Light/Breezes

Light/Breezes
SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

HOPING FOR THE BEST



   Dominica is one of my favorite places. The little volcano mount rising out of the eastern Caribbean in the Leeward Islands is one of the more untouched places in our hemisphere. It has now been crushingly touched by Hurricane Maria. 

   Structures like this cannot fare well in a Category 5 storm.
Dominica appeals to me for its lack of development. It is natural, native, local and unpretentious.  It is the "Nature Island" and great place to immerse in nature and away from commercialism.
    Documentary and news assignments allowed me to spend a lot of time in the Caribbean. The people of Dominica were among the most genuine and hardworking I've encountered. 
     Fishing is a major source of income and the small boats and harbors the Dominicans workout have been seriously assaulted. 
       Awaiting casualty reports and other news I reviewed memories and shots taken during an assignment on Dominica.
       Late one evening my colleagues and I were having dinner at a local family restaurant on the main street when we heard a cacophony below. Car horns, drums and other percussion sounds. It was late and we were the only people in the place when the waitress and cook began a nervous dialogue rich in patois. 
       What is it I asked?
       "Oh my, it tis Lapo Kabwit" she said, "not allowed now."
      It was a growing crowd of dancers and chanters moving through the darkened street. They were led by a drummer playing a tambou le'le' and they were dancing backwards.
       Someone had connected a car horn to a battery and others were banging sticks creating an African-Caribbean rhythm.
     At the time of this assignment Lapo Kabwit-an hypnotic sort of Carnival dance was forbidden because there had been outbreaks of knife fighting and violence.
      We left our dinner on the table and took gear in hand to join the snaking crowd under a clear star field and to record the event.
      Our hostess was pleased we returned safely and she warmed our meal. Eventually Lapo Kabwit was allowed to return to a formal Carnival celebration, but authorities frowned on the spontaneous late night eruptions. I could never square the idea of Dominicans fighting with each other as they are people who seem to appreciate the rare peace and beauty they enjoy.
      Now I worry about their well being and their long road back.

     See you down the trail.
     

Friday, September 15, 2017

TREATING THE DIS-EASE


    Spoiler alert-there is a bit of positive thought ahead but first the news.
    Child psychologist Dr Ava Siegler says we are in the midst of a "national disaster" and parents are the first responders.
    Dr Siegler and others in psychology says decency, civility, knowledge and truthfulness "are not values of the trump government."

data points
     The recent George Washington University poll finds
  • 71% of voters say trump's behavior is not what they expect from a President
  • 68% of Americans believe his words and actions could accidentally get us involved in an international conflict
  • 63% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track
    Another study tells us what we learn from the news, most Americans are anxious about trump's affect on the surge in white supremacy.

the therapy
    David H. Rosmarin a professor at Harvard Medical school and the director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital has good advice.
    Rosmarin says we should set aside 1-3 minutes a day to worry about the worst things that can happen and accept the reality that we are not in control. 
     He suggests we take time off from the news and social media. 
     Dr Rosmarin and many of his colleagues tell us that in these days of trump we should eat well, work out, and work on personal relationships.
     There is a consensus we should spend time with friends and loved ones and focus on enjoying the company and the good feelings of the moment.
     
     Indeed many of us feel a sense of depression. Normally mellow and relaxed people are trapped in a sense of anger and even rage. 
     As parents and grandparents we should tell children the meanness, selfishness, ego centricity  and lies of the president and some of his supporters and advisors are anti American, wrong and-this is important-will eventually be punished or corrected. 

     This reminds me of the "bad things happen to good people" advice and help books. Most of us have faced challenges and difficulties, uncertain of outcomes. In those periods we are counseled to rely on those we love and care for, people and belief, to understand however desperate a situation there are things for which to be grateful and to remember, all things change, this too will pass. 
     I'm not advocating this, but simply reporting-as we have communicated with our grand daughter, and even with  adults, about how wrong is the behavior, tone and mood of the president, especially his pathological lies, we feel better.
    Telling the truth and affirming the positive values that once undergirded this democratic republic is a one day at a time way of combating the tension, toxicity and corruption of this time in America.

catch the good beams when you can


    See you down the trail.

     


Thursday, September 7, 2017

DREAMERS and SEEING HISTORY, HONESTLY



    The "Dreamers" are Americans.
    I heard a young would be nursing student talking about the 15 years he had spent in the US, becoming as "Americanized" as anyone else and now he and 800 thousand others are targeted. It is not only wrong, it is stupid!
     Donald Trump has lied again and while that is no surprise the scope of the reaction of Americans and certainly American business is. Almost everyone knows the idea of ending "the dream" is a repulsive violation of what we think and believe.
     Perhaps the opposition of business and industry and the law suits by states and others will help keep the dream alive.

