Just in case there is some confusion over the definition…
Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
Archive for the ‘Heroes’ Category.
Long ago in an ancient empire a subjugated people enjoys privileged status. This people had once belonged to another kingdom, but dissension caused them to successfully rebel, setting up their own on a large island in a broad and deep river. Fearing those whom they once considered they brothers, they allied with an even more powerful but distant empire exchanging the military service of their sons for protection. The greater empire so valued this exchange that it exempted the people from taxes. The subjugated people were known as the Batavians living in what would one day be known as the Netherlands. The greater empire, Rome.
The Batavian soldiers came with a fearsome reputation and the Romans deployed them widely. They sent them against the Britains after they showed incredible discipline and ferocity against the barbarian Germans. Unusually for vassal troops the Romans allowed Batavians to command their own troops, but the best Roman generals from the foundation of the Republic all the way through Caesar always valued results more than precedence, and one of these Batavian commanders shone above all others. His name was Julius Civilis and it was claimed he was of royal blood.
One of the Roman generals who commanded him saw Civilis as a threat. He had him arrested on made up charges of treason and sent to Rome in chains to Emperor Nero where he was to be strangled, burned alive or otherwise meet a gruesome end for the emperor’s entertainment. It was 69AD and Rome was a hotbed of intrigue. By the time the year was out Rome would have 4 emperors. When Civilis arrived in chains Nero had committed suicide and his successor showed no interest in this noble from a tiny vassal at the edge of the empire and had him freed.
Civilis wasn’t safe though. Supporting the right guy at the wrong time just as easily get you killed as backing the wrong guy at the right time in Rome, and the succession of emperors pretty much guaranteed that everyone was going to be on the wrong side of the guy in power at one time or another. During this time Civilis learned to truly hate Rome and began planning his rebellion. But he had to survive and did so by professing his support for Vespasian, a general who ended the chaos that year and took firm control of Rome.
But not the Empire. Civilis made his way back to his homeland and under the guise of his outward support of Vespasian convinced his people to rearm and rebel against Rome. It was an easy task. Roman commanders had taken to conscripting old men and young boys, becoming wealthy from the bribes given from their families for their release. The handsomest young men were targeted for what the historian Tacitus calls “immoral purposes.” Civilis summoned the chiefs and nobles to a sacred grove and laid the foundation of the rebellion. Tacitus writes that Civilis spoke, “We are no longer treated … like allies, but as menials and slaves… Now conscription is upon us: children are to be torn from their parents, brother from brother, never probably to be seen again. And yet the fortunes of Rome were never more depressed… There is nothing to fear from legions that exist only on paper… We have infantry and cavalry: the Germans are our kinsmen: the Gauls share our ambition. Even the Romans will be grateful if we go to war. If we fail, we can claim credit for supporting Vespasian: if we succeed, there will be no one to call us to account.”
Civilis struck the Roman legions on the Rhine, forcing them out of Germany and capturing their ships. Using their own advanced military tactics against them, Civilis defeated two legions. Seeing one of their own leading a rebellion against their masters, Batavian members abandoned their posts and switched sides in the middle of the battle.
His success spread throughout Gaul and Germany, and both peoples proclaimed him their champion for liberty, flooding his army with recruits. Nevertheless Civilis made his growing army swear allegiance to Vespasian. He even sent envoys to the Roman legions he defeated asking them to join him and do the same. They refused, saying “they never followed the advice either of a traitor or of an enemy.” Nonetheless inspired by his success the province of Gaul revolted. Vespasian sent several cohorts of Batavians to capture Civilis, but instead they joined him. Two commanders of the Gallic auxiliaries convinced Roman forces occupying Gaul to revolt and join Civilis. Gaul, which had enjoyed independence until the late 2nd century and which was only crushed by Julius Caesar 100 years before, was on the verge of throwing off the Roman yoke and becoming free again.
But as so often happens with disparate groups who are only united by opposition to an occupying force, initial success breeds squabbling which ultimately leads to failure. Vespasian appointed Quintis Petillius Cerialis, a distant relative and like Vespasian an able general. Cerialis had helped crush the rebellion in Britain by the Iceni queen Boudica, and was experienced at handling rebelling natives. He immediately began to follow Cerialis and attacked him when victory was assured, avoiding conflict when it wasn’t. He also sent messages to the various tribes and rebel military leaders, promising them no consequences for their rebellion if they swear allegiance to Rome, offering financial incentives where they were appreciated, or attacking their forces instead. One by one the tribal chieftains and rebellious generals fell into line and swore allegiance to Rome.
