SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Thursday, July 28, 2016

GAVEL TO GAVEL-THE FENCE-DONALD dumb to dumber

gavel to gavel
     The nation owes immense gratitude to Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN. A crowning glory of his vision has been full screen the last couple of weeks, true reality television in C-SPAN's coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. It is television for adults and the best kind of history teaching for students.
     In 1979 Lamb's C-SPAN opened the proceedings of the US Congress to constituent oversight by winning the right to broadcast from the House and Senate. Since then C-SPAN has created a larger footprint in the nation's public affairs. Book TV, studio interview and phone in segments, coverage of committee hearings, panels, seminars, symposiums, political-cultural events, historical programs and more have graced American television screens with a seat for viewers. C-SPAN treats us with respect.
        an American ritual
      It was a family ritual in our home to watch the conventions, as was possible in those days, gavel to gavel courtesy of extended network coverage. Even before remote controls (!) we would switch from NBC's Huntley Brinkley team to CBS's coverage as Walter Cronkite began to emerge. (btw I was the remote control, switching the dial with such speed that my mother warned "don't break it.")
      By the late 1960's I was covering politics as a young reporter. I covered the nominating conventions in the '70s, 80's and 90's. By the time I was ceo of a documentary and production company or a news executive, the networks had pared coverage. 
      With all of the media available, there is the obligatory yacking head panels combined with a penchant for the broadcast anchors to blather.  Not so with C-SPAN.
      C-SPAN makes no editorial judgment or interruption. What it does is provide uninterrupted coverage of everything at the podium and an opportunity to view all of the produced video segments and musical interludes. Gavel to Gavel, for real. 
no talking, please
     By the time of a certain intellectual age, most of us can navigate the dramas without the arbitrary intrusion of anchors, reporters, producers, gee whiz graphics and the droning "experts." At the end of the day or during the rest of the news cycle we can seek out those folks, but as the "show" plays forth on the convention floor, we should be permitted to watch, do our own analysis, and render our own judgments. 
      Indeed there is a lot of good journalism and reporting, on the air, in print and on-line, but there is a freedom and quality in being permitted to watch proceedings without intrusion. We would not want interruptions at a theater or movie. I've taken to frequently doing as my long time friend and fellow media veteran Frank does during ball games, turn down the sound and watch the action. Instant replays are a nice touch, but unless I'm a particular fan of the sportscaster, I watch without sound. I'm old enough to know who's scoring and who's not and how well someone is playing. As Yogi may have said, "you can see a lot just by watching."
cheers!
       The depth and essence of a political party can be measured by how they put themselves forward, even in the non prime time segments. Gavel to Gavel has purpose and is enlightening. C-SPAN is the real star of the political season. Indiana born and educated, Purdue graduate, Brian Lamb has given the American body politic a gift of true intelligence and the best seats in the house.
      
why there is a fence




Donald
dumb and dumber
     Not that one is necessary but if you need another reason to worry about Donald Trump's suitability to be president this last stunt encouraging the Russian government to hack American computers and to get involved in our domestic politics is off the charts. It could also be treasonous. 
       I can't help but think if Hillary Clinton had said what Trump said, the Fox News? crowd would be leading a pitchfork and club brigade into Philadelphia to "lock her up" until they can "string her up" or shoot her as one Republican said last week. 
      Trump is a demagogue of the worst kind, he's a con artist and entirely out of his league when it comes to the complexities of international diplomacy. I've watched as friends who are conservative or traditional Republicans have struggled with has happened to their party. As difficult as it is to concede, several have done so. They will not vote for Trump. I've watched in disbelief as people of conscience and intelligence have migrated from their abhorrence of Trump to being reluctant supporters. Donald Trump is dangerous.
      Wouldn't it be something if a federal attorney somewhere brought espionage or sedition charges against him? It won't happen, but maybe it should.

       See you down the trail

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

THE LIBERATION OF FOX NEWS & TIDE POOLS

washed up
     From Pacific detritus to a world apart, tide pools offer a kaleidoscope. We go there, just ahead.

how will America's conservative voice survive the slime?

