Sunday, 22 October 2017
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San FranciscoThe Madhouse frenzy of San Franpsycho has increased considerably since my last visit.

The public cocktail is definitely more colorful. Purple hair and blue lips are very prominent along with grand tattoo displays on any available square inch of bare skin including the occasional forehead.
Cycling is also now very much in vogue. Boris’s American cousin is doing a roaring trade. The resulting morning and evening mayhem, with 4 wheels, 6 wheels, 8 wheels and the 2 wheels, challenging for the same piece of tarmac, should be avoided. And definitely when the motorized standup scooters and skateboards join the mix.

Homelessness has been a part of the city for a long time. Today it has reached a new dimension. It has grown to fill every available freeway underpass with a tented city. The Health Department can be seen regularly hosing down these habitats, only for them to re-emerge after the afternoon sun has done its work.

My conversations with the locals has proved to be the usual random walk through the good, the great and the nonsense of American life. “Personal freedom” still rings out loud and clear in any chat. I have also noticed that,”changing demographics” is currently a very popular expression brought about by the in-crowd schools offering Spanish immersion classes along with the Chinese equivalent. In-store advertising is now also multi-lingual supporting this trend. Amongst all this plurality The Punjab Restaurant ‘s attempt to join the party, with its offer of Japanese and American cuisine, really raised a smile.
Elmo and Abby, of course, are still going strong but Ricardo, with his “arriba, arriba,” along with Peppa and George, are both now also challenging for attention.

The country’s budget deficit is still growing even with the fastest growing industry in the US, Marijuana production, having helped to suppress it somewhat. Legalization of “Hash” use, in many States, has prompted the building of green house type, mass production facilities.
And one might conclude that this may be the reason that many more Americans now are opting to retire abroad. Somehow I doubt it. Apparently the number of US passport holders has reached 40 % of the population, only another 180 million to go...

My local friends have all been pleased to relate the success the new Californian state gun laws have had in reducing the number of gun related deaths. These normal people however still berate all those other States for refusing to follow their lead. The focus of their frustration is of course the NRA which continues, in its fantasy world, advertising that long unknown fact that “handguns are the protectors of personal freedom.”
FYI according to the US Statistics Bureau the number of recorded gun related deaths,(more than 33 thousand), is likely to beat the number of road fatalities this year.

Any attempt I have made to direct discussion towards the forthcoming election has missed the mark. Everyone has hedged their position towards the undecided. When pushed the main reason appears to be:
“In California my vote is a waste of time. California is a “Democratic” state by a comfortable majority and has been for the last several elections. As the candidate with the most Californian votes takes all the allocated Californian seats in the Electoral College, Hillary will get a 55 seats banker, after which all she needs is another 214 to secure the Presidency.”

Attempts to talk about specific candidates and the choices available have fallen on stony ground. One of the locals simply put a cap on the topic with the following, “Democrats "fall in love" with their Presidential nominee whereas the Republicans "fall in line."

After being submerged in all this local jargon I have attempted to understand the vagaries of the US election process. For anyone of my tender years it has not been easy. I can recommend fivethirtyeight.com for a deeper insight. This shows that the process is convoluted, a mixture of “winner takes all / proportional sharing” of the delegates on offer, depending on the State in which you vote. In a Republican primary election only members of the Republican party vote. The same applies for the Democrats. Some states distribute their delegates proportionally to the votes received. Other states simply have a winner takes all approach. The candidate that accumulates the most delegates, during all the primaries, becomes the Presidential nominee at the Party convention.
After this comes the presidential election in November, only 8 months more of this nonsense, where the contest becomes a fight for “seats in the electoral college.”
There are a total of 538 seats available. The “seats” are divided state-wide on the basis of population. California get 55 seats in the electoral college having the largest population. Florida, with a lower population has 29 and so forth.
The candidate with the most votes in each state takes all the available electoral college seats. Yes, it’s a weird form of winner takes all and proportional representation.
Welcome to Democracy—the American approach to politics.

After witnessing the run-up to, the 24 hour day and the chat aftermath of Super Tuesday with all its prediction, supposition and garbage. I must say I am really happy to position myself permanently as a member of the Algarve Old Farts brigade.

By the way, the sunsets over the Bay are still beautiful.

HIB