Monday, October 15, 2018

Face Off-Rocket Magic-The Perfect Drive

into a tricky twilight
    Pay close attention. The White House is in a swirl that is unlike anything else the troubled administration has faced to date. We get into that below.

celebrating the left coast

   This veteran traveler finds this scene one of the most pleasing anywhere. Looking south from Nepenthe in Big Sur.
     Hairpins, tight turns, twists, long drops, rocky walls and sensational views compete for a drivers attention and energy. It is invigorating, though we have found friends who are challenged by the mountain ledges and winding highway. 
      It takes work to keep the iconic Pacific Coast Highway open.
the rocket magic show
      That bright light on the horizon is neither moon nor sun. It is a Falcon 9 Space X rocket racing toward space. The launch at Vandenberg AFB is about 85 miles south from the observation point on my deck.
                 As a kid, fascinated by the new space program, I never dreamt I'd be watching rocket launches from my deck.
           The separation created a bit of a cosmic light show.
    The mission was to deploy an Argentine environmental satellite, but the trick of the evening was to land the Falcon booster rocket, back at Vandenberg in a hard ground landing zone.
             It worked well and this shows the Merlin engines firing as the Falcon 9 was headed home.
       Meanwhile thousands of miles away, the satellite was being carried into orbit and we had a new way to measure the depth of our rich star fields.

more sublime
      A longtime friend, who shared ground breaking campus politics and later worked alongside on assignment in Cuba and who's skill and academic/professional arc I have admired, and I were talking like old guys or gals do. We have reached an age where it can be said of us, what they said about Dean Acheson, "Not only did he not suffer fools gladly, he did not suffer them at all."
     Thus you understand our present state of agitation.
We stepped out to look at a particularly clear and crystalline like sky abundant with pricks of cosmic light. That has the effect of downsizing the scale and importance of all human endeavor so as to render us and our intrigues to a scale of gnats. 
still we have the capacity to ruin this blue ball
    So back to the opening tease. Our rogue administration is navigating a new crisis and it is deep water with submerged danger.
     The very awful destruction of a human life, in this case a powerful, well connected Saudi and critic of the new crown prince is at the center of a pernicious brew.
      As David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times, 
"The disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi has set off a diplomatic feud between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, a bipartisan uproar in the United States Congress, tremors of uncertainty in Wall Street and Silicon Valley about how to deal with Saudi Arabia, and a noisy spat between the White House and its closest Arab ally."
           The man who is said to be in charge has yet to demonstrate study or an understanding of the complexity of the world and this is as complex as it gets. He's already gone off half loaded and has reversed himself. Maybe that will help in this instance. Serial liar POTUS is in good company. The Saudi's have been duplicitous in their long relationship with the US since the beginning. The Royal family has lied, cheated, backed terrorists, repressed women, dissidents and free thought for as long as the "kingdom" has been in place. 
       So we have a liar and tax cheat going head to head with a liar and cheat and perhaps killer. Isn't it a damned shame, two human beings of the character and quality of these two have so much power and impact? If you are looking for a precis of how this beautiful and fragile world has been put so upside down, here you have it as the crown prince and the rogue president take measure of each other.
        See you down the trail.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

escaping and gobsmacked

     A Miles Davis set blended nicely into a Horace Silver quintet piece as the Pacific coast glided along through the windshield. Southbound on Highway One, watching the cobalt blue sky and turquoise Pacific wash away dystopian blues.

      Nature was giving me a brain massage, kneading away the freak show that is Washington. Art Blakey, and then Ella and Lee Morgan bringing life back to a moribund sense of hope. Being spiked up with the sheer beauty of the California coast, as far away from the evil spell as I can be.  Destination-a better mind set and Morro Bay.
     When we visited as tourists, California was always a mind cleanser. We'd come from back east wired up with the ways of politics and intrigues and work. A few breaths of air, the heat of the sun and the Cali culture made all of that seem so silly, other worldly, curious and far away.
     Feeling Highway 1 under the wheels, and in the groove the liberation spirit was rising and I had a mission.
       Oysters, from Giovanni's on the embarcadero was my assignment for a daughter's birthday party tomorrow. We've been buying oysters and fish from this waterfront since our first adventure in never never land in the late 60's. I love the product of the local fishermen, the staff, and to people watch. I was a  tourist here once and I catch a nostalgic vibe each time I see folks enjoying a vacation and cuing up in line for the take away or being dazzled by the counter case offerings.
      Today, there was some other blue magic. Black and red magic too.

     The Woodies are in town.

    Woodies at a California Surf Shop! That's about as far from the Senate and this White House that you can get, right?

