Thursday, January 30, 2020

Fog of Impeachment

The whole country is in a fog, about to crash into a mountainside.

Is it the fog of war? Power-hungry men, mostly, lying and cheating to retain power.

I feel duty-bound to listen to proceedings in the Senate impeachment trial, but it's nonsense.

Today Democratic senators are asking questions to which they know the answers.  They're just asking the House Managers in order to give them the opportunity to speak for removing the president.

Republican senators are asking the president's legal team questions carefully worded to give them the opportunity to say the president has done nothing wrong.  Presidents can't be removed for abuse of power, says Alan Dershowitz.  

MSNBC commentators are frantic about 45 getting away with bribery and abuse of power and obstruction of Congress--thus giving all future presidents permission to do the same.  Heaven only knows what Fox commentators are saying.

I've been feeling glum all day--after being encouraged yesterday by several Senators apparently planning to vote for witnesses and documents.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court sits there silenced.

Even the senators are quasi-silenced--they can only submit small cards, each with one question on it.  

John Bolton's book will come out on March 17, revealing what his testimony would have been if Republicans had not succeeded in quashing witnesses.

Three years ago on November 8, 2016, I thought things couldn't get any worse.

I was wrong.

Women thought that demonstrating against the new president in January would help things.

It didn't.

Many of us thought impeachment was our best course of action as dt began restricting travel from seven Muslim nations.

We were wrong.  Impeachment has occurred, but the Republican Senate refuses to hold a fair trial of the two articles of impeachment.

"A Republic if you can keep it," said Benjamin Franklin.

It's looking as if we can't keep it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Rest in Peace: Kobe Bryant and others

Sunset, Wednesday, January 29,
from Church in the Canyons, Las Virgines Rd.

Today I drove to the crash site of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others on Sunday morning.

After reading so much about it and studying the flight path, I needed to sit on a nearby hillside and pay my respects to those who died.

Meanwhile, a friend who had driven to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon made another visit there today to be with hundreds of other mourners who had placed flowers.

I drove on Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and turned right on Malibu Canyon Highway.  Driving up the narrow canyon with red and tan rock layers turned on end and dramatically exposed, I felt close to the earth.

I decided to stop at the Visitor Center of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Center to get maps with trails and find a peaceful trail near the site but far enough away not to be restricted.

When Malibu Canyon Road became Las Virgines Road, I passed the Bark Park on the right, then the Church in the Canyon Presbyterian Church right across from the crash site.  I circled back to the dog park, left my car, and checked out the trails.  Closed.

Then I walked up a paved road to the Water District building, close to the site.  A police officer told me to leave the private property.  Two others were also asked to leave.  

I walked out to Las Virgines Road again and took a few photos.  I crossed over to the church, where about twenty people stood quietly in small groups. 

A memorial of candles and flowers had accumulated near the stoplight.  The security guard explained to people exactly where the crash remains had been, pointing to the hillside.

The sun was setting as we stood there in respectful silence.

Finally I forced myself to leave, driving home on the 101 freeway.  Going downhill and still further down, I realized how high Las Virgines Road is.  The accident site is at 1,085 feet..  Van Nuys airport is 802 feet, and Burbank 607 feet.

The pilot was flying VFR (visual flight rules) and from Van Nuys onward he was flying above the low-lying fog.  He didn't have a feel for how much the land had risen by the time he got to the place where Malibu/Las Virgines Rd. meets the 101 freeway.  But then the level of the fog being pushed up from the ocean through Malibu Canyon rose and engulfed his helicopter.  He lost his orientation to up and down, north and south.  
Candles and flowers on Las Virgines Rd.,
in front of the church, near the crash site
He increased his speed and the helicopter rose quickly--but then it veered to the left and downward.  Apparently he lost control.  

His speed was something like 168 mph when the helicopter crashed. The precious lives of nine people were lost.

Ara Zobayan, the pilot, didn't have the guts or foresight just to land the helicopter in Van Nuys.  The charter company did not allow its pilots to fly under IFR - Instrument Flight Rules, needed in fog.  He had to use Visual Flight Rules--without visibility.

Kobe probably didn't want to question his judgment--to insist that they just stop and miss the planned basketball game or arrive late.

They were both saving face.  Being polite and confident.  

The lesson for us: pause.  Reassess plans.  Give up on something.  Look at the larger picture.  Better late than never.

