Democrats compromise

This is what democrats do. They argue for what they believe in. Then they listen to the opponent’s argument.  Then they agree on middle ground.  That’s what makes democracy work.

A special kind of compromiseis badly needed.  I mean that Democrats should compromise among themselves.  The Democratic representatives in the U.S. House must forge a compromise among themselves that they can then represent to the whole country.

I’m a social democrat, meaning I’m in the left wing of the party.  I believe in Medicare for All.  I believe in the Green New Deal.  I believe that it is urgent that we impeach the loathsome sociopath impersonating a president.  But I believe in something else more.

I’m a majoritarian, meaning I want the Democratic Party to build a stable majority in this country that can govern for a generation.  You don’t do that by holding purity votes and holding out for exactly what you want.  You do that by forging compromises and achieving significant legislation that moves the country forward.

This is not the time to be trying to scrape off those moderate Democrats who won in Republican districts.  This is the time to listen to them.  They are important messengers from persuadable voters.  They are also messengers from the Democrats to those persuadable voters.

What good is it going to do to elect a Democratic president for one or two terms, if the Democrats are going to be driven out of office by a Republican wrecking crew that then devotes itself to undoing all the progress that was made?

Focus on the settlement zone.  Democrats should be focusing on the settlement zone, not the end zone.  The settlement zone is that area between two ends where compromise is possible.  It can usually lie in the middle 40 percent between the two ends.  If I say $100 billion, and you say zero, then the settlement zone is somewhere between $30 billion and $70 billion.  I’m going to make my argument for $100 billion, yes.  But I’m going to accept something in the settlement zone.

I hope Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not give up on passing a budget in the House.  This is a critical test of leadership, and it is a critical test of Democrats.  If Pelosi can’t get her own party to agree on a budget, then how is she a leader?  Does she know about the settlement zone?  If the Democrats can’t get a plan among themselves, how are they going to govern the country?

House Democrats must remember that they are America’s team now.  This is their chance to prove themselves.  They can win the confidence of the country if they rise to the challenge.  They can give our next president an effective force for change, if they rise to the challenge.

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Shutterbug makes a break…

I finally created a Shutterstock portfolio.  And I uploaded some pictures from my trip to Garner State Park.  Soon I’ll be rich.

I don’t know what took me so long.  I love taking pictures, and people like them.  It’s only natural that I should publish them.

I first started taking pictures seriously (seriously?) as a young newspaper editor.  I had a really good black-and-white camera and a tiny darkroom.  Yes, I did my own darkroom work.  I published those pictures in the newspaper.

The pictures went with words, of course.  But sometimes, the words can go with pictures.  You call those captions.

I’m a word man.  Usually, when I take pictures, they go with my words.  And I use my words to paint pictures.

Every year at the winter solstice I shoot the sunrise to go with a poem.  I send those out in a card to a few thousand friends and acquaintances.  (Ask me.)  And I take pictures to go with other poems.

I guess I’m a picture man, too.  Some people call me a photographer, but I feel more like a shutterbug.  Either way, I love the visual world.  I love color and form and motion.  I look at a scene, and I’m compelled to take pictures of all that. 

I went to Garner last fall when I was trying to figure out where I am in my life.  It was a moving trip.  You can read about that (and see some pictures) here.

A big part of where I am in my life now is getting my work out there.  So, hello, Shutterstock.  I have a lot of what they sell.  And they’re willing to market it for me.  (I’m going to read their terms of service real soon.)  Look me up.

Emergency meal for one

It’s good to have an emergency meal in stock. Like a lot of Austinites, I was slammed by the pollen in the air one weekend.  I had to eat, but there were no leftovers in the fridge.

I operate on a very narrow grocery window.  I try not to buy more groceries than I can eat in the next three days.  That saves me from throwing out a lot of stale food.

I could barely drag myself around the pad, let alone go out for groceries.  I contemplated the gloomy prospect of ordering food for delivery.  Then, I remembered my emergency meal.

I opened the cabinet, and there it was, a can of pinto beans and a can of diced tomatoes! I was saved.  This is a meal that you can cook, eat, and clean up after in less than an hour.

First, start heating the skillet.  A cast-iron skillet with congealed bacon grease from breakfast is perfect.  Put it on a medium burner.

Second, chop garlic, onion, and (red) bell pepper.  Scrape the ingredients into the hot grease one at a time, about a minute apart.

Third, pour in the can of beans.  A word about bean juice:  it’s precious!  Some people will tell you to drain your beans.  That’s crazy.  Pour it all in.

Fourth, heat it through.  Shake on the spices.  Salt frugally, but apply a nice dusting of cumin and chili powder over the entire surface. After a few minutes, stir it.  By now, the juice should be bubbling.

Fifth, now we’re ready for the tomatoes, but ask yourself how much more time you want to take with this.  If you have time, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for a little while.  If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and pour in the diced tomatoes and stir until the bubbling starts again.  Then serve.

