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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘ship’

No Country for Old Incumbents

Monday, June 4th, 2012

http://sultanknish.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/no-country-for-old-incumbents.html

A storm is not a good time to be at the wheel of a ship and a worldwide economic disaster is not a good time to be at the wheel of the ship of state. Hard times are supposed to bring great men to the fore, but instead we have some of the sorriest men in history trying to find the wheel, sleeping off a bender in their cabins or debating whether a wheel even exists.

Obama is bad, but he’s not exactly up against rival statesmen. After parading around with a one-man cult of personality, launching international projects with no purpose, and displaying all the symptoms of a Napoleon complex, without a world famous conqueror in sight, Sarkozy’s only reelection platform was that the alternative to him would be worse. He was right. But you can hardly blame quite a few Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who stayed home, rather than hold their noses and vote for him.

In the UK, Cameron cut the military and launched a war. Labour’s career idiot, Ed Milband, now has a higher approval rating than the Prime Minister. Cameron has the same reelection platform as Sarkozy and he’s also right, but that won’t help him when the public gets the chance to cast their vote. And the vote will be the international refrain, translated many ways in many languages, but that always means, “Throw out the bums.”

Russia has become a virtual armed camp for the sole purpose of keeping Putin in power. The man who successfully set up his own Stalinesque cult of personality, now has to use extraordinary measures to protect himself from his own people, who don’t care so much that he stole the election, but who are sick and tired of the spectacle of Vladimir and his ten-thousand good friends from the Committee for State Security, better known by three ominous letters, gorging themselves on the best things in life while everyone else suffers.

China’s rulers should be paying careful attention to Moscow. If the express train of Western exports ever falters, what they will face will make Tiananmen Square look like a fond memory. The Princes of the PRC won’t be up against a bunch of idealistic students, but the farmers whose land they stole, the workers whose children they killed and that rising middle-class which tasted prosperity only to have it snatched away. If that day comes, they won’t be stopped by tanks, and the army may just take their side.

The American media has become virtually indistinguishable from the Russian and Chinese media in its hysterical support for the regime and vindictive smears of opponents. The only difference between Newsweek, Pravda and Xinhua is their level of sophistication. Pravda and Xinhua have never been anything more than vulgar organs of the regime, but the American media is descending into savagery while leaving behind a legacy of civilization. Like a citizen turned cannibal, it still has some of the cultural trappings of its past, but it’s discarding them as quickly as Newsweek can photoshop new covers. Like the Russian media, the favorite topic of its American counterparts is the inscrutable divinity of its leader, who has not so much failed, as succeeded on a higher level that mere mortals – concerned with paying their bills and having a job – are not privy to. If he has failed, it’s only because of the obstructionism of the running dog Republican capitalists who would rather see the country burn than concede his unearthly genius.

The problem with propagandists is that they get so taken in by their own illusion of power, that they stop noticing when no one is paying attention to them. Barely a quarter of the country digested and accepted the swill that the media had poured out over it in ’07 and ’08. What the public noticed was that there seemed to be a consensus that the One was the one. They didn’t notice it by reading every screed that the American heirs to Goebbels were scribbling up at Time and the New York Times. Like a television that is on in the room, while you’re vacuuming or doing laundry, they noticed it mainly as background noise in their lives.

The Man Who Would Not Swear

Friday, April 27th, 2012

“You shall not swear in the name of the Lord,” says the Torah. This is true even if what one is saying is the truth.

There once was a rich man who never swore during his entire life. When he was on his deathbed he summoned his son and said, “My son! You must never swear, whether it be the truth or a lie. The reason that I am so rich is because I have never profaned G-d’s name by swearing. The Almighty, seeing how careful I was in not swearing, made me successful in all my undertakings.”

The son answered, “Father! I promise that I will be careful and not swear.”

After the father passed away, swindlers came to the son and said, “You owe us a lot of money. Your father had borrowed money from us and never repaid it. Now you have to pay it back!”

The son, taken aback, answered, “That is a lie!”

The swindlers hauled him to the courthouse where he was ordered to swear.

The bewildered son thought, “If I swear, I will be profaning G-d’s name and I will also break my promise to my father.”

The son thereupon gave all of his possessions to the swindlers. The vicious swindlers eagerly accepted the money but then informed him that they were still short 10 gold coins. This the poor son did not have.

The swindlers then said, “Pay us the 10 gold coins that you owe us or swear that you have no money left with which to pay it.”

