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Monning to announce plans Tuesday

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State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, plans to announce his intentions regarding the congressional race at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Colton Hall in Monterey. No way to be certain, of course, but the expectation is that he will say that he will run for the seat now held by Sam Farr, also D-Carmel.

This is good news for voters who believe campaigns should be about issues. Already on the Democratic side of the primary ballot is prosecutor Jimmy Panetta, son of former Congressman Leon Panetta. Others are expected. On the Republican side there is Casey Lucius, a member of the Pacific Grove City Council, someone who had been expected to give Farr his first significant challenge in years.

Stay tuned.

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The word "THANKS" written in rusty metal letterpress type on an old aged leather background.Once again, Thanksgiving is upon us. We are supposed to think and then give thanks for our many blessings. I have a few.

I am thankful:

That I was not a native American in eastern Massachusetts when the Pilgrims landed.

That I was not a Pilgrim who survived eating who knows what while transiting the Atlantic in the not-cruise ship luxury of the Mayflower.

That I didn’t grow up above the Arctic Circle, or on the Equator

That I didn’t grow up eating raw fish and have to hunt, kill, gut, cut up and burn my meat over a fire that I had to start with two sticks.

That I did grow up with indoor plumbing.

That I didn’t wear a 49ers sweatshirt the last time I went to a Raiders game.

That I wasn’t in downtown Hollister when the motorcycle gangs came to town and to take it over.

That TV news can be found on channels other than Fox or MSNBC.

That presidential campaigns don’t happen every year.

That I didn’t ever get kicked out of school for bad behavior and especially that I was never caught.

That the fact I didn’t go to kindergarten is a big deal only to my wife (a former kindergarten teacher).

That I didn’t freeze and forget my notes when I played a solo piano piece in a high school concert.

That I passed the State Bar exam even though I froze and forgot everything I learned in law school when confronted with the first question.

That no gentleman nor gentle lady heard me exclaim my discomfort when  dropping a sledge hammer on my foot.

That I have friends on the Peninsula who think they know me.

That no mayor has hired a hit man to take me out because of my constant criticisms.

That Salinas Valley produce can somehow get all the way to my part-time home in Ohio without turning brown.

That my children are good people and so much smarter than I am.

That my wife puts up with me in spite of my desire to be a water hero.  What?

That Royal Calkins created a location where less than well-written pieces can be published (referring to me, with apologies to Larry Parsons, Joe Livernois, etc.)

That I didn’t grow up to be a reporter or an editor.

That I was nice to Sam Farr when he was on my board of directors at AMBAG. Congressmen never forget.

That I prayed to Junipero Serra before he became a saint.  Saints never forget.

That I am truly blessed, even with what seems to be a very spotty record.

Your turn:

 Hood is a water lawyer and engineer who lives in Carmel and Ohio.

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Craig Malin, the ex-Davenport, Iowa, city manager headed for the same job in Seaside

Usually when a city hires a city manager, it’s a fairly routine matter. The fellow, and it usually is a fellow, is introduced to the community through a short story in the local newspaper. There might have been some drama over the previous manager’s departure, but the new manager usually slips into the position quietly, barely to be discussed again outside City Hall until his welcome has worn itself out a few years later and the cycle repeats.

Expect something different this time around in Seaside, however. The fellow selected by the City Council as the new city manager, Craig Malin, left his previous job in Davenport, Iowa, with a splash. In fact, he seems to do most things with a splash and is still rippling the Davenport waters five months later. He says he was not fired but that he didn’t resign. He disputes much of what was reported about his departure and he accuses the daily newspaper there, the Quad City Times, of knowingly writing falsehoods about him.

In emails to the Partisan and elsewhere, Malin suggested that shoddy coverage of his situation may have led to the subsequent departures of the longtime publisher and longtime executive editor, an analysis that surprised those in the newsroom.

“He’s trippin’,” said a veteran journalist there. “Those were retirements.”

Asked to back up his assertion about the departures, Malin offered no evidence, nothing at all, but stressed that he had qualified his analysis with the word “perhaps.”

A cursory review of Malin’s tenure in Davenport suggests he is highly ambitious and unusually outspoken, almost flamboyant at times. He doesn’t accept criticism well but he can dish it out with seemingly casual regard for its accuracy. While most governmental managers try to remain behind the scenes, Malin maintains a blog that he uses to disseminate opinions on everything from his favorite restaurants to his least favorite journalists. The name of the blog, simply Craig Malin.

Seaside officials announced Malin’s selection in a news release last week and plan to make the hiring official with a City Council vote on Dec. 3. Routine business. There was barely any buzz at all until the Monterey County Weekly did some digging, in the form of a Google search, and found that Malin’s departure in Davenport was one of the bigger controversies to hit that riverfront city since his staff proposed to install a piece of public art, a giant push pin sculpture, a push pin like you might use to post something on a bulletin board.

Anyway, a Squid Fry column in the Weekly this week noted that Malin had served in Davenport for more than a decade, a lifetime by city manager standards, and that everything was hunky dory until it wasn’t. That had to do with a dispute over plans for a casino in an area already rich with casinos and Malin’s alleged decision to provide the project some $1.7 million in site preparation work without the approval of his city council. He denied acting without authority, others said he did and others said he didn’t. His ultimate defense is that he has sparred with casinos in the past so why would he suddenly try to help one.

There was much muss and fuss over the grading work. The mayor banged on his desk and publicly called for Malin’s resignation in June, but the 52-year-old manager proclaimed that he would not quit.

Malin did not let the Squid Fry item go unnoticed, responding online by saying he appreciated the wit exhibited in the item but not the information attributed to the Quad City Times.

“In any event” he wrote, “‘run out of town…negotiated behind the backs … on the hook for $2 million … and paid $310,000.’ All untrue. Perhaps why the editor, editorial page editor and publisher have all moved on? Who knows.”

Exactly how Malin’s job ended isn’t entirely clear, which seems to be the way Malin wants it. There was a council vote of some sort, and much intrigue. Agreements were reached. Malin’s departure was arranged and a $310,000 financial package was completed. He objects to calling it severance.

“The basics are Davenport paid me for my unused leave, provided up to $25,000 in transitional education/professional development reimbursement (which I don’t think exceeded $17,500), maintained my insurance benefits until I transfer to some other plan and paid two of three chunks of four months salary ($70,000 gross each). So the actual check math of something that wasn’t owed me in any event works to be about $157,500.

The Partisan asked him to elaborate on the separation.

“How would I describe my departure? Somewhat unplanned but entirely amicable. I did not resign. I was not fired or terminated (remember, the City Council boycotted the meeting called to terminate me).

“I set a record for service in Davenport that can’t be broken until 2030 at the earliest. I accomplished my personal goal of getting my kids through school in one place and surpassed every expectation of progress in Davenport that I know of. I hold the record for tenure for any Iowa city over 100,000.

“With a fully supportive City Council (the one alderman who voted against it did so out of principle that he didn’t want me to leave) I simply said, thanks, it’s been great, I wish you all the best. Repeating myself now – kind of a simple story, really. Goals secured, moving forward.

“I can consult. I can retire. Having worked full time since the age of 12, I can pretty much do what I want to do now.

“My plan is to come to Seaside, and help that community surpass its dreams.”

