Archive for August, 2013


August 31, 2013




I couldn’t believe my lying ears.

They were telling me our ultra-right, super conservative Tea Party Congressman, Tom McClintock, was openly extolling the virtues of Dennis Kucinich, a far-left, extremely liberal, former Democratic Congressman from Ohio.

McClintock, representing California’s newly reconfigured Fourth District, was holding a “Town Hall Meeting” last Wednesday in the North Fork Rancheria’s Community Center as part of an ambitious four-appearance schedule that also included stops in Oakhurst, Shaver Lake and Prather.

An earlier gathering hosted by the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce was co-sponsored by “Women in Business”, a group clearly placing politics above gender in their support of McClintock, who refused to vote for the “Equal Pay for Women Act” and the “Violence Against Women Act”, while being completely supportive of the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act.” Even our right-leaning Supreme Court has now declared “D.O.M.A.” unconstitutional.

But this same McClintock was suddenly before me in North Fork praising Dennis Kucinich, a man once described by Cleveland Tea Party Patriots as being “Ohio’s Top Socialist”.

The reason for McClintock’s out of the blue endorsement was a statement made by the former Mayor of Cleveland a day before referencing President Obama’s rumored decision to level a punitive, “surgical blow” against Syria as retribution for crossing a “red line” in resorting to the use of poisonous gas against a civilian population.

Here’s what Kucinich said that obtained McClintock’s sanction and blessing: “So, what? We’re about to become Al Qaeda’s air force now? This is a very serious matter – and to try to minimize it by saying we’re just going to have a “targeted strike” – that’s an act of war.”

After extended reflection, I find myself agreeing completely with Representative McClintock and Mr. Kucinich in this matter, even as I maintain widely dissimilar notions on almost every other issue mentioned during the Congressman’s well-received, hour-long presentation. And that includes frogs and toads.

McClintock, as astute a politician as I’ve ever encountered, is wisely tapping understandable local concerns over economic consequences of past federal environmental legislation with his virulent opposition to proposed endangered species designation of the Yellow-Legged Frog and threatened species designation for the Yosemite Toad. His view is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines will likely cause severe restrictions on land access and could limit or forbid activities such as grazing, trout stocking, logging, mining and recreational use — resulting in a devastating impact on our regional economy.

Similarly, he is firmly against recent proposals from the National Park Service and its much-discussed (some say “disgusting”) Merced River Plan.

“Radical environmentalists want us to look – but not touch”, summarizes McClintock.

Given the fact that these topics have pretty much risen to the top of foothill community issues, the September Meeting of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst will feature, as our guest speaker, George Whitmore, Chair of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Yosemite Committee. The Tehipite Chapter encompasses all of the counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa, and parts of two other counties, including all of Yosemite National Park.

Mr. Whitmore has held various assignments at the local, regional and national levels of the Sierra Club for the last fifty years. He also attended Representative McClintock’s meetings of last week in North Fork, Shaver Lake and Prather.

While observing that our Congressman is “very smooth, even when handling sticky questions”, Whitmore also declares, “Tom McClintock was clearly born a hundred years too late – and would have been more in sync with the way things were done – or not done – in the 1800’s. He probably thinks that Teddy Roosevelt was one of the worst Presidents we ever had, perhaps even worse than Obama.”

But Mr. Whitmore also adds, “All of the dire predictions of impending doom if we try to rescue the frog or toad from oblivion could come true if we leave the Fish and Wildlife Service or other entities free to do whatever they wish. These agencies need to hear from the citizenry. The widely divergent views as to how Yosemite should be managed are only to be expected, given the very strong connections people feel to this remarkable place. To me, it is a cathedral – a cathedral as many as possible should be allowed to visit.”

As a member of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst’s Executive Committee and moderator of our monthly meetings, I herein cordially and enthusiastically invite you to join us at the new Denny’s at 9 AM this coming Saturday– regardless of party affiliation – to engage in a spirited, yet admirably amiable question and answer session following our speaker’s opening remarks.

Then, after the meeting, you are also encouraged to attend the 11th Annual Run for The Gold Car Show at the Oakhurst Community Center, where this columnist gets to glide into his blue suede shoes and spin a few Rock & Roll Oldies again this year for the Oakhurst Kiwanis.

And for our October Meeting of the Democratic Club?

How ‘bout David Martin from the U.S. Forest Service?


August 26, 2013

The Butler

“The Butler” begins with an exclamation point and ends with a question mark.

As this week marks the 50th Anniversary of 1963’s “March on Washington” with Dr. Martin Luther King sharing his historic dream before hundreds of thousands, “The Butler” was #1 at the box office for a second triumphant weekend before millions of moviegoers.

The film’s first few minutes are not for the feint of heart – a savage encapsulation of deadly oppression – while the last moment is powerfully inconclusive and appropriately so — for that’s where we are.

