Monday, February 27, 2017


    Perplexing matters are just ahead but first we marvel. 
    You are looking at snow, an extraordinarily uncommon sight here on California's central coast.
    In northern San Luis Obispo County the Santa Lucia mountains run from about 1,700 to 3,700 feet though they get taller as they climb toward Big Sur. We are a Mediterranean climate and snow is rare.
     By standards practically anywhere else this is not a lot of snow and they pale as snow capped peaks, but they were a shock to the system as I gazed out of the window while sipping coffee. 

     The jolt was more incongruous since these are the scenes we've been viewing since the rain has abated.
     Bee boxes so they and the birds can do their spring magic.
      Grazing slopes with an abundance of grazing material.
    The snow was gone by late morning and a warming trend is expected.
      Who to feel the most sorry for-The Moonlight crew, La La Land's happy and celebrating crowd or Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway?
       Oscar history there. You can imagine the conversation over the production crews ear phones, or in the network offices, or the ATAS office. What a header and plummet of emotion on one hand and bizarre ascension to the top on the other. Maybe the Russians hacked something!

Stooge Patrol
      Donald Trump and his minions should know their obituaries will be written by journalists. 
      The game the White House is playing with restricting access is foolish. But it is also the sort of thing dictators, strong men thugs and Russians do. Combined with his childish "fake news" retorts and his labeling the free press an "enemy of the people" it is also a jab in the eye of a free and open democratic republic. As we have noted "enemy of the people" is an old Russian communist tool designed to silence free thought. 
      Over the weekend I was published on the New York Times on line site raising the concern that Trump treats his followers as a movement and they respond as such, getting further out of the mainstream of American political behavior and history. They disregard the truth, are willingly mesmerized by a con man and ignore the unprecedented amateurism, missteps and blunders. One could question if they and Trump are not the true "enemies of the people."
    This photo of Stephen Miller has been discussed and dissected for several days now. The photo is real, but there is disagreement about whether he is throwing the white power salute sign or is simply fiddling with his coat while doing a television interview. 
      People who know him say he's off the deep end and has been for years. They sight his odd political thoughts while in college and his behavior since. His recent statements have convinced many he's a fascist and white nationalist. He's part of the Bannon gang. What do you think?

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


     It is a difficult challenge that confronts all of us. In a time of intemperance, anger and hyperbole how can we remain civil?
     How do you disapprove, disagree and dislike attitudes and beliefs of friends and associates but not disrespect them?
     The old adage about avoiding religion, politics and sex never took with me. We have brains and spirit, passion and thoughts and we'd never fully engage our humanity if we did not exercise, fully exercise, our intellect and freely explore thought and especially those boundaries between us.
     The challenge, it seems, is to probe those lines of demarcation, so as to understand and learn, but do so in a way that does not threaten. And perhaps that is a flash point, threatening. It is difficult to watch and listen to an attitude or policy that seems anathema to those ideas and values one holds most dear. But, how to respond? I suspect this will be a growing challenge.
into storms?

into light?

    My father Karl was also my best friend. I was particularly blessed that way. 
    A WWII combat veteran, political activist, competitive athlete, church officer, humanitarian, believer in human dignity and full human rights, he reared my brothers and me with the toughness of the drill instructor he had been but also with love and a liberal dosage of wisdom. A quote I grew up with was "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."
    Nothing was off limits in our dinner table conversations and they were lively. My parents often had guests in the home who held different views and politics. There were disagreements, but they were civil and often my dad would inject that quote. 
     By the way dad would frequently say "... as attributed to Voltaire..." I asked him once why he said that. He said it was what Voltaire thought but there was a question about whether he said it in those words specifically.  On later research it appears it was a summary of Voltaire's thinking and written as such by historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her book The Friends of Voltaire. She also wrote The Life of Voltaire. The wisdom and capacity of the philosophy is none-the-less a fundamental principal of a civil society.

      In the last analysis it's all a matter of where we stand as to how we see things.

  green extension  

   The magic green carpet of California's Central Coast extends into wine country as well.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, February 20, 2017

For the Birds- Wrong Words-and New Trump Therapy

    As we learn, life is a series of trade offs.
     Drought ending soakings may lead to slides, closings and road collapses.
 (Santa Rosa Creek Rd-Cambria down to one lane here-washed out further east)
There is flooding, downed trees and leaks, but as the water tables rise we see new sights.
     The Egret population swelled as creeks have become ponds...
       Gulls seem in perpetual frenzy in wind whipped waves and over flowing stream entry to the Pacific...