    I heard a woman say to her mate, "You know you're getting old when you remember the Woodies." His retort, "Or when you don't get 'em very often." They snickered and so did a few others milling about. 

     So maybe the Saturday Night Live skits "The Californians" make you smile. We laugh too. But right now California life makes a lot more sense than Washington stupidity and seems a lot healthier as well.
      Here's a man that get's my vote-a man with a real skill and who has them waiting in line

    Cruising back up the 1, with Coltrane, Indy's own Wes Montgomery, Marsalis, Parker and Dizzy I felt better and got it through my head that all things change and pass. Whether you call it karma, universal balance, divine justice, or whatever, action gets responded to with reaction and so it has ever been. 
    I also know I'd rather spend a day on the California coast than in a Senate hearing room. You know, I knew that years ago, but needed simply to get out there and breath it, feel it, enjoy it. I'm not going out on a limb here when I say you can breath it, feel it, and enjoy it wherever you are. It's life and we only have one. We should not let fools, idiots, liars and ideologues take that from us. There are days for fighting, and there are days for recharging. Peace.

    See you down the trail. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sheroes and Villains

     No one needs another voice in the fractious chorus but I'm chiming in as a man with daughters, granddaughter and grand son. It has been better than this and we owe it to you make it so again.

 for those too young to understand 
     History will tell you that in the last few days of September 2018 there were moments that held hope we can again be decent and civil. There was Jeff Flake and Chris Coons reaching across ideological and partisan divides to find middle ground and a decent fix, even if only temporary. Their maturity was a stark contrast to a couple of other men. We'll deal with them later, but first a moment for courageous women.
     The real heroes, "sheroes" were the women who confronted Flake in the elevator and demanded that he look at them. Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, victims of sexual assault, in that moment represented generations of victims of abuse, misogyny, rape, discrimination and the inattention of a paternalistic ruling class.That ugly history fuels the present #metoo #timesup  mindset and puts a heavy thumb on the balance of justice in the context of this particular confirmation hearing.
     I'm one of those who believed Professor Ford. In years of journalism I spoke with many victims. No one would put themselves through what she's been through in the last weeks, certainly not for political ends. It is sick and wrong to even suggest that. She too was courageous.
     Some of the men however looked anything but courageous. There was that memorable hissy fit melt down that looked and sounded like a film portrayal of a tormented and insufferable little southern belle- though the actor is a 63 year old South Carolinian priss. 
     There's been a lot of science trotted out in the last week to explain how a drunk aggressor might not remember an assault. We can only hope that is why and how Brett Kavanaugh denies the accusation. To be clear he has lied. Either he lied back in his youth about his infamous drinking and blacking out, or he is lying about it now. There are simply too many things he said about his own behavior then, and too many who knew him as a drunken youth.
     What was sad and will be the image of his tail spin to notoriety or the haunting image of his unfitness to sit on the court, was the bellicose tantrum of a Judge who blew his judicial cool. There was also the revelation of his partisan heart, hearkening back to when he was part of the Starr investigation that spent millions in an unsuccessful pursuit of the Clintons, who he mentioned in his melt down. If he gets on the Court that meltdown clip will haunt his every decision. How can even his supporters trust him to be impartial, balanced and reasoned after witnessing that? In truth maybe they don't care.
      The Republicans don't seem to care their president is accused of 19 sexual assaults and is a self admitted sexual predator. A lot of us think that is relevant now, especially now.
       So my dear grand children, as Poppy writes this you are too young to absorb it. But as you read this in your time you will at least have a skirmish report that some of us, in fact the majority of Americans, found this perversion of government and behavior wrong. I only hope by the time you read this, we will have corrected the damage. We may not.
        You may find yourselves living in a culture ruled over by a Party that lays down with evil and celebrates venality and permits blatant lying, believes in misogyny, worships the rich and wealthy and doesn't mind destroying our trust in our federal government, cared not about your health care or shrinking economic power. And don't forget, all of this was  led by a traitor to the US.
       You should know there was a time when Republicans had values. But in 2018 they sold their soul to an evil and malignant narcissist and stooge. Maybe by the time you read this, history will reveal that the disease was scourged out of the body politic. But there was a time when there was a epidemic in stupidity, blind loyalty, zealous partisanship.
       A time when a woman said a man did something awful to her, but those people who were in league with the stooge didn't even want to hear about it, and then called it a lynching. A lynching is not when an assaulted woman tells her story. Even their use of that word underscores how insensitive and hateful they are. 
       But dear kids, remember the courage of Professor Ford, and every victim who spoke up, and those who fought to change old attitudes, right old wrongs, and take the law to sexual criminals, even men in power. 

