Archive for January, 2018

They Policed Paradise and Put Up An AeroStat

January 17th, 2018 No comments

Radar blimps, helicopters, drones, cameras, & patrols – Trump’s Wall’s Been Built

Visual Vandalism


They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot. ~~~ Big Yellow Taxi” (Joni Mitchell, 1970)

Sorry folks, but Trump’s so called “Border Wall” has been built already.

Paraphrasing Joni Mitchell, they didn’t pave paradise – they just built a police state to patrol it.

I’ve driven and hiked the US – Mexican Border from Texas through southern Arizona and have been appalled by the pervasive border patrols, the roadside checkpoints – even radar blimps, cameras, helicopters, planes, drones – creating an overwhelming police state presence.

This morning was the last straw. True story, you can’t make this stuff up. Bear with me:

Last night, it dipped into the 20’s – a cold night provides incentives to get up and out early. But at 7 am it’s still dark, so I worry about conflicts between the dog and coyotes and other predators, so wait until sunrise.

As the sun rises, we set out on the usual morning hike – from 2-4 miles -and are thrilled with the canyon grasslands and forest landscape:


We get back and make coffee. As I’m sitting enjoying a hot cup of coffee, basking in the warm sun on my face, I think of the word “mindfulness”.

At exactly that moment, a harsh noise breaks the silence: a police radio. Moments later, a border patrol SUV rolls up.

Fuck that shit. The bastard must have been watching me from the woods.

He’s the 10th border patrol SUV that’s rolled by my remote location in the last 2 days.

I wasn’t there an hour, before I was confronted by and questioned by a border patrol agent.

But it’s not just constant border patrol SUV’s rolling across the landscape.

Take a look at how an “aerostat” blimp poisons the landscape:

aerostat hovers over the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista Arizona, north of the border

aerostat hovers over the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista Arizona, north of the border

DHS radar and cameras in Coronado National Forest, visible from and just west of Coronado National Memorial

DHS radar and cameras in Coronado National Forest, visible from and just west of Coronado National Memorial

DHS rada/camera tower despoils Montezema's Pass at Coronado National Memorial. How do they get away with this?

DHS radar/camera tower despoils Montezema’s Pass. How do they get away with this vandalism?

A National Park Service display at Coronado Memorial highlights the fact that existing low tech fences seriously impede wildlife migration. And this high tech police state surveillance wall is not limited to the US Mexico border

I saw a border patrol agent on horseback last July in the Pasayten Wilderness area just south of the Canadian border in the northern Cascades in Washington State. What is border patrol doing in this landscape?:

Pasayten Wilderness, view from Hart's Pass, Northern Cascades, Washington State

Pasayten Wilderness, view from Hart’s Pass, Northern Cascades, Washington State

Ironically,in a rebuke to today’s DHS police state, today I hiked in the spectacular Coronado National Memorial,

US - Mexican Border runs through it - Looking west from Montezuma Pass, in Coronado Point in Coronado National Memorial (Az)

US – Mexican Border runs through it – Looking west from Montezuma Pass, in Coronado Point in Coronado National Memorial (Az)

The Memorial was established to:

commemorate Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition and the cultural influences of Spanish colonial exploration in the America’s in the 1500’s.

It was a journey of conquest filled with exploration, wonder – and cruelty. Inspired by tales of vast cities of gold, 339 European soldiers and over 1000 Aztec allies embarked on an epic journey through arid deserts and rugged mountains. They encountered rich traditions and brought new technologies. The resulting collision and combination of cultures reverberates today. Read More

Sierra Madre mountains, Mexico, on let. US Pantagonia mountains straight ahead. No wall necessary.

Sierra Madre mountains, Mexico, on left – “we don’t need no stinkin” badges!”. US Pantagonia mountains straight ahead. No Trump wall necessary.

Yet the massive border patrol police state in some locations is belied by a total surrender of the border in other locations.

On New Year’s eve, I camped on the Rio Grande river on the border in Lajitas Texas, just north west of Big Bend National Park. Look:


As I sat there, on the Mexican side, a pickup truck rolled up and a Mexican family of about 10 folks jumped out and began a party – loud folk music and lots of laughter.

Moments later, on the US side, a car rolled up and a man and two women got out, luggage in tow.

Simultaneously, the Mexican family carried a small row boat from the back of their pick up truck, rowed across the river, and took the 3 folks across the border in two trips.

Border patrol was nowhere in sight – I guess the resorts at Lajitas need maids, cooks and maintenance men.

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Desert Dog Days

January 12th, 2018 No comments

Scenes from our current location, Coronado National Forest, southern Arizona:





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This Glorious Quest

January 9th, 2018 No comments
The Citadel - location of Steve Bannon speech

The Citadel – location of Steve Bannon speech on 11/10/17

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest. ~~~ To Dream The Impossible Dream (1965)

We’re now in the gorgeous southern Arizona desert and I haven’t posted since Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d try to give a brief update and in the next post summarize the southern portion of the trip.

