Archive for the 'Memorials' Category

Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.

 

As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

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Feb 27 2015

I have been and shall always be, your fan.

Published by under Memorials

And yes I stole that line from Wonkette.

Leonard Nimoy died today. For a true Star Trek fan like me-its kind of like the end of the world. Yes you knew this day was coming, but you did not want to think about it, and now that it is finally here, you just can't seem to believe it.

I am a fan of the entire Star Trek enterprise (how is that for a play on words?), but I was really enraptured with the Original Series, DS-9 and Enterprise. Next Generation was Ok. Voyager was a bridge too far, and the less said about Star Trek 5-the movie-the better. I still have not forgiven JJ Abrams for ripping the Star Trek canon to shreds, just so he could make his rather shallow, and scientifically ridiculous Star Trek re-boots, but I did like Zachary Quinto as Spock. ( I still have to come to terms with the whole "nailing Ohura" thing, but hey, things change right?)

While he is best known for his role as Spock, the truth was, Leonard Nimoy wanted to be a lot of other things. And the amazing popularity of the original series made that somewhat impossible. In the New York Times they have a wonderful tribute to the man pointing out that there was much more to the man than just the logical alien. 

The actor who won a permanent place on the altar of pop culture for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” was almost as famous for wanting to be remembered for other things.

And that is, of course, highly illogical.

It’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.

He could not escape the role-and I think ( but do not know) that as the years passed he came to terms with it and resolved to have fun with it. I have no real proof of that save for some examples of his other work. This commercial he did a couple of years ago when the second JJ Abrams movie came out with Zachary Quinto, is a good example. He appears to be having a lot of fun making fun of himself and the whole genre. I never get tired of watching it.

 

 

I love that he was still doing fun stuff like this at a point in life when many people would be sitting around doing nothing.  ? And actually if you go back to the Times article he had quite a solid body of work to lay claim to besides Star Trek. For example did you know, that Leonard Nimoy directed "Three Men and a Baby". He also was in a mini-series about Golda Meir, with Ingrid Bergman in it, no less. He had lots of poetry to his credit and an award winning photo exhibition in 2010. He got typecast as Spock-but he turned it around and made something wonderful of it.

May God grant him rest and peace. And of course, may he live long and prosper in the heavens.

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Jan 21 2015

American Sniper

A FB friend posted a link to the following blog post: entitled "Why I almost walked out of American Sniper". No it's not a quote from Michael Moore-its a quote from a supporter of the country and the military. I can agree with her logic, up to a point :

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

 

It is right there at the end where her logic breaks down. Evil? Really? Then why are we not dispatching legions of American Snipers to the remaining six continents?  Evil things are happening there every day but we do not stage armed interventions by equally brave men. And why don't we you ask?

Because we don't have the resources to solve every problem on the planet.

And because most of the time-its not in our national interest.

Evil exists all over this world. As we were fighting in Iraq, un-counted 1000's were dying in other wars in Africa of the twin evils of neglect and lack of resources to fight problems such as disease, bad infrastructure and starvation. Yet not once did the President rise to the podium in front of Congress and challenge us to go fight them. Chris Kyle and those like him were never sent out to help them. Nor should they have been.

And on those two points I must disagree with Jennifer Hale. Chris Kyle went through a lot. Of course his service should be honored as should that of every other soldier who served in this despicable and unnecessary conflicts throughout the first decade and a half of the 21 st century. If anything it proves James Fallow's point regarding "The tragedy of the American Military", namely that, "the American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win."

If we don't follow the statement through the logical question, namely "Why was Chris Kyle there in the first place and why did the nation so callously send him into a war the country had no business plunging into?" then we really are not honoring his sacrifices or worse yet learning real lessons from them. Cue Fallows again:

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

"Either war is finished or we are"  says Herman Wouk.  I fully agree with the sentiment. But I question whether the majority of Americans do. I think not. They will see the movie in a "yellow ribbon" kind of way- "the people at the [movie theater will] feel good about what they’ve done to show their support for the troops. " But they will never think the problem all the way through. They will never rise in righteous anger that Chris Kyle had to be sent there in the first place, endure the things he had to endure-and have it all matter for nothing. That's right nothing. Iraq is still a basket case, no better than when we found it. Because in the end , Chris Kyle was failed by his leadership, he was failed by his country and he was failed by the people of his country who never asked the probing questions that might have prevented the entire ordeal in the first place. As Kipling wrote after his son's death in the disaster that was the First World War, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."

We do the veterans no good service if we choose not learn from the effort-and solemnly resolve not to repeat the  mistakes that placed them in such a harsh place to begin with. Without those questions, its not worth the time or the effort to contemplate the rest. We have to think it though to the end.

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Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.

 

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And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).

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As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)

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A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).

joesaccoonsatire1200

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Aug 13 2014

The darkness that always lurks beneath the surface.

Published by under Memorials

I wanted to write a quick not about the tragic loss of Robin Williams. His death will most probably be ruled a suicide. And I expect ( and in some of the worst corners of the internet-we are already seeing) the holier than thou brigades are already spouting venom-not understanding in the least the struggles one must deal with, once you get the Scarlett "AA" tagged upon you.

Its common knowledge that Williams struggled with issues from addiction. What most of the do gooders seem to ignore, is the heavy burden America's system of shoving you into the hell that is AA does to you. Addiction treatment is not about stopping drinking. Plenty of people do that for protracted periods of time with no effort. It is the idea that they foist upon you that you can never do it again-that creates the inner conflict that grows and grows and grows. Especially since it is complete and total bullshit-most alcoholics recover on their own, and do perfectly fine drinking again, once they realize that there is personal responsibility. The treatment industry is about control-not fluids. Its about their iron clad demand that you cede control of your life to someone who in all probability is more fucked up than you are. And they stick a double whammy on you in that they tell you , that you can never take that control back.

Only by rejecting their ideas-and demanding to live your life on your own terms can you ever get some peace back. I know, because I lived through the hell of having a worthless bastard tell me how I had to live my life. It took luck and a great deal of anger and planning to escape from the shackles of the "program" he abandoned me into. I don't think I can ever forgive him for his callousness and indifference.

What does this have to do with Robin Williams? Well, a lot I think. The conflict of being a talented individual, knowing you are talented, and then being forced to be subjected to an idea that you are worthless and powerless-is a huge conflict. It creates inner struggles and a feeling of futility at being told you are not "like everyone else". Even when you are. it takes a great deal of struggle to break free.

