Sunday, March 18, 2018

We've Been Here Before - Time To Contact Your Republican Congress Members To Protect Mueller

For those who weren't around, and those who didn't get the meaning of all this when they read it in their history.  From the Washington Post: Watergate 25:
Nixon Forces Firing of Cox; Richardson, Ruckelshaus Quit
President Abolishes Prosecutor's Office; FBI Seals Records

By Carroll Kilpatrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 1973; Page A01
In the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis, President Nixon yesterday discharged Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus.
The President also abolished the office of the special prosecutor and turned over to the Justice Department the entire responsibility for further investigation and prosecution of suspects and defendants in Watergate and related cases.
Shortly after the White House announcement, FBI agents sealed off the offices of Richardson and Ruckelshaus in the Justice Department and at Cox's headquarters in an office building on K Street NW.
An FBI spokesman said the agents moved in "at the request of the White House."
Agents told staff members in Cox's office they would be allowed to take out only personal papers. A Justice Department official said the FBI agents and building guards at Richardson's and Ruckelshaus' offices were there "to be sure that nothing was taken out."
Richardson resigned when Mr. Nixon instructed him to fire Cox and Richardson refused. When the President then asked Ruckelshaus to dismiss Cox, he refused, White House spokesman Ronald L. Ziegler said, and he was fired. Ruckelshaus said he resigned.
Finally, the President turned to Solicitor General Robert H. Bork, who by law becomes acting Attorney General when the Attorney General and deputy attorney general are absent, and he carried out the President's order to fire Cox. The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned.
These dramatic developments were announced at the White House at 8:25 p.m. after Cox had refused to accept or comply with the terms of an agreement worked out by the President and the Senate Watergate committee under which summarized material from the White House Watergate tapes would be turned over to Cox and the Senate committee.
In announcing the plan Friday night, the President ordered Cox to make no further effort to obtain tapes or other presidential documents. , , 
You can read the rest here. 

I can believe that there aren't 50,000 people who are seriously concerned about the possibility of Robert Mueller being fired by Trump.  (That's what Trump does best, right?)  And I bet those 50,000 could each write a quick email, letter, or leave a phone message with their Republican Congress members.   There are currently 238 Republican members of the House and 51 Republican Senators.

50,000 letters to Republican members of Congress (house and senate) would - if they were evenly distributed - come to about 103 messages per member.  I have three Republicans representing me, so I have to send three messages so we'd probably get more than that per Senator and House member.

Californians and other deeply blue state residents - send your folks letters to share with their Republican colleagues.

Doesn't have to be complicated.  "Don't allow Trump to get away with firing Mueller." That's the basic message.  My emails to my two Senators and my Representative called on them to work with their Republican colleagues to let the president know they would not stand for his firing Mueller, and if he does, to start impeachment hearings.

I'm sure many of the high school students who walked out on Wednesday for an end to school shootings can see the relationship between this issue and theirs.  Let them join the cause.

You can find your House member contact info here.
You can find your Senator contact member here.  (top left)

I'd note that despite the Saturday massacre, impeachment hearings proceeded and Nixon eventually resigned rather than get removed by Congress.

But if Republicans don't stand up to Trump if and when he fires Mueller, they never will.  And Trump has until November to mess with the elections.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Why I Live Here - Intimate Evenings With Incredible People: Dainis Medjaniks

Last night we heard a violin come alive - coaxed by a very talented violinist, music of great composers, and a room in someone's house that gave the notes space to fly and dance in the air and in our heads.

Although i was close enough to see the violinist's expressions as he played, I spent much of the concert with my eyes closed entranced by the intricate ballet of sounds that surrounded me.  The violin truly showed its soul, tempted by the perfect set of conditions.

The Back Story

Anchorage is a small town, really.  About 300,000 people.  And Alaska is a state most everyone wants to visit, even if it's only to say "I've been to all 50 states."  So lots of brilliant and talented people come here and often they perform or give talks or meet with the public.  So over the 40 years I've lived here I've had the chance to meet with people I never would have met, say, if I had stayed in Los Angeles.