With the rebellion collapsing and Civilis tired of fighting, he requested a meeting with Cerialis. They met on a broken down bridge over the river Nabalia, an ancient river in the Netherlands that no longer exists. For the Roman writers such as Tacitus rhetoric was a means of achieving drama, so it’s no surprise that the historian has Civilis confronting his nemesis with a speech. Civilis notes his hatred of Emperor Vespasian’s predecessor Vitellius stating “He began the quarrel, I fostered it. Towards Vespasian I have from the beginning shown respect.” He continues, claiming that his initial actions helped Vespasian by preventing the Roman legions in Germany from marching on Rome in the early days of his rule just as other generals in other regions of the empire maintained the peace. “I raised the standard in Germania, as did Mucianus [Vespasian’s ally] in Syria, Aponius in Moesia, Flavianus [Vespasian’s brother] in Pannonia…”
Tacitus’s histories cut off mid-sentence and at that moment Civilis disappears from history. It’s a disappointment not just for the abrupt end of Tacitus’s work. His writing style is quite modern in many respects, especially when communicated through a modern translator. But more importantly what happened to Civilis? Did Cerialis take him prisoner or did he let him go back to his homeland? Without the discovery of more Tacitus we will likely never know.
1. Too many black people are being gunned down by the police without justification. Black Lives Matter didn’t start for no reason. We have seen too many grainy videos of black men being shot in circumstances that don’t justify the death penalty. Broken taillight. Selling single cigarettes. In these cases unarmed civilians are shot by law enforcement. Under these circumstances the standard police tactic of overwhelming force – aggressive demands, guns drawn – failed. Such shock and awe tactics may work on the battlefield but they should be the last resort in a civil society. There is a place for SWAT tactics, but that place is not in America’s streets during traffic stops.The best tool a cop has is his or her brain, and they must be trained to use it. Currently cops rush in and their goal is to gain the upper hand and control a situation. This tactic minimizes the danger to law enforcement but strips civilians of all power and dignity, leaving them vulnerable to police misconduct. Such vulnerability can often boomerang and lead to more physical aggression by those detained. Instead cops must be trained in deescalation tactics and learn how to operate in an uncontrolled environment. American gun owners are often told how we could learn from gun-free societies such as the UK and Australia. Perhaps American cops can learn new tactics from law enforcement that don’t escalate into a fight/flight situation for everyone involved.
2. It is possible to be pro-cop AND pro-black. Trevor Noah is a liberal asshat in my view, but he’s right on this one topic: It’s possible to be pro-cop and pro-black. This is America in the 21st century. We shouldn’t have to choose between living in total anarchy or a police state. If we cannot come up with a solution that navigates between these two extremes than we do not deserve to live as a free people and our society is doomed.
3. Dead cops won’t fix dead black people. 5 dead cops in Dallas do not increase the sympathy for dead black men like Philando Castile. Neither does this fix the problem unless you believe the problem can only be solved by a full-on race war, and if that’s the case then pick up your shit and leave my country.
4. We have a problem and we have to fix it. As the parent of a teenager and one who is considering becoming a LEO I don’t want my kid to be gunned down for no reason, either for a broken taillight as a civilian or in revenge as a cop. Our leaders continue to fail us, so it us up to we Americans to step up and begin to fix this problem ourselves. The first thing that we can do is to recognize we have a problem. The second thing we can do is accept that we can be pro-cop and pro-black. We shouldn’t have to pick sides. The next thing we can do is reach out to others and search for solutions that don’t involve promises that lead to anarchy or a police state.
There will be more videos. There will be more dead civilians and likely dead cops. This is not the America we want and it is our responsibility to change it.
PS: Yes, white kids and Hispanics are being gunned down by cops too, but the fact remains that most of the incidents are white cops shooting black men. The solution, whatever it is, will be color blind.
Over the past few days we have witnessed the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Stock markets have plunged and the British Pound has lost 12% of its value over two trading days. Ratings agencies have downgraded the UK from AAA to AA, to say nothing of the hysterical reactions by the the European ruling elites and their Remain camp supporters. Rachel Maddow is not even a Brit but that doesn’t stop her from claiming Brexit will lead to World War 3, and livid commentators both British and European are saying things like “Some things are too important to put to a vote,” and “Democracy doesn’t work.”
Some things are too important to put to a vote when that some thing is your pet project. Democracy doesn’t work when votes are cast and you lose. The meltdown of the progressive transnational elite isn’t surprising to those of us who have raised kids. It’s nothing more than a toddler laying down in the aisle of the grocery store to have a fit when you refuse to buy him a breakfast cereal sugar-bomb, just those freaking out are much older, better dressed and speak with pleasant accents. Many of these people truly believe that they know better than others, and they cannot believe that the ignorant masses ignored them to do the opposite. Unfortunately they are too busy making fools of themselves by peddling apocalyptic visions like Jeremiahs in tailored suits that they are blind to why the masses voted the way they did. After all, they have profited from globalization and the European project. They don’t worry about their job being shipped abroad, or watch as their neighborhoods get turned into refugee camps.