Not everyone is up to the struggle-no matter how successful they are.

So all the people who so easily dismiss his struggle-I have no use for. The trolls who have been coming out and writing really reprehensible things-I also have no use for. They may think it can never happen to them-trust me, it can. And don't kid yourself, your so called friends and allies will abandon you in heartbeat. Such is the nature of America's coerced treatment machine.

So God rest the soul of Robin Williams, and if he is any just will grant him access to glory. To all those who attack him after the fact-I spit upon you.

I loved a lot of his movies-and I think he was a gifted and talented man. Since I was aware of him from my college years-his work literally spanned the length of my adult life. And he was a great.

 

 

He deserves peace and a place in heaven. Those who think otherwise-can leave my sight now.

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Jul 07 2014

And we are back.

Published by under Memorials

Spent the last five days in France. It was outstanding-especially as we went to visit the Normandy Beaches. Pix to follow over the next few days.

So here is where I spent my 4th-no fire works, but a lot of sincere feeling for the folks who can never leave this place:

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"Not for the dead, not for the more than fifty million real dead in the world's worst catastrophe: victors and vanquished, combatants and civilians, people of so many nations, men, women and children, all cut down. For them there can be no new earthly dawn. Yet though their bones lie in the darkness of the grave, they will not have died in vain, if their remembrance can lead us from the long, long time of war to the time of peace. " -Herman Wouk

 

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May 26 2014

Second of two Memorial Day Posts

I paraphrased this bit of writing from Herman Wouk a couple of years back. I still think its a marvelous bit of writing and particularly appropriate as "America begins to leave the world stage". Not because it was forced to-but because of those who feel that merely dying for your fellow servicemen is sufficient justification for their ever being there in the first place. It is not-and it is important to remember on Memorial Day above all days. For every wartime death is an unnecessary tragedy, created because the world chooses to solve its problems, after 6000 years, with the fighting and dying of young men ( and now, even more sadly, women-who are supposed to serve a different role in our world)-for conflicts that shall not be long remembered. I post this because I think since, 1991, American casualties have been equivalent to those of the British Empire in the 20th century-men who were also fighting for their contemporaries, fighting to preserve an order that still needs to exist-but were sold out by their own civilian leadership. 

Of course we should honor their sacrifice on this day. But it only has real meaning if we honor the volunteers who died in these two wars by taking a lesson from these losses and work to keep this kind of stupidity from happening again. I am going to tell you this again Phib, the Afghans were never worthy of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf-and the effort expended to try to help them has accelerated our march from the world stage.  That is why it is worth reading this passage-we honor their efforts to our very soul. But if we don't find a better way to run our planet-then we have failed these valiant souls deeply. "Either war is finished, or we are!"

I've been out of pocket this weekend-down in Pensacola, playing golf at AC Read, watching the boats go across the sound, and catching up with some friends. He let me in on some very sad developments happening in our Navy-which I will proceed to document later this week. This, however, being Memorial Day, I thought I would pass on something different concerning remembering the fallen-from one of my favorite authors: Hermann Wouk. In the book is a  fictional correspondent's report, Sunset at Kidney Ridge, reflects on the decline of the British Empire; it serves roughly as the emotional midpoint of the book. While written about the path of the British Empire, I find Alastair Tudsbury's thoughts have applicability to our situation and our continuing struggle in the War without End. I have transcribed the entire piece, word for word ,  from Wouk's novel, War and Remembrance, Chapter 49.

Here then is Sunset at Kidney Ridge:

SUNSET ON KIDNEY RIDGE

By Alstair Tudsbury

By wireless from London. This dispatch, dated November 4, 1942 was the famous British correspondent's last-dictated shortly before he was killed by a landmine at El Alamein. Edited by his daughter and collaborator, Pamela Tudsbury, from an unfinished draft, it is reprinted by special permission of the London Observer.

 

The sun hangs huge and red above the far dust-streaked horizon. The desert cold is already falling on Kidney Ridge. This gray sandy elevation is deserted, except by the dead, and two intelligence officers and myself. Even the flies have left. Earlier they were here in clouds, blackening the corpses. They pester the living too, clustered at a  mand's eyes and the moisture in the corners of his mouth, drinking his sweat. But of course they prefer the dead. When the sun climbs over the opposite horizon tomorrow, the flies will return to their feast.

       Here not only did these German and British soldiers die, who litter the ground as far as the eye can see in the fading red light. Here at El Alamein, the Afrika Korps died. The Korps was a legend, a dashing clean- cut enemy , a menace and at the same time a sort of glory; in Churchillian rhetoric, a gallant foe worthy of our steel. It is not known if Rommel has made good is escape, or whether his straggle of routed supermen will be bagged by the Eight Army. But the Afrika Korps is dead, crushed by British arms. We have won here, in the great Western of Africa, a victory to stand with Crecy, Agincourt, Blenheim, and Waterloo.

        Lines from Southey's "Battle of Blenheim" are haunting me here on Kidney Ridge:

They say it was a shocking sight

After the field was won,

For many thousand bodies here

Lay rotting in the sun

But things like that, you know, must be

After a famous victory.

        The bodies, numerous as they are, strike the eye less than the blasted and burned out tanks that dot this weirdly beautiful wasteland, these squat hulls with their long guns, casting elongated blue shadows on the pastel grays and browns and pinks of the far-stretching sands. Here is the central incongruity of Kidney Ridge-the masses of smashed twentieth-century machinery tumbled about in these harsh flat sandy wilds, where  one envisions warriors on camels or horses, or perhaps the elephants of Hannibal.

        How far they came to perish here, these soldiers and these machines! What a bizarre train of events brought youngsters from the Rhineland and Prussia, from the Socttish Highlands and London, from Australia and New Zealand, to butt at each other to the death with flame- spitting machinery in faraway Africa, in a setting as dry and as lonesome as the moon?

       But that is the hallmark of this war. No other war has ever been like it. This war rings the world. Kideny Ridge is everwhere on our small globe. Men fight as far away from home as they can be transported, with courage and endurance that makes on proud of the human race, in horrible contrivances that make one ashamed of the human race.

