A potpourri of observations

Michael Raffety

March 26, 2010

The biggest assault on our senses is Daylight Saving Time. We can blame Tricky Dick for that. Daylight Saving Time was first used by Germany and Austria during World War I to preserve fuel for power generating plants. It became something of a fad and spread eventually to the Benelux countries, Turkey, Sweden, some Canadian provinces, Tasmania and eventually Britain and Australia. President Wilson, whom we can blame for segregating the federal government and the income tax, brought Daylight Savings Time to America when we entered the war in 1918. When the war ended Congress had the good sense to end DST. Wilson vetoed it and Congress overrode his veto.

During World War II Franklin Roosevelt declared year-round Daylight Saving Time, but it was optional, and many localities remained on independent times. That wartime DST ended in 1945 with the victory. (Now there’s a word we haven’t heard since Granada and Panama.) That gets us back to Tricky Dick Nixon, the president who gave us the Endangered Species Act. He signed a bill in 1974 making Daylight Saving Time a permanent part of summers to conserve energy.

It doesn’t conserve energy. It means in the spring when we all have to get up an hour earlier it’s dark and we waste electricity in the morning that we had been using since dawn came around 5:30 a.m. What’s worse is school kids have to wait for the bus in the dark. Most school buses come around 7 a.m. We live in the country. When my kids went off for the school bus after the clocks were set ahead an hour, I worried that it was the time of the cougars. At the very least, skunks were still out and about.

Now I have to wait an extra hour to go jogging around the high school track on the weekend. I just don’t like jogging in the dark.

My other rules for jogging include no jogging in the rain. If it rains I sleep in. A couple of times it has rained on a Friday, cleared up during the night and left the synthetic track a blue sheet of ice on Saturday. When the track was decomposed granite I didn’t have that problem. My daughter and I even jogged in the snow. I like the track because I know exactly how long I have run. The artificial track has numbers, which helps because I space out and lose count of how many times I have gone around. To avoid that I start in lane 1 and move over one lane each time I pass where I’m parked until I complete lane 8. Then If I’m going to do 2 1/2 or 3 miles I just start reversing the lanes.


Once Attorney General Jerry Brown announced he is running for governor again we have been getting almost a press release a day from the him, most announcing he has arrested some ne’er-do-well in various parts of the state, mostly in big television markets. One press release even announced him arresting an entire gang. That’s our action AG.

The last time I went to an editors’ confab Jerry Brown, Oakland mayor at the time, was the guest speaker and I happened to be sitting at the table with the association president, which meant Jerry Brown sat at our table. He was an entertaining luncheon companion — witty with a great sense of humor. He was about to get married for the first time and was puzzling over what to wear and soliciting opinions, then answering them himself.

Now I open up my e-mail each day at work and there it is — some Elliot Ness press release from the crime fighting former Gov. Moonbeam. Instead of the Untouchables we have the Unsmiling Man Who is Everywhere

I was impressed that Republican candidate Meg Whitman came to a home in El Dorado Hills and spoke to a large group there earlier in the campaign season. She has, however, since then played by the Obama play book: Stay away from the press and control your message. And she has spent the really big bucks to remain above the fray.

Steve Poisner, on the other hand, is accessible and answers questions from the press. Back in January he spoke in Sacramento at the annual Government Officials Day of the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Then he moved over to the next big meeting room at the Sheraton and spoke to a chamber of commerce group.

“My experience is to get to the core of a problem and come up with a solution,” Poisner said.

He listed his core principles as “Protect people’s individual liberty, believe in personal responsibility, smaller government, lower taxes, and I’m passionate about the free market.”

One way this Silicon Valley entrepreneur would help control the budget is by putting the state budget on the Internet and make it searchable. “Most voters would be outraged at the amount of waste and low priority spending,” Poisner said.

He also noted that while 12 percent of the country’s population is on welfare, 30 percent of California’s population is on welfare.

He presented himself well and challenged Whitman to a debate, which she had been avoiding. Since that time she and he did have one debate and Whitman spent almost an hour fielding questions from the press one time. She has been spending lots of money on TV ads and now mailers. It has paid off. The latest report has her 50 points ahead of Poisner and even has her a few points ahead of Jerry Brown.

Poisner erred by not spending his money earlier. Fifty points is an insurmountable lead.


I’ve never understood people who don’t like Jay Leno but like David Letterman. Leno is such a nice guy, a real people person. He does the MC’ing at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance because he is a car collector himself, and he is always funny, personable and engaging. Once My wife and I for our anniversary went to John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, Nev., to see him perform live. No TelePrompTer. He did an hour of jokes just from memory that left us in stitches.

David Letterman, by contrast is cynical and smarmy. The awful things he said about Sarah Palin’s daughters are unforgivable. And his marital infidelity with a staff member is doubly disturbing. Since Leno has returned to the late night spot on NBC, Letterman has lengthened his monologue. What used to be a three-minute monologue has become a 10-12-minute-monologue. That’s actually too long for Letterman. He’s not funny for such an extended period of time. He just doesn’t have the writers to support that.

But for me the big puzzle has been watching Letterman come out on stage. I always see flashes of white near his shoes. So, what’s the deal? Is he wearing spats? It has taken a lot of careful observation to determine that he is not dressing like the Monopoly Man. He is wearing white socks every night with his $1,000 suit and shiny black loafers.


Something I haven’t seen since the 1970s is thankfully permanently gone. The California Supreme Court ruled Los Angeles and other airports can ban solicitation, specifically by Hare Kirshnas. Good riddance to the dancing, chanting Krishnas.

The one thing I regret missing out on from the 1970s was getting a Rev. Ike Prayer Rug, guaranteed to make you wealthy. Of course, if I’d have gotten the prayer rug I wouldn’t have wound up in such an interesting profession where I can write about trying to figure out if David Letterman is the Monopoly Man.


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