Sunday, November 27, 2016


November Surf-Cambria
    We were emotionally spent as we walked from the theatre when we encountered a friend and her husband who there with other couples. They are mixed race couples who gather annually to celebrate Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who's love changed the US Constitution.
     Married in 1958 they were arrested in Virginia where state law forbade black and white to marry, live together, bear children or to love each other. Forced to move to Washington DC, where they had been married, they began a family and longed to return to their beautiful rural home.
    Director/Writer Jeff Nichols has crafted a quiet and understated powerhouse film that tells history but also speaks to the current American dilemma. 
     Joel Edgerton delivers an Oscar worthy performance as a white stone mason Richard Loving who simply wants to be left alone to love and live with his wife. Edgerton's quiet strength and reserve emotes with a power that smolders from the screen. Ethiopian Ruth Negga is vulnerable, gentle and long suffering as Mildred. 
     Nichols, born in Little Rock and educated at the University of North Carolina has an instinctive feel and sense of the southern culture and history that created the Loving case. Nichols became interested in the story of the Supreme Court case and the role of the ACLU in bringing justice to the Lovings when he viewed a documentary by Nancy Buirski, who is one of the producers.
    There is an authenticity played marvelously by the cast. Loving won the 2016 Palm d'Or at Cannes.  This 2 hour study of American history and love has a message that should be heard. Be prepared to ride a roller coaster of emotion.

Photo by Oswaldo Salas-print from Tom's collection

 Frequent readers may recall previous posts from the Cuba File. I'm gathering reaction and preparing a new post for later this week. 

the vote truth and consequence
   It looks like you have to go back to 1876 to find a presidential outcome that rivals our recent travail. 
    Back then Democrat Samuel Tilden shellacked Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, but he lost in the electoral college, only after some still controversial maneuvers.
     Of course we know at least 2 million more American voters wanted Hillary Clinton to lead us than wanted Donald Trump. Once again the archaic and out balance representation of the Electoral College deprives the majority of Americans their choice and once again hands a gift to the Republican candidate who received an underwhelming minority of votes. 
     Does it matter? Indeed and here's how it is likely to. President Trump leads from a position of weakness. He does not have a mandate as most voting Americans didn't want him. While the Republicans control the Senate and House, they will be dependent upon Democrats to get a majority of votes to pass legislation. Democrats have vowed to protect programs enacted under President Obama. I'm hopeful the Democrats will take a realistic and collegial position, willing to engage in give and take. That would be a drastic reversal from the Republican leadership which vowed on day 1 of the Obama administration to guarantee the first African American President fail and not be reelected. 
     Donald Trump's election is also a repudiation of that Republican scorched earth policy. People who were fed up with government or who felt neglected also blame the congressional grid lock engineered by the Republicans. While a minority party it is our hope the Democrats behave as Americans first and partisans second. That's a far cry from the past 8 years. 
      We live in historic times eh?

do you see a face in the surf?
   look a little left of center of the frame. see anything that resembles a face or head of lion or ???

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


      We've celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday of praise and thanksgiving since President Lincoln declared the day in 1863.
     As an odd year begins its exit we pause in our family to take note: Family, friends, faith, health, healing, memories, dreams & goals, kindness, love, courage, creativity and hope.
     History recounts the first American Thanksgiving as 1621 when 50 Pilgrims and 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe celebrated a harvest festival.
     In the beginning those English men and women, unhappy with the Church of England and English society and seeking a new life on this continent, treated their hosts with civility and appreciation. The immigrants and the first citizens celebrated for 3 days. History records those early accords were changed in time.
     Perhaps this year we can reflect on why and how those first good intentions were lost and why so much of this nation's history is built on an illegitimacy and a forced occupation. It is a not a weakness, rather it is a sign of integrity and greatness to examine our faults and ask where did we go wrong, how could we have done it more wisely and with honor, and how can and should we adapt, change and make better choices going forward?
     Is there also a further lesson? The first national Thanksgiving came midst the civil war, but Lincoln had the wisdom to ask for praise, prayers and thanksgiving. In our 2016 divide, should we do no less?
     I'm also grateful we live where we can acknowledge our wrongs, chastise inequality and pray for better ways, in our diverse ways.
     See you down the trail.

Monday, November 21, 2016


     An historic and brutal confrontation played out in North Dakota and most of the media was missing.
    The Standing Rock action against the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) was met with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons in sub freezing temperatures. Hundreds of people were attacked by police and security.
    Social media provided live streaming but the story was ignored by major networks and newspapers 
     Here's a sample of the Twitter feeds that kept people informed.

