Monday, April 30, 2018

Earth Day 2018 + 8

--waterproof iPhone case, for your

Get out your white suit,
your tap shoes and tails
Let's go backwards when forward fails 
--Everything Old is New Again, 
Peter Allen

We can't return we
 can only look behind
From where we came 
--The Circle Game, 
Joni  Mitchell

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what
you've got 'til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot 
--Big Yellow Taxi,
Counting Crows 

 Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions 
--The Age of Aquarius,
The Fifth Dimension

We are not feeling too groovy about Earth Day 2018. Here are some reflections on Earth Day + 8.

Almost 50 years after the first official calendar declaration of our responsibility to be better co-inhabitants of our planet, and we have not come too far. Humans as good earth-stewards now seems a quaint notion.

More to the point, savages are us. It seems the Age of Aquarius has left the house, sans forwarding address.


--We have music that is no longer melodic. Instead of calming the heart of the beast, its purpose seems to inflame it and incline it towards violence and exploitation

--We use drugs whose side effects are often worse than the presenting problem

--We search for intelligence in the universe, yet fail to develop or recognize it here on earth

--Healthcare is an oxymoron

--Entertainment is violence

--News is entertainment

--Food is not nutritious, and is often the cause of disease. Diet food makes us fat: low sugar food pumps up the fat for the "mouthfeel", and low fat foods up the sugar. Both are efforts to provide us with food that satisfies us in the way that actual food used to

--In all of these things, the ersatz replaces the real

--We breathe contaminated air, and drink contaminated water

--We are "friended" by people who are not our friends

--Corollary: it matters that we are "liked" by them

--Among the younger generations, narcissism is up, and empathy is down

Where have the Flower Children gone?
The Baby Boomers, that largest and monied cohort, now spreads hatred 'round the world on its social platforms, the bilge every bit as toxic in nature and effect as any other environmental toxin. They call it a good.

AARP magazine says the Boomers seek housing in idyllic created and self-contained communities like The Villages in Lake County (FL). The landscape is clear-cut, and golf courses and boutique shops rule the day.

As one drives through these simulacra housing developments, one sees style blocs stuffed together, based upon price lines. How the residents find their way home among the homogeneity after a day tippling at the clubhouse, mystifies.

Marshall McLuhan foresaw that our technologies would not bring us closer, but rather separate us further. The radio or the telephone may bring us information, but we are separated from the reverence involved in creating an actual face-to-face meeting with a fellow. How many echelons beyond reality is the smartphone?

When one no longer sees or feels the actual presence of the other, he becomes less immediate, less actual. Our shared humanity takes a blow.

Atomic bombs, radioactivity, nuclear arsenals and DDT sparked the movement. If civil rights could be mandated and legislated, then surely the health and welfare of those lives could also be addressed.

However, the world goes on and it rides on money. And the quest for money and human well-being do not always jibe. So we have had Exxon Valdez, Bhopal, Deepwater Horizon, and far too many other planetary tragedies to mention, both large and small.

We belong to a global village, of sorts via our technological devices, yet seem no closer to empathetic understanding. Even within our own land of plenty we stand riven and ready at the least provocation to throw our verbal spears 'round the world, thus launching hatred into the already roiling miasma.

One may argue endlessly about the reality of global warming, but one may not deny the reality of resource depletion. Overpopulation is the elephant in the room, and one day, the earth will reach its carrying capacity.

There are 7.4+ Billion humans on the planet now. The number grows logarithmically, and the United Nations estimates the population will reach 8.1 Billion in 2025, and 9.1 Billion by 2050.

--you can't fool Mother Nature

Carrying capacity is a fact, as is the limited availability of drinkable water. Optimistic as one might be, these are two inescapable reins on our life here, and they are inextricably related.

Meanwhile, we with the leisure to debate such matters continue our niche political and religious debates regarding such things as abortion rights. It is of the fashion to always have an enemy.

Thus the brotherhood of man is a poetic chimera.

