By Tommy Hough
It's pretty obvious I love this country, and I love working to make it a better place. Things may not be perfect in the U.S. – especially right now – and we may face a variety of challenges, but no one ever said crafting "a more perfect union" was going to happen by itself without citizens getting involved with heart, sweat and elbow grease. Standing on the sidelines just doesn't cut it with me.
That's why I was a little disappointed, and a little surprised, that California didn't make the top 10 list of the nation's most patriotic states. Simply by virtue of being the biggest state in the Union, shouldn't we get something of an automatic pass on this? California has more Americans than any other state. In fact, San Diego County has a bigger population than some states. Isn't volume of Americans in of itself inherently patriotic?
You want more? Californians turn out at a rate to vote above the national average. We have more registered voters, more citizens involved in civic organizations and political processes, we innovate advancements that the rest of the country eventually adopts, we have the longest shoreline in the lower 48 states, we share an international border, we have the Navy and Marines right here in San Diego County and a massive veteran popluation that fuels our workforce, and brings greater diversity every day to our corner of the U.S.
You want medical devices, medical research, miracle cures and groundbreaking software? You come to California. Heck, we invented Viagra and the smartphone, so back off.
We have wolves, bears, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, black widows, brown recluses, and all kinds of venomous insects crawling out of the woodpile to kill you. We fight wildfires, rising sea levels and ride our way through earthquakes in the doorway while putting away a breakfast burrito before we even start our star-spangled day.
Oh, and we have the kind of genuine American natural heritage that few states can touch, including icons like Yosemite, the Redwoods, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, the Mojave and Colorado deserts, not to mention the Golden Gate, surfers, Disneyland, Hollywood, fish tacos, food composting and we invented Star Wars and Star Trek. Led Zeppelin wrote a song about coming here. We’re so vast we have our own gasoline refined for us that burns cleaner and is more efficient. We’re the sixth biggest economy in the world. Our governor was a seminarian-turned-hippie and is now a worldwide ambassador on fighting climate change – and the guy who was governor before him played The Terminator.
Shall we go on?
Okay, fine. General Patton was a Californian (he was from the San Gabriel Valley). Reagan was a Californian, and governor for eight years. Nancy Pelosi is a Californian. George Lucas is a Californian. Chances are any band you ever liked is from California or found success here. Whether it's Metallica, Cypress Hill, Guns and Roses, Tupac Shakur, Sonny and Cher, Green Day, the Grateful Dead, Rocket from the Crypt, The Byrds, N.W.A. or the Beach Boys – even Nirvana recorded Nevermind in California (Sound City in Van Nuys). Yes, in ZZ Top's "Jesus Just Left Chicago" Jesus was bound for New Orleans – but where did he go first on the way to Mardi Gras?
So, keeping in mind that we also have the coolest state flag in the U.S., let's critque this list of the most patriotic U.S. states:
1. Virginia – Nice state, actually. You've got a lot of D.C., plus Blacksburg, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Appomattox, Harper's Ferry, the Shenandoah Valley and some nice beaches – but ours are nicer and our sand is easier on the feet. And we'll take our Yellowtail and halibut any day over your Chesapeake Bay blue fish and flounder. And pardon me, but – phew – is it low tide?
2. Alaska – Okay, you've got more bald eagles than us, more mountains, more wolves and some huge National Parks. That's cool. But as for an overall number of Americans, we've got millions more of them than you. And sorry, but you still have to answer for Sarah Palin.
3. Wyoming – You've got Yellowstone and the Tetons, but even Alaska has more people than you. And you get by on civic engagement only because there's so few people there that if your citizens weren't engaged in the first place everything would grind to a halt, but then we wouldn't hear about it for a couple of years. Next.
4. South Carolina – Charleston is a great city, but I made a fool of myself over a redhead once in Spartanburg so you're docked a notch for that. And while you get points for having the gorge where Deliverance was filmed, you're also the state where Forrest Gump was filmed. "Run Forrest!"
5. Colorado – Okay, Colorado is pretty great, and let's face it, you're an honorary west coast state anyway. But we've got beaches along with our mountains, and our craft beer is better.
6. Washington – Okay, okay. Everyone knows I used to live in Washington. Yes, I really love it there and I miss a lot of things about it, from Mount Rainier to the North Cascades to the Olympic Peninsula to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the Puget Sound ferry system. But again, our craft beer is better.
7. Hawaii – Let’s not forget that the Pacific Fleet was moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor as a deterrent. Some deterrent. Nice state though.
