Tag Archives: non-fiction

CLOSE GAME; DEEP GAME

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror

Written by: Michael V. Hayden

Narrated by: Michael V. Hayden

MICHAEL HAYDEN (AUTHOR,4 STAR AIRFORCE GENERAL,FORMER NSA DIRECTOR,FORMER CIA DIRECTOR)

General Hayden deserves praise for his candor about the functions of the NSA (the National Security Administration) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).  Undoubtedly, much is not said because of the nature of the subject but Hayden offers a picture of America’s secret service that is at once necessary and discomfiting.

Necessity revolves around what Hayden calls the “close game”.  Discomfort comes from a misapprehension of what he calls the “deep game”.  The close game is clandestine surveillance and targeted action.  The deep game is winning “hearts and minds” of other nations.

Without question, Hayden is a great American patriot.  He demonstrates his commitment to America with military service in the Air Force that raises him to a four-star general level.  Nearing the end of his military career, Hayden is chosen to manage two of the most secretive bureaucracies in the world; e.g. the NSA and CIA.  His tenure covers the most critical years of America’s war on terror, beginning with 9/11 and stretching to President Obama’s election as 45th President of the United States.

—-NSA HEADQUARTERS FORT MEADE, MARYLAND—–

As leader of the NSA, Hayden admits that he got Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction wrong.  Hayden notes that the nature of covert intelligence is that it is often built on circumstantial evidence.  In the intelligence gathering business, Hayden notes there is often smoke where there is no fire.

A great deal of circumstantial information suggests Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of WMD, but when America invades Iraq, no WMD is found. NSA is hoodwinked by Hussein’s propaganda.  From other author’s accounts, Hussein appears to have thought the creation of a “WMD fiction” made his rule stronger.

( Equally surprising, NSA’s computer data-gathering systems are found to be antiquated when General Hayden takes the job at NSA.)

Hayden explains that intelligence is difficult to gather.  When he first begins at NSA, there are relatively few Arabic speaking translators working for the agency.  Equally surprising, NSA’s computer data-gathering systems are found to be antiquated.  In fact, they nearly collapse just before Hayden takes over.Hardware is found operationally disjointed with different operating systems using algorithms that did not communicate with each other.  Hayden attacks both deficiencies by hiring more translators and using a combination of outside consultants and inside computer whizzes to revamp NSA’s data gathering and communications system.  Hayden suggests much of NSA’s translator and data-gathering weakness is eliminated but infers, with the advent of cyber war, technology remains a significant challenge.

—————-DATA SERVERS AT TODAY’S NSA—————

Aside from the WMD error, Hayden seems to have left NSA in better condition than when he arrived.  One judges for themselves about how critical the WMD mistake may have been in leading America into Iraq.

——CIA HEADQUARTERS McLean, VIRGINIA——-

The CIA becomes Hayden’s next big intelligence job.  From Hayden’s description, little change seems to have been necessary when he took the reins.  He notes that CIA employees were less regimental than NSA employees but equally committed to their professions.  He notes that CIA employees have all the same family problems of any large employment organization. Taking children to school, or to their sports, or music lessons, is the same for a CIA employee as for any family.  One difference is that CIA employees are often unable to bring their work home and must internalize much of the frustration of their jobs.  And, of course, they have the temptation of being compromised by foreign interests wanting to have actionable intelligence for their own governments.

(There is a whiff of organizational self-interest that suggests preservation of privilege, more than mission, as an employment motivation.)

As one listens to Hayden’s description of NSA and the CIA, it begins to sound like any job in a big organization. However, there is a whiff of organizational self-interest that suggests self-preservation and hubris, more than mission, is an employment motivation.  Hayden did not wish to change the CIA when he took command.  He seems to have succumb to the mythology of an organization that began in WWII, saved America, and could do no wrong.

AUSTRIAN CIA BLACK SITE SHOWING WATERBOARDING AS AN ACCEPTED ENHANCED INTERROGATION METHOD (On his first day of work, Hayden’s principle objective seems to have been to calm troubled feelings in the organization caused by the CIA’s errors of commission and omission.)

