Sunday, July 31, 2011

Striking a deal...

Avoiding American default on the nation’s debts just in the nick of time (with less than forty-eight hours to go before the United States would be officially in default), neither legislators in Washington nor citizens across the country are happy with the deal reached by leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate and the President. Economists generally agree that the deal gets the nation past the critical August 2 Debt Ceiling crisis but doesn’t begin to solve the basic problem. Republicans say Democrats spend too much. Democrats say Republicans are unwilling to raise taxes on citizens who can easily afford to pay more so spending can continue on social programs that make us the civil society that we value. Republicans say cutting taxes saves the economy by giving people more money to spend. Democrats say that cutting programs like social security takes money away from people who must spend it just to live, just to get by. Democrats say people who already have money take money from tax cuts and stash it away in savings or investments and that money saved by not having to pay taxes doesn’t go into the economy as increased spending. Republicans say people who already have a lot of money will consistently put money they can keep from not having to pay it in taxes into the economy in the form of wages the wealthy pay to hire more people who in turn spend the money they earn and therefore support economic stability.

Of course, I don’t know how to solve our problems. What I know how to do is to vote for intelligent, reasonable people to serve the nation in it’s good government. I like the American government. Up until now it has been the most widely respected and trusted government in the world. I will vote for candidates who express a basic respect for American government. I will not respect nor vote for candidates whose goal is to subvert and eventually amend the Constitution of my nation’s government.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Click on an image to see it larger.
The lizards are for Julian.

Friday, July 29, 2011

SOMEBODY E-MAILED ME and asked "What are these things?" They are all palm trees of one sort or another... except for the Floss Silk Tree with the spines (at the parking lot by the carousel in the area with the little train). The Palms are all in the area between the Spanish Village and the San Diego Museum of Art.

GLOOMY...DARK...APPREHENSIVE...UNSETTLED: all component slices pulled on top of each other in the part of my brain that programs my mood for the moment. As I started typing this journal entry, my impulse was to begin with an exercise my high school typing teacher taught me. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. "Yeah! Yeah! I know... and agree: I'm dating myself (what a strange expression that is... right up there with "self abuse.")... First, typing isn't a course that has been taught in high school for maybe half a century; and second, any self-respecting, politically aware teacher in charge of teaching "keyboarding" would develop an exercise that would include "Now is the time for everybody (or "for all good men and good women of all races, religions, and sexual persuasions") to come to the aid of their country." However it is phrased, that's what needs to happen NOW. Not the typing course... the coming together as a nation to save ourselves.

So here we are...With all the world watching...three days before an easily avoidable economic catastrophe... because our own excellent democratic system permits even the most ridiculous ideas to find a place at center stage... we are being jerked around by a relatively small group of people who know almost nothing about the government they have been elected to manage. Having repeatedly demonstrated their distain for intelligence and logic in the tool kit of problem solvers, three members of the "Southern coalition" of Tea Party congressmen left the House chamber in the middle of debate to "ask the Lord" to intervene. So that's what we've come to...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer, 1946

Little dust cyclones rose and drifted above the dirt road
and when we passed open fields heat like liquid lake
spread out across Arkansas Bottomland hiding crickets
in dry grass and rabbits and land turtles and snakes
not visible to my naked eyes but alive in my imagination
with verifiable birds flitting and butterflies drifting drifting
my sister and I walked through that last summer together
all the way from the highway at a place called Bonnerdale
to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house at least five miles in
maybe six both of us wearing hats and carrying suitcases
I don’t think we guessed that the trip would be the last one
we’d ever take together but that’s the way with transitions
you’re smack in the middle of significant ones maybe even
somewhere near the end where the curve begins suddenly
changing everything like a cool breeze across the porch

I’ll never know who that woman was who called us in to sit
with her on red chairs in the shade of a big sycamore tree
to drink iced lemonade and nibble on brown sugar cookies
while memories were being born that day in early August
and neither of us had any idea whatsoever it was happening

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TODAY... Pictures are worth more than words...
After a good visit with Eric... I went with him out to a Soccer Shop at Zion Street and Mission Gorge Road... with my fold-up bicycle in the trunk of his car. To get back home I rode down along the river through Mission Valley...

...past Mission San Diego de Alcala, a Minor Basilica founded in July of 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.

