Friday, May 31, 2019

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach - Look At Some Of The Basic Questions

Yesterday I replaced this post with a video of then Rep. Lindsey Graham urging the Senate to convict Bill Clinton and explaining the broad array of wrongdoings covered by impeachment.
So let me go back to what I was originally working on.

I've been trying to identify the arguments for and against impeachment.

1.  Has he committed impeachable offenses?     

It seems to me that the Mueller Report offers us enough instances of obstruction of justice that it's clear that there are impeachable offenses.  Committing criminal acts is a much higher standard than is required for impeachment anyway.  If you listen to the Graham tape, lies, perjury, obstructing justice are all fair game.  Clinton had sexual harassment charges and then fighting those charges, which Graham called obstruction of justice.  Trump has various women he's paid to sign NDA's.  He's got unsavory money ties to Russians through Deutsche Bank and directly.  There's all the tales Michael Cohen told.  There's emolument clause issues based on foreign governments patronizing Trump properties.  The list goes on and on.

2.  What is an impeachable offense?

From Article 2, Section IV, we get the terms:  "Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  Again, listen too Graham.  Trump's got lots of acts that fit into the definition he gave of high crimes at the Clinton impeachment.

Some Impeachment Facts

A.  Impeachment is just an indictment for a president.  In non-presidential situations when there appears o be enough evidence to indicate a person has committed a crime, he's indicted.  Then it goes to trial.  In this case there is plenty of evidence.  But impeachment is the process of looking at the evidence and deciding to indict.  Setting up an impeachment process doesn't mean he will be impeached, just that the evidence will be examined.  And the House will have the power to get all the relevant evidence, things the administration is refusing to share.

B.  Then if the House decides to impeach, it goes to the Senate for the trial.

I'd note that there have been three presidential impeachments in American history - Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.  Johnson and Clinton were acquitted and Nixon resigned before he could be convicted.  So, no president has ever been successfully tried for impeachment.

If there is a lot of evidence of impeachable acts, it's up to the House to investigate and make the President accountable.  It's true that prosecutors also weigh in the likelihood of conviction.  They don't want to lose a case because there isn't enough evidence.  But an impeachable president does more damage than most un-indicted but likely guilty criminals.

3.  Is impeachment politically feasible?

This seems to be the key question Democrats are debating, at least as the media portray things.  So let's look at it closely

A.  That could mean, if the House impeaches him, would the Senate convict?  If Trump and whoever else can keep the Senate Republicans under control like they have so far, the answer would be 'no.'  But if the American public were exposed to hearings that discussed the Mueller findings in detail, not to mention other issues, there's no telling how popular opinion would go.  So far, relatively few people have read to Report.  I confess to having read only some parts of it.  But I did read carefully most of  Seth Abramson's Proof of Collusion which spells out much of what's in the Report.  (A followup book, Proof of Conspiracy comes out soon.

Click Here For The Mueller Report.  

The Report is 182 pages plus 
Appendix A - Letter of Appointment of Special Counsel (1page)
Appendix B - Glossary (14 pages) 
Appendix C - Written Questions to be answered by President Trump (12 pages) and Responses from President Trump (12 pages) (total 23 pages) 

 There's a total of 226 pages, some blank, some redacted, some just lists. 
 If you read just ten pages a day, 
you could read the whole report by June 23.

B.  Would losing the impeachment battle in the Senate weaken the Democrats before the 2020 election?   Depends on what the American people hear and see of the impeachment hearings and the Senate trial.  And unless Netflix makes a Mueller Report series, without an impeachment, most Americans will never know exactly what's in the Report and how damning it is.  (See Box above with link to report and ten page a day suggestion.)

C.  Will the Democrats be blasted for wasting time on impeachment instead of passing legislation?  The Republicans will accuse them of not passing any legislation no matter what they do.  Very little substantive legislation has been passed in the last few sessions of Congress anyway.  This isn't a reason not to impeach.

D.  Is it too early to start an impeachment because there isn't enough evidence?  Well, part of what you do at an impeachment is gather evidence.  Impeachment won't be quick not matter when it starts.  One could argue that starting now would mean that Congress will be ready with the evidence they need in a timely manner.  If they wait until Nancy Pelosi determines the time is right, then

E.  If the Russians, Iranians, North Koreans, Israelis and others interfere with the election in 2020, impeachment (unless successful) won't matter anyway unless the Democrats are able to fight such interference.  If they don't impeach, they won't have near as much evidence of election tampering than if they impeach and subpoena the evidence.