On his first day of work, Hayden’s principle objective seems to have been to calm troubled feelings in the organization caused by the CIA’s errors of commission and omission.  The CIA is complicit in the mistaken decision about WMD in Iraq.  The CIA is complicit in black terrorist detention sites, prisoner abuse, and civilian collateral damage from drone attacks.  Further, the CIA fails to catch bad actors in the agency before government secrets are sold to foreign interests.

The CIA is detailed by Hayden as a human organization.  Decisions are made that raise questions of morality and ethics.  Hayden argues that enhanced interrogation does reveal intelligence’ secrets. Hayden attempts to find a middle way between water boarding and sleep deprivation to get intelligence information from suspected terrorists.  However, he goes so far as to suggest water boarding was useful in the interrogation of one terrorist who is uncooperative.  Hayden’s judgement is that prisoner resistance is broken down by enhanced interrogation.  (For those who have been through basic training in the military, that judgement seems plausible.)  Many remain skeptical based on experiments that show the tortured say anything to stop the torture.  Hayden argues that enhanced interrogation is supplemented by an interrogator’s known intelligence to determine whether the tortured is telling the truth.  Hayden clearly comes down on the side of enhanced interrogation techniques for actionable intelligence.

To this reviewer, Hayden deludes himself in believing drone killing, enhanced interrogation, and cutting the head off terrorist organizations will win wars.  Hayden makes an insightful distinction between the “close game” and the “deep game”.  NSA and the CIA may be able to refine their success in a “close game” but they are losing the “deep game”.

PAKISTANI’ DRONE STRIKE OPPOSITION  (To this reviewer, Hayden deludes himself in believing drone killing, enhanced interrogation, and cutting the head off terrorist organizations will win wars.)

America needs to lead by example.  Torturing or killing terrorists does not change the underlying cultural reality that leads other countries to bad leaders and/or totalitarian governments.

This is not to say, Osama bin Laden did not deserve to die but killing him and other Al Qaeda leaders did not stop the terrorist movement; i.e. at best, it delayed the terrorist’s “close game”.  Isis is a spin-off of Al Qaeda.  When al-Baghdadi is killed, unless the underlying discontent of the Middle East is addressed, a new movement will replace al-Baghdadi; with equally ruthless leaders.  The NSA and CIA are necessary organizations but they do not win wars.

ISIS BEHEADING (America cannot remove themselves from the terrorist fight when the terrorist movement chooses to play a “close game”. )

Intelligence is an important tool for understanding other cultures.  It is cultural understanding that will lead to peace; not covert action to kill those who believe something different.

America cannot remove themselves from the terrorist fight when the terrorist movement chooses to play a “close game”.  But, America must protect itself from the delusion that the American way is the only way.  That delusion reduces Americans to the level of terrorists.  Americans need to focus on the “deep game” by being an example and facilitator for democratic freedom and rule of law. Peace can only come through cultural understanding and acceptance.

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AMERICAN TRUTH & INEPTITUDE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History

Written by: Andrew J. Bacevich

Narrated by: Rob Shapiro, Andrew J. Bacevich

ANDREW BACEVICH (AMERICAN HISTORIAN, SERVED IN VIETNAM AND GULF WAR)

To put it mildly, this is a difficult audio book to listen to.  It rings with historic truth while revealing American ineptitude.  Written by a military historian who retired as a Colonel, served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf and, tragically, lost a son in Iraq in 2007. Bacevich implies that America’s wars, since WWII, have been failures.  (Though he does not mention Korea, one presumes a temporary peace at the 38th parallel is included.)

Bacevich’s latest book focuses on war in the Middle East; a war of attrition and guerrilla warfare that reminds one of Vietnam.  America clearly did not win in Vietnam and is facing a similar loss in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

MIDDLE EAST (America clearly did not win in Vietnam and is facing a similar loss in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.)

To Bacevich, post WWII’ wars are the result of failures of diplomacy, military strategy, and military/civilian intelligence.  Bacevich suggests America is in a “no-win” position in the Middle East because of misunderstanding of real-politic and fundamentalist beliefs that fracture nation-state comity.

SADDAM HUSSEIN (1937-2006, FIFTH PRESIDENT OF IRAQ)
BASHAR al-ASSAD (SYRIA, PRESIDENT)

Bacevich argues that failures of diplomacy come from a belief that removing a nation’s leader will change the nature of governments and the people they lead.  He suggests Middle East, history shows that removing leaders only creates chaos and more resistance to American objectives.  (In Vietnam, America tries to overcome the chaos of war with puppet government leaders who focused on self-aggrandizement more than public good.)

