Arrias on Politics: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and the Nuclear Threat

While the nightly news and the major newspapers stir themselves into a frenzy over mostly trivia, real problems continue to fester:
North Korea has nuclear weapons.

Three administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama) believed that negotiations and agreements would change the minds of the government in Pyongyang. They were wrong.

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, third member of the Kim dynasty, ruling North Korea since 1948, is a demonstrably vicious ruler who uses execution and assassination to solidify control. He isn’t, however, “crazy.” Evil and without any morals, yes. But, coldly rational. On 13 February he had his half-brother assassinated using a nerve agent. This sends an interesting signal: he has VX, and he demonstrated an ability to move it surreptitiously into another country (Malaysia).

Further, Kim views nuclear weapons as key to survival. He won’t surrender them.

The only acceptable long-term solution is unification, the entire peninsula transforming into a greater Republic of Korea. The Kim regime’s despotic rule over the north must end. But getting there is the problem. There are few options: the regime collapses from its own internal problems; a coup, country-wide collapse, or revolt by some force external to the regime but internal to the country; or war.
Obviously, we need to prevent war. A second Korean War would be catastrophic, even without the use of nuclear weapons. We must arrive at some situation where the Kim regime is gone, and the ROK can manage an orderly transition into a unified, free republic encompassing all of Korea. But how?

The standard responses (for multiple administrations) has been along two lines: 1) impose sanctions, and 2) work with China, China can control them. Two thoughts occur: 1) Clearly, the sanctions haven’t worked. North Korea is testing missiles at a furious rate, and the nuclear weapons program grinds forward. 2) China either can’t or won’t control them; (presumably, it’s a little of both.) Beyond that, China really doesn’t want a unified Korea. So, why would Beijing do something that trends in that direction? China wants the Kim regime in power, but hopes to keep them on some sort of leash, even a long and badly frayed leash.

Meanwhile, Kim has conducted multiple nuclear tests, and there are indications (publicly available satellite imagery) that he’s preparing another such test.

North Korea has also been engaged in an aggressive missile development and testing program. They may not have an intercontinental missile – yet (the missile and warhead need further testing), but they have operational missiles that can strike South Korea, Japan, and Guam. Public estimates are that they either have or will have within the next year or so a handful of nuclear weapons that will fit on these missiles.

Which leaves the current administration where?

First, several initiatives are moving forward. While there are a host of sanctions against North Korea already, they’re not necessarily well enforced. The US can insist that others, allies and trading partners, not only refuse to deal with North Korea, but also seize any ships that attempt to trade in certain goods. The US can use its political and economic “weight” to insist countries strictly honor the sanctions.

However, the North is very good at working through loopholes, small and large. Sanctions are important, but sanctions alone are not going to stop the North.

US military posture in Korea, and in the Western Pacific (especially Japan) has been strengthened under the Trump administration, particularly in our missile defense posture, with the deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system.

The US has repeatedly made it clear that we will not tolerate an attack on the South and statements from the new administration (including from the President), as well as Secretary of Defense Mattis’s visit to Korea and Japan, help convey that message.

Against the backdrop of a corruption scandal in Seoul and the impeachment of President Park, the real question is: how to separate Kim from power without a war or a paroxysm of destruction?
Strengthen the alliance, buttress sanctions, work with the new president, hold fast against North Korea’s demands; all that sort of thing is appropriate.

But in the end, Kim needs to go.

We must work with the ROK, we need to penetrate the north, irrespective of risk, make contact with possible replacements, destroy the Kim regime internally, and move northern Korea out of the 19th century and into the 21st. It will be painful and there will be setbacks. But, there are really no other acceptable options.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Time Travel

I had thought about entitling today’s piece with some combination of the words spring, forward and suck but decided against it. As expected, we woke up later than normal to discover a dreary and surprisingly cold and windy morning too late to dress for services, so instead went to the local coffee shop on Forsyth Park for vegan breakfast sammiches and a 2 egg, bean, spinach cheese and sriracha sauce wrap.

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While there, I noticed all the parents with children. The kids were boisterous and joyful. Their parental units were cranky and bleary eyed with drawn faces and baggy eyes. This brought forth the following sprightly image that was similar to those in local papers to our minds.

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On a more serious note, I wondered aloud why the spring forward day and time was not on a Friday afternoon, say around 3 PM. Oh yeah, said W with a wry grin, the US Government is gonna spring for that.

I smiled a snarky smile. We reminisced about our own parenting days around the EST to EDST switch when we rued sending our off-cycled kids back to school once again in the dark. We hated this mandated advanced darkness period. The true sufferers, however, were the poor grade school teachers who had to deal with their classes the next Monday.

Another of my solutions to this dilemma was “falling back” two times a year and skipping a Monday every ten years. Sounds something that POTUS 45 might approve, I opined. Yeah sure, muttered one tired-looking coffee sipper next to us.

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“Springing forward” has known public safety side effects, most notably the higher incidence of car crashes and workplace accidents due to everyone still operating in zombie mode.

The “standard” period used to be six months long but has been shortened by 2/3’s majorities in both the House and Senate during the Global War on Terror to a mere four months. While it takes humans a few days to get used to it, routinized farm animals like cows might take longer. Our pets likely think that we hairless bi-pedals have become a bit confused, if not downright addled

This time traveling isn’t as modern as most of us think. First suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, DST was at the time shot down by many sensible people as being pointless. During WW I, it was introduced – first by the Germans – to save coal during war time.