So the stock markets are jittery because they hate volatility. That’s a natural reaction because everyone would love to live in a nice predictable world and that includes stock traders. But Brexit is a scapegoat for an overvalued market in an earnings season where few companies outperformed their mediocre expectations. The drive to contain volatility that started under Paul Volcker has led to a string of market bubbles that burst every 8-10 years. We’re about due for a blow up and the increased volatility the markets are showing right now reflects traders coming to their senses more than it does an unknown impact Brexit will have on the EU. Oh, and as for S&P and Fitch downgrading the UK’s credit rating, I happened to watch a great little movie called The Big Short on the way back from Ireland last month, and these are the same outfits that were slapping AAA ratings on balloon mortgages with zero down in Florida just before they tanked the economy in 2008, so I’d recommend keeping that in mind whenever someone mentions the ratings downgrade in an important-sounding tones. Here’s a brief clip from the movie.
Although I supported Brexit and continue doing so, I see it as a step towards a better future not just for the UK but for an integrated Europe that includes the UK. That continent has 3000 years of history written in blood, and it is naive for us to think that the EU is going to fully integrate 27 nations, end all conflict and govern 400 million people effectively in 25 years. The EU as it exists today has failed and Brexit proves that, but Brexit doesn’t mean that the dream of a united Europe is dead.
Americans tend to forget that our republic’s first shot at ruling itself was the Articles of Confederation, a disaster that almost ended the experiment in democracy within a few short years after independence. The articles gave too little power to the central government and too much power to individual states, whose governors took them in different directions. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and a second attempt was made, and in 1789, 13 years after independence and 6 years after the end of the Revolutionary War, the US Constitution was ratified. The constitution created a series of checks and balances between various branches of government as well as protected minority votes and proscribed majority votes, providing a balance of power that the articles lacked.
Europe can do the same. If cooler heads prevail, Europe can create the balance of power needed, allowing Europeans to have a say how they are governed, creating institutions that serve the people instead of dictating to them. Provide more effective governance and people will be clamoring to join just as they did in the early days instead of threatening to leave as they are now.
These are all large issues with answers beyond everyone, including the commentariat on BBC and CNBC. It will take time for tempers to cool and for sanity to be restored, but in the mean time the best course of action is to do what the British are best at: Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s about time the Continent learned this from their island neighbors.
Wonder if her dad would be open to an arranged marriage with my son? He’d get her a better rifle than the Dragunov – like this Barrett.
That would be the headline of The Guardian had its way, the British newspaper that’s so far Left it makes the New York Times look like The Wall Street Journal if the Journal was run by Fox News and staffed by the Klan. But the Daily Mail reports that two unarmed US servicemen stopped a Moroccan Jihadist firing an AK47 on a crowded train in France. The soldiers thought the guy was acting suspicious and heard the attacker rack and load his weapon in the train’s toilet, and they jumped him when he burst out firing. One soldier was injured although not seriously, as were two others on the train.
Just another day at the “office” for America’s best and bravest.
For 13 years I have used this medium as my soapbox, to stand and shout into the Void known as the Internet. 2,352 posts. 6,048 comments. Over that time I have swung from righteous anger in the months following 9-11, to optimism and hope in the years after the Iraqi invasion at a time when I was personally trying to change the world, to disappointment following the economic collapse of 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, to the despair of the Benghazi and IRS scandals, ending finally in the cynicism shrouded nihilism of today.
What can I say, but I’m simply stubborn. While I may no longer wish to change the world and simply want to be left alone in my current libertarian exile, there are still things I need to say and this is the only medium I have found to say them.
I have failed at essay writing, and authoring fiction and non-fiction books. I have failed at numerous small businesses and enterprises. Many of my predictions made in this journal and the positions I have argued have been proven wrong. In 2006 I said Google wouldn’t be around in 2011 and that Lindsay Lohan would die tragically in 2007. 8 years later Google is still my homepage and Lindsay Lohan is still alive, although whether her career is alive is arguable.
But my marriage of 24 years has never been stronger. I have helped raise a child over these 13 years, and while he’s not heading towards a full scholarship at MIT or Harvard, he is a very decent human being whose future in this world concerns me. I have built a writing-based career and nurtured the Wife’s education so that together we are comfortable. We have put money to work in our community, buying local products and hiring local workers whenever possible so that our success is shared with others. Our choices have allowed us to take an active role in animal rescue, saving dozens of unwanted animals from miserable deaths.
I was also right about some things. In 2005 I predicted the real estate bubble was becoming unsustainable. I was right that the soaring oil prices of 2008 would succumb to economic gravity and fall. And I was right in 2011 that removing Khaddafi from power was a bad idea.
The world may be indifferent to my existence yet I am confident I have made it a better place. So I may not be as respected as Charles Krauthammer or popular as Matt Drudge, I do occasionally write something worth reading.
I’ve picked one post from each year that is still worth reading today. Enjoy.
