Saturday, February 26, 2022

WAR-The Mindset-The Risks


Nine Minutes Past Mid Night

brutality rising

    Human kind may be passing into a savage age. Markers are apparent; life upended by a virus, patterns of vicious and freak weather, social disorder, decline of civility, political degradation and now Russia's mad war of aggression in Europe. Any one is threatening, all of them could drag us out of the peaceful world our generations have enjoyed since the end of the second World War.

        We have lived in a rare interval of peace and well being in the span of a human history full of misery, suffering, darkness and brutality. 

        Within hours of Russia's invasion of Ukraine I sat in a briefing with six of the world's preeminent intelligence and security officers for a hard nosed assessment of where the new war finds us and what risks are ahead.

        The recent historic antecedent is Sudetenland in the late 30's. This is not about Ukraine and NATO, it is a manifestation of the Putin doctrine. It is an historic breaking of international law and rules, driven by man with a messianic complex who strives to change history to his shaping, remaking the map of Russia.

        The analysis from men who led Britain's MI 6, CIA, Canada's Security Intelligence Service, the British Foreign Office, and Homeland Security says Western response has been strong and united, but it will be tested by challenges, primarily economic costs. Western leadership is compromised by internal political division in the US, new leadership in Germany, Johnson's weak credibility in Britain, impatient domestic response and certitude. Taiwan looms over how this is resolved and they say it is likely to be a long process. 

        The invasion is a game changer, a disregard for law and is a piece of the rising authoritarian mindset that tramples, and seeks to destroy democratic structures and the rule of law and civil order. 

        There is a sense Putin is in an isolated state of mind as he demonstrates a messiah complex. He is in a dangerous state. He reads the West as being in a state of decay. The security veterans agree Putin must pay a heavy cost.

        The former senior CIA officer said we need to buckle up for a long ride, saying Putin's goals are beyond Ukraine, wanting to build the "Great Russia." Putin thinks "he can out suffer us, out last us and divide us."

        One of the men said we need to learn to deal with assertive and regressive leaders, that Putin is not alone. 

        They say this is an historic fight that can shape how succeeding generations will live, the degree to which law has value and meaning. Citizens should be informed of what is at risk and the cost. The costs will not be equally distributed. Gas and food costs will feed inflation in the US and elsewhere. 

        They warn of a possible spill over affect, perhaps by something as simple as a mistake. If any NATO nation is violated by cyber or military action, they say NATO must hit back with severity. 

fog in the valley, stars and moon 

        Repeatedly China was discussed. China will measure how resolved and lasting is the western response. Xi Jinping too thinks the West, especially the US is in decline and decay. He will calculate how we might respond to moves on Taiwan.
      They were quick to note the Russia-China alliance is not like the old Axis alliance of WWII. They say while China watches closely and shares a brutal resolve with Russia, it doesn't know how to be an ally. They will not make sacrifices for Russia. China will respect Putin as long as he does not get in the way or affect their agendas. 
        The China Belts and Roads initiative runs through the area of the conflict and neighboring nations. 

        Moments like this remind us of the interconnectedness of human endeavor and thought. In these closing paragraphs I seek to interpret the stark and hard-nosed assessment of men with years of real world knowledge, unknown to the majorities of the world.
        America has lost its way and is no longer the power that emerged from the end of WWII.
        How might this moment exist if Trump had not been subservient and a sycophant to Putin, taking Putin's word over the wisdom of his own national security apparatus?
        How might this moment look if Republicans had spotted in Trump the same authoritarian and reckless disregard for law and protocol as we see in Putin?
        How might this moment look if the Republican party stood up against the January 6th insurrection and all of the Trump effort to undermine an election and then attempt to overthrow the results? That was an invasion of our own sovereignty and dignity. And it followed the invasion of Putin's doctrine in our culture and politics.
        It is no wonder Putin and Xi look at us as in decay, and weak.
        The behavior of some elected office holders has been in my thinking traitorous. If I had my way they would be tried and if convicted they should be shot.
        I put in that number Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Elise Stefanik, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Ron Johnson, Josh Hawley, John Kennedy.  I will not dignify what they have said but they have worked to undermine the US and the Western response to Putin's violation of international law. They are a pack of jackals in alliance with a Pariah.

       One of the British intelligence officers and a former Senior CIA officer said emphatically the Russian people must be made to pay, despite the pleas not to hurt the people because of Putin. The veteran's logic is, as long as their leader behaves as an international outlaw and Pariah, they too are culpable. They suggested yanking all Russian tourism visas, expelling Russians from international associations and sporting competitions, hitting them financially until they as a nation depose Putin or prevail at insisting the nation stop its illegal aggression.
    Until the US destroys the Republican Fifth Column we will indeed be weakened and it will encourage tyrants and assertive leaders such as Putin. Fox News personalities are amongst the anti American lobby and they have poisoned the minds of millions.
    Sad to say it, but those millions who think Trump won an election, or who elect fools like those named above, are also traitors to this nation and have contributed to the emboldening of a dictator. 

    Most of us have not lived through an event that is so precipitous. The best way forward is to adhere to principles of Westphalian Sovereignty, to listen to wisdom and experience, to remain true to our constitutional principles, think of the well being of all, reject emotion, propaganda and lies
and to be resolute and willing to pay the costs. To turn Putin on his own words, we must "out suffer, out last" him and not allow him to divide us any further.  It may take us into a brutal world, but we cannot relinquish our humanity or intelligence nor our will to prevail. 

   Stay strong.

   See you down the trail. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Is Winter Weather a Grind?

 A Winter Diversion

        After a while snow, ice, gray skies, freezing temperatures and being confined inside is a drag. I know. 

