Life is Precious

Although I wrote this a couple of months ago, it really is still very relevant. There is a guy on the loose in Maine who killed 17 and wounded dozens.

OceanGate is a company that took paying tourists to see the wreckage of the Titanic. Yes, tourists would pay $250,000 for the privilege of seeing, up close, a ship that sank over 100 years ago.

By now, everyone knows that the submersible Titan imploded, and all five passengers died. Life is precious. These five souls understood the risks and decided that the risks were worth taking.

Okay. I have to respect their decision. That is not a decision that I would make. I’m not climbing Mount Everest. There are people who have flown with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to outer space. Nope, I’m not doing that, either. Even if I had $250,000 sitting around, I think that I could find something else to do with it that didn’t involve me defying death.

I guess the thing that I find most remarkable about OceanGate was the fly-by-night nature of the operation. If I’m going to go into a submersible to the bottom of the ocean where the pressure can be as much as 2 tons per square inch, I would want the most high-tech submersible on the planet. If you are using an Xbox controller to steer the sub, which they were, I’m sorry. I’m out.

We saw an extraordinary event last month. Putin’s close confidant Yevgeny Prigozhin suddenly turned against him. Prigozhin was once nobody. He was a prisoner. On release, he opened a hot dog stand. That grew into a chain, and then he became Vladimir Putin’s chef—and got contracts to feed the entire Russian army. Somehow, using that Kremlin money and Kremlin cronies, he became the head of the Wagner group, a fighting force that is not officially part of the Kremlin or the Russian Army—in other words, a privately owned military force.

Yevgeny Prigozhin has been an outspoken critic of the Russian Army. Yet he was being pushed aside by the secretary of defense and ultimately by Vladimir Putin himself. All the Wagner soldiers were forced to sign onto the “regular” Army. This single move would leave Prigozhin with nothing.

So he decided to take his Army of over 20,000 men and march on Moscow, getting within 125 miles of the Kremlin. The president of Belarus negotiated peace between Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin. As quickly as the display of force rose up, it was gone. Does this mean that Vladimir Putin is weaker than ever? I don’t think that we know. The whole thing is weird. Just weird. I guess what Winston Churchill said about the Soviet Union in 1939 is still true of Putin’s Russia: “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”