Quote of the Day: Treason from Within


“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

I have never been a big fan of Cicero. That is probably because my view of him was colored by Colleen McCollough’s Masters of Rome series. I always viewed him as self-important and full of himself. Regardless, even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then. Certainly this quote seems apropos today, especially after the Red Balloon incident.

Testing My Commitment to Free Speech


Do you, like me, have certain commenters that get under your skin? After you have battled with them fruitlessly enough, do you just start to ignore them and not engage? Or do you wish that something proactive would occur so that their offensive speech would just not be in the posts you follow?

This is when it is important to stand back and ask yourself: Am I committed to free speech? If the First Amendment protects anything it is speech that offends and irritates you. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to it; you just don’t get to suppress it. 

The Day the Music Died


A tangled mass of metal with a wing and landing gear wheel barely recognizable, on a snowy fieldIt was 64 years ago today, on February 3, 1959. Rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when their plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, crashed near Clear Lake, IA, when the pilot lost control of the plane in bad winter weather, and crashed into a cornfield. All four on board, including the pilot, 21-year-old Roger Peterson, died in the crash.

Holly’s touring group, which also included such notables as Waylon Jennings, Dion and the Belmonts, and an assortment of excellent but lesser-known musicians, had been on a whirlwind tour of the Midwest. Many of the performers were suffering the effects of a very cold winter, with colds, flu, and frostbite making the rounds, and the plane was chartered to get Holly and a few others to the next destination (Moorhead, MN) more quickly and comfortably.

Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the plane, but swapped with Richardson, who had the flu. Guitarist Tommy Allsup “lost” his seat on the plane to Valens through a coin toss. Allsup, who was originally thought to have died because he’d given Holly his wallet, so that Holly could pick up a letter on his behalf, survived and went on to work with, among others, Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson, and later produced retrospective hits for the great Bob Wills.

The Democrats’ Newfound Honesty Might Start a Backlash. Maybe.


I didn’t write this post to rehash the Ricochet oldie but goodie, “Conservatism vs. Libertarianism.”  My point isn’t about the Libertarians or the Conservatives, but about the recent power grab by establishment leftists. Democrats have always been, um, rather coy about their true beliefs. They weren’t socialists, of course. They just believed more in cooperation (not coercion, of course!) and less in, um, not liberty, not independence, um, they just believed less in, um … you know, Ronald Reagan is mean! Yeah! Right. So it was hard to say what Democrats actually believed in, unless you ignored what they said, and instead observed what they did. Which most people did not do.

Anyway, I’ve been fascinated by the recent newfound honesty among Democrats. There are Democrats running to the left of Bernie Sanders, who self-identifies as a socialist. Suppose, hypothetically, that Democrats thought they could control the outcome of elections. That would allow them to be more honest, forthright, and thus assertive about achieving their true goals. Goals that look a lot like socialism. Or at least, strong centralized power systems.

If they see an opportunity to press their luck while they have the chance, that’s a rational decision. But having the government tell the citizens people residents of America that their God-given inalienable rights are actually government-granted privileges that can be taken away if they don’t play along — that may wake enough people up to create a backlash. Maybe.

We Could Always Try Reading the Text


As readers know, I like to study the actual text of the Torah. In no small part, this is because most people of all Judeo-Christian faiths tend to rely on what other people say the text says, instead of reading it themselves and trying to make sense of it directly.

Take, for example, the splitting of the Sea. Everyone knows the story: In view of all the people, Moses raises his staff, and G-d makes the sea split in two. The people walk through, marveling at what they see. The Egyptians, consumed with a battle lust that blinds their better judgment, chase after the Israelites – only to be drowned. The entire event is a visual spectacle. It is at once a demonstration of G-d’s power and the symbolic birthing of a nation. The Exodus has been memorialized in cinematic glory and countless storybooks for children. Everyone knows this version of the story.

Is the FBI a New Praetorian Guard?


Biden’s classified documents problem seems to have sprung out of nowhere. We have all been mystified why his lawyers were cleaning out a closet in his Penn Biden office on 2 November when they found classified documents. Since then, it has turned out that the FBI searched that office later in November. Since then, the FBI has searched both his houses in Delaware. Today the Washington Examiner reports that the Biden archives at the University of Delaware may be next.

While I am certainly enjoying the delicious irony of the sanctimonious Biden turning out to have classified documents stashed everywhere after he harshly criticized Trump for that, I wonder why this is all happening. Normally, you don’t have lawyers pack up and move your office, unless there is a criminal investigation or civil lawsuit involved. Normally, improprieties of senior Democratic politicos are concealed, but new scandals keep coming out. Presumably, Biden could order the FBI to stay out of his personal premises, and they would submit as an executive agency under his control. But for some reason, the scandal rolls on.

