Sunday, June 17, 2018

Paying Attention

natural remedies
    Offering a few seasonal scenes from Cambria as an antidote to the rumbling madness that angers and depresses.
         This post is dedicated to responsible fathers, especially Karl W. Cochrun. A WWII veteran with a life long interest in politics and public policy. He often invoked the famous quote "I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."
       A pretty scene and a few deep breaths before we rally our senses and better angels.

maybe we should leave angels out of this
      Jeff Sessions may wish he never pushed his luck by invoking the words of Paul in defending the evil of taking children from their parents.
       Others have also mistakenly appropriated those words; those who defended slavery, advocates of segregation, proponents of apartheid in South Africa, supporters of Nazism, and those who would deny church and communion to people who are LGBTQ. It is counterfeit Christianity and in the past few days more complete reading and interpretation  of what Paul said about love, hospitality and the fulfillment of law from those with Ph.Ds and Th.Ds. and years of pastoring negate the preposterous attempt to defend US barbarism. It  exposed Session's malevolent intent. 
        I don't mean to invoke a theological debate as this nation, like this readership, has divergent views, but weaponizing words of faith is the work of bigots, judgmental zealots and tyrants. Trying to explain an awful policy in the context of the will of God is just one more warning sign.

we are seeing shadows of history

      Republican Senator Bob Corker said it is becoming a "cultish thing."
        Author Dana Milbank made it more pointed saying it isn't religion but a perversion. He adds "It is not the creed of a democratic government or a political party but an authoritarian cult."
        As I write this I see the faces of people I know and friends, who out of desperation or hope for a change, anger, or contempt for other candidates, cast votes for Trump. They are "my surrogate" for the minority of Americans who voted for him and who still support him. They are the blood line of Trumpism.
        I can't imagine any of them expected this sort of thing. As example, in the week their president staged a photo op non substantial "summit" paying homage to one of the world's despots, getting nothing in return, his attorney general tried to justify unAmerican behavior misquoting the Bible. Let me check something, the North Koreans issued a statement they have issued several times since the 90's and did promise to return remains of Americans killed in the Korean War. But even here, the Trumpism stain is evident. 
      Trump said that during the campaign many parents of GI's killed in Korea asked him to get their sons returned. It's another instance of this delusional man's lies. Those parents, if their GI kids were 18, and they were 18 when they gave birth, would be 104 now. Of course most of the Korean vets were older, and so would be their parents.
it is bad health to ignore warning signs

      Trump is a serial liar who will get away with it for as long as those who voted for him continue to ignore the warning signs.
       It is no wonder aids and staff are quitting. 51% of those who have worked for him have resigned. That is a warning sign. 
       Almost every respected conservative thinker, writer and analyst is reviled by the damage he is doing. Some of his own party call him a traitor, a Russian stooge, a corrupt grifter getting rich off the Presidency. You would expect his supporters to ignore such charges from Democrats or liberals, but not from people like George Will, Charles Krauthamer, and others.
       Some of you were quite critical when I wrote there are similarities between Trump and Trumpism and dictators and their followers including Hitler. Nothing has dissuaded me. This man who former Republican Presidents, cabinet officers, military leaders and intelligence chiefs said was "unfit and unqualified" is getting worse, abusing the American way and our sense of justice. It is frightening so many are blind to what is taking place. 

