Category Archives: War

My Two Favorite Books

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. This guy is a genuine big-brained hominid, one of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and he writes to convince his readers that our world is getting steadily better, century after century. And he proves it with facts!

Changes can be either good or bad. However, contrary to popular opinion, cultural changes around the world tend, on average, to be good, in the sense that they bring greater happiness, freedom, health, and prosperity to more ad more people.

His two latest books are possibly the two most important books I have ever read.:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker shows that all down through history, for the past several thousand years, the world has been slowly  getting safer from violence of all kinds including muggings, rape, murder, and war, freer from disease, poverty, and superstition, more prosperous, better fed, and happier. These are real cultural changes that usually happen so slowly that most of us are not even aware of them. But our lives are much better now than they were back in the “good old days” when you might have had to get your appendix cut out by candlelight at 3 AM. With no anesthetic.

I recommend you read both books.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Sneak Attack on Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy

It was seventy-four years ago today, December 7, 1941, at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked without warning. attacked the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor, damaging eight battleships and sinking four of them, and  killing 2,403 Americans and wounding 1,178.

They also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, one minelayer, and 188 American aircraft.

pearl harbor newspaper

Because the attack was a surprise and the Americans were completely unprepared, the Japanese Empire only lost 29 aircraft and five midget submarines; and 64 of them were killed. One Japanese sailor,Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

All American battleships but the Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war.

The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941 was the immediate cause of the United States’ entry into World War II.


Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler: Another Hero Dies in Action

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, who died Thursday in Iraq, was the the first American in four years to die there in combat. He was 39.

Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was a hero.

A member of Delta Force, the Army equivalent of Navy SEAL teams, he accompanied a group of Kurdish commandos on a helicopter raid to rescue about 70 hostages from being murdered by Islamic State militants. He and the other Americans who accompanied the mission were not supposed to join in the action, but he couldn’t stand by and watch the mission fail.

A former Delta Force officer who had commanded Sergeant Wheeler in Iraq and had been briefed on the mission said that the Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, tried to blast a hole in the compound’s outer wall, but could not. Sergeant Wheeler and another American, part of a team of 10 to 20 Delta Force operators who were present, ran up to the wall, breached it with explosives, and were the first ones through the hole.

“When you blow a hole in a compound wall, all the enemy fire gets directed toward that hole, and that is where he was,” [the former Delta Force officer said.]

He grew up in a “thinly populated, economically struggling patch of eastern Oklahoma” and had a difficult childhood with few options. One was to join the Army, and he took it. “In that area, if you didn’t go to college, you basically had a choice of the oil fields or the military,” said his uncle, Jack Shamblin. “The Army really suited him; he always had such robust energy and he always wanted to help people, and he felt he was doing that.” Obviously, he was right.

His mother had been married twice; both times, to alcoholic, abusive men. As the oldest child in this dysfunctional family, Wheeler had always made sure his younger siblings were clothed and fed. This sense of responsibility carried over into adulthood and served him well, leading to his success as “a highly decorated combat veteran in the elite and secretive Delta Force.”

Too many heroes die in action, as did Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler. This is a terrible tragedy. But he helped save the lives of about 70 ISIS prisoners, by performing the extremely dangerous work he had been trained to do.

We need more heroes like Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, people willing and able to lay down their lives (if necessary) for their fellow humans. But, when possible, we desperately need to find ways to keep them alive. We need all the genuine heroes we can get, and we don’t need them dead.

There was another American scaling that wall with him, but we are not told his name. This other man was equally a hero. Wheeler was not a hero because he died; rather, they were both heroes because they went “above and beyond the call of duty” to save the lives of others.

One lived and one died. They were both heroes in equal measure.