I guess that's why I had to follow this sad news so closely and even drive to the site.  I had to find the lessons for me in this calamity.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Understanding the Kobe Bryant Crash

Hillside where the helicopter crashed

Two days later much of Los Angeles is still paralyzed by news of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, two other 13-year-olds, three parents, an assistant coach, and the helicopter pilot.  

My daughter Roz showed me the flight path commentary of a pilot who posts on YouTube as VASAviation with 315,000 subscribers.  

He put together the path of the copter and its communications with air controllers:

Viewer comments on his YouTube report are good too; one person compares this crash to the one 30 years ago that killed Stevie Ray Vaughn.

The altitude of the crash site is 1,085 feet.  Just before the crash, the pilot had ascended to 2,300 feet, trying to get out of the fog.  

Here's Tuesday's report on the flight path in the LA Times:  

Addition on Jan. 29, 2020:

This summary by Forbes says it all:

The helicopter that crashed Sunday killing basketball star Kobe Bryant and eight others was owned by a charter company that only operated under visual flight rules, and its pilots were not permitted to fly solely based on their cockpit gauges if they encountered weather that limited visibility, a former pilot for the company told Forbes.

Here's the LAT report for Wednesday, citing weather and the lack of a terrain warning system:

Monday, January 27, 2020

Remember the Holocaust: the least we can do

Today is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Here's a BBC report on the commemoration including the comments of various survivors:

Henri Kichka speaks about his time in Auschwitz, where his father, mother, and two sisters died.

Anita Lasker Wallfisch survived by playing the cello in the camp orchestra.

We must stop the current genocides in Myanmar, South Sudan, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, Central African Republic, and other places.

We must prevent genocide in the future.

Kobe Bryant: Focus vs. Pause

Kobe Bryant in 2015
Photo by Keith Allison of Hanover, MD, US

All they had to do was land.  

There were plenty of airports all around.  The police helicopters in northern Los Angeles County were all grounded on that Sunday morning because of the thick fog.  In a helicopter, the smallest mistake can mean death.  

All they had to do was land at Van Nuys Airport, for example, and take a taxi from there to Thousand Oaks.  Or a Lyft or Uber.  

Why did the pilot fly on, just beneath the dense fog, without much clearance between his copter and the ground?  Why didn't one of the control towers advise them to land?

Why didn't Kobe Bryant pause and think: "What's the highest priority?  Saving time?  Or admitting defeat caused by low visibility?"

Kobe is famous for his ability to focus.  He could cut other things out of his mind and play intensely.  In practice and in games that count, he focused on honing his skills and making the right moves to win the game.  

But sometimes it's important to do a course correction.  To pause.  It can be valuable not to downplay the pain but to listen to it.  Pain is a message.  Sometimes survival requires pressing on through pain, but sometimes survival requires pausing and reassessing.  

How important is it to get to the Mamba Sports Academy?  Is the game always the most important thing?

Announcers were telling stories from Kobe's life yesterday, including one about Kobe seeing a pack of wild dogs while he was on safari.  Though humans in a vehicle were nearby, they continued to focus intently on the prey they had just killed.  

Kobe was impressed by their focus, said the person remembering him, just as he admired the focus of sports players who had that ability to filter out everything else.

But in the decisions that caused that helicopter crash, intense focus on the goal may have been a liability.  

The situation required a pause and a change of plans.  


The crash happened on a hillside southeast of Las Virgines Rd., near a Presbyterian church called  Church of the Canyon (about 16 miles NW of where I live in Santa Monica).  Apparently the helicopter was trying to follow the 101 freeway to Thousand Oaks in dense, low fog.  But that area is 700+ ft. higher in altitude than LA or Santa Monica or beach towns.  There was not much room to fly beneath the low-lying fog. For some reason the helicopter veered from following the 101 and followed Las Virgines, where it hit a hill. The  Las Virgines to Malibu Canyon Road is a 4-lane through-road from the coast to the valley with lots of traffic.  I wonder if the pilot mistook it for the 101.

My brother Bill describes flying on a helicopter with low visibility in a snowstorm in Germany, following the autobahn because it was one of the few landmarks they could see.  

