I think I found an old photo I took that reflects (literally) 3 of the 4 elements. It is a photo taken on the “spit” in Homer, Alaska on a calm morning. The water was dead still, the air beautiful with great clouds, and the mountains in the distance reflecting in the water. It was a wonderful morning in this lovely small harbor.
of complete and utter incompetence in the White House. A man who thinks it totally appropriate to talk about unleashing “fire and fury” in the midst of a crisis with North Korea is dangerously unconnected to reality. Who would have thought that we’d be in the running for the most deranged leader in the world when there are so many other good candidates around. A few days later, he talks about a military option for Venezuela. Unbelieveable!
But even that was only a warm-up act. When presented with a no-brainer opportunity to act “presidential” in response to violence and even an act of terror by white supremicist and neo-Nazi groups, he delivers comments about violence “on many sides”. He also continues his blindness that his words and actions are a contributing factor to that violence – when even the leaders of the hate groups cite his leadership as an inspiration.
I have been embarrassed to be an American many times in his short time in office but this last week is nothing short of a disgrace – and a dangerous one at that.
First, I’d like to apologize for my lack of posts lately – no particular reason other than my utter dismay at our current political state. For my entire life, I have been proud to be a citizen of this country. I truly believed that this was the greatest country on earth – a beacon of freedom and democracy that stood as an example to other countries. That feeling was consistently validated during every one of my foreign travels – people routinely expressed their admiration of our liberty and our institutions as they lamented their own country’s corruption and inability to serve “the people”. In six short months that admiration has turned to scorn and ridicule as we have swiftly lost the credibility that was dearly earned through our (mostly) principled behaviour on the international stage. At the same time, here at home, our white house occupant continues to offer empty promises to his electorate (he never speaks of the majority of the country who didn’t vote for him) without a clue on how to achieve them. Somehow we are supposed to believe that his imagined victories over his enemy of the day and his unending placing of blame (on anyone other than himself) is a good substitute for actually serving the nation. In his own words, it is indeed “sad”. Sorry for the rant but I thought I’d express my dis-satisfaction before turning to more positive thoughts.
One of the most satisfying experiences in my life of late was a 16 day trip down the full length of the Grand Canyon. Believe me, at least some of that satisfaction was due to the lack of communication with the outside world and a respite from the White House’s fright show. But one of the other extreme joys was the opportunity to take morning hikes in the canyon. Often these hikes led us upward to incredible vantage points and vistas where the sheer beauty was overwhelming. Combined with the exertion of climbing and rock hopping up the trails, we were treated to that wonderful feeling of physical well-being at the same time we were experiencing the wonders of mother nature. I chose this particular photo from one of those hikes as a great example of that satisfaction. I actually left our hiking group at this spot just so that I could enjoy the solitude, quiet, and magnificent view here as the sun started to fill the canyon.
I just recently returned from 16 days on a Dory trip down the entire length of the Grand Canyon. The trip was remarkable with changing scenes and moods around every bend in the circuitous meandering of the river. I’ve chosen the photo above as an example of one of those fleeting scenes. The sun just peeking over the canyon, the clouds providing some change overhead, and the quickly advancing rays of the sun greeting the canyon and a dry wash littered with rocks – all of these added to this quick flash in time – never to be seen again in this exact form. I was glad I was able to capture it and keep that morning alive in my (and hopefully your) mind.
Last October as I was driving home from a little time in the desert and the Sierras, I stopped along highway 395 and took this morning shot of the Sierras near Lone Pine, California. The cars were whizzing by me as I framed the shot so I didn’t spend a lot of time to get it right. The lava rock and a few scraggly sage bushes were the only foreground I could use but I still liked this photograph because of the mix of the rocks, the face of the mountain range, and the dramatic clouds above. To me it is a simple photo but one that catches the essence of “Earth”.
When we were in India in 2013, I took hundreds, if not thousands, of candid shots out the car window. After the first hour or two in country it was apparent that we would never get to our destinations if we stopped for every photo opportunity. I told our driver(s) to just keep going and I would try to get the shots without stopping. While this yielded some bad pictures that were either obstructed or blurred, it also yielded many which I like and show some of the character of that vast country. I looked back through some of those photos for this challenge and decided on this one – taken out the windshield of our vehicle with the subject of a women in the car in front of us. I really liked the juxtaposition of her face and expression with the “eyes” decal on the window (a frequent sight in India). It was a quick surprise encounter but one which I continue to enjoy…..
I’ll “go with the flow” for this week’s challenge. This is the latest addition to our home defence force, Cady. She is a rescue that is combat equipped with a bark that would scare off any approaching foe (or at least ones smaller than a young bunny), she comes with a face that is more “hi” than “get the heck out”, and she is more likely to bite her “sister” (our equally vicious 14lb schipperke) than any intruder. Other than that, she is the best security system you can buy (and continue to feed). Let this vision speak for itself…”Beware of (Sleepy) dog!!”
I must admit that I was tempted to just post a picture of the guy that currently occupies our oval office…
I thought that might be a little crass so I opted for a different interpretation for this week’s challenge: Dense. I took this photo from a small boat off one of the largest Ghats in the holy city of Varanasi, India. Tens of Thousands of people gather every night to participate in the prayers led by the holy men along the banks of the river Ganges. Our guide told us that during the religious holidays, Varanasi is the densest population center on the planet. While I cannot verify that information, our attempt to exit the area after the prayers certainly had to go through one of the densest and most chaotic traffic jams I have ever seen.
