Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sucker's Reality

         Some of you will get this, quickly. Some of you may not,
    and therein is the source of my consternation.  I liken this to explaining the fog to my grandchildren.
     It can move in quickly and paint blue skies with a muted and damp grey. Sunshine and cheer can be enveloped in a shroud, rapidly.
    Welcome to Trumpworld!

non conventional
    My life as a journalist, and a sense of fair play compelled us to watch the Republican National Convention. While I wondered what America they were in, I was glad most major news organizations did their own running fact checks and lie detectors.
    It was a carnival of side show hustlers, con artists, weird creatures (why was Kimberly Guilfoyle shouting?) violations of the law, twisted logic, liars and even better liars, shades of  Mussolini and Cry for Me Argentina, but slickly produced with an emphasis on optics and a fireworks display.
   Melania was the default hero as she spoke with a degree of compassion about the victims of the virus her husband helped to kill by his ineptitude, arrogance and imperial ego. 
    She was certainly the best of the Trumps who seemed to dominate the speakers list. Don Jr still has the world wondering what he was on or if his power drinks were laced with lab cocaine and/or amphetamines. 
    Many have praised Mike Pence for being able to say the President's name so many times while his lips remained firmly attached to his bosses butt, in the kisses required to stay in his good graces.
    Democrats are threatening to go after Trumpworld for their  disrespectful abuse of the White House, the violation of 200 years of presidential tradition to not use the people's house for political spectacle, and for a potential violation of the Hatch Act. They should investigate and if need be prosecuted, even if the President's Chief of Staff says "no one outside the beltway cares about the Hatch act."
    Trump as violated and offended, disrespected and trashed  Presidential custom, behavior, deportment and protocol so many times all of his predecessors are either appalled or spinning in their graves. And he is the least qualified, most unfit, and probably the dumbest of the lot. He is also a minority president who has lied to the American people, documented and fact checked, thousands of times. 
     So when you have all of that as the fodder for a national convention, historically, without a platform, without inviting any former President or Presidential Nominee, and when many of his Quisling congressional cowards avoided even showing up, you know it's going to be a weird show.

alternative reality
     Trump built his reputation as a reality show star and the convention gave his core, his base, most of whom were his television fans, a spectacle; Hail to Donnie, who has elevated from the Apprentice to Imperial High Lord of a fabulist world, so far from truth and reality as to threaten this nation's existence and world stability. 
     When you put a man who ran a fraudulent University, went broke running a gambling casino, bankrupted an airline, couldn't get loans from legitimate banks, was bank rolled by Russian Mafia, lost money selling steaks, lost money selling his own deal making book, lost money selling clothing, is an avowed racist, a certified tax cheat, a bunko artist, golf cheat, sexual predator, serial liar, intellectual light weight, surrounded by advisors who are now convicted felons, what can you expect but the disaster we face and a convention that would run away from truth and reality?
     It was and is a sucker's reality. Anyone surprised?

      a word to Trump supporters
     Cleary there are some who find success in his appointments to the federal bench, all far right conservatives and many without adequate legal experience. Why would an unqualified president worry about unqualified judges, as long as they pass a litmus test, that someone whispered in his ear. 
    Some are pleased by his "tax cut," mostly the upper income levels. Some like that he has stripped and cut regulations, giving some businesses a pass, while allowing more junk into the air, water and land. He's turned government watch dog agencies into patsies for industry and has decimated the State Department and Security and Intelligence Agencies, where experience and expertise used to matter to help keep us and the world safe.
    On balance even those presumed positives do not overcome the damage he has done. How hard should it be to see and hear him warn about a nation where violence in the streets would be the status with Joe Biden, when that violence in the streets is happening on his watch, in his term and in many instances is because he has fanned racism, white supremacy and looks the other way at police killing unarmed Black people. 
    If we had a president up to the job there would have been a more sensitive response to the kind of violence done by cops this year. Remember Obama's battle with the NRA-a money trough for Republicans? If we had a president up to the job, we would have responded to the Covid crisis with a plan and strategy. If we had a president up to the job, we would have better managed the economic impact.
    If Trump kept his word, all of us would be better off economically, more secure, coal miners would be back to work instead of having lost more jobs, there would be more factory jobs, the opioid crisis would have been handled, etc.
    So, the convention that I watched was as phony as the ginned up make believe expertise Trump acted in his television series.
suckers to nuts
     Yes, it is true and sad, that he has supporters, who eat up what he says, who believe he's been a success, and some of his more looney base follow the rabbit hole theory that he is the savior of the world doing battle with pedophiles who worship evil.
      Those folks, and those who defied social distancing, the wearing of masks and safety precautions while abusing the White House are his nation. They are suckers and they part of a sucker's reality and the sad thing, the bad thing, the frightening thing is they don't seem to mind living in a world where you don't need or use a brain.
celebrating a raptor 

    Let's stay vigilant and focused. A massive vote turnout is essential. Truth is on our side. Reality, as hard as it may be, is where we live. 

     Stay safe, take care of each other.

