Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Debate America


presidential debate: a foggy forecast

   The big winner are the vendors providing the coffee and snacks for the meetings underway at the networks, newspapers, campaign leadership and the debate commission offices or zoom meetings. 

    There's a lot of thrashing to do before another debate goes up. Once again American cultural norms have been savaged by the spurious mongrel called Trump.

Photo by Doug Mills New York Times

    We'll see if suggestions the next two debates be scrapped gains any traction. The Florida Town Hall format doesn't assure a better result. If Trump can't abide by rules, we cannot expect his supporters to behave as though they have been house broken either. 
  • Biden did not hurt himself. Trump did not help himself. 
  • Republicans have tried to distance themselves, a signal          Trump pooped on his efforts to get swing voters. One of Frank Luntz's focus group, Ruthie from PA said she was undecided going into the debate, but will vote for Biden becasue Trump behaved like a "crackhead."
  • Biden answered any questions about his agility. He was able to hold focus and communicate with voters despite having Trump yammering away. Biden can handle any crisis or critical decision to be made in the Oval Office and there will be no bully clown in the room.
  • There was a significant tune out as the melee continued meaning a lot of people are fed up with Trump and his  fouling of America. 
     now what
     One of the Murdoch's had Champaign waiting for Chris Wallace when he arrived home from Cleveland. He said he did not feel like celebrating.
     He was off balance and flustered, but in fairness he had no tool to use but reason and a louder voice and those would fail against Trump in his best "Il Duce" drag.
     In 42 years of journalism and broadcasting I moderated many debates, but never encountered anyone as ignorantly belligerent as Trump. The mic kill switch was something I always wanted and I practiced in a more sane and genteel time.
    Something needs to be done, if the institution of a Presidential Debate is to have meaning, significance and benefit to the electorate. I'd counsel for clowns waiting off stage with seltzer bottles, dispatched when needed. That arrangement of color and hair that rides atop Il Duce's head  would respond in interesting ways to a good soaking. Maybe that could keep him in check. After all that coiffure was expensed for some $70 thousand in his tax returns. If I were Wallace I would have asked about that. Is that hair style worth 
that much?

in closing
   This from historian Jon Meacham:
"No hyperbole: The incumbent's the lowest moment in the history of the Presidency since Andrew Johnson's racist state papers."

    From David Brooks   New York Times
"I'm the most horrified I've been in my career as a political journalist and the most relieved. This election won't be close. Have faith in the American people."

   To my friends abroad, I am again embarassed for this nation. I'm not alone. There are millions of us. One of the most forwarded pieces today has been an article about where and how people can leave if Trump is re-elected. 
    On additional reflection, I suggest the debate commission provide the next two hosts, Steve Scully of C-SPAN and Kristen Welker of NBC with cattle prods-turned to high.

    Stay well. Take care of each other.

    See you down the trail.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

America Convoluted

shades of gray
    If anyone knows how the next couple of months of political drama/trauma will resolve, they are a seer. We are in a perfect storm of political discord. It would not be so serious if the President was not a rogue, and delusional.
    No one can say with certainty where this is headed. These days are full of intrigue, consequence, and intricate to the degree everything is a shade of gray. We are convoluted.
   It is not unlike the central California shoreline. Time and natural forces record the combination of elements that make reality. The closer you look, the more you see. 

    Clean lines do not exist. Nothing is smooth. There is no purity of single element. What we have is a composite, a forced assimilation of geology, an amalgamation of time, nature, and material. Is that not so in 2020?

    Where in nature we can read the forces and effect of  pressure in the lines, it is the same for this nation.
     As founder Benjamin Franklin said after the arduous and combative work of creating the Constitution when he was asked "what kind of government have you given us?" "A republic if you can keep it."
     For the last 233 years we have kept it. We have played by rules. We have seen generations of leaders come and go and abide by defining principles and transitions of power. Compromise and the common good rose above strident party loyalty, or worse, personal avarice, desire and ego. The song lines are in our history. 