Last night was one of those occasions. A friend invited us to a concert by young Latvian violinist.  The one page program we got last night included the pieces he was going to play on one side and a biography of accomplishments of Medjaniks in his short career.

When the emailed invitation came a couple of weeks ago saying that if we wanted to come, we should reserve soon, seats were very limited.  It sounded like the perfect Anchorage concert - an international musician in a small intimate session.  The contribution was modest and all would go to the artist.  AND we would be back in town.  Couldn't pass it up.

This picture is posed, after the concert.  Even if I had my small camera with me - I left it in LA and it's supposed to be coming home courtesy of the US postal service - this was not the night to intrude.   I did borrow my wife's phone to get these pictures before and after he played.

This was a night to bathe in the magic vibrations that flowed from Dainis' violin, not to be distracted by a camera.  An audio night, not a visual night (though the setting was beautiful.)  The evening's program includes this note about the violin:
"Sebastian Klozt of Mittenwald, Germany made the violin Dainis plays in 1782.  The violin from the Foundation of Lower Saxony is on loan to him."
If you aren't the calculating type, it was born six years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, when George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin  were fighting for the United States' independence.  Before Napoleon ruled France.  It's aged very well.

And I knew that nothing I could do would come close to capturing the experience, but I did find this video online of Dainis in 2015.

Dainis Medjaniks - Preliminary Round 1 from JosephJoachimTV on Vimeo.

As is the custom in Anchorage, guests left their shoes at the door, including Dainis.  I asked him if this was the first time he performed before an audience in his socks, and he smiled and said, "Yes."

Thank you to the host whose home was perfect for this concert and whose hospitality is greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Back In Anchorage

We left a sunny Bainbridge by ferry

Walked up to the train station to catch the light rail to the airport.  Flew out of Seattle and over clouds most of the way home and arrived about 8 pm over mostly cloudy Cook Inlet, but with hints of the sun.

There was sun yesterday morning, but wet snow by evening.   It is breakup - lots of puddles in the streets.  Temperature now is 35˚F on our backyard thermometer and the snow on the railing in the picture below is almost all gone.

Now we have to take stock of our neglected house and bring it into the modern world.  It's easy to get used to a water stain on the ceiling, old worn rugs, cracks in the cement, and other minor problems.  I've even tried to line up people to help out, but I was either uncomfortable with them, or they didn't have time.  But after our experience with fixing up my mom's house in LA, it's time to get serious and get our house to the point that visitors don't wonder how we live in such a well worn space.

But first I have to shovel snow a bit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bainbridge High School Student Walkout

I went over to Bainbridge High School to see the student walkout this morning.  Here are some pictures and a bit of video.

Students lying down in protest for 17 minutes of silence.

Community members were gathered across the street from the school.

And I got the video at the end as the students were getting up and going back to class.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pink and Upside Down

It's amazing what one warm day can do.  Here on Bainbridge Island the daily highs were in the low 50˚s F (about 10˚C).  Then Monday it was up to 63˚F.  Yesterday it got to 73˚F (22˚C).  Today it's back to the 50s.  But after dropping off my little angel at school, there was new pink in the park.

This bit of rouge wasn't there yesterday morning.

The reflections in the water also caught my eye once again.  This time I flip them so the reflection is on top.  It's always useful to rethink those things we take for granted.  Like right-side-up and upside-down.  Like reality and its reflections - after all, most everything we know about what other people think and feel, we know through reflection.  Through their words, their actions, their presence or absence.  The traces they leave behind.

This last one is hard to tell.  But if you flip your screen, you can tell.

These pictures are just a diversion tactic as I try to get back into the Graham v MOA posts (see tab above).  They are getting very technical now, so I'm working hard to figure out ways to get the point across - that these are really blatant problems with the testing -  without someone having to read everything.  It can get tedious.  But I'm hoping my analogies will tempt some to read the details.

We're also coming to an end of our visit with my granddaughter and her family.  We've had a wonderful time together.  She's bossy and demanding at times (but always with a smile if I push back at all) and other times just as sweet as can be.  Tomorrow night we're scheduled to be back home for a prolonged period of time.  I can't wait.  But leaving my sweetie is not easy either.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

So, Where Should Trump And Kim Meet?

