keep pulling out joints in front of uniformed people with handcuffs?
And why are the police focusing all their efforts on that one guy? Aren't there other people possessing marijuana?
This promised to be a really interesting story until I read it and found out that different people were being arrested every minute.
Or are they?
As far as I can tell, the Post blogger just divided the number of arrests in 2014 by the number of minutes in a year. My guess is that there were lots of minutes during the year when there were no arrests.
Of course, these arrests could be of one person. This is what the actual newly issued FBI report says: "The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program counts one arrest for each separate instance in which a person is arrested, cited, or summoned for an offense."
So it could be one guy and he may never have been arrested.
But I quibble (because it's so much fun).
There is one frightening statistic in the report. Check out Table 29 and look to see what category generated by far the greatest number of estimated arrests.
Yep. Once again, our greatest crime-problem area is "All Other Offenses."
Someone needs to do some investigative reporting.
What are these "other offenses" and how do we avoid becoming other-offense victims?
And, perhaps more importantly, why is the government covering up this crime wave by refusing to tell us what it is?
Favorite headline of the week: "Police lay trap for rogue cow in New Hartford."
Could those "other offenses" be animal crime?
I don't know, but this bovine criminal, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch, "has been on the loose for several months."
A master criminal apparently has outwitted the authorities time and time again.
At this point, you may be wondering what a cow does when it goes rogue.
Well, according to the news report, she enjoys jogging on the local freeways - and then vanishing into the shrubbery before she's caught.
Picture police cars whizzing by while the miscreant chuckles in her hideout.
Why does this remind me of a Roadrunner cartoon?
Law School Defamation? I could be wrong but I think students at Yale Law School may have been defamed by, of all things, Science magazine.
Check out "The Distributional Preferences of an Elite" in the magazine's September issue.
The elite in question are Yale law students - who, I guess, could be flattered by being called elite. But the article then goes on to say that a study shows that the Elis don't much care about income equality even though most of them are Democrats.
This apparently is scientifically proven by the way they played a game.
It's kind of like predicting who will be the next Warren Buffet with a Monopoly tournament.
I see a class action defamation suit on behalf of Yale law students in the near future.