Somehow in that age of austerity, the concept soon caught on and everyone started doing it. Sadly, nobody’s really thought to change back. Except Arizona, and it hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet as a result. On the other hand, Zonians continue to re-elect John McCain as one of their two US Senators.

Studies have also shown that American energy savings and healthier lifestyles are simply DST myths. Clock shifts disrupt our circadian rhythms. Studies have further shown that, around the times of the spring clock changes, there are spikes in suicide rates and an increase in the number of recorded heart attacks.

Let’s face it, one of the most backward stan-nations – Kazakhstan – ditched DST in 2005, citing health reasons. So, why didn’t the leader of the free world?

Perhaps, Russian hackers were at work here . . . . or over there.

In any event, it could be worse. We could be living in the perpetually confused state of Indiana with its two time zones.

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Before 2006, most of Indiana did not observe Daylight Saving Time. However, some counties decided to use DST, creating confusion about what time it was around spring and fall.

To avoid the confusion, Indiana passed a bill in 2005 ensuring that the entire state would use DST from April 2006, regardless of the time zone.

Many Hoosiers are still pissed off by these changes. See http://www.timeanddate.com/time/us/indiana-time.html

But to the Hoosier state’s credit, it has a county called Ohio and one named Switzerland, which makes Indiana super-crazy about time-space in a most awesome way.

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

The Medium is the Message (Part 4)

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I topped up the tulip glass- close to the last glass- of the remaining bottle of Willow Happy Hour White and walked back to the scene of the séance. I was dialed in, and a pleasant soprano voice came on the line: Karen Anderson, Evidentiary Medium.

In my mind I had an image of how this was supposed to be. I had been featuring a small round table with an exotic cloth and candle, the shadows deep all around. The medium,, in my imagination anyway, would have been a woman of raven hair and indeterminate age. Her eyes would have glittered darkly as her hands made curious gestures, summoning the spirits from beyond the veil to answer the heartfelt questions that death left unanswered.

It was not that at all, of course. The wine was chilled and the computer’s screen was bright and cheery, and the desk was bathed in warm yellow-orange light from the incandescent bulbs I refuse to stop using.

Karen is, of course, the antithesis of what you might expect if you were thinking of a Romani soothsayer. She is pert, athletic and blonde. I cannot testify to the depth and texture of her eyes, since she was in her office in Seattle, but everyone must adapt to the times, you know?

The Macaroon Lady had coached me on what to do to prepare. “Take good notes. She will record the session for your use later, but take good notes. Some of this will come back to you days from now and will make sense only then.” Accordingly, I had a legal pad and two Pilot P-700 fine-point pens at the ready.

Karen and I got as acquainted as one could hope over a long-distance Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) connection, and she told me what to expect.

“First off, I want you to open your heart to the voices of your loved ones,” she said. I had not considered trying to talk to anyone in my family, though I had been signed up for the human version of the reading. That is a different process from the one she uses to contact deceased pets. “I felt some distinct Mom and Dad energy. They were here about 45 minutes ago.”

I winced. I had not even thought about talking to my folks, but I was glad they were on the ball. Comforting, in a way. Karen kindly records the sessions through the magic of the conference call system, and she had to ask my formal permission to be recorded, which of course I granted. And then we were off to the races.

Karen started off with a non-denominational prayer that asked for goodwill and harmony.

“Do you have someone in your life- living or dead- that has a name that starts with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’?” she asked. That was almost a sucker punch, since two of the most influential figures in my adult life had those initials.

“Yes. But as far as I know they are both alive and healthy. I have not talked to them in a long while.”

“Are there sisters involved? I see the feminine aura of two sisters.”

“Mom had two sisters- Laura Rose and Hazel. Very smart and pretty ladies, all three of them.”

“I am getting a sharp pain in my leg,” she said. “It hurts and I don’t like it. Do you know anyone who had a leg injury? Sometimes they send me physical signs that are quite acute. This one hurts like heck.”

“No doubt. That would be me. I ruptured my left quad a couple years ago and the knees are both gone due to arthritis. I apologize if you have the pain I did. It sucked.”

Karen was settling in, getting on the beam that connected us, trying to unscramble the messages and images that were swirling around her. Mom was speaking directly into her ear, which she said was quite distracting. I thought Mom might have got a little more assertive in the afterlife, and I was sorry that none of the questions I had written down seemed to deal with my actual family. I was hoping that Mac Showers might appear, and I wanted to ask him about the one mystery we never managed to solve with Willow Happy Hour White or a cold Anchor Steam beer.

“I see images of police or law enforcement,” said Karen.

“Can’t help. Plenty of uniforms in the family, but no police. Well, except for that son-of-a-bitch in Aurora, Colorado in 1977. I only think about him when he shows up in my background investigations.”

“I am getting images of an athlete. A man built like a middle-linebacker. Did you know someone like that in College?”

“We hung around with a bunch of guys from the Michigan Football team at the house on John Street back in college,” I said. “But as far as I know, most of them are still alive.”

“I am getting a name coming through. A ‘J’ name, perhaps?”

