Life & Island Times: Hatch Battening

Editor’s Note: this is late this afternoon but important. I am a professionally certified crisis junky, and it kept me up late, then awake late, and then glued to the latest reports. As someone who grew up in Michigan blizzards and Detroit riots, these are important and validated tips for staying alive…pray for those in peril from the wrath of the sea. So far impressed by the Feds, State and locals in response…and the calmness of the five million who evacuated…

– Vic

Hatch Battening

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From space sensors, Hurricane Irma is the most perfect appearing storm I have ever seen.

We had futzed around and fitzed about for several days to see what Irma was likely to do. We had:

bought food, water, liquor, smokes, ice
filled the car tanks with gas and our wallets with cash
occasionally watched the Weather Channel for updates, preferring the serenity of cable TV’s jazz and blues music channels
inventoried the number and inspected the condition of our storm shutters and fasteners
initially planned our hurricane meals

I95 just west of us had been filled the past three days with mostly orderly Floridians motoring safely northward. Some were likely headed to Atlanta or Augusta while most were en-route the far western regions of the Carolina’s.

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Floridian traffic jam on Georgia’s I95, September 7 2017 (Courtesy GDOT)

Having been flayed for his lackadaisical response to last October’s Hurricane Matthew approach, Georgia’s governor erred on the safe side, pre-announcing early Thursday afternoon a mandatory Irma evacuation of all residents east of Georgia’s section of I95 commencing Saturday morning. That meant us just like last time.

Crap . . .

. . . I don’t like driving on clogged roads. On Friday morning with less than 72 hours to the commencement of Georgia’s Irma shaking, the storm eye tracking cone had swerved way left to the west and encompassed all of Georgia.

Double crap . . .

. . . island friends who had left two days ago to shelter with in laws in Atlanta were now is Irma’s crosshairs. Plus, Irma’s curvy hip-swerving eye track now was steering a direct course to our stayer island friends in the Keys.

Keys officials were blunt “If you stay, you are on your own . . . we will not risk the safety of our first responders for your irresponsibility. I can’t stress that any more; you need to leave.” 25 to 30 thousand residents had departed as of Friday morning with many longtime locals heeding the warning to leave the path of Irma.

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This is what weak Category 4 Hurricane Harvey did in Rockport TX
when it struck. (Courtesy Jeff Piotrowski via weatherunderground.com)

Monroe Country’s administrator said with undisguised awe “I’ve been around here about ten years, guys that have grown up here, the Conchs . . . I’ve never seen them react the way they have.”
Key West City Commissioner Billy Wardlow, a Key West native, said Irma is the worst storm he’s seen in his 63 years. “This is the biggest and the baddest that I’ve seen in my lifetime in Key West,” he said.

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Unusual sight: a lonely Southernmost Point buoy in Key West September 7 2017 (Courtesy Key West Citizen)

The weather guessers at Key West’s weather station had hoisted their storm flags and raised their hard wood shutters on their Category 5 proof station windows when they put out the succinct tweet:
***THIS IS AS REAL AS IT GETS***
***NOWHERE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS WILL BE SAFE***
***YOU STILL HAVE TIME TO EVACUATE***

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Battened down: National Weather Service station in Key West

I have never heard Conchs speak this way during the past 43 years. While sustained hurricane force winds will not reach the Keys until late Saturday, the county opened all four shelters of last resort early today. Some of our friends have decided to stay. In one instance, they will be caring for those who cannot be moved.—-
Friday was decision day for hatch battening here in the northernmost Coastal Empire. Projected storm intensity for the storm’s Georgia passover had varied from Category 1 – no big deal – to Category 4 – holy guacamole, settling more or less around a strong, sustained tropical wind smackdown.

Yay . . .

. . . in the garage would stay the ladders, the precut plywood boards, the nails, the hammers, the screws, screw drivers, drills, bits and socket sets. The weather gods had issued us a plenary indulgence from shutter prep and emplacement on second story windows that would have taken more than eight hours . . .

. . . a Category 3 plus storm winds prediction for our area would have made our scoot/stay decision simple — we would blow this popsickle stand and head in a generally westerly direction on state and local roads for the balmier climes of western Georgia. Not surprisingly, we could only find expensive shelter north of Atlanta and bargain shelter 340 miles away somewhere near Montgomery, Alabama. This was a binary existential call. Experience has taught us that hurricanes, when their centers are over warm waters, could leap upward two strength categories in less than four hours. So we tarried and watched Irma’s track intently a bit longer . . .

Casa de huricanes en Montgomery Alabama

Yay . . .

