View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.

As a child, you learn to recognize the signs confronting you. You look up at the sky and see clouds rolling in, grey clouds, and you know to leave the field before a downpour. On the playground, you see a bunch of kids gathering, see their body language, their peering over at you or your group and are forewarned that conflict is about to begin.

All through life, signs we pick up on are instinctively necessary to keep us safe. When you become an adult you watch for signs in the stock-market trends, or listen to rumors in your company about financial shifts or personnel changes on the wind. The police use criminal signs to out-smart or prevent crime. At night you walk the streets listening, watching for signs of danger. Soldiers use signs on the battlefield to spot the enemy and estimate movement; a puff of dust here, a trail of smoke there, sounds of an engine revving. Without seeing signs, recognizing them, and then acting on them, most of life's perils would come to pass.

In this age of waves of information on Facebook, YouTube, the main media outlets in the USA and newspapers, you may be torn between caring—deeply caring—and feeling you have to respond in some quick but well-meaning manner. Click like on Facebook and the other person will know you paid attention to them, reaffirming kinship. Watch the evening news and the channel will get ratings which assure them—perhaps falsely—they are providing a vital service. Buy a national paper and—at the very least—you may feel assured you understand the country you reside in and community you “belong” to.

All of that is likely to be nonsense. Well meaning, perhaps, but nonsense. There is so much you are missing and being deprived of knowing.

In the national drug abuse debate, fueled by the mind-boggling death toll numbers, we are told that the opioid crisis grew out of over-prescription of legal drugs which lead to illegal (cheaper) drugs. True, but that seems, to me, to be trying to momentarily treat the sick patient instead of looking at the cause for the illness in the first place.

Children with “over-active learning disabilities” and “attention deficit disorders” can be helped to perform as “normal, stable, obedient children” with the use of a regular stream of chemicals designed to “calm the hyperactive mind.” Fancy words for “dope ‘em up and they will be quiet”. For a scant few, such drugs may be a stopgap or a momentary necessity to overcome trauma or, indeed, a mental or physical infirmity that needs to be addressed on a long-term basis. For the majority of children being fed these FDA “controlled substances,” the plain truth is that it is easier as a parent and teacher to deal with a bright, alert, inquisitive and abundantly agile mind by calming the mind and slowing things down.

Date: Oct. 27, 2017

Time for an aviation roundup of interesting – and life affecting – news. Let’s start with the TSA’s flip-flop on computers in your checked luggage, not to be in your checked luggage, maybe in your checked luggage, nope – need to be hand inspected. And their concerns are now being expanded to tablets and cell phones. Part of the issue here is that the lithium-ion batteries in these devices have a flaw – if the lithium is exposed (broken case) to oxygen (air) the lithium bursts into flame. If you check in these devices – any devices with such batteries (shavers, gaming consoles, hearing aid batteries, etc.) in your luggage, it goes into the bowels of the airport and may be x-rayed. What are they going to do when they find something in your luggage, call you back through security to retrieve your phone or tablet? Hardly. Perhaps the TSA screeners will resort to their time-tested removal of the device – probably to sell it on eBay. Problem solved.

The fires in California posed a serious risk to life, in ways you might not have imagined. When fires were first detected, the first responders were the CHiP’s (California Highway Patrol) officers in helicopters. How many helicopters you may ask (since the media never covered this)? On the first night there were only two, working 16 hours nonstop. What happened was they would get a 911 call from a dispatcher that someone was trapped behind a wall of fire – if they could get in, they would. A drone or fixed-wing aircraft would turn their camera to the GPS location to see if it was possible and then a helicopter would swoop in and rescue people. That first night, they air-lifted 15 people from harm’s way when roads were impassable. As the fire grew, so did the air support, expanding helicopters to 12 operating out of Petaluma, going in and out of the flames rescuing hundreds.

Date: Oct. 12, 2017

“We won’t do business with a company that is trying to sue us.” Said Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister threatening to cancel orders for all Boeing F/A-18 fighters. Why? Because Boeing has asked this US administration – who have agreed – to levy a 220% import tax on 75 Canadian Bombardier airliners that Delta has ordered. Boeing is complaining that Canada subsidizes the manufacture of the airliners. Britain, who make the engines for these planes, also is threatening to “revisit orders made with US contractors.”

The US decision for the 220% tax was unilateral, without negotiation and, frankly, silly. And the domino effect is in full swing. If the US succeeds in convincing the US International Trade Commission (USITC; which our administration controls) to go along with the White House and Boeing decision it solves nothing but will immediately cause other ripple effects. Who and where? Here’s a possible list of countries who have previously been convinced by the US not to undertake such unilateral decisions, but to negotiate and to come to an accommodation:

 Date: Oct. 20, 2017

Only humans choose the shortest path. No other living creature makes a straight line. Straight lines do not appear in Nature. The first straight lines to appear were made by wetting a piece of leather, folding it and creasing the fold with a rock. When the leather was opened, there was a straight line across the tan surface. This was the beginning of writing, keeping records, making maps, and engineering.

Two people married and a second fold was made to cross with the first. When there were children, parallel lines were made with the mother’s if it was a girl, the father’s if it was a boy. When they got married, a second cross was started, and so on. In time, these patterns were colored, sometimes annotated to show deaths and changes of tribes. All over the world, so-called primitive people kept records this way (in some parts of the world they still do). Some of these family maps became symbols of the family’s unity and were later woven into cloth, worn or used to prove which tribe, which ancestral community you belong to. Think this sounds far-fetched? Have you never seen Scottish tartan or Persian carpets? Every kilt worn is a declaration of family record of ancestry and inter-tribal marriage. Some are quite colorful with many colors (tribes) inter-crossing. As you step into the threshold of a tent on to different patterns of Persian and Kilim carpets, you are being told a variation of: “The Johnson’s live here.”

Date: Oct. 4, 2017

What is the news? According to Bill Paley, founder of CBS, you need a balance in broadcasting; one side as entertainment, like Frank Sinatra, and the other as news, like Edward R. Murrow. Fred Friendly, the ex-head of CBS news once said, “Television makes so much [money] at its worst that it can't afford to do its best.” That’s certainly proving to be the case these past weeks.

If you have a mind to, watch the morning and evening news with a stopwatch. Of the half hour news in the evening, you will find that the 30 minutes are actually 21 minutes when you remove commercials. Then you will find the 5 main topics for the evening are covered in under 6 minutes collectively. The rest is feature pieces, feel-good segments at the end, all meant to entertain you, hold your interest, keep viewers happy and buying commercial products (news is controlled by the marketing departments these days). When the evening news was broadcast in the early ‘70s, the coverage of the Vietnam conflict occupied 15 minutes a night, unless testimony on Watergate took priority. Nothing used to be glanced over, no fighting American story had to give way for a snow fall, forest fire, or cat chasing away a kid being attacked by a stray dog on the family driveway.