“Well, there are a bunch of ‘Jims’ in the family- my great-great grandfather, grandfather, uncle and cousin. They are all on the other side. But I can’t imagine they need to talk to me about anything vital.” I thought about it for a while- this was not what I expected. I suppose I thought the Spirit World knew I was looking for material on the Vietnam chapters in the Mac Shower book I am still writing and would line up the appropriate figures for me to quiz: Mac himself, perhaps, or Admiral Rex, who certainly knew more about the mystery than anyone else, living or dead.

Then it hit me. There was someone who knew exactly what happened. “Is it ‘Jack’ that you are hearing? I asked, little goose bumps starting to form on my forearms. I took a sip of happy Hour White to slow down a little.”

“He says that is not his name.”

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“If he is who I am thinking, that is true. His real given names were John George, but they all knew him as Jack,” I said, a little rattled. “Jack Graf.” That was exactly the man about whom I had the question: where did he die?

“He says they took him down.”

“They did indeed. He was posted to Vung Tau in the Third Coastal Zone of South Vietnam. They shot him down over the northern Delta in 1969 when he was flying as an observer in an OV-1 Mohawk. He was the only Naval Intelligence officer captured in the war, and the only one still listed as Missing in Action. The Vietnamese said he was shot while trying to escape, and they buried him on a riverbank that was washed away. Body was never recovered. It was Admiral Rex’s last big crusade to publicize his story and keep his memory alive.” In fact, it was at the heart of the mystery that could not now be unraveled, except by the dead.

“I have his energy. He is saying he was never released. I am seeing him on a sandy beach- the images are flashing. He is telling me he was never freed. He was held in some sort of asylum. He is with others. There are heavy doors- hard doors with hard sounds.”

I shivered. That sounded exactly like Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.

Karen continued, a little breathless. “There were repeated attempts at assassination. Someone wanted to obtain intelligence- he was set up for murder- there were dual agencies involved- more than one.” Karen was rushing through this as I tried to process what she was telling me.

Jack’s disappearance after his capture was the mystery. It was entirely possible that he died the way his captors told us, and the relentless floods of the monsoon years were certainly capable of washing away all in the path of a storm-enraged river. It all could have happened just the way they said it did. But the fit was too good for the other facts that were never mentioned.

See, Jack was a mustang- a sailor who rose to Chief Petty Officer before being commissioned as a Limited Duty Officer (Intelligence). As a sailor, he had been a photo interpreter, and when I was working on his case, a former shipmate of his told me he had been to the special Kodak School in Rochester. Kodak had designed a reconnaissance system that was one of the most closely guarded secrets in the entire Government: High quality digital pictures transmitted directly from space to the ground station in near-real time

It was so sensitive that people who knew the specific capabilities of the system were not permitted out of Saigon for fear that something just like this might happen. The Russians would have given their left nut to have a prize like Jack, and that is when my suspicions began to rise that the story had been deliberately covered up to keep anyone from discovering how Jack, with his enlisted background, had somehow slipped through the cracks to be permitted to engage in combat operations in the field.

Some say there were no Russians down in the Delta, but my Left Coast Attorney was the intelligence liaison officer at Ha Tien on the Cambodian Border, and he saw what had been a Soviet SIGINT site on an island just offshore. Tactical un-encrypted radio traffic at the time of the shootdown identified who had been in the aircraft, and just who the new prisoner actually was would not be a secret to anyone in the region.

“He says he endured. Not proud. They put a blanket on it.”

“Ask him if the asylum was in Russia,” I asked.

“He is standing very tall. He says they did not break him. And he says that there is no mystery. You know exactly what happened to him. He was transported with others. There is no mystery about what happened, where he was taken, and what ultimately was his fate.”

I stared at the telephone. My theory was one that I had discussed with Mac many times. I knew about the Sweetheart List, the names of pilots who had been shot down d=over denied territory. They were known to be alive in captivity but were not freed with their comrades in Operation Homecoming in 1973. They remained the MIAs, and the families are fighting with the government to this very day. When the list was analyzed after the debriefings of the returned POWs, there were some curious coincidences, odd ones. Like compete crews for most of the tactical aviation we employed in the war. They were not necessarily from the same shoot-down, but completed all the positions in the aircraft. And men who had been sent from sensitive jobs in advanced technology like ballistic missiles who had to get their combat tickets punched in the war for promotion purposes.

And maybe intelligence specialists who held the keys to the digital kingdom locked between their ears.

“He says all you have to do is get people to believe it,” Karen said, her voice sounding far away. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. He wants people to know what really happened.”

“I tried to tell his story before. I will have to do that again.”

“He knows. He is using an odd word- “Songbird” is what he calls you. He is at peace, and that a huge burden has been lifted.”

“Tell him we will not forget,” I said,

“I am getting a gesture from him- a thumbs up?”

I could only nod. The network time on the computer told me that our forty-five minutes was up, and I could sense that Karen was exhausted by the session, and that our time was done. There was silence for a moment, and when she spoke again, her voice was more relaxed in tone.

“I hope the reading gave you some closure,” She said. “The advantage of recording it is that you can download it and listen for things that may not have occurred to you during the session, and will only become clear over the next few days.” She told me how to download the audio file from the teleconferencing system, but that I had to act with a sense of urgency since they purged the files periodically, never to be archived.

