Saturday, June 30, 2012

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
--Anne Frank
O.K.... O.K.... Let’s take a break from heaviness and gloom.. a break from the focus on political disfunction in Washington... a break from worrying about things I can fix but don't have the inclination or don’t want to commit the time... a break from being frustrated about the things I cannot possible fix... and... and... and...
When I need a break of this kind, there are a few places where I go to find reminders that life is good, in spite of...  One of the places is a book shelf at home where I keep a few books in which I can always... always... always find reasons to be optimistic without resorting to platitudes and a silly grin.  One of the books is The Diary of Anne Frank. I needed something this afternoon after I read about the guy who blogged that he wants to move to Canada because he is  angry over the Supreme Court’s ruling that lets stand The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Just as my mind was beginning to shift into gear to begin a journal/BLOG writing around the ignorance of this guy who obviously doesn’t know that Canada is out front and ahead of the U.S. A. in providing patient protection and affordable care for it’s citizens, I stopped myself and went to the book shelf... and let Anne Frank remind me that things, after all, are good.  Then I went out and looked for beauty; and there it was... all over the hill where I live... and beyond.

Friday, June 29, 2012

This is a copy of a letter I sent today to one of my very best friends... The letter is my response to a piece from a Waco, Texas, newspaper which my friend sent to me. Near the end of the BLOG post you will find the Waco letter which the editor said was sent to the newspaper by "a 21 year old female" with solutions for Texas problems.
     Thanks for sending me the 21 year old woman’s plan for America.  As you might expect, I think she DOESN’T GET IT. The Waco, Texas, Tribune Herald editor DOESN'T GET IT either if he/she applauds, as the editorial note implies,  the 21 year old female’s refusal to subscribe to “the social welfare big government state and the fact that she is being forced to live in” it and declares that her solutions proves she has common sense.  Again, as you might expect, I find her solutions naive at best.  She is an ignorant and arrogant version of Marie Antoinette. 
     She makes some obviously true observations about some people in our society. I do like her suggestion that lazy people should get off their duffs and “get a job.”  However, the 21 year old doesn’t seem to know about mothers and grandmothers (some fathers and grandfathers) who in their older years are looking after their children’s children and grandchildren. We both know a couple of very good people who are examples of very tired, very discouraged citizens who are doing the best they can in a bad situation, and the best they do is really good compared to what can be done by thousands of very poor people their age who are saddled with the care of their children’s children but have incomes in their old age that place them well below the poverty level. And about unemployment... in case the 21 year old female hasn’t noticed, there aren’t enough jobs to go around even for the people who are out hustling to get them.  To make the corporation bottom lines what people like you and me have stock,  work that was once done in America has been “out-sourced” to other countries.  The 21 year old  would get rid of Lone Star cards (I’m guessing that’s the food-stamp card in Texas).  I guess the 50-pound bags of rice and beans and blocks of cheese would do some good... good for the rice and bean and cheese industries if they can get the government subsidies to make possible the economically rewarding picking of beans and harvesting of rice and processing of cheese. Oh, and the powdered milk is a nice touch.  The 21 year old  does have a touch of Marie Antoinette in her young heart.  
Yeah, get those women and tie their tubes and implant Norplant... all of them, I wonder, or just the ones who come in for the rice and beans and cheese... also good for the bottom line of the Norplant industry....  
The 21 year old woman wouldn’t have to invent anything new to get those poor people into barracks.  It’s been done...  I wonder if she’s heard about how neatly we solved the problem of Japanese American citizens when we were at war with Japan... just to make sure they didn’t get in the way of the World War II effort.  That solution created jobs for other Americans because the Japanese Americans were taken away from their work and from their homes.  Of course, that happened at an unfortunate time when there weren't enough people to actually do all the jobs that needed doing, what with the war an all.  It was very hard for Japanese Americans to explain to their children what was happening because everybody knew that no Americans were harder-working than the Japanese.  But they were different, and their difference meant they couldn’t be completely trusted I guess.  It must have been very hard to explain to children what the difference was that made the solution necessary.  Oh, I almost forgot... There there was that time when those Indians who had to be put somewhere... away from the good farming land their ancestors had farmed for centuries... someplace like the deserts of the Southwest.  Perhaps the 21 year old female from Waco missed the couple of days in eleventh grade when the American Indian Wars and World War Two were discussed.   She seems to know how to make things work for the people who are hard-working, one-hundred-percent citizens... especially the ones with enough money to get what they need to get good education and find jobs and acquire all the good stuff that makes American life what we've all been promised it should be.
And about those plasma TVs and Xbox 360s (whatever that is),the 21 year old female might be interested in knowing that a bunch of us don’t have or want them, and I hadn’t heard about any project to give those things to homeless people or to anybody, even the ones with houses in which to put them.  Maybe it’s happening somewhere, but I just haven’t heard about it.  I don’t have a clue what the advantage is for anybody to have either of those things.  
Now I like the idea the 21 year old’s idea about cleaning roadways, painting and repairing public housing (barracks, I presume), and whatever “we find for you” (she has clearly got in mind a job for herself setting up all this stuff.  Does she know about the WPA and the CCC projects that helped America climb out of the Great Depression that probably her grandparents experienced.  
I should commend the 21 year old for her ambition.  I guess she has a vision of herself as a government executive/supervisor.  She says, “Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary.  If you want our money (our money?), accept our rules.  That’s just what we need... a 21 year old female who throws her lot in with the Grover Norquist Tea Party crowd in Congress who are looking after our money.  It’s always interesting to me that people like Cantor, Boehner, McConnell, et. al. don’t seem to know that the jobs they have are “government” jobs; and that the health care and retirement programs they enjoy are government benefits not available to every citizen. 
Perhaps the 21 year old  can give some thought and time to figuring out who are the lie-abouts and lazy slackers now retired from government jobs they had at schools, post offices, military establishments, (at this point, she can fill out the list of work that people got in  “government jobs.”)  I was one of those government workers. Three different times in my “working years” I was a government worker.  I taught public school for ten years at the beginning of my career.  Those ten years were broken by a two-year period when I was in graduate school and worked as a correctional officer at San Quentin Prison... being a prison guard is a government job.  After that I went off to Singapore to work in a non-public overseas school and then came back to The States to continue working in non-pubic schools.  After that long part of my career in the “public sector,” I worked again as a public school teacher in the poorest section of San Diego until I was sixty-nine-years-old. It’s strange, isn’t it, how confusing it all is... public sector, where employers are part of the free enterprise system, and public schools, where local government and tax payers are the employers, have surprisingly similar names.  What’s that about?  How did that happen?   Can the 21 year old female from Waco explain the difference, I wonder? 
I am heartened when young citizens take their American citizenship seriously enough to throw themselves into projects that make our country and world better for all people. I know lots of them, but I am not impressed by the 21 year old’s solutions... And about the challenge at the end of the piece in the Waco paper,  I do have the courage to send around her description of what she thinks needs to be done.  I also have the courage to send with it my objection to her impudent suggestions for fixing a very serious national problem. 