--Lisa and Jim

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Up Against The Wall

 --The fall of the Berlin Wall

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall 
--Mending Wall,
Robert Frost

 It is not the strongest
of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent,
 but the one most responsive to change
--Charles Darwin

When you believe in things 
that you don't understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain't the way 
Stevie Wonder

We approached this election as a people assaulted and insulted, both from within and without. The wall with Mexico was a campaign promise to give some succor to these bruised people.

Democratic institutions generally do not build walls, but rather, bridges. That said, border protection is a legitimate concern for any nation, and building a wall with Mexico became a campaign promise. And like all campaign promises, it provided a simplistic and easily-imaged solution.

Every president enters with some good ideas, but also some not so good. The wall may fall into the latter category. Not because a nation does need good border defense, but because there are better alternatives. Less iconic, but more effective.

This proposed wall is both a symbolic and actual gesture against the seemingly most porous point of entry, giving a sense of power to a people who have felt vulnerable and transgressed upon since the terror events of 9-11-01 (and probably before that).

But true defense in the 21st century is based upon mobility, and not static lines.

According to a Center for Migration Studies (CMS) 2017 report, illegal Visa overstays from all visitors to the United States (including those from Mexico) outnumber the "entries without inspection" (EWI) from across the Mexican border.

It is estimated that two-thirds of those who arrived in 2014 did not illegally cross a border, though the Department of Homeland Security does not release actual numbers. 

A 2017 DHS report estimated 629,000 visitors to the United States — just over 1 percent of all travelers — remained in the country at the end of 2016 after overstaying their visas as students, workers or tourists. However, Mexico is still the leading country for both overstays and EWIs, with about one-third of undocumented arrivals from Mexico in 2014 being overstays.
The problem with the wall solution is, static defenses like walls have been OBE time and again. Think of any of the great walls, now fallen: Hadrian's, China's or the Berlin Wall. Or the Maginot and Siegfried and Winter (Gustave) Lines. All linear defenses ultimately were breached.

The concept of a static line defense has become superannuated by the wars of the 20th century. No commander will do a static defense. Bataan taught that lesson.

Another challenge for a Democratic nation would be the fact previously mentioned at RAW, namely, that an obstacle is useless unless covered by fire. Are we willing to go all Berlin Wall on Mexicans?

Probably not, since even the most hardcore wall advocate must see that Mexicans are the ones building the United States these days. Heck, legals would probably be the ones building the wall.

In contrast, a mobile defense would be more realistic, for several reasons.

A mobile border defense would present a better cost/benefit ratio than would a fixed wall. The European precedents include Germany's Grenzpolizei (Bundesgrenzschutz) and France's Central Directorate of Border Police (DCPAF). 

Why not get innovative with border protection and get the citizens on board with the project? To that end, why not have a draft for service in the Border Patrol?

In the tradition of VISTA or the badly-gutted Clinton initiative, Americorps, service in the border patrol could become part of a mandatory post-secondary service modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Further, a prerequisite for future military service could be a three-year stint with the Patrol. Future officers could not be commissioned until their Border Patrol service is completed. Officer selection could take place in that initial placement with the Patrol.

This envisions Border Patrol service as a sort of quasi-military function (moreso than currently). A person need not enter the Army proper, but could spend one's entire career border patrolling. (However, the Patrol would have to maintain its quasi-military shroud, as an outright militarization of the patrol would be seen as an act of war by Mexico.)

Since defensive measures are always in-depth, what guarantees that the Mexican government will provide a depth of operations on their side to assist this proposed mobile defense? The politics would have to be groomed immaculately.

The United States would need the complicity of the Mexican government to identify the shifting areas of main threat, as the success of mobile defenses is based on that knowledge. 

"Strong point defenses" could be emplaced around major U.S. border cities, with "zones of security", and discrete mobile forces could be garrisoned there to neutralize local penetrations and to provide local area security. This denies illegal immigrants their local active and passive support (without which they cannot thrive).

Traditionally, this border function was the purview of the Texas Rangers. In the military, this is "rear area protection" -- defending the border in depth.

The Wall is a simplistic image of unassailibility, but walls are made to be breached.

A multipolar, focalized and local mobile defense is the more 21st century answer to achieving border security.

--Jim & Lisa

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