Paid Well Enough to Not See it Coming…

For 25 years, I have written about the social and natural evolution of Napa, a diverse county that includes rare and valuable biological “hotspots” and 140,000 people, most of whom are associated with what’s now referred to as the wine “industry.” During that time, I have learned something about developers.

Foremost is the fact that inside all of them is a 6-year-old kid dying to get out and dig a really deep hole. When they finally do get to do so, they fill the hole up with something that wasn’t there before and then repeat the experience with minor variations ad infinitum.

More disturbing, with far-reaching ramifications for all Americans, is the other fact: developers deeply, irrationally, and often vindictively resent anyone who objects to their plans, for whatever reason. This includes neighbors, citizens, scientists, clergy, and elected officials. But none receive more opprobrium than “environmentalists.”

James Conaway, Opinion Piece in Napa Register Guard May 26, 2017

http://napavalleyregister.com/wine/land-use-wine-and-trump/article_e093b513-692f-5da9-ae76-d908161b6e5f.html

 

Beyond the Present

Napa County’s 140,000 citizen’s can’t halt the torrential rain of developers arriving here with plans to build. If you are keeping score at home the developers remain unbeaten. Among the wealthiest among us a trophy property in this famed wine region is an essential element to any property portfolio. Government is controlled by Big Ag. You may want to be on the Board of Supervisor’s only if the wine industry deems your vote as sympathetic to the cause and your spine sufficiently pliant.

The velocity of the pillaging has only increased with land prices. Ordinary folk are squeezed out. The wealthiest among us grouse about not being able to land helicopters at “our” vineyards. They are crestfallen to learn their original 20,000 square foot chateau’s are going to be needlessly scaled back.

All this desecration is taking place before a numb and distracted public. Big money drowns the popular will. Getting in the way of the juggernaut risks personal ruin.  Fish extinction events are in the history books now. Childhood cancer rates are the worst in the state and remain under study while astute players continue to spray pesticides and resist regulation. Water tables are fragile and any slowdown in pumping of groundwater is deemed unnecessary. With the valley built out what remains is now under threat.

That’s the score. This is the truth beneath the veneer. The barons of big business can’t help themselves and the ordinary citizens are so far unable to organize and stop them. The denial is soon to come to a bitter ecosystem induced end that nobody paid well enough to look the other way ever saw coming.

How’s That Change Thing Working Now?

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SMOKING HOT BLAME YOU CAN BELIEVE IN

Signed up for the National Park Service going rogue Facebook page this morning. I owe much of my souls most healed aspects to the unfettered, unfiltered quiet time the parks have gifted to my life.

To imagine what we need to do is liquidate these national treasures is to fail to take up our responsibility to leave future generations a glimpse of the paradise we are all born into.

It seems bizarre to me to stand up and shout out in anger that we are going to sell these assets off, exploit their natural resources and squander these last untrammeled parts of our nation.

I can tell you without looking at specific polls that nobody wants the parks sold off, defunded or opened up to mining and logging. There is no majority advocating to take healthcare away from citizens. There is no clamoring among the restless masses for corporate tax cuts. We don’t want to start a war with China. We want social security and Medicare to be there for all Americans. Vast swaths of the population want the EPA to keep our water pure and air clean. There is nowhere in this country citizens urging Congress to repeal Dodd-Frank.

But,  if you vote for people and ignore what they say, what they stand for? Because you don’t believe they would ever do what they say they are going to do? That’s just off the rails. We’re in the midst of a climate crisis. We have work to do. Instead a feeble, disorganized, incompetent group of mostly Caucasian’s with money, have gone to Washington to discover they haven’t a clue how to run anything as complex and as vital as the government of the United States of America. They are in total chaos. Spare our National Parks the trouble.

 

Into the Wilderness

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BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

Our negotiators didn’t put their thumb down on the scale of who would benefit most from trade agreements they pressed their middle finger down. The damage has exasperated citizens  while further enriching the very wealthiest among us. Nice work if you can get it, and party hardy until the social upheaval hits the ceiling fan installed somewhere over Kansas.

If we had set policy so that our workers, our moderate income earners, our middle class benefited most… more than Wall Street, more than the Big Banks, more than the transnational corporations, we would not be in the fix we are in.

Two specific broken policies. Our negotiators broke their promise to invest in worker retraining programs. Higher education instead of going down in cost went up. Instead of scholarships and grants for displaced workers those funds were cut from the Federal budgets.

The second broken promise? Workers and communities harmed by new trade agreements were promised funding to help rebuild the impacted communities and to assist workers who needed relocate to new communities where new jobs were being created.

