Month: January 2017

72nd Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Donald Trump

Today, January 27, 2017, is the 72nd anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp/Birkenau Death Camp. (There was a third camp too, the slave factory called Monowitz.) The facilities are a short train ride from the historic and beautiful Medieval city of Krakow, in southwest Poland.

I visited the camp three days in a row during my tour of Europe in 2000, when I toured five countries and documented the legacy of the Nazis crimes against humanity that claimed at least 11 million lives in the camps. The majority of the victims, here at Auschwitz/Birkenau, were Jews, but the camps also practiced genocide on Gypsies and Soviet POWs, throughout the Germans vast camp and prison system. The majority of the nearly 1.1 million murdered at Birkenau, the main killing center, were Jews from Europe.

Today, the United States also marks its first week under the United States’ first openly totalitarian strongman who embraces the tactics, ideology, and the support of fascists. A certified Nazi, in the words of Howard Dean, Steve Bannon, is a senior policy advisor with direct access to the Oval Office and President Donald Trump.

In one week the world has seen Trump take radical actions that mark the clear tilt to fascism, which in Nazi Germany found its gruesome manifestation in death camps like Auschwitz. Trump did the following:

  • Confirm a wall with Mexico will be built,
  • Defend torture–yes torture–to a global audience,
  • Promote Orwellian ideology now called “alternative facts,”
  • Muzzle government agencies,
  • Sign orders to try to begin removing basic and health insurance access for nearly 30 million Americans,
  • Attack the scientific process by demanding all U.S. EPA scientific research receive political approval,
  • Sign orders that promote policies with pipelines and immigration that enrich his personal wealth,
  • Threaten to defund American cities where he faces political opposition on immigration matters,
  • Lash out at all critics who reported his inauguration was vastly less attended than President Barack Obama’s, and
  • Continue to promote proven lies of alleged voter fraud, when in fact he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

fierce-urgency-of-nowDuring my trip in 2000, I asked myself a question, repeatedly: what would I do if confronted by a man like Hitler, a regime like Nazi Germany. I always assumed I would see it coming and be able to respond in time. I think that time has arrived. I think the response for now is to fight this, here on this blog, and with my feet and mouth at events, and tactically empower our somewhat feeble minority party in Congress to try and slow down the GOP’s and Trump’s plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and our modern welfare state. The “fierce urgency of now,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, is truly NOW! I admit, I am scared, and it can be a positive emotion because it forces urgent action.

Advertisements

Living and loving the life aquatic

(Rudy Owens, in one of his favorite environments, doing one his favorite things–lap swimming)

I am a swimmer. I have swum my whole life, but it was not until I had some bad running injuries, when I became a serious endurance athlete, that I found my rhythm and place in the pool.

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for people of all ages. It has virtually no harmful impact on any part of the body, except perhaps the shoulders. Otherwise it is low-impact. It boosts lung capacity and one’s capacities in every sport. It is also one of the finest ways to meditate and clean one’s mind.

As I become a more proficient swimmer, I love that my lap swimming can now be seen as surf training, helping me become a stronger surfer. Surfing requires conditioning that only swimming can provide. It is a perfect match for this stage in my life.

I love seeing people in their 80s swim. It gives me hope I have decades left to enjoy staying healthy and active.

Snowstorm in the Sellwood neighborhood

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Portland, Oregon just experienced yet another winter snowstorm. This one was the most severe of the season. Anywhere from eight to 12 inches fell in the metro area on Jan. 10 and 11, 2017. I knew it would be severe when I went for a walk the night the heavy, wet snowflakes began to fall. Wind swirled in all directions. My eyes were stinging from being hit by the wet white stuff. In Alaska, I skate skied in this stuff all the time, but here it is something different. It was definitely going to be a heavy, wet snowfall that would bring the region to a crawl.

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Jan. 11 to try and get to work about nine miles away. All around me I saw fallen branches, broken by the weight of snow accumulation. There was going to be a lot of damage from this storm, and roads would soon turn to ice. I spent four hours trying to get to work that day, all before 8:30 a.m., but I failed. A train and bus connection never arrived. My consolation prize was a few photos I took on my first outing and my second, when I finally got my buses. All told, I spent six hours commuting that day from Portland’s southeast Sellwood neighborhood, to Tigard, and back again. It did make for great scenery.

What you see are the shots of businesses along 13th Avenue Southeast and one looking to the city’s west hills, above the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. It is pretty, but if you live in a place that can’t handle snow, it can be a pain. Me, I had plenty of food in the fridge, some pea soup already made, cold beer, lots of tea, a cozy apartment, and no time to worry given my commutes. You just roll with it. I’m exhausted. I need some sleep. This was my consolation prize this week.

Seaside Cove on a winter’s day

Seaside is a small coastal community about 85 miles northwest of Portland. It is best known as one of the premier surf spots in the Northwest, thanks to the break that hugs the point that juts out into the Pacific just south of the city. The surf website Surfline boasts it offers the “best left-hand pointbreak in North America.” This of course inspires visitors and also localism that has become of the stuff of local legend. A TV news reporter once endured abuse from local bad boys, countered by an effort to counter the incident by locals. There are also stories of slashed tires of those who park near Seaside Point.

I have avoided the beach for months because of the fierce localism reputation the community has earned, but could not resist coming on a day with small waves and clean sets I could see on the local beachcam. I put in at Seaside Cove, which lies just north of Seaside Point. When I arrived at around 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2017, clean sets with waves from 1.5 feet to 3 feet were rolling in nicely. Longboarders were popping left and right. The sun was out, and the winds were calm. It was, however, cold. My car thermometer showed 25 F when I stopped. The frigid air did not stop the 30 or more surfers I saw putting in during the next four hours.

My experience proved memorable. It was the first day I caught waves the full distance from the break to the shore. I had overcome a few plateaus, but I still had to work on choosing my waves as far out as I could be. I was hampered by having a “fun board,” which is shorter than a longboard. Longboarders were able to catch the waves farther out, and I could not navigate around them to their spot. Still, it was a perfect day. The scene was mellow and friendly. Whatever reputation surfers have here did not mesh with the vibe I found. I think the perfect winter surfing day put everyone in a great mood. There were more than enough breaks and enough space for everyone, from experienced gray beards to rookies.