Wednesday, August 4, 2010

General John Lavelle Deserves to Have His Stars

General John LavelleImagine going to your grave knowing you were innocent after a lifetime of serving your country:

President Obama has officially rehabilitated a deceased Air Force general who was demoted in 1972 for allegedly ordering unauthorized bombing missions into North Vietnam, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

John D. Lavelle, who served as commander of air operations during the Vietnam War, was stripped of two of his four stars and forced to retire as a major general after Defense Department investigations concluded that he had approved the falsification of records to cover up the missions. Lavelle died in 1979, insisting on his innocence until the end.

Although high-ranking members of the military and the Nixon administration insisted that Lavelle had acted on his own in ordering pilots to bomb unauthorized targets in North Vietnam, it turns out that the green light for the missions had come from the very top: President Nixon himself, according to transcripts of Nixon's recorded conversations that were released many years later.

The transcripts and other records backing up Lavelle's version of events were unearthed in 2007 by Aloysius Casey, a retired Air Force general, and his son Patrick Casey, as they were researching the biography of a pilot who served under Lavelle.

It's long overdue, but hopefully this gives some comfort to the man's family.

The history of the Vietnam War is one of the most misunderstood subjects in American history. Few people realize that the period when General Lavelle served was one where the political situation back home had effectively tied the hands of men who knew what was at stake if American forces were withdrawn from Vietnam. Militarily, they had the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army on the ropes. They had them beaten back on nearly every front and by interdicting the flow of arms down through the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the course of the war was effectively reversed. But by 1972, you could have written the conclusion yourself--we were leaving the South Vietnamese to their fate and no one was willing to stomach the war anymore.

Whatever happened to taking away stars over serious breaches in trust? It's all well and good to give General John Lavelle his two stars back, but to have given General Stanley McChrystal a free pass to retire with a fourth star he did not earn? Outrageous.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prince Charles Has Delusions of Adequacy

HRH Prince CharlesThe problem with Prince Charles is not that he cares about the environment; it's that he's delusional in thinking that he has the correct answers:

The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King ‘for a purpose’ - to save the world. 

Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: ‘I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose. 

‘I don’t want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, “Why the hell didn’t you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was”. That is what motivates me. 

‘I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside... We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity.’

That's all well and good, but this speech, given last year, typifies his thinking:

In so many areas, the only serious goals seem to be greater efficiency, inducing ever more economic growth, and increasing profits. Not to achieve these goals is to be marked down as a failure. The trouble is, these goals were only ever going to be possible if the apparent clutter and inefficiency of traditional thinking was swept away. It was only ever going to be possible if the bio-diversity in Nature was reduced to a much more manageable mono-culture. And it was only ever going to be possible if the inner world of humanity – our intuition, our instinct – was ignored, or over-ridden.

Instead, we conform more readily to the limited and linear process of the machine. Such is our conditioned way of thinking along purely empirical, rational lines that we now seem prepared to test the world around us to destruction simply to attain the required “evidence base” to prove that that is what we are indeed doing. And then, of course, it is all too late for the Sorcerer's Apprentice to summon back the Master to cast the necessary spell to restore harmony and balance.

Nature, I would argue, reveals the universal essence of creation. Our present preoccupation with the individual ego, and desire to be distinctive, rather than “original” in its truest sense, are only the more visible signs of our rejection of Nature. In addition, there is our addiction to mechanical rather than joined-up, integrative thinking, and our instrumental relationship with the natural world. In the world as it is now, there seems to be an awful lot more arrogance than reverence; a great deal more of the ego than humility; and a surfeit of abstracted ideology over the practical realities linked to people’s lives and the grain of their culture and identity.

At a time when we, as a people, are struggling to find ways to use less power and make things more efficient, Prince Charles is decrying those efforts and is essentially saying that we should forgo the practical and wallow in the false insight of celebrating nature. What does that mean, exactly? Does it mean that someone should use materials that are efficient or materials that are "natural" but inefficient? How do you get to the ideal the Prince Charles is chasing? Do you hear anything rational in this statement?

It was only ever going to be possible if the bio-diversity in Nature was reduced to a much more manageable mono-culture.

Who, exactly, is out there accomplishing this? Can someone point to the corporation or the conglomerate that is turning natural biodiversity into a mono-culture? Is that in their mission statement or is that part of what their stated goals are each quarter when they file public financial disclosure statements.

This is the definition of mono-culture:

Monoculture is the agricultural saying of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from minimal labor. However, monocultures can lead to the quicker spread of diseases, where a uniform crop is susceptible to a pathogen. 'Crop monoculture' is the practice of growing the same crop year after year.[1]

The term is frequently borrowed for other uses, such as raising one species of livestock in a factory farm, or even in fields other than agriculture to describe any group dominated by a single variety, e.g. in the field of musicology to describe the dominance of the American and British music-industries in pop music, or in the field of computer science to describe a group of computers all running identical software.

While there may be mono-cultures in modern agriculture (I see no evidence here in Germany), all of nature is not being reduced to a mono-culture, thanks to the modern environmentalism movement. Environmentalism throughout the world is more than adequately fighting this notion (even in China) and continues to prevent the wholesale reduction of all biodiversity to a single plant, crop, animal, or species. We have terrible challenges on that front but equally dedicated people who are spending vast amounts of time and money to prove the Prince's theories wrong.

Who could possibly make money from such an endeavor? Who could reduce everything down to a "mono-culture" and turn around and churn out products from that? It's absolutely ludicrous. It's as if the Prince of Wales sees the world as if it were the grounds of Buckingham Palace with simplified order and simplified botanical specimens lovingly tendered by people he never notices. And while he has been staring absent-mindedly into a flower put there by a vast array of Royal minders and tenders, the world outside has gone on and surpassed the Empire, the Kingdom, and the reach of his limited intellect.

Anyway, the man is full of beans. Thankfully, he will not rule England for very long because the British preference for long-lived queens continues well into another century. I have no doubt that Queen Kate Middleton Windsor will be ruling in 2100, aged 118, preserved by unnatural processes and defending a biodiverse faith, glum son at her feet, waiting to become king for the last few years of his dotage.