         My jeep will take me back to Cairo shortly, and I will dictate a dispatch about what I see here. What I am looking at, right now as the sun touches the horizon, is this. Two intelligence offices, not fifty yards from me, are lifting the German driver out of a blasted tank, using meat hooks. He is black and charred. He has no head. He is a trunk with arms and legs. The smell is like gamy pork. The legs wear good boots, only a bit scorched.

          I am very tired. A voice I don't want to listen to tells me that this England's last land triumph; that our military history ends here with a victory to stand with the greatest, won largely with machines shipped ten thousand miles from American factories. Tommy Atkins will serve with pluck and valor wherever he fights here after, as always; but the conduct of the war is slipping from our hands.

          We are outnumbered and outclassed. Modern War is a clangorous and dreary measuring of industrial plants. Germany's industrial capacity passed ours in 1905. We hung on through the First World War by sheer grit. Today the two giants of the earth are the United States and the Soviet Union. They more than outmatch Germany and Japan, now that they have shaken off their surprise setbacks and sprung to arms. Tocqueville's vision is coming to pass in our time. They will divide the empire of the world.

          The sun going down on Kidney Ridge is setting on the British Empire, on which-we learned as schoolboys-the sun never set.  Our Empire was born of the skill of our explorers, the martial prowess of our yeomanry, the innovative genius of our scientists and engineers. We stole a march on the world that lasted 200 years. Lulled by the long peaceful protection of the great fleet we built, we thought it could last forever. We dozed.

          Here in Kidney Ridge we have erased the disgrace of our somnolence. If history is but the clash of arms, we now begin to leave the stage with honor. But if it is a march to the human spirit toward world freedom, we will never leave the stage. British ideas, British institutions, British scientific method, will lead the way in other lands, in other guises. English will become the planetary tongue, that is now certain. We have been the Greece of the new age.

      But you object, the theme of the new age is socialism. I am not so sure of that. Even so, Karl Marx, the scruffy Mohammad of this spreading economic Islam, built his strident dogmas on the theories of British economists. He created his apocalyptic visions in the hospitality of a British Museum. He read British books, lived on British bounty, wrote in British freedom, collaborated with Englishmen and lies in a London grave. People forget all that.

         The sun has set. It will get dark and cold quickly now. The intelligence officers are beckoning me to their lorry. The first stars spring forth in the indigo sky. I take a last look around at the dead of El Alamein and mutter a prayer for these poor devils, German and British, who turn and turn about sang Lili Marlene in the cafes of Tobruk, hugging the same sleazy girls. Now they lie here together, their young appetites cold, their homesick songs stilled.

"Why twas a very wicked thing!"

Said Little Wilhemine

"Nay, nay my little girl"  quoth he-

Pamela Tudsbury writesThe telephone rang just at that moment, as my father was declaiming the verser with his usual relish. It was a summons to the interview with General Montgomery. He left at once. A lorry brought back his body the next morning. As a World War I reserve officer, he was buried with honors in the Brisitsh Military Cemetery outside Alexandria.

The London observer asked me to complete the article. I have tried, I have his hand written notes for three more paragraphds. But I cannot do it. I can however, complete Southey's verse for him. So ends my fathers career of war reporting-

"It was a famous victory"

*     *       *

Yes it is a piece from an American novel, with a British slant. However I think if you try, you can substitute American battles, American names, and American cities and see the analogies to our present day. It is true that not all of the comparisons are apt-the Soviet Union is no more and it is pretty clear socialism has been discredited-however substitute "Globalization and rampant unregulated profit taking" and Tudsbury's prediction holds true. And I would also point out-as much as so many people try to deny it, whatever we Americans have in the way of honor and virtue, we learned it from the British.

If we seek to honor the sacrifices of the brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines who have fallen today-we must also ask ourself what are we doing to make this country a better place to live for their children and their families. For in the end, that was what they were fighting to defend, a free society that improves itself, not simply falls back into the evils they fought so hard to protect us from.

Andrew Bacevich wrote recently:

Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.

Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. Rest assured that no such reports will interfere with plans for the long weekend that Memorial Day makes possible.

You should find that trend very scary-I know I do.

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May 26 2014

First of two Memorial Day posts

Published by under Memorials

Today is Memorial Day-and fortunately for me, I am alive, and spending it at home. For a lot of Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines that is not true.  So it is very important that we remember their sacrifices-and honor their memories. Today I wanted to re-post about one such sacrifice-one that I wrote about a few years ago, of a brave man who gave his life so that his shipmates may live. Fate and his duty as a Plane Commander had placed him in this position and as the post lays out below, it was a terrifying event to be sure. In memory of Steven Zilberman:

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I've waited a while to write about this-as I wanted to put some space between the event and the commentary. A lot of readers are probably already familiar with the basics, namely the tragic loss of LT Steve Zilberman, USN of Columbus, Ohio in an aircraft mishap in the North Arabian sea. The aircraft was returning from an Airborne Command and Control mission over Afghanistan when it developed problems and the crew had to bailout.

The details of what caused the mishap are still under investigation-but it appears as if, LT Zilberman found himself in the position of flying the aircraft in order to keep it in a stable configuration while his crew bailed out. What I think has not been accurately told-except within the service community, is how truly frightening it had to be for him and the rest of his crew and how much of a debt of gratitude the rest of us owe this young man for his courageous actions on that horrible day.

I want you to remember this statement as I work through this post, its meaning will become apparent in a couple of paragraphs:

The new propeller is quieter, with less vibration on the airframe and equipment. It provides a little more SHP. It is virtually impossible to pitchlock, since the 8 blades can feather with loss of hydraulic oil pressure. One of the interesting performance attributes of the new prop is the reduced noise inside the airplane. The pilots and crew are able to hear noises they have never heard before. But the problem is, they don't know if these noises have always been there and they were unable to hear them because of the noise of the old props, or if the new noises are related to the new props

There is that word again: pitchlock. What does it mean? Let me explain. In a turboprop aircraft, the jet engine it has turns at a constant RPM or 100%. When you add power by moving the throttles forward, the engine is not turning any faster. What is happening is that the propellers are changing their pitch to take a larger "bite" of air and thus "pull" the aircraft through the air faster. The changing of the pitch of the propeller is accomplished normally through a hydraulic system in aircraft like the E-2 where the propellers are big and the engine nacelle is too.

