America, A Great Nation

 

If our children don’t know why America is a great country, they will not be willing to die for its principles. What should we be teaching the next generation about The United States?

Memorial Day weekend is the right time to consider an answer to the question.  There is one overwhelming reason why people want to live in America: people want to be free. In the U.S. we can think our own thoughts, make our own plans, and seek to fulfill our vocational calling, without government interference. In other countries, The State controls thought, beliefs, and work. In the U.S. we can control how we make money, keep money, and invest money. In other countries The State mandates prices, controls banks, and restricts investment. In the U.S. we can travel at will, cross state lines without checkpoints, and decide between a great many options of travel. In other countries, The State restricts the who, what, and where of travel. In the U.S. we have vast and varied options for food, an unrestricted diet, and access to many ways of cooking. In other countries, The State limits food supplies, hoards food supplies, doles out the barest amounts to the poor, saving the best food for the powerful. After hearing this brief list, is it any wonder why people outside of America want to live in America?

And do you know what allows America to be a great country? The Armed Forces of the U.S. military standing against all the bad guys in the world, maintaining American freedom. And this weekend is the perfect weekend to remind the next generation they should be willing to die for freedom. How? By taking young people to a military cemetery. Buried there are men and women who fought and died for the freedoms we have in the United States today.

Deeply Disturbing

 

Bill Ackman, who runs a private equity fund, put up a Memorial Day post at Twitter. It has an image of a woman stretched out on the ground over her husband’s grave at a military cemetery, with the words:

Let’s make sure to remember and honor the fallen on Monday. Many of us, myself included, enjoy the long weekend with our families without giving sufficient consideration to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can leave free. We owe them everything. Let’s never forget.

People-watching in The South of France

 

I’m on vacation with my family in The South of France.  I just love how that sounds.  In fact, when a local Frenchman asks where I live, I respond, “The South of Carolina.”  I think that sounds more sophisticated than South Carolina.  I’m not sure why.

Anyway, my wife and daughters are having a blast wandering around all these cute medieval French villages, shopping for, um, well, shopping for just all kinds of stuff.  Except shoes — apparently high-fashion French shoe stores do not carry size 14’s.  Which probably saved me some money.  But anyway, I’ll wander around with them for a while, marveling at the 1,000-year-old buildings which are still standing despite the absence of building codes 1,000 years ago.  But after a while, my wife will plant me in a café, pile some bags on the chair next to me, order me a glass of wine, and tell me to stay put.  Which I do.

Every so often one of them will swing by, drop off some more bags, pat me on the head like a loyal dog, and then disappear back into the chaos.  So I do my job.  I watch their bags, and I drink wine.  Which is fine with me.  The wine is yummy (although I know very little about it) and the people-watching here is outstanding — just top-notch.  Tourist season doesn’t start in earnest here for a few more weeks. I hear some English in the crowd, but it’s mostly French.  And I’ve had a great time trying to figure out who is who.  See if you think my stereotypes are accurate:

Today We Celebrate Memorial Day

 

The origin of Memorial Day is contested. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 25 cities that vie for credit as the first to celebrate the Americans who died in service of the United States Armed Forces.

In 1966, a Congressional resolution and proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, then holding its 100th celebration, crediting the town for starting the tradition.

Citizens of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim their town to be earliest site to observe the holiday; pointing to Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Meyers, who met in October 1864 and shared a bouquet of flowers to decorate the graves of their fallen family members and friends.

Deep Time

 

Something that annoys me is when they say life must be common in the universe, because it happened on Earth so quickly. The Earth is four and a half billion years old, they remind us, and the bacteria that would later be fossilized as stromatolites were there by its 300 millionth birthday. Relatively speaking, that’s pretty darn fast! Why, as soon as the conditions are right for life, up it pops!

That is head-shakingly stupid. Abiogenesis, assuming it happened and happened here, is a chemical process. Chemical processes happen on millisecond and finer time scales. 300 million, 3 million years – they make no more difference to the chemistry than 3 minutes would.