   Even if Donald Trump was a great man, a person of the majority, in favor with most Americans, still his behavior would be sordid and unAmerican. That he is the deplorable reprobate tin horn dictator he is, makes his behavior dangerous

do we deserve trump?
       It is a hard and unpopular question. But we must ask if we have so abused our system of government and politics with money and greed, and have we so failed at education to teach civics, government and critical reasoning and have we become such a self indulgent consumer society that we have failed to keep a Republic?
    You can't look at the aftermath of earth making and not see the presence of storms of force, uplift, shifts and breaking away and more.
    As founder and third President Thomas Jefferson wrote to founder and fourth President James Madison "...a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
the death rattle
   The under representation of the majority and the over representation of the minority is, unless it is fixed, a death rattle for this democratic republic. It is a rebellion past due.
    I come down on the side that we respect the bones of the constitution, but we adjust to make it viable in our age. We have done this from the origin, first Bill of Rights, and later only after struggle, by extending full citizenship to African Americans, to women, to ending repression and oppression, and even to hemming in the indulgent excesses of the money classes. We have evolved and shifted.
    Traditionally Republicans have been all about protecting property value, wealth and individual rights. Democrats have opted for the common good, extending rights and protection against the abuse of corporations and government and using government power to fix social wrongs. But Trump has lobotomized  the Republican ethic and disemboweled its previously vigorous policy on national security. 
      Democrats gave the Republicans in Congress a chance to rid themselves of the Trump menace, but they failed to seize the moment and made their alliance with the fraudulent. They could be smug about giving the wealthy another tax break, and filling the courts with conservatives, some who are zealots and inexperienced. They sold their soul, such as it was.
     The Supreme Court appointment replacing RGB will come back to haunt the Republicans, should Biden win and should the Democrats flip the Senate.   

what about the trump nation?
     Excluding the courts, most of the Trump damage can be amended and changed. Environmental roll backs, dozens of regulations, rejoining climate pacts, reasserting traditional international leadership and dignity in diplomacy, putting professionals back to work at the State Department and in national security, even reestablishing national healthcare, should the conservative court strike it down. Some in the Democrat party push for use of muscle, perhaps even to increase the size of the Supreme Court to make up for the shameful Republican packing. A legislative tough love, an eye for an eye.
    But what about those most belligerent Trump supporters, who sadly congregate largely in ignorance of truth. Trump does not speak it, and Fox News is a propaganda mill, by acknowledgement of those who work there and even some of the ownership.

nests attached to bluffs along the pacific coast near cayucos

   The US is divided, some say as bad as it has been since the 1860s, the verge of the Civil War. Here are some facts:
  •     Trump is alone among all Presidents since polling began 80 years ago to have never received approval from a majority of voters.
  •  Pew Research finds that 9 in 10 Trump supporters are White-Democrats; 6 in 10 are White
  •  3 out of 5 Biden supporters say Whites have an advantage---only 5% of Trump supporters think that.
  •   Biden supporters think Fox News, OANN and evangelical pastors have duped or "brain washed" Trump supporters.
  •  Trump supporters think Biden supporters have been duped by mainstream media, newspapers, professors and Hollywood
     Previous research has found that conservatives in general and Trump supporters even more so, live with more fear, dislike outsiders, and are believers of conspiracy theories no matter how absurd or fictionalized.
      America is indeed divided. There are wide gaps on race, gender, and immigration. Trump has fanned fears, and refused to be a President for all people. As they say, he plays to the base, only. 
      His base is a minority, mostly white, with less education, and increasingly inclined to give credibility to the belief that Trump is doing battle with occult worshiping, pedophiles who are embedded deep in the government. They also believe that John F. Kennedy is still alive and living in Pittsburgh. How is a nation supposed to deal with people like that?

     It is as though we've gone insane. 4 years of Trump's insanity has made this a sick and divided nation. For years Bill Maher has been asking what will we do when he refuses to leave office. Now it is a serious national discussion. It's a shame no sitting Republicans will do what droves of those who have left the party have done, and that is to say aloud, Trump is a maniac, let alone unfit and unqualified and he is now a clear and present danger to the nation.
     Though it appears there is nothing that can persuade the Trump base to consider the truth, history and to be objective.
The more I study the Trump base and see and hear them the more I am reminded of people I saw when doing investigative reporting on cults. Sadly this only affirms my fears, noted here 4 years ago, that Trump's core is reminiscent of the 1922 brownshirts of Hitler. Then their street politics helped Hitler build an occult based police state and party that was one of the most diabolical in human history. We have been watching a slow moving coup and systematic dismantling of American excellence and respect. 
      Those marginal voters who tilt conservative and appreciate the court packing, or who benefit from tax breaks, business loans, or who applaud less government oversight of water, air and business practices are accomplices as much as the racists, xenophobes, one issue zealots and belligerent ignorant who are the minority presidents, minority base. Unless and until the republic fixes the problem of under representation of the majority and over representation of the minority, all we can tell Dr. Franklin is, we couldn't keep it.