The E-2 used to have a four bladed prop. It was similar to the C-130 in some ways and has a variant of the P-3 engine attached to it. The decision was made to go to an eight blade propeller in order to reduce vibration and noise as was stated above. It was also supposed to be easier to maintain since now-individual blades could be changed right on the flight deck-whereas under the "old" system I grew up with,a prop change was a major evolution require the aircraft to be moved to the hangar bay, the new prop "built-up" and balanced, and then the aircraft had to do a low and high power turn on the flight deck and a Functional Check Flight. If you have ever served on an aircraft carrier-you will know that stringing together that series of events is never easy.

If the hydraulic fluid that moves the propeller to its desired pitch is lost or is in the process of being pumped overboard ( e.g. as in a leak) there is a set of teeth that will engage with each other to lock the aircraft propeller into whatever pitch it failed at. It has to be that way because otherwise the propeller would randomly pitch as it moved through the slip stream.  That is bad. C-2s and E-2s have a pitchlock system built into the propellers to "help" the pilot if a propeller loses hydraulic fluid. Unlike the T-34, which has a spring assembly that will drive the prop to feather in the event of a failure, the C-2 and E-2 need hydraulic pressure inside the prop to drive the prop to feather. The pitchlock system is supposed to prevent the prop from going to flat pitch in the event that all the prop fluid is lost.

At least that is how it supposed to work-however if this happens at a low power setting, the prop is going to be at an angle just shy of being perpendicular to the slip stream. E-2 pilots refer to it as flying with a barn door attached to the aircraft. During my time in the community-probably after a fire ( which was a big deal when I was coming into my command tour, as the community had had several), this was the most feared emergency there was. Because the pilot always faced a dilemma, when and if he could shut the engine down and could he get back aboard if he did? Not to mention that if the aircraft pitchlocks at a low blade angle the ability to control the aircraft becomes sporting-to say the least.

So now lets return to the situation that the VAW-121 aircraft found itself in that day:

So after one engine lost oil pressure and then failed completely; after one propeller couldn't be adjusted to balance the plane; after it was clear that there was no way to safely land, Zilberman ordered his crew to bail out.

He manually kept the Hawkeye stable as it plummeted toward the water, which allowed the three other men to escape.

Time ran out before he could follow.

Zilberman, 31, was declared dead three days later.

On Thursday, more than 250 sailors, officers, aviators and friends gathered to pay tribute to Zilberman at the Norfolk Naval Station chapel.

His widow, Katrina, was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross that her husband was awarded posthumously.

My stomach hurts just thinking about it. What I hope to make you understand is just how gut wrenching this whole sequence of events had to be, and the real courage and presence of mind it took to do this.

When you bailout of an E-2, there is no ejection seat. You strap into the seat, release from it with the parachute attached to your back via a torso harness and then you have to shuffle about 20 feet to the main cabin door and roll out of the hatch.

The pilots? They have a few things to do to get ready for that. Level the wings ( if they can), call the ship,  broadcast their position——oh, and as an extra added bonus,  deal with the  emergency that put them in extremis to begin with.

I want you to think about it, the LT as the Plane Commander- had to know he was in a bad situation. So did the rest of the crew.  For him to get out, he would have to set the auto-pilot and then  hope that he could get the distance to the door, before the aircraft most probably forced the auto-pilot to kick off line and then,  in all probability,  stall and depart controlled flight soon there after. In which case the aircraft noses over and getting to the door is the equivalent of climbing a flat wall with no hand holds.

Assuming he had the altitude left to have time to do so.

And now remember this-he had to know all of these facts when he ordered the bailout.

But what about the ditching hatches,  you ask. ( There are three on the aircraft, two over the cockpit and one over the Air Control Officers seat). What about them? Besides the fact that its doubtful you can fit out them with a parachute on-there is this little matter of an eight bladed mixer turning out there and the laws of inertia.  There is only one way out. Getting out of an E-2 that was sitting still on deck when we practiced bailouts was hard.  Out of balanced flight, with the pilots working to maintain control?

Terrifying.

Yet this young man did it-and three men are alive today because of him. There can be no question of his devotion to his duty and his courage. He's a hero in every sense of the word-and the Navy and the United States have suffered a terrible loss.

Questions can and should be asked, however, about the system that put this crew in that gut wrenching situation that day. I've got three to be precise.

One: This is the third major prop related mishap in the past two years. This is a known problem.  It begs the question of what is being done in terms of training, and more importantly material solutions to fix what appears to be a big issue with a system that "wasn't supposed to work this way". Sorry, I kind of keep thinking of watching  a similar situation play out in the early 1990's with respect to fires on the aircraft.  Go back and ask someone who was in the community then about how many aircraft were lost in a three year period. And more importantly-why are not flag officers in the Naval Air Systems command screaming bloody murder about this?

Maybe they are-the skeptic in my mind kind of doubts it-I've seen this drama before.

Two: Why is the US Navy-after some 50 + years of being the jet age, and the advances that have taken place in propulsion systems, still operating aircraft with propellers on the carrier? Jet engines don't pitch lock-more importantly they would have provided some definite tactical advantages f0r the E-2 in the current operational environments it is operating in. Better dash to station, the ability to accelerate to more reasonable airspeeds for the coming innovation of air refueling to the E-2 and most importantly-it would eliminate a huge hazard to personnel operating on the flight deck.

When I got to my first fleet squadron, they were just two months away from an incident where a blue shirt got chopped to smithereens by a turning propeller when he turned the wrong way after removing a huffer hose. Kid was 20 years old. In the intervening 30 years I can think of at least two other similar mishaps and five others where the propeller struck something metal on the flight deck sending shrapnel through the skin of the aircraft.

Jet engines have their hazards too-I know this, but they also have their advantages.

Three: In conjunction with item two-why, after some forty years, has there not been a redesign of the crew placement in the aircraft to potentially allow the possible installation of ejection seats?  The dome is a problem I know-but ask yourself this, not every AEW aircraft is using a rotodome anymore. Phased array's are the wave of the future.  And perhaps the dome could be moved slightly and the weight compensated for to allow for an ejection seat.

This is a pipe dream I know-because even as I write this, I can think of about five or six really insurmountable challenges from an engineering standpoint. At the same time-there have been marvelous advances in aircraft design and there were during my time, several unique attempts to convince the Navy to adopt a new airframe for the AEW mission. I was on the record as being in favor of that. I can also tell you that it was never considered a popular position-the P-3 community was not the only community that was fixated on one type of platform for it's mission.

