Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The True Face of America Revealed

Donald Trump has done us a tremendous favor. He has torn the cover off political and economic reality in America. The United States is run by the rich for the rich. The rest of us exist simply to make them richer. Until now, the government could hide this truth with social placebos. Within it, there were conscientious people who even helped the “99%” – Teddy Roosevelt. FDR, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Barach Obama – with attempts at far-reaching programs designed to protect us from corporate greed. These programs are in jeopardy as the New reality approaches, and all for profits. The United States government is big business, always has been, and the president-elect says he knows how to run a business. We shall see. Trump's cabinet selections only go to prove his ties to Corporate America, four billionaires among a group of people consistently opposed to the principles of the very posts they are planning to assume. Cronyism and nepotism are openly displayed; the Spoils System is back. We have put the fox in charge of the hen house. More than a few hens will disappear. More than a few eggs will be broken. Basic human rights will be in jeopardy. Social programs will be gutted. The draft will be re-instated. Polution levels will rise, profits across the board will go up but do not expect wages to keep pace or jobs to come back. Old rich white guys rule the roost openly, in plain sight. Plutocracy rules! Do not kid yourself: democracy is dead. This is not sour grapes. This is dread. This is reading the writing on the wall and saying, “We've been here before, not America, but people.” Donald Trump lost the election by nearly three million votes, about the margin that George Bush won re-election in 2004 over John Kerry, the only time in this century that the Republican candidate for president won the populoar vote. He claims it was a landslide. He won 306 electoral votes, only 36 more than the 270 required. He claims that was a landslide, too. He claims a great many things and, having said them, he seems to believe them to be true even when provably false. And yet, and yet: he is president-elect. It makes me wonder if Trump, who yelled so loudly that the election was rigged, actually rigged it himself. The one who cries foul even before the first vote is cast just might be the one who smells. This Christmas season, the lyrics to the song have changed: “It's beginning to look a lot like Moscow everywhere you go...” Democracy can be ressurrected. It comes down to this: we need to find three Republican senators who will vote with their consciences and not with their party. All we need are three on any given confirmation or legislation. Hard to believe that what remains of democracy depends on three votes, but it does.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Titanium Anniversary (42)

On December 28, 2016, Diane and I will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. Anyone who knows me understands that the number 42 is special to me. I wrote a blog all about the number several months ago that even wound up re-printed on Clever Magazine. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I had every intention of makling our 42nd something truly memorable and special. First, I hoped to take us to the Netherlands to celebrate. We both love traveling there, particularly in the winter. In fact, we have flown there twice leaving on December 26 and once on December 25, thus spending our anniversary in the good company of my family there. Last year, in fact, they gathewred their resources to take us to a really entertaining restaurant in Vianen, near Utrecht, for #41. Doing something similar has oceans of appeal, but financial reality set in. We can't afford a trip like that at this time. Second thought was to get away for a long weekend somewhere quiet and interesting, preferably where we had never been. We even thought of taking the train from Whitefish west to Leavenworth, Washington, a town that, despite its name, resembles a Bavarian village repleat with an extensive nutcracker museum. Alas, even that requires more funds than we currently can spare, particularly after a close encounter, too close for comfort, with a deer on the highway, her demise and sizeable damage to our car. The third plan is going to work, however. We are still getting away for an overnight or two, depending, in a posh suite overlooking the somewhat challenged skyline of Kalispell. I am having hip replacement surgery on that day, our anniversary. I had postponed the surgery and limped along in pain for months before finally giving in six weeks ago and scheduling the surgery. The last day available in 2016 is December 28. We grabbed it. Behind our thinking was, get it done before Trump takes office. Mostly, though, it is the nature of our gift to each other on that day. Diane brings me the chance to lose the chronic pain in my hip. I bring her the peace of mind that comes with not having to hear me complain about or groan in that pain. Best yet, we have discovered something even more special about 42. Anniversaries come with some special symbol to help celebrate them. Anniversary Number Four, for example, should be celebrated with linnen or silk, or fruit or flowers. Number 15 is crystal or watches. After 15 years, the item is listed only sporadically instead of annually. Number 40 is Ruby, number 45 sapphire. However, 42 had no designation until now., but now we know: 42 is the titanium anniversary. How hip is that?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Custer's Last Stand: Another Excerpt

Close Encounter: A Personal Story Historians are not supposed to make it personal. But it always is. Something drew the historian to the subject. Often, as in the case of this book, there are several things over a considerable period of time, but one thing triggers the effort to actually begin. Finishing is always another matter. My wife and I moved to Montana in 2011. I saw my first buffalo roaming free a year later, in May 2012, in Yellowstone National Park, about a day's drive from our new home. We had taken my niece and nephew, visiting from Holland, to see America's number one national park, a literal hot bed of thermal activity, and home to the largest free roaming population of bison in the world. We saw them grazing in large meadows close to the road. We saw them crossing the road, huge wooly beasts who did not mind taking their time to cross while we tourists clicked away with our cameras. We also saw a mother grizzly bear and her cubs less than thirty yards away, but that's another story. Heading back to Gardiner, Montana, and our motel, we turned right onto the road to Lamar Valley, where we understood more bison roamed, and in bigger numbers. We had traveled barely ten miles toward the valley when we saw bison to our left in a distant meadow and began to slow down, looking for a turnout. Then, to our right, on the hills, we spied a small group galloping parallel to the road., no more than twenty yards away. I stopped the car just as the entire group turned toward the road. We saw that several of the buffalo were calves barely managing to keep up with the adults as they thundered toward us. In the lead was a huge, powerful-looking male, who stepped onto the highway just in front of our car and stopped dead in his tracks, blocking our way. My understanding is that the buffalo is a herd animal. He is prey. He runs. If he ever realized how powerful he was, if he ever turned to charge... The four of us were seated in our four-door Kia sedan, not a big car. My nephew, an avid photographer, was snapping pictures with his telephoto lens poking through the open window as the cows and calves raced by. The bull, a magnificent creature, eyed the camera carefully, snorting as he deliberately inched his way toward the passenger side of the car. I realized he could flip the whole vehicle over with one well placed thrust. I think he knew it, too. His nose came within an inch of the camera while we told Erik to pull inside and roll up the window. The bull did not move. He managed to guard the side of our car while blocking the front at the same time until the last of the calves crossed the road. Then he snorted one more time, turned, and slowly sauntered across the road, as if to say, “Don't mess with me or mine.” If this animal felt any fear at all, it was for his charges and not for himself. It was one of the most beautiful displays I had ever seen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Newest Book! Custer and the Plains Wars...

The blog page has been strangely silent of late, for which I apologize. I might claim to be in mourning, for my dog who passed November 21, or for the country, which passed into a strange new world 13 days earler. I could claim that the weather has kept me busy, with my first and subsequent sojourns into snow-shovel land of Winter 2016-7. I could, but the truth is, I have been busy. Now I can proudly tell you all what I have been busy doing, and remind myself and all of you that life goes on. We do what we have to do. It is what it is. The long and short of it is that I just self-published my next book on CreateSpace, Amazon and Amazon Kindle. It is called Custer's Last Stand: An Illustrated History of the Plains Wars and the Near-Extinction of the American Bison. It is a concise history, meaning short (130pp) and yet filled with interesting information and true stories. I had fun writing it. I finished the main draft three years ago and have been tinkering, fiddling, adding, subtracting, polishing and postponing it ever since as if it were a gemstone I had cut from a rough piece into a perfect, faceted shape. The book sells for $9.99, the Kindle version for $4.99. It is availabkle now, in the US, and within the next 2 days elsewhere worldwide. I know there have been many books written about Custer and the white man's push into Indian territory I think I bring a new perspective. You can buy it on Amazon, A,mazon Kindle, CreateSpace webstore, or any other major bookseller. I encourage you to do so. Here is an excerpt: Seth Bullock, sometimes lawman, sometimes explorer, sometimes merchant, was one of the people who encouraged President Ulysses S. Grant to make Yellowstone the first national park in America – or the world – long before Wyoming and Montana would become states. Setting aside a huge piece of wilderness for protection was a radical idea, but Congress passed the Yellowstone Park National Protection Act and Grant signed it into law on March 1, 1872. In June, 1876, Bullock was operating a merchantile with his partner Sol Starr in the boomtown Deadwood, South Dakota, near the gold fields of the Black Hills. In his later years, Bulloch would become a close friend and mentor to another President, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt would go on to become the great conservationist, expanding the national parks system and adding a national monument program as well. Roosevelt turned 18 on October 27, 1876.. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. The train, the Iron Horse, now linked east to west. On its tracks, new towns formed. The vast West was shrinking. More and more people moved westward in search of some version of the Promised Land. It was their manifest destiny to conquer and rule that land, and although the invasion was slow at the start, it grew faster and faster. The terrible War Between the States that once and for all would abolish slavery in the United States, cut short expansion for a time. But the race was back right after. America stretched from sea to shining sea and belonged to a specific group of people. Anyone in their way was in danger. The United States of America was one hundred years old, or would be, on July 4. Across the country people planned centennial celebrations. Colorado, admitted into the Union in August, would become known as the Centennial State. In the vast and dangerous West, settlers were pouring in, looking for homesteads to ranch or farm, or gold, or buffalo skins, or places to sell all the things the others in there area would need or want. 1876 was a monumental year, even as years go. Before the year was over, Wild Bill Hickok would be murdered while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota; the Jesse James-Cole Younger Gang would be broken up after a failed attempt to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota; the nation would celebrate the centennial of its birth with the lavish International Exposition in Philadelphia, later to be known as, simply, the Centennial, a six month long national fair to which one in five Americans would go; the National Women's Suffrage Association, formed seven years before, would draw significant attention to the women's rights issue; Ulysses S. Grant would finish his second term as President, to watch as a new Preisdent would be elected but no one would know the outcome for months at the threat of a second civil war; and George Armstrong Custer would fight the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Shock to the System or Three

