There is hope

So, tonight I began my job as a Grassroots Organizing team for the San Diego County Democratic Party. I began with the five other Democrats living on my street (actually three homes—four including mine.) At one of the homes I discovered that the Democrat on my list had moved away. I was taken a bit aback, and introduced myself as a neighbor who was with the GO team for the Democratic Party—were they voters? Were they Democrats? “No” the woman I faced said, we’re Republicans. I started to apologize, as I heard in the background “Trump Trump, Trump, Trump” “No, not Trump” quietly said the woman who had opened the door. I apologized for disturbing their peace. There is hope.

A Correction

In my last blog I said there were four Republicans, that was an error. Mr. Ryan Clark is non-partisan. He wrote:

Thank you for the excellent write-up. Just a minor point of clarification: I’m not a Republican (I’m non-partisan), so I would prefer to not be lumped into that bunch. Like you, I was really disappointed with how some of our local elected officials appeared to try and roll out the red carpet for their guy. We deserve better. That’s much of the reason why I was asked to run for office–Blaise and I were both late entries to provide better alternatives than the guy who was picked / groomed for the job.

My apologies for lumping him in with that bunch.

A Treasure of a Treasurer’s Position


There are five candidates running for the office of Escondido City Treasurer . This is not too surprising, since:  “The city council shall fix the treasurer’s salary annually at no less than one-half (1/2) the highest salary paid to a city department head other than the city manager, unless a lower salary is requested by the city treasurer, with benefits equal to those provided such appointee.”  Interpretation: the total compensation well over $100K—for what all seem to agree to be a part time position.

Under California law, a general law city like Escondido can either elect or appoint the offices of City Treasurer and City Clerk.

Escondido’s Treasurer has always been an elected position. But in 1984 Escondido citizens voted in Proposition F, which, according to the L.A. Times, was an attempt to “restore the salaries and powers of office to both the Escondido city clerk and treasurer, powers that were removed by the City Council in a dispute over investment of city funds.” Proposition N, passed two years later seems to have increased the independent authority of the City Treasurer and Clerk. In the argument against Prop. N, there is an interesting statement by the former City Treasurer, Ruth V. Thomas. Ruth.png

The City Treasurer, since 1984, has been Kenneth C. Hugins. In his last election in November 2012, he won by only 27 votes. His opponent was 23-year old Michelle Fawcett who had no political experience.  In 2012, he claimed to have returned more than $500,000 in salary.

In his candidate statement of 2012, Hugins avowed that he served on a part time basis. So it was a bit of a surprise when the candidate endorsed by not only Hugins, but the four white Republican males on the City Council announced at a forum held on September 13, by the first United Methodist Church, that he, Douglas W. Shultz, was especially qualified for the job, because he had been serving as a “volunteer assistant City Treasurer.” Say what? A part-time position that pays close to $200K per year needs an assistant? Even a volunteer assistant? It is impossible to imagine that such assistance did not involve some use of the City staffs’ time. A contribution of a sort to a candidate for city office. If this is not illegal, it certainly should be. One can just imagine how the good ole’ boys dreamt up this supposed embellishment to their candidates credentials. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Same ole’ crony capitalism manure.

There are three other Republicans running, including Robroy Fawcett, father of the aforementioned Michelle and perennial gadfly. Fawcett is the man who started the recall campaign against Olga Diaz, for no particular reason other than he disagreed with her politics. Fortunately, Fawcett couldn’t organize a one-car parade.

One can only hope that the Republicans will split the vote sufficiently to allow the one reasonable progressive, Blaise Jackson to win.

Home Again


We got back to San Diego on Saturday, after what seemed a marathon flight from D.C. through Dallas. Crowded planes, crowded airports, no time for lunch at Dallas, so a very dry pre-packaged sandwich purchased at Dulles. I can remember, back in the last century, when plane travel was a lot nicer.

We took a tour of the Capitol on Friday, then went to a wonderful Turkish restaurant for lunch across the street from the National Portrait Gallery. We toured that briefly, then took the Metro to Dupont Circle and walked to the Phillips Gallery which is near our “boutique” hotel. After touring that small but impressive gallery, we walked back to get our luggage and catch a taxi to our hotel near Dulles for that night.

We had a great vacation, shouldn’t really complain, but we did have on big disappointment, no white house visit, even though we had requested one well in advance. Here is a letter that I just wrote to Senator Boxer that explains the situation.

Dear Senator Boxer

Last Friday my husband and I took a tour of the Capitol with two charming young women from your office. They did a good job, and we enjoyed it. I had called your office the day before to confirm the call, explaining that I would probably be on the Metro one hour before the tour time of 10:00 am when someone from your office would call me on my cell to confirm our appointment for the tour, and might not hear the call. The young man I spoke with said he would confirm our tour, and told us we should be there by 9:40 am, even though the email letter I received on June 20th said we only needed to be there 15 minutes early. At about 9:30 am on Friday, while we were walking from the Metro to the Capitol, I received a call from our tour guide, asking us if we were going on the tour, and I confirmed. We were standing under the statue of Liberty by 9:40 am. Our guides showed up around 9:50 am. We then waited around 15 minutes for another couple to arrive. We were a bit unhappy.

