Welcome to my identity crisis

I’ve recently found myself plunged head first into another baffling mystery from the Stygian depths of the Solano County Hall of Justice.

And it all comes down to a simple question to which I have yet to find an adequate answer:

Who’s Marty?

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

The mystery began to unfold on an overcast afternoon about three weeks ago when a complete stranger sidled up to me near the entrance to the stately structure and quietly asked, “Are you Marty?”

No big deal, right?

I immediately shrugged the whole incident off as nothing more than a simple case of mistaken identity. That happens a lot at the Hall of Justice and, unless the person asking has an arrest warrant with your name on it, there’s really nothing much to worry about.

But then it happened again.

And again.

I have to admit that I’m growing just a tad bit concerned about the situation, particularly about exactly who Marty might be and why so many people seem to be looking for him in a kind of general, catch-as-catch-can manner.

I mean, it’s one thing if folks are looking for good ol’ Marty to thank him for his many years of selfless service to mankind or, perhaps, to return his two-carat diamond pinkie ring.

On the other hand, we’re talking the Hall of Justice here, so Marty’s just as likely to be a difficult-to-identify felon wanted by the FBI, CIA and FFA (not necessarily in that order).

Or perhaps our high-living pal Marty owes a bundle of cash to an ill-tempered gambler with a name like Jimmy Tri-Tip.

Marvelous. Simply marvelous…

Right now I’m hoping that I just bear a strong resemblance to a generic Marty kind of guy – you know, aviator glasses, walrus-like mustache and a waistline that proudly proclaims “I love burritos!”

Not that this really helps me very much, since a general sort of Martyness could just as easily be the aforementioned benefactor-of-mankind Marty, the depraved-serial-killer Marty or, perhaps, the I-owe-a-bundle-to-the-mob Marty.

I suppose I could start wearing one of those little stick-on name tags that proclaim “Hello! I’m —-” and then write on it in bold letters NOT MARTY.

To be realistic, though, nobody really pays much attention to those little name tags.

Former California Gov. Gray Davis wore one for years but very few people believed he was really the governor.

Now they don’t even believe he’s Gray Davis.

It’s beginning to look like the only hope I have to maintain my own identity is to make a desperate personal plea to Marty, wherever – and whomever – he may be:

Please come on down to the Hall of Justice at your earliest convenience and make your presence abundantly visible.

(And lose the mustache, amigo – it makes you look like a walrus …)

Originally published May 23, 2004

Republicans blamed for recall

There’s been a lot of unwarranted whining lately about the effort to recall Gov. Gray “I Am Not A Weasel” Davis as being nothing more than another shoddy Republican conspiracy to take over the Golden State.

Poppycock.And, I might add, harrrrrumph…

Although a Republican was instrumental in getting the petition drive under way, the entire Republican brain trust (all eight of them) could not have gotten the recall on the ballot had it not been for the consistently bizarre efforts of one Democrat who steadfastly gave voters reason after reason for a gubernatorial recall:Gov. Gray Davis.

The easily annoyed people of the state of California were more than ready to bounce Gov. Davis long before the state’s canny Republicans climbed off their golf carts and jumped onto the bandwagon.

If anyone engineered the recall, it was Gray Davis himself, bombarding the voters with a virtual hailstorm of questionable campaign funding sources, goofy budgetary decisions, energy crises and a whomping big state deficit.

Although virtually any Republican politician could have done the same in the blink of an eye, only card-carrying Democrat Gray Davis managed to turn the whole mess into an enthusiastic statewide recall of none other than himself.

Gov. Davis couldn’t have done a better job of demolishing his own political credibility if he’d spent his afternoons running naked up and down Capitol Mall blowing on a trumpet.

(Which, when you think about it, probably wouldn’t have raised all that many eyebrows. This is, after all, California.)

Before you start accusing me of being some kind of Republican apologist who just fell off the pork barrel, you should be aware of the fact that I’ve been a registered Democrat for longer than I can remember – which is a pretty damned long time, although I can’t recall exactly how long…

To be fair, some savvy Republican politicos actually cautioned voters about the possible drawbacks of a gubernatorial recall.

“Let’s not be hasty,” they advised.

“This could set a dangerous precedent,” they warned.

“Consequences must be considered,” they cautioned.

Many Democratic politicians said the same thing.

The key word here, of course, is “politicians.”

These guys weren’t urging us to be careful out of legitimate concern for our well-being – they were simply running scared.

The people of the state of California, breaking free of benevolent political guidance from the good ol’ boys, were taking the electoral process back into their own hands.

What a concept – particularly frightening to those who’ve been happily heaping their plates from the public trough for decades.

Who knows where this ill-advised recall action may lead?

These upstart voters actually may begin demanding (shudder!) accountability from their elected officials.

Yes, this may be an unnerving experience for dyed-in-the-wool politicians, but don’t blame it all on the Republicans. They’re just along for the ride…

Originally published September 14, 2003

Hey, let’s not jump the gun

I have to admit that I’m becoming a tad bit concerned over the growing number of disgruntled Californians – and probably a half-dozen Iowans – who are loudly demanding the recall of Gov. Gray “I Am Not A Weasel!” Davis.