On Jun 29, 2012, at 6:21 AM, my friend wrote:

Subject: RE: 21 year old with a plan
  Vote this girl in....

Subject: 21 year old with a plan
WRITTEN BY A 21 YEAR OLD FEMALE Wow, this girl has a great plan! Love the last thing she would do the best.

This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It's her future she's worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she's being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion.

This was in the Waco Tribune Herald, Waco , TX , Nov 18, 2011


Put me in charge of food stamps. I'd get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho's, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I'd do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal legations. Then, we'll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home" will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a "government" job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the "common good.."

Before you write that I've violated someone's rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be "demeaning" and ruin their "self esteem," consider that it wasn't that long ago that taking someone else's money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people's mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov't subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov't welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.


I hope readers of my BLOG will know that the "Now, if you have the guts..." challenge at the end of the Waco Newspaper Opinion statement was the part that really ticked me off... so I've ranted... 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In 2008 Karen Armstrong was granted a TED award.   At the awards ceremony she asked TED to help her “create, launch, and propagate a Charter for Compassion that would be written by leading thinkers from a variety of major faiths and would restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life. “  After a year of seriously considering contributions from people of many languages all over the world, a Council of Conscience, a group of individuals from six faith traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism), met in Switzerland in 2009 to draft the following Charter: 
A Charter for Compassion
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.
Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.  It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain.  To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others--even our enemies--is a denial of our common humanity.  We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women
to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion;
to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate;
to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures;
to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity;
to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings--even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.  Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries.  Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.  It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
A PROPOSAL:  Between now and the November elections, present the Charter of Compassion to every individual running for any city, county, district, state or federal office and ask for a simple but firm assent to the principles of the charter. Ask for the assent in writing to be signed with permission to release to media.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

