Sunday, November 11, 2018


I grew neglectful of this blog for the few days prior to the elections, having noticed a significant drop-off in readership. People were likely engaged in more important activities than reading a blog! And until yesterday, given the delay in finalizing the vote count, I was reluctant to post, uncertain what the final outcome might be.

Now's the time for congratulations to Harley for a campaign well run, for a tone of seriousness and courtesy, and for having prevailed over what seemed to be initially long odds. What a great achievement! I am thrilled to have been a small part of making this significant change both in Orange County and in the national political arena.

I also know this could not have happened without the army of Harley's ardent supporters, all of whom worked so hard to come to this result. Spending the greater part of my time away from my voting area, I was not the presence I would have otherwise wanted to be--and am therefore doubly grateful to those of you who were. Thanks to everyone for this great effort!

I'm now debating whether to continue with this blog or let it go. As some know, I devoted a good number of months to writing daily letters to our soon-to-be-departed "representative," Dana Rohrabacher--over 250 individual, hand-signed letters to which I never received a single response. They were posted on my previous blog, "The Rohrabacher Letters." So I'm wondering now if I should I now write letters to Harley, expressing my concerns and offering encouragement and support.

Meantime, though, congratulations and gratitude all around.

Friday, November 2, 2018


(Cross-posted from The Buddha Diaries)

I was brought up in a Christian home. As those who have been reading "The Buddha Diaries" for a while will surely know, my father was a minister in the Church of England. He was, as the English say (or used to say; I'm not familiar with current usage) "high church"--which meant robes, candles, even incense if he could get away with it in country parishes. All the ritualistic stuff. (Dog collars: the higher the church, the narrower the white band. Or so it used to be...)

My father was also a socialist. At the time of my birth he was the incumbent at St. Cuthbert's church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at that time a working-class, coal-mining town still suffering from the devastation of the Great Depression. His parishioners were poor, many of them hungry, and generally destitute. My father took his pastoral work seriously, and ministered with such compassion and empathy to his flock that he himself became ill and was urged by doctors to move south for his health.

His first brush with the fundamentalism that takes the form, in America, of evangelicalism, was during his college days, long before his ordination. A broad-minded man with a fine sense of humor, he recalled on several occasions within the hearing of myself, his son--though he would not have done so from the pulpit--the emergence of an evangelical group which called itself the (forgive me) Cambridge Univeristy New Testament Society--and proudly put out flyers throughout the university with its acronym plastered across the top. (You can work that one out for yourself!)

My father's Christianity was so far removed from the evangelicalism in America today that he would not have recognized what so many of our citizens preach in the name of "religion". His Christian faith required him to take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, to put their needs before his own, to practice the kind of compassion that Christ modeled in the New Testament books of the Bible. He would have abhorred the notion of the "prosperity" gospel. His Christian conviction required him to vote for the socialist Labour Party--the political party whose policies were guided by his principles.

Brought up with these--yes, Christian!--tenets, though now at heart a Buddhist, I remain to this day a socialist. I cannot reconcile my father's Christianity with the extreme right-wing views of those evangelicals who vote faithfully for Republicans and, astoundingly, are unwavering supporters of a "president" who proves himself on a daily basis to lack any shred of understanding or compassion for those less privileged than himself; who lacks the moral compass that undergirds decency and good behavior; and who personifies, in my view, everything that is un-Christian.

I know that there are many Christians--whether evangelical or not--whose thoughts and actions in the world are guided more by the New Testament than the Old. I believe that, as would my father, they will vote their Christian conscience at the ballot box. I know that there also are many who are both religious and conservative in their views. I'm guessing they must be much troubled, even torn, by what Republican conservatism has come to represent. And I'm hoping that they, too, will be guided by the wisdom of true Christian principles next Tuesday.

True Christians--I believe I speak for my father here--affirm truth over lies; compassion over cruelty; reflection over recklessness; knowledge over ignorance; charity and generosity of spirit over greed and selfishness; and, above all, love over hate. I want to believe that there are many who, in the name of the one they acknowledge as their "savior," will cast their vote with those Christian qualities remembered in their hearts and minds.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


If Republicans contrive to maintain their stranglehold on the United States next Tuesday (White House, Congress, Supreme Court--not to mention numerous state houses and governors' mansions) are you willing to believe that our incumbent "representative" will not join his colleagues and go after the ACA, Medicare, and other safety net entitlement programs?