The past 24 hours have not been kind to us, but we are on the other side of it now and beginning to sort things out. It began yesterday morning with a scam on my computer for which I fell, then had to spend half the day undoing. Then, at three in the afternoon, our precious Meg suffered a pulmonary embolism. We lost her just after six pm. This morning, on my way to work, a deer collided with the front right part of my car, doing significant damage to the vehicle and killing the deer. Bad things happen in threes, they say. I am living proof. The scam began around nine a.m., when we tried to look at an “article” link to “Jane Fonda Dead.” Instead of information or misinformation about the actress, a pop-up blocked my computer access and warned me that if I did not call the number on my screen, I could lose everything in it. The man on the phone claimed to be from Microsoft Security Services. For the price of a three year security anti-virus program, $199.99, they would unlock my computer, rid it of the 1400 viruses and warnings they found inside, and make it run again. I caved in a panic – which they were counting on me doing – and arranged the purchase through a company called Allay Hub, to be deducted in ten days from my account. Then, while their technician “fixed” the computer, I called Microsoft directly and learned that Microsoft would never block me like that, that this was most likely a scam. On their recommendation, I called my bank, put a stop payment on the future fee, and changed my access information to my accounts. I called Microsoft back and that rep told me he could clean my computer up for $149, then discounted to $109 because of my stop-payment charge from the bank. He did emphasize he was not forcing me to do this, merely suggesting. I declined and called my computer whiz nephew in Holland, who guided me through making sure my system was okay and the program they installed was uninstalled. Through him, I discovered I was fully protected already and that my computer was, in fact, clean. I wrote a scam report to the Better Business Bureau. I also e-mailed Allay Hub (they do not have a webpage, oddly enough) demanding they remove the account and not make the charge. This morning an agent called me and agreed. I still will monitor my banking daily to be sure. Third bad thing second: hitting a deer is all too common in Montana, and an awful thing to happen. It is almost always fatal to the deer and always damaging to the car, even at slow speed at four in the morning Still, the first rays of sunlight came out at the insurance office when I filed my claim. The young woman who helped me suggested one body shop because the one recommened by the claims agent was fully booked into January. I followed her suggestion. This one will start work next Tuesday. Even just doing their job, people can be kind, and that is refreshing. Bad thing number two. At three yesterday afternoon, while I was on my way to pick up Xander from school, Meg cried out in pain on Diane's lap. Her legs stiffened out and she lost control of her bladder shortly thereafter, while Diane called the Vet and called me to hurry home. The Vet worked on Meg for three hours, but there was no coming back. We finally ended her misery. Four grown adults surrounded this little five pound Chihuahua, crying our eyes out. But Meg was special. She touched many lives. I think she was more popular than me. Granddaughter CharleeRose almost always says, before anything else, “Yay Meg! Yay Meow!” For her, Meg was the Queen and Jane the Queen consort, and the rest of us are staff – Meg's staff. This will be hard on her and on Xander, but it is hardest on us. It amazes me that such a little animal can cast so big a shadow over our lives. I keep listening for her bark whenever I say, “Coming!” Diane keeps checking the room to see where she is. But, as the song says, our hearts will go on, Meg firmly and permanently residing there. We received several notes of condolance, many with memories of Meg, this morning. I could barely read them through my tears, and am grateful for all the love and comfort offered. As one friend said, given the number of beautiful creatures who have graced our lives over the decades, Meg will have one huge greeting committee. And she'll run the roost. Yay Meg!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The True Trump? Minority Rules

Politicians lie to get elected. They will say just about anything if they think it will help them. Many Americans seem to be pinning their hopes on the idea that Donald Trump's rhetoric is not really Donald Trump. Maybe he's a closet progressive. Maybe he does know what he's doing. Maybe he doesn't hate women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, Mexico, gays. Maybe he does respect the Constitution of the United States. I think Trump is who he is, just short of being a fascist. This election tore the cover off America to reveal the depths of its divides. People can deny all they want that the election was about white male America holding on against the rainbow coalition, but it was. They can claim it was not about race, but it was. Even if you voted for Trump for some other reason, perception is reality. You look racist to me. And if you didn't vote at all, you are telling us something even more profound, that there is nothing about this country for which you are willing to fight. You no longer care, or you feel the system no longer cares about you. Almost half the registered voters said so. It is said that a people always gets the government they deserve. I fear that this election will prove to be a self-fulfilling prophesy and that civilization as we know it in America is about to disintegrate into a dust cloud of bigotry and apathy. There is another saying: bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Politics in Trying Times: Watchdogs

Yesterday's depression has been shrugged off. The sun did rise this morning. I was not surprised. At three a.m. I headed off to work, seeing the great Orion standing high over me, on guard, as he has been for eons. It was a cold morning, brisk and bracing and crystal clear, and it felt good against my skin and to my essence. Then I drove down to work, about a mile away from my house and six hunded feet lower in altitude, as well as next to Flathead Lake. There, the fog settled in. Orion was hidden. And I remembered this was the day after the day after. A shiver ran down my spine. I received a number of responses to my election day postmortem Trump check-list blog. One stood out, reminding me not to be a sore loser but rather to move on in unity. The people have spoken, lets work together and accept the will of the people. I wondered if she meant the way the Republicans in Congress accepted the overwhelming will of the people in 2008, but I let that slide. I only replied, “I worry.” I thought but did not say that I was not so much sore that Clinton lost but embarrassed that Trump won. I did not re-state the point of the list, that so much good work is at threat of being undone. I only worry. For the second time in this century and only the third time in US history, the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the election. Trump did not get the majority of the vote. In fact, he got barely a quarter of the eligible vote because almost half the Americans who were registered to vote decided to stay home in 2016. This means he did not get a mandate from the people, not by a long shot. He squeaked by. Almost three quarters of America said no to him or just said, no thanks. He must now reach out to all of us, to me, to you, and not with pretty words but reasonable acts. Let me be plain. Conciliatory speeches aside, the divisions among the American people have been laid bare. The country is obviously in pain and is not united. I want America to succeed, to move forward, to become the great place everyone seems to think it is. But if an action by our government is wrong, I will oppose it. If my civil liberties are impaired, I will exercise them all the harder. If good laws are gutted, I will protest. I will be peaceful but I will be clear, and I will be one voice among many. In the 1960's I argued with a good friend. She said that my dissent (over Vietnam) would destroy America. I said that dissent was the power, the strength, and the safeguard of democracy. If dissenters are shouted down, democracy is murdered. I will shout louder still. A true friend tells you when you're wrong. A true patriot does the same for his country.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Trump Presidency Check-list

The Trump Presidency: What to Anticipate: If Americans think they gutted the System, they're wrong. They just handed it to the very people who willfully made it ineffective. Tyranny of the minority is about to take over. So I thought we should create a watch list of the things that we can look forward to in a Trump Presidency. Universal health care – dead. Tuition free college education – dead. Social Security – in jeopardy. Medicare – in jeopardy. A woman's right to choose –- in jeopardy. Civil liberties – on hold. Immigration reform – shelved. Humanitarian Actions – stopped. Religious freedom – curtailed. Income equality – “not my problem.” The minimum wage – held steady. Trade policies – up in the air. Bringing jobs back to America – outsourced. Tax cuts for the wealthy – day one. A balanced budget – fuggetaboutit. The Public Debt – increased exponentially. The credit rating with the world bank – lowered, if Trump tries to renegotiate or defaults on thedebt, or declares a federal bankruptcy. Funding for public access programs – cut. Military spending – increased. NATO – in jeopardy. Tensions with our allies – increased. The Iran nuclear treaty – withdrawn. Relations with Cuba – probably safe as long as Trump sees a business opportunity there. Climate change – ignored, denied, or worse, fired. The glass ceiling – repaired and restored. The Draft – reinstated. Watch this check-list. Add to it if you like. Maybe the Donald will rise to the job, maybe he will exercise and encourage reasonable policies to the benefit of all. Hard to see. I feel like a San Francisco 49er's fan who wears his team logo sweatshirt daily with pride. Oh, wait, I am that guy. People offer me their sympathy, but I'm on my own.

Election 2016: The Day After - Buyer's Remorse

I should be wearing black because I am in mourning. The American voter has chosen. The voter has voted against his/her own interests and put the Republican Party in charge of the hen house for at least two years with Donald Trump at its head. Entitlements are in jeopardy. Social Security is in jeopardy. 85 years worth of gains in civil liberties and progressive reform may well come undone. The position of the United States in the world theater is now shaky. I was certain we would not take this route, but we did. Seven million less democrats turned out to vote in 2016 than in 2012: it is our own damn fault. Maybe I should be happy. The American voter gassed up his big pickup truck, slipped into 4-wheel drive, and went off road. It will give me four years of things to blog about and comedians four years of constant material. It may galvanize liberals and progressives into something resembling a movement. Instead, I am scared. I want to believe it's a good thing. Maybe Trump will surprise me. Maybe he is a hidden progressive in conservative's clothing. Maybe more people will watch the Trump Show as broadcast from the White House and become more interested and involved in politics outside their own back yards. Maybe progressives will unify in opposition. I doubt it – more likely, as with the Brexit vote, Americans will suffer from buyer's remorse but do nothing. Politics as usual appears to be dead, but it's not. Gridlock seems to be dead, but we shall see. The Republican Party now effectively controls all three branches of government once Trump's first Supreme Court justice nominee is approved. There are no checks. There are no balances. The Russians and the Chinese are happy: we just passed the hat to them. Corporate America is happy: we just improved their bottom line. I, however, feel miserable. But who cares? As for the American people, they know not what they have done. White America has said: I am still powerful; do not ignore me. But we were played. I am certain that America will slip into an also-ran status on the world economic and political scene. I hope I am wrong about that. I hope I am wrong about all of this. So much seems at risk, placed their by an electorate that chose celebrity over experience, the past over the future, the rich over the citizenry. God help us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: Pre-Postmortem