        So, what if your job is a beach?

        And what if waring 5000 pound elephant seals were a job hazard?

        That's the deal for a couple of Cal Poly researchers recording behavior and communication sounds of elephant seals at our local rookery. The battling brutes kept wrestling closer to equipment.

        Try being nonchalant as the bull edges ever closer while your colleague is trying to extract a sound boom that another beach resident has rolled on down at the ocean.

        It's not always picnic at the Pacific shore. Researching the colony also includes counting the pups that don't survive.

       Still, the beach beats any office I've known.

        And who's going to complain about you catching a nap?

        When compared to those winter's past, it's hard to think of even a foggy and cool day as being a bad day at the beach. That idea is shared out here.

         February can be brutal out there. On the central cost, it brings green and the hint of the spring's renewal that comes to all. 

        Back when my patience with winter chill and hazard was at its end, I'd start playing Paul Simon's April Come She Will.
     It will and for those of you in freezing temperatures, rain and snow, hope the adage "life's a beach!" warms you a bit. 

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Demise

         There's a chop out there. Tough days in the newsroom, especially at CNN. Testing time on the diplomatic front. And I'm going to violate one of my mother's rules of conduct.

        Mom would often say, "if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." But I can't ignore Jeff Zucker or Vladimir Putin. 
        From my view, they've been exposed, seen through and both have been up to no good. 

        They're dark agents and we deal with their legacy.
        I don't know Zucker though our paths crossed many times as we treaded the news and journalism events over the years.
        Zucker got respect for his early work at NBC bringing the Today Show to a new era. I worked 15 years at an NBC affiliate, was in and out of New York at NBC events or with the NBC crews in the field and we shared moments of history. 
        I followed his career track but when he got to CNN my opinion of his professional decisions tanked. Zucker turned CNN from a 24/7 News Network into a news and personality heavy yack format.
        Viewer interest in broadcast news rises and falls based on any number of variables, but substituting personality for reporting or investigative work and documentaries changed the nature of the network. Zucker was more about ratings and the bottom line than the public's need to know.

        The darker cloud over his now tarnished reputation was his fawning and irresponsible devotion to Trump. 
        Under Zucker's command CNN  gave then long shot and unlikely candidate Trump millions of dollars of free airtime during the Republican Primary. CNN's deplorable judgement  put on a countdown clock ticking away until the next Trump appearance. Never had a candidate been singled out for the spot light and free air time. No candidate ever was so propped up. No candidate was ever as undeserving.
        Zucker tossed out balance in news policy and philosophy to pander and let an infantile and crude hustler trash the sober Republican party, and infect the American political system with a rotting disease from which we still suffer. Zucker alone among all credible news group executives aided and abetted.
        I care less about Zucker's personal life. There are questions about his professional judgment and CNN is in a crisis. His damaging influence on news broadcasting is a greater offense. It is, however, another example of how self indulgent some in the information business are and how out of touch they are from the working and struggling audience and citizens.

        One has to wonder if Putin's campaign of interference, undermining and collusion would have happened without the  media shine on the narcissist stooge.

        In a December 9, 2013 post I referred to Putin as being a taker. The world watches as his motive and intent have been revealed and counter played by the US and allies. Thus far President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, Security Advisor Sullivan, NATO, and European leaders Macron and Scholz have been more than a match for the little Russian. But Putin is old school KGB, steely and immune to public opinion. 
        The table of options of response to an invasion are wide.
Putin is counting on a moronic partisan strife in Washington. We once enjoyed the adage that politics stops at the water's edge. That was before Jeff Zucker and Donald Trump.

        Stay safe and stay tuned. 
        See you down the trail.


Saturday, February 5, 2022

Free flow....


        Night dresses these coastal mountains in ethereal velvet and pearls. Down on the other side of the canyon and through a forest the Pacific throats a lullaby surf. The mind wanders.

        Someplace between the Lunar New Year, listening to Thich Nhat Hahn, and watching a rocket launch I was able to aggregate those streams of consciousness. It is a trail of amusement. 

        I can watch a Space X Falcon rocket take a National  Reconnaissance Office payload into the heavens,

in an age when people are again banning books.

        Those hard to see little puffy spots in the frame above are the payload and second stage heading up while the puff to the left is the first stage returning to Vandenberg and its landing pad. You can find much better video and photos from Space X and NASA, but I'm boggled that I can see it from my deck.
      Rockets going into and coming home from space while a quarter of the US population refuses to trust science.

        Seeing dancing trees makes more sense than all the voter suppression laws, enacted in the name of a fraud that did not exist, solutions in search of a phantom problem. Double down on the P's.

        Poor Whoopi! Just goes to show how unstudied in history we have become. She didn't mean to be a monster, but even when you care you need facts, and truth. A lack of knowledge and intellectuality infects most public discourse today.
        If we didn't laugh, we'd cry.

        Thinking about the wise advise of Thich Nhat Hahn as I showered today, looking out the window to see the above frame.
        "Happiness is not something you find at the end of the road. You have to understand that it is here now."

        Friend Jim sent the above frame from native Indiana where he is visiting, longing to be back in California. That's easy to understand. 

        The blooming season has begun here. Lana is still picking tomatoes and snap peas, from last year. The lemon tree is bearing well and the lime is coming on. Happier thoughts even than hearing Mike Pence has discovered his cojones. 
        So as we toddle between absurdity and amusement, I'm shopping for glasses so I can see it all.

Especially those cosmic pearls.

    Meanwhile down here, "Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet."  
    It, and all of us on it, need a lot of love.

    See you down the trail.