Sunday, April 24, 2022

Around here...and as always....

Cambria court wash

        April rain is rare on the California central coast, not being an"April showers brings May flowers" kind of place. 

    Blooms begin in February, during the fall and winter rain season. The .7 from this storm put our rain for the year at a little over 16 inches. That's a decent total during a drought year. 

    During our time on Pineridge we've swung from 42 inches to as little as 8. The coastal weather is vulnerable to ocean influence, mountains, and a high atmosphere intrigue called a Pacific Decadal Oscillation. 

          A spring moon on Pineridge may have helped turn on a cactus. Its bloom was dazzling. 

        An Oyster mushroom is back for a third harvest. A kit, given as a Christmas gift produced a batch of mushrooms and a surprising second batch. Even more suprisingly number three volunteered itself.

        Lana's magic in the saute' pan was a fitting, even if a less beautiful disposition of the artful fungus. Delicious! 

        As we've begun to return to the more robust style of pre pandemic life, a lot of folks have begun to say they feel aged, or unsettled by the last 2 years. A piece of life was held hostage, and now we attempt to come again to what was before, but we and life itself have been changed by it. 
        The simple rhythm of life has the assurance of normal, while absurdities of the human fall menace from our screens.
     World leaders must task themselves to find a better way to prevent barbarism and aggression and to punish those who perpetrate it.
        American voters certainly are wise to the soulless and ripping attack to the constitutional heart of the American system by the gang of cowards, liars, low-life, hustlers and haters who have stolen or who remain as condonation in the republican party.
        Savoring the quiet life has distracted from the brutality of  war crimes and the attack on our democratic republic.
        In volunteer work this week I was fortunate to see lights of human decency. Our capacity to care, to serve and to be about common good is hopeful.
        I'm coming to understand a constant. 
        As we probe more deeply into our majority years, we come upon truths of life in personal and cosmic ways. It is ever so. 
        We see now our good old days were myopic. As old girls and boys we tread in times of war, regressive ideas, uncertainty and threat. They were never far away in our middle years, nor have they ever been in the rise of humanity.
        We are where those before us have been, wondering what is to become of humanity. 
       Life is always on a razor's edge. 

             Always spring comes and hope is alive.
            And there is always dinner....

        See you down the trail.



Thursday, April 14, 2022

The War Within


The Last assault-Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria

nature as metaphor

        We are at war with ourselves. Words are weapons, understanding is the target. It is a wasting disease. The very republic is at risk.

        There is much that most Americans do not know. Information-disinformation and intelligence follows below. 

nature as tonic

        Uplift first; a quick walk through spring on the Pacific bluffs of the Fiscalini Ranch. 

        Life blooms again.   

        Live and let live is in practice here. We could use a big dose of that.

        I listened to three women who have been paid to know more than most people. They worry about our future.

        Dr Stacey Dixon is the principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Teresa Smetzer was the CIA's Director of Digital Futures in the Directorate of Digital Innovation. She was a career CIA analyst. Ellen McCarthy was Assistant Secretary of State, bureau of Intelligence and Research.

        Social media is a perfect medium for disinformation. 

        -20 thousand web sites are published as disinformation agents. Think it's obvious what those sites are? Well, advertising companies spend $235 million, on those sites annually.

         -Pew Research reports 65% of adults get their news on social media. 

       - False tweets are 70% more likely to be retweeted Science magazine reports.

        The wise women know these stats. They sight evidence of this information warfare in the degradation of US public policy and debate. And in trust.

        A lack of public trust, a lack of information that is agreed upon is dangerous and can bring down government because it erodes the public's belief and trust. Governments exist only on public trust, or they are dictatorships and autocracies where trust does not matter.  

        Social media is bad enough for adults, who are expected to have some degree of critical thinking. It is poison, manipulative and  even more dangerous for children.  

        Jonathan Haidt, professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business studies psychology of morality and emotions. Haidt writes we live in a polarized, factionalized and angry America that is like the "new Babel."

