Archive for August, 2014

“Choose Or Lose”

August 30, 2014

Badge - 2008 election


It’s intriguing how a single word can transfix a million minds.

An ordered world is spinning out of sync — balance betrayed. We are left with these final thoughts from the Wicked Witch of the West:
“Oh! What to do? What to do?”

Nike’s right. There’s nothing to it — just do it. Doing it in Oakhurst means finding a political group with which you identify and getting involved and active. I’m talking Tea Party, Madera County Republicans, Mountain Democrats. You name it — I’m for it. As long as it’s folks paying attention, being thoughtfully reflective, mutually respectful and dependably supportive.

As autumn leaves of red and gold drift by our window, The Oakhurst Democratic Club kicks off its “New Fall Season” this Saturday, September 6th, at Denny’s on Highway 41.

In keeping with a concerted effort to maximize political candidate exposure to membership regardless of party affiliation, joining the group on Saturday will be Art Moore, campaigning for Congressional Representative in the Fourth District as a committed Republican. Major Moore, a graduate of West Point with a combined fourteen years of active military duty and National Guard service in his background, faces an uphill struggle against our current Congressman, Tom McClintock, running for a third turgid term.

Moore plans to work across the aisle, get things done and keep Yosemite open. McClintock promises little and does much less. He still hasn’t moved into the district he represents despite continual pledges to do so. Tom’s primary achievement of late was to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives honoring Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of early California pioneer and politician, John Fremont.

McClintock, in a token bow to the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant, mistakenly credits Ms. Fremont with influencing President Abraham Lincoln to endorse the Act, although there is no actual historical evidence supporting such a fantasy. To the contrary, whatever limited relationship Ms. Fremont had with the President seems to have been confrontational and adversarial in nature.

Trusting McClintock’s recommendation, the Republican House approved H.R. 1192 redesignating Mammoth Peak as Mount Jessie Benton Fremont on July 15th before leaving on their five-week summer vacation, a classic illustration of form triumphant over content.

The Congress of California Seniors is a statewide, nonprofit advocacy organization focusing primarily on legislative and consumer issues that impact older adults. They publish a “Friends and Foes of Seniors Report Card.” Project Vote Smart reports that on this listing, Tom McClintock scores a remarkable 15% out of a possible 100 percentage points, the rock bottom lowest performance of 119 California names listed.

But Congressman McClintock is a perfect tire iron in the spokes of effective government and warrants re-election if one wants Federal gridlock to continue with paralysis preserved, even if it means voting against personal self-interest for a man who’s gone on record time and time again against virtually every progressive position from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal onward.

Social Security? McClintock calls it “morally bankrupt” and “nothing more than a tax levied against youth.” Medicare? McClintock voted for Congressman Paul Ryan’s abhorrent budget scheme that offers to turn our current system into a voucher plan with tight restrictions on treatment options and expenditures. Immigration Reform? While our former District Representative, Jeff Denham (R- Turlock), courageously advocates comprehensive legislation eventually incorporating a path to citizenship, McClintock is dead set against any such idea, assumingly embracing Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” notion – as viable a concept as screen windows on submarines.

I’m hoping to see you Friday night at the Oakhurst Community Center for the 12th Annual Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis Run For The Gold Car Show Dinner at 6 PM – this year featuring the Yosemite Jazz Band and a Minarets ensemble. Then Saturday morning we’ll be at Denny’s spending some time with Art Moore, who will be arriving around 8:15, so get there plenty early.

The October Oakhurst Democratic Club meeting will be a “Meet the Candidates Morning” with Oakhurst attorney David Linn and incumbent Michael Keitz competing in the race for Madera County District Attorney — and candidates for the office of Sheriff, those being current Undersheriff, Michael Salvador, and Chowchilla Chief of Police, Jay Varney.

The right to vote is our most precious political inheritance.

We must use it or could lose it.

It is we who have the final responsibility to select those who choose to serve.

“A well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy” – Thomas Jefferson (1789)

“Forty-Five Years Gone”

August 17, 2014

“By the time we got to Woodstock

We were half a million strong

And everywhere there was song and celebration

And I dreamed I saw the bombers

Riding shotgun in the sky

And they were turning into butterflies

Above our nation.”

“Woodstock” – 1969 –Joni Mitchell

This month marks the 45th Anniversary of The Woodstock Music and Art Fair at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York from August 15th to 18th, 1969.

They were all there – 32 acts in all – including Janis Joplin/The Who/Sly and the Family Stone/Arlo Guthrie/Joan Baez/ Country Joe/ Santana/John Sebastian/Canned Heat/Mountain/The Grateful Dead/Creedence Clearwater/Jefferson Airplane/Joe Cocker/Country Joe/Ten Years After/The Band/Johnny Winter/Blood Sweat & Tears/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Sha Na Na and Jimi Hendrix — closing the show Monday morning over a field of emulsified mud with his now iconic version of the National Anthem.

On my office wall here in Oakhurst is an unused Woodstock ticket — #00279 – comfortably priced at a hardly outrageous eight dollars – good for “One Admission Only” all day and night Sunday, August 17th.