     The first step of rebellion is flip the senate and win the White House. It is time to change the American political landscape with seismic shifts and a relentless pursuit of the thugs who mugged, raped and tried to kill our republic.  

            Vigilance in every step of the voting and vote count.
An historic get out the vote effort and response. And we must be prepared to rise up to demand honesty, fairness and a lawful process and hopefully transition of power. We may have to put our bodies in the street. We may have to be willing to sacrifice to preserve and keep the Republic.

        Stay well.

         See you down the trail.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

And now this! What is your choice, America?

pacific sonata and soliloquy 

   A stiff onshore wind cleared the thought that was stuck on replay since a friend's text, deploring the latest offense of 2020, stuck it in my mind. RBG gone less than 24 hours and already the jackals were salivating, revealing a soulless betrayal of their own perversity, again!
     A bluff trail along a rugged stretch was the antidote of choice. Our national tragedy just got worse. Fresh air and surf gave me some distance to riddle it out.
     I know we're in new territory, a place that is dangerous to the continued existence of the republic as we have known it, but we've gone even deeper into the dark woods. We'll explore our national mood, a bit further down the trail.
ash on the gold
    What is top of the mind, the crisis of the day? Out here on the West coast we've been forced into thinking about long term implications. Giant fires, loss of life and billions in property, limited resources, fouled air with a deleterious global impact. 
    Climate change is changing the course of history. California, the magical land of golden sun, beaches, mountains and redwoods, where the future and fantasy are built, Disney, Hollywood, Apple,Tesla, Google, and the place that loomed alluringly in the lives of boomers with every note of the Beach Boys, Eagles or Grateful Dead, must now navigate a veil of uncertainty. There is smoke and ash on the gold.
been bad before
    The calculus for our daughters and grandchildren is a different data set than we used to engineer our aspirations. But there is always the X factor, human ingenuity, and now augmented by artificial intelligence and machine learning.  
     Sitting around the dinner table recently, hearing them voice concerns about the future of their work, their children's lives, education, the government, state of the civilization and all, the best fatherly sagacity I could muster was, it's been bad before, but somehow the spirit leads to evolution, improvement and survival.
   the new "moon shot"
    Our parents would not recognize some of our everyday routines. And so it will be for our kids, and for us. Change is accelerating and it must. Life is coming at us more quickly.
    Here are a couple ideas I've tried to seed. President Biden, and we hope that is so, should do a "moonshot" approach on wildfires. All of humanity would benefit. 
    With scientists, technologists, environmentalists, foresters, architects, builders and firefighters in concert, we can find a better way to mange forests and wild land, prevent fire perhaps, battle back at blazes and survive them.
    It's more than a sci-fi notion, why can't our brightest design robotic, mechanical, scalable, "Transformer" like massive firefighting equipment and technology that can do what and go where humans cannot? Designed to adapt to all terrain, loaded or rapidly refilled with water or firefighting chemicals, able to attack blazes and withstand what brave humans can't. A fanciful notion? Perhaps, but this planet's future will involve fire on a scale unknown to our history. It's time for new thought. When JFK committed the US to get to the moon in a decade, it all had to be invented and made possible. 
   new ways to build
   Homes need to be built and coded differently where fires burn. I'm not a designer, but I told the girls if we were building today, we'd design a home that includes a large section that is subterranean, built with concrete, cement, metal and other fire resistant materials. Interior and exterior sprinkler or retardant systems and more would be part of the plan.
    After hurricanes devastated coastal homes, insurance companies, state, and federal agencies mandated new building codes. The same should go for those of us who live in states where wild fires are a reality. It would mean a massive change in construction, materials, design, and planning. It would no doubt limit development in some areas, but not to change is foolish. 
    Simply put, we need to get busy inventing our future, with an intentionality, and in response to what science and experience  inform us. 
the rise of the beast
       An incompetent, criminal, minority President who is mentally ill and a liar without precedent, the deadly pandemic, and a terribly managed response, the bull goose looney Attorney General aroused by a growing authoritarianism, a cult like party largely brainwashed or belligerently ignorant and proud of it, the nation's diminished international standing, being seen as a stooge of Putin, and a trend to reverse civil rights apparently is not bad enough juju so now we have a Supreme Court vacancy to get exercised about. 
      Well, we have McConnell, and Graham and others in the Senate saying there should be no court nominee put forward so close to a Presidential election. But that was when a Black President, and a Democrat had an appointment to make. Now they have a White Racist Republican whose feet they lick. In the real world, there goes the notion of principle. 
      Do you remember when intelligent minds told us never to accept Trump and his gang as normal and never normalize the aberrant behavior? Did we ever have a chance, with one disaster or outrage leading to another?
     Are there any Republicans, old fashioned true Republicans left in the Senate? I guess we'll see. 
     I suspect I'll be back on trails, grabbing as much pacific breeze antidote as I can in these next few weeks. In the near term we should celebrate the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an extraordinary human being who lifted the greatness of the US by her devotion to principle, liberty, intellect, law and a sense of human dignity. 
      Citizens deserve a process and timeline that allows us to think and reason. There has been precious little of that in the last 4 years. If this deplorable administration and its quisling minions in the Senate try to fill the court at this juncture, there may well be a seismic rumble. Two visions of the US are available to citizens this year. One leads to repair and problem solving. The other one is the super spreader of despair and problem making. 

