Tuesday, May 23, 2017


     The underground railroad is revered history in the mid-west. As school kids we learned the effort to help slaves to freedom was not without risk, or cost, but was the right thing to do. It was right to break a law. 
      The Fugitive Slave Law required free states to assist slave catchers, so those who were part of the underground railroad's network of secret routes, passages and safe houses violated a federal law. A rotten federal law passed by Congress.
       We admire the freedom riders who a century later risked life and well being to help end the vestiges of slavery. We admire those who sat in at lunch counters to protest overt segregation and racism. They too were beaten and arrested.  We admire freedom marchers who put their bodies on the line. 
       Civil disobedience, the willing violation of law to make a point about rotten laws, regulations or custom is a revered  and necessary tradition of a free people. Breaking a law, a bad law, is American.
        Blacks would still be property, denied rights or without a vote, women would be chattel and without a vote, children might still be indentured to work houses and sweat shops if Americans did not violate laws or ordinances to fix bad law. Presently millions of Americans, hundreds of churches and many cities connect with the ethic, principal and values of the Underground Railroad.
     Current immigration policy is predatory. We understand the need to locate and process violent offenders, gangsters, and those who threaten people and property. But the present enforcement push harms good people, business owners, parents, exemplary residents, some who have been good neighbors for decades.
     It is an irony to hear Trump supporters say while this is what he said he would do, they don't like that friends, employers or employees are being targeted. It is sad when American school children are terrorized by US Agents who are either threatening or are sending their fathers or mothers away. It is tragic when some are deported after making successful lives, paying taxes and  being responsible contributors. It is bad policy, bad law, too inflexible and the Sanctuary movement is thus an historic American response. 
     The Underground Railroad, the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement, the Sanctuary Movement have at their nexus a spiritual and faith driven motivation. Principles of equality, fairness and compassion put into practice even against bad law. Some will argue we are a nation of law and laws are to be enforced. But thank God people of conviction and courage have broken laws and taken action to eliminate bad law. 

the eagle under attack
     With apology for the blurred images, we submit a few frames of a combat we watched from the tennis court.
            On changing service sides Mike pointed to the grazing slope below Scott Rock outside Cambria and noted what he referred to as a "golf ball like" white object.  He surmised it was a bald eagle. We watched as red tailed hawks dove at and menaced the eagle.

    Mike, Gail, Roy and I watched with amazement. Following our match play I attempted to grab a few photos. Distance plus the pace and furry of the fighting conspired against a good shot.
    One needs a good view of such intrigues.
same goes for the state department
    I don't know what it is-arrogance, stupidity, intended obfuscation or some other combination, but Secretary of State Tillerson needs his ears boxed. His actions of ignoring or isolating the US media is doing no one any good.  He pulled the stunt again on this middle east trip, giving a briefing but excluding his own nation's media. 
      Tillerson could get away with that as a private CEO, but as an employee of the American public he needs to be watched, studied, monitored and reported on. Importantly, a strong media presence has given previous Secretaries of State more than an equal voice or power in administrations. Tillerson is weakening his own heft. Someone needs to knock sense into him.

     See you down the trail.

Friday, May 19, 2017


     While many Californians remain cut off and isolated in Big Sur, CalTrans continues work on slides, drop offs and building a new bridge. 
      These are challenging times for those who live and work in the Big Sur region. Others are also suffering a withdrawal from visiting one of the planet's beauty spots. We feature a few more frames from our Big Sur file to salve our unease especially as we begin to measure a more menacing cut off-in this case from normalcy and that dateline is Washington.

after watching the blue
      The coast was not perfectly clear but less occluded than the scene from Congress.  A point of reference here-I am  fortunate that I drive the Pacific coast.
         The sun and the big blue contribute to saturated light,  long views and a framework for clarity. It is a perfect place to let the mind ponder the madness wrought by the heathen fool who rambles in the White House eating ice-cream and watching Fox News while fouling American democracy.

