Not Exactly Camelot

New York Post front page          March 11, 2015

New York Post front page
March 11, 2015

 

“The rule of law in the U.S. is becoming the rule of lawyers.”
Niall Ferguson

 

In 1215, on a meadow field known as Runnymede outside the environs of present day London, England’s barons determined to secure once and for all the relationship of a ruler and his people. They secured King John’s signature to the document known as the Magna Carta, a charter that secured various freedoms, but more fundamentally, the principle that the rule of law was ultimately the final adjudicator of all citizens, whether they be king, or commoner. The concept of arbitrary rule was thus consigned to the dustbin of history, in all lands where free men were found.

800 years later, a copy of the Magna Carta lies in the National Archives next to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to remind one of how much is owed to this basic concept of freedom, and the common thread of principles that protect our liberties.

Unfortunately, the number of people who understand and want to protect the concept has dwindled to a pitiful few.

And one of them is definitely NOT the suggested potential anointed leader of the free world, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.  In a press conference yesterday the former Secretary of State of the United States and potential future President of the United States reminded all that if rule of law is your ideal, you might want to look for a leader elsewhere.  Not that this is new information.  The anointed one has been a rogue regarding the rule of law since she stepped onto the national stage some forty years ago as an assistant council on the Watergate committee , and flashed all the characteristics of her royal roguedum for the modern audience in case anyone forgot.

The press conference like all staged Clinton events was supposed to be a means by which Mrs. Clinton could bury any further conversations regarding her recently exposed use of a private e-mail service for both official and unofficial correspondence as Secretary of State, but her performance assured the issues wouldn’t go away anytime soon.  The brazen insistence that she had effectively addressed all concerns with her release of a portion of the email stream reminded us what this lawyer seems to be genetically missing – the idea that laws and the rules they engender are for everyone, and the rules for those who would govern particularly sensitivized to reduce the risk of corruption.  The Clintons, however, have always held the unique position that laws are arbitrarily interpretable, and that they were always the best positioned as to which ones they would follow and which ones they would skirt.  The former President Clinton at least brought his formidable personality and political skill to the game.  Poor Hillary has always been the edgier and more adversarially corrupt lawyer to the simplest of ethics, from the lying that led to her expulsion from the Watergate committee, to her role at the Rose Law firm regarding billing and the stonewalling on the subpoenaed records, the dark flailing about with the seamy Whitewater real estate affair as a victim of a far flung conspiracy, the cattle futures nonsensical explanation, and the hypocritical hatchet-job attacks on those that would dare fall under her husband’s lecherous influence all the while proclaiming her role as the Feminist in Chief.

The last 12 years have been a rehearsal for the job she has assumed hers, the Presidency.  She carpet bagged a residency in New York State to allow her to be handed the Moynihan Senate seat, ran for President in 2008 only to be swallowed by another more clever actor in Barrack Obama, then took the Foreign Policy role absent from her CV as Secretary of State under President Obama.  Having left the various messes behind for her successor John Kerry to deal with, she felt she had managed to position herself as inevitable for the top job.

The old Hillary problem however, her inability to do anything for a reason other than being self serving, simply could not be suppressed even when endowed with the most compliant and willing press.  The cracks were finally exposed with the tragedy of Benghazi and top came off with greedy need to make money the only way she has ever understood, having other people set her riches up.  The combination of incompetence and shady money deals needed a special capacity to control information and Mrs. Clinton found the perfect solution in likely becoming the first senior government executive to maintain all her interactions on a personal server despite her obvious role as a historical government figure. This ludicrous arrangement allowed her to erase any interactions she felt questionable or averse to the narrative of the most prepared public servant in history.  It made any conflicts of interest regarding her actions and the governments and people willing to give the Clintons millions through their foundation difficult if not impossible to trace,  All it would take would be for everyone to acquiesce to the idea that Mrs. Clinton could be trusted to protect the people’s business and separate the professional from the personal by her own rules of behavior.

And thus the press conference where she declared public records as the nation’s chief foreign policy representative to be the first in history held privately hostage, secure behind client attorney privilege.  She announced that no security breach on a private server was possible because it was physically guarded by the Secret Service, that 30,000 e-mails were destroyed as they related to her yoga schedule or daughter Chelsea’s weeding, or personally intimate interactions with her husband( who unfortunately denied having ever sent more than two e-mails in his life).   She declared there were no emails regarding her decisions leading to the Benghazi debacle and she could be trusted on that fact.  And she topped it all off, by saying as ‘ I am so forthcoming’, there would be no more access to her records or her server.  If you need to have your head explode, I recommend you watch the whole thing. The cliff-notes version however is here, and I suspect that will likely still be enough to have your head explode.

Now the watch begins.  I have always predicted that it was very likely Mrs. Clinton would not run for President because of the enormous baggage that would be exposed if she did so, and if she brazenly ran anyway, would show thee same fatal flaws that took her down in 2008.  That was before any of this mess.

In the end it always goes back to the rule of law.  You pay your taxes because its the law.  You don’t discriminate because it’s the law. You don’t steal because it’s the law. You don’t enter a country illegally because it’s the law. You don’t destroy evidence because it’s the law.  And it’s the law whether you’re the President the Secretary of State, or just another nondescript schlub.  And because the law deals with everyone on equal terms, it is as protective of your rights, as it is the most exalted leader of the land.

Are we going to throw that all away by electing a person that has never had a smidgen of understanding what I am talking about, or why that would even matter?  As Mrs. Clinton put so bluntly, “At this point, what difference would it make?”

All the difference in the world.

Posted in POLITICS | 1 Comment

Martyrs and Absolute Rulers

Boris Nemtsov sight of martyrdom in front of the Kremlin

Boris Nemtsov sight of martyrdom in front of the Kremlin

I have returned from a brief sabbatical from Ramparts to find a world progressively in disarray. Acknowledging the responsibility that comes with Ramparts of Civilization being the currently ranked  #8, 785,839 busiest internet site in the world based on on-site traffic, I felt my loyal audience would probably be able to stand a short respite from my point of view.  For you few decerning readers though, the absence of commentary on the fascinating events of the last few days without the specific purview as to how it will effect the future of western civilization probably left you a little wanting and directionless.  I will therefore try to do my best in my own humble way to once again try to tie it progressively together.

We start in the year 1170 with Thomas Becket, of course.  Henry II of England had definitely had enough of Thomas’s irritating desire to point out his flaws, and did what absolute rulers are prone to do – make a spectacle so others might learn.  Making sure the appropriate command was sent in a way that would absolve him of the need for direct action, Henry proclaimed to his court, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”  Noting Thomas’s proclivity as archbishop in hanging near the nation’s grandest 220px-English_-_Martyrdom_of_Saint_Thomas_Becket_-_Walters_W3415V_-_Open_Reverseshrine, the Canterbury Cathedral, Henry’s most professional knight assassins traveled to Britain’s most sacred ground, to make sure Thomas would no longer be a thorn in Henry’s side, and that everybody would know it.  The assassins made short work of Thomas at the altar and left him for public display.  With this monstrous event, Thomas had been made martyr, and Henry made his point.  Like all absolute rulers committing public sin Henry thrashed about looking for  Becket’s killers, but didn’t look very hard.  Henry even did an appropriate amount of public penance in front of Becket’s tomb, to show his subjects his recognition of the extent of sin committed, but their king was still king in complete charge, and Becket’s influence in effecting  change lost to the mists of time.