With 313,000,000 people, the United States is the third largest population in the world, after China (1,347,350,000) and India (1,210,193,422).  With 37,300,000 people, California, where I live, would rank 34th if it were an independent country, with slightly fewer than Poland and half-a-million more people than Algeria in the ranking. The United States of America, with it’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, is a representative democracy.  However, since 1911 California has been a direct democracy with the initiative, referendum, and recall process functioning as a fourth branch of government.  Most California historians agree that originally, the initiative process was established to check the growing influence of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and other special interests with the state legislature.  
Initiatives proposals on the ballot need only a simple majority to become law, and in California most of those that have changed or established laws and amended the constitution passed by very narrow margins. The initiative process has been used by California voters to lower property taxes and to increase taxes on tobacco.  Voters have reinstated the death penalty and abolished affirmative action. Medical marijuana was recently legalized and term limits for elected officials were imposed.  In states with representative democracy, those changes can be made only by legislative action.  
Whether statutes are changed by legislation or by initiative, they must be judged to be consistent with the state constitution.  In California, if the constitution is a stumbling block, the initiative process can change that as well.  However, the Supreme Court of the United States, if it agrees to hear arguments, renders final judgment based on the Constitution of the United States, and that constitution trumps all state constitutions, no matter how they were formed.   A recent proposal in California is a good example of what can happen when a state with direct democracy makes a law through the initiative system.  After a ruling by the Supreme Court of California, based on an equal protection argument, made same-gender marriages legal in the state, an initiative known as Proposition 8, which had tremendous support from religious institutions and wealthy individuals with strong ties church ties, was put before the voters.  By a slim majority the voters reversed the court’s ruling and made marriages between same-gender couples once again illegal.  The language of Proposition 8 states that “only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California.”  Same-gender marriages that had been contracted between June and November of 2008 were put in legal limbo until a ruling based on a constitutional grandfathering provision stated that those marriages would remain valid and legal. Whether or not Proposition 8 stands the scrutiny of the United States Supreme Court remains to be seen. 
Proponents of direct democracy argue that citizens should be able to exercise political power by overriding any and all government officials.  The argument is made that without the initiative process elitists in government routinely disregard the wishes of ordinary citizens, “the will of the people.”  Defenders of the initiative system say that citizens are at least as competent as government officials to make important policy decisions.

The original intent of the switch in 1911 from representative democracy to direct democracy in California was to limit the influence of special interest groups. A hundred years later exactly the opposite result is occurring routinely as more and more issues explained in deliberately abstruse language are presented in every election for voter approval or rejection. With blatant disregard for the rights of Individuals and minorities who may be hurt if an initiative is approved, powerful lobbies representing special interest groups with virtually unlimited funding are buying the conditions their wealthy clients want. Money is power in American culture politics, and interest group money is the power that dictates election outcomes where forms and limits of government are decided through the initiative process.  Ordinary voters for whom the initiative process was originally intended have virtually no control.
Of California’s 37,700,000 people, more than six million citizens of the Golden State live below the federal poverty line of $22,113 for a family of four.  That statistic is creeping steadily toward one fifth of the population.  If money is power, the poor are powerless because they have absolutely zero discretionary money. To argue that the poor and powerless are poor because they haven’t tried hard enough is an absurd response to very real problems of deprivation and suffering, especially the plight of children trapped in conditions of abject poverty.  The great majority of us don’t see the suffering.  Most of us go through the cycles of living without ever touching or being touched by the people who are truly poor. The great majority of California’s citizens who vote in elections do not live below the poverty level.  Of course, many of the individuals who are part of the more comfortable financial middle class of citizens go through periods of struggle; but a child’s experience of living in a struggling middle class family and the experience of a truly poor child are very different. The difference is one of expectation and hope. Middle class children tend to believe things will get better. Polls show that 16% of children in California say they don’t expect life to get better for them. 
The point of today’s journal writing is that the initiative, referendum and recall system is not designed to do anything at all about the plight of our poorest citizens.  The system serves the people who can “initiate” the process, and the poor cannot do that.  Only representative democracy with a responsible, healthy system of government designed to meet the needs of all citizens will ever reach out to meet the needs of the poorest citizens.   Responsible government does the right thing for all people, acknowledging that among the poor are some shiftless, thoughtless, careless and lazy persons who don’t make the effort to help themselves or their children... just as there are among the idle rich some who came by their financial good fortune without working for it.
Tomorrow... Karen Armstrong’s effort to create a Charter of Compassion

