Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

It has been an eventful Memorial Day Weekend 2008. At the start of the weekend, my Jeep Cherokee got hit by a taxi cab (nobody injured, able to drive away). So rather than getting out of town as planned, I stayed around the Left Bank of the Charles. Cambridge becomes a small town on long weekends in the summer.

My Jeep suffered a side hit to the right front bumper, which also messed up the fender, popped out the front grill, and broke the body section that holds the grill in place. But the lights and turn signals still work. True, the right headlight is positioned a bit cock-eyed and the right turn single is missing most of the reflector.

The accident was on top of managing to break a piece off the blade on my lawnmower. It turns out that throws off the balance of the spinning blade and renders your lawnmower inoperable. I ultimately got myself to a Sears store and bought a replacement mower blade, a pair of pinchers (“fence tool” in the catalog), and a spool of 22 gauge wire (similar to baling wire). Always reliable Sears has undergone some changes in the last few years, but Craftsman is still made in the USA.

My 1993 Jeep has only 42,000 miles on it, but I’m worried that it may be “totaled” in the eyes of the insurance company. No one wins an accident with a taxi cab, although I did drive away and he didn’t. At least it wasn’t a bus. Anyway, I got my lawn mowed. And I wired the lose grill frame so that it wouldn’t fall off and now I’m driving around town in a Jeep held together with baling wire. My grandfather the Iowa farmer would be proud.

In the course of hunting up the baling wire I made a useless trip to Home Depot in Watertown. But on the way back I came up Coolidge Avenue past Cambridge Cemetery and noticed that they had set out flags and a review stand. As I continued back into town, I saw a few people gathering along the sidewalk with lawn chairs and American flags. A parade! I was not aware that Cambridge has a Memorial Day Parade, so I pulled into my office parking lot on Mount Auburn Street and found a spot in front of Darwin’s to watch.

Even though the scattered spectators in this city of 100,000 were no match in numbers to what you would get in, say, the 1600 person town of Bedford, Iowa, it was a very respectful showing. Of course, Bedford has horses, tractors, pickup trucks, and olds cars in its parade. There was none of that in Cambridge and no candy for the spectators.

There were fire trucks, several bands, and a boy scout troop. A squad of Cambridge police in full dress uniform marched, with a short, stocky Irish-American police sergeant calling the cadence. And there were a number of military re-enactors. Some minutemen in Revolutionary War period costume reveled in firing off their black powder muskets. There was a color guard in Civil War costume for the all-black 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment, and also for the 5th Massachusetts Battery.

The flag at Cambridge Cemetery was flown in memory of 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Ward, a World War II U.S. Army Air Corp serviceman who went missing in action over New Guinea on December 3, 1943. The wreckage of his Liberator bomber was discovered in 2004 and the remains of the 11 man crew were recently identified. The keynote speaker was Captain Eric Dinoto, whose unit, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, is back from Iraq after an eight month deployment. The 181st Infantry traces its lineage to minutemen who fought at Lexington and Concord and has its battalion headquarters at the Cambridge Armory on Concord Avenue near Fresh Pond.

Between the bands and the scouts and the military, and the flags passed out to spectators and random marchers, there were a lot of flags and flag waving, which is not something you see every day in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And it turns out that if you stand on the street, and put your hand on your heart every time a color guard passes, the people standing next to you will eventually join in. There was one young man, probably no more than 25, who followed the Marine Corps color guard up the street shouting. And while I could not hear what he was saying, I’m sure he was shouting thanks and encouragement, and commending them on their service.

I also spent an evening hanging out with a product manager of one of the big name tech companies, who spends a lot of time in Silicon Valley and gets sent on trips around the world. He’s a big Obama supporter. Maxed out on his contributions, he told us, which is a liberal’s way of saying he’s done all he can do. Got most of his knowledge about the “red states” from the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? (Nothing, by the way, is the matter with Kansas.) He is thinking about moving to New Zealand, as the country he has identified as having the most appropriate socialist political tradition to his personal philosophy.

I tried to explain to him that middle America is not as he has been told stupidly voting against its own self-interest. Here’s the red state equation: “I know if I vote Republican I will get a tax cut; I know if I vote Democrat I will NOT get universal health care. The Republicans will defend my cherished social institutions; the Democrats seem ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Republicans will go to work for what they believe in; the Democrats won’t.” If the Democratic Party gets its act together and reverses that equation, it could change the country and the world.

Meanwhile, the Democratic nomination fight is gearing up for a spectacular finish over the next several days. Barack Obama needs just 48 more delegates to clinch, and 112 more beyond that to settle all delegate arguments. Hillary Clinton, by contrast would need 230 delegates more, on top of getting her disputed Michigan and Florida delegates counted.

On Saturday, May 31, the DNC rules committee meets to decide what to do about Michigan and Florida. Word on the web is that the Vote Nazis (“no vote for you”) who don’t want to count the votes in those two states will not be appeased, and Michigan and Florida delegates will count for half, a result that has already been assessed here as tough but fair. There are 366 disputed delegates.

On Sunday, June 1, a primary is being held in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans do not get to vote in the November Presidential election, but do get to send delegates to the party conventions. That gives them a voice in the candidate selection, but not in the outcome. There are 55 delegates at stake.

On Tuesday, June 3, South Dakota and Montana hold the last two primaries. There are 31 delegates at stake. I stand by my prediction that if come next Tuesday Barack is buying rounds to celebrate his victory at Stockman’s Bar and Lunch in Missoula, Montana, he’ll be the next President of the United States. We’ll wait to hear from our Montana correspondents.

There are 199 super delegates who have yet to declare and many of those will vote for the winner (that is, Barack), just as soon as they get the signal that the outcome is absolutely clear.

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