Saturday, September 11, 2021
Daniel J. Summers
The events of the last month have been difficult to watch as they unfolded. Pages and pages have been written about our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and its hasty collapse that occurred before our own withdrawal was complete. There is a discussion to be had regarding military withdrawal strategies, whether it was even necessary, etc. (especially when I've seen no one espouse how I would have handled it) However, that is not what is occupying the majority of my thoughts when I reflect over the past 20 years; rather, it's the people.
I've been thinking about Louis Neil Mariani (“Neil”). I profiled him back in 2009, and his story is heartbreaking. When I searched his name again, I found that his wife Ellen was one of the last victim families to sue vs. taking the compensation fund payouts. Losing her husband wasn't enough; she spent years raising funds and bouncing through some questionable legal representation, just to be told that she could not have her day in court. I have no idea what either of their politics are - it doesn't matter, and that's the point. I mourn for Neil, Ellen, and the entire Mariani family - and I wonder if we, as a nation, have learned anything from their involuntary sacrifice.
I've also been thinking about the time I spent deployed back in 2006. It got me thinking even then, but it's come to mind more frequently, particularly with the Afghanistan collapse. One of the aspects of that job was to open, inspect, and repair packages that were found to be damaged when they passed through our facility. In doing this, I would see glimpses of what was being sent to the military members downrange; quite frequently, it was pictures of children, love notes from spouses, and food items that weren't easily available in a combat zone. We also, on occasion, had to inspect mail headed home from the war zone. In these, too, I would see family memorabilia, often wrinkled and dirty; they had accompanied their owner through some very difficult times.
These difficult times didn't always have a happy ending. There were marriages strained, many broken; even among my paltry crew of thirteen co-workers, there were families dissolved because of those four months. This toll, too, is something I mourn; each party usually bears some of the blame when a marriage ends, but the circumstances that led to that dissolution were brought on by the stresses of war.
I realize that some of these marital partnerships may not have made it; if it wasn't the war, it would have been something else. Maybe Neil would still be alive and well, preparing for his 80th birthday soon - but maybe not. The “maybe” questions belie what is behind much of the mourning, which is the loss of potential - unrealized potential, unjustly snatched from its owner well before it should have been.
One of the hardest questions I've fielded over the past month or so is “How are you?” I try to say the requisite “fine” in return, but sometimes the question just hits differently. My… uh, eyes sweat… way more than they used too. I mourn that we lost thirteen Americans, and untold Afghans who had been “on our team” as we ham-handedly exited that nation. I mourn the “falling man” picture of 9/11, and the very similar images of people falling off the landing gear 20 years later, so desperate to escape. A younger version of me would have been angered by this; now, though, my main emotion is sorrow.
It is important, though, to not let the sorrow and long-term futility of the heroic efforts of so many - so great a price for so quick a loss - give rise to despair. One of the most encouraging things I have read over the past month was a Sunday French Press entitled “They Held the Line”; I would encourage you to read it as well, especially since this post is not going to end with some uplifting, inspiring hope for the future.
“Never Forget” became the rallying cry after 9/11 (even though it had previously been used regarding the Holocaust; I guess we did, in fact, forget). But, for those of us who prosecuted the War on Terror, forgetting will never be an issue. My prayer is that future generations will not have such an agonizing event, and a 20-year struggle to defeat a difficult enemy, where the hard fought gains are lost before our boots have even left the soil.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Daniel J. Summers
“Same vocabulary, different dictionary.” This is the way Skip Heitzig described false teachers in a recent sermon on 2 Peter 2. That certainly is good to remember when it comes to theological matters; think about how many different definitions, just in evangelical circles, you have of the word “worship” and of its role in the life of the church and believer.
It works outside the realm of the directly-theological as well. Take the CIA report released last week. I've been seeing a lot of banter back and forth over the results of the report, but relatively few questioning its characterization. Even though pretty much everyone is against “torture,” there are competing definitions at work. If we just debate back and forth without addressing the root issue, we're simply reinforcing the “other side”'s view of us.
