Thursday, August 30, 2018

Road Weary-Melancholy-Disconnects

   Take off on a cross country flight

    There was a time when I lived a lot of my life at 30 thousand feet. Now it seems an intrusion into what I'm trying to claim as sanity. But I thought the scene above was sweet.
    Not so sweet is the endless litany of phone conversations the rest of us are forced to hear. If I were a corporate spy there were several breaches available, because the guy or the gal with-in ear shot was saying stuff that should not have been overheard, proprietary and even financial information that should be secured.  
   To my ears, even worse are the personal conversations. America is sounding like bad reality television.
    I told Lana, I'm glad my road warrior days are over. I don't have it in me anymore. 
    I felt bad for the guy, only a few years my junior, who had strung his charger under the bar while he jockeyed calls, shifting appointments, and booking new flights as plans derailed because of flight delays and missed connections. Life in a house of cards! 
    I had been up at 3:30 and now half way across the country it was 7:00A and I was squeezed in between him and the breakfast burrito eating, email writing, bearded young man on the next stool. I told the waitress I wanted scrambled eggs and hot water for my tea. 
     "Are you drinking your breakfast?" she said to the flight shifter to my right, sipping his beer. 
     "You got it," he sighed, fingers back on the phone with background photos of who I presumed were his grown son and daughter. 
     A sorry scene. No way to live. 
     A note to those of you who are out there every day, lower the volume of the calls, please.

melancholy ranch 

      Out in Los Osos is an island of the past. The last acres of an old ranch surrounded by neighborhoods that seem to pay no heed to the life and industry that once happened there. It too will probably go the way of development. 
    I couldn't help but wonder about the lives that were lived here, the work that was done, the incidents that were once vital.
       This is what is left of a history that, like the buildings, is dilapidated, and falling apart. I wonder about those stories we'll never hear.  

the disconnects
     Could be wrong about this, but I'm getting the sense a lot of people are not paying attention to our national tragedy or they are so stuck in their silo of bias and belief they refuse to see the truth. That and those who are sickened by the reality are suffering a fatigue. 
      And there are other disconnects. A friend who does international business opened the door on a situation that has not percolated to the top of the news services. Since the administration has begun trade warring, this friend's business world has gotten aggressively prickly.
      Mexican officials refuse to release product until he fills out a flurry of new forms, in Spanish. Asian clients are asking for a new invoicing system that spreads out cost to keep under a new maximum cap, so they can avoid being charged a fee. Wire transfer payments are suddenly more expensive, nations are asking for additional paperwork and execution fees and on and on.
      He's been in this line of business for more than 20 years and this is all new stuff.  Hassles, harassment, retribution. My friend said the US State Department and the USDA Foreign Agricultural service have spent years of negotiations and making agreements that clear the way and empower the export of US products. And all of that is coming undone, because of the occupant of the White House, who has not a clue about how intricate and complex the world is.
   "There are none so blind as those who will not see"
in other words
"Understanding cannot be forced on those who choose to be ignorant"

   There is a lot of that, a dangerous amount, going around these days.

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

...When Rights are Essential...When Wrong is evil...

shore sculpture at Morro Bay

     the pause

   A breather and a contemplation. Tucked into our complex lives is the need for moments to just look, appreciate and breath deeply. Some of you regular readers are facing health issues and please know our thoughts are with you.
    Our thoughts are also with others and we get into that below.

          But first, have you seen the hair cut sported by an artichoke that goes to seed?  We've enjoyed several "farmed" in Lana's raised growing bed. She decided to let the last one go to seed, to see what it looks like. Kinda of punk eh?