So let me state it again-I believe strongly that the E-2 could be redesigned into a twin engine jet aircraft with the crew positions to lined up like the Prowler or S-3 ( with canopies too!) and with the advances in avionics could still have the radar work in a manner to perform its mission. It probably would have looked like a "stretch" S-3. I remain convinced it could have been done.

It would cost a little bit of money to be sure-and that was something the leadership of Naval Aviation could not abide. There were after all boatloads of Hornets to buy and JSF.

Most of us, most of the time, live in blissful ignorance of what a small, elite, heroic group of Americans are doing for us night and day. As we speak, all over the globe, American Sailors, submariners and aviators are doing something very dangerous. 'People say, Well, it can't be too dangerous because there are no wrecks.'

But the reason we don't have more accidents is that these are superb professionals; the fact that they master the dangers does not mean that the dangers aren't real. Right now, somewhere around the world, young men (and women) are landing … aircraft on … pitching decks … at night! You can't pay people to do that: they do it out of love of country, of adventure, of the challenge. We all benefit from it, and the very fact that we don't have to think about it tells you how superbly they're doing their job — living on the edge of dangers so the rest of us need not think about, let alone experience, danger."-George Will.

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Dec 06 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 yesterday. Clearly the world has lost a great man. He was great not just because of his struggle against apartheid-but when the tables finally turned, he did not give into the natural instincts to take vengeance on his oppressors-but to seek a middle path that made a nation that needed all of its citizens regardless of the color of their skin. South Africa will now find out if his legacy can survive or if the nation will go down the same rathole that other nations have gone down. Given the track record of his successors, I am less than totally optimistic.

Now cards on the table-I am one who is very much ambivalent about British colonialism. While I recognize its racial underpinnings and the foolishness there in, at the same time I side with Niall Ferguson who made the conclusion that the nations that were once part of the British Empire have, in general, fared much better than those that were not. In spite of the many bad things that British colonialism engendered-the simple truth about Africa remains that there are too many nations on the continent and until they start to unify and put their tribalism behind them,  they will accomplish little of greatness.

And thanks to Nelson Mandela, South Africa could be a leader in that process. His legacy is unique one.

Which is why I shake my head in such complete astonishment, at the sheer buffoonery of some commenters -who have keyed on just his early life. Nelson Mandela's life cannot be examined in an American context. Those who try to do so are fools and idiots.

I advise anyone who rants and raves about the idea of Mandela being a communist, to go back and read "Cry The Beloved Country" sometime. And then go read it again. Apartheid stayed afloat on a river of violence and oppression, and while South African tried to halt the advance of history, the world went on to pass it by. What made Mandela great was that when he finally got the chance to assume power-he well understood the powder keg of emotions that had been repressed for so many years-and worked to make the transition to black majority rule a lot more orderly than many would have expected. For the complicated world of South Africa, that was nothing short of a miracle.

Most Americans who rant and rave about Mandela's Marxism don't understand context-nor do they appear to understand much of South African history since the "vortrekkers" arrived in the 1800's.  First and foremost, Mandela was an advocate of economic and social justice. There is nothing wrong with that-and if anything he was ahead of his time. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". The National Party used the fear of communism much to its advantage all through the 60's and 70's. And like it or not-the United States aided them for a long time in that effort. Or do we forget the fact that even Saint Ronnie aided and abetted apartheid?

Ronald Reagan was angry. It was October 1986, and his veto against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act had just been overridden — and by a Republican-controlled Senate, at that.

He had appeared on TV a month earlier to warn Americans against the Anti-Apartheid Act, decrying it as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Congress disagreed, and one month later, it produced the two-thirds majority needed to override Reagan and pass tough new measures against South Africa's apartheid government. These measures included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and prevented most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The Act also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 23 years in prison.

It is difficult to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid today. Blacks were denied citizenship and the right to vote. They were forcibly relocated into impoverished reservations. People of color were barred from operating businesses or owning land inside white areas, which comprised most of the country. Sexual relations or marriage between people of color and whites was strictly forbidden. Racial segregation was enforced in public areas, including schools, hospitals, trains, beaches, bridges, churches and theaters. To enforce apartheid, the government often resorted to police brutality, the imprisonment and assassination of political dissidents, and the murder of black protesters.

The United States had a complicated relationship with South Africa. Hawks in the U.S. national security complex had argued since 1948 that South Africa was an important ally in the fight against communism. Their arguments persuaded presidents from Truman to Nixon to stifle criticisms of apartheid in the interest of maintaining good relations with the white South African government, whose leaders surpassed Joseph McCarthy in their anticommunist zeal.

Reagan thought he was right. But he was wrong. And so are people who are fixated with Mandela's so called "communism". Like a lot of my viewpoints of today and yesteryear-the world in the aggregate has rejected them. I my long for the sun never setting on the British Empire and all male warships-but the world has passed those ideas by. It is what it is.

Let me repeat. You cannot look at Nelson Mandela's life through any prism but a South African one. Go back and study some of the history.

And then honor a truly great man who hopefully set his country on better course than many of his counterparts in Africa. He's not Ghandi. But South Africa is not India either. 

"What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?" Which side of the aisle you are on. 

And never forget he lost 27 years of his life to a prison cell. That changes people.

God speed and give you rest and peace, Mr Mandela.

 

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Oct 27 2013

Lou Reed , Rest in Peace

Published by under Memorials

It is with great sadness, that I note the death of Lou Reed, at 71. He was a master artist of his generation-and contrary to what Phib thinks, added much to the general discourse. As did most of the baby boom generation.

My favorite song by Lou Reed was not so popular. Nonetheless, it was a great song to sit by the fire-with a glass or four of Scotch,  and contemplate one’s life.

 

Let me give you a piece of advice,  Phib. The Baby Boomers produced some of the greatest minds of the last 60 years.

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Aug 23 2012

The forgotten war….and the forgotten people

Published by under Memorials,Military

Not that any Americans might have noticed this week, but the 2000th American died in the War in Afghanistan this week. I mean,  its hard to pay attention to the  tragic sacrifice of brave young men-when there are such meaningful issues like "what is real rape?" to argue about, after all.

The man's name was Specialist James A. Justice. He was from Grover NC and he was assigned to the 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Combat Brigade. He was 21 years old. He died of injuries suffered during a small arms fire fight in Afghanistan.

