Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nuclear War In The Present Day

Before North Korea can or will strike anywhere with a nuclear weapon China will march from their border all the way down to the DMZ and it will take about a week for this to happen, at most. No one is going to play with nukes that close to China and the Chinese allow it. It really is that simple. North Korea, for all their noise, realizes that extinction is a bad decision away. Worse case scenario for them is for everyone to just stop listening to their threats and let them rot in their own madness. They might be better off if China invades.

The United States, for all of its power, cannot stop China from going all the way to  Wando if that’s what China really wants to do. We could stop them with nukes, but hey, is Korea really worth it? I’m more than willing to bet North Korea gets a visit from a diplomat from China who will tell them they just went onto the Endangered Species List and things will cool off a bit. Of course, if North Korea does attack someone with a nuke then China just might decide to take Taiwan and see which way the pressure really lies. But I really do not believe either country is interested in war because war is really expensive. 

Over in the Middle East, Israel believes that if Iran gets a nuke then Tel Aviv will be a memory about ten minutes later. Israel may or may not have nukes and I’m betting they do.  Having a nuke and using a nuke are two different animals and Israel doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of global public opinion. They do realize that using a nuke also means they are fair game if someone else gets one. How many nukes they have is an open question. Do they have enough of them to change the political geography of the Middle East is another.Will they use those weapons? That may be the question.

Iran isn’t likely to nuke anyone for the same reasons North Korea won’t. Using a nuke means that people in that area of the world with an interest of nukes not being used will likely do something about it. Russia isn’t at all interested in a nuke fest on their southern border region. Don’t forget those people have the ways and means to do a lot of military stuff and do it well and quickly and massively. But it is so expensive to throw a good war, you know.

Iran is betting America is played out for a while and I agree. We do not have the ways and means for an invasion because of the lack of political will in America for another war. Air strikes will have a limited affect but that is also something that Iran would like not to happen. Their transportation and military infrastructure could take a beating, and that too, is expensive.

What no one knows is how good the Iranian air defense might be in an actual war. These are not stupid people. They know what is going to happen if a war cranks up and they’ve had a long time to get ready for it. Without American help to suppress Iranian air defense Israel takes a huge risk in going it alone. They could very well take a beating militarily.  And even with American help taking out the Iranian defense system, there is the very real danger that one strike, or even a series of strikes, might not accomplish anything more than driving up the price of oil to two hundred dollars a barrel and crippling the American economy. And the air strikes might do more harm than good if the Iranians have done well in hiding their facilities. We might face a more resolute and nuclear armed Iran in a couple of years. If we suffered any major military setbacks in the strike we might not have the political will to attack again. Iran may be betting heavily in this very hand of cards.

What Iran is most afraid of, secretly, is that America and Russia will form an Alliance and carve the Middle East up into fuel depots.  While they have a military that is quite strong they cannot depend on any allies in the next war. Egypt, Syria and Iraq cannot put to field an army of consequence at this time, and may not for a while. If Iran starts a war they might find themselves standing toe to toe with much larger problems than they ever imagined.  I doubt seriously that Russia and the Americans trust one another enough to cooperate in a war but if they ever do someone is going to cease to exist when those two countries are done. 

America exports only three things consistently: Arms, Food and Entertainment. We’re not in the peace business and there is a lot of money to be made, for private companies, in a war. We discovered that during the Iraqi war. But we also export a lot of corn and wheat, both of which wind up in Russia and the Middle East. No one in the Middle East has enough arable land to feed itself and the idea of putting America out of the food business by jacking up oil prices to the point of collapse is not an idea that anyone is willing to entertain for every long. The Iranians may or may not have a solution to this problem, but nevertheless it is a problem.

The Iranians may indeed want war. After all, we were stupid enough to start one in Iraq for no other reason than greed. They may see this as an opportunity to take down the United States once and for all, no matter the cost to themselves.  No American president can allow Israel to be attacked with a nuke without a harsh military reaction and right now that would be a disaster.

What the Iranians haven’t considered is that an American president, one who cannot run for reelection, might just pop a couple of Iranian cities with nuclear weapons if Iran nukes Israel. Israel would, for all practical purposes, cease to exist if they lost their capital, ( whereas the United States might be better of losing their own)  and Iran wouldn’t fare much better after losing their capital and perhaps a major port. 

There isn’t any way for this all to play out and everyone walk away happy, unless everyone walks away. Each time the drums of war began to play we seem to forget that the least war, no matter which war it might have been, lasted longer, was more costly, was more damaging, and had more consequences than we first supposed.

This one will be no different unless it is worse.

Take Care,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Have A Yearn. A Yearn To Burn.

Lucas getting snake bit last year changed the way I think about Cottonmouth Cover.  The pond beside my house is only partially wet most of the year and mostly it’s dry. But these waist high weeds grow up through the water and everywhere else out there so it’s hard to tell where the water is and where there are just weeds. They all die off in winter and droop onto one another which creates a thick mat of dead weeds. If the water level rises this mat of weeds will float and as the water recedes this mat of weeds will rise too but as the water falls the mat becomes a canopy suitable for perfect snake habitat. My idea was to burn this canopy off as well as the entire eastern part of my property and let the snakes have the rest of the pond that belongs to my neighbor.

The problem with this is a pretty serious problem; the weeds, once they dry out completely also become the perfect fuel for fire. Thin, light, very dry, and elevated makes for something burning like gasoline dipped in lighter fluid. While the fire won’t last very long if the wind picks it up it can be expected to turn into something I rather not see racing around on someone else’s land. Not that my neighbor would complain about me burning off his part of the pond, mind you, it’s the very idea that a man can’t control his own actions that would bother my neighbor and it would bother the hell out of me. I’m pretty certain he would tell me to go ahead and burn it if I asked and if I wound up torching the whole pond he would never say a thing about it. But everyone around here would know I mishandled fire.

I  cannot live with that.

So when I set the fire I set in in the dry canopy of dead weeds.  I watched it burn and sure enough it kicked up its heels and begin to spread quickly. I let it head west towards the strip of woods between the pond and my backyard because I wanted that cleared a bit as well. I let it head north because that’s where a good portion of the dry pond is. I let it run South for a bit, just to clear out enough stuff to match the old fenceline in the backyard, but I was not letting it head east into the pond itself where it would have gotten much larger, much faster, and much hotter than I could handle. I let it run South then put that part of the fire out, and concentrated on managing the north running fire to keep it from turning east.

The plan is quite simple. The fire heading towards the backyard cannot burn the backyard because there isn’t anything there for it to eat. The fire running north can be held in check as long as I’m there with the hose and I am. I hose down the fire anytime it turns and it does turn. The dry grass is a perfect environment for fire. A couple of time is flares up and as I turn the hose on it I can see the fire nearly burn through the spray. Some Spanish Moss catches on fire on the west fire and I have to go hose that down. Damn. The South Fire has re-ignited. The fire I thought was out is not only not out but it is heading South again and if it gets to the small ditch between the old fenceline and the back acre it will gain access to the pond and the canopy of dry grass napalm. I have exactly what I planned not to have and that is a two front war. Worse, I’ve threaded the hose through some small trees so the hose won’t get seared by any errant flames.

I go back to the northern fire and hose it down as fast as I can. This is not enough to put it out but it will slow it down. I slowly and carefully take the hose out of the trees and of all things, the fire running west towards the yard decides to flare again in the moss. I hose it down and then head South.

The South Fire has been bad. It wasn’t at all out and it crept down low and didn’t smoke much but it is heading towards becoming Godzilla with an accent. There’s a dead tree limb that it had entered and I have to spray all of this down good. I drop the hose and look north. It is time to go play with the real fire.

I gave myself some space between my property and my neighbor’s for just such as this. The north fire has reincarnated and it is hungry as hell. I thread the hose through the brush carefully because I might have to head South again and soon. Care is needed here. If I freak out and get the hose kinked or burned I am screwed. If I get too close to the heat that fire running north it could kill me. I come up behind the north fire and hit it hard on its eastern flank. I spray water on the fire but also over it and into the fuel it needs to burn. I make sure I get ahead of it and hose down the eastern flank. I back up and head South again.

The fire spreading towards the backyard has paused with the wind change and the South fire is nearly dead. I hose it down again and this time I make sure to get the hot spots. I head back to the northern end and my preventive spraying has curtailed eastward expansion plans. The North fire obediently chews its way north and I following it with the hose, as if I am walking a dog on a leash.

My neighbor will see the blackened area and he will wonder how on earth I managed to burn my part of the pond and not his. He may wonder why I didn’t just go ahead and burn it all. But he’ll look at the fire tossing catapult that weeds can be and he’ll say it out aloud if he gets around other folks:  The man can handle fire.

Take Care,

The Story Written in Sun and Shadows and Stars.