Just did a quick search to find a photo for this week’s challenge. While this may not be the best fit, this guy seems to be enjoying his green surroundings…… I took this in the very early morning at one of the stops on a European River Cruise a few years back. I found this statue on a wall just off the empty main square of a beautiful little town (can’t remember the name right now). I loved the look on his face, the natural flora, and even the bikes parked nearby. I still find this photo relaxing and a nice reminder of that solitary morning.
I thought I’d continue my monthly political commentary at the end of Mr. T’s second month in the office. At first I started to recount all of the confusion, obfuscation and ineffectual leadership of the second month but that quickly became tedious. Instead I thought I’d comment on some of the emerging strategies of this administration and what that may portend for the next 46 months. While most of the strategies that I list may have not been formally announced, they are clear in the context of the administration’s actions to date.
Belief and Propagation of a Fact Free Environment
This has become a central feature of the administration and is a continuation of Mr. T’s fact free campaign. I am writing this as the Director of the FBI is confirming that there is absolutely no evidence that T’s assertions of illegal wiretapping of his campaign/administration. This tweet has been widely debunked since he sent it but he has reaffirmed it several times. It follows a long line of attacks on the credible media as well as most of the governmental institutions that we depend on every day. While his supporters may believe him and his conspiracy theory sources (Fox news and the farther right alternative media), his strategy appears to be to attack and attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with him – even if it is an outrageous claim. The press is then wasting their coverage following his false leads and forgetting the important issues of the day. I hope that may be changing – it is telling when the questions at the white house press briefings now are frequently about “why and when should we believe anything the president says”. Our allies and people around the world are also and already asking that same question. Hopefully we can soon get back to questions that matter – such as inauguration sizes or imaginary voter fraud.
Hard Power vs Soft
The recent budget submission as well the administration’s stated strategies revolve around increasing our military and improving our “Hard Power” capability. This is a strategy that is simple (so even the Commander and Chief can understand it) but it doesn’t fit the complex world that we live in. We already outspend our closest military rivals by several multiples (2.7 times in the case of the next largest, China). While I would applaud efforts to streamline the military spending to make it more effective, the vast majority of rules and regulations that truly effect efficiency have been imposed by Congress itself and are unlikely to be changed. In any case, we and our allies are more than capable of defeating any credible adversary in a hard power confrontation. I would focus instead on what the new National Security Advisor, General McMasters has said about the need to “integrate all elements of power: military, political/diplomatic, economic”. Unfortunately, the budget proposal threatens huge cuts to our diplomatic corps and major cuts to financial capabilities to effect the behaviour of both our friends and our opponents. This is happening at a time when China is quadrupling its diplomatic corp and has already become the primary financier and supporter of development activities across the world. One visit to Africa with signs of Chinese construction and infrastructure projects everywhere will convince you that we are not the ones trying to build those relationships at the local level anymore. It will only get worse under Mr T’s hard power strategy – the only relationships we will strengthen are within our own military industrial complex. Update: a group of dedicated former Generals and Admirals are currently lobbying against the draconian cuts to the State Department in order to preserve our “soft power” alternatives.
Some of Mr T’s most publicized campaign promises where to the coal and fossil fuel industries. While he has done little to follow through on these promises so far, his cabinet appointments and his budget spell real trouble. There is practically no-one that thinks the coal industry is going to recover (2 Ohio coal plants announced closures this week) – the market just doesn’t exist. It was an empty promise that despite his best efforts will not be kept. All around the world, people are moving to renewable fuel sources which also happen to be green. Again, even China recognizes this trend and is transitioning its industries. Meanwhile we have an administration of climate change deniers (with the notable exception of the Defense Department) while the rest of the world invests in, and moves toward renewables. Combine that with the proposed cuts to energy science, research and technology across the departments and we risk falling behind in the race for trillions of dollars in future investments.
Income/wealth inequality – I’ve been one of “those people” for years that believe that inequality is a large problem and that the hollowing out of the middle class is a significant issue. I admit that I cannot personally identify where the middle class of the future will come from. Other than human intensive activities like public health, education and safety, and service jobs which are today lower paying jobs, I haven’t been able to envision where the jobs are to create that core economic group. While some people tout that technology and innovation will invent these new jobs, I’m not convinced that they will create more jobs than they will help eliminate. In any case, I only see the problem getting significantly worse under Mr T. His budget will certainly harm many on the lower wealth/income spectrum and his (Republican generated) health care plan creates more inequality by eliminating many of the subsidies of the ACA and also provides massive tax give-aways to the insurance industries and the most wealthy americans. Update – the Mr T/Ryan healthcare plan has been defeated so at least that does not appear to be a continuing threat! I can hardly wait to see the (again Republican generated) tax reform plan which shows all signs of distributing more wealth to the rich in an effort to stimulate the illusive phenomenon of effective “trickle down” economics.
In summary I’ll just state that I believe Mr T has seriously degraded the office that he now holds and he shows no sign of recognising that effect or trying to change his ways. Even more importantly, his personal strategic views of the world are simplistic and potentially very damaging to this country. While his plunging approval ratings provide some evidence that the public may be waking up to his con job, there is still no evidence that the Republican party will abandon its seriously flawed front man before he can wreak more havoc.