Social media was abuzz with criticism of the Kent State University sweat shirt by Urban Outfitters.
Student protests broke out across the country after April 30, 1970, when President Richard Nixon announced that the United States was invading Cambodia, part of a larger escalation of the Vietnam War. One protest was at Kent State University in Ohio.
Ohio Gov. James Rhodes ordered the Ohio National Guard to restore order on that campus. On May 4, 27 Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed student protesters. Four of them were killed, and nine were wounded. One was paralyzed. All but one were registered students. Some happened to be passing by the deadly volley when they were shot.
To this day, the slaughter is remembered as a turning point in how our citizens view their government.
Last week, for some reason known only to them, Urban Outfitters, a national youth-oriented chain clothing store, decided to market a Kent State University sweat shirt, holes and blood-colored dye included.
In the 1972 film “The Candidate” about a fictional U.S. Senate race in California, an aged GOP incumbent named Crocker Jarmon and a fresh-faced Democratic newcomer, Bill McKay, with no political experience face off in a single televised debate. The newcomer, the son of a former California governor, manages to change the race based on his performance.
McKay’s slogan? “A Better Way.”
In the 2014 version played out Thursday night in the Senator Hotel in downtown Sacramento, the aged incumbent is the son of a former California governor and the Democrat, and his fresh-faced challenger is a GOP newcomer who has no real political experience.
The set itself in the Jerry Brown-Neel Kashkari debate was eerily similar to the film version: black backdrop, a few California journalists asking questions, and no audience.
Joe King at the debate for Californias candidates for governor in Sacramento on Thursday, September 5, 2014. Get on board with the Joe King candidacy, California!
Joe King wasn't invited to the governors debate, but he managed to get in a few words anyway. Neel Kashkari talks about the crazy train, Jerry Brown talks about the gravy train. But it's the love train Joe King is interested in. Get on board, California!
Like many people in their 50s, I think about being in my 50s a lot. When you’re in your 40s, you have a bit of a cushion. Oh, you think, I still have 10 years before anything scary could happen, like weird pig bristles sticking out of your ear, which I now have. When you’re in your 30s, there’s still a lot of time to change course, get things right, go to grad school, get in shape or finally settle down. You have lots and lots of theoretical time.
In your 50s, your perspective changes dramatically. You run scared. You are grateful for being able to do things that, all of a sudden, a lot of your peers can’t do. Play tennis, ride a bike, comb your hair or breathe. Stuff like that.
In my family, on my dad’s side, a lot of men went down at 54.
As we bring the California Legislature in for a landing, the frenzy to pass, kill or turn legislation into creative special interest taxidermy is at a fever pitch. Let’s look at some pending bills and their prospects.
• “The Cover Porn Stars Completely with Duct Tape Act” (AB 3X) was killed in committee by Assemblyman Johnny “All Man” Tango (D-Somebody’s Garage in Van Nuys). Might be reintroduced next session with a different, more seductive title.
• “The Board of Equalization Building Destruction Act” (SB 6010.9) provides $45 million for a California Air National Guard drone strike and mop-up mission. The hole would be converted into five-story Sacramento condos renting at $3,600 per unit. BOE employees would be placed in the new ...
• “Board of Equalization Tower/Bat Habitat Restoration/Downtown Arena Act” (AB 2118.b). Creates a $4.5 billion structure with clean running water. No word on where they’ll get the water. Passage seems assured, except for the water part.
Now that America has had a few days to psychoanalyze the late Robin Williams and his reasons for suicide, let’s step back a moment.
We have no idea what we’re talking about.
His family and friends say Williams was depressed. He might have been struggling with addiction, a waning career, Parkinson’s disease, heart problems or any of the other alleged causative factors. It could be all of it, or one of them.
I had returned from lunch with colleagues in New York on March 30, 1981, when I heard that President Ronald Reagan had been shot, along with a Secret Service agent, a police officer and presidential press secretary James Brady.
One of the most vivid images I recall was that of James Brady, lying facedown on a grate. The video was blurry, and showed police and Secret Service agents, guns drawn, looking helplessly as the presidential limousine sped to George Washington University Hospital. Reagan nearly died.
The next day, I was in D.C. and went to the assassination scene. It was late at night. There was no crime scene tape or flowers, just a hotel door in the twilight.
And the grate where Brady had fallen. There was no blood. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Like many Americans my age (born in 1960 just before Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski won the World Series with a Game 7 walk-off home run over the New York Yankees), I am a baseball fan. Or, at least, a baseball appreciator.
When soccer started creeping into my life in 1990s, I was raising my kids and viewed soccer like most of my peers: an insidious, massive communist conspiracy so immense that pretty soon we’d all be singing “Joe Hill” and returning the means of production to the proletariat in matching green uniforms. In short, I was not a soccer fan.
Soccer was the sport that I had to get up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to watch in the rain. Soccer was the sport with no points. Soccer was the sport that featured people running aimlessly around an incomprehensible field. Soccer was the sport that threatened our American way of life.