F.  Balancing doing what's right with doing what's expedient.  Sometimes we make ethical compromises because of the practical consequences.  It's a basic philosophical dilemma.  One could argue that it's a hard decision to make.

There is plenty of evidence that the president has committed impeachable acts. It's Congress' duty to keep the president accountable.  So in a politically neutral world, impeaching the president is the moral and correct thing to do.

But should the Democrats do that if it would guarantee they would lose the next election?  If we could know that for sure, I'd say probably not.

But there's no way of knowing for sure that impeachment would cost the election.  In a situation of uncertainty, then the only right and moral decision is to do the right thing - impeach.   I would argue that, as happened with Nixon, the public airing of all of Trump's wrong doings would help push a comfortable majority over the edge into agreeing that impeachment was the right thing.  Not impeaching would convince the cynical non-voters that they were right to not vote.

G.  Whatever the Democrats do, they have to work hard to make sure that the elections aren't lost because of foreign and domestic propaganda, voter suppression and tampering:

  • They expose and prevent and counteract foreign propaganda on social media and elsewhere, as well as far right attacks (like the Swift-Boat attacks on John Kerry.)
  • They expose and prevent voter suppression, vote tampering, and hacking of voting machines.  And when these things occur, they are all over them gathering proof and refusing to concede until it is clear the vote was clean.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lindsey Graham On Grounds For Impeachment (1999)

I started this post over a month ago, thinking I could at least identify some of the key ways people are discussing impeachment.

 Given Meuller's comments today implying that Department of Justice policies prevent DOJ from prosecuting a sitting president, it seems a good time to finish this post.

 While I was outlining the basic points in this debate on both sides, I came across this clip from C-Span of Rep. Lindsey Graham acting as the impeachment trial manager, making the argument for Bill Clinton's impeachment to the US Senate.  It's worth posting without too many comments.  I've also written some transcripts of part of it [see below the video], but it's definitely worth listening to him explain what an impeachable offense is.

[I couldn't find the embed button for this clip on C-Span. I thought I'd gotten around that, but it seems all that was embedded was the image. But if you click on it, it will take to you the original video.]

Lindsey Graham Calling for Clinton's Impeachment

Back 1999 Lindsey Graham calls for justice, upholding high standards of the office, getting to the bottom of things and defending women's dignity

Here's a reasonably close transcript of particularly relevant parts of his speech, but the whole thing is worth listening to give Graham's current defense of Trump against impeachment.

[He begins with how his parents owned a 'beer joint' where blacks had to buy drinks and had to leave because they weren't allowed to drink them in the restaurant - "that's how it was then, but it isn't now."
How women used to not be able to sue over sexual harassment, but can now.
How when a president obstructs justice, lies, etc.  it's up to Congress to keep him accountable.]

We all assumed [Clinton] would play fail.  What if he had not shown up? What if he had refused to answer any court order?  What if he had said “I’m not going to play, that’s it.”?  I’m [not] going to listen to you judicial branch? 
You know the remedy we have for that, when presidential conduct gets out of bounds, do you know where that remedy lies?  It lies with us, the United States Congress

When a president gets out of bounds and doesn’t do what he should do, constitutionally . . . it’s up to us to put it back in bounds or declare it illegal.  

How do we regulate presidential misconduct? . . . through the laws and powers of impeachment. . .   

When he chose to lie, when he chose to manipulate the evidence, the witnesses against him, and get his friends to go to bat for him, he vetoed that decision.  It’s worse than if he hadn’t shown up at all.   .  .

What’s a high crime?  How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means.  It’s not very scholarly, but I think it’s the truth.  I think that’s what they meant by ‘high crimes.’ It doesn’t have to be crime.  It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime.  

When you decide  that a course of conduct meets the high crime standard under our constitution for the president, what are we doing   what are we doing to the presidency?

[There’s discussion here where Graham acknowledges that lying about intimate personal actions is something that is hard not to do, that he himself might do it.  That the Senate shouldn’t ignore basic human failings.  But that Clinton lied again to the Grand Jury even when warned it could cost him the presidency.  The burden then that would be put on future presidents is not to lie under oath against a plain citizen.  Then he says what would be expected of other presidents.]

Don’t cheat in a lawsuit by manipulating the testimony of others.  Don’t send public officials and friends to tell your lies before a federal grand jury to avoid your legal responsibilities.  Don’t put your legal and political interests ahead of the rule of law and common decency.  If you find these are high crimes, that is the burden you’re placing on the next office holders.  If they can’t meet that burden, this country has a serious problem.   I don’t want my country to be the country of great equivocators and compartmentalizers for the next century.