Calling upon @BarackObama and @LorettaLynch to immediately step in and stop ND Police from further violence &abuses in #standingrock #NoDAPL

    There are several strands to the controversy that make this newsworthy. More betrayal of Indian rights, legal challenges, the determination of those who are there to protect water and land rights, behavior by private security and the impact on the pipeline. 
    Many of the posts questioned why major media have ignored the story. I wonder that as well.  Given the media's current penchant for visual events and the sensational, I'm curious why the dramatic confrontation didn't get attention.
    The Standing Rock occupation and protest carries a link to the founding of the American Republic. It's time it gets more attention from major media. Fortunately social media helps fill the information gap.

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


     If there is nothing in this year to cause your brain to explode here's a try: The Oxford Dictionaries has chosen "post-truth" as the word of the year. Post-truth is when objective facts are less influential than emotion or personal belief in a person's choice.
     This coronation in the hall of lexicon happens as western society and the American media in particular suffer through an inquisition of "fake news," its purveyors, sources and impact. Twitter and Facebook lead all social media in being scrutinized.
      Joshua Benton, director of Nieman Journalism Lab wrote after the election; 

        "Facebook has become a sewer of misinformation. Some of it is driven by ideology, but a lot of it is driven purely by the economic incentive structure FaceBook has created: The fake stuff, when it connects with a Facebook user's preconceived notions for sense of identity, spreads like wildfire. (And it's a lot cheaper to make than real news.)"

        Consider for a moment how much time millions of Americans spend on Facebook and other social media. It is where many get their news, only a lot of it is not news. It's fabrication, political spin on steroids and even fantasy. And even when confronted with facts people still continue to believe lies-President Obama was born in Kenya, climate change is not real, there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we never landed on the moon, etc.
       After each election the nation's media does a serious navel gaze. This year they should look into their combined fourth estate soul.
       In our lifetimes the media could be counted on. CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite was known as "America's most trusted man." When there were four major networks, a couple of international wire services and a handful of newspapers with strong Washington and international bureaus in a very competitive arena, getting it and getting it right was the currency that built a readership and viewership. Consumers were the arbiter. 
      As it was intended, the airwaves were public space and to have a right to do business there one needed to pledge to provide hours of informational and public service programming.
      Media deregulation brought a model that favored advertising and making money while shrinking the obligation to provide quality information and news. Then management decided news needed to be a profit center and ratings replaced the mission to inform as the priority and raison d'ĂȘtre. 
     24 hour news channels further "commercialized" news making it more of a "product." Social media with millions of blogs, postings, social chats, pages, and a blizzard of exchange further diffused and fractured the nature of information.  
     I have a petulant disregard for Roger Ailes and his news virus. He is the troll responsible for overtly politicizing news coverage and the father of the bastard "news with a flavor." Some will say Fox News came as an answer to the liberal media. That is malarky and those who believe it give proof to the propagandizing value of spinning news your way. It is a  mind control when beliefs and emotions count more than facts. Ailes first postulated the idea of a political control of network news back when he worked for Richard Nixon.
     In this "Post-truth, post-election" era consider the facts. The losing candidate had 2-4 million more votes. So unless the electoral college makes history, we will have a minority president, who either is a liar on occasion or indeed can own all sides of every issue or simply doesn't know what his position is. Whichever, it is a sure prescription for a lot of "news."
     We should watch for news organization to assert a legitimacy by dealing with truth, facts and being adversarial. That adversarial relationship is historic and has proven to benefit all parties, the White House, the electorate and most importantly the effectiveness of government. As much as ever, the media should play its role as a watchdog.
     Do we think the media is up to it? Good question. I expect little improvement in social media, it will continue to be the lowest common denominator. Another divide in this split nation is the fault line between those who consume diverse information wisely and those who hang around the sewer and/or listen only to that flavor they approve. 
     I saw CNN's Jeff Zucker mealymouth an answer about needing to do a better job. Ya, think so?  They spent much of the summer showing an empty podium with a clock counting down until the candidate who was shouting insults to races, religions and sexes took center stage. 
     It's time for the media to grow up and realize it's not about them and their addiction to hype, it's about reality, history in the making. A place to start is to look at their own archives and history, a kind of "back to the future." Election coverage was once sober, intelligent, issue focused. The last few cycles have been more about the horse race and personality and look at what our choices were.
     Users, even some of you gentle readers, get out of the echo chamber! Watch, listen to, read and consume a wider and even conflicting stream of information. The little visual at the top of the post is simply to suggest that beyond television and radio there are an infinite number of places once can find information. The internet is home to many real news sites, as well as those that are fake or fronts. There are many magazines and journals, research reports from think tanks and universities, and a multitude of newspapers and newsletters and pod casts. If you are paying attention to only one or two sources you are under informed. If you watch only a network that represents your take, you are not informed.
      There is no "post-truth." If it is not true, it is a deception!
   See you down the trail.

