Saturday, October 15, 2016

Being back home in Seattle has been a great joy, seeing family and old friends, doing a motorcycle trip, enjoying our great country, and it is a great country.  Sure its not perfect, but it is closer to perfection then anywhere we have visited during the last six years of travel.  So its painful to watch the psycho GOP candidate question this greatness and declare that he will make America great again.  Here are a few thoughts on how we ended up with this maniac.

It started after the 1964 elections.

Above is a map of how states voted in the 1964 election between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater.  Not much of a showing for Barry and the GOP.  It was proof positive that what the party elites feared was true.  The party representing wealth, corporate and personal, had no popular base.  They had not won a presidential election since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, excpt when their candidate was Dwight Eisenhower, the much loved WWII supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe. The feeling was that"Normal" Republican candidates would have no chance.

Nixon recognized this, and pitched his campaign to the "silent majority" whose values allegedly were being threatened by the liberal Democratic Party.  He promised these folks a return to "law and order" and "traditional values".   In particular he sought the votes of  southern whites.  The south up until then was traditionally Democratic, but feeling betrayed by the Democratic Party that had enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that lead to mass enfranchisement of racial minorities, the South was in play.   Nixon's promise of law and order and a return to traditional values was seen as code for continued suppression of blacks and maintenance of the old south's social order.  His law and order message also resonated with whites outside the south because of their alarm over rioting and the  breakdown of law and order in the black inner cities

He found a base:  the Silent Majority turned out to be discontented mostly rural, working class whites.  With their votes Nixon won a close race.  It would have been a landslide except a third party candidate, the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace took the South.  You can see the huge gains made by the Republicans by jumping between the '64 and '68 maps.


Since Nixon, discontented folks in rural America have mostly belonged to the Republicans. The connection has been cultivated mostly through lip service by party leaders, political hacks, corporations.and especially through their propaganda organ.....Fox News.

Anyone who lived through these years knows all this.  

But what causes the discontent  that leads these folks to support a political party that is clearly their class enemy?  I'm not real sure, but historically incomes of rural Americans, mostly farmers and farm workers, has been subject to manipulation by economic interests controlling commodity prices, transportation costs and the cost of farm machinery..  Governments at all levels have also massively influenced income through regulation etc.  Check this link for an example of how the Feds can mess with farmers:     Their anger is understandable.  

There is more to it though, Republican appeals to hyper-nationalism, bigotry, "family values", pro life sentiment, and assertions that "government is the problem" evidenced by welfare abuse, government waste, poorly conceived trade agreements that cost American jobs, excessive capital gains taxation have all captured the loyalty of a surprising number, to me, of relatively well off whites.  

Republican elites are skating on thin ice though.  The base they have relied on since Nixon is disconcerted mostly because of governmental policies that have worked against them..  Policies largely implemented by the Republican party..  Up to now the party elites have been able to ignore candidates emerging from the base and get their selected candidates nominated. But this election cycle is different. The base finally succeeded in getting their candidate, reality TV "star" Donald Trump, nominated.

Trump claims to be the only person who can fix the system and make America great again because he is an outsider.  And a self described "brilliant" businessman with insider knowledge of  how the system really works, evidenced by his "genius" in dodging government regulation and taxation.  His argument for changing the system is compelling.  And it would interest me if only it was being made by a rational person. This psychopath cannot be allowed anywhere close to the nuclear button.   

Trump also scares the hell out of Republican elites. The last thing they want is someone as erratic and uncontrollable as Trump making changes to the system they have crafted over the years that has been so beneficial to their interests..  

And then there is Hillary.  How did she so capture the nominating process that the only competition she faced was from the ultimate political outsider, self described socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders?  I don't know, but its disturbing.  She is probably a decent person, but she certainly has a checkered past.

Any normally competent politician could kick the crap out of either one of these characters. 

So, what would my ideal candidate espouse?

1.  Continued efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and massive reductions in nuclear arsenals around the world.

2.  Real concerted efforts to reduce mankind's impact on climate.  We are very very late and way behind in this.  We are now above 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I attended a lecture about ten years ago presented by the chairman of the University of Washington meteorology department, He stated that there would be a paradigm change in the way energy was passed through the atmosphere when carbon dioxide concentrations exceeded 400 ppm..  The new equilibrium could be drastically different then any we have seen in the past.  And change would be rapid, definitely not at a geological pace.  More like a few decades.