The obvious first choices are Pyongyang and Washington DC.  But that would require one to come to the other, to meet on the other's home turf.  Let's back up and set some key criteria for determining the location?

Criterion 1 - they should meet on relatively neutral ground.
Criterion 2 - each should travel roughly the same distance
Criterion 3 - Security, both need to feel safe

These seem to be the biggies.  I would guess only #3 is a deal breaker.  If one side gives in on one criterion then they need to gain on another, or on what comes out of the talks.  So Pyongyang and DC are not totally out of the question, but if Trump goes to North Korea, Kim would have to agree to close down his nuclear weapons.  That would be my condition at least.  If Kim came to DC, he'd have  to at least to go to an NBA game. But security might be an issue like it was for Kruschev when we was denied a visit to Disneyland in 1959.

So where else might they meet?

There's Switzerland - a neutral country of sorts - where Kim went to school.

Anchorage is almost half-way between Pyongyang and DC - a little closer to Korea, but part of the US.  By mid to late May the leaves will be back on the trees.  And there's a small but visible (South) Korean population.

Or out on a ship in the North Pacific in international waters?  Whose ship?  FDR met Churchill on a ship of Newfoundland in August 1941.  But that was a secret meeting - FDR told the press he was going on a short fishing trip.  Churchill had to brave German u-boats to get there.  Security was important, but it was a meeting of close allies.  It was not a highly publicized meeting like this one will be.

Beijing would be happy to host, I'm sure.  The US leans on China to deal with its neighbor.  It could work, but then Xi would get some of the glory.  Probably not.

And then there's Moscow.  Putin could just tell Trump directly what he wanted him to do.  And Russia borders North Korea too.  And Trump could bask in Putin's macho image.

Seoul?  They were the messenger to Trump about the invitation.  But security and other issues would seem to be a big hurdle.

When President Johnson agreed to peace talks with the North Vietnamese, location took a while to settle:
Geneva, where the 1954 talks had been held that resulted in the division of Vietnam into North and South. Hanoi rejected this on the grounds that it had ‘unhappy memories’. It then suggested Phnom Penh. This was rejected by Washington. Instead, the US offered 5 other capitals in Southeast and South Asia, including New Delhi, which was favoured by Saigon. Hanoi rejected these options and proposed Warsaw, which the US also rejected. The US then countered by proposing 9 capitals all of which were again rejected. Ultimately, after weeks of bargaining, Paris was chosen as the site to hold preliminary talks (officially referred to as ‘official conversations’ to avoid being confused with ‘negotiations’). 
Then came the question of who would be invited, and then there was the battle over the shape of the table:
These discussions, which began in November 1968, were centred on questions about the shape of the conference table, how many tables there should be, and how they would be placed. These discussions became known as the ‘battle of the tables’ and would last ten weeks until mid-January 1969 as fighting continued to rage and Richard Nixon won the presidential election. From the start, it was recognized that a triangular table (with the North Vietnamese/NLF combined but the US and South Vietnamese separate) would be a non-starter as it would imply that the Communist side was outnumbered two-to-one.  [These two quotes came from Defense In Depth]
I can sympathize with Trump wanting to get past all these seemingly petty details of status and appearance, but it's March 11 now, and the proposed meeting is in May, so they don't have time to dawdle on such things.   Can the 'Mentally deranged U.S. dotard' and the 'little rocket man' get over their past insults to resolve all these details that quickly?

And just for the record, let me put Mar-a-Lago on the list.  It defies my criteria, but it wouldn't surprise me.

This Won't Be Nixon's Trip To China

I remember being in the car during the summer of 1971 a winding road along a river somewhere in Idaho, when we heard on the radio that Nixon was going to China.  Perhaps Trump remembers that too and how Nixon got so much glory from that.  But this is not the same.  China was the most populous country in the world and through a rabid anti-communism combined with support for the nationalist Chinese who had had to flee to Taiwan, the US had spent years pretending that Taiwan was China and the mainland didn't really exist.  Or at best was a temporarily runaway province of Taiwan.  Nixon's move, preceded by months of negotiations by the adept if ethically-flawed Henry Kissinger, was really bringing the US to a reality its leaders had ignored for decades.

