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Do You Beware the Ides of March?

Do you remember as a child when old people (often aunts but always elderly) liked to grab your cheeks and squeeze them together? "Isn't she just the cutest thing?!" Well, if you study Chris Christie's mouth and Donald Trump's, they look just like that - sort of squished together like fish.

As a veteran observer of presidential debates, I am expert in pinpointing useless details like this, and drawing ludicrous connections where none exist. Of course, the similarities in facial features mean nothing, but I have come to suspect that Christie was destined to be Donald's toady and that Bush and Rubio's clubby rapport in the Sunshine State (where the sawgrass meets the sky) would come to a bad end.

The 17 candidates in the original group of POTUS hopefuls offered an infinity of interesting relationships to be theorized and cruel caricatures to be drawn from the increasingly desperate contestants, some of whom obviously decided to put their money on huge promises repeated constantly.

Deja vu vu vu vu on stage. Add quotation marks and a grain of salt to each of these statements. If you have watched the debates, you can easily identify the speakers.

He wasn't nice to me. I am winning everything. Honestly, I will tell you that I am nice. I do not apologize for that. I never said that. I'm going to build a big wall. The Chinese will be envious of my great wall. We're going to make America great again. Nobody is getting into the country until we figure out why Muslims hate us. I love people. People love me, except those media people. They are not nice to me.

Guess what. We need a balanced budget, jobs for everyone, above average schools, and contented blue collar workers. I did all of that in Ohio. And guess what, the first day I am President I will grant amnesty to all undocumented residents.

You know what? We're going to win in Florida and we're going to move across the country with my stump speech and that little platform I carry along to make me look tall. And I'm not going to go negative (but have you noticed what little hands that guy has?) Gee it’s hot in here. Will somebody hand me a hankie?

I believe we can unite. I believe we can unite. I believe I can unite this party and this country. And I am going to be President. Sing Hallelujah, brothers and sisters. Join us. Join us today. Join us and let's have a laying on of hands. Your hands marking my name on your ballot.

Nobody calls on me. I wish someone would attack me. I know who built the Pyramids and when I am President we will talk about that. I'm sorry I speak so slowly. I need more energy like that wealthy candidate who spent all his money.

That guy is a jerk. He made me spend $millions for every one of the 11 votes I got before I wised up. He lies about my brother…and my father…and my mother.

Watch out! Watch out! Hostile aircraft is flying overhead and shooting at me! Never mind; that story is about Bosnia. Forget those emails. I never sent any classified material on my bathroom server. The polls say you don't trust me. Why don't you trust me?

Listen, I am going to really make this a free country. Everything is going to be free - health care, college educations, a new Mercedes in every garage, all free. The rich will pay. We will redistribute the wealth. End quotes.

Presidential aspirants promise the moon but most fail to deliver. In 1961, John Kennedy foresaw a man on the moon but did not live to see Neil Armstrong fulfill his promise in 1969. Good for JFK. We actually put a man on the moon.

George Bush predicted a human mission to Mars but the only famous "Martian" to date is Matt Damon.

Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush looked optimistically toward the eradication of drugs but our 2016 reality has swung more in the direction of legalization and societal tolerance than elimination.

Lyndon Johnson set forth a war on poverty but that battle appears to be failing.

And Barack Obama swore to close Guantanamo Bay but has been unable to bring that about in the years he has been in office.

Those who want the highest office in the land respect few boundaries on what they will pledge with a straight face, whether this fit of grandiosity has a prayer of success or not. Historically, the electorate seems to grit its teeth and hope for the best.

That is...until now.

Beware the Ides of March. On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar met his brutal end. One explanation from contemporary thinking says he was too powerful and too popular among the citizens. He threatened the interests of the patricians, who had run the Republic and the Senate for so long. It was enough to seal his fate.

On the Ides of March, 2016: the polls are about to close in the 5 states participating in Super Duper Tuesday. OH, MI, IL, FL, and NC. We have never seen anything quite like this in American politics.

A billionaire businessman is beating the socks off his Republican opponents. A Democratic Socialist senator is giving Hillary Clinton, awaiting coronation on the Democrat side, a run for her money. It is the day of the outsiders.

Although Bernie Sanders is a long shot, Donald Trump is very close to wrapping up his party's nomination. How has this happened? Trump is not just an outlier; he's like someone from another planet.