And so we lived 845 years later with another display of martyrdom of an opposition leader paying the price for irritating the absolute ruler. In a very public display reminiscent of Becket, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated by professionals in front of Russia’s most sacred church and the Kremlin, for the crime of pointing out the flaws of today’s absolute ruler, Putin.  This Putin knew his Henry II role well, already “taking over” the search for his killers, and lamenting the action so brazen at Russia’s sacred ground.  He has publicly apologized to Nemtsov’s mother. Well, as Shakespeare said, He “doth protest too much”.  The chances of Putin finding Nemtsov’s murderer is excellent, given the number of mirrors in the Kremlin. The chances of Russia finding justice with this increasingly malevolent dictator is considerably less likely, and the message is clear to all.  You defy the boss, and the boss will act.

Henry II and Putin have something else in common. Neither had any concern that the alleged leader of their world would do anything significant.  Henry had his Pope Alexander, who had appointed Becket bishop in the first place, but Henry knew the Church of England was progressively his church and Pope Alexander made a Becket a religious martyr, not a political one, and nothing was done.  So too does Putin have his Obama, who despite insult after challenge after provocation after crime, has stood silently as Putin has recognized his adversary for the foil that he is.

Russia is becoming a very dark place.  There is no place for brave patriots like Boris Nemtsov or, in absentia, Gary Kasparov.  The idea of liberty that so briefly shone when Boris Yeltsin rose onto the tank so many years ago and declared the dictatorship police state gone is a faint and withered memory.  In one of the most interesting twists of history, Boris Yeltsin, as his power was waning in 2000, determined to select his successor.  His assumed successor, his right hand man, a libertarian named Boris Nemtsov, was at the last moment set aside for an obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin, and Russia was changed forever.  Nemtsov’s Russia is now a Russia we will never know, and Vladimir Putin made sure of that.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov

 

 

Posted in HISTORY, POLITICS | 1 Comment

The Grand Secret of the Whole Machine

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

The newtonian contemporary Scottish mathematician John Arbuthnot, an intellect in his own right, and a man who would become famous as the individual who introduced the characature ‘John Bull’ to the world as the symbol of Great Britain, looked upon the creation that was Isaac Newton in awe.  Reviewing Newton’s masterpiece, Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Arbuthnot declared that Newton had done no less than reveal the grand secret of the whole Machine”.   So quotes James Gleick in his wonderful biography of Isaac Newton as he helps put in perspective a genius that may never have come before or since.

Isaac Newton is one of those incomparable and unrepeatable creations in the human story that defy all explanation.  Newton came from dust, and dust he would become, but it was indeed cosmic dust that was not the stuff of normal men. Born in 1642 in the  tiny hamlet of Woolsthorpe Manor in County Lincolnshire, far from the center of any environment that would possibly be expected to be formative to his colossal genius, Newton somehow found his way in forty short years to the center of adulation among the greatest of men.  With his father  having died before his birth, and his mother abandoning him to relatives, young Isaac was a stranger to human kindness and learned to internalize his thoughts from his very first years.  Exposed to relatives who assumed he at best would be a farmer, he was given the rudimentary school education of farming, including some simple math that would occasion a farmer.  Newton hated the very idea of farming and in his intense isolation began a lifelong habit of recording his every thought on paper provided by the school.  This was one lonely, lonely twelve year old  boy.  He wrote in his private torment, recording  the scorn of others –” what imployment is he fit for? What is hee good for?” and his own lonely sadness – “I will make and end. I cannot but weepe. I know not what to doe.” Not exactly the confidence of a king philosopher.

The family, noting the isolated nature of the boy and recognizing at least this was no farmer, arranged for Newton to take the education of the clergy.  An appointment to the College of the Trinity at Cambridge was achieved to have Newton enter as a sizar, a position at the college whereby a person with no means could obtain an education by being a servant to the other collegians at Cambridge of greater means or nobility.  His family gave him little money, but did gave the obsessive Newton a greater gift – the gift of 140 blank pieces of paper and the ink to fill them. And fill them he did, soon with ballooning observations questions and data tables well beyond any expected to link to his classic education.  The library at Cambridge became Newton’s  brain, the notebooks he so meticulously recorded his laboratory for a science he was beginning to invent – nothing less than the meaning of everything.  Newton questioned everything, and at a time when he was preparing for the clergy in the College based on the concept of the undivided Trinity, a fair amount of heresy.  The legend of the mental capacity of the obsessive student grew and Newton was eventually accepted into the college, passed examinations in mathematics and eventually made a scholar.  He read Euclid, Aristotle, Descartes, studied Kepler and Galileo – the philosophers that only a spec of humanity would be exposed to due to the rare concept of the book and the printed word.  But Newton did not read them to emulate them, but to see beyond them.

The notebooks grew and grew, and through the 1660s and 1670s Newton was literally inventing an entire philosophy of observation and experimentation that would change the world and man’s place in it forever.  And almost no one knew.  The brilliant thinking and experimentation that would become epochal treatises on Optics, Fluids, Calculus, and the very basic truths of the universe were intermingled with other thoughts on Alchemy and Religion that Newton valued equally, but wanted no one to see, and no one to criticize.  It would take one of the venial sins, vanity , to bring Newton out in the open and unleash upon the world the elements of incomprehensible genius.

In 1675, Newton joined the Royal Society, and began to divulge the extent of what he had been keeping from others.  The first tentative organized thoughts on paper, a treatise on Hypothesis of Light and Color, and he came up against his first real politic.  The Society was filled with other men that felt they were eminent philosophers, men like Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle, who were concerned the upstart Newton was impossibly knowledgeable and had to be piggybacking on more educated men’s work, particularly their own. To a sensitive isolate like Newton, who knew the extent of his experimentation, observation, and logic, the words stung like acid.  He reacted by withdrawing contact with the Society and the other philosophers.

It would take Halley’s Comet to bring him back for good.  In 1681, the comet described by Halley and the Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed were communicating with Newton their thoughts on the natural explanations of what had always thought to have been a Devine occurrence, the transient glory of the celestial phenomena of the comet.  Newton cagily let Halley know that he thought he had the answers they had been looking for, but was not about to expose himself to the intense ridicule that his earlier, less in depth  musings had ensnarled him. Halley and others encouraged Newton to be definitive, and the world has never been the same.