Now, to be fair, it's generally the left who like to redefine things. Racist no longer means “one race is superior”; rather, it covers a host of things, from ethnically-related comments, stereotypes, or even common insensitivity, if the object has a different ethnicity from the one who is offended. Rape is expanded to include a whole lot of things that are not really rape, including simple after-the-fact regret. Marriage means something today that it has never meant throughout millennia of history. And, somewhere along the way, freedom of speech has been replaced with freedom from offense, and freedom of association has been replaced with freedom to compel.
That being said, I'm not necessarily advocating for “the right” either - it's not about the right, it's about being right. We cannot flourish, either as a Christian or as a society, if we do not share a common lexicon. And, until we do, it is futile to try to defeat one person's argument with an argument that has an entirely different meaning. All you've got is ships passing in the night. Same vocabulary, different dictionary.
Yesterday was a great day for the United States of America. In case you (like this guy used to do) have been living in a cave the past few days, the al-Qaeda leader behind the 9/11 terror attacks, Osama bin Laden, has been killed. After a nearly 10-year manhunt, most Americans are joyful today. While his death will not bring about the end of terrorism, it is an important symbolic victory in the continuing (if not in name) War on Terror. From the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to the 2000 USS Cole bombing, Osama bin Laden had hit at American interests several times. 9/11 was the straw that broke the camel's back, and we began trying to get him in earnest. I have great hopes that the intel that was gathered during the mission will enable us to complete the work of dismantling the terror network for good.
Pakistan, you've got some questions to answer as well. Why did it take us not telling you about an operation for it to finally work?
And, a note to my Christian friends quoting Proverbs 24:17-18…
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased,
and turn away His anger from him.
Is the Lord going to bring Osama bin Laden back to life? I think not. This act was an act of vengeance, I'll not argue that point; however, it was also an act of defense. I will sleep better knowing that this person has begun meeting justice, and will be meeting it for eternity. As a Christian, I am sad that another soul has died without Christ; however, nothing I read in Scripture indicates that evil has unlimited chances to repent. In fact, the Bible says that all men are without excuse. His death will save lives long-term.
I leave you with the scene unfolding as David and the Israelite army return from battle, David having just slain Goliath.
6 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. 7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated….
There is absolutely no reason that we cannot rejoice in this military victory for our nation. As a nation, we haven't had a lot of bright spots lately, so this one is probably amplified because of that. God has delivered him into our hands - why should we not rejoice?
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
This is the middle post of my three-post “Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” The linked words in that title will take you to the other two posts. Here are the things that I considered bad in 2010.
Wikileaks began as a whistleblower website, where people could release information about injustices. In 2010, they made a leap into classified government documents. Purportedly stolen by PFC Bradley Manning, these documents were not only embarrassing for some government agencies, the information contained in those documents identified informants and other non-public allies in the War or Terror. While the creator of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is currently in custody (due to some somewhat-questionable sex crime charges), there is little legal enforceability on a citizen of another country disclosing secrets of another. Several US companies have severed ties with the site, and kudos to them for that; however, I believe that the net result of this will be bad.
What I've identified as the most ridiculous quote of 2010 (“We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it”) was spoken in reference to this bill. Going by the formal name of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), this bill enacted many reforms to our health care system, most notably in the area of insurance coverage. The bill mandates that all people purchase and retain health care insurance (a provision already rule unconstitutional), stipulates that insurers must cover preexisting conditions and may not drop insured people for certain conditions, and provides for the creation of a public co-op. There may be more, but at 1,300+ pages, who knows?
We are already seeing the unintended consequences of this legislation. Insurance rates are going up, with many companies raising rates 25% or more. This shouldn't catch anyone by surprise; what is called “insurance” in the bill is more like a membership. Insurance is a bet against bad things happening, which is the entire reason preexisting conditions aren't covered. Where's the bet when you know the outcome? Insurance rates are not designed for this type of use. (Conspiracy theorists could speculate that those who passed the law knew this. They really wanted public control, but the people didn't want it - instead, they passed a bill that will bankrupt the insurance companies. Then, who rides in to save the day? Liberal government!)