right is essential
     When I hear someone start off about media bias I can't help but think about people I know. There was Al Schultz the editor of my boyhood hometown paper. Al was a neighbor, his kids were my friends and he and his wife were friends with my parents. He worked at night putting out a morning paper so he wasn't always there when other dads were playing catch or grilling out. Even as a kid I knew he was smart, well read, knew history and was traveled. But we could all tell it was hard work and it took its toll. It was hard on the family when he broke a story about abuse in the jail.
      I think about the cast of characters that populated the smoky din of the Times City room when I was lucky to enter that special world as a stringer and copy boy while in high school. Men and women racing deadlines, clacking at typewriters, while line-o-type machines cast hot lead columns and huge presses rolled and rumbled on the floors below.
     Or my college buddies Toby and Dave who covered the police beat for the city paper in my college town while I did the same thing for a radio station. Or the friends who spent hours working to publish the college newspaper.
      I think about guys like Joe Gelarden, Bill Anderson, Tom Keating, Dick Cady, Harley Bierce, Mac Trusnick, Paul Bird, Bob Bell, Mike Tarpey, Ed Zeigner, Wendell Phillippi, Bob Mooney, Pat Traub, Lyle and David Manweiller, Robin Miller, Zach Duncan, Gerry Lafollette, RK Schull, Howard Smulevitz ink stained retches from the Star or News who were friends but competitors covering government, crime and the people of a major city.
     I think of broken plans, cancelled vacations, ruined days off, interrupted dinners, when called out to a plane crash, train derailment, hazardous material spill, homicide, fire, prison riot, the finding of a drowned child, a late night school board meeting, a run over legislative hearing, a citizens group meeting, meeting a source, pouring over documents, reading science reports.
     I think about Bruce Taylor, Will Murphy, Fred Heckman, Bob Hoover, Bob Campbell, Ben Strout, Steve Starnes, Anne Ryder, Teresa Wells, John Stanley, Kevin Finch, Stacy Conrad, Leslie Olsen, Mary McDermott, David Macanally, Rich Van Wyk, John Whalen, Bill Ditton, Steve Sweitzer, Marlee Gintner, Karen Grau, Pat Costello, Randal Stanley, Pam Vaught, Marilyn Schultz, Neal Moore and many others who saw the work as more than just a job. 
     I think of Bob Collins sitting at the bar at the press club a brilliant writer destroying his body. I remember Jep Cadou, Carolyn Pickering, Hortense Meyers, Ed Stattman. I think of the late night drinks of people who devoted their lives to information while missing family or ruining marriages. 
    In fact there are thousands of scenes I can conjure from lifting a body from a burning plane, to waiting for cops to identify a victim, or waiting in statuary hall for a senator or congressman to appear or sitting through long hearings and trials or riding with cops or embedding with military, or talking with people for hours on end to understand their point of view, or hearing parents weep about the abuse of a child, or rage in anger at how a bank foreclosed on a home and on and on. It takes something of yourself to listen,to wait, to care, to study, to ponder, to dig, to research so that you can tell other citizens.
     None of that is fake news. Never was. Never will be. It is looking for facts, truth, looking at life in its better and worse hues. None of the people who do that work are enemies of the people. 
     I think about the young staff of my local paper here on the Central California Coast. They remind me of myself and some of the names above. Many of you have never heard of those people. They are not New York or Washington luminaries-they were local journalists, like thousands of others across the nation. They are not enemies of the people. Nor are the people who labor to report the daily news and who endeavor to make sense of our crazy world.
    We have never been perfect. We make mistakes and we admit them. 24 Hour television in the deregulated age has added entirely too much bloviating, opinion, and entertainment with the bottom line being, getting viewers, but still the work-a-day reporters, the real journalists, the newsmen and women are not enemies of the people. We could do with less schmooze and more news, less celebrity and more substance, but our habits and ways of getting information continue to change.