In 1684, Isaac Newton published a definitive series of observations, the Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,  that sought to explain the actions of the comet of Halley and with it, every object on earth, the moon, the sun and stars.  In short the laws that governed everything.  Newton’s laws, as they became known , defined the influence of every physical object in existence upon every other, and the incredibly mysterious force that explained their mutual influence, that of gravity.  In Newton’s olympian treatise, the answer to Galileo’s observations and Kepler’s measurements, the tides, celestial bodies, and the very presence or absence of matter was explained – and it was natural, and predictable.  The incredible bomb that was unleashed on the learned world was nothing less than a supernova.  The very private hermitic man newton was now the most public of men.   As the world progressively was learning that knowledge meant power, Great Britain was the possessor additionally of maybe the most powerful of men.  A French philosopher made aware of all consuming knowledge of Principia stated in awe of Newton, “Does he eat, and drink, and sleep?  Is he like other men?’  Halley called it the “splendid ornament of our time” and “incomparable”.

The ideas that were created in the mind of Newton were so far ahead of their measurable existence in science, that he began to become progressively both legend and target.  And the brilliant man became venal as the attacks surged.  What of this Gravity that requires Infinite Space and Infinite Time? How can something just Be, and work in a vacuum?  From across the channel came a new ferocious and formidable antagonist, the German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz.  Newtonian principles appalled him – “the fundamental principle of reasoning is,  nothing is without cause!”, Leibniz thundered.  Even more adversarial, Newtonian proofs were stated utilizing a new mathematical  technique Newton described as Fluxions which bore striking resemblance to Leibniz’s own calculus he had recently described.   Newton was again accused of being a sophisticated plagiarist.  This time, he came out with all barrels blazing, and declared his model of calculus proceeded Leibniz by decades, and it was instead Leibniz who was the usurper of Newton’s creative genius.  The fight raged and became international as the newly outward looking Britain was willing to support its hero against continental reactionaries like Leibniz.  The truth was imperically that in a world of extremely poor communication, the two geniuses likely came up with calculus simultaneously, and independently.  The new Newton however never again retreated to his isolation.  He took on the persona of the premier intellect in the world, became President of the Royal Society, and fought off others as he once was offended to be treated.

The death of Newton in 1726 was treated as no event to that time in the history of Britain.  For the first time a commoner was buried among the royal elite in Westminster Abbey. Newton the Legend grew and grew over time as his laws held up to three hundred years of progressively more accurate scientific investigation.  It was not until a genius of equal vision, Einstein, secured the gaps of reality that Newton could not explain, the actions of the very largest and smallest bodies that would not respond to the perfect nature of gravity, instead influenced by the very nature of time and space effected by visible light.  In a time of extremely limited tools of discovery, Newton had taken thought journeys with the limiting feature only the vast capacity of his visionary mind.  He saw himself as recognizing the smooth pebble from the many rough, on the shores of a vast ocean of untapped knowledge.  He is quoted as humbly seeing his advances as the natural progression of human thought – “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.  But Newton knew what he had conceived, and what he had achieved, and knew himself to be every bit one of the true giants.  Newton’s clergical soul saw himself as revealing the infinite and bountiless beauty of the Creator Himself. He knew with gift of Devine inspiration, he had discovered  the Grand Secret of the Whole Machine.

Posted in HISTORY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY | Leave a comment

Hating History

President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast

President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast –AP photo  Evan Vucci

This past week, we saw the passing of one the world’s great historians.  Sir Martin Gilbert, official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill, and author of many meticulously researched historical tomes including the histories of WWI, WWII, the Twentieth Century, and Judaism and the Holocaust, succumbed to the ravages of disease and age.  Sir Martin, was a traditional historian who saw history as a device not by which to judge, but to illuminate.  He did not see value in fitting the facts to a preexisting narrative.    Accuracy, detail and exhaustive care with the precision of facts were his watchwords.  With such individuals, the looseness with facts and the lack of depth of understanding so prevalent in today’s soundbite culture was anathema to him.

History, the bedrock intellectual pursuit that brings human perspective to all current events and passions, and that provides the means by which tragedy and missteps can be avoided by understanding what came before, has been dying as a discipline for some time. The modern citizen, asked to recall the components of his own citizenship, progressively fails to remember the simplest reasons for why he is a citizen and not a primeval schlub. When asked questions on the critical components of a civilized society, routinely the answer is a ludicrous guess or blank stare.  A slim minority can name the founding American documents that secures their rights as citizens, the President who secured the end of slavery as an accepted form of economic servitude in the United States, the correct century in which World War II was fought, or basic events that led to the great mass murderers, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

The virus that has affected the average citizen was at least at one time resisted by the collective intellectual braintrust of the country, who had to determine the careful steps a country must take in a dangerous world, and where history might reveal the avoidable pitfalls .  No longer.  The President’s woeful depth of knowledge of history progressively shows itself to be not only ignorant, but aggressive and dangerous.  At The National Prayer Breakfast this week, the President built upon his philosophical belief as to the moral equality of all religious cultural movements a superficial, nonsensical, and tortured historical rationalization for how the world about us became the world about us. At past times, the President’s gaffe filled memory of history and geography, the ‘fifty-seven states’ of the US, the lack of knowledge as to the chronology of the civil rights movement, and the clunky recall of his supposed specialty, constitutional law, seemed to be a simple reflection of the times.  The self centered historical reflection without any attention to the actual details Obama exhibited in his recent speech, shows the premeditation of  time honored principles of propagandists to sprinkle a few haphazard ‘facts’ into a predetermined  meme of opinion that promotes the big lie.  The specifics of the speech are torn apart by Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, who recognizes the nonsense for what it is.  But what does it say about how Obama’s own shamhistory is affecting his decisions as leader of the most powerful country on earth?  The preening nonsense, so effortlessly and confidently emoted, promotes a darker and much more dangerous ignorance that could eventually get a lot of people killed.

Mixing up history and mythology, fact and fiction, memory and reality is a progressive plague upon how so much of our current important decision making and opinions are formed.  The President’s moral equivalence and misrepresentation of hundreds of years old events such as the Crusades or the Inquisition  and their place in history with today’s Islamic savagery, borders on cartoon.  But he is not alone. The news anchor Brian Williams, who sees himself as the ‘one people trust” in objectively presenting the news, can not manage to present events without confabulating his role in them, to somehow make himself more authentic by telling tales that make him less so.  Hillary Clinton, our potential next president, assumes people can absorb a big lie regarding a pathetic video no one watched making fun of Mohammed rather than own up to her own inaction and lack of preparation in the Benghazi debacle.  John Kerry, our Secretary of State, made his mark in the military confabulating his Swift boat exploits in Vietnam, destroying others reputation to build his own. The President of Russia concocts a history regarding Ukraine that permits him to absorb it.

