SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NOTES FROM THE BLUE PLANET

THE INFORMATION WARS
     Jonathan Landay of McClatchey Newspapers reports troubling news that amounts to a piling on after we've learned how invasive information mining already is.  
     Landay writes of a directive from James Clapper who works as the Director of National Intelligence.  Clapper's one man edict, with the power of law, forbids intelligence community employees from any contact with journalists.  Now, only the director, deputy director or public information officer of a member agency of the intelligence community is permitted contact. A very dangerous and sinister move.  
     No doubt Clapper and his advisers, rocked by the Snowden and earlier Wikileaks releases, and genuinely concerned about our security, believe this is the best thing. The danger though is when a single executive, or even a branch of government builds policy that restricts knowledge in a punitive way.  Under Clapper's edict, any offending intelligence community employee's career will be damaged or ended. There is also the philosophical issue of a government, meant to serve, deciding to hold information against, or away from those who empower it-we citizens.
      As I sat in an intelligence oversight conference room hidden away under the US Capitol dome, a ranking member of congress spoke earnestly of the hard choices and actions that must be taken in the field of intelligence, simply to give our government options for our security. There are few black and white constructs. Security and intelligence is a nether world where shades of gray and complexity are the multi layered norm. As my source told me "some of the decisions that are necessary, don't look so good in the light of day."
     In more than 4 decades of reporting I learned which sources I could trust and they in turn learned that I could be trusted. Now some of those people from federal law enforcement, intelligence and counter intelligence, defense, state and local police, Senate and House oversight committees, would not have been able to assist my work in reporting to the public.  
     No government is so good that it does not need to be watched, nor should it ever strive to be anything but transparent.  Men and women who hold positions of influence, elected, appointed or civil service are never above accountability. Journalism is an imperfect craft or profession but it provides a valuable surrogate role for citizens. Journalists must be able to gather and know all facts and as close an approximation to truth as possible, especially in the area of policy formulation and conduct. This is paramount in areas of national security, public safety and individual privacy. Clapper's one man edict, regardless of claims of nobility of intent, is wrong, chilling and dictatorial. 
     Good men and women who believe in the principles of this Democratic Republic and who do the hard work of intelligence and journalism will find ways to share information and knowledge and work around the dangerous Clapper policy. We are a government of, by and for the people and we can never accept anything less.
     A couple of weeks ago Central California readers of The Cambrian were surprised by the tone of an article I penned about the hiring of a public information officer for our Community Service District Board. "I agree with you but""you were awfully strong," or "too strong," or "too tough" were comments from a few friends. My point there derives from the same point as my reaction to the Clapper edict.  Government employees do not work for a political ideology, philosophy, policy leaning, or butt covering-they work for the public.
It is not easy. Issues are complicated. There are competing interests-but the constitutional frame work and the public's right to know should be guiding precepts. Clapper is a dedicated public servant, but he is wrong. I hope he reconsiders. This is tantamount to a gag order.
GARDENING IN A TIME OF DROUGHT
    Californians struggle through the drought finding ways to conserve water while governments look at water policy and permitting processes. 
       As an Earth Day celebration note we share a personal report.
     We've added rain barrels and redirected our downspouts.
These two are tied together.
   This barrel stands alone. These help to harvest rain, when we get it. Living in a coastal zone we are blessed with lots of spring and summer evening marine fog. It's amazing how much flows off the roof and the barrels are an improvement as a catchment. They can also be filled with non potable water.
    In a small way, we've become solar powered. 
 We opted for a small panel which feeds through a charge controller to a 12 volt battery that we store out of the elements in the plastic box.
    A ten amp pump with a 45 PSI rating connects the barrel's out flow to a hose that feeds into our irrigation system.
  Our native California friend Dick, a gardening veteran, helped modify the drip irrigation system by adding the white cap feed input.
    The single barrel will source the lower raised bed and tomato cage.
     The double barrels will source the hill top raised bed as well as the side beds. Most of the hill side itself is drought tolerant planting and not in need of much water.
  Fava beans are doing well in a new side bed.  They, as well,
  will be fed by barrels thanks to the power of the little pump.
                                           Ditto for the lemon tree
           and the newly planted grape.  The barrels, solar panel,
battery, charge controller, pump as well as the modification to the downspouts cost a few bucks, but allow us to conserve and continue to garden.  And the new 
     is a lot better than the old system of down spout capture by these old cat litter containers that also needed to be hauled up the hill.

     Happy Earth day.  Take good care of it.  It's the only one we have.

     See you down the trail.