The problem with bias is that it assumes the average reader or listener will believe everything that he or she reads or hears regardless of its source. However for Americans exposed to everything from sightings of Elvis to alien abductions to Clinton scandals, developing a “truth detector” (or its crudely named opposite, the “bullshit detector”) becomes an important skill. Such a skill starts early as children take on the media preferences of their parents, and is refined later in high school and often college when critical thinking skills are emphasized (one purpose of this journal is to save these skills from their demise at the hand of the Politically Correct). (Read the entire post)
President Carter’s crowning achievement was the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the end of a state of war between Israel and Egypt. While the accords ended a shooting war between the two countries, it is worth noting that the agreement was not even negotiated by the Americans – most of the diplomacy having been done by the King of Morocco and the Ceausescu regime in Rumania. Washington DC was simply the money to fund the deal. (Read the entire post)
It is important in a society for people to follow the same code of behavior. Americans are notorious for being more unmannered and direct than many other nationalities. Recent events show the impact a slow-death of civility in our society has. It is why President Ford’s saying that “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” remains a shining example that allows us to protect our rights to free expression. (Read the entire post)
The Saudi royal family has spread Wahabism around the globe, and now are about to be consumed by it. All the makings are in place for a jihadist overthrow of the kingdom: a corrupt government infiltrated by jihadists, a dying king, a large yet effete royal family containing many supporters of the jihadists, and the cognitive dissonance which prevents the leaders from recognizing the true enemies within their own ranks caused by their own inflexible understanding of their religion. (Read the entire post)
“These ceremonies are for the living,” the funeral director said. I commented that her job seemed more like a cruise director or wedding planner. “My job is to…” I almost got her to say it but she didn’t. She wanted to say:
Put the “fun” back into “funeral” but she artfully stopped herself from saying that although I knew deep down she wanted to. What followed was a more politically correct explanation of her duties and how much she enjoyed her job.
Well, I suppose it takes all types. (Read the entire post)
I stand for Israel because I see it as a desert that has bloomed through the hard work and brilliance of its people. I see a people that has suffered unjustly for thousands of years continue to suffer today. I see a people who refuse to accept the status of victims. I see a people who value peace but aren’t willing to trade it for annihilation.
I stand for Israel because Israel is a nation where Arabs, Jews and Christians live together in peace – next to states where religions and their books are banned outright. I stand for Israel because it values everyone. It holds gay pride rallies next to nations where gays are hung from forklifts. It treats women as equals in all ways, while the women in nearby nations can’t even leave their homes alone.
I stand for Israel because it is at the frontier of civilization, an outpost of honesty in a region mired in corruption. I stand for Israel because in the fight to preserve the light from the darkness, we are all Israelis. (Read the entire post)
I recently wrote about my Wife’s experience while serving at a hospital in Tanzania with a 24 year old New Zealander. The girl was well versed in anti-American propaganda and felt compelled to heap abuse on my Wife. The Wife is quite capable of defending herself, but she lacks my background knowledge of American foreign policy and world history. During our brief phone call, I provided her with some basic facts to combat the Kiwi’s propaganda regurgitations. Afterward I decided to dig deeper into the youngster’s bigotry and did some research into New Zealand’s attitudes towards Americans. What I found changed my mind about wanting to visit the place anytime soon. (Read the entire post)
Fenwick Island was different; our family was different. There was nothing left to do but accept these truths.
I took the box containing the ashes and at the Wife’s request I opened them and removed the plastic bag that held them shut with a twist tie. Inside were the mixed remains of both the Father-in-law and the Mother-in-law. The Wife cradled them under her pullover as we climbed the dune and walked to the waterline of the beach. As the Kid took the dog upwind, she undid the twist tie and allowed the bag to billow open. (Read the entire post)
A friend who voted for Obama last year (and regrets his decision BTW) asked me why I opposed the civil prosecution of terrorists and supported military tribunals. He thought that treating them as run-of-the-mill criminals was an insult, and that by convicting and sentencing them in a military tribunal elevated their status from terrorist to warrior. Here are the reasons I gave him for why I believe that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision is the worst political decision made since President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974. (Read the entire post)
As with the storms, my instinct tells me that something is seriously wrong with my country. That same paralyzing fear that I had during the storm is with me everyday. The skies are ominous, yet Obama and the Federal Government are driving us deep into the storm and there is nothing much we can do it about it since both are deaf to our concerns. All we can do is listen to our instincts and take every chance we can to limit the danger to ourselves and loved ones the President and the Feds seem determined to visit upon us. (Read the entire post)
Islam is Problematic And Our Ruling Elite Doesn’t Understand It
9-11 and the events over the past 10 years have taught us that Islam is different from all other world religions. It is not Christianity with different traditions unless the comparison is made to Christianity prior to the Renaissance. Then Christianity was a political and cultural defining force that determined all aspects of life for the lowliest peasant to the greatest emperor. It determined when each arose, what he did prior to work, his job, how he dressed, how he ate, and his relationship to his superiors (in the case of the emperor, to the Pope). There were no concepts of freedom in thought or deed at that time. The identify of “self” as inviolate would not become accepted until the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Tolerance of other cultures, ethnicities and especially religions simply did not exist at all. (Read the entire post)
