Trump + Mussolini: Trussolini?

Countless commentators, from a Congressman in Utah, to the President of Mexico, editors and Twitter wizards like Marlow Stern to famous comedians like Bill Mahrer to the most admired of our publications have pointed to the frighteningly fascistic tendencies of Donald Trump and specifically his alarming similarity to Benito Mussolini, in looks and in language.

But the intentionality, Trump’s part in this similarity, did not become fully evident to me until his horrific acceptance speech, in which he referred obliquely to the most famous promise of Mussolini, that he would make the trains run on time.

Trump said — although really it was more of a battle cry, in his customary language, broad to the point of meaninglessness.

We will fix TSA at the airport, which is a disaster.

To me this is a “tell” — another indication that he’s consciously playing the Fascist card.

Am I wrong? Over-reacting? Making stuff up?

You may call me alarmist, but I’m not the only one…

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PCT section L: Paradise Lake to Sierra City

Think this might be the shortest and possibly the easiest section on the entire 2663-mile PCT. That’s based on a personal knowledge of two-thirds of the trail in California. That’s all I know, admittedly, with some reading and searching, for instance such as Jeffrey Schaffer’s venerable and helpful set of guides on Wilderness Press.

Still. Turns out the section is but 38 miles long — something a experienced thruhiker can possibly do on a very good day or a day and a half, with fitness and luck. So says Schaffer and I agree (Birdman above was on that kind of schedule, having spent the night at the Sierra Club’s Peter Grubb hut, just five miles from Donner Pass).

Plus, it finishes in Sierra City, an altitude of about 5400 feet, well below the trail at the starting point of the section, at Donner Pass, which is about 7200. And the trail flows up from there to a high ridge of about 8,000 feet, following the crest as much as best as possible across the fields of so-called mules ears flowering out in the bright sunshine. Intoxicating with their beauty.

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Of course a true thruhiker will not deviate from the trail without a fight, but nonetheless a night at Paradise Lake about a mile or a mile and a half down Paradise Valle, proved hard to resist. Would have been great stay — and it’s super popular — except the mosquitoes were pretty fierce.

Why in the world, may I ask, have we no measure whatsoever of the mosquito menace? Drives me crazy. We have indexes for everything else, from solar radiation to flower displays — why not mosquitoes? Something we could do towards solving a problem.

But still Paradise Lake lived up to its moniker — would like to see this lake on a chilly morning before the pests hatch out, maybe in June, with a warm sun but some snow still too. Has such a quiet beauty. .

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That’ll give you some idea of the first day or two methinks — that and a mention of the fact that (at least around July 4th) this area is absolutely thronged with people. It’s still gorgeous, and it’s easy to find privacy, but know that you won’t be “alone alone” as we say today.

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People of the PCT: Birdman

Met Birdman a day or maybe two south of Sierra City, in Section L, north of Donner Pass. He’s a true thruhiker: “flip-flopped” the AT last year (meaning he went up and back down).

“And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more dramatic finishing up at Mt. Katahdin than it is in Springer, Georgia!” he said. Think he has the right to say such a thing, given that he hails from Georgia.

Birdman (from Georgia)

Birdman (from Georgia)

 

Birdman was making what I would consider excellent time — 25+ miles a day — but complained of a knee that was giving him trouble, and was trying not to give up on the trail at the halfway point, just a few days ahead.

“Never quit on a bad day!”

 

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Forget Me Not PCT (from section M)

Back to the PCT, after seven months absence. These from section L, still very much in the Sierras, north of Donner Pass. Area is lower and less spectacular than Yosemite or the Minarets or comparable high mountain ranges, around 8,000 feet, but still has the beauty particular to these mountains, of granite, clear water, pines and snow — and in the summer, flowers, flower, flowers.

Here’s some forget-me-nots, if memory serves. Never seen so many as I have seen this summer on the trail.

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Stay on Trail: Jordan Fisher Smith on our Nat’l Parks Bday

Jordan Fisher Smith, who has an excellent new book out called Engineering Eden, (on the challenge of managing wild bears in places like Yellowstone and Yosemite), brings his experience as a naturalist, a ranger, and a writer to bear on the meaning of our parks in an essay in the author’s on-line magazine Signature Reads.

It’s fascinating. For one, for Smith’s grasp of the parks’ history, and its founders’ thoughtfulness.

In the early 1930’s the Park Service’s George M. Wright noted that it would have been far easier to operate national parks purely as nature reserves, without visitors. But, very presciently, Wright argued that in a time of growing human populations, it was far more interesting to try to meet the needs of people and wildlife in one place. Wright’s world had only two billion inhabitants. Today, with over three times that many, there is much to be learned from how millions of people and irreplaceable wild treasures have been accommodated shoulder-to-shoulder in national parks.

