Politics of the gut

I’VE always been a logical guy when it comes to elections. I advocate looking at each candidate’s platforms and deciding who to vote for by what they promise to do once in office.

On Friday, as I write this, I decided to turn off my brain and go with my gut. No facts, just feelings. After all, that’s how most people vote. In today’s gerrymandered districts and split electorates, candidates’ stands aren’t really that different. Voters end up deciding by personality or whether they like the candidate’s spouse.

I sat mesmerized by Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night. I was alone, watching from my living room uninterrupted. His words moved me.
I remembered his speech delivered back in 2004 at the DNC. The part that gave me goosebumps then was the stuff about “not being a country of red states, of blue states, but of the United States.”

That kind of pragmatic politics makes me smile. I got all tingly again when Obama read that line Thursday, even though my head says bipartisanship is about as likely as me buying a retirement condo on Mars.

Likewise, I like the way McCain has said he would “follow bin Laden to the gates of hell.” Goosebump city. But my head says: We’re no closer to capturing bin Laden than we are to erasing the federal deficit.

Gut politics, however, is more than listening to speeches. It is looking at personalities. I like to call this the psychology of politics.

Obama is trying to be more human so the video montage focused on his upbringing, being raised by a single mother who was white, along with his white grandparents who would take him fishing.

I see him as a man who remembers his mother, who died of cancer. Her words gave him that sense of right and wrong, that feeling that he must respect others. I think McCain is a kick sometimes — funny, charming, but I’m not sure about the influences of his mother being well, fresh in his mind. And I don’t like his wife, Cindy. She was on YouTube saying the only way to get around Arizona is by private jet, so, she bought herself one.

Obama’s wife doesn’t do much for me, but she appears strong and intelligent. Oh yeah, she raised darling daughters — an emotional plus for me, a family guy.

Obama comes off arrogant. Heck, anyone that goes to Harvard has to be confident. As I watched the video of him going to the gritty parts of Chicago to help people go from welfare to work and to help those who lost their jobs, I was impressed.

I’ve done some volunteer work with the down and out at my former church in Pasadena, even attended conventions where other Christians doing charity work — some from Chicago — would talk about helping the poor, building affordable housing, getting people health insurance. I could never measure up to those giants, but I got to know some of them and admired them. They made me feel like I was going something, something good.

Listening to Obama makes me revisit those days. Those warm and fuzzy feelings came back.

“It’s politics. It is rehearsed, orchestrated …” my colleagues reminded me. But for just one day, I am going to see this as most Americans do — with their gut, not their brain.
Sorry, you can lament that all you want but it is a fact. I’ve fought that approach my whole life, even when I was first exposed to politics at age 10, when I helped staple Richard Nixon posters to telephone poles in Long Island.

I remember my best friend’s mom took us to the Turnpike to watch Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey ride into town in a motorcade. That’s still one of my most cherished childhood moments. That year, 1968, the race was so close I remember waking up and my mom greeted me with the news: “We still don’t have a president.” I didn’t understand.
But politics is not based on logic. It is based on feelings, on a fleeting moment, on how a candidate makes you feel.

This race — though historic in that it features the first African-American nominated by a major party — is no different.

Do Olympics foster world peace?

DO the Olympic games bring countries together or foster antagonism?

I was intrigued by the question after I heard former Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg on NPR this week say he doesn’t believe in the pollyanna view. He said they don’t bring countries together but rather, with the focus on medal counts and winning at all costs (including cheating), they ramp up nationalism and increase global friction.

Certainly, there isn’t any love being shown to the Democratic, western-leaning country of Georgia by Russia. And inside China, the government’s clampdown on free speech — the jailing of dissident group members and underground church pastors — hasn’t produced a “We’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” Coke moment.

Add this to the usual gymnastic judging disputes, throw in the latest wrinkle of athletes playing for other countries for the money (see: South Dakota’s Becky Hammon earning $2 million to play basketball for Team Russia) and your Olympic bubble is burst.

So many of course had their bubbles popped during the doping scandals of recent years. In Sydney in 2000, American television could not get enough of track star Marion Jones. But she was stripped of her five gold medals after lying and eventually admitting she used performance-enhancing drugs. She watched these games from a jail cell.

There is a feeling of distrust that lingers every time an athlete breaks a world record. You can’t help but hear the whispers. I certainly hope that is not the case with the winners in Beijing. And so far, for the most part, the athletes have not flunked drug tests.
Now, bad feelings between China and the United States are growing because of an investigation into the age of Chinese gymnasts who under IOC rules, must be 16 years old.

One can’t escape the cloud of past cheating that lingers over the games like a blanket of Beijing smog. And Rosenberg may be right about the Olympics lacking a world peace bump.

But having been a spectator in two summer Olympic games, I can’t shake the feeling of closeness to all peoples — Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans — that pervaded at those games. I can only conclude that being there is way different than watching a delayed media event that is sanitized and jingo-ized before it reaches your living room.

As I look back, it was the little things that made me realize we are all human, we are all of the same planet.

In Los Angeles in 1984, there was so much of the positive. Recently I was reminded of that day we watched Carl Lewis win the 100 meter race, grab the American flag and do a victory lap. He later also won gold in the 200, a record that was broken just this week by phenom Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

That same hot day, my wife, myself and friends found shade under white tents at USC and drank cool ale in the “Olympic Beer Garden” set up by the U.S. and other nations. Today, if you go to USC, a small plaque marks the spot of that international watering hole.

I will never forget attending team handball at Cal State Fullerton’s tiny gymnasium during the ’84 Olympics and being swept up in Team Iceland fans’ enthusiasm as they chanted “Ees-lund!” “Ees-lund!” The Iceland fans welcomed me in and taught me how to cheer Icelandic.

While the Atlanta games certainly had their problems, I’ll always remember watching Michael Johnson run the 200 meter and set the fastest time. Again, as that record was broken this week in Beijing, the TV cameras flashed on Johnson. I thought he would be sad. Instead, he jumped and cheered — again for Bolt — who surpassed his record time by running the race in 19.30 seconds.

Johnson’s sportsmanship, Carl Lewis’s class, Iceland’s fans, trading Olympic pins … these are a few Olympic memories that may not bring world peace, but from time to time bring a smile to my heart.

Cheap gas! Woo hoo!

File this one under “Cheaper than therapy.”

I heard about a couple of gas stations offering cheaper gasoline, so I went down there this morning on my way to work. I filled up at the Mobil at Durfee Avenue and Peck Road (at the 60 Freeway) for $3.95 a gallon (regular).


This felt better than any editorial I’ve written on high gas prices. Any editorial cartoon I’ve run showing oil company executives as fat pigs rolling in record-setting profits. It was economics in practice.
I just bought gas for under $4 a gallon! First time in at least a year, right? And it felt good. I was on such a high, I decided I could spring for a cup of coffee. As I pulled the handle down on the filling station’s coffee machine, nothing came out. The cashier/manager told me he had completely run out of coffee! It was around 9:15 a.m. so I guess he was busy with customers earlier this morning.

So was the Shell station across Durfee, which also was selling gas for $3.95. My colleague here, Linda Alquist, said the Conoco/Phillips 66 station at Garey Avenue and Foothill Boulevard on the Pomona/Claremont border was also selling gas for $3.95. I’ve not seen it cheaper? If you have, do tell.

Now, this makes me feel like I’m sticking it to the man. It beats inflating my tires properly (although I do that, so don’t go telling Obama.).

Bugliosi talks about new book


I’ve always thought highly of Vincent Bugliosi, the former L.A. County prosecutor who put Charlie Manson on death row, and the author of several riveting true crime books, including “Helter Skelter” which was about the Manson case, and “Outrage,” in which he picked apart the flawed prosecution in the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

I remember reading “Outrage” and after each page, becoming angrier and angrier over the sheer ineptitude of the prosecutors in that case. Bugilosi is a highly respected legal mind and a sharp writer.

So, when I heard he was speaking at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena Thursday night to promote his new book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder,” I had mixed feelings. Could he be for real? His reputation, and hearing him speak, gave me the answer. He’s dead serious.

Bugliosi spoke with passion and conviction to a standing-room only crowd at Vroman’s on Colorado Boulevard. Bugliosi is true to his word. He spoke clearly about how in his view George W. Bush misled the Congress and the American people into war in Iraq. He believes that such conduct is not only reprehnsible but criminal.

Whether any attorney general of any of the 50 states, or any county district attorney, would prosecute George W. Bush after he leaves office for war crimes is the $64,000 question (or considering the price tag of the Iraq war, it should be the $564 billion question).

One thing is certain. Bugliosi is not a nut and he’s not gone whacko. He’s still the same respected, legal mind that put Manson and almost every murder defendant he prosecuted behind bars.

It’s too bad that very few media outlets will have him on their talk shows to discuss his new book. He said it is the first time he has been virtually shut out of all major media outlets from promoting a book of his. He said the media are scared of upsetting the right wing. Yet, despite the media blackout, it has jumped to 9th on the New York Times Bestseller list.

His point: America is no longer exercising its two main principles: 1. No one is above the law. and 2. We have freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The book was published by Vanguard Press in May, 2008.