During his time in Davenport, Malin won all sorts of awards and the city did too. He appears to have been fairly popular with the city staff. The business community in Davenport expressed strong support for his redevelopment efforts, especially downtown and on the waterfront. The sore points of his tenure appear to involve repeated controversies over the city’s relationship with casinos in the area, the riverboat variety and others, the city’s attempt to regulate a porn business, and Malin’s truly horrible relationship with the Davenport paper, the Times.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO ILLUSTRATION This is a computer-generated image provided by the City of Davenport that shows how a 25-foot-high sculpture of a push pin would look on the riverfront near River Drive and a new downtown park.

A computer-generated image of the sculpture Malin’s staff wanted to build. It never materialized, which he blames on media criticism.

Based on a day or so of reportage, which is pretty flimsy, it appears that Malin was an unusually successful city manager in Davenport but a highly unusual one as well. While most city administrators try to assume a low profile, letting the elected officials take the spotlight, Malin appears to have promoted himself at every opportunity, touting his successes on his blog. The cover of the River City Reader magazine once featured Malin on a skateboard. The headline, “Malin Breaks the Mold.”

Much of Malin’s work with the city is chronicled in his blog, which contains a ridiculously detailed resume, photographic and written biographies and his views on a lot more than municipal governance. Some of the most interesting reading involves his beloved Chicago Cubs but his description of his interactions with the media is more revealing. He repeatedly criticizes the Davenport newspaper and gleefully comments on the arrest of an editorial writer for a minor drug offense. From that posting:

“The guy who turned barrels of black ink into judgment days for others – for years on end – now has his own judgment day before the black robes. All that permanent, black ink of false piety seeping into your skin, the concocted morality coursing through your veins, the sanctimony staining your soul as you delivered judgment after judgment after judgment on others. Day after day, and never being wrong, or even acknowledging doubt.”

Malin elsewhere describes the newspaper’s editorial board as the “all Caucasian, decidedly suburban and Baby Boomers and older need only apply editorial board ….” and writes of being grateful for being able to leave without giving the newspaper a chance for a photo of him cleaning out his office.

In an email exchange with the Partisan, Malin accused the Times of committing two of journalism’s greatest sins — “knowingly” reporting false information about him and fabricating a quote that made him look bad. Pressed to support those comments, he provided a list of news items he disagreed with but no evidence of their falsity or of the newspaper’s recognition of their purported falsity. As for the quote, his support is on the slim side of shaky.

So what does the newspaper have to say about him and his criticisms? Not much.

“We have no comment about Mr. Malin,” City Editor Dan Browerman said Tuesday. The Quad City Times, circulation around 50,000, is part of the Lee newspaper chain. Determining whether the paper treated Malin fairly or unfairly would require considerably more reportage but there are no indications that others have joined Malin in denouncing the coverage.

Seaside officials used a head-hunting firm to find Malin, who had been a finalist for a similar position in Glendale, Ariz., last month. Seaside officials said they were aware that he had left Davenport following a dispute with the mayor and others, but the connection to a casino was not widely shared. The Squid Fry item this week caught extra attention at Seaside City Hall because of the casino tie-in, a concern to some because Seaside seeks to become home to a controversial development featuring a horse racing track.

Based on anecdotal evidence, the vetting of public officials moving on to bigger and better things isn’t always what it should be. A search process similar to Seaside’s a couple years ago presented the Monterey Peninsula school system with a proposed superintendent who was embroiled in a major and highly publicized sexual harassment scandal at the time. Separation agreements negotiated during the departure of public administrators often contain clauses meant to discourage candor. (Malin says he provided Seaside with more than 100 references.)

If Seaside officials understand that they are getting something entirely different in Malin, if they understand that he is more interesting in giving advice than taking it, it should make for an interesting hire. He appears to be a can-do guy headed to a city where development plans mostly gather dust.

However, if the city’s leaders haven’t dug extra deeply into Malin’s track record and don’t understand the risks that attach themselves to a high profile administrator with some unconventional views, they might want to talk this one over some more.

BTW, here’s a quick quiz for those of you who have read this far: Who was Malin’s predecessor in Seaside?

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portraits turkey isolated on a white background.TIPS ON HOW TO MUFFLE PARTISAN UNCLES OF ALL PERSUASIONS

This week’s holiday is the traditional time to give thanks for our many blessings and to make noble statements about doing more caring and sharing and less blaring and swearing. For years now, however, these admirable traditions have been supplanted by other ways to observe Thanksgiving in contemporary America.

Inexplicably, one of the Thanksgiving rituals — watching hours and hours of televised football  — invariably entails broadcasts of Detroit Lions games, in which no one in America could ever muster a rooting interest. Seriously, the Lions? More evidence, I believe, that the NFL is a vast criminal conspiracy. But I digress.

Another Thanksgiving tradition involves stories about the alleged stupor-inducing property of the stuff called tryptophan in turkey. I guarantee this chestnut will be rolled out on TV newscasts this week, right before the Black Friday riot footage from last year.

As far as I can tell, there is no link between turkey and passing out, and the stories are probably plants by the beef, pork and tofu industries. Any post-dinner pangs for a siesta are likely due to exceptional overeating rather than tryptophan in the bird.

I suspect, however, the substance may be a powerful hallucinogen. I’ve witnessed otherwise sane individuals displaying inexplicable interest in Detroit Lions football games after eating vast amounts of turkey. They must be “tryping.”

Another new Thanksgiving trend is more evident this year as the jackal stampede called the 2016 presidential race unites Americans like never before in staggering levels of loathing for one another’s politics. There are scads of articles offering advice on how to win Thanksgiving shout fests with the “crazy uncle” who arrives at your doorstep expecting real turkey after gorging all year on ersatz turkeys like Rush Limbaugh and other gobble radio gobblers.

Even “Saturday Night Live” carried a sketch this week demonstrating how to put irritating relatives in their place. I heard it was comic genius, but I’ve boycotted the show since Donald Trump was invited to host a few weeks ago. I will gladly explain my reasons with appropriate screeches and screams should I receive a last-minute invite to a Thanksgiving gathering. Alas, all my nieces and nephews live out of state or under secret (from me) identities.

Few of the crazy uncle “explainers” contain advice on dealing with frenetic liberals. In the interest of bipartisanship, I offer this tip on coping with an uncle who keeps yapping about Bernie Sanders as candied yams ooze from the corners of his mouth. Give him plenty of red wine and medical pot cookies. Soon he will be calling for political revolution over the Detroit Lions in addition to Wall Street.

I also offer pro tips for keeping keep crazy uncles and their ilk away from your Thanksgiving dining table altogether.

— Redeploy your sister’s 9-year-old from hacking celebrity nudes to adjusting El Rushbo Jr.’s onboard GPS to direct him to Nevada instead of your house. By the time Uncle Bob realizes, he will only have time to drop by patriot moocher Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch for a holiday meal.

He should have a wonderful time chowing down free-range beef grazed for free on Uncle Sam’s grazing land. You will enjoy his absence.

— Send an 11th-hour message informing Uncle Bob that your home has been declared a gun-free zone to avoid tragic mishaps involving inebriated giblets. Also tell him you’ve invited several Syrian war orphans and a couple polar bears whose home glacier has melted.

