Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Black Face-Megyn Kelley-The Boogeyman-And The THUG

     Something cute and precious is coming up.
But first a note about this world we boogeymen are creating for the innocents.

words matter
   In 2017 there was a 90% percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in US schools, K-12.
    There was a 60% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the adult world.
     The FBI says in 2016 there were 6,121 criminal incidents motivated by bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender. That was a huge rise since the Obama and Bush years. 
      This year, after two years of Trump there has been another dramatic increase in hate crimes, anti Semitic violence and mass shootings.
       We'll return to these matters after a softer target-Megyn Kelly.
the megyn kelly paradox
   Megyn Kelly is an intelligent, educated, experienced person. I presume when she made her comment about the appropriateness of wearing black face at Halloween she was operating on the assumption that she was speaking in concert with high principle. In fact she may have thought she was intoning the principle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that color of skin is not as important as character. Again I assume she thought white people wearing black face, or black people wearing white face was fine, acceptable and a sign of how "evolved" we have become. I don't think she thought she was being racially insensitive, however.....
    The fact that a multi million dollar television personality was so dead wrong is a snap shot of how racially insensitive and perhaps even ignorant this culture is. That her pretty little head could not, or would not grasp the grave insensitivity and callousness of her remarks is a loud and ugly confirmation of the racism that exists in this culture.
    We fail miserably at beginning to understand the meaning and significance of something like black face to people of color. Though someone might not think a comment or action is hurtful or disrespectful, it underscores how little we think about people who are not like us or who derive from a different life experience.  We fail to learn to appreciate or be sensitive to the cultural and life history of other races, ethnicity, gender and orientation. 
     Frankly I was stunned that a woman at the center of a 23 million dollar contract, on a major network could be so mindless as to not know more about the cultural dynamite of black face. And that is only one famous example of how little we know, or care. 
      I don't think Megyn Kelly is a vicious racist, but her inability to perceive the hurtfulness of what she said to fellow citizens, or the desire to even contemplate the impact of her words was wrong and pretty much explains why and how we are in such a divisive time.
where does the buck stop
   Right or wrong, US citizens look to the Presidency to set a tone, to be a moral arbiter, to be a kind of surrogate parent figure. 
    "The phenomena we're seeing post-2016 hasn't been seen in modern political history, which is once the election was over, people - ordinary people - Americans who voted for Trump continued to demonize and hate Hillary voters and vice versa. And that's still going on today two years later. "
       The comment is from Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse in a conversation with Lulu Garcia Navarro. She calls the rhetoric of the Trump years a very different phenomena, a "virus."
      Ariela Schachter a sociologist at Washington University says people become more measurably negative after being exposed to Trump's negative messages about immigrants. And it gets worse after it is magnified by media.
       Trump's tweets and his performance at his frequent rallies enforce negativity, incite the extreme right and racists.
       Schachter says Trump's tone, style and message is pernicious.
         "I do think, though, that we have to consider the power dynamics. So the president of the United States has a uniquely powerful position to amplify the messages that he's sending out in ways that the rest of us don't. I also think we need to think about the impact of this rhetoric on immigrant communities in the United States"
          Lukensmeyer says probably 10-12 percent on the far right and 8-10 percent on the far left have "no interest" in ending the hostility or "closing the divide." But she says that leaves a full 75-80% of the rest of us who what to cool it down.
      Trump's tone has been nothing but divisive. His father was an accused racist doing illegal real estate practices. The Trump presidential campaign began with a racist attack on Obama (the birth certificate) and Mexican emigres, followed by the Muslim travel ban and continues to this day as he amps up fear and hatred. His most recent lies about the "caravan" being a case in point.  
       His base and supporters refuse to address these issues of blatant deceit and divisiveness. Fox betrayed their real motivation when they tried to plant the idea the pipe bomber was a "false flag," ruse by liberals and democrats. That is typical of the way the right and the regressives distort and divert. It is a danger sign for the republic when so many ignore the authoritarian and anti American behavior of the thug president. 
for the record
     US intelligence agencies report Chinese and Russian spies listen to Trump calls on his iPhones. Trump lied when he said he uses only government phones. He speaks with friends and tweets and even discusses sensitive information on non secure phones. Remember how much heat a particular candidate received for using a non government server for e-mails?
     Remember when Republicans pretended to be fiscal hawks and screamed about the deficit? For the record, the deficit is up 17% under this President. Where's the indignation now? The zombie apocalypse may well be the Republican party under Trump.
a pivot
from the obscene to the joyful
   The Morro Bay United Methodist Children's Center sponsors a safe alternative to Trick or Treat outings for the little ones.
 It's called a Trunk or Treat Spooktacular. Parents decorate trunks and hand out sweets as the kids in costume collect goodies in the parking lot.