Is it possible that the FBI has decided that Biden is a liability? Have they decided to knock him out of the 2024 campaign before he makes a formal announcement? FBI meddling in the 2016 and 2020 elections was terrifying, potentially catastrophic to our republic. The FBI is clearly hostile to the conservative movement. But isn’t it even worse if they are now targeting Biden, which would mean they are also hostile to the left? While I do not like that the FBI has become a tool of the progressive movement, it would be even worse if instead the progressive movement has become a tool of the FBI.

Something Wicked This Way Comes


2023 is turning out to be something of a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence. Actually, the real breakthrough year was 2017 and the introduction of the Google Research paper, Attention Is All You Need.  Generative AI — AI that can generate seemingly original content — has been significantly improved by the insights and approach described in the Google paper.

But generative AI will be put into service for things that are, well, problematic. Already college professors are pulling out their collective hair, wondering how they will be able to determine if essays and reports were original to the student or were obtained from an AI engine. A friend and co-worker, who was recently a professor of computer science at a major university, has been keying in his third-year computer science assignments to ChatGPT and has received responses containing source code reflecting correct answers to his assignments. ChatGPT recently passed the Wharton MBA and the US Medical Licensing exams.

But I wonder, how will we respond to AI-generated, photo-realistic porn that simulates, say, the sexual abuse of children? Make no mistake, it’s coming. And it will eventually be indistinguishable from photographs and videos of real children, but will be entirely artificial.

Apparently I’m Really Out-of-Step On Restaurant Meals and Take-Out


The Wall Street Journal, in an article about restaurants increasing drive-through capabilities and reducing or even eliminating in-store dining capabilities (January 28, 2023, page B1), notes that in 2022, 85% of orders at fast food restaurants and 33% of orders at “full-service” restaurants were “to go” and not eaten on the premises.

85% of fast food orders to go? A third of orders at “full service” restaurants? Really? I was shocked at those numbers.

There’s no other way to put it: the viral video showing Tyre Nichols vicious beating at the hands of Memphis police officers was shocking and despicable. Rafael Mangual — the head of research for the Policing and Public Safety Initiative at the Manhattan Institute — joins James, Peter and Steve to explain why activists and politicians are wrong to see this as a vindication of their insistence on policies that are sure to exacerbate the problem.

Our hosts also get to applaud Republicans playing offense on education and committee selections; they muse on the laptop formerly known as Russian disinformation; and can’t help but get swept away by the Chinese spy balloon.

Nashville’s Only ‘Transqueer Latinx Neurodivergent Public Theologian’


Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper.  Most journalists are leftists, but you might think that perhaps a religion writer for a southern newspaper might be an exception. Or, perhaps not. Last April, Mr. Adams published an article that began with the following remarkable paragraphs:

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza is the only Nashville-based transqueer Latinx neurodivergent public theologian that they know.

“I don’t know anybody like me,” Henderson-Espinoza, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said in an interview.

Quote of the Day: Voyage of Discovery


“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” — Thomas Merton

To many people, self-reflection equates to navel gazing: it seems like a waste of time, is a boring activity, and there are simply more important things to do. There are certainly plenty of people who over-indulge in self-reflection: They believe the only way to survive in the world is to study themselves ceaselessly and have no time for anyone else. Self-help books have an increasing popularity among those who think they should be able to perfect themselves and be happier—with a minimum amount of effort.

But the purpose of self-reflection takes us in a different direction.

Herd Stupidity


A friend of mine was traveling in Europe some years ago, and a few feet away on a public sidewalk near a café, a large man started beating up a woman – quite possibly his girlfriend. He had her on the ground, and he was systematically whacking her head against the curb.

My friend looked around, and although people were watching, nobody was doing anything. So my friend, a tourist from Scotland, acted. Despite being physically small and relatively unimposing, he promptly put himself in the middle of the two people and stared the attacker down until he decided to walk away. (My friend was, quite understandably, terrified.) The woman needed – and received – medical attention.

Say Hello to a Chinese Reconnaissance Balloon


A Chinese reconnaissance balloon has been hovering over Alaska, Canada, and Montana. The Pentagon says it has stayed for longer than “normal.” Normal? Is it normal for Chinese reconnaissance balloons to stay for any amount of time over the US? Apparently so.

But the Pentagon is not concerned. They don’t believe these balloons can collect much information that China can’t get from other means anyway. Plus, it might be dangerous to shoot it down.

What in the actual hell? The Pentagon can’t figure out why the Chinese keep sending these “useless” balloons to fly near military installations? Maybe, just maybe, they are not useless.

Fauci Chose Dogma over Science


America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was possibly the most consequential public policy blunder in our history.