The sheer terror of confronting such a crowd without his “good guy” guns at hand should keep Uncle Bob under his bed in his armory bunker until all belligerents in the War on Christmas agree to meet over hot cocoa at their local Starbucks. You will revel in his absence.

— This tip is borrowed from police stings to catch dangerous fugitives by tricking them into believing they’ve won lotteries for valuable items like Detroit Lions tickets.

Have an actor or your sister’s latest sketchy boyfriend call Uncle Bob to tell him he’s won a Caribbean cruise with conservative opinion leaders during which there will be much frivolity, target practice and an exclusive private showing of President Obama’s actual Kenyan birth certificate, which won’t be publicly released until spring 2016 by The Trump.

To collect his cruise ticket and complimentary roll of fancy tin foil, he must be in New York by 7 a.m. Friday, so it’s best to leave right now! You will luxuriate in his absence.

As an option, inform Uncle Bob that he either keeps his motor mouth busy chewing turkey and not repeating the latest racist crap he’s heard or he’s banished to the kid’ table. Tell him he either buttons it up or he blows up the kids’ bounce house all by himself.

It’s just possible that after the big meal and Uncle Bob awakes from his turkey-induced nap, you and he and everyone else will give thanks for our blessings — our families, friends, fellowship and those adorable polar bears helping to clear the table, who are far less frightening when you actually spend some time together.

You will give special thanks that the stupid Lions game is finally — almost over.

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Krauthammer takes the low-blow approach

To Partisan readers who are most interested in local affairs, I apologize for yet another diversion into international waters. But don’t blame me. Blame Charles Krauthammer.

Like most people, I tend to read the writings of people I admire or those whose work I enjoy. Therefore, I don’t usually read Krauthammer’s column. Kind of wishing now that I hadn’t read his latest.

The problem isn’t so much what he had to say. The column bashes President Obama for being, in the columnist’s view, a weakling when it comes to facing down terrorists. I’m no expert on presidents or terrorists so I’m not going to pass judgment on whether his ISIS strategy is the best it could be.

The problem is the cheap trick Krauthammer used to get his message across. He was writing about Obama’s news conference this week in Turkey. He started by complaining that the president didn’t display enough passion and anger while denouncing ISIS and didn’t use the term “radical Islam,” as though that would turn some tide.

Then the columnist tried to pull a fast one, writing,

“Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as, ‘I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.’ An ‘entire’ discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa.”

He went on, completing his accounting of the president’s strategy by quoting Obama as saying “’We have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL’”

“Yes,” Krauthammer mockingly continued, “and what would we do without Luxembourg?”

In fact, Obama offered details of his strategy and examples of its successes. They may not have been great examples but Krauthammer’s piece would have approached honesty if he had at least mentioned them rather than acting as though they did not exist.

The point, patient readers, is that Krauthammer, who presumably had to apply for his job at the Washington Post and presumably could have afforded to buy a complete transcript, cherry-picked the president’s smallest points rather than his largest.

At the news conference, Obama went on at some length about the sky attack against ISIS and about this nation’s efforts at coalition building in this fight. The reporters at the session have received a fair amount of criticism for not asking him more detailed questions designed to elicit more specifics, but Obama demonstrated little reluctance to say more. Obama droned on and on, pun intended, but Krauthammer apparently was looking only for potential gotcha moments, not for illumination.

It is a strength of good debaters, and good opinion columnists, to address their opponents’ strongest arguments, not their weakest. Certainly there is no rule against scoffing at a relatively minor point for effect, but that should come only after a good faith to dissect the major points.

Krauthammer failed his readers, something I suspect he does with some frequency (I am not sure how often he is to published). Now that I am onto him, I’ll be on the lookout for additional examples.

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JOE LIVERNOIS: Let’s worry about the new class of victims

discussionSomewhere in Northern Italy, perhaps in Cremona, perhaps buried in the basement of a musty museum, there must be the smallest violin in the world.  I’d like to get my hands on that tiny violin, so that I might play it for the aggrieved white citizens of the United States.

According to the number crunchers with the Public Religion Research Institute, a whopping 43 percent of Americans believe that discrimination against white people has become as large a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

The PRRI poll further indicates that more than half of Americans believe the American “way of life” has changed for the worse since the 1950s.

What a bunch of whiners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing from these crybabies about how difficult they have it while they enjoy the freedoms bestowed by the greatest nation in the world.  With all the opportunity at their ready disposal, they opt to whine and complain about their lot in life.

Don’t they realize that Weber now has a gas grill with three stainless steel burners and a cooking area of 637 square inches they can purchase for less than $850? And that they can now enjoy the full bloviation of Fox News on a 65-inch Samsung flat screen for less than $2,000?

What is wrong with these people? Maybe if they got off their duffs and made something of themselves, they wouldn’t have all that spare time they apparently fill up now feeling sorry for themselves.

If you want respect, you’ve got to earn it.

And let’s face it, white people, you haven’t done much in the past 40 years to earn respect. And by white people, I’m mostly talking about the useless old white men who lurch about America’s donut shops and coffee houses with their screwball notions about how great everything used to be back in the ‘50s.

As an authority on old white guys, I can claim the moral high ground. I am myself a product of the pale persuasion, born in the ‘50s. I’ve grown up with many of those people. Some of those people are my best friends. So I’ve got as much right to offer my critique of white people as Bill Cosby thought he did when he lambasted black men more than a decade ago, back when he was drugging-and-diddling young women.

I’ve gone more than 60 years without feeling the least bit of discrimination.

I was reminded of the irrelevance of old white men in America earlier this week when a friend posted a plaintive and existential inquiry about the fate of humankind in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris. He posed the question, expecting to open a contemplative heart-mind discussion about grief and madness. Almost immediately, some old white guy posited the belief that the social order would be greatly improved if only we had more guns.

And that’s it, right there, the sum total of an old white guy’s introspection.

Sadly, many of those who grew up as white guys once wore their progressive idealism on their sleeves. They were banging the drums for change, rooting out oppression from all corners and demanding useful solutions. Then they secured jobs in a world someone else created and they eventually cozied up to mediocrity.

I’d like to blame it on all the acid they dropped in college or in Vietnam, but I suspect it’s a simple case of laziness. Perhaps their wives didn’t let them buy that Harley to assuage their mid-life crises. Or maybe it’s a mindless reaction to their loss of relevance, a fear that their lethargy and their negligence have rendered them useless. I don’t know. I’m not Freud.

Because let’s face it, whatever the issue, and in context to the complexities of the modern world, all you can expect to get from too many old white guys these days are easy answers. Dumb answers. Simpleton reactions.

Build a fence! Close the gate! Bomb them all! Women ask for it! Gays are taking over the world! Too much tax! Get a job! They’re taking our guns! Pull up your pants! Getting something for free! Not in my backyard! Black guy in the White House! Everyone is too sensitive these days!

I say screw these self-absorbed white people. You don’t want to be discriminated against? You want respect?

Earn it.

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ap panetta

Jimmy Panetta and his dad practicing their smiles

If I were a betting man, I would stake a lot of dough on Jimmy Panetta being the next congressman from Monterey County. Preferably with someone else’s money because I’m just a sharing kind of guy.

