Thousands of gallons of oil are leaking, or even running, into the waters around Los Angeles, certainly messing up our environment and beaches, and the blame game has already begun. Now, I must admit I’m no great fan of the oil industry but we ought to stop and catch our breath before we start blaming whomever. For months we’ve been watching the container ships, stacked high with containers, standing in line waiting to get a berth to offload their cargo. There are apparently charted areas around the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles where they are supposed to stand and drop their anchors, and also lots of anchor chain so they stay in place while they’re waiting. Underwater pipelines and obstructions are also charted. It’s all a very rational and well known nautical system with one exception, and that is the ocean doesn’t always cooperate. Container ships are very tall, stacked high with containers and have an enormous sail area. In a strong wind, the ships move even with anchors down. You’ll know the sensation if you’ve ever driven to Las Vegas in an SUV and the wind picks up; you may find yourself being pushed into another lane. Maybe the cause was a badly maintained oil line, maybe it was a ship dragging its anchor over the bottom or perhaps it was something else. The investigation takes time. You usually need to put divers down and the visibility at the bottom of a busy harbor is cluttered with debris, mud and gunk. Diving there is a bear because, at best, you maybe have a few feet of visibility. I’ve been there—while in the Navy on a diving job in Japan—and it’s tough to see very much in a busy harbor.
This past weekend there were protests at the corner of PCH and Webb Way, primarily women protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) action on a case out of Texas which essentially temporarily stops all abortions in Texas while the full case works its way up to SCOTUS. Protests were being held all over the country. Since the majority of the country supports women’s right to choose—or abortion without limits—it was clear that there was going to be a major political pushback on the court’s recent decision—clear, apparently, to everyone except to some members of SCOTUS. I think they were taken aback by the public reaction and felt a need to defend themselves, and also the court, so Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and the newest Amy Coney Barrett all gave speeches in different venues defending the court and the sum total of their defense was that they’re not politicians or political hacks, no matter what others may think. They might have personal beliefs but they judge on the law, and the press is making much ado about nothing, or at least very little. Watching it, I was astounded, wondering why they hadn’t taken some advice from seasoned political crises consultants, because in my view most everything they said was dead wrong and created the exact opposite of what they wanted the public to believe. If I was their consultant, I would have said the following:
1. Don’t engage personally in public battles over a court decision because once you do you’re a politician, whether you want to be or not, especially when the issue involved is red hot and very much in the eye of the public.
2. The best thing you can do is say nothing or at worst have some surrogates—a professor, a commentator, a former justice—speak for you without saying they’re speaking for you.
3. “Pro-choice” or “pro-life” is the hot button of our politics and has been for years, so handling the Texas matter the way that they did was just asking for trouble. It could easily have been sidestepped because I understand a case out of Mississippi is coming up this term which deals with Roe v. Wade head-on, so why do it? It seemed to be sneaky and underhanded the way they handled the Texas case. Maybe it was just the ordinary workings of the court as they claimed but it’s an uphill struggle to make people believe that.
4. Lastly, when the newest justice Amy Coney Barrett spoke about it and said they (SCOTUS) were “not a bunch of partisan hacks,” she spoke at a forum in Kentucky with Senator Mitch McConnell at her side, at an institute named after McConnell. They apparently failed to see the irony that Barrett has her seat on the court because McConnell refused to bring Obama nominee Merrick Garland to a vote for the open seat for an entire year. It looked to me like McConnell was taking a victory lap for his base and Barrett was his prize. He’s a politician, so you don’t expect much from him, but she’s not and it left a very bad impression in my mind of the new justice—that she was being used, and worse, yet didn’t seem to know it.
This Sunday we (the Malibu Dolphin Charitable Foundation, founded by Karen and myself) are holding the Dolphin Awards Ceremony for two years’ of Dolphins. Last year’s ceremony was canceled because of COVID-19 and this year we will have very limited audience in person but the event will be streamed online. My apologies to all of the former Dolphins who, in the past, would have been invited in person. Safety comes first and we had to severely limit the number of attendees to be safe.