Lies of our fathers

From almost the moment of birth, we are bombarded by lies and half-truths.  And by the time we die, one might say most of our lives amounted to nothing more than a dream mixed with a dab of reality.

I was reminded of this today in reading a NYT article, “Author Now Doubts His Father was in Famed Iwo Jima Photo.”

The author of “Flags of Our Fathers,” James Bradley, was duped in believing his father, John, was one of the six fighting men seen atop Mount Suribachi, raising the American flag.  The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press — shot on Feb 13, 1945, as WWII wound down — has become a symbol of patriotism and America’s fighting spirit.  The photo earned Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.  President Harry Truman and the U.S. government promoted the photo, helping to enrich American coffers with war-bond money. Yet it has been known for many years now that the photo was a lie.  Rosenthal’s photo was the second flag-raising and staged.

Doubts were raised about John Bradley’s involvement two years ago in an article that appeared in the Omaha World Herald.  Two amateur historians studied the pants, headgear and cartridge belts on a photo taken of John Bradley at the first flag-raising.  They discovered the items did not match “John Bradley” in the second photograph.

Why it took James Bradley, the son and author, all this time to question the authenticity of his father’s role is not fully known.  The obvious reason is that the author did not want to admit his own glaring error.

The arid lands did not go without its own “hero” at Iwo Jima. There was an Arizonan in the famous second photo.  Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian whose home was on a reservation just south of Phoenix, was identified as the last Marine in line, the one with his hands off the flag.  He came home a hero, though I doubt he believed he was one. The highest mountain in the Estrella range southwest of Phoenix is named in his honor.  No evidence has yet revealed that he was not in the famous Suribachi photo.

Living in America is smoke and mirrors.  You never know for sure what is truth and what is a lie.


That artichoke thing

SCC's Artie the Artichoke

Artie the Artichoke

While I relish eating the “meat” of an artichoke leaf, particularly when  dipped in hot, melted butter, that is about the limit of my endearment.  Except for its pretty bluish flower, the artichoke is one of plant world’s also-rans.  Even the taste is bland if eaten plain.

So, one of the amazing things when I first moved to the arid lands was to learn of a local college team named the Fighting Artichokes.  After laughing, I grew disgusted.  How can anyone degrade the most sacred shrine of America that is its sports teams?

The real thing.

The real thing.

Scottsdale Community College’s student body in a moment of anguish over the school’s budget in the 1970s, grasped  onto the artichoke in hopes to embarrass the institution which seemed to outlay a too generous portion to athletics.  Anyone who follows community college sports knows that almost no one attends the games, and that athletic departments can not support themselves without public financing.  At that level of play, community college sports are welfare projects.

So, out of this mess was born the team mascot, Artie the Artichoke.  And as camp as it sounds, the student body has embraced him, apparently in defiance of all logic and heavenly standards.

I personally have never seen a sports contest at Scottsdale CC.  I think I will put it on my schedule for a football game in the coming season.  Just to see the mascot at work, and listen for the opponents yell  “Go, ‘chokers.”

Delta's Fighting Okra

Delta’s Fighting Okra

The one game I would pay dearly to watch is Scottsdale v. Delta State University.

Delta, a four-year school in Cleveland, Mississippi, has a mascot that was ranked No. 1 by as the worst sports name in our fair land.

The Fighting Okra.

Scottsdale CC finished at lowly No. 4.  Hard to believe.


Umpiring by sound

Home plate umpire watches and listens.

Home plate umpire watches and listens.

If you go to the ballpark for a game, you are almost sure to hear a heckler yell to the umpire, “You’re blind as a bat.”

Having umpired more than 1,000 baseball games from kids to pros, I discovered the ear was as valuable as the eye.

Take a close play at first base.  The umpire has his eye on the runner’s foot to see when it touches the bag.  And at the same moment he listens for the ball to hit the first baseman’s glove. Then he makes the call.  Which got there first, foot or ball?  So it is not so much a bang-bang play as a thud-thud.