Let’s review the reasons. Panetta is a prosecutor, a veteran and a board member for a number of worthy groups. His candidacy already has brought statewide attention to the 20th District for the first time since 1993, the last time there was an opening in the Democrat-heavy district. His mother, Sylvia, is the epitome of a strong and talented woman.

What am I forgetting here? Panetta has long roots in Monterey County. No doubt, he owns a perfect dog for campaign photos. I won’t hazard a guess about the cat factor in the race because cats are unpredictable, and none of the stories I’ve seen about Panetta mentions cats.

This oversight makes you wonder again about the big blind spots of the mainstream media.

Oh, and before I forget, I should note that Panetta’s father is one of the biggest hitters in state and national Democratic politics in the past 40 years. One doesn’t get an institute named the Panetta Institute without an impressive track record that includes protecting the Central Coast from offshore drilling, keeping the Clinton White House running through an impeachment trial, and taking out Osama bin Laden.

Jimmy’s dad, Leon, isn’t merely the Central Coast ‘s most famous politician. He has transcended the D.C. corridors of power to occupy a prominent place in the Overall Hall of Bonafide Rock Stars.

So widespread have been Leon’s force and furrowed brow, I’d bet his surprise appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival was only scrapped because his mandolin was inadvertently singed by Jimi Hendrix’s burning guitar.  I’d make that wager right now — preferably with someone else’s money — though I may have scrambled a few facts.

In any event, young Mr. Panetta clearly has many advantages in his bid for Congress. So many that any other Democrat planning to represent the 20th in 2017 may as well buy a mandolin right now because he or she will have plenty of free time to practice.
My major concern about Jimmy Panetta is, to put it succinctly, Jimmy.

Does that name — which immediately calls to mind callow cub reporter Jimmy Olsen or the insufferable, solipsistic Jimmy from Seinfeld’s famous “Jimmy” episode — have the gravitas befitting a hard-charging member of Congress?

Perhaps, I am sensitive about the juvenile connotation of male names ending in a long E sound, having been saddled with the name Larry my entire life. I knew I’d never make it in politics as acquaintances over the years felt it incumbent to replace my cable-guy name with nicknames like Lorenzo, Lars and, I’m embarrassed to admit, “Lair Bear.”

Would it be better to run as Jim or James, two obvious alternatives to Jimmy? The inestimable Mary Duan, editor of the Monterey County Weekly, informed me those sound either too mundane or too stuffy.

Without belaboring the obvious — it is the King James Bible and not the King Jimmy Bible, and most of the undeserved snark hurled at former President Carter, I believe, is due to his aw-shucks first name — I see nothing fatal about running as either Jim or James. Heck, if the 20th included Bakersfield, Jimbo would sound better to voters’ ears than Jimmy.
Now, Jimmy is a perfectly fine name, which well serves late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel and many members of the “greatest generation,” such World War II hero  Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and actor Jimmy Stewart.

But today Jimmy seems more apropos for a boy in short pants than a square-jawed politician in pinstripes. Just look at some of the leaders in the presidential race. Donald, Marco, Ted and Ben. Grown-up names — not a Donnie, Benny,  Teddy or Marky-Marco among them. (For the moment, please disregard Bernie and Hillary because their “long E-ending” names fall outside the boundaries of my dunderhead argument and featherweight logic.)

I believe elections have consequences and voters deserve clear choices among candidates. In keeping with that philosophy, I submit the following sample ballot to give voters here on the Central Coast an important and, most probably, only choice for their next congressional representative.

— Jimmy Panetta
— James Panetta
— Jim Panetta
— Jimbo Panetta

If I were betting man, I put a lot of dough — preferably someone else’s — on Jimbo Panetta. But, then again, I’m from Bakersfield and what do we know?

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LARRY PARSONS: They can’t extinguish the citizens of light

Holiday Lights Backdrop in Purple Color Grading. Christmas Lights Background.The horrible attacks on the vibrant nightlife of Paris consumed my thoughts over the past few days. In that, I’m certainly not alone.

I tried, at times, to turn off the stream of news about the murderous bomb and rifle assaults on a concert hall, restaurants and soccer stadium, and the resultant outpouring of condolences, anguish, political bombast and war cries.

It struck me that everything that needed to be said — and far more that didn’t need to be uttered — was being said by people who knew or claimed to know a lot more than me about ISIS, the Middle East, the aim of terrorism and the lives of the innocents cut down in Paris.

The commentary included war whoops from the American right calling again for thousands of troops in Iraq and Syria without a thought of raising taxes to pay for another major war, or a moment’s reflection on how well the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq worked out. Those on the left warned about 9/11-style overreaction to the carnage of Paris and succumbing to a state of irrational fear that is the prime goal of terrorism.

There were plenty of other points to be made and arguments to carry on long after the sound of sirens in the center of Paris faded into a grim new day. There is no shortage of voices, both loud and calm. Over the long weekend, I couldn’t think of anything to add, other than a few observations.

— I won’t join in the cheap symbolism of superimposing the French flag over my online IDs. Not because I, in any way, seek to disparage the country hit by the latest outrage perpetrated by a band of religion-cloaked totalitarians. It just seems the flags of Lebanon and Russia — also recent targets of ISIS — and those of Syria and Iraq — the countries suffering the greatest losses from the terror and civil war — should be offered by Facebook and Twitter, so well-meaning users could shade their posts in more tones of social-media solidarity.

— There is a gloomy, here-we-go-again atmosphere to the bellicose, half-cocked sloganeering that erupted almost immediately after the first mass casualty reports came in. It really didn’t take Friday night’s nightmare to ramp up war fever.

A few days before, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was telling an Iowa crowd about his strategy to “bomb the shit” out of the terrorist militia and take its oil. How that would have prevented the European-grown Paris attacks is best left to a deep thinker like Trump to explain.

The United States has been doing a lot of bombing of ISIS for months. Missile strikes in the past few days reportedly killed the group’s infamous executioner “Jihadi John” and its top man in Libya. U.S. bombers Monday took out 116 ISIS oil trucks. The U.S. coordinated the French air strike on ISIS’s de facto Syrian headquarters. ISIS-held territory has been shrinking.

Whatever President Obama does is doomed to be rejected and vilified in the crucible of domestic politics and right-wing commentary. They demand immediate victory. He won’t say “radical Islam,” as if that mantra would make all enemies vanish in a poof of smoke. If Republicans are serious about a new strategy for ISIS, they control Congress and should hold hearings to put their ideas, instead of talking points, before the American public.

— As the long weekend ended, there seemed to be a race among U.S. governors and Republican presidential candidates to declare our country off-limits to any refugees from Syria’s long civil war, including orphaned children. Jeb Bush said he would allow only carefully vetted Christian refugees. That Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, whose Cuban-born fathers found welcome here from Castro’s communist regime and U.S.-backed strongman Fulgencio Batista, joined the anti-refugee chorus was sadly fitting.

The knee-jerk reaction — which had Trump saying by Monday that he would close suspect U.S. mosques — drew a rebuke from President Obama, who said religious tests weren’t what America is about.

Then after several more questions about his ISIS strategy, the president was asked by a CNN reporter, “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” That seemed to say more about what today’s on-demand America is about than any niceties about religious freedom, tolerance or reason.

— The death of CSU Long Beach design student Nohemi Gonzalez, whose exchange studies were erased in a Paris restaurant by gunfire, left her family, fellow students and faculty grieving.

