Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Clash

     At the most riven time in US history, the President held valiantly to our motto "e Plurbus Unum," out of many, one.
     There are many from several disciplines and views who think we are a nation as divided as anytime since the War of the Rebellion.
     In your own way, reflect on the nature and character of the President then and the president now.
     The public hearings of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, hearing from Robert Mueller, puts before our eyes the true state of our union. It is a vivid examination of not merely leadership, but of followers. I think it exposes some not so obvious fractures in the federation of cultures that compose our modern state. 

a time of separation

      --There is an America disturbed by the Russia invasion of our electoral process, and there is an America uncaring and perhaps even unaware.
       --There is a clash of public function. There is the old guard, "play it by the book," even taciturn discipline of process and function, best represented by Robert Mueller and those who respect a Constitutional diligence. And there are those besotted of modern hysterics of media, performance and political posturing.
      Members of the House and media practitioners were distributed on both sides of that divide. Some were wed to the solemnity of the ordeal while some were looking more for performance and "passion" or looking to score political gains, no matter how silly the behavior.
      --There was a clear difference in tone, depth and outcome of the Judiciary Committee hearing and the Intelligence Committee hearing.
       Some of that can be attributed to the thorny matter of the Department of Justice restrictions on indicting a sitting President and the resulting challenge of making a case of obstruction. The matter of the Russian participation in the electoral process operated in different legal lanes. The former more hamstrung and controversial, the later a breach to our national security. 
       This writer thought the House Intelligence Committee was superbly organized, cogent, concise and that Chairman Schiff was brilliant in his opening and closing case statements.

the important standard

         --The hearings were successful in exposing the importance of ethics and morality. It was clear in his response to questions Mueller articulated what Americans think, or should think, about the need for a candidate, especially for President, to behave ethically as well as legally. The standard is higher than the mere technicality of the law. He made that point well and with enough power it even shut up the bizarre Devin Nunes. 
        The nation watched a Bronze Star and Purple Heart Marine combat veteran, former prosecutor, FBI director and Special Counsel expose and discuss the behavior of men who actively engaged in sleazy and unpatriotic behavior. The contrast between the reticent Mueller and the narcissistic lies of the president screams of our own sad condition.

a government of the people

      So now the legislative end of Washington seeks what to do about an administration that was favored by the Russian meddlers, who sought to make money from Russian real estate deals, who participated with the Russians, who sought to give Russia a break on sanctions, and who lied to the public repeatedly about all of that.
     Most of the key players in the inner circle have pled guilty and been sentenced to prison. Had he not been the president that man too would have been charged. He still faces that peril after he departs office. In the meantime they engage in a cover up and refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations. They breach the historic balance of power and equal branches of government. And it seems their primary motive is greed. 
     The president was a known commodity, known for tax cheating, dishonesty, cheating partners and contractors, so none of this is a surprise, but it is an offense to our nation.

so which way from here?

        It is important to ask in this our own riven time. Cultural, political, ethical, governmental fractures and clashes abound.  
        Our divides are deep and serious, but not so much as those Lincoln faced. Unlike now, the President was a man of depth, and conviction. His concerns were not about how to line his own pocket, or to be the center of attention, seeing life simplistically as though it were a television program. He wanted the Union to hold. One cannot be blamed for wondering if the current President has a real knowledge of that history. 
       Our clashes are rooted in a sense of values and decency. Do we respect the history and purpose of our constitutionally ordained governmental process? Do we want foreign interference in our elections? Do we want leaders who try to make foreign real estate deals and then lie about it? Do we want presidents who lie, habitually? Do we want presidents who try to obstruct justice? Do we want presidents who try to cover up and obfuscate? Do we want a president who childishly thinks Article 2 makes him a monarch or dictator? Do we want a once value based and respectable Republican party to continue to act like accomplices in a slow moving coup? Do we still believe in the idea of e Plurbis Unum? Is America better than Donald Trump? Is he who we are?
      The hearings may not have been the "report turned into a movie"-a silly and demeaning idea anyway-but they gave citizens a chance to plumb the depth of the corrupt, venal  and rogue president. It also provided those who will not take the time to read deeply, to learn just how serious the Russians are about manipulating us. Are we serious enough to give a damn and to change things?
      See you down the trail.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

How much, America?