        In The Atlantic he writes "Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind successful democracies; social capital (social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three."

        The late media analyst Eric Boehlert wrote "Why is the press rooting against Biden? He noted the "glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments. The "press is determined to keep Biden pinned down."  

        By objective standards Biden's administration has been successful, but by the tone of reporting, the way questions are asked, and the incessant use of questionable opinion polls, America is being fed worst than "spin," rather it is outright manipulation.

        Partisans will tell you this is an affect of the Republican parties' culture war campaign. 

        Intelligence and security experts say it is more evidence of information warfare between democracy and authoritarianism, that is extraordinarily well funded and strategic.

        The media tone is also the blame of the gotcha game of snark and click bait that social media has forced on a once sober and more careful news media. Young reporters and producers who grew up with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and very little history are forcing a more vacuous and controversy driven style of reporting. It is divisive, inept and dangerous. It is also mindless. 

        You may remember when "Fake News" became the mantra of a candidate and President we warned it was a tool of authoritarians. So, now we have millions of Americans who live in a fantasy world thinking their candidate had his re-election stolen from him. The alternate reality exists even when credible reality republicans and 63 court decisions including by many reality republican judges proves otherwise. This is a serious chasm in the foundation of our Republic.

          Social media and right wing networks are in an unholy league with well financed anti democracy forces including American financial interests, uberwealthy individuals, Russian oligarchs, the Putin government and other US enemies. It has become so dangerous that people like Tucker Carlson spew  anti democracy and anti American poison in public and the propagandized, poorly educated, grievance loaded follow him in a brain dead trance. 

        Briefly on partisan politics, Democrats should remember  most Americans "vote their pocketbook or wallet," as we used to say.
        Bread and butter issues, kitchen table budget matters are always the most important to voters. 
        The Democrats are weak in effective "messaging," which is more hurtful as they play uphill as the disinformation game is loaded against them.

        The US has a fifth column at work. The Republican party is only the visible face. The compromise of public debate by bogus issues and contrived culture war fanaticism is a product of a deliberate right wing strategy that is very adept at using the low information of US citizens, their lack of education and their unending devotion to social media, celebrity and their fear.  

        The wise women of intelligence say individual citizens need to work to combat the 
disinformation war. 
        -They urge we all challenge our emotions and our own implicit bias as we consume information.     
        -Check sources-look for previous articles and check the credential of the writer or broadcaster.
        -Read alternative views. Get out of your own opinion silo and read what others think or say. 
        -Think for yourself.
        -They note that a virtue of the US is we get to choose what to believe. That throws responsibility to us.

        The women conclude by saying it would be good to teach the "analytic trade craft" of the intelligence community to citizens. Critical analysis should be taught to children beginning in kindergarten.

        I suggest journalism clean up its own house. Pay more attention to how the spin masters are working. Overcome the penchant for "false equivalence" and provide training to new producers, writers and reporters, including history. Quit being used. Think more.

        As a nation we need to understand the seriousness of the battle between democracy and authoritarianism. 
        Social media needs to be reformed and regulated. They are manipulators of behavior, attitude and belief. Social media can be destructive, even deadly, especially among youth
        Haidt suggests "the biggest single change that would reduce toxicity of existing platforms would be user verification as a precondition for gaining the algorithmic amplification that social media offers."
        Democrats being democrats are still bruising each other while their minority faction of progressives get far more media attention than the majority of the party.

        The first amendment is an American strength, but we must find a way to minimize the damage being done and being conveyed by social media platforms that after all are data collecting and selling businesses. They are commercial schemes that benefit from controversy, but too they are tools, unwitting or otherwise, of those who wish to do America harm.
        They are part of a new addiction, they undermine truth, and they are, at the least, as much about disinformation as anything else.
        As we move forward to prosecute levels of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russians, as we strive to restore civility to our own shores, as we wrestle with race, equity, and as we try to reconnect to truth and reality, we must control the primary medium of lies, distortion, and disinformation. US problems can be solved only in an arena of honesty and mutual respect.
        Anti American fifth column Republicans can still blather their fear mongering disinformation, but we need not, nor shouldn't expose ourselves to thousands of channels of lies that brainwash and seek to bring down democracy. 