Not on the road again
we just hate to get on the road again
the life we love is cooking and eating with our friends
and we’re so glad to not be back on the road again

Not on the road again
Getting lost in places we’ve never been
seein’ things that we hope we never see again
and we’re so glad to not be back on the road again

Not on the road again
like a band of gypsies on triple digit highways
we’re the best of friends with TWC
and we’re so glad Irma kept churning northwest today

Hatches battened? A definite no on the left; a hearty yes on the right

Friday’s prediction: Irma’s eye track is bending towards the lower Keys and swerving hard left and west over Southwest Georgia

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: On the eve of the Storm

Editor’s Note: So, like most of us, I have been preoccupied with weather porn (family and friends in the path and maybe us here in Virginia), NORK Nukes and all the usual political nonsense here In DC. Montana is afire and most have not noticed the tragedy in one of the almost square states.

Add or that, Mr. Putin’s “5th Generation Warfare” is apparently burning down villages in Ukraine. Every time I think this situation can’t get more nuts, I am proved wrong. Shoot, I thought I was a professional worst-case analyst. And it turns out Robert Frost was right:

Fire and Ice

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”

As to the immediate threat of horrific weather, Marlow and I are on the same sheet of music in his story this morning. We shared the Cat 3 in Honolulu…it was pretty spectacular as the eye-wall came directly over the house in McGrew Point in Pearl Harbor. A few years before, our ship had to sortie into Super Typhoon KIP from Japan after flying off the Air Wing, and with the insouciance of youth, I just stood on the ship’s island and marveled at waves that shot green water high over the bow of the aircraft carrier Midway (CV-41). The power of the sea moved coffee cups around tables below the flight deck that were normally as immobile and still as the grave.

Marlow’s colorful accounts of life in the islands down through the years compelled me to visit the delightful, quirky world of Key West a few years ago, with a vague idea of becoming a local. We were out one night and ran into a local, totally un-named random rain storm that brought water to the top of the wheel wells of the car. It was, to a Mid-West kid, quite remarkable, and to Marlow quite as commonplace as an evening at the Green Parrot bar.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those in the path of the monster storm, both of which are worth exactly that. Or precisely a platitude. In a real sense it means that I have to pony up again to support the recovery from whatever is going to happen. I hope you do, too.

I wish I could volunteer for the Cajun Navy, who personify why America is a special place with amazing people. But for me, those days of deployment are long past. I donated to Red Cross for Houston relief in the last storm, but I will wait to see who gets hit and see if I can get my contribution more directly to State and local people who will have to deal with the disaster on the ground. I wish I could provide gasoline so people could get out of vulnerable areas. God bless the people of the Sunshine State and the Keys and pray for their safety.

Much as I dislike the Cuban government, put them in there, too.

As this unfurls, I will keep you posted.

– Vic

September 8 2017
What Happens During a Hurricane?

Author’s note: It is difficult to answer the question what happens during a hurricane unless you have been caught in one’s grasp. I have had the good fortune to live on beautiful but storm-tossed barrier islands and coral reefs. I guess I was toying with Nature then, since those are borrowed lands. They are on loan from the sea. Inevitably, the sea will return to claim them.

Over the years more than a few in my acquaintance, who have never experienced such a storm, have asked me in casual conversation. I never was able to adequately respond. After living through many of them and considering Harvey’s deadly flooding and Irma’s path ever rightward swerving towards the Coastal Empire, here is what I think.

– Marlow

The wind blows so hard
that the ocean rises up on its rear legs . . .
and Godzilla stomps right across dry land
While stayers huddle indoors singing

Rain, rain, go away

Little Irma wants to play . . .

I have heard hurricanes tearing off neighboring roofs
and seen them snatch onto people
The lucky ones flew around
in the wind until they were lucky to get a grip back on the earth

Once it starts to rain
it’s too late to go outside to close your car windows
You’ll likely get caught by monster winds
Not me, brother

I don’t want to be one
of the hundreds of souls washed out to sea
like the Labor Day storm did
in the Florida Keys in 35

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Damage in the upper Florida Keys from the Category 5
Labor Day hurricane strike in 1935 (Courtesy National Archives)

No one thought anyone would live there
after that
Time moved on
People forgot

A relief train was
dispatched from Miami
The barometer was down
to less than 26 and half inches — a world record to this day

Then that train
pulled into Homestead
The engineer backed his engine into a string of empty
coaches and pushed them down into the danger zone . . .

