Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to Joy
Yesterday's Blog was heavy. I needed a break today, so I went out looking for autumn, and I found it in Mission Valley where the 805 Freeway soars over a row of liquid amber trees. In Arkansas we called them sweetgum. Whatever name they go by, they are proof that San Diego does indeed have seasons.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot...
--Wm. Shakespeare

Today's journal writing is longer than usual. I started it mid-morning and couldn't seem to stop. Some of you may see it as an angry rant, but I assure you that I am more sad than angry. Late in the afternoon again, I went out to our hillside to get my picture for today, and I found myself... stretched out by the setting sun into a shadow that reminded me of Macbeth's lament (Act 5, scene 5 19-28).

A COUPLE OF THINGS NEED TO BE SAID TO THE FOLKS WHO GET UP EVERY MORNING AND GET READY FOR WORK, THE FOLKS WHO INVEST THEIR LIVES IN THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL SYSTEMS... THE SYSTEMS ARE NOT THE SAME. Despite the proliferation of cardboard-carrying solicitors at major intersections of streets in San Diego, the American economic engine continues to work well for the people who have jobs and for people who want jobs badly enough to start the old fashioned way at the bottom of an industry and work their way up. It may not be what the person behind the counter in Macdonald’s prefers, but the job taking fast-food orders is a job; and the person doing it must be commended for preferring any job to standing on the street corner begging for handouts.

First, I should acknowledge to myself and to anybody who happens to read my BLOG that I am editorializing, not writing from research. I am doing what most of us do: expressing opinion based on information and insights picked up going through life doing the things that, in my case now, retired people do. With that disclaimer stated, I can also say that I read and listen. I am thoughtful and reasonable. When somebody else’s idea is presented to me, I think about it if it seems worth considering. When I read something, I don’t assume it to be true just because it appears in print.

Lately, I have been paying too much attention to daily pronouncements by both Republicans and Democrats that what is needed in our political system is a greater degree of bipartisanship. I was buying into the idea because it seems on the surface to be a reasonable approach to problem solving. When people involved in decision-making listen to each other, it seems reasonable to believe they will actually hear and consider what “the other people” are saying. For whatever reasons that I am not going to explore in this writing, we Democrats tend to wither with guilt when someone hurls the partisan bullet at us. We begin our apology almost immediately by begging to be given another chance to cooperate, to get it right. In the present national economic crisis and the persistent political stalemate, lack of bipartisanship is not the problem.

The Republican intelligentsia get it. They know exactly how to make partisanship and bipartisanship work for them. They know what they want, and they stand firm on their flawed and misguided principals. The Tea Party people don’t bother one way or the other with bipartisanship. For them it’s always “full steam ahead” and “man the torpedoes.” The Democrats become paralyzed with fear when they think they may be accused of not considering the other side carefully enough. Nancy Pelosi gets it. She rejects the idea that Democrats must “meet the other side halfway.” If the program her party proposes is the right program, she rejects the nonsense that she should play nice and compromise. During the election cycle leading up to November elections, many Democrats scurried around and looked for ways to “compromise.” Pelosi stood on principle. She was public enemy number one to Republicans standing for election... Barack Obama was then public enemy number two. Now that she has been bumped from her position of leadership in the House of Representatives, the President has become Republican public enemy number one.

The strategy now for Republicans preparing for the next major election cycle is to dig in their heels and refuse to compromise on any program the President suggests. If the President suggests that scientists are right about climate change and that we should regulate business to address the problem, Republican leaders, in the face of scientific evidence, declare the scientists are wrong. I want the President to pull himself up to his full presidential height and do the right thing for the country when addressing all the issues that divide the country into two parties.

In his campaign the 2008 election Senator Obama declared that he would end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if he was elected. He has been patiently listening and waiting apparently until every last soldier in the military has been asked to give an opinion on the matter. I want President Obama to do the right thing and declare the policy to be history the way not allowing women to vote and not allowing black men and white women to marry each other is history.

With devastating consequences both in unbridled financial costs and cost of lives, the Bush administration marched the country into two wars. Regardless of what Senator McCain and other hawks claim to know about war, I want the President to get our country out of Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as expediently as possible, with as little cost of money and cost of lives as possible.

In the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus. The Bush administration came into power with zero deficit. By starting two wars while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and taking away regulations, which subsequently allowed the wealthiest Americans to become even richer, the Bush administration erased the budget surplus and left the country mortgaged to the hilt. After two terms in the White House, George Bush, with his party’s majority in both the House and the Senate, left our country with the largest debt in its history and with its economy in shambles. I want President Obama to stop cow-towing to Wall Street and put an end to the Bush tax breaks for the top two percent of wealthiest Americans.