8. Idaho – The Gem State has more designated Wilderness than any other state in the lower 48, your rivers are clean and the fishing is incredible, and it's where they filmed Napoloen Dynamite. That's awesome. But how's your voter turnout been lately? I mean, your governor is named Butch Otter.
9. Georgia – Well, I am a Jimmy Carter fan, and John Wayne did shoot The Green Berets there. Except Georgia looks nothing like Vietnam. Georgia, on the other hand, does have more Waffle House locations than we do.
10. North Carolina – Seriously? The only reason they shot The Hunger Games there was because of tax breaks. Beautuful state though, from Nags Head to Ashville.
But no matter where in the U.S.A. you may live, we wish you a fun and safe Independence Day holiday – because no matter how much you may think you hate California, our trees are bigger, our beaches are better, we're driving faster, and we're going to love you right back regardless. Namaste. Now come on over here for a safe, empowering and space-approrpriate hug.
This piece originally appeared on the 91X website.
Bald eagle photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Yosemite National Park photo by Tommy Hough
By Tommy Hough
I can appreciate that when you're in traffic and trying to drive from one place to another, you may not be seeing the best of humanity outside your car window. And your instincts aren't entirely off. We're really awful to each other on the road here in San Diego, and it turns out, we're not such good drivers either.
San Diegans are ranked the fifth-worst drivers in the nation in a new survey of 75 U.S. cities. While this is based upon data compiled on traffic accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs and moving violations like running a red light or using a cell phone while driving, it's also based upon the general vibe people have on the road around here. We're not just in a hurry, we're in a hurry for you to get the hell out of our way.
And get this, we place one ahead of L.A. on the survey – they're in sixth place, we're in fifth. That's an unhappy little placement. But who are the worst drivers in the nation?
Welcome to Sacramento – I'm not sure what's in the water at the confluence of the American and San Joaquin rivers, but apparently it isn't good manners or driver's intuition.
Being at number five, San Diego is right behind Richmond, Virginia; our Inland Empire neighbors in Riverside; and Salt Lake City. Yeah, I thought the drivers in Salt Lake City would've been nicer and more relaxed too.
As for U.S. cities with the best drivers, Detroit, Michigan led the list, followed by Providence, Rhode Island; Orlando and Miami, both in Florida; and Little Rock, Arkansas. So, in a way, Detroit's old nickname of the Motor City still applies – and for courtesy. Who would've guessed?
Meanwhile, San Diegans – take it easy. Take your eyes off your smartphone or the fish taco you're stuffing in your mouth and pay attention to the road and your driving, and remember to be aware of the humanity in the cars around you.
In an effort to make drivers more conscientious, someone once said to drive as though everyone else on the road were members of your own family – until they realized that might actually cause MORE road rage, not less.
This piece originally appeared on the 91X website.
Photos by Tommy Hough
By Tommy Hough
It may be the first full day of summer, but our current heat wave has already broken records, and none is more impressive, and perhaps more ominous, than the highest temperature ever recorded in San Diego County – 124 degrees in Ocotillo Wells, a milestone even for the desert hamlet between Anza-Borrego and the Salton Sea.
Ever been there? You probably know Ocotillo Wells for being someplace you quickly drive through when you're heading east on Route 78 out of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park towards Highway 86 to get to the Imperial or Coachella valleys, or perhaps you're one of those people that likes to ride dirtbikes and quads out in the desert at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.
And while hot temperatures in the desert may not strike you as newsworthy, remember, a 124 degree reading is a full 30 degrees hotter than a 94 degree reading – and no one is going to argue with you if you call a 94 degree day a "hot one." But at 124 degrees, even air traffic is affected, as was the case yesterday at Palm Springs Airport, where it was only (!) 121 degrees.
According to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, American Airlines cancelled seven flights between Phoenix and Palm Springs due to the hot weather. American's regional flights use Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. Phoenix hit a high of 120 yesterday.
Despite rumors of melting asphalt on runways, the real problem is extreme heat affects a plane's ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. Hard as it may be to believe, with record heat a runway may not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed needed to take off. So be thankful for the thick coastal air we have at Lindbergh Field that our inbound and outbound flights are able to chew into.
Meanwhile, Ocotillo Wells wasn't the only hot spot in the county, as Borrego Springs hit 120. Not to be outdone, Death Valley National Park in Inyo County still won as the hottest locale in the state yesterday, coming in at 127 degrees. Expect more hot summers and record-high temperatures in our deserts, and eventually, points closer to the coast, as global warming continues to extend summers and warm California even further.