the "lech" enabler
         A couple of thoughts about his enablers....
His friend and a man who must share some of the blame is dead. People will speak nicely of Roger Ailes. But his legacy deserves not a shred of respect. Ailes, who was a Trump confidant and advisor was, like the president, a sexual predator. He was forced out of his castle because his sexual harassment and tawdry behavior caught up with him. We can hope the same will be true for the dirty old man who desecrates the presidency.
       But Ailes did something else evil. He almost singlehandedly created news by flavor-political flavor. Back when he worked for that other paragon of honesty, Dick Nixon, Ailes began to dream of a network where the news was spun by party line, propaganda! When he labeled Fox News-fair and balanced-he shoved journalism into a direction that is diseased. 
        Ailes was not a journalist, he was a con man, a true propagandist. He made a fortune. He had power but in the end it all crumbled. We are sorry for his family, but his true demise occurred when the Murdoch's tossed his lecherous and deceitful presence out of Fox. 
the other enablers?
      There's a little story with a huge significance. In 2016 California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, now House Majority Leader said he thought Donald Trump was on the take, being paid off by Vladimir Putin. The tape reveals that House Speaker Paul Ryan, immediately cut off the comments and told assembled Republicans those comments were "family matters" and were never to be reported. They hadn't been, until the tape surfaced. 
      Maybe McCarthy was only joking, but in the context of everything else we've learned, how do you know? What is most troubling is Ryan's order to shut up. It is symbolic of his spinelessness in dealing with the trump madness. 
      There are many Republicans who I have known personally and professionally. They are or have been office holders, high government officials, advisers and strategists at the federal, state and local level. Many of them are troubled not only by the despicable and ruinous behavior of the president, but by the lack of courage of the men and women in the House or Senate who could begin to rein in the man child who now even the most ardent of conservative and republican analysts and writers have begun to savage.
      Some of their own party and certainly many Democrats have said the spineless will pay. This is a full season of investigation now and the facts will come out.

remembering a more vibrant time

    See you down the trail.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Cheers! Why Not?

Bridge Dinner at Halter Ranch Paso Robles AVA
     Over heard eldest daughter saying to youngest "Life is for celebrating."
      I had "doctored" a Petaluma chicken that was French Roasting in the oven and the sisters were busy as co conspirators in prepping a Mother's Day dinner. What sage wisdom I thought.
      The American Republic is under attack by stupidity and blind allegiance, the North Korean tin god is playing with missiles again, someone used American spyware to hack the world, boomers of a certain age are beginning to notice the maladies of extended exposure to gravity including troubling diagnoses, insurance and Medicare and Medicaid and profit and greed and politics are rumbling and wrestling as a nightmare in daylight to say nothing of the real misery of refugees, victims of wars, victims of climate change and no one seems able to fix a damn thing. We humans can certainly make a mess of a perfectly good world and ourselves! 
      The option to celebrate then is perfect. Certainly more fun than hair shirts, self flagellation or sitting in the dark. Celebration might just remind us that life is a gift, a treasure and works best when shared. So we begin this week with a round of cheers! And where better to go than our neighborhood wine country.
the spring bridge dinner
         Dappled sun, an old California ranch, friends, and festivities

    Talk about a field kitchen!
the Halter Ranch Bridge and the table is set

less formal more intimate
 the common antidote? friends and family
Lago Giuseppe-Paso Robles AVA

    As we watch our screens and see the crazy human drama unfold, remember to hug someone once in a while, smile at as many people as you can, raise a glass with friends, recharge your spirit, freshen your outlook and when you are ready, go back to being toe to toe with that which threatens. It is good to celebrate what we live for.

     Cheers!  See you down the trail.