the cultish thing

      Consider what Milbank wrote
       But a cult, by definition, is not about mainstream theology. I looked up characteristics of cults in the sociological literature to see how Trump’s stacks up. 
□ “Presents a distinct alternative to dominant patterns within the society in fundamental areas of religious life.” Grab ’em by the p---y!
□ “Possessing strong authoritarian and charismatic leadership.” I alone can fix it!
□ “Oriented toward ‘inducing powerful subjective experiences.’ ” Alternative facts. Fake news!
□ “Requiring a high degree of conformity.” See: Flake, Jeff and Sanford, Mark. 
□ A tendency “to see itself as legitimated by a long tradition of wisdom or practice.” It is very biblical to enforce the law. 
Check, check, check, check and check.
           And members of the Cult of Trump, formerly known as the GOP, follow him over the cliff and onto the spaceship. They swallowed their heretofore pro-life, pro-family and pro-faith views to embrace Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries (“Such blatant religious discrimination is repugnant,” said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) and applaud him tossing paper towels at Puerto Ricans as they died by the thousands because they didn’t get adequate hurricane relief. 
        They’ve joined his efforts to shred food, income and health programs that help the least among us while giving tax cuts to the wealthiest. They’ve accepted his abandonment of human rights abroad. They’ve joined his attempt to end family-based immigration and to threaten deportation of “dreamers,” immigrants brought here as children.
It appeared, briefly, that things might be different this time. House Republicans drafted legislation allowing children to be detained with their parents. But Trump on Friday signaled that he would veto the bill, and, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said this week, the “last thing I want to do is bring a bill out of here that I know the president won’t support.” This is the way of the cult. 
          Will the vivid cruelty of taking babies from parents, coupled with the obscene use of Scripture to justify it, finally lead some Trump supporters to abandon the compound? God knows.

       Isn't there a breaking point somewhere? I would hope those who thought Trump was sane, honest, committed to  hearing and helping them will wake up and realize he is out only for himself, as he has always been. He lied to you to get your vote.
see something, say something

     He may well be the low point in Presidential history and he may have damaged two centuries of nationhood. I think that as a man he is scum. As a leader he is at best a divider. At worst he acts like a traitor, a tyrant, a Russian stooge and an narcissistic bully who trusts only himself ignoring even his own appointed advisors. Please remember one of the smartest men he appointed called the president a "fucking moron!"  When, for heavens sake, will people wake up?
    We often wondered how in the world German people could permit the rise of their great evil cult of Nazism. I fear we are seeing history repeat itself. People refuse to believe the truth or they make excuses, the most common being he's just shaking up things or the media is out to get him.      
     Taking babies from parents and saying it is the will of God is only the latest warning sign that those specters from the past are looming over our future. Trumpism is anti American.
      Traditional Republicans need to rise up, and Democrats need to be much better. Some where, some way between them we need to regain our senses and stop the perversion of America and destroy "this cultish thing" of Trumpism.
      Sorry to bore you with more of this, or to beat this maybe dead horse, but I hope it helps to open eyes. And I want my daughters and grand children to know that we all have a voice and if we want our voices to remain free and be a part of a chorus in this democratic republic we have to take it seriously and to be diligent. This gang is bad for the US and its bad for the world. 
     How much difference is there between Trumpism and Nazism? Both seek to silence critics and undermine the credibility of science, intellectual study, journalism. They would not defend the right of someone who disagrees. My father would be ready for a fight, not unlike the one he gave years of his life to, to stop Nazism that was left unchecked by German citizens.

     See you down the road.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Confessions of a Radical?

 Brothers John and Jim
your blogger circa '66
what to do about the establishment
   Surely many of you heard or took part in debates about "trusting or changing the establishment." Establishment was the cultural shorthand for the power elite, especially what later generations of politicians came to call "Washington and Wall Street," Eisenhower's "military industrial complex" or even more recently the swamp. It was also about how we lived, loved, thought, and behaved. 
    Change it from with in or by revolution? My brothers, pictured above, were inclined to revolutionary change. As their older brother I was already invested in journalism, observing and reporting and had been since high school.
    We had lively debates often joined by our parents both of whom were political veterans, studied people in addition to being WW II participants. There was no "generation gap" as such with unfixable fissures, but our family had a diversity of opinion.
    John, on the left, two years my junior was of the SDS/Weather Underground mind set. Jim was simply the brightest of the three and a poet philosopher, free spirit and gentle soul who broke with convention in almost every way. I guess I was a pragmatist, relying on reason.

the evolution of a "radical"