        Question, challenge, think, analyze. 

        See you down the trail. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Show Your Colors


        It's tartan day in the US, a recognition of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, a Scots pledge to freedom and independence and the model for the US Declaration of Independence.    

"For me fight not for glory nor riches nor honors, but for Freedom alone which no good man gives up except with his life"

        The Declaration of Arbroath asserted Scotland's independence and warrior spirit.
        "As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule."
        On this Tartan Day, the strong Ukrainian people come to mind.

        The independent, reformer, outspoken, warrior line runs through my clan's bloodline from its Gaelic/Celtic origins. In 1296 Ancestors were originators of the first set of laws governing boundaries and defense. They spent generations fighting for liberty, law, rights and fairness. 

        Generations of Cochrun Cochrane Cochran men have been Admirals. One is listed as one of the 10 Heroes of Scotland, Admiral Thomas Cochrane, member of Parliament, Naval innovator, and later a peer, Lord Cochrane, the Earl of Dundonald. 

        Despite honors and position he remained a pain in the side of the powerful. A radical, reformer, and innovator he is the inspiration for C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey, from which the Film Master and Commander was made. 


        A rebel, he was a brilliant strategist and was awarded honors by the Brazilian, Chilean and Greek Navies as well as the Royal Navy. He was buried with honors in Westminster.

        Despite coming from a line of distinguished military and naval officers, the clan was tied to ancestral lands near Glasgow and were hard workers. Thomas, like many of his cousins and some of his 6 siblings enlisted in the navy as teens.

        Since the August-September 2019 visit to the homeland, I've been sitting on the Clan story, but thought this Tartan Day was an opportunity to share it. None of us are getting any younger.

        We found the family pile near Renfrew and Paisley, where much of the family centered. Some stayed, some left for the US in a couple of waves, the 1690 and early to mid 1700's. 
        Cochrane land was in Abbey Parish and split in the early 1500's between Easter and Wester. The family castle, small and inelegant was built in the 1580's. It was surrounded by  coal pits in the 1730'sBy the late1700's it was owned by a Renfrew family who sold it to the Johnstones.  It was build onto and then wrecked a few times over the years.

        In the 1940's it was part of an Army Camp. It fell into disrepair, was turned into a community center, and eventually it became a personal residence again and sits in the middle of a housing village.
        The entrance was not part of the original building but was considered old enough to be historic. 

        I wasn't sure what to expect. At the train station we hired a taxi and I started to give the driver the GPS coordinates, he looked at me quizzically and said, "Ya mean Cochrun Castle? I know right where it is, not far from here."

        Given Scottish weather, I suspect the old pile has taken some updating to remain inhabitable, though I thought for a 440 year old home it's looking pretty good. 
        I figured my dad, was probably smiling because near by was...

        Back in the day when I was frequently wearing my Tux I sported the colors with cummerbund and bow tie

        Well worn, because there was a time when we were frequently at Gala's, dinners, and such. I still have my tux but that seems like another and even more gentle time.

        I'm happy that my blood runs with as much Scots and Irish as it does. Thinkers, fighters, independent souls, lovers of life, believers in human dignity, speakers of the heart.

            There is a wretchedness afoot. It is good to remember those who pioneered declarations of independence, boundaries, who gave no brief to those who did not deserve it, despite rank or threat. 
        On a day when I sport my Tartan, my admiration and my prayers go to the brave souls of Ukraine, to the journalists, the medical volunteers. 
        It's time for the world to deal with the atrocities and to punish the masterminds and agents of evil acting on his behalf. 

        Be well.  See you down the trail.