Sold out by the President

There are so many counterfactuals in the President’s June 1 tirade against the rest of the world and the Climate Accord in which he announced he unilaterally tossed out the accord that it is hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the costs of his action. By trashing the idea of renewable energy sources he:

–Ignored the jobs created by building out the infrastructure in renewables, and gave these jobs away to other countries that see the economic opportunities in renewables.

–Ignored the factual economics of coal (miners are paid close to minimum wage, coal Barons pockets all the profits thus not benefiting the economy, fed and state budgets, workers or communities) and implying massive influx of jobs and money.

–Ignored the facts about technology having eaten a huge percentage of lost coal jobs.

–Ignored the fact that the trillions of dollars of wealth redistribution to Middle Eastern oil sheiks has spawned and pays for his favorite imaginary playmate, “Radical Islamic Terrorism” and at the same time created massive economic injustice worldwide.

Let’s look at his style. The speech betrayed his core: he is a bully, ignorant of the facts of the issues, bereft of the skills needed to form cooperative alliances that benefit the country. The speech pandered to ignorance, greed, fear and hate. That’s a prescription for disaster, but greatness.

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EDINBURGH CASTLE

Edinburgh is essentially flat with few small hills and the castle rock which is by far the tallest. There were hundreds of University students out in the sun today. Starbucks was overflowing like the trash cans after a big party so I couldn’t even get close.

Up the Royal Mile, crowded with pedestrians, some counter culture people hanging out and the obligatory tourists taking in the sights, we found our way to Edinburgh Castle. We took one of the free tours. It was far inferior to the tour at Stirling Castle. Essentially the guy pointed and said the name of the buildings, made a few tired jokes and urged us to visit the gift shops. More of the buildings house military affairs and history than present life in the castle over the centuries.

Visiting the apartment where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland who became James I of England and Ireland helped to put some personal face on some of the history I’ve been trying to absorb. The Crown Jewels (Honours of Scotland) reside here, (much less impressive than the English collection at the Tower Of London) starkly drew the contrast between the separate histories and emphasized the inclusion of Scotland in England.

St. Giles Cathedral is most impressive. The balance in the archecture is pleasing. I think I like it best of all the cathedrals I’ve seen. We attended a 6 pm organ concert there given by an internationally known organist from Florence. The sound was magnificent.

We ate at The Royal McGregor on the Royal Mile. The steamed muscles in lemon butter white wine were the best I have ever had. The whiskey flight was superb. Island whiskey has become my new favorite.

A leisurely stroll back home gave more flavor of he city.

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CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD, Inverness

Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart, oldest son of Prince James, Prince of Wales, next in line to the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland and the son of King James II who was deposed by King William at the time Parliament passed laws to the effect that a Roman Catholic could not ascend to the throne of England–got all that???) is something of a national hero in Scotland. He was brought up in Rome in close association with the Vatican. Steeped in the belief of the Divine Right of kings and convinced that only a Catholic (in contrast to a Protestant) king fulfilled the will of God, he was deeply involved in international plots to overthrow the King and government of England and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. He expected to be King of the British Isles.

There were many (but far from all) in Scotland, Ireland and England who wanted Prince Charles to return. It’s probably an oversimplification to say they were all Jacobites, but clearly the preponderance who wanted the restoration of the House of Stuart and all that implied were Jacobites. Jacobites were not limited to the British Isles. Jacobites were part of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror associated with that time in France.

Prince Charles set sail from France with two ships of men, money and supplies. On the way they were intercepted by English ships who so badly damaged the ship carrying most of the arms, men and money that it had to limp back to a French port. Thus when Prince Charles landed he was not equipped to fight the British and seize the throne.

It helps to comprehend these events and the significance of Culloden Battlefield if you think of these events as taking place in concentric circles of plots for power and wealth. Locally there were the interests wanting freedom from the British government and a return to the way it used to be. In Great Britain there were the royal court, nobility, Parliament and the merchant class wanting to hang on to a good thing. Regionally Great Britain has been at war with France intermittently for over 400 years, and France was backing Prince Charles with men, supplies and money in a bid for influence and wealth. Spain was always a possible threat and likely would have benefitted from a Catholic King on the English Throne. And the wider circle of plots and machinations included the Vatican’s reach to impose the Catholic religion and thereby increase its control throughout the world. (No doubt they would spin it differently, but a rose by any other name is still…)

So the campaign to wrest the British throne from the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart started off ill-prepared, ill-conceived, dependent on empty promises from men whose interests in Prince Charles’ success was subordinate to other personal interests of a wider scope.

For many months the prince was able to rally many of the Highland clans and fight the British armies successfully. In the spring of 1745 money, supplies and men ran short for Prince Charles. Promised supplies and reinforcements failed to appear. According to the presentation by the Scottish National Trust which runs the visitors center and tells the story of the Battle of Culloden,
there were a number of decisions made by the men in charge of the battle, including that they were unable to agree on a coherent plan and prepare to execute it well, that doomed Prince Charles’ army.

In an hour’s time approximately 1500 of the Highlander Jacobites lay dead or dying. The British forces lost 50 dead and 239 wounded.