Now I have made my opposition to America's endless war on terror pretty evident over the years. I am not proposing to re-hash that here. But I do want to ask just one simple question: "Why is no one in this election discussing the sacrifice this and 1999 other Americans made-and what it will it take to stop 1000 more Americans from losing their lives in the region North of the Khyber Pass?"

After all 98% of Americans will never know what it was like to experience the danger he did. The country does not ask it from them-and so they can live lives of blessed ignorance that there are a relatively small group of Americans being put at risk every day-for an Afghan government and an Afghan people that have yet to prove they are worthy of the sacrifice.

This a subject more important than silly arguments about abortion and rape. We dishonor these brave folks sacrifice if we don't understand why they were where they were-and what it will take to bring the rest of the US forces home. As soon as possible.

The country needs to be talking about the fact that 2000 Americans have died in this far away land. When will we?

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Mar 09 2012

Another tragic loss of a blogger

Published by under Memorials

It has been a really lousy week all things considered-perhaps indicative of the way the rest of the year is going to go I suppose. This week has been full of nothing but bad news and death. Two bloggers-both of whom I knew on active duty have perished.   Of Lex-and the tragic accident that took his life far too young- you probably have already heard and will hear a lot more about. This evening and this weekend he will be remembered fondly with hosted pints of Guinness in pubs all around the country.

But there is another writer who also passed into the clearing earlier this year-in January as a matter of fact, but most of us in the E-2 community only became aware of it last week. A person I knew very well and crisscrossed paths in the Hawkeye community for the better part of 20+ years. He too, was a professional and able Naval Officer, Naval Flight Officer, outstanding tactician and member of a family.  When I was returning from Ramstein-I received word via e-mail that he had died quite suddenly. It was equally as much of a shock as the other news.  As this particular week comes to a close-I can’t help but wonder if someone will host a pint of Guinness in his honor.
 
I kind of doubt it-and someone should. So this is a post to hopefully do just that-honor the passing of a fellow warrior, Jeff Huber.

 
 
Jeff Huber served in the E-2 community for just about the entire period I did. He started on the “left”coast serving in VAW-112.  He held a variety of squadron tours-also breaking new ground as an E-2 NFO serving as a Carrier Air Wing Operations officer-unusual at the time for Naval Aviation-before returning to the community to serve as XO and CO of VAW-124. I was a guest of honor at his outgoing change of command in Fallon Nevada-unique in several ways, not the least of which was because it was held airborne during an active strike training mission-with his Sailors observing the flow of this mission in the TACTS debriefing room in the main NSAWC headquarters building. He then served in the demanding job of a Carrier Operations officer on USS Theodore Roosevelt. Following that tour of duty, Jeff chose a divergent path and hung up his uniform, retiring and moving on to a very different avocation as professional writer.
 
I should also probably mention that Jeff too-like Lex-had served at NAS Fallon for a time, during the early years of the evolution of the Strike Warfare Center. This was long before the place became the monster organization that it is today-long before the shotgun marriage of the major aviation weapons schools in 1996. His tour at Strike was new ground for the E-2 community and led the way for the folks who followed him to the present organization of NSAWC.
 
In his post Navy career Jeff took the path definitely less traveled by-and to what I believe would be the chagrin of most of the fans of the other blogger,  wrote candidly and unsparingly in his criticism of his former employer-and of the foreign policy of the nation it served during the first decade of the 21st century.  Chagrin is probably something of an understatement given that one of the places Jeff wrote for was the Great Orange Satan. He also wrote for Military.Com-and he published at Anti-war.com, a choice that earned him no respect with the diehard conservative set. Most recently he had a blog, Pen and Sword, that was primarily focused on foreign policy. He also had been published in Naval Institute Proceedings, Aviation Week and on Reuters. He established his own company in 2002, dedicated to the production of writing content.
 
He was a published novelist, and was in the process of finishing up his second book when the reaper took him. His first book, Bathtub Admirals was published in 2008. I suspect a modest seller-but a good attempt at satire of an organization that well deserved to be satirized. It was both an easy read and a hard one for me-because I basically “knew” most of his characters –and who they were based on. His second book Sandbox Generals I hope will be published someday.
 
People use the phrase “does not suffer fools well”. It gets overused IMHO-but was very appropriate when used in the context of Jeff. He really had no use for incompetence, ignorance or sloth in the service-and he viewed with increasing disdain the path being chosen by the service he loved-as all of us did-but has clearly made some horrendously bad choices. Unlike most of us-Jeff spoke up about it, and no one was spared from his incisive and rather apt commentary.
 
A lot of people did not like his writing style-the word “vitriolic” gets used and overused.  I view it differently-it was passionate. There is place for passion-and it’s not just in certain locations. More importantly his facts were accurate.  If anything his writing was equally as condescending as that which springs forth from so called “great writers” who defended the opposite position.  Kind of makes me wonder-what is a great writer anyway? It used to be someone who knew how to tell a story well. Increasingly-in the blogosphere-the definition corresponds to : ”someone I agree with”.  To dismiss Jeff because he did not support America’s misadventures abroad is to completely mis-read and not understand his intent. Did I agree with all of his conclusions? Absolutely not, but I could still enjoy his commentary anyway. More importantly, Jeff knew how to tell a story.
 
Now, I am a slightly biased observer. I liked Jeff and before my departure from the United States for Japan, counted him as a friend. We viewed our own aviation community in a similar vein and I was a squadron CO at the same time he was an XO. Later-when I was in charge of the E-2 Weapons School- I flew with him and his squadron.  Those were tough times for Naval Aviation-made tougher so by the cowardice that passed for some of our senior flag leadership.  One has to have lived through the period of the 90’s- and the traumatic changes that ensued- to fully appreciate the perspective he brought to his writings. Subsequently,  I also agreed  100% with his assertion that the Iraq war was a manifest tragedy for the United States of America and that the country benefits nothing from the so called “long war”. Jeff recognized, probably earlier than most, that world had changed-and the United States needs to change or find itself unable to effectively compete in the 21st century. If some people disagreed with him along the way-well that diminishes his message not one bit.
 