I thanked her for her time, and told her I had enjoyed the experience and would comb over my notes and listen to the session again to see what I might have missed.

“It was a pleasure working with you,” she said, and echoed her thoughts straight back as the connection was broken. I sat still in front of my computer, stunned. A phone call had unraveled the biggest mystery I had encountered in my professional life, and if anyone asked how I had done it, I could safely say that I talked to a man who had been dead for forty years, and thus had it on the highest authority.*

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

* I will try to post a link to the audio file of the session. Make your own opinion, don’t take mine. Or Jack’s.

The Medium is the Message (Part 3)

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(Former Deputy Sheriff, award-winning author and evidential medium Karen Anderson).

After yesterday’s outing- the independent account of strange happenings in the Ford Island Dispensary- I am going to reiterate the obvious: There is stuff out here in the world that I do not either understand, or for which I have no plausible explanation.

The Macaroon Lady (TML) knows this stuff pretty well. She is based in Malibu, in the heart of Southern California’s lotus la-la land. I don’t look down on the people who live and work out there. World’s best climate, spectacular ocean views can make you a little spoiled, I know, and the nature of the ephemeral entertainment business can lead people to believe the most extraordinary things.

I tend to believe only in what I can see with my eyes, and in the course of an active life, TML has seen it all: the stars, the star-wannabees, and people who are desperate to know their future. There are people who prey on them. No big news flash there, and the desire to know what the portents of life means thus accounts for the number of frauds, flim-flammers and mountebanks in the medium business.

TML has been through them all in her quest to find a reliable and honest medium. She is sensitive herself, but unease about the implications (and consequences) of her talent made her suppress it for years, and she finds the assistance of professionals to hone the truth in the visions that come.

We can have a long chat about that concept some time, but she eventually found Karen Anderson, a world-class psychic, former cop and fugitive from Southern California. Since I still have so many questions for Mac about things I was either too drunk or distracted to hear from him in life, plus that lingering mystery from the War in Southeast Asia.

So, she made an appointment with Karen to give me a reading, and it was how I found myself at Happy Hour, not at the familiar beveled corner of the bar at The Front Page, but seated before my iMac with a battery of phones and a long legal pad with two pens. But we will get to that in a moment.

I am stuck with being what I am: a crasher through truth, fiction and history. Accordingly I looked up Karen on the web, and liked what I saw. In addition to being a very attractive lady, Karen has had some remarkable life experience as she came to full awareness of her talents.

Born and raised in Southern California (like TML), she found she had an innate ability to relate to the many animals that surrounded her over the years, Doctor Doolittle-like. She says she learned how to understand their thoughts and feelings.

She also thought that this unique talent could be harnessed for good- the sort of path that induces positive Karma, unlike the Carlos Castenada dark wizard school of spiritual energy. TML tells me that is a path down which you do not want to walk. Karen’s sort of talent cannot hurt or be used for evil.

Karen decided that a career in law enforcement might be a means to bring her talents to bear. Her career path took her into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she found herself in the little hamlet of Baily, a very small town nestled in the Front Range. She applied for a position as a Deputy Sheriff and she was accepted. She pinned on her badge, strapped on a service pistol and shrugged on the heavy-duty jacket and got to work.

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(Karen’s beat in downtown Baily, CO).

As she gained direct interpersonal experience with people in a variety of states of mind, she discovered that her psychic skills enabled her to read the energy of the suspects and criminals with whom she dealt on a daily basis.

That can be a bit much, especially considering that people carry a lot of angry baggage around with them, the equivalent, I imagine, of attempting to have a conversation with someone screaming at you. She decided to strike out on a new path, though she continues to consult with police on missing persons and cold cases.

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Fifteen years ago, she resigned from the Sheriff’s office in Baily and became a full-time Animal Communicator. Since that decision, Karen has logged well over 12,000 sessions with clients seeking knowledge of their departed companions. TML assured me that Karen, working from her office in Seattle, “provides incredibly detailed private consultations and refers to her style of readings as being that of an ‘Evidential Medium.’ As a former cop, she strives to provide actionable fact-based information evidence.”

“Karen is known widely in the community, and I can tell you for a fact that she has an easy-going sense of humor, down to earth manner and amazing accuracy. She has proven it to me. She is writing best selling books about her experiences. And she has won multiple awards as best Animal Communicator.”

I wasn’t completely sure I needed to talk to the former marital Dog, and I mumbled something noncommittal but supportive into the phone. I was willing to have a reading for the experience. If I wound up learning anything interesting, it could be useful to the biography of Mac Showers. And as a veteran scribbler, I know that any experience can be spun into a story that says something about life, and maybe more.

I was prepared when I sat down at the computer and called up the “meeting invite” when the appointed day arrived. Scheduling meant that my six o’clock on the eastern seaboard was three in the afternoon Seattle time. I had reviewed her website and a sampling of her testimonials, most of which were glowing. Karen’s web site states that her experience has earned her a reputation as “an expert in behavior resolution, discovering health problems and end of life issues for all living creatures. Her highly attuned intuitive abilities allow her to read the energy of all animals, living or deceased and also departed humans (Mediumship) bringing forth their messages of healing and much needed peace of mind.”