    The scene just might be the most loathsome and repugnant ever to occur in the Oval office.
     American heroes Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, the surviving Apollo 11 crew, captured in the tempest as the rogue president walks back his walk back. 
     Those two brave men, who participated in one of humankind's great achievements, both of them now chasing 90 years, were miserably uncomfortable and needlessly and senselessly became chattel and collateral damage. It should never have happened.
      America and history owes them an apology for needing to endure the fetid drama that envelopes the deranged president. 
     Collins and Aldrin represent America at its best. The occupant of the White House, already considered the worst, simply corrupts and destroys. He had no business being in the presence of Collins and Aldrin. It would be a good thing if someone in leadership and authority issued an apology on behalf of the vast majority of US Citizens and the people of the world who see the president for what he is and who despise him and his behavior.

of that behavior....
      To my mind, one of the best uses of recording was the play back of the smug mugging he did, as his racist and nazi like mob broke forth in their hateful and truly anti American chant. There he was, looking left and looking right and smugly puckering as the hate crime went on for 13 seconds.
     Despite his weltering, all the world could see the lie.

not about politics or policy
     His mental illness makes him a danger in high office. Those who support him, pose a danger. Their combined lack of civility pose a danger. His and their racism pose a danger. His chronic deception makes him a danger. His stunted intellect makes him dangerous in high office. He has always been a cheat, liar, sexual predator, and arrogant. The sycophantic behavior of the bogus republicans is also a danger. It is enabling behavior.
     He is a clear and present danger. Heaven knows we are exhausted and frustrated as a nation. And we are divided: those who understand the danger and those who are the danger.

a meme to share

a moment of beauty
   Yet another magnificent orchid cactus bloom. Thanks for enduring another post about you know who. The world doesn't need another opinion, but some things need saying. 
And someday I want my daughters and grand children to understand, some of us did what we could to slake the evil of hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ethnocentrism and the destruction of civility and honor, to say nothing of the devastation of our environment. 

    See you down the trail.  



Thursday, July 11, 2019

"You've got to have a sense of humor..."

"sitting on the dock of the bay 
wasting time..."

    Frank was a honcho at Cal Tech, and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) back in the heyday of the space race. Some of his underlings have won Nobel prizes for science. He is modest, so I will say it, he's brilliant and one of the sharpest minds to inhabit this planet.
    Frank will often remind us at our monthly dinners, "You've got to have a sense of humor!" This is a man who in his mid 80's was still climbing a ladder to his roof. He's also devoted years to reading history. 
   Hearing "you've got to have a sense of humor" from a man who has calculated how to stare more deeply into space so as to look further back in time" carries credibility.
    My mother was a believer in the principle of laughing at least three times a day. She was a fan of Norman Cousins and his advocacy of laughter as a healer. Medical science has caught up with mom and Cousins and there is data that explains how laughter is indeed very healthy and healing. 

      I was considered a "serious" little boy and so mom would tell me to go outside and watch the clouds. I still love to watch clouds. And now I stare at the tide. My dad would sit, zen monk like, watching the tide, whenever family vacations took us to the shore. I get it dad. 

     So, if you happen along on the California central coast and find an old boomer staring at the tide rolling away, maybe humming Otis Redding's ditty or laughing at seemingly nothing, know that you have encountered a guy who is taking advice, from those far more wise than he.
      And in this day and age, if you can't laugh at what's going on, you'd cry!

explosive news

    I, like a couple of thousand other folks, was a bit mystified by the local fireworks.
        They opened strong. I think I even muttered, this is more like a finale.

     Turns out, something went wrong. It began with the end and it could have been worse. My source is the diligent local reporter Kathe Tanner who has revealed the story.