Furthermore-to judge Jeff’s life on his writings alone is to do him a grave injustice. Jeff gave a significant portion of his life to the service of his country. He learned a difficult skill in a difficult aircraft and became exceptionally good at it. He flew from the decks of carriers and was subject to the same risks as literally thousands of his brothers. He did so voluntarily-and in the process suffered personal costs and penalties for it.  He paid for his right to publish controversial opinions-he paid for it in spades. He broke new ground in the E-2 Community and was one of the most tactically astute NFO’s that I ever served with. An innovator-many of the ideas and concepts he worked on and practiced became accepted operating procedures in the E-2 Community. On top of that-he was a good guy;  the work hard, play hard kind of individual that the Navy used to cultivate-but now tries to run out of town on a rail. Talk to the folks who served with him in the period of time we served in the E-2 Community and you will find much well earned respect.
 
Nonetheless,  it is his writing that broke him out from the herd-and his writing was the type of writing professional naval magazines like Proceedings used to encourage, but now only pretends to. In writing this post I went back and took a look at all of Jeff’s Proceedings articles-there were many-and I marvel at just how right he was about several things.  He wrote well of the whole no fly zone experience in the 90’s. The piece below shows his wit-along with his insight:
 
In all fairness, the no-fly zone concept is not completely without merit. An informal survey of aviators from all services produced this list of the NFZ's finer attributes:

· Something to do on six-month cruise besides eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom (Navy only).

· Six-to-twelve week temporary overseas duty every couple years or so provides excellent excuse to complain about quality of life (Air Force only).

· Makes taxpaying public think it's getting its money's worth.

· Counts for Air Medal points.

· Brings families together. Multiple generations can swap firsthand Southern Watch stories at reunions.

· Get issued neat-o desert cammies and flight suits.

· Flying over barren, scorched desert makes you thankful you weren't born there.

· Great deals on cool aviator watches in Bahrain and Dubai.

· Operating in high stress, irrational-to-the-point-of- lunacy environment prepares military aviation's best and brightest for futures as general and flag officers.

· Something to bitch about.

Among the best-sounding justifications for no-fly zones is that they provide a long-term refinement process for the joint force air component commander (JFACC) concept. Standing NFZs, this argument states, constitute a living laboratory of joint air power command and control–sort of a wild purple yonder petri dish. Still, hard-bitten cynics continue to beg the question, "Are we accomplishing anything with this cockamamie NFZ malarkey, or are we just JFACCing around?"
 
It is probably fitting that his last post at his blog was about the “malaise” that has influenced and affected the blogosphere in general and those that write about military matters in particular. His post was unsparing in its thoughts and for the most part well on the mark. Jeff called it as he saw it-and for that we are all much richer. That’s he’s not still here to make us think- makes us that much poorer as an aviation community and as a nation. I am proud to have known you Jeff-thanks for the learning and thank you for everything you did. I will remember him and miss him. Jeff Huber will not have thousands upon thousands toasting his memory this weekend-although through his writing he  too was known to thousands of people- in person he was known but to us honored few. I knew him-and I will never forget. And I will toast his memory for the rest of us Hummer Moles. Here’s to us and those like us-damn few left.  May God bless him and grant him peace.
 
Clell Hazard: I am not a "peacenik", Captain; I just don't agree with the reasons behind this particular war, and I feel if we're gonna fight it we oughtta goddamn fight it right. -from the movie Gardens of Stone.

16 responses so far

Mar 07 2012

A tragic loss

Published by under Memorials

When I woke up this morning , as I made the coffee and stumbled to my computer-it seemed like it was going to be a good day.

After I got the computer on line-I knew differently. This is a terrible day and so will the days that follow. A widely followed blogger, an able and versatile aviator, and a professional officer-well versed in the literary arts is dead.

I feel bad in a lot of ways-and I feel that there is a big hole in the "community" so to speak-it represents a tragic loss, not just for his family and friends-but for the "discussion' of events.

Now,  cards on the table-my blog has a complicated relationship with his-and the words written here about his opinions were not always complimentary. Especially in recent years. I did not agree with his take on national politics-nor did we agree on other things, and we had different views of what the Naval Profession was about..The reasons for that are long, complicated and involved-and had a lot to do with the fact that we were at the same duty station once, on different sides of an intercine Naval Aviation civil war-as well as other issues. I retract or regret none of what I wrote-they were valid criticisms at the time and they remain so today. They were aimed not so much at his content-but at the reactions of his commenters, who contrary to what they believed,  could be downright mean and intolerant.   At some point down the line I will attempt to explain these issues in greater detail. 

Now is not the time.

But there was always deep seated respect-tinged with a more than bit of envy of his new employment. While I had stopped commenting over at his blog a couple of years ago-I still read it everyday. He was getting to fly and do something really exciting-unlike most of us mere non pilots who ended up in retirement walking the floors with cubicles.

Lex, on the other hand, had found a way to break those shackles and return to the skies he so clearly loved. His writing about flying was truly a thing of beauty and I always enjoyed reading his flying stories.

And what Lex could do was fly. As was written in the book "Flight of the Intruder" he put an airplane on, wore it -as a man would wear a well fitting suit- and moved about with precision. That is a unique skill-not given to very many men.

Lex will have the distinction of being mourned by literally thousands of people he never met. While it is no consolation-he at least was in the process of doing something he truly loved. Probably in the grand scheme of things-that's a pretty good legacy in and of itself.

12 responses so far

Feb 06 2012

Christopher Hitchens

Published by under Memorials

I wanted to wait a while before writing about the genuine sadness I felt when I heard about the death of Christopher Hitchens. He was a great writer, a man who understood how to paint a picture with words, and as an Englishman who cared deeply for the United States-probably saw the politics in that country with more clarity than many "native Americans" did. Not that he was 100% right all the time-his endorsement of the Iraq war and Bush's misguided "freedom agenda" are calls he got very wrong. But even when wrong-he was eloquent. And more importantly he could carry an argument on the strength of his words-even when the strength of his ideas-were prone to disagreement.

Now those who hated Hitchens-really hated him.  I think primarily, because his ability to be contrary , just really annoyed them-and so rather than take on the arguments he made on merit, they chose to attack him personally. Especially after 2007 when he published his book, "God is not Great" wherein he laid to waste a lot of deeply held beliefs of others. The assholes among us-would say he got his just desserts. What they fail to realize is that we are all poorer for not having his insight and erudition. What people never realized, as one writer expressed in a eulogy, was that :

 It would be easy to simply say that nobody is perfect and dismiss Hitchens’ support for some nasty right-wing causes as blemishes in an otherwise admirable career, but that would not do the man sufficient justice. While many of his political positions were mistakes, the important thing to take away from his stalwart defense of them is that Hitchens never pandered to an audience. Having arrived at his positions through careful moral deliberation, Hitchens would aggressively advocate for them until either his goals were achieved, or further deliberation caused him to change his mind. Hitchens would not hesitate to alienate his existing fans if he thought it would be necessary to do so in order to confront injustice. Today, when most newspaper columnists appear to simply express positions calculated to best corner the market potential of a particular slice of the political spectrum, Hitchens’ approach is more needed than ever, even if it makes us angry from time to time.