It's over. The long dark teatime of the soul has ended. The electioneering is done, the speeches, the promises, the rhetoric, the misrepresentations and exaggerations, the hyperbolie, the distortions and insinuations, the out and out lies. I haven't blogged in a long while. I've been traveling and visiting with dear, dear friends. And, frankly, I have become exhausted by politics. A large part of the reason is the Trump Show and how absurd it got, barelky worth a comment anymore except to see how close he has come in the polls. But the Donald is right about one thing: the election is rigged. Not FIXED, as in bought by cheating at the polls, but RIGGED. Big money supports all sides. Mike Pence is in the pocket of the Koch Brothers. Trump himself is his own big money if we take his questionable unsubstantiated words on faith. As for Mrs. Clinton, I want to believe that she is not beholding to any special interests but you don't raise so large a warchest without raising the question: whom do you owe? I see her as the real outsider in the election, ironically enough – new wealth, not part of the power elite, and squeezing past every attempt by that elite (through the Republican Party) to tarnish her and ultimately destroy her. But it doesn't matter. Politics is a side show. On November 9 Trump will parlay his presidential run into a TV netowrk and recoup his expenses tenfold. The presidential race was a business investment. Pence will wait for 2020. Hillary will be President and Congress will still do nothing. Merrick Garland will be fast tracked into the Supreme Court by a suddenly desperate lame duck Senate, but that's all. No wonder so many voters are angry – what real choice did they have? Our vote has been co-opted, our choices at the top and down ballot have been hand-picked for us by the wealthy. But that doesn't mean our vote is meaningless. There is a clear choice between Clinton and Trump, a clear difference. And there are the down ballot elections: let the incumbents beware. In the end, it was not a great choice, but it was a clear one: bigotry or civility; isolation or involvement; stagnation or progress; ultra-conservatisom versus progressivism. It's over. You chose. They're counting even as I write these words. And no matter how silly we are or how important we imaginbe ourselves to be, the world will go on. The sun will come out tomorrow. 360,000 people will be born toimorrow, 150,000 will die. The world's human population will increase by 210,000 hungry mouths in that twenty-four hour period, At least one species of life will go extinct. Tomorrow. Songs will be sung, stories told. Problems will be solved, new problems discovered. Who we elect as President is important, may be crucial. But we have heard it before: this is the most important decision ever. Not so. Decision made, it's time to move on.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

All Lives Matter: A Follow-up

All lives matter. Black lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter, Native American lives matter, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Democrat, Republican, whatever divide or category you place us in. Intellectually, I think most white people get that, but I don't think we really feel that way. We are more; you are less. And, honestly, that is why so many of us are afraid. Here in Montana, people of color are as rare as a grizzly bear sighting. Culture clashes are few. It's a white state, a heavily armed white state. And yet we tremble up here as if we were the epicenter of the whole racism issue. It is as if centuries of white dominance in Western Europe, transferred in blood to America's shores and then from sea to shining sea, may be coming to an end and we are fighting, tooth and claw, to keep that from happening rather than embracing a future in which color helps define us as individuals but no longer defines us in hateful generalities, and in which everyone – everyone – has a share in the decision making that affects everyone else. President Obama reminds black people to vote. Progress itself is on the line. I want to see every American of voting age registered and voting. Lets let the world know who we are today, in 2016. Expose where we disagree, demonstrate where we agree. Celebrate our diversity, our patchwork quilt of ethnicities, cultures, faiths. But stand in unity for our most cherished principle: that all people are created equal, with the equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are not empty words, an unattainable ideal. They are the blood and breath of what America wishes to be. And when you pull away from the quilt for a better look, you will see the portrait of Lady Liberty, standing at the entrance to America, standing tall against the smoke of hatred, bigotry, envy, and even terror. They cannot tear us down. Only we ourselves can do that. In the meantime, perhaps we all should “take a knee.”

Friday, September 23, 2016

Understanding “Black Lives Matter” From a White Perspective

I hear many white people respond to the phrase, “Black lives mater,” with the phrase, “All lives matter.” Of course all lives matter. That should be self-evident, but it isn't. And that's the point. No one is free from sin, but white people have never been, historically, great examples of all lives matter. We are not the only ones who have been cruel, but neither are we immune. Anyone who denies that does not know their history. It was white people who exterminated half the Jews in the world, who eliminated most of the Native Americans from one tip of the New World to the other, who enslaved and relocated massive numbers of people from Africa. On balance, white people have not been very kind to each other, either: just in the last century they fought the two costliest wars in terms of human life ever fought. Today, they (we) are struggling to hold onto power and control in this country. I think we fear, once power is lost or even equally shared, that we will be held to account for the sins of our fathers, let alone our own sins. The truth is, to white people by and large, black lives matter less than white lives. George Orwell said it best in Animal Farm decades ago: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” We see it in policy, media coverage, economics, equality; we see it in poverty levels around the world and at home; we see it in disproportionate response of the police toward, in particular, males of color; we see it even in the courts. We love our examples of “good blacks” – successes at sports, articulate in our brand of English, handsome and beauiful and sexy to watch. But they remain tokens in a white-dominated society. To say all lives matter is disingenuous. Scream, instead, “White lives matter! White lives matter more!” It's what you really mean. I have experienced prejudice in my life, centered on me. A young woman with whom I was deeply in love rejected me because of the color of my skin, and my hair. The man who impregnated her Japanese mother was a blond haired, blue eyed soldier who abandoned mother and child. Her prejudice came from a logical place but it was still prejudice. She judged me based on actions or traits she saw in someone else who looked like me. She generalized, and I lost her. But for me to say I understand prejudice on the basis of one incident would be absurd. I had a taste of how unfair discrimination is. That is all. I did not, do not, nor ever have had to live it. I cannot claim to know in any way what it feels like to be young, Black, and male in the United States of America. I get it intellectually; I try to walk in those shoes but it's not the same. It's a rude approximation. Honestly, I never really want to know more than I do, to be the recipient of that level of hate and fear. Once you're subjected to racial programming or turned into a token, maybe you will understand. I don't, yet. In my head I get the message: black lives matter as much. I don't want to happen to me what I see happening across this “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Too many Americans are still waiting for reality to catch up with rhetoric. Patience is rarely limitless. What others do or did in the past does not take away our sins, does not make our own wrongs right. We are all responsible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fire in the Flathead

Monday, August 22: Driving down our hill to go into town, we saw five fire trucks barreling up, but they turned right, away from our neighborhood, instead of left. But nowhere is far enough away in a forest. The word “evacuation” is spoken not in a whisper but in firm possibility. So you start to think, what should I save? Fire is the one thing nature can do to us that scares a Montanan. We have earthquakes, but they are like California ticklers. We live in the blast zone of one of the world's super-volcanoes, but you don't brood about an event that happens once in 750,000 years. We can have fierce, beautiful thunderstorms that rock the sky, but the biggest concern there is a lightening strike setting off a fire. We can have powerful winter storms dumping significant amounts of snow, but that's something most Montanans just hunker down for and get through with snow plows and skiing ops. But fire destroys. And the worst of it is that people themselves often set fires off by accident, carelessness, or sometimes on purpose. Once begun, fires are hard to control. They are wild in every sense of the word. So what do you save when the evacuation order comes, if you have time? Tax returns? Your grandchild's favorite stuffie? Your favorite book? Your accumulated notes for that memoir you hope someday to write? That portrait of Great Grandfather that takes up half a wall? The stone carving of a buffalo your niece and nephew gave you on their last visit? What's important? Your address book, yes, but do you grab the bills you have not yet paid? I pulled out the suitcases. The dog and cat carriers, and waited for word. Aircraft filled with water and retardants flew overhead, back and forth, making rapid fire sorties. The fire was less than two miles away, as the spark flies. By bedtime, though, the danger to us seemingly had subsided, thanks to the quick and intense work of dedicated firefighters and the proximity of the biggest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. Tuesday, August 23: This morning, smoke hung over the depression between two ridges like a thick fog, like a warning. Fire crews had kept vigil all night, and the assault began anew, mainly to keep the fire from spreading as it played itself out, and to hit any hot spots outside the fire's perimeter. We were, are safe. I did not have to choose. But I kept the suitcases handy and I wonder what I'd pick. Wednesday, August 24: This morning the report on the Bierney Creek Fire is that it has held to 80 acres and 70% surrounded. There are 75 homes within half a mile of the fire, and concern still over hot spots outside the fire perimeter, just as before. But looking toward the fire zone from my back porch, the smoke is lower to the ground and the skies above are clear. The riveting sound of the helicopter's water dance is absent. Danger, now, would depend on a radical shift in weather, wind, and fortune. Still, I realize that I, like so many of you, am woefully unprepared for a major disaster.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Punishment

A Definition: Punish (from the Latin, punic, meaning Carthaginian). 1) sort or type of a pun. 2) to make, i.e. force, someone to listen to terrible puns for no reason at all on a day other than Sunday. 3) to tie a wrongdoer to a chair and force him or her to catch the entire three seasons of Gilligan's Island, including the original broadcast commercials, continuously and without interruption. Punishment. The act of punishing. It is vital that everyone understand the inherent danger of punishment. This danger cannot be understated. It can be insidious, creeping into the conversation at any point. It cannot, however, be subtle. One way of knowing for certain that you are being punished is this lack of subtlety – punishers tend toward the obvious and downright silly. One should never take it personally if victimized by a punisher. They cannot help themselves. They are out of control. And once a rant begins, they have no concern for whomever they target or for collateral damage. Interventions, the Twelve Step Program, even prolonged psychiatric counselling does not seem to help: punishers truly have major self-control issues. Again, it is nothing personal. But this is why a law was enacted restricting punishing to only on Sundays. Wait...Is that...Just in my house? Tolerance is asked for in these sad cases. No harm was meant. Laughter only encourages the punisher; groans are like the music of affirmation to their ears. One in three human beings is a punisher. You probably know one. You may be one, secretly, hiding in your own closet with a Thesaurus and a really scary clown suit. Spam for lunch, anyone?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hello, My Name Is Doris (mini-review)