Reading With the Wrong Language

 

Think of how strange – and hilarious – it would be to read a recipe as if it were poetry, or a computer program as if it were a fairy tale. But it can also shed a different, and intriguing, light on the material.

I am aware of the language of engineering. In simplest strokes: Requirements are written, specifications are formed, something is created, and then inspected for conformity with the specifications and underlying requirements. If they check out, they are signed-off as complete.

Sjoukje Dijkstra, RIP

 

Funny, sometimes, how the mind works.  Today’s Telegraph has an obituary for figure skater Sjoukje Dijkstra, who has died at the age of 82. It’s a name that–today–will likely trip lightly off the tongues only of those native to Holland, but I’m a geezer, and I know that it’s pronounced something on the order of “SHOU-kee DIKE-stra.”

Miss Dijkstra won the gold medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, the same year she also won both the European and the World Championships, making her one of a select group of very few skaters, male or female, who’ve accomplished that feat.  I remember her.

But when I read the news a little earlier today, my first thought wasn’t of figure skating at all. It was of a family funeral which was held at a church I didn’t frequent, and of which I’d been told that the family nickname for the organist was, “The Thumper.”  I quickly discovered why, at the outset of the first hymn.

Memorial Day, Memories

 

I wrote this on May 10, 2005.  It was only a day after the event.  I posted it here several years ago.  I hope no one minds the repeat post.  I think it’s appropriate for Memorial Day.  My unit, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines lost 50 men in Iraq that year, and well over a hundred were sent home wounded.  On this night six men were killed and many were wounded.  

VIVID

The compressor was making its high-pitched screech, but the rotor blades’ whomping, pulsating rotation bumped the screech and made the bird sound like a hyperactive, demented man with a grinding wheel attacking a piece of steel. It was pitch black outside but there was a glow from the cabin that made a curious blue X shape on the ground. My radio operators had just talked this bird onto the deck. They didn’t need my help, I was there just in case. We were waiting for the payload to come by and get loaded aboard. The payload had just roared by in a 7-ton truck a few minutes before the helo touched down. The truck went straight to the battalion aid station.

Parenting

 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.—Frederick Douglass

To some of you who know me, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about “parenting,” since I’ve never been a parent. I’ve been reflecting on the choice to be childless; I think any good human beings who choose not to have children must sometimes contemplate their decisions.

Americans in the Riviera

 

By 1985 Andrew Kaplan successfully sold two thrillers. The first, Scorpion, sold well. Kaplan asked the question many writers ask after early success: do I quit the day job and write full time? A wife and two-year-old child made Kaplan reluctant to take that step. Then the day job quit Kaplan and he was unemployed.

Once Upon a Villa: Adventures on the French Riviera, published earlier this year, tells what happened next. Stuck at home, unable to drive due to a broken foot, Kaplan could not job hunt. He was frustrated. His wife Anne asked him what he would do if he could do anything. His dream was to move to the French Riviera for a year and write full time. Anne also wanted to live in France.

He had a severance package. He sent his literary agent an outline of a new thriller asking her if it was marketable. Using his sample chapters and the outline, his agent sold the book to a London publishing house. A sizeable advance along with his savings and selling his Southern California home, provided enough money to move to France and live for a year. All he had to do was write the novel.

They don’t want to get along with us

 

They don’t want to get along with us

Over the last few years, my views on geopolitics have definitely hardened. Russia’s Ukraine invasion and China’s growing belligerence in the Western Pacific have forced me to realize that America, and the West in general, simply won’t be able to reach a permanent accommodation with the two dictatorial states.

Quote of the Day – Theories

 

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. – Richard Feynman

Science is supposed to be about following the facts as revealed by experimentation. If the facts revealed something contrary to your expectations and beliefs, you went with the facts. In 1911 Ernest Rutherford conducted an experiment firing alpha particles through gold foil. It was a test of the Thompson model of atomic structure.