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Not a day goes by… Not a single day…

The heavyweight big money boys continue to pulverize to smithereens all the lightweight small change best idea girlie girls. Instead of setting enlightened policy for the workers we have installed a vulgar liar that results in evermore chaos, solving nothing, while looting, pillaging and profiting from the spoils of their partisan victory.

Practical solutions are not fueled by this much anger. They just aren’t. We have turned over the keys to the car to a vast trove of men temperamentally unfit for high office. Our problems are only going to become the best problems we have ever had. They’re going to be huge problems, the best, biggest, hugest problems many of us have ever seen. And they’re going to make us pay for their problems. Not Mexico, not some global elite. We are going to pay.

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“Why not be the best version of our self right now, starting today? I see you. I see the best version of you, something better keeps reaching out, something inside you keeps trying to touch something inside of me. That’s what I want. I want what we have.”

Women of the Oak Savannah’s 

Working Peeps Pissed

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Now that we got this populism thing in the groove… Brexit, Trumpistan, and now on  Sunday those wacky Italians joined in and have gone full Fellini. Grab your parachutes peeps.

It turns out that all those trade deals we’ve been making since like say 1992 when a Democrat with the help of a majority of the Republican Party rammed NAFTA thru has turned around and bit the globalized world right in the good old shipping containers ass.

Back of the envelope calculation is that NAFTA was worth a trillion bucks. That worker retraining and relocation fund? Ready? They generously set aside 100 million dollars. A thousand billion is a trillion and for the innumerate among you that 100 million dedicated to helping offset the loss of jobs is in fact the living breathing definition of “virtually nothing.” Yeah, that will keep those peons down.

Those swells from Wall Street could not help sticking it to labor. The conservative political groups across the free trading world have backed out funds soon after new trade deals have been passed. These governmental programs cost far too much. You must have taken us serious. How silly of you.

I have griped long and loud about doing more to make our trading system fairer.I’m a creative, performer and author, and you know conservatives want to zero out the National Endowment for the Arts. Good for them. I want to zero there ass out too.

The D’s got to grow a pair. They need to take their rhetorical baseball bats to hearings on Capital Hill and they need to swing for the fences in defense of the common man. You know good jobs with good benefits. I don’t care where my health care comes from. Just get it to me and keep the costs down.

We haven’t got time to be dicking around with all this. We are in a global climate emergency. Come on. Get real because evidently all those dudes from Goldman Sachs that Trump’s just appointed? We be in big trouble because those dudes are coming for us… and they know we be fools. We be voting against our own best interest like the good docile folk we are.

To put it in terms that transcends petty national politics? The world’s economic system remains deeply flawed and dangerous. We’ve been aware of this, but money translates to political power and the best of our human angels are unable to acquire the positions necessary within the system to turn this ship around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crushing Fame Games

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Scene from 2015 Valley Fire

Lake County, California

Plenty busy now and well along on my fourth novel. In this scene I am dealing with how money in politics is influencing the winegrowing region of Napa County.  The billionaires in the region have an outsized influence over the valley. Preserving this wine growing wonder of the world is in harms way. Too much money and too few citizens appreciate the pressure California’s smallest county is under.

“Alex Dominguez is the dude. County Board of Supervisor. I read on the website that he describes himself as a moderate, friendly to business Democrat.” Tyler starts filling out the check. “One man’s business friendly Democrat could look an awful lot like a bend over backwards do anything you want Republican. Alex needs to understand that the business friendly Democrats up here in Soda Canyon have a different point of view than those business friendly Democrats down on the valley floor.”

“I’m not here to talk policy, make any promises. That’s what Alex does. He makes the promises.”

“A broken campaign promise will get my dads Texas temper in a tantrum. He is the epitome of what you call a business friendly valley floor Democrat.”

“You can give to the campaign if you and your group want. But, Alex can’t make any specific promises.”

“My daddy, the valley dude, he told me while he was still bouncing me off his knee if you want good representation you have to be wiling to help get that person into office, that’s how politics in this country is practiced.”  He tore the check out of the register. “We got a beekeeper up here worried about maintaining the wild forage her honeybees depend on. Got a family with relatives from Flint, Michigan concerned about vineyards contaminating our watershed. We’re worried about climate change, spike in childhood cancer rates.” Tyler handed over the check. “We are concerned about the having some big shot, private equity operators coming up here on the east side and smooth talking the supervisors into cutting down what’s left of our wild oak woodlands.”

“This is for twenty thousand dollars.” The man said.

Tyler, Ronnie and Jessica laughed, “There’s a lot of money in honey.”

“There are lots of folks who don’t want anymore trees cut down.” Jessica said.

Tyler started walking the staff member off his property. Put his arm around his shoulders to confide privately, “I’d like to hear Alex take a position on what he’s going to do before the election. Otherwise we might have to do the same thing he trying to do and play both sides of the isle.”

