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Dear Mr. Issa:

I am an Independent.

I met you and shook your hand in 1995 at a meeting of the Rotary Club in Fallbrook at the Grand Tradition Estate. Today you sent me this envelope containing a letter and this form:

In your form you ask for my advice. I needed more than the three lines your form gave me. Here it is:

I am not reprinting the letter you included, since it does not deserve the column space it would take up. All you seem to have left to talk about is the terrible socialists that are taking over our country and the healthcare costs that will kill America if the ACA stays. Well, it hasn’t killed America in the 10 years it’s been active, and I don’t think it’s going to start now.

And what is the picture of Senator Sanders doing on the envelope along with the picture of your opponent? What does Sanders have to do with the current election?

You have reduced yourself to scaring people about invisible demons, “socialism” that will destroy us all, and healthcare costs that will bankrupt us. Huh? Have you and the GOP forgotten that Trump has added $6 trillion to the debt? What happened to the fiscal conservative party that you and Paul Ryan represented years ago? Do you remember the years when you continued to whine in Congress about raising the debt ceiling, over and over again, under Obama? That does not seem to be a concern now.

You say:

I stand with you against a government takeover of healthcare, against Socialism, and with our President!

Seriously?

That is all you have? You think we are worried about socialism out here right now? You think that’s what’s keeping me up at night?

You say not one word about Covid in your letter. Not one word about 223,914 American dead since March 2020. Not one word about the flagrant corruption in the Trump Administration. Not one word about the nepotism and employment of dilettantes all through our government. You support a kleptocratic White House and a dismal failure of a president. You and the enablers in Congress turned our country into an oligarchy. You are a tech tycoon. Why are you not promoting solar and wind power, electric vehicles, and transition to emission-free energy? I believe you understand these issues are important, but I also believe you’re not being truthful to us.

Campa-Najjar may not be the perfect candidate to oppose you. But heck, pretty much any candidate would be better than you right now back in Washington. He is out-fundraising you because he has motivated thousands of independents like me to send him money to keep you out of Congress.

If I were back at the Grand Tradition standing with you at the Rotary Club meeting, I would look you in the eye (above my mask) and ask you:

Seriously, Mr. Issa, you support Donald Trump? Can you explain to me how that is possible? What happened?

Obviously, you do not have my vote.

 

Lindsey Graham is wondering where all of Jaime Harrison’s money is coming from. He thinks there are some dark forces afoot. Here is an article in HuffPost with more detail.

Where’s all this money coming from?” Graham asked in an interview Wednesday with The Hill. “Some of these shadowy figures out there running ads, is there any foreign influence afoot?”

Graham conceded last month that, in fact, he’s getting “killed” by Harrison’s fundraising because his foes “hate my guts.” He pleaded for contributions on Fox News.

— HuffPost

Well, I know where SOME of Harrison’s money is coming from. From me.

I live in California, and I have no contact of any type in South Carolina and I would not normally take an interest in their local elections. However, I have been sending multiple $50 contributions to Harrison over the last few months, the most recent just a few days ago.

Lindsey Graham has acted like a snake in the grass in the last four years. When Trump was just a candidate, he blasted him for what he was, a cheat, a dilettante, a fraud and a national security risk. There are videos of Graham to this effect. When Judge Garland was in line to be confirmed, Graham stated that in an election year, the current president should not be appointing a new justice.

Yet, he has been enabling Trump and pandering to him for political expediency. Graham could have acted like an individual with character, like McCain, or Romney, and stood for what was right and decent. In that case, he would have had my support. Instead, he has chosen the swamp. And now he is drowning in that swamp.

The message to Graham is: There is nothing dark about the money coming to Harrison. It’s voters all over the country, like myself, sending their $50 every month to make sure you’re not re-elected. It’s over.

I think I’ll send another $50 now just for good measure.

General McMahon (Brad Pitt) is a four-star general in the U.S. Army. He is a badass, he has the reputation of a tough soldier, his men admire him, and his country sends him to Afghanistan with a mission to …. do exactly what?

He is supposed to clean up the mess left after eight years of war and no strategic plan to win. But he can do it! There is no political will or support at any level to help him get the job done. His soldiers are tired and disillusioned. None of them believe in the mission they were sent to accomplish.

