Sunday, March 27, 2022

A Twilight of Sanity?


        It would be easy to make the case we are in decline, slipping into another brutal epoch but that would foreclose on what history tells us about human resilience. I'm betting on recovery, but not ignoring the darkness that shrouds us and deepens its setting.

    As spring reveals itself in California we've turned a few miles and tried to buffer the insanity with open space, and hints of the life we knew before Covid, political pathos and the war madness of Putin. There is evidence of light in the gloom and darkness that our media screens feed us.

        In the heartbreak and devastation wrought by Russian war criminals is extraordinary human excellence and strength. Neighboring nations making space for refuge, the international condemnation and network of sanctions, volunteers in arms and the outpouring of humane support. 
        The people of Ukraine tower as lights. The Ukrainian defiance and defense of democracy encourages, inspires western nations and NATO and, by its dedication, shames the US, or at least a portion of the populace.

        There is legend and lore in the Coachella Valley about the witch of Tahquitz, seen in the shadow above. 

        We saw evidence of a curse of another sort in the US Senate Judiciary Committee's treatment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. The behavior of a party was an embarrassing new low. The acting was lame and the ham handed play of their culture war cards bespeaks intellectual and moral bankruptcy. Oh how history will score those cretins. 

        Despite conditions, sometimes severe, California's poppies signal vibrant life and color every spring. They were napping near the Poppy reserve on this day, but they were evidence of rebirth.

        A new and important question in Washington this spring is "What did Justice Thomas know, and when did he know it?" His wife and "best friend" is revealed now in her own words as an enemy of truth, democracy and the republic.

     Truth always comes out. The Justice's bunk mate is a conspirator, and a kook. There is a growing call for the Chief Justice to censure Thomas. This linkage to the plot of insurrection is a new low, a crazy new low. But sober minds  are calling for action.

        The crazy high we all should be working on is inflation. Inflation has a way of wrecking the order of things and becoming THE dominant political concern. No party or politician is responsible this time. Blame the higher prices on pandemic supply spasms, price gouging, the elevating cost of energy because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the tumble down chain reaction. 

        The political poltroons and sluggards will try to fix blame and score points since "deplorables" are real and on the loose.                                              

        Real patriots understand complexity; we will pay a bit more for gas and some items as the world tries to stop the war on democracy. Economic warfare does not come without sacrifice. 

        Senate and house democrats will need republican support to get inflation control legislation passed. Guess what party would prefer to watch inflation rise so they can gripe about it? 

        A spirit lifting adventure was a visit to an art and plant exhibition. People together again, celebrating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This was our first "cultural event" since March of 2020, and it felt good to see people celebrating life and creativity.

        I was on a Zoom meeting today where a couple of the participants were talking about a wind chill temp of zero. It's been a while since you've been able to enjoy something as simple as this. So, until spring reaches you, enjoy vicariously. 

      It is in such moments we appreciate what is "noble, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy" and a fulfillment of our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

        I'm reminding myself not to take for granted, the life and the aspirational government structure we enjoy, imperfect as it may be. There are inequities, inequalities, inefficiencies, and corrosive players indeed, but there has been since the birth of the republic. 
        It should be ours to fix, make better, and live into the promise. Like many of you we mourn what happens in Ukraine, and in Russia too. Both nations victimized by a despot and human villainy in ignorance of international and moral law.
        There is nothing guaranteed about our freedoms.
As citizens it would be good to invoke to ourselves passages of the oath taken by our military, and our elected representatives.
        "I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same..."

        It is the sane thing to believe, say and do.

        Stay well. Live strong.

        See you down the trail.



Thursday, March 10, 2022


             Hoping to provide a least a momentary break by sharing images of where I've sought solace while ruminating about Putin and his evil and destructive arc. 

        Longtime readers may recall the December 2013 post "A Bullet for Putin?" It was another of the "tells" that I saw in his emerging philosophy and world view. He has been signaling his messianic intentions to change the world map and elevate himself to that of a czar and hero of the fatherland. 

        So how do we live in a world with Putin? How do we behave, upholding human civility and the sanctity of law, while a thug with no regard for life or territorial integrity invades and attacks, committing war crimes?

            To a straightforward mind it seems wrong not to be more aggressive and to intervene to stop the invasion and brutality. That has been the plea of the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky. However from the safety of not being bombed and invaded, the world's response has been to leverage war without escalating the violence, which could quickly lead to a World War. That is made more frightening by Putin's irrationality and his stance on nuclear weapons.

        The sanctions and diplomacy are important and have already begun to have a cratering impact on Russia. But if you are a Ukrainian it seems to be not enough.