Monday, November 14, 2016

SLO Vibes and A Time to "Know"

     The annual Monarch migration gets us moving south to Pismo Beach.
    We were lucky to spot a couple of the beauties in individual profiles.
   A zoom catches them in clusters.

    Spotting scopes provide a close up look.

 Photo through scope by Katherine Cochrun

   After the butterfly viewing the beach is a great stop.

   A look in at Avila is always a great scene
    As is picturesque Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo
   Spotted in downtown SLO, a new experience in barber shops.

quieting the disquieting 
     The President-elect is getting positive response to his interview on CBS's 60 Minutes. Gone was the bombast and shrill and in its place was a subdued and even more pensive man.
     He is backing away from several things he preached on the campaign trail. He reflected on the good chemistry he and President Obama established, was emphatic in saying he "did not want to hurt" Hillary Clinton, acknowledged his part of a nasty campaign and said his "life has changed" and is now about something "more important than anything he has done" before.
     On hearing reports of incidents inspired by things he said he looked into the camera directly and told his supporters to stop it. But he's drawing severe criticism for appointing his campaign executive Steve Bannon to be an advisor. Bannon is the mogul at Breitbart, the right wing source of white supremacist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and hate articles. It is a cluster point for the worst of the domestic terror groups.
     Teachers and principals in several schools across the country report incidents since last Tuesday. A 10 year old girl was grabbed on the vagina by a boy who said he could do it "because the president did." In Royal Oak Michigan middle school students began chanting "Build a Wall, Build a Wall."
In Woodland Hills California a Muslim girl's head scarf was ripped off by a boy who called her a "towel head" and said she should be deported. White students called black students "cotton pickers." There has been rash of similar reports coast to coast.

An Episcopal Church in Brown County Indiana
 vandalized this weekend

a baseball diamond in Wellsville New York
vandalized this week

     Horrible things were said in the last year and some of his comments drew alt right extremists out of the shadows. He can't take back the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric but in the 60 Minutes interview it seemed he was sincere in telling those responsible for the reprehensible incidents to knock it off. The Bannon appointment is a kind of political payoff, but it was a bad move and seems in defiance to his promise to govern for all.
     He told 60 Minutes those thousands who have taken to the streets to protest his election should give him a chance. He said they don't really "know him."
     We are about to learn a lot more and so is he.

     See you down the trail.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


     Following years of drought and opportunistic blight, trees on the California coast struggle for life. The battle is set against historically warming trends and other climatic and environmental changes.
      There is symmetry in that and this post election America. A winner has emerged, a loser has conceded and the sitting President offers assistance in transition. The American system proceeds, as it has. This time the campaign ends with a nation wherein more than half of voting Americans lost. That statistic also reveals more people voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump. Add the other candidate's totals and Trump is indeed a minority President. But Trump won the electoral college and so will take the oath of office in January.
       He confronts a divided nation. He promises to govern for all. We will see. 
      Many of those who voted for him did so because they believe, "Washington is broken...Congress does not work...there is a double standard where in elected representatives are part of an elite with special privileges..." I submit the record shows they are correct.
       In exit polls and interviews many of his voters voiced concern about changes in America; immigration changing our complexion and demographic, loss of jobs, trade deals with fall out for working Americans while bankers and investors grow more wealthy, and many believe government did not hear or care about them.