Assess the situation. Keep calm. I tend to speak quickly and loudly when I’m nervous so I intentionally slow down the cadence of my words. Keep everyone calm. Crack a bad joke even though no one feels like laughing. Talk about the weather. Whatever it takes to keep everyone – including myself – from panicking. As a writer by instinct I feel myself observing myself, but that is also a task for the future; better to stay in the moment, the now. Time stretches, knees knock, keep scanning the darkness. “Safeties off?” “Yes,” I command. We are locked and loaded. The past is written, the future no longer exists. In the dense fog, in the belly of the swan, waiting for what must happen to happen. (Read the entire post)
The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. (Read the entire post)
Lenin and the early Bolsheviks believed the world had gotten to a point in its history that the proletariat would revolt. Like a forest full of dried timber baking in the hot sun all that was needed for the Communist Revolution they so desired was for a spark, iskra, to set the forest ablaze. The concept was so important to Lenin that he named his newspaper after it while he lived in exile. It was a continuation of Marx’s belief in the evolution of control over the means of production. Marx looked at the world around him at the height of the Industrial Revolution and saw the dehumanizing impact of life living in the crowded cities and working in the factories. To him this was a natural progression from the dawn of civilization that would inevitably lead to the rising up of the working class to take ownership of the factories they slaved in. Marx expected this revolution to occur in countries on the vanguard of the industrial revolution such as Prussia, France and Great Britain, but except for the brief interlude of the Paris Commune in 1848, socialist uprisings failed to materialize in these countries.
The United States has always had a small contingents of people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone. During the colonial period various groups came to America fleeing religious persecution in continental Europe. The expansion of America westward was led by individualists like Daniel Boone and religious heretics like the Mormons followed by vast waves of immigrants seeking better lives after escaping oppressive regimes in Ireland, Central Europe and Russia. Each individual of that time left a legacy that is written in our DNA as a people. Echoes of the suffering of each Russian Jew arriving penniless in New York City or illiterate Irish woman sleeping with her children on the deck of steamer paddling up the Mississippi from New Orleans can be heard as whispers in our collective unconscious. These unique experiences are why we so frustrate our allies and enemies alike. It is impossible for a Brit to truly understand why Americans instinctively abhor collectivism and celebrate the codified rights of the Constitution that protecting individual liberty. The divisiveness that comes with individual rights also encourages our enemies to see America as a “paper tiger” that will explode into confetti with the right spark, be that a sneak attack on the Pacific fleet while in port or twin skyscrapers in Manhattan.
This is also a lesson that the American left socialized on European collectivist thought has forgotten over the past generation. The American Left has always looked towards the Continent for inspiration but that had been tempered at least somewhat by the home-grown anarchism of Henry David Thoreau and at least found common cause with American libertarians. But sometime over the past forty years being a socialist or progressive has meant believing in the power of the State. This reflects an acceptance by the American Left of “Big Government” European-style Socialism which ironically is in decline in the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Germany. As a consequence anarchists and libertarians who once were considered extreme leftists are now viewed by the American Left as extremist members of the right wing.
Today’s American Left wing now sees the State as its salvation and protector. Unions in the private sector have almost disappeared yet the public sector unions are thriving. In 2011 the Economist reported, “government unionisation has risen from 23% in 1973 to 36% today, while private-sector unionisation has declined from 24% in 1973 to 7% today.” Challenges to state power are no longer coming from the Left as they did in the 1960, but from the Right as exemplified today by the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada.
In this dispute the Left stands with the federal government while the Right including the libertarians side with the Bundy family. Progressive groups have gone on the attack including calling for the silencing of Tea Partiers and other supporters of the Bundy family. In It’s Time to be Honest: The Tea Party Has Become a Terrorist Group, Allen Clifton writes,
But the longer these people are given a voice, the more they’ve moved from a political movement to a domestic terrorist organization. In politics, they’re doing everything possible to sabotage our country for political gain while outside of politics they’re becoming even more brazenly radical than ever before.
And much like traditional terrorists, these domestic tea party terrorists have a main goal of demonizing and destroying the United States government.
The Bundy standoff has shown the true face of the American Left. Transport the hippies of 1967 through Time to today and it’s unlikely they’d find the federal government all that groovy. The anti-establishment of that era has become the Establishment.
So now it’s up to the right wing and its individualist supporters to take up the idea of “iskra.” The right wing and old-school libertarians have always had a paranoid fringe, but Edward Snowden’s revelations of domestic spying along with the IRS persecution of conservative groups exacerbated by the government takeover of health care proves the wisdom of Henry Kissinger’s quote that even paranoids have enemies. Could Bundy be that spark that ignites the conservative base into open revolt?
