Friday, September 26, 2003

Berkeley and Saratoga

On Tuesday, I received a flurry of E-Mails from David Crockett Williams in Berkeley regarding an Emergency Climate Stabilization meeting to be held at the Berkeley City Council Chambers on Wednesday. Since these concerns are not that far from my daily concerns as an air quality meteorologist, I decided to attend. The meeting was actually pretty quiet, but it was a genuine pleasure talking to Alden Bryant and Chris Conrad. I was able to emphasize the distinct difference between air quality management (which is what I do at my day job, where regulation of trace gas emissions can be tackled comparatively easily), and climate stabilization management (which deals more with bulk CO2 emissions, and is much, much harder to implement (because of the necessary worldwide scope of the effort, combined with the ill-defined, hard-to-enumerate nature of some of the carbon sinks, like rock weathering).

We found a useful point of unanimous agreement - the world doesn't need new, badly-done regulatory schemes. Good schemes - OK: bad ones, no. My view is that we actually know enough to start climate stabilization management anyway, no matter what political obstacles exist, and that's actually been the case since the 1880's, when a German scientist (I believe by the name of Heinz) first noticed that fossil fuel consumption could lead to global warming. The longer we wait to get effective management in place, of course, the worse the consequences of global climate change are likely to be.

It's also important to note that the industrial world is seriously addicted to petroleum, and regulation by itself, like prohibition laws for an alcoholic, is a feeble antidote. Something stronger, like intervention, is required to break an addiction, but we need tools first for an effective intervention: savvier cars (like hybrids) might be a start. I'm also convinced that the petroleum industry is more than aware of the problem, and that they aren't automatic opponents of our efforts - the engineers among them love new gadgets anyway, and would prefer to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

After the Berkeley meeting, I travelled to San Jose to visit my old friend from graduate student days, Jerry Steffens, who teaches meteorology at San Jose State University. I stumbled across a student journalist with a camera interviewing two frat brothers about a recent student death, and I horned in, thereby getting an unexpected interview with San Jose State Student News, which is apparently televised on Cable TV over a 10-county or so area on Sundays at 6 a.m.

After surprising Jerry, I left for a 12-candidate debate sponsored by a student branch of "Democracy Matters" at Saratoga High School (even as the 'big' debate between the top five candidates was going on simultaneously back in Sacramento). What a great time, although I wish there had been more than 80 or so people there. There were 12 campaigns there (a representative of John Burton's campaign, plus candidates Roscoe, Scheidle, Laughing Horse Robinson, Vaughn, Fontanes, Zellhoefer, Sproul, Foss, Miller, Richtmyer, and Valdez). There were many verbal tussles in the colorful group. I remember expressing disdain for the concept of a "Zero Emission Vehicle" even as Darrin Scheidle (who owns one) defended the concept, and David Laughing Horse Robinson expressed disdain for my idea that the closer the margin of victory, the harder the victor will have to work to get a mandate to govern while in office, and the better for the people of California. One student asked a very penetrating question regarding my anti-Proposition 13 stance, homing in on the weakness that unemployed people sitting on expensive properties (not than unusual a problem these days in Silicon Valley) could lose their homes due to property taxes, and thus I had to elaborate on my fail-safe mechanisms to prevent that from ever happening. We had a great time!

After the debate, I visited my friend Jerry at his apartment, before travelling very late back to Sacramento, in my non-ZEV 2002 Saturn SC coupe.
Faces of the Recall

The Los Angeles Times has a real nice feature on their recall coverage Web Page: "Faces of the Recall", with nice pictures and short audio statements by many of the candidates for California Governor.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Tonight Show's Recall Candidate Night

Monday was an eventful day, as 90 or so California gubernatorial candidates gathered in Burbank for Jay Leno's Recall Candidate Night. I had little sleep the night before, and a cold settled into my chest and head during the day, so I'm pretty beat today, but, boy, it was fun!

The day started inauspiciously. I was late getting to the Sacramento airport, and the economy-parking-lot bus was slow getting people to Terminal A, which houses Southwest Airlines. Instead of finding an empty late-morning airport terminal, I was alarmed to see a very long line of people waiting to get their belongings X-rayed. The line was moving reasonably fast, but it was so outrageously long there was no way to possibly make the 9:45 a.m. flight without doing something drastic. So, I broke every rule of etiquette to get through the line, repeatedly cutting up to the front of the line, aggravating people along the way ('you should have arrived at the airport sooner!'), but there was no choice by this point. After getting my shoes X-rayed, I practically reached inside the machine to get them, before running off in my socks to (barely) make the flight. On the flight, entrepreneur and fellow candidate Ned Roscoe (plus friends and family) said hello.

I arrived at Burbank, and saw two other candidates (Lingel Winters and Pat Tilley) who had also just arrived at the terminal. My two cousins from Oceanside, Fred and Gloria, picked me up at the terminal, and then off we went to the candidate gathering at Johnny Carson Park, across from NBC Studios. Fred and Gloria mostly just watched as I began networking at the park with the other candidates. Met some candidates for the first time (Dorene Musilli, Randall Sprague, Reva Renee Renz, Bob Cullenbine with his clown makeup, plus Richard J. Simmons).