      The future of Fox News is the serious speculation in media and financial circles now that its creator and driving force has been dumped for being a sexual miscreant and bully. This is a story larger than the offenses of a dirty old man and sexual extortionist, Roger Ailes.
      Fox News is a huge cash cow, the largest money maker in the 21st Century/Rupert Murdoch empire and a key to it's market value. Fox is also the principle mouth piece for a brand of Republicanism and conservatism. The king of Fox News's culture of sexual harassment is offender number one, creator Ailes and that raises yet another question, the integrity of anything you see on Fox News. More about that quandary in a moment.
not a journalist
      In serious journalistic discussion, Roger Ailes is considered a propagandist, despite being the brains behind the successful Fox News empire. 
      Ailes concocted the notion of a propaganda network when he worked for Richard Nixon. Before Fox News Ailes was a political word smith and hack.
He was a partisan in the employ of Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, plus other candidates. His specialty was spin, selling a candidate and their position. There was nothing fair or balanced about his work ethic. He did not care about facts or truth other than what a campaign or administration wanted the public to know and or think. He was a shill, and if the reports are to be believed he was an abusive sexual predator all the while.
      Ailes was outed by high profile Fox News talent. Since then victims of his harassment from past decades have come forward and the Murdoch family canned him, albeit with a multi million dollar severance. Ailes made them billions, still the younger Murdochs do not like Ailes and so Fox must now manage a future without the dirty old man and coverage tyrant.
fox news is big money
      Fox News with it's conservative to arch conservative personalities and the Ailes spin on news has amassed an audience of devotees. To abandon it's current format risks a huge financial loss. But it has become clear Ailes directed the tone, nature and content of Fox News-both it's personality programs and it's "news coverage." Ailes decided what and who got on the air. He hired the talent and directed coverage.
      Ailes was not a journalist, remember. He was a propagandist but he found an audience of true believers and he made the network a profit center, a huge winner of cash while he advanced political agendas of his own choosing while also harassing, intimidating and extorting women who worked for him.  He set a tone and in the last few days we've learned there were other men who emulated the boss. Conservative America had no idea who was playing them for a chump.
saying no to miles
      My problem with Fox News has always been Ailes. Years ago a well respected political operative and now a former Governor suggested I might reach out to Ailes as he was building Fox News. This public servant knew Ailes because they had worked for the same President. I passed on the option because of my sense of Ailes. He was not out to create a new brand of journalism, he was out to create a clearly tilted perspective on news with the sole purpose to feed a conservative political audience it's own view of things and to make billions of dollars in the process. Some will tell you Ailes created a response to a liberal bias, to balance things. Poppycock! Ailes poisoned the well of journalism by politicizing it in an overt and obvious way. Obvious to those who care about real balance and no slant. But it is the nature of the poisoning. Everything at Fox was according to Ailes. He was a dictator.
      If the New York Times has a liberal bias it is the product of an editorial page and even that is the enterprise of many voices and input. At Fox News it was all Roger Ailes. Hannity and O'Reilly would not exist if they did not tow the Ailes line.
      I don't believe the swill that some spew that CBS, NBC, ABC or even CNN are liberal media. It is just they are not conservative and that alone condemns them to being "liberal." MSNBC is indeed liberal, the antithesis to Fox News, but for the most part the other networks traditionally were simply equal opportunity offenders. A good news organization will tow no line and will in all likelihood irritate left and right, republican and democrat. 
the credibility crisis at fox news
       So here's a hard point. Fox was created by Ailes in his image and to his own designs. He was a manipulator, a political propagandist who dreamed of having a network to sell a party's point of view. That is not fair or balanced and it is not journalism. Any real reporting that was done on Fox was probably done by virtue of enterprise and professionalism of those who worked there. Obviously not everyone drank the Ailes cool-aid. And finally women with courage came forward and exposed the lecherous political hack who posed as a news executive. How can a network that took it's marching orders from a sexual offender who emotionally brutalized employees and who's purpose was to sell a particular political point of view, and who ran the place with an iron hand not be ashamed, embarrassed and exposed for being what it is, a mouthpiece and the tool of a jerk. 
       Bill O'Reilly should put this in the no spin zone. Sean Hannity is a perfect Roger Ailes creation, but O'Reilly is different. I don't think O'Reilly cares much at all about anything that he blathers about.  It's an act. He's a television player and good at it. His real concerns are his ratings and his bank account. He's living a good life with the elite and he played the Ailes game for the big dollars. In that way he is a symbol of Fox News. It is not real, it is spin. But now that Ailes is on the trash heap, Fox has a chance to prove it can be something else, not a Roger Ailes project and not under his menacing regime of an old boy world where white men ruled, where they could sexually intimidate women, where a narrow point of view was spread as truth even if it was not so. So in the months and years ahead it will be interesting to see how Fox News might care more about news than Roger Ailes did.
        Oh, there is a lot of speculation that Ailes might be an advisor to Donald Trump. They are long time friends. How does that sit with you?
a private world
a visit to pacific coast tide pools