    Some days it's easy to say life is for the birds

and some days are for anger management
     Before we go any further history calls on "enemy of the people."
    The Roman Senate called emperor Nero an enemy of the public in 68AD. That is probably its first use. It has a sinister and bloody history.
     Maximilien Robespierre, a leader in the French Reign of Terror (think A Tale of Two Cities) said the enemy of the people is "owed nothing but death." That was in 1795.
     Vladimir Lenin used the phrase in 1917 after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the founding of the Communist Party. He paid tribute to Robespierre who engineered a radical "purification" of politics by killing enemies. 
      Stalin and Hitler used the phrase in persecuting and killing their enemies.
      Chinese Communist leader Mao used the term in identifying those he sought to eliminate. 
      More recently the term has been used by thug dictators and strongmen in repressive regimes and governments. No one with integrity uses the phrase, no one you can trust.
      It has become Donald Trump's new favorite.
      Classless or clueless? Deplorable in either case. A warning?
                                political karma

     Ponder now a bit of an ethical conundrum. There are some, many probably, who were not so much for anyone as seriously opposed to someone for reasons that have become obvious.
    Presently they are challenged not to say, "We told you so." It is also in poor taste to take delight in seeing this administration, explode, implode or self destruct while the bossman looks so untethered from reality as to almost earn pity were it not for the cockiness. He's got the bravado of an eighth grade drop out bully who became the insufferable bar room drunk.
    It is probably not noble to take pleasure in knowing how absolutely miserable he must be-being vilified, a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, as his approval ratings plummet to historic lows for a new POTUS. Hard times for a man of his immense ego, obsessing as he does about ratings. Don't you imagine it is crushing when his lies are challenged by reporters bearing facts-not the alternative kind-on live television. Do you think he believes himself?
     He's probably never been in a situation where an underling says "sorry boss, that's not so" or "no that wasn't just wonderful, it bombed!"  Old Washington hand Ed Rollins says that's what he needs--someone to say "your wrong...that's not true..."  Rollins, who worked with Reagan and Bush, said he had hopes for Trump. Scandal, firings, rejections, investigations, leaks from his own staff, the national security and intelligence community refusing to fully brief him and calling him unfit have created a rumpus that could signal the beginning of a crisis of government. 
      The world community doesn't know what to make of it, wondering if America has lost its mind, how did that amateur take over? Putin is said to be pleased. After rigging the election he sees America distracted and loosing confidence in it's leadership. That gives him room and opportunity.
     The investigations are needed to understand and clarify the nature of the Trump relationship with the Russian intrusion. 
     While it may be poetic justice, seeing people being chewed up by their own incompetence, it is also worrisome because he's still in charge. His attack on the media-"the enemy of the people" truly is straight out of the playbook of dictators. It was also the first stage of rolling back a free press and empowering "State Media"  by a thug named Putin. Hmmmm! 
      But for the time being it's a bit like seeing that loud mouth bully get his clock cleaned.

     As we've been noting---uncertain times and terrain.

    See you down the trail.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Making Love and Making War & Goodbye Donald?

    The dramas of humankind, in high season these days, are always put into perspective when juxtaposed to the enduring beauty and power of the nature around us.
   Friend and former colleague John Stanley captured the scene of the coast and evidence of the Sierra snow cover on his recent visit.
   Seeing these help us shove aside the carnival in Washington and remind us life is a longer stride than temporary folly. We turn to that folly in a moment but first-

making love
the season has come
   Most the young elephant seals have arrived...mothers are ending the six weeks of feeding and that means mating season is underway
   above, one of the reigning bulls, snoozes while surrounded by some of his harem that he serially mounts and mates until nature's course is set
   here a young pup is about to become a weaner--mother is about to shut off the food supply so she is "eligible" for becoming pregnant again...the little one hopefully gained enough milk-like a mayonnaise in consistency-in six weeks of feeding to survive its next challenges.  first they must learn to swim and after a while follow nature's gps, in their DNA, to a hunting ground up north. males go up to Alaska, females go up to northern Canada. Once mother cuts off the food she has nothing to do with the weaner. they are on their own, guided only by forces of nature to learn and live.

is the trumpster bound for the dumpster?

   Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the improbable Trump Presidency?
    Crazy for asking you might think? Well, serious people with long runs in Washington have begun to look at the Russian connection business with a framing perspective of Watergate. They began to ask that famous question of Watergate "what did the President know and when did he know it?
    Members of the government began to use the words "treason." Congress has opened investigations, even the Senate's majority leader McConnell shows evidence his testicles have finally dropped. 
     There have been leaks from the White House, from the intelligence community, from the Republican party. There is division among White House staffers. Cabinet members are saying one thing and the trumpster is saying something else.
     Old hands around Washington say this administration has been a train wreck and it hasn't even been a month.
     What has happened? Precisely what intelligent people warned - A man with no sense of history, no government experience, who lies habitually, with the character of a mongrel thief and sexual predator, a malignant narcissist, who does not read, who watches television incessantly, who is obsessed about his own ratings is now discovered to be totally over his head, out of element, ineffective, without a clue. What did we expect?
     As this historic unraveling occurs and as the vulgarian himself senses the tides are against him he responds with the news conference today that further confirms-this guy is trouble, is in deep trouble and means more trouble.
     Caught in more lies today, ranting about the media, obsessing with his own image, fixated on the election-which someone should tell him is over-he was trying again to divert attention from a list of liabilities, fault lines and a crumbling administration. World media has almost universally regarded the strange show as that, a very strange showing by a very strange President, in trouble. Divert as he may have tried, this Russian connection will not go away.
      His rants at CNN or his reliance on accusing the media of fake news, while he continues to lie, mixed with his incompetence, his acting as though being President is really just another reality tv show is rising to the level of an absurdest Shakespearean tragic comedy without peer. The sad thing however is he is still the President.
      How quickly will true Republicans begin to flee the stench? How will our professional corp of diplomats and statesmen keep some semblance of stability? When will those who cast their votes for this "change" realize they squandered their franchise on a certified loony?
      Those of us out here in the country can see the signs of a manic collapse. But pity those who work in government. Professionals in Washington are beginning to think and act in ways that are without precedent-at least since a lying Republican President  Nixon was undone. 
     This Russian concern-his bromance with Putin, his refusal to condone sanctions-that are justified and legal-the Flynn overtures, his own business entanglements-the MI 6 dossier-the Russian hack and manipulation of the election and who knows what else may not be the straw that breaks the camel's back, but several levels of serious investigation are under way.  A ranting, raving, lying campaign rally style news conference is not enough to divert attention. No amount of Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer's lies and diversions will turn it back. There is more to come. Professionals are working on it. There may be no smoking gun. Still, when you are less than a month into a rigged election the mind shudders at what else may come to pass. 
      Analyst Frank Rich, New York Magazine and former New York Times author said
        "But Trump is no Nixon: He doesn’t possess the brains, the discipline, the decades of experience of political and governmental combat, or the laser-focused Machiavellian cunning to sustain a Watergate-style cover-up."
        And always, always there is the need to watch his business intertwining. Did you notice that since he became President, the membership fees at his Florida spa have doubled to $200 thousand a year? Don't you imagine though he will donate those increased funds to the coal miners whose homes were foreclosed on by his appointees Mnuchin and Ross-the predatory default kings, part of his "swamp drain." 
       In the meantime wouldn't it be nice to impose a kind of buyers remorse clause in our electoral process. After a certain trial period we could throw the idiot out. Like an annulment. He makes you pine for the days of stockades, locks and dunking. Maybe we could raise funds for those coal miners and auto workers by allowing citizens to serially water board the liar. As he might say, "it's effective, really, really effective. I know. I know better than anyone. It's a fine thing, really fine."

         Now look out a window or take a walk, breath deeply and know this too shall pass. And we can hope soon so we can invoke another Watergate phrase "The American nightmare is over."

         See you down the trail. 

Monday, February 13, 2017


   Time and energy is spent, being angry, worrying about being angry, getting active or worrying about getting active. We'll get to that, but first a deep breath and a quick road trip to clear the head.

 To Californians who have suffered 5 years of drought, green is a precious color and soothing. Please indulge these few frames from scenic Highway 46, the Green Valley Road. 
    In the early days it was a dirt mountain trail. Paved in the 1930s, it was a connecter from the Pacific Coast east to Paso Robles. The modern highway was built in 1970.
   The connection with Highway 1, aka Pacific Coast Highway, is 1 mile southeast of Cambria and about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, visible from the crest over the Santa Lucia Mountains coastal range. 
     We drive the highway all the time and never tire of its beauty, even more spectacular in the green season.