But yes, if they want him to liberate the country, he is going to liberate the shit out of the country, no matter what. So he forges ahead.

War Machine is a comedy, albeit a tragic one. It tells the story we have seen since 2001 on TV, night after night, starting with Bush, continuing with Obama, and on with Trump. We’re building a nation in Afghanistan, right!

I chuckled, I laughed, and I was sad and disheartened, because what I watched was satire.

Satire as real as life itself.

 

Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are two police detectives, both disgraced and sidelined. Terry has made some mistakes in the line of duty, and Allen would be better suited as an accountant rather than a cop, since he does not like to take any risks. Both are going to work every day to fill out paperwork for other cops.

When the two are assigned to a high-profile investigation of a sketchy rich guy, they must deal with their differences and inherently mismatched personalities to do the tough job of the cops they usually just idolize from a distance.

The Other Guys is a police comedy that came out in 2010. We watched it late one night to get our minds off the crappy national news. It’s the kind of unmemorable movie I would have completely forgotten about the next day, had I not taken a few notes right away so I could write this minimal review that says – just don’t bother.

Pandemic Desktop

I have been working from my home office now for over 7 months solid. I spend a lot of time at this desk, and I found that having some fresh flowers behind my laptop brightens up my mood.

On July 30th I posted about growing sunflowers from seeds. Here is that post. Now, the sunflower plants line our fence, some of them eight feet tall. Here are a few sunflower blossoms grown in our own yard, from those seeds.

It’s a bright spot in my day.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling and unemployed writer. His girlfriend Lindy (Abby Cornish) breaks up with him over lunch. She has just been promoted to editor and does not want to be with a loser anymore. At rock-bottom, Eddie runs into an old friend who gives him an experimental drug called NZT which is supposed to unleash 100% of one’s brain capabilities and capacity.

Eddie takes the pill, and immediately realizes that it gives him virtual superpowers. He remembers everything he has ever seen, read, experienced, watched and observed, and he can put together conclusions from those memories with lightening speed. His laser focus quickly results in unleashing a financial genius. When he draws the attention of business tycoon Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), their collaboration gets them on the way to make billions.

But the drug has side effects, there is only a limited supply of it, and he quickly finds out that he is not the only one that has it. His life gets complicated very fast.

Limitless is an action thriller of a different kind. It explores the capacity of the human brain and its possibilities – which do appear limitless.

I enjoyed watching this movie. It was entertaining. But – end the end – forgettable.

The President of the United States is the target of allegations of assault and rape by 19 different women. He was a close friend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Here are some leads about sexual abuse of children by prominent Republicans. Only the best in Trump’s circle. I honestly do not understand how, after all this open corruption and so much criminal activity by Trump’s inner circle, there are still millions of Americans who support him.

I do not understand.

(R) Ralph Shortey (Trump’s Oklahoma Campaign Chairman & OK State Senator)

Indicted on four counts of human trafficking and child pornography. Pled guilty to a federal charge of child sex trafficking after hiring a 17-year-old boy for sex. Sentenced to 15 years in prison, in addition to ten years of supervised release and ordered to pay $125,000 in restitution:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/ex-oklahoma-state-senator-gets-15-year-prison-sentence-for-child-sex-trafficking

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trump-s-oklahoma-campaign-chair-plead-guilt-child-sex-trafficking-n822461

https://apnews.com/article/c645e8d17a2f46a8aade113e0c93328a

https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdok/pr/former-oklahoma-state-senator-sentenced-fifteen-years-child-sex-trafficking


(R) Dennis Hastert (Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives & Illinois Congressman)

One of the highest-ranking U.S. politicians to go to prison — Hastert molested at least four boys as young as 14 years of age when he coached wrestling at an Illinois High School. Sentenced to 15 months in prison, two years’ supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. A civil case is due back in court for a status hearing on Jan. 8, 2021 at the courthouse to further address the jury trial, should it still occur amid the pandemic.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/dennis-hastert-sentenced-to-15-months-in-prison

https://apnews.com/article/f0aca550dabc4e4c9c642e91f832d6ed

https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ex-house-speaker-hastert-gets-15-months-idUSKCN0XO178

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/ex-u-s-house-speaker-dennis-hastert-starts-prison-term


(R) Joseph Dendy (Cobb County GA Republican Party Chairman & Sunday School Teacher)

Sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on four counts of child molestation, four counts of first-degree cruelty to children, three counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes, and one count each of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation

https://www.13wmaz.com/article/mb/news/former-cobb-gop-leader-gets-life-in-prison-for-child-sex-abuse/450073411

https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/former-gop-chairman-arrested-on-child-molestation-charges

https://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/cobb-gop-chairman-dendy-indicted-molestation-charges/Ajxs2SiORqMCCdVZpGqj1M/


(R) Tim Nolan (Co-chairman for Trump’s Kentucky Campaign & Former Campbell County Judge)

Served as a judge, school board member and city solicitor, forced 19 victims to perform sex acts, including seven who were minors under 16. Sentenced to 20 years in prison:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/ex-kentucky-judge-enters-plea-deal-in-human-trafficking-case

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/03/26/tim-nolan-judge-tim-nolan-conservative-activist-tim-nolan-human-trafficker/400004002/

https://www.wcpo.com/news/crime/ex-campbell-county-judge-sentenced-to-20-years-for-sex-crimes


(R) George Nader (Trump Foreign Policy Adviser)

Sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography and transporting a minor into the United States for sex:

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mueller-witness-george-nader-sentenced-child-porn-sex-trafficking-charges

https://www.courthousenews.com/child-sex-trafficker-from-trump-tower-meeting-gets-10-year-sentence/

https://www.nationalreview.com/news/mueller-probe-witness-pleads-guilty-to-child-sex-charges/


(R) Jim Knoblach (MN State Representative)

Knoblach’s daughter, Laura, alleges that the prominent legislator inappropriately touched her for most of her life, behavior she confided to close friends, family and authority figures at her school and church for more than a decade:

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/minnesota-state-lawmaker-ends-reelection-bid-amid-daughters-allegations-of-inappropriate-touching

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/09/22/minnesota-rep-jim-knoblach-ends-campaign-amid-allegations-daughter/1397071002/


(R) Brandon Hixon (Idaho State Representative)

Resigned while under criminal investigation for molesting two girls, including a young female relative for more than 10 years, then killed himself three months later, shortly before his ex-wife and two others were to testify before a grand jury:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/former-lawmaker-facing-sex-abuse-probe-was-coward-for-killing-himself-ex-wife-says

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brandon-hixon-former-idaho-lawmaker-facing-sex-abuse-inquiry-kills-himself/


(R) Paul Petersen (Maricopa, AZ County Assessor)

Pleaded guilty to human smuggling in adoption scheme.

https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/paul-petersen-pleads-guilty-to-human-smuggling-in-adoption-scheme

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/09/paul-petersen-arizona-official-indicted-adoption-fraud-scheme/3926733002/


(R) Mike Folmer (PA State Senator)

Pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.

https://www.inquirer.com/politics/pennsylvania/mike-folmer-pennsylvania-state-senate-child-pornography-sentencing-20200721.html

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/18/761894162/pennsylvania-state-senator-arrested-on-charges-of-possessing-child-porn

https://6abc.com/mike-folmer-republican-state-senator-child-porn/6328875/


(R) Tony Yocham (Hamilton, TX Chief of Police)

Arrested September 12, 2020 by Texas Rangers on charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

https://www.kwtx.com/2020/09/13/hamilton-police-chief-arrested-by-texas-rangers/

https://www.kxxv.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county-chief-of-police-arrested-for-continuous-abuse-of-a-child


 

Movie Review: Vault

It’s 1975 in Rhode Island. Small-time thugs Deuce (Theo Rossi) and Chucky (Clive Standen) are holding up pawn shops and jewelry stores, when they get the idea to rob two banks in the same day. But for that, they need help. They join forces with Gerry Ouimette (Don Johnson), also called “The Frenchman” in mob circles. Deuce and Chucky quickly get sucked into the New England mob underworld, where bosses run their empires out of prison cells.

Rather than robbing banks, Gerry has bigger plans, like stealing thirty million dollars directly from the mob by taking down a private vault hidden in a Providence fur storage business. This eventually turns out to be one of the largest heists in U.S. history.

Based on a true story, Vault is a view into the world of the mob in the 1970ies, and the life and times of the people getting sucked up by that world, including the women that somehow find it desirable to get involved with these guys. Vault is entertaining, at times comical and definitely thought-provoking.