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day Two, Democracy Project
I am “from” a small town in Arkansas.  The statement is a bit misleading.  The operative word in the first sentence is from.  My family moved to the Central Valley of California when I was just a boy, a country boy; and a familiar saying of people from the South is that “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”  Some displaced Southerners would call the joke a lament or an excuse, but I claim it with perhaps misplaced pride, but surely with gratefulness.  I also claim with considerable gratefulness and pride that I was a teacher.  The operative word in that last sentence is was; but just as you can take the teacher out of the classroom, you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.  I do this BLOG writing as an excuse to trot out and exercise whatever it was that made me love the classroom and made me love being a teacher... so there you have my excuse for this little BLOG project developed around the various brands of democracy.
Yesterday I wrote about the difference between “representative democracy” and “direct (some call it pure) democracy.”  Direct democracy, or pure democracy, is much easier to sell to folks who settle quickly for products that sound and look more attractive at first glance.  They are the people who don’t want to spend the time or intellectual energy to wonder if what they are buying will be good for them in the long term.  Direct democracy sounds like a good thing.  It is easy to see why someone unschooled in the old-fashioned subject of Civics might never doubt that direct, pure democracy could be anything but good for “the people”?  How can “the will of the people” be anything but good for “the people”?  How could “the will of the people,” for example, be the catalyst for tyranny? How can the majority be wrong?
Although the tyrants we remember from history are most often individual monsters,  a mob can be tyrannical. In 1916 a mob in Waco, Texas,  attacked and murdered an African American teenager.  Jesse Washington was accused of raping and murdering the wife of a farmer for whom he worked.  No eyewitnesses saw the crime, but Jesse had been seen near the house about the time of the woman’s death.  He was arrested and questioned by the county sheriff.  He eventually confessed, but no one knows what was done to him to get the confession.  He was tried for murder in a courtroom filled with angry neighbors of the woman who had been raped and murdered.  He pled guilty and was sentenced to death.  Immediately after the sentence was read, Jesse was dragged out of the courtroom and lynched in front of Waco’s city hall.  The town square was filled with over 10,000 people, including city officials and police, who watched the attack.  The atmosphere was celebratory, like an event at a county fair.  Many children came to watch during their lunch hour at school.  A group of men held Jesse down while one of them castrated him while he was still very much alive.  Another cut off his fingers.  They hanged him over a bonfire and repeatedly lowered and raised him over the fire for about two hours.  After the fire was extinguished, his horribly charred body was cut down and dragged through the town.  Parts of his body were sold as souvenirs.  Many photographs were taken by a professional photographer who printed them and sold them as postcards in Waco.  I decided not to use any of them because they are too dreadful and because they would surely divert attention away from the point I am trying to make. More than 10,000 American citizens, a clear majority, with apparent consent of elected officials, took the initiative to carry out a sentence handed down by a jury; so an important lesson from history is that tyranny isn’t limited to actions by one powerful person.  The decisions of a small group or the actions of a large mob may be deliberately and blatantly tyrannical. When you check the dictionary, you’ll find that the first definition of tyranny is “cruel and oppressive government or rule,” and a second definition is “cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control.”  Of course, most of the tyrants who are called by that name, the ones whom we recall from history lessons, were individuals.  The very real Adolph Hitler was a tyrant; and although she is a fictional character who lives forever in a fairy tale, Cinderella’s step-mother is a tyrant. There have been teacher tyrants, recognized as such and feared by children.  History books are full of accounts of tyrants bred in religious institutions. The list is long of people, some of them saints, who were martyred by religious tyrants.  Tyrants are bullies, but there are petty bullies who never gain enough power to become tyrants.  Most of us learn to avoid being hurt by bullies, but when bullies gain enough power to become tyrants, few of their targets escape hurt unless they can get out of easy reach. 
A major goal of American Tea Party leaders is to elect leaders who will amend the Constitution of the United States in ways that will effectively change our representative democracy into a direct democracy.  Grover Norquist, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and a whole bunch of other spokespersons for the Tea Party movement say that their suggestions for change are “the will of the people.”  They like to begin their declaration with “what the people want.”  Their major theme is that government is too big and essentially bad.  They are fond of saying “that government is best which governs least,” which they usually attribute to Thomas Jefferson, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Jefferson said it.  The statement comes from Henry David Thoreau’s essay entitled “Civil Disobedience,” published in 1849; but Thoreau’s intent clearly was not to do away with government. He criticizes American social institutions, including governmental institutions and policies, which promote or condone injustice. His essay is basically a statement of his reasons for opposing slavery and the Mexican-American War. Thoreau said his first obligation was to do what he believed was right even if it meant not obeying the law dictated by the majority.  His point that when a person sees clearly that his government is unjust, he should disobey that part of government that condones and promotes injustice.  Thoreau’s famous essay is an argument stating that the United States government was wrong in continuing to allow some people to own other people as slaves.  He believed he was obligated not to participate in any way with any aspect of slavery.  I don’t know anybody in 2012 who disagrees with Thoreau on the subject of slavery.  There is no honest reason for anybody, including all those Tea Party folks who consider themselves super patriots, to use Thoreau’s statement as their rational for doing away with government programs, especially if the government programs at which they are taking aim exist specifically to alleviate suffering and hardship of citizens. 
More tomorrow...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Little good can be gained by cursing polarized political institutions and amorphous societal, religious, and economic conditions which get all mixed together in the melting pot that is  contemporary American culture.  We are what we are, and unless something happens that changes the collective us at a basic level of awareness of what we are and what we should be and could be, nothing much will change after November 6th... no matter who gets elected in local, state, and national elections.  We will get what we deserve, but not what our nation's founding fathers had in mind.  I am trying to develop a proposal that will challenge every person who is seeking election in November to demonstrate that he/she will, if elected, act in the interest of the people, not just of the party or of the individuals that funded his/her campaign.  Check the BLOG in the next few days to see what develops.
The framers of our Constitution favored representative democracy over direct democracy for reasons which they understood clearly.  Representative democracy is founded on the principle of elected people representing a group of people.  Representatives elected by the people are charged with the responsibility of acting in the interest of the people, even when the people’s interest does not coincide with the interest of the individual representative or with the interests of the people with the most money who can afford to pay for the representative’s election campaign. 