Our friend Gary Robbins wrote up more about the heat wave in today's Union-Tribune.
By Tommy Hough
Seventy-five years ago this week, the United States was in a fight for its life.
While the Battle of Midway in June 1942 resulted in a thundering defeat for Japan as four of its front-line carriers were sunk, the Japanese fleet remained an immediate threat throughout the Guadalcanal and Solomons campaign into early 1943. It wasn't until the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944 that the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy was fully destroyed, and even with that loss Japan continued to fight on for another year, with the bloody campaigns in the the Palau Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa to follow.
All of this was far off and unimaginable in early 1942. The U.S. had declared war on Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan in December 1941, but only Japan had actually attacked the United States – infamously, as President Roosevelt said in his declaration of war – in the sudden attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy and overall commander of the Kito Butai battle group that carried out the attack on Hawaii, was opposed to the idea of war with the U.S., but hoped the strike on Pearl Harbor would deliver such a knockout blow the U.S. would have no choice but to sue for peace.
While the Japanese attack was indeed devastating, the one target Yamamoto had prioritized for destruction above all else had the good fortune of not being at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. As it turned out, the aircraft carriers Lexington, Saratoga and Enterprise were all at sea looking for the Japanese fleet the morning of the attack.
Adolf Hitler declared war on the U.S. four days after Pearl Harbor and the U.S. responded in kind, but it was the nation's seething desire for revenge and retribution against Japan that fueled the American public's attention in early 1942. Even as America's new Soviet allies were stopping the German Wehrmacht at the gates of Moscow, and the British were chasing German forces across North Africa, U.S. focus was solely on the Pacific.
At first, things did not go well. In fact, by the spring of 1942, the American public was reeling from a string of bitter disasters and humiliations.
In February the Ellwood Oil Field north of Santa Barbara was shelled by a Japanese submarine, which led to the phantom "Battle of Los Angeles" in the skies over L.A. days several nights later, as trigger-happy anti-aircraft gunners shot away for hours at what they thought were Japanese planes. There were none, but panicked drivers caused dozens of traffic accidents around the city as spent shells fell out of the sky.
Sadly, this only increased the paranoia that led to President Roosevelt signing of the notorious Executive Order 9066, which committed Japanese-American citizens on the west coast to internment for the remainder of the war, even though a Roosevelt administration study from the previous fall advised against such a move in the event of war with Japan.
In the war zone, things went from bad to worse.
The U.S. territory of Guam in the Mariana Islands was overrun by the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor, and a planned task force mission to rescue besieged Wake Island was cancelled at the last minute by nervous commanders in Hawaii who feared a Japanese invasion – thereby sealing the fate of Wake Island's U.S. marine and civilian contractor defenders, many of whom were murdered in captivity by the Japanese 18 months later.
The Japanese seized Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, then moved south to capture Singapore in what became a humiliating rout for the British. The Royal Navy's Repulse and Prince of Wales, two of the world's newest and technologically superior warships, were sunk within minutes of each other by the air arm of Japan's Kito Butai, demonstrating once and for all that capable and well-deployed air power would readily overcome sea power, no matter the size of the dreadnoughts.
The USS Houston, one of FDR's favorite ships and the pride of the U.S. Pacific fleet, was sunk with a dozen obsolete cruisers and destroyers of a combined task force of U.S., British, Australian and Dutch warships in defense of the Dutch East Indies in the calamitous Battle of the Java Sea.
Japanese forces landed at New Guinea, and despite being at the end of a long supply line into the South Pacific, were soon threatening sea routes to Australia. The Kito Butai raided British ships and bases in the Indian Ocean, then shifted eastward to support the bombing of mainland Australia at Darwin in February 1942. It seemed as though nothing could stop the Japanese advance.
With decades of hubris fueling defensive measures, all of the British heavy guns at Singapore faced seaward in order to hold off an expected amphibious invasion. No one in the British Far East command ever considered an attack on Singapore would come from the rear, through the "impassable" jungles of Malaysia. So the Japanese did just that, attacking by way of the landward route down the Malayan peninsula, and deafeating the massive British garrison in just seven days.
The defeat at Singapore, in which British forces far outnumbered the Japanese at the time of surrender, remains one of the United Kingdom's most ignominous defeats, as over 130,000 troops were taken prisoner in the largest surrender of British-led forces in history.
