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Laguna Beach

Making our community and country whole again

Every time I vote I wonder how effective that person will be. What is important to me: is there something questionable in their past? What is questionable? Do their moral values reflect mine, are they honest, sincere, and able to perform their duties, are they educated? What efforts have they made to prepare themselves for the position they seek like training, taking classes, offering to help those whose job they would like to have as a result of a fair election? So many offices are filled with people who appear charismatic and many of these have made political history. Others use lies, appearance of strength – and I don’t mean can they arm wrestle or do kick boxing to influence their audience. Some have the money, support from others with an agenda to help themselves and their followers rather than doing what is good for the country, the state, the country, and equally the city they serve. Once in a while I vote for someone who may not have all of the experience they probably should have but show great interest in the job as a way to contributing to the well-being of the constituents. I usually don’t verbalize this and take a wait and see position. I would say that 95 percent of the time I feel that at the end of their term I made the right choice, especially in significant elections. I usually am careful that I don’t let the title Democrat or Republican or Green influence that choice because being a member of a specific group often hides the real reason for their overwhelming support of a candidate. Electing someone to represent you or provide critical service to the bulk of the constituents of the country, state, county, or city with the appropriate support that is conducive to provide for the many needs of many is a difficult job and entails making decisions that may not make your direct supporters – especially those that donated financially to your campaign – happy, and that takes great strength and wisdom. Unfortunately, many people have made a mistake and may continue to make a mistake despite evidence showing the wrongs that result. I see in Laguna where decisions made by one group or lack of making decisions has wasted our tax dollars and well the city was no better for their term of office. Others have taken positive, wisdom-driven choices based on actual facts, analysis, and input.

I hope that each of us takes time to really look at the qualifications of an individual, who is supporting them and why, and see if there is a match. To vote strictly because your neighbor says “do me a favor and vote for my friend” is doing everyone a disservice. Engage in conversation, look at more than one source for information on this person, attend any in-person events, or as we did this year use the internet, to try to find out more about the candidates. 

Right now the Republican party seems very divided and this is on top of a very contentious past four years in many states for both parties. If you look on the real internet and see what the Republican party stood for in the 50s and 60s, it seems like more the what the Democratic party stands for today. We also have now the introduction of the words of the far right, white supremacy, etc. to contend with and what is more scary is that some young people and some older ones seem to understand those terms more than the two main parties that have been part of the fabric of the United States.

This is a good time to talk to your children, grandchildren – including during family conversation time over dinner. We need to make American whole again – and I don’t mean just one political philosophy like the many dictatorships that are taking foothold. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Plant Man Column

“The mortal enemies of man are not his fellows of another continent or race; they are the disease germs that attack him and his domesticated plants, and the insects that carry many of these germs.”  –W. C. Allee

Letter Kawaratani 1

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Catharine’s vegetable garden

The unseasonably warm weather predicted by the weatherperson is upon us, with ample opportunities to stretch your gardening muscles, idled by the holidays. While I don’t recommend doing the “splits” as a warm-up, particularly if you’re of a certain age, your vegetable garden and flowers deserve attention this weekend. However, insect and snail progeny are lurking in the garden, unleashed by the gradual increase in daytime temperatures and sunlight. 

Where do insects and diseases come from (politicians for that matter)? During a Laguna winter, dormant eggs or spores may hatch the moment daytime temperatures linger in the 70s for a few days. Additionally, new plants, dogs, and gardeners may inadvertently become carriers of pests into your garden, as well as overwatering and overcast skies. Any and all of these factors can transmit and encourage pests, not unlike the spread of a virus in a general population. 

Letter Kawaratani 2

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Mealybugs on hibiscus

“Eeks! They’re everywhere!” said Catharine, finding an early outbreak of mealybugs on her hibiscus. These ubiquitous, plated insects are closely related to scale; however, unlike their cousin, they can crawl around your plants freely (albeit slowly). Protected by a white covering that resembles cotton candy, these pests extract plant juices that may cause stunting or even death.