Getting Started With Astronomy, Again

 

I never did finish getting my telescope built in Oregon when I was a kid.  It was a Boy’s Club project, grinding and polishing our own mirrors, then sending them out to get silvered.  Mine was the only one that didn’t come back, so I couldn’t construct a frame for it.  I maintain that’s because mine was so perfect, I would have been able to see the Lunar Max prison operated by the Men In Black, where Boris the Animal (“It’s just BORIS!”) would end up.  But lately I’ve been gathering up a collection of pre-made telescopes, and tonight I took my first photos using my phone.  Ideally I should get a proper telescope camera, or at least use an adapter for my Nikons.  But it’s a start.

A Simple Epitaph

 

The USS Harder, SS-257 has been found thanks to the Lost 52 Project a private organization founded by Tim Taylor to research lost submarines on patrol during WW II. To date, the Lost 52 Project has found 7 lost WWII submarines.

Overdue and Presumed Lost will no longer be the epitaph for USS Harder and her 79-man crew. The Harder was found several days ago 3,750 feet below the ocean’s surface. This will be their tomb and the discovery of the crew’s final resting place comes shortly before Memorial Day.

Do Not Affirm/Do Not Comply

 

I’ve updated my profile photo yet again. The statement in the post title is emblazoned on a T-shirt and hoodie obtainable from the Darkhorse podcaststore.” The podcast is produced by evolutionary biologists Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying. Former professors at a small liberal arts college, Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, they came to broad public attention in 2017:

In March 2017, Weinstein wrote a letter to Evergreen faculty in which he objected to a suggestion pertaining to the college’s decades-old tradition of observing a “Day of Absence”, during which ethnic minority students and faculty would voluntarily stay away from campus to highlight their contributions to the college. An administrator had suggested that for that year white participants stay off campus, and were invited to attend an off-campus program on race issues.[14] Weinstein wrote that the change established a dangerous precedent:

UNRWA is the Poster Child for Why America Should Leave the UN

 

UNRWA, the “United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East,” as the name implies, provides humanitarian aid exclusively to Palestinian victims of war. Like all UN agencies it is purportedly politically neutral and concerned with mitigating conflict not participating in it. Unfortunately, UNRWA is neither.

UNRWA has a long history of antisemitism in support of the Islamist cause. For example, UNRWA uses books in their schools containing blatantly antisemitic passages. The donor nations that support UNRWA have objected but UNRWA‘s promises to remove the offending passages somehow never happens.

You write and you write and you write some more. And you keep writing until you’re done.

Rewarding Terrorism

 

Don’t you admire countries that reward Arab terrorists and then deny that they are anti-Semitic? That’s what Spain, Norway and Ireland would have us believe as they declare their support of a Palestinian state. Their justifications for this move are absurd and dangerous.

Many countries want to get on that bandwagon:

The Kicker’s Speech

 

This is going to be a long post.  My goal is to take the entirety of Kansas City Chief’s kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech and review it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2024, I would like to start off by congratulating all of you for successfully making it to this achievement today. I’m sure your high school graduation was not what you had imagined and most likely neither was your first couple years of college.

The Ricochet Podcast is back, and jam-packed with chatter on sex, comedy, food and fun… and the lack thereof we find among our postmodern youth. Noah Rothman, author of The Rise of the New Puritans, returns to discuss the war on fun in America along with the war on Hamas in Gaza. Plus, James, Rob and Steve Hayward show their age as they canvass the finer points of flag etiquette.

 

Why What Riley Gaines Went Through Mattered – Her Push To Promote Ted Cruz

 

Riley Gaines, a twelve-time All-American and three-time Southeastern Conference champion who came out of the University of Kentucky, gained national attention over the issue of men pretending to be women who then are allowed into women’s sports.

In 2022,  she tied with male swimmer Lia Thomas in the 200 meter freestyle at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championships. Despite tying with Thomas, Gaines says she was told the trophy would go to Thomas for “photo purposes.”

Harvard Withdraw Degrees?

 

The Harvard Corporation (the governing body for Harvard College) is withholding degrees from thirteen individuals who committed illegal acts in conjunction with protests concerning Palestine and Israel.

Hundreds of Harvard students made a public spectacle of protesting at what was supposed to be their graduation ceremony, chanting as they protested both the discipling of the thirteen individuals and Harvard’s policies.