. . . and great hurricane winds and surge hit right when he arrived
Knocked those hardly filled coaches with WW I vets right off the tracks
Close to two hundred miles an hour
those storm winds blew

 

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Florida East Coast Railway Overseas Railroad relief train derailed near Islamorada, Florida, during the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. The train arrived at the Islamorada station on Upper Matecumbe Key at 820 PM. The hurricane eye arrived at the same time. Because the train was backing in, the engineer couldn’t see the station; the coaches and boxcars started blowing over.

Waves coming in from the ocean “went over the cab floor and shut off the draft to the oil burner. There we were.” said the engineer. “There were times we were unable to breathe due to the water breaking over the locomotive.”

A great wall of water nearly twenty feet high
swept across the Keys
Entire villages wiped out
Miles and miles of track were ripped up and washed away
Nothing was left

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Five Labor Day hurricane victims towed on improvised sled, September 5, 1935. (Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

More than 400 bodies as far north as Cape Sable and Flamingo on the mainland were recovered after the storm
And for months afterwards . . .
corpses were found in Keys mangroves
Survivors dreamt for years they had been blown out to sea

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An unanswered question 82 years later: How many more were washed into sea?
(Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)

That was some hurricane
Many who couldn’t find suitable shelter . . . tied themselves to gumbo limbo trees
The storm howled so strong
clothes stripped off their bodies, their skin ripped raw

Stranger clung to stranger whenever they found one another
Sobs and breath obliterated by the winds
Tears washed away by the storm
There was no time for feelings

When the sun rose the following day
the air smelled of salt and sand
Then came a fresh wood smell from cracked-open trees
A day later came the stench of rot and death

There was no shelter
nothing to eat or drink for days in some spots
until relief trains and fresh crews arrived, and temporary tracks were laid
They were divine sights for salt-crusted eyes

Staying was like hanging out with a killer
No one should have remained behind
The storm waited till it got these innocents in its grasp
then killed them

Don’t get on that stayer boat
Don’t tell its captain that you’ll remain onboard or it’ll hurt you
When you get the warning, go
Get away — it might be your only chance, fellas

This is what a world-shaking hurricane is like.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Troop in’

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(Poet and Empire story-teller Rudyard Kipling)

Editor’s Note: In view of our renewed commitment to Afghanistan, it is worth re-visiting Rudyard Kipling, Poet Laureate of the British Empir, and recall his thoughts about the troops and service in that troubled land…and America’s longest war.

– Vic

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Troop in’
(Our Army in the East)

Troopin’, troopin’, troopin’ to the sea:

‘Ere’s September come again — the six-year men are free.

O leave the dead be’ind us, for they cannot come away

To where the ship’s a-coalin’ up that takes us ‘ome to-day.

We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome,

Our ship is at the shore,

An’ you must pack your ‘aversack,

For we won’t come back no more.

Ho, don’t you grieve for me,

My lovely Mary-Ann,

For I’ll marry you yit on a fourp’ny bit

As a time-expired man.

The Malabar’s in ‘arbour with the ~Jumner~ at ‘er tail,

An’ the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders for to sail.

Ho! the weary waitin’ when on Khyber ‘ills we lay,

But the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders ‘ome to-day.

They’ll turn us out at Portsmouth wharf in cold an’ wet an’ rain,

All wearin’ Injian cotton kit, but we will not complain;

They’ll kill us of pneumonia — for that’s their little way —

But damn the chills and fever, men, we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day!

Troopin’, troopin’, winter’s round again!

See the new draf’s pourin’ in for the old campaign;

Ho, you poor recruities, but you’ve got to earn your pay —

What’s the last from Lunnon, lads? We’re goin’ there to-day.

Troopin’, troopin’, give another cheer —

‘Ere’s to English women an’ a quart of English beer.

The Colonel an’ the regiment an’ all who’ve got to stay,

Gawd’s mercy strike ’em gentle — Whoop! we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day.

We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome,

Our ship is at the shore,

An’ you must pack your ‘aversack,

For we won’t come back no more.

Ho, don’t you grieve for me,

My lovely Mary-Ann,

For I’ll marry you yit on a fourp’ny bit

As a time-expired man.

www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Bread, Milk, Toilet Paper

Author’s note: While cold, calculated, political cynicism was in plain sight inside the Capitol beltway yesterday, something else was the focus here in the southeastern USA. We have begun reaching out to our southernmost island friends to offer them shelter. Many are waiting to decide as they put up their storm shutters today.

– Marlow

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Bread, Milk, Toilet Paper

Yes, yes, yes. Everyone now knows — a killer storm named Irma is coming. Cue the rush to stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper at your local grocery store. In the Florida Keys, the rush was well underway yesterday. Those, who are stayers are adding beer, lots of it, to their supply list. Here in cocktail drinking Savannah, the Irma rush has not yet started, so shelves and coolers were full when I filled our larder yesterday.

