Saving the Wine Country


                  “If Napa Valley can’t be saved, nothing can.”

We our born into this world. Our eyes see in our youth a mother and father in the foreground. Behind our parents nurturing is the land we find ourselves by the miracle of life to be chanced upon.

Here is some piece of knowing something because you are born into it. In all my years I have again and again visited the Napa Valley. And it is not a sudden shock I speak to. It is of something we piece together in blocks of time; our youth, our teens, when we were courting our first wife, or for a reunion of the men we spent high school with, or now when I visit Yountville where a nephew cooks at one of the valleys most exclusive Micheline rated restaurants.

I witness the collective doing. I see what where I am from has become, is becoming. My interest in good red wine is ordinary at best.  The few times I’ve tasted wine that can change me is not empty of value, but to be sure I’ve tasted poems that have clung to my pallet and hung meaning to my life in ways that have outlasted anything I have ever pleasured the taste of.

You see what is happening to the Napa Valley is not a phenomenon. It is happening across the globe. The testimonials of mankind’s impact upon the earth is relentless, it torture’s hope and dream.

Somewhere between my birth and now we have witnessed the end of frontier. There is not another valley over that mountain range to settle. No virgin forest to fall. No river left to dam.

Now there is this slow, odd sense that we have in this moment spread out across the earth and finally occupied her.

We are not wired up to be alarmed by alarm. Only some human beings take the warning signs as a matter to act upon.

Now drought has bitten into the last decade and the financial crisis ought to be factored into the circumstances as well. And until an almost near now the matter of drought and climate change has been more theory than a matter of present moment concern. That does suit us. We are all easily distracted by the fierce urgency of now to be too concerned by problems we identify as long term.

And so we are left to wonder aren’t we? Who will save us from ourselves? Where is our Lincoln of the times? Is there an Einstein that can explain it to us? Some Charlie Chaplin or Elvis? Who is it that could open our minds and change the course of human history? Now I want to be there for that speech. I want tickets to that concert. I want to leave more than a poster on a wall that celebrated a place that by our collective chaotic presence we render uninhabitable. 

The Kilted Salvation

Past as Prelude Mayan Ruins

Past as Prelude
Mayan Ruins


It Was Not A Surprise

The Scottish National Party swept this last week’s elections. They built majorities by convincing Labour Party voters to switch allegiances to the Scottish National Party.

I had followed last year’s vote in Scotland to decide whether they would secede from Great Britain. The initiative failed but the Scottish National Party continued to organize.

That vote plunged the Labour Party into their present crisis. Without the Scot’s Labour may never again be capable of building a majority coalition in Parliament. Never is a long time.

Scotland will press for another vote to secede. If there is any hope of keeping the whole of Great Britain together it will be because the Torres cease ramming through Parliament decidedly conservative policies and instead begin compromising with the progressives in Scotland.

The City of London is loath to let go of their dominion over all things economic. The Scot’s apparently are much too socialist. National Health Care, free universities, and public pensions are unaffordable. The City fears they may well be taxed more.

The tensions between the voracious financial sector and the spine stiffened progressives in Scotland are a wicked bit of business. It is but one of many skirmishes taking place across the globe.


When Will the Greed Stop

Here back in the United States a vote next week in Congress to give the President Trade Promotion Authority will be taken. Multinational corporations advocating for this bill are not complaining about the labor or environmental provisions and that tells you everything you need to know. A more progressive agreement would be met with a multinational megaphoned shriek of grief and moans. A broad coalition against this agreement is fighting back.

In fact the Trade Promotional Authority the President seeks may indeed increase the profits corporations earn from trade. But, think with me for a moment. “ — trade creates winners and losers. Econ 101 says that the winners outnumber the losers in dollar terms, but not necessarily in people terms — if the richest 1 percent of Americans gain $1 billion from a trade agreement and the other 99 percent lose $900 million, then Ricardo’s theory says the country benefited overall. That outcome is perfectly consistent with Econ 101.”

