Media Once Again Its Own Worst Enemy


The media, in its frenzy to nail Trump to the wall, seems to be misrepresenting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ possible involvement in Russian election meddling in 2016.  (And I am no Trump fan or hater.)  The media seems to be pushing the line that Sessions was, demonstrably, interacting with Russian official Sergey Kislyak regarding campaign issues.

But what is being referred to are supposed recordings of Kislyak telling his bosses that he’d had conversations with Trump about the campaign.  Yeah, why wouldn’t we all take Kislyak’s unsupported word for it?  Isn’t he a nice Russian spymaster (as opposed to, oh, say, Putin)?  Now in most of the media stories about this subject, way down near the end of the article it will say something about this information only being Kislyak’s unsupported assertions.

But lots of people don’t read to the end of an article, they just skim for general content.

This is exactly the kind of thing which makes people think all news is fake news.

What seems most disconcerting about the whole Russia election meddling issue is that the GOP appears to be no different from a commie fan club/cabal which, unfortunately in this case,  has managed to take over the USA’s government and is busily undermining the constitution and rule of law.

Why on earth would Trump, his supporters, or the GOP want to undermine an investigation into how extensive this Russian intrusion into our sovereign political process was during 2016?

Enquiring mind wants to know.

Apocalypse Wow–Riding Windsurfer Bill’s Honda 90 in a Caribbean Hurricane


Life in America is way too constrained.  There’s too much pressure to conform in oh so many ways, despite our unsupported belief that here in the USA we are wild, free and nonconformist.

So I happened to be thinking wistfully about the time Windsurfer Bill rode up to my place in the Caribbean, on his Honda 90, in the middle of a hurricane.  He burst in and said excitedly; “All the boats are draggin’ anchor in Chocolate Hole.  Wanna go get some champagne and watch expensive boats crash?”

It sounded like fun so I said sure.  Now, at the time, I was living up in Bethany on a dirt road which was steep, full of rocks, and would wash out during the infrequent rains. It was no simple thing for Bill to have gotten his underpowered little vehicle up that road in a damn hurricane either!  That boy had some onions.

Who wouldn’t jump at a chance for an adventure like that?  So I hopped on the back of Bill’s tiny motorbike, sans helmet of course, and we rode into town (Cruz Bay) and went to the deli/restaurant at Mongoose Junction to get some Dom Perignon.  (What else would you drink to watch an apocalypse?)

Tom, the owner, had just closed up.  After we explained why we needed a bottle of Dom he allowed as how he just happened to have one on ice in the back of his jeep that he’d be willing to part with in support of such a good cause.  “I always carry one” he said “in case I get lucky”.  Tom must have been a boy scout at some time to take preparedness to that level.

So we got the champagne and had a fairly harrowing ride up to Bill’s place, which was up a much steeper and rockier road than mine.  Since he lived right at the top of a big hill on the south side shoreline, it was blowin’ like snot up there.  Huge things were flying through the air and, in fact, millions of dollars worth of sailboats were already being pounded against the beach like cockroaches that accidentally wandered into a flamenco fiesta.

It was grand!  We hauled out a couple of chairs, plunked down on the deck and sipped the Dom until it ran out.  Then we switched to a more plebian Cold Duck, or something along those lines, and got fairly tipsy from the alcohol and the wildly dynamic scene playing out for our fun and amusement.  It was soooo fun!  It was like the end of the world but without pain–the wind was screaming, roofs were coming apart, the sea was smashing everything that was in its way, and the noise was deafening.   It was chaos incarnate, if a hurricane can be said to be an incarnation.

People don’t do stuff like that here.  Here they prepare seriously and take precautions. But that was the glory of St. John back in the day.  People did things with panache and free spirited attitudes.  (Once  a St. Johnian sank his new–and very expensive–boat, but stayed on board since part of it was still out of the water.  A friend of his had a case of champagne delivered to the stranded sailor via helicopter.  (No word on whether he thought to report the sunken boat–we’d all heard about it from another boatie.)