Hello, my name is Roy. It has been a crazy and exciting week up here at Lake Flathead. Plans are being made that will bring not one, but two nephew-niece combinations up to the Big Sky in rapid succession all the way from Holland in September-October. We had a busy summer but no vistors, and now the Blokker Bed and Breakfast, the BBB, is booked! Plus, Di and I are going to California in the middle of it all, which lets us see our grandson Chase and his parents for the second time this year – a major feat for long distance grandparents. Sometimes it is hard to be popular, but mostly it is just plain wonderful. We took a break from map reading and agenda plotting this morning to watch a DVD rental, a small quirky film we had never heard of but had seen previews for while waiting for the opening credits on another quirky little film. This one, “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” turned out to be one of the funniest, sweetest, most enjoyable films I can remember. Sally Field plays Doris, a woman of a certain age who had been caretaking her mnother for years and now faces a world without that obligation. She becomes attracted to a much younger man at her workplace, and all sorts of amazingly gentle hi-jinks follow. The material could have been handled with much less grace, but, anchored by Field's amazing performance and very honest dialogue, it feels real and very, very funny. I would recommend this film to anyone who likes small, quirky independent movies done as well as a film can be. For an hour and a half I forgot the combined delight and panic presented by upcoming fun times If our guests ever get bored with us, I might just put the film on for them.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Melania a Spy?

I started a rumor today. It was great fun. I started it on Twitter, in the hopes that conspiracy theorists around the world would run with it, re-tweeting. I hear that happens. At least, that's what some people say. Now, I am not saying the rumor is true, just that I heard it. Yes, I heard it inside my own head, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have validity somehow, somewhere. Right? Now, I have never done anything like this before, so I am curious if anyone even notices, reacts, passes it on. If it gets back to me I will have to wonder if I was right in the first place. The rumor is this: Some people say Melania Trump is a Russian spy. Okay, one person so far, but, eh, could be... The question immediately comes to mind: do we want to have our First Lady on the pipeline with Vladimir Putin? I'm not saying that would happen, and I disavow any knwledge or information that would hint at it happening. It;s just a rumor I heard. I hope you know I'm being sarcastic, but maybe not that sarcastic.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Testament of Youth

We watched a film on DVD the other day that I had wanted to watch for some time, Testament of Youth, based on the memoir of the same name by Vera Brittain. I knew it would affect me deeply, the way the Spielberg-Hanks production of Band of Brothers did. It would be a riveting, emotional experience; it would be hard to watch. Having come across the story of Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton while researching my own book, Charles Sorley's Ghost, and then having read Brittain's book, I was prepared. I thought. The story is set between 1914 and 1918, when Great Britian was locked in the deadly struggle known as World War One. Brittain, a young woman of some privilige, is locked in the struggle to be more than just an ornamental female, when the war breaks out. Her fiance, Leighton, her brother and another close friend all go to war while she shifts her focus, trying to do something useful back home. She becomes a nurse. The story unfolds from her point of view, which is powerfully effective storytelling. We've seen plenty of front-line stories. Seeing the impact of war on the home front adds dimension to the drama of war. More than a British period piece or costume drama, the film is a slow-building emotional crusher that is poignant, beautiful, deeply sad but surprisingly unsentimental. It is also very close to the source material, and therefore mostly true. Its power is not in what happens – it is pretty obvious what will happen as you watch – but in how it affects Vera and the others around her at a time when soldiering was seen as a glorious duty. As the war drags on, the truth, that soldiery is anything but glorious duty, reveals itself horribly, terribly, tragically. Vera Brittain became a witness to loss. She spent the rest of her life railing against war. Too few have listened, but now's your chance.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Home Bodies on the Road

The home is sacrosanct. It is our refuge, our castle, our domain, our protection, our moat protecting us from the trials and aggravations of the world. It is our most private physical place. For some, the level of privacy and seclusion the home represents is so important that sharing it is very hard. When we used to visit my wife's parents, the first thing her mother would say was, “Good to see you. When you leaving?” Blasting her parents out of their house was almost impossible. We had to be the ones to come to them – always. We didn't mind, really, because we liked road trips and we wanted to see them. We liked them. We enjoyed their company. But, obviously, it still rankled, and still does today, so many years later. I understand liking your nest and wanting to stay there undisturbed. I like mine, too. There is nothing better than sitting together with Diane on the couch watching something we both enjoy on the television. But there are many things that are as good. I also like to see new things and to spend time with people whom I love. You can't do that if you stay in all the time. I am a simple and unimportant man, but I have been to the third floor of the Belleek Factory. I have had my fear of heights tested on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I have driven down Highway One and up Going to the Sun Road. I have watched buffalo roam. I have seen two dozen bottle-nose dolphins breach in a cris-cross pattern in the wake of a cruise ship, again and again for half an hour I've swum at the bottom of a kelp forest with a manta ray. I have had a very vocal crow land on my outstretched arm in a graveyard in Terschelling. I have seen angels spinning in infinity and prostitutes plying their trade and stood in a cathedral formed by trees. I have had machine guns pointed at me at a checkpoint in Northern Ireland. I have put my nose within inches of the Girl with the Pearl Earring. I have paid my respects to the most elegant mind of the Seventeenth Century in a massive but empty cathedral in den Haag, where he lay buried with his mother and his father in a tomb built for someone else. I've stood toe to toe with Ronald Reagan, shaken hands with Buddy Ebsen, seen what Bob Dylan could do to the inside of a motel room, and asked Malcolm Atterbury to wink at me the next time he was on TV, and he did, while playing a judge on Perry Mason. I saw Willie Mays patrol center field in Candlestick Park, and I have met Eva Mozes Kor at an open house in Terre Haute. I have traveled to a distant galaxy in larger than life three dimensions in a near private showing with a cocktail in my hand. I have ridden on the Ghost Bus and eaten great Italian food in a restaurant in Dublin. I've had a glass with many fine friends and raised a glass to all. I have not yet been to Canada, but it beckons. I have not yet seen the Northern Lights or the Southern Cross. I want to see the Scablands, where an ancient ice dam broke and a mountain of water carved the land into a channel in God's time, seven days, and then went on to help create the Columbia Gorge. I have not yet walked the medieval streets of Bruges, nor stood inside the Menin Gate in Ypres, where Sorley died. I have not ridden east from White Fish to Havre on what used to be the Great Northern Empire Builder. I've not yet tracked Chief Joseph's path as he tried to lead his people to a safe haven through Montana, nor walked the dusty streets of Deadwood with the ghost of Seth Bullock. My bucket list is extensive and always growing and should take decades to fulfill, with long periods of blissful rest between trips in my cozy cave.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Day the Sun Fell, August 6, 1945

Seventy-one years ago, the Sun fell to the earth. A single American bomber plane dropped a single American made bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and the Nuclear Age began. Three days later an even more powerful bomb fell on Nagasaki. A perfect storm of circumstances permitted these atrocities to occur. Today we mark them. But do we understand? At Hiroshima, 70 to 100,000 people died literally in a flash. Wiped out, destroyed, annihilated, killed. People were vaporized, leaving behind only the outline of their bodies burnt into the stone; they are known as the shadow people. Survivors exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb suffered long term effects. The Hiroshima bomb has a uranium core; the second bomb used plutonium. At Nagasaki, the death toll was close to that in the first bombing. These have been the only deployment of nuclear weapons against a real target. Temperatures at the explosion site reached 7900 degrees Fahrenheit, about the temperature of a sun spot. The debate over the motivation of the Americans in the bombing continues to rage like a fire storm, but the inescapable and unavoidable fact is that those two bombs killed around 120,000 human beings, many of them non-combatants, each bomb deploying maximum damage in seconds with no regard for the age or sex or level of participation in the war of any of the victims. August 6 and 9 are days no human being can afford to forget, events that should be burned into our conscience and our understanding like a shadow demanding remembrance.