      Stay safe. Take care of each other. Vote. Encourage others to vote.

      See you down the trail.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fire Season

    Nerves are on edge during fire season on the west coast.
Californians track where fires are active, stay in touch with friends, pray, and wonder how anyone can deny the worsening impact of climate change. We also ponder the interface between nature, wilderness, where and how we build, and our methods of forestry and fire control. We also live with the impact.
    The frame above is the top of an umbrella on our front deck. It is ash from the Dolan Fire which is raveging our beloved Big Sur, less than an hour up the Pacific Coast Highway.
   It is better today, but we've experienced an ash fall that has coated the central coast and made the air unfit for outdoor activity.
   Above-ash particles captured in spider webs. Below-on our deck surface.

    We've had ash in previous years, but not to this extent, even a couple of years ago when the Chimney Fire threatened the famed Hearst Castle just 6 miles from here.
    This ash fall is a minor thing. Lives have been lost, communities and homes destroyed, daring helicopter rescues have been necessary and thousands of fire fighters risk their lives in California, Oregon and Washington.
         Like many others, I spent time today in line at the car wash.
    On trip number one my granddaughter thought of the experience as a kind of ride. It was her first, and we passed the time in line looking at old movie clips. She told me about an Adam Sandler movie Transylvania, where he is "Drac-lee-a" so I introduced her to Bela Lugosi. 
     "Old time movie Drac-lee-a is not nice, is scary" she said.
    The "ride" diverted her attention, she and her mother had been fretful about the ash. 
    The second visit offered time to check email and read a couple of articles. 
     Since last week's heat wave, we've been lucky to have overnight fog and cooling temperatures. Anything of that nature is a blessing, here and to those in the fire zones.
          A man from LA who came north to escape smoke, said on our local NPR station, "the sky looks like something from a Batman movie." 
       If only all of this was just special effects. 
       September and October on the Central Coast can be spectacular and pristine and each day is like a jewel. But there are times, when fires intrude, that we desire our internal clocks to speed away until rain season can begin.
When it is good, it is as good as it can be. But at times we do a dance with our nerves. And we are heartbroken by the news from elsewhere.

       Stay well, stay safe.