Friday, May 12, 2017


corrupt? stupid?
    The mob of fools who are the trump administration seem hell bent on being the nethermost boundary of incompetence in American history.
     One senses the gravity when the old war horse Charlie Rose asks, "do we face a constitutional crisis?" Constitutional crisis! The least qualified, least experienced and least fit president has done so much to unglue and desecrate two centuries of American tradition and history it is as though what parades before us is a perverse cartoon, with life altering impact. In 5 months he's brought us to the point where the Rose question is valid.
     Jefferson Sessions luckily escaped his racist past to get the job of Attorney General. In reading the power tea leaves he assessed his own involvement in the trump campaign and the chilly Russian winds and he recused himself from any involvement in any current or future investigation of the Russian invasion of American politics. That he did until he asked the president to fire the man who was directing this nation's investigation into the Russian intrigue. By calling for FBI Directory Comey's dismissal, Sessions may well have obstructed justice, complicit with the fool who is our likely illegitimate president. Yes, crisis is a good word. 

      This gaggle of swamp dwellers, aside from being colossal fools and would be tin horn dictators, are liars. They are liars of profound proclivity. And they act as though they can say they will recuse themselves and then foul the constitution by firing the FBI director or promise to release their taxes and never do so, etc. 
      You may debate Comey's role in the presidential election or his personality, but the man is due a modicum of respect if for no other reason than his position and his years of service. The manner of his firing is a disgrace and the sure sign of a coward. Donald Trump dissed not only the Director but all of the men and women of the FBI.
     This is gut check time for Republicans. Will they put party interests over that of the nation and let Trump snuff out the investigation into the Russian invasion of American politics? 
      It is time for an independent prosecutor or investigation.
      A dear friend of mine keeps asking, "Why aren't we rioting in the streets?"
behold the fava
      You may recall an earlier post on our bountiful fava bean crop. Here's the follow-up report.
     There are still a few beans left, but Lana harvested most of them.
       They are extraordinarily labor intensive. Getting them out of the outer shell is step 1
      Here is where fava fans begin to differ. I'm told Italian and English preference is to use the bean with the outer cellulose packaging. The French like to liberate the essential bean, and that means more work. We prefer the French method. The discarded inner husk is on the left. The free bean on the right.
    Hours later, the harvested, shucked, shelled beans are packaged for freezing. We have our favorite recipes, but that is for another post. 
      See you down the trail.

Monday, May 8, 2017


    Green man has been around for a while. He's thought to be a representative of a vegetative god, but he's shown up in many cultures over the centuries. He's come to represent re-birth, spring and renewal. Everybody can use a little renewal or spring tonic.
     A not so kind bug sidelined this writer for a few days but a benefit was attacking a stack of reading that had been building up. I'm referring to the kind of reading done in a comfortable chair. I read plenty each day, here on the screen but even the longer magazine pieces never seem to sink in like the reading done with magazine or book in hand. 
     One particularly long piece traced the mutation of the American conservative movement from Bill Buckley 's founding of the National Review in 1955 to the election of Donald Trump. Trump is the very kind charlatan Buckley devoted years to excising from the modern conservative movement. This president is the epitome of anti intellectualism. One wonders if Trump is really the new conservative.
    As a backdrop to the executive order loosening restrictions on churches ability to partisan politic, there is the confounding support of Trump by white evangelical Christians, reported to be as high as 81%. Jim Wallis, author, theologian and president of Sojourners considers himself one of the 19% of white evangelicals who oppose trump. He wrote recently:
     "To many outside the white evangelical world, it seemed- and still seems-inconceivable that a thrice-married serial adulterer, ultimate materialist, casino owner, habitual liar, and unprincipled deal-maker could ever become the standard bearer for a group that professes to base their vote on "family values."
       Wallis attacks what he calls the racism of key evangelical 
Christian leaders including Jerry Falwell. He accuses them of being political operatives who have been "played" by right wing Republicans.
        It is that strain of self identified "Christian" who consider LGBTQ people unqualified for the ministry, who deny them communion or even consider them "sinful." Still, how that judgmental subset could endorse a sexual predator is beyond rationality. But it is that ilk that welcomes the ability to turn the Bible into a political weapon. Others argue that would be a dangerous and perverted use of the Judaic-Christian holy book, not unlike the fundamentalist terrorist's application of the Quran.
      One also wonders if Trump is the new Republican. Another long tome explored the political shenanigans of Trump loyalty and emerging Republicanism. 
      Most serious analysts hold out little hope for the House passed health care reform of getting anywhere. Senate Republican have their own ideas and they are better grounded in reality. As several have said the Trump-Ryan plan means people will die because money and politics trumps healing and well being. 
      What survived the house politicking is essentially a tax break for the wealthiest while everyone else divides up the pain--higher premiums, lost coverage, being out of luck. Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune wrote the plan is, "a big middle finger to anyone who needs help." Take that Trump voters. You believed him but you got Trumped. Will traditional Republicans let that stand? Or will the Ryan opportunists or the liberty caucus fanatics define Republican?
academic fascism
      With the first amendment and journalism under attack we also are watching the growing strain of fascism on college campuses. Intellectual freedom and freedom of speech are woven as a gospel of a free society. There is nothing that should be off limits in academia, but self righteous and narrow minded interests have attacked a researcher who proposed to study "transracialism."  It has all the hall marks of a totalitarian mentality. You can read about it here.