       My involvement in campus politics (that candidate for class senator on the far right is a baby version of your blogger) combined with my professional work as a street and police beat reporter in Muncie edged me in my own direction.
       I would sometimes ride with cops on a Saturday night as they rounded up drunks and broke up fights, which in blue collar Muncie was a full deployment. The way some of the detainees were beaten with night sticks seemed at odds with the sociology courses I took.
      It was the mid '60s and the Klan still marched, and blacks were denied access in some establishments. I covered sit ins and marches and got tossed down stairs by a Klan leader.
      All of this was a vastly different world than my beautiful campus and the vibe in the fraternity house. I began to cogitate. Academia would not, nor should it, insulate. Like the world, our campus was changing. 
     I raised issues of equality and civil liberties in Student Senate where I served my freshman and sophomore years.
    I got behind a Professor's declaration of Human Rights-ground breaking and long before feminism and LGBTQ entered the public mind. It was at a time when blacks were treated as less than full citizens in housing, banking and access.
     The writing seems a bit leaden and ponderous but it was 50 years ago and I was a kid.
the radical box
     I became an advocate for the abolition of dorm hours-that moved me onto the "radical" list. 
      Colleagues in the long and complex battle to eliminate women's hours were Jeff Lewis, Jon Hughes, and Jim Davis.
      Jeff went on to a vibrant career in public policy, marketing and later in opinion research. 
     Jon became a noted photographer, writer and professor who drove the establishment of a journalism school at the University of Cincinnati. 
     Jim Davis is the creator of Garfield the cat and presides over the Paws empire. 
      Butting heads with a University administration and government was a tall order but we were eventually successful. That changed the campus landscape and culture.
     I ran for the University Judicial Board (Supreme Court) my Junior year. I felt restrained by the traditional campus parties  and sensed the world was changing more rapidly than we were responding. The Judicial Board in my senior year would be a way to move ideas.
     The 1968 political campaign loomed and there were explosive issues of war and peace, civil rights and change that stirred me.

      Brother John shaved most his beard and cut his hair to 
"get clean with Gene", Senator Eugene McCarthy, the anti war democrat. John worked for McCarthy and above is seen serving as a body guard and beer drinking pal of actor Paul Newman who campaigned for McCarthy.
      I suffered my first campus election defeat that year as our  party was swept by a vigorous opponent.

progressive arises
       I came back my senior year with different ideas. I had been studying the emerging intellectual political movements of Dadaism, Herbert Marcuse, the Provos of Amsterdam, the Diggers of San Francisco, intellectual anarchism, Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and others. All of that was a far stretch for a state university in the mid west.
   A ready ally was a fraternity brother who may be the deepest thinking and most intelligent person I know. People still marvel at how he ate through Philosophy classes and professors. He went on to a fine career serving as an attorney, prosecutor, Judge and just maybe the Rolling Stone's greatest fan. He's traveled the world to see them. 
   Ed was always up for a good joke and we thought we'd try to introduce a few "new ideas" to what we saw as the moribund political culture on campus. We created PUP-the Progressive University Party.
    We got pilloried by the campus newspaper.
    In the cartoon below-Ed is portrayed as speaking to the reporter. I am the pup.
   The editorial was more precise than the cartoon.

Fine Arts Building, Ball State University
Photo by Encyclopedia Brittanica 
   We had in fact accomplished something. We were able to "unite" a divergent group with a unified objective.
    The historic arts building displayed a giant US flag on a main hallway. The flag was old, dirty and even a bit frayed. PUP was able to get cooperation from the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the Young Peoples Socialist League (YPSL), Young Republicans, Young Democrats, the fraternity council IFC, sorority council Panhellenic, the Newman Society and others, that the issue of the flag should be addressed and something needed to be done. The flag had been there for decades. Ed and I took delight in thinking we were able to bring all of the extremes and different groups together. We though PUP would be politics with a sense of humor.

   These are notes from one of our brainstorming sessions as we began to articulate what would become our manifesto.
    We would not have signed off on all of these-in fact the fight over what to select would be interesting, but this demonstrates the range of thought in our "thought group."
     Abolition of Hours, one quarter housing fees, pass fail in general education courses, faculty evaluation, equal student representation, discussing changes in tenure and department  chairman reports hold up as solid ideas.
     But life intervened. The day after our "flag union" I was involved in a serious auto accident. I was riding in the front seat, in an era before seat belts were the norm. I was thrown through the windshield, was jerked back through, and tossed from the car. I suffered a compound skull fracture, breaking 
everybone in my face and would have bled to death had it not been for fraternity brothers and a Muncie police officer who was also a Ball State student. I was in a coma for a while and when I came back to campus I struggled to graduate, work and get healthy.
      My days of "radical" politics were over. After that I spent almost 5 decades in journalism and broadcasting and left the politics to others.
      I came across these papers in an old file as I have been working to organize some of my archives for the Indiana Historical Society that has curated some of my early journalism and investigative reporting.
      A few of us from that era were together recently and we concluded the late 60's were without precedent and peer.
      From here it all seems so playful and hopeful. 