     See you down the trail.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Decency and Normalcy

    Fleeting as any generation may be, we live amidst certain constancies. Confrontation, conflict, is as certain as sea and earth. Forces collide.
     The American republic is ground zero for a collision that historians tell us is the most severe test of our existence since 1860, the cusp of the Civil War.
       Last week those who paid attention saw decency, normalcy and were transported to a reality far away from the toxic bedlam of Trump world. 
     The Democratic National Convention, the virtual edition, was effective, loaded with voices, faces, expression of hope, examination of issues and powerful in message. Obama and Biden delivered the best speeches of their careers. Kamala Harris crossed an historic threshold with dignity, force and intellect. The many other speakers were passionate and pointed. Because they were not speaking to a hall full of delegates, they were able to speak more directly, more one on one, to the heart and the mind. 
     As someone who began reporting on presidential politics in the late '60's and a veteran of decades of conventions, I found the virtual presentation to be more intelligent, focused,  and in depth than the circus like exuberance of the old school. Once those conventions served a purposed, but since the 80's they've become staged productions and big parties.
     The Democrats were the first in this modern pandemic to build a structure. We were imbued with family, earnestness, purpose, commitment to equality, a vision of caring, plans for healing and rebuilding, and the normal tradition of America aspiring to greatness and competency.  
      Now the Trump party will take center stage, and those fractures that divide us, and the forces of deception and fraud that threaten us will be in the spot light.

toxic 2020
     The bad year took a turn for the worse this week as the air on California's central coast was listed as the most dangerous in the world. It happened as smoke from fires to the north and south were trapped in a heat wave. Since midweek houses have been closed, outdoor activity was a no-no, and the temperatures set new high records.
    The milky sky was acrid and full of a fine soot and ash that covered houses and cars. Most of us who live on this side of the Santa Lucia Mountains do not have air conditioning. The mountains would normally be seen in this view, but have been obscured by the bad air. 
    A local air quality expert said it is the worst he's seen in his 30 years of measurement.  We take precautions, stay inside and know that soon this will clear, an inconvenience. But we share a concern for our fellow Californians fighting the blazes, evacuating, worrying about their homes, on top of the pandemic. 
tender mercies and gentle victory
   A quick trip to the shore, where the air is at least moving, presented a couple of sights worth sharing. 
   The green patina on this outcropping is visible only during seasons when the low tide exposes it. I took delight in the artistic shading of Providence.
   I marveled at this discovery of clay figures of some composition, set atop rocks on the shore. Someone, with care, added to the tableau of the Pacific shore. A thoughtful and creative kindness.
    And there was the joy of this duo. Notice the bend in one of the rods.
   Look carefully in the frame below and you'll see a trophy of this day of fishing on the rocks. 

   So, even as we journey on in this historic passage, there are moments of the normalcy we seek.
   Stay well, take care of each other.

   See you down the trail.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Surprises and Divides

   August on the California central coast comes with surprises; the Surprise Lily and a rare August rain leaving .2 of an inch.
      From the amaryllis family, the Surprise Lily's are also known as naked ladies. Why, I haven't a clue. And any measurable moisture this time of year is welcomed. 

   The naked ladies are considered a pest by some, but not around our place on the ridge.

coming at us on the horizon
      As the US Presidential election draws near it is though our culture has been tossed onto a hot griddle, we are dividing and spreading further apart. It is barely hyperbole to say the vote in 2020 is a kind of civil war.
     We've been divided since the majority of US voters rejected the unfit, unqualified Trump. From the carnage of his inaugural to the very real carnage of economic collapse and his failure to lead during the pandemic it has been first mystifying, and then disheartening to find that his craven, boorish, inept, dishonest and unhinged behavior attracts a cult of supporters.
     Those with any sense of history, knowledge of government, appreciation of the United State's historic role in the world, sense of compassion, decency, concern for the future, worried about climate change, belief in equality, respect for science, truth, the role of a free media, and general civility are appalled not only at Trump but by those who support him. The divide could not be more clear.
      If it were merely political and philosophic differences there would be no movement by traditional Republicans, including every leading strategist, conservative intellectuals, former high level government servants and rank and file to defeat Trump. This is more than politics, this is a thorn in the soul of the republic, this is a rip in the fabric of our constitutional aspirations. Trump is a cancer on American history and his supporters are part of the pathology.
       Historians, social scientists and other scholars will provide the searing analysis of how and why this nation became so unhealthy as to enable the Trump disease. He is by no means the cause, but he is the enabler, the hater, the poster boy for all that is wrong with America. But he is real and so are those so addled as to go to an arena, become part of a super spreader event and then die. 
       Donald Trump is a broken man, suffering mental illness, being irrational, and stupid. Attempts to remove him failed because racist opportunists, and masters of manipulation like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham and their pack of poltroons have taken advantage. And so those once Republicans who sold their soul to become Trumpists have further coddled the very worst of us.
       It is not a coincidence that Trumpists sound and behave like the old confederacy, slave owners, entitled and privileged white men. Sexists, chauvinists, oppressors, and not well educated. 
       We owe the future another repudiation of the confederacy and it's kookie new spawn of those who give allegiance to fabricated and bizarre conspiracy theories, and white supremacy.
for the future

         There will be much to do, to repair, amend, recalibrate, heal and prepare a United States for our heirs. It starts with a vote. We know the aspiring dictator is doing all that he can to destabilize the process and to cast doubts. McConnell has again been an accomplice. 
          Vigilance, diligence, commitment will be required to oversee and protect what must be an overwhelming rejection and repudiation. Done properly it could be the last battle of the Civil War. But understand there will need to be a kind of new Reconstruction, beyond what we can imagine now, to finally address what ever it is that is the beast in the hearts of those you see at a Trump rally. They can and should be vanquished, but they too are human and they will need attending to.
          As for Trump, we can just hope he is litigated to the end.