The instructions had been laid out with precision in the invitation. I was to dial a number and enter an access code, which was provided. I was five minutes early, and not completely surprised that I was now on a conferencing system provided by the same company that serves my company day-job. And like the weekly Business Development and Operations meeting at the office, the entire conversation could be recorded.

So I listened to the same Muzak waiting noise for a couple minutes and took a sip of a glass of Willow Happy Hour White, one of the last bottles I was able to purchase from Heather before the place closed. It was nicely chilled, and my first one of the day. I wanted to be sharp, and I wanted my notes to make sense.

Then the music stopped and there was a beep on the speaker-phone. “Good afternoon,” said a clear soprano voice. “This is Karen Anderson.”

And with that we commenced a journey to a place I had apparently once visited as if in a dream, but a place where Karen actually lives.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

The Bunk Room

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(Crater left by the detonation of a Japanese aerial bomb in the Ford Island Dispensary in December, 1941. You are looking out the front door to the company street that leads to the hangars and the headquarters to the left, and the barracks to the right. The Bunk Room is above and to the left and looked down ion the courtyard. the building remained in operation that day, sepite the damage, and served as a triage station for the wounded and a temporary morgue for the dead. In my time, the debris had long been cleared and the terracotta tile re-laid on the courtyard, complete with a small brass plaque noting the events in the buiding that day).

I was going to introduce you to Karen Anderson, medium, this morning. It was a great plan, of the sort that famously does not survive first contact with the enemy, which in this case is inexorable time.

For a variety of perfectly good reasons, morning somehow became noon, I got a call to go to lunch with an associate, by the time I got back to the Bunker I really needed to take just a little lie-down and rest my eyes. I am getting very sympthetic to some of my friends who have retired and can no longer distinguish Saturdays from any other day.

Resting my eyes to bring my narrative skills to their usual high level, I was awakened with the sound of the emergency passkeys rattling in the locks in the door to the inner hallway. It was the monthly visitation of the Maids, and in the time I would have been telling you about how Karen came to be an intermediary to the spirit world wound up being devoted to my iPad and sitting down in the lobby, flirting with Rhonda the concierge. Along with that, I managed to read about the latest revelations from Wikileaks, and wondered where the hell this is all going. But though I despaired of generating part three to “Medium is the Message” today. Then I clicked onto an email from an old shipmate. Something from yesterday’s story resonated with him. Here it is).

“You are not the only one with some memories from Ford Island. I left the Staff just as you were getting there, but I wanted to pass along something that happened to me in the same place. Oh, the bunkroom on Ford Island did not only talk to me. You had that…whatever it was…looking down on you. You are not the only one who had some very strange moments in that room. It was not that the place was creepie, though our little space was certainly the worse for wear. It was the sense that we were not alone when we trudged over to grab some shut-eye in the night.

“On at least two occasions, I felt odd temperature changes (cold to hot, hot to bone chilling cold), moaning voices and visions of injured people in beds. There was also the strong smell of burning oil.

I was absolutely sure that I was awake sitting up and then standing up when these oddities continued. You are the first and only person I have ever told about this.

That there were presences there I am convinced.

I was under no stress emotional or physical at these times. Perhaps I was just open to whatever was there.”

I completely agree. I don’t know about haunted houses (though my pal in Winchester casually remarked that her house has what the locals call a “Haint,” and she is cool with it). I do know that the second dek of the Ford Island Dispensary is one of the strangest places in which I have ever spent time. I’ll introduce you to Karen in the morning. Bear with me.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: A 350-Ship Navy

The President wants to add $54 billion to the DOD budget next year, and expand the Navy to 350 ships; and expand the Army, Air Force and Marines.

Several retired admirals and generals opined that it won’t really work, and that once Washington DC reality sets in, there’ll be universal recognition of that “fact” and this talk will end.

Concerning “sage” commentary from the retired 4-stars; there are 3 assumptions that form the foundation of their commentary:

1) There’ll be no real economic growth. Real growth – the economy producing more, hence, there’s more to tax and there’s more real revenue – is needed for increased spending. The US averaged just under 4% real growth for 230 years; the last 8 years more like 2%.

Is 2% all the US is capable of?

2) There’s no improving the efficiency or effectiveness of the federal government. Efforts to eliminate waste or redundancy will produce no meaningful savings.

But: a 10% cut in the non-uniformed federal workforce would mean 200,000 fewer government workers; that’s $22 billion per year.

3) There will be no substantive change in federal budget priorities. National security currently consumes 4.5% of the gross national product and 22% of federal spending.

The “Sages” believe Congress will not act, and the people will not tolerate, an increase in those numbers.

Frankly, my bet is on the American worker, and on President Trump providing the necessary stimulus and incentives to American enterprise; there’ll be real growth, we can find real efficiencies in the bureaucracies, and the citizenry recognize the need to changing our priorities.

Some critics chided the President, noting that the US already spends more on defense than the next half dozen countries combined.

But US defense spending reflects living in the US.

Our military personnel are paid well (and should be); substantially more than soldiers in China or Russia. DOD pay and benefits account for more than 40% of the budget (up to 50% in some years). That’s what you’d expect in an all-volunteer military in the world’s wealthiest country. Elsewhere? A colonel in the Chinese Army is paid about 15% of his US counterpart.