Insurance is but one of the problems with this bill; there are many others where the unintended consequences outweigh the intended benefits. Hopefully, the 112th Congress can undo this monstrosity before most of its provisions become effective. Until then, though, this remains on the bad list.
The FCC Implements Net Neutrality
“Net neutrality” is the concept that network service providers (ISPs, cell carriers, etc.) must treat all network traffic equally. This means that they cannot favor certain types of packets (ex. their own video streaming) while slowing down other packets (ex. competitors' video streaming, voice over IP). While, on the surface, this sound good, it fails to take into account bandwidth considerations, and the consequences of that bandwidth being used up. A TV signal can be broadcast through the air, and whether one TV or a million TVs receive the signal, the signal is the same; however, the same signal received over the Internet must be duplicated once for each end point receiving it - it is a request-response network. It's not as cut-and-dried of an issue as some of its more ardent supporters would like to paint it.
Congress has failed to implement net neutrality legislation, and courts have ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction to implement it on its own. That didn't stop the intrepid FCC, which issued net neutrality guidelines near the end of the year. Hopefully 2011 will find these regulations to be unenforceable; as it stands now, though, these regulations are bad, and have the potential to slow innovation around the network.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
Today is 9 years removed from September 11th, 2001. There is a lot going on today - fall Saturdays are typically sports days, and today is no different. There are lots of big match-ups in college football, and NASCAR wraps up its regular season tonight, locking in the drivers that will be competing for the championship over the following 10 races. There was a lot going on 9 years ago as well, although as a Tuesday, that day's scheduled entertainment was in music, not sports; Michael W. Smith's Worship and Enya's A Day Without Rain were both released on that date. (It's almost as if God knew that we were going to need them in the weeks to come.)
Of course, I'm not writing today to celebrate the 9th anniversary of Worship, though that album did revolutionize Christian music (not the first time Michael W. Smith had done that). It is remembered for the actions of a rogue band of terrorists, who turned that day into a day of great loss for our nation. It is remembered for the collapses in security that led to what is still both the worst terrorist attack on America, and the worst airline disaster in our history.
There are lots of directions that this post could go. I could talk about the absolutely horrendous idea of building a worship center for the religion under whose auspices the attacks were carried out mere blocks from the site of the attack; but, from my description, you probably can tell how I feel about that. I could also talk about the idiot in Florida who wanted to have the “Bonfire of the Qur'ans” today; but, again, I've probably communicated how I feel just now. I am thankful to God that he has decided against this.
But, today, in between games, cookouts, and races, all I'd like for us all to do is remember. Remember the lives of those who were simply doing their job that sunny September morning. Remember the lives of the police and fire personnel who ran into the building when others were running out. Remember those who were left with the choice of staying where they are and being burned to death, or jumping 100 stories to their death. Remember how the only thing you wanted to do was hold your family tight. Remember the over 3,000 military personnel who have lost their lives in the aftermath of this attack, in counter offenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the pain. That pain reminded people just how good we have it here, and for a time, united nearly all of us around the defense of our country.
When you're through remembering, turn to praise. Praise God that we have to go back 9 years to remember a successful large-scale terrorist attack on our soil. Praise God for leaders who made some tough decisions that have resulted in our protection. Praise God for the freedom we still have in this country. And finally, praise God that you were not among those who perished on that day, and resolve to accomplish what He left you here to do.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Daniel J. Summers
Note - This tribute is part of Project 2996, a blogosphere-wide effort to ensure that none of the Americans whose lives were taken on September 11, 2001 are forgotten. See the entire list at their site, linked in the previous sentence.
It is a crisp late summer morning. A couple is parting ways at an airport. While that's not an altogether uncommon sight, for Neil and Ellen Mariani, it would be the last time they would see one another. Neil was 59 years old; 4 of those years he had spent serving his country in the United States Air Force, and many more years working for HP Hood Dairy, from where he had retired. An avid photographer, he was known for his ever-present Minolta camera - he even developed his own film!