celebrating the fava

  Lana's green ways delivered us another bountiful year of our beloved fava beans.

for your amusement
a dancing chair


        See you down the trail.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Paella and Pinot Fest
     Just ahead, we'll visit a civilized retreat from the world, the 15th Pinot and Paella Fest at the park in Templeton Ca.

from the jungle 
      A knock on the gate interrupted my preparation of tea as I listened to a report on yesterday's vote.
      A young man, wearing a name badge with something in his hand stood in the sun at the end of the walk.
      "Can I help you" I said cranking a kitchen window open.
      "Yes, my name is Rob, I'm running for election," he smiled holding up a flyer. "Am I too late?"
      "Looks like you are starting early," I said.
       Actually Rob was a realtor, prospecting. But they do start campaigning early in California. 
      Yesterday was what we call a jungle primary. In this jungle the top two vote getters in every elected position moves on to the November general election. 
      The jungle is open, not a party preference vote. One can vote for independents, greens, democrats, republicans, libertarians and a few other iterations. 
       So our election to replace the mostly respected to beloved Jerry Brown features Gavin Newsom, Brown's lt. governor and a Trump Republican Donald Cox, a businessman.  LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was sidelined with the rest of a big field. 
      Newsom is liberal, Cox is conservative and the Trump government has been and will likely be one of the issues here.
      I suggest, this is why life also offers sweet refuge.

    Songwriter/singer Jill Knight is a tonic. Playing with extraordinarily talented musicians her lyrics take you to many places and moods.  

and then there is the fest
      Fifteen years ago Marc Goldberg and Maggie D'Ambrosia of Windward Vineyard put Pinot and Paella together as a celebration of Paso Robles wine makers and chefs to the benefit of the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation.
    There is a clear benefit to patrons as Paso wineries pour and chefs compete in a paella cook off.

Maggie and Marc
Photo from Paso Robles Daily News

    See you down the trail

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Questions---Aliens---The Answer

    Wild mustard has painted the California central coast this spring.
     The pastoral settings are a "safe zone" to contemplate the profound most recent film from Paul Schrader, First Reformed.
      The veteran writer/director (written 24/directed 23) has given Martin Scorsese some of his best scripts and has directed films that carry impact; Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation of Christ, American Gigolo, Light Sleeper, The Canyons, Mishima:Life in Four Chapters, Rolling Thunder, Affliction, Dying by the Light, City Hall, Cat People and others. 
     In First Reformed Schrader wrestles with climate change, responsibility and theology. Yea, that's a heavy agenda, but he turns in a story that fully engages mind and heart.
     Ethan Hawke's portrayal is superb and as a minister he asks a question of our age-can we be forgiven for what we have done to this planet? For those who do not hew to a faith or spiritual cleave in how you regard life, the question can be reduced to what does it say about our intelligence and our regard for life. Atheist, agnostic or person of faith the question and the drama that carries it in First Reformed is valid and viable. 
      A character discusses his unborn child and recites likely environmental conditions on her 30th birthday. 
     "Will she look me in the eyes someday and ask, did you know this was coming? Did you know this would happen?"
     Schrader has a career of brilliant, penetrating, probing and unforgettable work. This is no less. For those who take theology, philosophy or faith seriously, you will marvel at the dialogue and the juxtaposition of individual responsibility and matters of action and belief. The ending is a mind blower and will likely be taught in film schools.

answers follow below
but first, the aliens are back
   The most recent San Luis Obispo Succulent and Cactus show offered more dazzling specimens and I wonder again what planet are they from? 

the answer is
the cool pool
   Yes, as you surmised the answer to the question in the previous post is a swimming pool changing hues.

   See you down the trail.