Embellishing or confabulating history is nothing new, but it often had a more innocent objective of promoting positive principles that reflected innate truths.  George Washington  could not tell a lie. Abraham Lincoln could split rails with one hand.  Nelson Mandela was a  scion of liberty and democracy.  History can bring light onto the dirtiest of reflected mirrors of the past.  In the current world however there isn’t even shame any longer on the process of embellishing or misrepresenting the way things came to be.  We don’t even have enough pride in ourselves to demand of our leaders an objective hashing out of the truth.  And that how you get the speech the President gave. And that is how we get the President, and history,  we deserve.

 

Posted in HISTORY, POLITICS | 1 Comment

A Brief Treatise on the Clash of Cultures

The Concept of Culture No Longer Blends

The Concept of Culture No Longer Blends

The idea that the bending of cultural “truths” have exceeded the capacity of a civilization to absorb them is not new.  For the cultured Roman citizen such as Cato the Elder, the progressive influence of the Greeks in Roman culture, particularly the Bacchanalian festivals with their sordid lack of inhibitions, horrified him, Cato seeing the Greeks as a “worthless and unruly tribe.”  The concepts of the universal catholic culture was felt to border on idolatry by northern European thinkers in the 15th and 16th century, leading to the rise of Protestantism.  Exemplified at  its cultural extreme by Puritans and Quakers, and its aggressive eversion to the papist influence, the reformers led to several hundred years of bitter wars, capped by the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, destroying a third of Europe’s population in the most cataclysmic cultural clash until World War II.  The current western world continues to evolve from the countercultural revolution of the 1960’s , in which the accepted norms were rejected by a generation that eventually injected itself into every aspect of cultural life, from education to government, from concepts of individual freedom to collective security, and from religion to sexuality.

Yet the extremes of cultural deviation are always about who owns the center.  In western culture, the center has fundamentally been based since the Age of Enlightenment on acknowledged truths of rational science, and the idea that progression of civilization is based on building on the foundations of the previous one.  In America, the marriage of these two ideas was put forth in the concepts of the articles of civilization, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the individuals who codified them, known as the Founders.  For several hundred years, the reverence for these creators and their expressions of rational structure to manage the various expressions of a society formed the center of the civilization.  The immense accomplishment of these founders proved resilient to the enormous strains applied to the ‘center’ concept by  dangerous cultural anachronisms such as slavery, nativist racism, economic depression, and world wars.

Today’s culture however no longer accepts the adjudication of the center.  The sexual revolution demands that concept of family, developed over tens of thousands of years, be overthrown for the particular desires of the individual.  Islamic radicals seek the destruction of all who will not submit to their cultural version, and the annihilation of an entire people, the Jews, who as a religious culture, are fundamentally in sync with their monotheistic vision.  Environmentalists see human beings themselves as the destructive element that must be made subservient to the more important concept of the Mother Earth, to the extent that individuals must be forced into lifestyles that revert to times when the concept of individual had little meaning.  Politically correct speech determines who can be offended without an acknowledgement of their virtues, and which group’s virtues stand above any accepted discussion of their virtuousness.

The schism affects every facet of our societal interactions now.  A movie that examines the character of an individual who sees himself as defending the center against barbarism, “The American Sniper,” is considered heresy by many who have not even seen it.  The main character is a “coward,” a “racist,” “a hate filled killer,” those who have interpreted the center as a defense for the many “crimes and abuses” put forth by western civilization. Yet, the movie about to become the most successful movie regarding the concept of warrior of all time, and, to the incredulousness of those who see it as a homage to white western racism, a popular movie even in Iraq.  To those who see the center as the enemy based on its immunity to the extremes of behavior and cultural mores, the movie has instead stirred the discussion regarding central themes of civilization independent of victim groups, such as good versus evil, civilization versus barbarianism, defense of society versus anarchy.

The modern culture is devoid of any formative basis for discussion of virtue, having thrown out the central philosophical tenets of religion, individual rights, and governance out with the peripheral strains that our more diverse society and scientific discoveries have  placed on the core beliefs.  Ask the modern western citizen as to elements that underrides their core freedoms, and a blank unknowing stare envelops their face.  This citizen will deny the presence of a Supreme Being, without understanding the need philosophically for such a Being to explain the actions of an irrational existence, and the necessity of defining fundamental, universal good and evil.  They will demand rights that don’t exist, while casually giving up those rights that exist to support their freedom to demand.  They reflexively state that all ‘men’ are equal, without understanding that the carefully understood philosophy is that All Men are Created Equal, thereby making possibility the equality of opportunity, and the free will to accept or reject the opportunity.

It is not clear whether our current need to define all lifestyles, actions, and thoughts as having equal weight and import will overthrow the carefully tendered considerations and hard won concepts of thousands of years of human development.  If they do, they will succeed at destroying the rational and positive impulses of cultural evolution that led to our current world that respects but does not deify individuals, balances progress against the gold standards of tradition, and has elevated the process of each individual’s life to most stress free, secure, and personally expressive in human history.

The center is a good place to return our civilization, founded on principles of multiple avenues of peaceful resolution, but active defense of the rights of man.  As a culture in free fall, the safety net not available to the many cultural expressions that proceeded us is the template of both rights and responsibilities so carefully cultivated by our ancestral founders.  In the chaos and entropy of our modern fractured society, the way to enlightenment has been with us all along.  It is our duty to use our measured intellect again, to rediscover our abandoned center, where the soul of our civilization resides.

Posted in CULTURE | 1 Comment

Can Anybody Here Play this Game?

American Leadership - Boehner  Obama  Mitchell

American Leadership – Boehner Obama Mitchell

“You look up and down the bench and you have to say to yourself, ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?'”

Casey Stengel

Toward the end of Casey Stengel’s managerial contributions to major league baseball, the manager that had led the New York Yankees to 10 American League pennants and 7 World Series titles, was saddled with the responsibility of attempting to shepherd the expansion New York Metropolitans (Mets) through their inaugural 1962 campaign.  The result was a major league record of futility of 120 losses against 40 wins.  Thus the quote.

The ‘Old Perfessor’ as Stengel was referred to, didn’t grow up with much personal education, but his vast experience innately told him what worked and didn’t work, and he was able to recognize when he was simply not putting a competitive team on the field.  He further stated, “ Been in this game one hundred years, but I see new ways to lose’em I didn’t know existed before.”

What would the Old Perfessor say about America’s current team?  Has the United States, for decades the undisputed champion of freedom and personal initiative, progressively become the New York Mets of 1962?  Is there anything about the leadership team pictured above that provides one with the sense that real devoted professionals are at work?  Stengel said of his first baseman on the Mets, ‘Marvelous’ Marv Thornberry, on the occasion of his birthday, ” We was going to get you a birthday cake, but we figured you would drop it.”  What indication do we have that current team, facing so many enormous current challenges, wont simply ‘drop it’?