This one pan meal is great by itself, but it goes really well with cornbread or rice. Squash or greens also make a nice side dish.

Garnish with a jalapeño.  And when I say a jalapeño, I mean a whole jalapeño, from a can, not nacho slices from a jar.  It is scandalous that there are several reputable grocery stores in Austin that do not sell whole jalapeños.  At least HEB remains true.

Okay, meal’s over.  You probably have enough left over for another day.  It’s a matter of minutes to wash the skillet with hot water and a stiff brush.

Spring day on Wolf Mountain

Sunday I spent some solitary time on Wolf Mountain. It was just a few days after the equinox, and I generally try to get a day of solitude around each turn of the seasons.  Wolf Mountain is a favorite place to go for spring.

It’s not really an impressive mountain.  It only rises about 200 feet from the lands below, and the trail makes a very gradual ascent.  It’s set in the karst topography of the Central Texas Hill Country, so it’s arid and rocky, mostly covered by oak and juniper, and cut by a few perennial creeks that make short sharp dashes down to the Pedernales River.

Wolf Mountain is the high point of Pedernales Falls State Park, about 40 miles west of Austin off U.S. Hwy 290.  You drive through Dripping Springs and Henly on the way. When I say it’s off 290, I mean turn north onto Ranch Road 3232 and drive seven miles to the entrance.  Then drive a couple more miles to the ranger station.

The trailhead for Wolf Mountain Trail is about a quarter mile from the ranger station, and it has it’s own little parking lot. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve parked there and hiked that trail.  Often I hiked it alone, but sometimes I hiked it with my father or my brother or both.

Wolf Mountain Trail is a loop of somewhere between six and eight miles, depending on which reference you’re reading.  It used to be just a foot trail, maybe an old cattle trail, until about 20 years ago, when someone got injured on the mountain. After that the parks department laid down an ambulance-wide gravel roadbed.

I love to hike the trail in the spring, not so much in the summer.  There is a fairly level stretch of maybe a mile, just past Regal Creek, that is swarming with horseflies in the summer.  They are mean, and they are tough.  Walk along that trail with sweat running down inside your shirt, and they will attack you.  The times I’ve hiked along there in the summer, I would hold a red bandanna by the corner, shake it out, and switch it across my back constantly, the way a horse switches his tail across his back.

If you slap one of those horseflies and he falls to the ground, step on him.  Otherwise he will shake himself off, buzz away, and then head right back at you.

Just after you cross Mescal Creek, on the shoulder of the mountain, the primitive campgrounds are laid along the bluff overlooking the creek and the river.  It’s beautiful in there.

My Daddy and I had a favorite campsite in there under a sort of vaulted ceiling formed by the tree canopy.  Just a few steps away a rock ledge overlooked the creek and gave a western exposure.  After supper we would sit out on that rock ledge, which we called the veranda, and watch the sun go down over the far ridge.

A steep scramble below the veranda, Mescal Creek forms a beautiful little blue pool.  In wet times, it’s deep enough to come up to your chin, and broad enough for a stroke or two.  It will keep a can of beer fairly cold.

I remember one winter night I was camping there by myself.  It was pretty cold after dark, but I didn’t want to crawl into the tent at 7 pm, so I bundled up and sat on the dirt against a big tree.  I hung my lantern on a twig above my head.  The lantern made a circle of light around me that stretched out about ten feet across the dirt.

Just outside the lantern light various critters, bugs mostly, came to take a look.  I noticed a good-sized scorpion, stinger curled up over his back, come right up to the edge of the light and just stay.  I don’t know if he was looking at me, but he was aimed right at me. He stayed still for a couple of hours. I was writing in my journal, but I don’t mind saying that scorpion affected my concentration.  I lost track of my thoughts a time or two, but I never lost track of where that scorpion was.  Eventually, he left.  I didn’t ask him where he was going.

Not far past the primitive campground, the trail forks, the left fork going around by the river bluff and Jones Springs, and the right fork going directly up the mountain.  The trail doesn’t go to the peak, but forms a circle around it, with the direct fork coming in on one side and the Jones Springs fork coming in on the opposite side.  The first time we hiked that loop, Daddy and I must have circled at least twice before we realized what we were doing and burst out laughing.  Now there’s a sign pointing to the parking lot, so that foolishness has been solved.

The loop there around the peak is where I went to cry after my father died.  Last Sunday I sat in the spot and ate a sandwich and wrote a few rough lines of poetry.  I still have more work to do on that.

The sky had been overcast when I started up the mountain, but when I arrived there on the upper loop, the blue was breaking through.  There’s a ridge to the west, but to the north, where the trail meanders down, the rough beauty of the Hill Country landscape rolls out toward the horizon.