After watching this movie, I was glad to go to bed in my middle-class house in my middle-class world.

Whew.

 

 

It is the time after the Los Angeles Riots in 1992. Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) is a young and idealistic teacher who leaves her safe hometown of Newport Beach to teach freshman and sophomore English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach. The school has just implemented a voluntary integration program, and gang violence in the community is terrorizing the school. The Latinos hate the blacks, the Cambodians hate the Latinos, every group hates every other group, and the white minority is drowned out. Every kids knows somebody who has been killed by gang violence. The students are un-teachable. None of them have any respect for Ms. Gruwell.

When she intercepts a racist drawing one day, she uses it to teach the kids about the Holocaust. Slowly, one student at a time, she wins them over. She asks them to write journals about their lives and experiences, and slowly she wins their trust. To finance materials and field trips, she takes on a second and third job. In the process, she loses her husband. Only her father sticks with her and supports her endeavor. One by one, she brings the students together and  they transcend their former boundaries and hate. The students become friends, and they revere Ms. G, as they endearingly call her.

Freedom Writers is not just a movie about a high school teacher, it’s about America locked in diversity and divide, trying to overcome the differences, and growing as a microcosm – a single class of kids – and as a nation.

Freedom Writers is an uplifting story that left me feeling enriched and inspired.

Arcosanti is an “experimental city” in the desert about 70 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. It is a spatial experiment and urban laboratory built by more than 8,000 participants, mostly volunteers and workshop members from all around the world over a 50 year period. The first buildings were erected in 1970.

Arcosanti is focused on innovative design, environmental accountability and experimental learning. It is home to a small but vibrant community of currently about 75 people, living and working in various mixed-use buildings and public spaces.

The project was started by the visionary architect Paolo Soleri (1919 – 2013) who was the leading force behind the project for most if his life, starting in the 1950s.

You can find out more about many of the details at arcosanti.org or, more factual, at the wikipedia page.

The first time I visited Arcosanti was in 1978, over 42 years ago. I went back a few times through 1984, but have not been back there since then. I have no pictures from those visits, only distant memories and impressions.

I remember thinking at the time that it was an interesting and admirable experiment in design and living, run but a group of hippies and idealists, but that it would never “get off the ground.” In the early years it didn’t change much.

So I was definitely interested in what I would find now in 2020.

We arrived at 9:00am on Friday morning, after a few miles off the I-17 freeway, driving down a dusty washboard dirt road through the desert. The parking lot was still empty. Our car was the only one there.

The path down to the visitor center was not too friendly, with decrepit benches and weeds that hadn’t been trimmed in years.

Here is the entrance to the visitor center.

Arcosanti makes a significant portion of its revenue from the sale of bells, both clay bells and copper bells. Prices range from $50 up to many hundreds of dollars for the larger and more elaborate ones. There are many to choose from in the gallery on the main entry floor.

We signed up for a guided tour of the entire facility, where  we saw the main buildings and learned about their use. Above is the “Apse” which is a half-dome that serves as the shop for where the clay bells are made.

Then there are the iconic arches, which is the feature that every visitor to Arcosanti will remember forever. These arches were there when I first visited, and they are still there now, and they look exactly the same, perhaps a bit more weathered and worn, but still carrying the “unfinished look” they had over 40 years ago.

Here is the amphitheater and some living quarters behind it.

Looking up, you can see the attachments for the canopy over the amphitheater that has never been completed.

More living quarters, and a greenhouse in the back.

Here is a view of the foundry, a domed building with offices and living quarters close by. The main central area is where the copper bells are poured in sand forms.

Our tour lasted about an hour and a half and ended in the cafeteria, a few levels below the gallery in the main visitor building.

Here

Here is a view out the cafeteria window to the south.


Another view. The cafeteria also serves as a display area for artists to show and sell their pottery, jewelry, garments and many other objects.

The community attracts about 40,000 visitors every year.

The existing structures at Arcosanti are meant to begin to provide for the complete needs of a community. They include: a five-story visitors’ center/cafe/gift shop; a bronze-casting apse; a ceramics apse; two large barrel vaults; a ring of apartment residences and quasi-public spaces around an outdoor amphitheater; a community swimming pool; an office complex, above which is an apartment that was originally Soleri’s suite. A two-bedroom “Sky Suite” occupies the highest point in the complex; it, as well as a set of rooms below the pool, is available for overnight guests. Most of the buildings have accessible roofs.