  The guys in the two following frames added live "creatures" for the kids to see and touch, if they wanted to.

   Before the trunk treating there is a costume parade around the Children's Center playground. 

     Safe fun.

      Good times and candy.  Adult life should be so sweet.

    See you down the trail. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018


it is that time of year
    Dear reader, please know there is more seasonal pleasantness ahead, but first

it is that time of year

     Election Season. I love my daughter's tribute to and statement about campaign yard signs and the pending election.

they are stealing votes
     Two blatant examples expose what is a strategy to deny minority votes. Over the last few political seasons the Republican party has employed tactics similar to the white racists in Dixie to deny citizens their right to vote. 
      Consider Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State who is running as the Republican candidate for Governor against Stacey Abrams the African American woman who is the Democrat candidate.
       Kemp has purged between 340-500 thousand current residents from voting. Kemp is known as "The Wizard of Voter Suppression" for good cause because of his bag of Republican tricks.
       An AP (associated press) analysis shows 73% of voters dropped by what he calls "the exact match" system were black. 
       The Center for Investigative Reporting program Reveal and American Public Media report more than a half million voters have been purged and many them may not be aware.
       Kemp has employed a "use it or lose it" technique, sending out post cards that look like junk mail, even to voters who are already registered and primarily only to black or minority neighborhoods. 
      He has used "the exact match" trick. If a name is not exactly as it was written by a voting registrar, though incorrect, even if a person can produce an ID with their name and address they are not allowed to vote. Here's the big problem with that, and in more places than Georgia, voting registrars may intentionally misspell a name, or they may not fully understand a pronunciation or spelling of an ethnic name. It is what the registrar writes that counts and if that registrar is working for Kemp or Republicans in other states, they have incentive to suppress votes in areas strong in Democrats.
      In Florida and in Arizona there are similar complaints by Hispanics because the white registrars do not understand or cannot spell names correctly or misspell them intentionally. 
      You may have heard the news this week where Kemp was caught on tape, for the second time, worrying about black voters and how to counter that.
       Consider the case of Dodge City Kansas, the historic and iconic old west town. The Republican clerk moved a majority Hispanic voting site to place outside of the city limits and one mile from the nearest bus stop. It gets worse. That precinct is supposed to handle 13 thousand voters, imagine the waiting time. Those 13 thousand voters in that one precinct compare to an average of 1,200 voters in other Dodge precincts. 
       The population of Dodge is 60% Hispanic, mostly all legal citizens, but because of efforts to suppress in the past 3 elections only 17% of the vote is Hispanic, though registration is closer to the town's percentage of Hispanic. In the meantime the anglo vote is 61% though the white population is only 40% of the community. Suppression works.
       There are at least nine states practicing voter suppression and they are all red states, carried by Trump.
       Trumps own voting fraud commission was disbanded in shame when they found no evidence of voting fraud. Despite that, and there is only one way to say this, Trump himself still lies about that. 
     A member of the Commission, an elected official from Maine said the commission came to a rapid end when others began to suspect the commission was  trying to frame a report that was not true.  
       "I think the reason why they disbanded it was because they really didn't want anybody to know what they were talking about and working on behind the scenes, which was this report that was being framed up without any of our knowledge. We hadn't even done any substantive discussion about what a report would look like and they were writing it. So I think that speaks to what the goal was, which was to validate the president's claims-not to do any type of investigation our explication of what those claims would look like or produce."  Matthew Dunlap commission member in interview with Don Gonyea.
        Other investigations, less partisan than the Presidents also find there has been almost no voter fraud, the types of which Republicans are trying to prevent. The truth is, Republicans are the perpetrators of the fraud by trying to prevent votes for Democrats.
       Trumps own repeated lies seems to have dulled the nation's sensitivity to the importance of truth. There are countless excuses invoked by those who support him, "That's just how he is. That's just how he does business. What difference does it make? Who cares the economy is on a roll."
      Voter suppression is wrong. To permit it, or to allow it without loud and rancorous challenge is dangerous. It is one more warning sign, a replication of what we have seen in history. 
      The markers are adding up. Russian interference, a divide and conquer style and a terribly divided nation, a minority president overturning years of majority policy, playing to a racist base, trying to discredit media, the arrest and indictment of most of his closest advisors, siding with dictators, an inability to tell the truth and an overt attempt to restrict voting rights is as Anti American as Putin, or the Imams of Iran. It is no wonder those who work with him closely call him a moron. What does that say about those who still support him?
      Thanks for reading through this. It needs to be said in as many places as it can be. As Bob Woodward said, "be worried."