The US pays more for weapons because that’s the nature of our economy; an aircraft made in the US means paying US wages, not Russian wages. And the US still makes the best aircraft in the world.

The US defends its interests around the world. Broad generalizations comparing US spending with that of other nations are misleading. US interests include defending others, such as South Korea, necessitating having forces available to conduct combat operations in Korea. Some forces are stationed in Korea permanently, other forces need to get there, and be sustained while they are in Korea. And more forces are needed to continue protecting US interests elsewhere while forces are in Korea. A potential enemy, such as North Korea, doesn’t need to move its forces anywhere, or save forces for another potential crisis.

This “tyranny of geography” necessitates that the US have an Army – Air Force – Navy that is larger and more capable than one tasked simply to “defend the US.”

That said, expanding the military isn’t easy.

The Army has 32 Brigade Combat Team (BCTs, the basic combat element) in the regular force, 28 in the National Guard. (Marines have 11 Regimental Combat Teams – roughly equivalent, plus 3 reserve RCTs). A BCT, about 4,500 soldiers, can operate as a complete, integrated, unit; very capable, very flexible, but very complex.

At any moment half the Army is not in a BCT, but in a training command, a support command, on a staff, etc. Expanding the Army means adding a BCT plus the support personnel necessary to train, equip and sustain it. So, to add 1 BCT means adding perhaps 10,000 soldiers, plus gear, plus training, etc.

Adding ships and airplanes is similar: more personnel, more support, etc., “more tail with more tooth;” you can’t simply “buy another airplane.”

Which leads where?

To some wisdom: deterring a war is far cheaper than fighting one. The goal isn’t to defeat anyone in battle; the goal is to never need to fight that battle in the first place. Ronald Reagan once observed that no one was ever attacked for being too strong. President Trump is right to want an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines strong enough to fight and win any war.

And a nuclear arsenal to match.

In an increasingly dangerous world, such a force is the surest guarantee we won’t need to fight a major war. That would makes this endeavor very inexpensive…

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

The Medium is the Message (Part Deux)

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OK- you are just going to have to bear with me on this one. It requires a bit of a deft touch, since there are two clear paths by which I might spin this memory. I could be my usual snarky self and play it for laughs, mocking a profession of seers and mystics that is as old as the race itself.

Given the increasingly coarse nature of public discourse, that would naturally fit better, but this is an experience that I went through two weeks ago, and doubt if I ever will. Let me give you some background.

A mutual friend of Mac Showers is working on a book about what really happened at Pearl Harbor immediately before and continuing long after the morning of the attack. She takes it all personally- she had family who were key actors in the events surrounding one of America’s biggest military disasters. In the course of her research, she came upon Mac, and as part of an effort to contact as many Pearl Harbor survivors as she could before they departed, called Mac at his apartment at The Madison and would talk for hours about the people with whom he served.

That is how I met The Macaroon Lady, a title she earned through her love for the Willow’s delightful airy dessert. Mac would mail her a dozen periodically when they showed up from Kate Jansen’s pastry kitchen. I have talked to TML frequently since Mac crossed the Styx, with me serving as a knock-off version of him for matters concerning naval intelligence jargon and procedures.

As you are by now painfully aware, I am working on Mac’s long biography, and frequently I find myself kicking the lower drawer on the desk about some simple yet important bit of information that I should have asked him about when I could. During a call shortly after New Years, I think I said so. “Dammit, I wish I could just ask him. He made himself available fifty or sixty times, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

“What if I could find a way to let you ask those questions?” she said. And that is where this story really begins, and where I ask you to suspend disbelief. In this age of politics, that should not be a leap of faith.

Lest you think I am just another devotee of the Ouija Board, I will put this out there for consideration, and why I do not dismiss notions about paranormal stuff out of hand. In addition to dozens of sort of strange things I have run across, there are three vivid instances containing facts that do not fit my normal world view, the one I normally attempt to subjugate at Happy Hour.

The first of those, of course, is the near simultaneous passing of Raven and Big Mama, my wonderful parents. Dad died in the nursing home around lunchtime. Mom was seen active and alert when she was down in the lunchroom at Potemkin Village. She returned to her room and was seen by staff watching the Turner Classic Movie Channel. At the next visit around three that afternoon, she was found collapsed on the floor of her closet. The folks at the Village said it looked liked she was changing clothes to go out.

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Two points about that. She was not told that Dad had died. She did not go out on her own since we took the car keys. Simple, really. I am left with the conclusion that 63 years of marriage had built a communications path so strong that only the end of life could terminate it. Obviously it took Dad a little while to shake off the fog of dementia that took him and go get His Sweetie.

The second personal event is not circumstantial, if a bit stranger.

When I was assigned to the THIRD Fleet Staff in the mid-1980s, the command was located on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. As the Pacific Anti-Submarine Warfare commander, it was deemed necessary to have an officer on the island on call, 24×7, and accordingly we established one of the Navy’s traditional all-purpose remedies: a watch bill. We would have a periodic requirement to stay on the island overnight, since it was (in those days) served only by the redoubtable Ford Island Ferry, and it did not run after taps.