The American people have demonstrated some amount of tolerance and even affection for our highest leaders. They get us into wars, substitute personal aggrandizement for the country's welfare, behave badly in their private lives, and pretend to an exalted status they seldom deserve. They stretch the truth, unabashedly embrace hypocrisy, and expect a fine legacy. Presidential libraries, fawning historians, and a grateful citizenry to revere them with a measure of revisionism - all perquisites in the game.

We expect human foibles in our leaders but we want them to be a little better too- more experienced, wiser, compassionate - and otherwise worthy according to the values of the time. And very importantly, we expect them to be sincere, trustworthy, and acting in the best interests of the country.

Politicians of the present are learning lessons like this the hard way with millions of voters who seem to have had enough of them. Enough empty promises, enough wasteful spending, enough jerking us around according to your power group's ability to serve its needs rather than ours.

Will March 15th be a portentous day in our lives? Are there parallels to 44 BC? Why are we undergoing this dizzying shift in voter behavior?

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night"
Bette Davis

(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )

I Predict…

We live in momentous times for politically inclined prophets, seers, oracles, and crackpots. With 21 declared candidates in the original 2016 tournament of presidential wannabes, almost all of us have a prediction on the triumphant #45 who will claim Obama’s pen and continue the president’s wildly successful campaign to bring us together.

Who will it be? As of January 24, Real Clear Politics gives the win to Clinton (51%). Western Illinois University hasn’t stumbled once since 1975 in predicting POTUS winners and they are going with Sanders (and O’Malley as VP). Trump gives it to Trump. Of course this is a waste of time since the primaries are still ahead. I will inject one small personal note in hexing Cruz, who reminds me of the politician in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone.”

Predictions, right or wrong, political or not, have played a significant role in the history of societies. Some are mundane. (“I give it 6 months,” from a family member on the occasion of my 1963 marriage). Others are more consequential - the soothsayer who warned Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March.”

Some prognosticators achieve fame with their clairvoyance. Joan Quigley was a psychic who caught a First Lady’s attention and reportedly played a role in setting auspicious dates for Ronald Reagan’s meetings with world leaders.

Edgar Cayce made thousands of predictions while in a trance-like state, including Hitler’s rise and the Great Depression. Cayce has so far missed his mark on California crumbling into the ocean but Al Gore edifies more modern doom sayers with similar horrors of a soggy future. Global warming aficionados may one day fish from the top of Coit Tower with hook, line, and sinker and I Told You So ringing in the ears of Deniers. Or not.

Madame Marie, a little known visionary who told fortunes on the Asbury Park boardwalk for 70 years, accurately predicted that a fellow busker named Bruce Springsteen would someday be famous. He immortalized her in the lyrics to “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy):” “Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

The “Amazing Criswell” foretold terrible disasters and the eventual end of the world, coming in 1999. He said Mae West would be elected president of the U.S. in his lifetime.

Criswell was entertaining but taken only slightly more seriously than Johnny Carson’s turbaned character “Carnac the Magnificent.” Carnac held sealed envelopes to his forehead containing answers he miraculously divined and for which he then supplied questions. A popular 1990 example: (answer) "A crook, a car, a peanut farmer, a peanut brain, and a plant" (opens envelope) "Describe briefly the last five Presidents of the United States."

Famously mistaken predictions include these epic lines:

Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after six months. People will get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” (1946)

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” (1943)

Harry Morris Warner, head of Warner Brothers, believed there was no future in film for “talkies.” In 1927, he declared, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”

Albert Einstein in 1932 said, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”

A Decca Recording Company executive turned down a Beatles contract because “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” (1962)

The lighter side of predictions gone wrong is balanced by serious and sometimes even calamitous miscalculations

“I succumbed to the lure of the oracle,” he thought.
… Could it be, he wondered, that the oracle didn't tell the future? Could it be that the oracle made the future?”
Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

Predictions are sometimes grounded in facts, sometimes not. Some are wishful thinking, some are dark scenarios based on a gloomy outlook and the need to see everything end badly whether the evidence merits it or not. Some involve an inclination to control events and other people - to make the future rather than tell it. Some cannot bear an optimistic outcome, even when analysis of existing evidence says, “Hey, things aren’t so bad.”