That is the neoliberal economic model’s Achilles heel. On the whole free trade has by design benefitted the wealthiest. We are bombarded with distortions and half-truths by the moneyed interests that have gained by these trade agreements. Too much corporate money is drowning out the national interests. The world cannot keep pumping further profits into the pockets of the few at the cost of shortchanging so many.

There is no such thing as a free market. Nature is not a free market. Markets are a construct of human design. Rules and regulations are put in place to manage them. The City of London and the Wizards of Wall Street would prefer that we allow their designs and formulas to take priority. They have not any greater wisdom or authority than any other individuals or interest groups. They’ve tilted the playing field in their favor for too long. We’ve the worst income inequality in the world, a worldwide financial crisis we continue to suffer from. There are a vast trove of problems neoliberalism has no answers for.

The most serious of these problems we describe as climate change. At its root is the possibility that we trigger an extinction event that ends in wiping us all off the face of this earth. The one elixir to all of this is hope. We must have hope. And if there is to be any hope of our having a better future it will come by our insisting that our political and economic systems offer reality based solutions to the problems we face. The neoliberal economic model of freer trade, lower taxes and less regulation needs to be modified so that we may get on with the great task of saving all of humanity from its own worst enemy. We have done much damage and saving ourselves from ourselves is the kind of complexity and paradox that is all too prone to being gamed.

This is the great work ahead. The courageous and brave people of Scotland may well be the spark ready to point the way. The fierce kilted bagpipers and army of determined brave souls marching on the problems of the world is indeed a hope to be reckoned with.

La Buena Vida Akumal, Mexico The Authors Office

La Buena Vida
Akumal, Mexico
The Authors Office


We Don’t Drink the Water, We Take the Water

The Lightness of Neoliberal Being

The Lightness of Neoliberal Being


It may well be a mistake to read The Sixth Extinction. I’m susceptible to dour outlooks. Rather prefer a cheery point of view. Once in my Haight-Ashbury days my cosmic optimism came psychedelically amplified.

Replacing countercultural adventurism for this four decade long experiment in neoliberal economics is morphing into a rolling planetary disaster.

Case in point is the Loon Star State of Texas going bat crap crazy. Detention centers in abandoned Walmart Stores? People in Texas if you are going to be deluded do it Texas style and go King Sized.

Last Tuesday’s election Alberta, Canada tosses out their 44 year old rightwing for some newfangled progressive adventure. No wonder Texas is frightened and I’m tickled ‘commi-pink’.

Then, last night David Cameron and the City of London have got Scotland so worked up by their rapacious behavior that they birthed a full-on secessionist impulse among people that were once known for manufacturing fuddy-duddy woolen products and barrel aged booze. Good going boys. The Torres (conservatives) may well rule in Britain, but it may turn out to be a vastly diminished kingdom that they are left to despoil.

California’s drought has got everyone’s attention. With 400 different water boards scattered chaotically across the state the overlapping contradictory allocations of water rights deeded and lawfully recorded has been done in such a byzantine convoluted manner that no one and nobody can make heads or tails of it all. And you got to remember this is over water that did not fall and has not fallen for four years now. It is turning water rights into a theoretical conundrum.

Big multinational conglomerates have descended upon Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties. Like lumber barons of the past they plant vines like Douglas Fir- cheek to jowl- while praying for rain and pumping groundwater at homo-ignoramus rates.

Not to be outdone by the states antiquated water board’s the various county supervisors have bent over backwards to embrace the overdevelopment of the wine growing region. You take a deeded absolute right to the water, toss in a multinational corporation, add a bought and paid for county supervisor and out of their mouths pops things like, “this is still a free country” and these businesses have an “absolute right” to the water deeded to them. For Christ’s sake we are talking about the ‘blessed sacrament’ itself. Christianity could learn a thing or two about capitalism and faith.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Big agriculture in Northern California is driving its inhabitants to the nuthouse. You’d think that water from the Russian River was meant for the people that live there. Where in the name of Wall Street did you ever get that idea from?  Huge flows of capital are rushing in sucking every last drop of water on a crop they are exporting to markets overseas. They take the water, ship the crop and pocket the money into an account in the Cayman Islands. This is God’s good work, capitalism at its very best. Tax breaks for everyone!