    See you down the trail. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Where's the good for the old days? Thoughts on THE COLLECTION

when looking back
      It's hard to imagine looking back at these days and pining for the "good old days."
    Every generation has their favorite time, their golden age, a brew of nostalgia and the realities of growing older. Now offers few safe havens for a future stroll down memory lane.
    Disruption is a norm. Violence dominates news and lurks as a constant threat. Weather patterns are changing dramatically. We are about to watch a poison water and virus threatened Olympics. It is a time when hate is a political tool. A popular t-shirt reads, "I already don't like our new president." People ask are our major candidates the best we can find?
    Being a parent and grandparent widens your matrix of concerns longitudinally. Each era has problems and crises but it seems there used to be a larger patch of middle ground, commonweal, shared values and perceived need to solve problems and dispatch issues. I'm hard pressed to understand how we'll see this time of snark, vulgarity, insensitivity, trolling, racial discord, tribalism and high negativity as good. Maybe finding a Pokemon Go monster will be enough.
good days for Mike
    These are however good days for Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He was saved from the verge of political extinction by Donald Trump.  
     Mike has long wanted to run for President, even when I first met him as he was a small town radio talk show host. He left congress to run for governor with the idea it would enhance his presidential aspirations. Pence was expected to run in this years clown car primary but major gaffs and bad judgments crashed those hopes. His own Indiana Republican party was embarrassed and there were moves to undercut him. There is a good chance he would have been defeated in his re-election bid. Mike was depressed and his ambitions were on the trash heap until Trump. The near "has been" will emerge in November as Vice President or the leading contender for the party of Trump in 2020.
a village light

wish you could see it
The Collection
     Playwright and Cal Poly professor Al Schnupp created  THE COLLECTION a play "celebrating the life and legacy of Peggy Guggenheim an eccentric and invincible collector of modern art." 
       4 Actors, 34 episodes and 40 transformational paintings in an inspired 90 minute production that is a cascade of humor, insight and exploration that never slows, never bores and mixes modern art and biography in an ingenious manner of staging. 
       Jaide Whitman plays Peggy Guggenheim while Ryan Austin, Daniel Cook and Ellen Eves play multiple roles. They are a talented ensemble who sell Schnupp's inventive script brilliantly. The set is a kind of triptych with changing pieces of art that are themselves a wonderful homage to the 40 paintings. Kudos to Antonio Mata who worked as stage manager and stage hand in the rapid change production. The episodes are centered on a painting or sculpture from Guggenheim's collection.
       She was quite the personality. Married several times and with a list of affairs she was friends with American and European writers and painters. She had galleries in London and New York, smuggled art during WWII. She was an early patron of "modern" or abstract art and is credited with introducing Jackson Pollock's work. 
       THE COLLECTION is in a kind of shakedown cruise, with west coast performances in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Ojai, Santa Cruz and Carmel.
       The veteran writer director Schnupp has created a dynamic property. His inventive approach and the larger than life quality of Peggy Guggenheim deserve big stages and theaters. 
      Personally I'd love to see Maggie Gyllenhaal in the Guggenheim role.