3.  Re democratization of our politics.  There is no chance that our political system will respond to voters until money has been removed from the equation.  What the people want is not compelling to politicians making huge money servicing rich special interests.  We are seeing the emergence of a neo-feudal society with a corporate aristocracy ruling over serf/employees.  The only countervailing power that can exert effective control over corporations is government in service to the people.  Maybe this explains why Republican campaign against government.  Government is not the problem. The problem is a political party that actively works to undermine it. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Back in the USA


Ron from SV Dawn Trader watches as we approach MV Damgracht, Grace's magic carpet back to Puget Sound

The loading went well though there was anxiety while Grace was hoisted aboard.

With Grace on board (just forward of large power boat), and on her way to Victoria, we did the only logical thing....went for a walk.

We were joined part of the way by a friendly street dog  (for some reason street dogs in Mexico usually have very sweet dispositions, and love human company and attention).  He walked several blocks with us until he reached the end of his territory.  .   

But we were seldom completely alone as our passage was noted by the neighborhood watch.

Many homes in La Paz have a feature we rarely if ever saw in other parts of Mexico....porches.

They were usually well shaded with lots of plants and flowers and comfortable chairs.

If you're living without air conditioning then you're probably living out on the porch.  

Sidewalks in Mexico are challenging.  From what I can tell, there are no rules guiding how they are laid out.....if they do get laid out.  Seems to be an owner option. 

Should you stumble and take a header don't bother sueing.  Thousands have walked that sidewalk without taking a fall, so obviously it was you that screwed up.

Say what!

We enjoyed parking strip landscaping, also subject to no rules.

Raked dirt was a popular options

Have some broken concrete?
Don;t throw it away, plant it,


If you want to earn brownie points with
the Lord, put your sidewalk to work for you,

Ready for launch

Alan Riding in his book Distant Neighbors says "The high walls that surround most Mexican homes serve as both real and symbolic frontiers of security and authority.  When a Mexican steps outside them, he acts as if confronting a hostile society with which he feels minimal solidarity."  A Mexican will sweep his sidewalk daily.....precisely to his property line and not one inch further and is quite content leaving whatever clutter, filth or trash lying just beyond, even if it blocks access to his sidewalk.  Chaos beyond his walls will exist no matter what, so why bother trying to change it.

We spent several days in Mexico following Grace's departure.  Then flew north to met her in Victoria B.C.  We received a call from the shipper's agent in our hotel room the day before she was scheduled to be unloaded, saying "Change of plans, your sailboat has been offloaded and you need to get to the ship ASAP."

We rushed down to the  dock where a launch was waiting to take to the ship, where she was waiting..

We left Victoria the next day and checked her and us back into the U.S. at Roche Harbor in Washington's San Juan Islands.

From there we headed south into the busy Puget Sound, anchoring a couple of miles outside Seattle in Bainbridge Island's Port Madison Bay.  We looked for a place to moor her in Seattle, but had to settle for Everett as there was nothing available in Seattle.  We have a temporary slip in Everett Marina until the end of August, then who knows.

We bought a car and will drive back to Mexico and set up house in our condo in Puerto Vallarta sometime in late September,taking Highway 1 down the Baja Pennisula to La Paz, crossing to the mainland on the La Paz-Mazatlan ferry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

!!!!!!! UPDATE !!!!!!!!!!!! UPDATE !!!!!!!!! UPDATE !!!!!!!


We have come back "home" to La Cruz.  La Cruz is on Banderas Bay about twenty miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  It's our favorite place in Mexico, and we usually stay here way to long.

Our son Kris is coming down to visit Thursday for a couple weeks.  When he leaves so will we.  We want to be in La Paz sometime in April.

The 1000 miles from Chiapas to La Cruz was difficult.  We crossed the dangerous Gulf of Tuantepec to Hualtulco, then stopped in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo Barre de Navidad and finally La Cruz.  We struggled against adverse currents and winds up to 30 knots, always on the nose.  There were times the best we could do was two knots per hour toward our next stop. 