What I’m asking you is just his job description.  We’re asking him to be the chief law enforcement officer of the land.  

[More talk about how Clinton defied a 9-0 Supreme Court decision saying that he had to stand trial even while president.  Then he goes on to talk about the impeachment of Judge Harry Claiborne.  That used the same standards as for president - treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.  He was removed for “filing a false income tax return under penalties of perjury.”  Judge claimed cheating on taxes was related to his job as a judge.  But Senate said it was.]

“You [the Senate] took a broader view and I’m certainly glad you did.  Because this is not a country of high officials who are technicians.  This is a country based on character, this is a country based on having to set a standard that others will follow willingly.  

[He goes on to quote other lawmakers’ words about the scope of impeachment.   Then he talks about the impeachment of Judge Nixon who perjured himself before a grand jury. Then Judge Hastings convicted and removed from office by the Senate.  Acquitted before he got here.  Conspirator was convicted, but he was acquitted.  And was impeached despite the acquittal.  

Impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.  

[Discussion of Clinton case.  It will be hard, because while the evidence is clear, the president is popular.  Setting aside an elected president is a difficult decision.  To undo that election is a tough decision.]

Here's a Grenville, South Carolina newspaper article offering Graham's reasoning for supporting Trump now when he was for Clinton's impeachment.   I'd note that there is simply so many more incidents of misconduct, of lying, of obstruction of justice, in the office of president and leading up to the presidency compared to Clinton, that his argument that 'this is different' is absurd.  Yes, it is different.  It's 100 times worse.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Garden Calder

Our bleeding hearts are blooming nicely now.

They made me think of the Calder we saw at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art last February.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cartographic Literacy - And The Bible On Abortion

A couple of links that might be of interest.  Both are examples, in their own way, of how people's understanding is influenced by how facts are presented.  

  1. In one case it's about representations of the earth and the construct of poverty.  
  2. In the other case it's about representations of a book - The Bible - and what it says about abortion.  

1.  Kenneth Field's So You Want To Make A Map? at Medium walks us through making a map, step by step.  The example map shows the world

Despite maps being one of the oldest media of communication, he tells us that people aren't that literate in reading them.

But cartography isn’t innate in our ability to communicate graphically. There’s a language, a syntax, and a grammar. It takes a little knowledge and some practice to know what works and how to make a map work well to mediate the message to the reader. In this article, I’m going to go through some of the choices you’re presented with in designing a thematic map (a map of a theme of data) and how they can help or hinder how people interpret it. It’s worth remembering that most people have no idea about how to understand the way in which the map and the choices made in making it affect their perception of it. You design the map to avoid as many of these potential pitfalls as possible by being a smarter mapmaker.

He walks us through a series of maps, each showing different ways to illustrate different ways to visually get points across better, explaining the changes step by step.

These are just two screenshots of different ways to indicate poverty levels.

And one more map just to whet your appetite for the others.

2.  The Bible Tells Us When A Fetus Becomes A Living Being

It begins:

"Many people think that a human being is created at the time of conception but this belief is not supported by the bible. The fact that a living sperm penetrates a living ovum resulting in the formation of a living fetus does not mean that the fetus is a living human being. According to the bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath."

It then goes on to cited a number of passages in the bible that show that today's far right religious proclamations of abortion as murder are contradicted by a close reading of the bible.  Examples such as:
"In Exodus 21:22 it states that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine;   it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Luigi Toscano's Holocaust Portraits And Nathan Jurgenson's The Social Photo

The San Francisco Civic Center Plaza had about 80 of the giant portraits.  Each had a little sign (if you look closely, you can see it on the right in the middle.)

I'm afraid the title of the post promises a lot more than I can deliver.  But the title can at least point to what I'm thinking about as I write this post.   I've got too many backed up, unfinished posts.  These portraits made me think about the nature of portraits and how they're displayed (in addition to the content of the portraits.)  Jurgenson's book is also playing with my understanding of photos in general, and how digital photography and social media change human relationships with photographic images.  Here are the  two catalysts:

1.  Lest We Forget by Luigi Toscano - and installation we saw recently in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza.

Click to enlarge and focus better

And 2.  The Social Photo:  On Photography And Social Media,  a very new book by Nathan Jurgenson that investigates the the meaning of photography in the digital age and how we need to rethink our mental frameworks of photography to understand what's happening.