This meeting with Kim Jong Un is something entirely different.  First, and foremost, it's a distraction from all the political hornets swarming around the White House.  There's a certain part of me that agrees with Trump, that the State Department is often so full of itself*, it can't do things simply because, 'well, we just don't do that.  We have to go by protocol.'  But the career people at the State Department have done their homework and understand the implications of what they say and do.  No matter how cautiously.  Trump still thinks this is some simple business deal where he can sit down and work things out over a meal.  He'll use his great ability to read people to decide what to do - and that won't happen until the middle of the meeting.  (Of course, that's said with the long list of people who have left their positions in the Trump administration in mind.)

*I'm biased here.  Back in 1970, when I was slowly making my way home from Peace Corps Thailand, the package of materials that came with the news that I'd passed the Foreign Service written exam, caught up with me while I was visiting a friend in Uganda.  I went to the embassy in Kampala to talk to someone about what life in the foreign service was like.  He spent the whole time telling me about all the servants I would have and the protocol of calling cards and who comes and goes first at official parties.  That, and the idea of having to officially defend the US military in Vietnam, led me to skip the next step in the process - the interview.  I know that the State Department has changed over the years, but I do believe a bit of the upper crust proper way of doing things still persists.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why Is A Mallard Drake's Head Green? Or Sometimes Blue/Purple?

If mallards weren't so common, we'd all go nuts when we see them.  The iridescent green head is so striking, and the white right around the neck!  But familiarity breeds, maybe not contempt, but loss of sensitivity to their beauty.

But sometimes, in different light, the head looks blue or dark purple.  (I really would have cropped this to just show the water patterns, but since I need to show you a blue/purple head, I left that in too.)

I thought I'd find out how this works - the color change.  I didn't quite, but I found an interesting blog post at the Nature Niche that not only talks about the color change, but also about mallard drakes whose heads stay blue.

While watching the ducks on a pond at Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery (Shasta County CA) one mallard caught my attention. The head of this mallard was blue. Because the iridescence and color of birds is affected by the angle of observation, I watched this particular mallard for nearly fifteen minutes, yet the blue color never varied. This was not a blue-green color nor was the mallard’s head simply “dark”  due to shadows – the head was a constant, beautiful, rich blue. On occasion I hear about a blue-headed mallard and have even seen mallards whose heads seem blue in certain light. But the blue head color proves in reality to be brilliant green when the duck moves. No matter how this duck moved or how the light changed, its head was blue. I wondered why?
He doesn't claim scientific proof, but did collect some research online.
According to Nina G. Joblonski  in her book “Living Color”, the intensity of the mallard’s  iridescent green head feathers is related to the level of testosterone, higher levels of this hormone resulting in brighter green color. But since a non-breeding or eclipse male has a nondescript brown head similar to the female, where does a blue head enter the picture?
But, Steve, you still haven't explained why sometimes green and sometimes blue/purple in the same bird.  I didn't find the answer exactly, but here's something on butterflies:
The combination of a butterfly's structural and pigmented color can create interesting effects. For example, if you saw a butterfly with yellow pigment underneath a structure that creates a blue iridescent color, you might see a green shade, made by the merging of the two colors. Or depending on your viewpoint, you might see blue, yellow, green or a combination of the three. Your view would change as the butterfly moves its wings and the light enters at different angles.

These shots come from my walk around the park yesterday after dropping off my granddaughter at her pre-school.  Unlike the other day when the good pictures were hiding in the grey, yesterday they were right out there daring this photographer to try to catch them.  I'll offer a few where I got close.

First I caught the flattened reeds floating in the water.   But then I saw the sun was floating just below.  You can see where the two pictures would overlap if I combined them, but I'll leave them separate.  It forces you to look at both pictures a little more carefully.

A little later, the sun dared me to shoot it straight on, not as a reflection.

This robin was holding its ground.

There are also signs of humans in the park.  (Beyond the folks walking their dogs or jogging and the benches etc.)

And this rhododendron bush that was blooming despite the delayed spring weather.

This was all on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle.