I'm not. I heard Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell say it shamelessly: he laid the blame for ballooning deficits on these programs, which the vast majority of Americans depend on--and, in most cases, have earned with prepayments--rather than on what we all know to be the real cause: the Republican tax bill which further enriched the very rich and passed out crumbs to the middle class and the poor.

Did you hear Tr*mp shamelessly announce an absurd promise of imminent middle class tax cuts? Did you believe him?

I didn't. I don't trust our current incumbent to work for the preservation of our social security programs. I believe that, if re-elected, he will work with his colleagues to undermine them.

Even sane Republicans (there are some; I spoke to one yesterday) should join us in voting for a sane Democrat next Tuesday. And--sorry, folks--shame on any Democrat who does not show up to vote, or who has not already voted. The future is at stake.

Monday, October 29, 2018


A pertinent aside, from my own field of interest--art.

It's a perennial bind for the artist with a social conscience: do I risk abusing my talent in directing it to blatantly political ends? Some do, and successfully so. I think of the painter, Peter Saul, who has been doing it for years and remains widely respected for it. Or Shepard Fairey, of Obama fame. Or Robbie Conal, who posts his work liberally (!) on street corners, city walls, anywhere he can find available space for his scathing criticisms of power and its abuse. And there are others. But there are many artists, too, who are more hesitant about using their art to express their (mostly progressive!) views, and who choose to eschew any kind of political reference in their work.

But almost every artist I know is outraged, like myself, about the current--and regrettably thus far successful--power grab by the political right wing. My friend Bruce Richards is among many who feel this way but, as he put it in a recent email to me, "can only work in pictographs to produce the silent scream presently in my heart and mind." He attached an image, reproduced below, of the way he chooses to respond. Known for his meticulous rendering, in paint, of objects loaded with iconic value, he turns that talent to an image in which a burning tire--a potent symbol of the rage of the dispossessed and the oppressed--is seen encircling the silhouette of our United States. 

Bruce Richards, "Aperture" (thanks to the artist for his permission to reproduce)

Still, refusing to abandon his sense of responsibility as an artist to the higher goals of art, he works explicitly not merely in the socio-political context, but in the context of art history. The silhouette in "Aperture" is derived from a precedent, an apocalyptic artwork made in 1836 by Thomas Cole, "The Course of Empire: Destruction," in which Richards sees not only the dire warning of imperial overreach--but also the shape of America in the rift in the clouds.

Thomas Cole, "The Course of Empire: Destruction," 1836
America was never intended to become an empire. If it has become one, perhaps without intention, it now might seem to be on the path to self-induced Armageddon, as Cole's painting--and hence, too, Richards' work--suggest. 

In other words... please vote for Harley, before it's too late!

Friday, October 26, 2018


... we must all be democrats on November 6!

I've given a lot of thought to this letter that I'll begin sending out to friends everywhere today. I should be able to reach several hundred people, most of them here in Orange County or Los Angeles. The plea applies elsewhere as much as it does in our own congressional district. 

If you find the letter useful, please copy and paste or adapt the words as appropriate and send it on to your own list of contacts. 

Dear Friends,

Please forgive my imposition on our friendship for a purpose that is at least in part political. For many of you, I have no way of knowing your political views; but it is my firm conviction that the current election cycle makes it imperative that every one of us cast a vote and that—left, right or center—we vote for our Democratic candidate.

I came to America as a green-card immigrant in 1964. I became a citizen in 1972. I thought to leave behind a culture still dominated politically by prejudice and class-consciousness and to find, here, a truly functioning democracy. Given our current socio-political environment, it has become painfully clear that democracy cannot survive, let alone thrive, on a one-party system—yet that is what we have effectively arrived at.

The coming election is about more than politics. It is about whether our vulnerable democracy can survive a period in which reckless, dangerously uninformed and nationalist authoritarianism runs wild, unimpeded by the constitutionally provided “checks and balances” that were intended to prevent precisely this eventuality.

Your vote and mine will determine the existence of an effective oppositional power, which we all depend on to assure the persistence of a free society. For this reason alone, if not out of habitual partisan loyalty, I ask you to join me in casting your vote to save us from the looming and imminent threat of tyranny.