    See you down the trail.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A CONVENTION TRUTH AND GUESS WHO IS BACK IN A BOX?

no box is too small


    Our boy Hemingway proving that some sentient beings can find more to amuse them than political conventions. Seeing the orange character in a box has poetic symmetry this week.
a conventional truth
    If you are of a certain age and curious or interested you may remember when national political conventions held drama, something more intricate than the infomercials and coronations they've fallen too. This year there is bit of a carnie flavor, especially when the party of Lincoln becomes the party of Trump in Cleveland this week.
    Cleveland hosted Republicans in 1924 when Calvin Coolidge was nominated and again in 1936 when Alf Landon won the nomination. The Trump carnival will be a far cry from those GOP confabs.
    I began covering nominating conventions when there were still battles over credentials and platform issues. It all changed. At my last convention assignment I was parked in one of those sky boxes with only limited access to the delegates. Our edit and work space was a couple of blocks away in a building that had been turned into a "media center" and we came and went behind security lines. It all seemed prefabricated, sanitized, managed and scripted. There was very little real "news."
convention confession
    Since the statute of limitations has run and while I'm not likely to need credentials anytime soon I can share an "off the record" experience. It was the mid 70's and an issue in the Democratic party had Bella Abzug and Ron Dellums trying to work out a compromise. The Black Caucus and the National Womens Political Caucus had enough sway to force the party on a particular issue, if they could agree. 
     There was much interest in a private meeting between the two camps but the media was barred from the hotel parlor where they were to meet. As I milled around waiting for the principals to arrive I found a delegate badge and credential on the floor. There was no id picture, so I quietly put it over my press ID hanging around my neck and I walked into the room like I belonged. It was a crowded space so I floated back to a wall but close to where Abzug and Dellums were going to confer. They arrived, each said a couple of things. A couple of their assistants asked follow up questions. On the spot they drafted a brief statement.
     While the business was underway I took off the delegate credential. In about 20 minutes the huddle was done and a statement agreed to. I walked to where Dellums and Abzug were now standing and handed the delegate credential to Abzug. She looked at it, looked at the media credential around my neck and just smiled.
     I dashed to a phone in the press room, called in the story to our news desk. Lou Palmer, the afternoon editor was only mildly interested and asked why he hadn't seen it on the AP wire yet. I told him the details. He got interested, asked a couple of questions. Later he told me after he broadcast the news he got a call from the state's AP Bureau Chief who said they were waiting for their convention staff to file, where did we get the information?  Palmer told him we had it from reliable sources.

    Let's see what stories emerge from this week in Cleveland.

   See you down the trail.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bastille -Throwback Revolution and...

Madame Defarge is not here
   Olea Farms a major olive grower and producer celebrates the owner's French heritage and Bastille Day, July 14, with a gentle gathering amidst the olive trees and an oleander grove.
     A specialty is pomme frites done in their olive oil. They are the center piece of buffet that features locally produced nibbles and snacks, local being the Templeton and Paso Robles area.



    A lovely day and without the zeal and excess that followed original Bastille Day in 1789.
     Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, as was the chant of the French revolution remain noble objectives, but if you recall history things got a bit out of hand.
     Soon after the storming of the Bastille a revengeful blood lust led to the over use of "the national razor which shaves close," the guillotine. 
the incite ap
     Let me incite for a moment. If you recall Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities think of Madame Defarge as a surrogate for Donald Trump. She was full of resentment and enmity toward the royals and the aristocracy and fueled an anger that grew uncontrollable. The symbolism of "the spilling of the wine" for the blood that was to flow. She led and became the symbol of an unlimited hatred and evil. It was the psychology of the "mob rule" personified. 
     Trump may or may not be a racist, bigot and xenophobe. One can make a case either way, but it is clear that his language and "thoughts" fuel racism, bigotry and xenophobia. There is much about him that earns the label of mob leader.
      As noted previously, Trump has rallied a federation of angry people. Not all, but some of that number are racists, losers, many with no appreciation or knowledge of history, nor a respect for diversity. And there are the mouthbreathers, perfect kindling for a mob fire. 
    It would be illuminating to read a Dicken's description of Trump and his followers. Short of that there is Defarge and the mobs of Saint Antoine, and those echoes and footsteps of lurking evil and the night of the shadows.
     We can hope the Dickens classic is not a foreshadowing.  No, we choose to go with the self applied filter and simply enjoy a gentle afternoon in the groves. We forget, selectively, even the struggles of a divided nation at the birth of our own revolution. But we will cast a wary eye on Cleveland, and we will listen to and watch the foot steps from there to November.
     But for now, Cheers !