                                     back to nap time 
        All of this and the current manic drama draws me to note again we are in a spasm when celebrity is more important than intelligence, when thoughtfulness is eclipsed by emotion, when superficiality counts for more than history. It's almost enough to make you want crawl back under the covers.
 when size does not matter
    The perpetual mystery of the sleeping habits of Hemingway and Joy. Sometimes they share the box. On this night it doesn't matter that little Joy has room to spare, big Hemingway either chose or was banished to the little basket. Well, he curls well
      See you down the trail.

Monday, May 1, 2017


     Looks as if wine wrangling starts early in California.
     Don't you think it would be nice if all of us could have a bit of the fascination, delight and innocence of a child?
      Going to a weekly class I walk by a pre-school play yard and my spirits are always lifted by the absolute joy and energy of the wee lads and lassies. Theirs is a perfect world, in grasp and humming with harmony, squeals and laughs in a chorus of perfect life. What do we do to our little ones and when and how do we begin the process that changes them into people like us?
      Oh for that time when a dash of sunlight, a couple of old barrels and all the mysteries of life are at your command! Life is good and there is only now!

     With apology to the late Hunter S. Thompson for appropriation of his Fear and Loathing, however the shoe fits. The American experiment is being sorely tested.
    In itself that is not a bad thing, in fact a periodic dust up or reboot is probably what Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et. al., had in mind. But this is something else, akin to a fungus in the rose garden or a dog showing up in place of a surgeon.
    The last 100 days proved the wisdom of the majority of voting Americans, Donald Trump is unqualified, unfit and otherwise unsuitable for the immense responsibility of the Presidency. 
    To his credit he got a Supreme Court Justice approved. He drew bipartisan support for sending missiles to Syria, though he told a journalist it was Iraq, but never mind that and he pulled out the TPP, that many nations had spent years putting together.
     His proposed tax plan is a travesty, unless you are among the wealthiest, but even then the math does not work. Perhaps to be expected by an on the job trainee who informed us all medical reform is "complicated. Who knew?"       
    This we know, he doesn't know much, not history nor does he read. Still, he's referred to the rules of the Senate and the House as "bad things."  "Archaic" he calls them. Are you surprised he knows the word? Probably whispered to him by Steve Bannon. 
     Time to denigrate Congress after failing to reach the self proclaimed goal of repealing Obamacare and "replacing it in the same hour." The Art of the Deal deal maker bombed and now condemns the traditions and legislative processes that have served the nation for two centuries. Legislative politics can be exasperating and are complicated and should be improved. There can be gridlock and that frustrates us all, but leadership is about finding a way to make it work. 
      In his first 100 days he made 452 false claims, as reported by the Washington Post. Remember how he criticized Obama for using executive orders? He called it a sign of weakness that a Democrat President couldn't get his programs through a defiant Republican House or obstinate Senate. How about those pictures reminding us of a fourth grader holding up his art work and showing them all around? Those executive orders are by a Republican President who has failed to get legislation through a Republican House and Senate. So he strikes out and threatens to use power. Do you think he knows of separation of powers or checks and balances?
      After 100 days a record number of positions are unfilled. He's played more golf than Obama in his first term. He's cost us hundreds of millions so he can run down to Florida or so his kids can hunt, or ski and so Melania can have the penthouse to herself. In his first days he's held more "rallies" than any President in history. 
       In this first phase he has criticized and been rude to allies, attacked the Canadians on trade, done a back flip on China, antagonized the nuclear nut job in North Korea, lost a naval fleet, presided over a botched military raid that he was warned against and that claimed an American life, bombed civilians in several places, has appointed a daughter and a son in law to positions of influence-never mind they are part of the trump business empire-proposed a tax cut that he personally will benefit from immensely, arranges to have tax dollars spent on his business interests, says he is above specific laws, feeds on the ravings of lunatic or clown commentators, brags about chocolate cake in the same sentence he discusses missile strikes, can't stop a white house power struggle and his ratings have dived to the lowest of any President in history. 
       After 100 days he remains unfit, unqualified, unsuitable. He's a bully and a bull shit artist who thinks he's pulled the wool over our eyes. Is he the model of the new Republican party or is he a virus infecting the culture and threatening the future? I wonder when those who supported him will understand they are like the person who reached for an aspirin but got strychnine?

