Sorry I haven’t posted for a while, but its been a busy time. We’re getting ready for a trip to Antarctica and Patagonia so I’ve been preoccupied. That being said, when I saw this week’s challenge, I couldn’t ignore it. We spent some incredible time with some young (3 week old?) lion cubs and their mom back in October and it was sooooo cute and soooo sweet that I never get tired of perusing those photos. Here’s one I thought captured a quiet and curious moment with one of the youngsters as she came toward our vehicle…..
Hope you guys enjoyed this sweet moment – I loved being able to share it…….
I recently wrote to my Senators about my disappointment in their (lack of) strategy during the recent short government shutdown. I thought they blew it for a number of reasons. In any case, I wrote to them (and our House representative) again this morning with the following simple question to use during the immigration negotiations……
I recently wrote you regarding the lack of a coherent Democratic strategy for the shutdown. I just wanted to offer a simple suggestion:
In every interview and every negotiation where “the wall” is put forward, the automatic democratic response should be “we will fund the wall when the president reveals how Mexico will pay for it”. That was the president’s promise to the American people and he should be held accountable for that in any negotiation regarding this subject.
Thank you for your consideration,
Since we are mired in the era of soundbite politics and alternate facts, lets get some details on one of the signature promises of this administration.
This week’s challenge was easy for me. I’ll take you back to Tanzania on one of our last evenings there. As usual, we were still out with the wildlife at Sundown. We had been watching a group of female lions getting ready for their nightly hunt but we had also been watching a group of Elephants a few hundred yards away. I decided to try to get a ground level shot of an elephant with the sun going down over his/her back. While I couldn’t quite get that photo framed due to the brush in front of us, I kept moving to try and catch the beautiful sunset along with these gentle giants. When I look at this capture, it immediately brings back a sense of excitement (in trying to get the shot) but also the quiet calm and beauty of the scene and this magnificent creature standing in front of me….
I’m not sure that this really fits the subject of this week’s challenge but I liked this photo and I could stretch the meaning to fit……
This is a shot that I took during a “sundowner” happy hour overlooking the Serengeti in Tanzania. The sky was incredible but the only prominent point of interest was a single Acacia tree not far away. Those trees are frequent subjects of African sunset photography so it wasn’t very innovative from that aspect. What struck me about the scene was that the tree’s canopy was totally mirrored by the clouds just above – perfect semi-circles. I decided to take a photo where the subject was dead center in the frame – something I rarely do. I set my aperture to try and catch a sun star as the sun emerged below the clouds but above the tree. I had my camera on a pocket tripod so I was lining the shot up as the sun and clouds moved – as luck would have it, at the perfect moment, I could see a perfectly round lens flare forming as the sun reflected off the center of my lens. I snapped the shot at that second to catch this additional highlight to the symmetry of the scene – it is faint but hopefully apparent in the photo – forming a perfect circle around both the tree and the sun. An experiment in composition with a little help from mother nature.
In looking at the news for the last two days, it struck me that the terrible attack in NYC happened in a place that we had visited a few years ago. This is a photo I took on a walk from the World Trade Center back to our hotel. This view looks back toward the Trade Center and you can see the overpass near where the terrorist rampage ended. It is hard to imagine that such a beautiful and peaceful place can be instantly transformed into a place of fear and terror by a single deranged individual. Our hearts go out to the victims of such a mindless crime and to the people of New York who have once again had to endure such cruelty and insanity. May the peace and beauty of this incredible place return quickly.
We have just recently returned from a wonderful safari trip to Tanzania. When I saw the subject of this week’s challenge, I immediately went to this photo. I took this after one our first days in the wild at Tarangire National Park. We were staying at a wilderness camp with just my wife and I, our guide, and 3 beautiful people to take care of our every need in camp. I selected this photo as it captures many glows – the fading sunglow on the horizon, the star glow appearing in the darkening sky, the moon glow almost directly overhead, and the glow from our campfire embers both on the ground and reflected in the massive Baobab Tree above. This is a scene to remember for many years to come.
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.
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.
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.