S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Men who took chances pass from the scene

As essays go, this in one of those "compare and contrast" types. First I want to mark the recent passing of two of my early heroes, early test pilot and space scientist, Scott Crossfield and economist, ambassador and author J. Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith was physically and intellectually very tall.

Crossfield was a bit short, which suited him to be a pilot of the tiny very fast x-15, but stood tall as a brilliant scientist and engineer leader in our space program. I speculate that he probably died as he would have liked, flying.

Hero high flier - According to the Seattle website, famed test pilot Scott Crossfield died in a plane crash. From the article's succinct first paragraphs one would never know what a true hero he was. But by reading the entire article I was reminded of how long I had followed the exploits of these early test pilots. To quote,
Scott Crossfield, the University of Washington graduate who was the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound, was found dead Thursday in the wreckage of his single-engine plane in Georgia.
Crossfield, 84, dueled with Chuck Yeager a half century ago in piloting rocket-powered aircraft. He helped design and then piloted the X-15 rocket plane. He was a legend to aeronautic students at the UW, but he considered his cutting-edge career an ordinary profession.
During the 1950s, Crossfield embodied what came to be called "the right stuff," dueling Yeager for supremacy among America's Cold War test pilots. Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. Only weeks after Crossfield reached Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound, Yeager outdid him.
"He's really one of the major figures," said Peter Jakab, aerospace chairman at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. "He was not only the great cutting-edge research pilot 5 but after that, he continued to be a great adviser and participant in all aspects of aerospace."
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin hailed him as "a true pioneer whose daring X-15 flights helped pave the way for the space shuttle."
One of the Liberal Greats - John Kenneth Galbraith died yesterday at the age of 97. He had led a very active life until almost the end of his days. He had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks. The New York Times article naturally, is the source from which I quote,
John Kenneth Galbraith, the iconoclastic economist, teacher and diplomat and an unapologetically liberal member of the political and academic establishment that he needled in prolific writings for more than half a century, died yesterday at a hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97. . .
Mr. Galbraith was one of the most widely read authors in the history of economics; among his 33 books was "The Affluent Society" (1958), one of those rare works that forces a nation to re-examine its values. He wrote fluidly, even on complex topics, and many of his compelling phrases — among them "the affluent society," "conventional wisdom" and "countervailing power" — became part of the language.
An imposing presence, lanky and angular at 6 feet 8 inches tall, Mr. Galbraith was consulted frequently by national leaders, and he gave advice freely, though it may have been ignored as often as it was taken. Mr. Galbraith clearly preferred taking issue with the conventional wisdom he distrusted.
And then there is OCP - Standing in stark contrast to the aforementioned elders, is our current president. He is in the process of passing from the scene as ineffectual and irrelevent. One of the best posts on the subject is in The Reaction, by guest writer J Kingston Pierce. Michael J.W. Stickings heartily recommends his guest's post, from which I quote (Pierce's links):
Republicans used to make a big deal out of every sag and sway in President Bill Clinton’s job-approval ratings, though they had to end that practice when, after their botched impeachment coup in 1998, they realized that their own poll standings were tumbling instead of Clinton’s. Nowadays, the GOP is noticably less adamant about the significance of presidential surveys, mostly because George W. Bush is hemorrhaging support, even among Republicans. For those who missed it, the latest CNN poll finds that a measly 32 percent of Americans now approve of the prez's performance in office, while 60 percent disapprove -- a new low for Bush. CNN adds that, just a year ago, not long after Dubya’s second pricey inaugural bash, its polling found 48 percent of respondents saying they approved of the prez, and 49 percent disapproving.
While Bush's public approval stats are still treading water above the historic lows recorded for his father, George H.W. Bush (29 percent in 1992), Jimmy Carter (28 percent in 1979), Richard Nixon (23 percent in 1974, only months before his resignation), and Harry Truman (22 percent in the final year of his presidency, 1952), it's obvious that whatever air of formidableness Bush once exuded has long since dissipated. There have recently been open calls for his censuring by the Senate, prominent endorsements of his impeachment (and even proposals by the Illinois, Vermont, and California state legislatures to initiate impeachment proceedings), newspaper editorials calling on him to fire Dick Cheney (though that would probably force Bush to acknowledge the error of his ways in Iraq, which he’s unlikely to do), and reported efforts by GOP candidates -- incumbents and newcomers alike -- to avoid being seen with the prez, lest his widespread unpopularity help doom them to the unemployment line after November's midterm elections. (Republican office-seekers in New Jersey might be especially wary of looking overly cozy with Bush.)
Nobody takes the prez seriously any longer when he threatens to veto legislation (something he has'’t done in five-plus years), and no less than The American Conservative magazine opines that his foreign-policy efforts to spread democracy have "tainted democracy itself". Rocker Mick Jagger feels free to elbow Bush out of
a luxury hotel suite
in Vienna, the prez's huffy insistence that he's still in charge in the White House ("I'm the decider and I decide what's best") has been broadly lampooned by musical satirists and others, and singer Neil Young includes a call in one of his latest songs to "impeach the president for lying/And leading our country
into war/Abusing all the power that we gave him/And shipping all our money out the door". (Singer-songwriter Pink takes a rather more gentle, but no less powerful approach to criticizing Bush for his actions. See the video here.)
What can I say?!
My current "creative post" at Southwest Blogger is about the world wide web's readership across oceans and borders.

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