The son answered, “I didn’t swear before and I won’t swear now!”

The swindlers then imprisoned him, saying, “You will remain in prison until your debt is paid.”

Wife Abducted

The son’s wife, a righteous woman, was too embarrassed to ask for help. So she would take other people’s clothes to wash and with the money she would earn she would support and feed the small children and her husband, who was being held in prison.

One day the wife and her little children were at the river washing clothes when a large ship passed by. When the ship’s captain saw how hard she worked, he called out to her, “Wash my clothes for which I will pay you a gold coin.”

The young wife, who needed just one more gold coin to free her husband, took the coin and gave it to her children to hold. She began to do the captain’s wash when suddenly the captain abducted her and took her aboard his ship. He then ordered the ship to leave.

Her children, who were standing nearby, were shocked at the kidnapping of their mother and began to scream and cry.

Realizing that their crying was to no avail, they quickly returned to the town and freed their father with the gold coin.

They then told their father about what had happened to their mother, “Mother was kidnapped by the captain of a ship who was headed out toward the sea.”

The man looked up to the heavens and cried, “Blessed be the Name of the Almighty, King of kings. I have been left without any belongings and without any support. Creator of the world, please be merciful towards me and my small children.”

Afterwards, he took his children to the seashore where he began to build a small boat. He then placed a sail upon the boat and he set out on the sea where he traveled until he reached a foreign land.

In this strange land, the man became a shepherd, leading flocks of sheep for people. Meanwhile, the other children, who were left behind on the river shore, sat and cried. A passing ship, noticing them, took them as prisoners.

One day, the devout man sat by the shore of a river that contained poisonous snakes and sharks. He reminisced how, at one time, he was rich and now he had so many hardships and was poor. He raised his voice in a plea, “Creator of the world! I have been left without a wife, without children, without money and there is no one who has mercy on me. You know that death is better than such a life.”

He then wanted to throw himself into the water. Suddenly, a voice rang out and said, “Fear not my son. A treasure lies here for you to take. It has been buried here for many years. You will become rich again because you have refrained from swearing. It is also pleasing that you have kept your promise to your father.”

The voice then told him where this treasure was located. With the gold and silver, he hired workers who built huge houses and large cities, and he became a king. With its vast riches, he was able to find his wife and children, whom he redeemed. He aided the poor and was beloved by all.

Parshat Shemini

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

More than 1500 people died on the Titanic. As a result of the tragedy, out of date conventions and procedures were changed, navigational mistakes were identified and corrected, and the threat of ice was taken seriously—even in the era of modern ships. Walter Lord, in his seminal book on the disaster, A Night to Remember (1955), wrote: “Never again would men fling a ship into an ice field, heedless of warnings, putting their whole trust in a few thousand tons of steel and rivets. From then on Atlantic liners took ice messages seriously, steered clear, or slowed down. Nobody believed in the ‘unsinkable ship.’ Nor would icebergs any longer prowl the seas unintended. After the Titanic sank, the American and British governments established the International Ice Patrol, and today Coast Guard cutters shepherd errant icebergs that drift toward the steamer lanes. The winter lane itself was shifted further south, as an extra precaution” (p.87).

One of the great tragedies of the disaster is that so many little things went wrong and conspired against the great ship. Had any of these things not happened the voyage might have turned out differently. Lord captures this sentiment with the following prose that seems almost poetic in nature. “What troubled people especially was not just the tragedy—or even its needlessness—but the element of fate in it all. If the Titanic had heeded any of the ice messages on Sunday…if ice conditions had been normal…if the night had been rough or moonlit…if she had seen the berg 15 seconds sooner—or 15 seconds later…if she had hit the ice any other way…if her watertight bulkheads had been one deck higher…if the Californian had only come. Had any one of the ‘ifs’ turned out right, every life might have been saved. But they all went against her—a classic Greek tragedy” (p.145).

One of the most striking examples of a small thing that might have changed history is the case of the lookouts’ missing binoculars. To help navigate the Titanic through dangerous waters two lookouts were stationed high up in the crow’s nest toward the front of the ship. In the days prior to radar, the lookouts’ job was to scan the ocean, identify any dangerous objects and alert the bridge to avoid them. To help the lookouts execute their duty, binoculars were procured for their use. However, the Titanic’s lookouts had no binoculars. They were locked up and nobody could find the key.