Second, Smith knows how the parks at times have struggled to balance the needs of wildlife versus the needs of its human visitors — but he also knows how much the park service has learned.

…the Park Service [has gotten] much better at managing relations between people and nature. The agency finished installation of animal-proof trash receptacles and food storage vaults at all of its campgrounds, and working with private companies, encouraged the development of portable bear-proof food canisters for backpackers to carry when they were away from fixed facilities. At Sequoia National Park the Park Service demolished hundreds of rental cabins and hotel facilities in the sequoia groves and began allowing natural wildfire to do its necessary work, much to the benefit of the redwoods. The rangers reintroduced missing animals like wolves to Yellowstone and California condors to Pinnacles National Monument. A multi-decade public relations effort promoted “no-trace” or “minimum-impact” camping, resulting in a near-total change in behavior among backpackers, canoeists, and whitewater boaters. In some areas today you can walk or float for miles without seeing so much as a chewing gum wrapper on a busy trail or campsite.

And he calls for a transfer of the leave-no-trace ethic we have learned — or are trying to learn — from the wilderness to the world at large.

The parks have been a teaching institution for a way of looking at our impact on nature. And in my opinion it’s time to take the “no-trace” ethic I taught campers when I worked as a park ranger – in which you endeavor to have the least possible impact on the places you roll out your sleeping bag – out of the campgrounds and into the rest of the world, where climate change and other factors that will ultimately determine the survival of the national parks come from. Are you, the visitor, loving parks to death? No! Go enjoy them. If the oldest, most famous ones are crowded this summer, learn to know and love the lesser-known sites. Take only memories and photographs, leave only footprints, and try to carry this way of studying your relationship with nature back into a world that sorely needs it now. Happy birthday, national parks!

President Obama will visit Yosemite this weekend to commemorate the centennial; may his visit be blessed wth vast appreciation for what Ken Burns aptly called “America’s Best Idea.

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Stephen Wilkes photo, made of hundreds of images taken over 24 hours. for National Geographic.

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Trump, Sanders Agree: Blame the Media

If there’s one thing that “outsiders” agree on in political life in America today, it’s that it’s the media’s fault.

Here’s Bernie:

“On Tuesday night, on the 7th, you’re going to hear from media saying that Hillary Clinton has received, whatever it is, 80 or 90 delegates, which she certainly will from New Jersey and other states,” Sanders said. “And they’ll say, the primary process is over, Secretary Clinton has won.”

When the crowd finishing booing, Sanders assured them that the media was “not factually correct” if it tried to declare Clinton a winner.

Of course not. Can’t trust “the corporate media” with anything, even the numbers of pledged delegates elected in state primaries and caucuses.

Here’s Donald, speaking about money he pledged to send to veterans groups back in February:

“It was very unfair that the press treated us so badly,”

Trump said this after a Washington Post story last week revealed that the candidate had not come through with the $6 million he had promised to veterans groups — and had not paid the $1 million he himself had promised.

In the words of reporter David Fahrenthold:

“Donald Trump gave $1 million,” he said then.

As recently as last week, Trump’s campaign manager had insisted that the mogul had already given that money away. But that was false: Trump had not.

In recent days, The Washington Post and other media outlets had pressed Trump and his campaign for details about how much the fundraiser had actually raised and whether Trump had given his portion.

The candidate refused to provide details. On Monday, a Post reporter used Twitter — Trump’s preferred social-media platform — to search publicly for any veterans groups that had received Trump’s money.

By Monday afternoon, The Post had found none. But it seems to have caught the candidate’s attention.

Today it was revealed that the missing money was paid last week — in checks dated the day of the Washington Post story.

Phone calls to all 41 of the groups by The Associated Press brought more than two-dozen responses Tuesday. About half reported checks from Trump within the past week, typically dated May 24, the day The Washington Post published a story questioning whether he had distributed all of the money.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told reporters at a testy news conference in New York that the fundraiser, held at the same time as a Fox News GOP debate he was boycotting, raised $5.6 million. He previously had declined to disclose which charities had received the funds, and his campaign has gone back and forth about how much was raised.

“The money’s all been sent,” Trump said at the news conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday.

He repeatedly criticized the press for making the money an issue, saying reporters “should be ashamed of themselves” for asking where the money had gone.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton, who today in a great New York profile admitted she “hates” the media, has been the one remaining candidate this year who has not blamed the media for reporting news that gosh, she doesn’t want to hear, though she certainly has had to hear plenty.

She even mentioned that it was a reporter who forced Trump to pay up.

“He’s bragged for months about raising $6 million for veterans and donating a million dollars himself,” Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “But it took a reporter to shame him into actually making his contribution and getting the money to veterans. So look, I’m glad he finally did but I don’t know that he should get much credit for that.”

So maybe some credit should go to the Fahrenhold and the Washington Post?