The British government imposed harsh sanctions on the Scottish Jacobites. Execution, exile or imprisonment was the end for many. In addition, the Gaelic language, bagpipes, kilts, and weapons were forbidden for some 40 years, effectively crippling a culture and a way of life for the clans of the Scottish Highlands.

Prince Charles was aided in his escape from the battle and from England by Flora MacDonald. She dressed him and passed him off as her maid thus smuggling him through the British lines. He lived out his days in France.

Culloden Battlefield is a sorrowful place. Fifteen hundred men lie buried in mass graves, sacrificed to conflicting swirling dreams of power.

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HUNTING HOGWARTS

April 27, 2017

Everything about this trip has an air of fantasy about it. The quintessential London experiences—The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Church of St Martin’s In The Fields, Globe Theater, riding The Tube—were part of the wonder of London before we arrived.

Stonehenge has always fascinated me. How did people move and place the stones? Why? Then the Magna Carta, the beginning of participatory government in the English speaking world. Salisbury Cathedral and the graves of some historical figures I studied in school.

Wales, castles, rugged beauty and self-reliant people. The beauty of the Cotswolds and the Lakes District. Visiting the home of William Wordsworth.
Then Scotland! Glasgow, the old industrial center of Scotland that has reinvented itself, a city that has lived in my imagination as long as I have known there was a place called Scotland.

The Isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa afford their own charm and their views Into history and natural history. Just when it seems like this trip can’t get any better, it does.

All these experiences keep tumbling in my awareness. I can hardly believe I am having these experiences!

So today we left Oban, a town on the western coast that is the gateway to Mull and the inner Hebrides, driving through some very beautiful and rugged terrain on our way to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye. On the way we followed the route of the West Highland Steam Train rail road, made famous in the Harry Potter movie in the scene where the steam train chugs uphill over a curved stone arched bridge. (Thus the reference to chasing HOGWARTS since this rail line was the “Hogwarts Express.” As has so often been the case in this trip the scenery changes frequently. The roads are narrow and winding.

History lurks around every other bend. We stopped at a museum commemorating the end of the last Scottish armed rebellion in which Bonny Prince Charles (rightful Stuart heir to the Scottish throne and some would say of the English throne as well) lost the battle and the rebellion ended. Driving on we saw the results of Scotland managing evergreen forests on the hills that are very rocky. Few houses are visible along the way. Only the occasional small herd of sheep here and there suggested people trying to make a living off the land here. Sometimes the landscape was almost surreal.

Crossing to the Isle of Skye took 35 minutes. After a short drive to the town of Portree we had dinner at Dulse & Brose which was recommended on the website http://www.visitscotland.co.uk. They do some interesting things with deconstructed food.

We arrived at Edinbane Inn and called it a long day. As my eyes closed for sleep I noted it is still light here at 9:40 pm.

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Abandoned stone house, typical throughout the Highlands.

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MULL, STAFFA, IONA

Wednesday April 26 we took the Caledonia MacBrayne ferry Mull from Oban to Mull. The view of the mainland and the Islands from the water was continuously changing as the clouds alternately obscured the sun then parted letting sunlight wash over the rocks and sparse vegetation. We boarded a bus for the hour ride to the other end of Mull. The road was narrow enough that meeting traffic had to use passing places to pass. The driver kept us a gentle commentary both sides of the ride, telling local stories and myths and current news. She stopped to point out golden and white eagles (different species) as well as deer grazing some 100 yards off the road. Several times in the return ride sheep scattered from the warmth of the pavement.

Next was a small (25 passenger open boat)ferry to the Isle of Staffa. A very small uninhabited island, it is an excellent example geological processes that formed this part of the world. Basalt columns stand visible out of the sea. The basalt sits in top of older sediment rock at one end of the island and is capped by other previously molten rock and a thin layer of vegetation (about 1.5 inch thick in places I observed.). There are 3 caves at o e end of the island where sea action had worn away the softer rock, one cave going in nearly 200 feet.

The other attraction is a nesting colony of puffins on the top of the island. They best beginning May 1. Nine were on top, but a portion of the colony already has gathered in the water nearby.

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The same little ferry took us to the Isle of Iona. This was a place of religious retreat in the 500’s until the Norse executed the Christian monks and established their religion here in the 8th century. Besides the Abby there are remains of a nunnery, gravestones that are time-weathered to illegibility, and more great views of the sea, the islands, and the Scottish mainland.

Since WW II the Iona community, a religious community, has self consciously sought to create a non denominational spirituality focused on peace and respect and good works without the dogma and polity to create dissension and true believers. There is here, like most places we have visited in Scotland, a quiet beauty that brings a peacefulness and wonder, that invites contemplating how one fits in to the long sweep of humanity and the monumentally longer sweep of the universe.

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HOW TRAVEL IS CHANGING ME

Dinner has taken on a new level of significance for me on this Great Britain adventure. Always coming late in the day, usually as the light is changing into the soft muted tones of evening, I enjoy the pleasure of being done with driving, walking, looking, listening, learning and formulating more questions. We seek places that specialize in the local food and culture. Sometimes we choose one that represents the local “food scene.” Sometimes we look for a small place with simple food and only one or two people doing all the work. In England especially we have enjoyed the variety of pubs.

