Wednesday, November 27, 2019

In the Kingdom

     It was the Kingdom of Meath. From the 1st to 12 century Kings ruled what is now County Meath in Ireland. The high land, the hills, were the place of power. The hills in these frames were especially so.
   Of more recent history, the early 1700's, Slane Castle has dotted County Meath. In the 21st century, Slane Castle is a venue for special concerts. You can seen classic U-2 performances at Slane. 
 5 Thousand years ago a civilization used the high land to build a what is thought to be a transit tomb, Bru n Boinne.
   The fascinating story of Newgrange or Bru n Boinne  
can be linked here from a September post.  
   The guide specialist noted the origins of the people and the exact nature of the ancient site of an astronomical observance and a ritual are still a mystery lost to the centuries.  
   Willie and Kay noted the ancient cultures selected their sites well, in the Boyne River Valley.
    The site below is Tara, the ancient capitol. In Druidic ritual "it was regarded as an entry place to the other world."
     The Gaelic term for Tara means "a place of great prospect."
     Once the five roads in Ireland met here, on the Hill of Tara where one can observe half of the island. 
     The two high mounds were the seats of the Kings. In the age of the Kingdom they were the High Kings.

    Historically, Tara has been a place of mystical importance.
Rituals, burials and observances occurred here. The High Kings ruled here. The hill holds power and is prominent in folklore and myth.
    Both serious scholars and those who believe come to Tara to study the fairies and/or read the legends. Several Sheela Na Gigs have been unearthed on Tara. (What are Sheela na gigs? Link here)
   As long as there has been a record, there is evidence of a spirituality and super nature in this part of the Boyne Valley.

    Tara is a mere 26 miles from the hill transit tomb Bru Na Boinne. History, mystery, myth and folklore transect County Meath.  
      County Meath is also simply beautiful and verdant.

   That our journey to this enchanting part of Ireland was curated by friends, who, like the ancients, chose their place well, 
  made it all more precious. 
   Before we headed to Dublin, Kay introduced us to friends who have converted an old church into The House of Art

    Enchanting hospitality; a special and ancient tea, marvelous treats, accomplished and skilled art and captivating people.

    The "Kingdom of Meath" is place to wander and wonder.

   The through story of Belfast coming in a future post and later we go southwest. 

    To all readers, especially those on the US side of the Atlantic, Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for those of you who visit these posts. 

    See you down the trail.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Moment Please-I Beg Your Indulgence

Reflections from the US

      I beg your indulgence for this brief break from the series of reports from Scotland and Ireland. A post on the historical and mystical County Meath is forthcoming. 
      The historic US Constitutional drama that played out on screens this week requires this old journalist, who covered the two previous impeachments in my life time, to offer some observations, unsolicited though they are. 
The People
      Over the past few years some of the more adamant folks in coffee deck conversations run toward the old cliche about politically biased civil service employees and a "deep state" conspiracy. I've countered by observing that in my reporting career some of the most impressive people have been civil service employees. At local, state and federal levels I've seen a commitment to public service and sense of mission. I've seen a non partisan, non political devotion to getting the job done for the benefit of the common good.
      All of this is especially so in law enforcement, national security and intelligence. These are fellow citizens doing an incredibly difficult job at wages well below the value and skill evinced and demanded. 
      The world saw that this week. The contrast between federal employees in the national security apparatus, including the military and those of the US political culture, the members of the House, was staggering especially so in specific cases. The career foreign service and security experts had a grasp of real politic, national security and international relations. A few were frankly impressive and dazzling beyond expectation.
       They were calm, quick thinking, intelligent professionals. Some members of the house displayed a commensurate understanding, others were merely political actors, shallow and in a couple of cases stupid.*  
The Process 
       I would suggest widening the scope of the articles of impeachment, either with specific charges or with a preamble.
       This Ukrainian play and the President's attempt to engage a foreign nation to participate in our election process needs to be put in the context of this administration's explicit tumble to the Russian priorities and preferences. To be considered:
     -The private meeting in the White House with the Russian spy master shortly after the election
     -The private meetings with Putin, without a US interpreter
     -The televised Helsinki repudiation and degrading of the US intelligence community and the siding with Putin over the issue of Russian intervention in the 2016 election
     -The continued attempt to break old alliances and to weaken NATO
     -The unilateral and unadvised decision to withdraw troops, betraying the Kurdish allies, and paving the way for the for Russian dominance in Syria.
     -The attempt to withhold Congressionally approved military aid to an ally under attack and at war with Russia
     -His continued insistence the Russians were not involved in the 2016 election, despite findings to the contrary by all intelligence agencies in the US, the House and the Senate and foreign investigations as well finding that Russia was involved.
     -The true findings of the Mueller investigation, not the spin he and his Attorney General have spun.