Recently I re-connected with an old friend/colleague from the St. John days. He wrote a novel about St. John at that time, in order to memorialize a golden moment when, as Sarah Palin wistfully noted once, people were free.  I asked if he remembered when I tried to shoot his dog, and he laughed that, yes, as a matter of fact, he did.  The name of the book is Back Time in Love City & it definitely, even definitively, captures the zeitgeist of that time and place.  I would recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of jumping their traces and taking off into an unknown place for adventure.

One time I rode my big race horse into that iconic Cruz Bay pub, the Back Yard.  She was huge, very high strung and prone to going into wild frenzies of hysteria where she would buck and kick and race around trying to chase any human who crossed her path.  So I rode her up to the packed bar and Dougie Sica didn’t blink an eye, just said, “What’ll ya have?”  Kamikazes seemed appropriate for that particular moment.  So I sat on my big horse and drank kamikazes at the bar, then rode her on out and went home.  Neither of us wore shoes.

Ya can’t do stuff like that in America anymore, except maybe out west or in Texas.  Nope, now and here, decorum is required and one must comport oneself in a manner that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.  Yeah, God forbid that anyone might have their delicate sensibilities offended.  I’m pretty sure there must be a clause in the Constitution about that.

So I sigh and plod on, bereft of any scintilla of spontaneity or free-spiritedness.  We don’t approve of such things in America anymore.  More’s the pity.  But at least I know what it means to have been free, wild and stupid enough to have adventures, to do stuff people wouldn’t approve of.  Sad to say I don’t think all that many Americans get to have that luxury anymore.

What would Jesus say?  “Did ya like my storm?”

Sigh.  I miss being free.

 

All Reality Is Not Virtual


As a committed post-modern dinosaur, I have never tweeted, been on
facebook, LinkdedIn, reddit, or any other social media site. There are no
apps, devices or any other means of “syncing” an information flow in my
world.  My laptop is the whole ball of wax, device-wise.  I know not of
interacting online with groups of people. I just don’t get it.  But, clearly,
time has passed me by and I am officially irrelevant.

Twitter wars and their prominence among “news” stories in the media seem
mystifying.  Reading or watching stories about this phenomenon also seem
pretty funny.  All these characters with their thumbs flying, being egged on
by “news” reports, conjure up an image of a bunch of weenies engaging in
what amounts to electronic slap fights.  Hunched over their tiny devices, do
those engaging in the exercise actually believe it is the equivalent of some
sort of gladiatorial warfare?  I think they do.

Forget it folks, you’re not Russell Crowe, you’re Arnold Stang.

Tip: your busy thumbs are not the full extent of your physical
capabilities. You can get up and walk, talk to live humans in person, see
“real” things with your “real” eyes, feel the sun and wind, experience “real”
life firsthand.  Yeah, it’s kind of uncomfortable, but, probably good for ya.

See, if you’re confining yourself to virtual reality, your non-virtual
musculature and body parts are withering from lack of use and exercise. Your
overly active imaginations, seeing yourselves as some sort of latter day
cultural warriors are a bit over the top.  Okay, delusional.  There is such a
thing as “real” reality y’know.

It all seems hilarious to me, but with a looming downside which is apt to
wind up affecting all of us, including the ones who don’t tweet or who have
thoughts which won’t fit into 140 characters. People seem overly focused
on what’s being said on Twitter. The lazy media, too slack to actually go
out and find real news to report–well except for Richard Engel, Ben Weideman, Ivan Watson, et. al.–can just open up their devices, have a donut
peck out a thin story about what other people are doing in 140 characters,
and think they’ve reported the news.

I actually saw one of the former Fox News blondes, in full raccoon-eye
makeup, say recently, with the most earnest look, that “When the President
tweets, we have to report on it.”  No. You don’t. “News” is not confined to
what comes out of Donald Trump’s thumbs or mouth. Stuff is
happening–important stuff–out in the “real” world. If you work for a news
media organization, you and your colleagues are supposed to be telling the
rest of us about it.