...then through the parking lot of Qualcom Stadium
and then down by Texas street I saw a single brick in a wall that makes about as much sense as the confusion still going unresolved in Washington...
...then up the hill past lilies that do make sense to our place

Monday, July 25, 2011


Like most Americans I am weary of the stalemate in Washington over increasing the debt ceiling. I’ve said enough already. Now I’m holding my breath. If the nation defaults on its debts, all Americans will suffer some loss. The standard of living of the wealthiest not change much, but not-so-affluent people often live so close to the edge with their finances that any loss of income or devaluation of assets will change the way they live day-to-day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

                                           These are the Good Guys
The way I see it, fundamentalist Christianity has been given far too many passes for times when its spokespersons declare that their brand of Christianity is the one true religion blessed by God. They offend further when they insist that their religion blended with politics produces the only truly god blessed government on earth. Fair-minded people tend to look the other way and excuse extreme bias in Christians even when their talk makes no sense and is a blatant contradiction of the Gospel they claim to love and celebrate. Fundamentalist Christians are taught to make themselves believe and try to make others believe God is on their side because they call themselves by the name given to his son in scripture. Why should we be surprised when terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik identify themselves as Christians? While it may not be adequate defense in a court of law for outrageous criminal acts by terrorists who call themselves Christians, it is surprisingly effective in gaining sympathy and understanding with fundamentalist Christians in the general public.

With the same language and in the same tone that Tea Party politicians make their charges against government, both McVeigh and Breivik railed against taxation. Before the Oklahoma City bombing Timothy McVeigh wrote in letters to editors of newspapers that “Taxes are a joke.” He wrote, “Regardless of what a political candidate promises, they will increase taxes and more taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. Is a Civil War imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.”

Norway’s aryan terrorist Anders Behring Breivik is a self-described fundamentalist Christian who wrote in his manifesto before he killed more than ninety Norwegians last week that he was starting a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim immigration and domination. His manifesto is also a classic rant against social and political liberalism. He wrote of his hatred of government and his belief that taxation is killing the spirit of the Norwegian people.

If the rhetoric of McVeigh and Breivik sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same as the manifesto developed and updated weekly by Grover Norquist, Tim Phillips, and the Koch-funded Freedom Federation. Sponsored by the Freedom Federation at Liberty University a week ago, Phillips moderated an “Awakening” conference for elected Tea Party politicians. The meeting was funded by the Koch brothers. The Norwegian terrorist Breivik may never have heard of the Koch brothers or of Grover Norquist or Tim Phillips, and I’m quite sure America’s home-grown terrorists don’t personally know Norquist or the Texas billionaire Koch brothers... but they are reassured and inspired by them in their rage and their planning. It isn’t a stretch to assume that terrorists believe they have been given tacit permission for their acts against government. Norway’s Breivik made it clear in his writings that he believes his monstrous crimes were the Christian thing to do.

Unlike Breivik and McVeigh who chose to shoot and bomb people to death to draw attention to their fundamentalist beliefs, Norquist and other Tea Party leaders have developed more subtle strategies. One of them is a pledge required of all Republicans who expect to get campaign funding from the Norquist’s money pump (“I pledge to the taxpayers of the state of and all the people of this state, that I will oppose and vote against all efforts to increase taxes.”). Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty and other notable Tea Party politicians came to the table early to sign. Norquist has said he is determined to get all Republican candidates for the presidency to sign his pledge.

What is developing in our country today is a classic tale of wolf in sheep’s clothing. Clad in what they believe are patriots’ uniforms, a small but determined army of political zealots are being led by a few right-wing extremists into a relentless campaign to subvert and eventually destroy the American democracy that founders of the American nation envisioned. The Tea Party folks insist that they are simply taking up the work of “The Founding Fathers.” Recorded history shows clearly that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Mason, Benjamin Franklin and most of the others who had something to do with creating and endorsing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States certainly were not Christian fundamentalists. Tea party Republicans and other extremist political sects within the Republican Party claim their efforts to “reform” government are consistent with the goals laid down at the beginning of the American republic and with the principles of Christian fundamentalism.

Democrats are not blameless in the recent rise to power of political operatives very much like Grover Norquist. The pay to play game in Washington isn’t just a spectator sport with Democrats watching what Republicans do. Democrats can be players as well. They also are manipulated by lobbyists who can funnel corporate money into political campaigns or withhold funds and dry up reelection support. It’s very difficult for ordinary Americans from ordinary families with ordinary financial means to run for political office and get elected. After they manage to get elected the first time, elected officials must spend inordinate time and effort raising money to support campaigns, time and effort that they should be spending doing the job they were elected to do. Lobbyists make life easier for politicians. To harried politicians the help of an effective lobbyist is often irresistible.

Integrity must be restored to American political practice. Fundamentalist Christianity is not likely to be of help in the effort to return integrity to government, but there is at the heart of the Christian Gospel a simple ethic that can make the difference. It hasn't anything to do with getting to heaven or avoiding hell in the future. It's a matter of responding now to the world and everybody in it the way we would like the world to respond to us... of caring for everybody, even those whom we don't know personally... and even if by responding in ways that are morally right there is a little more cost in taxes to all of us.