        Stay safe, stay well. Take care of each other.

        See you down the trail. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

difficult conversations

     There is a reach in this post that may move us to not entirely comfortable places, though the place we land is better, I think.
          As a result of an impending surgery last week, I wrote
"The Letter." 
      "The Letter" is that document you leave your loved ones, in case.  It is your last words. You say what should be said, you offer valedictory thoughts, you include details to help their moving on, managing the business of life, and you say good bye. It is grim work. The finality of your own mortal life is front and center. It gets your full attention. 
       When it is complete, it is a good thing. It offers a peace of mind, but it also generates a clarity. There is much in living that keeps us from a clear view of life. This task leads you to the essence.
       Writing "The Letter" is something I suggest, for people of a certain age, even if there are no surgical or medical riddles on the horizon. It is either the best, or worse, kind of what if contingency. 
       I think it helps draw you closer to your own life and to understandings. 
         There is another difficult conversation, a dialogue, I think the nation should begin. 
          Some will find even this suggestion hard to abide, but I've come to think it is our only hope. We should begin a 25 year process of a moderated public conversation about reckoning and reparations.
       A quarter of a century is a long process, but we are talking about origin issues. It is time to come clean, to acknowledge an unvarnished history of this nation and to dial it back to the time of sovereign residents, before European exploration and colonization.
      I imagine a national commission of sorts to preside over a calibrated and measured process that would have an impact on every aspect of our national life. 
      Education, law, economy, cultural mores, and human understanding would reap the benefits and consequences of a society having a discussion with itself in a very deliberate and intentional way. 
       25 years would allow for every historical accounting, gripe, grievance, tradition, presumption, mis understanding, dishonesty, and all the other effluence of our hundreds of years of becoming who we are, to be heard, seen, examined and understood. 

     The first years would be the fact finding and the sharing, putting all things on the table. Detailed and exhaustive, building what amounts to an honest revelation of all that we have been, done, in unescapable clarity.
     It would be the national discussion and the world would watch. I can see public hearings in every major city and state. The mechanics can be worked out so everyone could have their say.
      It's a broad idea, but it emerges from a life being spent as an observer, watcher, journalistically reflecting who we are.
       Maybe it is just my time on the watch, but race has been at the core our national existence and drama since I started reporting.

      1965 put me on the trail of the Ku Klux Klan, which became the rabbit hole of race in America that occupied much of my reporting life.
       The late David Brinkley and Senator Barry Goldwater  were two of the judges who awarded me a National Emmy Award for an investigation of the Klan. Brinkley called it  "one of television's finest hours."
       For almost 50 years I've watched and wondered why don't we try to fix this, why don't we just get painfully honest. 
     A 25 year national conversation will allow the honesty and  time to create a full account of history. With that achieved in the early decade, generations can then begin to mediate what to do about it, how to adapt, how to make amends. 
    By adding the element of Reparations, it will force this nation to come to a time of adjudication, judgement, and seeking meaning through recompense. It becomes an act of contrition, a national seeking of redemption. It will not be easy, nor should it be. It will force knowledge to become common and it will challenge our sense of justice, and it will force us to proceed with honesty, vigilance, and a new sense of who we are and who we will become. It will change the balance of things.

     Living through a pandemic has given all of us time to think. Our initial "We've Got This" attitude got tired as disruption continued. Flattening curves worked, until we rushed too fully back to a sense of normal. No one has lived through a challenge of this magnitude and we have come to realize we are indeed vulnerable and without a cure.
      That realization can work on a human psyche.
    The eastern slope of the high Serra has become a favorite place. The power and beauty of nature is awesome. But I also find great renewal in the vestige of the frontier life, thinking about the spirit of those hardy souls who made their way against it all.
    I felt an extra measure of that when I visited ancestral Scotland the brave.  Surviving challenges has pushed our advance and toughened us to living on this planet in the face of hostility.
     As California summer brings the thirsty brown and tan, I've been watching a few fighters.
     The thistle is the flower of Scotland. Here in California it is the bane of ranchers and gardeners, but I delight in their persistence.

    And after cousin of the wild thistle, our prolific artichoke bed passes its zenith, it offers a final salute of resilience and beauty.  
       So there you have it; challenging notions, hard suggestions for difficult conversations. If we are to see this republic survive, if the best of our aspirations are a noble human endeavor, we need to get tough and we need to be fully honest.

       Stay safe. Take care of each other.

       See you down the trail.