Due to a personnel change shortly before she sailed, David Blaire, who was the Titanic’s original second officer, was transferred off the ship. Among Blaire’s responsibilities was the safeguarding of the binoculars for the crow’s nest. In his hurry to leave the ship he apparently locked them up without telling anybody where they were, and left the ship with the key to the locker. As a result the lookouts scanned the dark ocean on the night of April 14 without the benefit of binoculars. The surviving lookout, Frederick Fleet, testified in the U.S. inquiry that he believed had he been using binoculars he would have spotted the iceberg somewhat earlier, leaving enough time for the Titanic to have evaded the iceberg. Alas, another small detail that might have given the Titanic the few more seconds it so desperately needed to escape its doom.

Although leaders must think about the big picture, they ignore details at their own peril. The Torah at the end of this week’s parsha makes this point abundantly clear. Regarding the laws regulating the criteria of kosher animals, the Torah states (11:47): “That it must be distinguished between the pure and impure and between the animals that can be eaten and those that cannot be eaten.” Rashi explains, based on Midrash Halacha, that the Torah in this pasuk does not come to exhort us to differentiate between kosher and non-kosher animals. That requirement had already been made abundantly clear. Rather, the Torah is underscoring the importance of differentiating between an animal that has been slaughtered properly and one that has not been slaughtered properly. The difference between them is negligible. If even slightly more than half of the animal’s parts which require cutting have been cut, then the animal becomes edible. If, however, only half (or less) has been cut, then the animal remains forever assur to eat. This sespite the fact that the difference between these two cases is barely noticeable.

The great Chassidic master Reb Bunum of Peshischa teaches that this pasuk warns humankind that the difference between good and evil, holy and profane, and purity and impurity is often the smallest amount. A person must bear this message in mind at all times. A story is told in the name of various great rabbis, of the student who was offered the opportunity to become a shochet. Upon receiving the invitation the student turned to his rabbi and related to him that he is afraid to accept such an awesome responsibility. After all, many people will rely on his actions and the slightest error on his part might cause them all to eat non-kosher food. The rabbi responded by asking his student rhetorically—“Who should I recommend for the position, someone who is not afraid? Someone who thinks he is ready for the job?”

Pesach

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

On April 14, 1912, at 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg. It sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. Thus, this month (both according to the Jewish and secular calendars) marks the centennial of the disaster. Despite the passage of time, the tragedy still fascinates people and continues to be a source of lessons learned – both good and bad. Recently, when the Costa Concordia sank off the Italian coast, comparisons were made between the captain of this ill-fated ship and Captain Edward Smith, the master of the Titanic. Most striking was the fact that not only did the captain of the Costa Concordia survive the ordeal, as opposed to Captain Smith, who went down with his ship, but that the Costa Concordia’s captain abandoned ship early in the ordeal, leaving his crew and passengers to sort things out for themselves. Captain Smith, in contrast, remained on board and in command throughout the doomed lifesaving efforts. History, for the most part, has been kind to Smith, portraying him as a gallant officer doing his utmost to save his passengers and crew.

While Smith was no coward, and he certainly understood his responsibility, the truth about his leadership is actually rather complicated. Some have blamed him for ordering the Titanic to maintain its high speed despite the ice warnings he had received. Others point to his arrogant faith in human engineering, which caused him to not properly consider the dangers lurking in the sea. However, in truth, he can be exonerated for these missteps, for he was merely following the conventional practice and wisdom of the time. Captains, for the most part, believed the expedient thing was to try and get through ice fields as quickly as possible. It was felt that lookouts could spot potential danger in time and helmsmen could maneuver the ship accordingly, with time to spare. That few people fully understood the physics involved with moving and slowing down a ship the Titanic’s size was a function of the time, not a failure on Smith’s part.

But the story does not end there. Once tragedy struck Smith seems to have been a mediocre leader at best. He first kept the true nature of the accident from crew and passengers alike, thus mitigating people’s sense of emergency and urgency. While Smith knew there were not enough lifeboats for all aboard, the sad reality is that there was capacity for 400 more people than ultimately survived. Many people who could have boarded lifeboats refused to do so because they felt it was safer to remain on the ship. He also seems to have given ambiguous orders, often staying on the bridge instead of actively supervising the evacuation. Psychologists who have studied the disaster suggest that Smith became somewhat dysfunctional after the collision.