Friday, August 5, 2016

William of Orange and Art: Kindness Is Its own Reward

William the Silent of Orange married four times during his brief stay on this planet, His first wife died young. His second wife, Anna of Saxony, bore him several children, among them Maurice, who would take up the mantle of revolution at the tender age of seventeen on behalf of his father after William became, dubiously, the first head of state to be assassinated with a hand gun. From all accounts, Anna was an indifferent mother to her children, and not happy in the marriage. Concerned with protecting her wealth against William's financial needs in fighting the Spanish, in or about 1570, Anna employed a talented lawyer to help her manage her affairs, then had an affair with the man. He was married; so was she. Worse, she was married to the Prince of Orange and Statholder (governor) of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Such affairs were considered treasonous in those days and both participants, if caught, could justifiably be executed for treason. And they were caught. But William was a different sort of leader for his times. A proponent of religious tolerance in the middle of the bitter feud between Protestant and Catholic, William decided on a less drastic course toward his wife. Rather than have the lovers killed, he imprisoned Anna with her child by the lawyer. The child was taken from her three years later. Largely because of written pleas from the lawyer's wife, Maria Pipelinckx, William released the lawyer back to his home in Siegen upon condition that the man never leave that town as long as Anna remained alive. William declared his marriage dissolved on the basis that Anna was insane, and remarried in 1575. Anna died in prison in 1577. The lawyer's wife accepted him back into her life, and together they had a son, also in 1577. It is hard to be certain what was going on in the mind of William the Silent. Anna was a difficult wife who showed signs of mental instability and who seemed uninterested in both her children and her role as Princess of Orange. It is possible that he took the opportunity of her pregnancy while spending so much time with her legal and financial adviser to build a case against her for divorce or annulment on the basis of adultery while he himself was father of that child. It is more likely that Anna and the lawyer did have an affair, and she became pregnant, and that William held himself partially to blame for Anna's wandering. Great heroes are always flawed. William did not recognize Anna's daughter from the affair as his own, nor offered financial support for the child. Christina von Dietz married well and went on to have a full and illustrious life of her own, reaching the age of 65. The lawyer's name was Johannes, or Jan, Rubens. He and Maria named their new son Peter Paul. Peter Paul Rubens.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Art of War: A Personal Take

Violence has always been a part of my nature. As a child, I owned an extensive set of hand puppets – mostly cats – with wonderful glass eyes and cute little paws and soft faux fur and quizzical little smiles stitched on. For me they were combatants, fighters, soldiers or outlaws and deputies. They would attack each other, punching and pummeling, like Punch and Judy but more street-wise. I would put little dime store plastic rings with gemstone colored glass centerpieces on those tiny paws that became ray guns as the puppet people shot at each other, all too often with (temporarily) deadly accuracy. I also had a huge collection of marbles. I didn't particularly like shooting marbles. I didn't like to lose and I wasn't very good; the thought of actually parting with a marble was too painful to contemplate. My marbles were warriors. Masses of moving glass attacked each other in clashes worthy of the boldest generals. Maneuvering these giant clashes of arms, I learned strategy, like flanking or desperate charges. Then, of course, were my endless parade of soldiers, cowboys, Indians, knights, aliens and pirates, all in well articulated 3D plastic and often in full combination, fighting the Little Bighorn, Gettysburg, the Alamo, Tortuga and the Battle ofn the Bulge, often at the same time. Custer and Rin Tin Tin might stand alongside Matt Dillon and Long John Silver, fighting desperately against overwhelming odds but with a World War Two soldier and his machine gun helping mow down enemy after enemy. Another day, they might be on opposite sides while my heroes, August and Charles Pepper (both former sergeants, of course), fought valiantly to the last man standing. Nobody taught me. I saw war stories on television. I read A Child's History of the World and The Story of Mankind. Both books showed that human history, at least western civilization's story, is little more than war after war after war, battle after battle after battle. I never read The Art of War. I didn't need to: I learned from watching. It came naturally to me. The rest was instinct. Now I'm a pacifist. Go figure. Maybe it was all those three inch tall corpses littering my bedroom floor. Picking them up to put away night after night was sad. Thinking about them in their huge toy box, wondering if they wondered what the next day would bring them – another battle, another death, made my imagination hurt. Or maybe it was when my favorite cat puppet named Bob tore beyond repair and had to be thrown out, and I realized that things do die, even in games.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Liars and the Lying Lies They Tell

Has any one of us ever considered, even merely entertained the thought, that Hilary and Bill Clinton have been so thoroughly and constantly poked, prodded, investigated and maligned not because they are guilty but because they are innocent; not because they are dishonest but because they are honest; not because they belong to the system but because they want to reform it? It is an odd thought indeed, that perhaps the Clintons are targets because the political system as it exists today is afraid of them? According to Theodore Roosevelt, an honest reformer will be constantly probed by the establishment hoping to find something. Barring actually finding it, the establishment mouthpieces will scream to the heavens that something must exist, that somehow the reformer is actually dishonest and corrupt – to hide their own dishonesty and corruptibility. Roosevelt himself was treated in this manner in his quest for Civil Service and labor reform. He said, in his autobiography, that he grew accustomed to being called before investigative committees on a regular basis. They found nothing; there was nothing to find. Hilary Clinton is not Teddy Roosevelt, and today's issues are not exactly the same ones he faced 120 years ago, but I can't help but wondering if there is nothing to find here, either. Yet they try. When you can't prosecute, you persecute. Establishment mouthpieces constantly search for a smoking gun. The smoking gun is already in their hands, registered in their name. Another way to say it: if there's smoke and no fire, you have to wonder who exactly is blowing the smoke.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

One Hundred Years Ago: A Vote Can Change History

The Democratic National Convention is over, and it has happened. 96 years after women won the right to vote in America, a woman has been nominated for the office of President of the United Statres by a major party. She has a good chance of becoming the first woman elected to that office. The thing she said, upon the occasion of making it official, that I liked best was, “When there is no ceiling, the sky's the limit.” Hilary Clinton is referring, of course, to the Glass Ceiling, the metaphor for societally imposed limits on female empowerment. Eight years ago, Clinton lost the primary campaign to current President Barach Obama, saying at the time that the Glass Ceiling now had about fifteen million cracks in it. Today, the Ceiling lies shattered, but its framework is still there. It makes me want to shout out in both joy and caution, but mostly joy. And it makes me think about what happened not 96 years ago, but exactly one hundred, when the Glass Ceiling received its first truly monumental crack. In 1916, a woman was elected to serve in the House of Representatives. Her name was Jeannette Rankin, and she came from my state, Montana. She was a Republican, but that was when Republicans still owned the Progressive Movement. Rankin was a Suffragette of the first order and key in pushing the right to vote for Montana women, granted just two years before. She was a staunch supporter of rights for women and children. She was a pacifist, doggedly so. She was what someone at the time might call a Roosevelt Republican, very concerned with the ever increasing power and economic gaps in the country, wary of big business, and champion of the common man and woman. In 1916, while Democratic incumbent President Woodrow Wilson was narrowly beating Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes in the General (in Montana Wilson won in a landslide), Jeannette Rankin won the seat in the House by 6,000 votes. She thus became the first woman elected to public office in the United States. More, she became the first woman elected to public office in any Western democracy, ever. Women could vote for her in the state election; women could not yet vote for President in the General. I think Hilary Clinton might consider ramping up her praise of this remarkable woman and her remarkable achievement. The general opinion in 1916 was making a quantum shift. Before that, Americans in general did not believe, nor want to believe, that women had the sense to be responsible with their vote. Rankin and the other incredible women who supported Universal Suffrage shattered that notion, although many opponents clung to it or found ways to modify their approach to limiting women's rights and empowerment. As with any human rights issue, we have come a long way but we have far to go, and we must remain vigilant against those who would send us backward. But Rankin, as a poster child for Hilary Clinton, presents two problems, First, she was a Republican. But she was a Republican when Republicans were progressive and she stands as an honorable ancestor to today's progressive movement. Second, as an avowed pacifist, she was the only person to vote against entering both World War One and World War Two. Hilary Clinton is no pacifist, and would never trumpet Jeannette Rankin in that arena. Too much of the world still believes war is a viable form of policy; our President must be seen as strong and prepared to do what is necessary. Still, Rankin was strong-willed and consistent, and a true pioneer, so if the Democrats will not claim her as their spiritual forerunner, I certainly will. Look how far we've come, and how close we are. Thank you, Jeannette. Thank you, voters of Montana. You made history. Perhaps we will again.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

TMI: My Colonoscopy and Me

There are some phrases that were meant to be shared. Unfortunately for you, this is probably not one of them, bordering on too much information and just plain OMG, can't believe he really said that. I am glad my colonoscopy is behind me. Wink wink, nudge nudge, knowwhatImean, knowwhatImean? It went well: I'm as clean as a whistle. That could lead to an whole other set of bad jokes, but I will spare you. Colonoscopies are routine after you reach “a certain age.” They seem intimidating in theory, but they really aren't bad. The worst thing is the prep. Drinking four liters of fluid, barely disguised by the handy dandy flavor packet that comes with, was a Herculean task. Luckily, it was broken up into two sessions. Unluckily, the second session started at four am. Each session takes about two hours, so in the middle of the night I got to watch reruns of CSI while drinking eight glasses of prep juice and periodically pausing the show to run down the hall; came back, un-paused CSI, drink another glass, re-pause, and on and on. It's something to do once a decade. The second hardest part was enduring the setting of an IV catheter in my arm. I am not good with needles. I don't pass out at the sight of them, but I just don't want to get stuck. It's anticipation, and it always leads to much joking with the person about to do the sticking. This one told me she just watched the video last night one more time to make sure she got it right. I gritted my teeth, clenched every sphincter, and braved on. Then there's the dread, the anticipation: do you want to know if something is wrong? Intellectually, I know (and often say) it is better to know nothing is wrong than not know something is. But, emotionally, it makes me feel anxious. The procedure itself is nothing. I slept through it happily. In fact, I re-discovered that I am a lightweight when it comes to drugs of any kind. Whatever they gave me, probably Fentanyl, knocked me out, and I remained groggy until three in the afternoon. I woke up long enough to hear the doctor's clean bill of health, then again to get to the car, then again to get to the house and my easy chair, and watch the beginning of the lastest Inspector Lewis, then again about mid way through Inspector Lewis, and finally at the closing credits. I had very sweet dreams. Colonoscopies can be fun, or at least innocuous. It is better to know, etcetera. I do wonder how someone gets interested in colons. I'm more of a semi-colon person myself. But I'm glad this one has my backside.

Sanders Supporters: VOTE THE REVOLUTION!