And the putative “news” cable channels are ridiculous. MSNBC runs
non-stop Lock-up programs on the weekends, presumably because “real”
news doesn’t actually happen on weekends. CNN similarly doesn’t do
much live reporting on the weekends.  Possibly it’s because the “reporters”
don’t work weekends. But if you want your media company to be considered a
news organization, then you actually have to report real “news”.  Trust me,
there’s lots going on in the real world on weekends, despite what cable
news channel programmers think.

MSNBC also hired a guy, Brian Williams, who was fired for lying, to do an alleged news show. Why? Somehow his presence on the roster is supposed to increase the network’s credibility as a news network!  How does that work?
Has Mr. Williams dropped his habit of lying?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.

CNN has a morning “news” anchor who’s just a Fox News re-tread yakking
it up five mornings a week. Sorry, I’m not interested in FoxNews’ sloppy
seconds. Don’t hire a media whore and trot her out as a serious journalist,
and expect me to forget what she did before.

The ancillary world of internet trolls is similarly mystifying. Aren’t they
just what we used to call busybodies? Perhaps we should more accurately refer to them as E-busybodies instead of trolls.

The whole notion of spending hours just looking for something to be pissed
off about seems pretty unhealthy. Long ago I decided, when being overly
critical of others, that I’ll try to hold off on that until I’ve perfected me.
There’s a ton of work to be done there, so I’m not holding my breath about
when I can get back to telling everyone else how they should live their lives
and what choices they should make.

Meanwhile, I see that our president is meeting with Vlad Putin this Friday.
What has Vlad been tweeting about lately? I’m all agog with curiosity.

I’m also wondering what future archaelogists will make of the skeleton remains of all the tweeters out there.  “There seems to have been a popular cult which flourished tens of thousands of years ago which focused on those with very large thumbs.  Perhaps that characteristic was considered as beauty.  At this point, we just don’t know but all indications are that genetic thumb mutations became a socially desirable physical attribute at some point in the past.  That culture disappeared and we can only conjecture what might have happened to wipe it out.”

 

National Candidates Should Have to Mud Wrestle for Their Positions


The riveting video of the leader of the free world wrestling with a CNN muck-up, uhhh mock-up, left me stunned and in awe.  That’s the answer to elections.  Americans love professional wrestling, they love politics, and they like to see people get dirty.  And they love people in wrestling costumes.

So there you have it.  Mud wrestling.  Winnah takes the election.

Thank you Donald Trump.  It was your stellar example of buffoonery, rolling around like a walrus on Vince McMahon with a CNN logo where his head should be which inspired me.  Mud wrestling for political posts.  You, sir,  are an inspiration.

Perhaps you could engage that nice man, Mr, Putin in similar hijinks when you meet with him this week at the G20 summit.  He likes to wrestle and is, I think, a judoka.  Yes, our president in a contest of manliness with Vladimir Putin, former head of the KGB would be a ratings smash hit.  Not to be unsupportive of our president, but, my money would have to be on Putin in that matchup.

I hear our side doesn’t have an agenda for the meeting with Vlad.  Ya might wanna think about getting one together before then fellas.  (I know, I know, no girls allowed.)

But, of course, you boys don’t need some bystander from the peanut gallery giving unsolicited advice.

 

 

 

More on Knee Jerk Reactions, Fighting Fire with Fire


Amazingly, Trump and his surrogates brag that he fights back, that if
someone punches him he punches back ten times as hard, that he “fights fire
with fire”.

How can they think that mimicking an opponent is a good thing?  It’s purely
reactive. With Trump all it takes is a bit of criticism and he’s off to the
races, tweeting away–and not doing his job.  According to Sun Tsu (and
Miyamoto Musashi) the warrior chooses the time, place and mode of battle.
Letting oneself be constantly baited into over the top overreaction just looks
weak.  Trump comes off like a patsie, not a strong leader.  People rattle his
cage, he goes nuts, they do it again, predictably, so does he.  That is just way too much psychodrama for most folks.

By continually being drawn into childish twitter fights he’s wasting a ton of time that he could be spending on, oh, say, infrastructure, crime, gun violence, Middle East peace talks, Russian hacking of our businesses, elections and who knows what else, and….

So I’m not nearly as thrilled with the, presumably-viewed-as-manly habit
our president has of going off the rails at every little provocation.

By reacting so predictably, it takes virtually nothing for anyone who does
not wish us well to distract our president into following someone else’s
agenda. But a master tactician doesn’t fight fire with fire, he uses unorthodox
and abstruse methods and implements.  Cuts off the oxygen, cools the
temperature, removes the fuel, whatever.

Here’s a perfect example of the foolishness and penalties of knee jerk reactions,

Remember, at the Battle of Hastings, where England became Norman in the
fall of 1066?  After hours of bitter fighting, the English (under half-Danish
Harald Godwineson, King Harald II of England) had held their position behind a
shieldwall which the Normans could not break.  When the Normans got spooked and fled at some point, the English broke formation and pursued them individually and pell mell.  The Normans, seeing the opportunity, wheeled their horses around and picked off the undisciplined English one by one.  Two more times the Normans used the same ploy–pretended retreat followed by counterattack–to induce the English to break formation.  This turned the battle in favor of the mounted Normans.

That’s what knee-jerk “fighting back” got the English.  Their king dead, his body and jeweled gonfannon in the hands of his usurper, the end of Anglo Saxon rule in England, their lands, assets, pride and titles taken and endless abuse at the hands of the Normans for decades to come.

Mindlessly fighting back may sound good but patient critical analysis, and
then fighting back if it’s warranted, is a more sound way to proceed.
Usually. There are always exceptions but, in general, think first.  Just popping off as our president does is not just embarrassing, it makes us look dumb in front of our enemies.  And that definitely is not a good idea.

Mika Brzezinski is right about dictatorship vis à vis our country.


There is something profoundly unsettling about Trump’s continual “Oh
Come Let Us Adore Me” public events.  (Or, as Ms. Brzezinski puts it,
during his “dear leader” moments.)  The worst was when he introduced his
cabinet members one by one and each was compelled–whether explicitly by
Trump, or as a self-generated demonstration of their subservient status–to
do obeisance to Trump in the most uncomfortable way.  It was grotesque.

The Trump show’s possibilities are a dim echo of another great power’s
shift from republic to oligarchy to dictatorship.  That would be Rome.  Read
Tacitus, a somewhere-around-the-first-to-second-century AD (it is thought)
historian who chronicled that declension.  It’s all there.

Ms. Brzezinski seems absolutely correct in her analysis of what Trump, if
left to run wild, would/could and probably wants to, accomplish. Get rid of
those pesky rules. Regulations?  Anathema, get thee behind me!

Those rules he decries, which stipulate how the executive, legislative and
judicial branches of government are to interact and conduct business, are
archaic, says Mr., Trump.  That would be the checks and balances our
forefathers baked into the constitutional cake as a hedge against a power
hungry megalomaniac taking over as a dictator sometime downstream.  No
chance of that ever happening, right?

And now we have to endure those noted martial tacticians, Sarah Huckabee
Sanders, Melania Trump and Kellyanne Conway touting as somehow
praiseworthy the fact that Trump is easily baited and induced to respond to
someone else’s agenda.  While I’m sure these women have many fine qualities, they don’t know beans about the principles of successful conflict.  Neither they, or Trump, get it that a knee-jerk response to “fight fire with fire” or “fight back ten times harder” is strategically and tactically unwise and gives away the advantage conveyed by being the initiator of, not reactor to, any situation or issue.  Blindly responding to someone else’s ploys means someone else is pulling the strings.  Believe me ladies, that is not what ya want in a supposed leader.  A leader is supposed to make the other side dance to his tune.  Forever on the defensive is not a tactical road to success.