The notion of portraits has changed over the years.  From the Tate Museum:
"Portraiture is a very old art form going back at least to ancient Egypt, where it flourished from about 5,000 years ago. Before the invention of photography, a painted, sculpted, or drawn portrait was the only way to record the appearance of someone. 
But portraits have always been more than just a record. They have been used to show the power, importance, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter. Portraits have almost always been flattering, and painters who refused to flatter, such as William Hogarth, tended to find their work rejected. A notable exception was Francisco Goya in his apparently bluntly truthful portraits of the Spanish royal family."
Photography changed things dramatically.  And cameras on phones changes things even more.  From Nathan Jurgenson. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (Kindle Locations 139-143). Verso.
"Photography is a technology of instability . It stages a play of the real and the simulated, the apparent and the contrived, the creative and the mechanical. And photography is itself always in flux, from plates to film, paper to pixels, to more people carrying more cameras more of the time. These changes affect who makes images, where, why, how often, and for whom. There has been a recent and massive shift in who sees any photograph, and the audience for images that social media promises alters what a photograph is and what it means."

Basically, Jurgenson is arguing that the age of digital photography along with social media presents us with a world of photos that the academic world of photography has essentially ignored because they still use the 'art model' of photography to consider photos.  Snapshots don't matter in their eye.
"This is a perspective rooted in art history, one that deals with galleries, museums, and professional work and is tangential to all but a tiny fraction of images made today. The vast majority of photos perform functions distinct from those of documentation or art. The quick selfie reaction, the instantly posted snapshot of nice sunlight on your block, the photo of a burger sent to a friend: these kinds of images are of central importance to photography as it occurs today, but they are not as well conceptualized or understood. These everyday images taken to be shared are examples of what I am calling social photography. Other names include “snapshot photography,” “personal photography,” “domestic photography,” “vernacular photography,” “networked images,” “banal imaging,” or, as Fred Ritchin differentiates in Bending the Frame, an “image” as opposed to a photograph.  All these terms are meant to distinguish social images— the overwhelming bulk of photographs being made today— from those weightier images made with that traditional understanding of photography as something more informational, formally artistic, and professional."   Nathan Jurgenson. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (Kindle Locations 147-156). Verso. 

Her plaque identifies her as

Rachel Goldfarb
(Dokszyce/Poland 1930)
Nazi Armys occupied hometown/
moved to ghetto with the family
Jewish population numbered close to 3000/
Were not sent to concentration camps
but murdered by Nazis/
Less than a dozen survivors/
Only Rachel and her mother survived 
from extended family
1942 went into hiding with family
Brother discovered and killed
Survived with her mother with Russia underground
Liberated by Soviets/Experienced widespread and
overt antisemitism in Poland
Left for Italy
1947 migrated to United States
Lest We Forget - Washington 01-21-2018







These descriptions are just the briefest references to a period of their lives lived in  horror and only the present locations and dates of the photos and the visual images themselves hint at the lives since the end of the war.  Though they never escaped the horrors that stayed with them the rest of their lives.

My stepmother could be one of these portraits.  She, like Susan Cernyak Spatz, was born in 1922 in the Austro-Hungarian empire (in Bratislava) and also was sent to Theresianstadt.  She eventually lived her life out in Southern California.  In 2014 she could have posed for one of these photos, but she passed away in 2018.  So maybe these portraits resonate with me more.  Here she is in 2015 on her 93rd birthday.  She didn't have a professional photographer (not sure how he got those little spots in everyone's eyeballs), nor was she allowed to put on some make-up and jewelry.  Not sure she would approve of this photo here.  But it's one more face for the record.    Who knows, she may have known Susan Cernyak Spatz at Theresienstadt.

Luigi Toscano's exhibit seems to recognize that people's relationship with photography is different now.  From LEST WE FORGET statement in San Francisco (the LEST WE FORGET photo above.)
"Instead of exhibiting them in a museum or a gallery, Luigi Toscano always presents the large-scale portraits in public places, such as parks, public squares or on facades, so they are accessible to everyone.  In this way, LEST WE FORGET reaches thousands of people regardless of age, origin, language or education.  Small information panels, a picture book, and a documentary movie complete the installation."

SF City Hall in background.

