Wednesday, August 30, 2017


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/
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


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


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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Gloaming at the shore
Cambria CA

twilight of reason
     Holding the current escalation in mind, remember these words from one year ago. 
        "We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history." 
        Last August some 50 Republican national security, foreign policy, intelligence and diplomatic experts who worked for Republican Presidents from Nixon to George W. Bush issued a position paper stating why they would not vote for the Republican nominee Trump.
         Here are some of their thoughts.
         "From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.

        "Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President."

            "Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President."

            "He lacks self-control and acts impetuously."

           "All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander- in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal."

       These men were "the real deal." They are experienced in the real world. They are deep and thoughtful. Republicans too. Astounding that members of the House, Senate did not or have not paid them a bit of attention.

        You can read the entire statement and see credential of the signatories here. I urge you to do so, especially if you were/are a trump supporter.

a gathering fog

    In this dry, tinder like season we love to see the marine fog bank beginning to line up.
     The heavy bank whispers in and shrouds the central coast over night, providing a welcomed dampening cool.
        Political foggery is less welcome.

the pence aperient
      I first met Mike Pence when he was a small town radio talk jock and failed congressional candidate. Someplace in his evolution from Irish Democrat to right wing evangelical he decided he wanted to be President. Mike is running now, despite what he says publicly. Just as he seems programed to be piously smug, he is programmed to run.
      He and his people have been making the rounds of heavy contributors and GOP apparatchiks. Before he was sacked Anthony Scaramucci let it slip that's what was up, especially with recent staff changes. 
      Pence is a curious fixture on the scene. After a tour as a member of congress he went back to Indiana to run for governor to bolster his presidential ambitions. He followed the skilled Mitch Daniels and should have just followed in the wake, instead he mucked it up so badly his own party was considering dumping him in the re-election campaign, but that's when the sig rune Schutstaffel lighting bolt named trump struck.
      A bit of advice Mike, stay as far away from Trump and Trumpista thought as you can. If you want to prove your testicles are still in place cut out the "fake news"  and "America first" garbage.  And by all means quit fawning over and paying homage to a serial adulterer, sexual predator, habitual liar, narcissistic, real estate hustler. 
      Even as far out of the mainstream that some of your ideas are, your temperament at least would be a change for the better. Watch yourself, you just may get your dream.

google goobering
    I read James Damore's Google's Ideological Echo Chamber-that's the memo that got him fired.You can read it for yourself, here. It's the latest wrinkle in a trouble of our time.
    Close to the core of the matter is the issue of freedom of speech and thought. We are having trouble with that now.
     In the Atlantic cover story and his new book How America Went Haywire, Kurt Anderson lays much of the blame on the free speech and free thought movement of the 1960's. To simplify Anderson's interesting thoughts, the trump movement and other far right elements, have appropriated the 1960's arguments, tactics and "approval" of things alternative-"you do your thing, I'll do mine," "everything's cool." 
     As Anderson and others including this blogger have noted,  Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it well
     "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."  He said that a long time ago and fearfully we live at a time when people claim their own facts.
       I'm not convinced the root of that was the unhinging of things in the 1960's, but it no doubt contributed and the echoes continue to resound. "Fake News" is only a symptom. Ditto Damore's Google memo.
      Damore professes to be open, believing in diversity, and agrees that sexism exists. He tries to ride through the eye of a needle and question what he sees as cultural and intellectual deficits at Google. He perceived a bias. For that he is accused of sexism, and he gets fired. 
      After reading Damore's memo several times I think he was trying to generate discussion in a knee jerk hyper sensitive culture that permits such alleged "indiscretions" where words are ruled to make people "uncomfortable" or "feel assaulted." It is the age of "micro aggressions!"
      Damore, or anyone who tries to raise these topics such as bias, discrimination, revisionism or any of the isms or to seek an examination of values is likely to get his or her head handed to them. I come away thinking he was indeed trying to provoke thought and discussion in a corporate culture.
      But at the same time he asserted ideas and "facts" about sexual and gender differences that in my opinion were too broad, overly arching and beyond his expertise. Had I been his editor, I would have challenged him. But we just don't have many editors anymore, anywhere. That is especially true in trying to divine the line between what we think or believe and what is reality. I understand how some of Damore's "certainty" about women was offensive or could be construed to be that way. 
      I grew up in a newsroom-profane and profound-loud and argumentative, collaborative and demanding,verification and confirmation were foundational. Nothing was sacred, nothing was off limits and even as "tough" as that culture was it allowed for true intellectual wrestling and it revered facts. "Truth" was an ideal and the only way to approximate it was to allow everyone to say their piece, take their shots, do their research, state the facts and if something was still left standing, then maybe someone would say, let's go with that. 
       It might be time to leave feelings (and guns) at the door and make sure we don't call opinion, theory, or belief a fact or a reality and then we could re engage this nation in conversation and debate. Of course having an open mind would be helpful.  Know where you can find any?

      See you down the trail   

Monday, August 7, 2017


   Reminded me of a Sci-fi thriller. Transformer vs Fish Cloud.
     It was an odd and solitary cloud. Please note-I was not the odd and solitary shopper at the big box parking lot to pause and snap a shot, there were others taking note as well. 
       At first glance we thought it was a stuffed animal put atop the ledge at the Vets Hall on Farmer's market Friday.
        No, he was the real deal and seems to wish I'd get out of the way so he can keep an eye on his companion, busy at the market. 

screwing our veterans
      More than 700 veterans, family members and former employees of a Halliburton subsidiary were kicked in the teeth by a federal judge who dismissed a major lawsuit against the defense contractor over burn pit operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
        The Vets alleged the burn pits caused them chronic and deadly respiratory diseases and cancer. 
        Patricia Kime of McClatchy news reports US District Court Judge Roger Titus wrote that the company, KBR, could not be held liable for a military decision. The judge said he didn't have jurisdiction to hold the Pentagon responsible. 
         The suit had tied together cases across the US and included 63 specific complaints and 44 national class action suits.
        KBR operated the burn pits running them near where troops lived and worked. Allegedly KBR burned stuff that should not have been put in the pits; paint, batteries, computers, fuel, plastic, medical waste. 
       Plaintiffs report a range of diseases resulting from exposure, including life threatening conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological issues, cancer and constrictive bronchiolitis. 
       The judge said KBR was just following orders and that it was a military matter.  Victims and family members are furious. 
       It is pretty much par for the course. We put men and women in harms way, sometimes even greater jeopardy because of poor command decisions, and then we leave vets holding the bag. Combine that with the Inspector General's finding of wholesale fraud and waste in both wars-in the Billions, and you are left with corporations that made huge war profits, bonuses for executives and our loyal troops sick and dying and no one is held responsible. 
      It is important to recall that many of these war contracts were no bid deals, engineered by Dick Cheney for his Halliburton and KBR pals.
      It's a damned shame we don't better respect, honor and treat those who serve. It is a continuing stain in our history, but so too is war profiteering. Has been ever such. Another of many reasons war is indeed, hell.
      Maybe the Republican majority in Congress and the Republican president will come to the aid of the distressed vets of Iraq and Afghanistan. What's to stop them?   

     See you down the trail.