     See you down the trail.

Monday, July 11, 2016

BLACK AND WHITE COOL NEEDED

as long as we have words
     As we struggle with race in America here's an interesting  perspective. Picture last week's victims of police violence and the murdered police officers in Dallas as children. Picture the executioners as children as well. Reflect on that for a moment-once they all were kids, playful, innocent and not yet ensnared in the virus of racism.
     I heard author Kwame Alexander pose that idea and it cuts to the heart of the matter.  
     I've posted previously about KLAN the documentary I wrote, produced and directed that examined how racism is passed through generations. There are moments when children are free from the poison of hatred. Those are moments of hope and possibility. We become discouraged we cannot evolve or eradicate the psychology and seeds of prejudice. But it does happen. In my study of the klan we heard a young daughter of a klan leader say "...they should shoot all the niggers or put them back in the slave houses."  10 years later in a re-visit of the documentary that girl, now a young woman, apologized explaining how wrong she had been. But it came with a price. She was rejected by her father and thrown out of their home. 

a hot summer in the city
      It was during an earlier season of racial tension when cities were erupting. Dick Lugar was still a relatively new mayor and Indianapolis was in a metamorphosis from an aging rust belt old industrial city to the dynamic place it has become. This was in the early gearing up of the change and there were urban illnesses. His young team of visionaries were treating those malady's bit by bit while constructing a larger dream. It did not help that Cincinnati, Chicago, Gary, St Louis, Columbus, Dayton and other neighboring cities were in varying degrees of trouble and disintegration. It was a time of powder kegs.
      Indianapolis threatened to explode because of sparks coming from an area known as Highland Tech, an old neighborhood that had changed. It was near the Women's Prison, Arsenal Tech, the state's largest high school and bordered by business and industry that had eaten away at a once staid area. Now working class and those barely escaping poverty, black and white mixed and there had been shootings and violence in the streets and alleys. Race violence was suspected. The Black Panther party was thought to be responsible, or so the rumor and "consensus" had it. That was not the case.
       I spent two weeks walking house to house in the troubled area, morning, afternoon and evenings. I talked to everyone who opened the door, some would not, out of fear. I stopped people who were walking, talked with gaggles of people in alleyways, garages, on porches and street corners. One on one and with groups, black, white, those who were new to the neighborhood and long time residents. I spent time talking with Panther leaders. I learned the truth and it was something different than most people thought.
     The Panthers were not involved. In fact the shootings and and violence were the result of a couple of gangs, one a notorious white motorcycle outfit. They were warring over turf and a drug trade. I reported that. It was news to the police department and to activist groups that had been ratcheting up on a false premise. I was thanked by the Mayors office that began to work with neighbors and a neighborhood association, armed with the knowledge of the reality on the street. One racial tinderbox defused, by facts and rationality. 
     Presumptions are akin to prejudice. Both are dangerous.
America needs cool heads, honest talk, frank conversation and a government that is willing to work.
cooling walk
     As swelter and bake describe conditions where some of you reside LightBreezes provides cooling scenes.
   Though blue sky and bright sun adorned our ridge a stroll along a Pacific bluff trail in northern San Luis Obispo County presented a cooling marine fog and brisk breeze. 

    A wetland, fed by a spring creates a vibrant verdancy.