By all accounts, Gonzalez, a senior from El Monte, was a star student, a friend and mentor to classmates, and a fountain of vitality. As I learned more about Gonzalez — here was one of her professors on TV crying as he spoke about her —  the pain and outrage about Paris seemed to grow. I wished I’d known her. Then I felt a smidgen of hope for the first time in days.

I recognized Ms. Gonzalez was an exemplary young American, infused with spirit and dreams. Thankfully, I realized there are many more like her in each and every El Monte across the land.

They are what America, or France or Syria, is truly about — people who, in the words of Gonzalez’s professor, are “shining star(s) who bring joy, happiness and laughter to everybody” they meet. They are citizens of cities of light.

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white flower growing on street floor tile old brick at nightLike too many of you, I have spent much of the last few days surfing the web in a search for illumination, and other things, about the Paris terrorist attacks and the flurry of action and talk they have provoked. I have been outraged by much of what I have seen and heard, the Donald Trumpisms, the racist nonsense, the ridiculous notion that the current U.S. government has not done enough to prevent this sort of thing. Riled up by it all, I have even found myself feeling somewhat supportive of the horrible things that have been done in our names in the Middle East. Like many of you, my biggest issue with the Obama administration is that it has been too militaristic but now here I am ready to defend the president, at least in my mental argument with the angry mob on the right, ready to tell them about the hundreds of air strikes that preceded the Paris attacks while, in a large sense, seemingly agreeing with the tactics, at least in the context of this over-the-top political debate. Why has the heat of verbal battle caused me to forget that air strikes and the like cause horrible responses rather than prevent them?

I am disappointed with the world at the moment and with myself for allowing this internal conflict and for seeking out meanest and weakest arguments in order to scoff at them, to mock them. It’s almost like I’m keeping a mental scorecard of absurdities. Some of the governors want to close their states to Syrian refugees. Some cartoonists want to draw Obama in short pants. How many more stupid reactions can I find in my next stroll through Facebook and twitter? Will I be disappointed if no one has anything ignorant to say? Why in a time of upheaval and anger am I looking for a fight?

This, loosely, is the topic I am opening for discussion here on the pages of the Partisan. If you’d like to talk about theology, go ahead but I really don’t want a debate on whether Islam is a religion of war or peace. Not looking for the same debate about Christianity. What I am looking for is rational reflection on irrational behavior, advice on how we should proceed as individuals and as a collection of individuals as our modern world plunges into some dark times. This is going to get worse before it gets better. What can we do to make sense of it? How are you responding and, ultimately, how are you going to get through it all without spending way too much of your time angry and confused?

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Sam+Farr+Oxfam+Sisters+Planet+Summit+Awards+SORzyH42xS2l“UNAVOIDABLE FOR COMMENT”

The daily paper did a good job with the Sam Farr retirement announcement. The main story captured the scene when the longtime congressman from Carmel announced Thursday in Salinas that he won’t run and win another election.

Two sidebars looked at Farr’s record of service to the Central Coast, from education and the environment to agriculture and veterans health care. Another looked ahead toward the scramble among ambitious Democrats looking, perhaps, to succeed Farr in Congress. There even was a nice editorial.

What to add? All I have is a few personal thoughts about Farr from having dealt with him as a newspaper reporter in Salinas and Monterey from his days in the state Assembly to his 22 years in Congress. They won’t be found anywhere but here in The Partisan and, in one case, some drawer in my desk where I keep old stuff from my newspaper days.

— First, all the Farr retirement stories failed to mention two issues that the congressman championed — animal rights and normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba.

If I had a dollar for every Farr press release over the years about the cruelty of commercial “puppy mills” and the horrific treatment of circus animals, I could probably buy dinner for two in a fancy restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula.

His efforts on behalf of dogs and elephants, of course, drew some laughter from the smart asses who walk on two legs. But I can’t think of a nobler, outside-the-box cause, or one more in keeping with the attitudes of his district. Stories about animal cruelty on the Central Coast invariably generate as much or more interest among readers than stories about the cruel things we humans do to each other.

As an old Latin American hand from his Peace Corps days — which somehow seemed to come up in nearly every conversation I had with Farr — the congressman pressed for more travel and agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba. He knew it was time to end the Cold War postures frozen in time. Now that the Obama administration is doing just that (without a peep of protest from the pack of Republicans running for president), Farr must be happy.

— Second, Farr was always available to reporters back home in his district. Over the years, I had scores of conversations with him about bills, appropriations, votes and the political winds of the day. He did his own talking most of time and didn’t rely on a canned statement from his press person. I remember talking to him from D.C. the day after he hurt a leg after taking a nasty spill on a patch of ice.

Of course, getting a quick couple of quotes from the congressman was impossible. When Farr came on the line, you knew what you were doing for the next 15 or 20 minutes. He liked to talk over, under, sideways and through the questions. Invariably, I would stop taking notes after a few minutes and wait for his enthusiasm to wind down. It was usually a long wait.

One cynical editor cracked that Farr “was unavoidable for comment.” I always was thankful for his loquacity, except when I was on a very tight deadline and overcame my hesitancy to cut the congressman off with a curt, “Gotta go.” Sam understood.

— Third, somewhere in the mess of papers crammed into my desk at home, there’s a photo portrait of me nicely mounted in a paper frame. It was taken in 1984 when I was amid the California delegation on the floor of the Democratic National Convention at Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The delegates were going crazy during the convention’s high point, Geraldine Ferraro’s speech accepting the nomination for vice president that put the first woman on a major party’s presidential ticket.

I must have been struck by the utter pointlessness of trying to get few quotes amid the pandemonium of cheers and tears. When one of the delegates, an amateur photographer himself, aimed his camera at me I had a weary smile.

A few days later, I received a copy of the picture by mail at my desk at the Salinas Californian. Inside was a short note from the photographer, then-Assemblyman Sam Farr. Sure it was a canny political gesture. I knew that. But still it was a kind touch.

Somehow Farr captured my good side in the picture. That’s not easy. But a dedicated public servant like Farr always had a knack for getting things done.

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KEVIN HOWE: The lessons of military service

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Kevin Howe delivering his speech Saturday at Marina Equestrian Center Park.

If there’s one thing I can speak to on behalf of all Vietnam veterans, it is that I’m grateful for the recognition extended to us today.

We weren’t exactly in fashion when we came home from Vietnam. Some were confronted and insulted as they got off the plane. Others got the stink-eye as they walked through the airport terminal.

I remember a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in September, 1968, on my way home, where the terminal was filled with the walking wounded from the Democratic National Convention’s rioting and chaos. We veterans were conspicuous in our uniforms, and we formed our own perimeter of mutual support while waiting for our flights.

People talk about the fact that there was no welcoming parade for veterans, but I didn’t resent that because there wasn’t a victory to celebrate. I would, however, have settled for civility and respect.

Too many of us didn’t live to see this day. A lot of us are discovering that the after-effects of the war are catching up with us as we turn gray and our health begins to fail.

Nowadays we’re in the “support the troops” era, and soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coastguardmen are honored, respected and celebrated for their service. That’s a good thing, but we should consider what veterans are not.