One might argue that Boehner and Mitchell have been outliers in the horrific record of the last six years, as President Obama had complete control with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid for two years, and four more years with Reid blocking any contrary corrective actions to the Obama wayward drift for the past four.  A tweet graph circulating the internet puts into perspective the domestic performance statistics of the so called professionals on the Democrat team:IMG_4709

How will Boehner and Mitchell respond to a President that is actually proud of such a record?  Well, Stengel shifted players on the 1963 and 1964 teams and they did improve, losing ‘only’ 111 and 109 games respectively the next two years.  Are Boehner and Mitchell, the Tim Harkness of today?  Harkness was the successor to Marvelous Marv Thornberry at first base on the inept 1963 and 1964 Met teams, achieving a lifetime .235 average in his brief major league career. A step up, but not much.

What can we expect of these guys who have been participants in increasing the debt of the nation by 70% in just six years, initiated a pathetically conceptualized government takeover of healthcare of one sixth of the economy, struggled to define any form of a recognizable immigration policy that preserves the integrity of the nation’s borders, not to mention tipping over hard won stability in Iraq and Afghanistan,  or  identifiable security in Libya, Syria, Egypt,  and Ukraine?  What can we expect of people who have participated in defense contraction at a time of significant hostile expansion?

Okay – Lets assume its spring training and hope springs eternal for this team.  Let’s ignore the bombastic state of the union speech as a lagging, out of date indicator of what we can really expect in the coming season.  Maybe these guys will recognize that we can not possibly afford another losing season.  We can give them a chance – but I say, the leash is short.  If it looks like the same old, same old come the start of the regular season, its time to fire the whole bunch.

 

Posted in POLITICS | 1 Comment

Appeaseology

Western Leaders Show 'Solidarity' in response to Paris massacre

Western Leaders Show ‘Solidarity’ in response to Paris massacre

“I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air”

                                                           Margaret Thatcher

Engagement is not appeasement. Engagement is not surrender”

                                                           Chuck Hagel

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history, is the most important of all the lessons of history”

                                                           Aldous Huxley

 

The stark sequelae of the practice of appeasement leading up to the cataclysm that was the second world war has made the word appeasement a central focus of every consideration to determine how to confront tyranny since.  The crystal clear lessons of Prime Minister of Great Britain’s Neville Chamberlain’s decision to allow the Nazi gangster regime to devour Czechoslovakia in trade for a temporary etherial peace has remained the example for all time of the legacy of appeasement. Since the events of 1938-39, western democracies have been more sensitive to the risk of the label of appeaser being applied to them, to avoid the stigma of their actions being interpreted as ignorance or weakness.  The consequences, however, of ignoring history’s painfully learned lessons are no less dire in today’s modern world than they were in the simple fascism of the 1930s when state driven fascists bluntly developed their capabilities in easily recognizable uniformed, organized military forces.

The basic structural elements of weakness in recognition, preparation and confrontation native to appeasement remain every bit as trenchant in the need for understanding in today’s world as it did in the seeds of destruction planted by inaction prior to world War II.         The power of last week’s march in Paris, where a common defense of the principles of free speech was trumpeted by many world leaders (sans America) and millions of citizens was visually stunning, but vacuous.  It crumbled the minute the French President Hollande left the synagogue where the Israeli Prime Minister was about to speak, afraid to be associated with any expression of opinion that did not fit the meme of political correctness on the just the subject he had marched to defend earlier.  To the tyrannists, no better signal of the hollow nature of the “outrage” could possibly have been sent.  They could see that Hollande did not equate terrorism that Israel lives with on a daily basis with that of the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre, though the terror cells responsible for both hold nearly identical credos and objectives.

What are the common foundational elements of ignorance and weakness that form the perverted logic resulting in appeasement, and are we once again heading down the road so presciently defined by Winston Churchill in 1938 with the current islamofascist threat? Ramparts  takes a look at the science of Appeaseology.

The Falsehoods of Grievance :

The need to appease on the basis of perceived grievance is a common element put forth by all appeasers.  The Nazi gangsters were forgiven their neanderthal tactics on the consideration that they had been aggrieved by the world.  The territories they sought were, after all, filled with German speaking and germanic ancestral peoples forced to live under the unnatural flag of oppressive foreigners like the government of Czechoslovakia.  Much the same, today’s Palestinians are forced to ceed their natural rights to the land to the occupationist Israelis, the once seamless islamic caliphate to the usurping Christians and Yazhidis of Syria and Iraq, and the arab nation to the vestiges of French and British colonial abuse.  If only the rightful heirs to the land would be restored, the need to be belligerent would rapidly dissipate.  Modern western European liberal thought particularly remains inextricably linked to this form of Appeaseology.

Engagement and the path of Least Resistance:

The belligerent character of aggressors is a sign of their immaturity in the realm of diplomatic give and take.  Belligerents simply want to be respected and taken seriously. By constructively engaging them and showing your willingness to be reasonable and non-obstructive, you will show them the benefits of mature human behavior and the sincerity of your good will.  Such behavior builds progressively trust and peaceful compromise.   Though the risk of nuclear weaponry in the hands of Iran may seem volatile,  their self respect and pride from being able to have the technical capacity to create such weapons and the national will to develop them is understandable, and willingness to deny them such capacity reactionary.  They will appreciate the good will and recognize their role in needing to maintain stability.  Nazi impulses were similarly seen as a temporary aberration of a civilized nation, that once engaged, would respond with the innate tempered civilized outlook of the great german nation evolved over hundreds of years. Putting up roadblocks to “evolution” would simply delay that behavior from the German nation.

Universal truths are relative and potentially insulting:

The tremendous rallies in the support of free speech last week in France are pledges only to the concept, not the reality of individual rights. Sarcasm or provocative expression anathema to another culture is the ultimate instigation to belligerence and hostile actions, as viewed by the politically correct modern appeasers. President Obama expressed this view best when he stated at the United Nations : “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  Of the insult to every other culture that Islamofascism insists upon, subjugation of all other religions, enslavement and prostituting of their young, destruction of their religious symbols, erasing of their cultures, and elimination of their representative voice, Obama is ignorantly incapable of appreciating such realities as counterintuitive to his argument.

The actions of the extreme are a perversion of the culture, not a reflection of it:

The “lone wolfs” and terrorist cells that plague the world are outliers and perversions to the base message of Islam.  Whether it is the monsters of Nigeria, Boko Harum, the absolutionists of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda Wahhabism, or the murderers of the ISIL caliphate, the Jew slayers of Hamas or Hezbollah, or individual “lone wolf” Soldiers for Allah such as the Boston Marathon Bombers or Major Hassan, the appeasement mantra is that this is no way reflects the base tenets of Islam, a supposed peaceful and tolerant religion.  No different were the SS Waffen or  the Jew beaters of the SA, obvious aberrations of the German nation to the appeasers who wanted to envision a Germany of Beethoven, Goethe, and Leibniz.  Appeasers are capable of ignoring example after example of hostile actions because of the comfort they feel in the illusion of their contrived and fantastical image of their appeased subject.