    As along Highway 1 and the 101 there are patches of the old roads and stage coach trails still visible.
   It is hard to be angry when absorbing the beauty, or when breathing deeply. 
    Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese monk, wrote Living Buddha Living Christ and tells of an easy deep breathing exercise that anyone can do. Sit quietly, still your mind and breathe in, thinking only about your breath and then exhale while smiling. Repeat the action a few times. You will find yourself relaxed, feeling better and less angry. If you wish to go deeper, begin with the deep breath and smiling exhale, then breath in again thinking only about the moment of your breath and then exhale thinking about how lovely the moment is. It is an ancient and healthy technique. It can't hurt you, but anger can!
    It is like an epidemic and in conversation everywhere. I've been surprised at how angry so many of us are, present company included. We understand why and in that is a modicum of strength. So many millions of American livid about the political reality and the man who is the toxic pathology of it. It is an historic revulsion and as in medical diagnosis it is a symptom of something ill in the body. In this case the body politic is reacting and warning us. 
    Unprecedented in our lives. The closest thing we may recall, those of us of certain age, were the mass movements of the civil rights era and the struggle to end the Vietnam war. For younger Americans there was the brief flicker of the Occupy movement. 
    It has been a while since so many have been so politically active-writing letters, e-mails, making calls, going to huddles, talking about direct actions and marching. It is a season of caring and politics and we should take care to remain focused.

     Bravo to Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live. As the American political horror show has progressed, McKinnon has made us laugh with cunning craft, skill and a rapier comedic genius.
      The 33 year old Columbia grad did a "spot-on" Hillary Clinton. But since the debacle she has done masterful take downs of Kellyanne Conway, destined to be hall of fame bits. 
      Just this last week she did another lethal job on Conway, turning her into a Fatal Attraction parody of Glen Close as a crazed stalker going after CNN's Jake Tapper. She also played the Attorney General Jefferson Sessions and just to show she can inflict bipartisan comedy, McKinnon did a number embodying Elizabeth Warren's zeal all in one show. She is an extraordinary talent and that talent is helping millions of Americans laugh and that is especially good.  

  See you down the trail.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


    Life is verdant on the California central coast and in a year that was not supposed to deliver much rain. 
     The Phillippi gauge anchored in a raised garden bed has captured 31.13 inches here on the ridge. Thoughts of the years of drought have been soaked in 24 rain events thus far.
    This is most rain since the 2010-2011 rain season that produced 37 inches. A deeper dive into the wonderful wet after first giving attention to caring for the young ones.
about the next generation
 photo by John Stanley
elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas
 photo by John Stanely
sea otter family in Morro Bay
  photo by John Stanley

so, what do we tell the kids
about this man?

    What do I say to my grand daughter? I'm lucky I've got time to ponder this, she is one. But what do parents and grandparents say about a man who behaves like a loutish delinquent? 
  • How do we teach honesty when the President is a serial liar? 
  • How do discourage bullying when this man verbally abuses others, mocking even those with challenges? 
  • What do we say about appropriate behavior when the President is a sexual predator? 
  • How do we stress the importance of education when this man says he does not read and demonstrates time and time again he doesn't know history? 
  • How do we explain that despite knowing this, some thought he was worthy of the nation's highest job?  
  • How do we tell our children the President is not a role model and that he represents the worst of human behavior?
  • How do we explain our Democratic Republic to them when a man who the majority of people voted against is undertaking policies the majority does not approve?

    Have you wondered how this man will affect personal behavior as well as history?

trump truth or lie

"I comprehend things better than just about anybody"
President Trump

Did he say that?
Do you believe it ?

Well, he said it.  

    Fascinating to note that Judge Grouch can be offended by the man who would make him a supreme court justice. "Disheartening and demoralizing" he said of Trump's attack on the judiciary.  When was the last time a nominated Supreme spoke ill of the Chief Executive? Yes, these are historic times. 

but we breath deeply and focus
    the air is rich and sweet as this part of the nation appreciates the abundance of rain and renewal.
     Yes, there have been slides and road closures. That comes with living on a shelf between the Pacific and the Santa Lucia mountains
   but water tables are recovering from years of drought and  mountains, hills, grazing slopes and gardens offer a green so rich as to dazzle
     and many of us save, conserve and simply appreciate a precious resource.
    February and March can be heavy months in our rainy season. The 37 inches that fell in 2010-2011 came in 43 rain events. 21 of those events happened from February to June, 8 in March alone. At this early February juncture our 31 inches may yet grow.

    See you down the trail.