GETTING PERSPECTIVE
Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society and Indiana University

(This is a repeat of a post first published September 15, 2014. The complaint and issue has again been raised)

     To quote Ed Murrow "this just might do nobody any good." To paraphrase his 1958 speech to the Radio TV News Directors Association (RTNDA), at the end of this a few people may misunderstand what I'm saying, but here I go.
      We need to find a balance point where those who wish to address and treat sins of the past do not also destroy history or use deconstructionism without restraint and/or the balance of intellectual buffers.
      A case in point-The Thomas Hart Benton mural.
Controversial when it was created in the 1930's it is said to make people uncomfortable now. Why?  The depiction of the KKK. An honest appraisal of Indiana history cannot ignore the Klan. 
       If you are disturbed by the Klan portrayal consider proportion and perspective. The hooded terrorists are counter weighted by a white nurse attending to an African American child. More visual counter punch is the left anchor of the Benton panel composed of the press, an editor/writer and reporter that challenged and broke the Klan's extraordinary control of Indiana politics and the 1920's Republican party.  
      The media's battle with the Klan is iconic. Pulitzer awards have been given. I was awarded a National Emmy for my investigative documentary of the modern Klan in America. I've been an enemy of discrimination and prejudice, including racism, sexism, ageism and other manifestations of bias. My body of work is deep in reporting on these issues.
      We should find a way to be aware of sensitivities without trying to edit the past. The mural is not, as some have said, a glorification of the Klan, rather it is a depiction of fact. Reality, regardless of pain or absurdity cannot or should not be retrospectively edited or worse, deleted. Knowledge dictates that we recognize historic truths.
     History appreciates with understanding and by sifting nuance and seeing things in context through an honest assessment.  Later we may come to advanced understandings, gain insight, change our minds, learn, discover information and evolve, but the ground from which we and knowledge derive is historic fact. What we see and call history must be understood not only in the context of our time-but in the framework of what people knew and did in their own time. 
     As a high school kid I spent time in the city room of the Indianapolis Times. A giant replica of the front page announcing the Times winning a Pulitzer for their investigation of the Klan adorned a wall. It made a huge impression. When I took the stage in New York to accept the national Emmy for my own investigation I stepped into a slip stream of iconic history. The Benton art tells part of that story. 
    Though you may think the behavior is offensive, the painting itself of klansmen and the burning cross should not be regarded as offensive in intent  but rather as part of that stream of history. In the painting the Klan is seen as small, yet the nurse doing good service and the press loom more significant and impressive.  And if you look carefully you will see the klansmen are dominated and overridden by circus performers. There was a time when most circus acts wintered in Indiana. I think Benton was expressing a bit of poetic contempt and mockery by that juxtaposition.  
     No the Benton mural is not offensive, and those who think it is are simply wrong. It is history and should be taught and respected as such. And as I study it again I am reminded there must always have been those who like to ignore or even forget as well as those who may be rightfully upset with our past, who would like to expunge it. We can not help but analyze by virtue of what we know, but we must keep in mind that we are only as effective as we are fully and historically informed. 
       We cannot change the past.

Protection


    See you down the trail

Monday, September 4, 2017

HER PARTNER IS PROUD & LABOR PAINS=SHARING THE WEALTH


   We can be public about it now. Lana's collage has been chosen as the theme and poster for this years Cambria Art & Wine Festival to be held in January.

    It was announced at the opening reception and awards  presentation for this years 927 "non traditional" art exhibition. It's fun to see how the artists in this colony respond. In year's past, Lana has won best of show. This year the whimsical piece below recieved an honorable mention. It's called "Hole in One." She explained her motivation by saying, she always wanted to put a hole in a canvas. Well, there you have it.
    
Her other entry this year is called "Tweet Bird."


     Any resemblance to characters past or present is purely intentional!

  Then on Saturday my favorite artist donned colors to join her companions in the Garden Club for their place in the annual Pinedorado community parade.
     I know of one 19 month old who was particularly excited to see Nanna marching by.  


labor pains=sharing the wealth
Historic School House below the castle in San Simeon Ca.