— Wikipedia

Of all the buildings there, the last one was completed in 1989. This means that for over 30 years, no new construction has been undertaken and the community has not grown.

Arcosanti looked unfinished and untenable in 1978, and it still looks exactly that way now. It’s an experiment that never quite got off the ground when the founder and visionary was driving it. Now that Soleri is no longer alive, I wonder if there is enough will and stamina to keep it growing.

When Arcosanti was home to a few dozen people in 1978, I thought it would be home to hundreds, or thousands, in the years to come, as their plans indicated. That has not happened as of now in 2020.

I wonder what will happen in the next 40 years? Of course, I will never know.

But I am sure there will be an Arcosanti, baking in the Arizona desert sun, for many decades to come, and visitors will take home the beautiful bells. Here is ours, gracing our patio at home:

If you have the chance to stop by, I recommend you do so.

Last weekend we went out to dinner at Vintana’s, one of the best restaurants in Escondido. It has a large outdoor patio, and in the fall sunset of Southern California, it does not get any better than that.

We also have a restaurant “passport” card, which gives us one entrée for free. With prices being in the $30 for $40 per dish, that is not an insignificant discount. After drinks, an appetizer, and two entrées, with the discount applied, the bill still came to about $80.

I want to support our restaurant community, I want to support our service staff who work hard under difficult conditions, so I boosted the normal tip of about 20% much higher, tipping like I would have done for the full-cost dinner, without the discount.

A day later I received the above email from my credit card company, asking whether I really meant to give a 37% tip at Vinana’s. My credit card company is looking out for me. If this had been a mistake, I would have been able to correct it. That was actually impressive to me. On the other hand, it made it clear that I am being watched, and that my activities, including my spending habits, are predictable and are being monitored.

I feel good, and I feel concerned, at the same time.

But the tip stands. Our server did an excellent job.

Here are the mugshots of 10 of the 13 would-be Michigan kidnappers.

People who are planning on kidnapping an American Governor and possibly executing her are called terrorists. Since we usually associate terrorism with foreigners, we have narrowed the term down to “domestic terrorists.”

Here are pictures of domestic terrorists. They are all white. I don’t know these 10 men, but I do know our media calls them “white supremacists.” I am actually curious about what goes on in the head of somebody who plans to kidnap and possibly execute a governor. I would like to have a conversation, maybe over a beer in the backyard. What would be their persuasive argument?

But this post is not about the would-be kidnappers. It’s about how our president responded to their story.

If these 10 people where Muslims, with dark beards and Arab head dress, our president would have responded with a further escalation of the ban of all Muslims in this country, and every Muslim American would have had to pay for it with abuse, discrimination, assault in public and pure fear for their safety.

If these 10 people were Hispanic, our president would have told us the Mexicans are murderers, rapists, criminals and needed to be deported, and – by the way – we need to build that wall. All Hispanics would have been further injured and damaged.

If these 10 people were Black, all black people would have been denigrated and the entire black-lives-matter movement would have been attacked as anarchist. The president would have blamed the black community for their crimes.

But these men are all white.

So the president attacked their victim, the Governor of Michigan. Apparently she had it coming.

 

Hillary Clinton, Donny Jr., Eric and me. The First Lady is a wonderful woman who has handled pressure incredibly well.

— Donald Trump

 

I have voted.

I have voted by mail for at least the last 20 years.

This year, it’s more controlled than ever. I signed up for tracking of my ballot, and I am getting texts every step of the way. I received a text when my ballot was mailed to me. I filled it out on Tuesday and dropped it into the mailbox down the street.

Today I got this text:

I am not sure it could get any better than that. California can do it. Why can’t all states do this?

We are registered by our driver’s licenses, passports, social security numbers, and all out banking methods. We have a registry of voters in every state, it’s called the “Registrar of Voters.” A simple ballot tracking system would make voting safe, speedy and efficient, and every vote can be counted.

But then again, the NRA does not want a national registry of gun ownership. I wonder why.

And it appears the GOP does not want safe, expeditious and effective ballot tracking. I wonder why.

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