A map of the area where the crash occurred:

News article with a map:

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Cult according to Lev Parnas

Center: Lev Parnas & Rudi Giuliani

"It was like being in a cult," said Lev Parnas in his interview with Rachel Maddow

"It's bad to say, and I keep saying it, but it was like being in a cult. When they say organized crime, I don't think Trump is organized. I think he's like a cult leader," said Parnas in the second half of his interview with Rachel Maddow.
He speaks from the inside looking out.  He spent months inside the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., barely leaving the premises.  He recognizes the phenomenon of which he was a part.
Jim Jones.  David Koresh.  Charlie Manson.  See this list of cult leaders in the 20th C. 
This president holds Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in thrall, as well as 51 of the senators and 30-40% of the American public.
Cults eventually fall.  
See also:

"Maddow Posts 4.3 million Viewers..."

Transcript, Pt. 1

Transcript, Pt. 2

Newsweek report

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Will they uphold their oaths?

Senator Lindsey Graham registering his oath
to do impartial justice

Just when we're exhausted from the assassination followed by the missile strikes followed by the Ukrainian jet shot down followed by a vote to deliver the articles of impeachment, we wake up Wednesday morning to watch a solemn speech by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Then at 2 pm Pacific Standard Time (5 pm EST), we watch the procession of House managers carrying the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

But the Senate turns them away.  Come back tomorrow at noon.

Pause Button on WhatsApp 2.19.352

Thursday at noon (9 am in California) we watch Chief Justice John Roberts being sworn in to preside over the Senate trial.

Then we watch him swear in all the senators.

"Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?" Roberts asked them. 

Then we watch them sign the register, recording their oath to "do impartial justice" and to uphold the US Constitution in this trial.  

But will they uphold their oaths?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

14 days of non-stop crisis: Iraq, Iran, Impeachment

A Boeing 737-800

It's been a hell of a year so far.  Here are the first 14 days: 

Jan. 1 - Happy new year, everybody, we said on Tuesday night. May there be peace and good will in 2020.  And then the year began.

Jan. 2 - US assassinates the top Iranian general by drone on Iraqi soil (near Baghdad), killing several Iraqis at the same time.  No other president would have ordered this extreme reaction to the storming of US embassy gates in Baghdad's green zone--but 45 apparently had a temper tantrum after watching video footage. 

Jan. 3, 4, 5, 6 - Israel and the US await Iran's revenge, especially US soldiers and citizens in Iraq, the Middle East, and around the world.  Even in Santa Monica, I don't feel safe on Friday, Jan. 3.

Jan. 7 -  Tuesday evening we hear that Iran has sent missiles to Iraqi bases where US troops are stationed. Everyone waits for news of casualties, deaths.  Then a Ukraine-owned Boeing 737-800 explodes just after take-off from Tehran (not the 737 Max plagued by malfunctions).  World tension shoots sky-high again.  Will 45 retaliate in a crazy way again?  Is he starting World War III?

And 56 people die in a stampede during the burial procession for Qasem Soleimani--56 people that would be alive today had the US president not assassinated the Iranian general.

Jan. 8 - Word comes that there are no deaths or casualties on the two bases that were attacked.  Nerves calm a bit.  Did Iran aim the missiles carefully to avoid US deaths?  But there are also rumors that Iran may have shot down the Ukrainian airliner by mistake.  Iran threatens to flatten Tel Aviv and Haifa if the US retaliates for the missiles hitting Iraqi bases.
Jan. 9 - Newspapers and television show photos of the 176 people who died on that jet--176 people who would still be alive had 45 not been so rash. A young couple married one week.  A mother with her infant.  Many were graduate students and alumni of universities in Tehran traveling abroad to study. 

I'm heartbroken all day by these photos.  In my Pilates class, I follow the instructions to lift my legs and place my arms at my side, feeling whole, feeling grateful that I still have all my limbs.  I keep thinking about the 176 people who have been blown to bits.

Jan. 10 - I'm still sad, mourning lives lost.  The POTUS seems to be calming down, not ratcheting up tension.  For a change.  It looks as if we can turn to plans for 2020 again. 

Jan. 11 - Iran admits to shooting the 737 down by accident.  Outraged Iranians pour into the streets in protest that last days.

Jan. 12 - I attend Wilshire Presbyterian Church to see 4 friends who were in Israel with me a year ago.  We're grateful not to be in Israel during this crisis with Iran threatening to strike Israeli cities.