   The iconic shot is an unintended symbol of what I suspect is a tough decision ahead for US citizens. 

sharing the wealth
Hearst Castle State Park
     Americans don't live in castles on mountains. A few uber wealthy retreat to walled estates or private islands but most of us are middle class-or try to be-or were. The shrinking and squeezing of the middle class has been well documented and the future looks no better.
     Several disruptive forces have combined to change how we live and work. Artificial intelligence and robotics will dramatically reduce the number of jobs in an American work force that has been radically altered, already. 
     Service work-lower pay-has replaced factory and manufacturing-high union wages-forever. Neither Obama nor trump made good on their promises to repair the infrastructure. If that were to happen there would be some new employment but when the US thinks of future workers we think Google, Uber, Starbucks, distribution warehouses and such as retail, as we know it, implodes and changes. The point is this-there will be a need to address basic human needs.
a real new deal
     This idea goes over poorly with many, but I've come to think reality will force governments-not only in the US-to face how to handle massive under and unemployment. Just simply to maintain civility-law and order if you will-nations will be tasked with guaranteeing standards of living. People will need to be provided a means for housing, food, education and health care. The model of tax paying citizens working to care for themselves is less and less likely as we move deeper into this century. The cliche is true-the world has changed. Unless there is something comparable to a new gold rush, or industrial revolution people will be unable to cover the basics. 
      There are consequences to the massive wealth gap and the disappearing middle class. Politicians have simply been too rooted to the past, moralistic, blind and/or lacking of vision and maturity to "lead" the nation toward preparing for a world that has changed. 
left and right agree
     The situation is not without pragmatic options. A concept that John F. Kennedy and William Buckley and many others have endorsed is national service. Rather than simply give stipends or a version of welfare so people can pay for shelter, food, educate their children and get medical care, all citizens would be expected to provide some form of national service. This could extend from military service to reading to children-working on bridge repair or delivering meals-caring for the elderly or tutoring, and on and on. 
     I don't think this bleak forecast is at the front door, but it is out there and it needs to be addressed before we pass a tipping point, from which there is no recovery. Ghettos, increasing flow of refugees-not only from war, but from nature and climate, ruined water sources, the disappearance of old jobs, civil disruptions, broken and corrupt institutions, failing schools, astronomical health costs, and a lack of affordable housing are already with us.
       Those problems will only get worse. How will we be prepared?

   weather too
photo by Justin Sullivan-Getty Images
    Waiting for a play to begin this weekend I was chatting with a local wine grower who said early Sunday morning would see him up and engaged in harvest.  
     Vineyards have begun the work, earlier than normal but this recent heat wave has hit the grapes, raising the sugar level and so many varietals are coming in early.
    It has been record setting warm in California, but we understand our discomfort is nothing compared to the misery of so many, due to hurricanes and flooding.  

     See you down the trail.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SPOILING THE PARTY

light on the path
Piedras Blacas Light Station-California Central Coast

        Light stations were designed to provide warning and guidance. In our own way bloggers, analysts and journalists do the same thing.
spotlight on thugs

Photo by Jim Wilson, New York Times
     The thugs above, captured by Jim Wilson only a few hours north of Cambria are another blight on the American dream. They have historic cousins.

 Public Domain/medaldrumworld.com
Washington, DC


          The first Klan march and rally I covered was 1965.
I thought the men and women who marched with their faces covered were cowards.  I think that still, regardless of the cause that puts a person in the streets.
 AllNews Pipeline
Anitfa "counter demonstrators"
      That is true for the violence prone troublemakers Antfia-or antifascists. 
       A quick and personal digression. My late brother was a political "radical" of the SDS persuasion. He was part of the "Days of Rage" and shared the Weatherman philosophy. He believed you fought violence with violence, when necessary.
       We had many long probing conversations and debates. He did not believe in starting a violent act, but he did not buy the idea of civil disobedience or non violence. A police night stick, or tear gas prompted an in-kind response. But one thing he would never do, was cover his face. He too thought that was cowardice. He marched, shouted and raged without masking himself. 
public domain
Cowardly Klansmen
       I covered many anti war and civil rights marches and demonstrations. I've been stung by tear gas, was hit on the head and knocked to the ground by a stanchion bearing a Viet Cong flag, was slammed up against a bus and kidney punched by an out of control cop who didn't want a reporter documenting his beating of people in a round up. 
     I understand the passion that put people on the front line of divisive issues. To cover your face is absolutely wrong and anti American.
    Anarchists have been a part of life around the planet for centuries. They created particular havoc in the US in the early 20th Century. Few US citizens realize how many bombings took place in those days.
    Antifa is a modern iteration; Autonomous groups that think fascism is so evil that violence is a proper recourse. They are themselves fascistic in their methods of opposing particular ideologies. They are not liberals, progressives or even left wingers. They are a self righteous band of violence prone, anarchists who see themselves as a kind of vigilante force.
     Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has seen their influence. He says antifa gives the peaceful leftists a bad name.
      "It played into the false narrative that some conservatives have spun" about violent left wingers Arreguin told the Associated Press. He watched as antifa attacked protesters.
     Whether in klan hoods or antifa black, they are extremists who have convinced themselves direct action solves issues of understanding, education, bias, predatory capitalism, ignorance and other evils. No one who covers their face deserves respect, nor should they be permitted to further degrade an already weary democratic republic. We have problems to solve.


