Saturday, August 27, 2016

Clip On Journalism

I’ve noticed over the last several years two recurring words in the word stream spewing from the world’s press machine: crisis and scandal (both frequently misapplied to that which they are describing).

Those words have become the ultimately convenient journalistic artifice: all that is needed is a pop in/pop out word following “scandal” or “crisis”  and it is possible to have a whole new “thing” with which to whip the populace into a frenzy.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Just One More Brick In The Wall …

…that is closing off the incoming generation of Americans from – everything.

I have posted a few times pictures that I have taken from the Anacortes Ferry boardwalk.

While I wait for a ferry I like to go see what sort of images I can collect.

To get to the boardwalk there is a path from the boat ramp, down a gradual slope and down a nice smooth little notch in the bank that folds neatly into the beach.

At that point one walks down the beach to the boardwalk that gives multi mile access the flora and fauna of the shoreline.

The other day I was returning from such a walk and was at the notch and about to walk back up the bank to the ramp.

It was a busy, sunny Friday morning so there were a lot of people waiting for ferries.

Several of them were coming down the bank and were just the other side of the notch.

The notch, being a notch, there was only going to be room for me going back or those coming down, but not both.

Since there were more of them than there were of me, I stood aside to let the others get onto the beach.

I could not believe what I was seeing.

A young mother and her eleven or so year old daughter were about to step into the notch.

( I may not have made this clear enough; I call it a notch because it is a dug out little bit of the bank to make an easy, smooth, one small step down to the beach possible; even in my advanced arthritic state it is like walking on the sidewalk; it requires no thought, no adjustment, no taking of care – even for an old man.)

The young mother took her child’s hand and cautioned her to be very, very, very careful and to take multiple tiny steps to get to the beach.

The worst part of it was that the child complied looking extremely worried about the danger of this world shaking adventure.

I had briefly hoped that she would tell her mother to leave her alone: she was a healthy athletic looking young woman, more than capable of walking on a sidewalk.

But she did as her mother told her.

I felt like screaming at the mother.

But I didn’t want to be put away as a madman.

So, when they had made their cautious, multi-stepped traverse to the beach, congratulating themselves about eluding serious bodily harm, and the notch was free to me, I jumped over the notch as far and high as I could up the bank and ran up to the ramp.

“Must be a nut” I thought I heard someone say.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Little Green Men In America

I’m not going to indulge in subject development; I’m just going to assert a few things that I have read enough about to believe to be true.

Putin has a few major goals, a guiding strategy.

He wants to take back the Russian “near abroad”.

That is Ukraine, the three Baltic states and some fragments in the vicinity of Georgia.

It may include Georgia itself.

He’ll decide later about Poland and the two Czechs.

He wants to dismantle NATO.

He wants to drive the United States as far from Europe as he can pull off.

Which is why he wants NATO gone.

He even has tactics that he uses in support of that strategy.

If there is a significant Russian population living in one his targets he deploys agents to get them all stirred up about being mistreated by their legal government.

Then he deploys non-uniformed, highly specialized and trained agents to bring the abuse of Russians pot to a full boil.

These are the little green men we have heard about so much.

Then suddenly significantly armed military personnel without military rank or insignia appear and support the military activities of the mistreated Russians.

These tactics are supported by web and social media based waves of misinformation and lies and by expert hacking of every legitimate data base that can be hacked.

Those tactics have resulted in the de facto annexation of large parts of eastern Ukraine to Russia.

Those tactics have resulted in Russia’s outright annexation of Crimea.

Now the electronic and misinformation variety of those tactics are in full force in the Baltic countries.

Twenty Six percent of Latvia’s population is Russian.

At this point the plot thickens.

And it thickens damn fast.

Latvia is a member of NATO.

Article five of the NATO treaty says that any nation of the alliance attacked is the same as if all the members have been attacked.

So when the little green men and non uniformed military phase of Putin’s tactics begin in Latvia there is going to be a come to Jesus session; and it’s going to happen damn quick: when the green men show up in Latvia, Latvia is going to invoke Article Five and a NATO response is going to be required – damn quick.

That something is going to needs be primarily a military response from the United States, the major power of NATO.

Putin is betting that when that response is demanded the US is going to do nothing – except talk.

I’m betting with Putin.

Now pivot with me for a moment.

Have any of you noticed a lot of Russian hacks of important digital assets in the United States recently?

Does it seem to you that the Russians seem to have as easy an access to America’s computer systems as do Americans?

We don’t have concentrations of Russians in any one place in the US  so we can skip the whipping the overseas Russian population into a frenzy phase.

But what about the stream of misinformation that flows real time from the tweeter in chief?

The donald’s Russian connections, affinity and Ukrainian related activities of one of his key advisors may qualify him and his minions as the little green men in America.

The stream of lies  that emanate from them could certainly support that interpretation of their function.

And what if massive Russian hacks of our election systems and voting machines deliver on trump’s promise of a rigged election on election day?

And what happens on the 10th of November when the US election is declared fatally flawed and undecidable and the little green men and non uniformed military suddenly appear in Latvia and Latvia invokes Article Five and America can’t figure out who is the next President, let alone make a massive military commitment to a NATO member?

And what happens on the 11th when the greenies et al show up in Estonia?

And on the 12th when it is Lithuania?

Seems like endgame to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Much

It seems to me to be a precarious proposition: if only trump can stay on an even keel for a week or two, delivering only teleprompter text, he has proven his unquestioned qualification to be the leader of the free world.

I can't superimpose that low template of expectation on my memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis - just for example.

Friday, August 12, 2016


At our vacation place we don't have TV. 

So I haven't been seeing any election coverage. 

Other than the daily dump from trump. 

So when I saw a CNBC feature at our local restaurant comparing trump's economic plan with Clinton's I had some catching up to do. 

The catching up though was not what I would have expected: it was psychological, not factual; the whole idea of treating anything trump says seriously has long since left me. 

I just didn't know that until this morning. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What The Captain Means Is:

One of my favorite all time editorial comments is the movie of the same name as the name of this post.

One of the reasons for my enthusiasm is that it serves as the perfect introduction to Chapter Ten of my little Vietnam memoir, Saigon 1967.

Here is the link to the movie:

And here is Chapter Ten of Saigon 1967:

The commissioned ranks of Air Intelligence had two separate specialty codes – 8054 for Briefing Officer and 8044 for Photo Interpretation Officer.

When I was in Saigon I was a Briefing Officer. A Briefing Officer’s job was to “sell” the Air Operations people (the pilots) on various targets.

The Photo Interpretation Officer was in charge of identifying all potential targets and learning everything they could about those targets, working them into a great strategic mélange of information that could be accessed tactically in support of the strategy of winning the “war effort”.

The interlock between the strategic mélange and tactical execution was the Briefing Officer. Briefing Officers “sold” the Air Operations liaison Intelligence Officers – another, unknown to me, specialty code - on various targets.

In actual fact, there was no real relation between the targets we tried to “sell” and winning the war. We simply had an untold number of things that could be bombed and we needed to bomb as many of them as possible, as often as possible. We talked about strategic/tactical results, but the reality was, there were a bunch of guys running around in black pajamas causing untold trouble. It was thought by our leaders that if we put enough airplanes in the air every day over enough targets we would probably kill some of those guys in black pajamas. The mélange and the selling were nothing more than a grand charade in which we indulged to implement actions in service of our leaders’ assumption. The truth was that it was an elegant and macabrely massive application of the random walk theory. But that was not a truth that anyone would admit. It was too much like the works of Shakespeare from a room full of monkeys theory.

In my time in Saigon there was one violation of the application of the ongoing random walk approach to dropping ordinance on the enemy. That was a two or three month period in which the Mu Ghia Pass was bombed around the clock. At the Mu Ghia Pass there was a confluence of a number of trails that the enemy used to bring men and supplies into South Vietnam. The roads came from a variety of countries. That confluence at Mu Ghia was seen as a concentration point which the enemy had to traverse. “If we are willing to expend enough ordinance over a long enough time, without letup, we can stop them,” thought the warriors-in-chief.

After several months there had been no measurable decline in men or supplies from the enemy in South Vietnam.

The project was abandoned. We returned to a random walk.

Since the components of our strategic mélange lacked any actual strategic or tactical value, and since all the vast hoard of classified material supporting the creation and “sale” of the mélange wasn’t even accurate, or based in any rational conception of reality, I turned to another source.

I had noticed that Time Magazine (I had my Time subscription delivered to me in Saigon, albeit a version with very thin paper compared to the domestic magazine) had much deeper discussions of many of our targets. And Time’s discussion of the conduct and results of many of the missions with which I was familiar was much more in-depth, interesting and insightful than the information I could glean from classified sources. At first this irritated me. Why were my classified sources so boring, irrelevant, wrong and, basically, useless? Why couldn’t we do a better? Why couldn’t we do a competent job of gathering and disseminating intelligence? Time magazine could; why couldn’t we?

Then an idea occurred to me. Why not use Time as my source wherever possible for my briefings? Who would know? I read the classified stuff. Nobody would know that I was only using the classified stuff as a fact checker where that was possible against what Time had to say. Where the facts were absent and Time had information so much the better. There was no way to question me.

My briefings, which had been up to that point encounters my audience bore up under as a professional duty requirement, quickly became lively well-attended events. I suddenly gained the reputation of being a young officer on the rise. And, best of all, I was assimilating and purveying information that was actually interesting enough to keep everybody, even me, awake and paying attention. But I had already made the career decision not to let anybody or anything make me really care.

That was probably a good thing.

On the strength of my vastly improved briefing skill I was chosen to replace a departing lieutenant whose primary function had been to brief every morning the brigadier general who was commander of the entire 7AF HQ intelligence function. The subject of these briefings was everything that had happened overnight. The problem with that, in addition to an aversion I had toward generals, was that the information available for preparing them was only our useless, boring, inaccurate classified information. Time magazine was weekly. Its information was a week old, not overnight. So I was back in the soup.

The difference this time was that the general really thought he was winning the “war effort” and wanted to know “what” and “why” and “who” and a bunch of other interrogatives about every subject. That information was either not readily available or was totally unavailable. Without Time Magazine I was dead meat. As a result my answers very quickly transmitted the impression, which was fact, that I didn’t give a shit and, in any event the interrogatives were so trivial as to be ridiculous.

I was quickly replaced with someone who gave a shit.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Barn Swallows

A couple months ago some barn swallows started nosing around the upper exterior sill of our bedroom window.

After a lot of discussion they decided to build a nest.

There were four hatchlings, but two died.

That left two.

lopez barn swallow babies 072316 00000

A few days after I took this picture I was standing and watching as the parents kept swooping in and stuffing food down the kids’ gullets.

lopez baby swallows and parent delivering food 00000

They fledged last Friday.

It’s going to be pretty lonely out on the deck without the little ones and their parents flitting and squawking.

Maybe they will decide to have another family before winter.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Saigon Was Really Safe

I've been hearing about the new Texas law that promotes carrying concealed weapons on campus. 

Somehow that got me pondering who I would trust to carry a gun, which got me thinking about an old friend, which got me thinking about Vietnam: I lived in Saigon from November 1966 to January 1967; we weren't allowed to carry weapons in Saigon. 

I guess being in College in Texas is more hazardous than living in Saigon during the Vietnam War.