U.S. forces in the Philippines held out in a desperate rearguard action until May 1942, following a well-executed retreat from the mainland of Luzon to the Bataan peninsula shortly after the Japanese landings. While the American defense of Bataan slowed the overall Japanese offensive in the Pacific, there was no meaningful way a relief effort could reach the Philippines, now far behind enemy lines. Bataan fell in April, and the fortified island of Corregidor – which blocked access into Manila Bay – fell in May. Over 100,000 U.S. and Filippino troops surrendered in the the largest mass capitulation in U.S. history. It remains America's worst military disaster.
Even as the bad news unfolded throughout the Pacific, U.S. carrier forces quickly regrouped after the shock of Pearl Harbor and stayed at sea as repairs got underway on Oahu. The Yorktown and Enterprise battle groups led hit-and-run raids on Japanese bases in the Gilbert and Marshall islands at the end of January 1942, and while the raids themselves had little military impact, it gave U.S. carrier pilots and fleet operations valuable combat experience that would serve them well later in the year.
Then, in April 1942, in one of the most audacious attacks in the history of warfare, the USS Hornet, recalled from U-Boat patrol duty in the Atlantic, launched land-based Army B-25 bombers from its deck 650 miles from Japan to attack the Japanese mainland in the Doolittle Raid. Planning for the operation had begun shortly after Pearl Harbor, and the feat of launching large, land-based bombers from an aircraft carrier was never repeated again in the war – in part because the carriers could barely launch the bombers to begin with, and definitely could not retrieve them.
Most of the bomber crews, including the mission's namesake commander James Doolitle, crash-landed in China, with one aircraft landing in the Soviet Union. Several crews were captured by the Japanese in occupied China, and several Doolittle raiders were put to death by the Japanese as war criminals. While the raid barely scratched Japanese industry, it did have the desired effect of shocking the Japanese populace into realizing their nation could be attacked. The Doolittle Raid was also a desperately needed shot in the arm for U.S. morale, coming days after the fall of Bataan.
Admiral Yamamoto was keenly aware that he had missed the U.S. carriers at Pearl Harbor, and as the raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands and the Doolittle Raid made clear, the Americans were making effective use of their carriers along the edge of Japan's new strategic perimeter. Yamamoto knew that Japan's newly-conquered island territories, stretching far out into the Pacific, were too far apart to offer mutual support. The admiral also knew he would be facing the might of U.S. industrial output by early 1943 as new ships, materiel and men arrived in the theater at a rate the Japanese could never hope to match.
As Yamamoto concluded another try at a knockout blow was necessary, the Battle of the Coral Sea unfolded in the waters off Australia in May 1942. Here, in the first major carrier battle of the Pacific War, the Japanese advance was at last checked as carrier-based aircraft, rather than battleships and cruisers, carried the fight to the enemy. The Lexington was lost in the battle, but the fight compelled Yamomoto to act quickly. He needed an operation that would compel U.S. forces to respond, and draw them out into what he and other Japanese naval officers felt would be the penultimate naval battle between the two fleets, in which Japan would deliver the decisive blow.
Curiously, this strategy was based upon the theories of U.S. Admiral Alfred Mahan, America's leading naval strategist of the late 19th century. Mahan's teachings were considered gospel by the officer corps of the Imperial Japanese Navy, even though they had been largely abandoned by U.S. commanders, having been developed nearly 50 years before and never fully realized in real, wartime scenarios.
To Yamamoto, an invasion of the island of Midway seemed to be the best option to draw the Americans out to fight. A stopover for Pan American commercial traffic heading to Asia ("midway" from San Francisco to destinations in China), Midway had grown into a major U.S. Army outpost, and was technically part of the Hawaiian Islands chain, albeit to the extreme northwest. Yamamoto felt the Americans would be obliged to defend it.
As it turned out, the Americans were listening.
By Tommy Hough
Today, Donald Trump inflicted a grievous wound upon everything the United States has stood for since 1945.
Today, instead of maintaining our role as a world leader, free with the ideas, empathy and support a nation born in hard-won liberty can provide, we have ceded that leadership.
Under a foul pretense of populism and phony patriotism in a rambling and thoroughly logic-free speech, Mr. Trump has cast our nation's long-standing mantle of leadership into the wind, like a used wrapper or discarded newspaper. China and Russia will surely benefit from our absence.
Today, instead of leading the world by example of American grit, innovation and intelligence, President Trump has moved the United States from a column with 195 nations to a column with two – Syria and Nicaragua. These are the only other nations, now along with the United States, not a party to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The reasons for Syria's absence from this landmark document are clear. The reasons for the Trump-led United States should be clear as well.