and now for something nice

Among Lana's succulent gardens are lithops, living rocks.
it's bloom time

   See you down the trail

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

SHE SAYS-HE SAYS and A Few Diversions

   In this post, we'll open and close here-something good, something very good and nice. We need diversions, don't we?
  The other stories in the Kavanaugh confirmation coming up, but first a good bye------
one tough old bird

     Our little village tucked between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific lost a big force this weekend, Reggie Perkins at 92. Some of us lost a buddy.
    Here's an sketch of how tough Reg was. A few years ago he had a heart attack on Christmas Eve. He was back on the tennis court New Year's Day.  
     A WWII vet, he had been a battalion chief on the LA Fire Department. He helped build the Cambria Fire Department and served on the community governing board, the CCSD.
      He and his late wife founded a volunteer group that assists people in need or needing medical equipment, or trips to the doctor. They started the annual Easter Egg hunt. He was active in the American Legion and had been a long time treasure of the Odd Fellows benevolence lodge.
     On the tennis court Reg, who played up to only a few months ago despite knees that hurt him every minute, had one of the toughest drop shots in tennis. He chuckled many times as I ran like a banshee to get to the ball, only to watch his patented spin make me look like a fool. I was not alone.
     Reg was one of the founders of the "prayer meeting" that I was invited into about 12 years ago. A group of old boys meeting on someone's porch or deck at precisely 4:00 to have coffee and a cigar, if you were so inclined. Way back the group met on Wednesdays and Sundays. In the last few years the gatherings were on Sunday and wine had been added as well. As a new retiree in the village the tips, insights and history I heard from Reg, John Angel and the late Phil Allen, plus the jokes, made a newbie feel right at home. 
      Reg listened more than he talked, but when he said something, it stuck. These were truly old boys still full of life. 
     It was only a couple of weeks ago Reg was on my deck reminding me I needed to add cushions to my hard wood furniture. We all thought Reg would go on forever. He filled his 92 years and left us all with a target to shoot for. He will be missed.

     What you see in the frame above is the largest lemon I've seen. It was grown locally.  How big is it?

an appropriate pause
     In a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, the new accusations have to be taken seriously enough to be investigated and either tossed aside or validated. 
      What's the rush? Mitch McConnell considered a year a valid wait. The Kentucky wheeler dealer denied America's first African American President a chance to get even a hearing on his nominee. So, what's the rush now? Does someone sense American voters are fed up with Republican rule and acquiescence to the malignant narcissist and Russian stooge?
      More important than Republicans protecting their advantage is the fact the American public deserves resolution as do Judge Kavanaugh and Professor Ford. And the same goes for the more recent accusers and the Judge. 
       But there is an ugly strain in all of this. Some, on both sides of the political aisle, wonder if accusations this old have any bearing on the decision. The default position for many is, what really matters is if the judge is telling the truth. Well of course that matters. 
      But I am one who thinks the behavior all those years ago matter as well, though it is complicated. It is possible that people can change. I think it is entirely possible that youthful and foolish behavior can be left behind. And we know  drinking can contribute to poor judgement and horrendous behavior--but....wrong is wrong, and violence is violence. Also, a patriarchal mind set is wrong and too often has been enabling. 
       The idea that "boys will be boys" is wrong headed and dangerous. That attitude permeates American culture and it was certainly in play at the time that Judge Kavanaugh was a beer drinking, hell raising, privileged preppie and Yalie. It was wrong and if we are ever to get fair and healthy in relationships between men and women we need to recognize it. It shouldn't have been condoned then. It cannot be condoned now. Should it bar him from the court? If it was something he did repeatedly, but now lies about, then yes.
       If Kavanaugh did not in fact act like a boorish, privileged drunk punk then it goes beyond what and how he described himself at the time. Still I'm sure boys who behaved badly have grown to be responsible adults and that may in fact be the case for the judge, unless he is lying now, embarrassed about his previous alleged behavior or too drunk to remember.
       He is where few people go, nominated to the Supreme Court and we have a right to know. Our right to know supersedes his privacy, her privacy, since she had made the accusation and certainly supersedes any thing Mitch McConnell wants.
      The last thing on this is fairness-fairness in this case and the historic issue of fairness in how women have been second class, abused and treated. I read this contemporary culture as being invested by women and men who say
time's up. We want to play by new rules.  We want to play by fair rules.
      I think there is enough accrued injustice and resultant anger that the old white men on the Judiciary Committee better realize what year it is and what fair now means. If Republicans behave as they did in 1991, they belong on the ash bin.