        There are larger issues here. Putin must be stopped and must be made to pay a high price. If not, he will continue with his messianic vision and mad agenda. 

        If the west were to respond militarily, they could stop the invasion where it is and if inclined could seriously damage Russian military infrastructure. Punishing strikes on Russian bases might seem an effective response to such lawless and blatant aggression. But that takes the war to Russia and there would be dire consequences.

            The draconian sanctions are a way to degrade Russian power and perhaps force and incentivize the Russian military to stop Putin. 

        The Russian economy is in free fall. Increasingly Russia is being cut off from the world. The millions of Russian citizens are unwitting victims of Putin's war. He has moved the nation backwards. The war crimes being committed are being catalogued and investigated already. This will reach into the military and the bureaucracy. Sources in the West are communicating with sources in Russia with the objective of giving doubting Russians a path to depose Putin, or to circumvent his war plans.     

            That is the best hope, and it is only that. It may be that Russian citizens will be so hurt by a devastated and isolated "life as normal"  they will find a way, even in the face of arrest and jail for speaking against Putin and his war. There may be a common sense in the military command to reason that Putin is indeed mad, out of touch with the legacy impact of his actions and that he is just wrong. The only way forward for Putin is to pursue his own grandiose vision and the Generals know there are costs, and strategic disadvantages. Finally, most of them do not want to be tried for the war crimes. 
            When the Soviet Union collapsed it was Red Army Generals who made a secret trip to Washington to talk about the disposition of Soviet nuclear warheads on land, on submarines and on airplanes. Two heroic US Senators did what James Baker and George HW Bush did not, that was to meet with the Generals and to begin the process to secure the old Soviet war heads. 
            Republican Dick Lugar and Democrat Sam Nunn put themselves at risk by traveling, negotiating and working with former Soviet commanders to keep the war heads safe, off the black market and secure. It began as an emergency appropriation, became the Nunn-Lugar Act and eventually the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

            Russian military leadership called a halt to the Russo Japanese conflict in 1905. Again in 1917 the Russian military just quit fighting, tried of World War I. US and Russian counterparts have communicated periodically in the last half of the 20th Century and in the 21st. Military leaders understand the risk of modern warfare to the future of life on the planet.
            The first KGB officer to rule was Yuri Andropov in the 1980's. It was during this reign that planning to stage and survive a nuclear exchange was undertaken. Even though Andropov increased military spending, creating hardship in his economy to lavish the Generals, it was the military who began to reach out the west to alert the world to how "hair trigger" the nuclear game had become. The Russian military and the KGB have different world views. 

        I expect as the war crimes and the brutality of the unprovoked war continue there will increasing debate in the west, among NATO and in the US about upping our response, getting more militarily involved. 
        There is truth in the historic comparisons and questions about "what if" Hitler's early invasions and lunatic aspirations were stopped. If Putin is able to succeed in changing the map, or even survive, he will be empowered and emboldened. In my view, there is no place in the modern world for people like Putin, other than in prison or dead and used as an example. 
        Putin is a demonstration of why there are alliances, why NATO is important. He is an example of why democracy is essential and why authoritarians are dangerous and should be permitted only in ancient history. 

        A final thought for now. As we watch history made be careful of what you see in public opinion polls. The media ballyhoos them. 
        They are positioned as an entre' into the public mind or a validation or repudiation of a policy or statement. After several decades in journalism I've come to think there is too much emphasis on the "take" or meaning of the polls. 
        Some questions surpass public knowledge or understanding. The polls only compound false assumptions or  misrepresentation. Too many people react based on emotion and feeling instead of facts or critical reasoning. Too many people are in their own confirming information silos and do not have a complete or broad understanding.  
        A terrible use is to pose a simplistic question like "Should the US use military force to support Ukraine?" or "Should the US do more...." Yes public policy needs public acceptance, but asking an increasingly ill informed, even misinformed social media fed public is as useful as me asking the shelled denizens of the tidal pool, can I walk on water. 
        BTW there is a self portrait of sorts in the first frame.

        Nothing is a simple as some will try to make you think it is. Nothing is more difficult than watching innocents suffer, unless it is finding a way to end the violence.
        I hope a truce can be struck, and that combatants will be separated by a UN resolution. The negotiations that I hope will come will be a challenge. It will be difficult for Putin to accept anything less than some gain, and in my view that is too much.
        Modern history tells us tyrants and power mad men like Putin need to be cut down, earlier rather than later. But it has to be done properly. 
        We are in a brutal time. We can counter a bit by our humane support for Ukrainians, those who are left behind, and those who seek refuge. Everyone can do something. 

        Remember to unplug occasionally, breath deeply and de-stress.

        See you down the trail.