Socrates v Gladiators

In my sheltering in place (something clearly I excel at — excuse the brag), I have taken my normal quest for truth to a new high and am reading a ton of things that I might not otherwise have read given the constraints of having to eat lunch at Green Mesquite BBQ from time to time.

Copy of Jeff Minch June 1 2007 060

In that quest, I have reinforced something that I have noted for some time: We have no real idea of how to discuss something. I almost said “civilly” but I did not. 

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No Perfect Leaders

I have been in the leadership business since I was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute in 1969. As an Army officer, we were not converted into “wartime” CEOs, our constant context was war. That was what we were trained to do.

It is like nails on a blackboard when I hear venture capitalists describe the “wartime CEO” using the Army as a context.

All of this has drawn me to assess the leadership of the country in the context of the WutangCurse.

The nature of leaders

The WutangCurse is a crisis and it will require stalwart, sound, optimistic leadership to navigate the medical, the intellectual, the psychological, and the economic shoals of this dilemma.

We do not have perfect leaders. Life gives us leaders who may be or become perfect for that challenge.

Today, I think we have two of them: President Donald J Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Winston Churchill, an exemplar

Winston Churchill was the perfect leader for England and what would become the Allies — long before the United States entered into the war — when on the heels of Dunkirk, he spoke directly to Hitler and told him England would resist the Nazis with ever fiber of their being.

In August 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill signalling “V for Victory”

In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 4 June 1940, having lost his army’s heavy weapons in France, his army in tatters, Prime Minister (since 10 May 1940, the date upon which the Nazis launched their attack against the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) Winston Churchill, rose and said in his inimitable voice:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.”

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Capitalism To The Rescue

The day after Pearl Harbor, Ford Motor Company announced it was retooling all of its production lines to produce Jeeps and other military vehicles thereby setting in motion a wholesale shift of American industry to support the war effort. Three and a half years later, America was producing 50,000 airplanes of all types on a monthly basis.

The US would produce 640,000 Jeeps (270,000 by Ford alone, the balance from other auto manufacturers) in those three and a half years. When I was in the Army in the 1970s, I had a Jeep like this. I loved my Jeep.

This is what happens when American industry is tapped to rise to a national crisis. Today, we see the same thing happening in the startup world.

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Being An American In Trying Times

I once asked a man who had been in the Army when Pearl Harbor happened what it felt like to be attacked and lose most of our fleet in the mud. I imagined it was harrowing. I imagined that America was scared to its core. I was wrong.

This man would fight in the war in Italy — through two hard winters — carrying an M1 until he was “asked” to run a battery of 105mm guns in support of his infantry regiment and was ultimately to receive a battlefield commission ending the war capturing a German railway construction battalion which he oversaw as POWs.

“So, how did that feel?” I asked him, meaning how did that feel the day of and after Pearl Harbor.

He looked at me with the wise look that men who have lived hard lives like him, who have put his ass on the line for our country, who have killed our enemies in close combat, who have shot it out in direct eyeball-to-eyeball fire with Kraut 88s across Italian valleys, and he said, “I knew we were going to put an ass whipping on those Japs like they never imagined.”

I was incredulous because I had read west coast newspapers of that time and they had the Japs landing in California any day now. The Japs took the Philippines and a bunch of other places. The Germans had already invaded Poland two years earlier. The Germans declared war against us and we had fewer than 200,000 men in the Army and they had 6,000,000 plus great tanks and those damn 88s.

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The Cost of Panic

Hey, America, you don’t look good in panic. Let me see if I can reason with you and get you back off that ledge.

“Hi, Mom. You look great. I’m here for you.”

The Wutang Flu is a real thing, but it is something we have met before. We met it — meaning a virus for which we had no vaccine — last in 2009 when the Swine Flu (H1N1 flu) arrived. It, too, was a national emergency.

We ended up with:

60,000,000 people infected,

265,000 hospital stays, and,

12,500 deaths.

Those deaths, like the current situation, were aggregated amongst the elderly and the immune system compromised.

Back in 2009, we did not panic.

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Deborah L Birx, MD — Groupies

I am admitting that I am a Dr Deborah L Birx groupie. She is the tall, well-coiffed woman with the Hermes scarves on her shoulders who is Mike Pence’s right arm on the Wutang Flu Task Force.

She has the confident voice of a retired Army Colonel and an Ambassador who has been on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS for more than three decades.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx shows how coronavirus testing will be streamlined at the press conference.

She is considered a legend in the international fight against HIV/AIDS.

Technically, she is Ambassador-at-Large, Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.

But, you can just call her a badass public health warrior.

You want an example for a young woman to follow as a role model? Here she is.

There is an interesting anecdote about her.

She was having a baby and required a blood transfusion, but she had been working on HIV/AIDS and knew there was a risk that the blood might be contaminated.

She refused to take the transformation.

The blood was contaminated.

Keep an eye on this woman. She is the best of all of us and we are in good hands. Well played, Dr Deborah L Birx. I am glad you are on the team.

So, yeah, I’m a groupie. Who wants to make something of it?





Why Not To Panic For Dummies –Wutang Flu

Peggy Noonan wrote a column today that is the piece-de-resistance of the intellectual panic in America today. As I read it, I laughed at her hyperbole and silliness.

Peggy Noonan Column ‘Don’t Panic Is Rotten Advice’

I suspect having been in the Army and having seen some really crazy stuff has anesthetized me a bit, but this is not the time to even use the word P A N I C.

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