Tuesday, April 22, 2014


     Jonathan Landay of McClatchey Newspapers reports troubling news that amounts to a piling on after we've learned how invasive information mining already is.  
     Landay writes of a directive from James Clapper who works as the Director of National Intelligence.  Clapper's one man edict, with the power of law, forbids intelligence community employees from any contact with journalists.  Now, only the director, deputy director or public information officer of a member agency of the intelligence community is permitted contact. A very dangerous and sinister move.  
     No doubt Clapper and his advisers, rocked by the Snowden and earlier Wikileaks releases, and genuinely concerned about our security, believe this is the best thing. The danger though is when a single executive, or even a branch of government builds policy that restricts knowledge in a punitive way.  Under Clapper's edict, any offending intelligence community employee's career will be damaged or ended. There is also the philosophical issue of a government, meant to serve, deciding to hold information against, or away from those who empower it-we citizens.
      As I sat in an intelligence oversight conference room hidden away under the US Capitol dome, a ranking member of congress spoke earnestly of the hard choices and actions that must be taken in the field of intelligence, simply to give our government options for our security. There are few black and white constructs. Security and intelligence is a nether world where shades of gray and complexity are the multi layered norm. As my source told me "some of the decisions that are necessary, don't look so good in the light of day."
     In more than 4 decades of reporting I learned which sources I could trust and they in turn learned that I could be trusted. Now some of those people from federal law enforcement, intelligence and counter intelligence, defense, state and local police, Senate and House oversight committees, would not have been able to assist my work in reporting to the public.  
     No government is so good that it does not need to be watched, nor should it ever strive to be anything but transparent.  Men and women who hold positions of influence, elected, appointed or civil service are never above accountability. Journalism is an imperfect craft or profession but it provides a valuable surrogate role for citizens. Journalists must be able to gather and know all facts and as close an approximation to truth as possible, especially in the area of policy formulation and conduct. This is paramount in areas of national security, public safety and individual privacy. Clapper's one man edict, regardless of claims of nobility of intent, is wrong, chilling and dictatorial. 
     Good men and women who believe in the principles of this Democratic Republic and who do the hard work of intelligence and journalism will find ways to share information and knowledge and work around the dangerous Clapper policy. We are a government of, by and for the people and we can never accept anything less.
     A couple of weeks ago Central California readers of The Cambrian were surprised by the tone of an article I penned about the hiring of a public information officer for our Community Service District Board. "I agree with you but""you were awfully strong," or "too strong," or "too tough" were comments from a few friends. My point there derives from the same point as my reaction to the Clapper edict.  Government employees do not work for a political ideology, philosophy, policy leaning, or butt covering-they work for the public.
It is not easy. Issues are complicated. There are competing interests-but the constitutional frame work and the public's right to know should be guiding precepts. Clapper is a dedicated public servant, but he is wrong. I hope he reconsiders. This is tantamount to a gag order.
    Californians struggle through the drought finding ways to conserve water while governments look at water policy and permitting processes. 
       As an Earth Day celebration note we share a personal report.
     We've added rain barrels and redirected our downspouts.
These two are tied together.
   This barrel stands alone. These help to harvest rain, when we get it. Living in a coastal zone we are blessed with lots of spring and summer evening marine fog. It's amazing how much flows off the roof and the barrels are an improvement as a catchment. They can also be filled with non potable water.
    In a small way, we've become solar powered. 
 We opted for a small panel which feeds through a charge controller to a 12 volt battery that we store out of the elements in the plastic box.
    A ten amp pump with a 45 PSI rating connects the barrel's out flow to a hose that feeds into our irrigation system.
  Our native California friend Dick, a gardening veteran, helped modify the drip irrigation system by adding the white cap feed input.
    The single barrel will source the lower raised bed and tomato cage.
     The double barrels will source the hill top raised bed as well as the side beds. Most of the hill side itself is drought tolerant planting and not in need of much water.
  Fava beans are doing well in a new side bed.  They, as well,
  will be fed by barrels thanks to the power of the little pump.
                                           Ditto for the lemon tree
           and the newly planted grape.  The barrels, solar panel,
battery, charge controller, pump as well as the modification to the downspouts cost a few bucks, but allow us to conserve and continue to garden.  And the new 
     is a lot better than the old system of down spout capture by these old cat litter containers that also needed to be hauled up the hill.

     Happy Earth day.  Take good care of it.  It's the only one we have.

     See you down the trail.


  1. We should all be as conscientious as you are when it comes to conservation. Well done.

  2. Obama PROMISED a transparent government. Not so it seems

  3. Tom, yes I second the motion that we should all be as conscientious, ( and knowledgeable as you, I am passing this on to anyone I can think of.

  4. "There is also the philosophical issue of a government, meant to serve, deciding to hold information against, or away from those who empower it-we citizens."
    Yup, this is the heart of the matter, but it is not philosophical. It is the ACT in violation of the principle and philosophy of American-style freedom: the freedom to know, then to vote. I no longer fear the devastation of America; it's already happened, sort of like the mid-Pacific massive earthquake, then waiting for the tsunami. I see no way to turn it around without an incredibly engaged and committed younger generation willing to give up the various entertainments which corporations foist upon us.

  5. The occasions where secrecy enables governments to accomplish good things are very rare, especially since World War II. In most cases, it gives headstrong ideologues room to create disasters like the Bay of Pigs or Watergate. What moderates this behavior is the fear that the press and the public will eventually find them out. Excellent post

  6. Very impressive gardening techniques.

  7. fun to watch the progress of your garden area! Very, very nice!!!