On vacation

That sound of water gently lapping up against the side of the boat is just me projecting onto this blog the sounds of my pending vacation to Lake Coer d’Alene in Northern Idaho.

Unless something really, really political crawls into my boat, there will be no entries for the next three weeks.

I return to my desk on Aug. 8, just in time for the Aug. 11 deadline for candidate filings in the November election.

Until then, happy sailing!


Calling all candidates: Filing period opens Monday

Okay, folks, here’s your chance to show all those politicians how it ought to be done.

The filing period opens Monday for candidates seeking to run in the November election for dozens of nonpartisan local offices, community service districts, and school, hospital and regional boards.

The candidates in the partisan races such as governor and state legislature have already been selected in the June primary.

The nomination period will remain open through Aug. 11 unless the incumbent does not file, in which case the filing deadline is extended five days.

Incumbents seeking re-election and residents who wish to run should contact the county election office where they reside or the clerk of the relevant agency for information on where to pick up nomination papers and how to file.

To reach county offices, contact:
Solano County — 888-933-8683 or www.co.solano.ca.us
Alameda County — 510-272-6933 or www.acgov.org/rov/
Contra Costa County — 925-646-4166 or www.cocovote.us/


Partisan bickering, oh my!

The rhetoric in this country has become so partisan that even the political consultants that helped cook up the poisonous brew are sick of it.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that top strategists from both parties unveiled plans for a web site that seeks to “cool the rhetoric and stir debate.”

Hotsoup.com founders include Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s 2004 relection campaign and the strategy honcho for the re-election campaign of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the Democratic side, the site will feature three partners in a Democratic consulting firm including Joe Lockhart, an ex-press secretary to President Bill Clinton and an advisor to Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.

Site founders told LA Times reporter Ronald Brownstein that they “hope it would change the political dialogue by providing opportunities for local and national leaders to discuss issues outside the existing ideological and partisan arguments that dominate Washington and the media.”


A visit to the site shows a picture of the team and poses a survey question:” What issue or concern do you wish you had heard more about from the mainstream media and your leaders?” Viewers may choose from among a list of options such as honesty in American life, making government work and the Iraq War. Hotsoup.com will officially go live in October.

Interestingly, the LA Times story also said the site founders won’t rule out working on opposite sides in the 2008 presidential campaign and they will sell advertising space on the site.


Why does this sound like another clause in the Political Consultant’s Full Employment Act?


Politically incorrect camping commentary

This is a bit off-subject for a politics blog. But it’s such a great rant that I couldn’t resist.

This reader responded via email to a story I co-wrote for Sunday’s paper with Denis Cuff about growing incivility in campgrounds. I camp quite a bit and after several unhappy experiences, I decided to find out if other folks found themselves in similar circumstances. And yep, I’m not alone in my frustration.

I’ve edited the content somewhat for language, punctuation and clarity, but here’s what the reader had to say:

Good article. And I thank you for it.

I wish you had told people to just simply stay home if they don’t know what they are doing.

And you forgot to tell people that going into nature in an SUV is like going into church with a Penthouse in one hand, a bottle of tequila in the other and (wearing) crotchless pants.

Oh and you forgot to tell people that when they are out for a hike and there are no toilets around, they should NOT (urinate) on the trails, but need to walk a ways into the woods and find a spot.

Twice a year, I go camping.

I try to get an environmental spot, if I can. But if I have to camp amongst Joe BigMac then I do.

At Pfieffer – Big Sur last month, had to camp with a horde of Joe Bigmacs.

On day two, some nut job arrives in a huge RV. She blasted “The End” by The Doors over and over and over. It’s like that was the point of her camping trip, to listen to the same song on a loop.

In the morning, it wasn’t an issue. I wake up before most and head out. In the late afternoon, when I came back to resupply and take a breather, it wasn’t that big of a deal (but slightly obnoxious.)

The evening was quiet. But at 10:30ish-pm, “THIS IS THE END … ”

I stormed over and blinded her with my flashlight so she couldn’t see through my ruse. I pretended to be “The Man,” a park ranger, and gave her two options: Turn it @#$% off or @#$% leave!

She turned it off.

And she was quiet the next day.