Four decades ago America settled the question about whether the Constitution guarantees civil rights to all citizens. President Barack Obama is a lawyer trained in Constitutional law. Regardless of the religious preferences and biases of his family or anybody else’s family, of any religious group in America or anywhere else in the world, or of any group within any political party in America, The Constitution clearly in its language does not declare or imply that sexual orientation is a criterion for deciding whether or not full rights of citizenship should be extended or withheld. I want President Obama to acknowledge the rightness of extending full civil rights, including the right to marry, to gay and lesbian Americans.

I want the President to stop apologizing in trepidation for Social Security because the word “social” is part of its name. Isn’t anyone ever going to point out to the conservative, fundamentalist religious community that Jesus Christ was the most radical socialist of any of the founders of great religions? The President is a Christian... and he is very intelligent and very well-educated, so he knows it’s true. I want to hear him say it boldly and clearly.

I want the President to declare what he knows to be the truth about the economy. Compromise will not erase the debt and balance the budget. Mitch McConnell’s ideas will not erase the debt and balance the budget. The economy can be brought right again with the same strategies that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in place, strategies that were continued by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Public investment worked then, and it will work now. If President Obama, in a great demonstration of bipartisanship, announces that he will cut public investment because Republicans in the House and Senate are crying for it to be done, he will only make the economic situation worse. We have all kinds of infrastructure projects that need to be done which could put thousands of people to work. I want to hear our President affirm the importance of government putting citizens to work doing work that needs to be done.

More progressive taxation is necessary if we are to solve the country’s economic problems. Democrats running for office have got to stop saying they will not raise taxes. That’s the Republican line. It’s what gets them elected to governorships, to the House of Representatives, and to the Senate; but it’s not worth lying to the American people just to get elected. It may be expedient, but it’s not honorable. Democrats must find a way to give the American people the history lessons they have forgotten. Republican legislators should be pushed to acknowledge the effectiveness of a progressive tax structure under the Eisenhower administration that built America’s great interstate highway system and moved the American economy toward some of the country’s best years.

Then there is the matter of regulation. Whether it’s regulation of gun sales and ownership or regulation of the loaning and investment practices of financial institutions, Republicans want the government to keep hands off. I want to hear the President declare that regulations which protect all Americans must be kept in place in industry, on Wall Street, and on Main Street. I want to hear him say that if a traveler doesn't want to be screened in order to travel on a commercial airplane with other Americans, other options, like driving or taking the train, are available.

Government is necessary. Good government, appropriate government, will not be established by the Bipartisan Panel on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility which President Obama established in his continuing attempt to be bipartisan. The commission was stacked against progress when the President required a supermajority of 14 out of 18 members for its recommendations to be official. The panel is made up mostly of far-right Republicans and conservative Democrats. Good luck getting a supermajority on any issue out of that bunch.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I walked out onto our hillside this afternoon when the sun was about half-an-hour from setting, and the whole world was ablaze with golden autumn light. I had to shoot into the sun to get photographs of grass electric, almost exploding, with light. I thought about the wonderful Czech novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

By Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.Hand Stand by Daniel Stern.

Friday, November 26, 2010

BARK Redux:  A tree, particularly a smooth-skinned eucalyptus, is irresistible canvas for Kilroys, taggers, and occasional open-air artists. Today when I saw the tree with a life-size portrait of a lady carved into its skin, my impulse was not to like what had been done without permission from the keepers of trees in Balboa Park or from the tree... but I must admit that the drawing isn't bad.  I made a note to myself to come back next year to see if the eucalyptus tree's annual shedding of skin will get rid of the drawing.
My thinking wandered next off into wherever it is in my head that wisely-drawn cartoons get stored, and I found that wonderful bit of Walt Kelly wisdom about how we human beings, perhaps more than any other animal, sometimes foul our own nest.  My thinking turned back to the national elections earlier this month and then jumped forward to the the impending Republican majority in the House of Representatives.  I found myself wondering what kind of damage the Tea Party Express can do to recently enacted health care legislation and to the already hurting economy. I also wonder if President Obama will have enough moxie to get as tough in this difficult time as President Roosevelt did in 1944 when he moved to bring a corporate retail giant into compliance with government requirements and regulations.

The Background: During World War II, Montgomery Ward had contracts to supply the Allies with everything from tractors to clothing...items as necessary as bullets and ships. The contracts were a tremendous boost to company profits, but Montgomery Ward Chairman Sewell Avery refused to comply with collective bargaining agreements which were recognized and affirmed by the United States Government. After months of trying to get him to obey the law, President Roosevelt finally got fed up with Avery’s obstinacy and disrespect for U.S. Government, and he ordered the Secretary of War to seize Montgomery Ward plants and facilities. One of my favorite pictures of all time is one of Avery being carried out of his office by soldiers. It’s a reminder that none of us can consider ourselves above the law. And we, all of us, are the American people, the American nation.