“Population Bomb” author, Paul Ehrlich, writing in the seventies, expected 65 million Americans to die of starvation between 1980 and 1989. By the year 2000, the UK would be a small group of impoverished islands inhabited by about 70 million hungry people. In 1970, Ehrlich delivered a speech in which he argued that in 10 years “all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

The 70s also saw dire warnings of the coming ice age. Some climatologists expressed concern that the cooling trend could be catastrophic.

The simultaneous fears of warming trends suggested to scientist David Parker in 2000 that British children would ultimately have only the virtual experience of snow.

What will eventually happen with global warming/climate change is anybody’s guess, but patience is wearing thin among proponents. Some suggest that resistance ought to be punished with fines or imprisonment. Certainly the trend toward humiliating “deniers” is popular (although yesterday’s East coast blizzard ranks at least third in the annals of monster winter storms, a circumstance that doesn’t seem to be denied). It can’t be global warming so it must be climate change - and our fault too.

Was it Doris Day who sang “Que sera sera?” Whatever will be will be.

Unfortunately, my favorite prophecy for 2016 has been demolished by the Carolina Panthers. No Superbowl for the Hawks this year.

But I still have a few predictions floating in my crystal ball.

Marco Rubio will be elected president with Carly Fiorina as his running mate.
The Broncos will win the Superbowl despite giving it to Carolina (59% to 41%).

(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )


Now isn’t that a title to get your attention on the eve of the election? I’m counting on that so keep reading. You may find yourself lurking in one of these categories of intolerance.

The election is only one factor in choosing this topic at this time. Harper Lee’s recently published “Go Set a Watchman,” her sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” is another. Both were written in the mid-fifties but Watchman has been sitting in a drawer all these decades.

Everybody knows Scout and the revered Atticus Finch from the story of bigotry in a small southern town. The more recent book finds Scout (Jean Louise) grown up and Atticus about the same but for the onset of arthritis and an appalling change of heart and soul, at least it seemed so to Jean Louise; Atticus is now a member of the “White Citizens’ Council.”

Many readers must have approached Lee’s second book with unease. Dr. Jeckyl is about to turn into Mr. Hyde. Yet, when I finished the book, I felt less contempt for the new Atticus than understanding that he was not - and probably never was- the perfect cardboard cutout of a perfect man. His flaws were painful for readers, but not fatal.

Discrimination and intolerance are commonly classified according to age, disability, national origin, race/color, religion, and gender. We have misogyny, misanthropy, chauvinism, and homophobia, to mention a few.

Misanthropes hate everybody; Misogynists just hate women. Political bigotry advocates for the superiority of one party over another and, as we have seen right here in paradise, it can be brutal.

Bigotry and discrimination vary according to time, place, culture, and a host of other considerations. Some change over time, others are more permanent.

An illustration of the situational side of bigotry is provided by Margaret Sanger, the driving force behind birth control, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and a beloved champion of women’s reproductive rights.

Ms. Sanger also played a major role in shaping the eugenics movement of the early to mid 20th century. More than 30 states enacted laws to sterilize the disabled and others deemed “unfit.”

Ms. Sanger wrote, “While I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and syphilitic, I have not been able to discover that these measures are more than superficial deterrents when applied to the constantly growing stream of the unfit.”

Doctrines like eugenics promote the idea that some groups should stop reproducing and others should accelerate their baby production. I’m sure you recognize the Nazis and their “master race” here. Dozens of dictators more and less “successful” than Hitler have tried to exterminate populations thought to be inferior through genocidal horrors that continue to this day.

One deservedly obscure organization is egalitarian in its goals for the ultimate in population control, so may not, technically, be bigoted. The Voluntary Human Extinction movement calls on all people to stop having children and let homo sapiens go the way of the dodo bird. This environmental group would like the planet to be free of all the degradation we cause. These misanthropic nut cases are serious, excuse the anti-lunatic bigotry.

We are free of bigotry at birth but humans are quick studies in learning the abiding cruelty it inflicts and stepping right up to victimize others. A study of segregation conducted in an elementary school in the days following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, still inspires interest and controversy.

Jane Elliot, a teacher in an all-white school, divided her third graders into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups. The brown eyes had to wear collars so everyone would be able to quickly identify them.

For a few days, the blue eyes got extra recess time and other special privileges.. The brown-eyed group had to use different drinking fountains and sit in the back of the classroom. The blue-eyed kids aggressively moved into their new status.

An abundance of tears and upset ensued. In a few days the roles were reversed and the brown eyes took the reins of power with a vengeance. A film titled, “Eye of the Storm,” documented the learning experience and the trauma. It wasn’t pleasant.

