Friday, November 30, 2012

There's a metaphor in this picture of the giant cactus in Balboa Park.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

For a long time I’ve been drawn to the work of abstract expressionist artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, and especially Clyfford Still. I never get tired of looking at the work of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. Abstract expressionism is nontraditional and mostly nonrepresentational, but it is heavy with attitude and emotion. How can we not be soothed and pacified by the color fields of Rothko or agitated by  Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110.

One of the great joys of bicycling in San Diego is the opportunity to see up close the hundreds of eucalyptus trees scattered all over the county.  They are the great gift to the world from the Australia and nearby islands. The bark of any eucalyptus is a expressionist canvas that changes with the seasons. Mostly what I see in the skin of a eucalyptus is definitely nonrepresentational, it just is... and its being is enough to justify my attention to it.  Sometimes however I see an image on a eucalyptus tree that reminds me of something.  Today between the great fountain and Park Boulevard in Balboa Park I saw something on a tree that reminded me of Clyde Yoshida’s dog pictures. That’s my picture for the day. The ones below could be paintings by Clifford Still or Robert Motherwell. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

GROVER NORQUIST... The Tea Party’s Man in Washington declared on 60 Minutes to Steve Kroft that he is leader of the movement, “to restore America’s tax structure to the 1900 level.”  Kroft seemed incredulous and asked if he heard right. Do you mean 2000.  No, Norquist said he meant 1900. He said government must be reduced to the size of a bathtub and then halved again.  I don’t even know what the bathtub analogy has to do with anything or how it could possibly have meaning.  Can it be possible that Norquist and the Republicans who say they won’t break their “pledge” to the lobbyist would be willing to take America back to a time when the country had all kinds of problems, many of them having to do with a large percentage of Americans living hand-to-mouth on hardscrabble farms and in struggling cities.  

Norquist says “individual initiative and not government is the correct solution to America’s economic and social problems today.  He was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in Weston, Massachusetts, where his father was vice president of Polaroid Corporation in a time long before the that company fell on hard times in the digital age (in 2008 the company filed for bankruptcy protection).  Norquist’s silver-spoon-in-the-mouth growing up experience was managed without his ever having to apply much individual initiative to advance economically, educationally, or socially.  He was heir to the good life, which he has enjoyed consistently since he was a child.  His laments that people who must rely on food stamps to eat and on government help to get medical care and on government programs to get education simply lack individual initiative. The guy obviously doesn't know much about where and how poor people live in America... or he is deliberately disingenuous.  Many of those drinking the tea party koolaid are uneducated and basically ignorant of American history and of political science and of elementary sociology, but Norquist is well educated and not ignorant of the dynamics of politics and sociology.  

If I were a gambler, I’d bet his effectiveness as a leader of the Republican won’t extend far beyond the beginning of the new year. I'm also guessing he will take several congressional leaders in his party down with him.  To survive, the party has to begin to appeal to young, educated, twenty-first century citizens who aren’t going to be willing to start over again with a 1900s America.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, told fellow senators that opposing reform of the filibuster in the Senate rule book, “It may be the most important thing you ever do.”

The filibuster is used to block legislation when the minority party doesn’t want to debate a bill unless sixty senators vote to do so.  It was once a tactic used only rarely; and when it did happen, minority members would actually go to the floor of the Senate and talk for hours and hours and hours. A filibuster happened when senators in the minority party calculated logically rather than just emotionally that the American people would be on their side. It was a big, big deal when it happened.  Now it happens all the time.  It has become a tactic used to freeze government and keep it from working.  Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate are failing to recognize that President Obama won the election because a majority of Americans prefer his agenda over the one that they and their candidate presented.  

The current big issue is easy to understand.  A majority of Americans have no problem with a plan to ask super-rich citizens to pay more income tax than they are now paying. The majority of  Americans are empathic, good people who recognize that poverty and privation are mostly not self imposed conditions; and they reject the notion that leaving more money with the already super-wealthy will benefit all people, even the poorest,  in the long run.   Many Americans read history... sometimes.  History shows clearly that the middle economic class grew and poverty shrank when the tax rate on the richest was as much as twice what it is today.   Most Americans are not rich.  Many Americans live with middle incomes in comfortable middle class homes in middle class neighborhoods. Many other hard-working Americans live in fear on modest incomes at the very edge of poverty.   Sadly, many Americans live in abject poverty.  Anybody who cares to learn about just how hungry some children are day after day after day can take a close look at public school programs in the poorest sections of American cities.  Teachers who work there know.  Cafeteria workers who feed children in breakfast, lunch and afternoon food programs in those schools know. Of course, there are dead beat dads and drug and alcohol addicted moms living in poor neighborhoods, but that’s not the issue here.  Those problems must be addressed, but let’s focus on children and adolescents who are struggling to grow up in volitile home environments and chaotic neighborhoods.  Ask teachers about poverty conditions that affect their students, and they will explain why it isn’t the fault of those children that they are poor.  Ask the teacher who has talked with a mother who comes to school conferences with a black eye and bruises about how an abusive father and husband affects children. 