It is the same with the home plate umpire.  A manager storms out to question whether a batter was hit by a pitch.  “How can you possibly see a 90 mph fastball clip the loose end of a batter’s jersey?”  The answer is, no, I didn’t see it.  I heard it. And the batter is awarded first base. A pitched ball makes a “tic” sound when it touches the shirt.  You will rarely see a catcher argue those calls.  He hears what the umpires hears.

The same could be said for foul balls.  A runner attempts to steal second base as the batter swings at a high pitch that eludes the catcher’s mitt.  Everyone but the umpire and catcher think the runner will now be safe on second base.  But the umpire has heard the “tic” of the ball grazing the bat, and the runner must return to first base.

Maybe the heckler should yell, “You’re deaf as a rock.”



No bobcats, but . . .

The preserve’s west valley with Teddy Bear in foreground..

I hiked the Bobcat Trail yesterday.  It is a small trail in a small preserve.  It is also a long way from my home in Phoenix.  Twenty-five miles north to be somewhat precise.  It is always worth the drive, though, particularly this time of year when desert blooms come to life.

Buckhorn bloom everywhere.

Buckhorn bloom everywhere.

To get to the Bobcat from Desert Vista Trailhead on the south side, you walk along two other trails, the Hawk’s Nest and the Dixie Loop.

The Hawk’s Nest was particularly aggravating today.  It is steep and then boring too.  It has a lot of what I call stumble rocks.  They range up to 3″ in diameter.  I had sprained an ankle in mid-December and so was wary of them.  But on reaching the saddle at the end of the Hawk’s Nest, I looked out on a valley to the north that seemed to offer plenty of photo ops.

To reach the valley, you have to do an “S” around a small peak.  Even on this short arc, I found interesting stuff.

Beneath a creosote with shriveling yellow flowers and clusters of gray seedballs, I found numerous holes in the dirt.  I assume some small animals had dug them.  Their midden I assumed was directly under the creosote.  Antelope squirrels perhaps.  Later on I saw a similar structure, again under a creosote, only this time the midden was protected by a wall of sharp-thorned Teddy Bear Cholla balls.  That meant it was likely home to packrats.

Doesn't look like any of my old crates.

Doesn’t look like any of my old crates.

About a mile and a quarter from the trailhead where I had begun this hike, I came across the hull of an abandoned automobile.  It was rusted and old, a 1950s model I estimated.  Immediately, a few of my own cars came to mind.  A 1939 Plymouth, in need of a muffler, that I drove to construction sites in Kansas.  The other a 1940s Dodge sedan that I purchased with an Army buddy at Fort Lewis in Washington state.  Great strategy was required to operate the Dodge.  It needed a battery we could not afford.  Parking it on the downside of a hill was essential.

To start it, the stick shift was placed neutral, and after manually pushing it a bit, one of us would jump in the driver’s seat while the Dodge gathered steam downhill, slam the gear into 2nd and pray the engine would start.  Usually it did. Equally important was the person in the driver’s seat wait on his buddy before driving off to Tacoma.

Finally in the valley, I started bumping into, not literally of course, the flowering Buckhorn Cholla and Compass Barrel cactus.

To my surprise, I saw a Teddy Bear in bloom.  Amazing, in all my years of hiking, I had not seen or noticed a single Teddy Bear flower.  I guess I assumed they did not bloom. The blooms are a yellowish-green, almost the color of the plant itself.  Ah, my first photo of a Teddy Bear in flower.

Teddy Bear Cholla.

Teddy Bear Cholla.

The last mile of my 3-mile, one-way traverse of the preserve was the unspectacular Bobcat Trail.  Nothing exciting here to see.  Just a flat trail through mostly Creosote, Brittlebush and Palo Verde.

I did not mind the Bobcat was so ordinary.  No bobcats either.  Not even a field mouse a bobcat could eat.

But I had seen some beautiful cactus flowers along the way on the Dixie Loop Trail.  And now I was going back, hopefully to the nest of a Great Horned Owl.

Another gorgeous Sonoran Desert sunset.

Another gorgeous Sonoran Desert sunset.

The long drive out had been more than worth it.

Owl’s nest blues

Mama owl eyes the photogrpaher.

Mama owl eyes the photogrpaher.