     Trust me, please! This nation is much better off with a tough, adversarial, questioning, probing, and yes even a pain in the ass media and press corp than without. We are a much healthier nation with critics on all sides, and challenges of any president than without that tension. Probably every president has had their issues with the press and that is as it should be. That has been our history.
   A free press, a robust and even imperfect media serves this nation better than any President in our history. 
    Donald Trump has gone too far.
     Donald Trump is trying to silence critics. Remember he is the same man who used to call tabloids and talk shows pretending to be his press agent. He is more than a liar. He is a danger to our 200 some years of tradition. He is a cancer on what is left of our integrity and he is a toxin to what is left of our civility. And I suspect even if he were bright enough to understand, he wouldn't care because he is so self immersed. 
     Think about this. Who would you trust-a man who spent his life in service to his nation, doing hard and unthinkable tasks, devoted to the principles of a democratic republic, honoring civilian control and respecting security and military leaders or a real estate hustler, known liar, sexual predator and braggart, who will not even read position papers or intelligence briefings and who publicly condemns his own intelligence community? It is the tactic of a strongman or dictator.
     John Brennan battled against our enemies. Donald Trump meets with them in secret, gives them security secrets and functions as their stooge. In the Mano y Mano match up here, it is certainly not Brennan who should have his security clearance pulled.  Read the warning signs. 
      Trump is treasonous. He is the enemy of the people.  

     I hope the Catholic church will pursue with all dispatch the prosecution of those priests who have engaged in such hellish behavior in Pennsylvania. Some of those accused are now in positions of influence and power and even in the College of Cardinals. 
       Their betrayal of their faith, and their evil behavior should again rock the denomination to its core. The offenses are awful, but that some of the men involved are still in leadership positions, and that an organized cover up still exists is horrendous enough for a full papal retribution.

after all that, a sweet parting
This is a creation of friend and painter Pat Wilmott
it was every bit as delicious as beautiful

    See you down the trail.


Friday, August 10, 2018

What do you call yourself?

swallow tale at work in cambria

free to be...

      Next time you get a chance, slow down long enough to watch a butterfly at work. Their flight paths and industry are worth a few moments of your time.
      A slang term is "social butterfly" denoting someone who gets along with everyone, charismatic, charming and a good networker.
      Now is a great time to be a social butterfly, politically. 
However you labeled yourself a while ago is probably out of date. Whatever you may have thought about the Republican or Democrat party is also down the drain. Liberal and Conservative are old, and largely irrelevant identifiers.

      We are a culture stuck on labels. Maybe it helps, a kind of intellectual shortcut. You don't need to think about something if you can rely on a label. 
       "Oh she's a socialist. He's a right wing nut. That's a progressive for you! Liberals are that way. You know what Conservatives believe." But do you? Do the terms still apply?
      As a reporter I found using a label was a time saver. I didn't need to provide a deeper context than a word, but ideas and politics are shifting sands. Everything changes, including meaning and positions. 
       The Republican Party is no where close to where they were 4 years ago. The Democrat Party is in some kind of self imposed navel gazing and shoving match. Add generational perspectives and you have a kaleidoscope pretending to be a  telescope.
       Presently the Republicans are shot. Their historic core values dumped for an unpredictable President upon whom they are attached like leeches. 
       Do the Democrats rely on decades old patterns or will they embrace change, new ideas and listen to the abundance of youth in their number? Most of the old leadership is stale, ineffective and increasingly out of touch. 
       We wonder if the Democrats will heed a nudge the political cosmos seems to be suggesting; your women, especially veterans, a generation removed from Pelosi and Schumer?  
       It would be good for whatever is left of traditional Republicans to raise an insurrection against the President, who has stolen their party and turned it into a pack of weasels or opportunists.
     Party labels have a diminished significance now that candidates get most of their funding from special interests. As the importance of party shrank, politicians became less allegiant to platforms and principles and you see where that has lead us.
     As we've pondered here before, there's been such a shift in American politics classic liberalism and conservatism have disappeared. Today's divide is usually about something more mundane than philosophy or principles of rights and responsibilities of government.
     As the minority and possibly illegitimate President lays waste to a party, and frags American institutions, it would be a good time for political parties to get in sync with the true stakeholders and reshape themselves as something relevant and useful.  
      The system is broken, our sense of democracy is anemic
and most people don't seem to care.
       My friend Ray, the Historian in our group of Old Goats offers a novel ticket for 2020, Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.
       Now that's a creative thought!
       See you down the trail.