At times when decisive action is needed to avoid catastrophe, direct democracy is slow and laborious and often inefficient. It doesn’t provide for swift initiation in the face of changing circumstances. It places responsibility on the people for voting on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives.  A most important feature of representative democracy is that it gives elected representatives enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances. To the naive citizen, direct democracy seems to be a gift, a blessing, a fair reward for living in a “free” society.  To the more thoughtful citizen, the best form of democracy involves giving all citizens the right and the responsibility to vote for competent representatives who will study all issues and will work in cooperation with other representatives, whatever their declared political party affiliations.
In America, what started out as representative democracy is gradually morphing into direct democracy.  Despite our national government’s representative beginnings and it’s constitutional basis at a federal level, eighteen states allow people to initiate directly a change in a state constitution and to establish laws directly, overriding the power of elected representatives. The initiative system obviously favors the people with the most money because they can pay the high cost of getting their projects onto the ballot.  Those same people with the money can promote the initiative through highly specialized, sophisticated and often misleading advertising aimed at persuading poorly educated individual voters to cast votes against their own interests.  James Madison and the people who worked with him to frame the original constitution of the United States were well aware that a representative democracy is designed to look after the interests of all the people, even the interests of the weakest party.  It was the tyranny of the masses that led a now repentant Germany into the holocaust.  It was the tyranny of a majority of people in mobs that accounts for America’s own holocaust.  In 1914 Tuskegee Institute reported fifty-two lynchings for that year.  The Chicago Tribune reported fifty-four, and by some accounts the number was seventy-four.  According to the Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States.  3,437 Negro and 1,293 White.  The largest number of lynchings occurred in 1892.  Of the 230 persons lynched that year, 161 were Negroes and 69 were Whites. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Cookie and Tommie...
One Year Old Today

Cali was the guest of honor.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

You must click on these to see them larger.