A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (or cheap whiskey) can “rub” off these bad guys. For major infestations, a strong stream of water or the application of horticultural oil may be necessary every two weeks. The use of ladybugs and lacewings, as natural predators to certain pests, are an enlightened biological control consideration.

The early detection of pests provides an opportunity to control them. Try washing plant foliage, handpicking, or physically destroying larger insects and snails (anyone remember Maxwell’s Silver Hammer?). If you are unable to identify an external pest, disease, or condition, consult your favorite nurseryperson before you apply a pesticide, even a green one.

Letter Kawaratani 3

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The Plant Man’s favorite horticultural oil

If damage from pests exceeds an acceptable level and the pests are not being managed by the initial controls, products such as insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils may be applied, often without harming natural predators. As always, one should consider measured methods of pest control, rather than attempting total eradication. The use of acceptable organic gardening alternatives is a viable second step in garden care.

If your perennials are presently displaying holes in their leaves, chances are that snails and slugs are the culprits. Snails and slugs are easy to spot, either by visual sighting (I literally walked upon a snail on a recent dark morning) or the slimy trail they leave behind. Horticulturists often suggest the use of a trap (Slug-X Trap – “just add beer to this trap for slugs and snails”) and barriers (Planet Natural Copper Tape – “slugs HATE copper, so try copper tape around your plants”) to reduce or thwart these damagers. Keeping your garden neat and tidy will also reduce the opportunity for breeding and hiding.

Control of caterpillars (worms) can be achieved by using BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a very specific stomach poison, lethal only to caterpillars. This is rather critical if you don’t enjoy your tomatoes and basil infused with poisons. Applications on a five-day, continuous cycle are essential for a worm-free garden.

Although it is true that pests and diseases can never be conquered, it is essential to learn to manage our foes. Nature has a plan for everything; the “pests” you spare are important to attract beneficial insects and birds into your garden. Let’s keep our environment clean by spraying only when it is necessary and appropriate. Stay safe and green and see you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for 69 years. He can be reached at (949) 494.5141 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach

Andrew Johnson and his impeachment in March of 1867

It is as Yogi Berra was alleged to have said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” While there was immense disparity between their respective families’ financial status, there are similarities in the lives of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, and President Donald J. Trump. Johnson was born in a log cabin in Raleigh, N.C. in 1808. With little or no schooling, he taught himself to read and write.  When his father died when he was three, leaving the family in poverty, his mother worked as a seamstress to make ends meet. She and her second husband apprenticed Johnson and his brother to a local tailor. As a young boy, Johnson felt the sting of prejudice from the higher classes and developed a white supremacist attitude to compensate, a perception he held all his life.

In a short time, Johnson established a successful tailoring business. His tailor shop became a haven for political discussion, and he took a strong interest in politics. He gained the support of the local working class and became their advocate. He was elected alderman in 1829, and mayor of Greeneville five years later. In 1831, the Nat Turner Rebellion occurred – Turner was a slave who led the only effective, sustained slave rebellion (August 1831) in U.S. history. Spreading terror throughout the white South, his action set off a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the education, movement, and assembly of slaves and stiffened proslavery, anti-abolitionist conviction. Tennessee adopted a new state constitution with a provision to disenfranchise free Black people. Johnson supported the provision and campaigned around the state for its ratification, giving him wide exposure. In 1835, an anti-abolitionist and a promoter of states’ right while remaining an unqualified supporter of the Union, he won a seat in the Tennessee state legislature. 

In 1843, Johnson became the first Democrat from Tennessee to be elected to the United States Congress. Declaring that slavery was essential to the preservation of the Union, he joined a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. During his fifth and final term in Congress, Johnson saw that his chances for a sixth term were slim. In 1853, he was elected governor of Tennessee. During his two terms, he tried to promote his fiscally conservative, populist views, but found the experience frustrating, as the governor’s constitutional powers were limited to giving suggestions to the legislature, with no veto power. He made the most of his position, however, by giving appointments to political allies.

