Archive for August, 2018

Responding to the President’s ranting, American newspapers, big and small, this week are editorializing in defense of a free and unfettered press. I’ve read several editorials, but I’m particularly impressed by the words of a small-town newspaper in a red state, The Yankton County (South Dakota) Observer. Yankton County’s politics are hardly Berkeley’s. Donald Trump carried South Dakota in 2016 and beat Hillary Clinton 58.8 percent to 34.3 percent in Yankton County. (Third parties picked up the remaining 6.9 percent.)

“President Trump would have you believe the media’s role is to serve him,” observed an editorial in The Observer. “Criticism of his words and deeds are reframed as unpatriotic attacks on America. He calls the press ‘the enemy of the American people’ because they are counting his mounting pile of lies. There is a long and hateful history to labeling groups as ‘enemies of the people.’ Stalin, Hitler, and Mao all used those words….

“[America’s] founding fathers did not always like their newspaper coverage, but they knew a free press was democracy’s best defense. They enshrined that ideal as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment.”

Thomas Jefferson

America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, was the principal author of the US Constitution. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government,” he wrote, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Once again Trump is at odds with our founding fathers.

Unfortunately, as the editorial from South Dakota noted, “our 45th president answers coverage of his easily disproven stream of lies by smearing the press for spreading ‘fake news.’ Trump’s lifelong love for false witness is catching on. Elected officials at all levels see his success with the ‘fake news’ deflection technique. Many have weaponized it for their own purposes.”

Having spent 35 years working at five large and small newspapers, I have seen reporters risk their lives to get the facts. And in the relatively few cases where they got something wrong, they corrected it. When Trump works himself into a sweat, calls journalists “enemies of the American people,” and says that they’re “disgusting” and “scum,” it sounds to me like his colon has backed up into his mouth and he’s relieving himself orally.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters photo)

Meanwhile across the seas in Turkey, Trump’s doppelgänger, President Tayyip Erdogan, is using the same sophistries to rationalize repressing the free flow of information. In part because of Erdogan’s policies, the Turkish economy is in a shambles. The value of Turkey’s lira currency is collapsing, and inflation is staggering. The mainstream Turkish press, however, is too intimidated to fully analyze the problem, so the Turkish public has begun discussing among themselves in social media whether there will be currency controls. Erdogan wants everyone to shut up.

“There are economic terrorists on social media,” Erdogan recently declared. “They are truly a network of treason,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “We will not give them the time of day… We will make those spreading speculations pay the necessary price.”

Turkey’s interior ministry has reported identifying “346 social media accounts carrying posts about the exchange rate that it said created a negative perception of the economy. It said it would take legal measures against them but did not say what these would be,” Reuters added. “Separately, the Istanbul and Ankara prosecutor’s offices launched investigations into individuals suspected of being involved in actions that threaten Turkey’s economic security.”

The French philosopher Voltaire in the 18th century could have been talking about Erdogan or Trump when he warned: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

 

 

Inverness Park’s Richard Blair and his wife Kathleen Goodwin have a new book, which consists of top-notch photography documenting life in San Francisco from the 1960s to the present. Although a couple of Richard’s subjects are well known, the quality of his photography makes each come alive in new ways.

Much of what makes Richard’s photography great is his combination of timing and perspective. Here’s the Transamerica Pyramid as seen through a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen looking up from Fort Point on the San Francisco shore.

A variety of artists painted the murals inside Coit Tower during 1934 as part of a public work project.

Most of Coit Tower’s murals can be seen on the main floor, but, as Richard notes, “A rarely seen section on the second floor, where space is tight, can be viewed as part of a tour.”

An exotic, jungle-like elevated walkway at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

A highlight of a drive through Golden Gate Park is the elegant San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers on John F. Kennedy Drive.

Hippie days recalled — A pyrotechnic display last year illuminated the conservatory during a 50th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love. During that summer back in 1967, “music was in the park with the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane providing the soundtrack,” Richard writes. “We were stoned on pot or acid, and life was good (if the Vietnam War didn’t get you).”

Party time in Mission Dolores Park — “The largest concentration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGTQ) people in the world lives in San Francisco,” Richard notes. “Their freedom is a wonderful thing that everyone can enjoy, whether they are gay or straight.

“LGBTQ people are a major contributor to the city’s economy. Because of San Francisco’s tolerance we are getting a lot of the world’s talent!”

A dancer at Carnaval San Francisco. Photo by Kathleen Goodwin.

As it happens, all the other photos in this posting are by Richard Blair although his wife Kathleen Goodwin also shot some of the notable images in San Francisco, City of Love, including this one.

Marian and Vivian Brown were identical twins born in 1927 who grew up to be frequently pictured in the press and on television sporting identical snappy outfits and coiffed hair. They accompanied each other everywhere and would often eat dinner at one of the front tables in Uncle Vito’s restaurant near the top of Nob Hill. Marian died in January 2013, and Vivian died 22 months later.

An old man heads across the street in Chinatown.

San Francisco, City of Love does an impressive job of documenting the city’s fascinating people and special places. The book is starting to be available in bookstores, and at Toby’s Feed Barn, and can also be ordered from <richardblair.com>. 96 pages, $9.95

 

California’s wildfires reached the Tomales Bay area this Wednesday. The first of two was a small fire near Highway 1 in Olema. The fire, which was started by a tree falling onto power lines, broke out around 4 a.m. Thanks to a quick response from county firefighters, Bolinas volunteer firefighters, and Inverness volunteer firefighters, the fire was limited to about 100 square feet, but more than 2,000 homes and businesses at the head of the bay were temporarily blacked out. Most got their power back over the next few hours, but a few were without electricity for up to 11 hours.

An air tanker drops fire retardant on a line of flames.

The second fire was on Black Mountain west of Platform Bridge, and it was far larger.

The wildfire was first reported at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. Five air tankers, two helicopters, an air-attack plane, three bulldozers and 100 firefighters from the county, the City of Novato, Ross Valley, Bolinas, Inverness, Nicasio, Skywalker Ranch, and Novato responded. They were able to limit its spread to approximately 50 acres, the Marin County Fire Department reported.

Firefighters worked through Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning they reported 80 percent containment. At 3 p.m., they announced full containment.

The fire began beside the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road west of Platform Bridge and the Farm Stand. Fueled by dry grass, the fire raced up a ridge to the top of Black Mountain where firefighters stopped its advance. No structures were damaged. No people were harmed or needed to evacuate although one herd of horses was evacuated as a precautionary measure. The Point Reyes-Petaluma Road was closed at Platform Bridge and at Highway 1 until Thursday morning.

 

The air tankers’ repeated dropping fire retardant left Black Mountain looking as if an artist had taken a paintbrush to it. Photo by Linda Sturdivant