AMERICAN INVASION OF IRAQ 2003 (As a military strategy, America enters the Middle East by using overwhelming force to defeat the Iraq army; to apprehend or kill Saddam Hussein, and remove weapons of mass destruction. )

As a military strategy, America enters the Middle East by using overwhelming force to defeat the Iraq army; to apprehend or kill Saddam Hussein, and remove weapons of mass destruction.

HAMID KARZAI (PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN 2004-2014)

In Afghanistan, the military strategy is to remove the Taliban and encourage the election of a government that would interrupt any terrorist organizations that would disrupt American interests.

MUAMMAR MOHAMMED ABU MINYAR QADDAFI (FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF LIBYA)

In Libya, the military strategy is to bomb forces of Muammar Gaddafi; weaken his control, and allow opposition forces to dethrone or try Gaddafi for crimes against humanity.

BASHAR al-ASSAD (SYRIA, PRESIDENT)

In Syria, the military strategy is to bomb ISIS and arm factions opposed to Bashar al-Assad with a goal of Assad’s abdication.  Bacevich suggests these strategies are a waste of American blood and treasure because there is no “end-game”.

ABU BAKR al-BAGHDADI (al-QAEDA LEADER SINCE 2003, ISIS LEADER SINCE MAY 2010)

Removing leaders changes nothing.  Military actions are focused on removing leaders as opposed to addressing native cultural imperatives.  A new leader will rise based on the culture of the country; not the interests of America or some other foreign combatant.

The use of drones may reduce American casualties but remote killing hardens the enemy and compromises military strategy with collateral damage that kills innocents as well as insurgents.  The hardening of the enemy results in more recruits opposing American forces. For these and other reasons (psychological as well as physical), killing by drone is a strategic military and civilian mistake.

AMERICAN DRONE ATTACKS IN PAKISTAN (NOT ONLY TALIBAN ARE KILLED, The use of drones may reduce American casualties but remote killing hardens the enemy and compromises military strategy with collateral damage that kills innocents as well as insurgents. )
NATIONALIZATION OF OIL IN IRAN (MARCH 1951, America wants oil and that oil must come from diplomacy and negotiation, not Middle Eastern regime change. )

What is over-looked is the real-politic of America’s needs and the Middle East’s cultural imperatives.  Middle Easterners want their country to be what they want it to be.  America wants oil and that oil must come from diplomacy and negotiation, not Middle Eastern regime change. Wars founded on military strategic objectives will ultimately fail.

Great Britain could not hold the American colonies because foreign wars were too expensive.  Just as in America’s actions and presumptions in the Middle East, Great Britain fails to address or appreciate colonist’s cultural concerns.

(BOOK WRITTEN BY FORMER NSA AND CIA DIRECTOR, MICHAEL V. HAYDEN)

America’s civilian and military intelligence fails our government leaders.  An obvious military intelligence failure is NSA’s insistence, and the CIA’s concurrence, that there were WMD in Iraq.  Less obvious is America’s failure to recognize every nation in the world wishes to be sovereign; wishes to follow their own traditions, and wishes to grow into their own identity.

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (America fought its own war to become a democratic republic.  It is not perfect, but most Americans want to live in their own country.)

It may be dis-proportionally unjust for other governments to be other than democratic but who are we to judge or dictate to another sovereign country?  America fought its own war to become a democratic republic.  It is not perfect, but most Americans want to live in their own country.  Diplomacy is Bacevich’s implied solution.  One presumes Bacevich is not implying America should become isolationist.  He suggests America needs diplomacy, founded on cultural understanding of other nations; not war, to get what the U.S.  needs to prosper.

As countries mature, the common needs of humankind will become more evident.  Like a child growing up, countries grow into adulthood.  Some will die in the process; many mistakes will be made, but most will grow into maturity based on their own traditions and adopted foreign influences.

Democracy works for America.  American democracy does not work for everyone.  Countries need to work with each other based on maturity; not infant tantrum.  As nations mature, rages will continue to occur because of internal strife.  However, Bacevich infers international diplomacy is a better alternative to war for survival of the species.

