Ah, good to be home. Good to not have meals delivered through a central line. Many thanks to those who sent notes, and note: I read them all so got well in a hurry. I’m not one for omens, but when I got home I saw this fella in a tree by the house and we kind of enjoyed looking at one another.
That’s what I love about this place. We live right on the edge of a dedicated wilderness area, and as it’s a large one the amount of wildlife on my property is often staggering. We’ve had wolves on the front porch too many times to count, mountain lions, bobcats and brown bears have all walked by just outside my window as I write, and we have no rattlesnakes at this elevation so the pups can run free without worry. And despite it being a brief snow season, we had over 300 inches of snow this winter. Indeed, it’s starting to snow again as I write.
Being holed up in a room, not of my choosing, let me focus on Outbound and that allowed me to drift deep down memory lane while trying to make sense of the greater story. And yeah, Mr Morphine played his part, too, but I kept thinking about Warren Beatty’s movie “Shampoo” as I worked on this story (yup, it’s on the MacBook, so I watched it a few times one night), and man, does that movie capture a slice of life. Nixonian callousness on the right and hysterical sexuality run amok on the socialist left in SoCal during that brief period flowering, and Goldie Hawn is just priceless in the film. So is Carrie Fisher, for that matter, as the attention starved teenaged ‘slut.’
Two songs from The Beach Boys’ 1970 album Surf’s Up framed my writing of the third part of the story: the song Surf’s Up is a truly great stroll down memory lane, and what I think is their best song ever, Feel Flows, caps off this album. I love God Only Knows from Pet Sounds and some of their early surf songs too, but Feel Flows is one from the heart. More to the point, it’s the psychedelia in the undertow of the song that captures me, and captures the mood in OutBound. Paul Simon’s score for Shampoo has something to say about that zeitgeist too, and while Shampoo is one of the most perfect movies yet made about the aftermath of the 60s, I can’t imagine those images of Beatty standing on the bluff at the end of the movie without Simon’s haunting melody.
And as was pointed out to me this week, Genesis’ epic song Land of Confusion seems to be defining our current epoch, so with that music in mind let’s just jump right to the gnews.
BERKELEY, CA—Advising students to remain in their dormitories and classrooms until the situation was resolved, the University of California, Berkeley declared a campuswide lockdown Thursday after several loose pages from The Wall Street Journal were found on a park bench outside a school building. “At 11:15 this morning, several pages from two separate sections of today’s Wall Street Journal were discovered spread across a bench outside of Eshleman Hall in Lower Sproul Plaza,” read the urgent alert sent to all students and faculty, emphasizing that while campus security and local police had safely disposed of the pages, there was no way of knowing if others were strewn elsewhere on university grounds. “As of now, the perpetrator remains at large, so it is vital that you stay where you are until the all-clear is given. In the meantime, notify police immediately if you have any additional information at all regarding this incident.” At press time, a black-clad group of 50 students were throwing bottles at the bench while chanting, “No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist U.S.A!” (from The Onion.)
And this story, a little closer to home, ought to dry your eyes right up. How about a clothes dryer that uses sound instead of heat, that uses 70% less energy, and with no more lint trap? Well, the good men and woman at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have got something for you! GE brings good things to life, eh?
From the New York Times, 4/21/17:
|The Mysterious Case of the Missing Armada|
|We need to talk about the armada.|
|Last week, President Trump said he was sending an aircraft carrier group to the Korean Peninsula to put pressure on Kim Jong-un to not further escalate his nuclear program.|
|“We are sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “Very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.” Although some lauded the decision as a show of Mr. Trump’s resolve, the announcement raised tensions in Asia, prompting fears that the carrier group might provoke North Korea to act even more aggressively, perhaps even sparking a war.|
|Except it turned out that the carrier group was, at that point, thousands of miles away and heading in the opposite direction, on its way to the Indian Ocean to take part in military exercises with Australia.|
|Reasonable people can disagree on whether sending the carrier group to North Korea is a good idea. But if Mr. Trump believed that sending the “armada” during a crisis would project resolve, then what does it project when he says on TV that the carrier is going one direction, but it turns out to be headed in another?|
|Foreign policy is about more than just the appearance of high stakes; The president needs to communicate what American goals are, and signal what he will and won’t do to achieve them. Adversaries rely on that information when deciding whether or how far to push the United States, and allies rely on it just as much when creating their own security policies.|
|When those signals are misread, the consequences can be severe. In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s misreading of the United States’ signals led him to think Washington would let him get away with invading Kuwait, for instance, and then a war had to be fought to sort it out.|
|That is why the missing carrier group was more than just an amusing flub. It provoked real concern in South Korea, which depends on the United States for its security, and now has to worry about whether Mr. Trump’s security commitments in the region are as solid as he claims.|
|But it’s also possible to look at the whole episode as an example of how Mr. Trump’s experience as a reality TV star is shaping the early days of his presidency.|
|When he was the star of “The Apprentice,” his job wasn’t to be a businessman, it was to play one on TV. It’s an open secret that reality shows are constructed and sometimes even word-for-word scripted by producers.|
|He was there to strike the right balance between charming and intimidating, to make a show of being bold and decisive while operating within the parameters set by his producers, and to provide the audience with entertaining drama — not to actually do business stuff.|
|The aircraft carrier confusion hints that he may be treating his role as president the same way — that he’s there to give the presidency the proper style and flair, and to present the right image on TV, while others behind the scenes do the real work of making decisions and executing policy. Seen through that lens, once he and his associates in the White House had gone on television to say the carrier group was heading to the Korean Peninsula, their work was done.|
|This has played out in other ways. Mr. Trump, for instance, has said repeatedly that he would demand that Germany compensate the United States for defending Europe. But he has taken no specific action to collecting the money supposedly owed. The performance, though consistent, hasn’t translated into policy.|
|And in fairness to Mr. Trump, every American president is to some extent a reality star. A very real part of the job is to make the rounds of a series of photo ops, podiums and state events, projecting an image of American power to viewers at home and abroad.|
|But the American president isn’t just a ceremonial head of state whose entire job is to make those kinds of public appearances. Mr. Trump holds the most powerful office in the world. And the consternation of allies like South Korea and Germany shows how much more there is to the role than image.|
I don’t know whether I agree with this assessment. Consider first that almost by definition you don’t really want a potential adversary to know where one of your most potent offensive weapons is going to be at any given time, and second, an aircraft carrier is in this case is little more than an empty gesture. There are already more than enough air assets in theater, let alone in Japan, to take care of North Korea, so the carrier and it’s battle group are really more about psychological warfare, and I’d have to say in this case the objective has been brilliantly achieved – everyone is confused. Even the Chinese and the Russians have been upended by this move. Trump seems to have wised up and let his military advisors play this hand, but make no mistake about it, this is high-stakes poker, real brinksmanship at it’s deadly worst. With real consequences if someone makes a mistake.