    See you down the trail.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SPLASH OF RED AND KEEPING SPEECH FREE

splash of red


Stolo Winery, Cambria CA
left overs

 "Griffin Park" Park Cambria

Free Speech?
      Speech is getting less free, a threat to our way of life.
      A federation of damnable causes conspire against free speech but stopping the repressive advance will be a challenge.
      First we must eliminate philosophical reference points. This is not a conservative vs liberal issue. Anyone who values the core of our democratic republic supports our Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment and its implications.
     Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 
     If it is Constitutionally guaranteed then we must protect against attacks including those that come culturally. The threat exists in an attitude and a growing fascism, even if disguised.  
pc
     An example is PC, political correctness. Years ago it may have been born of a desire to be sensitive, to even recognize past discrimination, repression and accrued wrongs. But that was then. I heard a conservative friend observe recently "liberals and so called intellectuals especially college professors" were the greatest practitioners of political correctness to stifle free speech. He was partially right and largely wrong.
      No true liberal or no real academic would sign on to the silly practices underway in some of academia. Those who would impede speech are fascists, even if they shun that label.  
      In academia and in the church, nothing should be off the table, everything, regardless of its nature should be open for investigation, study and discussion. In a democratic republic we tolerate even the stupid and reprehensible. Wisdom and good judgment will be the antidote to that which is deplorable. We do not set up "guardians" of thought or study. That is what fascists do.
      In some places in America are those who demand a right not to be offended. Who do they think they are? 
      No one wants to be offended but in the rough and tumble of political debate, intellectual study or theology there are no restraints. Nothing is off limits. If these bright minds who whimper about "not being offended" would give it even a moment of thought they might see that under those rules almost nothing could be discussed or studied because about anything could offend someone. A right not to be offended means someone will control someone else's speech. That is fascism. 
     Schools, parents or academics who permit this mollycoddling are dong their children no good. The idea of "trigger alerts" or micro aggressions" are an intellectual dishonesty and a head in the sand self absorption, the practice of a weak and self indulgent society. Those who advocate such tripe need to speak with academics, clerics and journalists who try to leverage truth and reality in most nations on this planet, where it is not so free. 
religio fascism
     There is also the fascism that comes in a religious garb.
Perhaps the deadliest example are those practitioners of a virulent form of fundamentalist Islam. Writers, filmmakers, journalists and political activists have been targeted and killed because they dare "offend" Islam. Examples are the Charlie Hebdo killings, or the murder of Theo Van Gogh.        
     No one of faith wants to see their object of reverence or belief demeaned. While it may be repulsive, a standard of free speech demands the rights of speaking freely even if the intent is to offend. A democratic republic that values the freedoms that set us apart is strong enough to allow the profane and offensive, even if directed at our most sacred.    
     We don't condone merely because we tolerate. But the Islamist who stabbed to death the Dutch filmmaker who made a program about the abuse of Muslim women was quoted as saying he "could not live in any country where free speech is allowed."
     This is not an abstract problem. Satirists and more serious commentators are afraid to lampoon Islam. They are afraid of the violence that may befall them and they are afraid of being   labeled intolerant. For either reason there is a chilling effect on speech. No other religion practises such intimidation or intolerance to their critics-serious, comedic or even pathetic.
chilling or muting
    Controversial or dissenting theories or works are frequently held back in fear for one's career. To challenge a revisionist theory of history, or the self aggrandizing of someone in say a feminist or minority studies program for example could lead to scorn and crowd sourced derision. Look what happens when a Caucasian accuses an African American of being a racist. Preposterous perhaps, or not, but a serious discussion in a vein of free speech cannot ensue.
     Consider the damage done to the reputation of Duke athletes wrongly accused and maliciously prosecuted. Certain Duke professors jumped on and ganged up with a moral viciousness though they were dead wrong. The attempt to counter that rush to judgement got others in trouble with the fascist crowd. 
     This threat to free speech comes across several strands of American culture-politics, media, corporations and of course academia. The problem is not confined to the U.S.
The Economist says it is a British problem as well. Here's a quote from the Economist
       "Academics who think education requires the free flow of ideas are appalled. 'A university is not a "safe space,"' tweeted Richard Dawkins, a biologist at Oxford. 'If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy and suck your thumb until ready for university.'"
     If a nation says it is free, then it must assure freedom and the liberty to speak one's mind, regardless of view. To quote a classical Greek idiom that has been around and oft quoted we need to "...call a spade a spade." Any attempt to control honest expression is dead wrong.

    See you down the trail.