Sunday in the Sun, 16 April ’17

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Yes, we live in interesting times. Sunny days are cloudy and truth is this kind of subjective thing auctioned off to the highest bidder – to be re-packaged and passed off as any number of things. But it’s funny, as the truth is hard to grasp through all that fog.

The back & forth, give & take over Syria has been something to behold. First we have the revelations that Trump called Prince Vlad the Impaler and gave him plenty of warning so he could get his ASSets out of the way. More reports there was almost no damage to the Syrian air base, other reports that it was destroyed, and twenty top line aircraft were taken out on the ground, too. Then more reports that another chemical attack had been carried out, then that report denied. Word reaches us that Trump decided to bomb Syria because Ivanka thinks things like chemical warheads killing babies is bad, and Daddy didn’t want his little baby to be so upset so he sent 60 cruise missiles into Syria.

With each passing day it goes from absurd to downright insane.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the fat kid with the bad haircut is threatening to incinerate the United States and South Korea. China says this is a bad thing. Trump is promising the Chinese all kinds of goodies if they’ll help, but Xi appears to be having too much fun watching Trump at this point to do much of anything. A carrier battle group is being augmented by several Japanese destroyers and people in Seoul might be getting a little nervous right now. The point is, however, that we’re about a year or two away from people in Seattle needing to be nervous. N Korea is not a normal state constrained by meaningful norms in international relations. When a rogue state starts to threaten you with nuclear weapons, what are the rational alternatives? We aren’t far away from pre-emptive nuclear strikes being discussed, are we?

And what’s with Prince Vlad? Our SecState goes to Moscow and a visit with Putin ain’t even on the Secret Service’s travel itinerary. Instead, King Rex of Exxonia gets a back channel meeting where, apparently, nothing much is said? Say what? The Kremlin is supporting the Taliban but nothing much was said? We’re kind of at a point in time where we have no idea what’s happening – or even who’s in bed with whom, but they leave us with ‘nothing much was said?’ Are Trump and Putin colluding now to make all their other Russian problems go away? Could be, at least there are a bunch of pundits thinking along those lines, but the whole thing reminds me of The Guns of August and The Magic Mountain and the run up to WWI. Too many secret deals, no one understanding what the other is doing – and all it takes is one little match…

And what’s with all this stuff concerning James Bond and RussiaGate. The Brits knew Trump surrogates were talking to Russian agents in 2015, and all the way through the transition, for that matter, and they told the CIA and NSA. Who told the FBI. And Director Comey trashes Hillary 10 days before the election – yet remains silent about spies working with the Trump campaign? Obviously, as much as Trump would love for Comey to disappear he can’t do that now for fear the Director will spill the beans? This is hideous stuff, a billion times more insidious than Clinton’s emails ever were, yet there’s no outcry among Republicans.

Trump’s foreign policy is now being talked about in terms of ‘fluidly changing positions’ – which kind of goes along with what he said during the campaign, namely: that negotiating from a fixed, known position is a bad thing. Trump believes that no one should know what he’s really aiming for until negotiations start, and about all I can say is that may work well in business but that’s a radically unproven approach to conducting foreign policy. Our allies are as much in the dark as our adversaries, and all this is complicated by Trump’s now legendary willingness to make stuff up on the fly (as in: lie when it seems to suit his purposes). When truth and objective reality (i.e., facts) are fluid constructs, where is the common ground needed to frame working agreements and prevent hostilities? Our international world order is built around one bedrock assumption: the US is the global policeman. And if no one believes anything Trump says, if in effect there’s no cop standing on the corner, what’s left but chaos and anarchy? Well, you say, maybe we don’t want to be the cops anymore?

Really?

You want, maybe, Russia to take over that role? Or China? Well hell, how about Burma?

One thing’s certain. If we exit the world stage that will create a vacuum, and who knows what will rush to fill the void if we relinquish and walk away. The corollary? Businesses are getting the jitters, yet what Trump does next in N Korea could set off a major crash. Or Syria. Or Iran. Or…you get the message, eh?