Finishing a 6 1/2 mile hike yesterday north of Phoenix, the lords of Naturedom rewarded my efforts with a photo-op.

I was photographing a blooming Teddy Bear Cholla, when a jogger came down the trail and, seeing I had a serious camera in hand, suggested I might want to  shoot an owl’s nest with a mama and three babies.  My ears perked up.

“I may have to cut my hike short,” I told the man and thanked him for the tip and the history;  The bird, a Great Horned Owl, had returned to the same spot for at least the last three years to raise her young.  Two babies last year and three the year before.

As bird's nests go, this one is metropolitan-sized.

As bird’s nests go, this one is metropolitan-sized.

Unfortunately I did not cut the hike short. I returned later to the spot the jogger mentioned.  It was near sunset and while I could see from a distance the ears of Mama, the youngsters were out of sight, snuggled no doubt at the base of a very large nest of sticks.  The nest was cradled in a good-sized Saguaro.  I edged forward and click, click.

The few photos would normally find a place in the Trash Bin.  But I had hiked so far, gone up so many steep places in the trail, I thought, “Why not?”  So I hit the Publish button.

So much for setting priorities.


Susan Sarandon on MSNBC

Subtitle:  A liberal who thinks Republican Donald Trump may as President be better for America than Hillary Clinton, who many believe is a liberal.

Flipping channels between lulls in a Phoenix Suns game on March 28, I came across “All In with Chris Hayes.”  The pragmatic Hayes seemed bewildered by his guest’s idealism and relentless support for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in what is for now a lop-sided race for the Democratic nomination.  Though Sanders has won numerous states, it is the ever “evolving” Clinton that has a commanding lead for delegates.

The guest was the actress and activist Susan Sarandon.  Listening to her speak, I was all ears and put aside the basketball game until the interview was over.

Sarandon travels the world for various causes dear to her heart.  She is smart, articulate, energetic and inspirational.  I was so mesmerized by her ideas, that I am publishing some of the most important.

CH (Chris Hayes) asks SS (Susan Sarandon) why she is backing Sanders.

SS: I really want to be on the right side of history, and this (Bernie Sanders) is a shot we’re not going to have again in my lifetime, a candidate who is morally consistent (undecipherable as Hayes tries to break in).

CH asks if she and other Sanders supporters will back Hillary if Sanders loses.

SS: That’s a legitimate concern because they (Sanders backers) are very passionate and very principled.

CH: Is that crazy?

SS: These are people who have not come out before [taken part in politics], so why would we think they will come out now for her [Hillary].

CH: You really believe that?

SS: I’ve talked to people, to Republicans who’ve written him in already  [meaning Sanders].  They think she’s a liar, not authentic [meaning Hillary].

[While it seems obvious Sarandon detests the Republican front-runner Donald Trump, SS does not rule out voting for him if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.]

CH: Would you really do that?

SS: I don’t know.  I’m going to see what happens. Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately [if he becomes president].

CH:  Don’t you think it’s a danger?

SS:  Now, if you think it’s pragmatic to shore up the status quo, then you’re not in touch with the status quo.  The status quo isn’t working. I think it’s dangerous to continue the way we are — with the militarized police force, the privatized prisons, the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, with threats to women’s rights — and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around because the country is not in good shape. If you’re in the middle class, it’s disappearing.  We should stop prioritizing war. . . .

The interview ends a short time later.  Hayes apparently does not have time to delve into any issue deeply.  He seems exasperated by the idea that the candidate he, MSNBC and the elite of the National Democratic Party has backed, Hillary Clinton, would not be a default choice.

It’s obvious too that Chris Hayes is out of touch with middle class Americans and their thoughts for a better America.

It is my belief that because of Sarandon’s powerful thoughts expressed during this interview that MSNBC gave “equal time” the next day to a Hillary Clinton campaign official.


At the end of a long line

The goal: Reaching the voting room.

The goal: Reaching the voting room.

Arizona’s disastrous primary election of a week ago has again stirred up thoughts about America as a democracy.  Voters waited in long lines for up to 5 1/2 hours to cast ballots.  In addition there were ballot shortages and computer glitches.  Even for Arizona, this was a horrible example of a practice that has swept the nation, particularly in areas controlled by Republican legislatures.  It’s called voter suppression.