and now to the diversions

there are some things you just can't explain

no matter where you look


at this age, and in this time, diversions are healthy


      See you down the trail.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Protecting Your Assets and It Is a Shame

June Lake, California
In the high Sierra

upon reflection-there will be no winners
thoughts on the professor and the judge later

    It's September "protection time." Pinot are some of the last grapes to be harvested as the precious fruit draws a little more California sun. While the winemaker will wait, the grapes are just fine for the birds, deer, or bear right now.
      This vintage of Stolo Creekside Pinot grows less than 3 miles from the Pacific. The cool climate, foggy nights and early mornings and the later day sun has primed the crop and it needs protection and maybe a serenade. The music is just across Santa Rosa Creek road.      
    Yes, there is romance to wine country. Vistas, parties, beauty all around, but there's also hard work. Those protective nets didn't put themselves on so snuggly. Tackling acres of vines gives home garden and yard projects a different slant eh? 

no decency
no winners
    When and if the judge and the professor trade memories of a distant event there will be no winners, only victims.
     Few, very few people know the truth of what happened in a bedroom at a house party all those years ago. The story is out there now, so it must be dealt with.
     But it's a shame our culture has come to examine the history before a US Senate Committee. A shame that a nomination to the Supreme Court travels this kind of path.
      It is a shame for the families of the judge and the professor.
     If the assault occurred it is a shame Professor Ford has to recall it and before the world. If the assault did not occur it is a character assassination.
     If Judge Kavanaugh was a sexual aggressor all those years ago it is a shame he does not acknowledge it. If it is true it is a shame that he has lied.
     It's a shame that all those years ago sexual aggression, especially fueled by alcohol even happened and even more of a shame that in much of US culture it was "understood" and tacitly accepted. It is a shame that much of our culture has been patriarchal and unfair and unjust. 
     It is a shame that pain such as this had to be the change agent in our relationships.
     It is a shame that this time of change has so hyper charged the relationship and conversations between men and women.
     It is a shame that our due process has been hobbled. It's a shame that to question a woman who makes an allegation risks bringing scorn or political peril.
     It is a shame that our political system has become the public square for a culture that seems to lack decency.
     It is a shame Mitch McConnell blocked a sitting President from appointing a Judge. It is a shame the vile tone he brought into the Senate deliberative process. 
      It is a shame this nomination has now become about something more than a court appointment. It is a shame that a percentage of citizens already have their minds settled on what happened and who tells the truth. It is a shame that a sexual predator has the authority to appoint a Justice.
      It is a shame what has become of us. It is a shame what we have done the ideal of this democratic republic.
      No winners. No human winners. Perhaps the system wins if there is an agreement, a settlement on what  is true. And if this nation abides that. If. If that is possible. 
       It is a shame we don't know if we can resolve this with decency. It is a shame decency is no longer a public standard.

       See you down the trail.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Which Turn on the U.S. Political Road?

an old and less traveled road
between Templeton and Cambria

recovery or precipice
     Wise analysts remind us we should never say never in politics. What is true today can change in a flash, or a tweet.
      During decades of reporting, I considered politics the greatest American spectator sport. It is not so great anymore, but we are all governed by the tawdry game. The great parties are in tatters, unsure of their future. Citizens demand a better system. The nation is divided, depressed, angry and must make hard choices. 
      Politics has become a profession, attended to by an industry of consultants and specialists; opposition researchers, analysts, pollsters, communication directors, fund raisers, etc. and it all comes down to money. Consequently the government we have given ourselves has been commercialized. Follow the money. It is all about money. H.L. Mencken was right "In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction of stolen goods."  The complete quote will follow below in this post.
      Regardless, we must live with and endure the consequence of the government and those we elect to govern and those who feed, fuel and whisper in their ears.

into the woods we go
     Despite the invocation of the seasonal cliche' this election is the most important ever, the November mid-terms will have significant impact on where we head. It is the starter's gun for the 2020 Presidential election and the life altering fall out that follows. The mid-terms also have a more immediate importance to this presidency, the investigations, and the discord in America.