My daughter played soccer, then switched to lacrosse, another soccer-like sport that involves a soccer-like field. My eldest son, however, became a rabid soccer fan in Portland, the home of the MLS Timbers club. The Sacramento Republic is the minor-league team associated with the Timbers. He is in the so-called Timbers Army, the well-organized cheering section full of green-scarf-clad maniacs who chant dreadful, off-color things.
After seeing GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari pretend to be homeless in Fresno for a week, and noticing that no one noticed who he was, I decided it would be fun to try to be Neel Kashkari and see if anyone noticed.
You can find out after you see this video I did over at the Capitol.
Former Army Air Corps Maj. Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk died last week. He was 93. Van Kirk was the navigator and last surviving crewman on board the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Without getting into the decision to drop the bomb, it reminded me how much the potential for nuclear war was a part of my childhood.
While today’s American children face challenges and concepts unknown to me in the 1960s, like school shootings, my fellow boomers thought a lot about things like total thermonuclear annihilation. Those words together are bad enough on their own, but in combination, they made for a lot of sleepless nights. Toss in “throw weight,” “MIRV,” “SALT,” “megatonnage,” and you have enough fodder for insomnia deep into the 21st century.
I lived in two prime fun target areas in the 1960s: Marquette, Mich., which was next to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, a B-52 Strategic Air Command post, and Washington, D.C., which is where we hid President Richard Nixon and the Pentagon. Up until about age 6, I don’t think I really knew anything about nuclear war to speak of. It was a vague concept. I only remember seeing little yellow signs that said “CD” on them in the hall, where we were supposed to gather if we heard the siren.
We lived in Marquette during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and my dad, ever the scientist, later informed me that I “wouldn’t have felt a thing.”
The other day, an 18-year-old Alabama girl who, by her own description, is a World War II history buff, posted a photo of herself on Twitter smiling in front of the barracks at Auschwitz, the prison camp where untold numbers of Jews were executed.
Her youthful smile, jarringly juxtaposed before the somber gray brick buildings, was a selfie I suspect she wished she could undo, but the damage was done. Her explanation was that she took it in homage to her father, who had promised to take her there but had passed away last year. I don’t doubt her. I am very certain she wasn’t trying to make light of the catastrophe that unfolded there decades before.
I am very certain that, like millions of Americans, she had no sense of tonality in sacred places.
At Arlington Cemetery, there are small, metal signs all over the grounds that say “Silence and Respect.” That’s all. Now, one would think that seeing the endless fields of white gravestones would chill each visitor into that silence and respect the fallen deserve.
On June 23, 2012, while we sat tweeting, Facebooking, using fresh water, riding in airplanes with sophisticated electronic navigation systems, and generally enjoying ready access to electricity, the sun just about wiped all that out.
Well, as we were happily charging our iPhones and watching SportsCenter, the sun shot out a billion-ton plasma cloud, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME. As The Washington Post reported earlier this week, the mass ejection just missed Earth; had it been a week earlier, you could have kissed most electronic devices plugged into wall sockets goodbye. Satellites would have been crippled, and the litany of potential electrical catastrophes is chilling to ponder.
We take electricity and water for granted. We all have surge protectors jammed with plugs, powering our lives and occupations. But let’s say all the electrical systems at a hospital failed, for example. Surgeries and monitoring that we take for granted would have been aborted, and people would have died. Now multiply that times all the hospitals in the entire world, and the scope of the CME becomes clearer.
Last weekend, while pausing at Starbucks to let the molten aluminum cool in my car engine, I saw a familiar sight: a sweaty dad and mom in their McDonalds food-splattered minivan, complete with three uncomfortable, dyspeptic children. Its high vacation season, and watching the poor couple try to get from Point A to Point B brought back many fond family vacation memories of my own.
In the 1960s, the way my family defined a vacation was driving astronomical distances to visit my grandparents in Denver. OK, maybe the distances werent astronomical from Minneapolis to the Mile High City, but when we were sitting on an aquamarine plastic Chevrolet Impala station wagon seat, breathing in my parents side-stream cigarette smoke, it sure seemed like a long drive. There was no onboard DVD player, there was no satellite radio, there was no in-vehicle amusement of any type except for Dads occasional injunction to Look At Some Natural Feature, like the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.
One year, my father decided that we would take a massive Western tour, which included the obligatory stops at the Grand Canyon, Vail, Mount Rushmore, Moab and then on to see the grandparents. I was 14 or so, and had to sit in the convection oven back seat with my 10-year-old brother, which I note only to mention the obvious potential for brotherly violence.
After a few hours with my brother in the back seat and my parents smoking Winstons and Pall Malls in the front seat, I devised a plan to get even farther away from all of my distracting relatives: I built a fort in the far back space in the station wagon. Back there, the air was cleaner and there was less potential for territorial disputes.
When I was growing up, I read Archie comic books and other high literature such as Richie Rich, Nancy and Sad Sack.