an antidote
sweet nature

      See you down the trail.  

Monday, April 24, 2017


     Sometimes it's all about how you see it.  
about the labels
     A preposterous misunderstanding is roiling through the American body politic, weaponizing words and good intentions. 
     The phrase is political correctness. If you are interested there is a study of the origins and how it has become a cudgel in cultural debate.
      The short course is this; at its origin it was used in the 1940's in debates about "proper" political dogma in communist discussions about Stalin. The point was to divine the "correct" party line. Stalin slaughtered "incorrect" opponents in massive purges. The phrase was a marginal concept known only to those who  studied communism or socialism. 
      Scholars say the phrase gained some usage in the early 1970's when Tony Cade Bambara wrote in The Black Woman:An Anthology "...a man cannot be politically correct and a male chauvinist too..." 
      In the early '70's progressives and feminists began to use the idea of political correctness as a way to avoid offensive speech, phrases and ideas. It was a kind of code to raise sensitivities about things that once had been acceptable but were no longer. It was an age of combating segregation, sexism, and speaking of people as "retarded," "cripples," "spics" "beaners" "Wops" "Jewing down the price" "chicks" and you can supply your own list. Old traditions and ways of speaking, seen in modern light, were as offensive as "colored" drinking fountains, red lining in banking, sexual harassment of women in the work place, sitting in the back of the bus or discrimination of any sort. Offensive and illegal traditions and old ways were considered politically incorrect.
       The phrase went from there to being almost a satire of itself. Sensitive and even insensitive people began to use it as a lighthearted lampoon about all manner of thing. It became a kind of sarcasm and joke, especially among those pushing for change. Still it was not widely used and certainly not part of the daily lexicon. 
       At the same time colleges and universities began to adjust curricula adding courses in feminism and the changing racial, ethnic and cultural diversity. Traditionalists, who did not like the way culture was changing, were unhappy. One of those was Allan Bloom who wrote The Closing of the American Mind in 1987. He railed against liberal philosophy and the changing of American education. In tying together the evolution of education and the change in the face of America he used the phrase political correctness as a pejorative. The phrase began to get more mileage, mostly from conservative or right wing ideologues who were opposed to the changing standards, culture and times.
       In the early 90's the word became weaponized. It became a code word for liberal, or liberal politics, progressives, changes in curriculum, education, or those who pushed against sexism, racism, and discrimination. What had been a word used mostly among academics became a red meat word and a political hammer used by conservatives. It was as if they had a flame thrower to scorch all ideas they opposed. Right wing think tanks dumped a lot of ink and time in using the word as a discrediting tool. Liberal ideas could be destroyed if they were labeled as "political correctness."
       It is only fair to mention there is also a conservative correctness. The most virulent form is book banning, or seeking to censor film, television, video games and other creative enterprise. As a small example, cafeterias in the US House of Representatives changed French Fries and French Toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast when France opposed the US invasion of Iraq. Members of the Freedom Caucus in the House remain some of the most adamant attackers of ideas they oppose by means of condemnation using "politically correct." Trump has taken up the tool twisting it to "fake news" and "enemy of the people."
true words
    By most accepted definitions CONSERVATIVES are those committed to traditional values and ways of doing things and are opposed to change. Conservatives favor free enterprise, private ownership and socially conservative ideas. Conservatives favor as little government as possible, especially at the federal level. Conservatives are somewhat averse to change. They believe government should protect private property. Conservatives believe there are too many regulations and too much government interference in business. They oppose government changing culture.