Bigotry has not disappeared in our time. Stereotypes, over-generalization, scapegoating, and the need to be superior to someone else by virtue of skin color, gender, sexual preference, political affiliation, religion, and so forth are still with us.

Police officers, black people, white people, pro-life & pro-choice advocates, Muslims, Christians, atheists, and sons of the Confederacy are all fair game. Some cannot bear to have historical realities occupy space in the present - and that means public buildings, license plates, flags, monuments, and history books. Good-bye to slave owners Washington and Jefferson.

Returning to our San Juan Island political situation, many would agree that the current election - naively imagined as a relatively benign process to elect three hospital district commissioners- would pass into history without insult or injury. But it hasn’t. Most would agree that it has been awful.

Regardless of who wins and loses, we have all lost something during this election cycle, and we will pay for it - in fractured relationships, in lingering resentment, and the simple expectation that the number of good candidates for future positions in the County is bound to go down. Who would want to voluntarily go through the last five months again?

Today we said good-bye to one of our oldest and most respected friends. During his celebration of life, someone said, “He wasn’t a political ideologue.” It’s true and it is part of why he was so beloved We need more like him.

You like me! (But do you REALLY like me?)

It could be that the decline and fall of our ability to articulate meaning in one small interactive niche is about done. The trajectory of communicative decay spawned in Mark Zuckerberg’s brain has crept into every corner of his Facebook empire. Billions of subscribers daily punch one key over and over again. Like Like Like Like Like.

In the last few days I have received more than 50 “likes” for such astounding observations as, “Pretty hot today” and “Donald Trump has stepped in it again.” Some of the Likes are trailed by happy faces. Others by cartoons captioned with descriptions in case I am unable to translate them into “feeling sad” or “laughing out loud.”

Facebook has developed algorithms to follow our Likes and other on-line activities and respond to them with repetitive messages designed to sell us a product or service.

One day I visited websites offering information on purchasing See’s Candy. For weeks my home page was plastered with information about candy. The same goes for politics. Those who like Hillary Clinton are going to get pro-Hillary messages. Interest in Republican candidates will hammer your page with items favorable to the GOP.

Facebook interprets and reflects your perspective automatically. It builds a mirror image of your political slant although, of course, the mirror is cracked because your emergent Facebook self may be grossly one-dimensional - a flat portrait lacking affect.

Most of us have commented that Facebook offers quite a lot for free. Actually, Facebook isn’t free at all. We are less the clients than the product. We are the providers of voluminous information, much of which we kindly sort in demographic categories. Collectively we are a gold mine.

The Likes somehow fail to satisfy my need for approval, acknowledgement or even the skimpiest shred of human contact. I find myself feeling grateful for an actual word or two. “Good job.” “Cute dog.” Sometimes I go back and read them again. “You are so funny.” “Nice chickens.”

Frustration with Likes prompted me to post a note with a favorite photograph asking friends to say something or nothing but no Likes. The photo turned up on other sites as it was “shared” so respondents could be comfortable clicking on Like without comment.

What’s to like about Likes? They seldom really say anything. Do the key clickers approve of the rumor that Tom Cruise is quitting Scientology or do they like Cruise himself? Why isn’t there a “Dislike” click so we can balance the ambiguity of the positive with some negatives?

Are we a modern equivalent of Pavlov’s dog? What could be more shallow and less rich in information than a key click? A Smithsonian article this month culled material from Internet sites that had “gone viral” and found that a parent tried to stall his 5 kids in their plea for a puppy by telling them they could have the dog when they got a million Likes on Facebook. They did it in seven hours.

This all seems comically trivial but Likes are such a big deal for some Internet sites that they will pay “click farms” to create fakes. These enterprising counterfeiters (described in a recent Week Magazine summary of an article from the New Republic) sell phony Facebook Likes at bargain prices. One site offers 1,000 Likes for $29.99.

The billions of Likes on Facebook - genuine and bogus - suggest that we get something positive out of this bizarre phenomenon even as we confess our doubts. Who among us hasn’t worried about our loss of privacy? But how many of us have explored the impossibility of deleting our private information when we quit Facebook? All those facts and photographs will not just vaporize and disappear.