The fires of extremism burn themselves out with the careful and steady management of appeasement:

Passions are the undirected energies of a rudderless culture, and as the culture is progressively brought into the family of nations, the passions will positively re-direct.  Somehow by the West being patient and non-confrontational, willing to absorb a few spasms of violence, the progressive growth achieved by engagement will calm the instability.  This irrational assumption  that passion is not fed by fundamental belief flies in the face of all credible evidence  In both the form of fascism of the late 30s in Germany and Japan, and the modern version in Islamofacism , the fundamental belief is that of a superior people denied its rightful place at the head of all peoples.  The belief is not burdened by guilt, ethics, or any form of self controlled behavior.   Each event that shows a lack of willingness to confront, reinforces the sense of that superiority.  The fires are not burned out, but rather fed with the oxygen of each incitement without retribution.

 

It was briefly inspiring to see some blowback from the millions of French citizens who risked their anonymity to say “je suis Charlie Hebdo”. The proof however is in action, not intention.  The modern governments of the West are filled with leaders who calculate and appease, rather than assess and confront.  They are more offended and outraged by fantastical enemies such as climate change and lifestyle victimization then the ominous and fundamental threats to their civilization.  We cannot count on our leaders, who are in love with their ability to socially experiment and control behavior, and willing to risk all that we have achieved.  We need brave muslim leaders like General Al-Sisi of Egypt to continue to step forward and say no more.  We need to have the average citizen of the civilized world stand up and say “Je suis Civilisation, J’aime Civilisation” – and let all know the appetite for appeasement is now  at end. To the  Islamofascists, our patience is at end. And with it, the unprovoked expansion of their perverted gangster world is at end.  Its the end of our world  or the end of their world, and we all know to preserve what is good in this world – its their world that must go.

Je suis civilsation

Je suis civilisation

Posted in CULTURE, HISTORY, POLITICS | Leave a comment

Who Knew? – The American Oil Revolution

The Ghost of Fuel Prices Past

The Ghost of Fuel Prices Past

In all the stories assumed to be the Christmas miracle story of 2014, the story no one predicted was the resurrection of the American economy on the muscular shoulders of the American oil industry.  On the gas pump above frozen in time like a faded photograph are the gasoline prices when America was the number one producer of oil for the world, before the OPEC oil embargo, the piling on of taxes on the energy sector, the mythic concept of Peak Oil and the fading of carbon as an available source of fuel and energy, and the concern about global warming converted to “climate change” (with the unexpected lack of global warming) and the rising CO2 emissions.  A colossus of current events, however,  are driving down energy prices to the point where, inflation adjusted, we may see prices comparable to the ancient levels, with the resultant spectacular boost it will provide the economy through inexpensive available energy and to the individual in freedom of transport.

In the millionth example as to how progress in society is best achieved through the power of individual initiative and creativity and not plodding government bureaucracies, the American Oil Revolution is a prime case study. Left to the nanny state mentalities of the modern government agencies, no revolution would have come about.  Since 1990, on the basis of the dogma of carbon energy as the enemy, western governments have progressively looked to stamp out oil and coal initiatives because of the propped up science “connecting” global warming as an anthropomorphic  phenomena and rising CO2 emissions as the world became progressively developed.  The Kyoto accord looked to remove carbon as the fuel for economic expansion in the first world economies, allowing the developing world to “catch up” and to create a veneer of ‘sin’ associated with man’s progress as individuals.  This argument was buttressed by the concept of Peak Oil – the world’s supply of oil was finite, and as we had found all there was to find, the inevitably  scarcer oil resource had to be adjusted for by “good” technologies yet to be invented and aggressively put in place of oil. As expected, technologies artificially propped up by governments before their technical time, like wind and solar, created associated boondoggles, enormous waste of investment, lots of dead birds, and essentially no bump in net energy (energy creation/energy expended = net energy). As oil was yesterday’s fuel, the American government willfully restricted access to known oil resources on public lands, to assure the narrative and reorder societal behavior.

Leave it to those Texans to save us once again from ourselves.  On private lands, experimentation on so-called inaccessible oil locked in rocks began in the 1990s and took off in the first decade of the 21st century in the form of fracking – the process of pressure injecting sand and water  to create channels of oil flow in oil tied up in eons of rock.  As the government struggled to contain the action on private lands, the progressive success of the process spread to areas of the country long considered dead to energy production – North Dakota and Pennsylvania with the stunning result that not only could the oil be captured safely and economically but in quantities that soon put the Peak Oil argument to shame. Hundreds of millions of years of organic detris preferentially distributed in the continental expanse of North America at levels only conjectured about became accessible, and the miracle was on.

The American Oil Revolution

The American Oil Revolution

And so the miracle of the United States surpassing once again Saudi Arabia as the number one producer of crude oil in the world.  The effects of such a stunning turnaround are yet to be fully evolved.  The initial downstream effect has been a glut of oil and natural gas that has created a dramatic downward pressure in oil prices. WTI Crude Oil per barrel was $54.73 per barrel on December 27, 2014. On September 6th, 2013 it was 108.12. This 50% reduction in the price of crude oil has been resulted in the fracturing of the continuity of OPEC, the brazen effort by Saudi Arabia to maintain production highs to try to “starve” the American oil producers who require a higher oil extraction price, and the secondary effect on the dictators in Venezuela, Russia, and Iran that have funded their extremism and revanchist expansionist policies on a steady high oil price.  The benefit to the energy consumer, the individual in prices at the gas pump and the producer of goods and services in the reduction in energy outlay, is profound.  The benefit in removing oil as a weapon used against western society is equally profound.

And yet, the lingering issue of carbon emissions and the resultant CO2 effects on potentially precipitating climate change.  What good could possibly come from the entrepreneurial efforts of independent thinking Texas oil men when the world’s climate is at stake? The answer? — never doubt the creative intellect of the individual free to solve problems without an overbearing tiller of an oppressive bureaucratic regime.  The next coming miracle may be EOR-Enhanced Oil Recovery.  It turns out those Texans have not only resorted to fracking, but for decades have been thinking about the so-called exhausted wells they already own.  The traditional drilling process extracts only about 30-40% of an oil field’s available oil before it is “exhausted” by the lack of pressure to retrieve the residual 60% of the oil left behind.  It has always been cheaper to simply find another oil field to drill.  The estimated 100 billion barrels of oil remaining in US wells after exhaustion of the well has been waiting for technology to deliver a solution.  As fracking was to shale rock, EOR is to exhausted wells.  The process of extracting the retained oil may be best solved by the utilization of — wait for it –  CO2.  That’s right, the “evil” gas CO2 created by man’s energy demands particularly by coal burning plants may be the savior of attaining oil from exhausted wells.  CO2, in a liquified state, injected under pressure proves to be a unique solvent freeing retained oil for well to once again produce.

co2_eor

 

Samuel Thernstrom in the Weekly Standard describes in a must read article a process where the billions of tons CO2 emissions created by coal burning plants could be captured and sold to the oil industry for EOR extraction, thus increasing available oil and reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by injecting them back into the ground where they came from  in a perfect dance of environmental and energy policy.