Open Letter to Bernie Sanders' Supporters: Vote the Revolution I love Bernie., I love what he has accomplished. I love how far he got. I love the revolution of which he has become the spokesperson. I love his position as outsider in a system that I find a frustration. I felt the Bern and feel it still. That being said, political reality now must take hold. He is not the candidate of the Democratic Party. He has influenced the platform for that party, he has changed the power structure within the voting public, and he may have influenced future elections and how they are run. But now we have to focus on November. That's not a sell out; that is working within the system in order to change it. Working within the system to change it is precisely how Senator Sanders waged his revolution. Now it's up to us. Please keep in mind that Donald Trump will not further our agenda. But therre is every chance that Hilary Clinton and a Democratic majority in both chamber of Congress will. Also remember that a vote foir Trump is a vote to put the Koch Brothers one heartbeat away from the White House. Don't waste your vote by not voting at all; don't insult Bernie by voting opposite his own stated wish. You can help make history happen. Remember,m please, as well, the down ballot candidates. They are as important as your choice for President. You say you want a revolution? Vote out the status quo.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Our Brand Is Crisis Indeed

There are many ways to win over the electorate to your side of the election. One of the most effective ways is to paint that electorate as being stuck in the middle of a crisis that only you can resolve. In the movie, Our Brand Is Crisis, two American campaign managers face off against each other to elect the new President in Bolivia. Using the strategy of painting Bolivia as a nation in crisis, then adding promises to fix things, one side ekes out a win over the more positive, hopeful, reform oriented campaign. Then the President elect embarks on a course opposite his own campaign promises, and crisis ensues. Donald Trump paints America as a nation in crisis. Yes, we have issues and problems. Racial tension is rampant. Socio-economic inequality is pervasive. Threats from overseas and home grown terrorists are a constant underpinning of our everyday life. Violence is rampant on our streets. But the economy is healthy, unemployment is lower than it has been in decades, wage equality has become a major concern of at least one of the major political parties, and America is still looked upon as the leader of the free world. Crisis is too strong a word for what is going on here, yet our job is crisis, says Trump, and he is very good at his job. At the same time, the very issues that plague Americans across the nation are issues whose resolution has been blocked time and again by an obstinate Congress dominated by the very people Donald Trump represents. I fear his election will not fix a crisis he is making up, but create one that he might just dictate.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Special Agent Oso and Politics

I have resigned from politics. No more observations, no more comments, no more great pearls of wisdom drawn from what I think of as the bleeding obvious. I figure that will last for about fifteen minutes, or about the length of an episode of Special Agent Oso. Grandson Chase turned me onto Oso, the bear in training to be a spy, who helps children solve real problems like how to plant a magnolia or how to brush your teeth without help. Has it been fifteen minutes already? Okay, I am an addict, freely admitted. In the twelve step program, I think that's step one: recognizing you have a problem. No, sorry, that's not quite right. Step one is admitting your are powerless over politics. The problem with politics is obvious, and there are two. Once again the voter is left choosing between the lesser of two evils who themselves were selected to run by the powerful people with money. They are “The Man no one should trust” and “The woman no one seems able to trust.” Yet they are the choices we have. This leads to problem number two: Americans by and large are rejecting politics as usual. They want a leader who is good, charismatic, determined, independent, trustworthy, and who genuinely cares for each of us. They want those people in Congress as well. They will settle for an outsider. Anything seems better than what we have now, but what we have now doesn't realize their own peril. The people have not spoken. They cannot. That is why they hesitate to vote at all, why they say, “What's the point?” When they do vote, they scream at the establishment the way my 20 month old grandson says NO! He lifts his hand into a royal wave and says, “No way!” We adults need Special Agent Oso. Who else can fix this mess? Meanwhile, I resign. For now. Oso is showing a young girl how to jump rope.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20: Profile in Courage

Courage is a powerful thing, a noteworthy thing, and I don't have it. Courage is standing up despite the consequences. I can stand up freely, speak my mind, and take no risks. I can blog to my heart's content, but am I putting myself out there? Am I challenging myself? Am I dropping everything to rush to a desperate corner of the world to offer help, or to march in solidarity for a cause I believe some day must triumph? The spirit is weak. I am not even sure that the flesh is willing. That is not courage; it may be righteousness but it doesn't hurt me or put me in harm's way. And so I deeply admire those who possess that kind of courage, and act on it. Courage is risk; moral courage is risking yourself for others. It was on this day, 72 years ago, that members of the German military plotted to kill Adolph Hitler and overthrow the Nazi government. They had had enough. Germany was losing the war and Hitler was sending their country into total ruin. These officers thought if they could gain control of the country they could sue for peace and end the brutality. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg led the plot, convinced after Stalingrad that Hitler's death would be less evil than his policies. On July 20, 1944, after over a year of planning and consolidating support, he placed a bomb at Hitler's feet at a meeting. Hitler hit the briefcase holding the bomb with his foot and shifted it to the other side of the table support where he stood. When the bomb went off, three were killed but Hitler survived. Von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were doomed. Nearly 5,000 suspects were executed. Von Stauffenberg died in front of a firing squad on July 21. It was a desperate plot against desperate odds. The cost of failure was known by all, and all paid it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gracious Tears

Last night, we had the grandkids over for the night. Xander is a veteran of sleepovers at Oma and Opa's. But CharleeRose, at two, is just now getting comfortable in our house without Mommy and Daddy there. She has made the discovery that our house, and especially our dog Meg, can be loads of fun. CharleeRose is such a little girl, all of a sudden, it takes my breath away. Her favorite word, it seems, is “shoe.” Maybe it's genetic – a chick thing, and she already has it. After dinner, with relaxing and bringing the energy levels down a bit, we put on a movie we all could enjoy. We chose Pixar's Up. I have seen this film at least thirty times, yet I always well up with tears during the beginning sequence – you know where – as if I'd never seen it before. I also begin to cry, perhaps shriek, at the very opening notes of the original “Pete's Dragon,” but that is from sheer pain. I liked that film the first five or six times our young kids made us watch it, but number seven was agony and after that my days were only razzle dazzle without Helen Reddy in them. I never tire, however, of Up. I admit it: I cry at movies. I'm a sucker for a well-crafted emotional manipulation. Heck, I've even been known to cry at books. With Up, maybe it's because I can relate to Mr. Frederickson, being now of an age myself. Maybe it's simply that the storytellers understand the sad beauty of mutual devotion. Maybe I'm just a softy. Maybe my empathy gene is strong. I did not inherit that gene from my father. It must have come on my mother's side and their tragically unwieldy thirteen letter last name. All I know is that people always told me it isn't manly to cry. I don't care. It's who I am. When I was a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, one of the required classes was a lecture series on American History. I think it was the very first day of class. The lecturer, and also Provost of my college, Cowell, Page Smith, stood up on the stage with a pin clutched between his thumb and forefinger. After we had settled and he knew we were paying attention, he held the pin up high and said, “I could cry at the drop of this.” Page Smith was a noted historian specializing in American women in history. He was a veteran of World War Two and had won a Purple Heart. When I met him in 1967 he was fifty years old, and no one in their right mind would call Page Smith unmanly. Romantic, yes, incurably, but never unmanly. So the words from his lips stuck inside me vividly and for another nearly fifty years. I am proud of the fact that I cry at movies, and books, and my granddaughter's passion for shoes. Page Smith was married to his wife, Eloise, for fifty-three years. Eloise died of kidney cancer in 1995. Page, who suffered from leukemia, died two days later. Reading that, I cried.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Something Nice to Say

I wish I could write something nice today. Most of my life is nice. Tomorrow is a special day for my bride and myself, a landmark, her 65th birthday. I am a year older than she, and I feel grateful each day that I have air in my lungs and blood still pumping through my veins. I have aches, I have tired muscles and bones, I don't sleep nearly as long as I would like, and I have to enter the TMI zone at least once and usually twice in the middle of every night, but I am alive and I am happy and I have the chance, if I take it, to sit down and write stuff every single day. Life is good. But. There is always a “but” somewhere. It's like that proverbial shadow always following you around, even in the middle of the night. The umbra, part ghost, part monster, part reality-check, part companion and friend. “But.” The larger world, the world outside my own yard and neighborhood, is going through hell. It seems the world is always in turmoil, somewhere; that people bring turmoil with them wherever they go. My problem is that so many innocent people, unsuspecting people, good people with full and open and happy hearts, get in the way. That scares me. But what scares me more is that they are often specifically targeted. What scares me most is that their deaths are so casually accepted as part of the cost of doing the business of war. It doesn't matter what side is waging what battle. Civilians are killed. We cry for a while, then the next batch of civilians is attacked and we cry again. And the circle remains unbroken, and that is why I find it hard, today, after a particularly difficult and brutal week, month, year, decade, century, to find something nice to say.

Friday, July 15, 2016


I will be brief tonight. The words are hard to find. I am stunned. I am stunned by the rapid fire of events over the last few days and weeks, the uncertainty being brought on, and the fear that seems to be seeping into our everyday lives. I am stunned that so few can cause so much chaos. Still, I remind myself that whatever chaos there seems to be around us, at its center there is order. I am stunned to think that the chaos itself cannot change the order at its core. I feel like we're living in the middle of a 1960's protest song: “They're rioting in Africa/There's strife in Iran/What nature doesn't do to us/Will be done by our fellow man.” But the pain, the disappointment, the horror, the sadness comes in wave after wave, body count after body count, from almost every corner of the world, and political inaction after inaction. I have no solutions to offer. Nobody is listening, anyway. They're all too stunned.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mini-Reviews: Star Wars, Mockingjay, Trumbo and Suffragette

For Your DVD Viewing Pleasure, consider the following 2015 films: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Did anyone else see what I saw: two people pitted against each other, one for good and one for evil; one for the Force and the Jedi, the other for the Dark Side and the Emperor; both manipulated into seeking the ultimate Power at the expense of billions of lives – in other words, politics as usual. That being said, this was a great E-ticket ride, lots of fun and fireworks and a really, really deep (well, maybe not deep) exploration of a conflicted kid with serious daddy issues. Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 4. Was anyone else as bored to tears as I was, watching this film? I kept wondering why I kept watching, but I had seen the others and wanted closure. I guess I could have skipped ahead to the last ten minutes, but I endured. What a weak and predictable finale to an interesting series! I mean: the line up of evil President Snow and self-proclaimed President Coin for the “execution”...And if Katniss was trying to get to Snopw to kill him and end the violence, why was she behind the combatting forces and not in front of them trying to reach the palace? And the final pastoral sequence was so idyllic and sweet and sad and, God I'm glad it's over. Trumbo and Suffragette. Also released in 2015, neither of these films got the hype or attention of the above two, yet each deserves notice. Both are amazing stories of really frightening times in which the issue of human rights is deeply challenged. In Trumbo, Bryan Cranston plays the lead character, a screenwriter blacklisted during the McCarthy Era who fought against the House on un-American Activities and spent time in prison for it – a genuine political prisoner. In Suffragette, a fictionalized woman combats male and societal prejudice in 1913 Britain in the struggle for universal suffrage, women's right to vote. Both are compelling and cautionary and address profound truths about ourselves. But in the Trump Era, who cares about truth anyway?