Nathan Jurgenson wouldn't count these as 'Social Photos":
"My interest here is with a type of photography made ubiquitous by networked, digital sharing, though many of its characteristics can be found in different degrees in pre-social media photography, especially amateur snapshots (Polaroid sharing in particular). For my purposes here, what fundamentally makes a photo a social photo is the degree to which its existence as a stand-alone media object is subordinate."  Nathan Jurgenson. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (Kindle Locations 158-160). Verso. 
These aren't the instant photos taken on someone's phone and then immediately texted to someone as part of a conversation.  Clearly Luigi Toscano thought carefully about each portrait and how to package them and where to display them so that they would be seen and attended to by many people.  Looking at these giant face images in person, faces almost as large as the viewer, has a big impact.  The holocaust survivors are almost gone.  I suspect many, if not most in the installation, have pass away already.

 But there is no shortage of victims today, people being killed and maimed and terrorized by American made weapons as well as those made in Europe and Russia and Israel.  They are not that different from the Jews and other victims of Nazi Germany, just in the manner of their suffering.  But the Jews of Europe were easy to ignore while they were being slaughtered, just as the people of Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the refugees from terror in Africa and Central America are easy to ignore today.

As I get to the end here, I realize that this mashup of Luigi Toscano's photos and Nathan Jurgenson's book may be a little forced.  And I may post more on Jurgenson's book later.  But here's a bit more:

"Photography theory’s long marginalization of amateur snapshots has left a shortfall of reference points for making sense of social photos today. The dichotomies of “amateur vs. professional” and “digital vs. analog” matter less for the social photo than the relations between power, identity, and reality. The fixation on professional and artistic photos comes with conceptual baggage rooted in other fields, much of which should slide to the margins when discussing social photography. The center of conceptual gravity for describing how people communicate with images today."  Nathan Jurgenson. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media (Kindle Locations 167-171). Verso. 

Jurgenson's book website.

What Did They Think They Would Hear? - US Army Asks People How Serving Impacted Them

Soldiers are one of the groups that Americans (and many others) have positive prejudices about.  We've got myths about saving democracy, becoming a man (even now when women serve), and stopping terrorism, to name a few.

But it's mostly propaganda so that people will be willing to volunteer for something human beings should never have to endure.  As a kid I read enough about war - WWI, WWII - to know that it wasn't where I wanted to be.  The idea that I would be asked to shoot and kill young men whose company I would probably enjoy had we met under better circumstances, just didn't appeal to me.

The idea that an organization has to break people down (boot camp) in order to indoctrinate them to follow orders without question already raises suspicions.   I accept that there have been situations when going to war was the last resort for saving one's country, but most wars, including the 'good ones' are started to satisfy leaders' egos or their supporters' income.

So when I saw this Twitter feed today - The US Army asking "How did serving impact you?" - I was pleased to see there were a lot of people who think they way I do.  How isolated must the Army folks be that they assumed they would get positive responses - like the one the thread begins with?  (Note, that looks like someone who is getting ready to serve, not someone who has served.)

How has serving impacted you?
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019

Note: To see the hundreds of responses, click the > on the bottom right of the Tweet.  They're a powerful anti-war statement.  Wonder if anyone involved with putting up this Tweet will learn anything or change anything if they do.

As much as Twitter can thoroughly waste one's time, examples like this show its value in gathering information that would be hard to collect and disseminate so quickly and widely any other way.

Sorry, two Twitter based posts in two days.

*A thread is a series of posts

Friday, May 24, 2019

Comparing Congressional Tweets - AOC Shines

What is it that I like so much about AOC Tweets?
I think it's that she tweets the way I would if I were in Congress, and the way I blogged the Alaska Legislature back in 2010.  Showing us what new eyes notice about the place.  Not worried about 'what you're supposed to do or not do.'  Showing people what goes on behind the scenes that others either take for granted or think shouldn't be talked about.  She also does a great job of giving credit to others.

So here's a great one from today.  [If you click on the > at the bottom right of the Tweet, it will take you to the Twitter page of each of these Members of Congress.]

My senior US Senator Lisa Murkowski:

My Junior Senator Dan Sullivan:

And my member of congress, Don Young:

My assessment apparently isn't isolated.  Here's how many people follow each of the members of Congress on Twitter:

Ocasio-Cortez has 4.3M Followers
Murkowski has 260K Followers
Sullivan has 36.4K Followers
Young has 19K Followers

OK, AOC is part of the internet age, but it's more than that.  She's got

  • 16 times what Murkowski has
  • 118 times what Sullivan has
  • 226 times what Young has

in just four months in Congress.  Other people must also appreciate her insights into how things work and her candor.

Obviously, this is just one measure of a member of congress, so take these numbers and put them into your mental notebook to compare to other measures you're tracking.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"The left manages to get sombreros banned from college parties while every federal court in the country is assigned a far-right-wing activist judge.”