Circe, a goddess in context

I read Circe, by Madeline Miller.  It’s good.  I also read Miller’s previous book, Song of Achilles.  It’s good, too.

I found both books browsing in Bookpeople.  I was studying the tables of new and popular books when I found them.  I had just finished rereading the Odyssey, so Song of Achillescaught my eye.  I picked it up, read the back cover copy, and put it back down.  Then, I saw Circe. Hmm.  I picked it up and read the back cover.  Okay.  I held onto it.  It took me several minutes to find Song of Achilles again, but I did.  I bought them both.

These are the only two novels Miller has written so far.  I don’t know if she is going to keep mining this vein of Greek mythology. I hope so.

Just to review, Greek mythology was created or at least told by the oral poets of ancient Greece beginning about 3,800 years ago, during the Bronze Age.  The Greek poet Homer wrote the Iliadabout the Trojan War, which was said to occur about 3200 years ago.  Achilles was a hero of the Iliad.  Homer wrote the Odyssey, about the heroic voyages of Odysseus after the war.  Circe was a goddess who played a role in the Odyssey.

My eye fell on the Odysseylate one night when I was perusing my bookshelves for something to read.  It was right next to the Iliad.  I don’t think I’ve read either one since my twenties.  I’ve kept them all these years, just for that night.

To be a good student, I should have picked up the Iliad first, since it comes first in the story.  But, I really didn’t want to read a war story.  I wanted to read the Odyssey,the story about a worthy man buffeted by the gods and the elements and weak companions, true to his journey, determined to reach his goal.  That’s sort of how I’m feeling, these days.

It’s a fantastic adventure story.  It begins at the end of the Trojan War, with the victorious Greeks making sail for home.  Odysseus has already been away from home for ten years fighting that war.  Because he has angered certain of the gods, he is doomed to wander for another ten years on the wine-dark sea, buffeted by tempests and emboldened by rosy-fingered dawns.  He encounters incredible monsters, seductive temptresses, mortal dangers, and sumptuous banquets.

Circe is a goddess and a sorceress, living on an island in the wine-dark sea.  Odysseus lands his craft on the shore and sends his crewmembers to scout the land.  They offend Circe, who turns them all into pigs and corrals them.  Soon after Odysseus comes to her house.  He beguiles her, and she resolves to keep him as the object of her love.  She keeps him for a year, and at last sets him free to resume his voyages.

Just as Circe is only one episode in the story of Odysseus, Odysseus is only one episode in the story of Circe.  She was a shy child who adored her father, Helios.  She grew up knowing the rivalry between the Titans, her kin, and the Olympians, who arose to dominate the Titans.   She loved a mortal and was betrayed.  She learned the magic in herbs, and learned the spells cast by words of power.   For disobedience, her father exiled her to solitude on an island.

Her solitude was often interrupted by Hermes the messenger, and by voyagers who found their way to her shore.  It was an assault by sailors that prompted her to begin casting the spell to turn them to pigs.  So the centuries passed.

Then Odysseus came, and she held him, and she let him go.  Then she found love.  She freed herself from exile and began life anew.

These ancient texts carry fundamental meanings, or so we believe.  For comparison, the Mahabharata, containing the Bhagavad Gita, is about 2800 years old.  The Torah, comprising the earliest books of the Bible, is about 2600 years old.

In Circe, Miller does a good job of relating this ancient text to the present day.  Her prose is excellent, and her storytelling is rich and believable.  We believe in Circe from the first sentence to the last. What is her story?  She grows up as a meek girl among powerful beings, yet she contains an inner strength.  Those around her disrespect her, and for her inner strength she is exiled.  In exile, she grows into her own power, and finally, she finds what life means to her.  She finds real happiness.

 

 

 

 

File rollover report

You’re probably wondering how things are going with the file rollover.  Well, pretty good, I’d say.  The file box is stashed back in the storage closet.  Fresh new hanging folders are ready for this year’s files. And my writing table is clear again. There is still a small basket of hard-to-classify papers awaiting future action.  But, all in all, I’d say the paper file rollover is a success.

As expected, going through the files brought back memories.  Some made me smile, and some made me melancholy.

I haven’t started yet on the digital file rollover.  You wouldn’t think so, but for some reason, that’s always harder.  I’ll let you know.

Intelligence man

What was Andrew McCabe thinking?  He went on CBS “60 Minutes” and said that when he was acting FBI director he discussed with the deputy attorney general the option of removing Trump from office.  Did he think there wouldn’t be consequences?

He did know it’s not a felony to say ‘no comment’ to a newscaster, didn’t he?  Does he think just because he’s been fired nothing matters any more?  He says he wanted to protect the Mueller investigation.  I have a really hard time understanding how his interview did that.

I understand why he wondered if Trump should be removed from office.  Many people do.  But when you’re a high government official, that’s something you reveal when the danger is over, not when the suspect is still holding the detonator.