Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Morning in the Garden of Tranquility


Wearing shorts and a tank top, a cup of iced coffee on the wide arm of the Adirondak chair, sitting in the morning coolness of the garden; my attempt to start the day not thinking about the circus in D.C.

The sound of water falling on a large rock and dribbling into the pool below is the primary sound this early. The throbbing groan of the AC unit two houses away occupies the background. This is urban quiet.

A single ray of sunshine slices through the Italian cypress trees and illuminates the moon bridge, part of the stone temple, and the top of a feathery grass. A small breeze stirs a few mellow tones from the wind chime on the deck above.

The air in the sun ray is alive with tiny white erratic flecks - small flies that I call gnats. Their haphazard movements are somewhat hypnotic, adding a visual calming. The effect is broken, or enahnced for this ecologist, by predatory wasps and flies that speed through the shaft of light, hawking for the small living flecks.

My focus shifts outward as the city awakens. A dog barks. A truck lumbers past in front of the house. The faint roar of a jet high overhead takes a spot in my hearing. The pool of sunlight creeps towards my feet and warms the flat stones of the patio. My moment of peace is nearly over.

The temperature today will be 99 degrees. The political scandal of the moment will blast its way into my head. I will start the next task on my endless to-do list and another day will be in full bloom.

Thank you, Garden of Tranquility, for this brief moment of peace to start my day.

---

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A CHAT WITH RAVEN


I sat on the beach with nature for a very long time. It was a very low tide, and the  shallow bay was mostly mud- and sand-flats. I had no computer device in my hand, no printed material, no earphones. By pushing my tinnitus into the background, I could hear only faint or occasional sounds; the thrumming of a distant ship engine and nature itself. It was an overcast day, somewhere between cool and warm, with no breeze. I sat and watched. I sat and listened. I sat and was. 


Faint shadows appeared, and my back felt sun warmed, only for a few moments. Then cold flowed over me like a wave along the ground, and mist rose from the mudflat in front of me. I mentally hugged myself for warmth. My eyelids grew suddenly heavy, and I drifted with the mist.


Raven stopped to chat, settling on the water- and sun-worn root wad on the beach near me. I wondered what all the fuss was early in the morning when I heard him and his Clan in the roosting tree. I told him about the coyote chorus in the middle of the night before, and how I wished I had also studied their language when my brain was young and flexible. They sounded excited, maybe joyful; I didn’t know. 


Raven is wise enough to talk to me without revealing those things that only ravens should know. And so he told me of his family, where his kids were living, how many visitors they had from other clans this summer; in other words news, but nothing too important. He did share that the big fuss that morning was another of the Raven Clan political arguments, and that one of his cousins, a distant one, launched into a rant about this and that. I asked if it was about us, the humans; he demurred.


Raven left to do some foraging on the mud flat before the tide turned, and he bid me a kind farewell until we met again. I enjoy Raven. Many people think he and his kind are course, crass, verging on vulgar; but I have known him for a long time, and understand that, unlike Crow, Raven and his own are honest, kind, and very forgiving.


After a quiet interlude, Eagle glided spread-winged over my head from her nest in the fir tree on the bluff behind me. She screeched a greeting as she passed, and I knew she needed to find more food for her young ones. She soared across the mudflat, wheeled suddenly and appeared to stall, then settled on something below. I couldn’t see what she was pulling on, perhaps a fish carcass, a stranded crab, maybe a dead gull. The food item occupied her for a very long time as I watched. Several times she spread her wings and hopped a short distance, carrying the item with her. It was a series of perplexing movements - perplexing to a watching human. 


As I watched, I noticed that the area of land around Eagle was rapidly growing narrower; the tide was flowing. The tide that day was extreme, and as it rose it raced across the flats with an astonishing speed. Eagle stayed in place as the land grew narrower, finally opening her wings and jumping skyward just as the water reached her position. The light bulb lit above my head; Eagle’s strange hopping was an adjustment of her position to the highest point of ground on what to me was a pancake-flat surface. How did she do that? I’ll have to ask the next time we talk. 


Eagle soared directly towards me, and gave me a quick glance and nod as she passed overhead to the nest with her waiting, hungry children. Such a polite being, even when busy.


A sound startled me awake. It was my wife calling from the bluff above. I was still sitting in a chair on the beach. The tide had come in, the water silently rushing across the mudflat towards me, and small waves lapped the shore not far from my feet. There was no Raven, no Eagle; had it all been a dream? 