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4, 1974: My Day in History

Happy anniversary, America. The day is special for me, too. 42 years ago a chain of events took place that culminated with a barbecue that was supposed to celebrate Independence Day before we added our own special honor to the mix. Diane and I had known each other for four years, as friends. But that summer we discovered that we really liked each other, and like became love as the month of June progressed. We began talking about plans, in a loose way: how many kids do you want, what kind of career are you seeking, would you adopt a child, where would you want to live, will we ever go on an ocean voyage, that sort of thing. It seemed natural to each of us that our lives would meld together, so on July 1 Diane proposed to me. I said I had to think about it. On July 2, clinging to traditionalism, I proposed to her. She said yes. I said we ought to keep it secret for now, until we could figure out a way to let everyone know. My motive was more complicated than I let on: I didn't have a ring. How do you propose without a ring? So on July 3 I met with Diane's best friend, Terri, so she could help me find the right ring for Di. Terri knew that Di had entered a ring design contest some time before, and that the ring she had designed was for her the perfect engagement ring. So that's what we went to find. We went to Goldsmith's Jewelers in Del Monte Center and looked at every engagement ring they had, but I didn't like any of them and Terri saw nothing close to Diane's design. We described Diane's design as best we could to the salesman, and he said that he had nothing like that in an engagement ring but it sounded like a coctail ring they had. We looked. It was exactly right, perfect in every way. Clinging to non-traditionalism, I bought the ring. That night I was not supposed to meet up with Diane. She spent the evening with Terri and her husband John. I showed up around nine pm and proposed again, formally, with the ring. Diane was delighted. We told her folks. We told my mother. Everyone decided to turn the 4th of July barbecue into an engagement party. It was official. We went back to Goldsmith's to try to find a wedding set that would compliment the cocktail-engagement ring. To the salesman's, but not to our, surprise, he discovered that the ring was actually meant as an engagement ring, with a wedding band that matched it and fit into its contours, and that there was a man's band that also matched the pattern. Though Diane never earned any kudos for her design, the design lived and lives on her finger. I took it as a sign. The fact that I found the right ring in the first store, under pressure, and that it was part of a matched set proved to me that Diane and I were like swans. The marriage was meant to be and it would last a lifetime, or two.

Friday, July 1, 2016

One Hundred Years Ago, July 1, 1916: First Day of the Somme

The bombardment began a week before. But instead of hunkering down, the Germans used the cover of being shelled constantly to move their machine gun crews closer to the No Man's Land between their trenches and the British., When the first whistles and shouts of “Over the Top!” spurred British soldiers to attack, the Germans were ready. Along a front that stretched across one hundred miles, one hundred thousand soldiers threw themselves straight into a meat grinder. Two poets, Alexander Robertson and John Sheets, were killed nearly outright. Their bodies were missing for almost a year before being unearthed. Five other soldier-poets died on that terrible day: Henry Field, W.N.Hodgson, Victor Ratcliffe, Gilbert Waterhouse and Bernard White. An eighth poet-soldier, Brian Brooke, died on July 25 of wounds suffered on the 1st. I write their names because I know them. Twenty thousand Brits were killed on that first day alone, one of every five who attacked. No ground was gained. The Somme was not done yet. The battle raged on and on. It would last five long months. Among all combatants, there would be one million casualties, killed or wounded, during its course. It ended not in a decisive victory fir either side, but rather it just wore out and the fighting moved. The Allies pushed the Germans back a total of seven miles. The war itself dragged on for two more years. On July 4, an American poet named Alan Seeger, serving with the French Foreign Legion so he could get into the fight, was struck by multiple machine gun bullets while leading a charge, dying of his wounds. Seeger was a classmate of T. S. Eliot at Harvard. Seeger's poem, Rendezvous with Death, was the personal favorite of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Seeger's brother Charles was a pacifist and remained so all his life; Charles' son, a nephew that Alan never knew he had, would grow up to be folk singing legend Pete Seeger. Tom Kettle, an Irish poet, witnessed much of the devastation of the early days of this horrendous battle. He wrote, “If I live, I mean to spend the rest of my life working for perpetual peace. I have seen war and faced modern artillery and know what an outrage it is against simple men.” Like so many of the soldier-poets of this war, Kettle saw the futility of slaughter all around him and vowed to make sure it could not happen again. Day one at the Somme could easily stand for the poster child that war does one thing only and one thing well, kill young people. But Kettle did not survive. He died in combat on September 9, 1918, another victim of the Somme. When I was eight years old, my parents began to work as full time managers of a motel in Santa Barbara that was owned by a British ex-patriot named Charles Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham told me that he had been wounded on that first day at the Somme, 42 years earlier, now one hundred years ago. He is no longer here to remember, but I still am. For him, for Kettle, for all the dead, we have a responsibility to mark and remember, and vow never to repeat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Politics Again: Quoting Kurt Vonnegut

I wonder why the obvious remains so well hidden from those who refuse to see it. How many sledgehammer blows does it take? The entire Presidential primary process has been screaming loud and clear to Washington: “We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore.” I think the message is indeed that simple. Business as usual will no longer suffice. Not to the People. The People have had enough. They have been given very little recourse to actually effect change and they know it, so, from both sides of the aisle, the People are screaming. Failure to listen could be very dangerous for those who choose deafness. On the Right, Trump's popularity represents a backlash against the perceived loss of control and power by whites, especially old white guys like me (but not me). On the left, Sanders' support suggests that the stalemate of politics as usual has stalled progress, and they want progress. There is a natural conflict between those who want to move things back to what seems to have been a better time and those who want to see progress happen, but it seems that very few on either side want things to stay as they are. Maybe the conventions both should be presented as Car Hop Laser Shows, to give both sides something to cheer. I think that's called compromise. A man of color has been President for eight years. He has done a good job. He wasn't perfect, but considering he was fighting an obstructionist Congress made up mostly of old white guys, he did damn well. He moved America back from the brink of economic disaster, and he moved us forward in many arenas. Many people don't like the things he did, but he managed to act, to work toward the progress that has to come. On balance, more people liked than disliked what he accomplished. The country is better off today than it was when he took office. When the dust settles and history judges, as it will, Barach Obama will get good marks. I admire Bernie Sanders. He has accomplished great things in the field of awareness in our country. Trump, on the other hand, has shown us that there is great ugliness among us still. In that sense he has done us a tremendous service as well because we cannot politely ignore what and who we are as we move forward. All I know is, the old white guys had their chance and I don't see them doing a whole lot of good in this new Century. We need to give it up. Now it's the women's turn.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Three A. M. Blues

I would never get up at three a.m. by choice. In fact, alarm clocks should all be rounded up and placed within segregated walled-in camps, with prejudice but without discrimination. I would get up at three a.m. to catch a flight somewhere fun or get a head start on a log driving trip. So I guess (some) alarm clocks may have limited usefulness. But to volunteer to get out of my cozy bed just to experience the joys of the middle of the night, not so much. This is why I am grateful for my job that gets me up at three a.m., because, once I struggle with the concept of “awake,” I go outside toward my car, and more often than not the sky takes my breath away. Sometimes the stars shine perfectly still and too numerous to count. Sometimes the full moon acts like a subdued closet light illuminating everything, but nothing clearly. There were no stars this morning, nor a moon to see. Instead, there was an electrical storm pounding like timpani at a laser show. Lightening bolts streaked across the sky. Some arced in a jagged line, right to left. Others crackled straight down toward the earth. One potato, two potatoes, thr...none were further than three miles away. The storm lasted just one hour, then was gone. The sun started its own version of “light the sky” less than an hour later; there was not a single cloud left to challenge it. I would have slept in this morning, if I could, but I had to go to work.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Grimm Future for the Blacklist: Fall TV Is Coming!