I had also asked to have a tour of the White House last June. I had understood that the tours were given on a first come first serve basis, and that the tour could be requested as early as three months in advance, and that the tours would depend on the White House schedule. In the email letter I received from your office on June 20th, I was told I would receive an email seven to ten days before the requested dates (June 20th through June 23rd.) Even though we were traveling to New York, Philadelphia, and Gettysburg during that time, I checked my email daily. No email from your office. I finally called on June 19th when we arrived in Washington. The young man I spoke to was a bit vague about why I had not received an email, but said that no, we had been rejected by the White House—something about a large volume of visitors. He then went on about what could be done to get us a tour—in the next four days (?) I asked. Well no. I was very upset, but didn’t say anything more.

I probably would have thought no more about the matter until I spoke with the other couple on our Capitol tour. I had said I had been disappointed not to get a tour of the White House. She asked if I had received an email from your office. No, I said. Well she hadn’t either, and had called the week before. She had been a bit more insistent. She had requested the tour last May. She had found out that there had been a recent change in your computer system, and that some of tour request had been lost in the process—hers being one. Mine another I guess—since there were White House tours going on that week. She had been allowed to go on a tour with the new Senate interns.

I am still very disappointed. My husband is 75 and I am 71. I doubt we will get to Washington again.


Margaret McCown Liles

Notes from Washington D.C. II


We completed our tour of the National Gallery on Wednesday, then went to the National Museum of American History. We had gone to that museum in 2005, and had fond memories of a tremendous assortment of stuff, from Julia Child’s kitchen to the Star Spangled Banner from the War of 1812. We were very disappointed. The museum is undergoing major renovations, and many of the exhibits won’t be finished until 2018. The ones that are open have become dark corridors that lead from one noisy exhibit to another, so that you hear a cacophony of narratives at all times. It seems to be geared to a generation with about a five-second attention span. We left after less than an hour. We had intended to spend the rest of the day there.

So, we went to the United States Holocaust memorial. That was difficult to see, but well worth seeing. The first part describes the rise of the Nazis through video and historical artifacts. I couldn’t help thinking at the time how similar some of the Nazi tactics are to Trump’s. Blame the problems of society on one group, the Jews, rather than the economic policies. Repeat a lie so often it is accepted as the truth. Play on the fears and frustrations of the “poorly educated”, and assure them that you have the answers, and will be a strong leader to cure all of society’s ills.

I think the thing I will most remember from the museum is not the pictures of the bodies, and emaciated survivors, or the piles of shoes and wall of hair from the victims. No, I think what I will remember most is walking through one of the freight cars where people were packed like sardines to be transported to the death camps.

Last night we had the best meal of the trip at an organic restaurant, just two blocks away from our Bed and Breakfast—excuse me, our “boutique” hotel. The restaurant claimed to be the first organic restaurant in the country. Because we’re in Embassy Row, there were at least five different languages spoken, that I could hear from our table.

Our hotel serves breakfast around a large dining table. The hostess makes sure everyone is introduced. We have Danes, an Austrian, Aussies, English, as well as fellow Californians, albeit Northern Californians. After some opening gambits of conversation, it soon became apparent that everyone staying here is pretty strongly anti-Trump. One lady from the Bay area, said we felt like apologizing to the rest of the world for even considering such a person for president.

Today we walked to the Jefferson Memorial, around the Tidal Basin back to the F.D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Memorial, over to the WWII memorial, up to the Korean War Veterans’ Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. If you haven’t visited all of these, do so if you ever get the chance. We had seen most of the memorials before, but the Martin Luther King and WWII memorial have been built since we were last here, so we hadn’t seen them except in pictures. The WWII memorial is very beautiful. While we were there a group of WWII and Korean War veterans from Indiana were having their picture taken. The first two rows were in wheel chairs—a painful reminder that we are rapidly losing that generation—any left would have to be in their late 80’s or older. We took our time, but it was still a bit of a walk, and by the time we found a nice cafe in a hotel on Virginia Ave., I was ready for a break. So, after lunch, I walked to the Metro station at George Washington University, and Roger went off to see the Cocoran Gallery of art.  I had just started a cup of tea in the sitting room of the hotel, when Roger came through the front door. Turns out the Cocoran was closed for renovation. Lots of renovating going on in this town. Too bad the spirit of renewal hasn’t spread to the halls of Congress.

Notes from Washington D.C.