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A SYBARITIC LIFE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste

Written by: Bianka Bosker

Narrated by: Bianka Boska

BIANCA BOSKER (AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, Bianka Boska’s image and voice live up to one’s expectation of the sybaritic life of a sommelier.)

Bianka Boska’s image and voice live up to one’s expectation of the sybaritic life of a sommelier.  Young, attractive, and purpose driven, Boska is a writer worth listening to.  “Cork Dork” tells the story of what it means to be a sommelier.  It reveals the details of an education for the taste and smell of wine.  The best sommeliers are characterized as wine connoisseurs who can sell Brooklyn to a monkey.  Like most consumers of “nectar of the vine”, wine drinkers have an unschooled (often ignorant) appreciation of what, when, and how to create and consume a beverage from a process that dates to prehistoric times.

An adult male caucasian sommelier poring red wine in a glass while standing in a underground wine cellar.The best sommeliers are characterized as wine connoisseurs who can sell Brooklyn to a monkey.

Boska sprightly explains her decision to journey into the world of wine.  With youth, energy, and commitment, Boska writes with journalistic integrity.  Her journey begins with an intent to become a sommelier in one year when the average time commitment is three.  As a judicious journalist, Boska meticulously pursues the details of wine content, tasting, and service.  She experiences each detail during a year of wine-elements research, tasting, and restaurant service.  Each discipline shows Boska to be a determined, intelligent, hedonistic and committed oenophile.

FEMALE MASTER SOMMELIER, LAURA MANIEC (In some respects, the author’s journey exposes the falseness of a profession intent on running up restaurant bills by selling over-priced wines to an ignorant public.)

In some respects, the author’s journey exposes the falseness of a profession intent on running up restaurant bills by selling over-priced wines to an ignorant public.  On the other hand, Boska acknowledges an extraordinary sensory experience that may come from a subjective appreciation of the smell and taste of a fine wine.

A listener’s surprising revelation from Boska’s story is in becoming a sommelier, wine tasting begins early in the day to leave many with a headache in the morning.  Every week becomes a cycle of drinking and recovering.  Becoming a sommelier is no profession for anyone subject to addiction.

24 HOUR JOB AS A SOMMELIER  (Every week becomes a cycle of drinking and recovering.  Becoming a sommelier is no profession for anyone subject to addiction.)
BRAIN SCAN ( Boska seems to prove the utility of the experience by having a brain scan.  Parts of Boska’s brain show stimulation from her sense of smell that are not common among non-sommelier subjects.)

Both experimentation and science are noted in Boska’s explanation of sommelier education.  Training requires improving the aspiring sommelier’s senses; particularly smell and taste.

Boska purchases a variety of spices to experience smells that provide elemental categorization; leading to a descriptive vocabulary for describing wine characteristics.  Boska seems to prove the utility of the experience by having a brain scan.  Parts of Boska’s brain show stimulation from her sense of smell that are not common among non-sommelier subjects.

BEING A GOOD SMELLER  (What one draws from her detailed story is that wine appreciation is a subjective experience but a good sommelier can guide a “good-smeller” to an extraordinary out-of-body experience.)

Boska succeeds in becoming an accredited sommelier within a year.  What one draws from her detailed story is that wine appreciation is a subjective experience but a good sommelier can guide a “good-smeller” to an extraordinary out-of-body experience.  There is a price to be paid for the journey, but for the right consumer Boska implies a wine tasting is priceless.

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ECONOMIC CATCH 22

AMERICAN ECONOMY

ESSAY

BY: CHET YARBROUGH

WARREN BUFFETT (NET WORTH 75.2 BIILLION DOLLARS,Billionaires like Warren Buffett note that his secretary is taxed at a higher rate than himself.  )

The widening gap between rich and poor distresses most Americans.  The distress is not limited to the poor, and middle-class.  Some who are doing well feel guilt over a range of societal reminders of the inequality of life in the richest and most powerful nation in the world.  Billionaires like Warren Buffett note that his secretary is taxed at a higher rate than himself.

Some Americans despair because the gap seems insurmountable; many despair because few politicians and leaders know what to do about it.  Many who have wealth think it is because of their hard work.  They discount inheritance and the luck of being born in the right family.  As President Trump notes, he received a $1,000,000 loan from his father to get a start in the real estate industry.