In all seriousness though, there are some other important things one must have in an emergency kit to shelter in place. As someone who was trapped on an island by an unexpected southward turn of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, trust me. You don’t want to be sitting in your house like I was, thinking, “Oh crap. I should have planned better than this.” The island’s grocery stores and restaurants were indeed out of bread, milk and just about everything else for four days. I remember being happy as a clam at high tide after Katrina to be able to order a restaurant burger without bread, toppings or fixings along with some local wind dropped grille fruit as a side.

Honestly, as a sailor of the seven seas with one Cat 3 storm ashore in Hawaii, plus two Cat 4 typhoons in the Western Pacific and a huge North Atlantic storm at sea under his watchcap, I should have known better.

Should the center of the storm hit your area, common sense says to stay inside and off the roads during the event. This would seem like a no brainer. Sadly, every storm that hit Key West had more than a few beer-fueled numbnuts require first responder assistance while foolishly observing storm waves and surge at the Southernmost Point. Only in Key West did we have people hanging out seaside in the middle of a hurricane and getting wasted. I will never understand the allure of being repeatedly smashed by debris filled storm waves that always ended with a rogue wave picking up a soused observer and slamming him to the ground.

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2005’s Hurricane Rita

One shou;d have an emergency kit that includes a case of water per person and pet, bags of ice to chill food in the event of a power outage, flashlights, batteries, an alternate means to cook food (charcoal or LP gas BBQ grill), perscription meds, emergency medical kit, and a filled up gas tank in your vehicle.

Experts say to have food and water for you and your pets for three days. Recent storms like Harvey tell me fove to seven day supply is a better level.

Make sure your vehicle’s window wipers, headlights, tail lights and turn signals are working properly. If you’re in a flood zone, have a plan to relocate your car on higher ground. Parking garages are the best bet.

My Keys storm experience taught me that duct tape, plastic sheeting and enough screws and fasteners for window storm shuttering are also must haves. Duct tape saved me from serious flood damage on the grade level, first floor more than once.

Lastly, bourbon, wine, chocolates and good steaks are fairly unknown yet very well appreciated storm supplies, that you don’t hear about, let alone see, in stores during and after a hurricane.

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Underappreciated storm supply items

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

End of Summer

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Yeah, another nuclear test from the NORKs, and warning of another atomic conflict, but they shouldn’t do the demonstration over Labor Day. It is wasting time. It is like they don’t get the news cycle and the popular attention span here in America.

Let’s concentrate on things that matter. Yeah, I know summer doesn’t officially end for a while, but come on. School started last week here, and we already went to the Walmart to get ready. It is toe-tagged as a season.

But at the end, it was a Total Pool Day yesterday, last one of the regular season. Everyone was there, all the usual suspects. I was in the water three times, the first time for a full sixty minutes with my audiobook and cardio health, and a bonus of another hour in pieces with the other usual suspects, ending up on the patio, which I found in disarray this morning, almost as if I had not been in complete control last night.

Oh well, summer is over. Marlow commented succinctly on what Hurricane Irma could be bringing us in the next week. Although the Board gave us two more weekends with the pool, I am not confident Mother Gaea wlll let us have them, nor we can find Americans to staff the pool now that the Poles have gone home.

Time to get back to the farm. But that water looks so good this afternoon, I am tempted to break in….and I know how…more on that later…

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Irma Not So Douce

Editor’s note: So, I was with Marlow one night in Key West, and we experienced a un-named tropical shower that dumped water up the wheel wells on his car. Not a big deal, and didn’t even cause the transvestite hookers to go inside their bar, though I am sure if affected business. This one has the potential to make everyone go inside.

The 12-year hurricane respite is over.

– Vic

Irma Not So Douce

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We sit and watch with varying levels of detatchedness the tribal goings on in our nation’s capitol, far off war lords killing their own for no discernable purpose other than terror, and the shakedown antics of a little Korean fat man with his growing arsenal of Fat Man tipped intercontinental ballisitic missiles. Our idle responses to these slow moving events is not to stock up or dig hunker down bomb shelters. These learned responses are appropriate for the most part.

My fellow southernmost islanders are watching intently the certain approach of a compact, breezy and powerful woman whose punch could wipe them out when it rushes by or over them this weekend. On the plus side the relaibility of hurricance track landfall 3-day-out forecasting is now well less than 100 miles versus nearly 200 miles from a decade ago. Intensification forecasting is still poor with many storms’ sustained winds being under estimatesd.