Who the hell has time to do anything about climate change? I was standing 40 feet above sea level in the heart of the Napa Valley in the hamlet of Rutherford a month back. Forty feet sounds pretty good don’t you think?

For the moment the San Francisco Bay extends north beyond Vallejo and spreads out upon a magnificent wetlands system that comes right up to the edge of Napa. Antarctica is now melting at a rate faster than ever measured. And you know where that water ends up? Oh come on… forty feet of sea level rise? That isn’t even possible is it? Not in our lifetimes.

And that my friend’s is the beauty of the neoliberal economic model. You don’t worry about tomorrow you keep your eye on today. That’s all there is to it. Sometimes we can be so oblivious to the economic benefits of free trade.



Those Sucking Sounds


The Puzzle Solved

I would be more comfortable with the trade negotiations now taking place if the titans of industry were bellyaching.

I don’t hear them complaining about the labor provisions.

I don’t hear them bitching about the environmental regulations they would have to obey.

I haven’t heard word one about currency manipulation.

What the hell is wrong with these miserable complainers? If they don’t like something they usually will moan and groan day and night right through the mouths of some of the best bellyaching lobbyists money can buy.

You see they’re just not miserable enough and that must mean in my book that they are skinning the cat just the way they like it while you and me are getting left with the fur and the fleas in the deal.

You see I am a free trader. I am also a fair trader. I like doing business with other countries. Trade negotiations by my reckoning are handled by the wrong people. They have by way of training focus upon particular aspects of trade. We call those focal points special interests.

Well, you see we have special interests too. I know a waitress with a cute fanny and she indeed has a whole legion of gentlemen who are especially interested in what they find so interesting about her fanny.

Believe me there are sincere trade negotiations taking place over access to her marketplace. And let’s just say I know her to be beautiful through and through and expect the final agreement to be of loving benefit to both interested parties.

That’s the miracle of a good trade deal right there. You want all interested parties to be pleased with what they get in the end.

I’m not a scholar, I read the same things you do, we all get to look at the same things, and those of us on the outside of this impending deal are being denied a good look see at the terms to this deal they’re cooking up.

If I had Wall Street bitterly complaining that labor was eating their lunch in this deal I would sit up and take notice and I’d start having some confidence that maybe, just maybe we are finally on the right path toward a fair deal.

No sir, things have the odor of a day old catfish left to rot in the sun. That’s what a no good deal can do to a nose sniffing around for sweeter terms. So come on stop pulling my leg. You trade negotiators stop pretending like this is going to be good for all of us.

It just ain’t so and if it was you’d be screaming to high heaven how the country simply cannot afford to consummate this deal.

The Revolution Waits While We Barbecue


         Call Me Sentimental… Call it Irresponsible

Looks like China is dumping the coal burners in favor of the natural gas burners. Spotted some natural gassers in Gila Bend yesterday. As mentioned THEY ALL looked so last century.

This is a two for one. China does a little greenhouse gas remediation and they stop choking their citizens to death on the particulates and toxins coal shoots into the air.

Meanwhile Japan has decided to ring their island with a tidal wave wall. Then, they can get back to using all the nuclear power they want.

California isn’t resting upon its laurels. Desalination water plants are going up along the coast from Carlsbad to San Francisco. We already have some of the world’s most expensive real estate and now we’ll have the world’s most expensive water to go with it.

Ski resorts are closing in California. For the season. One is left to wonder if this extended season might run a decade or two?

Scientists, those pesky people who go find facts and then report them. Put your hands in your ears my friends. You will not like their new facts unless you take a particular pleasure in pretending they are liars.

