Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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It's been one of those days when you turn on the box and find yourself caught up in an unfolding drama. I've been watching footage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. It's astonishing that I've been able to see it within hours of it being shot.

Particularly arresting was the Al Jazeera video clip below (there's a similar clip in the Guardian), which shows the tsunami in Kamaishi city docks. There's an astonishing amount happening in it.

It was only after I'd watched it four or five times that I realised that the water level in the harbour was rising. At 26 seconds in, the water is several feet below a large Japanese sign beneath the windows on the white building. At 57 seconds in, it's reached the top of the window. So it's risen something like 15 feet in 30 seconds. And already at 26 seconds it looks like it's already 10 feet above ground level.

The same speed is apparent on the elevated roadway, which slopes down towards ground level in the distance. At 30 seconds you can see a couple of vehicles driving up this slope towards the camera. By 53 seconds, that slope has been covered in water. At 57 seconds, it's risen almost to the top of the slope, and white water is visble behind a couple of trucks stopped at the top.

What the hell was any traffic doing on this road anyway, driving along the waterfront? What the hell were the two cars doing driving through puddles of water at ground level underneath the elevated road, visible at 22 seconds? The tsunami took about an hour to get to the east coast of Japan after the earthquake. So why hadn't low-lying coast roads been closed, and traffic directed away from the waterfront?

Did those two drivers survive? There was already quite a lot of water on the road, and it was rising. Chances are that a few hundred yards further on they could have found the water was impassable. And there would have been no escape.

There's really quite a lot of traffic on these roads, it seems. And given the rate at which the water was rising, it seems entirely plausible that dozens of cars and trucks got caught, and never got out. There might have been 100 people drowning in their cars on the streets of Kamaishi by the 57 second mark.

And that doesn't count the pedestrians who were on the streets, or on the ground or first floors of buildings. There could easily have been another 100 of them. Or more. After all, if car and truck drivers were cheerfully driving along the front, and were even standing on the elevated road gawping at it all, then it's very likely that shoppers and shopkeepers and dock workers and boat crews didn't think there was much danger either.

The more I looked at this scene, the more likely it seemed to me that, just in the camera field of vision, a few hundred people could have lost their lives. In the whole of Kamaishi, which has a population of 40,000 or so, maybe 1000 people were caught.

And quite needlessly, it would seem. They had a whole hour to clear the lowest-lying ground. It's not as if they don't know about tsunamis. It's a Japanese word, after all.

But as I write, the death toll in the whole of Japan is set at just 1000. Since Kamaishi is just one town among hundreds all along the eastern Japanese seaboard, the actual death toll looks to me more likely to be more like 100,000.

And then, apart from all the lives lost, there's the damage. Hundreds of thousands of smashed cars and trucks and boats. Tens of thousands of houses swept away. Roads feet deep in mud and detritus. All the drains will be blocked. Most of the power will be out. A lot of people will be homeless. All damage done just by the tsunami, not the earthquake.

See also this for a terrifying 9 minute amateur video.

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In San Francisco they shut down the Great Highway along the beach front as a precaution but only about 2 feet of water rose when the tsunami came in, which happened at low tide.

Only two nearby coastal cities were affected in the area; to the north, Crescent City, which had last time been innundated by the Alaska 9.0 quake on Good Friday back in 1964, which this one, the Ash Wednesday Quake of 2011, had a few boats in the harbor ripped from their docks and damaged.

Then down south in Santa Cruz, where they evacuated all low-lying areas of the city, the tsunami came in about 6 to 8 feet in height and did the most damage there, several boats pulled out to sea then smashed back into the docks, turned on their sides or wood splintered out of them. Nothing like the photos coming out of Japan, hardly.

Japanese are taught about tsunami risk since from grade school, so I don't know why a super large quake happening off-shore in the water wouldn't clue everyone in to automatically go to higher ground and wait it out. Since it happened right off-shore, then it wouldn't be a dinky 2 to 8 foot wave like here, but a 30 foot monster. It should have been more common knowledge I would think even without warning sirens blasting, if there were none.