our heart breaks
    Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Texas,  Louisiana, Mumbai and India. For those of you with family or friends in those areas we hope you hear from them despite the heartbreaking news about loss of homes and property.

     See you down the trail.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

CALIBRATING FREE SPEECH

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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment
Bill of Rights

    It is the "First Freedom" and on it I am an absolutist. It is as close to sacred as a secular statement or law can be.
     It means we must tolerate hearing even those things we find offensive. Reasonable people understand the implication of beginning to limit expression of a particular group or idea-where does it end?
    There is an however to this and the Charlottesville march and incident and its aftermath illuminates the however.
     The right to free speech does not extend to nazis or white supremacists. Here is how this free speech advocate gets to that point.
     I begin by quoting an unlikely source, Richard Spencer the American white supremacist. Spencer said "nazis are out of the bounds of humanity."  In this case, I agree with him.
     Like many of his generation, my father was a combat veteran of WWII where the issue of the legitimacy of the nazi idea was prosecuted. Later the Nuremberg trials further established the outlaw, vile and inhuman nature of that belief and the participation in it. 
      The nazi government of Germany undertook behavior that is the most evil in human history. I find succor then between the bounds of a white supremacist and the defining history of WWII to say clearly there is nothing legitimate or protected in a nazi belief, statement or attitude. The nazi history of barbarity disqualifies them from any human right or endeavor.
      White supremacy is a specious idea at best. More, it is fundamentally wrong and it is just stupid. With the exception of a isolated tribe or clan that has never had contact with others, there is no place on this planet where "blood lines are pure." Beyond that, the United States fought a brutal war fueled in great part by the foundational attitude and attendant arguments of white supremacy. 
     Those ideas allowed slavery to exist in our national experience and contributed to the inhuman and barbaric treatment of human beings. We didn't need a war to establish the foul nature of that belief, but the side that pressed racial supremacy was defeated none-the-less, ending any claim to it being a legitimate idea.
      The sheer lunacy of white supremacy, combined with the  tragic and bloody U.S. history of that issue places that view outside the bounds of protected speech.
      We would not permit those who believe in child sacrifice, cannibalism, public beheading, public rape, or the likes of ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram,etc., to march or express their views. White supremacists and nazis are no better and no different. In fact as a civil society we are better off when those attitudes and behavior are criminalized.
      I think I'm safe in saying we have history on our side, to say nothing of the greater moral arguments. There is nothing good or right about white supremacy or nazim. They have no legitimacy or credibility. They are more than offensive, they are off the human scale. Humanity would be better if we never again had to cross them.
      Waring elephant seals just up the coast from here have more right to free speech than nazis or white supremacists.
         It is my assumption they also have more intellectual
power than the human slugs who are so out of touch with humanity.

the night i saw the nigger
    First, my apology to anyone who might be offended, but that is exactly how Dick Gregory identified himself the first time I saw him.
     It was at Ball State University in the mid 60's. Gregory performed his social comedy and was pushing his 1964 book Nigger. Throughout the concert he kept urging us to buy his book and send a copy to the President because he said he "wanted to see a Nigger in the White House!"
     Over the ensuing years I would cover or interview Gregory as he advanced his social activism. On one occasion when I was scheduled to interview him I had a sore throat and a cough. Before the interview began Gregory asked the hotel staff to bring him hot water, tea, lemon and honey to make me an elixir.
     Gregory was a ground breaker. He found a way to combat racism and segregation with a great and skilled sense of humor. He was also was a sincere and dedicated advocate of human dignity and liberty. 