Friday, April 18, 2014

BIG BLUE FASCINATION-THE WEEKENDER

AN HISTORIC EVENT
     There is no end to the fascination and enjoyment of seeing the Pacific. Living in a coastal community reminds me daily of the wonder of the big blue.
     Special thanks to our pal John, aka The Travel Answerman for giving us a heads up on an amazing National Geographic brief for your Weekend enjoyment. This is  amazing.
SPLASH
stills from Cambria's Lampton Cliff






    See you down the trail.

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE BEST OF US AND HOME GROWN

LOOKING UP
      The geometry of the color and angle simply begged to shot and shared.  The venue is the sky above the Wise Owl in Cambria, mid afternoon on a sunny day.
HOME GROWN
     Salads have come easily this spring thanks to the abundance of lettuce growing in our raised boxes up here on the ridge.  A couple of variety in their beauty here-



GUIDING PRECEPTS
     The great man was gunned down on this date 149 years ago. In his time he prevailed against malevolent forces. The hatred and insanity that moved in the action of his death exists still, here and across the globe. We do not, nor should we deify great men and women, but we can and should remember their courage, leadership and imprint it upon ours and future generations. Could another Lincoln emerge here?  Has a Lincoln arisen elsewhere?  Do we inculcate what it takes in the 21st Century?

     See you down the trail.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

HOW DO YOU SEE IT-DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME

THE WEEKENDER QUIZ
HOW DO YOU SEE IT
     Have you heard the story of the beautiful garden visited by two men? 
       The garden was alive with colorful blooms and pathways lined by a rainbow of color. The first man, thrilled by the beauty, halted his walk occasionally to quickly clip a festive flower. After a brief time he had gathered a resplendent bouquet that he intended to share. Upon departing the garden he became distracted by obligations and activity and the bouquet wilted and was left as trash.
       The second man too was thrilled by what his eyes beheld.  He strolled slowly taking in the magnificence, pausing frequently to bend for a closer look and to inhale the fragrances of the many flowers. In this way he proceeded through the garden thinking how wonderful it was and he wished to share its beauty. So he departed, reflecting on the garden's magnificence and telling others about its wonderful sites and smells. Each time he recounted his visit it was as though he was there again.
       
                JUST GET OUT THERE AND DO IT
       Early spring is when those of you hammered by a long winter get a chance to get back outside. Here's a thrilling motivational piece for you sent along by old pal Moto. Don't try this at home, unless.....
                                              
DAPPLED LIGHT & SPIDERS




     See you down the trail.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LONG VIEW and A CITIZEN'S CONGRESS


FROM THE RIDGE
     From this land of big views an idea is emerging that could/might/should change American politics. More on that after a look at spring from what is called "top of the world."

  The frame below over looks Green Valley.  You can see the 
micro climate difference in the fog that has settled below the distant peaks over Cayucos and Morro Bay.
   We are fond of the time of year when the western grazing slopes are green.


   An unusual scene in our Mediterranean climate-hail or sleet in last week's rare, but appreciated, rain.

 FOR BRUCE aka THE CATALYST
   Since my old pal loves fresh baked bread, this scene at a local Italian restaurant caught my eye.
IMPROVING AMERICAN POLITICS
   Frequent readers have heard me rail about the need to get big money out of politics.  I've been around the game long enough to see how corrosive it has been.  Years ago I used to quote HL Mencken "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."  The current system is nothing more than big business.  Big dollars are needed to run and get elected and entirely too much effort is spent hustling the bucks and then being beholden to the contributors.  
    Terribly flawed and corrupted Supreme Court decisions have opened the path to even greater influence of money-be it from Corporations, who are only people, or people who have money like corporations.  Well, a Californian from my county is in the midst of an extraordinary effort to do something about it.  He's invited you and anyone who cares out to our far west for a congress.



See you down the trail.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

THE NEW BLACK? REMEMBERING A GHOST TREE

CHOOSING THE NEW COLOR
       So it seems orange is the new "in" color of the season.
What do I know about fashion and color? Trips to France sensitized me to shifting color preferences. Friends wanted to know what the new fashion season revealed as the color we'd be seeing more of so I made a point of paying attention. 
         This year I saw a lot of orange in Palm Springs and environs, among some of the lovely patrons of the Indian Wells Tennis tournament, in shops and I see it is showing up elsewhere. I certainly have no pedigree from Ralph Lauren University, so I could be entirely wrong. And as a further qualifier, my idea of good color is blue and grey.  
        Anyway, California's central coast is painted by nature. It's a seasonal switch that cranks up the swatch palette. 











A FINAL STAND
   Aside from humans and elephants, trees get my vote for favorite life form on this blue planet. Old trees get  maximum respect. They don't travel of course but they observe the years, even centuries and leave a record. Talk about zen mellow!
    Seeing a stump serves an encouragement. Old roots remain in mother earth and the space above is reserved for the memory of a sentry or watcher.

  See you down the trail.