Dennis McMahon, candidate from San Francisco, noticed me talking to my cousins at the edge of the gathering, and asked who they were. When I explained that Fred was going to be my guest for the show, but Gloria couldn't come because we all had only one guest ticket each, he kindly offered to escort Gloria into the show (his own daughter was at the university in class, and couldn't come). That was wonderful show of generosity on Dennis' part!

After a big group picture in the park, featuring 49 candidates, we were off to NBC! We were screened by security, and then we entered the studio. I missed a TV opportunity (Channel 9) at the studio's door because the interviewer saw Mike McCarthy arriving (dressed as a boxer), and dropped me for the more-colorful McCarthy. We were led to a big room where plenty of food was provided by NBC (we were pretty famished by this time). We ate lunch and much more gabbing ensued, between my cousins, McMahon, Iris Adam, Jon Zellhoeffer, plus new candidates met for the first time (Brooke Adams, C.T. Weber, A. Lavar Taylor).

After a long time (1.5 hours or so), we were led into the theater. Since I was towards the end, I sat high up in the seating tiers (the theater holds only 300 or so people), between candidates Joe Guzzardi and Van Vo. There was a pre-show warmup, featuring a comic, who explained the rules (tonight would begin with a 'cold start'), and Jay Leno himself came out in his denims 15 minutes before showtime to do a bit more explaining (the most important admonition was to laugh at his monologue). Several of our pretty women candidates were brought onto the stage to do brief dances, along with various other, overweight guests. Reva Renee Renz and Georgy Russell danced well, but Mary Carey stole the show with an athletic exhibition of lascivious abandon. Wow!

Then: Showtime! After the opening monologue, a half-dozen candidates were displayed in a lightly-mocking way than settled well with only some (Dr. Ronald Friedman especially looked like he was taken by surprise). Ross the Intern came along to explain backstage at the Emmies, and candidate Ronald Palmieri (the first openly gay candidate to ever run for governor, as he tiresomely reminds us) pushed the envelope far enough to shout over the second-level railing and ask Ross the Intern out on a date! Very daring, but it worked!

Then young (approx. age 23) entrepreneur and performance-art Republican candidate William Tsangares, dressed with a Terminator rubber head mask, broke the envelope. He started throwing numerous $2 bills in the air and chanted 'Equal Time', apparently in reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance on the Tonight Show several weeks earlier, when he announced his candidacy for the California governorship. Robert Downey Jr., who was supposed to be introduced just at that moment, appeared from behind the guest's entrance wall, stared at Tsangares, and twice said, "Sir, do you mind?" Tsangares wouldn't budge. So NBC security escorted him out of the theater. Henceforth, Leno referred to Tsangares as the 'PCP candidate'.

Robert Downey Jr., comedienne Tess, and Blue Man Group then performed. I've loved Blue Man Group since I saw them in Las Vegas 2 years ago, and I thought they did well with their limited time with the gubernatorial candidates. Today, there is much E-Mail traffic among the candidates insisting that we were demeaned, because Blue Man Group issued commands, and we, the candidates, had to follow. I didn't feel demeaned by Blue Man Group. Their 'commands' were in line with the kind of audience involvement they've always featured. The only problem was they didn't perform long enough, to get more personal candidate involvement.

Then, the end of the show! Leno and the other stars taped several trailers for the evenings show, then off we went for the exits!

On the way out of the theater, I found myself walking beside Mary Carey. I took an insultingly patronizing tone with her:

MV: "Mary, I saw your show when you came to Sacramento."
MC: "How did you like it?"
MV: "Oh, it was good. Say, I had this wacky idea that if Arianna Huffington and Peter Camejo can campaign together, we could do the same - a 'beauty and brains' platform."
MC: "Well, I have the brains - do you have any beauty?"

Yeowww! Then she was off, to lavish attention on the fawning media. I don't know where life will take her, but she'll go far (some would say she's already gone too far!) Today, one of the candidates E-Mailed everyone with a link for a Mary Carey look-alike amateur porn star. Oh, that's great! Like an series of Russian dolls, each with a smaller doll inside. Singer Mariah Carey, porn star Mary Carey, amateur porn star Mary Caray.....there's no end in sight!

Outside NBC Studios, a big media meet-and-greet had been arranged. Some candidates were interviewed, but the focus was on Mary Carey, and the ever-amiable Gary Coleman. The candidates were tired - for some reason, Trek Thunder Kelley looked especially stressed. I talked to candidate Christopher Ranken, and hugged the other Candidate Forum candidates as Cheryl Bly-Chester gave us an enconmium for our good-citizenship to the media.

After some final photos and good wishes (Ned Roscoe drove by shouting 'Marc Valdez for Governor!), and listening to the chants of William Tsangares' supporters already protesting his removal (using pre-printed protest signs), we all dispersed. After a fine Mexican dinner at Alfredo's Granada Restaurant in Burbank, it was back to the airport, where I ran into Dan Feinstein, and conversed with candidates Diana Foss and Lingel Winters, before returning in time to catch the 'Tonight Show' on Sacramento's KOVR Channel 3 TV.