His step-daughter was engaged to be married on September 15, 2001, and he had decided to go out to California to attend the wedding. He made this decision at the last minute, so he and Ellen had different flights; Ellen had a layover in Chicago, while Neil had the cross-country UA 175 flight. Ellen wrote a letter to her husband after the wedding, and rather than put it in my words, I'll put in hers.
I, as your wife, have searched for sane answers to what happened on that beautiful, sunny, warm Tuesday, September 11, 2001. You, Neil, were so tanned and fit, happy to be leaving with me before dawn for Boston's Logan Airport. You and I were traveling on separate planes to the California wedding of my daughter, Gina, your step-daughter. You decided to go out for the wedding at the very last minute, and to help pay for the ticket, we held garage sales together.
Neil, I will never forget when we said goodbye at Boston Airport. Neil, you as a gentleman were always carrying heavy items for me, and that morning, you carried inside the terminal two large boxes full of toys for our grand-kids that were to be there for the wedding as flower girl and ring bearer.
You kissed me at the curb and said goodbye. Then you kissed me again inside and said “See you, Ellen. I'll arrive three minutes after your plane lands,” and walked away. But suddenly, you came back, gave me a third kiss and a big hug. It was then I noticed you seemed nervous. I thought it was because you were not used to flying. You then said goodbye for the third time, then left. I looked back to catch a last glance at you, Neil, but you were gone and out of sight.
Neil, you never made it to California for Gina's wedding that September 15, 2001. I left two hours before you and had a scheduled layover in Chicago. It was there that I found out what had happened to you. Your plane, United Airlines Flight 175, had crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center. You, my husband, were gone in a ball of fire. The September 15th wedding of Gina's went on in defiance of what had happened on September 11th.
Now as I stood as a new widow of four days, Gina asked me to give her away to be married. I wore two yellow roses, and made a toast in remembrance of you.
Neil, you are the perfect example of the type of American that makes this country great. Thank you for being the man that you were - America is a poorer place without you here.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Daniel J. Summers
This is part 2 (either way you read it) in this year's “2008 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. The bad things are things that either were bad, or will be in the future. All opinions are mine, obviously, and you are welcome to adopt them as your own. :)
Where do I begin? There was not much about this election that I liked. The campaign was way too long. The Republicans nominated the wrong guy. The outcome was bad. I've already covered Sarah Palin's treatment in the “Ridiculous” entry. My biggest problem with this election was how it was spun. It's safe to say that the majority of Obama voters didn't know what they were voting for; how could they, when he wouldn't get any specifics? His campaign of “hope” (who doesn't want to have hope?) and “change” (which would have happened either way) struck me as a focus-group phrase that got way out of control.
Then you have the last few months of the campaign itself. First, there was a hurricane at the same time as the Republican convention, with people saying “How can they have a convention at a time like this?” Next came the “crisis” that had been brewing for years in the sub-prime mortgage market. McCain foolishly decided to suspend his campaign to deal with it, which gave Obama the chance to make the speech where he said “A president has to deal with more than one thing at a time” (which is very, very true). It seemed the Republicans were “darned if they did, darned if they didn't” during this cycle! Personally, I thought that both things should have continued on schedule.
Then, there was “Joe the Plumber,” roundly ridiculed for asking a question that elicited the “spread the wealth around” response from Obama. All of a sudden, we have all these reports popping up. “His name isn't even Joe!” (as if they've never heard of someone who goes by their middle name) “He doesn't even make enough money to have to pay more!” (which didn't matter - he one day wanted to make that much money) “He's not even a licensed plumber!” (but was working towards that - all part of his plan to better his life) In the end, a government worker was dismissed from her job for digging up dirt on Joe using government resources. (Speaking of government, an organization called ACORN submitted thousands of voter registrations, hundreds of which were found to be fraudulent. However, the governments continued to accept these registrations from them, and courts ruled that they could be accepted.)