and now something nice
     Harvest season on the California Central Coast. The colors of the season as the grape leaves change.

    See you down the trail.

Sunday, October 21, 2018


real men-take 1
   At a time when the US needs heroes, we can find them when we look at the moon.
      Once American astronauts walked on the nightly orb
and it is a wonder we made it.
         Director Damien Chazelle has given us a riveting history of how we got there in the brilliant film First Man.
      It is a mistake to think the film is a bio flic of Neil Armstrong, there is a bit of that, but it's really a gritty, bone rattling, nervy immersion into the 1960's space program and the race to beat the Russians to the moon.
       Those men, "spam in the can" as the original Mercury astronauts and test pilots were called, were indeed real men, heroes to be sure. Chazelle, the dazzling 33 year old French-American director who has given us Whiplash and La La Land has created an onscreen history that shows just how risky, unsure, dangerous and jarring it was. 
       If you enjoy Apollo 13 for its look into the "make it up as you go" science and engineering mind meld that was the Apollo program, this gives all of that plus the graphic physical sense of just how tight, rattling, and "on the edge" those early space capsules were. And how uncertain it was. The training sequences will give you an appreciation of the men who endured, or died, in trying to do something as historic as anything the human animal has achieved.
      Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling paint a vivid portrait of Neil Armstrong as a bit of an enigma, which rings true to what little anyone learned about him. Gosling and the cast are superb, but it is the story of the program that speaks to this generation of America.
     For those of us at that age, we may have listened to Walter Cronkite and watched mission control and marveled at the launches and the execution of burns and maneuvers and thought that was great science. It was, up to a point! The discoveries, developments, technological improvements that are now common place to our life serve as a hammer over the head when you get a look at how crude and uncertain the early space program was, by comparison.
     To those of you who have grown up with smart phones, social media and GPS, this is a great bit of history you need see. It wasn't always this way.
     It took extraordinary men and women to do the science and inventing and calculating, but it took heroes, real men to take the rides and the risks.
     Seeing First Man may just help you realize there was a time when American men were up to a challenge without precedent. By comparison the political men who've been filling our screens lately are pathetic.  Whiners, stooges, and ego driven sycophants who could never muster the testosterone it took to push boundaries. First Man celebrates the kind of courage and vision we should be looking for in the men and women who we elect to guide us. The astronauts were not gods without flaws, but they were men, being bold, doing good and willing to risk their lives for the future.
      Had we been not so backwards and repressive to women those first heroes could have been women too. But we've tried to advance. 

is it backwards to our future?
who's knocking at the door?
real men-take 2
           The lead paragraph in the New York Times story sends chills. 
             "The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genetalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law."
         Not to beat a dead horse, but to keep this in perspective, and for my grandchildren who may read this in the future, Trump is a rogue President whom the majority of Americans voted against. He does not have the legitimacy, nor does he represent the will of most Americans to begin undoing civilization. That is what the Trump mob seeks and he is playing to his base. Base they are indeed.
        This President is not intelligent, studied, nor does he read. As a man he is unfit and a leader he is unqualified to undertake a deconstruction of a complex federal system of policies and balances that have taken years of bi-partisan effort to develop and achieve. His is the in your face, scorched earth modus operandi of a dictator or a mobster.
We should call him and his followers for what they are regressives
       If you were to follow the logic they intone on transgender rights, you can conclude they would say that someone born with a collapsed lung, or heart defect or some other life threatening condition are "people with a biological, immutable condition determined at birth." 
     There are millions of us who think that personhood, being a human being, is the sum of many things and should not be restricted by binary thinking, which is primitive, unsophisticated and something that is detritus of the human evolutionary trail. 
       Catherine Lhamon who led the Education Department's Civil Rights division says it well, "This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients-what people understand about themselves-is irrelevant because the government disagrees."
         Let that soak in for a moment. This rogue President and his mob are trying to force this democratic republic to bend against the arc of history to act like a fascist government. Immediately between 1 and 2 million Americans would be forced to eradicate the gender they live.
         If these authoritarians can do that to transgender people, who else might they seek to delegitimize? They are already into a voter suppression campaign. Who else might they come for?
         Spend a few minutes watching one of his rallies and you are likely to be nauseated or frightened or both. 
         I have a friend who keeps asking me why this nation has not risen up and flooded the streets, shutting down the government and demanding a change? 
         It is a good question. How many warning signs do we need? History should teach us. 