       LIBERALS are open to new ideas, opinions and intellectual liberty. They favor progress and believe in the essential goodness of people. They favor protection of civil liberties and believe government is responsible for correcting social inequities in race, gender and class. Liberals believe government should protect individual liberty. They favor free trade. Liberals believe government regulations should protect individuals from the abuses of industry and corporations. 
       Now, I'm sure almost everyone, regardless of where you align, will find something you think I got wrong. I'm simplifying. And over the years the manifestations of liberal and conservative philosophy and politics have morphed.  
       free speech
       As an absolutist on the first amendment I understand that right wingers can zing liberals and if they choose liberals can zing back. That is part of the rough and tumble of our system. But as a journalist, I'm a stickler for getting it right and using the right words.  
       Even Bill Maher, a liberal snarkster, got it wrong. Like right wing ideologues he points to recent campus disturbances where a speaker has been barred, cancelled or denied a right to speak because, he said, of "liberals" in academia pushing political correctness.  Bull shit, to use a word understood on both sides of the spectrum. 
       Liberals don't deny free speech, fascists do. Anyone who advocates denial of a right to free speech, no matter how offensive or politically weighted, is not a liberal or an intellectual conservative. 
       Someone at a university who may fancy themselves a progressive or a liberal and who would agitate against the appearance of a speaker, film, production or whatever just lost the right to call themselves a liberal. The function of their behavior is fascism or totalitarianism. They would deny an individual civil liberty. They can gripe and protest, but not deny-that disqualifies them.
      A conservative who would seek to deny the right of someone to speak certainly betrays an adherence to traditional values. What can be a more traditional value than the bill of rights? Conservatives can gripe and protest as well, but not deny.
      The bottom line is simple. Those who seek to deny full access to the rights of the first amendment should be called what they are, fascists. Sorry if this pulls the steam out of a favorite conservative charge. Sorry if this unnerves some professor who fancies herself or himself a "progressive" or liberal. It's time for the media to get it right and to be precise. 
       This is the age of information. Accuracy matters. And besides that, there should be nothing considered off limits in the realm of academia or the church. If you can't consider or study something, controversial, challenging to your ideas, or even an evil, in the halls of academy or a place of faith, then what's the point? What's the value? You might as well turn off the lights, go home and devolve into superstitious, uninformed, science rejecting, close minded barbarians burning those books or dissertations in bonfires.

celebrating mother
    Pulling in an evening blanket...of fog.

     This years crop of fava beans. Frequent readers know of our fondness for this labor intensive crop. You can read Romancing the Fava here. With this fullness of growth it is for the first harvest. 

  Green Space Cambria celebrating mother earth in a beautiful green space. 
O really?pt 2
     Bully mouth Bill O'Reilly may show up someplace else, but his banishment from Fox News was good to see. You have to wonder though when Fox News founder Roger Ailes and his superstar are dumped because of sexual harassment, how much can you trust what comes out of that sort of culture, especially on matters of women's rights, health, income equality and even sexual harassment in the work place? Fair and balanced?
      Then consider right wing radio and web screamer Alex Jones who has launched some of the most absurd theories and "facts" who now says it's only performance art. You wonder if those on the right who feed on Fox, O'Reilly, Jones and Limbaugh are feeling less secure in their "rightness" since their pantheon are dirty old men with feet of clay? 
And we include in that audience the predator in chief. Dirty Donny feeds on Fox and was a frequent guest on Alex Jones. That's no fake news. Just a fake president.

       See you down the trail.