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

MONUMENTAL IDEAS and TRUST

Simon Bolivar The Liberator, Felix Weldon Sculpture in Washington D.C

   A conversation about monuments, history and racial sensitivity is important. So, lets start with this guy. There are probably more statues and monuments to Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan, than anyone else in history. Yea, really!
    Bolivar rides or stands tall in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Ottawa, Berlin, London, Cairo, Tehran, plus every major city in central and south America.
    Bolivar was a kind of aristocratic Che Guevara. He liberated 5 nations, none of them the United States. He freed Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama by organizing guerrilla campaigns and leading armies. Impressive stuff. 
     Now we get closer to home. Bolivar died in 1830. The US Congress approved the statue in 1945 and it was installed in 1959. That is a large historical disconnect, compared to the Robert E. Lee statues and those of other confederate leaders that stand in many places in the American south.


     Those confederate memorials are offensive to millions of Americans and with just cause. They are however a part of history and even historic in their own right. While we may scratch our head and wonder why old Simon shows up all over the world, we probably would be opposed to suddenly tossing him over everywhere. While revisionist history of any sort is wrong, so too is a lack of perspective.
    So here's the monumental idea. Put those confederate military leaders in context. It is important that all generations know  the "honored" were part of a horrible and deplorable war effort.
    The future needs to know they stood for the enslavement of human beings, dissolution of the Union, a white supremacist view and that they lost. That kind of information should be added to the statues, prominently. But we can also add context.  
     For every confederate war leader there will be a larger statue or monument to others, such as African American leaders like Fredrick Douglass (who donald trump hears is "doing a good job") Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Union Generals US. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, George Gordon Meade, George Henry Thomas, Phillip Sheridan and leaders, etc. As painful as it might be, there should also be monumental representation of the slave trade markets and conditions on plantations. 
     It is a matter of perspective. When you start knocking down statues the Taliban or ISIS comes to mind. Keep the old statues in place, but add interpretation and then put them in context with new statues and monuments so the full story and truth is told. 
    This "battle of monuments" would put a lot of artists to work, would spur a learning of history, would add relevance to old statues, create vivid interpretation of lessons best not lost in history and put the confederacy in a proper context.  It would also offer increased tourism to those communities who work to set the record straight by virtue of monumental truth.
guarding truth
      Truth and trust are bound in life. You can't have one without the other. That leads us to a consideration as to how to free ourselves of the man who is a cancer in our history.
        The premise is simple. We must, the world must, everyone must be able to trust the President. Recent history shows us painfully we cannot trust president trump. It's a prescription for disaster when allies, enemies, constituents, military chiefs, national security forces, when no one can trust the president.
        There is no need to wait for the Mueller investigation into the Russian connection; was there collusion or not, was trump enterprises involved in Russian money laundering, has his family enterprise violated conflicts of interest laws or the emoluments clause, is he compromised by loans from Russian banks, did he obstruct justice?  It is important to get these answers, but there is a path to removal in advance of that and it deals with trust.
       In this case the inability to trust trump qualifies as making him unit to serve and that leads us to section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. 

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
     The president own words are proof enough of his habitual lies, his fantasy phone calls included. There is 6 months of presidential dishonesty that makes the case. trump would fight it, however there is a growing mood to get rid of him.
       This newspaper ad greeted readers this morning. Doyle McManus's recent report in the LA Times underscores how official Washington is dealing with trumps lack of fitness.
        McManus details how Secretary of State Tillerson, Defense Secretary Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford have worked overtime to back the US and North Korea from the brink of war. The situation was made grave by trump's tweets, lippy retorts, ignoring of staff and the behavior of a spoiled little rich boy brat. Pause on that for a moment--had Tillerson, Mattis and Dunford not joined forces we could be in the midst of war because a liar with no character and no sense of history or diplomacy. 
        He is unfit because he cannot be trusted. No psychologist or prosecutorial data is necessary. trump's own utterances make the case. 
        The question remains will congressional Republican leadership and members of the cabinet show character and begin the process to toss the lunatic out of office and thereby move to protect the US.
caesar's secret
    Referring here to the salad.
    Over the years I've gained a reputation-deserved or not-as being good at making caesar salad. Above is recent set up of most of the ingredients. But there is something that needs closer examination.
      This is a technique I learned from legendary chef Dieter Puska.  You hand mash the anchovies and the minced garlic by fork in the salad bowl.  Over the years I've learned that mincing the cloves earlier and letting them soak in olive oil makes them more pliable and enriches the oil, which gets worked into the dressing. I have also started reserving the oil of the anchovies as well.  Everything starts with these two foundations. 

      See you down the trail.