I’m still a little flummoxed by certain high ranking Republicans taking a pro-Russian stance these days, namely Orange County’s Dana Tyrone Rohrabacher (and yes, Dana, you’re no Dennis Carpenter), who has taken the position that previous episodes of climate change may have been caused by dinosaur farts (I’m serious, folks), and who also seems to think that Putin is a swell guy and we ought to just get along with the Russians ’cause everyone stands to make a shitload of money if we do. This is, I think, what’s called moral depravity, and again, the only Republicans vocally objecting to this line of reasoning are John McCain and Lindsey Graham. More interesting still, word is that the Republican Party in general is moving away from doctrinaire conservatism to a more populist, nationalist articulation of principles (ahem, cough-cough), but really, who the hell knows? The Republican Party seems fractured along three fault lines these days, so there’s a war inside the party and conservatives seem the biggest loser so far, with Trump basically setting his sights on the Freedom Caucus after the health care debacle.

Yet Republicans are up to their merry tricks in North Carolina again, re-writing laws (again) to more directly subvert the constitution. It seems to be about disenfranchising anyone who doesn’t appear to be a Republican – again, which also seems to be just about the most unAmerican thing an American politician could possibly do. You either believe in democracy or you don’t, yet by and large it appears these days that Republicans don’t. Perhaps re-tailor your message or your ideology to more accurately reflect all your constituents, not just a narrow sliver? Become more inclusive, not more exclusive? With population trends making their brand of politics less and less viable, they seem intent on taking the road to fascism and authoritarianism in order to hold onto power, and yet nobody wins if they succeed. By the by, that’s called logic, Dana.

And I guess you’ve had it up to here with Flying the Friendly Skies this week? What should have been an isolated event has taken on all the characteristics of the Rodney King beating by the LAPD, yet there’s word United may soon ban use of smartphones, presumably so these kinds of videos won’t surface in the future? Excuse me? Tell me this is a joke. I was asked if I’d ever encountered anything like this when I was flying, and in a word: Hell No. I remarked this kind of thing seems more like a news report out of 1970s Soviet Russia than America, but then again, this is 2017 and it’s sunny outside when it’s raining. Still, I think this stuff is part of a long term trend that’s been playing out and may be coming to a head just now. Simply put, we’re living in an age where police functions have been militarized, where ex-military are being hired as police in record numbers, so our dealings with police officers are beginning to resemble military encounters more and more often. Another point that seems relevant here: this was an encounter between a racial minority (in this country) and the Chicago PD. If you’ve been reading about that department’s recent history you know this is a toxic, dysfunctional relationship, but again, I think it’s time to sit back and see what the facts and circumstances are – on both sides – before rushing to judgement. UAL has lost up to 1.5 billion dollars in stock value since this happened, and they’ll probably lose another 20 million + to settle this as quietly as possible, which makes this one of the costliest SNAFUs in US corporate history.

Besides, I have a solution to these types of problems. Instead of offering 400 bucks, or even 800, I’d have some cute gals come onboard wearing lingerie and heels – then ask for volunteers to help spend a few leisure hours playing chess in a nearby hotel room. My guess is that plane would have emptied out in less than a minute. And THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is capitalism! THIS is the way you get things done in an honest, God-fearing nation like America.

+++++

So, on to the gnews.

The latest 737, the stretched Max 9, made it’s first flight from Renton, Washington Thursday morning, and it took off and flew NW to Port Angeles before returning to Everett to begin a year of testing…and here’s the video of it’s take-off: 737 Max9 first flightA lot of carriers are looking at this aircraft as the next generation trans-Atlantic airplane. The next front in the airfare wars will be between low-cost carriers flying into smaller airports like Hartford CT and Providence RI from smaller European cities closer to business destinations like Glasgow and Oslo. Hard to imagine the lowly 737 taking on these duties, but this new bird can carry 220 people, or about 40 more than the 707-320c Intercontinental that Pan Am and TWA operated through the 60s and into the 70s.

739

Looking over this cockpit makes me queasy, too. It’s like a foreign landscape to me.