So, they are measuring a slowing of currents that run from the Southern Atlantic up to the Northern Atlantic. This slowing they say is not a good thing for earth or in particular the east coast of the United States.

The Federal Reserve asked HSBC, a lovely banking institution if ever there was one, to submit a living will, a plan in the event that they get into trouble detailing how they would liquidate and break themselves up into little purchasable pieces. Naturally they totally failed this rather minor exercise in preparation for a major mess.

Then, to make it even more exciting the clown car pulls up with some joker born in Canada deciding that he has got what it takes to take America back to the glory days. For the love of boat tailed Riviera’s. Please, please, please… I’m stealing James Brown now… but am I the only sentient being that is feeling that it just isn’t fair to have a pair of Texas Yahoo’s scaring the bejeezus out of us….

Southward now to Patagonia, Arizona. Tomorrow night a Vaudeville Show for that fine town. Tonight a barbecue at the historic Oak Bar Ranch… A relic built by big oil and left as the scene for a cookout for a wild band of variety show acts. There is a God. I know it.

Tucson Tumbleweeds


                  The Dangerous and the Uninformed…

What did I learn today? I learned that Gila Bend is about the same as ever. There is a new power generation facility nearby. Natural gas is my guess. Looked decidedly last century.

Rolled out of Cathedral City where the night was spent visiting the brains of the operation. My editor is enjoying the splendor of a blooming spring.

Ted Cruz pissed off my Governor Jerry Brown. I tweeted out an interesting piece on how to treat a politician that pretends that climate change science is still not settled.

Bottom line is that you can no longer report this as a mere position that the politician has taken.

The point of the matter is that in a fact based world we need to know that the individual has elected to run for office on a fact free basis.

Free they may be to say whatever they want but a journalist is not free to ignore overwhelming consensus. They have a duty to point out that the politician is taking a position contrary to the facts.

We can’t have an executive in the White House unshackled from reality. He has to have his head on his shoulders. He may not want to set policy to do anything about climate change, but he has to be honest with his constituents.

Then we can have the debate on the merits rather than on the confusion.

The press is much to blame for this muddle. Get with it kids. Jerry Brown’s making you all look lazy of frightened or both.

My Beautiful Life


What a week. Monday celebrated my wedding anniversary with my wife. She was in LA, I was in Emeryville, California when for all of perhaps 2 minutes and then this happened.

We are in Palos Verdes together today. Good for us. Planning on some whale watching from lookout nearby.

Trip south down the interstate between SF and LA the drought for the moment does not look so severe. But, unlike some of our problems that we CAN do something about if it doesn’t start raining and it turns out that we really do run out of water next year? We’ll find out who has dominion over this earth… man or mother nature.

Obamacare has spurred thousands of small startups! Jobs, jobs, jobs… of all the rotten talking points luck. Where are the jobs? Evidently they are in health care!

This morning I read that Iran thinks there is a deal to be had. This is good news as the options for no deal is a military confrontation. And a quick summary of our successes in military adventures? Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria… am I missing something? Hope springs eternal for some of our more stubborn armchair warriors.

If you are seated with me here in California you might have noticed that we had an summer like winter of a kind I’ve never experienced. Lovely but haunting.

The Prez moved on more EPA regulations this week. Good. I enjoyed a drone view of the Musk’s Gigafactory. Fortunately high up in Reno he won’t have to worry about coastal inundation from the melting Antarctica ice sheets.

This is what passes for life here. Climate change, drought, sea level rise, no place to store all that oil we’ve been drilling, nary a peep about the Keystone XL Pipeline, and they found the nuclear material in Fukushima wadded up in a ball at the bottom of the containment vessel…

I’m on my way via the Prius to Patagonia, Arizona for a Vaudeville Show and some birding along Sonoita Creek. All of these contradictions, all of this chaos, and joys and sorrows… I just kind of sense our priorities are all aligning.

A big shout out to the magical world for Monday’s rainbow. Now that is the mystery of hope…