I wonder which Americans Senators McCain, Graham, McConnell, and Representatives Issa, Boehner are seeing and hearing?   Who is advising and supporting members of Congress who are standing stubbornly against any tax increases on any Americans and are insisting that food stamp program and medical care programs are unnecessary “entitlements” that should be cut?  Who... and why?  Clearly they are not listening even to some of those citizens who are very wealthy, Like Warren Buffet, and think the super-rich can pay more in taxes without inhibiting the growth of the economy.  Do they actually believe Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh represent the thinking of the majority of Americans?  Am I being cynical when I guess that the reason some politicians want to let the wealthy keep as much money as possible is that they want cash to flow back to them in the form of support for their reelection campaigns?  Maybe they should think about what happened to the money Karl Rove and the Hunt Brothers’ crowd shoveled into (I was going to say “rat hole,” but changed my mind) failed election campaigns.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What I want to know is this...  How did Grover Glenn Norquist, a Washington lobbyist with little to recommend him except his own inflated opinion of himself, manage to get 95% of all Republican Members of Congress and all but one of the 2012 Republican presidential nominees in the last election to sign a pledge of any kind at all.  The pledge document to which these representatives and wanna-be presidential candidates affixed their signatures was called, by Norquist, “The Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”  It’s time to take a close look at just who this guy is.  Norquist serves on the board of The National Rifle Association and the American Conservative Union.  Jack Abramoff wrote in his memoir that Norquist was one of his first major Republican party contacts and was someone on whom he could depend to move and shake Washington. Norquist was mentioned often in the Abramoff scandal, but he was never convicted of crimes as Abramoff was. Norquist was hired by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to come up with a plan to privatize the CalPERS system, a plan which Schwarzenegger didn’t have enough power finally to push through the California legislature. Norquist claims President Ronald Reagan asked him to found ATR, Americans for Tax Reform.  As unofficial liaison from Republican politicians to the conservative movement , particularly “the Tea Party,” he has influenced more than anyone else the rewriting of dogma for the modern Republican Party.  He has wielded uncommon power over many elected officials in state and national offices for more than two decades.

So, back to my question:  How did this guy manage to get 41 out of 47 Republican senators and 238 of 242 House Republicans to sign his pledge?  These people are elected to represent the people of their districts and their states, not do the will of a Washington Lobbyist. How is it possible that the political organization which likes to call itself “The Party of Lincoln” allows itself to be led like a collection of puppets by Grover Norquist. 

As our nation approaches the edge of the “fiscal cliff,”  my guess is that his days as unofficial leader of the Republican Party are numbered.  Many of the senators and representatives who signed his pledge will become more and more uncomfortable with their decision a while back to promise their allegiance to Grover Norquist.  If the party can’t shake off this guy, it will continue to lose credibility with the majority of the American people.  

He is finally being recognized as a stain on the Republican platform and a real danger to American democracy. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The moon rising over Mission Valley
plays tricks with the tree I saw at midday.
Crows notice and fly in slow motion
toward wherever it is they go every night.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

                            -- William Shakespeare  1609

More Than One Way of Looking at It

Mural in North Park, San Diego

Friday, November 23, 2012

Listening to radio reports of war and other unnatural disasters,
my need for relief and at least a little encouragement to go on
 sends me out into the world to look for signs that all is not lost; 
 and even the cactus I find reminds me that some things prickly
 are designed to overlay beauty rather than pain onto the world,
 and the simple day lily which blooms and laughs in rain or sun
 shouts timidly its message about the necessity of things fragile
for healing a world too busy to notice a bold blooming hibiscus.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I can see why they call this flower a Bird of Paradise...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Not Just Any Cookie

Thanksgiving is a noun
a verb when responding
gladly to
the gift of a cookie from 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I begin the BLOG today with a picture of a place less than a mile from the location of yesterday's picture. Both the beautiful golf course in Mission Valley and the intersection of Interstate Highways 163 and 8 near my home belong to the people.  One, the golf course, is public property privately managed.  All of us may use it if we pay a fee.  That's fair.  The other is a public works project used regularly by millions of citizens.  It's not a toll road, so I drive on it almost every day without paying a fee each time I use it... because I helped pay for it when it was built, and I help pay for its maintenance  through a tax structure.  That's fair.  Some other people who use it only occasionally or never also helped pay for it.  If they are intelligent and reasonable, they don't complain because they know they benefit from public works projects which I may never use but which I support with my tax payments.  It's a bargain for all of us.  We all pay taxes. I am a thankful American.