Even with the help of GOOGLE, it took a few tries to find our “boutique” hotel in D.C. The basic street plan might have been an excellent one for carriages, but not so much for autos. Taking our rental car back was another challenge, even though it was technically supposed to be eleven minutes away. But we found it, and took the Metro back to DuPont Circle and walked back to our hotel that’s in what was once an embassy.

On Friday, we made our second visit to the Barnes Foundation. This is an unusual collection of art, because it was all collected by one man, Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Barnes made his money by co-developing an antiseptic used to fight gonorrhea. Barnes began collecting in 1912. He was a visitor to the home of Gertrude and Leo Stein in Paris. He began his foundation in 1922 as a school/museum in Lower Merion, an upscale suburb of Philadelphia. Barnes arranged his art within the foundation’s walls in ensembles, with the intent of demonstrating the connections of various art forms, from the old masters to Modigliani.  He died in 1951, and left the foundation in trust with the stipulation that the art be left exactly in place as he arranged it. We were able to view it that way in 2005. At that time visitors were only allowed two and one-half days a week with a 500 visitor per week maximum. At that time the foundation was having a financial crisis.  The foundation had wanted to increase its hours of operation to increase revenues, but the local Merion and Montgomery County governments vetoed that plan. The City of Philadelphia stepped in and offered a site for moving the collection, and after a considerable court battle, and with the help of several large charitable foundations, the new home was completed in 2012, and that what we visited this time. Although the art is arranged exactly as it was in the old buiding, it was a different feeling—but there was more light. Light to see the Renoirs, Picassos, Renoirs, van Goghs, Renoirs, Monets, Renoirs, Cezannes, Renoirs, many other great artists, and Renoirs. Barnes was Renoir’s number one fan and patron.

Having caught Roger’s cold, I took the day off on Saturday, while Roger went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

Sunday, we drove to Gettysburg, and had a guided tour of the battlefield. I would highly recommend the tour to anyone who visits the site. The professional guides go with you, in your car, and stop at various places, all the while giving a very informative and entertaining talk about the battle. It is still mind numbing to consider that there were as many as 51,000 casualties in three days. We visited the Soldiers Cemetery, where Lincoln made his famous address this morning. Very moving.

Today we did the National Gallery of Art, starting at 10:00 am until it closed at 5:00pm, pausing for a very nice lunch at their Café. We didn’t finish—will go back tomorrow.

Notes from Philadelphia


We arrived in Philadelphia yesterday, after an hour and 20 minute train ride. Have never gone from one city to another with so little hassle—including going to Los Angeles from home.

We did manage to get to the MOMA on Sunday. We’ve gone before, but looking at some of their great works never grows old. Whether it’s Warhol’s soup cans or Monet’s waterlilies I always seem to see something new every time I see them. Although, after seeing Monet’s waterlilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, where his waterlilies are arranged so that you are surrounded by them, as Monet intended, I was a little bit let down by the flat murals at MOMA. We walked back to our hotel, stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant.

On Monday, Roger’s cold was at its worst, but after a breakfast of two cans of chicken noodle soup (from cans that haven’t really changed their design much since Warhol painted them,) he felt better, so we went to the 9/11 memorial and took a tour. The place was mobbed, as we expected it would be, but it was still a very moving experience. The waterfall footprints of the two towers are beautiful. After our tour, we decided to eat an early dinner in a historical tavern in the financial district. As we were walking to where we thought it was (we actually took a wrong turn after emerging from the subway,) we found ourselves looking at the original Delmonico’s on William Street. Roger observed that we could eat there. I observed that we were hardly dressed for such an establishment—jeans, polo shirts, and sneakers. He observed we could find out, and walked in. Evidently our attire was not a barrier, possibly because it was 4:30 pm.  We had salad, steak, and Delmonico potatoes. The steaks were fabulous, and the potatoes—an amazing confluence of potatoes, cheese, and bacon, were amazing. This restaurant has been there 1837, and brags that Abraham Lincoln liked the Delmonico potatoes.

We spent Tuesday at the Met. We’ve been several times before, but have always concentrated on ancient art—with Roger, Egyptian art especially. This time we spent time viewing 19th and early 20th century art. After lunch at the Museum’s restaurant I walked through Central Park, back to the hotel, to do laundry. Roger spent the afternoon enjoying more art especially their five Vermeer’s.

In Philadelphia, we are staying at a “boutique” hotel near Rittenhouse Square. It is an area of many excellent restaurants, and yesterday we ate lunch at one before going to the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art to view their wonderful collection of American art, including some wonderful Peale portraits of George Washington. Last night we ate at another excellent local restaurant.

Today we spent the day “doing” the Philadelphia Art Museum. They have an impressive collection of impressionists that I particularly enjoyed. Tonight, we went City Tavern for dinner, which has been around longer than Delmonico’s, 1773. Fabulous food, reasonable prices, and the waiters dress in 18th century costumes.