All proves possible again when you rely on the instincts and genius of the individual seeking to advance the world he or she lives in.

I don’t know if the amazing revolution in energy back to attainable carbon will be the final answer to continuing the process of achieving a more civilized and kinder world to more and more of the world’s population. I do know however,  time and time again, the answer will be found in the fertile mind of an individual who, released from the oppressive weight of a government that thinks it knows the future, will bring the future to us all.

Posted in ECONOMICS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY | 1 Comment

Freedom Loses Again

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
                                                                           Ayn Rand

What is freedom?  Why did the United States for over 23o years declare the elevation  of one’s individual capacity to determine his destiny without oppressive interference of others the primary definition?  What is lost when the essential force for individual freedom sees itself as flawed for not recognizing another country’s capacity to set its on destiny regardless of personal freedom?  What does it mean to the inhabitants of this country and those that exist under different definitions?

We are about to find out.

President Obama this past week overturned the settled philosophy of the 8 prior American Presidents regarding relations with the nation of Cuba by releasing three Cuban spies imprisoned for felonies such as murder and acknowledging the process for achieving formal relations with the government of Cuba.  Having recognized in 1961 of the true political leanings of the young ‘revolutionary’ Fidel Castro, the United States attempted  to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Castro retaliated by his willingness to bring the world to the brink of nuclear destruction in the October 1962 Missile Crisis  instigated by young Castro accepting nuclear weapons from Russia aimed at the United States. The successive American governments have applied the concept of containment with variable success to the aggressive tactics of the Castro government, blockading it from formal trade, and encouraging the cuban exile population to work progressively toward the liberation of the island from the Castro regime.  The fifty subsequent years have been essentially a cold war between Cuba and the United States, with Cuba progressively trading economic support from the Soviet Union to maintain its marxist totalitarian grip on the Cuba economy and people, and its  willingness to act as a military proxy for Soviet communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s in places as diverse as Nicaragua, Granada, and Angola.

From 1959 onward, tens of thousands of Cuban refugees have attempted to escape the totalitarian government, risking life and limb on rickety boats to try and secure a meaningful existence in the United States, the passage to freedom a tempting mere 90 nautical miles away from the American coast. Many have made it. Many more have been drowned, eaten by sharks, sunk by Cuban gunboats, and turned around by American Coast Guard vessels.

What were they escaping? To the liberal Washington elites and Hollywood celebrities they were leaving a utopian paradise of free health care and societal equality, ruled by a leader in Castro charismatic in his affect, perpetually revolutionary in his appearance in military fatigues, and ultimately concerned only for his Cuban people being able to steer their own course without the oppressive domination of a whorish American capitalist caste.  The level of cultural coolness and forever youngness was even secured on t-shirts and posters immortalizing the great leader Castro, and his right hand revolutionary, Che Guevara, the enthusiastic judge and executioner for revolutionary firing squads that purified Cuba from dissidents who didn’t recognizing the righteousness of the revolution.  It is the personification of this idolatry that propelled the current President to the office of Presidency and the subsequent comfort with the ideals of the winds of change fomented by the  Cuban revolutionaries.

Che_Guevara1 images

If the process of attempting to secure individual freedom for the Cuban people over 53 years of consistent foreign policy through containment proved to achieving no identifiable changes in the Cuban government’s relationship with its people what possible risk is involved in accepting the Cuban revolution at face value, and recognizing it as the legitimate aspiration of an entire people? What could be possibly at stake in similar efforts to restore relationships with similar minded governments currently hostile in position against the United States such as North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela?

Maybe one could ask men such as Rafael Ibarra Roque, imprisoned since 1994 by the Cuban government without trial for ‘sabotage against the regime” for speaking out against things he had seen as a Cuban soldier and citizen through a nonviolent group he formed called Frank Pais effecting to restore democracy to Cuba.  One could ask Human Rights Watch, which has documented a systemic oppression resulting in thousands of executions, arrests without trial, formation of forced labor camps (UMAP’s), suppression of independent media and opposition political movements,  government drug cartels, and prostitution. One could ask the Cuban exiles in Miami who labored for decades to restore the most basic of personal freedoms in Cuba for the family members they left behind.

And now it is gone, as the citadel of personal freedom and institutional democracy determines that respectful relationships with such tyrants will serve both countries better over the long run.  We are left with the question with each of these over-turnings of our own principles what is lost in ourselves as we deny the fundamental importance of such principles?  Will a President who cares more how we look to others than how we act among ourselves lead us to our own loss of freedoms?  That depends obviously as to what it means to be free and our willingness to prevent those who would sell such hard earned freedoms for the veneer of acceptance recognizes once gone, they wont be easily if ever brought back.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
                                                                           Ronald Reagan

Perhaps the freedom we lose, will be forever Cuba’s gain.  Raul Castro, Cuba’s current leader and brother of Fidel thinks not.  He is looking to the economic support of the Cuban Revolution, to cement its gains and prevent any change in the relationships with its people.  Perhaps it will change Cuba’s belligerency.  Then again, it was just last year that Cuba attempted to gain tactical missiles from North Korea to position against the United States, learning nothing in the intervening 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Cuba is not looking for change, but it will be hoping for change in the United States. As probably will Iran and Venezuela. It turns out when it comes to slowly dissolving the light of freedom, the Man of Hope and Change was ultimately the Man of totalitarians’ Hope , and our Change.

 

Posted in CULTURE, HISTORY, POLITICS | 1 Comment

Shackleton’s Magnificent Failure

 

Shackleton's Endurance succumbs to the ice

Shackleton’s Endurance succumbs to the ice

One hundred years ago this week, the explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the schooner Endurance left the port of the Grytviken whaling station on South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic to the continent of Antartica.  The goal was a never before achieved transcontinental traverse across one of the remotest places on earth.  It would be their last touch with civilization for the next one and half years, and it would be an utter failure. The extent of the failure, and the spectacular story of survival, courage, leadership and outright moxie required to bring the participants back to civilization is the basis of one of the most uplifting stories of human achievement and one hundred years later, remains a riveting example of meeting your own flaws and mortality head on and overcoming to inspire us all.

One has to put into the perspective the age that men were living in, and that it was the age of men.  Ernest Shackleton was a man of his age. He sought to test himself and others to expand the limits of what was known and did not terribly worry about the consequences or risks of such traits.  He had participated in a previous Antarctic expeditions including one with the famous explorer Robert Scott who later lost his life in the return voyage from achieving the South Pole,  in a mission that Shackleton had planned to be his own.  Having had to except the reality that the glory of first to the pole rested in the hands of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who beat Scott to the pole by three weeks, Shackleton wanted to establish a British success that would be of import, the transcontinental voyage that would require more spectacular planning and logistics, in keeping with his sense of being a man of the Empire.   He did it in the old empire sense of understatement, not asking for public support but rather going to a few rich brokers with similar sense of empire to fund the expected costs of such a complex expedition, approaching 5 million in today’s dollars.  For crew, he called on a few loyal men of extraordinary talents who had served with him previously, and for other parts of the crew, a simple understated call to adventure advertisement in the local paper.