“The Butler” (PG13) ostensibly traces the White House career of Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. Presidents over the course of 30 years, witnessing sweeping social changes during his three decades of dedicated service at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But this is a movie, not a traditional documentary.

For cinematic purposes, Eugene Allen is morphed into a marginally fictional character named Cecil Gaines, brilliantly portrayed by Forest Whitaker – perhaps Oscar-bound again.

As was true in the case of “The Last King of Scotland”, a film that won Whitaker his 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor in a powerful portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, “The Butler” is a fictionalized chronicle, so leave your fact checker home.

That observed, it nonetheless presents an extraordinarily encompassing mosaic of recent American history with a sharp black perspective rare in its raw revelations. It centers on a continuing struggle for civil rights, an effort only partially realized in our times with mileposts reached, but great distance remaining.

Timing couldn’t be more perfect, perhaps the primary reason our local Oakhurst audience burst into appreciative applause as final screen credits rolled – an enthusiastic endorsement of the movement at least as much as the movie.

In a serendipitous prelude to “The Butler”, Rachel Maddow appeared last week in a live MSNBC broadcast from Boone, North Carolina, where voting in Watauga County has been reduced by a new Republican controlled County Board of Elections from three separate precincts to a single, barely accessible polling place for over 9,000 registered voters, including students at Appalachian State University, a predominantly black institution. Simultaneously, the GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is attempting to shut down an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University – another minority school. And the Pasquotank County Board has just proclaimed students at Elizabeth City State University with a majority African-American enrollment ineligible to cast local ballots in November.

All of this is happening in tandem with passage by the North Carolina State Legislature of what has been generally referenced in the national press as “the nation’s worst voter suppression law.” Let it be noted that the theoretical excuse for such a draconian measure –“widespread hidden voter fraud” – accounted for far, far less than one percent of all votes cast in North Carolina in 2012 – actually .00174%.

In an interview Sunday on “Face the Nation”, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told Bob Shieffer of CBS, “These kind of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote, and I encourage that.”

I herein salute General Powell for such prescient commentary and praise Ms. Maddow for bringing desperately needed focus to these virulent attempts at reviving the soul-scarring, rights-robbing, humiliating ghosts of moldering Jim Crow legislation, now rising from the dead like vampires at dusk.

And such things do not exist in sterile isolation.

“The Butler” serves up significant food for serious thought.

It is not so much a summary as a summons.

Work undone remains justice unknown.

But not unreasonable, undeniable or unobtainable.


It’s all up to – just us.

“A Challenge to Challengers!”

August 16, 2013


Reince Priebus is a mealy mouthed mouse with a Star Trek name who just squeaked “surrender” again.

Reince is National Committee Chairman of the Republican Party, elected on January 14, 2011 after seven rounds of voting in the aftermath of union busting Scott Walker’s election as Governor of Wisconsin. Walker endorsed Priebus’ bid for the Chairmanship from the get go, attributing the party’s and his November 2010 victories in Wisconsin to “Priebus’ leadership and involvement in the Tea Party movement that swept the state and the nation” during that election cycle.

So here we are with over 600 dead and thousands wounded in a single vicious day of bloody Egyptian rioting last week with hundreds more killed those same 24 hours in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon as “The Arab Spring” has disintegrated into a savage summer.

Ignoring all that, as even Fox News now solemnly intones the American Middle Class is well on the way to economic extinction and global scientists have again universally confirmed our planet is undergoing the most severe degree of climate change in the last 65 million years, Priebus priorities have elevated to pathetic first place prominence — a new Republican pastime -– the art of cable spanking.

In a letter sent on behalf of the Party to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, and Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide, Reince demanded the networks cancel two independent productions because both projects still in development would be about — Hillary Clinton.

When refusal was instantaneous, Reince introduced and obtained a unanimous vote from all attending the National Summer Republican Committee Convention in Boston to ban CNN and MSNBC from covering Republican Presidential Primary Debates in 2016.

Setting aside the fact that Reince and the GOP have no actual power to enforce such a restriction, this marks another tactical capitulation on the part of Priebus to extreme right-wingers who remain dominant in Party planning, even though there was serious talk from Reince immediately following Obama’s victory last November about becoming more centrist.

But in an interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC in March, Priebus used such phraseology as “a lot of idiotic things” and “a lot of stupid biological things” in characterizing Republican campaign rhetoric in the lost Presidential election. Ever more evident is a continuing retreat from reality and reinforced realignment to the newly emerging theme that “the candidate was the problem”, theoretically making any contemplated departure from hard core conservative principles more heretical than ever. This was again signaled a few days ago at the Boston gathering when Priebus told reporters Mitt Romney’s reference to “self-deportation” on the issue of Immigration Reform was “hurtful and horrific.”

As top traditional Republican faithful gathered at that same Boston hotel where Mitt Romney learned he would not be President on November 6, 2012 — as these key players tried to determine and define the future direction of their imperiled Party – Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and Tea Party partners in the North Carolina State Legislature enacted and signed a broad bill to massively restrict voting rights, a move designed to deeply curtail minority and youth voting in the state.