The spigot, yep, used to wash dishes. The thing is, is once one person does it, everyone decides “Why not?” The mosquitos were pleased as punch.

Hip, young 22-year-old, trying to wow his chick with his nature skills so he could get some action. He left his food out all night. At 3:30 a.m., the animals had a PARTY! The raucus, the noise, the all-you-can-eat buffet!

That evening, Mr. Suave treated his honey to a fire, made up of treated and painted wood (big no-no) with flames that kissed the trees and kissed the two large cans of lighter fluid they had sitting out. (What kind of moron needs lighter fluid to start a fire? Who needs two cans?)

Realizing they could easily burn down the site and die, they decided to calm the fire down a tad.

Speaking of flame, it never fails, everytime I go camping, I come across an abondoned fire.

The kids, oh the kids, love their bikes. My campsite made an excellent bike path. Heck, even adults decided to waltz on through. I should have offered guided tours: Here’s my tent circa 1988; here’s my post-modern,
crimson folding chair with cup holder; and this lovely thing is my jumbo thermos for fire dousing.

I’ll keep this year’s Sequoia stories to myself. They’re basically similar.

Except one: A group of nerds who have never been camping before in their lives, never touched a tent before in their lives (trust me, it was obvious) brought along a blue laser.

But it wasn’t enough to aim it at the stars like it’s supposed to be used for. They started firing into people’s campsites and almost got my eye. Blue lasers can do severe eye damage. They make regular laser pointers seem like a harmless Christmas light.

Some glorious day (hopefully soon) Nintendo will come out with a camping video game, and Joe BigMacs and nerds will just stay put and “live” the experience at home.

P.S. Oh and you forgot to say that anyone who needs an air mattress is a sissy.


Reader asks question about reinstatement of draft

Times’ reader Sarge Kennedy of Alamo submitted a question to my Q&A forum about the status of the Universal National Service Act of 2006, a bill introduced in February 2006 by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. In particular, he wanted to know why he has not seen extensive coverage of the bill.

He’s right about the lack of coverage. I found only nine references to the bill using our subscription news service, Lexis-Nexis.

The legislation, or H.R. 4752, would “provide for the common defense by requiring all persons in the United States, including women, between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security.”

The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

Bills receive little or no news coverage for a number of reasons. Most often, it’s because the bill has little chance of success. Lawmakers introduce hundreds of bills each session and it’s impossible to track them all. It’s also possible that a bill author intentionally keeps legislation low-profile — usually through late-night amendments — because it might attract too much or the wrong kind of coverage.

The former appears to be the case in this instance.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote on June 27 that Rangel himself did not expect the bill to pass. He was the only sponsor of the bill.

On Rangel’s website, he wrote, “I introduced my bill to reinstate the military draft in the hope that it would remind Americans that lives would be lost and the sacrifice should be shared by all. The greatest moral failure of this war is that the ultimate sacrifices are being demanded of volunteers who, due to lack of alternative opportunities, are willing to risk their lives for a chance to improve their economic circumstance and pursue the American Dream.”

The 2006 bill is an updated versions of a similar bill that Rangel introduced in 2003.

According to news accounts, House GOP leaders brought the first bill to the floor for a vote in 2004 — it failed 402-2 — to squash reports that the Bush administration sought to reinstate the draft.

The U.S. draft ended in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War.


Conservatives launch Townhall.com

You, too, can be a blogger.

Townhall.com, a conservative political opinion web site, announced today that it will promote activism through the combination of conservative talk radio and the blogosphere.

The first site of the conservative kind, or so they say, empowers talk radio listeners to create their own blogs, podcasts and disseminate opinion columns in their communities.

“The new Townhall.com offers an arsenal of weapons for conservatives to win the battle of ideas,” wrote Jonathan Garthwaite on the site. “The liberals will try to dismiss us but we know better. This is the start of something big and the stakes in 2006 and 2008 couldn’t be higher.”

Featured on the site are talk radio commentators Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Townhall.com Executive Editor Hugh Hewitt. Each has his own page with links to their shows and blogs.

With headlines such as “Bush motorcade stops for lemonade,” “How to buy a semi-automatic rifle” and “Because the New York Times Says So,” conservatives will feel right at home here.

Let the games begin!