Trump is a man with no moral or ideological center. He is a child, moved only by the last people who spoke with him. In this case, it was White House adviser Steve "Breitbart" Bannon, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt – a man who has made a career off suing the EPA and has now been tasked with dismantling the once-laudable agency and gutting its staff of expertise and decades of research with the civility of a dumpster fire.
Trump may believe he's a bold political juggernaut by pulling the U.S. out of a global agreement that brought together an astonishing number of nations to face down and combat climate change, but he is only defying the wishes of well over half the nation's citizens in favor of a loud, cruel constituency no longer made up of conservatives or even Republicans – but rather, talk radio listeners, internet trolls, radical authoritarians, deranged Infowars addicts and wealthy suburbanites who can't stop looking over their shoulder.
Trump even turned a blind eye to the dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders (!) committed to becoming more energy efficient and reliant upon renewable energy, including business leaders he brought into his orbit to allegedly advise him, like Tesla innovator Elon Musk. All now clearly a matter of time-wasting optics.
Even oil companies aren't so cynical as to have called for the U.S. to leave the Paris Climate Accord, knowing full well that oil is a finite resource that is expensive to find, litigate and extract, and that renewable energy is cheaper to produce and infinite as long as there is sun and wind. But in the Trump White House, only the president's enablers have access to their "useful idiot," as they feed him another scrap of fake news and manipulative compliments.
If Trump or the modern Republican Party actually cared about economic issues, they'd be supportive of the move to cleaner energy for no other reason than it is becoming cheaper to harness and utilize. In developing countries that have no coal industry to protect, the price of solar is now half the price of coal.
And even though China remains an importer of U.S. coal, the administration would be loathe to admit that China cancelled the construction of 110 coal plants in January – enough to meet the total annual electricity needs of Germany. China is rolling out solar at an unprecedented rate, and the whole world understands it is a far better economic move to go with un-subsidized clean energy than to stick with coal.
If we do not come together as Democrats and jettison the rudderless suspicions and trivial intraparty spats when there is zero sunlight between us on the biggest issues of our time, and effectively take on the Trump White House and ongoing GOP machine of lies, evasion and ignorance, we do not deserve to inherit the leadership our nation so desperately needs.
To defeat the Wall of Ignorance across the aisle we need to repeat realities again and again, like how the state of California employs more people in the renewable energy sector than there are coal jobs in all of the United States. As the memory of a functional, bicameral legislature working on a shared reality in the interest of all Americans slips into obscurity, it has become our charge to rescue our nation from a new Dark Age.
If we don't come together at this moment, we will miss the opportunity to reclaim the direction of our nation and willfully carry what I call the "burden of the party of good government." We must focus, NOW on 2018 and 2020. We must unify NOW. We must show the world Americans are still committed to the same American values of progress and equality that have inspired so many corners of the globe. We must reclaim our planet's health in the name of all Americans and citizens of earth.
Our democracy has never faced a threat quite like the mania of the Trump administration and the runaway nihilism of the 115th Congress. We must counter Mr. Trump and his cabal at every turn, and we must decisively defeat them in 2018 and 2020. Only then can we begin to assess the damage and re-build what Trump is rapidly desecrating.
We begin by coming together NOW and moving forward together. We begin by unifying over our abundance of common ground. We begin by acknowledging that what has become of our nation cannot stand. We begin by ignoring the small grains of sand on the floor and instead fight to keep the landslide next door from inundating our families and ourselves.
To our president, I can only add:
History will not be kind to you, Mr. Trump, and neither will we. You are a child who cannot weigh the abundant evidence around you, or consider our nation's standing in the world without squandering it.
You recklessly fail our country, and now, our planet, at every turn – even as immense opportunities for progress stare you in the face and lie within your grasp. If only you and your family weren't so busy raiding our nation's coffers to notice. If only you cared to act upon the boundless opportunities the office you hold offers you. In the end, you're incapable of even making your own bad decisions, unless they come down to 140 characters.
In a matter of months you have become the president of nothing. All but the paranoid and prejudiced loathe you.
We will move this nation forward in spite of you, but we will not forget your treacherous ignorance, and the damage and humiliation you continue to pile upon our country, which we remain proud of and believe in, in spite of the stain which you visit upon the Oval Office.
You sir, have become liberty's darkest hour.
We will remind you at every turn of what you have done. And we will defeat you on any level playing field of ideas, reality and reason.
History will not be kind, sir. Neither will we.
Bald eagle photo by Randy Hume
Tree of Nations graphic by Marie Guillard
Tommy Hough is a former San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.