To accommodate our requirement, a bunkroom on the second deck of the island Dispensary was assigned for our use. It was historic for several reasons. The courtyard of the building had been struck by a Japanese aerial bomb in the attack, and afterward, the building was used for triage of the wounded and as a morgue for the dead.

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In the film “In Harm’s Way,” our bunkroom was the place they filmed young Patricia Neal sitting behind a desk as The Duke boldly strode into room, her silhouette profiled against our now-shabby room. Painting for the movie was the last maintenance the place had seen in years.

Anyway, with nothing else to do, I read messages at the HQ until nine one night, got my book and walked down the darkened street to the Dispensary, climbed the ladder to the second deck, slid the key into the solid old wooden door and enter my sanctuary. To say that the place was eerie would be an understatement, and I took off my uniform to sleep in the single bed in my skivvies.

Sometime in the deepest part of the night I was dreaming. It wasn’t one of the usual nightmares- the running dream or the falling dream- this one was just images, none of which made any particular sense until I realized I was looking down at a figure under thin Navy sheets on a single bed in a darkened room, moonlight flooding in Patricia Neal’s office window.

I watched myself stir, and then sit up, looking directly at me in the upper corner of the room by the door.

And then I was integrated in my body again, on a lumpy mattress in an old dark room that smelled vaguely of disinfectant and mold.

So, take that as a contribution to my personal ambiguity about the spirit world. There are components of it, and of the human brain, that I do not understand. If there is anyone out there that does, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.

Of course I recognize that these are suggestive rather than conclusive events. But there was a later time in my military career where I discovered to my considerable bemusement, that our program had been funding a paranormal unit for several years.

I will tell you this: if you can get the most hidebound organization in the US Government to fund telepaths for nearly ten years, there is something there. The unit was only called on for missions for which all other conventional approaches had been exhausted.

The demonstration that convinced me was the after-action report regarding the kidnap of a one-star American general in Germany by the Red Brigades. After all other leads had gone cold, the Unit was tasked to do their best to find him. The reports the Talent produced were ambiguous in nature. Some of them were like: “subject is cold and it is dark where he is.”

Not much in the way of actionable intelligence, and of course the hope had been that ‘remote viewers’ could glance up at street signs on demand and perform real-time targeting. Apparently that is not how it works. But against all hope, the General was released and extensively debriefed. When they laid down the time line against some of the Unit reports, they matched up nicely. Of course it had been cold and dark. It was the German winter. The general had been locked in the trunk of a car.

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I understand you cannot see much from there.

This was not the unalloyed success that supporters wanted, and in the nature of Washington projects with a significant giggle factor, it was transferred out of DoD and to the CIA for management. The folks at Langley did a blue ribbon review and announced that they could find no application of remote viewing to produce “actionable intelligence,” and they killed it.

Of course, they didn’t say there was nothing there. The report just concluded that it could not be relied on for military or covert action purposes. End of story.

Which it is for the Unit, but the story goes on. The Macaroon Lady had gained her trust and confidence after years of experience with mountebanks and frauds in one of the oldest cons in the book. She told me she had gifted me a reading with a medium who she could trust. I was informed that I would be speaking to Karen Anderson, Medium, at her office in Seattle in a couple weeks.

Naturally, I did my homework. Here is what I know about all this. The paranormal has been exploited by charlatans for thousands of years. If there is something there, it is not an on-demand capability. It can not be weaponized, per se, nor can it provide information that is not inherently ambiguous. The capability flits and it wanders, if real, like a ghost through the human mind itself.

But those are the conclusions of the Central Intelligence Agency. I know that Mom and Dad could communicate outside the normal means, and I know that I have seen my own sleeping body. But I will have to get to that tomorrow, when you will meet my medium, Karen Anderson. She is a remarkable lady. But like I said, more on that mañana. I had no idea we were going to get to the very heart of one of the things I had been meaning to ask Mac about.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

The Medium is the Message

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Remember those words? The phrase was introduced in Marshall McLuhan’s book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in the dim and distant days of 1964. I was a young teen at the time, basking in the bourgeoisie pleasures of suburban Detroit. We had some problems at the time- perhaps you have heard of them? But on the whole, life was pretty good. We got up to change the channels on the television, sought out pay-phones to make emergency calls or have affairs- which I was sadly not doing at the time- and otherwise were tied to our landlines in our homes.
Telephone answering machines were cutting edge technology. The first ARPANet message was still five years away.

It was the way things had been, essentially since the days Alexander Graham Bell. When I think of the transformative nature of technology, and what we have seen since 1970, I have to guess that I will be able to hire a robot to generate content from AI for the site so I can retire, and even have The Daily go on into the distant future in a sort of digital perpetual motion.

McLuhan was on to something way back then, though he couldn’t know the immensity of the phenomenon he was attempting to describe. In his view, a ‘medium,’ not solely by the content it carries, and that was what needed to be studied. He included every means of communication, from phones to TV, radio and all the means by which advertising is inflicted on us. He said that a medium affects society not just by what content was transmitted, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself

For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled “the scale and form of human association and action.” The concept even included the wildly non-traditional definition of what communication really was. For example, he identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of his concept. A light bulb has a social effect, he argued, reasoning that light enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness, which actually describes our current watering hole at the Front Page pretty well. Some mediums have no recognizable content, and yet have profound social effects.

McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. OK, OK, I am not going to continue down that road. Go back and look at the book, and consider the electronic swirling circus of messaging we have to process from every direction. Consider it in the context of the long national nightmare we have endured since the last campaign began. It boggles the mind.

Some of you might have been expecting more from Marlow this morning, since his musings on motorcycles and the Motherland have been highly entertaining over the past few weeks. (We plan on packaging the series as something that might be called “Marlow’s Four Corners: A Ride on the Edge of America.” Stay tuned.

Others may have expected another plunge into the comfortable dimness of the Willow Bar to explore the remarkable career of Admiral Mac Showers. I think we are beginning to see the completion of that project- “Cocktails with the Admiral: Hot and Cold Wars in the American Century.” So, rest assured, there is a bit more of Mac’s life to be inflicted on you.

And in fact, that is where all these strands begin to come together. There are a couple mysteries that remain in Mac’s career, and they are tantalizing ones. Marlow knows some fundamental truths about human on two wheels and filled with adventure and wanderlust. McLuhan was right about content and about mediums, though I have discovered he wasn’t covering enough ground.

What I propose to do over the next couple days is tell you a story about a medium that just crossed my path.

Her name is Karen Anderson, and this is what manifestation the former Colorado Deputy Sheriff presents to the world these days:

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Karen is a very nice and personable lady. She also talks to spirits. I will have a bit more about that sort of medium for you tomorrow.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Sandy Shoes

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the big cities we have left behind fatten, grow old,
increasingly coarsen, they become poisoned,
and parts of them and their people wither

survivors often think of the old days
when the nights and days jumped like they never had before
that even when they slept they gave off light,
electricity and soothing rollicking sounds
they still feel awake but are not
those days are gone

they caused troubles in strange places,
like drug store luncheon counters, bowling alleys, on streets
named Wall and Main, highways and other byways

they were funny and strange, but they were
not right
they bamboozled the flyovers
sometimes they made them angry
but they were never hard to get rid of
“just turn the damn thing off and don’t read the papers”

after they fell, there was nothing

all of them at first didn’t realize it

most of them still don’t

it will take them years to figure it out

they weren’t our beloveds just aberrations
with the ability to exceed the limits
for a brief while dressed in their polished shoes
pressed shirts and store bought tans

we are the unshaven with dirty nails, rumpled shirts, stained pants,
and sandy shoes

when they left us high and dry, all our other things,
days off, songs, meals, drinks, movies and books
seemed ordinary and worthless
we thought they had brought us something special
but we were wrong

they tried to make us believe that living
without them would be horrid
but we shall

they will miss us more than we them

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

Life and Island Times Thoughts on Backroad Motorcycle Towns

The riders traveled far away from big urban cities in order to putt to and through small and middle sized towns. As the years passed and the miles ridden soared, more and more of these places appeared to be shattered or shadows of their former selves.

These towns were places where the promise of American free enterprise flowered for over a century. Wages may have been modest, but workers and their families enjoyed perks that went beyond company pensions, picnics, and softball to include a lifestyle of increasing comfort, boundless hope and steadfast optimism about the future. Hard work would always have its rewards.

These were the towns whose young men underwrote the human cost of two world wars and who then returned home to become the industrial foundation of the American Century. Theirs was a quiet heroism of an older age.

The small town decay that the riders found was across all regions, economic bases and races. Former economic mainstays like mineral extraction, lumbering, railroads, factories, manufacturers or agribusiness had disappeared along with jobs, tax bases, middle classes, and schools. Towns lucky enough to have survived did so with low paying service economy jobs and businesses.

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Ruins in these once proud and thriving cities of craftsmen, thing makers, and shop keepers included places of worship, culture, business, and entertainment – all shuttered and decaying after serial attempts to repurpose them during past several decades of private and public economic revival/survival efforts.

Many had parks and cemeteries allowed to go to seed, standalone schools shuttered, taverns and bowling alleys all closed.

People who had lived there before the decay set in had thought themselves twice lucky – born in America and born in these small towns. Those that were still there no longer believed the latter and were slowly losing faith in the former.

Townfolk comity had been erased and replaced by a grimier and grimmer outlook and prospects. It was a devastatingly sad portrait that had taken the bikers years to recognize and then piece together.

When it went bad, it did not happen all at once but slowly, imperceptibly at first. The creative destruction of capitalism and globalism slowly blew these all-American towns all up and away. When their mainstay businesses died and jobs left, they were replaced with companies which had no connection to the real people, places and histories of the town. Federal, state and local redevelopment aid programs came and went, but these towns continued to be hollowed out.

The final indignity came when the remaining people were swept up by the serial drug epidemics from crack in the 80s to meth during the 90s to opioids now during the past three decades. All of this conspired to infect the inhabitants with a sense of rootlessness. They were losing their sense of place and their trust in one another. Fear and anger replaced trust and neighborliness. Kids played indoors now, instead of playing outside as their parents had before the great decay gained traction.

What the riders had observed were people and places which had lost their societal protectors — employers, banks, shops, governments, churches, civic groups. They had been their partners in building and thriving in the American frontier.

So for anyone wondering why swing-state America voted against the establishment in 2016, the riders had unknowingly ridden past the answer.

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