Yoga is like a drug sometimes. We have to hold certain positions for what seems to be a long time. The body is frozen and feels pain. I regulate my breathing, resisting the urge to fight against the position and I resist the urge to hold my breath. The mind wanders. A woman flits in and out of my mind and the position changes. Hold. I’m facing the back wall and there are shadows cast by the trees outside, silhouetted by the sun. The shadows look like characters in some alien alphabet.
Writing is the best human invention, ever, at least until we realize it wasn’t an invention but more of a discovery. This is something we will not realize until we meet aliens and find out they were writing in their ancient history too. I know, I know, I’m predicating on sight based creatures but that’s okay; I’m a writer.

The shadows change and I wonder what would happen if I sat there the entire day and recorded the images. Each passing moment would be a letter, or some hieroglyph and the passing of time would be spelled out in each image. Is this the tale of the sun or the shadows? Are there two characters in each one; a symbol for light and another for darkness? Look at the letters before you! Could you read black on black or white on white script? It takes both, yes, I see that now, and oops. I missed the cue for a Downward Facing Dog.
The sun sinks lower and the story ends before I can begin it. There was little light left for the writing of the Sun’s Tale of the Shadows and I feel as if I walked into a movie near the end. You know movies, don’t you, that combination of moving light and shadow that tells a story? The symbols change over time but each change gives new meaning. Suddenly, you’re thinking that my original thesis wasn’t some torture induced illusion, I hope.

The instructor has to notice my lapses. I wonder what it looks like from where other people are seeing, this man whose focus seems to wander around at strange times. We wonder what cats are looking at when they stare intently at nothing and maybe they see writing we do not. Maybe in cat vision there are symbols with feline meaning that we humans cannot, or will not, see. No one else saw the images I saw and thought my thoughts. Will you see alien alphabet in shadows now? Will you be able to read what isn’t there?

This, these words, pass by a cat’s sight and those who are illiterate might know something is here, in this writing, but be as deaf to it as I am to Arabic. I know what Arabic looks like, but I could not recognize a single phrase. I’ve seen the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have seen images of the tablets of Ugarit. I have found pottery with drawings left by the native people who once lived here; what are they trying to say?

And you have to wonder about it really. The people who finally break the code of a language, cross reference ancient tablets and cruciform markings, do they really get the feel for the writer? Have they ever come across something that seems to have been written by someone whose passion is to write, maybe about writing, and how the ancient writers might have thought about a craft that was in its infancy, but must have been seen as cutting edge at the time? What would it be like to see a reflection, an echo as it were, of thoughts written out four thousand years ago?

This medium you see before you, these symbols and curiously formed shapes that speak in your mind, have you ever wondered what it might have been like to have witnessed writing’s birth? I can remember the first desktop computer I saw as well as the first word processing program I ever operated. Corel World Perfect came in a box the size of a family bible with fourteen 5.25 disks. There is a microchip the size of a child’s fingernail with that much memory in my cell phone. What will writing look like in four thousand years? What would happen if this very essay made it to the future and someone trying to decipher my words discovered I was writing about the very subject?

Years ago I had a dream of a tent in the desert. There were many men inside of the tent, and I was one of them, but much younger than most there. This was a meeting, a secret meeting, and guards had been posted around the tent. Our oil lamps were nestled in depressions dug in the sand on which the tented rested, and the wind whipped the shadows around madly. I was there because I had been taught to write. It was one thing to copy scrolls and to merely reproduce what was before my eyes, but I had listened and I had learned and I knew what it meant to write.

The debate raged, and raged is the perfect word here, as to whether or not to teach writing, to allow other than those of our order to learn what it meant and to allow them to pass it on and forward. Some said no and demanded that the knowledge be kept safely under control and hidden. Other bid the older men to release the seeds into the wind and allow this thing to spread like stars in the sky. I knew, really knew, when I looked up and saw one of the older men staring at me what he was thinking. “Say nothing” his gaze bid me, “and no matter what they say this cannot be stopped.”  In my dream I felt deep inside of me the truth of this man’s words.

I feel that truth now, sitting here before you, getting all of this down in letters, I feel the truth that writing cannot be stopped. We have become readers those of us not writers, and our species needs this thing. I do not say this because I write, but rather I write because I believe it to be true. Just as my job in the desert was to pull water up from a deep well, so is my job here, I hope, to pull writing from its source, ever it may be, and allow it to flow, like the stars in the sky.

Take Care,