In 1856, he decided to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Although many Democratic leaders disapproved of his populist views, the Tennessee legislature elected him (this was before the 17th amendment), and the reaction by the opposition press was immediate and scathing. The Richmond Whig referred to Johnson as «the vilest radical and most unscrupulous demagogue in the Union.” During his Senate terms, Johnson kept an independent course, opposing abolition while making clear his devotion to the Union. To broaden the base of the Republican Party to include loyal “war” Democrats, Johnson was selected to run for vice president on Lincoln’s reelection ticket of 1864.

When President Lincoln was assassinated, Johnson was also a target on that fateful night, but his would-be assassin failed to show up. Three hours after Lincoln died, Johnson was sworn in as the 17th president of the United States.  In a strange irony often found in American history, the racist Southerner Johnson was charged with the reconstruction of the South and the extension of civil rights and suffrage to former slaves. It quickly became apparent that Johnson would not force Southern states to grant full equality to black people, thus setting up a confrontation with congressional Republicans who sought black suffrage as essential to furthering their political influence in the South.

Congress in recess the first eight months of Johnson’s term, he took full advantage of the legislators’ absence by pushing through his own Reconstruction policies. He quickly issued pardons and amnesty to any rebels who would take an oath of allegiance to the federal government. This resulted in many former Confederates being elected to office in Southern states and instituting “Black codes,” which essentially maintained slavery. Later, he expanded his pardons to include Confederate officials of the highest rank including Alexander Stephens, who had served as vice president under Jefferson Davis.

When Congress reconvened, members expressed outrage at Johnson’s clemency orders and his lack of protecting Black civil rights. In 1866, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau bill, providing essentials for former slaves and protection of their rights in court. They then passed the Civil Rights Act, defining “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed” as citizens. Johnson vetoed these two measures because he felt that Southern states were not represented in Congress and believed that setting suffrage policy was the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. Both vetoes were overridden by Congress.

That June, Congress approved the 14th Amendment (the equal protection amendment), and it was accepted less than one month later. In a novel interpretation of the “advise and consent” clause of the Constitution, Congress also passed the Tenure of Office Act, which denied the president the power to remove federal officials without the Senate’s approval. In 1867, Congress established military Reconstruction in the former Confederate states with Generals like Phil Sheridan to enforce political and social rights for Southern Black people.

President Johnson retaliated by appealing directly to the people in a series of speeches during the 1866 congressional elections. On more than one occasion, it appeared that Johnson had had too much to drink and antagonized more than convinced his audiences. The campaign was a complete disaster, and Johnson faced a further loss of support from the public. The radical Republicans won an overwhelming victory in the midterm elections.

Johnson felt his position as president crumbling beneath him. He had lost the support of Congress and the public and felt that his only alternative was to challenge the Tenure of Office Act as a direct violation of his constitutional authority. In August 1867, he fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, with whom he’d had several confrontations. In February 1868, the House voted to impeach President Johnson for violation of the Tenure of Office Act, and for bringing disgrace and ridicule on Congress. He was tried in the Senate in March and acquitted by one vote. He remained president, but both his credibility and effectiveness were destroyed.

Johnson finished his term maintaining his opposition to Reconstruction and continuing his self-imposed role as protector of the white race. In 1874, he won election to the U.S. Senate for a second time. In his first speech after returning to the Senate, he spoke out in opposition to President Ulysses S. Grant’s military intervention in Louisiana. During the Congressional recess the following summer, Johnson died from a stroke near Elizabethton, Tenn., in 1875. 

Some historians view Johnson as the worst person who could have been president at the end of the Civil War. His racist views prevented him from making a satisfying peace. His lack of political skills alienated him from Congress, and his arrogance lost him the public’s support. As president, he contributed to the strife that followed the Civil War and lost the opportunity to champion the rights of the disadvantaged. 

Similar views about Trump are held by current historians. However, the powerful and influential Trump constituency will continue to maintain that he was one of our greatest leaders. In the writer’s opinion, with his extraordinary and persuasive communication skills, Trump could have “owned” both sides of the aisle. He could have had the whole country behind him, but he chose instead to focus on the ultra conservative and those who feel neglected and threatened by minorities in our rapidly demographocally changing society. 

Arnold Silverman
Laguna Niguel

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