In the past, hurricane windy drive by’s have resulted in all tourists being ordered off the island first with mandatory but not forced evacuation orders issued to the locals a day or so later. The tourists invariably left but the locals mostly stayed. This Irma is not so douce. She now is packing sustained Category 5 winds that classify her as a Great Hurricane, which is not so great.

Storm surges could exceed 10 feet. This would flood over 90% of Key West which is the highest Florida Key. Sections of US highway 1 would be washed out, and many structures that are struck by winds of 155+MPH would simply disappear. What the winds don’t get, Irma’s rainfall and storm surge will scour if not clear away.

Irma is capable of annihilating the low lying Keys. Islanders and southern mainlanders have 3 or 4 solid days of advanced warning to protect their property, and pack up and leave, or hunker down.

If we were still residing down there, we’d board up and blow town. A Category 5 Irma winds would be so strong that their force would strip away exposed people’s clothing, overturn their cars, and clear most every tree and building off Key West except for the post Cuban Missile Crisis bomb shelters.

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Hurricane Irma could make 2005’s Hurricane Wilma damage depicted above seem quaint
(Images courtesy of Tim Chapman; Chip Kaspar; and the Dale M. McDonald Collection, State Archives of Florida)

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Stepping Up

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The Cajun Navy stepped up, revealing the real America that the media doesn’t tell us about- wrong ‘meme,’ whatever that word means.

I was never that clear on it. Steely Dan had a distinct voice- meme, message, whatever, but that is gone this morning since half of them- Walter Becker, 67- are now dead.

I was going to write about North Korean nukes this morning, but my comrades Arrias and Marlow seem to have covered the politics of it all pretty well. This is a big deal and a tough problem that we have avoided for the 40 years I have been in the Korean affairs business. I think it might be ironic to get fried by the family franchise in Pyongyang after all these years.

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It is also Labor Day, and have already been in tears this morning as Joanna the Polish Lifeguard opened the pool for the last time of the Regular Season. Ironworker Tony was out, too, as one of the Pool Support Group. He wanted to ensure she got coffee. I beat him to it- I got her a travel mug and a chicken wrap for breakfast. I feel for the kids out there over the years who have sat, mostly unbothered, by the residents of Big Pink for ten hours each day.

Life changes after this last pool day. Now there will be time to go to the farm, start to sort out life after a career, contemplate the fact that half of Steely Dan is dead (and at my age!) and how things go forward from here.

Life is sure is strange as heck, isn’t it? I guess we just have to step up and do it like we always did. It ain’t forever, is it, though it certainly beckons. I am going to listen to the album “Aja” and some of the tunes that defined my life this afternoon. Why not? Step up. If there is life, why not live it?

– Vic

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Confrontation Art Scene

The Alt Radical Bleak and The Art of Confrontation or how working class and honest poor whites became an oppressed minority group
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Confrontation Art Scene

Author’s note: this is the third and, for now, final piece on the ARB.
– Marlow

Downtown big city cable, broadcast and print media on both coasts had fallen prey by the latter part of the 20th century to covering set piece public conflict whose outcomes, be they good or bad, fell into one of their favored storylines and values. It had become so common that it was routine daily practice in the 21st century on national and local cable and broadcast TV as well as the 24/7 internetted mainstream media outlets and bloggers.

They didn’t know what to do without it. The folks in NYC’s Rockefeller Plaza or downtown Hollywood talked the talk all the time, but they didn’t known any more about what was going on in flyover country than they did about Mars. They didn’t know nor care where to look. They didn’t even know whom to ask. What could they do? So they kept on keepng on.

Well . . . they ended up using favored group bloggers and website editors who echoed their values as sources . . . right . . . They sat back and waited for crowdsourced stories to come rolling in with certified angry folks who were oppressed, their militant oppressors, guaranteed frustrated and disavantaged ethnic youth, women of all colors, starving infants, and so on. Then they had their confrontation with its de rigeur ugly scenes, sometimes violent, between the good and the bad.

If it was outrageous enough, if they shook up their viewership enough, gaining enough sticky eyeballs and online clicks, the story might last them two or more newscycles. Worried storyless producers whose stomachs were twisted up in sheer physical knots would smile shit-eating grins, when they were gifted with these guaranteed successful, real deal goods.

They knew how to play this – granting the righteous oppressed a long, in their 90 second story spot industry view, window in which to frame their grievances and request reparations, change, justice and so on. To do otherwise communities and the nation wouldn’t know about these horrors and, more importantly, their clicks, ratings and carefully planned out careers would crater.