Last summer we returned to Seattle for the first time since we left in 2010.  It was great being back, and we would like to thank our friends who let us couch surf with them.
 Mike and Nita
Randy and Donna

Jerry and Randi

Dennis and Sue
We also visited our son Kevin while he was visiting his friend Bill on Maui.
Bill's backyard
We have a new Plan A: ship Grace back to Seattle.  We will be meeting a freighter in La Paz in May.  They will lift Grace on their deck, and take her to Victoria, B.C.  There are other plans, but this is the most probable. 
In essense, we are done with cruising,

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Travel in the Heart of Darkness

A couple months ago we lost our cat, Buster, a friend for twenty four years.  When we went to bed one evening he was with us, in the morning he wasn't.  We think he fell overboard while on one of his nightly walk-abouts.  He had a good life.  His first seven years were next to a green belt in Seattle as a "forest cat", dodging coyotes and raccoons.  The next eight or so years was as a condo cat, then finally a boat cat.  We miss him and are sorry for his frightening last few moments being swept away by river currents. 

However, now that he is gone we can do some land travel.  We are just back from a three week grand tour of Guatemala we took with some great new Canadian friends.  It was fun moving from place to place every couple days, figuring out transportation and lodging as we went. 

Travel arrangements were actually pretty easy, as we chose to travel by shuttle van.  Vans go door to door, picking up at the hotel or hostel and dropping off at the front door of the next place.  Sometimes there were only the four of us, but mostly they were full, usually with young backpackers from all over the world.  (It was nice to get out of the geriatric cruising community for a while.) We stayed in hostels for twenty to thirty bucks a night in a private room with bath.  The shuttles were about what a Greyhound would cost in the states. Total expenses. assuming we didn't eat out high end gringo, were about a hundred bucks a day.

Van travel
on the morning after.

While there we saw some demonstrating.  Guatemala is going through one of its frequent political dramas.  People are trying to oust the current corrupt president and former genocidal army General.  He was taking money from everywhere, causing some of the social services, like public hospitals, to run out of money.  The vice president had just been forced out for some sort of customs scam.  Business as normal in this troubled land.

Guatemala is a beautiful land, with stunning mountain views, lakes nestled  amongst active volcanos, rivers buried deep in jungle lined canyons, and pristine colonial towns.

Lake Atitlan




Rio Dulce

But for me the real attraction are the Mayan ruins and museums.



In Copan there were several ceremonial amphitheaters.  Judy is sitting where the king used to stand during sacrifices that required the most noble blood in the land....his.  The blood was obtained by piercing various parts of his anatomy, most often his penis, with a sting ray barb. 

All the males in the kings family gave blood for ceremonial use. One guide told me during the draught in the ninth and tenth centuries, the noble family almost bleed out supplying blood for constant blood sacrifices to appease the rain god.  The weakened noble families suffered chronic pain and illness.  He believes this was an factor in the collapse of the Mayan cities.

Other amphitheaters in Copan were used for more pleasant pastimes,,,,,getting stoned and playing ball.  Getting stoned on mushrooms was a common occurrence during ceremony's.

Sitting on the edge of this amphitheater was the water god.  Mayans would get loaded and try to imagine water filling the square up to the god's neck.  They imagined seeing all sorts of sea creatures in the water, the best being crocodiles.


And then the museums.  They had great ones at each site.  The best being in Copan where they built a full size replica of a tomb that had been buried during subsequent enlargements of the pyramid.  The museum in Guatemala City has the best preserved stellas, household items, etc.

Maya warrior

This statue is at the entrance of  the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia in Guatemala City.

He is a very handsome fellow by Maya Classic Era standards.  The sloping forehead and protruding lips and teeth were much admired by the nobility.  The strange look was intended to be proof that the nobles were descended from the gods. Boards were used to squeeze the foreheads back and some sort of orthotic device pushed the teeth and lips out.  They also were known to paint the tips of children's noses to develop crossed eyes.  Wonder what they could have done with collagen. 

At his side in the basket are the remains of his latest triumph over one of the gods of the underworld.

On the other side of the entrance is another Mayan.  At first I thought it was the now part of a "then and now" tableau, with the fierce warrior now a peaceful farmer. 

He also is a handsome fellow, as are the Mayans in general.

What makes me wonder about the "then and now" thing is what he's got in his basket.  What's this peasant farmer, with his hands full of maize, doing with a severed head?   

The artist may have been reflecting a commonly felt wariness felt by the elites toward Mayans, who make up about 50% of the population. It took the Conquistadors more then a hundred and fifty years and a great many lives before the last of the Mayans were overcome.  They were a tough group, battle hardened by almost constant tribal warfare. 