Excerpt from a David Frum review of Adam Gopnik's A Thousand Small Sanities:  The Moral Adventure of Liberalism
 “The basic American situation in which the right wing wants cultural victories and gets nothing but political ones; while the left wing wants political victories and gets only cultural ones. … The left manages to get sombreros banned from college parties while every federal court in the country is assigned a far-right-wing activist judge.”
I'm trying to think this through - what it means, first, and then whether it's accurate.   I haven't read the book so I'm not sure of the total context.  But this jumps out at me.

I think I'll just leave it at that today and let readers spend what time they would haven take to read a longer post just think about what that might mean, maybe share a comment, or go out and enjoy the beginnings of summer.

Monday, May 20, 2019

"Faith is the most peculiar thing." Thoughts On Finishing Niall Williams' History of the Rain,

The first part of this post is really for people who have read the book.  Not because it gives
anything away, but because it's my attempt to distill the themes of the book, without really offering examples that might be a little more interesting  to someone who hasn't lived through the history of Virgil Swain and Mary McCarroll.  (Well, in the end,  I couldn't do it without a couple of examples.)

History of the Rain by Niall Williams is about the rain, the river, and the sea - and the water that moves from one to the other to keep the cycle going.  It's about the salmon that live in the river and the sea and return.  It's about fathers.  Fathers and sons and fathers and daughters and how, to know oneself,  one needs to know who your fathers (and to a lesser extent) mothers and grandparents were.  This, of course, overlaps the theme of rain, river, and sea being all of the same water.   Your identity is like the water in the rain that goes into the rivers, that flow into the sea, and then returns back as rain.  The whole of part one, chapter 12:
"Your blood is a river." (p. 99)

Mothers aren't ignored in this novel, and Williams acknowledges their contribution to one's identity, but in Ruth Swain's (the narrator) family, the women do the practical work of keeping things together - getting money, getting food on the table, nurturing poets.   Whole chapters are devoted to the paternal great grandfather, grandfather, and particularly the father of the narrator.  The maternal antecedents get much less attention.   Chapter 13, on page 100, a third of the way into the book,  begins, for instance,
"The drizzling dawn of my father's fourteenth birthday.  Abraham appeared in the big droughty bedroom and shook his son awake."  (p. 100)
Propitiously, he takes him to the river to go salmon fishing.  But it's not until the beginning of Chapter 14, that we learn
"When my father told it, they caught a salmon that day.
I think it is an imagined one, but I didn't say so.
From the look on y face he could tell.  'O Ruthie, you don't believe anything,' he said and crumpled his face to a small boy's dismay.
I do, Dad.  I do.  I believe everything." (p. 103)
Yet the mother's side doesn't start until part 2 chapter 1.  While it goes further back, there's much less detail on the immediate antecedents than on the father's side.
"By the year 520 Tommy says there were 9,046 Partholonians in Ireland.  Then in one week in May a horde of midges came, brought a plague and wiped them all out.
Except for one.
Tuan MacCarrill survived by becoming a salmon.
Fact.  It's in the History of Ireland." (p. 159)
If you remember Ruth's mother's name from up top - Mary McCarroll - it makes a little more sense.  And this apparently is part of Irish myth/history.  If you didn't remember her name, you're like me.  I had to start the book over again after I finished to catch the early parts where people and places were referenced that I had no context for. But which the book eventually fills in.

The book is about community - specifically the town of Faha,  Clare County, Ireland.  It's about how the people care for each other like family - not always getting along, but being there when needed.  A thought occurred - I will have to pay careful attention to see if it's accurate - that most books are about the people who leave, who go away and strike out on their own in new places.  This book is about the people who stay behind in the waterlogged town along the river Shannon.

The modern world of capitalism is kept at bay in the cities.  We hear about the impacts of the Irish bank failures, but in Faha the father can be a poet with no income and be respected for that.

It's about stories.  Stories are to families what the water is to the river.   The meaning in people's lives come from the stories  of their parents and grandparents  - about truths, what people remember, not necessarily what actually was.  About poetry and novels, about books and their writers and readers.  The same pattern here among the books one has read and their affect on what one writes, as the rain and river and sea, and grandparents and parents and oneself.

It's about knowing  - science, stories, faith, religion, God, literature, nature.   It's about fate and one's ability to shape one's own life.

It draws no clear lines, there are no winners and losers.  Everyone shines at some point and suffers at others.

It slowly tells us about the minute details that cumulatively make up one's life.  It reminds me of Clifford Geertz' methodology of thick description, for anthropologists to use to find the meaning of life in a community they are studying.