739 pit

It looks like a large video game display. This (below) is what I grew up on:

732 pit

I know what most every little do-dad on the panel in that second image does, but oddly enough the new plane isn’t that hard to transition to. I was in a Max simulator about two years ago and had no trouble figuring things out, and while the workload is a little less  taxing almost everything is run by or monitored by computer. Strange feeling, and I guess it’s the next step to pilot-less flight. Yes, you heard right. Boeing is hard at work developing aircraft with essentially no role for pilots, perhaps just a tech on board to make sure the computer is behaving itself.

I think that makes me officially obsolete, but I’m not sure I’ll get on one of those.

Speaking of obsolete, international sanctions against Putin & Co have hit commercial aviation in Russia hard, and one of the hardest hit casualties has been Russian pilots. Estimates are 15,000 have lost their jobs in the last couple of years, and many are making their way to the Gulf, i.e., Emirates, et.al. Oddly enough, China has the fastest growing aviation industry but they make it really hard for foreigners to fly there, (surprise, surprise), while working for Persian Gulf carriers can carry it’s own set of unique challenges (booze and women come to mind, let alone the joys of living in a quasi-fascist theocracy that treats employees as chattel). US carriers are up in arms, of course, because those same Gulf carriers want to start flying domestic US routes. As they’re state-subsidized entities that’s what’s called unfair competition, so we’ll see who wins – which comes down to which side can bribe the most congress-critters to get what they want.

Is that cynical of me? Anyway, maybe you’ll have a Russian pilot flying you from JFK to LAX soon, on an Arab carrier. Joygasm?

I know I’ve already mentioned flatulence once in this post, but how about one more bit of gastrointestinal gnews? Concerning celiac disease and gluten intolerance, there’s new evidence this may be caused by a common virus. Oh happy day. It seems the more we know about bacteria in the gut the more we realize how troublesome antibiotics really are. What we need is more medical research in this country, so praise be! Trump is cutting that budget, too!

“Of all the accounts of the plight of the white working class that appeared during the 2016 election, the work of the married Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton seemed to cut most deeply. In 2015, Case and Deaton published research finding that although mortality is declining for virtually every other demographic group in every developed country, it has been rising for middle-aged white Americans since the early nineteen-nineties. The increase, they argued, was due almost exclusively to what they called “deaths of despair”—suicides, drug and alcohol poisoning, and chronic liver disease. During the campaign, their findings raised the possibility that whatever energies had consumed the white working class were not limited to political or cultural grievances but had a more pathological source, one that showed up in the United States but nowhere else.” Well, the New Yorker reports on the latest evidence both for and against this hypothesis. Heartbreaking stuff, but important if you want to understand what’s happening to a vital demographic in this country,

China and the Syria missile attack? How was that received in China? Well, here’s an interesting op-ed piece from Australia that’s worth a peek. “A theme echoing through US media in the last few days was that Donald Trump’s decision to attack Syria during dinner with China’s president was sending a message to Beijing. But what was the message? It was an obvious act of intimidation, a threat, according to the consensus American interpretation. America is powerful. America is dangerous. America will use force, so watch out.” So, did they? Does China care? How about the fat kid?

‘President Donald Trump is contemplating a new strategy to get repeal of the Affordable Care Act through Congress: threatening to torpedo insurance for millions of Americans unless Democrats agree to negotiate with him. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal that appeared on Wednesday, Trump made a warning. If Democrats won’t talk repeal, the president said, Republicans might decide to cut off some subsidies now flowing to health insurers offering coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges.’   It just gets better ‘n better, don’t it? Republican heartlessness knows no bounds. Of course, Trump continues the war on women by signing a law partially defunding Planned Parenthood. My, ain’t that a surprise. Expect to see a spike in deaths from cervical cancer and prenatal complications, but hey, Dana, this will only affect little brown women here illegally, right?

What’s more effective, humanitarian aid or missiles strikes? Here’s a general’s perspective.

Speaking of humanitarian aid…how about that Mother Of All Bombs?

MOAB

21,000 pounds of love, designed for an ISIS bunker near you. The story from Fox News. Makes you wonder…was the fat kid paying attention?