After the tsunami in Indonesia, SF installed blue signs with white lettering showing a huge scary wave rising up in the background with the words "TSUNAMI ESCAPE ROUTE" and an arrow, pointing everyone away from the ocean heading to higher ground. I don't think they posted anything over on the downtown side near the Bay, but it might be they figure it's more protected, being a bay instead of open ocean, but I've never seen escape route warnings there and it seems that would be at risk too with more people since it's the tourist center.

This still doesn't absolve Santa Cruz, SF or State of California from pure vile hateful anti-smoker propaganda and encouraging, aiding and abetting violence against smokers through state sponsorship of hate campaigns.

I wouldn't post without making that final remark clear as to my feelings about them, regardless of them installing tsunami-escape-route signs - which when you come to think about it, if the ocean is rising up 30 feet right after a local EQ, how many people would actually run toward instead of away from the wave and are those escape-route-signs more an attempt to show that Big Brother Cares - but it was nice that they posted them. Now, if they would just let people smoke outdoors in the open without fining them $500 for their sin.


How thoughtful of them to include those among all the No Smoking signs. They think of every possible threat, don't they? Do they have outdoor Earthquake Assembly Areas (with separate children's sections).

As for people running towards the wave, then away, I read that in San Diego or somewhere, quite a few people went to the beaches with their children to see the tsunami. The guy who got swept away had gone to get some photos, apparently.


Right after the Indonesian tsunami of 2004, in addition to the escape route signs, the city of SF also installed a city-wide public address system. It is so many loudspeakers and so well placed that it reaches every square inch of what is a 49 square mile tip of the peninsula. Every Tuesday since then, precisely at 12 o'clock noon, the air raid sirens go off, much as they would have during the bombings during WWII, then comes the man's voice on the loudspeaker announcing that this is only a test, but had it been a real emergency, everyone would be instructed where to go and what to do. Actually, I think they just do it to keep everyone in a constant state of wartime alarm, complete with wartime jitters and for everyone to be constantly made aware of the fact the illiberal-regressive-progressives have taken over the entire city, area and state and smoking along with a host of other minutia dictating over peoples' lifestyles will not be tolerated and to give everyone the impression that Big Brother is omniscent and omnipresent, as a 49 square mile wide extremely loud weekly air raid announcement is the impression apt to create. That done, everyone resumes their week believing government is the solution, not the problem, and the outdoor smoking bans and the rest of it continues, unchallenged. It's a form of psychological warfare, perpetrated by government against the people living there, is my take on it.

I see nothing insensitive in this article BTW with regard to anyone in Japan who obviously suffered great loss of life and property as a result of this disaster - simply nothing offensive in it to my reading of the article.

To Anonymous 05:18 am

You've posted here before I think. I can tell you live in the Bay Area. You post great stuff and you've become my eyes and ears to the current state of affairs of my former stomping grounds (Santa Cruz, 1970-1983). I moved back to southern Cal when I couldn't fathom the liberal fascism of Santa Cruz anymore. I also prefer women who wear dresses, makeup and appreciate what Viva La Diférence! means.

Jonah Goldberg owes me. My nouveau Right Santa Cruz friends and I used to mutter the 'liberal fascism' phrase amongst ourselves around 1979, as the place kept growing more illiberal by the day.

I lived aboard a 28-ft cabin cruiser in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor for a couple of years and watched what happened there other day in complete horror. To steal a line from the Pretenders, those were the happiest days of my life.

That harbor and freakish things seem to go hand and hand for me. Around 1977? it snowed there. I woke to a boat and harbor completely covered in thick snow. I always thought that impossible because of the salt water, the latitude and the elevation.

One of the few times I almost died surfing occurred at the mouth of that harbor when a huge set of rogue waves almost did me in. Not sure if it was storm caused or tsunami induced. Now I'm curious and off on a wild web goose chase search. If I could just remember what year that was.

Are they beating up smokers in Santa Cruz and actually giving out those fines?

I lived in Santa Cruz from 1981 through 1985, then moved back over to Silicon Valley, San Jose for college, eventually up to San Francisco, back to SJ, then up to SF the last nine years and possibly soon, out of state, out of CA completely.