And to make the journey easier, the writing is exquisite.  It's like dropping into another country (well, I guess I was) where it takes a while to get used to the rhythms and cadence of the language and the way things are phrased.  The rich down-to-earth details kept me connected.

For example he writes about Mrs. Quinty, the teacher who saw promise in Ruth's writing and comes visiting when Ruth is ill to comfort and encourage her.  Mrs. Quinty's husband was gone.  (Be sure to read to the last sentence of the quote.)
"If Mr. Quinty had Passed On it would have been better.  If he had Gone to His Reward, Mrs. Quinty would cope;  she suited widowhood, and had the wardrobe.  But as it was, despite Tommy Quinty being heavily pregnant with eighteen years of Victoria Sponge, Lemon Drizzle, Apple Upside Down, Rhubarb Custard Tart and Caramel Eclairs, a brazen long-legged hairdresser called Sylvia in Swansea, Wales, managed to overlook the Collected Cakes and see only the black curls of the same Tommy.
He stopped in for a Do, Nan says, and he's not Done yet." (pp. 9-10)
The sound of the stories and the language is from an older time, so when the reality of things like wi-fi flow by, it's a bit startling that this all takes place recently.

While this book is about a small rain soaked river town in Ireland, it's about every human community and it covers many themes of importance to everyone everywhere.  I started this post because of this quote about faith which I think we could all benefit from copying and passing out to people with faith in all varieties of beliefs.
"Faith is the most peculiar thing.  It's Number One in human mysteries.  Because how do you do it?  Where do you learn it?  For the Believers it doesn't matter how outlandish or unlikely the thing you believe in, if you believe it, there's no arguing.  Pythagoras's early life was spent as a cucumber.  And after that he lived as a sardine.  That's in Heraclitus.  That's what he believed*.  Besides the east bank of the River Cong in Mayo was a Monks' Fishing House and the monks laid a trap in the river so that when a salmon entered it a line was pulled and rang a little bell in the monks' kitchen and although there were strict laws forbidding any traps nobody ever stopped the monks because they knew the monks believed the salmon were Heaven-sent and even unbelievers don't want to tax Heaven.  Just in case.  That's in The Salmon in Ireland.  Birdie Clohessy believes her weight is all water.  Sean Conway believes the Germans are to blame for most things.  Packy Nolan that it was the red M&Ms gave him the cancer.  With faith there's no arguing." (pp. 191-192)
*The Pythagoras reference is partly backed up here, but as I read it all, Heraclitus seems to have made up the vegetable and the fish to make light of Pythagoras.  I wanted to give you a Dunning-Kruger reference, but this Irish Times article seemed more appropriate given the book's locale.  And a little more, here's from the American Psychological Association.

I also wanted to write here about the importance of fathers, but I'll save that for another post.  Enough for now.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Denali Day Two - More Bears, Some Ducks, Weather Change

We've been comparing how little snow there was this year compared to last year.  But now that I've checked last year's posts, it's clear.  Yes, last year was a heavy snow year and this year it was lighter and warmer.  But last year we were there May 3 and  May 4  and this year May 17 and 18.
You can go to the links to see the differences.

After Friday's magnificent day, Saturday gave us a contrast.  Clouds started coming in and by the time we were walking back up from the Teklanika bridge, the first drops began.  But even a rainy day in Denali is a treat.  So here are a few more pictures.

After a few caribou driving to Savage River (where the paved road ends) we (and many others) got to watch this bear fairly close to the road.

There were lots more caribou throughout the drive.  Saturday we were pretty much headed for Teklanika.  This is a campground 30 miles into the park with an overview and lots of bathrooms.  It's a stop for the tourist buses, which don't start running until tomorrow.  Well, that turns out to be not completely true.  There were tan guided tour buses that were running pretty frequently.  In any case, the Denali road is normally closed to private cars at Savage River.  But in the spring, as they clear the road of snow and repair any damage from winter, they open the road - up to Teklanika.  So it's a chance to drive in and stop where you want and watch animals, hike, bike, picnic.  Whatever.  Friday we'd hiked the short Savage River trail (one mile each way.)  It's a loose, but we only did the west side because there was a big glaciated spot that blocked the trail on the east side.  We met people who'd climbed around the ice, but we aren't that young any more.  

We did stop at a pullout about mile 25 and I rode the bike a couple of miles, until there were trees on both sides (and it's harder to spot nearby bears.  Though I don't think there's ever been a biker attacked on the road, but I'm not sure.  Very few people - under five I believe - have been killed by bears in Denali.