The tribal nature of Mayan society was a principle reason for the lengthy pacification process.  There was no central state the Spanish could conquer in one fell swoop.  In Guatemala the Mayan cities were independent of each other, much like the city states in ancient Greece.  Each tribe had to be subdued separately. There are twenty Mayan languages currently spoken in Guatemala today, indicative of their continuing tribal nature.    

Defeated Mayans were forced to leave their ancient homes and migrate to towns built near newly forming plantations.  This concentration enabled quicker acculturation and created a labor pool for the plantations to draw on.  The rational was that since the conquerors were saving Mayan souls by bringing them Christianity, the Mayans owed the Spanish tribute and labor.    

Initially the plantations had no claim on the land they were using, as the king granted only the right to the labor of the Mayans  This didn't bother early colonizers who viewed cheap labor as the primary source of wealth.  But during the Spanish depressions of the 17th  century, the Spanish Crown, in dire need for money began selling the "crown lands" in the new world.  Land that could support cash crops soon passed from Mayan ownership to the privileged Spanish. 

In the coastal lowlands the disposed Mayans gradually integrated with the Spanish, intermarried and adopted Spanish as their primary language.  But in the highland areas things were different.  Spanish plantation owners were not interested in land that was unsuited for cash crops.  The land remained in Mayan hands.  Ancient village associations continued to function and highland Mayans "fugitives" returned home, escaping the new Spanish towns.  Spanish attempts at rounding up the fugitives was not vigorous, and the highlands became a refuge. 
A Mayan lady working in her field in the
highlands of north central Guatemala.

The volcanic soil looks very rich.

Across the valley is an active volcano.
In the center right of the picture are a couple steam plumes
from a geothermal generating plant.

A river flows through the valley floor. 

Small plots extent up the mountain side.
Every arable acre is planted 

But the refuge came under serious attack after Guatemala won its independence from Spain.  This assault was lead by lawyers, as it involved stealing, all fair and square, Mayan land through a legal process.  Shortly after Guatemala gained independence the central government passed a decree that all farm lands, even the ancient communal lands of the Mayans, must be deeded to individuals.  Unfortunately the highland Mayans, who were not integrated with the Spanish, didn't get the word, but people in the lowlands did.  They flocked to place claims on much of the lower highlands.  Coffee had become an enormous cash crop and these lands were perfect.  The disposed Mayans soon had insufficient land to feed themselves.  They were forced to take jobs in the new coffee plantations. Money was loaned to them  by plantation owners in amounts they could not repay and debtors could not leave plantations to whom they owed money.

There was one more assault on the Mayans.  During the last half of the twentieth century non Mayan "red communist" rebel groups formed to resist the central government.  The numbers of rebels was never significant and they lacked the weapons needed to really threaten the government.  Elites and corporate land owners pressed the government to use the unrest as an excuse to attack the largely uninvolved Mayans, rationalizing these attacks as necessary to protect the state from "internal enemies".  About 200,000 were killed and over 600 villages were destroyed.  A United Nations truth commission found the central government guilty of organizing and conducting genocide.

The US supported the central government by providing material support and trained government troops in counter insurgency and jungle warfare, fully knowing, at least at some level, what was happening to the uninvolved Mayans in the Guatemalan highlands. 

Peace accords with in insurgents were concluded in the late 90's, but conditions on the ground remain the same.  Mayans still do not have enough land to feed themselves and malnutrition is endemic in the Mayan population. 

Peter Rohloff, an American doctor who runs a group of medical clinics in rural Guatemala told a reporter:

"The most incredible thing about stunting in Guatemala is how completely total an experience it is for rural communities. All children are at least six or eight inches shorter than they should be.  In a family that's extremely impoverished, you will see very extreme cases of chronic stunting where children who are twelve years old, look as if they were four or five.

But stunting is not just about height. With malnourishment comes greater susceptibility to disease and infection, impaired cognitive function and even lower IQ. Stunted kids are more likely to drop out of school and grow up to be unskilled workers with little potential for economic success later in life."

The assault on Mayans is ongoing to this day.  If it continues, and if the Mayans can organize themselves, their baskets could again be filled with severed heads.  It's not like there hasn't been a few centuries of provocation.

This is not to imply I feel the U.S. did any better with our First Nations.