Friday, March 09, 2018

“LGBTQ activists have used bullying and blackmail tactics to strong-arm corporate America” -Minnery's Tired Rhetoric And False Accusations

From an Anchorage Daily News article on companies coming out against Proposition 1 in Anchorage's April municipal election:
"In a  February  email, Minnery [the executive director of the socially conservative advocacy organization Alaska Family Action, the main group organizing in support of Prop. 1] accused Anchorage’s business community of caving to a special-interest group. 
“LGBTQ activists have used bullying and blackmail tactics to strong-arm corporate America,” Minnery wrote." [emphasis added]
Prop 1 is an attempt to go back to the 'good old days' when right wing evangelical church leaders - Jerry Prevo in particular - could bring out their members with rants about the evils of homosexuality to defeat attempts to give legal protections to the LGBTQ community.  When the Assembly finally passed such an ordinance, this coalition then delayed things long enough to have an incoming mayor veto it.  But the last round saw the Anchorage Assembly pass the legislation by and 9-2 margin and it was signed by the new mayor.

Prop 1 is an attempt to undo that measure by raising fears about 'men' going into women's bathrooms and essentially denying the existence of transgender people, by defining people by the gender marked on their birth certificates, which people would have to show if challenged in a public restroom!

This quote reflects the same kinds of lies and scare tactics they've always used.

Strong-arm tactics

Strong-arm tactics?  Really?  Let's look at some dictionary definitions of that term:

Merriam Webster:
"using force or threats to make someone do what is wanted"
Collins dictionary:
"If you refer to someone's behavior as strong-arm tactics or methods, you disapprove of it because it consists of using threats or force in order to achieve something."
Let's look at the organizations that are opposed to Prop 1, that Minnery thinks were 'strong-armed' by the transgender community, one of the most vulnerable communities in the US.

11.17 Design Studio LLC
Anchorage Economic
   Development Corporation (AEDC)
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Arctic Choice
Arctic Incident Response, LLC
Arctic Wire and Rope
BDS Architects
Beartooth Theaterpub & Grill
Broken Tooth Brewing
Cabin Fever
Classic Woman
Coordinators Interior Design
Dos Manos Gallery
Favretto Limited
Fire Island Bakery
First National Bank
K2 Avication
K2 Dronotics
KPB Architects
Law Office of Glenn E. Cravez, Inc.
Mad Dog Graphics
Moose’s Tooth
Mystic Productions Press
Perkins Coie LLP
Quilted Raven

Rust Flying Service
Second Run LLC
Side Street Espresso
Snow City Cafe
South Restaurant
Spenard Roadhouse
Stoel Rives LLP
The Boardroom
The Sourdough Mercantile
The Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe
Tiny Ptarmigan
Two Friends Gallery
United Physical Therapy
Visit Anchorage
Wells Fargo
Wooly Mammoth

Only a few of these are 'corporate America.'

For the most part these are small businesses in Anchorage.  Those I know are owned by people who would have volunteered to support the campaign against Prop 1.  They wouldn't have needed to be strong-armed.  Can you imagine the folks at Fair Alaska threatening Rust Flying Service or Mad Dog Graphics into getting on the list?  How?  Boycott their businesses? Ludicrous.  Telling them they would go to hell for eternity?  Sorry, that's Minnery's line.

Even more ludicrous is to think they could have strong-armed the national companies like BP, Perkins Coie, Stoel Rives, Re/Max, or Wells Fargo.

Strong-arming is what Prevo's friends do to get legislators to vote against women's rights to free choice or gay rights issues.  They use religion on some, threats to withdraw political support and give it to a candidate's opponent.

And as I've said before, people tend to accuse others of what they do themselves, because they assume everyone does it.  That's how they justify their own actions - "everyone does it, we'd be a disadvantage if we didn't."

I thought maybe Minnery had recognized the error of his approach when he held "Love Your Gay Neighbor Night" in 2014, but I'm afraid not.  Rather, he's now back to using "bullying and blackmail tactics to scare" voters into making the lives of transgender folks much more difficult.

My expectation is this campaign is the last gasp on this issue.  It's what Minnery knows how to do - fight to impose his religious beliefs on others in some twisted logic  that if gays have rights, he loses his rights.  He picks obscure parts of the Bible to justify his stance, while ignoring far more important lessons from Christ, like "Do Onto Others. . ."