So after the bike ride we got to the first small pond before the Teklanika campground which had a Northern Shoveler floating around.  (I'm having trouble focusing my Canon Rebel on objects in the distance, so that's why this bird is so small.  If you enlarge it, you'll see how out of focus it is.  I need to work on this problem.  The manual is challenging and I haven't found good sites on this particular problem online yet.)

The next pond, just past the campground, had a bufflehead pair and a pintail duck.

The Teklanika overlook area was packed with cars - so much so people were parking on the road.  And lots of people had their bikes.  And on the hill not far from the bridge (about a mile away) there was a wildlife ranger (Jake) monitoring a bear sow with two cubs that was about 150 yards below the road.  Well, he said, that they try not to intervene with the wildlife, leaving them as free as possible.  Normal distance to be kept between people and bears is minimum of 300 yards, but since the bears were down below in the river bed and they'd been there for several hours, he wasn't concerned.  Though earlier there'd been about 40 people including barking dogs (they can be on the road on a leash) so he had to quiet down the people.

They were digging for roots he said.  The vast majority of their diet is vegetation in the park.

Here you can see the mom digging.

She had her head down and her claws in the earth most of the time.

Jake noted that the cubs were making noises.  Eventually they get hungrier than roots satisfy, and they wanted to nurse.  I wouldn't know that that is what they are doing in this picture if he hadn't told me.  She's lying down and they're on top of her.

As we headed back up the hill to the car, the first drops began to fall.  Here are some contrasts to yesterday's pictures.

Here's from the viewpoint where I took the pictures of Denali.   This was an idea I had 40 years ago after our first several trips to the park - a postcard of what Denali looks like to most tourists.

Here's yesterday's view from the same spot.  You can't even see the foothills.

It wasn't all just a grey mass, mostly we could see more.

And for a contrast with yesterday's ptarmigan picture, here's one whose feathers are still more in the winter than summer phase.

And here's yesterday's ptarmigan picture again.  Much more brown, less white.

Here's one from yesterday.  I didn't put it up because she was mooning me.  But so you can see the contrast I'll post it here.

We only saw one moose yesterday - while I was on the bike and didn't have my camera.  And it was so close to the road I didn't want to dawdle.  And we see moose often enough in Anchorage, even on our street and chewing on the trees in front of our house, that moose are not that big a deal.  In fact, Friday, the first animal we saw on the tip was a moose beside the Glenn Highway still in the Anchorage city limits.

Nevertheless, they're still magnificent animals, and seeing them in more natural settings like this is still a thrill.  And this rain-dulled picture is pretty much what it looked like up on the hill.  There were a couple other moose with it.

We're back home with lots to do

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Brief Post to Share The Wonder Of Denali National Park

It rained as we drove up here, but the sky was blue when we woke up this morning with just puffy white clouds.  Lots of animals, a good hike, a little biking on the park road.

From our hike at Savage River.

Denali peeking through the clouds.

Ptarmigan - Alaska's state bird, mostly switched from (white) winter coloring to summer garb.

North Face of Denali.

It's really true about how nature changes one's body rhythms.  I just feel more alive here.  Even on a rainy day, but particularly on a day like today.  This is a brief stop at the visitor center to share this, I've got a campfire and dinner to take care of now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

SF 2: Beaches, Flowers, A Bridge

Part of yesterday's wanderings included the old Sutro Baths where Geary meets the ocean.  This is actually a National Park Service National Recreation Area with an interesting history that I'll let interested parties check out here.

The walk down to the beach area was filled with blooming flowers, birds, and bees.

This seems to be a coastal bush lupine.  The pollinator appears to be a Bombus vosnesenskii or yellow-faced bumblebee.

Part of what remains of the bath, including the two egrets.  

And here's what it looks like in the ocean - which was at high tide when we were there.  

Then we wandered some more and got to a point west of the Golden Gate bridge near Baker's Beach.  

From the National Park Service, again:
"Battery Chamberlin holds the last 6-inch "disappearing gun" of its type on the west coast. Built near Baker Beach in 1904, Battery Chamberlin was constructed to accommodate the lighter, stronger, more powerful coastal defense artillery developed in the late nineteenth century."

The trail from the beach to the Golden Gate bridge had lots of stairs.

It was a short, but wonderful time with the grandkids, and in San Francisco.  But it's raining today, time to get back to better weather in Anchorage.  

A note on the state of affairs.  My son, at age four, did not have the word "homeless" in his vocabulary.  But his four year old son uses that word all the time.