You can credit ancient Romans with naming what we now call the “dog days of summer.”
They called the period from the first week of July to the second week of August “dies caniculares,” because a particularly bright star, dubbed the “dog star,” became invisible during midsummer and, they believed, made the sun even hotter than usual.
It was bad astrophysics, but the name stuck and came to mean days when it’s too hot for real work and time is best spent on vacations or trivial pursuits. The French, being French, more or less shut down their country for two months.
Having mentioned “trivial pursuits,” one is tempted to insert a snarky reference to the Legislature’s imminent return from its monthlong summer break at this juncture, but that would be churlish.
Rather, in the absence of real news, this year’s dog days appear to be a season for those in and out of the media to construct amusing, if wildly speculative, political scenarios.
Californians – some of us, anyway – are worked up over Silicon Valley tycoon Tim Draper’s self-financed ballot measure that would test voters’ sentiment about splitting California into six new states.
It’s not going to happen, of course, no matter what voters say, if for no other reason than six Californias would mean 12 U.S. senators and that would doom any measure in Congress to split up the state.
A few political types are taking it seriously, for whatever reason, but pundit Joe Mathews seems to be giving it the respect it’s due, which is to muse over which small cities might become capitals of the new states.
At least Draper’s measure is real, in that it likely will go before voters at some point. But a couple of other scenarios exist only in the ether.
One is that Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s run unsuccessfully for president three times, would convince himself that the fourth time will be the charm and take on the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2016.
Brown has not encouraged the speculation. He would be 78 in 2016, has spent the last decade building a record to overcome his flaky image from the past and knows that making a fourth unsuccessful presidential run would seal his fate in history.
Brown-for-president is up there with another scenario that’s entranced those in the tabloid media – that actor George Clooney will run for governor of California as Brown presumably exits four years hence.
One might imagine that Clooney would hanker for a U.S. Senate seat should Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer ever hang up their power suits, but governor?
There’s no shortage of Democrats-in-waiting, such as Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and no one would step aside for Clooney, whose spokesman declared, “the story is totally fabricated.”
As are many political stories during dies caniculares.
Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him as firstname.lastname@example.org.