So, as a result, there’s been a lot of talk in the news about nuclear war again. But what does nuclear war really mean? We all call it unthinkable, but is it? Well, maybe not. Putin & Co think it’s winnable and so, apparently, does the fat kid with the bad haircut. But here’s a lucid explanation of the immediate fallout, no pun intended, of what a nuclear exchange might mean for you and me and all the rest of us.
Far-right Republicans have decimated Kansas, and now they’re ramping up efforts to take Texas headlong back into the Dark Ages again. Starving government, making schools a mockery, upending decades of progress on civil rights reforms…so what’s it all about? What’s driving these changes, and who’s reacting? Good questions if you want to know what Trumptopia might feel like in a few years…
Russia continues to meddle in democratic elections, and the West continues to do nothing about it. This week it’s France, and they’re really in overdrive this time. I for one think Dick Cheney was correct in his assessment: these are acts of war, and they need to be responded to in kind before we wake up surrounded by Putin’s puppets. What happens when Europe falls to the wave of far-right populism, the same nationalism that fueled the rise of Trump? Well, read your history books, kids. The far-right crowd loves war, war cements their popularity in place, but make sure you reread the above on the consequences of nuclear war before you jump on that bandwagon.
Lamenting America’s looming internal Alzheimer’s crisis, Kunstler’s Friday rant looks at how quickly RussiaGate has faded from the scene: “That’s how we roll in the national Alzheimers ward. Shit happens and then is promptly forgotten. Sometimes the shit that happens is forgotten so completely that it’s like living in a universe where nothing happens. The auditors who once reported to work in your brain have left their stations — with no duties left after the smart-phone came on the scene. They are among the millions “no longer looking for work” in those BLS reports. Maybe this is a manifestation of what used to be called “God’s mercy.” Now that we’ve almost succeeded in making the planet uninhabitable, we don’t have to remember how it got that way, or what will happen to us in the meantime, while we’re still here.” Damn, but the man is cheerful, ain’t he?
Berkeley in the 60s! Ah, can you smell the tear gas! See the National Guardsmen with their bayonetted M-16s advancing on lines of student protesters, Ed Meese standing gleefully in the shadows hoping for another Kent State? Ronald Reagan quietly cheering them on? Well, like it or not Berkeley has become hallowed ground to the left, and perhaps that explains why the alt-right has decided to join the next phase of the culture wars, the phase when all liberals get shipped off to Kamps, at U C Berkeley. And who is the latest sacrificial lamb chosen for martyrdom? Well, none other than the Right’s own bikini-clad Wünder Fräulein, Ann Coulter:
The little quote in the upper middle: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go for the New York Times Building.” Yes, she’s such a sweet thing, such an innocent purveyor of Hate, and yes, look at Ann, tall and thin and young and lovely, the girl sure knows how to sell her intellect, doesn’t she? She’s every Republican’s idea of a walking wet-dream, right? Long legs and short on brights.
So yeah, she’s going to UCB after all, and I wonder how this will turn out for her? Wonder how Fox will lay out her martyrdom. I’d hope the Left would just ignore her, because without controversy this horse-faced cow has nothing left to sell but her own overfed Hate. Udderly devoid of principles she is, but I do hope, for the Left’s sake, this turns out to be a non-event.
On the opposite end of the spectrum (e.g., those with working brains) Elon Musk is working on an interesting variation of cloud-based computing. Consensual telepathy, he calls it, and Neuralink Corp is his latest venture. The next part of the journey towards virtual life after death?
There’s no doubt the election in France this weekend is one of the most important and consequential events to take place this year, perhaps in many years. More than a few people believe a Le Pen victory will mark the beginning of the terminal phase to the European Union, and France will be fully under the sway of a rabid Putinist. Opposition has been fragmented and terrorists have helped by staging attacks throughout the year. Here’s a working paper from the folks at the Brookings Institute that looks over the past few years with an eye on the future. Worth a close read.
Anyway, looks to be an interesting news week coming up. Another ObamaCare replacement looms, as does a budget showdown on Capitol Hill. Maybe the Carl Vinson will show up off North Korea, or maybe we’ll shoot down one of the Russian Tu-95F Bears prowling off the Alaskan coast.
We do live in interesting times.
I’ll be writing as I can, but I’m sleepy as hell after sitting up for an hour, so slow going the next few weeks.
Hasta later, and Happy Trails.