They were geniuses in the art of covering these confrontations and had the post event shakedown of governments, large corporations, small businesses, and key influencers to overreact in their favor down to laboratory science of continuous public pillorying and shaming. If need be, they would frame the oppressed’s conditions as so grievous and threatening that it slyly legitimized violent redressal by the oppressed in the face of continued inaction. This was a not-so-subtle extortion to effect change. Sadly, after almost half a century of their art in support of their favorite causes, it had lost its hold on many parts of their audience.

They couldn’t believe it when they realized their power to effect change started to diminsh. It was a perverse demonstration of a reverse Tinberbelle effect, where the more you believe in something, the more likely it is to vanish. They whispered to themselves, “We’ve changed the national dialogue, fixed many past injustices, created jobs for millions of the hardest to employ and other new problems were well on the way to being solved.” They ran their business as if it were a free catering service to whatever cause or oppressed group du jour was then in vogue.

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Logos of past Causas du jour

Fellow travellers of these media giants, universty journalism departments, practically gave classes in these confrontation and shakedown techniques. They preached these elites higher values, views of oppressor history, and networked aspirants into outside support systems to carry on la causa. Students were briefed as if they were Alpha Strike nugget pilots before they flew their raids over North Vietnam.

They were taught to rehearse entire story arcs cinematically in their heads, with stock characters, scene and issue framing, landmarks, idea and character development, approach and set ups, and finally the climatic good triumphs scene where the viewer would have a first person co-pilot view of the confrontation’s every twist and turn. Sometimes they would be fortunate to have themselves in their story involved in a getaway scene from the bad folks or things.

These budding journalists were taught to shape how their coverage would impact Americans in their living and dining rooms. They were taught how to dress for their appearances in interviews or on camera. There was a need to appear authentic, synmpathetic and impartial to those whom they covered as well as those to whom they were talking across the print and media divide.

They needed to be talkers, storytellers or convesationalists, not didactic professors, boring drones or academic types. Feelings not facts were their stock and trade. In some ways it was vaudeville. At least that was what some of the more perceptive students saw.

Having an infrequent sense of humor was important but it had to be well planned out, right down to the last detail. One couldn’t risk their carefully crafted images of serious concern for the critical social issues of our times.

Pretty soon these methods were adopted in newsrooms and TV stations across the country. Everybody was out covering small town confrontations and injustices and shaking down local powers in the story’s aftermath, to see if they could win the victories the big city boys had won nationally. By the mid 2010s there must have been fifty to sixty different groups getting the oppressed group coverage treatment and the subsequent militant rent seeking.

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LEAK TO US, PLEASE!

Proven go-to confrontation story tactics included but were not limited to

– soliciting leaks openly, now it seems digitally via SecureDrop
– openly confrontational interviews, oress conferences and Q&A sessions
– ambush style questioning at the subject’s work place, front or back yards, front door or in restaurants
– multiple cameras
– hidden cameras and microphones
– secret collaboration with erstwhile competitors
– repetitive daily stories
– dumpster diving for data
– deliberate sowing of chaos and false info based questions
– having allies not just sources
– black and white, good and bad, no grey
– find and expose system failures/injustice

It quickly became a standard American cultural custom, like 70s Sunday morning news talk TV shows and divorce court hearings. The shakedown was the message. Everyone on the inside got it. The confrontation was only the road not the destination. Whenever anybody other than the designated approved oppressed groups tried the confrontation/shakedown tactic, they ran into problems, because elite trend setters and arbiters on the coasts and in academia had to approve their inclusion pre-event.

The impact of this was accentuated by the fact that most of us didn’t read the papers, so at best we were uninformed. Journalists did, but they were often misinformed. Reporters strove to be first to report something, so we were faced with a rush to be first-est with the worst-est. Never mind the truth, context, trends and so forth.

So, we were left with an overabundance of first reports and pseudo facts and opinions thereon These first reports were often revised later, but the initial opinions were never retracted. No one cared anymore about the integrity of the process let alone the reporting. They didn’t care who it hurt, they didn’t care who was destroyed. They just said it, sold it and repeated it.

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The Goal of Confrontation Art – The Shakedown

The explosion of cable TV channels and the webbed internet during the 21st century changed this game forever. No longer were media outlets few in number or similar in world view and values. Now everyone had a channel, outlet, or website. Everyone had a champion.

Slowly at first did these new content purveyors learn, embrace and perfect the confrontation/shakedown game to their purposes. That changed in the early 2010s.