Jan. 13 - Impeachment news rises to the front.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow delivery of the articles of impeachment to the Senate.  Iran crisis pauses.

But the LA Times and other media present first-hand reports from US soldiers on the two attacked Iraqi bases.  It's clear that Iranians tried to kill soldiers.  Lives would have been lost had there not been a short warning time--and luck.  Would the 45th president have ordered massive retaliation?  Read this dramatic report from soldiers on the al-Asad base.  

Jan. 14 - Tuesday again.  Speaker Pelosi announces a vote on whether to deliver the articles of impeachment.  A few hours later the representatives vote to confirm her decision.  

But a couple of hours after that, Democratic candidates for president gather to debate in Des Moines, Iowa--as if anyone had the energy to focus on a debate after all the drama in Iran and after watching the speeches and vote on sending articles of impeachment to the Senate. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Innocent Deaths after US Killing of Soleimani

First Iraqis impacted by Iranian aggression said it; then Republicans like former governor Nikki Haley repeated the lie:
"Democrats are mourning Soleimani."
Title: MQ-9 Reaper aerial video DOD 107212162-5e1342c0d88af.webm
Author: Video by Senior Airman Haley Stevens

I tweeted back in the early hours of Friday, January 3:
We are not mourning Suleimani.  We are mourning the lives that will be lost because Trump used violence.  He did not use diplomacy.  He broke the Iran nuclear agreement.

My tweet earned 406 likes and 19 retweets.

Then dt tweeted, "When Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to defend Soleimani, that's a very bad thing for our country."  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to say, "Democrats are not mourning Soleimani.  He was a bad man."

Today in her weekly press conference, she said, "We certainly do not respect, and I from my intelligence background know just how bad Soleimani was."  

She announced that the House would vote today on a war powers resolution limiting Trump's ability to act in Iran.

That resolution passed 224 in favor to 194 opposed.  Three Republicans and an Independent supported the resolution.

Meanwhile, the toll of innocent lives lost as a result of the Soleimani assassination rises to about 232 human lives:

~~56 or more in the stampede that occurred at Soleimani's burial

~~176 on the Ukrainian plane accidentally shot down by Iranian missiles a few hours after other missiles were sent to Iraqi airbases.  Those dead include 63 Canadians.

We mourn these innocents, not Soleimani.

dt is ultimately responsible for these deaths.  These 232 human beings would still be alive if he had not ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.  

Note: there were actually 10 people killed in the strike on Soleimani.  One of them was the Iraqi politician and military leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.  He was an ally with Iran.  I don't include these ten in my total of innocent lives lost because they were military men and had killed people.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Rasha Al Aqeedi - Raise Your Voice

I made a new friend on Twitter, Rasha Al Aqeedi, during the night of January 2-3 while I was tweeting and reading everything I could find on the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Made in Mosul
Chai enthusiast. Name's pronounced ' Russia' ~ Editor-in-Charge @irfaaSawtak
Washington, DC

Her tweets are providing me with an insider Iraqi perspective on the events of the past week because she was born in Mosul and now works in Washington for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The Atlantic just published an article by Rasha on the protests last weekend at the US Embassy in Baghdad: "The World Paid Attention to the Wrong Iraqi Protests."  It's in the Ideas section (analysis, essays, and commentary), online only, I think. 

I was reading tweets most of the night of Jan. 2-3, and I replied to a tweet by Rasha and Nada Jabbar.  Nada tweets in Arabic, so I had to translate it.  Rasha had tweeted contempt for liberal Americans who were "mourning" Soleimani.

Then I tweeted "We are not mourning Suleimani.  We are mourning the lives that will be lost because Trump used violence.  He did not use diplomacy.  He broke the Iran nuclear agreement."

After I replied to them, my phone started beeping with clicks --someone had liked my statement.  I got 400+ likes and 18 retweets because Rasha has 48,500 followers.  That was a new experience for me.

Now I am closely following her comments on the situation.

Here's Nada Jabbar's Twitter profile too:


12K Tweets

ندى جبار
لا تحدثني كثيرا عن الدين لكن دعني أرى الدين في أخلاقك وسلوكك وتعاملاتك
The Arabic says, "Do not talk to me a lot about religion, but let me see religion in your ethics and behavior and dealings."

My prayer:
Peace be upon you ~ As-salaam alaikum