TRUMP (IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY FOR ME COMMENT,  As President Trump notes, he received a $1,000,000 loan from his father to get a start in the real estate industry.)
WOMEN AND THE LADDER TO SUCCESS
MEN AND THE LADDER TO SUCCESS

Many of the rungs of the ladder to success are broken.

Income beyond the necessities of life, the cost of education, medical coverage for unexpected illnesses, and the nature of American capitalism get in the way of equal opportunity.  When both mothers and fathers work and can only provide shelter and food for their family, they find it difficult to provide support and nurture of their children.  Instead of nurturing and supporting, parents default to freedom by neglect.

FREEDOM BY NEGLECT (When both mothers and fathers work and can only provide shelter and food for their family, they find it difficult to provide support and nurture of their children.  Instead of nurturing and supporting, parents default to freedom by neglect.)
—SCHOOLS AS BABY SITTERS—

There is a growing perception of primary and secondary schools as babysitting agencies rather than learning foundations.  Television and video games become teachers, mentors, and guides for latch-key children.

Education is a necessity in a changing technological world but the cost and quality of education reinforce development of an underclass trapped in poverty.  It is not simply a matter of colleges or secondary education facilities.  Private industry needs to expand its training for sorely needed employees looking for advancement.  Apprenticeships and mentor-ships need to be developed and nurtured in the private sector.  Until the private sector takes more of a lead in educating and retraining workers, there will be a labor shortage in America.

PRIVATE INDUSTRY MANAGEMENT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (Private industry needs to expand its training for sorely needed employees looking for advancement.  Apprenticeships and mentor-ships need to be developed and nurtured in the private sector. )

Vilifying immigrants is scapegoating a fundamental problem in postindustrial countries.  Qualified labor is in short supply because of aging demographics and the failure of businesses and government to cooperate in expanding education and training of the underemployed.

GOVERNMENTS’ GUILT (There are not enough young people in post industrialized nations to carry the burden of an aging population and the need for an expanded safety net for the mentally challenged and physically handicapped.)

If Americans wish to remain a great economic power, it must encourage legal immigration and education of the employed and unemployed.  There are not enough young people in post industrialized nations to carry the burden of an aging population and the need for an expanded safety net for the mentally challenged and physically handicapped.

America’s political leaders argue about the cost of medical insurance and needs for its citizens while being pampered by special interests (doctors, lawyers, and insurance companies) that provide elected officials and government employees a living wage, medical insurance, and a measure of employment security.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

 

(Lobbyists for these special interests feed elected officials re-election money to get favorable regulatory legislation to improve doctor, lawyer, and insurance company profitability.)

Lobbyists for these special interests feed elected officials re-election money to get favorable regulatory legislation to improve doctor, lawyer, and insurance company profitability.

Insurance companies pedal their policies to the government while the needs of the poor are marginalized.  Political representatives hide behind belief in a mythical economic invisible hand that will serve those who work the hardest.  To some affordable insurance deniers and their elected representatives, it is a matter of survival of the fittest; i.e. the unemployed, the homeless, the mentally disabled and handicapped are considered guilty of their own condition.

HOMELESS (To some affordable insurance deniers and their elected representatives, it is a matter of survival of the fittest; i.e. the unemployed, the homeless, the mentally disabled and handicapped are considered guilty of their own condition.)

There is no invisible hand.  Without a private sector insurance system, medical treatment would have to be collectivized.  The idea of nationalization is disastrous.  There are not enough doctors to serve the needs of citizens now.  Collectivization through a single payer system will make doctor shortages worse. Complaints by doctors of insurance company interference is preferable to a doctor shortage with increasingly longer lines for service.  A single payer system is not the answer.  Regulation of the insurance industry is preferable to any form of collectivization.

COMMUNISM IN THE USA (Some argue that regulation is a slippery slope to communism.  That is a red herring.  Self-interest is an undeniable human characteristic and America democracy.  Medical insurance, like the banking industry, must have government over site.)

Some argue that regulation is a slippery slope to communism.  That is a red herring.  Self-interest is an undeniable human characteristic of America democracy.  Medical insurance, like the banking industry, must have government over site.  Just as banks have prospered with regulation, so can insurance companies.

