Reactive, Not Proactive. Ida Rears Its Ugly Eye.

Why The Hell Did U.S. Strategic Advisors Recommend This Withdrawal Plan?

I am angry. I am disgusted and stuck in a realm of bewilderment. I will not make light of the situation in Kabul, Afghanistan out of respect for the thirteen U.S. service members who lost their lives last Thursday to an attack by ISIS-K. Yes, ISIS-K, a group of undisciplined savages who found their way past Taliban security (yes, I wrote Taliban security) and set off a bomb near a security gate at Kabul’s airport.

I am going to provide information and my take, but I will stick with my ethos of no religion/no politics. In short, I don’t care whether this 20-year debacle or current situation boiled down to George Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, or Joe Biden. This failure to gather the correct intelligence, provide strategic and decisive operational plans, and the lack of proactive execution regarding this 20-year mess does not fall into a category of political football.

  • The failure of correct intelligence to execute a successful withdrawal from Afghanistan is surely among the greatest in the history of the United States.
  • The intelligence reports stated that if the Taliban were to reach Kabul at all, it would not be until well after the 9/11 deadline for the U.S. departure. Then, U.S. intelligence spit up all over themselves, suddenly stating that the Taliban would reach Kabul in 90 days. Then, even more suddenly, it was 72 hours. Shameful to say the least.
  • Then came reports that Taliban fighters were at the gates of the city, and then they were filming themselves in the presidential palace that had been vacated by its occupants barely 24 hours earlier. A disastrous intelligence failure that led to various strategic withdrawal plans provided by the State Department and military advisors.
  • How the hell did U.S. intelligence officers, after being imbedded in Kabul and other Afghanistan provinces, not thoroughly know the enemy, figure out its capabilities, and correctly forecast how likely and quickly they would act? After 20 years, how could U.S. intelligence personnel not gauge the vulnerability of Afghan security forces?

Again, I will not make light of this situation but with my relatively warped mind, I will try to bring a bit of relevance (and levity) to this sad situation. The U.S. State Department and military advisors were charged with devising strategic and operational withdrawal plans BASED ON THE INTELLIGENCE THEY WERE GIVEN. These advisors were the ‘designers’ of the various plans that eventually were vetted and put into play by U.S. military and State Department leaders. As a point of ‘misguided’ relevance, American Motors Corporation (the infamous AMC), had a design team that were charged with coming up with automobile designs based on the market research (intelligence per se’) provided to them. The AMC design team, using this so-called market research, produced various auto designs that included the Gremlin and the Pacer. These designs were among many that someone at AMC, a product manager or leadership team, eventually approved. They approved two of the most god-awful looking cars ever, sending German and Japanese auto executives into a state of laughter heard around the world. My point: don’t point your finger at the ‘designers’ as they were doing their jobs based on the information given to them. Don’t blame the U.S. State Department and military leaders who, based on the intelligence provided, devised many plans (designs), one of which was approved by someone at a high level within the U.S. bureaucracy. Disgusting, sickening, and unfathomable. The phrase ‘heads should roll’ is never more appropriate.

1977 AMC Gremlin and 1978 AMC Pacer DL | 1977 AMC Gremlin an… | Flickr
The Gremlin & Pacer. It was not the designer. It was the person who APPROVED the design.

To the families of the thirteen service members who lost their lives: Today and always, may loving memories bring you peace, comfort, and strength.

Is This A Katrina Redo?

Today we pray for the Gulf Coast of the United States….especially the New Orleans area. It was sixteen years ago that Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the New Orleans (NOLA) area – when poorly designed levees failed to keep the storm surge from drowning areas of NOLA, causing the loss of life and despair.

I will never forget participating in a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans a year after Katrina. We were working on a home in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, which was completely under water when Katrina swept through the area. We were framing a deck of a new home and next to us was an empty concrete block home – with a water line on the home at approximately 18′ from the ground. It was a bit surreal trying to comprehend how much water poured into the 9th Ward.

Two years ago, NOAA estimated that if another Hurricane Katrina-like storm were to hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast today, it would likely cause up to $200 billion in damage to the region, even though the city today is much smaller, with only 80% of its 2005 population, and better protected, with dramatic improvements to its hurricane levee system. Let’s hope that NOAA’s estimates do not hold true, as later today Hurricane Ida targets the city of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Godspeed to all along the Gulf Coast.

New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward is still reeling from Hurricane Katrina's  damage 15 years later | Katrina |
The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – NOLA’s Lower Ninth Ward.

Adios, pay if forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

California Dreamin’.

California’s Four Seasons: Fire, Flood, Mud, & Drought.

Many thanks to all of you who have contributed as a guest writer. This week, a friend and former business associate stepped up with his take on his home state of California. Peter has enjoyed a career as a CFO with many successful entities. This week he chimes in on the serious drought and fires devastating parts of California. While many of us around the world are dealing with our own set of climate and socio-economic issues, the dynamics affecting California are troublesome. Note: if a sovereign nation, California would be the world’s fifth largest economy, ahead of India and behind Germany (and yes, LM, there is a good bit of agriculture in California! 🙂 ).