     The painful truth is Russian has been strengthened by the Trump administration. To repeat what I have observed before Trump is either a Russian agent or Russian stooge. He is probably too ignorant to know the difference.

     We Were Warned
    It is important to remember this story reported in August of 2016.
      Fifty of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”  New York Times 
         You should link to that story Here or to the text of the letter and the list of senior Republicans who signed it at this link.
       The people who signed the letter made the case he was unfit and unqualified and lacked the character. The world has seen the truth of their prophesy for the last  3 years.

       That 2016 Republican warning and the spiderweb of his dangerous behavior should be read to the Republican members of the Senate, until they acknowledge their once proud party has been pimped out to the Russians by, in the vernacular,  Putin's little bitch. 

Why It Matters
      There are greater goods than partisan advantage and there have been periods in our history when our political culture behaved as though they understood that. That is not so now.
      The Impeachment is not about "undoing" the 2016 election. Everyone who says that is merely mouthing a Putin trope. The sad fact is those who say that have their heads in a Fox News or Trump silo and don't comprehend the nature of their brainwashing and the extent to which it does exactly what Putin wants-to undermine our faith in our democratic republic. 
      It is true that the majority of American voters voted against Trump, by the millions, but his team, many of whom are now imprisoned and who had ties to Russian efforts, figured a way to win the electoral college. So he moved into the White House against the wishes of the majority of the nation. Still he is the President and must be held accountable. Here he is, complicit in undermining the security of the nation he is supposed to lead and contributing to the death of our allies. 
     He must be held accountable, not only because of his traitorous and criminal behavior, but because if he gets away with it, we have moved the lines on so many aspects of our constitutional government and expectation, that we will only hasten the call of our own demise. 
     No President, regardless of party, should be permitted to do what he has done, and be so reckless with our security. No President should openly or secretly ask foreign powers to engage in our electoral system. 
     Once the Republican party was staunch in their advocacy of national security, and tough in their opposition to the Russian (then USSR) threat. Now they need to look beyond their ability to make court appointments, or pass more tax breaks for the wealthy and consider what matters in the frame of history and what matters to the health of our equal branches of government.
      Those real Republicans who signed that August 2016 warning letter had it right. Those who now call themselves Republicans need to look in a mirror and decide are they people of principle or are they members of the Trumpist cult? Do they really believe the man who is Donald Trump could even sit in the same room with Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush George W. Bush, Gerry Ford and yes even Richard Nixon. Flawed as he was, Nixon did an honorable thing in the face of his impeachment. He did not want to further fracture the nation.
      Are those who call themselves Republicans in alignment with the constitutional values of this Republic or are they merely whores, working for an unfit and unqualified and disgusting Russian stooge?
    Who do you trust Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, William Barr, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, or those stalwart civil servants who endured endless hours of questioning, challenges, excoriation and belittling but who displayed what it is to be a citizen and a patriot.
     Can you even imagine Donald Trump being put into a chair and examined as such?  This nation is much, much better than that. Our Presidency deserves much, much better. We should be able to expect much better out of Republicans, if any still exist.

    *Devin Nunes embarrasses even himself. I liked what California political strategist Mike Murphy said about Nunes' side kick Jim Jordan, "...he was so wild I expected him to pull out the sock puppets."
     I wonder how Congressman Jordan would receive a full scale investigation of his knowledge or role in aberrant sexual behavior on his watch as an Ohio wrestling coach. Check the history of this incident for yourself and then ask yourself, if a guy like Jordan is a point man for the House Republican defense of a man like Donald Trump what has the party come to?