(On the one hand, the stock market is a beacon of freedom because it provides private capital for the expansion of the economy.  On the other, tax advantages for those with enough money to buy stock, get a free ride off the working poor that have little or no discretionary income.)

American capitalism favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor.  On the one hand, the stock market is a beacon of freedom because it provides private capital for the expansion of the economy.  On the other, tax advantages for those with enough money to buy stock, get a free ride off the working poor.  The poor do not have the advantage of disposable income to invest.   Lower taxes on capital gains make the rich richer and leave the poor further behind.

There will always be haves and have-nots, but America needs to level the playing field.  Both American government and private enterprise need to step-up to improve education, open minds to a world economy, and provide a realistic safety net for all citizens.

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NON-HUMANS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

Written by: Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence

LAWRENCE ANTHONY (AUTHOR, CONSERVATIIONIST, ENVIRONMENTALIST, EXPLORER, BORN 1950, DIED MARCH 2ND 2012)
GRAHAM SPENCE (CO-AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, EDITOR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrated by: Simon Vance

Anthropomorphizing non-humans is a slippery slope.  The brain is an amazing organ that compels humans to understand things beyond understanding.  Whether it is belief in a Supreme Being or belief that wild animals think, human brains create stories of belief based on consciousness; i.e. something beyond instinct and conditioning.

LAWRENCE ANTHONY AND A BELOVED ELEPHANT (MR. ANTHONY DIED IN 2012 AT THE AGE OF 61 FROM A HEART ATTACK.)

Lawrence Anthony, a conservationist, notes his experience with a herd of wild elephants.  This herd of elephants will be killed if he is unwilling to accept them at his conservation area in South Africa.  The elephant herd has been found unmanageable by other conservationists.  The problem has been the herd will not stay within a confined conservation area.  The elephants break through whatever barriers are placed in their way.

ELEPHANT CONSERVATION BARRIERS (The elephant herd has been found unmanageable by other conservationists.  The problem has been the herd will not stay within a confined conservation area.  The elephants break through whatever barriers are placed in their way.)
ELEPHANT POACHING ( As is widely reported, native animal species in Africa are becoming extinct.  Partly because of the advance of civilization; i.e. because of native customs, the desire of souvenir hunters. and the greed of ivory and horn hunters.)

Anthony tells a story of Africa that reflects on his perception of reality.  As is widely reported, native animal species in Africa are becoming extinct.  Partly because of the advance of civilization; i.e. because of native customs, the desire of souvenir hunters. and the greed of ivory and horn hunters.  Anthony exposes some of these causes in “The Elephant Whisperer”.  However, Anthony takes a step too far by suggesting wild animals have cognitive recognition; i.e. a near-human understanding of what is happening in their world.

Though Anthony’s perception of animals is askew, his story brings Africa alive.  Anthony’s effort to preserve Africa’s wild life is exemplary.  His methods make sense.  He scrambles to create an electrical barrier around his conservation area that will contain the largest land based animal in the world.  The herd he is given custody of instinctually resists containment even though it offers a haven from human interference with nature.

PAVLOV’S DOG ( Like Pavlov’s dogs, the elephants begin to accept his presence and their sanctuary.  Anthony interprets this instinctual response as a cognitive rather than operantly conditioned response.)

Anthony overcomes that instinctual resistance by making himself and his employees familiar to the herd.  He insists on spending his personal and the staff’s time with the herd so they recognize his and their smell and presence.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, the elephants begin to accept his presence and their sanctuary.  Anthony interprets this instinctual response as a cognitive rather than operantly conditioned response.

TRIBALISM THAT THREATENS AFRICAN UNITY (An irony of Anthony’s conclusion of wild animal consciousness is in his white man’s communication with factions of the South African community. )

An irony of Anthony’s conclusion of wild animal consciousness is in his white man’s communication with factions of the South African community.  Anthony notes his area of South Africa has had no elephants for years.  Elephants have been systematically poached and driven out of South Africa by their instinct for survival.  Many of the natives in his area have never even seen an elephant.  The irony is that Anthony is challenged by African natives for his role in reintroducing elephants to South Africa.  The use of land for conservation interferes with tribal interests in raising cattle and goats.  Others question conservation’s interference in harvesting animals for food and ivory.