       See you down the trail.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Q quarreling...Roses...Tomatoes

   Roses to you, in fact roses to all of us who have endured the horror show of 2020. Living through the pandemic has been demanding enough, but the political/cultural skirmishes have pushed us to new and uncomfortable places.
    Economic woes, as personal financial crises, concern over children's education and well being, and personal health worries have driven far too many in the nation to the brink.
    So, enjoy the roses from Lana and a diversion about tomatoes. The analysis piece of this post comes later. 

the crop report 

    Growing tomatoes is a big deal when you grow up in Indiana. 
     Bless her heart, my mom set out tomato plants every year but I am hard pressed to remember there ever being a bounty of the summer fruit. We ended up buying them from farmers and growers or were gifted them by neighbors who had more luck.
      Luck changed when Lana entered my life. Her mother was a master gardener, and it must be in the genes. Lana has lamented that living on a hill side on a ridge affords precious little flat ground. So she has taken to what I call the Frank Phillippi school of tomato growing.
        The crop is distributed in pots. My pal Frank amazed me decades ago when he was living in an apartment in Georgetown with a tiny balcony and a couple of sunny windows where he introduced his tomatoes in pots technique.
     A few years later when he owned a home in Alexandria, but with limited sunny garden space, he upped his game by putting the pots in wagons and moving them into the sun.
       People from Indiana will swear the best tomatoes and corn are their province. They are indeed joys of an Indiana summer, but we've found excellent corn and tomatoes here  in the California Republic.
     If you are a long time reader you will recall we've experimented with our tomato crops. We've sheltered them in visquine "huts," wrapped them in plastic, and have tried raised beds. This summer it's pots, in sunny and warm zones on the back hill and at the back of the house.
      I'm a devotee of the San Marzano and yellow varieties.
      Lana is not overly fond of tomatoes, except in cooking, but she put out a variety this year and they seem to be flourishing. She complains that she's not growing enough to "put them up" or can them as she did when she gardened Indiana's flat land.
      Another favorite is the cherry tomato. And again she's got a prolific pot. Next year though, she's got designs on a piece of the hillside where flowers may make way for a new tomato bed. "They need to be in the ground," she insists. That means some ground work, flattening, perhaps roto tilling and soil amending will be on the fall and winter do list. 

a mask-less confab

     Generations hence will find this time fraught with lunacy and perhaps inexplicable behavior. 
      In unpacking how we got to a Trump, they will learn he is the poster boy for a fractured culture where self indulgence   and entertainment challenged thoughtfulness and a common good. 
      There were some during the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918 who refused to wear masks. There were super spreader events even then. 
      Xenophobes, nationalists and white supremacists have always been with us, but usually marginalized by an intelligent society and a conscientious political code. 
       Science has had its doubters forever, but for most of our history the ignorant have lacked political power.
       Conspiracy theories probably began with the dawn of humankind. 
       What makes this time different is the ubiquitous hum of media, mass and social, and combined with the intellectual decline of the nation. It is exacerbated by the tectonics of media economics that has left us with fewer gate keepers, fact checkers, time tested aggregators, trusted delivery systems, and the rise of the importance of opinion. We forget everyone has one. The value of opinion was once commensurate with the quality of a life experience, training and education. Now blowhards make their living bloviating and sad, weak, easily led, ill informed people, challenged with thinking, allow others tell them what to think.
      And so we have Trump, and now Q
textures and shapes

battling Q's 
      I would not be surprised to learn that Steve Bannon is somehow a godfather to the Q silliness. It fit's his MO of cultivating fringe and marginalized and intelligence challenged demographics.
     He may have nothing to do with it. Maybe Bill Maher was not joking when a couple of years ago he admitted to being Q.
     I'm sorry, if you think there is a shred of credibility in any of the QAnon goofiness, you have just relinquished your privilege to speak about anything other than fairy tales, and cleaning out horse stables.
     a true Q?
      If you are interested in intrigue about the idea of the letter Q, then do a little reading about the Q source used in Biblical criticism and scholarship.
      For some 120 years scholars and theologians have discussed, debated and studied what is called the Q source-a compendium of statements and thoughts attributed to Jesus, the radical, reformist rabbi for whom Christianity owes its origins. Some hypothesize these thoughts of Christ were drawn from the faiths early oral tradition and thus explains how and why some of the Gospels are similar.
     The research, scholarship and debate is fascinating and endlessly more stimulating that thinking Donald Trump is the savior of the world, doing battle with pedophiles, the deep state and aliens. 
      I've been saying for almost 4 years, Trumpism is fascism, and authoritarianism. Some of you Trumpists and/or QAnon devotees may read this as Trump is the Anti-Christ. I'm not saying that. But believe it if it will help you come to your senses. 
     Jesus might get a kick out of that.
    Stay safe. Take care of each other.

    See you down the trail.