Senator Eric Cantor’s solution to the economic problems of the poor is the same old song simply sung louder.  He said, “If you want money, go to work.”  Whaaaat?  What is it about the job market that he doesn’t get?  Has this leader of his party not noticed that there are as many Republicans as Democrats out there who can’t find jobs?  I’m guessing that just as many Republicans as Democrats are using food stamps to buy groceries.  Cantor’s remarks this morning along with Representative Paul Ryan’s insistence that he will not ever be in favor of raising any taxes... not ever... were reminders that a whole bunch of people in the Congress simply don’t get it.  Ryan said, “Not raising taxes has been my position for all of my career.”  It's unsettling to know that these men have been assigned key roles going into negotiations with other Republicans and with Democrats in Congress  to find a way to avoid letting the nation fall off the “fiscal cliff.”  

Coincidentally, after reading in the Los Angeles Times about the determination of Senator Cantor and Congressman Ryan to resist raising taxes on even the wealthiest Americans, I read that Orange County Republican leaders are shocked that any Latinos voted to elect Democrats.  Scott Baugh, chairman of the county’s Republican Party said that Latinos belong naturally to the GOP, citing a cultural emphasis on faith, family, education and the value of hard work.

O.K., O.K!  So that’s it?  The Republican leaders in the county just up the road from where I live are confused about which Americans value family, faith, education and hard work.  Let's take family values: Are Orange County conservatives implying that Democrats are the ones who are mainly at fault for the 55% divorce rate of marriages in the U.S.?  A statistic that is harder to verify is an estimate that 3/4 of the remaining 45%, at least at times, stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of children, finances, fear of being alone or simply too lazy or too busy to get involved in divorce.  I’m guessing Mr. Baugh and his committee believe that situation is also the fault of Democrats.  Don’t they know about Rush Limbaugh’s four marriages?  Didn’t somebody tell them that the third wife of Newt Gingrich, Calista Bisek, was his mistress while he was still married to wife number two?  John McLain was married to divorcee Carol Shepp before his marriage to his present wife, Cindy.  Don’t they know that the patron saint of the party, Ronald Reagan,  was married to actress Jane Wyman before he divorced her to marry another actress? Republican former-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, fathered a child by a housekeeper in his home. Looking to role models like Donald Trump for examples of fidelity in marriage is too ludicrous to consider; but just to set the record straight, Trump is in his third marriage.  O.K., O.K.,  everybody in American knows about Bill Clinton’s blow job in the cloak room; and his wife (still his wife) Hillary Rodham Clinton was ridiculed by many for “standing by her man.”  Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are favorite targets of derision by many Republicans who apparently haven’t bothered to notice that Nancy and Paul Pelosi have been married for 43 years and that Hillary and Bill Clinton are still a family.  Oh, yeah, now I remember... there was that sordid business with prostitutes by Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace.  I’m not forgetting, and I’m embarrassed for him and sorry for his wife and family;  but I’ve noticed that there is little talk among the Rush Limbaugh crowd about the fact that his wife, Silda, made the decision to stay with him and work hard to keep their family together.  So... Let’s hear it, GOP, for the importance of family values. Let’s hear again why one of the party’s favorite lines is that allowing same sex couples to marry would be a threat to heterosexual marriages.  

Now...about the other three cultural emphases of the GOP:  Let’s begin with education. The education plank in GOP campaigns restates the old determination of the party to eliminate waste by cutting funding to education programs and to resist any suggestion that raising taxes would make it possible to keep nurses, librarians,  art and music teachers in schools, and to keep classes sizes down to manageable numbers, and to restore bus routes to make it easier for families to get their children to school. Local taxpayers associations typically speak for the Grand Old Party on the matter of what should be done to and for schools, and what they almost always say is that programs should be cut so taxes can be lowered.