   After starting like gangbusters, things slowed, and then it was as if things went crazy.  They did....

    Kathe reports in our local weekly The Cambrian that a new pyrotechnic specialist, utilizing a new electronic system, goofed. The intended end of the show opened the display and then things went down hill. The intended 20 minutes display was over in 7-9 minutes. A lot of stuff went off at once. 
     It was an exciting 7 minutes though. Those of us down then beach thought it looked a little wild at the park, where the aerials were launched.
     Back story here---the fire Marshall and the fire chief was about to shut it down because the launch area was too close to the folks in the park. A rapid negotiation followed by moving people further away, allowed the show to go on. However the new pyro, unfamiliar with Cambria, was sending stuff up in a wrong sequence and still too close to people and homes.  He could have used Frank's satellite and telescope calculus expertise.
      It's become a matter of local "fireworks" over the fireworks. Ash and debris landed where it should not. It took two or three days to clean the beach and nearby neighborhood. And then when you consider the complaints of pet owners with terrified dogs and cats, and the complaints of naturalists worried about birds and wild life, we've got a local hubbub underway.
        Don't you feel a chuckle coming on? 
        The belly laugh is for our Labor Secretary and his boss! Not even Carl Hiaasen could make up stuff like that. 
         I think mom would be getting in maybe 300 laughs a day.

       See you down the trail

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Which is it?

July 4, 1912- Huntington Indiana
Photo Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society

   Our session on non-violence veered into the topic of patriotism vs jingoism. An interesting conversation followed, probing, defining, and, I thought, a conversation appropriate for this nation at this time. 
     At the least people could afford themselves time to think about the difference between patriotism and jingoism, in light of their own attitudes. It would be a patriotic thing to do.
    Patriotism, a pride in what this nation has done that is honorable and good and an acknowledgement of errors and wrongs is healthy. One sided patriotism is not healthy. Both the good and the bad need to be measured. 
    Jingoism is dangerous and is the province of the stupid.
    The current president is a jingoist. Dangerous because he suffers a mental illness that distorts reality. But he is also dangerous because he is ill informed and dangerous too because he lies almost all then time. 
     His desire for a military parade is not without precedent, but it is jingoistic, as he is, and it is stupid because he has no concept of the context. Veteran analyst and political correspondent Jeff Greenfield observed this on Politico:  

      "...history also suggests there's a good reason that his plan is rubbing people the wrong way. For one, it really is rare; it; far more common for presidents to vacate Washington on the Fourth of July, or to remain at the White House, than to insert themselves into the proceedings.
            And on a more troubling level, what Trump is doing is wreathing himself in the most potent symbols of American history-delivering a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, site of the 1963 March on Washington, looking across at a landscape of monuments-without any appreciation for the history that made that whole landscape possible. Perhaps uniquely among American presidents, he sees himself without any connection to the American story, any link to presidents past, other than his manifest superiority to any of them."
         Greenfield notes the sure sign we are dealing with 
an unbalanced man who acts as if he aspires to be a dictator, like those he embraces;

         "Trump prefers to think of himself as the lone, overarching figure who can bend history to his will. "I alone can fix it," he said..."

           He offends sensibility and decency which explains the undeniable fact that a majority of Americans voted for someone else, despite the Russian interference. 
         The American pageant has its sordid and despicable chapters and this is the latest. We have survived our past sins and we have worked over the centuries to improve, to broaden human dignity and to extend liberty. We have been courageous and generous and we will be again. But we came upon this continent as terrorists, invaders, practitioners of genocide and ethnic cleansing. We were slavers, chauvinists, sexists, classists, drunks, racists, xenophobes, cheaters and liars. But some two centuries has refined us and forced us into a stream of history where we are bending toward a better nature, a more civilized and decent nation. We will survive and overcome regressives and new racists like Trump and McConnell. 
           As much as we might desire to be like Moses and call down a plague on the house of the Pharaoh, that is not for us.
        We are the heirs of Democratic Republicans who have battled on philosophy, policy, politics and who have changed positions and minds, but have since the beginning been combined in a hatred of tyrants, kings and dictators. That is a common creed we share. The president we see is not "American," his behavior is anathema to our history, he is not us. We are not his minions and not his subjects. We are his employer and we will not forget that, despite what may be seen on TV or read on twitter.
          The Fourth of July reminds of throwing off a tyrant, of declaring Independence, of being ready to stand in the breech to combat evil oppression. In this season, think about patriotism and jingoism and maybe read the Declaration. Happy Fourth!