I think sometimes the boundary between awake and dreaming is fuzzy, and the real and imagined blend and separate in varying patterns. For me, this exploring of boundaries occurs most when I am alone with nature, trying to attune my dulled senses to the absence of human society inputs and the underlying sights, sounds, smells and feel of my surroundings. Deep down, I know that if I successfully cross the boundary, I can have that chat with Raven, ask Eagle how she knows certain things, understand and appreciate the music of Coyote. We humans have that ability, but most of us lost it long ago. 


---

Imagined or experienced on the beach of the Lummi Peninsula, Lummi Bay, lands of the Lummi Nation in Washington State. 

























Friday, July 21, 2017

DEAR REPUBLICAN SENATORS:

Dear Republican Senators: I'll be blunt here, what the hell are you doing?? I know, you want to prove to your mythical "base" that you are tough, you are true conservatives, and you keep your promises. To those ends, you have wasted countless hours over the past several years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act - your so-called "Obamacare." And now you are at it again - you are making me gag!

Your mantra is "Obamacare is a disaster! Obamacare is a catastrophe!" NO IT IS NOT!!

Check the dictionary. Disaster: a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life. Catastrophe: an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering; a disaster.

The ACA is neither a disaster nor a catastrophe. The ACA is a law that has helped millions of Americans have access to health care that is covered by insurance, something they have never had for a variety of reasons. You know this, and you know this well. In fact, your "Base," such as it is, has been yelling at you to not take away their health insurance, including Medicaid that millions of them depend on.

So what is your motivation to destroy peoples lives? Keep in mind that you have a basic job description in the Constitution, and that is "to promote the general welfare." For some reason, you have misread this as saying that your job is "to promote the corporate welfare and the welfare of the super wealthy." A pox on all your houses!

You, dear Republican Senators, are playing with fire. In the early days of the Republic, folks like you would be tarred and feathered and carried through the streets on a rail. If only! You are truly despicable people who have let partisanship take sway over your responsibility to govern in ways that promote the general welfare. It is plain to all that your only interest is in your own self-promotion and some sort of vague sense of victory in political battle. For shame! You are not governing, you are playing, and your play is making life miserable for millions of people in this country.

And then there is Trump. Ah yes, the buffoon you used to laugh at, the clown you said would never be nominated by your party to be the candidate for president. And now that Trump is the president, you smile and giggle and pat him on the back and pose with him wearing your shit-eating grins as he concludes the most ridiculous and disasterous (yes, disaster) pieces of executive order or law with his seismic scrawl. Gag me again! Have you no shame? Have you no basic sense of decency? Have you no idea that you need to wipe the brown stuff off your nose and lips?

History will correctly identify you as among the least competent, least representative and most damaging legislators in our history. Congratulations.

I hope your "repeal and replace" the ACA gambit continues to burn in your faces for all to see. I hope you fail at this endeavor. And all your other schemes, too.

Disrespectfully yours....a true American

---


AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 2017

Definition of civil
1 a : of or relating to citizens civil duties
b : of or relating to the state or its citizenry; civil strife
2a : civilized; civil society
b : adequate in courtesy and politeness; mannerly; a civil question;

A civil war is raging in America, and it is composed of both civil strife and incivility. Citizens are polarized as never before in our lifetimes. Large chasms have opened between people in terms of politics and culture. The signs of this civil war are everywhere we turn; in the news, and in our daily conversations.

The current President of the United States and his minions have, through actions, words, and silence condoned and fanned the flames of this civil war. They didn't start this war; it was brewing for some time. Things came to a head with the election of Barak Obama, and it has been raging ever since, fueled by bigotry. Truth, facts, objectivity and science have become victims of one-sided and often ignorant thought. The tiny percentage of Americans who wield the most control over our politics and government have purposefully planned and enabled hate and ignorance.

Huge numbers of Americans, likely to soon be the majority, are the victims of government action and inaction. The political appointments of Directors of government agencies have been placed with one mission in mind: destroy the existing fabric of government that serves the people, and replace it with a new fabric that serves the wealthy and the corporations. The victims include women, children, non-white persons, non-Christian persons, working people, and everyone who cannot afford an education and health care.