It's not pure beauty
that I found today
after I saw these summer lilies,
I came upon the dead bees;
a surge of sadness slowed 
my enthusiasm
with a reminder 
Life is fragile.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Good design
the way to see it

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All the world's a
you want it to be
and if you don't find
that suits your fancy
out there in the wide world
but where you always are
the best place to start.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I took only one photograph today, a pretty one; but I had plenty on my mind that isn't pretty.

With the nation recovering slowly from an economic melt-down created by banking/lending malfeasance, which was aided and abetted by policies of a previous administration, the Obama Presidency is caught between a rock and hard place as it attempts to move toward better times for the American people.  The hard place is the Republican side of the aisle in Congress which refuses in this election year to budge from it’s refusal as the majority in the House even to consider working with the Democratic minority to get anything of substance done.  Gridlock is the order of the day and of the entire season leading up to the November election. The rocks in the hard place are distractions initiated by Tea Party extremists, mostly minor issues of no real consequence, designed to take the Administration's attention away from the important work of the Executive Branch of Government. In their vowed determination to take down the Obama Administration, the Tea Party legislators seem willing to risk bringing down the Government of the United States.
The wealthiest member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Darrell Issa with a fortune estimated to be 450 million dollars is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His district takes in part of Riverside County and a big chunk of Northern San Diego County. People who have known Issa since he dropped out of high school at age seventeen to join the army say his being in charge of a committee that is supposed to oversee and reform government is a little like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house.  In the army he became an explosive ordinance disposal technician and was trained to defuse bombs.  Early in his career as a Republican politician he liked to tell stories about his army career, including a few which were later found to be pure fiction.  He said he was part of a detail that swept stadiums for bombs during the 1971 World Series. He said he helped make sure a stadium was safe before a game attended by President Richard Nixon.  He doesn’t talk about that detail any more or about some other anecdotes he once liked to include in political stump speeches after a San Francisco Examiner investigation found that President Nixon didn’t attend any World Series games in 1971.  He also doesn’t talk anymore about his distinguished service record after that same investigation found that Issa was actually transferred to a supply depot after he received an unsatisfactory evaluation in his explosive ordinance disposal job.  He asked for and got permission to leave the army not long after because of an illness in his family. 

Long before he became a rich man, Issa threaded his way through a couple of close brushes with the law, including an accusation by someone with whom he had served in the army that he had stolen a car and left it abandoned on an expressway.  People who know his rise from struggling business person have hinted that he had something to do with burning down his place business to collect the insurance, but arson couldn’t be proved.
The obvious reason for my present keen interest in Congressman Issa’s history, besides his being a congressman from the California county where I live, is that the House panel he chairs moved today to hold Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into the “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation.  Holder has refused for National Security reasons to hand over sensitive papers that could compromise the nation's work to control gun smuggling across the Mexican border.  While there is plenty of real work to be done by Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner is making sure nothing which might help the economy grow will get to the floor for consideration.  Issa’s issue, of course, will get approval from the Republican majority to move forward because it is designed to set up a clash between Congress and the executive branch which will take months to play out... months that Issa and his colleagues hope will advance the Republican candidate for president in the November election.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Drying Out... Amazing what a little broken pipe can do to change a schedule... the central part of our apartment... all the damage is easily repairable... no great harm done.  Anyway...What was it Scarlet said?  "I can't think about that right now.  If I do, I'll go crazy.  I'll think about that tomorrow." 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life is Fragile

Full of surprises...
Margaret and I live in a condominium community...
Today a pipe burst in a wall in our building...
We had a bit of a flood 
in part of our apartment
when I consider 
the clean-up after tornados 
and hurricanes
this is nothing...
We can do this

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Some FRIENDSHIPS are like perfect cactus flowers... unexplainably beautiful... indescribably exquisite... comforting and nurturing yet common like macaroni and cheese... 
Taylor Hill came by my house for a visit today.  His house is three thousand miles on the other side of North America from where I live in San Diego, but the telephone visit on this late-spring evening was as immediate, as real, as much appreciated as if we had settled in for a good talk before a roaring fire on a winter day in New England.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eucalyptus Landscape

Eucalyptus Dreaming

Euclyptus Meadow

Eucalyptus Spirit

Eucalyptus River

Eucalyptus Farm

Eucalyptus Estuary