blooming for the 4th


         See you down the trail.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Last Of The Old Boys...

    Calvin Coolidge was President when John Angel was born and though he had reached into his advanced years he never lost a sparkle in his eye, or zest for a good joke. That long and good run has come to an end.
     John was the surviving founder of a group that gathered each Wednesday and Sunday at 4PM for a cigar, coffee and friendship.
Phil Allen and Reg Perkins were the other founders. John, Reg, and Phil cultivated the friendship and grew the group for some 30 years.

    Phil invited me into the group when I showed up in Cambria in 2007, a recent retiree and knowing no one in the village.
     It was the place to learn the local lore and ways, find the best plumber, electrician or repairman, hear great stories and  hilarious jokes. But mostly it was about friendship.
  A WW II vet, John had been in sales, he called himself a peddler. Also a vet, Reg had been a battalion chief on the LA Fire Department. Phil had been in sales and one of the smartest investors anywhere. 
   But these old boys were active. John and Reg served on the local government board. They were officers in a benevolence society that did charitable giving, the Odd Fellows. Reg and his wife founded the annual Easter Egg hunt, and Cambria's Anonymous Neighbors, a group that delivers medical supplies, operates a community bus, drives people to medical appointments and more. Phil was  active in his church and a significant philanthropist. Up to just a few of months ago, John still hosted a community forum, was secretary of the Odd Fellows and drove errands for people, as he approached his mid 90's.  
    Phil called it the "prayer meeting" though his wife Nan called it "smoke and joke!" Eventually it became a Sunday afternoon only gathering and some of the younger recruits introduced wine. 
    These guys were role models for we boomers. They filled their years with meaning and never lost the joy of being with the boys or enjoying life despite losses, illness and setbacks.
     Phil was the first to go. About a year ago Reg just went to sleep in his favorite recliner. Ray, Dick and I went to visit John last week and were shocked by his decline. We had seen him just 4-5 weeks earlier and though slowing down, he was still full of sparkle and good wit.
     These men were my first friends as I entered a new chapter of my life. 
      After John lost his beloved Sally several years ago he was over at house for dinner. Lana asked him if he could cook. 
      Not at all he said. 
      She asked if Sally had a crock pot.
      Yes he said and she had a freezer full of meat as well.
      Lana gave him instructions and for years when he hosted our Sunday gathering, his house was fragrant with his latest crockpot "creation."  
      John had a way of making his presence know, did not suffer fools easily, spoke his mind, volunteered most of his days and loved a good story, and especially the time with "the guys."
      We saw pictures of John when he worked for Westinghouse and was a pitchman for one of their divisions. He looked like a David Niven marquee idol. He was always nicely turned out, though the guys kidded him about his white bucks, that may have been as old as some of us. His WWII uniform still fit. He was proud of eating broccoli everyday. And he missed Sally something terrible. 
Ray, part of the youth movement
Dick also a boomer.
Reg, Glen and Griff
Paul-the class of the group

      Bill, Dick, Ray, Paul, Griff, Gary, Glen and I should gather one of these summer Sunday afternoons and pay tribute to our "three Musketeers" and we should keep going "the prayer meeting" smoking, joking and all. Friendships never end.
    Letting you in on a little secret here-John was frequently  kidded about always smoking his cigar in an uneven and precarious manner. He's caught here looking at yet another uneven smoke, for which he was again unapologetic!
     Rest in peace old friend.  

      See you down the trail.