Cliven Bundy is not a natural leader for everyone who distrusts the government, nor is his issue with the federal government a clear-cut case of abuse of the individual by the State. It would be nice if there was a more appealing leader than a Mormon rancher, and a more obvious case of government persecution, but the mere fact that the Bundy Ranch dispute continues making headlines on both sides of the political divide shows the there is plenty of tinder in the forest. Only time will tell if the Bundy standoff will set it ablaze.
Every pope wants to be as cool as Father Guido Sarducci.
I was living in Tanzania when South Africa elected Nelson Mandela as its first post-apartheid president. Mandela meant a lot to the Tanzanians who saw him win not through bullets and bombs but through promises of peace. I can almost here the ululations from the village we lived near at the time as his inauguration was broadcast on shortwave.
Mandela wasn’t perfect, nor was he a saint. He started his career in the ANC as a believer in violent uprising. During his presidency he turned a blind eye to other African nations such as Zimbabwe who suffered much more under home-grown dictators than they ever did under colonial rule. After he left the office he remained overly critical of the United States, Europe and Israel in their fight against Islamic extremism while ignoring the very real threats these nations faced. I even penned a letter to him in 2002 after he publicly questioned Osama Bin Laden’s role in the 9-11 Attacks. Christopher Hitchens himself took Mandela to task for his support of Saddam Hussein.
But imperfect though he was, he did lead a people during a very crucial time in their history. Had he not been there it is difficult to imagine South Africa making it through a transition to majority rule without tens of thousands dying. At a time when South Africa didn’t have one, he gave his nation a future promising peace and prosperity.
Martin Luther King jr said:
Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
I’m fascinated by disaster and failure. I’m not talking natural disaster; although fascinating in themselves (who around back then does not recall when Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980?) natural disasters don’t provide teachable moments the way a man-made failure or disaster does. Soon the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel will simulcast a scripted movie about the Challenger disaster. The movie is based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir “What Do You Care What Other People Think” and will invariably show how Science and the human analytical mind went from a cloud of smoke and debris at 50,000 feet to the reason for the disaster: an O-ring seal in a solid rocket booster. Such failure analysis is why travel on large aluminum jets is the safest method of transportation in human history, going from perhaps the deadliest form of transport to the safest in less than a century. Such success came about through hard detective work the scene of each disaster, followed by a long period of investigation and analysis where the failure was pinpointed and most importantly, having the lessons learned applied to the rest of the industry.
The bible for those interested in the study of failure is German professor Dietrich Dorner’s 1996 book, The Logic of Failure. The book is based on a set of cognitive experiments done with software simulating a small town’s society in the US, and a fictional area in the Sahel. The studies found that while participants came from varied walks of life and backgrounds, “People court failure in predictable ways.” It then ties the experiments to real life failures such as the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. As a systems analyst involved with complex multi-million dollar software development programs, I consider the book “must reading” for everyone in IT. Feel free to pass along a copy to those behind the Obamacare rollout.
Five years ago the people of Iraq had, thanks to the blood of thousands of American and allied soldiers, achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in their history. The national sport of kite flying was legal again and girls headed to school in Afghanistan. al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run and confined to lawless patches in northern Pakistan, northern Nigeria and Somalia. Iran was boxed in between biting sanctions that undermined the regime internally, successful American military operations on either side of it, and an Israel ready, willing and backed by American leadership to attack Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. China was busy flooding the world with cheap crap, content to use North Korea as its proxy to stir up trouble in favor of the regime in Beijing. Our relationship with Russia had begun drifting away from engagement towards confrontation over its aggression towards Georgia, but Russia was clearly a state in decline both internally and internationally. Even Syria was seen as a player, with Democrats having genuflected at Bashir Assad’s feet, Nancy Pelosi having claimed “the road to peace begins in Damascus” in 2007, four years before Vogue’s schmaltzy interview with the Assad family, “A Rose In the Desert.”
Today Iraq is a client state of Iran, its skies filled with Iranian cargo planes resupplying the Assad regime in Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon, its social fabric once again ripped by car bombs as the Sunni/Shi’a war rages on the ground. The Obama administration, convinced of its failure before it took office walked away from American success in Iraq by its refusal to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Baghdad. Historians will one day ask “Who lost Iraq?” and the answer will be Barack Obama. Immediately after setting up their base in Afghanistan in 2001, the Marines buried a piece of steel taken from the World Trade Center rubble on the site. Soon the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies will reclaim this as a war trophy as the kites and girls disappear from the streets, and the music that has filled the air in Kabul since 2001 will be replaced once again with silence punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Again historians will ask “Who condemned these people to savagery? Who lost Afghanistan?” Again the answer will be President Obama, a man who once called Afghanistan “the good war.”