The enormous costs included $5 trillion or so in unproductive federal spending, inflation, reduction in our standard of living, and permanent economic damage that will be felt for generations to come.

There was massive learning loss and the specter of loved ones dying alone. The incidence of depression and drug addiction skyrocketed. Businesses were shuttered while many Americans seemingly lost their work ethic.

A Papal Moment


Our devout Catholic President, Joe Biden, once again confirmed how clueless he is about his Catholic Faith. In a recent Q&A, an EWTN reporter confronted old Joe by saying that the Catholic Bishops are demanding that federal tax dollars not fund abortion. And our President responds by saying no they are not all doing that, nor is the Pope doing that.

This week Dennis touches the third rail and talks about the insidious turn taken in the conversation about race in America. Then in our weekly interview segment he welcomes in the former chief editor of USA Today, Joanne Lipman, to discuss her Time magazine article on the rise of ChatGPT and Vitaliy Katsenelson, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of IMA, on the underlying cause of the FTX scandal.

All that and the Parting Shot.

How Will You Judge Presidential Candidates?


When evaluating potential presidential candidates, we should expect high quality, if somewhat flawed, candidates. But as I looked at how the field might shape up, I wondered how people might decide on who might have potential, and who would be completely out of the running. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that many of us seem to have clear preferences, but I’m frequently not clear on the criteria people use. In these times, it’s fruitless to try to find an ideal candidate: too many have baggage or have demonstrated attributes that we dislike or even hate.

I started to think about my choices at this point, and I have very clear reasons for a couple of the potential candidates, but beyond those two, I’m not sure how I feel about the others. There are people who we are now in the running—Donald Trump and Nikki Haley—but I wonder what attributes, positive or negative, stand out for you when you look at some of the others, like Mike Pompeo, Ron DeSantis, Glenn Youngkin, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Kristi Noem, Mike Lee, Mike Pence, Greg Abbott.

By Design: Behe, Lennox, and Meyer on the Evidence for a Creator


Michael Behe, John Lennox, and Steven Meyer are three of the leading voices in science and academia on the case for an intelligent designer of the universe and everything in it (including us). In this wide-ranging conversation, they point out the flaws in Darwin’s theory and the increasing amount of evidence uncovered by a rigorous application of the scientific method that points to an intentional design and creation of the physical world.

When Killer Cops Are Black, It’s Still White Supremacy


Well, it sure didn’t take long for the murder of the young black man, Tyre Nichols, by five black cops in Memphis to be labelled some form or other of white supremacy. But then you knew it would happen. It was just a question of how long it would take, five seconds or ten seconds. After all, if you can get away with labelling Larry Elder, a conservative black candidate for California governor, the “black face of white supremacy,” there’s nothing too preposterous for you to try and pass off on people. 

Let’s stipulate right up front that there seems to be no justifiable reason for what those black cops did, but it is as certain as the next sunrise that white supremacy had nothing to do with it. But just try convincing Democrat Congresswoman of color, Cori Bush, for example, who said the following: “The mere presence of black officers does not stop policing from being a tool of white supremacy.” She also blathered about a “racist policing system rooted in enslavement” and “the violent racist architecture that underpins our entire criminal legal system.” 

Explorer 1 Was Launched 65 Years Ago


The first US satellite was launched 65 years ago. In 2008, George Ludwig, who built the instruments for Jim Van Allen that detected the Van Allen belts, attended the 50th anniversary of Vanguard 1. He talked about this during the question-and-answer period. Here’s part of the transcript.

Member of the audience, Bob Whitlock: Perhaps one of the most famous experiments of that time was the Van Allen radiation belt experiment. Were there any tie-ins between Van Allen’s work and in the Vanguard program? Marty, maybe you might be the one to address that.

Getting Past Deceptive Whiteness


Some people seemed surprised to discover that five black cops abusing a black victim in Memphis was symptomatic of white supremacy.  But we already knew that the race of alleged perpetrators is irrelevant from the lessons derived from the circumstances surrounding the death of Freddy Gray in Baltimore in 2015.

After an arrest involving six officers (three white, three black), Gray was handcuffed and placed in a van but not seat-belted.  The black officer driving the van allegedly gave him an intentional  “rough ride” such that he fell off the bench and, in a freak accident, broke his neck and soon died.

Nikki Haley Announces


. . . her bid for the GOP nom. I suppose it’s time to send some reporters to Mar-A-Lago to await the white puff of smoke that indicates DJT has chosen a derogatory nickname; wonder what it will be. Thought Nikki Fail-y would be good at the UN. Big disappointment! Iran and China still members. 

Well, that’s not fair. The story says he approved and welcomes the competition.