I don’t even want to go into the faith issue because it dredges up not-so-pleasant reminders that some hard-line, fundamentalist Christians stay away from me and other “bleeding-heart liberals” because, I guess, we are considered to be faithless infidels. I hurry to say also that I have many wonderful, supportive friends and relatives who are not Democrats.  They have always accepted me in spite of my political persuasions and my BLOG rants.

The suggestion that the Republican Party is the party of workers and that the Democratic Party is made up of people who don’t like to work would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. My parents were Democrats. They worked hard, and I don’t remember ever hearing them complain about working.  Not because I had to do it for my family but because I was thrilled to be able to supplement a reasonable allowance, I took a part time job washing dished in a cafe after school when I was thirteen and in the eighth grade.  I worked in a department store restocking shelves  when I was fourteen.  It paid a little more than the dishwashing job, so I moved up. My family moved from Arkansas to California when I was in ninth grade. I worked weekends in springtime thinning peaches and apples, and all summer harvesting fruit and nuts, and on weekends in the winter pruning peach trees... until I got an after-school job in a grocery store when I was a senior in high school.  We weren’t a poor family, but my brothers and sisters worked, too, because our parents taught us to value the opportunities we had as Americans to work... to work and to become educated.  When I was in college, I worked.  After I retired at sixty from a job where I had worked for three decades with affluent people who had all the advantages America offers its citizens,  I took a job teaching in a secondary school in the poorest part of our city where I thought I’d do a pay-back year.  Instead of staying for just one year, I stayed in that teaching job for seven years, not because I had to do it but because what I was doing was worthwhile and because I liked doing it.  I was a Democrat.  It was work. I like work.
University Avenue belongs to all of us
a couple of apartment buildings at University 
and Park Boulevard provide subsidized housing 
for senior citizens with very low incomes
because all of us pay taxes to make such programs possible.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I was going to borrow a poem
from Blake or Frost
to go with a picture of the valley
but decided against it.

The valley speaks for itself...

Two ways of looking at Datura
in autumn

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Failures of the institutional church are not indications of failure of Christianity.  Of all the guidelines for living responsibly in community, the Christian Gospel makes the most sense when emphasis is on the neighbor in relationship with the self.  Considering our essential wish for personal justice in our dealings with other people, what could possibly make more sense than “Treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated.” Besides Jesus’ saying it, virtually all of the world’s major religions emphasize essentially the same thing.  The Jews have Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  In what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1) when Jesus said, “All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” He was restating what was known to Jews of his time as the Great Commandment.  

In the Analects of Confucius (12:2) we read, “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.”  The Buddhist Udana-Varga (5,1) says, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”  Hinduism’s Mahabharata (5,1517 puts it this way: “This is the sum of duty; do nothing to others that you would not have them do to you.”  Islam’s Sunnah: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Modern Judaism: Talmud (Shabbat 3id) “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman.  This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”  Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Tai Shang Kan Ying P’ien.  Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for oneself.” Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5.

So the maxim which urges us to live justly with all people obviously has been making good sense for as long as people have been writing down what they have learned about  getting along with others.  Do justice... don’t just recite it, do it.  

Perhaps a small step toward peace might happen if the world’s religious leaders, all of them, could agree to set aside all other doctrinal beliefs and teachings for a determined period of time and focus their teaching and preaching on the one maxim that all of them share. Whenever and wherever a cease fire can be negotiated between warring parties, the road to peace might be possible if both sides could agree to live according to the Golden Rule.  Perhaps someone should pass along the simple suggestion to Israel and Hamas in Palestine that rather than throwing rockets back and forth between their communities, they might try the Golden Rule. If that can’t be managed, from where then can hope for mankind come?

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Friday, November 16, 2012

Click on the images to see them larger.

The century plant (agave americana) is misnamed. It flowers just once and dies in the year it produces its one blossom, usually between age 10 and 30.  After the plant dies, the roots send up suckers, or adventitious shoots. These plants are indigenous to Mexico’s regions that have long periods of  drought.  It’s a popular ornamental plant now and can be found in the southern U.S.A., Europe, South Africa, India, and Australia.  This agave lives in Mission Valley.  I’d seen it many times before today and confess that I had a tinge of sadness when I saw it was sending up the shoot that will bloom in the next few months and end its life.  It’s on my bicycle route between the Museum of Photographic Arts and my house.  I am reassured by the beginnings of suckers that are already springing up like pups around the parent plant.

More Photoshopping...  I'm obviously addicted.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Still playing around...
with Photoshop...
The Thanksgiving cactus is blooming on our back porch...
so I got this shot of it for my photo du jour
and Photoshopped it to get the next images.