Racism has never died in the American system, but is alive and well and thoroughly woven into all aspects and levels of government. Small incremental gains under more democratic administrations have been reversed or are under imminent threat at the hands of the present administration. Bigotry, always there but often cloaked, has emerged into the light of day as more and more people express openly what they previously only murmured quietly. It is now commonplace to see or hear about verbal and physical hate crimes and speech directed against all those who are "the other."

Immigrants and refugees are now singled out as a danger to American society, and this battlefield has even seen federal courts doing battle with the administration. One side wants to erect walls and enact laws to keep certain kinds of people (i.e. non-white, non-Christian) out; the Statue of Liberty weeps with shame.

The party presently in control of the federal government seems to be purposefully immune to the truths about their actions and plans. Health care, as an example, is a major battleground in this civil war. The controlling party has vowed for years to repeal the federal health care law that has made health care available to tens of millions of Americans who were shut out until it's enactment. Now this political party is in control of the Congress and the Executive, and gaining power in the Judiciary branch. And yet, even with this almost total control, they cannot pass a law that repeals and replaces the existing health care act. This failure is a direct result of the civil war; millions of Americans want to keep their access to health care, even though the controlling political party wants to destroy it.

Climate change, a well-known, if inconvenient truth to those in power, is an increasing cause of hardship and suffering world-wide. This is another major battlefield in our civil war, with clearly drawn battle lines. The president and his minions use their "alternative facts" to negate the truth of human-caused climate change, and have even gone as far as setting in motion a withdrawal from an unprecedented global agreement to reduce carbon emissions. With the federal government on one side of the battle line, an increasing number of cities, counties, states and corporations have dug in on the other side, declaring that they will honor and act on the Paris Accord.

Civility has also been swept aside in this civil war. Never in our lifetimes have we seen a presidential candidate openly spew hate speech directed at so many people and groups. Never have we seen a President publicly and relentlessly castigate the news media. Radio, television and internet personalities on both sides of the political divide regularly insult, denigrate and mock anyone and everyone who is on the other side of their beliefs (or the positions they are paid to espouse). People are verbally and sometimes physically attacked in public for being "the other." People on opposite sides of the political divide can only yell at and insult each other, rather than have serious and respectful conversations. This civility divide is getting wider every day.

How and when will the civil war of 2017 end? Are the results still an open question, or does one side have a winning advantage over the other? (In fact, there are likely more than two sides in this battle.) One fact is abundantly clear, the interests that presently control the federal government have the advantage of that control, as well as tremendous wealth. They will probably maintain that control after the 2018 election, which will set up a major battle in 2020. The controlling interests have at least one clear advantage right now, a monolithic block of voters who hew to a small number of conservative ideals. This voting block can and will be mobilized around this small number of ideals, and under our electoral system can maintain their controlling position.

The other side of the political divide, unfortunately, is itself seriously divided. The wedges holding these divides open include political correctness, intersectionality, accusations of bigotry, non-inclusiveness, vestiges and scars of Bernie v. Hillary, not-progeressive-enough-ism, and others. This side of the civil war lost badly in the 2016 election, and is poised to continue on the same path unless the need for serious and drastic changes are understood and implemented - a daunting task.

Future historians will pour over the records of the 2017 American civil war. The realities of their world will be a direct result of the battles being fought in this war. There is no way to predict the outcomes, but it is certain that 2017 represents a turning point in American and world history. The extent of the casualties is unknowable now; all that can be said is that there will be many over the course of ther next few generations.

Can we end this war soon? I am optimistic that so many people have become energized and spurred into political action. I am pessimistic that the so-far disjointed and leaderless efforts of one side, my side, have little chance of prevailing against the juggernaut of wealth and power on the other side. Perhaps our best hope is that the other side suffers a major implosion that leaves an advantageous opening.

Time will tell, and time is racing into the future.
---

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

OUR FLAG



We proudly fly OUR flag for every national holiday. For many years, it seemed that the American flag belonged to the folks on the right (not correct) side of the political spectrum; but this was a false narrative. This flag is OUR flag, "our" meaning everyone in America. It is a symbol of many things, including the good, the bad and the ugly. But mostly it is a symbol of a country that was founded on a set of remarkable ideals, and by remarkable I don't mean perfect, but ideals that we can hold up and strive towards.