Whether it’s business, war, or civil society, if you don’t understand power
and have a plan for how you intend to use it–then don’t seek power.   Just
“fighting back” is not a strategy and simply emulating one’s opponents
leads to stalemate not success.

So, shut up ladies.  You’re clueless knuckledraggers or knuckledragger-enablers encouraging blindly “fighting back”.   Muhammad Ali frequently employed the tactic of getting an opponent to wear himself out reacting to Ali’s floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.  He used different techniques but the aim was inexorable–to make his opponent do what he wanted him to do.  It was called “rope-a-dope”.

In the contested endeavor, the wise leader chooses her/his own time and
place to contest it, whatever “it” is.  They’re not supposed to let someone
else sucker them into an inopportune course/time/place of action because of
low impulse control.  Make your opponent do what you want, don’t respond
to what he wants you to do.

Duuuuh.

The Genealogy Project Wasn’t a Complete Bust


So it was back to the genealogy project for a few minutes, to look up the bio
for a many-greats grandfather, Eochaid IV, “The Venomous” King of
Scotland.  What do you suppose someone living in an incredibly violent,
brutal and inhumane time such as the Middle Ages would have to do to earn
the sobriquet “The Venomous” ?  He sounds kinda daunting.  But he was married to a Pictish princess, supposedly, before the Picts got so intermarried/interbred with the Scots that their tribe eventually disappeared.

However, his grandfather had my all time favorite adjectival appendage to
his name–”Fire White”. That would be Aodh Hugh Finn, “Fire White”
King of Scotland, King of Dalriata.  (His grandfather had a less imposing nickname; ‘”crooked nose”.)

But such dilatory/dilettante-ish dabblings were not the extent of the project.
More goal-oriented research had a more worthwhile end.

An old friend of mine was really depressed at the prospect of her daughter
and grandchildren moving from the east coast to Hawaii. She’s a
bibliophile with probably 4,000 books scattered throughout her home.
She’s also a history and genealogy buff whose IT whiz husband has so
fouled her computer with anti-malware/anti-virus software that she can
barely use the darn thing to communicate, let alone do genealogy research.

So I traced some of her family for her–and discovered that one of her
ancestors was with Washington’s force (as a member of the Delaware
Militia I think) at the Battle of Trenton. He also fought in the rearguard
covering Washington’s retreat from Princeton, although I’m under the
impression that there were two engagements between Washington and the
Brits at Trenton. Not sure which one her ancestor was in.

My friend, a retired Army vet, many of whose family fought with the rebels
in the Civil War, is an avid military history buff, so this bit of information
thrilled her. It also sent her scouring through her library to see if she could
flesh out the ancestor’s life story.

This led her to discover a book written by one of the newly discovered
ancestors.

Then I discovered that her family and mine had lived within 13 miles of one
another in the early 17th century, near Amsterdam. In fact, her many greats
grandfather there owned a bookstore near the university. It’s possible that
my ancestor bought books from her ancestor.

From that occurrence in the 17th century, until now, there were several
points at which our families converged abroad and in America, and would
surely have known one another since they were in lightly populated areas.

And, in our childhoods, although we did not know each other, our paths
must have crossed many times. We used the same small, two room library.
We shopped in the same small downtown, we watched the same Christmas
parades.

From the 1620’s until today our two histories have intersected again and
again. We’d never have known this if I hadn’t searched for her ancestors to
try and give her some new information which would engage her fascination
with history and her family’s genealogy. Because, of course, I wanted to get
her mind off the sailed-far-away family.

Now she’s passed the new genealogy info on to other members of her
extended family and they have an additional 16 – 19 generations to pore
over. She’s still working on getting her husband to free up her computer
though, so she can use the internet to search for ancestral information.

So, all in all, my extended genealogy project has not only resulted in a ton
of history information about Europe in the Middle Ages, and my own family
history, it also provided my friend with some useful self-therapy to combat
the blues from missing her child and grandkids.

That’s probably a better ROI than, say, playing video games on the internet.