However, there is a person whose actions that night make him a leadership model to study. Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, the ship that rushed to Titanic’s location and rescued the survivors, did almost everything right that night. After having been awakened close to 12:30 a.m. on April 15 and informed of the Titanic’s plight, Rostron immediately went into action. He summoned all department heads to the bridge and began issuing clear orders. He ordered the engineers to divert all steam to the engines and away from all other uses – including the heating and electrical needs of cabins and public rooms. This enabled the ship to travel somewhat faster than its usual top speed. He also told the chief steward: “Have your men turn all three dining rooms into hospitals. Send bedroom stewards through empty third class cabins and gather up blankets to warm on the boilers. I want plenty of hot coffee, cocoa, and brandy at both port doors” (Titanic Tragedy: A New Look At The Lost Liner by John Maxtone-Graham, 2011, p.140). He then ordered ladders and other boarding devices, and special lights, to be at the doors to enable safe boarding. To ensure the safety of his ship he posted extra lookouts to spot icebergs.

Unfortunately, the Carpathia arrived after the Titanic sank and was only able to rescue those people who were in the lifeboats. However, if not for Captain Rostron’s decisive and inspired leadership that night many of those people in the lifeboats might themselves have succumbed to the elements. That night Rostron was present, focused and involved.

On the seventh day of Pesach we read in the Torah about the miracle of the Red Sea crossing. Thousands of years ago Moshe Rabbeinu already taught the world what leadership against the backdrop of a dangerous sea is all about. Bnei Yisrael had just recently left Egypt and suddenly their erstwhile masters were charging at them with state of the art military forces. They had barely tasted the fruits of freedom when they seemed poised to suffer a humiliating recapture or even worse– death. Bnei Yisrael could not fathom why G-d freed them if this were to be the ignoble outcome. It is within this context that they panicked and exclaimed to Moshe that it would have been better to remain in Egypt. If their fate was to be death, there were more than enough graves in Egypt.

Did Iran’s Warships Actually Visit Syria This Week?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Claudia Rosett writes about the Pentagon statement yesterday that the US doesn’t think the Iranian warships were ever in Syria these past few days. You can read that full analysis on Pajamas Media.

Here is the key excerpt:

Pentagon spokesman, George Little, told the press, “We have absolutely no indication whatsoever the Iranian ships ever docked in Syrian ports.”

What’s going on here? One day there are two Iranian ships docking in Syria. Three days later, it seems that, like the Flying Dutchman, they never made port. Whatever they did during their swing through the eastern Mediterranean, they are now reported as having left the area, heading back through the Suez Canal.
These are not phantoms, or flyspecks invisible to the hi-tech eye. These are ships, substantial objects, which the U.S. certainly has the ability to track. I can’t claim to know what actually happened, and, alas, I have no inside sources here. So this is pure speculation. But it sounds as if the Iranian ships were indeed heading for Tartus, and then ran into some reason to back off — leaving the Iranian government to bluster that the ships had docked, rather than admit they’d chickened out.

I’m not going to write a formal post on the subject, as it’s all just too dicey, including the cryptic Pentagon assertion, which comes off to my ear as rather carefully worded. (And I don’t want to make too much of that. It could mean nothing.) The Israeli Defense Ministry isn’t commenting publicly on the Pentagon’s assertion either.

At any rate, I want to point out a comment from another naval professional at Claudia’s PJ Mediapost:

Michael Hoskins, USN Ret

FYI, A destroyer needs to visit a gas station every 5 to 7 days. Fuel supply can be pushed out further but at risk of getting too low to respond to anything. Supply ship is not an oiler and Iran does not know how to refuel at sea (A US tour de force and a NATO skill set).

Agreed.

Something is very odd about this whole thing. By operating conservatively, the destroyer could have made it from Port Said and back between 17 Feb, when it reportedly entered the Med, and its return for a southbound transit through the Canal on the 21st (again, according to reports). That would imply refueling in Egypt.

But there are discrepancies in this whole incident. Originally, the Mehr News Agency reported that the ships arrived in Syria on the 17th. (Maybe; although a tad doubtful if the ships were northbound in the Canal on the 17th.)

Press TV then said they arrived in Syria on the 18th. That was the story picked up by all the world’s news agencies. Israeli military spokesmen were interviewed that day on the Iranian warship issue, as were Suez Canal officials, who said the ships were declared for Tartus, Syria.

The next wave hit on the 20th, Monday, when foreign news agencies started reporting that the ships had arrived in Tartus on the 20th.