       They found their champion, improbable and unlikely as the Republican party thought and for that matter the majority of voting Americans and they elected him. In this divided and tumultuous time there are truths and questions that will be explored.
questions for history
     Which Trump will emerge? The liberal Democrat power broker or the man who switched to the Republican party in 2012?
       The wild carnival barker style campaigner or the candidate who read a teleprompter and stayed on focus?
       What influence will daughter Ivanka have on his policy formulation and court nominees, especially on justices' attitude about Roe v Wade and other women's health and privacy issues?
       What role will Stephen Bannon the alt-right godfather and Brietbart mogul have? This is important to all America because an ugly truth about the Trump movement is that it was also a place where the worst of America found a home.
The KKK, racists, anti Semites, openly misogynistic and crude men and domestic terrorists are part of his minority base of voters. People of color especially, but all Americans have reason to wonder how this part of the Trump movement will influence the administration.
      How vigorously will the fraud lawsuits and sexual assault cases, allegations and charges be pursued? Will these be his Lewinsky or e-mail server millstones? 
      Will the Democratic leadership serve notice on Trump as Republicans McConnell and Boehner did on Obama, at the start, promising to prevent his re-election and blocking legislation or court nominees?
      What role will the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic party play in legislative advances and battle?
      Will we see a major role for Chris Christy and Rudolph Giuliani and what will that do for the idea of "governing for all?"
      How will he "bring jobs" back to America? Let me be flip for a moment and ask, will he start with his own businesses-suits, ties, shirts, etc, now manufactured abroad?
     How will he resolve his considerable debt to Chinese and Russian interests? What role will the Senate or other federal agencies have in monitoring his considerable international business interests. America has never faced this quandary before.
      Will the Fox network pick at the Trump business matters and sexual allegations as they went after Hillary Clinton?
     How will traditional Republicans, including major figures who refused to endorse or vote for him, respond to his ideas?
     Is Donald Trump the new Republican Party?
     How much influence will Mike Pence have? Pence says he is a Christian first and then a conservative and Republican. That attitude had him on the outs in his conservative Indiana. He was on his way to being defeated before Trump plucked him. This is the man who disregarded the advice of college presidents, religious leaders, international corporate ceo's, professional sports franchises and retail executives because his faith came first, though he later back peddled. Will Trump favor reason over Pence's faith?
     Several months ago a conservative Republican friend who emigrated here years ago and established a successful life in America called Donald Trump a "Trojan Horse," not a true conservative, not a real republican. Is he? Who is the real Donald Trump?
     Questions do indeed abound?
    I don't often quote Newt Gingrich, but he told someone that to understand Donald Trump you need to look at Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and PT Barnum.
    Jackson was a founder of the Democratic party, a populist, a controversial figure, he had a notorious temper, he said men needed to "control" their wives, he provoked the "petticoat" affair that dominated much of his early administration, he developed the Indian removal practice, forcing native citizens off their land.
    TR was of course the wealthy Republican and strong individualist who angered his own party when he went after big business and engaged in trust busting that led to business regulations. Roosevelt was a leader in the Progressive movement.
    PT Barnum was of course the politician, showman and hustler who coined the phrase "There is a sucker born every minute."
    Gentle reader please recall this comparison by Gingrich was meant to explain who Donald Trump is.
     Who indeed?

    See you down the trail.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Going Coastal

Fall on the Cambria coast

the coastal ice plant is wearing its fall colors

the fat lady may not sing
     From the blogosphere to the mainstream media there have been collective sighs that our electoral night mare is about over. Don't pop the champaign corks yet.
     As someone who has loved politics since I crashed state conventions in high school and as someone who was paid to pay attention to the whole business, I will share an 11th hour thought. Buckle up and hold on.
     This Presidential election is evidence of how broken and fallen is our body politic. I love public policy and our democratic republic. I am a realist and a pragmatist, but when our American Idealism is as trashed as it is, we are off course and in deep water.
     Wouldn't it be nice to think that after Tuesday night both sides will bury the hatchet and begin focusing on making these states United again. 
      Should Trump win do you think Democrats in the Senate and House will stand by and watch him begin a mass deportation, nominate judges committed to rolling back Roe vs. Wade, flip off NATO partners, build a wall or let the many law suits and allegations against him from fraud to sexual assault just go away. Or do you think if Clinton wins the knuckleheads of the Liberty caucus will suddenly believe in the federal government, or will let her e-mail server go away. 
     Trump is riding a wave of anger and frustration, just as Bernie Sanders was. But aside from those angry and frustrated citizens, Trump has the support of overt racists, white supremacists, anti Semitic and anti Muslim extremists, misogynists and anti government terrorists. Perhaps the angry and frustrated will accept the election results, but that portion of the Trump voters who are the anti social, dangerous, criminals they are will not likely slither back to the rocks from whence they emerged when Trump unleashed the vulgar and hate filled political demons. He has energized them and even given them legitimacy. His top advisor is an alt-right godfather. His pandering took this nation into a dangerous place and created a shroud of hate that will hang over this nation until the haters, the real haters, are dealt with.
     The 2016 election is a low point in American history. We are broken and morally bankrupt. We need heavy doses of vision, idealism, compassion and healing. Who is up for that?
      See you down the trail.