We are not all “heroes.” That’s a word that’s often misused these days. Most of us are ordinary people who were called on to do extraordinary things at one time or another, but we are not a special breed. We have all the faults and shortcomings of our fellow citizens. We are Americans—like other Americans—but we decided to pause in our lives and serve our country. The special thing about veterans is that they believe in something bigger than themselves.

No matter where men or women in uniform have served, no matter what their duties or assignments, all of them can take this to heart, that “A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’”

Napoleon Bonaparte called his grande armee “the school of the nation.” Looking back on my own days of taking basic training here at Fort Ord back in 1966, I’ve come to appreciate the truth in that phrase. Our army is also “the school of the nation,” and it teaches hard and valuable lessons.

We trainees learned that rain was no reason to stay indoors and skip training. We learned that we could run farther, work harder, lift more weight and climb higher than we ever thought we could. We learned that the strangers from other places, other races, we were thrown in with were people much like ourselves. We learned that the uniform, rather than erasing individuality, brought out the reality of our core selves by making us shed the masks and costumes we had worn in civilian life.

I resented what I saw as the injustice of group punishments of a whole platoon for the failing of one soldier during training. In combat I came to appreciate that the failing of one could mean the death of all.

People talk about the military, especially the infantry, as “a band of brothers.” It isn’t a “band of brothers;” it’s a pack of wolves, and unlike a band of brothers, a wolfpack won’t tolerate weakness, carelessness, failure or cowardice, because the life of the pack depends on all its members.

We don’t do group punishment in civilian life, but we have learned that there are consequences for letting down the team.

I think Vietnam veterans have always been proud that they served in their war, even if they only fought for each other rather than the ill-defined aims and goals of our leaders. We tended to bury our experience from those who did not, and talked about it only among ourselves. Today we celebrate coming out in the open, and coming home.

In closing, thank you all for coming. Don’t go away thinking we’re heroes, but we are your fellow citizens who were willing and able to step up to the plate for our country. And don’t forget that our country has waged three wars since Vietnam, and those veterans will have been marked like we have, with both good and bad memories, and mental and physical scarring, and they, too will need your support after the bands stop playing and the flags are furled.

This was originally delivered as a speech last week at the Friends of the Fort Ord Warhorse 6th Veterans Day Celebration at Marina Equestrian Center Park.

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I am a Vietnam veteran, an appellation in which I take considerable pride. I served as a captain in the Army during campaigns in 1970-1971. I was a combat engineer and a Ranger, earning three Bronze Stars, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and three campaign ribbons among other awards. My war service was one of the two most important formative experiences of my life. I don’t talk about it much, except with those who were there with me.

But every Veterans Day, I think about it – a lot. Some people think about it on Memorial Day, but that day has always meant the end of school and the beginning of a wonderful summer to me, not a day to remember the dead. Veterans Day comes in the fall when the days are shorter, there is a chill and a hint of rain in the evening air, and a fire in the fireplace is in order. For me it is a somber event, a time to reflect. It is when I give thanks to the heavens above, or more precisely the god of luck, that I am still alive and able to enjoy the fruits of a life well lived. And it is when I think of my best friend, Henry, who has missed the last 43 years.

You don’t know Henry Mershon Spengler III, and that is your loss. A finer fellow you could not meet. He and I entered West Point from neighboring high schools in northern Virginia on July 1, 1964, our jaws firmly set to follow in our fathers’ footsteps. They fought WWII for the duration, Pearl Harbor to V-E Day. They were the “greatest generation” who had made the world safe for democracy.

Henry and I became fast friends and four years passed swiftly. We were good students (if less than perfect cadets) and graduated high enough in class standing to select the Corps of Engineers as our branch. We had followed the distant war in Asia intently, knowing we would be tested there. Gen William Westmorland gave us his confidential speech the day before he traveled to Washington to inform Congress of the “termites” that had evaded an extermination that only more troops would provide. We knew we would be the leaders of the “more troops.” I didn’t know then that that’s what the generals always say.

We graduated on June 5, 1968. The college class of ’68 was on the cover of Time magazine that week, celebrated as the first bloom of the Baby Boom and the best and the brightest college class in decades. We were filled with optimism and confidence, and our hearts were on fire to serve our country in this time of need. Some of my more cynical classmates were known to remark that “war is our business, and business is good!” But all this was dampened a bit by the fact that, some ten hours before we threw our hats in the air for the last time, Bobby Kennedy lay dying from an assassin’s bullet on a kitchen floor in Los Angeles.

Henry and I married our high school sweethearts and spent a summer relaxing before reporting to Ranger School in Georgia. We were each other’s “ranger buddy,” tasked with pushing and pulling each other through the nine-week ordeal. Henry carried me to an ambulance station when I passed out from heat stroke during a nighttime march.” He was by my bedside when I awoke at dawn. I was able to catch enough of Henry when he fell from above me during a mountain nighttime exercise. When we graduated with the coveted Ranger Tab, we were the brothers that neither of us ever had.

After other training courses, we reported to our first duty assignment – me to Panama, Henry to Germany. We were out of touch for about 18 months, when coincidently we met again during leave in Arlington, Virginia,” in September 1970. Quite unbeknown to the other, we had both developed an interest in changing our course within the ‘Army. Flight school to be on the cutting edge of the modern Army seemed attractive but law school also attracted our interest. Hendry chose flight school, I chose law, which required a combat tour before matriculation. So I went off to Vietnam and Henry to flight school.

When I returned a year later, Henry was outbound to fly Hueys in Vietnam. We didn’t plan it that way, but I ran the gauntlet first and survived. Henry went second, and perished.

He was shot down in May 1972 by freakish small arms fire at 3,000 feet. He was initially listed as Missing in Action, but only because he went down near the Cambodian border where our considerably weakened ground force could not get to him. He fell at a time when the war was virtually over for us, at the last stage of Nixon’s peace with honor withdrawal. Henry was the very last engineer officer killed in action in that long and miserable war. His remains were not found until 1992, when he was brought home to be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

More times than I could possible count, I have pondered the question: ”Why Henry and not me?” It would have been much easier to kill me. I was in the front lines during the last major battle of the war, and I know that many NVA soldiers had me in their sights at one time or another. I was no better a soldier than Henry, just luckier I guess.

If you have ever watched documentaries of war veterans telling their stories, you will note that everyone who lost a dear friend says the real heroes are the ones who didn’t come back. And we feel guilty. What did I do to merit this gift of the past 43 years of life?

You have missed a lot, Henry. Your beloved Redskins won two or three Super Bowls and Washington has finally gotten a baseball team to replace the Senators – a National League team no less. We have had two presidents” who were members of the Class of ’68 (Yale, just down the road you know). Their reviews are mixed and place in history uncertain, but they avoided service to their country. The Cold War has ended. The Army is much more professional, but no longer “of the people,” which I think is not a good thing.

What you won’t miss are the endless years of war that have consumed us for much of the past 15 years. But you know how we fought to save the world from communism? It was not a direct by-product of our loss in Vietnam, but we can now safely project that communism is on the way out as emerging economies and more educated populations raise their expectations to share in the good life that freedom brings.

So was it worth it, Henry? Did your sacrifice make a difference? Did it preserve our freedom in some way?