Zuckerberg has personal data about 1 in every 7 people on earth. The Likes singled out for discussion here are only one part of his informational empire. Facebook can connect you with illegal sites and dangerous people. It can help you get a job or make you lose one. It can offer you the opportunity to look like a fool and it can make you suffer for intemperate remarks you’ve forgotten about. It can make it possible for you to be stalked one click at a time and, if you are really careless, let thieves into your house when you are on vacation.

It can even provide the means to steal your freedom. An Egyptian man was fined and sentenced to 6 years in prison for alleged violations on Facebook of Egypt’s blasphemy laws.

Paranoia should not overcome judgment but Facebook is making me increasingly uneasy and I bask less comfortably every day in my hypocrisy. How about you?

“I think everybody should like everybody.”
Andy Warhol, 1963

(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )

Words Matter

Have you noticed that everything matters lately? In fact, we just missed the February 12th to 19th official “Words Matter” week. As Peter O’Toole told the young Chinese sovereign in The Last Emperor, “Words matter because they allow us to say what we mean and mean what we say.”

No small matter, right? If you doubt it, read about Lyndon Johnson, who was not aboard a plane in WWII he said suffered enemy fire; Wendy Davis told some whoppers when she was running for Texas governor; Hillary Clinton was never, as she declared, “under sniper fire” when her plane landed in Bosnia in 1996; Bill Clinton “never had sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky;” Veterans Affairs Chair Robert McDonald said he was a member of the Army’s Special Forces but he was not; Marco Rubio told a story of his parents being forced out of Cuba by Fidel Castro’s take-over when they actually relocated in 1956, three years before Castro assumed power; Everyone’s favorite dissembler, NBC anchor Brian Williams misspoke about a harrowing experience under fire during the Iraq war and evidently false memories of Hurricane Katrina.

Very little of the misspeaking, miss-remembering, misstating, and mischaracterization ever descends to the admission of an out-and-out lie, but euphemisms seldom save the hides of offenders if the public is in a mood to disembowel a handy miscreant. Upstanding America is shocked, might I say self-righteously stupefied, by the suppurating wound to the body politic inflicted by words that matter even when the tall tales might have seemed harmless before the media got its paws on the greater or lesser offense.

What we say matters and sometimes what we don’t say matters. President Obama balks at speaking the words “Islamic terrorism,” a refusal that has inspired a relentless harangue from those who believe those two words expressed in the company of one another matter.

A great deal of what we say does not matter at all. “Conflate” is so over-used that we have stopped paying much attention to it, although the sins of mixing apples and oranges (conflating them) are legion. Similarly, good luck getting through a day without hearing or speaking the newly ubiquitous “nefarious.” I prefer the synonymous wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, or despicable, but “nefarious” has, probably temporarily, cornered the condemnation market.

Some words and phrases just need to go away because their trendiness has expired and they have stopped mattering except to inspire minor aggravation. In this category I would put selfies, twerking, swag, vacay, foodie, skill set, take away, back in the day, at the end of the day, baby bump, empower, Boom, “suite” of recommendations, and most uses of alleged. “Alleged suicide bomber” seems fatally wordy. “Person of interest” might be replaced with “suspect” although some few cases do refer to a witness or other interesting person rather than a perpetrator, and this is a picky complaint. “Went missing” sounds grammatically flawed but difficult to recast in different words. The word, “horrific,” is ever-present in news reporting but the tragedy resides not in its overuse but in the terrible accuracy of its application to so many awful events in our time.

A popular phrase among global warming/climate change devotees is “consensus science.” I would like to see consensus science take a flying leap at a rolling donut, as we used to say (thanks to Kurt Vonnegut for the original and more profane version). The operative assumption equates credible scientific principles with the number of scientists who endorse a theory. Michael Crichton had this to say about consensus science. “I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.”

A seemingly simple word has come to have both frivolous and sinister interpretations. The word, “like” has two meanings of interest to us here. We all know the cringe-worthy “like” as in, “I mean like he is cool; like everybody knows that.”

The more recent “like” comes from the billion plus Facebook users who send approval/acknowledgment of just about anything they find on the social network site by clicking a “like” button. A Facebook friend got a new job? Click on Like. Her cat died? Click on Like. This form of communication is at the heart of “The Circle”, an unsettling book to be explored in a future column.

So, is there a theme that holds all of the above together? The idea that “words allow us to say what we mean and mean what we say” can hardly be overstated. The profound importance of “The Things That Matter” (a current best seller by Charles Krauthammer) obviously gets down to the point that the words within the “things” also matter.