After perusing the menu and ordering we sip a glass of wine and talk about what we did and saw during the day, sometimes flipping through the day’s pictures. It is amazing that after nearly 52 years of marriage we still sometimes have very different views of the same experience.

So over a glass of wine and some starter we relive the day. Theses discussions have taken on a new twist, introduced by some form of the question, “How is this trip causing you to grow, to change, broaden your perspective?”

Each of these discussions elicits necessarily tentative observations that require the seasoning of time and contemplation in order to grasp the full significance of the Great Britain adventure and its impact on each of us. Several themes keep recurring during these dinner discussions.

One theme is a growing awareness of the layers of history. Most of the places we have visited here have more than 2000 years of continuous written history, often most of it visible in the buildings, the streets, the landscape. Time and again we have found visible symbols of human history going back centuries before written history. (I will not use the inaccurate and short-sighted term “prehistory” as it denigrates the value and humanness of our ancestors whose written record we have begun to learn how to read and understand in the last 100+ years.) The changes I am aware of include a constant awareness of the much longer scope of human history than I came here with. While some of this began to happen during earlier experiences in Europe, the cumulative effect seems to be driving this awareness to deeper levels and encouraging me to be aware of these layers as part of daily living.

This historical awareness is fixing a spotlight on the American mindset that history began with “me” and the idea that you can just tear down something that is “old” and build something different, new, better without reference to the lessons of the past or alternatively, invent a past to suit your emotions and then insist that is the way it really was, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

Finding Stone Age artifacts of human history reminds me of the multi-thousand year journey of humanity. The record of how we have adapted and changed over the last 70,000-250,000 years, from Stone Age to Bronze Age to Industrial Age to Digital Age, from Hunter Gatherers to Farmers to Factory Workers to Information Workers emphasizes for me the immediate need to elect politicians who have the insights and skills to collaboratively develop solutions for our tomorrows rather than bandying simple (and backward facing and wrong) slogans about how we are going back to better days.

Another theme emerging in these dinner conversations is stewardship of the environment. Stewardship is one of those highly valuable concepts from my religious past, focusing on the responsibility to care for and use wisely what we have. Stewardship is a concept that does not need religious grounding. Most of us (but clearly not all of us) do not trash our homes and squander the life giving resources in our possession, yet when it comes to our shared environment we eschew the concept of personal or collective stewardship. Every place I have traveled in Europe is far ahead of the United States in renewable energy. What I can do, how I choose to invest my time and resources in this and other environmental issues will emerge after this Great Britain adventure. I have the feeling I have already done the easy things and now need to address fundamental, structural change.

A third “how I am changing” theme emerging grows out of the gracious friendly respectful way we are treated here everywhere by everyone. Striking up conversations is easy. Even discussing (albeit at a necessarily observational level) has everywhere been easy and enlightening, even when we disagreed. Pondering trips to France and Spain I remember finding the same thing. Far from the stereotype of cold and aloof, we have relatively easily negotiated the language barriers and made connections. Such a contrast to the often hate-filled trash talk we hear in the US. I find myself wondering how to engage in making changes in the quality of how we relate to each other. Another long term complicated project.

Not meant to be an exhaustive list, this has turned into a longer post than I originally envisioned. This may even become a longer term project.

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DRIVING THE HIGHLANDS TO OBAN AND THE HEBRIDES.

The drive from Glasgow to Oban (about 85 miles) took 2.45 hours. We drove along Loch Lomond Shore for 25 miles, stopping several times to soak in the beauty and try to capture some of the beauty in pictures.

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Loch Lomond

Then we climbed into the mountains on a basically good 2 lane road, much of the time near the rail line from Glasgow to Oban. This is the ferry gateway to the Hebredies (Mull, Iona, etc, the southern end of the island archipelago).

Where we are staying is magical. Between the water’s edge and our windows are a seawall and a strolling lane, a two way street, a front yard that is all paved parking, steps up to an elevated 12-14 foot wide porch. So the total distance from the water to the bed is maybe 5-6 car lengths.

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The Bay out our bedroom window

For dinner we had today’s catch of muscles, langostinos, brown crab claws, scallops, and oysters. Desert was Bailey’s bread pudding with warm cream and ice cream topped off with a 16 y scotch from Isle of Islay (about 20 miles out from here) that was very smokey and smooth. This place is a fairytale.

The weather (wind and snow, visibility 250 yards) was such that the ferries did not run until late afternoon, then only the short runs in the protected waters. They will not run tomorrow, but will Wednesday after the weather breaks in the middle of the night Tuesday night. So tomorrow’s plan is to mostly sit and absorb. The light changes constantly. When we can see the mountains on the outer islands they are snow covered; much of the time they are shrouded in clouds and snow.

The white caps on Loch Lomond were amazing! I’ve seen it on Lske Champlain (much smaller than the Great Lakes) but never on something as narrow as these lakes. The wind was heavy gale force down the valley and all boats were apparently tied up. The Firth of Lorn and the Bay of Oban here was quite choppy with significant white caps until about 5:30.

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