As a resident of Southern California (CA) for over thirty years of my life, I have some insight into the fire season. Yes, CA has four seasons, just like the rest of the country. They are Fire, Flood, Mud and Drought. The fires in Northern California are natural. The vast majority are the result of lightning strikes and the burning of the undergrowth. This natural process replenishes the soil and thins coverage for new growth to survive. What is completely unnatural in the process is the massive consumption of water by California’s residents, agriculture, and industry.

A small digression: In the early days of America, explorers sailing up/down the West coast only needed to bring their boats near the shore to haul up fresh water. The aquafer under present-day California leeched so much fresh water, that it was still fresh 100 yards offshore. Today, the salt water has leeched several miles onshore into the soil and ground water due to California’s unquenchable thirst.

In the 1940’s and 50’s our natural lands and our parks needed to be maintained and cleared of fallen trees, dropped leaves, and pine needles, etc. Why? Because all of those things are fuel sources. Overtime, as budgets got tighter and priorities shifted, less infrastructure was dedicated to clearing fuel sources for large scale fire events. Subsequently, the more fuel on the ground, the larger the fires.

Going back to the discussion on water…CA, especially Southern California, holds most of the power when it comes to water in the region. When CA became a state, and as early as 1850, planners were involved in adopting the common law of riparian rights. In 1851, they recognized the appropriative right system as having the force of law. California has used a larger and larger straw, sucking up water from the Rockies and Northern California ever since. As the population grew, demand for water grew with it.

Over time, the water usage in Southern California, Las Vegas, Arizona, etc. has forever changed the water table and the balance. When there is a drought year, more water is released to Southern California – it’s their rights, it’s the law. This leaves Northern California, Colorado, etc. dryer and more vulnerable to a natural event, like a forest fire, being a major catastrophe. Add to that, the flight from the cities to the sprawling suburbs and mountain homes to “get away from it all” and we have, over the decades, created the perfect storm.

We moved into the woods.
We stopped taking care of the woods.
We made the woods dryer.

So, to the original reference from last week’s post: “The fires of California and Evia – are these man-made or due to changes with the global climate?” I would label it a natural event made worse by our own actions. I am not a huge proponent of Global Climate Change. I do though, absolutely believe that our actions in regions impact those regions profoundly and with long-term consequences.

On last point… It’s California, not Cali. Nobody who actually lives there would ever say “Cali”. SoCal or NorCal – perfectly acceptable. That is my take. What is yours?

California is a very interesting place to live, according to my friends who now or once lived there. I like a number of things in California, including the Carlsbad, La Jolla, Carmel, Central Coast and Bay Areas. I, for one, like Los Angeles, and so did Missing Persons as described in their 1982 hit Walking in L.A.

Walking in L.A. by Missing Persons – circa 1982.

Adios, pay if forward, be safe and Have a Funday Sunday!

A Year Later.

Some Things Just Don’t Go Away.

It has been a year since my post with many words to ponder. I listed people, news events, and other items of interest (or concern). Now, one year later, in the middle of the Dog Days of August, here is a new list that unfortunately contains some of the same words and topics from the summer of 2020:

  • The fires of California and Evia – are these man-made or due to changes with the global climate?
  • Mayhem over masks – sort of sad that we fight about wearing a mask.
  • The CDC & WHO – there is still varying info coming from these two authorities.
  • Sweltering heat – in all the obvious places but also in the Pacific Northwest?
  • Atlanta Hawks – a good draft puts them in a good position for 2021-22.
  • Vaccines – I would never tell anyone to get vaccinated, but please look at the science and data.
  • Schools reopen – let’s do what is right for the CHILDREN.
  • Covid-19 and Variants – now there is the Variant +.
  • Caitlyn Jenner and Gavin Newsom – two reasons I avoid politics.
  • Atlanta United resurgence – a new manager and new DP.
  • Orlando Pride & Orlando City – in a word, strong.
  • Restaurants needing employees – the issue of finding help continues.
  • The minimum wage – will $15.00 an hour spur employment?
  • Return to the office – not so fast.
  • Terror in Ethiopia – where are the United Nations’ security forces?
  • Jeopardy without Alex Trebek – very big shoes to fill.
  • Airborne pathogens – the Variant’s path to contraction.
  • Bezos & Branson – money talks.
  • N95 – the mask of the month.
  • Cryptocurrencies – funny money.
  • Fans back in the stands – let us hope this continues.
  • ICU capacity – at levels similar to a year ago.
  • Cuomo & Cuomo – I have no words.
  • The SEC – it is going to grow. Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Spirit Airlines fail – no planning; no forecasting; no operational redundancy.
  • College Football – two weeks and counting.
  • Cruise lines in flux – on Friday, twenty-seven people aboard a Carnival cruise tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Dr. Fauci – you are 80-years-old?
  • The English Premier League – let’s go!
  • Afghanistan – now we send back 3,000 troops?
  • Tom Brady – meh.
  • The Olympic Games – some surprises including the U.S. Women’s National Team.
  • Asteroid Bennu – the possible impact with Earth is a long way off…we hope.
  • Haiti – this country just cannot catch a break.

Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

Air Travel. Top Of Mind Thoughts.

We Need A Bit More of Alfredo Rivera.

  • In last week’s post I mentioned my surprise at the number of airport and in-air incidents as we return to air travel. I took a look at the FAA website and found data that is really concerning: Just in the last week there were over one hundred incidents on planes, which brings the overall year-to-date total to 3,509. While I thought that passengers would just be thankful that air travel is once again a transportation option, it seems that there are a few issues fueling the fire:
  • Fewer frequent travelers on board – with business travel down, the level of inexperienced air travelers has increased leading to many misunderstandings, from TSA security checks to onboarding procedures, including the ‘norms’ of air travel rules and regulations.
  • Inconsistent and changing mask rules – this is self-explanatory but reality tells me that if a private enterprise/business requires you to wear a mask on board, you wear a mask on board or choose to not fly.
  • Pandemic fatigue – there is no doubt that all of us are completely over the issues, concerns, and endgame of the pandemic. Count me in as “fatigued” and with the onslaught of the Delta Variant there is no end in sight.
  • Violence – incidents of violent behavior are increasing and airlines are part of society and part of this trend. Sad, but true.

Last week’s incident aboard a Frontier Airlines flight brought all of these issues to the forefront. Drunk and belligerent, a passenger’s behavior crossed the line in so many ways. Possible charges for this moron will hopefully include a short stint in prison. Alfredo Rivera’s performance in the video below is Academy award material, but the reasons he had to interfere and marginalize this jerk are very concerning.

Well done Alfredo Rivera.

  • Four Thoughts As We Head Into The Middle Of August.
  1. Another reason for the number of onboard incidents is the quick increase in passenger counts over the last few months. With that said, that fact does not give Spirit Airlines a pass with their lack of planning and forecasting. I do not like the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ but in this case the cliché holds true.
  2. There is new ownership controlling the National Women’s Soccer League’s Orlando Pride and Major League Soccer’s Orlando City. The Wilf family, who made their mark with commercial real estate, have a vested interest in professional sports having owned the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings for last seventeen years. Here is to the Wilf family leading the charge providing both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City the resources to be top-of-class in both leagues. The Pride has already taken a big step replacing their former head coach with Becky Burleigh, one of the most successful women’s soccer coaches of all time. During Burleigh’s 26-year career at the University of Florida, she won 14 SEC regular-season titles, had 12 SEC tournament wins, 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, one national title with a total of more than 500 victories. Hopefully, the Pride can hold onto Burleigh for a while as there is no doubt that Kate Markgraf and the U.S. Women’s National Team will be ringing Burleigh’s mobile phone soon.
  3. There must be a way. A way forward with fire prevention, especially in the foothills of California. The ongoing “Dixie Fire,” named after the road where it started, has burned 438,339 acres, with only 21 percent containment. There has never been a better time for Smokey Bear to remind everyone that “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”
  4. Just when you think 91-year-old Clint Eastwood has finally completed an incredible career as an actor, director and producer, along comes his latest, which from the trailer, looks like a great film. Eastwood’s list of honors and awards are staggering: five Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award and five People’s Choice Awards. Will we ever forget his iconic lines “Make My Day” and “Get Off My Lawn?” At the end of this trailer, Eastwood again has come up with another gem. 🙂
Will “Cry Macho” be Eastwood’s final movie?

Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

Short Takes For August 1, 2021.

A Quick Look At Some Top of Mind Topics.

  • Vaccinated People With Breakthrough Infections Can Spread The Delta Variant, CDC Says. How much different information from the CDC, the WHO, and the NIAID can we absorb?
Editorial Cartoon.
Can we please get consensus on the facts and recommendations?
  • At The ‘Quarantine Hotel,’ Olympians Deal With Isolation And Shattered Dreams. Stop bitching about Simone Biles not competing. She is the world’s GOAT – if she is not in the right frame of mind and does not want to compete, that is her choice and her choice alone. Leave her alone a remember what she has accomplished. She is the Greatest Of All Time.
editorial cartoon
Enough said…
  • Vast majority of ICU patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, ABC News survey finds. This survey was done by ABC News and here is the detail: Of the 271 total COVID patients in the surveyed ICUs, 255 patients, or approximately 94%, were unvaccinated against COVID-19. Again, don’t shoot the messenger.
  • Report: Hawks to acquire Delon Wright as part of three-team trade with Celtics, Kings. The Atlanta Hawks came very close to making the NBA Finals…and with the addition of Delon Wright, and draft picks Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper, look for some more great things starting in the Fall.
  • Flight attendants receive defense training as incidents with violent passengers rise. Amazing as I thought that everyone would just be happy to be traveling by air again?
editorial cartoon
What is next for flight attendants?
  • Skirts. Bikini bottoms. Leotards. Ahead of Olympics, athletes call out sexist uniform practices. When, why and how do Olympic Committee authorities get to decide what women must wear in order to compete? This is the Olympic Games, not a runway in New York City’s fashion district.
Editorial Cartoon.
What goes around comes around.

That’s It For The First Sunday Of August. Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday.