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.







Patience pays off

Mama Mallard and her orderly 8 children.

Mama Mallard and her orderly 8 children.

At  times, it is the photo that drives the post.  It is not necessarily that I have anything important to say beyond the visual.  This is true in my last two posts.  I thought the photos were decent and I decided to publish them amid some text.

Mama and Child

Mama and Child

This photo of the eight Mallard ducklings trailing Mama across a pond at Encanto Park the other day is case in point.

After a late breakfast at the golf course cafe, I walked back through the park, camera in hand with the usual attachment, a 24-70mm lens.  My expectations weren’t high until I caught sight of movement in some debris that had collected by the shore.  Moving closer I counted a Mallard hen and her eight unruly babies.  Mama was busy searching for food.  The babies searching for fun, which can be the same thing as mischief.

Mama and brood approach the bridge.

Mama and brood approach the bridge.

My idea was to photograph all nine of them together.  It wasn’t easy.  There were always two or three babies that would leave Mama’s clutch for a few moments.  As I walked along with them as they passed under a bridge and into a more open area of water, I was losing patience.  It was Primary voting day in Arizona and I wanted to make connections with Nebra before I did.

Suddenly my luck changed.  As Papa Mallard approached, all the babies got into a line behind Mom to cross a wide section of the pond, and there I had it, the photo I’d been looking for, but in not the best of light and almost too far for my short lens to reach them.  But I shot anyway, and this is what I came up with.

Pappa approaches.

Pappa approaches.

Somehow it made me feel good to see such a brood together, although I’ve read the average is nine eggs for Mallards.  If nine, where was the other baby?  Didn’t want to think about that.


Awash in yellow

Brown-Eyed Susan

Brown-Eyed Susan

March Madness strikes the Sonoran Desert too and lasts about as long as the basketball tournament.  Every year about this time, a riot of colors tinges the arid valleys and mountain slopes with yellow.   ’tis the flowering season.

A mountain park I frequent here in Phoenix almost blinds with its brilliant yellows from Palo Verde trees, the Creosote, Brittlebush and cactus like the Compass Barrel and Buckhorn Cholla.  But my favorite is the magenta flower of the Engelmann Hedgehog cactus.

Engelmann Hedgehog

The hairy Engelmann Hedgehog

For most of the year, this Hedgehog languishes in unspectacular clumps.  It spreads out in small, rounded lumps with sharp and hairy spines.  It is also known as Saints Cactus or Strawberry Cactus (red flowers).  I often see dead ones that are as black as black can be.

This Hedgehog is named for botantist George Engelmann, an emigrant to the U.S. from his native Germany.  He explored Arizona in the 19th Century and catalogued many of the cactus here.

The Engelmann was the first cactus to bloom this year in North Mountain Park, followed in short order by the Buckhorn and the Compass Barrel.  The barrel cactus is so named “compass” because it tends to list to the southwest.

Brittlebush Blooms

The prolific Brittlebush.

I was particularly struck by the vibrance of several Black-Eyed Susan bushes atop the north dam in North Mountain Park.  I did not see them growing anywhere else.

Bust is now I would describe the wildflower season.  I have seen no fields of golden Poppies.  Just a few, scattered and lonely.  Unfortunately, many measure the quality of the wildflower season strictly by the numbers of poppies.  Many other wildflowers like Fiddleneck (yellow flowers), Blue Dick and Phacelia (purple) are more abundant.

Later in the spring and summer the Saguaros will sport their white flowers.  And the Ironwood tree will be decked out in gorgeous pink blossoms.  But nothing compares to March.

Compass Barrel Blooms

Compass Barrel

If you miss March in the Sonoran Desert, you miss most of the flower season.



Socialism? It’s American

You have to wonder why many Americans are afraid of Bernie Sanders,  Senator Sanders, who is seeking the presidential nomination from Democratic voters although he is an Independent, describes his political movement as Socialist Democrat.  The first part of that, “Socialist” is what scares ignorant voters.

“Socialism,” they say, “isn’t that Communism?  We don’t want a despotic Russian-type government running our country.”

Too late.  America is and has been for a long time a socialist country.

The U.S. military, for instance, is the largest socialist program in the world.  Social Security is a socialist program.  So are the VA, public education, the court system, federal prisons, Medicare and Medicaid. The list goes on and on.  Millions of Americans use these socialist programs every day of the year.

To the surprise and likely dismay of Obama-Haters, the Affordable Care Act ((Obamacare), is not a socialist program.  It is a quasi-private business program, which probably explains why it has so many bumps along the way.

How do you identify a socialist program?  Simple.  It is a government-run program doing business in a government-owned building with government-paid employees.  Socialism and capitalism can live together, not always in harmony but together.

Communism, on the other hand, seizes private corporations, usurps the profits for its own benefit and shares some of the lucre with its citizens.  Communism and capitalism can not live together, at least not comfortably.

Except for the military, Republicans hate socialist programs.  They hate Social Security because, they say, private businesses are more efficient and can save tax dollars.  What Republicans really want to do is to “privatize” all these social program so their wealthy friends can feast on taxpayer money.

Republicans hate social programs so much that they lie and pull all sorts of tricks with the public in order to kill them.  One of their favorite scare tactics is to use the U.S. debt, now at 18 or 19 trillion dollars, as an example of how big government and its socialist programs are putting the country in danger.  What goes unsaid is that this debt is largely driven up by Republican presidents, namely Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and then blamed on Democrats’ spending policies.  That way they create a false-alarm and urge voters to “shrink government,” or in other words get rid of Social Security as we know it and Medicare, Medicaid et al.  It is not surprising, I suppose, how much of this stuff sticks and hoodwinks the public.

Socialism is a good thing.  So is government, although it could shed a few pounds here and there. Like the military budget.  .

It’s time for Americans to hear the alarm clock.  Bernie Sanders and socialism are far from the bogeymen decried on Fox News, headquarters for Republican propaganda.

Many Americans have benefitted from socialism for a long time.  They just don’t realize it.