The Endurance Expedition advertisement

The Endurance Expedition advertisement

The genius of Shackleton’s leadership did not present with the planning of the voyage.  Limited by the primitive communication of the day, the difficult logistics relied on the almost perfect and thereby implausible timing of events and cooperative weather that very soon showed the flaws in Shackleton’s expeditionary capabilities.  The Endurance sailed across the Weddell Sea to the Ronne Ice Shelf in sight of continental land but hampered by a progressively treacherous current pushed ice pack which eventually locked the ship in from the open sea on February 14th, 1915.  Tremendous efforts by the crew to free the Endurance from the ice proved fruitless, and Shackleton realized the boat would have to wait out the ferocious Antarctic winter in the ice, hopefully to be freed by the next spring and summer’s melt off.

He had been locked in the ice before on the Scott expedition , but had been able to free himself, so he assumed with patience the same could occur for the Endurance.  He was wrong, horribly wrong, and by the intense winter of June through August the pack progressively thickened and began to put massive pressures on the boat’s structure.  By September, the boat was in dire straights, crushed against massive heaving flows of millions of tons of ice, and the inevitable occurred on October 27,1915 – the ship was abandoned and slowing sinking began.

And so really begins the story out of utter failure.  The depths of imagination and courage needed to survive are beautifully  told in Alfred Lansing’s book the Endurance , and can not be done justice in a few paragraphs in this blog. What Shackleton showed in the face of crisis is the basis for this blog, however, and the key moments are forever inspirational.  What does one do in the face of complete collapse and frank threat to your leadership? Shackleton’s decision was to show even greater leadership.  He announced to the crew that the purpose of the expedition was now fully to achieve the survival of the participants and he was confident through shared sacrifice this could be accomplished.  A score of men alone with limited food and poor survival gear floating on an ice flow over a hundred miles from land and a thousand miles from civilization seemed an impossible task and the men felt it, but Shackleton never let them see that he felt it.  He would lead them to safety.  The road to safety was the open sea, and therefore the three rescue boats on the Endurance would have to be the means of escape.  Men would have to physically drag them over ice flows and knee deep snow over uncountable miles until free water was seen.  Day after day the harsh realities were documented by the mission photographer, Frank Hurley, who brought visual confirmation to the incredible facts of the escape effort. Through maps and reckoning, the distance to shelter was felt to be three hundred miles-the highest speed of cross ice transit was seven miles a day.  It became eventually clear the men’s incredible effort would come for nought unless luck would intervene, and luck came in the form of fracturing of the ice pack on April 9th, and Shackleton’s decision to man the ice boats and attempt to make Elephant Island, the last outpost of Antarctica before the open sea, and certain death. Five days in the ocean led them to a landing on Elephant Island and land.

Land was a generous term as the island was essentially inhospitable and the weather still atrocious.  Shackleton had gotten them this far, and announced that the majority of the crew could take refuge, and he, Shackleton, would take the 22 foot rescue boat across the open Weddell Sea to civilization and help.

That would be 800 miles across what was uniformly known as some of the worst sailing sea in the world in a 22 foot boat to hopefully reach South Georgia Island and civilization – the equivalent of being a cork in the ocean that actually found itself back into its original bottle.  To Shackleton however, it was doable, and as he had gotten them into this mess, he would do whatever was necessary to get them out.  On April 24, 1916, Shackleton launched the James Caird with his chief navigator,  Frank Worsley who had only a chronometer and dead reckoning  to guide him across the difficult ocean, and four sailors.  The twenty or so crewmen of the Endurance who stayed behind on Elephant Island, waved him goodbye, and assumed that they were waving goodbye to their commander, and their own hopes for survival.

The Elephant Island survivors wave goodbye to the Shackleton and the James Caird crew on April 24, 2016.

The Elephant Island survivors wave goodbye to the Shackleton and the James Caird crew on April 24, 1916.

England by the spring of 1916 had been in brutal war for a year and a half, and having heard nothing from Shackleton and the Endurance crew, assumed them dead.  The forlorn men on Elephant Island knew they were as good as dead as no one knew they were there but Shackleton, and he was attempting the impossible.   For Shackleton, the impossible was only present through the release of death from responsibility, and as such, still, alive, he trudged across the Weddell Sea in his little boat through impossibly rough seas approaching thirty feet, gales that would have sunk a boat hundreds of feet larger, and nothing to prevent him from floating to death into the vast Atlantic Ocean other than the indefensible luck of successfully navigating to little South Georgia Island.

After 800 miles of vicious open sea, in a navigating achievement that no modern sailor with the most sophisticated gear would want to attempt, the James Caird reached  South Georgia Island  on May 10th, 1916.James_Caird_en.svg

The exhausted men of the James Caird found themselves on the opposite side of the island from the small whaling station and rescue.  All that stood in the way were mountain peaks thousands of feet high covered with treacherous ice and glaciers.

South Georgia Island mountain range conquered by Shackleton

South Georgia Island mountain range conquered by Shackleton

The men had soggy woolen clothes and a few ropes.  As if the travail across the sea was not challenge enough, the men tackled the climbs with desperation, finding themselves finally within site of the station but separated by a sheer three thousand foot drop. No residual strength was present so they took one last chance, improvised a rope sleigh and through themselves off.  Minutes later, whaling station inhabitants looked up to see four other worldly bedraggled men impossibly appearing from the impenetrable mountain side.

One of the four was Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton fulfilled his promise to his men, eventually achieving a successful rescue mission to Elephant Island,  and his stranded men, on August 30th,1916.  The shock and joy that the impossible rescue had been achieved was for the men alone.  Upon returning to England, the men found a nation distracted and immersed in war, and the immensity of their survival achievement took years to absorb.  This was a generation of service, not plaudits, however, and most went on to serve in World War I, some dying in battle, after cheating death in Antarctica.

Ernest Shackleton remained somewhat of a celebrity, and even somewhat of an explorer, dying of a heart attack in 1921, in all places, South Georgia Island intent upon leading yet another expedition to the icy continent. It took several generations to fully absorb what he accomplished in failure, progressively appreciated as the technology improved and recognized what he had accomplished.  What he had done was be the best kind of leader, a leader that does everything he can to share in the sacrifice and find a way out of chaos, in a way that the men and women being led are willing to be led, no matter what the consequences.  Shackleton took responsibility, showed his followers that you try until you die, and you use what you have to succeed at whatever odds and challenges,  Through meeting a challenge no matter how harsh the consequence, the capacity to succeed revolves around the willingness to risk failure, and be content, with the idea you tried your very,very best.

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Posted in HISTORY | Leave a comment