I always visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington when I am there, drawn to it like a moth to the fire. I despise it – a subterranean black wall amid a city full of proud white monuments that celebrate our history and national successes. Why was our sacrifice denigrated to below ground, our valor stolen by defeat? As a classmate once said: “Our blood was just as red; our fallen comrades are just as dead.” And I always cry, sometimes uncontrollably, when I locate and finger Henry’s name at the near end of the wall. To go there is almost an act of masochism for me.

What is there to say about the loss of Henry? He didn’t die in a foolhardy but glorious Pickett’s Charge, or on a sandy beach turning the tide of a world war. My answer to that question has evolved over time, as the world has, or has not, changed. I now look to the endless Middle Eastern wars that our nation’s politicians have pursued. Those politicians never fought a war or saw its terror, and have no children or other family at risk when they “put boots on the ground.” They have no skin in the game, like you and I did, Henry. And I realize that there can be but one answer.

Had we learned anything from the debacle in Vietnam, perhaps Henry’s death could have achieved something. But we didn’t. We are now engaged in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan that is virtually identical to Vietnam. No matter how long we stay there, and how many American lives are lost, the enemy will wait us out and take over when we leave, breaking the promises we have impliedly made to Afghan women, children, and the middle class, all of whom will either perish or return to the stone age when the Taliban comes back. And while communism is on the decline, Islam is more resilient and will  not give way to Western values. It has been around for 1,000 years, and will be with us long after we quit the battlefield.

So, much as it pains me, I have to tell you, Henry, that I fear you died for nothing – nothing at all. Your death is a black hole in my heart. As each year passes, that hole gets darker and deeper. I will join you sooner than I should, for some war wounds are not visible. But then at least, we can cap this gift of 43 years life that you didn’t get to enjoy.

Willard P. McCrone is a past member of the Monterey Planning Commission and twice served as chairman. He also has been a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. He is a retired lawyer who lives in Monterey.

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20151110_065058.jpgOfficials of  the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey have relatively modest plans for campus growth during the next 10 years. In fact, the school’s recently released master plan shows campus expansion would be mostly limited to its existing footprint, on less than six acres along the downhill edge of the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Representatives from the institute unveiled their plans to neighbors on Monday. The proposal, along with environmental documents, is expected to be reviewed by the Monterey Planning Commission next month.

The only real expansion to its boundaries would be on a city-owned parking lot at Franklin and Van Buren streets, where a new school building would be located. Institute officials also expect to replace another parking lot within the existing campus, between Van Buren and Pierce streets, with classrooms.

Also, significantly, institute officials plan to close down half of Pierce Street to develop a pedestrian-friendly quad for the school, according to Jeffrey Ross Dayton-Johnson, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the institute.

The elimination of parking spaces appears to be the primary concern for neighbors who peppered Dayton-Johnson with questions about the school’s parking plans on Monday.

Located just up the hill from downtown, street parking along the lower end of the Old Town is already burdened with employees working at MIIS, downtown and in City Hall, as well as students at Monterey High School and MIIS.

Neighbors acknowledged that students at the institute aren’t a major problem — they generally live within walking distance of MIIS — but employees and visitors often use neighborhood streets to park their vehicles.

About 700 students are enrolled at the institute this year, and the master plan would accommodate about 400 new students, though Dayton-Johnson said he doesn’t expect the student population to grow beyond 850 during the next decade.

The institute now employs almost 300 professors and staff, and about 140 more would be working at MIIS by the completion of its expansion, according to environmental documents.

Jai Shankar, director of the school’s operations, said many of the lost parking spaces would be replaced with underground parking beneath the new buildings, which will result in a net gain of about 60 new parking spaces.  He said the institute would also aggressively promote ride-sharing and public transportation option among employees and students.

Several neighbors also said they were concerned about the closure of Pierce Street to create what Dayton-Johnson described as a “common campus core.” The existing campus does not have an identifiable quad, or common gathering area, that easily links buildings and classrooms within the school. Partial closure of the street and the addition of open area would represent the heart of the campus, Dayton-Johnson said.

Some neighbors said the closure would create fewer street-parking opportunities for employers and shoppers on Alvarado Street. They also said they were concerned that the closure would block access to emergency vehicles. Shankar said that removable posts would be erected at the entrance points on Pierce to allow access for emergency personnel.

If approved by the city, the institute would still need to negotiate with city officials over the acquisition of the city parking lot on Franklin and Van Buren.

The school was established in 1955 as the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies to promote international understanding through the study of language and culture. It moved to the Old Town neighborhood in 1961 and has steadily grown, drawing students from dozens of countries and adding programs ranging from the translation studies to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Middlebury purchased the institute in 2010 and formally changed the name earlier this year.

Officials from the school also told neighbors Monday they have no intention of purchasing the massive AT&T service building next to the campus on Pierce Street.

Livernois, a former editor, reporter and columnist for the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”

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LARRY PARSONS: The ball can be louder than the bullhorn

Football is king on most college campuses.

The swift toppling of the University of Missouri’s president over his ham-handed handling of racial incidents on campus is stunning evidence of the old rule. And, possibly, evidence of a new model of American political activism.

The university president resigned after many familiar tactics were put to use by those seeking a new president and new vigor in combatting bigotry against black students. There were protests, sit-ins, an activist mounting a fast and faculty letters.

But the deep dissatisfaction with president Tim Wolfe, which had legislators and the governor joining the chorus at the 11th hour, picked up inevitable momentum when black players on the Tigers’ football team announced they wouldn’t play until Wolfe was gone. Other players and coaches backed the black players’ announced boycott. Game over. Time expired.

College football is big business. Major college coaches typically make many times over what campus presidents draw on their paychecks. National sports networks showcase college football games almost every day of the week from early morning until late at night.

If there is one aspect of American society in which black lives not only matter but are fervently worshipped it is college football. Many of the stars, who become household names over the course of their college careers, are outstanding black athletes. That’s been true for decades, even in the Deep South where segregated football finally fell out out of practices 50 years ago.

The University of Missouri game boycott came on the heels of efforts in recent years to organize student athletes so they, too, can enjoy some of the huge pot of money generated by lucrative football and basketball programs. The NCAA, through the courts and appeals to the myth of student athletes with hearts of gold but little real gold, has forestalled the unionization movement at college stadiums and field houses.

But the Tigers’ victory off the field demonstrates the raw power potentially held by college football players. Imagine if teams used the same playbook over issues like criminal justice reform, income equality or climate change.

Student activists have too long been saddled with stereotypical imagery out of the 1960s — effete intellectuals with foul mouths, lax morals and Mao’s little red book. Today, they just might be the students wearing football helmets who display their talents before tens of thousands of fans dressed in school colors and cheering themselves hoarse.

And this week, many of those student athletes may realize that when they speak with a unified voice, Missouri, and the rest of America, must listen. Or the big game won’t happen, and the tailgaters will have to party in the driveway at home.

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The bench

Dry leaves on the bench at city park“Finding this bench and these notebooks is a beautiful way for the universe to say ‘you’re in the right place at the right time with the right person.”  Journal entry, March 1, 2014

It looks like most of the other benches that were thoughtfully installed all along the shore, but there is much more to see here.  The view is complicated because there is a beach and a lagoon and another shoreline across the way.  That is probably why people spend relatively more time here, the view along with the journals stuffed into a plain black mailbox tucked under the bench. In case you want to take your turn writing about what is on your mind, there also are plenty of pens and pencils.

