Where are the Brains?

On Thursday afternoon, a US Airways jetliner encountered a flock of geese shortly after takeoff.  The geese fouled both of the plane’s engines, but the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, managed to ditch the plane in the Hudson River.  All of the passengers and crew were evacuated, with only minor injuries.

Mr. Sullenberger is a hero of the sort that we don’t hear about often enough.  It seems rare to read a story in the newspaper about someone who did something right: it’s usually the other way around.

But then, the world is filled with people who do things right.  They may not be heroes, but they keep the lights on and the trains running and the supermarket shelves filled.   It’s natural that in the normal course of events that the people who make mistakes make the headlines.

What I really worry about, though, is why the people who are in authority–the people that we should be able to count on to do things right–seem to make the biggest mistakes.

  • Earlier this week, I watched part of the documentary No End in Sight about the Iraq war.  One of the ground rules of warfare is to know your enemy, but we blundered into Iraq reveling in our ignorance of the enemy, thinking that a two-week show of precision munitions would leave all of Iraq happy to go along with us.  Time after time, our plans blew up in our faces, and it was only after the surge (in 2007) that things began to move in the right direction.
  • Aside from Captain Sullenberger’s heroic exploits, the rest of Friday night’s network newscast was a litany of dread: bank failures, bankruptcies, and layoffs.  Our current economic difficulties seem to be the result of astonishing lapses of judgement on the part of both our political and financial leadership.  Worse, today nobody seems to know what to do about it.

If the airline pilots and subway motormen and all the other people who build and operate our physical world were one-tenth as inept as our leadership, we would be living among piles of smoldering wreckage, having to kill rats for food.

Somebody send help….

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