I believe in America. I believe that as a nation, as a people, we will somehow survive this present phase of populist, authoritarian leadership and systematic government deconstruction. We will emerge a damaged nation, both physically and in spirit. However, we have a touchstone, a place we can go together to find our way again, and it is the Constitution.

In the time B.T. - before Trump - we knew that there were many very serious issues to deal with as a nation. We continued to leave many of our sisters and brothers in unacceptable situations, victims of institutionalized systems that were unjust. This has not changed, it has only gotten worse under Trump. When we emerge from the Era of Trump, we will not only need to pick up where we were B.T., but also roll up our sleeves and fix the extensive damage done by Trump and his minions. But I have faith in America. If we pull together as a nation characterized by diversity, the strength of that diversity will pull us through.

So celebrate America today. Take a few moments to contemplate what America is, what it stands for, what it's potential is and can be. Say hello to your neighbors. Embrace the vitality of our diversity.

And then get back to the beer and burgers and fireworks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WHITHER (WITHER?) THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

The defeat of Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House of Reps election in history is a big downer for Democrats across the country. Ossoff ran as a moderate, tried not to offend Republican voters by demonizing Trump, and spent truckloads of cash. He lost anyway.

I have a few thoughts about this election result. First, it seems that political party might be more important than any individual politician, from candidates to president. No matter what Donald Trump does, Republican voters still seem to vote Republican. Perhaps party loyalty is stronger than any other factor in elections.

Second, I think the specifics of a candidate are more important than the party. This seems to contradict my first point, but let me play this out a bit. The strategy used by Ossoff was to run as a moderate in order to attract independent and less conservative Republican voters. This strategy didn't work. Perhaps the biggest problem for Ossoff was that he simply was not a good candidate for this kind of election. He is young, inexperienced in politics, and doesn't even live in the Congressional District he hoped to represent.

I want to use my state, Oregon, as an example. We have one Republican Member of the House, Greg Walden, who represents the more rural parts of the state. Walden is conservative, and was instrumental in passing the Repeal/Replace Obamacare legislation in the House. Unseating Walden will be a very difficult task for Democrats, perhaps an impossible task. Walden's district is majority Republican, made up of ranchers, farmers, loggers and other rural demographics. If a Democrat has a chance, a slim chance of unseating Walden, that person would need to be a well-established local who is part of the majority demographic in rural Oregon, a moderate, and someone with a political or government history.

To date, two Democratic candidates have anounced their intentions to run against Walden; both are from more liberal towns in Walden's district. One candidate, a Bernie Sanders supporter, ran against Walden in the last election and was soundly defeated by a huge margin. The other candidate is a political newbie, a woman dog-sled racer. Both candidates, in my humble opinion, are snowballs in hell regarding their chances to beat the Republican incumbent.

So, what is my conclusion? Well, I think loyalty to political party is probably the most important factor in elections, and any chance of upsetting a Republican, especially an incumbent, has to be based on understanding not only voter loyalty, but what factors make a candidate appealing to independent voters and voters in the other party who might be having serious qualms about their party candidate.

We Democrats need to understand that in this time of history, nominating very left candidates in traditionally conservative districts is not a good strategy. Both houses of Congress are controlled by one party, and that party gets to do whatever it wants, with limited options available to the minority party to stop them. So the most important thing Democrats can do for the forseeable future is put forward candidates who are Democrats who can win, whether or not they have each of our specific set of political "leftness." Our choice going forward is very simple: 1) keep putting forward candidates who have the best "left" credentials but can't win because they have no credibility with the majority of voters in their district, or 2) put forward candidates who have the best possibility of winning as Democrats, no matter how centrist they are. If we use strategy 2, we might have a chance to gain the majority in Congress.

My conclusion actually bothers me, because as a self-described "progressive realist" and long time some-kind-of-socialist I would prefer a more left-leaning majority party. The realist part of me, however, understands the present political realities of the United States, and the important context of the rest of the world, and so I am reluctantly comfortable with my aforementioned conclusion.

Any thoughts?
---

Friday, June 02, 2017

DEAR PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: MOST OF US AMERICANS DON'T AGREE WITH TRUMP

Dear people of the world:

It is important for you to know that most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, and most Americans disagree with everything he has done and will do. I know this because: 1. his opponent received 3,000,000 more votes than he did; and 2. public poll after public poll show that most Americans do not approve of what he is doing.

Donald Trump has redefined American exceptionalism; this now means that the USA will do everything except what is right and just. This is not the Amercia you know, and it is most certainly not the America the majority of Americans know. Donald Trump has his base, meaning the people who support him and what he does. Those of us who are not part of his base, and again I have to assure you that I mean the majority of Americans, vascilate between thinking we should try to understand his base and simply understanding that they are ignorant people. Yes, l know, that previous thought is not very politically correct, but seriously....

American democracy is a strange system. Someone recently wrote that our democracy is still in Beta testing, and it has many major bugs that need to be fixed. We are a country in which big money has taken more and more control of our political system. One of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, is controlled by that big money, spouting free market economic theory mixed with Libertarianism and, now, Trumpian populism. (To be balanced, there is a lot of Big Money supporting the Democratic Party, also; however, that party has ideals that differ markedly from the R's.) Members of our elected Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, are charged by our Constitution to "promote the general welfare;" this is their basic job description. Unfortunately, there is no annual job review for these politicians, and the only way to remove one is to not re-elect her/him. Also unfortunately, it is too often the case that Republican politicians at the state level rearrange voting district boundaries to ensure that their party candidates win elections.

Donald Trump, unfortunately now the President of the United States, has rejected the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a shameful, selfish and ignorant action by a shameless, selfish and ignorant man; a very privileged man, I might add. By rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump has rejected every principle of justice, peace, understanding, tolerance, human rights and common sense. I assume that Mr. Trump has never read the Paris Agreement; he does not read lengthy documents. He, or someone close to him, has cherry-picked themes that he has misapplied. One only needs to read or listen to his speech on rejecting the Agreement to understand what a completely ignorant person Mr. Trump is. Perhaps the funniest and saddest line in his speech was that he was not elected by the people of Paris!

In rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump also rejected everything contained in it, including these words and phrases:
- equity,
- responsibility,
- respective capabilities,
- urgent threat of climate change,
- best available scientific knowledge,
- specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties,
- (Parties) vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,
- effective and progressive response,
- equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,
- safeguarding food security and ending hunger,
- just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs,
- obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,
- importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases,
- importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems,
- protection of biodiversity,
- the importance of the concept of "climate justice,"
- importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels,
- importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors in addressing climate change,
- recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change.

In other words, by rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump, claiming to act on behalf of the American people, has rejected the rest of the world, and all the people in it! He has rejected all notions of equity, fairness, science, justice, sustainable development. He has damned the vulnerable people of future generations everywhere on Earth to continued poverty, disruption, misery and death. This is truly a crime against humanity.

Let me be very clear here: Donald Trump, the elected leader of what until now has been the leading country of the free world, has given away the mantle of leadership, has abandoned everything that makes America America, has let the poor, aspiring peoples of the world know that America no longer gives a damn about them, has slapped our allies across the face, and has heaped scorn on the ideals, real and aspirational, of the United States of America.

I, like most Americans, am ashamed and embarassed that Donald Trump is the president of my country. In the few short months he has been in office, Mr. Trump has wreaked much havoc on the instituions of American government. He has, through his own statements and actions, condoned the emergence into broad daylight of the most hate-filled and bigoted elements of our society. And on the world stage, he has publicly embraced our traditional enemies while insulting our closest allies. The President of the United States is no longer the leader of the free world, let alone the leader of his own country except in title.

I want to conclude by telling you, people of the world, that Americans are not being silent and passive. As of June 1, 30 mayors of American cities, 3 governors, more than 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses have come together to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the greenhouse gas targets of the United States under the Paris Agreement. As individuals, huge numbers of us will continue to be politically active, outspoken, and engaged in efforts to thwart and reverse Trump and the Republicans wherever and whenever possible.

This is our pledge to you, made by true American patriots.

---








Saturday, May 27, 2017

TRUMP 360 - THE SIGNATURE

I have always been puzzled by the seismic signature of Donal J. Trump. I've studied it, tried to trace the line of his pen, tried to discern any letter in the alphabet - all for naught.

So I decided to take The Donald's scrawl as written, and also repeatedly turned 90 degrees, yielding 4 views. Perhaps this would reveal something. Maybe The Donald's brain turns words a certain number of degrees.

This worked. In fact, each of the 4 positions revealed something that makes sense about The Donald.

What do you think?




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