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Joe Messina's "Kobayashi Maru"

Posted: November 6, 2009 7:35 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
In the kick-butt second Star Trek movie installment, "The Wrath of Khan" Captain Kirk introduced the Star Fleet Academy simulation exercise "Kobayashi Maru."

In the exercise, a cadet must decide whether to abandon a distressed civilian cargo ship and its crew and passengers of 300 to certain death, or violate the Neutral Zone and cause the destruction of their starship by three hostile Klingon warbirds.

Since then, the term found its way into the popular vernacular to mean a no-win situation.

In the "Wrath of Khan," Kirk informs the Vulcan Saavik that he won the exercise by hacking into the programming and changing the rules, with the admonition "I don't like to lose."

In the most recent Star Trek installment, we finally see the theatrical rendition of the test in which a nonchalant Kirk eats an apple, knowing his hack will soon cause the Klingon warbirds to lower their shields unexpectedly when he then destroys them arcade-style and commences the rescue of the crew and passengers of the Maru.

People often accuse me of playing the role of Cassandra in local politics, howling warnings to those who seek to upset the status quo by their candidacies, usually against the bulletproof fortress of incumbency or trying to thwart the Klingon warbirds of the local powerful political machines that can seemingly make the sun eclipse.

But even I fall victim to the bubble thinking of campaign enthusiasts who spend all their time talking to fellow adherents and convincing themselves "it will be different this time." But early on post-election morning one must face the facts.

Anyone who did not believe in the power of incumbency in the Santa Clarita Valley must renounce their heresy after Nov. 3 with all the local incumbents sweeping easily into office, sometimes by shocking 2-1 margins.

In fact, as widely predicted, an incumbent, Michael McGrath, who withdrew from a school board race months ago, came first in the three-seat election, leaving the existing board with two new members to select their fifth.

But one very slight difference existed on election night with all candidates and activists - both left of center and right of center - making their way to the Roast House in Saugus to view the seemingly astounding victory of Joe Messina on his fifth, and finally successful try to obtain a seat on the William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Trustees.

Though I voted only for Joe in this election and even wore my lucky hat yesterday, until the Registrar counted every vote, I earlier gave Messina little chance for success since I expected opposition to his candidacy by the local Republican machine. I turned out to be half-right.

The machine initially did not oppose Messina's candidacy but around mid-October decided to throw its support and resources heavily behind Suzan Solomon with a sometimes virile vengeance.

Astoundingly, Messina "beat" the machine and secured the third seat by a modest 250-vote margin. (The incumbent and a candidate with a strong affinity base finished well ahead to capture the first and second spots).

Using the old baseball adage "they all look like line drives in the box score," a win is a win and Messina beat the Klingon warbirds arrayed against him.

Many congratulated themselves at the Roast House regarding a strong "grass roots" campaign, but initial reports indicate a turnout nearly identical to 2007 when Messina last lost, and him actually polling only 19 more votes than in 2007.

What did occur if Messina did not really change the game of turnout and affinity?

Absentee ballots constituted 58 to 60 percent of the total votes, probably 90 percent of these actually cast before the warbirds arrived in mid-October to thwart Messina's Kobayashi Maru moment.

In these, Messina led Solomon by an absolute percentage of nearly 2.5. But on the 40 to 42 percent of the poll votes cast on election day, and seemingly most influenced by the machine, Solomon bent that percentage almost entirely back the other way.

Sheer arithmetic dictated this effort would fall short and Messina would finally win his long-sought-after seat.

So if one took out the Star Trek analogy to its logical conclusion, it would seem that Messina did cheat the game by sneaking into the neutral zone undetected and quickly rescuing the crew and passengers of the Kobayashi Maru before the warbirds showed up to thwart the rescue. Or maybe it was just my lucky hat.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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