After taking power President Obama fluttered around the world on what critics like me called his “Apology tour,” apologizing for American misdeeds both real and imagined, in the belief that the new-found humility would please our friends and sway our enemies. The Obama Administration has accomplished exactly the opposite. Today Iran is expanding its “Shi’a Crescent” throughout the Middle East, and the only ones standing in the way is Israel in an unlikely (and unspoken) alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This after a popular rebellion took the streets in 2009 that could have changed the course of History, but it received no hint of support or backing from the Obama administration and it was ruthlessly crushed. It will be decades before the people rise up against the theocracy, if they ever do.
Today from Morocco across northern Africa to the Sinai, and from Nigeria across the continent to Somalia Africa burns with Muslim extremists allied with al Qaeda. Obama’s support of the rebellion to replace Mohammar Khaddafi in Libya has opened a Pandora’s Box of weaponry built over decades by Libya’s Great Loon, handing AK-47s, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles to everyone with an axe to grind and a Koran burning a hole in their hearts. Where there had been one failed state 5 years ago, Somalia, there are now at least 3 (Somalia, Mali, Libya) with numerous others (Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Western Sahara) circling the drain. After Khaddafi’s fall al Qaeda training camps sprouted like mushrooms across North Africa and the Sub-Sahara, breathing the lawlessness that the Libyan Debacle created, and repaying the Obama administration for its “lead from behind” strategy by killing an American ambassador and his three bodyguards in the first such incident in 30 years.
Although the administration’s failure vis-a-vis China is not as bad as the disaster it has created in the Middle East, the Obama Doctrine of placating our foes while dissing our friends has been noticed in Asian capitals. South Korea is developing closer ties with China at the same time Japan rearms and prepares to ditch its anti-war constitution ghost written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Nations like Pakistan who haven’t really decided whether they are American allies or its enemies see no downside to throwing their lots in with the Chinese or Iranians. Pakistan even provides China the tail-section of a top-secret stealth helicopter used in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America’s enemy number 1 watching porn in air conditioned comfort on Pakistani soil. There is no blow-back, no consequences suffered for entertaining the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and none for handing over the tail rotor section to America’s greatest military adversary. And to top it off, the true hero of the event, a local doctor who had the guts to help the Americans confirm Bin Laden’s identity, sits in jail as a traitor to his people. If anything playing up to America’s adversaries almost wins respect from the Obama administration itself. China understands this best, waging a cyber war against the US government and private industry without retribution.
Then there’s Europe. When the Obama Administration hasn’t sacrificed its allies to appease its enemies in Teheran and Moscow, it bugged their phones, proving yet again this administration’s inability to differentiate friend from foe. “Everyone does it,” is not an acceptable excuse for a superpower. There is absolutely no reason the US should be bugging Angela Merkel’s phone just as there is no reason it should be spying on 10 Downing Street. Perhaps the mushy-headedness that comes with moral relativism has blinded the administration to the differences of say, between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, or David Cameron and Ayatollah Khamenei. The “Special Relationship” with the UK is special for a reason, one that is much older than the inhabitants of the West Wing and much more sublime than the political wonks can comprehend. Ditto the German Chancellor. Frau Merkel was born in East Germany and has first hand experience with illegal and unjustified surveillance. Unlike some of her predecessors, she has not risen to power on an anti-American platform, and has done an exemplary job of aligning the interests of Germany with the broader interests of Europe and the United States. Spying on her was a stupid idea that should never have been approved, and once approved, it should have been cancelled, and if not cancelled it should never have been revealed. Yet a contract DBA waltzed off with the keys to the entire American Intelligence in the worst espionage failure since Klaus Fuchs handed the Soviets the Bomb. Again, no consequences. No one fired let alone jailed.
Many on the right have concluded that this is all by plan, that the Obama administration and his Democratic party supporters have been intent on taking the ship of state and intentionally running it aground because they are socialists or communists. In the Irving Kristol Lecture to the American Enterprise Institute on February 10, 2004 Charles Krauthammer suggests it is more complex and subtle than that:
“What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.
On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility – the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law – of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society…
And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.” – Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes and Politics
Seen in this light, Obama’s foreign policy has not been a failure at all. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It has weakened America’s foreign policy hand across the board. America’s military is weakened through political purges of its officer corps, lack of direction and budget cuts. Its diplomatic corps is undermined by the lack of protection of its staff, as proven in Benghazi, by the White House’s high-handedness shown towards America’s closest friends the UK and Israel, and the spying program targeting American allies as well as its enemies that State Department personnel are forced to explain in their host countries. Its adversaries Syria, Iran and North Korea are all in better positions than they were five years ago. Ditto China and Russia. As the US weakens its enemies strengthen, and its allies are then forced to either band together (EU standing up to Russia and encouraging Ukraine to join, ASEAN nations co-coordinating efforts to balance China) or leave its sphere of influence entirely (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Israel in the Middle East, South Korea in East Asia).