If this plea strikes a chord with you and you share my concern, I ask you to pass it on to your own friends, and friends of friends.  Should my letter seem like a useful tool in broadcasting our mutual sense of urgency, please forward it, whether edited or in its entirety, to everyone you know.

Ellie joins me in expressing our respect and love for all, Peter

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


"Truth without power today is just background Muzak to the march of the Trump administration." Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

Vote Democratic, Friedman says: "vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone else to a voting station to vote for a Democrat."

We can agree on this: if Democrats fail to achieve some measure of power in the November midterm, there will be nothing left to stop Trump and Trumpism.

He must be stopped. His enablers--looking at you, Rohrabacher, my putative "representative"!--must be stopped.

Vote Harley Rouda. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Trump lies and lies and lies Dana Rohrbacher SAYS NOTHING to contradict him. We must assume, therefore, that he goes along with the lies. Most recently it's the dire warning of gangsters and terrorists in what is catchily called "the caravan" of asylum-seekers that is heading north (the timing is unfortunate, to say the least, but that does not justify the "president"'s fear-mongering and outright lies); and the vacuous, pandering, unsupported promise of a middle class tax cut.

We should be able to ask our "congressman" if he goes along with Trump's lies; and we should be able to get answers. I guess the answer is his silence, or his tacit support.

Our challenge is to open the eyes of enough Republicans and independents to Rohrabacher's betrayal of the interests of the people in his district and his mindless fellow-traveling with the Republican betrayal of America.


Friday, October 19, 2018


I repudiate Republicanism and everything it has come to stand for. I am sad to admit that there is no longer ANY Republican I can regard with respect. "Our" Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, is no exception.

I celebrate and embrace what our country used to stand for: reason, sanity, fairness, equal opportunity and justice for all.

Remember those days? They were still our shared values when I came to this country as a green card immigrant in 1962. They were still our shared values when I became a citizen in 1972.

I trust that these are still the values represented by political Democrats and the Democratic party. In this current election cycle I wish to see Democrats proudly proclaim them. Loudly. And forcefully.

Which is why I will be voting for Harley Rouda and a Democratic ticket when I send in my vote by mail. Republicans should join me if, like me, they repudiate everything that Republicanism has come to stand for.

Vote values. Vote reason, sanity, fairness, equal opportunity and justice for all.

Say I, an immigrant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


When an American president pussyfoots around a (likely) grisly murder (likely) ordered and orchestrated by his let's-make-a-profit Saudi buddy, wouldn't you want a congressional representative with the guts to stand up and make a public statement of his/her outrage? When you have an American president who expresses constant praise and support of the world's worst authoritarians, and acts upon it, wouldn't you want to hear a word in defense of democracy--let alone decency--from the person who purports to represent you? (Our current "congressman", alas, is himself a notorious pal of the most notorious of those despots).

Or, closer to home, when you have an American president who publicly calls a woman a "horseface" and later defends his remark by telling us to take it as we will (in other words, f.y.), would you not want someone in the House of Representatives who'd have the guts--not to mention the sense of decency--to stand up and say, This will not stand?

Wouldn't you want a congressional representative who models integrity, reason, compassion, courage, and a sense of fairness? So please don't vote for the incumbent, who shall be nameless because his name, to me at least, has become unmentionable. But no matter your prior political affiliation, please vote. Your citizenship demands it. And your good sense demands that you vote, this time around, for the Democratic candidate. Our nation will not survive, unharmed, another two years with a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a "president" who poses as a Republican--with the vocal or tacit support of the ENTIRE Republican Congress. No questions asked.


The incident I witnessed recently at LAX is surely one that is repeated countless times on a daily basis throughout the United States. We are an angry people, and there are those who are willing to cross the line from anger into physical violence.

Here's what happened. A woman wearing a scarlet "Make America Great Again" baseball cap boarded our plane at JFK. Ellie and I reacted as you might expect--with anger and disgust--but chose to watch in silence as she took her seat alongside her husband. She had the right to advertise her political opinions.

She was still proudly displaying those opinions when we deplaned at LAX, where we saw her waiting at the luggage carousel. It was here that a young woman of color could not contain her fury, and started yelling the displeasure that many of us, surely, felt, but did not express. The husband responded protectively--as was appropriate--but with the kind of brute display of male physical superiority we see at televised Trump rallies. He confronted the protesting woman, his big chest thrust out, drowning out her shouts with his own and backing her, step by step, away, with the sheer bulk of his presence.