Furthermore, Hitchens relished the role and meanings of words and speech-in a way that most of us can only wish we could attain. He found-in his arguments ways to praise those he disagreed with-even when most of us could not. Otherwise, how could he have written some of his praise of the King James Bible, while being totally skeptical of the contents therein?

In a way that seems odd to me-but totally on context with American thinking-people remain fixated with Hitchen's atheism. I actually find it totally understandable-even if I don't come to the same conclusions that he did. As my Canadian counterpart wrote:

Under no circumstances would I associate myself with anyone running around Africa and telling the locals that AIDS was bad, but condoms were worse, so I quit. But I would never presume to say that Church's position wasn't biblically sanctioned because it is. I just happen to believe that the sanction is moronic and demonstrably lethal to the most vulnerable people on earth. If you believe that "God hates fags", you sure as shit better not have a tattoo while doing so because that just happens to be the next verse in Leviticus.



Essentially, that's what God is Not Great is about. If you wrap yourself in some supernatural, superstitious ceremony, you should also be called to account for the true – and sometimes breathtakingly so  - evil that's done in it's name. If the world was populated with rational adults, rather than overly tall children, that book would not have been as controversial as it was. 



The facts are the facts. And the facts are that the Catholic Church didn't renounce the biblical interpretation that the Jews were responsible for the murder of Christ – the basis of 1,000 years of Christian-propagated pogroms – until Vatican II, seventeen years after the Holocaust ended. And, to my way of thinking, that's more than enough reason to renounce Christianity. 

I personally believe that Hitchens' non-belief was prompted by his anger at God's non-interventionism, which in the face of the tremendous amount of suffering in the world-is a rather reasonable and moral position. Hitchens expressed his sheer surprise at this irrationality by denying the existence of God. There he and I part ways. I firmly believe in God-but I also acknowledge that-when it came to Deities-mankind lost the toss, and got one that was more than happy to be vindictive and unfair. As has been acknowledged in other texts-the Bible does a very poor job explaining suffering. But the fact that it does-does not lessen the possibility that God exists, rather that-like Lucy-He's still got a lot of explaining to do. In that regard the Gospels are a little light. Hitchens took the path of refusal. I prefer that of resigned acceptance-with just a tinge of resentment that he does not intervene to fix our problems. I think that elsewhere on the other inhabited planets-there are deities using their godlike powers to help the mortal members of that planet's population. It just is not happening here. And that's kind of the point, He can do that whether we like it or not-only God is God.

But it still does not lessen my admiration of a man who could express his contempt so eloquently-and with a biting wit and cutting language.  In the face of his demise-he wrote words that were simply brilliant. Borrowing from the Canadian Counterpart again:

 

One can't truly appreciate Christopher Hitchens without exploring the way he conducted the last 18 months of his life. Instead of engaging on a maudlin celebration of his own mortality, Hitchens instead used his esophageal cancer as a point of intellectual exploration, especially in his Vanity Fair column. If you read anything today, it should be "Topic of Cancer" and  his most recent essay "Trial of the Will."



It was on the topic of his own mortal illness that he truly broke through a journalist, and produced some of his most beautiful writing.  There was no sentimentality or self-pity in those columns, particularly "Trial of the Will", published just a week before his death. It was an intellectual and philosophical exploration on what it is to die, written by someone who was in the process of doing just that. "Tuesdays With Morrie" it wasn't. 

We are all much poorer for his loss. And for the nitwits who criticize him even in death-well, that just confirms they are nitwits.  Your time is coming."It didn't matter if you agreed with him or not because he was smarter than you are and would argue circles around you. Even when he was wrong, he could make a persuasive case that he was right. That isn't normally the job of a journalist, but it is the raison d'etre of a writer. "

And above all else. more than I can ever hope to be-Hitchens was a writer.

God rest you and give you peace.

And yes-its perfectly fine for a believer to wish that -as we should for all men. For those who don't believe that-I have nothing but contempt. I just wish I could express that contempt as well as he did.

3 responses so far

Sep 11 2011

9-11-2001

Published by under Memorials

Yes, I remember exactly where I was that day. I had been out and about and had just returned to the BOQ where I was living then. The S.O. called me and told me the World Trade Center had been attacked. I thought there was a mistake in translation somewhere. I flipped on NHK and then saw the truth-right about the time the first tower collapsed.

I know people who were working in the Pentagon that day. That was equally horrific as was the tragic loss of Flight 93 that day.

Jeffery Goldberg has expressed it well-”That is the crucial truth of 9/11. Osama Bin Laden had gathered to him men who were devoid of love, and who found in al Qaeda a vehicle for expressing their hatred of humanity. On the 10th anniversary of the murderous rampage committed by soulless men, we should remember the victims, and count our own blessings, and recommit ourselves to the suppression of evil and the protection of the innocent. ”

I will always remember and will never forget. But in doing so, it also means that I will never forget what came in its aftermath, much of which was-to put it bluntly-misdirected effort, in response to a unique event, the likes of which most of us had never seen before.

Its important, therefore, to look at 9-11 for what it is, a deliberate act of cold blooded murder. The fact that is so does not, however, provide a blanket absolution for the the myriad of flawed events that followed in its wake.  We have extracted our vengance for that horrible day a 100 times over.  The cost of doing so has been huge-and we will debate the wisdom of those subsequent decisions for years.

Guys like Dick Cheney, and George Bush and others-believe the horror of 9-11 gives them a pass on responsibility for flawed decision making subsequent to the event. I say no. The rat holes of the wars that have been pursued in the years following , and the very avoidable -and equally tragic-costs, cannot be just wiped away just because we were the victims on a particular day.

We can though, remember that day with honor-and vow to move forward into a better future than what those murderers tried to inflict upon us. All of our worlds changed that day-and I for one wish that day could be undone.  I want my world of September 10, 2011 back. But its never coming back.

9-11 will always be with us. But we can work hard to restore the world that once was before.

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