 

What role does disease play in artistic creation? Well, for Thomas Mann the idea was central in stories like Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus, but disease represented something much deeper than an individual’s illness. It could represent cultures’ tendency to collapse over time, or even a family’s, yet here’s another take, on the central role TB played the development of 19th century romantic art.

And finally, if this winter’s weather seemed weird to you, you’re not the only one. In fact, it might have been weirder than you imagined.

Anyway…assuming Trump does NOT bomb N Korea this weekend, you might think about Jesus and Easter and all that stuff. Republicans ought to, too.

See you around the campfire, folks.

17 thoughts on “Sunday in the Sun, 16 April ’17

  1. My late father in law, after he retired from the Army, was a Chief of Police for a small city in Wisconsin. In the 90’s, when he retired, one of the things he was most worried about was what you spoke of, the militarization of police. He said there was a lot of pressure on him towards the end to accept to accept surplus equipment from the Feds – M16’s, armored cars, trucks, for a city of about 13,000. He also hated the changes in uniforms that was trending, specifically the black BDU look. He felt it encouraged an Us vs Them mentality.

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    • It’s a trend that began after Desert Storm. George H W Bush created tax incentives to hire returning vets, a laudable goal, but that changed the paradigm. We may not want to admit it, but some departments can justify a militarized department, i.e., LAPD, with the type and frequency of heavy duty crime they encounter (gangs, cartels), but a small town in the American midwest is just not the same kind of environment. Some guy with a fragile ego riding around in fatigues or BDUs, wearing mirrored Oakley’s and carrying military grade hardware while looking like he just came in off a patrol in Mosul is ultimately presenting a really counter-productive image – unless instilling fear and distrust is that department’s objective. SWAT and TAC teams are ego games, generally harmless and often useful, but once you start adding urban assault vehicles to the mix, watch out. If departments have that kind of hardware, they’re going to look for excuses to use it, and in the end they’ll create a backlash they’ll soon regret. Well, we’ll all regret it by then. There are a lot of ways for police departments to increase effectiveness (bikes and equestrian patrols, for instance, or foot patrols in downtown areas) while the Delta Force look simply creates the wrong kind of impression. Again, unless you want to cow the populace, there’s just no need.

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      • One of the towns we lived in in SE NH has a horse mounted unit. So beloved by the city, that when budget cuts threatened it, private donations covered the short fall, and continue to pay the cost of the unit.

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      • Equestrian patrols are effective, period. DPD used them around shopping malls, downtown and out at Fair Park when the fair was going in October. There was a stalker/slasher hiding under cars in shopping mall parking lots, slashing women’s achilles tendons then abducting them, and horse patrols put an end to him. Basically, horses are friendly looking whereas a UAV is not. And I’d argue that horses are about 80% more effective for general patrol duties than a Chrysler or a Dodge.

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      • There’s a video of a sherrif and his jihadist-looking SWAT gang in black ski masks from a town in FL with an anti-heroin message. Beheadings to follow. I haven’t played it, but just the still photo is enough for me to want to drop that huge bomb on them, before they strike in the US.

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      • I reckon people are going to have to decide whether they want to live in towns that feel like an occupying army has taken control or have Andy Taylor and Barney Fife patrolling their streets.

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  2. Perhaps United could take on EgyptAir’s domestic service name (MisrAir) as Misery Air. Back in the 60’s – 70’s I used to like United. No more.

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    • Both UAL and Continental (The Proud Bird With the Golden Tail!) were decent, and I use that word advisedly. Continental became a union busting tyranny but what’s happening to UAL now has been characterized as ‘race to the bottom’ capitalism. Cut everything to the point where the customer is already dreading the experience of flying, but what’s left?
      Well, I take Amtrak and the next time I go to Europe I’ll call Cunard. No big deal as I don’t travel all that much these days, but if I had to fly weekly I’d find a new line of work.

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  3. I’m guessing that sheriff’s squad was outfitted with drug forfeiture money. I’ve heard horror stories of property seized improperly and the struggles to get it back. That’s the way the sheriff in our country plays it. We bought this Bearcat with forfeiture money! No taxpayer dollars spent!

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