Regarding the actual outcome, I'd describe myself as skeptically optimistic. Obama's selections for his cabinet haven't been quite what I would like, but I didn't really expect that they would be; however, they're not nearly as left-leaning as he could have made them. He does seem to be actually trying to govern towards the left side of the middle. I can't help but think that maybe he outsmarted everyone in the Chicago political machine, where there's as much corruption as there is snow off the Great Lakes. Could it be that he joined their machine to use it to get to the top, only to jettison it once he got there? We'll see.
RIP, Tim Russert and Tony Snow
People die - that's part of life. However, this year saw the somewhat-unexpected deaths of both Tim Russert, long-time anchor of Meet the Press, and Tony Snow, Fox News anchor and former White House spokesman. Both these men had a gift for journalism, and were not afraid to ask balanced questions of their interview subjects. I remember Tim Russert's expert analysis in both the 2000 and 2004 election seasons, opening the 2000 election coverage saying “Florida, Florida, Florida” and the 2004 coverage with “Ohio, Ohio, Ohio” - both the eventual states that decided the election. And, I remember Tony Snow as the first anchor of Fox News Sunday, as Fox decided to get into the Sunday morning political show alongside Meet the Press on NBC and This Week on ABC. (Am I old if I remember the latter as This Week with David Brinkley?) Tony also did an excellent job as spokesman during Bush's second term, deftly handling the questions he was asked, and clearly expressing the intents and desires of the administration. (If only GWB would communicate that clearly…)
Terrorism Reminds Us that It Isn't Gone Yet
This was a pretty quiet year on the terrorism front - Iraq is going well, the surge seems to have stamped out the final pockets of resistance, and rival factions are now participating in the democratic process. Afghanistan has been hit-or-miss, with a bit of instability still there as this year draws to a close. However, in late November, terrorists struck in Bombay, India, killing over 100 people, citizens of several different nations. This was a stark reminder that the quiet that we have experienced did not happen by chance, and that we need to keep our nose to the grindstone to protect our nation.
Wings of Wind Crash
We've enjoyed the International Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque the past two years. On the final Friday this year, the balloon Wings of Wind crashed into some power lines, catching fire. Both pilots jumped from the balloon, fearing that the fuel tanks would explode. One survived, one did not. It was the second year in a row that there has been a fatality at the Fiesta, but this one touched our family somewhat closely, as Michelle and Jordan had spent Thursday evening set up right by that balloon, and talking with its' pilots and crew. Then, to add insult to injury, a truck belonging to the balloon crew was stolen before they left town, causing them to lose their pictures of that week. (I hope that whoever stole that truck gets some special attention from God over the next year.) Keep the family of Stephen Lachendro, the pilot who perished, and Keith Sproul, the primary pilot and the pilot who survived, in your prayers.
So, there are some of the things that I thought were bad about this past year. What did you think was bad?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Daniel J. Summers
I saw this in a parking lot yesterday, accompanied by the Marine Corps symbol…
GIVE WAR A CHANCE!
Heh - maybe we could have a rally. Instead of Woodstock, New York, we'll gather in Woodstock, Georgia. :) We could have some long-haired folk singer start singing "What the world… needs now… is war… this war… Our freedom is the thing… that al-Qaeda's dyin' for…" (my apologies to Jackie DeShannon)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Daniel J. Summers
Another busy time, another installment of “Plagiarism Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery”. See, when we re-blog here, we're honest and up-front. :)
First up is an article about the cost of illegal immigration for Los Angeles County for one month, from radio talk show host and author Neal Boortz. The numbers are staggering.
Next up, a link to a pundit I never thought I'd link to, except as a set up to refute. However, Susan Estrich and I agree on this issue, which she details in "A Weak Moment for Women in Banning Larry Summers". (I don't agree that what he originally said was wrong - but the rest of it is spot-on.)
Via Morgan Freeberg, we have reports that "A Quiet Triumph May Be Brewing". Could it be that we've come up with a way to get most remaining al-Qaeda in the same place, then send them to their 72 virgins (or raisins, depending on the translation)?
And finally, we wrap up with some humor. Rachel Lucas learned to make thought and speech bubbles in PhotoShop, and produced a masterpiece she calls "Three Men and a Hillary". (Language warning in effect for the comments on that post…)