And here’s Texas misanthrope, Ted Cruz, calling for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, perhaps leaving the payment of federal taxes to be defined as an optional exercise.

Not to be outdone, Rand “Surly But Curly” Paul keeps elevating attacks on New Jersey Governor Chris Christy for being fat and fatuous, but really because he was photographed being cordial to Barack Obama.

And there’s renewed discussion in Washington of once again holding the nation hostage by refusing to shortly raise the already Congressionally limited debt ceiling unless Obamacare is overturned.

But anything with our President’s name attached is automatically and bitterly challenged in certain circles completely regardless of content, branded as “bad” only because it involves “Barack.”

As a dramatic illustration, we witness California’s own national embarrassment, Congressman Darrell Issa, turning up absolutely nothing in extensive hearings before his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tying the Obama Administration to any sinister wrong doing in the case of “Fast and Furious” and/or “Benghazi” and/or “The IRS” and/or anything else. Forget “mountains of proof.” He couldn’t even find molehills. Nothing. NOTHING. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I herein defy anyone, particularly local pundits, to produce a single shred of actual evidence indicating otherwise.

Come on.

Show what you’ve got. Put it out here.

As Clara insisted in those old Wendy’s commercials, “Show us the beef!”

Or let us blissfully rapture in your sullen silence.

“Caring? Sharing!”

August 3, 2013


The House and Senate have adjourned for their hardly earned annual five-week summer break, so it’s business as usual these lazy, crazy days of August in Washington with nothing of meaningful significance happening in the halls of Congress.

One of the last things passed in the House last Friday was a record 40th anti-Obamacare vote (232 to 185) on a measure introduced by Tom Price (R-Georgia) charmingly entitled, “The Keep The IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013”— doomed to failure from the outset with a Democratic President and Senate fortunately in place. Price, a national Tea Party hero, has gone on record time and time again condemning “The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010” as a “government takeover of health care”, a characterization as patently false as it is insipidly stupid. However, this qualifies Price to be often mentioned as a possible new House Speaker if John Boehner doesn’t talk the talk and walk the walk, trembling at every turn lest he upset Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and other beneficiaries of rich, self-interested, ever wealthier campaign donors, the infamous Koch brothers coming quickest to mind.

After 24 years in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has become a multimillionaire — and not just for good looks. Dedicated to Barack Obama’s political destruction since the day our President took office, McConnell ironically now faces primary competition for his Senate seat in 2014 from even more conservative candidates pledged to out-hate Mitch at the drop of a hood.

As with their previous 39 attempts to undermine the expressed will of the American people, our uptight right continues wasting time and talent in petulant pursuit of party purity. We can look for more of the same just down the road unless responsible GOP traditionalists can wrestle party control away from its wistfully wayward John Galt wannabes — dedicated do-nothings with dreams of an Ayn Randian inspired Utopia dancing through their heads like sugar plums on Christmas Eve.

For the uninitiated, John Galt is the iconoclastic hero of “Atlas Shrugged” — a long-winded, bombastic 1957 work of political fiction from Alisa Rosenbaum writing under the pseudonym “Ayn Rand.”

Alisa was a Russian-born atheist heavily influenced in her early years by William Edward Hickman, an American serial killer. The hero of Rosenbaum’s novel “The Fountainhead”, Howard Roark, is said to be based on Hickman and is admiringly described in the book with these words — “He was born without the ability to consider others.” Hickman was hanged from the gallows at San Quentin on October 19, 1928 for the gruesome kidnapping, killing and dismemberment of 12 year-old Marion Parker. Justice Clarence Thomas has described “The Fountainhead” as his “favorite book.”

“Objectivism”, a core philosophy developed by Ms. Rosenbaum and now espoused in our times by Tea Party Libertarian types, essentially preaches that the proper moral purpose of one’s own life is the singular pursuit of individual happiness — concern for others being relegated to the dust bin of history — as antiquated a notion as Christianity. WHAT? Behold the following directly copied this instant from the Ayn Rand Institute’s website as written by Dr. Edwin Locke: “Christianity cannot be practiced consistently, destroys the integrity of man’s mind, and is incompatible with living successfully and happily in the real world.”

I prefer Matthew 25: 34-50 in the Standard American Bible and these words of Jesus:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you are the blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?” The King will answer, “Truly I say to you, to the extent you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.

Ultimately, it all comes down to caring and sharing.

Godliness and selfishness are intrinsically oppositional.

Let he or she who achieves material success enjoy first and foremost the fruits of their labor, yet remain ever thoughtful of those with less attained, especially children of poverty whose lot is surely not of their own design.

“Blessed is he that considers the poor: The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” — Psalm 41:1

When we elect folks to government who scorn the concept of social equity and a common good — government won’t work. It never has. It never will.

It simply can’t.