Remember the Pogo wisdom: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.” Walt Kelly, who died in 1973, was a Twentieth Century prophet. If he were drawing and writing today, he would have plenty to say about Americans who regard government as bad and want the freedom from government regulations to spoil our environment to make a profit.

If you went beyond tenth grade in school and regularly read newspapers and choose any evening news program but Fox, be aware that the Populist anger which surfed Tea Party proteges into Washington is aimed at you. You have become the enemy. To the Tea Party Express folks, sophistication (not a bad word except to people who don’t understand its meaning) is subversive and anti-american. Remember “nattering nabobs of negativism,” the most memorable phrase Republican Vice-President Spiro Agnew used to describe educated democrats. That was a couple of months before he resigned his office in disgrace after pleading no contest to tax evasion charges... a year before Richard Nixon, the president with whom he served, also had to resign in disgrace. Remember in 2007 when President Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove slammed Bush’s critics as “elite, effete snobs”? In the short term, the dumbing down strategy works well for politicians who need to impress ill-informed voters who suffer from a serious lack of sophistication in matters of politics and government. It worked in November 2010. But it will not ultimately win the hearts and minds of the American people.

I wonder how Walt Kelly would redraw his famous “Enemy Is us” cartoon if he were doing it today. The ecology theme of the original would still work today; but I can also imagine Pogo observing a Tea Party Express convention remarking, “Yep, Son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chef David carving the free-range turkey. Great Thanksgiving Dinner... could have been better only if all our family and friends had been here to share it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shephard Fairey, the American artist who created the well-known “HOPE” and “PROGRESS” for the 2008 Presidential election, is a rising star in the contemporary art world. You may know his OBEY posters which have been showing up all over the place, especially on T-shirts. Now he has done a mural at Hawthorn and 30th street in South Park that shouldn’t be missed. It’s the kind of public art that rarely comes along anywhere, and here it is in a most unlikely part of San Diego.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I stopped by where a man was digging at roots
to loose them where he wanted to make a hole,
and our conversation turned to the old palm tree
we both could see down by the bank of the river,
how is bends and sways in the strongest breeze
but doesn’t break because the roots hold firmly.

He said a man should be like that, so I asked how,
knowing the answer but knowing he wanted to say
something not about roots and trees but about me
and about him and about surviving strong storms.
I turned to go and the only thing I could think to say
was how amazing nature is. He said softly, God is.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ABOUT YESTERDAY’S BIRD: According to Bibbi Jordan of Crest, it is not a wren.  “If the color is true, (it looks much too greenish), but I'd say it is a yellow warbler; the light always plays tricks with color. And now that I check my Stokes bird book, he says the female is a "buffy olive". Lucky you!  They used to come to the house in Crest, and their song is glorious.”

The BIG HEADLINE... BREAKING NEWS STORY: Pope Benedict XVI said that condom use under certain circumstances (male prostitutes with clients), while not a “real and moral solution,” is O.K... just O.K. Everybody knows the church is against contraception in any form and presumably against prostitution, yet the Pope’s declaration seems to mean if you’re going to sin, sin big. Put a cap on it. Prevent aids. And presumably the prostitution he cites may involve homosexuality. The church is known to be against contraception in any form and would also be against prostitution, especially gay prostitutes one would think, yet somehow the Pope is saying that if you’re going to sin, at least sin responsibly.  In other words, two wrongs almost make a right... Well, No. Probably not unless the prostitute is gay, which unless there’s the possibility of miraculous birth which never before in the history of the world... Oh... Oh... Yes... There was that one time when conception took place without sperm fertilizing egg... so why not male and male, sperm and sperm... think of the sensation... the publicity! Oh! Oh! Anyway, after the backflip, let’s get to the issue... according to the Pope there wouldn’t be an issue if the sex is between man and man or woman and woman... If the prostitute is gay and the client is male, conception can’t take place anyway; and the church’s main issue with contraception of any kind is that it interferes with conception... and we all know what that leads to: people doing it anytime they feel like it (the Pope says that’s sexual addiction); and, of course, slowing down population growth... need I mention it, in a world already struggling to feed and clothe and house more than six billion people... might stunt church growth... How big is Heaven anyway? Is there a population problem there?

As any high school sophomore might say to his Holiness, "Get Real."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A little bird told me...? No! Katie did...
I’m passing on this report from my Friend Katie England... who passed it to me from Stan who passed it to Katie from his friend Sam... Don't discount it the way you might find funny a message passed on in a game of gossip as a party. This is serious business... a lesson the church in the world must learn if it is to be relevant to subsequent generations.

