Driving south to The Mullin Automotive Museum, we gently climbed up the Salinas Valley to Paso Robles. This is Steinbeck Territory, and heavily Mexican (it is not an area of the United States that one would have to learn English to prosper). It is rich farmland, with a highway through it. After the rains – not the last deluge, but the rains for the last couple of weeks – the land has been transformed. For at least three years, our Savanna has been lifeless, the golden hills, brown and dull. Now it is coming alive. The green is emerald, so bright it is shocking, Michele says it looks like Ireland.
We started the drive late, just as the storm was clearing. As we head southeast, the storm was moving east even faster. so we drove on wet roads with clearing skies.
At the southeast end of the Valley, as we started to climb out of the alluvial bottomland, we passed what I had expected to be the depleted San Ardo Oil Field. Except that it seems to be no longer depleted. All the old, rusted rocking horses – rocking horses is what I grew up calling them but they are also called pumpjacks and they are those big see-saw thing that pump the oil out of the ground – have been giving a fresh coat of paint or replaced and are ready to pump out more oil. With all the new technology – including fracking, but far from only fracking – they are getting better at finding and extracting every last drop. We now produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia and gas seems cheap again. Good Times must be here to stay. Of course the damage to the planet that burning that oil is still the same, but, at least, it is cheaper to do it.
As we drove into a great sunset, we talked about oil and politics and Dianne Feinstein’s act of courage.
Releasing that Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report must have been very painful. Feinstein is no Liberal, she voted for the Patriot Act and its extension, including the FISA provisions. She thinks that Edward Snowden is a traitor and she has voted to give NSA more powers. Feinstein is head of the Intelligence Committee and she has been a cheerleader for the CIA. but, apparently, the CIA she cheers for, doesn’t condone torture. The other CIA, however, didn’t want the report released and either did President Obama. Feinstein had to fight to get the Report even done. Releasing as much information as she released was damaging and must have cost her friendships.
Our plan was to meet Malcolm Pearson in Ventura where we would spend the night. The next morning we went to the Mullin Museum with Malcolm and then we split. Malcolm journeyed deeper into the Southland and we spent the night in Ventura. As it turned out, our timing was perfect, as the day ended, we wandered past the strawberry fields of Oxnard and down to the beach just in time to watch the sun set over the Channel Islands.
Then we caught the 38th Annual Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights (wheeee!).
Sunday morning, as we had breakfast before starting for home, we heard that the Senate had passed the $1.1 trillion Spending Bill. We weren’t sure, but the inference was that the passed bill included language – written by the lobbyists for CitiGroup and put in at the last minute – that relaxed or eliminated many of the government controls put in by the Dodd-Frank Bill. It will now be easier, again, for banks to do, among other things, credit swaps and still be eligible for Federal Government Bailouts. I thought that stopping risky behavior was one of the main reasons Dodd-Frank was passed in the first place. Now we are back to where we started, if the banks gamble and make money, they keep it and pay big bonuses, if they lose, the taxpayer bail them out.
To round out the Spending Bill, it provides $64 billion for military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries, while money is saved by cutting the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service which should make it easier for companies to trash the environment and lower the taxes they pay. What galls me the most about all this is that it was a bipartisan bill with the Democrats claiming it Was the best we could get. Maybe, but I am inclined to think that it is just politics as usual with the Democrats just giving lip service to fighting Wall Street while they vote like Republicans. The only good thing about the way the voting went is that neither California Senator voted for it. They voted the way they talk.
After breakfast, we started home on the Pacific Coast Highway (which is really on the coast less than half the time).
To end on an aside, we left Ventura and drove along the coast until the highway turned inland, about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, at Gaviota. I was driving and Michele was riding shotgun with the camera. It wasn’t until we turned inland that Michele took her first shot. We both thought that was telling. Telling what, we weren’t sure, but something. End aside.