There were anti-smoking fanatics in SJ back then too, on the college campuses, mainly among the students running for student council who plugged for the Democratic Party.

The Democrats would rally for student votes on campus, bringing people like Pelosi in to speak and they would openly berate "lazy smokers" at their political pep rallies - brazenly, at the microphone stands. It was considered a vote getter among the youth and staff and apparently it worked.

They hold all offices, local and state at this point, up and down the coast. They held the offices at Bell, CA, where the mayor and council were paying themselves millions yearly, but the media never reports from which party the corruption originated. And back in the early 1980's, it was the illiberal-nonprogressive Democrat left-wing party that was going around openly denouncing "smokers" on college campuses, popularizing hate and discrimination as if it were a virtue.

The whole area from Santa Cruz to SF has become illiberal over that time period and yes, Santa Cruz has outdoor smoking bans similar to SF's and it also has a city law that bans "possession" of a tobacco product inside a city park, with a $50 fine and confiscation if caught "possessing" it. Smoking, chewing or even thinking of consuming falls under a different ban, of consumption. But mere "possession", in Santa Cruz, is now a crime.

I think fondly of Santa Cruz from when I was younger, but I would never go back there again. It's just over the top as is Berzerkely and San Francisco.

A fine for possession of cigarettes in the park? Unbelievable.

I read '1984' as required reading in high school. At that time I was sure that if that nightmare scenario ever came about, it would originate from Nixon/Reagan Republicans. Now I see quite the opposite. This crazy tobacco hatred fixation of the Dems and Lefties has really tripped a switch that was always there, waiting to be activated.

In Santa Cruz they were the swept up cultists. From Zen Buddhism, to Rolfing, to EST, to Hare Krishna, to Hatha Yoga to EarthFirst to Jim Jones People's Temple. And now it's a reconstructed ‘Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco Hazards’ they're rallying around.

The trouble is that good people like yourself are leaving the state. May I suggest San Diego or Orange County or the Inland Empire?

The Democrats would rally for student votes on campus, bringing people like Pelosi in to speak and they would openly berate "lazy smokers" at their political pep rallies - brazenly, at the microphone stands.

I can never quite comprehend what happened in California to produce this sort of thing.

If either of you guys (or both of you) feel able to write a piece about this strange piece of American history, I'd be more than happy to publish it on my blog.


Maybe I can write something one day, but not yet. I'm still suffering severe emotional trauma induced by anti-smoking in Northern California and the results have been personally devastating. They essentially murdered, by domino effect, the only person who was my entire family of 31 years and along with it, devastated me to the point of despair. And until I can straighten things around again and understand the complete mechanics of how they were able to inflict this upon us, I can't explain with completeness yet, who all was involved and how they are able to bring this about. I know some characters specifically by name and can point the finger, but the story is more involved than just those immediate few. But I know, for a fact, they are responsible and I know for a fact, I must find resolution first, before I can completely comprehend the entirety of the story. If and when I do, then I might write. Until then, I can remember snippets, here and there, of how they managed to push and shove this hatred onto everyone, until it eventually spilled innocent blood and left me alone in the world, guilt for the crime of smoking and my only family essentially murdered, in roundabout fashion, by those from the top down who were pulling the triggers and pushing the buttons all along. I have an awareness, but it's so far the situation is not resolved enough yet to explain it fully, but one day it will all come together for me, once my spirit is made stronger and has healed.

I'd be glad to Frank. I once started a book about my version of the modern history of California and my travels in Mexico and proceeded to lose the thing (139 pages at the time) in a hard drive crash. For now I could retrieve some of the comments on this topic I've placed on this site and others (Dick Puddlecoat and Captain Ranty), clean it up, sort it out and attempt to clarify it.

I can tell you this much for starters, it involves imported Puritan culture and the Altamount Rock Festival of the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter movie fame. My older brother was there. It marked the end of Endless Summer California. Check out that 1966 surf movie sometime - all of the surfers chain-smoke throughout the entire flick.

I'll start on it.

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