         Where are the heroes? It appears there is a budding crop of women and men, many with combat experience, rising in the political ranks. It is time for people with intelligence, courage, character and a sense of history to put this nation back on the kind of footing that could undertake such a long shot as putting a human on the moon, forcing us to make it up and to quite literally reach for the stars. And who understand that here on the blue marble the journey to full freedom, liberty, a good life and human dignity for all are the most noble of  goals. 

   See you down the trail.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Face Off-Rocket Magic-The Perfect Drive

into a tricky twilight
    Pay close attention. The White House is in a swirl that is unlike anything else the troubled administration has faced to date. We get into that below.

celebrating the left coast

   This veteran traveler finds this scene one of the most pleasing anywhere. Looking south from Nepenthe in Big Sur.
     Hairpins, tight turns, twists, long drops, rocky walls and sensational views compete for a drivers attention and energy. It is invigorating, though we have found friends who are challenged by the mountain ledges and winding highway. 
      It takes work to keep the iconic Pacific Coast Highway open.
the rocket magic show
      That bright light on the horizon is neither moon nor sun. It is a Falcon 9 Space X rocket racing toward space. The launch at Vandenberg AFB is about 85 miles south from the observation point on my deck.
                 As a kid, fascinated by the new space program, I never dreamt I'd be watching rocket launches from my deck.
           The separation created a bit of a cosmic light show.
    The mission was to deploy an Argentine environmental satellite, but the trick of the evening was to land the Falcon booster rocket, back at Vandenberg in a hard ground landing zone.
             It worked well and this shows the Merlin engines firing as the Falcon 9 was headed home.
       Meanwhile thousands of miles away, the satellite was being carried into orbit and we had a new way to measure the depth of our rich star fields.

more sublime
      A longtime friend, who shared ground breaking campus politics and later worked alongside on assignment in Cuba and who's skill and academic/professional arc I have admired, and I were talking like old guys or gals do. We have reached an age where it can be said of us, what they said about Dean Acheson, "Not only did he not suffer fools gladly, he did not suffer them at all."
     Thus you understand our present state of agitation.
We stepped out to look at a particularly clear and crystalline like sky abundant with pricks of cosmic light. That has the effect of downsizing the scale and importance of all human endeavor so as to render us and our intrigues to a scale of gnats. 
still we have the capacity to ruin this blue ball
    So back to the opening tease. Our rogue administration is navigating a new crisis and it is deep water with submerged danger.
     The very awful destruction of a human life, in this case a powerful, well connected Saudi and critic of the new crown prince is at the center of a pernicious brew.
      As David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times, 
"The disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi has set off a diplomatic feud between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, a bipartisan uproar in the United States Congress, tremors of uncertainty in Wall Street and Silicon Valley about how to deal with Saudi Arabia, and a noisy spat between the White House and its closest Arab ally."
           The man who is said to be in charge has yet to demonstrate study or an understanding of the complexity of the world and this is as complex as it gets. He's already gone off half loaded and has reversed himself. Maybe that will help in this instance. Serial liar POTUS is in good company. The Saudi's have been duplicitous in their long relationship with the US since the beginning. The Royal family has lied, cheated, backed terrorists, repressed women, dissidents and free thought for as long as the "kingdom" has been in place. 
       So we have a liar and tax cheat going head to head with a liar and cheat and perhaps killer. Isn't it a damned shame, two human beings of the character and quality of these two have so much power and impact? If you are looking for a precis of how this beautiful and fragile world has been put so upside down, here you have it as the crown prince and the rogue president take measure of each other.
        See you down the trail.