To combat the challenge, Anthony pleads his case for conservation that will enrich the natives without farming or harvesting elephants for their meat and ivory.  Anthony uses an interpreter to communicate his message to the natives because he is not fluent in their language.  Anthony chooses an interpreter that bridges the myths of Africa with logical reasoning to convince the natives that he is on their side.

Anthony’s pitch is based on human reasoning.  That reasoning contrasts with the instinctual way he approaches his adopted elephant herd.  As a human speaking to other humans, cognition is logically taken for granted.  Humans speaking to non-humans are deluding themselves by believing elephants or other species have equal or superior cognitive abilities.

SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM (To combat the challenge, Anthony pleads his case for conservation to enrich the natives without seeking to harvest elephants for their meat and ivory.  Anthony uses and interpreter to communicate his message to the natives because he is not fluent in their language.  Anthony chooses an interpreter that bridges the myths of Africa with the logical reasoning to convince the natives that he is on their side.)

Evolution fools us all.  Maybe the future will change some member of the animal kingdom to create a “Planet of the Apes” but a “Planet of the Elephants” seems a step too far.

Nevertheless, “The Elephant Whisperer” is a fascinating glimpse of Africa.  We love our dogs, cats, and other pets.  Anthony, and many humans, believe animals think like humans.  Many think animals communicate among themselves.  However, today, it is evolutionary instinct and conditioning; not cognition, that rules the non-human community.

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TIME IS A MYSTERY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Why Time Flies

Written by: Alan Burdick

 Narrated by: George Newbern

ALAN BURDICK (AUTHOR, EDITOR FOR THE NEW YORKER,  In some respects, Burdick’s story is enlightening; in others, time escapes his and an audience’s understanding, )

Time is a mystery.  Alan Burdick speculates on a definition of time in “Why Time Flies”.  In some respects, Burdick’s story is enlightening; in others, time escapes his  audience’s understanding.

ENDORPHINS ARE CHEMICALS IN THE BRAIN THAT FUNCTION AS NEUROTRANSMITTERS (Time appears to be a construct of mind and consciousness, both of which are equally mysterious.)

Time appears to be a construct of mind and consciousness, both of which are equally mysterious.  No one really knows what mind and consciousness are but recent experiments suggest they are a state of being that offers versions of reality; i.e. not objective truth but subjective understanding.  Experiments show that the mind deconstructs what we see and reassembles it to have meaning in an individual’s consciousness.

CAR CRASH (Burdick shows, through recounted experiments, that time does not slow down when we experience traumatic events like a car crash or a bungee jump. )

Burdick shows, through recounted experiments, that time does not slow down when we experience traumatic events like a car crash or a bungee jump.  What our mind does is reconstruct an accident or bungee jump through a consciousness that makes it seem time slows down.  Our consciousness remembers or manufactures events as though they occurred in slow motion; i.e. we remember seeing our car flipping over, the top being crushed, and our effort to use a seat belt to steady our movements.  All of this happens within a minute but we remember it in detail as though a slow-motion camera records the accident.

MIND PATTERNING  (Memories are not precise films of past events. Memories are facts held together by cognitively created stories that make sense in the mind of the person who remembers. Making sense in the mind of one who remembers is not the same as truth. Patterning of remembered facts compels humans to distort memory. The distortion is caused by forgotten details, rationalizations, and prejudices that blend facts to make memories logical in the mind of the one who remembers. The technical expression of difference between memory and truth is partly defined in Tavris’s and Aronson’s book as cognitive-dissonance.)

Burdick notes that time only flows in one direction.  As common experience tells us, we cannot unbreak an egg.  Life begins young and grows older; old begins old and gets older, at least until death. What happens next is another mystery.

Through manipulation of images, we can reverse time but we know it is an illusion.  Various experiments show that time can be slowed down as speculated by Einstein (and later proved by others) but time is never shown to go backward.  That is why travel to the past is considered impossible while travel to the future is, in a limited sense, possible.  As movement approaches the speed of light, time slows down.  A person on earth ages faster than a person in space.  In a way, the person in space travels into a future.  By returning to earth a person from space travels to the future because he/she aged at a slower rate than those left behind.