By then the most successful of these ARB newbies had become professional mourners of good times past . . . their unsung theme song was wonderful to the ears and on the heart strings of the audience . . . “those were the days my friends, we thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance forever and a day, we’d live the life we choose, we’d fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way.”

As certified wailers, the ARB made great show of heretofore unknown yet great losses in America’s fly over country. It didn’t matter what the issue was or whatever their targeted audience was angry about, they were there to show the confrontation, start the shakedown and get their politically inert viewers/readers to start manning their artillery emplacements and flak the coastal elites as they passed high overhead of fly over country. They wanted their audience to no longer catch flak but to start shooting back. Politically speaking.

The coastal “old” media was caught flatfooted. It stood there with its mouths agape, still playing their old tricks again and again, and thinking . . . “we’ve done it before and we’ll do it once again.”

They figured that no one would follow up and press the counterissues raised by these newbies. But this time was different. ARB follow up was consistent, loud, controversial, unforgiving and down right nasty. They were allowed no time for restful sleep and new idea storming. Every day was a new raucous show they hadn’t anticipated. All the way up to election night and beyond.

Each campaign day ended with old media members asking themselves “What really happened today? Well, he lost more support than she did. Had to. That’s what happened. Hmmmmmm . . . like maybe these Alt Radical Bleakers and their candidate are as dumb we thought after all.”

After election night, the Alt Radical Bleakers made a discovery. There was an extra dividend to their tactics. It was a delicious, creamy, chocolately cheesecake. It wasn’t just that their candidate won and showed the “old” media that they meant business. It wasn’t just that they now had real influence. There was something sweet that happened right there on election night. They made the “old” media quake with fear. You could see it on their faces for months. Even now it peeks through their indignant rants about whatever long developing affront they are covering.

“Old” media people began to realize for the first time that working men and women, particularly the high school educated ones, provoked in them a deep fear with their masculinity and anger. Quite a revelation.

Our society and political system as a matter of practicality demanded the confrontation/shakedown ritual to effect change. The electorate demanded it in equal parts educational, enlivening and entertaining. Subconsciously or not, for our leaders, confrontations have become a key ritual. It is the way our system now works, standard operating procedure.

Ninety-nine percent of the time the old ruling elites, their media supporters and their ideas were in no danger whatsoever. The ARB understood through and through that their unconventional shakedown was a tactical procedure or game. No actual damage or danger or hurt would occur if things went according to the script.

Alt Right Bleakers were a long way from being willing to be violent, to be revolutionaries let alone fascists. 99.99% of them weren’t. A lot of the old media seemed to think then and still do now that the ARBers were ready to rise up and follow the white supremacists and other fringe right wingnuts into violence at a moment’s notice. None of them actually admired let alone supported these fringe folks. Old media types always seemed to think they had the ARB’s leaders, approaches and philosophies and goals identified and cataloged, and they were always wrong.

Watching and listening to old news media round tables now 10 months after the election is like watching college students attending a 60s happening complete with spiritual awakenings and revolutionary discoveries. Pure serene toned voices intermix with righteous indignation about the latest ARB affronts. Propriety prevents them from on camera clucking approvals and expressions of right on, brothas and sistahs. When they finish, the moderator looks up at the camera in a most serious way, with chin up and steely eyes, and closes the discussion the way a preacher closes his well thumbed Bible after his Sunday sermon to the congregation.

During the ensuing commercial break, I have often suspected that the panel participants whisper to each other “Far out” . . . “Too much” . . . “Wow, that was heavy” . . . “Groovy”

The ARB, like the RB, is full of Jeffersonian individualists. Sadly the old media treats them like a cracker judge from the 1940s south would treat the most despised accused in his courtroom. I wonder if they ever will catch onto the irony of them sounding like some middling cornpone KKKers on the bedsheet and torch burning circuit.

The confrontations and the shakedowns brought some of the more talented ARBers something more. It brought them celebrity, more and higher paying placements for their outlets and for some of the luckiest ones jobs in the newly forming government. You can turn on a TV now, and there is some formerly unknown ARB type who was last seen exiting a 7-11 late at night with a sack full of Red Bull cans and a bag of Cheetos headed back to his basement apartment to finish the next day’s internet articles. There he is now on the screen, a leader, a spokesperson for the honest poor in a new suit and conservatively striped neck tie. Political bloggers, even those on the fringe are like ugly buildings, tycoons and whores — they all get respectable if they last long enough.

Let us all welcome This Latest Greatest and Newest Thing.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: A Most Dangerous Man

An East Asian country: threatening its neighbors while making snide and outrageous comments about the US and our allies, building an ever larger nuclear force, ruled by a man who sees no limits to his powers and who has, in the last several months, replaced all his senior military leadership to insure loyalty to him.