There is some mystery to how long there have been journals at this spot and about how it started, how people came to jot down their reflections, share their memories, make promises and profess undying love. It’s a mystery to me, at least. I just learned of the journals the other day, thanks to a Partisan reader who apparently felt I needed some inspiration or, at the least, to be more productive.

I assume there are many people out there in Carmel and Pebble Beach, Carmel Highlands and Pacific Grove who know all about the journals, have known about them for years. Someone reading this will probably say something like, “Hey, get this. That guy who has that Partisan blog, he didn’t know about the bench with the journals. Sheesh.” But I’ll take my chances. Having read through most of the seven or eight little journals currently in the box, I feel somewhat fortified, and so I will not worry about such things.

“I came from Iran, a beautiful land, but find your Pacific coast the most breathtaking of all that I have seen.” Azadeh, May 25, 2012

More than anything else, the journals contain expressions of gratitude — for the view, the bench itself, the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, for friends and family and the ability to be able to live or visit here. There are many references to previous trips to the Peninsula for celebration of birthdays and anniversaries.

“What a surprise! Such a wonderful surprise. I come to Monterey to heal, find myself and grow. Carmel is where I come and grow with AP. We walk, share and grow. Today I am 7 weeks pregnant. Unexpected. Not married. Afraid. What will happen to baby and me? Moments like today, finding these notebooks, brings me peace. I can’t describe it but I know everything’s going to be OK.” 

The next entry.

“You will be fine. I did it when I was 18 years old. My son is a strong man now with two children of his own. Stay strong and focused. Love your baby.”

Those were recent entries. The journals in the mailbox at the moment date to 2012 but I suspect many were filled before these. I hope they are in a safe place. The bench seems to have been there since the 1950s. You likely noticed that I haven’t said exactly where it is. That is not an oversight. Part of the charm is that most people seem to have stumbled onto the journals accidentally or to have been told about them by a friend or relative. Even this amount of publicity in this obscure blog could threaten this little gift, so it seems best to let people guess at the location. Better a discovery than a target.

Not everything written in these journals is special. Some is downright mundane. Thankfully and surprisingly, there is little about Carmel beating P.G. High in football and nothing at all about politics, presidential or otherwise. There are, however, a lot of exclamation points.

“Cool mail idea! This is an amazing view. I’m here with my boyfriend for his 21st birthday. This has been such a fun trip and he means the world to me. I hope we can come and read this years later. We’re going to get drunk tonight and write more!”

Many of the entries are messages for loved ones, past and present.

“Visiting a friend this weekend. Tomorrow is Mothers Day and mine has been gone for nine years. Miss her every day.”

Walked by this place with dad so many times but we seldom had time to sit. When I get the chance to sit here now, I start to talk to him sometimes, but mostly we just sit.”

Hon – today your ashes have been put on Pebble beach, a place you were so happy to have been able to play golf. I am so fortunate to have Jeff and Eric bring me here to see what you raved about! I will always love you.”

Some entries are letters to grandparents long gone. Some are apologies. One young man felt horrible about quarreling with his mother the night before as he headed out on a long trip and he apparently felt that writing out his apology would make at least one of them feel better.

A remarkable number of entries mention healing, mostly the emotional or spiritual kinds.  Clearly, spending some time on a bench overlooking the sea gave some the time they needed to contemplate their troubles and, in quite a few cases, the solutions.

‘Sitting here with my mother, considering myself very lucky. Both because I live in this special place and that I can enjoy it with my mom. Welcome to everyone and we look forward to seeing the peace on your face that this bench can bring.”

“Here I am. Almost two years ago I watched my beautiful daughter get married to a wonderful man who has become my son. Today we are here again but with the newest member of our family, Jaxon, who is almost three week old. Life doesn’t get much better than this!”

“Life has returned me to my home. Born in Carmel Community Hospital on Hwy 1 in 1953. Dr. Stoddard. Many marriages, 5 children, love, heartbreaks, Sept. 11 in 2001, and home to find my bench. A place I can breathe, reflect on my childhood, family and friends!”

One woman wrote about being there with her dog, which would not live through the day. She wrote that she wanted him to see the ocean one more time.

There are entries in Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese. Some entries are just random

“Jolly and Ivan and Vanessa and the humpback whales are smoking cigarettes.”

Ray Bradbury died today. Long live books. June 5, 2012.

Some visitors declared their love of the person sitting beside them.

He wrote: “I like bumble bees. Brianna is scared of them. It’s funny because I tell her they are the nice ones, but she doesn’t believe me. But that’s why I love her. The bumble bee just flew by again, and she grabbed my arm and shrieked, in a cute way. Sitting here with her, on a day almost as beautiful as she is, is as happy as I’ve been.”

She wrote: “Bumble bees scare me. But the bee buzzing around me doesn’t take away the fact that this is the best trip that I have taken in a long time and one of the most beautiful views I have experienced. Henry says he loves me, and I know he means it. I love him, too. I am so grateful to be able to share this with him. He makes me truly happy. I’ve never felt this way before.”

Here are some more:

“Few views are worth watching forever. I could watch this forever and a day. “BK, age 12.

“Slowing down, looking around, enjoying the sound of our feet on the ground.” Brooke. Vermont

“I stopped here to remove the sand from my shoes and realized that more had been removed – the stress has left, for a few, wonderful, delicious moments. It is really true that the simplest of moments can be the most memorable. This has, at least for the moment, refocused me, this nice little spot that I will alway remember.”

I love you Jenny Benson.”

There were some attempts at poetry. Perhaps I will find some successful attempts in the journals I have not read yet.

As a writer of sorts, I was on the lookout for interesting writing. I found lots of touching writing, inspirational writing, even funny writing, but not much writing to write home about. This was my favorite:

“Last night my snowy egret came to see me. She tapped on my window three times with her ebony beak. I met her at the garden gate. She brought strawberries and I brought fresh bread. We walked to the river. She fed me strawberries from her lovely yellow feet while she pecked the warm bread from my hand. She told me of her adventures on island marshes and I shared with her the perils of raising fairy children in a human world. We swam in the effervescent waters and sipped honeysuckle nectar from delicate little cones. At dawn, I climbed on her back and we flew to the moon.”

I liked these, too.

“My turn! The sirens were everywhere this morning so I have walked down to this wonderful spot not sure what was in store, but it was a training exercise for fire and rescue personnel, the best answer possible to that drama. So now the sky has cleared, the sea is calm, the newspapers today full of complaints about smelly kelp, bags of dog poop left where everyone knows they shouldn’t bee, but NOTHING can mar the beauty that Carmel offers to all.”

“In the morning, I will wake early to join my daughter and her daughter, my oldest grandchild, in a long drive to Phoenix to begin another school year. Fourteen hours, two cars and too much “stuff.” Am I old enough to have a grandchild in college? The answer is self evident. For it is two weeks now after cataract surgery at Stanford and for the first time in years I see my face clearly and in technicolors that I had only viewed dimly, and there is my full answer to my rhetorical question. Blessed am I!”

“When I find the father of my children I will bring him here to show him a place that struck me in the most beautiful way.”

“My husband and I first came to this spot in 1992, a long or short time depending on how you look at things. In that time, nothing has changed but, then again, everything has.”

Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll write something myself.

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