Oh, sure, he’s managed to successfully annoy millions of voters year after year, and he’ll gladly back anyone who’ll donate more than a 12-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor to his campaign efforts, but he’s still the governor and he’s still got a lot of political savvy California’s going to need in the coming months of statewide turmoil, chaos and despair.

Consider the cost of fuel. Gasoline prices have jumped to more than $2 a gallon at the pumps for no readily discernible reason (although major petroleum producers will tell you that a broken pipe in the executive men’s room at Chevron’s Richmond refinery caused a significant slowdown last month).

Gov. Davis apparently became aware of soaring gasoline prices sometime last week. He promptly frowned, rolled up his sleeves and boldly indicated that he’ll probably think about looking into the causes of the price hike to make sure that there’s no likelihood that gouging might be going on.

He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not for long. Probably. I mean, he could be really annoyed and be considering taking some kind of action in the not-too-distant future. Really.

We’ve got to give Gov. Davis a chance to think about turning this gasoline crisis around.

After all, he’s almost done it before.

Remember two years ago when gasoline prices skyrocketed and the petroleum producers said cost increases were necessary because there’d been a Dumpster fire behind the Martinez refinery and a pump broke at the Sebastopol Shell service station?

You better believe Gov. Davis was on top of that crisis. He repeatedly shook his finger at the petroleum industry and warned them if they didn’t do something to regulate themselves soon, he was ready to think about calling for volunteers who might like to perhaps consider investigating the situation.

The big oil boys were no match for the governor. They quickly capitulated and sent in their campaign contributions.

And what about the so-called energy crisis?

Gov. Davis stared those crooked energy producers straight in the eye and promptly bought up all the energy reserves in the Western United States. And he didn’t care what it cost, either.

That’ll teach those pinstriped punks to call Gray Davis’ bluff.

And now a few whiners want to recall Gov. Davis before he’s even had a chance to fix the gas crisis…

Sorry, disgruntled voters, but this is the time to exercise a little restraint and show some patience. Give Gov. Davis a chance to think about maybe doing something eventually.

Besides, who knows what we’ll wind up with once we recall Davis? If we just wait a little longer, though, outgoing Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura will have enough time to establish residency in California and enter our next gubernatorial race.

And that, amigos, will be a win-win situation…

Originally published March 23, 2003

Forgive and forget – or just forget …

Politicians – don’t ya just love ’em?

I’ve noticed a somewhat alarming trend among our kinder and gentler politicos and smooth-talking business leaders in recent months.

Whenever the nation is hit with a sweeping fiscal disaster, energy crisis or piece of incredibly inept – if not criminal – legislative chicanery, a silver-tongued spokesman will step up to the podium and urge the public to take the high road and help get America back on track without pointing fingers or trying to assign blame.

Just last week, California Gov. Gray “I’m not a weasel!” Davis expressed a similar sentiment while trying to explain the energy crisis that recently descended over the Golden State and threatened to darken all our microwave ovens forever.

Although Gov. Davis didn’t really explain very much about how the whole mess came about, he made it clear that it was time for Californians to quit worrying about the culprits and start looking for a solution to the problem.

An admirable stand, to be sure – one of those opportunities for the state to “heal” while we roll up our sleeves and salvage the situation with plenty of good old American know-how.

After all, these things happen. Pointing fingers and assigning blame isn’t really going to help, is it?

Hey, we all make these kind of innocent mistakes. Anyone can misplace a few thousand election ballots or accidentally spend $785 in taxpayer money on a 25-cent sheet metal screw.

Wasn’t it just last month that you inadvertently sold millions of barrels of Alaska crude oil to Asia in a completely innocent attempt to raise gasoline prices up on the West Coast? Or was that your brother Merle?

Yes, this could happen to any of us, amigos …

There is, however, a downside to this kind of no-fault attitude.

It’s one thing to focus on fixing a problem and getting on with the business of America, but if you don’t know who was responsible for the problem in the first place, that duly elected doofus or corporate con man will simply go on dropping ball bearings into the nation’s gear box.

Everyone’s going to forgive and forget except the perpetrator who, either through malice or stupidity, will continue to repeat his indiscretions until somebody points a finger and says “Don’t dooooo that, maaaaaan!” and follows it up with a tastefully written grand jury indictment.

Accountability is something that’s central to both good government and good business. Without it, this country is headed for a future of shining mediocrity.

As heartless as it may seem, I think it’s most definitely time to start demanding accountability from the public and private sector again.

Admittedly, in today’s cuddly “Aw, shucks …” environment, it may be difficult to once again start pointing fingers and assigning blame for multibillion-dollar boondoggle, but the time has come.

And don’t throw in the towel if you can’t think of anyone to blame for anything right away. After all, Bill Clinton’s still got almost a week in office …

Originally published January 14, 2001