“I’ll let Alex know.”

“I finally feel like we are communicating.”

Lonely at the Top, Stupid at the Bottom

Garmin
Knowing Where You Are, Setting a New Course

The main ultimate highest priority of one of our two political parties is tax cuts. Even though if you take the time to go read the polls you will discover that a vast swath of the people of the United States are concerned with a great many other priorities.

Grover Norquist’s Club for Growth has had a hammerlock on the policy apparatus of the R’s for decades. Go read anything by Robert Reich and what you end up reading are story after story of upward distribution of income to the top. Get it? Poorer Americans are working to make wealthy Americans ever more wealthy. Nice work if you can get it.

Abortion, race, immigration, education, privatization, deregulation, contract work, financialization, oil subsidies, air pollution and on and on… they are all proxy fights held on the front pages of our news sites so that the implementation of more tax cuts and the maintenance of the existing tax cuts may continue.

This has all gone haywire this year. What is so rotten of all is that business R’s have allowed so much damage in the pursuit of this one plank.

Grover Norquist’s fetish has brought the R’s to the eve of their destruction. There is a lot to be upset about, and a terrible tearing to the social fabric of our country. We need to get off this one trick pony. Heritage Foundation, Cato, Club for Growth and all the various interlocking organizations that have been ramming the tax cut thing need to be called out for the failures they are. They are the creators of the Trumpestein mess we find ourselves in. The magnitude of the failure we are witnessing approaches epic until you listen to the petty quarreling. This is so beneath us, so small, so terribly scrawny. We can do much much better.

Finding Patagonia’s Better Nature

Patagonia 6

You Can Get Anything You Want

I arrived in Patagonia, Arizona for the very first time in 1993. The bitty place along the southern border met spring that year with a spectacular bloom. The tallest cottonwoods in North America make their home along Sonoita Creek. That they are that much larger, in a town that is just that much smaller, exaggerates the terms of being smitten with this treasured place.

By all accounts what work a hearty new arrival might find Patagonia is less than none. Santa Cruz County has been drying up for decades. Patagonia for all its rural majesty requires that you come prepared to bet on yourself. I’d met a biologist that had wagered his life. He was sent by the Smithsonian to study the rarest and tiniest of birds… the elf owl. He had found a grand total 37 individuals scattered over thousands of square miles both near and far along the southern Sonoran Desert. Elf owl hunting is convenient to nothing. It came up in our whittled  conversation that once his research was completed he’d likely remain here instead of moving on. That’s how the town grows.

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Former Residents Doing Eternity

No two people are alike. Patagonia tends to attract the oddest lot. The binding that glues souls together here is quirkiness. One thing everyone should understand is that big bugs become a part of your daily awareness. Then there are the venomous creatures you’ll share Patagonia with. Then, there are the many different types of hummingbirds that make their home here. You’ve got drug smugglers and Border Patrol Agents playing cat and mouse. All this in a town you can walk end to end in less than ten minutes if it’s not too hot and your not too addled by drink.

There is nothing really you can do in Patagonia. Not on your own. If you stick it out your life fills up with time spent sharing mutual circumstances with neighbors. You’ll borrow sugar, have a cup of coffee, barbecue steak on mesquite wood and knock tequila down then chase it with as ordinary a can of beer as the least amount of money will buy.

Patagonia 2

Last Century Fixer-Upper Just Came on the Market

Weather is a good topic to talk to death. Maybe a friend has four wheeled off the mountain, where they homestead, to come argue at the Wagon Wheel over the political Armageddon the legislature is the fault of in Phoenix. The dang urban refugees that have made home here have brought their permissive and decidedly progressive ideas with them. Patagonia’s problems do not require ideology. You can toss that there narrow mindedness into the septic tank.

A random cross section of humanity has been littered throughout the town. The spiritually awakened are cheek to jowl with the atheists. What remains of the ranchers holding on here bellies right up with the radical environmental activists. Everyone aims to improve Patagonia so long as it does not involve pavement. There is little use for improvement. Dirt and dust are preferred. If that seems a bit contrary that’s the whole point of the thing. You will find that a dirt road self selects a new arrival. If they can see the beauty in dirt that is a sure sign that they will be best suited to fitting in here.

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Four wheel driving nowhere to spend time doing nothing

 About now, in spring, is glory in Patagonia, Arizona. It’s the time to come. As soon as you are ready. Many of the migratory birds are moving through. The mesquite is blooming and Sonoita Creek is running. Get off the pavement, park that rig, take a hike. Think about things. Be available for nothing. If you are lucky enough you might just find the biggest prize of all, the chance to be in intimate rural contact with yourself.

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San Rafael Valley Southeast of Patagonia with the Huachuca’s Yonder…