Thursday, August 2, 2018


getting back on track
     Our democratic republic is so far off track even serious, sober and reasoned people talk about the nation coming unglued. 
      Before we get into that, we pause for some natural remedy and fresh air.

California poppies at the coast
artisan bench at Fiscalini Ranch 
avoiding the rocks

correcting a foundation
    I've been driving by one of the older homes on Cambria's main street and wondering if it was going to be moved.  
      It has been jacked up and looked like it was ready for a drive. 
    Instead the old foundation has been removed, a new foundation has been built and the house has been leveled. 
     One of the men working on the crew said it looked as though the old foundation, which he described as very old, had been home made. Over time it began to fail and needed to be replaced.

is there a lesson here?
       I think the work above is a personification of what needs to happen to the American experiment-we need to level our house and shore up our foundational principles.
danger signs
      Endorsed insanity:There have always been extremists and kooks but when someone makes the alt right or liberty caucus look normal that is a signal of how deep a descent we are in.  QAnon is madness, real insanity but it is part of the boutique of Trump supporters. 
        Shameful behavior: Sara Huckabee Sanders refusal to say the media is not the enemy of the people is deplorable and will likely earn her a place of ignominy. I felt bad that she was denied service at a restaurant despite the fact that she is paid to lie and willingly works for a known liar. There may have been worse or more conniving press secretaries, but none come to mind. She may face a fate similar to her predecessor who no one takes seriously. Neither of them have a shred of credibility. But refusing to say what even the President's daughter acknowledged, what all but the most bitter and partisan of Trumpistas say, was a new low for a women already at the bottom.  
        Dangerous Behavior: From the first time I saw candidate Trump vilify and use the media contingent following his campaign I was worried. I've been on the receiving end of politicians scorn. We in the media are used to criticism. But when you get an arena full of angry people and you incite more venom, you are way out of bounds and you are pandering, even baiting violence.
         The most recent episode is chilling. Some of those who were taunting, cursing, gesturing obscenely and making threats looked as though they could and would do violence to people who are simply doing their job, fulfilling one of the roles this nation depends on. The press is in the Bill of Rights and is known as the Fourth Estate, the public's watchdog for scoundrels, despots, cheaters and liars. A force to keep politicians and leaders in check. 
        If you have not seen the clips, I urge you to look it up and imagine yourself in the media compound surrounded by those people.
        Playing with fire: Donald Trump chums the crowd and urges them to behave as poorly as he does. We should not be surprised if some horrible violence occurs. Many in the Trump core-base are angry. Listening to or reading their comments gives evidence they are woefully uninformed, poorly educated and easily led. I may be wrong here, but it seems many of them find a cathartic release for what may be disappointing lives. It is almost a perverted religious connection. The "Your Fired" star flipping off all of their own boogie men and enemies. Like a mob. Like the brown shirts.  
        As noted earlier his term "enemy of the people" is a communist party weapon and is used by dictators and strong men. He uses it intentionally to under cut those who challenge his excesses, his lies and his aberrant behavior.
       Flirting with his own demise:Trump's tweet telling Jeff Sessions he should end the Mueller investigation appears to many people more trained and much smarter than me to be an obvious example of "intent" to obstruct justice. Mueller is trying to learn how and how deeply the Russian government interfered with and/or rigged the election. That is something this nation must know. That Trump team mates have been indicted or have pled guilty only underscores why the president wants the investigation to stop. He's tried to discredit it from the beginning as he tries to discredit the media.
         The media is not perfect and errors can be made, but they are our best hope as they have been for more than 200 years to challenge, contest and adversarially try to keep the foundation of the republic level.
          Donald Trump is a horrible person. That he is a Russian stooge is evident. That he has no decorum, no sense of decency has been his life long biography. He has acted like a traitor. We need to know if he in fact colluded with the government that he gave secrets to and with whom he met privately. The Trump presidency is a disease and we need only pay a moments attention to learn how much sicker he is making this democratic republic. 

          See you down the trail.