Archie was a well-meaning dork, with a tic-tac-toe design etched onto the side of his head. He’d chase after Betty and Veronica at the malt shop, while Reggie and Jughead made wry observations, such as “I need another malt.”
In short, Archie was not that interesting, because, first, in 1969, these kids were so not like real high school students, and, second, who could relate to a guy with a tic-tac-toe design on his head?
All the high school students I knew were the older brothers and sisters of my friends, and they were busy listening to Steppenwolf, smoking weed and tending to their beautiful hair (here baby, there mama, everywhere daddy daddy). There were no malt shops. Just mall shops.
John Wayne once said, “I never trust a man who doesn’t drink.” To that end, his estate has marketed a bourbon called “Duke,” after the iconic actor’s nickname.
Duke University objected, legally.
They asserted that the drink could “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the image of Duke University, and lawyers for John Wayne Enterprises observed that the school “seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.” So Wayne’s estate decided to sue Duke for being name hogs.
This has been going on, back and forth, between John Wayne Enterprises and Duke University since 2005.
Is he the worst president since World War II? It seems a little too soon to judge.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week reported which presidents have been the best and worst since World War II.
Barack Obama showed up in last place, with 33 percent of the respondents. He also polled as the fourth best president, at 8 percent, anemic but ahead of other power hitters like Dwight Eisenhower.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Eisenhower. He won World War II, making this poll question possible. No respect, right?
The art of picking a best president leaves historians scratching their heads. George W. Bush, who didn’t show up very well as a best president (1 percent) and second-worst (at 28 percent) has observed that you never know how historians will judge a chief executive, and it’s not up to him. He’s right.
As you can probably imagine, I get all sorts of mail here about my cartoons and blogs. Actually, most of it is positive, so I can’t complain too much. I read it, I disagree, and, if the writer is even remotely polite, I respond in some way. I even respond if they aren’t polite. I draw the line at any mail that has swearing in it.
That’s the New Politeness. No swearing.
Recently, I drew a cartoon about the Supreme Court ruling on cellphone searches. I drew Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin sitting at a table, quill pens at the ready. Jefferson says, “Relax … I’ll put the cellphone privacy stuff in later …” The cartoon was widely reprinted; it even ran in The Boston Globe, the cradle of the American Revolution. .
This was a scene that portrayed the three men working on the Declaration of Independence. The drawing was very closely based on a famous painting from the period. Several readers objected to this.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s confession that he is considering moving to California after his term is up made absolute sense, in the same way that one might feel after hearing Fidel Castro was thinking about getting a nice little condo in Miami.
Personally, I hope that Perry does move here, because, after all, it would illustrate precisely, in a Seinfeldian manner, what he’s all about: nothing.
After all, this is the same guy who seems to come to California every six weeks to poach businesses to bring back to Texas. Perry’s personal affect conveys insincerity anyway, which is why he didn’t get a lot of traction in his last presidential campaign. So, fine. Move to California. We’re big-hearted and welcoming.
Once Perry does get here, it is inevitable that he’ll then become more Californian, and that’s a good thing. Because right now he just looks and sounds like some sad Death-of-a-Salesman-from-Fort-Worth type, with too-combed hair and faintly plastic-looking suits. California, with all its faults, has a way of loosening up whatever’s tight in a person.
Actor George Clooney is rumored to be considering a run for governor.
(Cue movie preview announcer voice) “In a state where Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger served as chief executive, one man against the odds ponders the biggest role of his life: George Clooney is...”
Running for governor of California?
As a 53-year-year old heartthrob myself, I can see the attraction to the office. You get to live in Sacramento, hang out at Chops and schmooze with Sen. Ricardo Lara. That’d be way more fun than jetting around the world, filming major motion pictures, consorting with the world’s most desirable women, and palling around with Leo, Matt and Ben.
California has a long history of movie actors running for office. In addition to the aforementioned former governors, we elected 1930s song-and-dance man George Murphy to the U.S. Senate. Numerous actors and their spawn have held or tried to hold lesser offices. One who succeeded was Zelda Gilroy from “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” also known as Sheila Kuehl, a well-educated and able legislator, who is trying for a comeback by running for L.A. County supervisor.
Casey Kasem, the voice of the syndicated show “American Top 40,“ died on June 15, 2014, at age 82.
In a pre-podcast world, back in the dim recesses of a 1970s media world that tended to unify rather than atomize, there were a few voices that were the narrators of a generation.
There were Wolfman Jack, Rick Dees (we hated “Disco Duck,” too) and a few others. But I remember Casey Kasem’s baritone. It was a familiar, genial, preternaturally happy voice on radio.
As host of “American Top 40,” a nationally syndicated program that most teenagers listened to then, Kasem dutifully marched us through No. 40 down through the tedium of the upper 20s, right on through down to the Top 10, and, finally, No. 1.
That announcement became a national guessing game among the blow-dried, feathered, baggy, platformed, flared teens of that era.
Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.
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