the big circus
     What does it mean to be a Republican? What does it mean to be a Democrat? I've posted previously on the irrelevance of such, though those who self identify, and those of us who live under their rule will pay attention as both parties try to find either their soul and/or a standard bearer. Who will be their Presidential candidate?
     Before we look at the possible choices and scenarios-

the democrats right turn
and its consequence

    Here are some unknowables, but worthy of pondering. What if Al Gore or Gary Hart had won the Democrat nomination in 1988 instead of Michael Dukakis? More importantly, what if Jerry Brown or Paul Tsongas would have won the 1992 nomination instead of Bill Clinton? 
    Gore and Hart had Washington experience and were wiser in the wonky ways of budgets, defense programs, technology and yes social entitlements. But, the big chip is the 92 nomination of Slick Willie over more liberal candidates of Brown and Tsongas.
     Clinton and his DLC, Democratic Leadership Council, were all about moving the Democrats toward the right and steering away from the leftward lean of the 60's, 70's and 80's. 
    John Kerry might have been able to move the party back to the left. The death of Ted Kennedy also created a lack of a leftward steering wind in the party. But Clinton's tenure and later Hillary's influence pushed the Democrat party right and into the laps of big money, big business and resulted in NAFTA, repeal of Glass-Steagall, and tried to rewrite Democrat ethos. 
    It also allowed Republicans to abandon their once centrist views and to pander to the right wing, one issue zealots and their kook fringe. As we know they fed that cousin they kept under the basement stairs until it got strong enough to eat and dismember the traditional Republican party. Remember the slew of old line Republicans who retired or who got caught up being "primaried" by the Tea Party/Liberty Caucus?
     People who consider Barack Obama a liberal are caught in this kind of psychological optical illusion. It was created by the Democrats move to the right and the Republican move to the extreme right, populated by self-centered philosophy, that in turns makes Obama look liberal by comparison. That or people simply don't know what they are talking about, and are disconnected from history and knowledge. Bernie Sanders may be liberal, Barack Obama was not. Clinton was a major enabler of big money influence in and on government. Clinton took the Democrat party to bed with forces liberal Democrats and old Democrats warred with.
     Since Clinton the U.S. "center" has moved right and we even have populations that cheer and celebrate bully authoritarianism. 

the hard scrabble trail ahead
     Both parties now face a challenge and who they select, and how they do it will have influence on the nation as well as the parties, long beyond the 2020 Presidential race.
the democrats
      The Democrats are at odds, more so than usual. Modern Democrats have frequently resembled a knife fight or rumble but now they have deeper issues. It is my take they must also resolve generational leadership issues as well as determine what they believe. Is lashing together coalitions to take precedence over advocating social agendas, defense policies and etc? 
       Soon we will begin to see the Democrat talent show as we watch a leader emerge. Who will the Democrats turn to? At this writing the list of potential contenders is long.
--Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
--Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown
--New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
--Conn. Senator Chris Murphy
--Former NY Mayor Bloomberg
--Former Atty. General Eric Holder
--Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
--Former Mass. Governor Deval Patrick
--New York Senator Kirsten Gillenbrand
--New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
--California Senator Kamala Harris
--Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren
--Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
--Former Vice President Joe Biden

And there are others who have been getting attention.

--Montana Governor Steve Bullock
--Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
--Col Governor John Hickenlooper
--LA Mayor Eric Garcetti
--Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley
--Washington Governor Jay Inslee
--Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz

   The debates, forums, town halls and speeches will provide a context for the nation to watch a tone, policy and approach begin to emerge. That will help to shape and form what this new iteration of the party may become. 
   I suspect one of the toughest matters for Democrats is how to absorb, accommodate or perhaps dismiss the kind of insurgency we see in candidates who identify with Democratic Socialism, non traditional or radical approaches.
   I anticipate more of that in the years ahead. By nature of this force, Democrats may steer again toward liberal thinking. 

the republicans
     The Republican party is in tatters. The speaker of the House resigns from government because he cannot discipline the party and especially the disruptive liberty caucus. The Senate is playing footsie with the occupant of the White House as crazy and malicious as he is. They are in the sway of a Shakespearian tragedy. They have sacrificed their decades of value on foreign policy to lay down with a Russian stooge.
      Think how the world would be so much different and the enmity in the US so much less if John Kasich, or Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz had won the nomination. Speculate even if one of them had defeated their reviled Lady Hillary.
A much different reality emerges.
       The nation watches to see if the vestige of traditional Republican values will find a standard bearer to rise up and fight what even his staff refers to as the vile and mad idiot.
       Republicans could begin the road to redemption if someone challenges Trump. Possibilities?
--Ohio Governor and former Congressman Kasich
--Arizona Senator Jeff Flake
--Texas Senator Ted Cruz 
--Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse

    Our culture has a tendency to mythologize. People often look a little better when time works as a lapidary. Politics has always been rough, but we seem stuck in a phase where a sense of vision is lacking, where principle is discarded for expediency and where money rules. Perhaps these internal fights in the two major parties will lead to something better.
We can hope.

     "The state-or, to make matters more concrete, the government-consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to seek out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting 'A' to satisfy 'B'. In other words, government is a broker in pillage and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods." H.L. Mencken

   See you down the trail.