Those who use language to obscure, cheat, and lie may suffer consequences. Those who never get beyond the confining comfort of clichés deprive themselves and others of the rich creativity in a language estimated to contain between 250,000 and a million words.

“No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” Henry Brooks Adams

The 12th Man

Twelve is a powerful number. Twelve of anything makes a dozen and some things are cheaper by the dozen, although I can’t think of any right now. Twelve items are also known as a duodecad or a duodecuple. These are irrelevant terms but impressive if I can think of a way to stick them in a conversation. We have twelve months in our year and 12 days of Christmas. We have 12 members on a jury.

Beer is sometimes sold in twelve-packs. The importance of this packaging formula can hardly be overestimated. To be able to carry 144 ounces of liquid in one hand seems quite a feat.

For present purposes, none of the above speaks quite as eloquently for the number 12 as the exuberant, frost bitten, wind-driven, crazed, wild-eyed Hawks fans wearing their #12 jerseys. The Twelfth Man is beyond the ken of ordinary mortals. He paints his face in garish green and blue and arranges big mohawks on his scalp (to resemble feathers

When the team runs onto the field, the Twelves go nuts, screaming and yelling inarticulately. Their howling reached 137.6 decibels in a game against the New Orleans Saints in 2013, breaking a Guiness record with the staggering audibility of their roar.

On January 8, 2011, Seahawks fans literally shook the Earth during the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. Century Link Field erupted with hooting and hollering during the 4th quarter when Marshawn Lynch made a 67-yard touchdown run. Seismic activity was recorded that day.

Have you ever seen John Belushi’s magnificent imitation of Joe Cocker flinging himself all over the stage, “getting by with a little help from his friends?” The Twelve in full voice, multiplied by 67,000 might remind you of that golden moment.

Our Twelfth Man is more than cute or quaint or amusing. The Twelfth Man is a huge force behind the Hawks. The coaches talk about the importance of the Twelves, Mike Holmgren presented the game ball to them after an especially great game, they have their own jersey (The number 12 was officially retired in 1984), and the players speak reverently of what the Twelves mean to them. The 12th Man is definitely no joke).

Imagine this scene: The year is 1922 and the home team is struggling on the field, all eleven of them looking a little shaky. In desperation, the coach sends someone after a guy in the stands named E. King Gill. Gill suits up and stands ready to take the place of anyone among the 11 players on the team if he is needed. He stands on the sidelines for the rest of the game (which the home team finally won).

Although not needed, Gill was ready to go. Undoubtedly his fairly modest contribution to Texas A&M has been exaggerated but his majestic bronze likeness gazes over the campus today, still commemorating his can-do spirit.

The entire Aggie student body is the 12th Man. Such is their ardor that everyone stands for the entire game when their team is on the field.

And they had it first.

The Seattle Seahawks adopted the 12th Man too. When the number 12 was officially retired, it was agreed that 12 would forever belong to all of us - the best home field advantage in the league.

In a spirit of commendable cooperation, Texas A&M and the Seahawks signed a contract regarding the Seahawks’ use of the 12th Man. Seattle paid $100,000 to officially use the 12th Man in their franchise. They have been paying $5,000 a year since then, and in 2016 a new contract will have to be negotiated. The license agreement is online if you would like to read it.

As I write, the Seakhawks are having a bye. Next week they will once again play at Century Link Field with home field advantage and the screaming Twelves. Thousands and thousands of us will be watching, gobbling Skittles, and hoping for another step to another Superbowl. Why not you, Russell? Why not you, Marshawn? Why not you, Steve?

And for my own small statement of hero worship, why not you, Richard? Richard Sherman: born and raised in Compton, California, a graduate of Manuel Dominguez High School. Janice Peterson: Born and raised in Compton, California, a graduate of Manuel Dominguez High School.

We are the duodecads. We are the 12th Man. I am the 12th Man. GO HAWKS!

Walk It Back

What, what would you have had me say
Instead of what I said?
Where, where would I go?
How could I follow that
Except to do what I did which is to
Walk it back
Walk it back
Walk it back
Reverse and rewind
Erase and revise
And try to start again

-Lyrics from Collapse Into Now

Out on the campaign trail a few days before the midterm elections, Hilary Clinton castigated the naiveté of people who believe that business generates jobs. The very idea.