I know, I know — radical concept. Crediting the media. What a nutty idea.

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Trump denies drought exists in California

The Donald, as he is known in tabloid reporting in New York, told Californians that their drought doesn’t exist. It’s not a problem, it’s just a government snafu.

From USA Today:

California suffered one of its driest years in 2015. And last year the state hit its driest four-year period on record.

But Donald Trump isn’t sold. The presumptive GOP nominee told supporters in Fresno, Calif., on Friday night that no such dry spell exists.

Trump said state officials were simply denying water to Central Valley farmers to prioritize the Delta smelt, a native California fish nearing extinction — or as Trump called it, “a certain kind of three-inch fish.”

“We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump told thousands of supporters at the campaign event.

But even if you redistributed all the water from the Sierra and the Californi Water Project, that still would not solve what a certain politician calls “the water problem” in coastal Southern California, as this map via the LA Times and the U.S. Drought Monitor from May 17th shows.

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Chart goes from “abnorally dry” (yellow) to “exceptional drought” (brown). Red is “extreme drought,” the second worst category.

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The Hazardous Truth wins 2nd Best Investigative Reporting in CA for 2015

Yours truly is not going to win a state-wide award, or second place, too often, so please let me say that the Ventura County Reporter and I won a Best Investigative Reporting in California, 2nd Prize, for 2015.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association only gives out two such awards in each category (in our case, for weekly papers of about 30k subscribers) so it’s pretty meaningful methinks. Here’s what the announcement looked like from my editor Michael Sullivan on fb a week ago.

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What did I learn from the experience of trying to report on the disaster at Santa Clara Waste Water? In which over fifty people were sent to the hospital by exposure to an explosion, fire, or a toxic plume of chlorine dioxide gas? In which the entire upper management of the company is on trial on 71 felony counts?

It takes an obsession. In my case, six months worth of obsession. Here’s the story, if you haven’t seen it.

And below take a look at a picture of the disaster the morning of November 18, 2014, from county records:

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A Matter of Dignity: Bill of Rights for Farmworkers

Really like the cover that the Ventura County Reporter found for my story on farmwork in Ventura County:

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That in one image and a handful of words expresses the plight of tens of thousands of hard-working people in the this part of the world. These are people who — as a progressive Christian named Erynn Smith, of The Abundant Table pointed out — are the people who go unseen in this county, the people Christ admired, the overlooked. The people amongst who most need better conditions, better lives.

Arsenio Lopez, who leads an organization called MiCOP, put it eloquently at the conclusion of the story:

“We have seen a lot of studies on farmworkers. Always those studies show that there are problems. … We cannot keep our eyes and our ears always closed to the suffering of the farmworkers.”
— Arsenio Lopez, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project of Oxnard

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Ventura County opposes backyard bee-keeping: Ojai fights back

Sorry I’ve been quiet: too many deadlines. Good news is that I have a number of stories to post, big and small, and so let me catch up please.

Here’s a story about a surprising fact. Ventura County, which annually grosses two billion dollars in agricultural revenue, discourages backyard bee-keeping.

Even though nationally bees and other pollinators are in decline. By over 20% nationally, according to a study cited by the National Wildlife Federation. From a story in the Ojai Valley News. We begin midstream:

The policy of the Agricultural Commissioner of Ventura County currently prevents beekeeping except in areas designated for agriculture or open space, according to Interim Ojai City Manager Steve McClary. “The property size and ownership qualifications prevents beekeeping on most residential properties,” McClary wrote in the item prepared for the Council discussion.c

The proposed ordinance will allow beekeeping on residential properties within city limits provided owners register their hive with the Agricultural Commissioner, have lots of at least 5,000 square feet, keep a source of water at all times for the hive, and maintain adequate space in the hive for the bee population to grow safely.

Mayor Paul Blatz asked if encouraging homeowners to keep bees in their backyards might mean more bees and possible problems for residents. [Glenn] Perry, [president of the Ojai Valley Bee Club] replied that actually a number of gardeners and farmers in Ojai, notably Steve Sprinkel of The Farmer and The Cook, had noticed that the bees in the area were in decline.

“I see a decrease in the number of bees around here that’s a little shocking in just the five years I’ve been here,” Perry said. “We’re not talking about an increase, but we are talking about making sure they don’t decline further.”

Councilman Randy Haney wondered if homeowners wishing to keep bees who live near schools could inform administrators about any plans to add hives to their backyards. Perry said his group would be willing to consider the idea.

“Our proposal is intended to be as reasonable and as responsible as possible,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Weirick pointed out that the National Federation of Wildlife just released a plan to support bees, calling for a “Million Pollinator Gardens” by the end of this year. The organization pointed to a national study that found a 23 percent decline in bee populations between 2008 and 2013.

Took kind of a fun picture of Weirick after the meeting, which the paper charmed me by running:

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