The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interesting week

Since Thursday, April 28th, we have seen:
  • The long-anticipated birth of my grandson, Orion James
  • The unexpected death of an old, old college friend of mine
  • The rendering for hog fat of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondent's Dinner
  • Followed by an encore: the long-anticipated death of Osama Bin Laden
Mixed emotions would seem to be the order of the day. Orion James is (as far as pictures can demonstrate) a miniature version of his father, who, God help him, owes some of his genotype to me. Just as my parents certainly never thought, "Gosh, I hope he grows up to be a software manager(1)," so none of us can imagine what a boy born in 2011 might grow up to be. Organic cheese monger? Backwoods guide (in twenty years, nobody will live in the country anymore -- you'll need a Leatherstocking to show you the way through the woods.) CEO of the first social networking company to promulgate messages in iambic pentameter (pentwitameter?) If he can manage to grow up to be happy, I'll be satisfied. (Although he could be in the minority.)

My friend Mike was from the Upper Peninsula, a musician, occasional radio host, and a man with a combined cynicism and big-heartedness that exceeded anything I'd encountered. He was helping one of his daughters with a move and had a heart attack. There is a group of us, friends from the appalling seventies, who have stayed in touch; Mike is the first direct loss. What a shame.

As far as the Correspondents' Dinner goes, you can see the videos all over the internet. Obama has some damned good writers working for him, and his comedic timing has improved. If you haven't seen any of it, it's worth looking up the highlights, just as an demonstration of brains versus money. If the Trump bubble isn't burst by now, then I weep for my country.

And then, almost the next day, we announce that we got Osama. And we got him with special operations, JSOC, specifically SEAL Team Six, not with Rolling Thunder, Shock n' Awe, or drone strikes. Some individual (forever anonymous, I hope, for his or her sake) hit Bin Laden with a pair of small arms rounds. The operation, as it's being reported, was classic special operations work; a small force, trained to the maximum, inserted and recovered by helicopter. No Ospreys. No tanks. In and out and gone, all conducted far inside the borders of a country we're not at war with.

It was a needful thing. You can't perpetrate something like 9/11 and not reap personal consequences. It's a very important message for the world to hear: we can find you, and we can come and get you. It may take a while ... But far more than just removing bin Laden himself, the assault demonstrates a waning of al-Qaida's influence with Pakistan. It seems very unlikely that we could have brought the attacking force as deeply into the country as Abbottabad without their agreement.

It does, I admit, make the uprisings in the Middle East a bit more concerning -- if al-Qaida has to go looking for a new home, a country that has just ousted a western-backed dictator makes a good starting point. Of course, our old pals the Russkies, wouldn't be unhappy to have a bit more distance between al-Qaida and, say, Chechnya. That should be worth something.

Anyway, a mixed week. Congratulations to Pat and Charlotte (proud parents.) Condolences to Mike's daughters. No condolences to Trump. And congratulations to the special operations community; regardless of the circumstances, they pulled it off.
(1) That's as specific as I can be, without slashes, commas, or semicolons, about what I've spent my career doing.

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