On the 21st, the reports came out that the ships were headed back for the Canal, presumably having left Tartus that morning.

Syrian News (a heavily propagandistic website aligned with the Assad regime) reported on the 20th that the city of Tartus welcomed the Iranian flotilla over the weekend, seeming to confirm the reports of arrival on the 18th.

Al Jazeera did a phone interview with the captain of the Iranian destroyer during the period when the ships were reportedly in Tartus. In the interview, the captain referred to the ships being in Tartus.

In the past day, Lebanese and Israeli reporting quotes Syrian opposition sources as saying that the Iranian supply ship offloaded weapons and electronic warfare equipment for the Assad regime.

There are no photos of the ships in port at all, which would seem to be telling, although the Syrian regime is so hunkered down that it might not be able to (or want to) bring off photo or video documentation. The Russians run the naval base at Tartus, but it is not clear which area of the port complex the Iranian ships supposedly stopped in.

A number of reports circulating in Europe and the Middle East referred to the ships “dropping anchor” in Tartus. That may have simply been ignorance and the inaccurate use of nautical expressions, but there is also the possibility that one or both of the ships spent most of their time anchored offshore, rather than moored to a pier in the port complex itself. The offshore depth is shallow, a good way out from the Syrian coast, and commercial imagery from recent years shows lots of tankers and cargo ships still anchoring out, a long-time practice in the area. To offload cargo, the Syrian supply ship would have gone to a pier, but perhaps not for more than 8-10 hours, and perhaps during a period when there was no US surveillance.

One would want a little more detail about this incident to accept that it just didn’t happen. But it would be good to think that, even if we don’t stop Russian ships from bringing arms to Syria, or Venezuelan ships from bringing diesel fuel for tanks and APCs, we are stopping the Iranians.

English National Opera in Hot Water over “Death of Klinghoffer”

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

The Telegraph reports that Jewish groups have accused the English National Opera of “giving a voice to terrorism” and have threatened to mount protests after the company’s decision to stage the rarely-performed “The Death of Klinghoffer”. Based on the murder of a disabled Jewish tourist during the hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian militants, the opera company itself says the production will “shock” audiences.

Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American, was celebrating his wedding anniversary in October 1985 aboard the Achille Lauro, when he was shot twice and thrown overboard in his wheelchair during the ship’s hijacking off the Egyptian coast by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front.

But according to John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, “one cannot shy away from the fact that this was the most brutal of terrorist attacks, and nor does the production, but the purpose of art is often to shock and challenge audiences. The story is handled with sensitivity and gives an even-handed portrayal of those on both sides of the conflict.”

Back in 1991, when the Brooklyn Academy of Music first staged “Klinghoffer,” Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa attended anonymously and were “disgusted at the idealistic portrayal of their father’s killers,” according to Reuters. They issued a statement that read: “We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.”

It’s My Opinion The Unexpected

Friday, January 27th, 2012

The world watched in horror as the surreal photos of the Costa Concordia hit news outlets last week. The immense cruise ship hit rocks off the coast of Italy, ran aground, and wound up on its side, sinking in the Mediterranean. The scene was one of wild mayhem. The captain is alleged to have abandoned the ship and left the distraught passengers to fend for themselves. Some died in the accident. Others are still missing.

Certainly, everyone who boarded the ill-fated Costa Concordia had anticipated a beautiful trip amid opulent accommodations. No one thought they were in danger. They only thing they were expecting was a wonderful time at sea.

Several South Florida residents were on the ship and survived the disaster. They were interviewed at Miami International Airport upon their return. They told reporters the same story – they never saw this coming.

It’s comforting to think we can plan. It’s comforting to think that if we spend enough money or prepare with enough care, our lives will proceed in an orderly manner. Unfortunately, its not the way life works.

Despite the best of intentions, life can be precarious and unpredictable. We like to think we have control. In reality, the only control we have is not what challenges we will face, but how we will handle the challenges that face us. Soldiers live through perilous battles. Vacationers die on a luxury cruise.

Those who survived the Costa Concordia disaster can bemoan their bad luck to have been aboard the ill-fated ship. On the other hand, they can celebrate the fact that they persevered and appreciate every single day as a special gift to be savored. The choice is up to them.

Those who learn and grow from good and bad experiences understand a basic tenet of life. They expect the unexpected and use it well.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/its-my-opinion-the-unexpected/2012/01/27/

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