I didn’t make the event. We had our own vibrant Rock & Roll music scene exploding back in Michigan, where two months earlier I had produced the first of what was to become many outdoor concerts at a place just outside Flint named “Sherwood Forest”, a several hundred acre complex owned by another farmer – this one named Don Sherwood. We called these gatherings “Wild Wednesdays.” They ran through 1974 headlining such artists as Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult, Chuck Berry, Montrose, MC5, Joe Walsh, Badfinger, Spooky Tooth, Grand Funk Railroad, Bloodrock, Iggy & The Stooges, Question Mark and The Mysterians, Stevie Wonder, Parliament and Funkedelic, The Ides of March and Mitch Ryder. will tell you more than you would ever want to know.

It was particularly fitting that CNN’s outstanding series on “The Sixties” last week headlined, “Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll” in offering extensive coverage of the “Woodstock” phenomenon – properly acknowledging its triumphantly unique and lasting impact on worldwide culture — then so sadly concluding with innocence lost barely four months later in the knifings and deaths at Altamont Speedway.

I watched the program with an unanticipated rush of unsettled emotion — so many milestone recollections unavoidably enshrouded with wistful recognition and resigned acknowledgement that all things inevitably pass away – the good with the bad and all in between.

And how can those young rock stars today look so – so – so — not young? I can’t bring myself to write the “O’ word. It’s like looking in the mirror.

It had all seemed so natural – so spontaneous – so authentically automatic.

Maybe it’s me, but this particular summer of 2014 sure doesn’t seem to have as many of those “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days” Nat “King” Cole sang so joyfully about back in ’63 when I graduated from college. “Soda and pretzels and beer?” Nah. We face paralyzing political polarity, escalating climatological catastrophe, the savage evolution of ISIS and crisis upon crisis. Now Robin Williams is gone.

Institutional memory in and out of government has been lobotomized and obliterated by greedy gamblers occupying the highest echelons of global finance – rigging the system — manipulating the masses — buying politicians seemingly cheaper by the dozen.

There are rare exceptions.

I ask that you pay attention to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. If Hillary falters, Senator Warren could be our first lady President.

Maybe just in time.

For Woodstock and “The Sixties” still call those with hopeful hearts.

“We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.”

“No Hope For Ray?”

August 1, 2014


Ray Applesauce is going down.

For years Fresno’s reigning radio king on KMJ-AM, Ray Appleton has hit the skids.

The most recent ratings (7/21/14) from Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) show that KMJ-AM, once a proud, unchallenged #1 broadcast facility and one of the nation’s leading News/Talk stations, has tumbled from what were double digit listenership figures just a short time ago to a soft 3.7% Total Audience Share, ranking them 9th in the market. That’s still better than KMJ’s little FM sister, KMJ-FM, displaying an anemic 0.5% overall measurement – good for a 20th place finish and pretty close to broadcasting in complete confidence.

Although it’s clearly unfitting to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, I can’t help but find substantial comfort in watching Ray take the plunge. While his professional presentation skills are major market quality — among the best I’ve ever heard — Appleton’s mindless, fawning, self-serving, client pleasing embrace of ultra-right wing Conservative ideology has been horribly disappointing and thoroughly disgusting. Here’s a guy who should really know better.

Having been removed from important morning programming and relegated to a three hour block from 11 AM to 2 PM, Appleton’s Obama-hating, liberal-baiting, nerve-grating diatribes have become dreary, weary and worn – but so has the rest of “Conservative Talk” across the nation.

KMJ AM & FM’s prime format competitor, Clear Channel’s KALZ-FM, inherited the once powerful Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Mark Levin/Glenn Beck “Power Talk” package in January of 2013. The new numbers place them only 10th in Fresno, right behind KMJ-AM with a 3.2% share, more than thirty percent down from last summer’s 4.7%.

Although no time for wild optimism, there seems to be a pronounced, provable swing toward radio sanity long overdue and warmly welcomed. What we see happening in Fresno is being echoed across the country with Rush, Sean, Mark and Glenn exhibiting free fall in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. The writing is on the wall, driven by stridently constant, thoroughly unsubstantiated, Henny Penny hysteria over The IRS, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, invading alien hordes, anything with the name Obama preceding or following it and the ever more mysteriously mesmerizing Agenda 21 – a Pandora’s Box of perplexing paranoia.

Fear mongering can generate a societal response clinically referenced as the “Chicken Little Syndrome”, a phenomenon inferring catastrophic conclusions that subsequently bring about political paralysis — a sense of despair or passivity ultimately limiting or abandoning meaningful action. The term dates back to the ‘50’s and has been universally recognized in various social contexts.

One needs only to reflect on the woefully inadequate achievements of our current Congress, particularly the Tea Party pounded House of Representatives, to witness systemic strangulation. If this bunch deserves their current five-week vacation, Rocket Raccoon should be Miss America. There’s Ted Cruz — the man who closed Yosemite with Tom McClintock — at it again last week in attempting to terminate meaningful handling of what everyone knows is a critical, life-threatening crisis on our southern border — in the process in tripping up both House Speaker John Boehner and a clear majority of thoughtful Republicans. Obstinacy is virtuous only to the obnoxious.

Yet cable viewing remains dominated by opinion confirming, politically soothing FOX News, expert at providing devotees with exactly what they want in offering a perfect, reassuring, continually non-threatening comfort zone. But Ray Appleton’s Nielsen-demonstrated demise just might prove to be a happy harbinger for American TV.

For what is television — but radio resorting to pictures?