Less than 24 hours later, after some amount of media attention, she was “walking it back” and softening her words. Like most successful practitioners of the political arts, Mrs. Clinton is adept at plowing new furrows of dubious analysis if the old ones aren’t playing in Peoria.

Walking it back usually involves comments that can be retrospectively identified as missteps or momentary errors in judgment of little note or long remembrance. Politicians are really good at walking backwards.

Paul Ryan, as a candidate for Vice President in 2012, shaved more than an hour off of his best marathon time and later admitted that he made the time up, excusing himself because the race was two decades in the past. Most runners who have completed a marathon know that falsifying your race time by an hour is not an innocent oversight, no matter what the circumstances.

The operative assumption in walking it back is the belief that a new spin on an ugly situation will make everything better. Thus we beheld the sad specter of a former candidate for Vice President of the United States, protesting in his defense that when he began an extra-marital affair, his wife’s cancer was in remission.

Whatever drives them, some of the more shameful and shameless examples of statements unsuccessfully walked back emerge from the mouths of those just a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Joe Biden’s public errors are so legendary that the press has lately taken to calling him the “gaffe machine.”

A rhetorically noteworthy transgression came from his 2008 comment describing Barack Obama as the "first mainstream African-American (candidate) who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Furiously backpedaling a few days later, Biden “deeply regretted” any offense. Not long afterward, when Biden addressed a large group of supporters, he opined, “the GOP will put y’all back in chains.” And for discomforting wrongheadedness, it’s hard to beat Biden’s exhortations to State Senator Chuck Graham at a large fundraiser, “Stand up Chuck, let 'em see you “Stand up! Stand up so we can get a look at you!” Senator Graham is confined to a wheelchair.

Dan Quayle, another VP prone to blunders, tried to convince a class of elementary school kids that his spelling of the word, “potato,” (with an “e” at the end) was accurate. His frequent faux pas earned him a cadre of enthusiastic Democrats who published the “Quayle Quarterly” to record his mistakes for posterity.

To the chagrin of nearly every Vice President and most of the Presidents as well, the lustrous remarks on service to flag and country are tarnished by their powerfully ill-advised off-the cuff, unprepared, and sometimes malicious utterances within range of a reporter and a camera. VP Spiro Agnew spoke publicly of “Japs” and “Polacks.” Agnew would not visit poor neighborhoods, noting, “If you’ve seen one slum, you’ve seen them all.”

Many of these Vice presidential thoughts might have been better left unspoken, which is also true of historically ill-advised declarations that Presidents let loose on a sometimes gleeful public. Bush 41 suffered faint ridicule with his 1,000 points of light, took a pounding with “Read my lips; No new taxes,” and could never have overcome the ignominy of vomiting in the Japanese prime minister’s lap - even if he had tried. Sometimes walking it back is not an option. The best hope is a poor memory or competing humiliation of greater magnitude, ideally emanating from a political opponent.

Bush 43 suffered the slings and arrows of a taunting media during the whole of his 8 years in office but probably took as much flack for “Heck of a job, Brownie!” after FEMA’s poor performance following Hurricane Katrina as any other failing. To my recollection, however, he never tried to explain it and opted to let bad enough alone.

Richard Nixon’s secret Whitehouse tapes have revealed him to us as fiercely anti-Semitic and mean-spirited beyond our imaginings. Although he proclaimed at the time he resigned after the Watergate debacle, “I am not a crook,” Nixon’s ethos was damaged beyond the mere disgrace of being a crooked politician.

Bill Clinton’s alleged misbehavior -sometimes consensual and sometimes not- according to Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, and Paula Jones slammed the door on his various attempts to walk it back. His outraged denial of ever “having sexual relations with that woman -Ms. Lewinsky,” fueled the biggest scandal of the Clinton presidency.

Barack Obama struggles with the same affliction as his predecessors and the same conundrum. How can you solve a problem of your own making in misreading the gravity that will descend on your words? How can you know how badly a superficially harmless phrase or unexpectedly public behavior will injure your reputation and your legacy?

“If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” “I am not on the ballot but my policies are.”

Calvin Coolidge provides wisdom:

“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”

Abraham Lincoln enhances the idea:

“I’m a slow walker, but I never walk back.”

A post script on local elections: From what I witnessed during the most recent San Juan County election cycle, we can be proud of those who won, those who were defeated, and most of those who expressed their opinions in the local media. No vitriol. No name-calling. No need to walk anything back. Good for all of them.

