Every pope wants to be as cool as Father Guido Sarducci.
Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
Archive for the ‘Heroes’ Category.
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.
The Economist’s sister publication Intelligent Life has a fascinating article about stolpersteine, stepping stones memorializing those murdered in the Holocaust with stones placed in the pavement in the neighborhoods where they last lived. Artist Gunter Demnig has been laying the stones, each wrought by hand, since 1996. Each is handmade, he says, because “any form of mass-manufacturing would remind him of the mechanized and bureaucratic murder at Auschwitz.” His work has even earned him three death threats, proof that he must be doing something right.
It’s a fascinating read, and an even more fascinating memorial to view, with thousands of his brass plates embedded in streets throughout Germany. Just something to keep in mind on your next visit.
Rhymes with Right has a moving piece honoring the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. Inouye was a member of the Greatest Generation, but fought for a nation that didn’t trust him simply because of his ethnic heritage, becoming a hero in more ways than one. Just because a man has a “D” behind his name doesn’t make him less a man; in fact in Inouye’s case I think he had more guts and sense than any of those he most recently served with having “R”s behind theirs.
Aloha, Senator, and Requiesce in Pace after a life lived with honor.
Marines are simply a different breed. Always have been. Always will be.
In the moments Ben was debating whether he could hop or maybe crawl the rest of the mile, a man named Matthew Morgan, a Marine who had volunteered to help at the youth event, stepped in.
“(Morgan said) ‘You need help?’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ and he picked me up and carried me,” Ben said.
For the next half mile, Ben held onto Pfc. Morgan with one arm and his prosthetic leg with the other.
Ben said he and Morgan didn’t really speak after their first exchange, but more Marines gathered around and sang a cadence.
As they reached the end and the crowd started roaring, Ben said he felt grateful for the help, but a little frustrated and embarrassed that he couldn’t complete the course on his own.
Young Ben will someday understand that receiving help from a Marine is not a sign of weakness. A Marine helping is a sign of strength.
It isn’t easy being an American these days. It seems that everybody either wants to kill us, rule over us or sell us something overpriced so that they can use that money to kill us or rule over us. On top of that we have a ruling progressive class that is naive about the world, alarmist about the environment, bigoted against religious people, intolerant of any opinion that disagrees with their own and deprecating of America and its values. After years of this I’ve found myself losing my faith in this country, my belief in a better future for my family, seeing only darkness in our nation’s future.
Today I listened to a man from India who has lived for 12 years in the United States tell me how wonderful America is. The conversation had begun when I told him that the Wife and I were musing about a trip to India, especially since the Kashmir is open again and she had fallen in love with the place on a visit there a long time ago. But as we talked he hijacked the conversation, telling me how different India was from the United States. For the next 30 minutes he spoke about things both real “To get my birth certificate in India I have to go to one office to get a form, then another office to get a stamp, then to another to get a signature – and I have to bribe each person to do their job. Here I can order a copy of my son’s birth certificate online for a few dollars,” – and what strikes me as idealistic, “In India if you pay a teacher a 1000 rupees, he will teach you a 1000 rupees worth of knowledge. If you pay him 10,000 he will teach you 10,000 rupees worth. Here in America my son’s teachers love to teach. They send progress reports home all the time for each student, I can’t believe it.”
Thirty minutes. I found myself humbled by this man who endures a painful separation from his parents and brothers in southern India, only visiting them every 2 years because the trip is terribly expensive for him to take his family back home, “But I want them to know their grandparents and their uncles, aunts and cousins – and still enjoy life in America.” He is an extremely intelligent man who knows more computer languages than I can name let alone program in, and though his accent is heavy, his words were light and uplifting.
His words reminded me why my Irish ancestors arrived on these shores half starved after the Potato Famine. His words showed me why my Bohemian great-grandparents paid their last ducat in emigration tax to the Austro-Hungarian empire 40 years later to journey to a land where central Europeans were viewed as simple peasants.
His words gave me hope that no matter how screwed up America gets, no matter how far we’ve traveled down the wrong path, there are men and women like him, born on foreign shores who come here ready to move us forward, and put us on the path we belong.
Neil Armstrong was my kind of hero. Daring yet humble, a quite man who let his actions speak for themselves. After the limelight of making history, he never sought it again.
Upon his death I have nothing to say except to pass along the words of a 19 year old hero, a man whose words echo whenever the Angels’ Trumpets sound.
“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space, – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Administration officials told the Journal that Walesa is too “political.” A man who was arrested by Soviet officials for dissenting against the government for being “political” is being shunned by the United States of America for the same reason 30 years later.
Meanwhile, one of the recipients of the Medal was Dolores Huerta, the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. So socialist politics are acceptable, but not the politics of a man who stood up and fought socialism.
On this Memorial Day I think it’s worth remembering one of our fallen, Major Douglas E. Sloan, whose headstone appeared on today’s Drudge Report. Major Sloan is interred in Arlington Cemetery.
According to ArlingtonCemetery.net, Major Sloan was killed on October 31, 2006 near Wygal Valley Afghanistan when the convoy he was riding in was hit by an IED. Sloan was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. Sloan, a father of four, was survived by his parents Wendy and Emory Sloan, a retired VA administrator.
His 8 year old son Dylan said of his father, “”He always had a smile on his face. He liked playing with me.”
Major Douglas E. Sloan. Son. Father. Hero.