Obama has domesticated America on the international stage, to use Krauthammer’s term: so now what? Where is the Golden Age promised by Locke and the internationalists? If they are correct, a humbled America should encourage its enemies to stop their own military buildups (they don’t need offensive military capability with America’s gone). North Korea and Iran no longer need nukes now that American nukes are rusting away awaiting destruction as Obama unilaterally disarms. Without American backing Israel should engage its enemies diplomatically in a desperate bid to secure peace with the Palestinians. The world should be much better today than it was five years ago.
Is it? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Five years ago Americans could have traveled safely throughout Africa except for one nation Somalia. Today I’d hesitate to walk through the narrow streets of Zanzibar as I once did freely nearly two decades ago, and have struck Valley of the Kings in Egypt off my bucket list until further notice. Northern Kenya, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Western Sahara, and Libya are now no-go areas for Westerners. I suppose that’s great if you can’t help but shout Allahu Akhbar every time you touch an AK-47, but for the rest of us things have gotten worse not better under the new regime.
Dietrich Doerner writes, “For them (people who failed most often at complex analytical tests) to propose a hypothesis was to understand reality; testing that hypothesis was unnecessary. Instead of generating hypotheses, they generated ‘truths’.” The Obama administration came to power proposing a hypothesis, that the world would be a better place with the United States weakened. It treated this hypothesis as a truth, steadfastly refusing to let go of it, sacrificing ambassadors, diplomatic relationships built over generations, and American influence in the process. When Doerner’s study participants failed, they invariably blamed others for their failures just as the Administration has focused the blame on the GOP.
When the Obama administration took power I and many others had hoped it would govern from the center, that things wouldn’t be as dire as we had feared. We hoped that it would try its crazy ideas, learn they didn’t work, then try something else. But they didn’t learn. They stuck to their “truths.” Five years on our foreign policy is a shambles, America weaker and friendless as it has been at no other time in its history. The disaster is worse than we expected, and we still have 3 full years left in this president’s term.
Will America be able to survive this epic failure? Thirty-two years ago Ronald Reagan took power and turned around foreign policy debacles of the previous Carter administration pretty quickly. Will a Republican president be able to do the same after eight years of disaster? And what if the GOP selects the wrong candidate and Hillary Clinton wins in 2016? How much failure can this country accept and still survive?
Photo by lukewearechange - all rights reserved
Words cannot express the anger I feel viewing this photograph. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one that evoked such a strong emotional response. These men are likely Vietnam war veterans, and after what they’ve lived through in their youth I doubt a ride in the paddy wagon is going to bother them much. But it bothers me, and it should bother all Americans regardless of their politics.
Ask yourself: Are we free men and women served by the State or has the situation been reversed? The State has grown so disrespectful of its citizenry that it has shown no reticence in using them in a political game between itself and the lawfully elected representatives of that citizenry. If the State cannot be controlled by exercising control of its budget, then how is it to be controlled at all? If it cannot be controlled, why do we continue to live with the fiction that we are a free people compared to other states with oppressive governments like China and Russia? What is the difference between the Communist Party of China and the Federal Government? Is it that in 3 years the Republicans can take it over and use it against their enemies the way the Obama administration has the previous 5?
Is this what these men fought for in the death-infested jungles of Vietnam?
What happened to the nation that our ancestors came here for, worked for, and often died for? Why have we allowed ourselves to become enslaved by an entity that ignores the rules that built it, a colossus made up of millions of citizens who are now spying on and arresting their neighbors, for what? Visiting an open-air memorial in this case, and legally organizing to fight for change, as in the case of the IRS attacks on the Tea Party?
Life is like a wheel, is one of the great Truisms of philosophy. It all comes round. Today it’s Vietnam Vets in the back of the paddy wagon. Tomorrow it might be you or your father, wife, son or daughter.
They stormed the beaches of Normandy and Okinawa, fought for every square inch of Belgium and Luzon. The might of Hitler’s Wehrmach and the Japanese Imperial Army could not stop these guys. And yet a candy-assed Kenyan* thinks he can?
Once again the White House shows its disdain for the American people. For such a supposedly intelligent crew they sure act like a bunch of morons.
* Note: I do not mean this as an insult to Kenyans. Having visited at length in Kenya I have nothing but the utmost respect for the average Kenyan, especially these guys.
I doubt this guy has a candy-ass. In fact I’m 100% percent sure.
And no I don’t subscribe to the theory that Obama is not a natural born citizen, although there’s less evidence than the crazy Trig conspiracy beloved by Andy Sullivan, and we know more about President George W. Bush’s National Guard stint than we do Obama’s Ivy League years, even excluding the work of fiction that brought down Dan “Kenneth” Rather’s career.