When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached and presided at a Eucharist on that Sunday at Southwark Cathedral in London, she carried her mitre, or bishop's hat, under her arm rather than wear it.
She did so in order to comply with a "statement" from Lambeth Palace, the London home of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, that said "...that I was not to wear a mitre at Southwark Cathedral," ― Jefferts Schori told the USA's Episcopal Church at a meeting of its Executive Council later that week.
The world is facing global warming, an economic meltdown, massive immigration crises, continued international terrorism, interreligious tensions and warfare, nuclear escalation in the Middle East, poverty, the abuse of women and children, human trafficking, genocide, oppression of LGBT persons, and a massive environmental cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico ― and the Archbishop of Canterbury is worried about a woman's hat?
In case the Church of England hasn't noticed, this is why people are rejecting Christianity.  It isn't because some Christians chose women to lead their churches, ask questions about traditional renderings of theology and the Bible, doubt God's existence, or want their gay and lesbian friends and relatives to be part of their church communities. Western people are rejecting Christianity because ― as noted in a recent survey of young Americans ― Christians are "out of touch with reality."
Worldwide, Anglicans do care about any number of profound social justice issues and are working to make the world a better place in God's name.  But if the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff can issue a directive about Bishop Katharine's headwear, then they have too much time on their hands. Being worried about ecclesiastical millinery while Rome burns certainly counts as being out of touch with reality.
Preaching at Evensong in Southwark Cathedral later that Sunday, the Dean, the Very Revd Colin Slee, began a memorable and significant sermon with these words:
"Some of you will already be aware, and others will be completely unaware, that we had the Presiding Bishop of the USA here to celebrate the Eucharist and preach this morning.  Being an egalitarian culture, in social ranking if not in economic assessment, the Church in the United States does not have an archbishop.  So, in English terms, we had the Archbishop of the USA here this morning."
On evangelical and ecclesiastically conservative websites the Dean had been denounced during the preceding week for being 'provocative' and 'discourteous to the Archbishop of Canterbury' for extending the invitation.  The facts were simple; there had been a steady stream of archbishops visiting Southwark to preach during the time since Mr Slee became Dean, and no doubt, well before that.  The archbishops of Brazil, South Africa, Canada, and of course York and Canterbury; Bishops from Zimbabwe, Norway, a woman bishop from the USA, and many others have held the Cathedral's pulpit.  The invitation to the Presiding Bishop was not at all a novelty for Southwark; the date was fixed in July 2008.  The Dean happened to be at Lambeth Palace on the Friday the before the event and personally collected the Archbishop's licence for the Presiding Bishop to officiate on the Sunday. He kept Dr Williams informed at all times.
There were several reasons for the fury.  The Presiding Bishop is a woman and some people hate the idea of women as bishops.  The General Synod of the Church of England was about to debate the admission of women as bishops within the Church of England. The Church in the United States has just consecrated an openly lesbian woman as a suffragan bishop in Los Angeles and so they are accused of breaking an embargo on such consecrations.  But it is not as simple as that.
The Dean told his congregation: "It seems to me that love must, by its essential nature, be always unconditional.  We welcome Katharine Jefferts Schori to this pulpit because we love our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church of the United States; not because she is female, or a woman bishop ― ahead of us, or has permitted a practicing lesbian to become a bishop (As it happens she couldn't have stopped it after all the legal and proper canonical electoral processes resulted in the election and nomination), we welcome her because she is our sister in Christ." 
The Dean of Southwark Cathedral continued: "It may be that some Anglicans will decide to walk a separate path.  I believe the Chapter and congregation of this church will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church of America; the links are deep in our history, especially here.  Their actions in recent months have been entirely in accord with the Anglican ways of generosity and breadth.  They have tried to ensure everyone is recognized as a child of God.  They have behaved entirely in accord with their canon laws and their freedom as an independent Province of the Church, not imposing or interfering with others with whom they disagree but proceeding steadily and openly themselves." 
Dean Colin wound up his sermon with these words: "It is my hope and prayer that Anglicans with different perspectives can continue to recognize their common inheritance in the faith even when they live many miles apart and conduct their churches in divergent ways; I also hope they read the scriptures intelligently.  It is my hope that this is a way that love can continue such that its realization is in peace.  It is our constant experience that God is discovered when we have the courage to let go, to give freedom to the smallest of things and allow God to work giving the growth, we know not how." Amen. This is the "Big Bird" at near the east end of Mission Valley... the Hyundai Building. When Margaret and I moved to Mission Valley, it was the defining building we could see in the Valley from our house in Mission Hills.