Alert to the potential danger, I shouted out to him to leave the woman alone, but neither one of them heard. Eventually, the silent disparagement of the gathering crowd put an end to the confrontation until, a few moments later, it resumed out on the curb. This time, at least, there was a distance that separated the couple from the young woman's fury as they climbed into a waiting car. And I was surprised to hear a couple of other distant voices join in to support them.

The young woman was wrong, of course. And right. I admired the courage with which she vented the anger that I myself chose to keep concealed. And I think that women have earned the right to shout, after centuries in which they have been constrained to whisper protest against the privilege and power of men. By the same token, though, that "deplorable" woman had earned the right to wear that vile symbol of everything Trump.

Is this what we have come to, as a country? What a sad, sad tale.


It seems Republicans will stop at nothing to achieve and hold on to power. I watched last night as Rachel Maddow recounted in excruciating detail how Lee Atwater cleverly conspired, all those years ago, to set up Gary Hart in the "Monkey Business" trap--an operation successful enough to remove Hart from presidential contention and a real chance of defeating George H.W.Bush that year. Since then, of course, we have had the Bush-Gore fiasco and the 2016 "election" of the present pretender who occupies the White House.

Poll after poll shows that America is at heart democratic--even Democratic with a capital D. Poll after poll shows that Republicans in power are hell bent on implementing goals that are at odds with the wishes of the majority of Americans. They achieve power by chicanery: voter suppression, obscene misuse of wealth, gerrymandering, manipulation of the Supreme Court, the absurdity of the Electoral College and the long outdated tradition of two senators per state... And wield it ruthlessly. With shameless lies and propaganda, they manage to enforce the ovine obedience of a good part of the American electorate, the only check and balance that could exercise some semblance of control.

If we, the majority of American voters, fail to get of our rear ends and make our voices heard in two weeks time, we will have thrown our noble experiment in democracy to the wolves. We must not simply speak with our votes. We must shout.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


I have been gone these past couple of weeks--not the best time to be away, in view of the upcoming election, but plans were made long ago...

I return to find Brett Kavanaugh appointed to the US Supreme Court after an insultingly skimpy "investigation"--an appointment for which we shall all be paying dearly for decades to come. That he was the wrong man was evident not because he had behaved badly as a teenager, but because he was unable to acknowledge even the possibility of having behaved badly when confronted with compelling testimony to the contrary. Instead, he chose to play the irate victim, lie before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people, prevaricate, fulminate, and blame everyone but himself--especially the real victim--for his bad behavior.

What could a man worthy of that elevated seat have said, had he had the dignity and integrity required of that position? He could have acknowledged openly that, as a teenager, he drank too much; that, in a state of inebriation he might well have committed acts of which he had no memory; that he might well have been responsible for the long suffering of his accuser, and that he was profoundly distressed to hear of it today; that he would wish, if it were possible, to make it up to her in some way and, failing that, to regain his integrity by proving himself to be honest and compassionate in this moment of real challenge.

He might even have wished to withdraw from his nomination and commit himself to righting such wrongs in his further work as a judge.

The real disgrace is that Republican Senators were so desperate to confirm the appointment of another reliably right-wing Supreme Court Justice that they were willing to overlook what were serious character flaws and rush to confirm the lifetime appointment of a man so obviously lacking in integrity.

It is imperative that Republicans learn, in the coming days, that they cannot get away with such behavior with impunity; that there is a cost to ruthless partisanship and riding roughshod over the express wishes of their constituents; and that voters still have the ability to exercise the ultimate power they were given by the Constitution.

Our "Congressman" is no exception. I am not yet up to date with the state of politics in the district in which I vote, but I trust the Harley Rouda is roaring forward to defeat the deplorable Rohrabacher.

Sunday, September 30, 2018


45% to 45%, according to a message put out this morning by Harley Rouda!

Had I known the election would be this close, I might not have chosen to be traveling abroad for the next two weeks, but those plans were made months ago. So I'll be watching from afar.

I did send in another donation to the Rouda campaign this morning, before leaving. I hope you'll join me, to the best of your ability.