A Placeholder

I hope readers will indulge an interim assortment of words in this spot until the column I am trying to write is ready. Having seen stellar lights such as John Steinbeck incorporate “Hooptedoodle,” the Seattle Times’ offer “Odds and Ends”, and Bette Davis’ book titled, This And That, maybe a few bits and pieces will work here too.

At a minimum, the Placeholder will remove the Global Warming discussions from view. Not that these are unworthy efforts but how many times can you re-read something that challenges the wisdom of such noted climatologists as Kevin Ranker?

• Starting with my favorite odd item among the plethora of newsworthy bits and pieces from which to choose this month, have you noticed that Human-Caused Global Warming/Climate Change is not exactly engaging the hearts and minds of the people? To all of you who are not convinced, such as the leading delegations from the most influential countries on the planet who are disrespecting our climate summit, I say Way To GO!

These pompous minions of activist science could be wrong, as skeptics have been saying for years. We are all entitled to our opinions; it is the nose-up conceit from Al Gore et. al that drives us crazy. May the wheels fall off their increasingly decrepit bandwagon.

• Here is a piece of Americana you wouldn’t expect to see in The Economist: -definitely an odd point among endings- Joan Rivers’ death. As an aficionado of the fine art of exit writing, I would like to recommend The Economist’s tribute to the regally nasty Rivers as a triumph in the genre. Commentary on her absolute best work includes recollections of sighting Oprah Winfrey’s ass from space and Joan’s travails in the seventies with forbidden language such as the word, “abortion.” She said she had 17 appendectomies. Rivers routinely responded to hecklers with, “Lighten the f--k up! These are jokes!”

• Moving on to politics where the grim rookery of US Senate members hatches an endless supply of cowardice and political correctness in the midst of horrors beyond imagination: Filthy little monsters decapitate journalists while Maria Cantwell’s rant of the week bemoans the team name, REDSKINS. Why did we elect these nincompoops?

• And in California, Cantwell’s otherworldly sister, Barbara Boxer (that’s “Senator Boxer, not ma’am”) is shaking and trembling with shock because someone was unkind to John Kerry.

The country could use a little less snootiness from these characters. What most of them have in common is personal wealth, social influence, and houses in the Hamptons. Do we care? If Kerry is going to succeed as Secretary of State, he needs to earn respect, not expect it as a matter of course.

• If the Cantwells and Boxers of the legislature would like to be helpful, here’s an idea: Popular Science features its “Brilliant 10” this month. Encourage them! These young people are reshaping engineering, science, and the world. We should put them on billboards and interview them on CNN and FOX. We should focus role modeling on achievements in addition to sports and stop trying to ferret out virtues in athletes who have totally blown it.

• If you read my columns with any regularity, you will see the following as an unexpected note of agreement with Barack and Michelle Obama: Is the President getting too much grief for suggesting that these ISIS monsters have nothing to do with Islam? This is not Islam in any way, shape, or form. This is a horror show staged by promoters of unspeakable evil.

• Regarding Michelle, she told some school kids that it was hard to live with the president sometimes. Matt Drudge thought that was news. How many presidents can you think of that you would like to tolerate full time? Michelle seems wholly unsuited by everything in her nature to be a fawning, fluffy first lady but she’s in the role and that’s that. The whole school lunch thing has been an expensive failure but at least she is trying. I recommend complete make-overs for Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz as her next project.

• The breadth and depth of antagonism between warring U.S. political parties is getting way out of hand in my opinion. Our political processes are approaching a state of catatonia.

• I read that a group of people who make it their business to criticize tourist sites if they are not up to snuff in protecting the environment have landed on San Juan. I’m going to step out on a limb here and say, Go Away. Get out. Laissez moi tranquille. We have plenty of environmental protectionism going on here. Plenty. More than enough. A surfeit of smothering, often useless interference in the affairs of the County. Uh oh. Don’t get me started.

I noticed a hundred or so of those tourist litterers skipping off the ferry this afternoon. It’s true. They were skipping. Frolicking little kids and grandmas. Parents riding bikes or dragging kayaks. Happy people come to see our beautiful island. Go ahead and leave a trace. Leave money. We can use it.

• The Scots: A Friday Harbor resident with roots in Scotland has been watching your campaign for independence. The former Janice Lindsay extends Congratulations on a great effort! You lost but you can try again.

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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