The silence and vast expanse of the desert can prompt the mind to recall and reflect on some strange places, thus the title of this post, which is not irony or snark.

Out of nowhere, in the silence of one cold night, I somehow became focused on fond childhood memories – highlights of my grade school experience, most especially two peak moments:

1) sitting next to and holding Cathy Rosenthal’s hand on a 4th grade class trip to the Broadway musical Finian’s Rainbow (1967) (I apparently mistakenly recalled it as “Finnegan’s Rainbow”, but Wikipedia tells me otherwise!).

Cathy was my first “girlfriend” and I haven’t done better since! She was awesome – smart, pretty, athletic, sweet, and very competitive. I used to skip out of school (on Wednesday afternoons, the early release day for religious ed) to walk her to the bus stop when she went to a ballet class. I gave her a silver ID bracelet (and never got it back after we “broke up” a few years later at a summer party at Lisa Cohen’s house.) Last I can recall, she seemed to disappear in 9th grade. Wonder what became of her?

2) another class trip (5th grade) to the Broadway production of “Man of La Mancha” (1968) – thus the opening quote, which had a huge impact on my life.

I was born three months before Sputnik – which shaped my education and love of science and math – and my Mom was a huge fan of JFK and the idealism and public service spirit of the “Camelot” mythology.

[Note: for a deeply disturbing, well researched, documented, and written – and all too plausible – take on the JFK legacy, read “JFK and The Unspeakable – Why He Died and Why It Matters” by Jim Douglass. I just read that, which may explain the youthful recollections.]

I can recall my first grade teacher, Ms. Vera Vradenberg, crying as school was dismissed abruptly the day JFK was murdered. Amazingly, I now note that that same song from Man of La Mancha was one of Robert Kennedy’s favorites too – and that he was murdered in 1968, the year I saw the play.

Well enough of my nostalgia.

Our current journey has taken us to some amazing places this year (2017) – where we witnessed many incredible things, including the damage from climate change induced extreme weather, e.g. record setting hurricanes (Florida, Texas Gulf coast), wildfires (Washington, Oregon, California), droughts, floods, heatwaves (in many places, including San Francisco, no less!) and tornadoes (golf ball sized hail in Little Rock, Arkansas).

We also toured lovely cities – like Charleston South Carolina – where architectural beauty and history stood side by side with the ugliest forms of ignorance and hatred imaginable (e.g. Steve Bannon’s speech at The Citadel, where, in the wake of Dylann Roof, he was warmly welcomed by virtually the entire South Carolina political establishment and lots of the young men and women training at The Citadel for US military leadership positions who “whooped and hollered” their support. See if you can read this lede from the local page 1 coverage without vomiting:

Steve Bannon tells Republicans in South Carolina: ‘It’s time for us to get angry again’

When former White House adviser Steve Bannon walked onstage Friday night to address a sold-out crowd at the Citadel Republican Society’s annual Patriot Dinner, he was welcomed like a rock-star.

Cadets whooped and hollered in their woolen dress uniforms. A man wearing a coat and tie pulled out a red towel, waving it high in the air. Even the three Republicans in the room who are hoping to be the next governor of South Carolina tripped over themselves to align their campaigns with Bannon and his populist message that propelled Donald Trump into the White House.

I stood with a disappointingly small group of protesters:

Protest against Steve Bannon's speech at The Citadel (Charleston, SC) (11/10/17)

Protest against Steve Bannon’s speech at The Citadel (Charleston, SC) (11/10/17)

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC

We’ll post more pics and commentary from the southern portion soon – can’t do so now because I forgot to bring the wire that downloads photos from the camera to the computer.

Peace out!

[Update: The Citadel Bannon protesters were manipulated and poorly led by a local black minister – the epitome of what Glen Ford calls “the black misleadership class”.

The minister voluntarily agreed to a protest permit that located the event in a parking lot a few hundred yards away from the building where Bannon spoke and the press tent was located, thereby further marginalizing his own protesters in a classic “protest zone”.

When protesters arrived early – the police had closed all the roads in an approximately 1 square mile perimeter, making it very difficult to even get there – they all converged on what was obviously  the most strategic and effective location – at the barricades directly across the street from the building where Bannon was speaking and the press tent stood.

They began chants and had creative and highly visible signs.  They were in a place to directly confront and shame Bannon and the attendees as they arrived at the event. The press began to take note.

Almost immediately, a PR official from The Citadel and the local black minister arrived.Look at the photo, as the minister tells the Citadel’s PR flack that he’s moving his people away:


The minister directed his protesters to move away from that prime location and relocate 300 yards away at his small stage.

I loudly urged protesters to stay where they were and the minister immediately got in my face – chest to chest – and told me to shut up and get my own protest if I didn’t like his. I got into a shouting match with him and yelled that he was being manipulated and was weak.

Afterwards, a few protesters came over to talk and agreed with me, attributing the problem to a conservative southern political culture that avoids overt conflicts with power and aggressive “rude” tactics. ~~~ end update]

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