IN THE MOMENT (Burdick notes that time is always now.  It has no past.  It has no future.  Time is “in the moment”.  Burdick’s recognition is not helpful in understanding time.  Time is never clearly identifiable because it is either becoming a history or a future. )

Burdick notes that time is always now.  It has no past.  It has no future.  Time is “in the moment”.  Burdick’s recognition is not helpful in understanding time.  Time is never clearly identifiable because it is either becoming a history or a future.

How does one define a moment?  It seems to be something between history and future but what is time’s physical marker?  Maybe it is consciousness but no one knows what consciousness is and every person’s consciousness is personal and subjective; not universal.

At best, Burdick’s story only deepens the mystery of time.

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LAUNCHING DRAGONS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Written by: Ashlee Vance

Narrated by: Fred Sanders

ASHLEE VANCE (AUTHOR, JOURNALIST)

Ashlee Vance writes about launching dragons in a biography of Elon Musk.  Like the mythical fire breathing beast that destroys civilizations, Musk’s fire-breathing ambition levels two of the most powerful organizations in the world; e.g. the auto industry and government bureaucracy.

ELON MUSK’S DRAGON LAUNCH BY SPACEX, CO. (Like the mythical fire-breathing beast that destroys civilizations, Musk’s fire-breathing ambition levels two of the most powerful organizations in the world; e.g. the auto industry and government bureaucracy.)

Tesla Motors is the first automobile manufacturer to receive a unanimous vote as the best car of the year.  SpaceX is the first private rocket manufacturer to successfully transport satellites and cargo into space.  The principal behind these extraordinary feats is Elon Musk, a combination of the fictional Tony Stark and the real Thomas Edison.  Not since the 1920s has anyone successfully launched a new automobile manufacturer.  Never in history has a private company launched rockets into space to service the international space station.

TONY STARK (CHARACTER OF IRON MAN PLAYED BY ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (Said to have been based on Elon Musk who Downey visited before making the first Iron Man movie.)
THOMAS EDISON (1847-1931, AMERICAN INVENTOR, BUSINESSMAN, CONSIDERED BY SOME TO BE AMERICA’S GREATEST INVENTOR.)

Vance shows that Musk has an optimistic vision of the future of America and the world.  His willingness to risk everything for alternative energy sources, and reduction of carbon-based energy consumption are astounding in this recurrent era of capitalist greed.  Musk’s focus is on transition from traditional industrial methods of production to technological innovation.  His methodology is a combination of traditional cost-based negotiation, vertical business integration, and hard work.  The methods are not new but Musk’s extraordinary intelligence and personal commitment are reminiscent of great inventor/innovators in history.

FIRST TESLA (ALL ELECTRIC ROADSTER, Tesla Motors is the first automobile manufacturer to receive a unanimous vote as the best car of the year. )
JUSTINE MUSK (NOVELIST, ELON MUSK’S FIRST WIFE)

Vance clearly illustrates that Musk is not perfect but his story will eventually, if not now, be recorded as historically important.

For one thing, Musk exposes the lie of Trump’s vilification of immigrants.  Musk is born as a South African who comes to America through Canada.  He becomes an American job producer and manufacturer when both are sorely needed to revivify the, largely mythical, American dream.  Musk gives America hope.

TRUMP’S IMAGE OF THE WORLD (Musk is born as a South African who comes to America through Canada.  He becomes an American job producer and manufacturer when both are sorely needed to revivify the, largely mythical, American dream.  Musk gives America hope. )

Musk faces many obstacles in his life; just as all humans do.  One advantage for Musk is in being white; oh, and being blessed with a prodigious memory, extraordinary cognitive ability, and an immense drive to succeed.  Musk relentlessly pursues what he believes in.  Fortunately, Musk’s natural advantages work toward the best interests of humanity; e.g. a cleaner environment, exploration and/or colonization of other worlds.

DONALD TRUMP AND GLOBAL WARMING (Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords is reminiscent of ignorant industrial Luddites.)

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords is reminiscent of ignorant industrial Luddites.  Innovators like Musk pursue an opportune future while Trump and others pursue the mythology of the past.

Both Musk’s and Trump’s errors are human, but their consequences are hugely different. Vance’s biography of Musk shows releasing dragons can benefit society.  In contrast, Trump’s dragons only harm society.  In history, Musk will be remembered fondly; Trump will be recalled sadly.

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