I expect Anchorage voters to roundly defeat Prop 1.  The big unknown is how changing to mail-in voting will affect turnout.   Let's hope Minnery gets the message and finds more positive things to work on.

For more on this ballot issue see an earlier post with video of some local transgender folks and their parents talking about why this vote is so important to them.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Put Trump Tweets On Bottom of Page 17 If Cover Them, You Must

How should the media cover Trump?  He is the president so what he does should be covered.  And Trump has taken great advantage of that rule-of-thumb.  His every tweet is news, the more outrageous the better.

My suggestion:  Set up a "Trump Tweet" section in the back pages (say page 17, though for papers like the Anchorage Daily News, not every every edition has 17 pages.  That just means no Tweet coverage that day..  They'd be there no comment. The section is just so the reader who wants to know, can go there.  And also to maintain a record of his fickleness, his contradictions, and his breaches of decorum and law.

This removal of the tweets from the front page, takes away what I'm sure is one of his goals - to be on the front page every day and to divert attention from the more significant misconduct his administration is committing.  This diminishes his ability to set the daily agenda.

There are lots of tricks we have to learn how to handle a president who disregards decency, truth, and the social norms that make a civil society possible.  In many ways, Trump's tweets have offered a window into what he's really thinking, which I suspect is not radically different from what officials in in previous administrations were thinking - particularly in regard to race, gender, and the economically disadvantaged.  Trump's tweets remind us of the truths about people in power we'd rather not know.

How we get rid of this president, I'm not sure.  Since the Republicans are in the majority in both houses, and since they have this ability to look the other way on his racism and sexism and stupidism, (though apparently not his tariffs), we have to depend on Mueller's investigation.  But what happens when he's got everything ready?  Can he prosecute the president like any other person?  I thought that was why we have impeachment.

This is different from Watergate.  First, Democrats were in charge of the House and Senate.  Second, the House Judiciary Committee did the investigation, not a special prosecutor, as the evidence began to mount, and the tide turned.  But there has been so much evidence of Trump's wrong doings - his pussy grabbing tape, his incitement of racists and sexists, the Trump university scamming of students, all the women who have accused him of sexual abuse, his using the White House for financial gain.  Any one of these would have pulled down past presidents. Will the Republican House ever take an impeachment seriously?

It's one thing for the people who elected Trump to get burned for their stupidity and willful ignorance.  But the rest of us are just as screwed.  Trump's directly or indirectly giving Putin exactly what he wants:  the weakening of the US on the world stage, the deterioration of Western alliances and cooperation.  All of these make it easier for Russia to get away with whatever Putin wants to do on the world stage.

The mid-term election is just a few days less than nine months away.  Long enough to have a baby or do severed damage to the United States.  And since the Republicans are dead set against abortion, we're likely to have to wait the whole nine months before serious action will be taken to get Trump out of the presidency.  Unless Mueller has evidence that is so compelling that 20 Republicans in the House and 10 in the Senate are persuaded to join the Democrats to free us of this malignancy in the White House.

[Yes, this is a departure from my normal posts, but I learned early on blogging that 'neutrality' is not the goal of journalism.  Neutrality in the face of clear cut malfeasance is no different from not intervening to stop an assault.  Trump's presidency is the greatest crisis in my lifetime (and I lived through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, Watergate).  Staying neutral is a political act that supports Trump's vandalism against democracy.]

It's a gray, wet day today.  Maybe that colored this post.

But things will get better.  Be polite and respectful with the people you disagree with.  Acknowledge their pain, their legitimate complaints.  Counter their arguments with facts, but don't make it personal.  

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Bad Camera Day

Yesterday the sky was blue blue.  The water in the park was mirror still.  The pictures were all around me waiting to be captured.  And as I pulled out my camera it got caught on the open sound card door. Damn, I'd left the card in the computer when I downloaded pictures the night before.

But today, clouds bled the richest blues from the sky.  A breeze rippled over the reflections in the water.  The great pictures were hiding.  So here's one from when we were landing in Seattle Monday. I think this is the Bremerton ferry coming into Seattle.