Not North Korea or Kim Jong Un; the country is China, and the leader is President Xi.

Over past decade or so the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy and Air Force have expanded at a prodigious rate; the navy on a path to 500 ships in the next decade or so; the air force introducing several new fighters and a new bomber in the last 5 years; the Army introducing new tactical ballistic missiles; and the strategic forces introducing a new ICBM just last year.

China is attempting to extend de facto control over the entire South China Sea and control transit of that sea; they’re now using the same language to justify action in the South China Sea towards the southern islands of Japan.

In June, China moved several army units into border territory between India, Bhutan and China, attempting to establish de facto control over a small piece of land called the Doklam plateau, whose ownership is disputed. The plateau itself is meaningless, its position is not. At the southern end of Tibet’s Chumbi Valley, Doklam would give China operational and tactical overwatch of the Siliguri corridor, the strip of land that runs between Bhutan and Bangladesh, connecting the bulk of India with eastern India. Also known as “the Chicken’s Neck,” the corridor at it’s narrowest is less than 20 miles across.

There’s no other real reason for China to be interested in the plateau; its sole purpose is to be able to threaten India. Thankfully, India called China’s bluff and as of last week China seems to have withdrawn their personnel. Beijing backed off; but they’ll be back.

At the center of all this is President Xi, who’s also preparing for the 19th National Party Congress this fall. During the Congress it’s believed Xi will take steps to establish himself as president for life…. However he colors it, his intent is to retain and expand his power. While paying lip-service to democracy, Xi is after power.

Meanwhile, North Korea detonated another nuclear weapon. Early estimates placed it in the 100 kiloton range (5 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb; a 100 kt weapon would create complete destruction in a circle about 3-1/2 miles across). China did manage to condemn the test and call for the North to adhere to UN resolutions.

The fact is, China routinely issues proforma statements of concern, yet in remarkable demonstrations of moral equivalency where there is none, also has repeatedly called for the US and North Korea to take steps to reduce tensions, in particular calling for the North to end missile tests (testing offensive weapons) while insisting the US halt the deployment to South Korea of THAAD (a defensive system). The Chinese foreign ministry also commented that it would be unwise for China to cut off North Korea’s oil supply or even close the border as it might cause a confrontation between China and North Korea.

In other words, more of same.

Yet, North Korea is following a path that, at the minimum, Beijing passively endorses. Given the breadth and depth – and speed – of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs, the Chinese had to have been complicit. We’ll never know the full extent of China’s support, but there can be little doubt that China has been involved, and that a nuclear-armed North Korea is part of Beijing’s plans for flexing their power and containing the West.

Beijing is playing aggressive geopolitics. North Korea and North Korean nuclear weapons are part of that game. We must deal with North Korea. But to do so, we must realize that they’re a proxy for China in a much bigger “game.”

There’s much to do, and a number of specific programs (missile defense on the one hand, hardening critical infrastructure, to name two) need to receive additional funding. But we must begin by recognizing that we’re in a very real confrontation with a determined China.

President Xi is pushing and pushing hard. A de facto cold war has already begun between China and the West. It’s time for us to recognize that fact and act accordingly.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Pool People

I awoke way too early, and on my way to the end of the Internet, was only moderately surprised to see the North Koreans had apparently tested another nuclear device. I don’t think they realize we are not paying much attention to it, since we have plenty of stuff to occupy us right here, what with the Texas Floods, and worse, the lack of knowledge about whether the Big Pink Condo Board approved the discretionary two weekends of swimming this month. I they didn’t, everything in the water is done tomorrow, and I am predictably distraught.

No, I am frigging bereft. I am going to have to figure out another way to exercise. Outrageous.

We have had a chill summer here in DC- I swear I have been cold out on the pool deck since Memorial Day, but regardless of the temperature, it was one of the best pool seasons in the 16 years I have been paddling here. Part of it was the people, largely composed of Polish guest workers on the official side, and the usual suspects from the building on the civilian side. We coffeed them, fed them healthful food, and shamelessly flirted with them- a change from the mostly male life guard corps of yesteryear.

These pictures were captured by Doc, the PhD who lives down the hall and is my only competitor for Most In The Pool Award most years. She is great and featured at the lower left. It worked out well. Here are most of the people who made it special:

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It was a Great Season- maybe epic. There is a distinct sense of Fall in the air this morning, though. I wonder how this will end? I wonder about how all these other things are going to end, too. I could have gone off on all that this morning, but I am studiously avoiding reality. It is too real.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com