    The US deserve much, much, much better.

    Ok, getting off the soapbox and getting back on the road through Ireland and Scotland.  Sorry for the intrusion.

   See you down the trail.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


     The fun of being in Trim Ireland in County Meath was seeing it with Willie and Kay who live in the historic village on the river Boyne. 
    Trim is also the largest Norman castle in Ireland.
    And it was in County Meath where Patrick came and met the pagan kings. There is a St. Patricks Cathedral in Trim.

   Trim, with some 9 thousand residents, is picturesque
      and hospitable. 

   When settling in for a Guiness in this pub I found a copy of runners and riders, the daily form chart for horse racing. 
   I urged my pal Griff to get to Ireland to meet his kin, some of whom have great pubs!

   This 12th century Norman castle may look familiar. 
    The castle was featured in the 1995 Academy Award Winning BRAVEHEART, the story of the Guardian of  Scotland, hero William Wallace. The film employed hundreds of Trim residents. Scenes were also shot at nearby Irish locations. 

  History is in the land around Trim in County Meath. A subsequent post explores how and why it is so prominent in Irish history, folklore and myth. 

    About a third larger than our Cambria on the California central coast, it has a familiarity. About the partial self portrait below, the scene in the window looked so homey, it needed to be shared. 

   It's a great spot for a hike or stroll, enhanced by history
and the wonderful green beauty.

  "An entry place to the other world" and "a place of great prospect" as we wonder County Meath and a mystical capitol in an upcoming post.  

   See you down the trail.

Monday, November 11, 2019


          "When you have nothing more to say, just drive 
       for a day around the peninsula.
       The sky is tall as over a runway,
       The land without marks, so you will not arrive."
                   Seamus Heaney from The Peninsula    
      If it was only the land and sea, Ireland would provide this globe with a bounty of lyrical word and prose and a beauty beyond beauty. But the soul of those words and the guardians of the beauty are a people, unique perhaps, but certainly abundant of wit, spirit, explorers of the heart and resolutely independent.  
    It was our good fortune to see the Irish Republic with Irish friends, Kay, Willie, Kay and Jack.
     An almost constant companion was beauty and personality. 
     The presence of history and scenic nature are powerful, but this is a nation of a great people, sociable people. 

    Wit is a near constant companion. Consider the scene below...
    Glendalough in County Wicklow is a beautiful setting and the location of an ancient abbey, the home of a venerated Saint, Kevin. 
    Kevin was a pious man and lived as a hermit, shunning social contact, especially women. 
    While he is a canonized Saint and held with regard, there is a popular cultural remembrance of him as well. It is a tale  about drowning a woman who tempted him. 
     In a Song by the Dubliners are the lines

       "One evening he landed a trout, sir
         He landed a big trout.
         When young Kathleen from over the way
         Came to see what the old monk was about...
         fol di do fol di do day

         "Well get out o me way, said the Saint
          For I am a man of great piety
          and me good manners I wouldn't taint
          not be mixing with female society."

           fol di do fol di do day

           Oh but Kitty she wouldn't give in
           And when he got home to his rockery
          He found she was seated therein
          A-polishin' up his old crockery

           fol di do fol di do day

           Well he gave the poor creature a shake
           And I wish that the Garda had caught him!
           For he threw her right into the lake
           And, be Jaysus, she sank to the bottom

    A closer look at Ireland is onboard in coming posts.
     There is an Irish castle in the charming County Meath village of Trim, and chances are you have seen it, on the big screen, but not "where" you might expect. 
       We'll see how the land of writers celebrates the word and the wordsmiths. 
        There is an Irish social current I wish US citizens could take upon themselves. I can only assume it is born of a desire for Independence, not unlike that of our ancestors 245 years ago.
      Ireland declared their independence from the United Kingdom in 1919, following the Easter Uprising of 1916. There was struggle and bloodshed. Today the Republic is a place of pride and the history is close of mind. And in the North, there are still troubles.

            "And drive back home, still with nothing to say
        Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
        By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
        Water and ground in their extremity."
                             Seamus Heaney

        Come along for an Irish journey.

        See you down the trail.