I was lucky.  I stood in line for only two hours and 53 minutes at the Church of the Beatitudes voting place in Phoenix.

Two of the last-known people to vote in other voting venues:  A state senator, Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix at 12: 20 a.m. on Wednesday and a native of Guatemala, Aracely Calderon at 12:12.

I had arrived at the back of a line at the corner of 7th Avenue and Glendale, the time was 2:08 p.m.  By the time I had walked along the serpentine line (see my hand-drawn map) and voted for the Democrat, Bernie Sanders, it was 5:01.

As I walked back to the street where Nebra was to pick me up in her car, the line was another 200 yards longer than when I had started out.  The polling places closed at 7, but under the law everyone standing in line at that time is allowed to vote.

My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.

My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.

Curious, I drove back to the polling place at 8:15 — and the line was now longer by maybe 50 yards.  I calculated the people at the end of the long line would not reach the ballot box until after midnight!

Not only that, but under Arizona law, voting results are made public by 8 p.m.  In no time, the media had projected the election winners.  I read the Associated Press made its projection at 8: 15. So many of those people in line knew four hours prior to their vote that Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) had won Arizona by substantial margins.

That they stood in line knowing their votes would make little or no difference is testimony to their determination and perhaps errant thoughts of living in a democratic society.

Some came prepared for a long wait.

Some came prepared for a long wait.

This unacceptable situation occurred only in one Arizona county, the county for Phoenix. Maricopa County, for practical purposes, is Arizona when it comes to voting.  Maricopa carries 56.7 percent of the state’s population.  And it was there in Maricopa that the abuses mostly occurred.

The county Recorder’s Office and the elected County Recorder, Helen Purcell, a Republican, is in charge of County Elections which plans the Primary.   This year, for a reason that is unclear, the number of polling places was cut from 200 to 60 — for the Primary only —  not only leading to the gargantuan lines but jamming poll workers with an enormous amount of labor for a pittance of money.

The budget for the Primary was cut drastically by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and the Republic governor, Doug Ducey, signed off on it.

Karen Osborne, who heads up County Elections, was quoted as vowing to “. . . keep the presidential preference election as cheap as humans can do it.”

Besides the money issue, election officials said they planned on most of the voting to be done by mail.  If true, a major miscalculation.

Waiting and reading.

Waiting and reading.

Poll workers receive $100 to $125 for the day, and in the case of the Primary, some were at their stations for 18 hours.  That comes to $5.56 an hour for most poll workers and $6.94 an hour for premium workers with advanced training. That is far below minimum wage.  And it is the poll worker there on the front-line that takes the abuse while the real culprits lay low in distant buildings doing the “brain” work that so fouled the process.

Of all Primaries over the years, how could you sensibly cut polling places this year?  County Elections had plenty of fore-warning in a contentious presidential campaign.  Voter turnouts were up in other states with similar primaries.  Caucus states like Iowa are different.

Line grows as nightfall looms.

Line grows as nightfall looms.

Arizona’s Republic governor, Doug Ducey, has a typical right-wing Proposition, 123, scheduled for a special election on May 17. It is a controversial prop that Republicans claim is a boon to the education budget and also to reform pension programs in the public-safety sector.   It is not a wild dream to believe Ducey and his staff are behind the Primary debacle if only to exasperate voters so they will not participate in May.  It is a long-standing conclusion that Republicans and Propositions like 123 do best when there are low turnouts.

A hearing yesterday at the state House of Representative drew an impassioned and angry group.  They complained to the Elections Committee, run of course by Republicans.  The GOP has ruled the legislature for many years.  Whether these complaints will be addressed is up in the air.  My guess is that elections will continue as usual — unless the miracle of a Democratic wave takes over the Legislautre after the general election in November.

Anyway, I am glad I waited it out almost three hours and voted.  If it means nothing in the world of politics at least it mean a lot to me personally.  I say that even thinking that their is really no democracy in America, that in the case of the Primary, Party elites both Republican and Democrat have left us with much the same drab choices.

Change in Arizona is a long way off.  I suspect it is a long way off for America too.