A Grimm Future for the Blacklist: This Fall on NBC: The cliffs are hanging on two of my favorite guilty pleasure indulgence shows: Grimm and The Blacklist, and looking ahead to the Fall Season the future looks grim, indeed, for several of the key characters Through no fault of his own, Captain Renard did a good thing. Will Black Claw turn on him? Will he take over its leadership? Will he take over its leadership and turn on them? And what will his daughter do next? Juliette is back! Cured by the Splinter of the Holy Cross, What does that mean for Nick and Adelind? Can Juliette adjust to being “normal?” If Adalind can figure out a way to get back to Nick and Juilette is still there, will daughter Diana kill Juliette? Kill Nick? Kill her baby brother? Turn good? Stay tuned... Elizabeth Keen is back! She faked her own death! All that angst and mayhem to get her life back to “normal” and it didn't work – Daddy found her anyway! But normal around Red Reddington just isn't going to make for good TV. But I have to ask: why is it that the writers have so much trouble getting rid of characters whose story lines have exhausted reasonable expectations from their actors to portray growth? They kill 'em but they can';t keep 'em dead. It's a zombie apocalypse. I don't begrudge Bitsie Tulloch and Megan Boone the work, but when it's over it's over except when it ain't, and American TV writers are notoriously bad at figuring out when the end should come.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This Day in History: Custer's Last Stand

It was hot by the time the battle began. Custer's men were tired from a long forced march. Custer, following a strategy that had worked so well eight years before at the Washita River, split his forces into a three-pronged attack. In his experience, and in his firmest belief system, Custer knew that the natives were no match for the United States Cavalry and particularly his own command, the 7th. He had a simple plan: draw the warriors into a fight at one end of their camp, forcing the women and children to flee in the opposite direction, Then Custer himself, with 225 men, would overtake the women and children, capture them, and – given his ruthlessness – this would force the warriors to surrender. Catch the women, tame the men. He had been ordered to wait. Two whole armies were coming to rendezvous with him in one more day. But commanders have the leeway to make contrary decisions based on conditions on the ground. Custer saw an opportunity to end the conflict in one stunning blow,. He, of course, miscalculated. 140 years ago today, he and all 225 men who rode with him died in a battle that took less than thirty minutes, It was the most stunning defeat suffered by the U. S. Army in the entire Plains War, but it only postponed the inevitable push to crush Native American freedom. So I mark the anniversary of the Last Stand, June 25, 1876. In the grander scheme of things, it was a temporary setback to western expansion and a temporary boost to the warriors who fought, but it remains one of America's most iconic historical events. Many books have been written about Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I hope to add my own to the mix. As Rachel Maddow might say, “Watch this space.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Sit-In: Democracy at Work

Hats off to the Dems. Showing an unprecedented unity in both spirit and action, the Democratic members of the House of Representatives staged a 26 hour sit-in over the last two days. It was done to force the House and its speaker, Paul Ryan, to call a vote on two moderate reform measures on gun control. It was impassioned and formed in solidarity with the victims of gun violence. Ninety percent of Americans want the reforms. The Republicans refuse to even consider it. Tempers were high, but at least the American public and the American voter knows where everyone stands. The minority party fell back onto the politics of demonstration to tell the world their position, to call out the members across the aisle, and to stand together as one voice on a very specific issue. That kind of demonstration is technically not allowed in the House. The Senate has the filibuster, but the House has no such recourse. But peaceful demonstrations, legal or not, have been a major force in United States politics for generations. This one yielded no vote, no concessions, no compromises. It looked like an exercise in futility, but in reality it was a symbolic line drawn in the sand. It made its point loudly and clearly. The Second Amendment is not being challenged here. The reforms are precise, and directed specifically against the ease by which people intent on mass murder can get the weapons they need to accomplish their terrifying goal. It does not look to limit gun ownership except under specific circumstances. It does not address the wider problem of gun violence: America's streets are a battleground in which a human being dies from gun violence every forty-eight minutes. It addresses limiting suspected potential enemies of the State from getting guns. The other side argues that it limits all citizens' rights to bear arms, that it violates civil liberties. Right now, I am concerned with the civil liberties of the 49 who died in Orlando on June 12, the 9 in Charleston, the 26 in Newtown, and on and on, plus the 30 a day who die one by one and two by two, not even tallying the suicides that are pandemic in this country. The participants in the sit-in were not asking for the moon. They only wanted the chance to vote. What they got was our attention. Will they get our vote?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What History and Anniversaries Show Us

75 years ago today, an army numbering four million men, mostly Germans and Romanians, crossed the Russian border in a pre-dawn invasion along a front measuring 1,800 miles. It was a three-pronged attack directed against the cities of Leningrad, Kiev and Moscow. Despite Napoleon's failure in 1812, Hitler was confident. He would spend and take as many lives as was necessary to win, but he lost. He lost entire armies, and eventually he lost the war. It was called Barbarossa. When we tell the tale in our history books we rarely mention the names of common soldiers whose actions and deaths paved the way for victory or defeat. Hitler did this, Stalin did that. Zhukov did this, von Paulus did that. If it weren't for Tito's rebellion in Yugoslavia, everything would have been different. But the mass graves remain unnamed. Ten days less than 25 years earlier, July 1, 1916, was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The slaughter that day alone was incomprehensible. Yet it was just one day in a war lost in the trenches that went on and on, and on. The dead screamed out but no one listened. Oh, they heard the screams for a time, but got used to the sound, like tinnitus. It will be the centennial of that horrid event in just a few days. June 25 marks the 140th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, commonly known as Custer's Last Stand, wherein one commander's arrogance and impatience cost the lives of hundreds under his command. There is a battle to remember for every day of the year. I have spent my life in quiet optimism, believing, as Hendrick Wilhelm van Loon wrote a hundred years ago, that Progress does happen. It comes incrementally, but it comes, and with it we evolve as a species. In the face of everything – in the face of history – I still want to believe. But the same drums beat. The same young men get fired up and ready to fight. The same old men still think that killing others is more than okay, it is righteous. The winds of war are always blowing. The fields of death are always waiting. Wise men rail, poets lament, mothers weep. It doesn't seem to matter. Arm yourselves. It's still legal to do so. Prepare for the apocalypse: it is of your own making. But count me out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Black Rhino, Mosaic Tailed Rat, and the US Senate

I keep wanting to write about happy things. I'm a happy guy, and much in my life is happily reported. Happy things come up. But before I can get a streak going, I strike out against something sad or horrible or tragic, like a slider down and away. And I find I have to take note. The Western Black Rhino, subspecies of the rhino, is officially extinct, poached to oblivion by humans for its horn. It's a fact; it's a thing. On a small island off Australia called Bramble Cay, a rodent called the mosaic tailed rat (Bramble Cay melomys rubicola), which was indigenous only to that tiny island, has disappeared. Rising seas destroyed its food sources. Global warming, i.e., climate change, has risen seal levels enough to cause the rat's extinction, the first extinction linked directly to human activity's impact upon climate. It's a fact; it's a thing. The United States Senate failed to pass even the most rudimentary compromise legislation on background checks and restrictions on people on the no-fly list for buying guns. In the aftermath of the horrific mass murder in Orlando, 85-90 percent of Americans favor better restrictions. It is a non-partisan opinion, but the Republicans in the Senate stood firmly with the NRA and the 10-15% very vocal minority. It's a fact; it's a thing. Seems to me, the wrong small group of mammals died out this month.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday on the Lake

It's Sunday, Father's Day. The weather on the Flathead Lake is beautiful, still cool and cloudy but the rain and thunder rolled through yesterday. It will be the last cool day for awhile as temperatures creep up to the mid-80's next week, just in time for swimming lessons for grandkids Xander and CharleeRose. A grey fox ran the length of our lawn this morning just after I got up after a delightful lie-in. It was a magnificent fox, with a full, bushy tail at least two-thirds as long as its body. The tail flowed behind the fox like an engine pushing a great train up a mountainside. And for a moment, just the briefest of times, I couldn't breathe. It was the longest real look I have ever had at a fox in the wild (if my lawn can be called 'the wild;” it seems to be a convenient, manicured flat for the creatures up here). But it was not long enough for me to grab my camera, turn it on, focus, aim and shoot, so you all will just have to take my word for it. But it was a great start to the day, which happens to be Father's Day. I think the fox is drawn to the cottontail bunnies who live up here. We saw one of them scampering about in our back yard yesterday. I hate to think of the fox catching one, but that is the circle of life. I like the circle of life, where everything seems to fit together. And it is good, so good, to spend a Sunday thinking about all that, for a change.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Two Donalds & A Box of Straws at the RNC

I thought I could stay away from politics for awhile, but politics has this nasty habit of not staying away from me. Every day I am astounded at the plight of the Republican Party. I want it to self-destruct, or at least to wind up with tiny minorities in both houses of Congress once the dust settles on Election Night. But if the “Grand Old Party” dies, what takes its place? So the Republicans, many of whom seem oblivious to their presumptive candidate's ramblings and insensitive self-promotion, has some serious soul searching to do. Do they really want what is about to happen, to happen? Of course, it may go the other way, but how comfortable would they be with that scenario? Can the Republican Party tell Donald Trump, “You're fired!”? Or do they have to wait for the American people to do it for them? And if we don't, what then? Can Trump be impeached before he takes office? Will the Donald, in all his infinite wisdom, create a dystopian society like the one in The Hunger Games? Will he become President Snow? I will say this: as ruthless as Snow was, at least he looked a great deal like Donald Sutherland, with Sutherland's incredible, pleasant, mischevious face and beautiful white hair. The RNC has the wrong Donald, if you ask me. Unfortunatley, Sutherland is Canadian, and a liberal. So we have Trump. But if this is reality TV, or a futuristic horror story unfolding, somebody ought to be able to change the script, find a last-minute plot twist, and tell the Donald, “You're fired!” I volunteer. I imagine the line gets longer every day. It leads all the way to the voting booth. So, what would disqualify Donald Trump at the Convention in Cleveland? Would it take a revolution on the Convention floor? Is there any little trick, some hidden clause waiting to be deployed like a last-minute hail-Mary pass? Being foreign born, I know the Constitution disqualifies me from ever becoming President of the United States. Presumably, this is because of an inherent conflict of interest: if we ever go to war against the Netherlands where would my loyalties lie? The Trump is US born and raised, but what about his wife? Melania Knauss Trump was born in Solvenia, part of former Yugoslavia. Saying nothing against a fellow immigrant and naturalized citizen personally, does her birth status create a conflict of interest with her husband, if ever Slovenia and the United States go head to head? Should that, could that, would that disqualify the Donald? I know this is a ridiculous argument, but it is a ridiculous year in politics – funny if it weren't so sad and dangerous. I know I'm grasping at straws, but the RNC needs a bagload of straws right now, a box full, a truckload. Donald Sutherland cannot be President of the United States. I can't be President, either. Donald Trump shouldn't be President of the United States. Pick a reason. I'll drive the truck.